randy's Recent Posts

Good looking out garf.

Hi Marc, I personally have never used Mainstage so I can't be as helpful as I would like. My advice is definitely to try the Kaivo demo and see how it goes for you. DAWs are usually not too different from one another in terms of performance but really the best thing is to try it.

To scrub a sample position per note, you can use one instance of Kaivo with either poly aftertouch or MPE data patched to the sample offset. It's up to you whether you want to use MPE for this. If you might have other things to control per note that would be an argument for MPE. But not all DAWs support it well yet.

From looking at Iris just now, my reaction is: not very similar. It will be semi-modular like my other synths, for starters.

Thanks for the additional info. This situation looks a bit complicated.

Interestingly, on my M1 Macbook Air here, Kaivo's interface is definitely slower than it should be, while Aalto's is fine—and all the audio processing is very fast. The presence of the emulator definitely complicates things further, however this setup might be a basis for figuring out what's going wrong here where I have a development environment.

I'm nearly certain this is my own problem.

Thanks for the clear description. A really stellar bug report, I have to say. I wish they were all this helpful.

I'm very sorry to hear you're having trouble. I've also heard from other users about slowdowns in Logic. for example here: https://madronalabs.com/topics/8040-extremely-slow-ui-for-all-the-plugins

I can't reproduce these issues here, or I would have put out an update by now. And oddly, it happens on a variety of machines including a setup very similar to my daily driver (MacBook Pro with Mojave). I'm going to look again at what all these setups might have in common and hopefully I can come up with a test to try.

I can also make a version that would collect usage data on the affected systems for debugging. If you have time to try beta versions specifically aimed at fixing this please let me know and I'll be in touch.

@progster to clarify, if you run into this problem you'll see that after you set the MPE bend range menu it just does not keep the setting.

When I can make time for playing, I try to practice my Soundplane. I know the Linnstrument is a good instrument too. In an ideal world I would have one of every MPE controller for testing!

The thread you point to is mainly related to an issue with pitch bend at the start of notes. This got fixed with version 1.9.4.

Sadly I don't have a Linnstrument.

For some hosts on Windows 10 the MPE pitch bend range menu (in the "gear menu") simply does not do anything. So maybe this is what you're running into and the value is set to something small while the Linnstrument is sending out a much bigger range. I'll fix this ASAP. Meanwhile you could try a smaller pitch bend range setting on your Linnstrument.

Hi and welcome.

I don't know if any patch is a canonical start. Maybe I should make an "MPE default."

The settings in the "gear" menu don't change when you change the patch. They are saved in your project in whatever your host DAW is. These things like MPE pitch bend are meant to reflect things about your controller that would presumably stay the same over use of multiple patches.

I hear you about the manual updates. Meanwhile here's a table of the KEY outputs in the different protocol modes: https://madronalabs.com/topics/4718-key-outputs-by-protocol

Are you on Windows? There is an MPE pitch bend issue there where the menu doesn't work. Please share more info or a link to "bend to the moon" because I'm not finding that.

We are not there yet, but getting close. What I said in the newsletter was, I'll be showing off some new features made possible by my new plugin framework. Nothing about a finished Sumu, which is still a little ways off, but I hope you'll enjoy seeing these new LFO / MIDI learn features.

I just received my first Apple Silicon-based computer this past weekend. Of course I was excited to find out how all the Madrona Labs software worked on it, so I dove right into some informal tests and benchmarks.

None of my plugins are yet released in native versions for the Apple Silicon-branded ARM processor in the new Macs—rather, they run using Apple's Rosetta 2 emulator which translates their Intel code into ARM instructions. Kaivo is definitely capable of putting a heavy load on the CPU, so I used it as a basis for testing. Because Ableton Live is the hosting environment my customers use the most, and also because it's not yet released for native Apple Silicon, I did the bulk of my testing in Live 10. So the test is all in emulation, and hopefully gives a good general indication of what moving your existing software setup over to an M1 Mac would be like. I tested both the M1 and my 2015 MacBook Pro, which is my daily driver and a pretty typical machine for a lot of my customers out there.

I said above that these tests are informal. That means I didn't take the average of multiple runs, I just did my measurements by looking at Apple's Activity Monitor, and my reports of inferface speed are subjective. That said, I have seen the same behavior while working on the new Macbook Air over the last few days, and everything is consistent with the reporting I've read on these new computers.


Configurations tested:

New Air:

  • MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
  • 8GB RAM
  • macOS Big Sur v. 11.1

Old Pro:

  • MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, early 2015)
  • 2.7 GHz Intel Core i5
  • macOS Mojave v. 10.14.6

Common software:

  • Ableton Live 10.1.30
  • Kaivo 1.9.4

All tests were run at 48000Hz, with Live's sample buffer size set to 512. Built-in audio was used. Each voice used the factory patch "peaking lights," a high-CPU patch with all the resonators and body code in use.

I looked at the CPU percentage used when no Kaivo windows were visible. In addition, I noted if there were any audible glitches, how Live's UI performed with one Kaivo window showing, and how warm the computer was. Here's the data I collected:

Test 1: 32 voices of Kaivo (4 instances x 8)

New Air:
%CPU: 138, ± 1
glitches: none
UI: a bit slow but usable
heat: warm

Old Pro:
%CPU: 310, ± 10
glitches: many
UI: unusable
heat: warm, fan audible

Test 2: 16 voices of Kaivo (2 instances x 8)

New Air:
%CPU: 82, ± 1
glitches: none
UI: fast
heat: warm

Old Pro:
%CPU: 133, ± 5
glitches: intermittent
UI: slow but usable
heat: warm, fan audible

Test 3: 12 voices of Kaivo (2 instances x 6)

New Air:
%CPU: 78, ± 1
glitches: none
UI: fast
heat: cool

Old Pro:
%CPU: 101, ± 2
glitches: no
UI: slow but usable
heat: warm


An Ableton Live project with 32 voices (4 instances) of Kaivo is totally usable on the M1 Macbook Air, with only a little bit of UI slowdown evident with a Kaivo window open. The same project is definitely not runnable on my old MacBook Pro.

Interestingly, looking at the eight cores of the M1 running all these voices, it appears that only four of them are doing the heavy lifting. This probably accounts for the fast UI response even under the most load I tested. The M1 has four performance cores and four less powerful efficiency cores—my guess is that cores 5–8 here are the performance cores. Right now it takes more esoteric tools to really determine this.

On my old MacBook Pro, I can add up to around 12 voices of Kaivo before glitching is audible. (This is over two instances of the plugin. The same number of voices over more instances will take a little more CPU because of the overhead of each instance, but may be less glitchy because the scheduling is easier, soooo... it's complicated.)

It may not seem too amazing that a new machine is much faster than a five year old one. But remember, both Live and Kaivo are compiled for a different processor and running in emulation! This is an impressive feat, especially if one can remember the lackluster performance of the original Rosetta's PowerPC to Intel emulation.

I tested my five year old laptop against the M1, not to be mean, but because I don't have a newer one. Since the work that Kaivo is doing is basically CPU-bound, looking at relative CPU benchmarks for newer machines should give us a decent guess at how they would perform in the same test. Geekbench gives us the following numbers for multi core tests, where higher is faster: New Air: 7614 , Old Pro: 1358, Recent 13" MacBook Pro (13-inch Mid 2020): 4512. So going from my old Pro to a current 13" model should give us roughly (4512 / 1358), or three times the number of voices, or what the M1 can do in emulation.


If you have a Mac that's more than a couple of years old, the upgrade to any Apple Silicon Mac should be a big leap in speed, even when running applications that are not yet native. If you have a high end or more recent Mac, one that pulls in a Geekbench 5 multi-core score of around 5000 or higher, it probably makes sense to wait—either until your favorite apps are all native, or for the next generation of Apple Silicon computers.

This is old too but should still be correct: outputs from the KEY module described in MIDI, MPE and OSC modes.


in MPE mode the X output sends out cc#73 for each note by default.

It's a different VST/AU plugin.

So glad to hear this—thanks for the good words!

If you haven't seen the new Virta video demo, check it out on the Virta page.

@garf The use I have for it is making a very jumpy modulation that does loop as often as you want and plays back the same way every time. A more typical noise gen might be a nice addition.

No, I never added this. From the feedback I'm getting it feels like interest in OSC has if anything diminished over the past couple years. Sorry, it still seems like a good idea but there are only so many things I have had time to work on.

I am currently working on a new design for MIDI parameter mapping that I think is very usable. Hopefully this in combination with some OSC mapping program (depending on your platform) can do what you want.

Happy Solstice, and here's to change and evolution. This goes out with all my best wishes to everyone for health, peace and prosperity in what has been such a hard year for so many. I hope that, despite COVID, you are finding ways to keep sane and happy, to nurture your body and spirit. A few weeks ago I got away on a short trip to meet some friends at the Pacific Bonsai Museum. That's where the lovely grouping of golden larch trees on the sale image here comes from. Visiting was a meditative, inspiring and world-expanding trip for me and if you're in the Seattle area, I recommend it highly.

From now through January 6 2021, our year-end sale is happening! You can use the code EVOLVE to get 30% off all our software. If you're an Aalto fan but you've been holding out on getting Kaivo or Virta or Aaltoverb, now's a great time. And yes, our simple bundle deal is in effect along with the year-end discount, if you choose to take advantage of them both. This results in some big discounts!

Finally, if you're looking for a last-minute gift, you should know that it's easy to give a Madrona Labs software license! A gift license can even be part of a simple bundle with one you bought for yourself and I'll be happy to transfer it free of charge (and judgement). Just email me at support@madronalabs.com to let me know. I'm taking Dec 25, Dec 31, and Jan 1 away from the computer but otherwise I'll be available within 24 hours (and probably less) to help make your holiday dreams come true.

Thanks for your support!

Thanks for your support! I promise to spend it on coffee

Hi, it depends when you buy Aalto. I'll give a free v2 if you recently bought v1. If you want to know if that covers you now, I am really not sure. It depends when I can Aalto 2 out! Currently, people have been getting free updates for (checks watch) ten years.

There will be a different number of parameters so I believe I will be making a new plugin "Aalto 2" so people can continue using v1 alongside if they need to.

Yup, with Aalto 2 for sure. Lots of useful and fun updates planned for this release.

I've finished a bunch of under-the-hood code that I need to implement my design for Sumu. This is what I can roll out right now, and so I'm updating Aaltoverb with some of the new features to get it tested more and show it off. Sumu release is a little way off yet but I'm full speed ahead on it. Especially with 2020 behind us.

Just posted it!

by Jason Caffrey
photos: Alisa Mackay

“Maybe we need a parent in the room.”

Ben Goldwasser is gently laughing at himself as he describes the creative process he shares with his MGMT partner, Andrew VanWyngarden. “It’s not like we’re totally oblivious when we’re making music. We know when something we’re working on might have more pop appeal or might not. But it’s not something we necessarily have control over. It’s just whatever happens to come out of us at the time.”

The work under discussion is MGMT’s single, In The Afternoon, which dropped in December 2019 as a digital download, with a limited edition 12-inch single released exclusively through MGMT’s online store the following March. It’s a track firmly in the groove of the band’s pop-orientated output, with an eight-minute ambient track, As You Move Through The World, on the B-side. That pairing is a neat summary of the tension that threads its way through MGMT’s output: the commercial work that became gold- and platinum-selling records; and the parallel output of material that is clearly not the product of a hit-factory. In The Afternoon wouldn’t be out of place on a many college students’ playlist, while As You Move Through The World perhaps owes more to Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack than it does to the Billboard charts. And Goldwasser admits that, like a couple of unruly kids, he and VanWyngarden can often produce the opposite of what they set out to. “So we kind of just have to let go”, he says.

In The Afternoon and As You Move Through The World were the first tracks that MGMT produced independently of a major record label. They had been with Columbia and Red Ink (both owned by Sony Music) since 2006. Plenty of musicians would sever a limb for that kind of backing - so why had MGMT decided to go it alone? “In some ways we probably wouldn’t have a career as a band if it weren’t for signing a record deal because, at the time, we weren’t really actively promoting ourselves. We kind of just stumbled into it,” says Goldwasser. “It was a really good break for us early on, and that convinced us that maybe it was worth giving it a go.” MGMT had a generally good relationship with Columbia. “They let us do what we wanted,” Goldwasser remarks. But in the end he and VanWyngarden decided Columbia was no longer a good fit for them. Goldwasser says that sometimes the record company “didn’t really know what to do with us”. So, with a Grammy Award for their Justice Remix of Electric Feel in 2009, plus a slew of other awards from the likes of MTV and NME, MGMT decided it was time to move on.

Long-distance relationship

The way Goldwasser and VanWyngarden collaborate has moved on too. VanWyngarden lives on America’s East Coast, along with the rest of the live touring band, who are all based in the New York City area. Goldwasser though, is in Los Angeles. He takes it turns with VanWyngarden to criss-cross the country, the two of them alternately going to work with the other for a week or so at a time. “I think at first we were a little bit concerned about how we would make it work”, Goldwasser confesses, “but then it just kind of happened and we got used to that way of working.” There had been a hope that exchanging ideas and material remotely would happen more than it has, but mostly, Goldwasser says, “the best things happened when the two of us were in the same room”. There were, nonetheless, happy exceptions, “crucial moments” when some little piece of an idea would make its digital way, coast to coast, across the United States, and “some kind of magic happened,” says Goldwasser. “I remember the song James on Little Dark Age. There was an idea that I had sent. I was doing a lot of stream of consciousness songwriting, where I would just sit at a keyboard and record whatever I did. Every now and then something would come out that was like, ‘Oh, that kind of sounds like a song’.” Goldwasser sent one of those ideas to VanWyngarden and the producer on Little Dark Age, Patrick Wimberly. “They came back with this incredible vocal thing. There was a truth in it that we couldn’t really plan. It was pretty magical. I hope that we write more music like that.”

The partnership between Goldwasser and VanWyngarden began at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where they were both enrolled as art students. “The University had a really strong experimental music programme,” Goldwasser recalls. “There were a lot of people exploring different genre crossovers. I had a jazz background, and Andrew played in a bunch of bands at high school. We were both raised on a lot of pop music, and we were aware of lots of different kinds of music. In that environment, it didn’t really seem like anything we were doing was out of the ordinary,” he says. “You could just do whatever you wanted.” For their first gig, Goldwasser and Van Wyngarden played a rendition of the Ghostbusters theme song for 20 minutes straight, a performance that concluded with VanWyngarden “riding around on the floor”. The pair then started writing their own material, or at least “something resembling a song” for the next time they performed. That willingness to inject a dose of irreverence into their approach has embedded itself into MGMT’s creative style, which might be described as an organically evolving mix of material, guided by a readiness to let the pieces fall as they will. The pathway that led to a single featuring a naked pop track on the A-side and a too-long-for-radio ambient piece on the B-Side began right there, at Wesleyan. “I think that’s always been the identity of the band,” says Goldwasser. “It just happens that the first thing most people heard from us was an album that had some pop singles on it.”

MGMT’s first album was the platinum-selling Oracular Spectacular, released by Columbia records in 2007. Goldwasser still points to it as a key work: “I think Oracular Spectacular is a great record. And I think it’s a special record to a lot of people - it really means so much to them.” But Goldwasser does not listen back uncritically. “It’s hard for me to listen to it without hearing what I would do differently, or sensing the frustration in something I know I was feeling when it happened. I felt that way about Congratulations too for a while. It was really hard for me to go back to it.” The door to revisiting that album was opened by The Charlatans lead singer Tim Burgess, who featured Congratulations on one of his Twitter listening parties. It was, Goldwasser says, “really amazing” to “experience my own record with fans in real time. There were a couple of moments that I got chills listening to it. I could detach enough from the process and just appreciate the music. There haven’t been too many times when I’ve been able to do that.”

Limited memory

Goldwasser says he is the more technically minded “studio nerd” of MGMT. “I’m more of the keyboard guy,” he ventures. VanWyngard “does the lyrics”, but it transpires he is also a talented drummer. “I don’t think a lot of fans know he plays all of the drums on our records”, says Goldwasser, whose current tech-fetish is rack-mount digital gear from the early to mid 90s. Goldwasser is fascinated by the thought of that kit being the most advanced music-making technology of its time. “It was digital, it was new”, he says, “and nobody had a computer that could load hundreds of plugins. Listening to electronic music from that time, people were making really intricate stuff and getting really creative with sampling with very small amounts of memory. It’s an entirely different set of limitations from what we have now.” In a world where musicians could (and would) buy sample libraries containing hundreds of illegal loops lifted from commercial recordings, and “re-record that or re-sample it”, workflows were a “very organic process”. That’s something that is attractive to Goldwasser, perhaps, in part, because of the frisson attached to flouting intellectual property laws in the pursuit of art. It was “such an exciting time,” he says.

But the limitations of physical gear, and the immediacy that comes with using it - turn a knob, hear the result - are a big part of the draw too. “I’m not one of those people who says that a plugin can never sound as good as analog hardware,” says Goldwasser, “I mean, I can’t tell the difference a lot of the time. But I still love analog hardware for what it does.” One piece of hardware that Goldwasser has enjoyed playing with was Madrona Labs’ Soundplane, an MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) controller with a walnut playing surface, produced in a short run of just 90 units. “It was one of the first of those kinds of instruments that I got really excited about. At the time, I was teaching Max/MSP (a visual programming language for music and multimedia), and one of the things I got really excited about was the space between the notes.” The Soundplane opened up options that weren’t available with other midi controllers, such as, says Goldwasser, controlling a pair of simple oscillators cross-modulating each other, and setting up patterns in between them. “I was like, ‘Oh, wow, you could very easily set up something like that’.”

Reluctant pop star

For all MGMT’s success, Goldwasser rejects the pop-star label. “I acknowledge we’ve had hit records, but at the time we were at the peak of success we really had no idea what that even meant,” he says. “It was so overwhelming that we didn’t have a moment to reflect on what we were doing, or what was happening around us.” Besides which, Goldwasser believes he doesn’t fit the mold. “When I think of a pop star, I think of someone with a certain set of job qualifications - and I don’t have any of them. There was a peak that happened a few years ago, and it was a wild time,” he continues. “What I’m most grateful for is that we’ve had a career that lasted beyond that, and the ability to reflect and grow and build on what we’ve done before. I think a lot of artists who’ve experienced commercial success don’t get that opportunity.”

So did Goldwasser enjoy the “wild time”? It’s tempting, given his reluctance to accept the pop star moniker, to suggest that he’s not entirely cut out for a life of trashing hotel rooms. “I absolutely enjoyed it,” he insists. “Looking back especially on the opportunities to travel and experience so many places. And to just have the experience of getting on stage night after night and playing music. I can’t even comprehend how much growth I got out of that. But there have also been so many times when I’ve been on the road for weeks and just completely exhausted and miserable, thinking ‘Why on Earth am I doing this?’. I think in general I wasn’t designed to be a touring musician, and I’ve been kind of fighting against it for many years.”

That struggle appears to be over for the time being. Goldwasser has settled into a more comfortable rhythm with MGMT, where there is no pressure to figure out the next step for the band. “It feels now like something we can do in our own time, whenever we’re ready,” says Goldwasser, “and I think both of us are excited about the idea of striking out on our own a little bit too, producing other artists or doing soundtracks. Some parts of operating under the traditional framework of a touring rock musician eats up a lot of your time,” he explains, “and makes it really hard to focus on anything extra-curricular.”

Reflecting on MGMT’s journey from that first college performance with VanWyngarden, Goldwasser ponders how he would explain his success to any early-career musician. “I don’t know why it worked, and I can’t say it would work for anybody,” he says. “But I do know that when I see somebody who spent too much time trying to be successful or get attention, even when they did end up with a successful career, a lot of them are miserable. So I’m incredibly thankful to be in the position I’m in right now. And I don’t take it for granted.”


What I wrote above still holds: when Sumu is released, then I can devote some more time to this project.

This year it seems desirable and possible for Madrona Labs to make a Soundplane to CV device. This would be primarily a Eurorack module, but the circuit could also be built into its own enclosure for use with vintage synths etc.

Normally I do most of my design work in private, and only announce a product when it's pretty much done. But we (Brian and I) are going to change it up this time. Because neither of us is that deeply into the Eurorack world, it makes sense to solicit input early on in the process this time. This is going to be a utility device (though hopefully an elegant one) — so before we get too far along, let's make sure it will be useful to you!

The basic idea

USB jack for powering the Soundplane. Module puts out CV / gates / mod outputs for individual touches. Like the Soundplane app, a zone map decides how the Soundplane surface is divided up into notes and what those notes are. You can switch between zone maps, and the name of the current one should be displayed somehow. Aside from this, visual feedback will be at least an LED per Z value. To keep costs low, probably nothing too graphical or fancy.

We're looking for input on things like:

How many voices?

Each voice of touch output will probably have 4 outputs for pitch, x, y and z. Setting up many voices on a modular is not the way most people use them, so I'm guessing that two voices of output will take care of 90% of what people want. We would probably add an expander module for more voices.

Any interesting modes?

A switch that changes z (pressure) into a strict on/off gate might be useful. Any other things like this?


individual voice groups vertical or horizontal? voice outputs at bottom or top? I'm thinking top, because a USB jack on the bottom will go to the Soundplane.


The module will need roughly 250mA at 5v to power the Soundplane. Brian will correct me if I'm wrong. Then there's whatever computing and display the module needs to do, and the outputs. Do we need our own power supply, or a list of compatible Euro power supplies that we can point people to? Any choices in connectivity to make here?

Finally, we're still looking for a great name…

Hi, here's a link: Aalto+Morph patches

Try starting the setup app with the Soundplane unplugged, then only plugging it in once the app prompts you to. I heard one report that this avoided an issue.

To force setup and get a clean slate, delete the support files again before this.

Hi John, I got back to you by email but I'll copy here for reference:

In MPE mode, only the mod output is controlled by the mod cc# dial. The x and y outputs for each voice are fixed to CCs 73 and 74. So you get for each voice an independent cc#74, as required by the MPE spec, and then two additional mod sources: cc73 and one more you can select.

In non-MPE mode the behavior is as documented in the manual, and what you were expecting. If the design seems weird, it’s partly because it was designed before MPE was in existence.

I made all the Morph patches with ease of setup in mind, so they work with the default Morph settings and if I remember right this limited me to one more CC besides 74. If you tweak the morph settings you could have another output using CC#73.