hardware and software for electronic music 


Physical modeling, made accessible.



A patchable synth with an innovative UI and distinctive sounds.

Soundplane Model A


The computer music controller with the
feel of an acoustic instrument.


Thursday, October 23, 2014
by Randy Jones

Run 3 done, Aalto work, Yosemite

Run 3 of Soundplanes is all wrapped up, and for a couple of weeks most of the instruments have been in happy new hands. Some people weren’t available to receive them, so here are a couple of stragglers going out this week.


After this run, I find myself with two or three remaining sets of good parts, as well as some prototype cases I had milled from walnut. I look forward to building out these instruments when I have time to get back into the shop, so watch this space for info if you're looking for a Soundplane because I plan to put one or more them up for sale if they make the cut.

Right now, though, I am on a dive back into Aalto land, and I'm not coming out until the 1.6 version is ready. This will fix the bug with the preset converter in version 1.5, as well as many other issues. This won't be a "fancy new features" release, rather the result of a whole lot of work under the hood that should make everything more solid and efficient. You know, the kind of release you wish companies would devote more time to.

Apple just released a new version of MacOS called Yosemite. I haven't tried it yet because of the aforementioned Aalto work. I have heard a few rumblings about problems with window management in VST plugins. So for now, I would recommend that you not upgrade, unless you can't resist all the nice new eye candy, and you're not in the middle of a project. If you do try it out, please drop by the forums and let us all know how it's going.

Friday, September 12, 2014
by Randy Jones

Mise en place

Here’s a new run 3 Soundplane on the bench, with the little boxes of parts and some of the tools I need to put it together:

surfaces 1-8

The little boxes are a low-tech solution that has evolved over a few generations. The weighted bases let me grab parts out of them quickly without tipping them over very often. Sometimes it's the little things.

Here’s the grain on our new friend, up close. It’s performing wonderfully. My pictures never do justice to the shell inlays, which in real life are iridescent.

surfaces 1-8

Tuesday, August 05, 2014
by Randy Jones

Soundplane production 2

Our third run of Soundplanes is looking good. Here are all 30 enclosures after three coats of oil finish.

There is some particularly nice variety in this batch of cherry.

Cutting the veneer is a fun part of the process, where I get to decide what part of the crazy abstract walnut grain landscape to turn into each playing surface. This is done now, and the sandwich of materials that forms each Soundplane surface is ready to be laser-cut by our friends at Gurian Instruments here in Seattle.

You might wonder why Madrona Labs doesn't have a laser cutter, since they are such fun tools. The kind of laser cutter that can do the needed cuts through the surfaces is a big, expensive, and sometimes tempermental beast. To do that work with precision takes a lot of practice and I'm happy to have it done by experts.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014
by Randy Jones

Soundplane production

Soundplane production is in full swing here, and a busy month is planned so we can start shipping in early August. Here's Christopher tapping the walnut eyes into some Soundplanes:

Here are some of the new cherry enclosures with eyes awaiting final sanding and finishing. The wood has milled just great and is very smooth and dimensionally stable. I like the figure in the cherry very much, there are some nice waves and topographies going on and I’m excited to see how they pop when we put the finish on. Part of the charm of cherry is that it takes on a darker patina over time with light exposure and handling.

Thanks to my friends Alex and Erika we are the proud caretakers of a Shopsmith Mark V. I remember these being advertised on late-night TV long ago. Sort of a giant multi-tool with saw, drill press, lathe and boring capabilities. Turns out it's actually a good sturdy tool, much nicer than my loud old contractors' saw. It transforms into various configurations including a lathe, but I will probably leave it set up as a table saw most of the time.

And that's the news from the shop. The next couple of weeks are all about sanding and finishing the enclosures, then we can start in on the surfaces.

Saturday, June 07, 2014
by Randy Jones

It's the Kaivo 1.1 update!

Hi there! For the past three months, I've been working on an update to Kaivo, and it's finally time to roll it out. I've tuned up the audio engine, improved the graphics and spent many hours finding and fixing a whole host of minor UI issues that made people including me go "grrrr" sometimes. Thanks as always for your support, and all the feedback you have sent my way about the 1.0 version. This 1.1 release is feeling buttery smooth here, and I hope it gives you many happy hours diving into sound.


  • over 50 new factory patches
  • optimized DSP code (10-20% improvement)
  • made demo reminder noise much quieter
  • added a new audio import dialog
  • trimmed and optimized source samples
  • fixed a compatibility problem with Soundplane
  • improved model sonics in high frequencies
  • improved resonator tuning
  • increased range of resonator damping parameter
  • improved legibility of scope dials
  • fixed a problem saving the window location
  • fixed glitches in xy scope display
  • improved typography
  • improved granulator view speed
  • fixed incredibly annoying disappearing menu issue
  • fixed keyboard stealing issue in 64-bit VST
  • added case-insensitive sort for patch menu
  • fixed audio issues with body nonlinearity
  • and many more minor fixes.

Special thanks for making this release happen go to Don Solaris, who generously contributed some great factory patches. (If you happen to have a Waldorf Blofeld, check out his excellent "Analog Voltage" patches at the Waldorf website.) The new Import dialog is not reflected in the manual yet. But it should be pretty straightforward. In the future, I want to add some file combining magic here, but for now, it simply lets you pull up a file, listen to it, and it the file is longer than 8 seconds, pick the 8 second clip you want to import into Kaivo. If you have any questions, please stop into the forums and ask.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
by Randy Jones

Soundplane app 1.1 update

Soundplane application v.1.1 is now available at the usual spot in the hardware forums.

This is an interim release with a few important fixes to issues that cropped up in 1.0. It works with Aalto 1.0 and Kaivo 1.5.

Please note that I moved the zone configuration files to the new location ~/Music/Madrona Labs. You will have to move these files from their existing locations in ~/Library. Why did I do this? With Apple making your Library folders hidden by default, ~/Music is becoming the default location for various software makers to put things like patches and saved presets. Now I don't have to explain to people how to get to their Library folders. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Remember, this is open source software! All the code is viewable at github/madronalabs. I welcome your suggestions and contributions. Thanks to Greg Wuller for the note-off fix.


  • PLEASE NOTE: moved support files to ~/Music/Madrona Labs.
  • fixed a problem where the wrong note value was sent on note-off
  • fixed a potential crash sending MIDI if a MIDI device was not set
  • made benign errors less alarming

Friday, April 18, 2014
by Randy Jones

Getting the most out of Kaivo

Kaivo makes a unique range of very realistic, physically tangible sounds. You can reach into its FDTD (finite-difference time-domain) models and touch them at different points, a playing experience that is tactile and physical. I've heard some great unsolicited feedback so far that I'm on the right track, stuff like: “beautiful and natural. Very strong sense of this being generated acoustically. A bit of musical uncanny valley.” And Kaivo is just getting rolling, with new models to come. So far, so good. But as most people who have tried it know, Kaivo can be an absolute CPU hog. The FDTD models that sound so great are really demanding on the CPU. So I'm writing down some info about just why and how Kaivo crunches numbers that I hope will be interesting in its own right, and help you get more sounds out of your computer.
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
by Randy Jones

Kaivo 1.0 is here!

I've spent the last few weeks here in the labs fine tuning physical models for Kaivo, our new software synthesizer. “Kaivo” is Finnish for “well,” as in, a deep well of sounds, and I've been working on deepening that well over the last month or so. Kaivo's models include metal, nylon and gut strings, different sizes of chimes and springs (yes, springs), wooden instrument bodies, membranes and metal plates.

If you already know about Kaivo, you are probably ready to stop reading and head over to the product page. Feel free, the rest of this note will be here for you when you get back.

Today marks the release of this product I've been working on for two years, but only the start of its development. The current models only scratch the surface of what the underlying engine is capable of. I'll release some more models free of charge as time permits. I'm excited to hear what ideas Kaivo sparks when people really get into it, what new musical terrain it helps you explore.

I couldn't have done this without my peeps, so some shout outs are definitely due. Firstly to Eric Moon, who wrote the granulator and limiter, and put up gracefully with my many tuning requests. To Dan Godlovitch at U. Vic, who helped with the math. To George Cochrane, tech writer par excellence (now with adjustable metaphor dial). To David Chandler, for all the wonderful mutants. And to everyone who sent patches or samples or feature ideas, whether I had time to work them in or not.

Happy patching, and please keep sharing those crazy sounds and compositions via the Madrona Labs SoundCloud page.

Sunday, February 16, 2014
by Randy Jones

Aalto 1.5 now available

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.
Monday, January 20, 2014
by Randy Jones

Kaivo preview

Kaivo is in beta now, shipping next month. Thanks to Surachai of Trash Audio for the demo.

Visit the Madrona group on SoundCloud for many more!