(Mark Mosher Music News) (Modulate This) ableton live 10 Microsoft Surface Synth: AALTO Synth: Ableton Wavetable

New Microsoft Surface Announcements Including Surface Laptop, Pro, Neo, and Duo + My Journey with Surface for Music Production and Performance So Far

My Journey So Far with Surface

I’m a big fan of design of Microsoft Surface computers and have a Surface Laptop and Surface Pro 4 that I use for every day computing and for music applications like Ableton Live and virtual synthesizers. I literally have trouble using computers that don’t support touch displays and pen – haha.

Using a Surface Pro 4 and Pen to Manipulate Ableton Wavetable

Here are just a few videos where I took advantage of the pen in synthesis.

I also use my Surface Laptop for my live Ableton Performances like this one.

Of course while the devices are super light and the designs are quite fantastic as a live musician we can always use more oomph and connectivity. So I was excited to hear that Microsoft held an event today announcing the new Microsoft Surface line updates plus a look into products they will be releasing all the way out to the holiday season of 2020.

Official Product Videos

There are some great new updates coming to the line. Here are the official product videos.

Surface Laptop 3

Yah, removable hard drive!

Make a more powerful statement with new Surface Laptop 3. Sleek and light, it travels with ease and delivers improved speed and performance, all-day battery life, and outstanding graphics. Now in two sizes and two elegant keyboard finishes. Fuel your ideas with Surface Laptop 3.

Product Page is here.

Surface Pro 7

At the office, at home or en route, new Surface Pro 7 adapts to the way you work with laptop-to-tablet versatility. And now, it delivers more power than ever, with a laptop-class Intel® Core™ processor, all-day battery, and improved graphics — plus more multitasking connections, including both USB-C™ and USB-A ports. More power from the Pro you know. Surface Pro 7.

Product page is here.

Surface Pro X

I didn’t find a product teaser for this but they cover it in the presentation summary below. Here is the product page

Featuring blazing-fast LTE connectivity,3 our thinnest Surface stands out with industry-leading performance and a stunning, virtually edge-to-edge 13” touchscreen. The Pen stores securely and recharges in the luxurious, Alcantara® covered keyboard, complete with backlit keys and large multi-touch glass trackpad.

New – Surface Neo

Ok, now for some very new designs starting with the Surface Neo. I see some incredible potential for electronic and multimedia creation and performance.

Coming Holiday 2020. A groundbreaking new dual-screen device that redefines how you get things done. With two 9” screens, a revolutionary 360° hinge, touch, pen, keyboard, and incredible new Windows experiences, Surface Neo enables you to do more, anywhere.

(Modulate This) Synth: AALTO

Madrona Labs Aalto 1.5 is Now available


One of my favorite instruments Aalto has just been updated. Aalto is a “semi-modular software synthesizer with an innovative, patchable UI, distinctive sounds, and a charming personality.” Here is the news from Madrona Labs…

Hi all! This winter has seen a flurry of programming here at the labs. Aside from finishing up our new synthesizer, Kaivo, I have done some work fine tuning Aalto and making sure it plays nicely with recent operating systems and hosts.

Aalto 1.5 is out now. As always, you can get the release version by logging in and clicking “My Downloads,” and the demo at the Aalto product page. Version 1.5 has some major compatibility improvements for both Windows and Mac users. Performance should be dramatically improved on some Windows systems. I’ve improved the usability of the Patcher and dial UIs.

On Mac OS, if you have a Retina display, you are in for a treat. As always, you can smoothly scale Aalto to a wide range of sizes, or even zoom it to full screen. This new version has a new OpenGL-assisted renderer so graphics are amazingly sharp, at full Retina resolution, in compatible hosts. It may be “only a graphic thing” but I find this change means that using a tiny little Aalto window is now possible, which can really improve workflow on a laptop screen. (note: unfortunately Ableton Live does not yet support full-resolution rendering.)

Here’s the list of major changes in Aalto 1.5:

  • Fixed an issue that was slowing down Aalto dramatically on some Windows systems.
  • Fixed an issue requiring a runtime support pack on some Windows systems.
  • Improved latency through the patcher when running at large host buffer sizes.
  • Aalto now draws at full resolution on Macintosh Retina Display, in compatible hosts.
  • Aalto is now compatible with Soundplane version 1.0 and higher.
  • Fix mousewheel direction on Mac OS 10.7 and higher.
  • Accelerated drawing to the screen on Mac OS with OpenGL.
  • Optimized drawing scheduling to avoid glitches, especially in Logic.
  • User and factory presets now share the same location.
  • Improved ergonomics of patcher with larger handles and smoother graphics.
  • Fixed a drawing problem with bipolar dials.
  • Improved drag ergonomics for dials.

More on Aalto here


imageMark Mosher
Electronic Musician & Performer, Boulder, CO
Artist Site:

(Modulate This) AudioCubes Synth: AALTO

Sound Design Experiment with Aalto and AudioCubes

Watch embedded vide in HD

I decided to combine the fluid tangible spatial control of Percussa AudioCubes with the some droning patches I made from INIT with Madrona Labs wonderful Aalto synth.

Aalto has an awesome gate feature which allows you to create interesting drones leaving your hands free to modulate the hell out of parameters to create expressive and unique performances. You can also modulate the gate. Two AudioCubes in Sensor mode allow you to modulate with 8 MIDI CC’s with two hands.

AudioCubes Makes Virtual Synths Tangible

Watch the video above first with annotations on, then a second time with annotations off. On the second pass through watch how fluid the control is and how many parameters I’m managing at the same time. You’ll also see I’m getting visual feedback in the form of light intensity and color. After you perform with AudioCubes for a  while your brain starts to fool you into thinking that there are pressure bubbles around the sensors. In other words, even though the throw is about three inches when using your fingers with cubes, you can become quite accurate with control – especially when you combine visual feedback and audio feedback.

Because you can configure and map cube function differently with each patch, set and instrument, you start also thinking of each combination as an instrument on to itself. Once I set something like this up, I find myself coming back to it again and again getting a little better with the “instrument” with each use. This often results in me wanting to push things further and I learn the synth better plus creating more expressive performances.

Configuration Notes

I used the configure button on the Ableton Device holding the Aalto synthesizer select a set of parameters that I then map to faces of two Percussa AudioCubes in sensor mode. I did a video on the this Ableton mapping process a few years back with different devices, but the premise is the same. These cubes were configured via Percussa’s free MIDIBridge app.  I then use spatial movement of my fingers modulate parameters in Aalto. In same cases cubes modulate each other if sensors are facing each other.


Mark Mosher
Electronic/Experimental Music Artist, Boulder, CO
Synthesist | Composer | Keyboardist | Performer

Synth Geek Blog:
Artist Site:

(Modulate This) Synth: AALTO

Thumbs Up for Madrona Labs AALTO Software Synthesizer


Peter Kirn over at Create Digital Music did a post on a new synth by Madrona Labs last month. Even though I wasn’t in the market for a new synth right now I ended up buying Aalto within an hour or so of downloading the demo so I wanted to pass this along and help promote Madrona’s great work. At $99 this is an incredible value.

Brief Video Overview

Watch embedded video


  • Semi-modular software synthesizer.
  • Fantastic flat popup-free patchable UI.
  • A Buchla-inspired complex oscillator, with FM, timbre and waveshape controls that enable a wide range of expressive sounds… made with dynamic calculation, not static wavetables.
  • Each voice has a separate, built-in sequencer with a patchable, independently controllable rate and offset that make it easy to achieve evolving, chaotic textures.
  • Each voice also includes a lowpass gate module with a vactrol emulation in the control path. The vactrol equation slows down the response to incoming control signals through a complex nonlinear filter. You can turn the vactrol response down to instantaneous, or up to a pronounced ring.
  • A patchable waveguide / delay module with a waveshaper and a peaking EQ built into the feedback loop. Because it has such short and controllable delay times, unlike a typical analog delay, it can be used as an additional oscillator or waveguide.
  • Aalto's filter is a state-variable topology with mixable simultaneous outputs, tuned to have a similar range to an Oberheim SEM filter.

Aalto 1.1 Acid House Demo Video

View embedded video by Madrona’s Randy Jones

Share Patches XML Patch Format

Another cool feature is the ability to copy patches in XML format to the clip board which allows you to email patches to a friend simply by pasting them into the body of an email.

Speaking of sharing patches, there is a site for patch sharing here

Use the Factory Sounds for Inspiration, Then Get Patching!

I emailed Madrona’s Randy Jones just to let him know how much I was loving Aalto and he emailed back “It's my hope that Aalto's ease of use will suck some people into patching, who might have been relying on presets otherwise.”

First Impressions

I love the GUI and work flow which is very straightforward yet extremely flexible. I’m a big fan of FM synthesis and I’m really glad Madrona chose this type of synthesis with it’s straight-forward “patcher” modulation architecture. It’s an immediate and transparent approach to FM with a huge range of sonic and rhythmic possibilities.

The gate feature offers the possibility of creating and modulating drones without MIDI input. It is such a simple idea and I'm loving creating self-triggering rhythmic patterns.

My personal experience was that I groked the synth almost immediately and then started patching new sounds from “default” within the first hour of use.


I like sound quite a bit and the factory patches are unusual and inspiring. Note they are not huge “workstation” type sounds and while there is a reverb and a waveguide / delay module built-in, Madrona assumes you are going to bring your favorite fx plugins to the table.

“Subjectively speaking, Aalto can make a wide range of soundsAalto can make a wide range of soundsfrom lush to edgy, including some very complicated ones, without sounding too thick in a mix. Aalto's sounds are not hyped or confined, they are wide-range, open and natural. We hope our approach will appeal to experienced sound designers who have their own favorite EQs and limiters. And for those just getting into synthesis, Aalto is an accurate and honest tool for learning. We have tried to make Aalto a deep instrument that will reward lasting engagement.”


If you are a seasoned sound designer you’ll enjoy the immediate interface, sonic possibilities and work flow.

If you are newer to programming yet ready to branch out beyond subtractive synthesis, you can’t go wrong with Aalto. The price is right and there are a good amount of sample patches to learn from.

If you are a composer looking for some very unique sounds to add to your palette, Aalto is worth a look as well.


Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Boulder, CO
Synthesist | Composer | Keyboardist | Performer
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