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The Crew Blog has moved!

posted by Mattias Häggström Gerdt 2014-02-17 at 10:48

You might have noticed the lack of activity here lately. Don't worry, we've just moved!

The Propellerhead Blog includes a Crew section along with exciting artist interviews, tutorials and more. So, if you want to keep up with Propellerhead make sure you head over to https://www.propellerheads.se/blog/

The old Crew Blog will still be here for a while, in case you want a history lesson, but all future updates will be on the Propellerhead Blog. See you there!


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SpyCam: Celebration and Geeks

posted by Mattias Häggström Gerdt 2012-11-02 at 13:58

This week we got 50 Rack Extensions into the Propellerhead Shop. That can only mean one thing: celebration. Mats was in charge of celebration and managed to pull off the strangest Propellerhead celebration in the history of the company—no small feat!

It included, among other things, fake mustaches and teeth.

And piles of tissues with money-print...

Later in the week me, Mats, Leo and Gustav got together for an in-office board game night. Some beers, some takeaway and a mindboggling game of Eclipse!

A massive space battle is about to take place. Needless to say, I was red! ;)

Leo's patented "I'm-winning-smile"

Space as we know it.


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Belgium, Netherlands and back again!

posted by Mattias Häggström Gerdt 2012-10-16 at 17:18

I was out in Belgium and the Netherlands last week with Sales Manager Anders doing some events and thought I'd share a couple of photos with you guys. You're always interested in what we're up to... right? ;)

Antwerp has some pretty amazing old buildings in the middle of the city.

BAX showcasing the best two products in store ;)

Antwerp also had excellent local beer. Mmm... beer...

We actally had time to visit the newly built museum in Antwerp too!

A very "used" Yamaha DX7 on the wall of Muzsiek + Visie in Antwerp.

Demo at Key Music in Sint-Niklaas.

Last (but not least), when in Belgium this is a must. Yum.


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SpyCam: We're back!

posted by Mattias Häggström Gerdt 2012-08-29 at 16:39

Vacation is over, business as usual... which means lots of fun stuff!

Leo's "pie synth" and KP Mini makes a good noise making couple (it's less good for our work environment).

Anders Molander bought a lovely old radio. He got the advice "don't try to put batteries in it, it will actually blow up. It's like a very nice looking bomb"

Johan, our Director of Worldwide Sales, and David from SCV HiTech in France enjoying the final rattling breath of Swedish summer. The palm tree may or may not be naturally occuring...

VST warning!!!

Leo Der Stepanians, Senior Hardware Product Manager, organized a whisky tasting. Very enjoyable on multiple levels! If I remember correctly the winner was Glenlivet 18 year old. :)


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England: Land of rain and Reason masterclasses!

posted by Mattias Häggström Gerdt 2012-07-23 at 16:12

Last week me and Gary Bromham went out on the road to do a couple of masterclasses with Dawsons. We visited Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Chester - and it was good fun. Here are a couple of pics:

I might not have worked with Björk and Sheryl Crow like Gary but may name was also in print!

Gary letting the people of Chester in on the secrets of the fine art of mixing.

In Leeds there was a very mysterious door that I did not dare open...

In Manchester we dropped by Liam at Cartec Audio at his workshop. He makes some amazing hardware, including this "Pultec-style" EQ. 

I also had a good time blasting some music through Balance to different monitors. Things got loud.

Good crowd in Manchester!


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Sometimes people send us things!

posted by Mattias Häggström Gerdt 2012-07-09 at 11:47

Being a company with a lot of (awesome) users, we sometimes get a letter or package sent to us. This is, of course, really cool! Recently we got a package from Reason user Matt Campbell with his freshly pressed album "Have a Banana" on 12" vinyl.

Very cool! Thanks a lot Matt!


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*exhales*

posted by Mattias Häggström Gerdt 2012-06-14 at 17:15

Release is upon us!

We've been working hard, some of us have hardly left the office, but I feel it all paid off. Reason 6.5, Essentials 1.5 and Rack Extensions are alive and kicking! It's great to hear what you think and we're trying to keep up with all feedback and questions. At the same time this is also when we can finally exhale and sit down for a while. With champagne. Of course.

Eating the immortal combination of strawberries and blue cheese.

James Bernard is (unsuccessfully) trying to hide from the camera.

Mats, Mr. Rack Extensions Manager himself, makes his best celebration face.

Soon after this was taken, work resumed. :)


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England Masterclasses

posted by Mattias Häggström Gerdt 2012-06-01 at 10:27

So I recently came back from doing a couple of producer materclass events in England with mix engineer (and good friend) Gary Bromham. I really do enjoy going over to England too, all the people are nice, the curry is delicious and the real ale is flowing! It's also been particularly fun to show Pulsar to a gasping audience for the first time - that LFO sure is something!

Here are two pictures from the event in Newcastle and at Production Room, Leeds:

Thanks to everyone that came out to see us! :)


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The Making of The Echo

posted by Mattias Häggström Gerdt 2012-05-03 at 12:51

In this second behind the scenes look we’ll talk about how The Echo was designed and created, from early concept to your favorite delay unit! Like Pulveriser, The Echo was born in Mats Karlöf’s twisted, geeky imagination.

- DDL-1 had some functionality left to wish for and you had to build a lot of different Combinators to get really flexible delays, especially for stereo. It felt more practical and useful to have a dedicated stereo delay that was a bit more advanced and it’s something our users have asked for too.

The first step—as with Pulveriser—was to list the requirements and features on the “design poster”. Compared to Pulveriser, The Echo actually looked very different at this stage compared to how it ended up! The feature list and mockup shows almost another device than The Echo you know and love:

Features

• Based on the Scream 4 UI

- 1 Algorithm selector

- 2-3 Specific parameters for each delay type 
- Separate components out side the algorithm that is common for all algorithms


• Limiter in the feedback loop


• External feedback loop


• Few, but great Patches per algorithm

- The first version was pretty much just like Scream4 but for delay, Mats tells us. Then as the design progressed more and more feature were both added and “lifted out” and made as their own sections. 

- There were also many ideas that were considered. Should we have a resonator in the feedback loop? How exactly should the ducking feature look? The original ducking feature was much more advanced to begin with but in the end it didn’t add much and took up too much space.

- At one time there was even a “morph” section where you could morph between two different delay settings. The problem with this was automation conflict. Because you could automate the morph AND the parameters that the morph affected, it wasn’t very predictable. Whichever control gave the last instruction to a parameter “wins” in this system, something that made it very unwieldy.

Even on this early design poster however, Mats did detailed some of the unique features that he wanted The Echo to have. Many of these ended up in The Echo anyway but in a different form than in the original designs. This is how Mats described some of them:

Breakout jacks

This lets the user set up his own effect chain in the feedback loop. This keeps things interesting for the more advanced user as it adds to the geek factor of this device.

 

Pitch neutral

Want to change the delay time without having the resulting pitch shift? No problem, use this algorithm.

 

Stereo delay

The stereo delay has controls that offsets delay time and feedback for the right channel from the left channel.

 

Read Only

This enables the delay memory to be read without writing to the memory. There is a CV input on the back that can enable this function.

- Breakout jacks were there from day one, it’s a great feature and makes The Echo much more flexible.  We also added a limiter in the feedback loop so it can’t actually break your speakers when you’re messing around with it.

- With the stereo delay, the offset was always the thought too. It makes it possible to change the delay time for both left and right with just one rotary. If there were separate delay times for left and right that would make it less usable, especially considering the cool effects you can do with the “Keep Pitch” feature.

A device can really change its appearance and features during development and The Echo is a really good example of this. In the end as more and more features got “lifted” from the original Echo design and put as their own section it became clear that this made the device easier to work and more flexible.

- The big reason it moved away more and more from the original Scream-like design is that we realized a problem. What if you want a stereo delay that’s also pitch neutral? Or a tape delay with tube distortion? We sacrificed flexibility by letting one algorithm be active at a time. When we lifted out the various “characteristics” as their own sections (Color, Modulation, Ducking etc.) it became a much better device with more freedom.

Some changes to The Echo also came from people other than Mats.

- We had a tester here who was a DJ and used quite a few effects live, Mats remembers. I asked him what his coolest live effect was and what he described is what we made the Roll feature for.

- Then the Diffusion section is something Pelle came up with actually, it’s similar to the diffusion in RV-7000, which we’ve always liked. He also came up with the envelope!

The feature set wasn’t the only thing that changed with The Echo either. The Echo was actually a purple device for a very long time but Mats disliked the color so much when he saw it that it had to be changed.

- I said something along the lines of “It can’t be purple, no way. Any color but purple! It can even be orange!” and before I knew it, it was released and it was indeed orange. 

That’s it for this behind the scenes look! Hopefully you enjoyed reading some of the thoughts behind The Echo. We still have Alligator to cover so watch this space for the next behind the scenes look!


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The Making of Pulveriser

posted by Mattias Häggström Gerdt 2012-04-30 at 14:18

With Rack Extensions around the corner – and the open Reason rack that comes with this – we thought we’d give you an inside look at how designing and creating a rack device can actually work. This will give you a unique behind the scenes look at how we work and if you’re an aspiring Rack Extension developer, maybe it can also help you in designing your own devices!

In Reason 6 we introduced Pulveriser, The Echo and Alligator—three creative effect devices we’re very proud of. These were actually an early form of Rack Extensions so it feels very fitting to talk about these too- So, with a little help from product manager Mats Karlöf, let’s take a look!

Pulveriser

Many devices begin their life as an idea or a sound in someone’s head. In our case, that someone is Mats Karlöf. Not only a product manager but a gear collector and geek extraordinaire, Mats knows a thing or two about both music technology and fun.

Pulveriser was first designed as a set of “requirements” and features. The requirements are basically characteristics that the device needed to have to be a good product. These can many times be the same between projects and in Pulveriser’s case, were defined like this:

• Easy to understand

• Possibility to experiment (geek factor)

• Terrific sound quality

• Quick results

• Not too time consuming to create

Mats also listed some key features to get a good overview of the device, not only for himself but so the rest of the team can get a bird’s-eye view.

• A heavy-hitting sound mangler, add personality to clinically clean sound

• Hard compression and amazing distortion with a filter to shape it all

• Envelope follower and LFO to control the filter frequency

• Few, but great patches

- The problem with today’s music making to me is that everything sounds TOO good, explains Mats.

- Amazing audio interfaces, brilliant algorithms, it’s all too clinically clean. We lost the dirt, which I think is the reason people still sample old records. Pulveriser was to be the solution to this problem. It brings back the dirt.

Together with this feature list a device mockup is made, basically a visual representation of the rack device complete with all controls and connections. These are most often made in OmniGraffle and actually use a pre-made set of device "parts" so it’s easy to get the idea across.

– It’s like a sort of prototype where you can easily “fake” how something will work and even imagine how it sounds, says Mats when asked why you would make it as an image first.

– It also makes it easier to run the design by my colleagues, for example Mattias or Stoffe. In one way it’s also a kind of checklist, you can see if there’s something missing when you see it as a device. You gain insight into the relationship between various functions and features.

We’ve actually uploaded the mockup so you can take a look at it:

While most devices go through tons of iterations to get the feature-set right (“Do we really need this?” “What about adding this?”), the Pulveriser ended up almost exactly the same in its final form as in the mockup!

– The only real additions after my first design was the LFO to master level, the envelope to LFO and the LFO stereo "spread". We also decided to add some cool CV stuff, something that’s often added last, says Mats.

Once this was all set, the mockup was delivered to Pelle so he can make the actual DSP code. At this stage there’s always a lot of discussion about how things should actually sound too.

- I actually took a trip to a stomp box shop called “These go to 11” and sat down for 2-3 days and tried their entire catalogue of distortion pedals, explains Mats with a laugh.

- Everything from the Tube Screamer to one-of-a-kind boutique pedals. I tried pretty much every single one of them on both a guitar, a Roland SH-101 and a Roland TR-808 to find something that sounds cool on many different things. There was one I thought really shined and I ended up buying that and giving it to Pelle for inspiration for the distortion.

At the same time, work started on the GUI. Since the rotaries and buttons are decided and the layout is there, Andreas Karperyd can start working on the design.

- Andreas and I sat down to discuss the graphical design, as we always do. We talk more in terms of feelings and “mood boards” actually, what feelings does this device stir up? After talking about it, I asked Andreas to make it look really old, like an old radio field unit from the 1940s.

Mats continues:

- An old, worn out device with a soul – that’s the character it had to me. The change in the name from “Pulverizer” to “Pulveriser” was because when the graphic design fell into place it become apparent that it was of course British! 

Finally when everything’s in place, the final acceptance testing of the device begins. This starts internally but eventually branches out to include alpha testers and eventually the public beta.

- This is where I discovered that we needed a lag processor because of the clicks caused by changing the LFO rate when it was locked to tempo, explains Mats.

- So it’s a result of actually trying the device and hearing it in action. This is also where we had to experiment with the internal levels to make sure the envelope follower reacted properly. Speaking of the envelope follower, one change also came from our Test Pilots! Our beloved alpha testers said that it's too bad we didn't have a CV output for the envelope follower. I agreed and decided to add it last minute! It really made the device better, a second pair of eyes can really help.

- Another thing is that initially we were supposed to have a switch for the compressor release time. To get two good values we could use Pelle added a rotary so I could find them myself. This rotary worked so well that we actually kept it!

So there you have it! A bit of information about how everyone’s favorite sound mangler was actually created. We still have The Echo and Alligator to cover so watch this space for the next behind the scenes look and make sure you leave a comment if you have any questions—we'll answer what we can!

Oh and if you haven't upgraded to Reason 6 and used the Pulveriser yet, there's no better time than now. Reason 6 owners get a free upgrade to Reason 6.5 so there's no need to wait!

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