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Signal processing in Max
MSP gives you over 170 Max objects with which to build your own synthesizers, samplers, and effects processors as software instruments that perform audio signal processing.
A filter and delay effect processor in MSP
As you know, Max enables you to design your own programs for controlling MIDI synthesizers, samplers, and effects processors.
MIDI control with Max

With the addition of the MSP objects, you can also create your own digital audio device designs— your own computer music instruments -- and incorporate them directly into your Max programs. You can specify exactly how you want your instruments to respond to MIDI control, and you can implement the entire system in a Max patch.
MIDI control of a parameter of an audio process
MSP objects are connected together by patch cords in the same way as Max objects. These connected MSP objects form a signal network which describes a scheme for the production and modification of digital audio signals. (This signal network is roughly comparable to the instrument definition familiar to users of Music N sound synthesis languages such as Csound.) The audio signals are played through the audio output jack of your computer, or through an installed sound card, using CoreAudio on the Macintosh, MME or DirectSound on Windows, or ASIO on either platform.
Signal network for an FM instrument

How To Use This Manual
The MSP Documentation contains the following sections:
Digital Audio explains how computers represent sound. Reading this chapter may be helpful if MSP is your first exposure to digital manipulation of audio. If you already have experience in this area, you can probably skip this chapter.
How MSP Works provides an overview of the ideas behind MSP and how the software is integrated into the Max environment. Almost everyone will want to read this brief chapter.
Audio Input and Output describes MSP support for Core Audio on Macintosh systems, support for DirectSound on Windows systems, and audio interface cards. It explains how to use the DSP Status window to monitor and tweak MSP performance.
The MSP Tutorials are over 30 step-by-step lessons in the basics of using MSP to create digital audio applications. Each chapter is accompanied by a patch found in the MSP Tutorial folder. If you're just getting set up with MSP, you should at least check out the first tutorial, which covers setting up MSP to make sound come out of your computer.
The MSP Object Reference section describes the workings of each of the MSP objects. It's organized in alphabetical order.
Reading the manual online
The table of contents of the MSP documentation is bookmarked, so you can view the bookmarks and jump to any topic listed by clicking on its names. To view the bookmarks, choose Bookmarks from the Windows menu. Click on the triangle next to each section to expand it.
Instead of using the Index at the end of the manual, it might be easier to use Acrobat Reader's Find command. Choose Find from the Tools menu, then type in a word you're looking for. Find will highlight the first instance of the word, and Find Again takes you to subsequent instances. We'd like to take this opportunity to discourage you from printing out the manual unless you find it absolutely necessary.
Other Resources for MSP Users
The help files found in the max- help folder provide interactive examples of the use of each MSP object.
The Max/MSP Examples folder contains a number of interesting and amusing demonstrations of what can be done with MSP.
The Cycling '74 web site provides the latest updates to our software as well as an extensive list of frequently asked questions and other support information.
Cycling '74 runs an on-line Max/MSP discussion where you can ask questions about programming, exchange ideas, and find out about new objects and examples other users are sharing. For information on joining the discussion, as well as a guide to third-party Max/MSP resources, visit http://www.cycling74.com/community
Finally, if you're having trouble with the operation of MSP, send e-mail to support@cycling74.com, and we'll try to help you. We'd like to encourage you to submit questions of a more conceptual nature (‘how do I...?’) to the Max/MSP mailing list, so that the entire community can provide input and benefit from the discussion.