MIND Music Labs created ELK “The Music Operating System”. It’s a Linux-based operating system that can run super low latency audio on single Intel and ARM CPUs. It already has VST plug-in support but has now picked up support for Rack Extensions as well. The practical upshot of this is that developers can create ELK based hardware devices that run Rack Extention plugins and instruments.
Hardware Rack Extensions
“Propellerhead is thrilled to partner with Mind Music Labs to help manufacturers build groundbreaking hardware products in the most cost-effective and scalable way,” said Ernst Nathorst-Böös, CEO, Propellerhead. “We believe that together, we can bridge the gap between music creation software and hardware, and help manufacturers bring the next generation of incredible synths and effects to market.”
Reason currently has over 530 instruments and effects in the Rack Extension format and all of these are now available to anyone running hardware with the ELK OS.
The question then becomes where are the products that are running ELK? Mind Music Labs list a number of manufacturers they are working with but I’ve seen no sign of any actual hardware in play. We covered their initial release at NAMM last year but not heard anything since. They did a demo with a DV Mark Smart Multiamp, but it just looks like a phone app attached to an amp head. This ELK thing sounds like a good idea but we need more evidence of it in use before we can really understand the potential.
When people talk about bringing Rack Extensions or VSTs to hardware then I think we want more than an app attached to a box. Don’t we want knobs and control and hardware interactivity? Isn’t that the point of hardware? Or is this just a like a VST host box which lets you run your software instruments in a hardware box that’s slightly less fragile than a laptop.
There’s an image knocking around of Rack Extensions rendered into hardware – but I don’t see any evidence to suggest that each Rack Extension would have its own tailored hardware. It’s going to be much more like having some kind of generic controller that runs a load of plug-ins.
So, I’m not really feeling this at the moment. Maybe NAMM 2019 will offer some insight.