Yamaha’s MX88 synth turns your iPhone into a real instrument

I hate, hate, hate computers and phones/tablets on stage. To me, a Macbook sitting next to a keyboardist or percussionist is just asking for trouble. Computers freeze, apps crash and sometimes you forget to turn off notifications and now everyone in the audience knows you got a new Facebook message. And frankly, they’re not very “rock ‘n’ roll.” So imagine my surprise when, while using the Yamaha MX88 keyboard, I found myself launching the FM Essential companion app — on my iPhone!

The $ 1,299 (You’ll really only pay $ 999) MX88 is the latest member of Yamaha’s entry-level MX lineup. But the keyboard’s sounds and weighted key action are that of far more expensive synthesizers. The instrument ships with over 1,000 voices (instrument sounds) from the company’s more expensive Motif series of keyboards. Quantity is great, but quality is far more important for a musician and the MX88 delivers with its piano and organ recreations.

It’s also nice that the polyphonic instrument can handle 128 simultaneous notes. It allows you can layer sound after sound to the keys and never worry about losing any of the notes.

But if you insist on playing the synth with your fingers, the weighted keys are a delight for an instrument in this price range. The action is quick and gives the player more control over the dynamics of a note when the key is hit.

The controls on the keyboard are straight forward with a small display for voices and more complex control over the synth. The more readily used features like voice manipulation, keyboard splitting, and top level sound menus are all available via a knob or button on the face of the MX88. But there’s also that app.

The FM Essentials companion mobile app, on its surface, is an adequate facsimile of a synth with a tiny keyboard and various voices. It ships with drum loops so your creations have a back beat. But it’s when you plug it into the MX88 that you see the real value. With it, you can control the voices on the keyboard and manipulate them with the on-screen oscilloscope (a visual reference of the waveform). That’s where the fun comes in.

I was able to take normal voices, flip on the arpeggio, adjust the options like cut off, resonance, modulation and make them my own right in the app and much quicker than I could on the keyboard. Plus, once I was done with that, I could play music from my iPhone directly though the keyboard via the same USB port. So I could accompany something I had recorded earlier, or play along to my favorite song.

The only drawback is that you have to buy Apple’s $ 30 Lightning to USB camera adapter cable to get it to work. You can’t just plug into the device USB slot (which seems like where you would plug in your phone). Instead you have to use the host USB slot.

Whether or not I would use this setup live is still debatable. iPhone apps crash just as often as computer applications. But, it has made me a believer than when done correctly, connecting your instrument to a computer isn’t that horrible and in the case of the MX88, actually enhances the experience of an already wonderful synthesizer.

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‘Take On Me’ app turns your home into an ’80s music video

A-ha’s classic video for “Take On Me” was the result of painstaking effort — it took 16 weeks to rotoscope the frames, creating that signature blend between the real and hand-drawn worlds. Now, however, you only need an iPhone to recreate the look yourself. Trixi Studios has shown off an augmented reality iOS app that produces the “Take On Me” look in your own home. The proof-of-concept software makes do with virtual versions of A-ha’s Morten Harket and the pipe-wielding thugs, but its effect is more convincing than you might think.

In many ways, the app (which isn’t publicly available, alas) is a showcase of how easy it’s becoming to implemented augmented reality. Trixi wrote the software using Apple’s ARKit, a software toolbox that gives iOS developers a relatively easy way to weave AR content into their apps. They don’t have to make an engine from scratch. You certainly don’t need ARKit to create the “Take On Me” effect, but a framework like that makes it possible for even small outfits to produce slick results. That, in turn, could lead to developers treating AR less as a novelty and more as an important creative tool.

Via: Prosthetic Knowledge, Sploid

Source: Trixi Studios (YouTube)

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iPhone 7 turns around slowing sales for Apple

iPhone sales were bound to start dropping sooner or later, but today’s earnings news from Apple sees a turnaround: iPhone sales are back up after a year. In the first full quarter with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus on the market, Apple sold 78.3 million smartphones. That’s up about five percent from a year ago, when the company moved 74.8 million iPhones. Historically, a new iPhone model has guaranteed that sales would be up as well — and even though the iPhone 7 is a rather iterative model, it was enough to do the trick.

As the iPhone goes, so goes Apple’s overall financial health. This quarter (the company’s first quarter of its 2017 fiscal year), revenue of $ 78.4 billion and profits of $ 18.4 billion are massive numbers and both increases on a year ago.

The Mac was another winner this quarter — but just barely. The company sold 5.37 million Macs, up a small 1.4 percent over the year-ago quarter. It’s not surprising that the first MacBook Pro refresh helped out the overall line, although it’s a pretty small bump over last year. The iPad wasn’t so lucky, with sales of 13.1 million representing yet another down quarter. That’s 19 percent less iPads than Apple sold a year ago, and we’re now looking at three full years of declining iPad sales. While Tim Cook has continued to say the product is how Apple defines the future of computing, the numbers don’t lie, and it’ll be interesting to see if he addresses the continued drop today.

Apple is continuing to decline to say how many Apple Watches it sells, so all we have to go on there is Tim Cook’s word — the CEO said that it was a record quarter for Apple Watch revenue. However, revenue in the “other products” category (which covers things like Beats, the iPod, Apple TV and accessories in addition to the Apple Watch) declined year over year, so the Watch wasn’t quite enough to make up for losses in other product categories.

The last big part of Apple’s business is is services business, which covers things like Apple Music, iCloud, the App Store and so on. It was a big winner this quarter, continuing the trend we saw in 2016. Apple says that the $ 7.17 billion in revenue from services is a record, though in terms of overall revenue it’s now just slightly behind the Mac ($ 7.24 billion) in terms of how much overall cash it pulls in.

As usual, Apple will be holding a call with CEO Tim Cook and we’ll be updating this post with anything else we learn. Elephants in the room include the iPad, when the company might get more AirPods to consumers, and what the response has been to the new MacBook Pro. We’re guessing he’s going to say that customers just love it.

Source: Apple

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