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An open history about my Ren.
Since I’ve adopted the MPC Renaissance into my workflow and taken time to re-introduce myself into the akai workflow, it’s been great. The experience has been enlightening, eye-opening and has helped me gather new tools and different insight into my music.
Since the original announcement at NAMM in ‘11, I thought ‘this would be a great addition to my toolbox’.
The announcement came at the right time. My software and hardware were getting long in the tooth and (surprisingly) not scaling with my workflow.
I’ve worked with FL since it was in BETA (yeah, i’m old. I still have Fruity Tracks somewhere in my software collection) and am a lifetime subscriber. I’m completely happy with it but it didn’t ‘flow’ with the way I lay things out. I’ll re-wire it from time to time, but I don’t make tracks exclusively in the program.
I’ve used reason for quite some time, but during its frenzy of expansion/upgrade since 4, I don’t want to keep throwing money at propellerhead for the latest and greatest anymore. It got expensive.
I’ve bought the Maschine and was pretty happy with it. The software was so-so, the feel of the product was so-so, I felt that I spent $600- for $300- worth of hardware and software. Basically, the Maschine put in one hardware/software combo what the FL and my MPD32 already did. I still have mixed feelings about it.
I haven’t updated my DAW(s) in years. Cubase, Acid, Pro-tools, the whole lot were showing their age. A lack of 64bit support or memory access, unable to recognize faster RAM or HDD speeds. A larger and larger disconnect from an OS that was struggling to virtualize compatibility with these legacy software models.
So, the Renaissance is announced, I’m going to update my software, and I’m going to rebuild my recording platforms to future proof the whole thing.
I knew I wanted a 64bit DAW. Period. Big RAM, SSD’s, 3 TB storage platters, RAID redundancy, network storage. I wanted to load up projects as if I needed to Mic a symphony orchestra and everyone got their own channel bus. Okay, not quite so grande, but you get the idea.
I wanted something beefy. Like ‘the whole fucking cow’ beefy.
So I build my Z77 3770k with 32GB of XMP RAM and RAID 5 SSD array. It’s watercooled, silenced, a 1k watt psu, and doesn’t do anything other than music. Perfect.
FL had just released a 64bit version. The software may stay.
The daw finalists where Pro-Tools, Cubase, and Ableton.
1) Pro-Tools wants a) an I-lok, b) a certified sound card, and c) A GANG OF CASH. Er, no.
2) Cubase hasn’t really changed much. It’s the strongest flavor of vanilla there is.
3) Ableton is a really alien animal to me. I could spend all year learning it. That was the problem; I dont want to relearn how to make music, I just want to make music.
Just when I was about to purchase Cubase, a friend of mine told me to give REAPER a shot. I did. I didn’t like it. I put it down. I tried it again later. Still didn’t like it. 6 months later I tried it again. I started to like it. I bought it. End of story.
So, my software was taken care of.
Now to wait for the Renaissance release.
August 27th, 2012 @ 11:45am a man shows up at my office with a box marked AKAI. I thought a messenger of heaven had come to reveal a divine truth unto me.
I was blown away by it. The feel, the heft, the quality, the library of dvds? Oh well, whatever.
9 hours later I was really into the swing of it. The software (while ugly) was pretty intuitive. The ‘how-to’ instructions were minimal but made a lot of sense in the fact that I could answer my own questions if I thought about the tutorials a little.
10 hours later I made a track using techniques, style, and sounds I wouldn’t have imagined using previously. I was happy with everything.
Still being a green horn (I haven’t used an MPC since the 60 when it was brand new) I went to the forums to see what other people were doing with it that I probably didn’t think of, knew of, didn’t-know-what-everyone-else-knew.
When I started looking through the forums I felt betrayed, wounded even;
There were TROLLS here?!?!?! WTF!?!?!?
‘this software sucks’ ‘it crashes all the time’ ‘maschine is way better’ ‘akai blahblahblahblah’….
wow, just ‘wow’.
Since I’ve had my ren, it’s crashed 3 times. All 3 times was because i was TRYING to crash it. I work with computers all day, I know when software is about to break.
What shocked me that a good majority of people (ignoring the obvious trolls) were expecting a freaking miracle of advanced and sophisticated software engineering that would be leaps ahead of multi-billion dollar OS efforts! From AKAI?!? WTF over?
The other nagging thought was this:
Anyone who spends any time within their music software, DAW, Sampler, WHATEVER, knows when they are about to do something that exceeds the limitations of hard/soft ware.
Example: Trying force load multiple 100+ MB, 24bit sound files across 8 tracks can start to stress any midrange system. Adding vst’s on top of it is the equivalent of the ominous creaking noise on the rope bridge.
I was pretty sure trying to force load multiple full length song files as sample sources without removing the head/tail data would cripple the Ren software.
What do you know, it did.
I was certain that loading multiple convolusion reverb effects would chug the system out.
Okay, it took 7 instances across 3 busses.
It’s not 32 bit in the strictest sense. It doesn’t have the hooks for multiple core provisioning. BUT (its a big ‘But’) it does look to the OS for RAM provisioning and resource allocation. That’s pretty important.
Example: An XP based 32 bit application would be built upon a set of protocols to not recognize or provision for a RAM allotment beyond 4GB and a single core instruction set. This was a ‘thou must’ rule and was pretty typical of older software structures.
In newer applications, most 32 bit applications have been built within a 64 bit enviornment, so some software would look to the OS for resource allocation and core balancing would be placed squarely in the hands of the OS as opposed to a set of software instructions.
With a few OS tweaks, my cpu will load share any runtime for the Renaissance software. Good.
There is still a 4GB memory cap, but with faster HDD access and more advanced caching, the disparity between a legacy 32 bit software platform and a current one is like night and day. I would LOVE to have access to all 32 GBs.. but, that won’t let me do anything I can’t do already and it sure as hell won’t make my music any better.
So, back to the forums:
Next up was the OS updates.
‘This OS is buggy/crap/imperfect/subpar/worsethanmaschine/NIissomuchbetter/etc.’
Then OS 1.1 came out.
‘My software still crashes.’ ‘I can’t do this/that/what I can do on the Maschine.’
Then OS 1.2
‘My software crashes.’ ‘It’s so buggy’ ‘I can’t do this/that/what I can do on the Maschine.’
Okay, software crashing is, in some degree, part of the responsibility of the end user. Put it in perspective: The potential of software is dependent on the hardware. A crap machine will run software like crap. Period. A subpar machine will run software in a subpar enviornment. An expensive machine does not equate a powerful or optimized machine.
Enthusiasts will spend hours picking apart a perceived failing in their software but I find very little evidence that anyone is scrutinizing their hardware platform.
The music forums are very different beasts than, say, gamers forums. Hardware specs are as important as software performance in that world.
Maybe it’s my fault that I approach these forums with the same perspective.
Now, to be fair, I was looking forward to OS 1.3 to be released today. Not for any bug fixes or things like that, but for enhancements and features I didn’t know I needed till I read about them.
The VSTi replication fix is definitely a quality of life issue that would help. The add/remove chop via mouse was a ‘oh yeah, i would like that’ kind of thing. The other things are not immediately relevant to what I’m doing now. That may change in the future but is not a show stopper for me and moving forward.
The extremely last-minute-we-aren’t-releasing-the-build notification was a bummer. Again, I work with software all day, I appreciate the reasoning that no release is better than a bad one, but the communication to the community probably wasn’t the best executed. In an enterprise organization, inter-department communication is complicated at best. Shit happens. Whatever. I won’t hold it against Akai.
Just don’t do it again, bastards!
I’ve just jumped in some forums and the trolls are in full force.
I look at it like this:
The lack of update will:
A) Not make your music any better.
B) Will not detract from, nor disrupt the current implemented workflow.
C) Bring world peace (Okay, i’m getting snarky, but after reading some of the posts, who can blame me?)
So, to conclude, I challenge people to really scrutinize their setups. Hardware/software/OS. Ask themselves if they really know what the software can and cannot do (not, ‘are you an expert’ but ‘do you know where you can find answers’).
And, finally, has AKAI really not lived up to their word? To the hype?
I’ve spent hours everyday working with the software, learning the hardware, and integrating it into my workflow.
Perhaps my expectations were not high enough? Maybe I should have opted for a device that can read my mind and be packaged with every function known to man, chopping and arranging my samples into grande and magical compositions. A device that can support multiple 5 hour raw 32 bit floating point recordings without dithering and brew my favorite coffee while automatically applying the proper compression and reverb settings friendly to all audiences and playback media.
Sadly, I only have my Ren.