NAMM 2018: can ELK become the Android of musical instruments?
Powerful they may be, but computers mean nothing without an operating system. And the OS happens to be one of the biggest bottlenecks in audio, taking away precious processing power and resources from your DAW and plug-ins. While gear makers have been solving this issue with DSP and FPGA chips since the dawn of digital audio, there’s still much that can be done on the software side – yet few developers are taking up the challenge.
The team behind ELK is on a mission to change that. Hailing from Sweden, MIND Music Labs introduced a Linux-based operating system – a MOS (Music Operating System) designed for low-latency audio, running on pretty much everything with a chip in it. Promising 1ms round trip latency, full MIDI support, and VST & JUCE support, MIND want their ELK to become “the Android of audio.”
On the less-technical side, ELK aims to satisfy musicians and producers as well by making it easy to add new sounds and features, easily connect & record instruments on computers and mobile devices, and seamlessly share their work on the Internet. MIND wants to achieve this with traditional off-the-shelf x86 and ARM CPUs, instead of dedicated DSP and FPGA units. The first brands to support ELK will be DVMark, MarkBass, and Overloud.
With its novel architecture, ELK makes it possible to create music software for desktop and easily port it to mobile and embedded platforms. This is potentially huge, for ELK’s existence will make it possible for manufacturers to create complex musical instruments without having to write their proprietary operating systems. ELK sorts out the hardware, programmers make the applications. Sounds like a dream come true for music gear makers!
The first ELK-powered musical instrument was demonstrated at NAMM 2018, along with the operating system itself. This is the DV Mark Smart Multiamp, an amp head that uses Overloud’s popular TH-3 amp simulation suite as its back-end to provide a virtually limitless number of models and presets, including IR import. Can this ELK-powered creation rival the AXE-FX 3? We’ll see later this year when both units ship.
Check out ELK at MIND Music Labs and get in touch with the company if you are interested in developing.