The State of Patching

Digital art/music people are no strangers to patching, but it seems as of late the patching industry has been converging on a few standards.

MAX/MSP/JITTER

This super-powerful and extensible package has long been seen as the ‘standard’ for audio patching, and has just recently gained footing in the mainstream markets.  The big con is price ($499)

PD

Coded and maintained by one of the original Max devs, PD remains the only real patching solution for Linux (also available on PC and Mac).  Does about everything that Max does *technically* but severely lacking in UI refinement and presentation.

SUPERCOLLIDER

A more low-level package than Max and PD directed mainly at plugin authors.  Obviously plugin export is superior in SC (until Max for Live is out at least)

QUARTZ COMPOSER

A video/graphics patcher for Macs that actually comes free with the system.  Apple bought this from a third party in 2003 and seems to be maintaining it but they could realistically take QC and make it a core audio powerhouse, easily besting the above patchers in terms of style and price.  Addon for Logic 9 anyone?

MOVING FORWARD

Max is gaining market share (and mindshare) mch more effectively than the others but PD remains strong due to its free (as in beer and speech) status.  I’d love to see PD get a better UI and export, and I’d love for Cycling 74 to make a Max Lite for hobbyists, etc.  QC could do well to expand its audio capabilities over the simple MIDI/Audio inputs in currently uses.  Max for Live proves though that there is consumer interest in patching and that’s a positive for the whole community.

Author: Will Kuhn

I teach music technology to high schoolers. I do some other stuff too. @willkuhn on Twitter.

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