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Volta, 828mk3, Logic, and DotCom: First Impressions
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Volta  
Author Volta, 828mk3, Logic, and DotCom: First Impressions
Bath House
I got my 828 and Volta from FedEx yesterday. I read the whole manual on my commute home just to prep myself. Here are some first impressions:

1. I spent the first few hours swearing like someone with tourette's, but this was mostly due to trying to figure out how to use the 828 with my setup. I now see that it's a great piece of hardware for routing anything to anything, but there are some truly baffling UI decisions and defaults with that thing, like having Analog in 1-8 actually being inputs #3-11 rather than #1-8 when appearing in software and so on (this info was ultimately buried deep in a sub-chapter of the manual).

2. I do not understand the way that Volta works in Logic. This is predominantly a failing on my part, because I only use Logic as a simple multitracker/sequencer and never mess with sidechains and auxes and stuff like that. I finally got it working, but I don't understand why or how it's working. Why do I need to add that aux channel to use it? Why do I need to select a sidechain within volta to bring the audio back to its own channel? Why, even after doing so, do I hear my synth's output doubled as though it's just coming straight through the interface itself AND through Logic's channels? Why do I end up with literally six extra channels in Logic's mixer just to run one instance of Volta? Braaaaaaaainnnnnnnnnn Melllllllllllllllllllltttttttt.

3. That aside, Volta's manual is awesome. Kudos to whoever wrote it. Software companies, this is how it's done. This is how you get people to pay you money for their product. Extremely well-written and it explains everything exceedingly well. My lack of understanding is clearly an issue between me, Logic, and its routing and not a failing on Volta or MOTU's part.

4. Volta itself - pretty awesome. Calibration had a few quirks with my Dotcom Q-106 oscillator, but once I switched to sine and set the range to the middle I got several octaves of perfect tracking. Volta's envelopes are KILLER. I think when all is said and done, the insanely snappy envelopes are going to be Volta's real hidden weapon. Those things are TIGHT, man. They're almost too tight at times - very clicky depending on my VCA's settings. I may have to mess with some lag or something. But I can already tell that this thing is THE PERCUSSION MACHINE - I mean serious thwippy, blippy Roland SH-101 snappiness that my DotCom's Q109 Envelopes can't even touch.

The step and trigger sequencers are fun, too - patch one to pitch, mult the other one to filter and amp, and you're in business. I also had a ton of fun with the step sequencer going to osc pitch and then an LFO going to VCA, chopping the output in subdivisions of the sequencer. Not a Numerology killer, but a great start. I do wish that you could force sequencer steps to scale, but everything here is so rudimentary right now that I can only assume/hope stuff like that'll come with a later update.

5. My only complaint or issue is that with each instance of volta offering 24 outputs (corresponding to your interface's physical outputs), it's weird to me to have to run two different instances if I want to control two different modular oscillators (doing two different things) at the same time - with each instance only using one slot in the first place. It seems like Volta would/should run more like one central hub, routing different MIDI channels, controllers, step-sequencers, LFO's, etc. to their respective physical outputs on your hardware. But instead, Volta is set up to be more like a "voice" - so if you want to have one oscillator playing a midi-cv bassline, have another oscillator playing a kick drum, and then play leads over it with a third oscillator, you have to run three different instances of volta instead of just routing all of that stuff via one instance...even though each instance has access to all of your physical outputs. Kooky, and different than I expected, but by no means critical or deal-breaking, and it's probably crucial to volta truly "integrating" AU-style on its own channel and stuff.

Eight thumbs up, guys. I just hope I can get my head around what's going on when you run Volta in Logic.
bar|none
> But I can already tell that this thing is THE PERCUSSION MACHINE - I mean serious thwippy, blippy Roland SH-101 snappiness that my DotCom's Q109 Envelopes can't even touch.

Wow, that's good to hear, I haven't tried them yet. What am I thinking...need to do that tonight.

>It seems like Volta would/should run more like one central hub, routing different MIDI channels

The reason for this is a limitation of what plugins can do. Not really volta's fault. For example, you can only route in one midi channel to a plug, so you couldn't actually do this. Also the reason for the sidechains for audio is that plugs output to a single stereo pair (cause this is what a track does), but you can get around this by using the sidechain audio outputs.
stretta
Quote:
there are some truly baffling UI decisions and defaults with that thing, like having Analog in 1-8 actually being inputs #3-11 rather than #1-8 when appearing in software


I agree this is confusing. Volta has 26 outputs: 24 CV sidechain outputs and the plug in audio output. Volta is a unique plug in in the sense that the sidechain outputs are more important (arguably) than the audio outputs. However, they are numbered after the plug in audio outputs, thus offsetting all the outputs by two.

There is a method of renaming the outputs with the AU custom names specification, which Volta implements. When you use Volta in Live, you will notice the names correlate.

The problem is Logic, an apple product, doesn't respect the custom names AU specification (also by apple). very frustrating

We could update Volta to start the output labeling in the AU version to start at three so the numbering correlates. So, Volta will still have 24 CV outputs, it'll just be numbered 3-26. A better solution would be for Logic to, you know, work properly.

It is also worth pointing out that this DAW plumbing is only necessary in the AU version, due to limitations of the format. The MAS (Digital Performer) version directly accesses the audio outputs of the interface via Core Audio. This eliminates the step of setting up the auxes, and improves workflow.

My advice is to set up a Volta template in Logic so you don't have to do this every time.

Quote:
I do not understand the way that Volta works in Logic.


If you haven't already, I urge you to view the included video tutorials on how to set up with Logic. This will save a lot of aggravation.

Quote:
Volta's envelopes are KILLER. I think when all is said and done, the insanely snappy envelopes are going to be Volta's real hidden weapon.


This is a pretty interesting observation and not the first time I've heard it. Instruments with sluggish envelopes can find some new uses (or an entire new area of sound design) with Volta's envelopes. Software envelopes are notorious for being... well, bad, but this is only because they're starved for resolution and processing power. Volta's envelopes are generated at audio rate, along with everything else, and this brute force method yields good results.

Envelopes also cover a broad swath of time. The short clicky stuff is good, but the segments are generous. (20 seconds per segment) so if you're into slowly-evolving stuff, this is heaven. We figured anything slower than that, and you could use a ramp.

Quote:
Not a Numerology killer, but a great start.


Heh. It would be better to leave that to Numerology, which we're all excited for. The included sequencers are still handy. They have up to 32 steps and they can move very slowly and nothing beats having a virtually unlimited pool of step sequencers on hand.

Tip: use the mouse wheel to set step sequencer values.

Quote:
My only complaint or issue is that with each instance of volta offering 24 outputs (corresponding to your interface's physical outputs), it's weird to me to have to run two different instances if I want to control two different modular oscillators (doing two different things) at the same time


The idea was multitimberal operation with a modular was an edge case and simply addressed by using another instance of Volta. In use, though, I'm finding that I think of Volta as addressing a fixed set of outputs, and it would be useful to be able to handle multitimberal capabilities within a single instance. I think this could be handled elegantly with the existing UI, so I'd agree with your point.
suitandtieguy
stretta wrote:
The problem is Logic, an apple product, doesn't respect the custom names AU specification (also by apple). very frustrating


i'm totally shocked that Logic does something completely stupid in regards to Apple's own spec.

btw, that last sentence was sarcasm.
Bath House
Ok, after reading over this and playing around with it again last night, i finally got my head around the way that everything works. To reiterate, for anyone else that gets confused: The "Auxes" are really just your individual ouputs (ganged as groups of two) that you have to create in Logic in order to have channels open for Volta to send your CVs to individual outputs on your interface. They have goofy numbers because Logic/Apple doesn't play nice with their own spec, so the numbers are offset by two; Volta's first two CV outs, for example, are "3-4" rather than "1-2," which are its main outs. The sidechain input in the Volta plugin itself is for bringing your external audio back into the plugin, so you should choose whichever analog input your synth's output is running into.

Whew.
Analog>Plugins
It's the same thing when using Volta in Cubase 5. You have to open Volta in Native Instruments Kore first and then add extra outputs to Kore.

If I only have 2 outputs for Kore and 2 outputs within kore allococated for Volta then output 1 and 2 in Volta will be 1 and 2, output 3 and 4 in Volta will be 1 and 2 in kore etc etc...
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