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Indian E-music – The right mix of Indian Vibes… » analog


Behringer 303 clones revealed: $199 street

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 11 Nov 2019 4:31 pm

Behringer’s analog remake of the 303 is now out in the open – a $199 set of red, blue, and silver synths called the TD-3.

On one hand, this might be the least exceptional of the low-cost Behringer synths, in that there are a lot of 303 remakes around already. There are boutique models, things called “Boutique” from Roland, the open-source hardware x0xb0x and its ilk (which even served as a template to open source music hardware generally), and plug-ins and software emulations galore.

On the other hand, the same thing makes the TD-3 newsworthy. It’s a synth everyone knows, and it’s now US$199 street. Get ready for a lot more acid — that’s for sure.

So what did Behringer actually do?

The TD-3 roughly approximates the TB-303 layout, without being slavish. And Behringer says they’ve recreated the essential analog circuits, down to the matched transistors.

It’s easier, then, to describe what’s new – apart from seeing a Behringer logo instead of a Roland one.

There’s a distortion circuit, which Behringer says is modeled on the DS-1. That presumably means a BOSS DS-1. And that’s actually the ballsy move here; Behringer has tangled with Roland before over BOSS.

The sequencer functionality borrows the 303’s interactions, but there’s more here – an arpeggiator, 250 user patterns x 7 tracks, and an intriguing ppq (parts per quarter) setting.

There’s also more I/O, bringing this more in line with a hacked/modded 303 than the original. You get USB, MIDI, and filter in / sync in / CV out / gate out, in addition to the original’s basic sync features.

Behringer are offering this in three colors, which otherwise are functionally identical – so TD-3-BU, RD, and SR are blue, red, and silver, respectively.

It’s really the price that’s the big deal, at US$199. That mainly hurts the Roland TB-03, which has a street of nearly twice that. Now, I don’t much expect anyone to dump the TB-03 – it sounds great whether it’s analog or not, it’s got a delay/reverb this lacks, and it runs on batteries. For that matter, I don’t know that people will dump any of their existing 303 emulations.

But for someone picking up the 303 who doesn’t have one, it’s going to be tough to compete with Behringer.

On the other hand, Behringer now joins a lot of low-cost, cool synths. Synthtopia compares the TD-3 with the KORG volca NuBass. I don’t know if that comparison came from Behringer, but the KORG seems like a totally different animal – different sound, different features, different workflow, and you know, a volca.

https://www.behringer.com/search/Behringer?text=TD-3

My question is – who’s going to use some strange bass sound to invent a new musical genre? It feels like we’re due.

I know, I know – “Karplus-Strong Techno” is really not a thing like acid house.

Okay – can someone make that a thing?

The post Behringer 303 clones revealed: $199 street appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

This video makes it easy to mod KORG’s ultra-cheap monotron for analog CV

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 25 Sep 2019 12:38 pm

Punk, inexpensive analog, anyone? The KORG monotron is an easy choice for modding for your synthesis needs – and now this video makes the process easier.

There’s still nothing quite as cheap in analog synthesis than the instrument that (arguably) started the trend – the KORG monotron and its variants. You can pick one of these up for about $50 or less even new – and you might even rescue one from a friend’s collection.

But while the monotrons are fun to play with, they’re a bit limited as far as integration with other gear. You get an aux input, a headphone jack output, and – nothing else. And those tiny controls and ribbon will challenge your dexterity.

A mod, then, is the perfect answer, because then you can jack in some analog control from other gear. That now not only includes Eurorack modular, but gear from Moog, Behringer, Arturia, semi-modulars, sequencers, you name it. CV is starting to be as ubiquitous as MIDI, and allows for direct, simple control with voltage.

People have been modding this for a while, but Extralife is here with a video that makes it much simpler.

He writes:

I’ve just finished up a video on modding the Korg Monotron for analog CV input. I have found some other descriptions of similar mods online, but so far as I know I’m the first to document the build on video or provide PCB layouts, so while monotron hacks may be old hat, I think this brings something new to the table.

Also visible in the video is the latest prototype of my ongoing
Eurorack sequencer project, the Super Sixteen! It is in the final
phases of development (it is open-hardware, open-source) — and I will
be sure to contact you again soon when it nears a major release.

Oh, please do, sir! That looks seriously cool.

Grab all the specs and so on for this project on his GitHub:

https://github.com/matthewcieplak/monotron-cv-adapter

And here’s the original project that inspired the idea, from the heady, innocent days of 2010:

http://www.dinsync.info/2010/06/how-to-modify-korg-monotron.html

Let us know how this works out for you, and what you do with it – or if y’all have other interesting hacks and projects you’re working on.

The post This video makes it easy to mod KORG’s ultra-cheap monotron for analog CV appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Erica’s Pico System III is a tiny, 450 EUR West Coast modular rig

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 16 Sep 2019 6:08 pm

The newest Erica system is an exercise in minimalism – analog, fit in a single unit. The price and size are absolutely as low as you can go – but with some deep sound capabilities.

Here’s divkid talking to our friend Girts about this one:

Erica Synths had been telling me this was what they were working on, integrating their analog circuitry and custom design onto a single PCB. That allows the cost savings that squeeze all this power into a 450EUR box, even with case (400 without the case; tax extra for us Europeans as per usual law).

But wow, even knowing this was coming, it’s better than I expected. You get West Coast-style experimentalism, complete with the snappy, percussive sound of LPG (Low Pass Gates) with resonance, and a unique waveshaper and signature Erica Bucket Brigade Delay. I can see why West Coast sounds are catching on – they’re distinctive, and can produce expressive rhythms and timbres both for experimental and dance contexts. And they’re fun – in a way that makes sense in a modular interface, specifically.

Plus all of this is somehow squeezed into something that still has enough mixing and modulation to work well for live performance. It’s no accident that Erica is populated by musicians and runs their own festival – they clearly love making instruments that work live.

All of this does require some insane miniaturization, so if you like spacious layouts for your stubby fingers and clear differentiation of what does what, this is very much the opposite of what you want.

For those of us who like creative systems, tiny things, and staying on a poor experimental artist’s budget, though, it could be a revelation.

Great writeup in German on sequencer.de (for DE speakers):

The post Erica’s Pico System III is a tiny, 450 EUR West Coast modular rig appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Erica’s Black System II is a full-featured modular

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 9 Sep 2019 6:41 pm

Erica Synths have made a strength out of building a full catalog of modules – and their systems show off how complete that is, at a price that compares favorably.

The Black System is probably the most practical of these rigs, with a versatile selection that can cover a range of experimental or dance genres. (The Techno System I reviewed earlier tends more to the industrial techno sounds, indeed, focused on drums and biting synth sounds; the Dada Noise System for Liquid Sky was more to acquired tastes.)

The Black System II really is a reasonable buy, at least by Eurorack standards – that 2900EUR is nothing to sneeze at for musicians, but it could well save versus a bespoke modular system. And it’s also notable that it’s still less than some flagship keyboard instruments, with arguably a much deeper potential for exploration. (Well, depending on what you want – I mean, if I did have a magic fairy to make something appear, I would probably wish for this over some of those keyboards.)

But even if you never buy one of these Erica systems, I think it’s still a significant exercise for the company. Recall that the likes of Buchla, EMS, Roland, and Moog – not to mention later lower-cost options like PAiA and eventually Doepfer – all built complete systems.

Now, it’s marvelous that we have a marketplace in Eurorack of weird one-off modules or idiosyncratic grab bags of gear from small makers. But even if you plan to mix and match, it’s useful to have a module that came from a bigger picture. It adds to the value of assembling your own custom rig, that is, if you can add some modules that still had a pre-conceived idea of how they’d fit into a complete instrument, even if you then change what that complete instrument is.

And this particular lineup really is rather nice, from the joystick controller (also on the Dada Noise), to the Soviet-inspired Polivoks filter, to a stereo delay:

Black Wavetable VCO
Black VCO
Black Modulator
Black Mixer
Black Multimode VCF
Black Polivoks VCF
Black Quad VCA
Black Output
Black MIDI-CV
Black CV Tools
Black XFade
Black Dual EG/LFO
Black Octasource
Black EG
Black Stereo Delay
Black Joystick
2x84HP skiff case

There’s really all the basics you need for integrating MIDI and working with CV, shaping sounds, and mixing and output. Plus unique to this particular range, you can choose different flavors in different patches – both wavetable and simple analog VCO, both multimode and Polivoks filter, and so on.

Just remember, if this is too rich for your blood, you can also get the Polivoks System for 1400EUR or the adorable tiny Pico System II for 1120EUR. The latter you can even carry along with you on Ryanair for the truly cash-starved modular artist.

Check it out here:

https://www.ericasynths.lv/shop/eurorack-systems/black-system-ii/

And see our CDM review of the Techno System:

The post Erica’s Black System II is a full-featured modular appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

One little MeeBlip meets one giant Hainbach wall of sound

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 12 Aug 2019 5:22 pm

Mobile synth, meet wall of synths with knobs bigger than your hand. I got to take our new MeeBlip geode for a friendly visit with the legendary Hainbach and his lair of huge vintage analog gear. Here’s what happened.

MeeBlip geode

Hainbach is my kind of YouTuber – his channel is a nonstop flow of creative use and misuse of vintage gear, from cassettes to test equipment, paired with thoughtful ambient and experimental music. And it’s clear his passion for that equipment is driven by an obsession with producing his unique musical sound.

I asked Hainbach if maybe we could show our MeeBlip synth and have a jam, and he invited me round his house – and this is the result. (That’s how the Internet should always work, I think!)

There’s not a whole lot of MIDI in his studio, so we made use of the inexpensive KORG SQ-1 step sequencer, which is also pint-sized like our MeeBlip. Most of the MeeBlip sounds you hear are dry, but there’s also some reverb and delay from the cult favorite Alesis Wedge.

For his part, Hainbach starts out with the lovely Roland SH-09 monosynth for that lush opening tone, then adds a cassette loop. But much of the sound is from the “wall of sound” full of test equipment. This oversized, gorgeous gear was – well, until we all popularized it online – pretty cheap to come by until recently. It’s now antiquated and past retirement age in industries like telecommunications for which it was originally intended – but as a synth, it can last forever. Hainbach has explained what it’s all about, and I’ve also previously described an open laboratory in Rotterdam specializing in the setup.

Bigger than a MeeBlip.

The fun part is really getting to put the two together. Hainbach is a focused listener and improviser, so he’s terrific to play with – and this is really one take, since he had to run to pick up his kid right after the shoot.

“There’s so much to play in there… impressively playable.” Thanks, sir. So we actually can compete with enormous vintage test boxes, I guess.

We are shipping now at meeblip.com:

MeeBlip geode

And you’ll find more on Hainbach’s Patreon subscription. Plus do check his music; it’s terrific, and also really enjoyed the couple of times I’ve seen him live.

The post One little MeeBlip meets one giant Hainbach wall of sound appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

One little MeeBlip meets one giant Hainbach wall of sound

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 12 Aug 2019 5:22 pm

Mobile synth, meet wall of synths with knobs bigger than your hand. I got to take our new MeeBlip geode for a friendly visit with the legendary Hainbach and his lair of huge vintage analog gear. Here’s what happened.

MeeBlip geode

Hainbach is my kind of YouTuber – his channel is a nonstop flow of creative use and misuse of vintage gear, from cassettes to test equipment, paired with thoughtful ambient and experimental music. And it’s clear his passion for that equipment is driven by an obsession with producing his unique musical sound.

I asked Hainbach if maybe we could show our MeeBlip synth and have a jam, and he invited me round his house – and this is the result. (That’s how the Internet should always work, I think!)

There’s not a whole lot of MIDI in his studio, so we made use of the inexpensive KORG SQ-1 step sequencer, which is also pint-sized like our MeeBlip. Most of the MeeBlip sounds you hear are dry, but there’s also some reverb and delay from the cult favorite Alesis Wedge.

For his part, Hainbach starts out with the lovely Roland SH-09 monosynth for that lush opening tone, then adds a cassette loop. But much of the sound is from the “wall of sound” full of test equipment. This oversized, gorgeous gear was – well, until we all popularized it online – pretty cheap to come by until recently. It’s now antiquated and past retirement age in industries like telecommunications for which it was originally intended – but as a synth, it can last forever. Hainbach has explained what it’s all about, and I’ve also previously described an open laboratory in Rotterdam specializing in the setup.

Bigger than a MeeBlip.

The fun part is really getting to put the two together. Hainbach is a focused listener and improviser, so he’s terrific to play with – and this is really one take, since he had to run to pick up his kid right after the shoot.

“There’s so much to play in there… impressively playable.” Thanks, sir. So we actually can compete with enormous vintage test boxes, I guess.

We are shipping now at meeblip.com:

MeeBlip geode

And you’ll find more on Hainbach’s Patreon subscription. Plus do check his music; it’s terrific, and also really enjoyed the couple of times I’ve seen him live.

The post One little MeeBlip meets one giant Hainbach wall of sound appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Deckard’s Dream could be your reality, with Deckard’s Voice

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 6 Aug 2019 12:14 pm

Deckard’s Dream is a lavish, 16-VCO beauty, inspired by the Yamaha CS-80 and Blade Runner. But now for the first time, it could also be a module – and one within reach.

Creator Roman Filippov is teasing the new invention with this image. And naturally, it’s called “Deckard’s Voice.”

Fiery the angels fell. Deep thunder rolled round their shores. Burning with the fires of Orc.

Somehow to me personally, this is more exciting than the original, but then I’m always biased toward distillations of things. What you will notice is that all the luscious Yamaha-driven sound design features are present. So that means the essential hands-on control of envelopes, all the filters, and modulation. This is a bite off the full-sized Deckard’s Dream, but it has the same personality and workflow, if not all those layers of sound.

Apart from a more compact size (and the chance of something you can afford without being someone like Trent Reznor), then there’s easy access to patch points. And the CS-ish design is really suited to a modular environment, so it’s easy patching into the LFO and pulse width modulation, brilliance and EG levels, and different waveform component outs.

That’s relevant, because I think you can get a thick CS sound design without necessarily needing so many voices. For their part, even Yamaha made a monophonic CS-15; there’s still a lot to do with that single voice and modulation, especially with this much in the way of timbral and envelope control.

I imagine just as the flagship has been a luxury item, this could rapidly become one of the more sought-after voice ideas out there. It’s complete enough to start to have its own identity, but compact enough to still make sense as a voice inside a modular.

Of course, this could disturb some people, convinced that such a replicant might take over human studios, overthrow humans, trigger dangerous amounts of GAS in our already damaged Earth environment.

To that I say, of course —

Modules are like any other machine, are either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a hazard, it’s not my problem.

(“Too bad my credit card won’t live, but then again who does?” No?)

Deckard’s Dream site

The post Deckard’s Dream could be your reality, with Deckard’s Voice appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Hands on Erica Synths Techno System, dream industrial modular

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 18 Jun 2019 7:21 pm

The modular world is replete with ideas – but what would a complete modular concept look like? Erica Synths’ Techno System is just that rare kind of concept, a modular made for dancefloors rather than chin scratching, and a total vision instead of just components parts. So we thought it deserved a proper techno test drive.

The modular for techno

We’re one year following the debut of the Techno System at last year’s Superbooth show in Berlin. But with this year’s edition having brought still a fresh avalanche of gear – from Erica, alone – now seems the perfect time to take a step back.

To give Techno System a proper run, I teamed up with producer Jamaica Suk. Apart from running her own label Gradient, Jamaica is a rising star on the techno scene, as well as a resident of the impossibly hot Pornceptual queer party series. (Full disclosure: we also share a studio. Pornceptual for its part is hot enough that its Boiler Room wound up – no joke – on Pornhub after YouTube dropped it.)

The Techno System is a Eurorack modular, so it’s both a complete system you can buy in a case – that’s what we tested – and a set of modules. That is, you may not personally drop four grand on this full rig, but at the same time, the Techno System itself serves as a nice demo for all the individual modules inside.

Making a “Techno System” isn’t just a marketing ploy. Techno – and related industrial and EBM sounds – can be safely said to be a big driver behind the growth of modular. The days of modular just being about noodling and chin scratching are over; these machines pound dance floors and top charts. And while DJs now turn up to gigs with just USB sticks, the pro techno circuit, particularly around Europe, is such that it makes sense at a certain point to graduate to using something that feels like a real instrument.

So, yeah, the elephant in the room – the Techno System definitely isn’t cheap, at about four grand for the full system. That’s a steep ask compared to desktop, though as Jamaica pointed out to me, it compares favorably to the cost of building your own rig – often winding up without something that’s terribly usable. And it is something some artists, at least, will pay off by gigging with the machine.

For Jamaica, that meant even a small skiff full of modules already cost about half the price of Techno System on its own. And Erica’s hardware offers an escape from her previous hardware workflow – doing a lot of menu diving. (Jamaica compared the experience to the menu-oriented work she does on Elektron gear.) The only menu on the Erica rack is on the Drum Sequencer; this rack is bestrewn with knobs. And it’s covered with patch points, meaning you can make sounds that are dynamic and organic and weird and unexpected.

So let’s see if this system can live up to its aspirations – and if there are individual modules you should watch out for onboard, too.

To set the mood, here’s a jam on the system as Jamaica and I were hanging out in the studio with it. (My arms, in case the hair didn’t give that away.) Mayhem and destruction? Oh, yes, indeed. Expect more; I was quickly filling up my drive with song ideas. Maybe I’ll put them out under a psuedonym. “DEATHBL0GG3R?” “D0RKDUSTRIAL?” No?

A complete system

The Techno System is a set of modules for “rhythm based music production” – think techno instrumentation, but of course what you do with it is up to you. On the surface, it seems fairly obvious: you get a bass module, percussion parts (kick drum, snare, toms, clap, hats, cymbals). There are processors (two-in-one effects, two-in-one drive). And there’s stuff to compose and put this all together: a modulator, an expansive sequencer, mixers, and jacks to the outside world.

As you’d expect at this price, you get everything – a handy patch book and user manual, a bunch of nice patch cords, the power supply, and a lovely rugged case. (You have to pay extra for a leather strap; we left that bit out.) The case is solid and surprisingly luggable – you could absolutely take this as a carry on and tour with it. (For the love of God, avoid checked luggage.)

The thing is, that description sounds vanilla – and this beast is the opposite of vanilla. Latvian builder Erica have imbued this with their usual, raunchy, violent post-Soviet sound aesthetic. There’s just a whole lot of engineering detail here that gives this set up of modules its unique character.

And it’s clear straight away. The first time I saw it live, as sweaty Erica associate and Riga-based producer Kodek destroyed a dance floor with it. That’s not just to gush – there’s a specific reason Erica have gotten that sound. Module by module (and to be honest, I wound up looking at this after playing with it – as in “why the heck does it sound this crazy, anyway?):

The heart of the sound: a distinctive, brutal combination of bass and drums.

Bassline. This module to me is the star. The oscillator is a newly remade version of Doug Curtis’ legendary CEM3340 analog oscillator – the sound you know from classic Oberheim, Korg Mono/Poly and Poly- synths, Roland SH-101 and Jupiter-6, and many others. Instead of using someone else’s clone, though, Erica work with Riga’s own Alfa, who have been manufacturing their own version in Latvia.

Erica’s stroke of genius here is combining that three-waveform oscillator with a transitor-based sub-oscillator for more bass, plus their ultra-violent Acidbox-style filter, plus a detune that’s actually not a detune but two bucket brigade delays acting like one. What you get from that potent brew is leads and basslines that can go full spectrum from melody to noise, and a filter/detune combination that makes it absolutely punch people in the gut. And it makes perfect sense in a modular, because all that insanity lends itself to patching, from the frequency modulation input to modulating the filter.

I should, like, talk about the rest of the modules, though.

Bass drum. I briefly mistyped “ass drum.” Freudian slip. Yes, this will give you classic kick sounds. Again, though, Erica worked a ton of magic here – the tune depth and tune controls are immensely satisfying, you get a Drive in case this thing isn’t dirty enough for you, and ample CV.

Snare. The Snare is probably the unsung hero of this rack – Jamaica has taken to using it even for hats. So even though Erica call this “909-inspired,” the fun is really making full use of the Noise Tone and “Snappy” control and patching in CV, which makes this more of an all-purpose percussion module.

Toms, Clap. The Toms and Clap are actually the only particularly vanilla modules here – they’re conventional toms and clap circuits, just with loads of patchability, including on accents. But that’s the advantage here of buying a modular – you don’t have to leave these in their normalled behavior. Both sound great; I just wish the Toms had some more control or variety, maybe more a complaint about analog toms generally. (Decay is 370ms – 955ms, which in practice means you don’t touch that knob much.) As set it and forget it modules, though, they’re great.

Hi-Hats D, Cymbals. These are PCM-based, but they’re run through a voltage-controlled amplifier that again have that snappy, aggressive Erica envelope sound. This time, Erica work again with Latvian maker Alfar for their version of the 3330 VCA chip – and then add their “I’m at a sweaty warehouse rave” envelopes to them. (Maybe I’m projecting.) If you leave these normaled and don’t dig into them, they also could go a little vanilla. But there’s a twist on each. The hats module will loop open hi hats, which can almost sound like a unique decay. The cymbals have ten custom crash and ride samples – and combined with CV patching and decay controls, just as with the snare, you can abuse the cymbals module into stuff that sounds nothing like a ride.

Sample Drum. We actually got our Techno System delivered without the Sample Drum, but it’s a worthy module inside or outside this system – a pretty essential implementation of sample playback in a Eurorack format. There is a hole for it in our system… but more than that, the Sample Drum is a place you can augment the unique Erica sound with additional sounds of your own, obviously.

The sequencer acts as heart of the system – with quick-to-access controls by push encoders and buttons, and lots of patch points.

Sequencing and workflow

So that covers sound – and you could actually just pick your favorite modules and drop them into a rack. But the system part of the Techno System is really about combining the sound engine with modulation, mixing, and sequencing in a coherent way.

The Drum Sequencer is normalled to the percussion parts inside the rack, so while you can re-patch triggers, you can very quickly punch up a drum pattern quickly.

Drum Sequencer. One Erica idea I wish I had thought of – the sequencer uses a numeric keypad that feels like a classic IBM keyboard, with LED indicators behind – instant 4×4 grid. No velocity sensitivity, but that’s not really what this brutal machine is about, anyway. Everything else is select-able via some (mostly) intuitive trigger buttons and two push encoders. Once you squint your way through the included manual, you’ll find working is really quick, with all the expected basic figures – set last step per part for basic polyrhythms, set sequence play modes (back/forwards/pingpong/random), copy, mute, and string together multiple patterns.

So far, that sounds like a conventional sequencer, but the Drum Sequencer’s modular side gives you 16 full dedicated triggers, and 12 accents. The accents are really what it’s about when it comes to making more dynamic productions – enough so that Erica even implore you in the documentation not to forget them.

There’s also a dedicated CV/gate track. You can map pitch to one of a set of fixed scales and modes, then dial in or play melodies with gate. That could serve as a melody for the Bassline, or something else. (Sometimes I found myself using the Modulator for the Bassline CV in, instead.)

Erica have also included two LFOs on this module, which augment the LFO outputs on the Modulator module. These LFOs are optionally tempo-synced, so you can quickly generate rhythmic LFOs directly from the sequencer. It’s hidden in some menus behind the encoders.

Having all those triggers makes sense if that’s what you’re looking for from the Drum Sequencer in a larger modular rig, but it feels a little unbalanced in the context of the Techno System. I would gladly sacrifice a few of those sixteen triggers and twelve accents for even one more CV/gate track or another LFO, for instance.

Overall, though, working in this unit is terrifically fast and enjoyable.

Finally, a numeric keyboard for something useful – doing techno instead of doing accounts.

Erica have done a lot with the hardware since its release, too, adding more musical features (like CV slide, gate tie, song mode, auto copy bars, and more), plus tons of fixes. Check the full changelog:

https://www.ericasynths.lv/news/drum-sequencer-update-changelog/

Modulator. This module is totally essential – otherwise you wouldn’t want a modular system like this in the first place. There are two independent LFOs with morphable shape (including noise waveforms) and phase / rise / envelope controls. You can sync them from an external clock – here, that means probably patching the Drum Sequencer into them – in which case the rate controls divide or multiply the clock signal. Or you can run them free, though I long a bit for a switch to give me different ranges. Cleverly there are both outputs and phase-shifted outputs for each LFO, and you can link LFO2 to LFO1 but still use the rate knob as a divider.

Probably the confusing element of this is the triple-function RISE/PHASE control, which determines envelope fall time, and phase shift, and filter cutoff. (Actually, it’s even quadruple-function, since there’s both a lowpass- and highpass-filter.) But in practice, part of the pleasure of those knobs is to stop worrying and experiment, anyway, so they’ve been arranged in a way to encourage some intuition.

Dual Drive. You want more distortion? You get more distortion – three additional flavors of overdrive, in each of two independent circuits, with really flexible patching. If you haven’t gotten it yet, yes, Erica are all about industrial, distorted, concrete-shaking sounds. “Dual” is right, too – if you don’t patch the second input, the two distortions will operate in series. (Hey, dawg, I heard you like distortion…)

Dual FX. This is a wildly powerful effect, but here I do wish we got a small OLED – its power is largely hidden. A push encoder hides different delays (mono/stereo/high-pass), reverb, still another distortion called Ripper, plus a unique dual pitch shifter. There’s also a save function so you can store parameters with each effect. The effect sounds fantastic, but is also fantastically confusing – Erica’s only feedback is in binary on the LEDs.

The Dual FX’s saving grace is that it sounds like some very expensive effects, even though inside is the fairly conventional Spin FV-1 digital chip. And you do get two patchable CV inputs. But I think this particular module is due for some rethinking. That may be partly my own bias – I think the whole point of hardware modular ought to be giving us intuitive hands-on control, not taking away useful visual feedback from digital hardware and software.

Mixers. Rounding out the Techno System are some terrifically useful mixers – and if Erica show off their approach to aggressive envelopes and raunchy sound on that side, here they show they can also make things functional and practical. At first, it seems a bit odd that you get a stereo mixer, a 7-input Drum Mixer, and a 6-input “Mixer Lite.” But in practice, the arrangement adapts itself to a variety of use cases.

The 7-input Drum Mixer neatly pulls together a percussion grouping, with vactrol-based compressor on each for still more punch. And you can send to mains or aux sends. The Mixer Lite gives you more or less the same idea in a more compact 6-input version.

The Stereo Mixer, as advertised, lets you position across a stereo field but also includes flexible routing and internal limiting.

Multiple modules for mixing and routing help you integrate the Techno System with the rest of your studio or live rig.

The result of all of this is, you can easily compose a mix of percussion both when it comes to live performance and production. Actually, maybe it’s telling even that both Jamaica and I liked it. She had a setup that worked well for her largely outboard, hardware-based setup; I had configurations that worked well for composing in the box in the computer and making stems. And when we wanted to jam live, the separate mixers worked well, too.

Really, the only challenge is working out whether you want to rearrange them in the rack, as the mixing component is where you tend to wind up with a bunch of cable spaghetti. So I do wish here Erica had normaled outputs as they did with the sequencer, and then just let you override that behavior.

But at the very least, if it looks like Erica just filled out a rack with every mixer module they make (which honestly was kind of my kneejerk first impression), that’s not the case at all; this grouping makes loads of sense.

The outside world. I expect a lot of people will use this rack alongside a computer, so it’s worth noting: the Drum Sequencer has a MIDI input, which you can use for clock. That saves you a more expensive arrangement. The Link module also provides convenient full-sized jacks which attenuates outbound signal.

In use

A modular system that already has ideas about how it’s going to be used may sound like an anachronism. But in practice, it’s anything but. There’s a natural workflow here. Punch in rhythms on the Drum Sequencer, reroute some accent tracks and triggers to add some spice. Wire the Modulator into FM on the Bassline and dial in unruly timbres, then tune the filter envelope so it’s banging up against the drums. Add drive and effects to the percussion until it sounds dangerous.

Part of what I think makes Erica special is that they come out of a particular context – both engineering and musical. The engineering has grown out of the legacy left behind in one of the USSR’s former major manufacturing hubs, the city where a lot of Communist-era noisemakers were fashioned. And they’ve connected to the grimy, industrial warehouse-friendly music weirdos of the former east, too and … well, all of those of us with similar natural tendencies. They sit at that essential overlap of engineering and sound practice.

So I do recommend getting to hear a Techno System whether or not you’re even going to buy one. The sum of these parts really is something greater – this thing hums and breathes and growls and bangs around and spits out big bursts of noise like clouds of exhaust. Sometimes we wound up recording random accidents that came out when we stopped the transport. This is one of those pieces that feels alive.

While I focused on sound, Jamaica focused on ergonomics. Trouble with repetitive stress makes it hard to use the computer for long periods of time – and even hardware menus can be painful, literally. She says that the Techno System has helped her work more comfortably, and that means more musical productivity.

Conclusions

The Techno System is a luxury item, without question. I am happy that one has taken up residence in our studio. (Thanks, Jamaica.) If you want a complete vision of percussion, modulation, sequencing, and a killer bass, and this is in your budget, it’s a beautiful choice. And of course we’re not in an outrageous price range for something you plan to make an instrument.

Just as important, the Techno System represents a lens on how a modular rig can be coherent, and can offer some new ideas. And it can apply to a popular genre, not just experimental ones.

I also think it’s worth really endorsing some of the modules inside – which proves the idea that a great way to sell individual modules is to give them a larger context. (That’s something Erica has done in a way few others have – other than those largely echoing historical systems.) I wouldn’t mind seeing more of these in desktop form, too, which knowing Erica may be possible.

The Bassline is simply genius. I’d buy a small skiff just to work with it. The Dual Drive also is a convenient way to add signature Erica distortion. And my gripes about programming Dual FX aside, there really isn’t a single dud in the group.

That said, of course working with modular comes at a cost. I think software and desktop systems should continue to push this kinds of hand-on control, but apply modularity that copies this accessibility without the wires. (Yes, they still get tangled and you still wind up with the wrong lengths.)

So can you use cheaper gear, software, non-modular stuff, battery-powered stuff? Of course! And some of us really should keep going that route. What’s comforting about the Techno System is, it proves the modular route is also staking out sound, personality, and utility all its own. It’s not just gear fetish. Whether you buy this rack or not, anyone who loves sound is likely to appreciate the very fact that it exists. And that’s a good sign for our maturing music tech scene.

More videos…

Still want more? Check these:

A terrific sound demo from Erica that really represents the system nicely:

We didn’t yet get to fully test the Sample Drum module that has now been added to the Techno System – but first impressions are great. Here’s a walkthrough:

And while it’s the earlier revision of the rig, you get a full-on extended jam from Erica’s “garage” streaming:

https://www.ericasynths.lv/shop/eurorack-systems/techno-system/

The post Hands on Erica Synths Techno System, dream industrial modular appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Here’s what Polyend’s Medusa can sound like

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 14 Jun 2019 12:34 pm

By laying out faders, encoders, displays, and an 8×8 expressive grid, Polyend hopes you’ll play their Medusa’s synths sounds. So here’s some sound of what was going on in my studio.

Here’s a live jam, just getting a bit lost in the Medusa world:

It’s not really a demo so much as me enjoying what the instrument can do. Because they’re new, we rely on musical performance of instruments. But that’s not to say it’s obvious how to do so. We “demo” an instrument – even though we’d never expect to “demo” a violin (not any more, anyway).

A few features stand out to me as useful to play, which you’ll see getting some use:

  • Swapping and modulating wavetables: this was recently expanded with a bunch of additional wavetable sources; there’s a particular character to the Medusa offerings that I really enjoy
  • Grid Mode: this lets you sequence and even ‘play’ different parameters stored in each individual grid
  • Different internal scale modes (no custom scales/tunings or Scala support yet, though there’s a nice scale/mode assortment, and you can set custom tunings in Grid Mode by manually tuning them in)
  • Envelopes and modulation: obviously, this adds additional motion in the music; what sets the Medusa apart is on-the-fly assignment, which you can think of as a digital equivalent to patching cables
  • FM adjustment – well, just because this can sound wild, as frequency modulation does (both on the filter and oscillators)
  • Mixing oscillators: with three digital + three analog + noise source, you can add and subtract layers in the sound via the faders

I also went ahead and added some effects and an extended version of this live set:

The first recording is dry apart from some very very light plate reverb and compression. The SoundCloud upload includes my favorite Eventide effects – Ultratap [multitap delay], Omnipressor [compressor], Blackhole [reverb].

Here’s a more straightforward play with the different oscillators and basic voice structure:

And, of course, be sure to read the full review:

Beneath Polyend Medusa grid and knobs, a wealth of possibilities

https://polyend.com/medusa/

The post Here’s what Polyend’s Medusa can sound like appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Beneath Polyend Medusa grid and knobs, a wealth of possibilities

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 13 Jun 2019 5:12 pm

It’s an analog-wavetable polysynth with an expressive grid – but that only begins to describe what makes the Polyend Medusa such a unique instrument. Here’s a deep dive into this hybrid synthesizer and what it means musically.

A year after its public debut, the Polyend-Dreadbox collaboration Medusa hybrid synth has gotten a flurry of updates expanding its capabilities. The Medusa caught my eye when it was previewed at last year’s Superbooth extravaganza in Berlin – and has since reappeared full of refined functionality at this year’s edition. The instrument combines Polyend’s expressive grid with a gnarly synthesizer made in collaboration with Dreadbox. So you get a hybrid analog-digital sound engine, which you can use in monophonic or one of two polyphonic modes, and a grid you can use for performance or sequencing.

That description seems obvious and straightforward, but it also doesn’t really fully describe what this thing is. It’s really about the combination of elements. The synth engine gets delightfully grimy – the Dreadbox filter can really scream, especially paired with frequency modulation. And the digital oscillators (from Polyend) stack to give you metallic edge and wavetable madness atop a thick 3-oscillator analog beast. The copious modulation and multiple envelopes provide loads of sound design possibilities, too – you can really go deep with this, since basically everything is assignable to LFOs or envelopes. (That’d be a lot of rack space to get this many oscillators and modulation sources in a Eurorack form.) Combining digital control and wavetables with Dreadbox-supplied analog grunge make this as much an all-in-one studio as a polysynth.

What really binds this together for me, though, is using the grid to make this more like an instrument. You can lock parameters and scales to steps in the sequencer, and then use elaborate scale mappings and expression options to put sounds beneath your fingertips. This isn’t about menus, but it’s also unlike conventional keyboard synths. The grid and one-press modulation and envelope assignment make the Medusa a portal to sound design, composition, and performance.

The workflow then fits spatially. On your right, you can sculpt sounds and (thanks to a recent update) make on-the-fly assignments of modulation and envelopes with just one press. On your left, the grid can be configured for sequencing and playing. Mix oscillators and shape envelopes and dial modulation live atop that. You can also use the sequencer as a kind of sketchpad for ideas, since sequences are saved with presets.

All of this comes in a long, metal case with MIDI I/O and external audio input. Even the form factor suggests this is an instrument you focus on directly. So whatever you do in sound design should naturally translate to sequencing and playing live.

Here’s the basic approach to sound design workflow – dialing in and layering different analog and digital oscillators, playing with wavetables, shaping envelopes and filter, adding FM (including on the filter), and assigning modulation. Improvised / no talking:

Let’s look at those components individually (now with some of the recent firmware updates in place):

The synth

On the synth side, the Medusa has a hybrid 3+3 structure – three analog oscillators, plus three digital oscillators, for a total of six. (There’s an additional noise source, as well, with adjustable color.) To that, you add a filter derived from the Dreadbox Erebus (highpass, 2-pole lowpass, and 4-pole lowpass). There are two fixed envelopes (filter and amplitude), plus three more assignable envelopes. You also get five (!) assignable LFOs. That’s just enough to be readily accessible, but also focused enough that it neatly structures your use of the onboard controls and assignable modulation and sequencing.

The idea is to mix analog + digital + noise in different combinations, which you can layer as monophonic lines or chords, or trigger in turn, with always-accessible mixer controls for each voice + noise.

Oscillator controls. The oscillator section does double duty as analog and digital, so you’ll need to understand how those relate. To save space, there’s a button in the oscillator section labeled DIGITAL.

With digital mode off (analog mode), you get control over the three analog oscillators, plus a pulse width control, and a frequency modulation control for FM between oscillators 1 and 2. You can select ramp, PWM, triangle, and sine waves for each oscillator. You can also hard sync oscillators – 1+2 (sync 2) and 2+3 (sync 3). Note that you will need to give the Medusa some warmup time for these analog oscillators to be in tune; there’s also automated calibration to tune up.

With the digital mode on, you control the three digital oscillators, and get a wavetable shape in addition to the four wave shapes, plus a wavetable control that modulates between different wavetables. (There’s no FM between oscillators 1 and 2, and you don’t get the pulse width control for the digital oscillators – which in the end doesn’t matter much given all the wavetable options.)

The other controls are doubled up to save space, as well. Instead of dedicated macro and fine tuning, there’s a FINETUNE switch. The FM knob has two functions, also via switches.

Modulation. There’s more modulation than you’ll likely ever need, between the sequencer steps, five envelopes, and five LFOs. Since there’s only one set of encoders and sliders, you choose which envelope or LFO you want to target. You can toggle that modulation on and off by double-pressing the controls for each.

The latest firmware adds on-the-fly parameter assignment, so you can simply hold down an envelope or LFO, then twist the parameter you want to target. That’s much more fun than scrolling through menus.

Sound design is a blast, but there’s some room for growth, too. LFO shapes morph between square, sine, ramp, and triangle, but there’s no random or sample & hold option, which seems an obvious future addition. Also, it could be nice, I think, to have different wavetables on different oscillators, or separate wavetable position controls. (At least for now, you can set LFOs to target all wavetables or just one wavetable when modulating position, so you can separately modulate the three digital oscillators if you wish.)

Now, you can assign both modulation and envelopes with just one tap, on the fly. With multiple envelopes and LFOs, combined with the sequencer, there’s plenty of choice for composition and sound design.

FM can be applied to the filter and between analog oscillators 1+2.

Musical ideas: synth

Use envelopes and modulation. Envelopes have free-flowing timing, but can each be (independently) looped, creating subtle or rhythmic modulation. And LFOs can be either free or clock-synced. With these two features in concert, you can create both shifting timbres and rhythmic patterns – while assigning them hands-on, rather than diving into menus. (That can be even faster than working with patch cords.)

Work with the different polyphonic modes. Mono play mode stacks all six oscillators onto a single voice, which is great for thick sounds. But the two polyphonic modes offer some unique features. P1 is three-voice polyphonic, with two oscillators per voice. P2 is six-voice polyphonic, and has one amp envelope for each of the six voices.

Change voice priority. In CONFIG > Voice Priority, you can set P1 and P2 from “First” to “Next,” and each trigger will rotate through each of the available oscillators. Remember with P2, that means you have separate envelopes. So you can retrigger the same pitch, or “strum” or roll a chord, or create rhythmic variations… it all makes for some lively variations.

Self-oscillate the filter with tracking. If you turn up resonance and crank TRACK on the filter, you’ll get self-oscillation that’s mapped to the pitch range. (You’ll probably want to turn down master volume here; I don’t yet have a trick for that, but you could also save lower oscillator mixer values with a preset.)

Go mad with FM. Frequency modulating the OSC 1+2 combination can create some wild ring mod-style effects as you play with different octave ranges and tunings.

The sequencer

I think one confusion about the Medusa is, because people see an 8×8 grid of pads, they assume the main function is sequencing. That’s really not how to think of the Medusa pad matrix – it’s better to imagine it as a performance and editing interface as much as a sequencer, and to see ambient/drone/non-metric possibilities along with the usual things you’d expect of an 8×8 layout.

Sequences themselves have a length from 1 and 64 steps. (Yes, with a 1-step sequence, you get basically a repeat function, and with a few steps, a sort of fixed phrase arpeggiator – more on how you’d play that live below.) Steps are fixed rhythm, with no sub-steps – I do wish there were a way to clock divide step length from the master tempo, or add subdivisions of a step, or even control step timing individually. For now, if you want that, you’ll need to do it externally, via MIDI.

You can set tempo from 10-300 bpm or use an external clock source. And you get control for swing, plus different sequence playback directions (forward, backward, ping pong, and random).

In NOTES mode, you enter pitch. With REC enabled but not PLAY, you can enter and edit steps one at a time. (Pressing a pad creates a pitch, rather than sets a step, so you’d use the big menu encoder to the right of the pads to dial through steps.) With PLAY enabled, you can live record, though everything is still quantized to the step.

The pitch and rhythm stuff is a bit basic, but it’s the GRID mode where the Medusa shines. There, you can set specific steps to contain parameter data. Again, this works in both step and live modes – in live modes, you’ll overwrite parameter data as you move a control. This is what some sequencers call “p-locks” / parameter locks, but here the workflow is different. You can stop the transport, and manually tweak parameters while holding a pad to modify parameters for that step. This means an individual step may contain a whole bunch of layered information.

At first, it may seem counter-intuitive to separate notes and parameter data on two different screens, but it opens up some new possibilities. You can step-sequence really elaborate sequences of timbral changes. Or – here’s the interesting one – you can trigger different presets as your sequence plays. That lets you ‘perform’ the presets – play with the timbres – the way you normally would with notes.

Not only do you have a powerful step sequencer page dedicated to parameter control, you can think of presets as something you can play live. I don’t know of another sequencer that works quite like this.

Musical ideas: sequencer

Trigger play modes, voice priority, sequence length live: With a sequence playing, it’s possible to toggle play modes (between unison and polyphony), and the Voice Priority setting (first or last, in either of the polyphonic modes), and sequence length, all live without impact sequenced playback. So you can have some fun messing about with these settings.

Use GRID for variation. The sequencer only triggers preset changes when the GRID mode is enabled. So you can start a sequence, then toggle your sequenced parameters on and off by switching GRID mode on and off. (You can combine this with live-triggered parameters – more on that below.)

Glide! Combining glide with the polyphonic modes (and adjusting the amplitude envelope, particularly Release as needed) will create some lovely, overlapping portamento effects.

Arpeggiate/transpose. You can now press HOLD + a pad to transpose a sequence live as it plays. With short sequences, this can be a bit like running an arpeggiator or phrase sequencer.

Performance pads

If you just use the pads as a sequencer, you’re really missing half the power of the instrument. The pads also work for playing live, with the option of up to three axis additional expression (z-axis pressure, and x- and y- position). The pads are also low-profile, so you can easily strum your fingers across pads.

Three-axis control can be a little confusing. Only the last pad adds modulation, and it takes a bit of muscle memory to get used to modulating with just the last finger press if you’re playing in a polyphonic context. But the pads are nicely sensitive; I hope there’s the possibility of polyphonic expression internally in future.

As an external controller, Medusa does support an MPE mode, so you can use this – like the Roger Linn Linnstrument – as an MPE controller with compatible devices.

The grid in general is expressive and inspiring. In particular, you might try one of the 40 included scales, which include various exotic options apart from the usual church modes. I especially like the Japanese and Engimatic options. You can also change not only the scale but the layout (the relationship of notes on the pads).

Musical ideas: pads

Drone mode. Use HOLD to trigger multiple up to six at a time and drone away (press HOLD, then toggle on and off individual notes). And again, this is also interesting with different polyphonic modes and glide. You can also use, for instance, the Z-axis pressure to add additional modulation as you drone. (One confusing thing about X/Y/Z and HOLD – since only the last trigger uses the X/Y/Z modulation, it can get a bit strange additionally toggling off that step as you hold. I’m working on whether there’s a better solution there.)

Use GRID for triggering: With GRID instead of notes, you can use individual pads to trigger different sounds, or even map an ensemble of sounds (setting up particular pads for percussion, and others for melody, for instance). This also opens up other features, like:

DIY scales. A new feature of the Medusa firmware adds the ability to store pitch in pads, and thus make custom scales. Turn GRID on, and REC, then with FINETUNE on, you can use the oscillator to tune a custom scale, including with microtuning. I’d love to see custom scale modes or Scala support, but this in the meantime has a beautiful analog feel to it.

Bend it: You can bend between notes by targeting Pitch with the x-axis. To keep that range manageable and slide between notes, I suggest a value of just 1 or 2 (instead of the full 100, which will slide over the whole pitch range as you wiggle your finger). You might also consider adding the same on the y-axis, since it is a grid.

Trigger expression. Not only can you trigger modulation live over a sequence in GRID mode, you can also use those triggers to modulate X, Y, and Z targets of your choice as a sequence plays. You can also try modulating expression in NOTES mode over a playing sequence.

Use external control. You can also map to external MIDI aftertouch, pitch, and mod, which opens up novel external or even DIY controllers. (You could connect a LEAP Motion or something if you want to get creative. Or combine a keyboard and the grid, for some wild possibilities)

Conclusions

Medusa takes a little time to get into, as you start to feel comfortable with the sound engine, and adapting to a new way of thinking about the pads – as performance controller plus separate note and parameter sequencer. Once you do, though, I think you begin to get into this as an instrument – one with rich and sometimes wild sound capabilities, always beneath your fingertips.

The result is something that’s really unique and creative. The combination of that edgy, deep digital+analog sound engine with the superb Dreadbox filter, plus all this modulation and sequencing and performance possibility makes the whole feel like a particular instrument – something you want to learn to play.

I really have fallen in love with it as a special instrument in that way. And I find I am really wanting to practice it, both as sound designer and instrumentalist.

At 999EUR, it also holds up against some other fine polysynth choices from Dave Smith, Novation, KORG, and most recently, Elektron. Most importantly, it’s unlike any of those tools, both with its unique and expressive controller and its copious controls and access to sound.

The presence of an instrument like this from a boutique maker, charting some new territory and in a desktop form factor and not only a set of modules, seems a promising sign for synth innovation.

http://polyend.com/medusa/

The post Beneath Polyend Medusa grid and knobs, a wealth of possibilities appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

You can make music with test equipment – Hainbach explains

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 12 Jun 2019 11:27 pm

Before modulars became a product, some of the first electronic synthesis experiments made use of test equipment – gear intended to make sound, but not necessarily musically. And now that approach is making a comeback.

Hainbach, the Berlin-based experimental artist, has been helping this time-tested approach to sound reach new audiences.

I actually have never seen a complete, satisfying explanation of the relationship of abstract synthesis, as developed by engineers and composers, to test gear. Maybe it’s not even possible to separate the two. But suffice to say, early in the development of synthesis, you could pick up a piece of gear intended for calibration and testing of telecommunications and audio systems, and use it to make noise.

Why the heck would you do that now, given the availability of so many options for synthesis? Well, for one – until folks like Hainbach and me make a bunch of people search the used market – a lot of this gear is simply being scrapped. Since it’s heavy and bulky, it ranges from cheap to “if you get this out of my garage, you can have it” pricing. And the sound quality of a lot of it is also exceptional. Sold to big industry back in a time when slicing prices of this sort of equipment wasn’t essential, a lot of it feels and sounds great. And just like any other sound design or composition exercise that begins with finding something unexpected, the strange wonderfulness of these devices can inspire.

I got a chance to play a few days with the Waveform Research Centre in Rotterdam’s WORM, a strange and wild collection of these orphaned devices lovingly curated by Dennis Verschoor. And I got sounds unlike anything I was used to. It wasn’t just the devices and their lovely dials that made that possible – it was also the unique approach required when the normal envelope generators and such aren’t available. Human creativity does tend to respond well to obstacles.

Whether or not you go that route, it is worth delving into the history and possibilities – and Hainbach’s video is a great start. It might at the very least change how you approach your next Reaktor patch, SuperCollider code, synth preset, or Eurorack rig.

Previously:

Immerse yourself in Rotterdam’s sonic voltages, in the WORM laboratory

The post You can make music with test equipment – Hainbach explains appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

It’s 606 day – remember when Roland made a drum machine like a 303?

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 6 Jun 2019 4:13 pm

808 day, sure. But let’s pause for 606 day – the logical anniversary of the 1982 TR-606, a drum machine squeezed inside a tiny enclosure that looks like a 303 but isn’t. It’s the lesser known runt of the Roland family, and you kind of love it for that alone.

If you think about it, the 606 was way ahead of its time. Now selling customers on buying a little bass machine, then buying a little drum machine to go with it is par for the course. But in the early 80s, the music that would make the 303 and even the 606 desirable … hadn’t been made yet.

Why 606?

The TR-606 is certainly simple. It’s got all analog circuitry inside, for seven parts – kick, snare, two toms, open and closed hats, cymbal. There’s an accent control. It isn’t the most sought-after sound of the TR series, by any stretch, but now that you’ve heard way too many 808 and 909 hats, you might appreciate this just for some variety.

It can trigger other gear. It’s got accent. It was designed so you could chain 606 models together. So it’s not a terrible little machine. And it is – I’ll stand by this – the cutest drum machine Roland ever made. (I have to admit, I just went back to my boutique TR-09 this week and had a blast. Sometimes getting something tiny and restricted is oddly inspiring. An itsy bitsy teenie weenie silver TR drum machine-y?)

It’s famous, and yet mercifully no one has ever called it iconic. It just is what it is. Here’s Tatsuya of KORG fame giving it a one-over – as he should, as nothing channels the spirit of the 606 (even from Roland) quite like the entry of the KORG volca series he helmed:

And here’s Reverb.com giving it the once over:

The 606 has been in some great music – Aphex Twin, Nine Inch Nails, Autechre, Orbital, plus one favorite artist that shares its name – Kid606. Moby I think also used one, probably in that spell when he and I were dating that he doesn’t like to talk about. (Man, did that beetroot smoothie we shared together while programming 606 patterns mean nothing to you? Nothing?!)

It’s also been heavily modded and copied. It’s a reminder, basically, that drum machines need not look like a truck. They can be a funny sidecar you can easily squeeze into spaces where no one else can parallel park. When people talked about buying unloved Roland drum machines for $50 in pawn shops in the 80s – the TR-606 was one likely candidate. This was one of the machines cheap enough to enable people without cash to change music.

You know the sound. Because it was tinnier than the 808 and 909, the 606 often stood in when someone wanted something with an even thinner Roland sound.

Put that sound with the 303, and you really do get a combo that makes sense.

Bonus – this bit. You can swap between PLAY and WRITE pattern modes while the TR-606 is running – so you can edit as a pattern is playing. The other TRs would ideally work that way, but they don’t.

Here’s a guide to the controls:

Samples and software

There have been numerous software recreations, too, like this iOS app mR-606:

Or this one, which also runs on iPad:

EGDR606 Drum Machine

Most famously of all, there is Propellerhead’s ReBirth, which cloned the 303 and 606 and launched, arguably, the entire electronic dance music production revolution on computers. Roland must have taken note, because they convinced Propellerhead to remove the iPad port. (Okay, that was probably more about the TB-303. But still.) If you’re ambitious, you can still run ReBirth on recent Windows versions, with some effort.

And here’s a free sample set:

http://www.rolandclan.com/library/tr-606/

Samples From Mars also have a sale on their much broader sample library, which resamples the 606 through various gear. Check it:

https://samplesfrommars.com/products/606-from-mars

Adverts

It may not have translated into sales, but Roland had a slick presentation for its 1982 product line.

Check out those specs:

Dear advertisers – please create stuff like this, which is what people saw if they flipped open a glossy issues of Keyboard Magazine in 1982:

Source: https://retrosynthads.blogspot.com/2010/08/roland-tb-303-and-tr-606-keyboard-1982.html

And yes, Roland at various times has brought this back in … strange ways, like on the SP-606 which really … has nothing to do with the TR-606. But here it is, because D-Beam! It’s also been spotted inside the recent recreations like the TR-8S and even the Serato-collaboration DJ controllers.

Image at top:

Roland TR-606

The post It’s 606 day – remember when Roland made a drum machine like a 303? appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

KORG’s nutekt NTS-1 is a fun, little kit – and open to ‘logue developers

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 16 May 2019 4:50 pm

KORG has already shown that opening up oscillators and effects to developers can expand their minilogue and prologue keyboards. But now they’re doing the same for the nutekt NTS-1 – a cute little volca-ish kit for synths and effects. Build it, make wild sounds, and … run future stuff on it, too.

Okay, first – even before you get to any of that, the NTS-1 is stupidly cool. It’s a little DIY kit you can snap together without any soldering. And it’s got a fun analog/digital architecture with oscillators, filter, envelope, arpeggiator, and effects.

Basically, if you imagine having a palm-sized, battery-powered synthesis studio, this is that.

Japan has already had access to the Nutekt brand from KORG, a DIY kit line. (Yeah, the rest of the world gets to be jealous of Japan again.) This is the first – and hopefully not the last – time KORG has opened up that brand name to the international scene.

And the NTS-1 is one we’re all going to want to get our hands on, I’ll bet. It’s full of features:

– 4 fixed oscillators (saw, triangle and square, loosely modeled around their analog counterpart in minilogue/prologue, and VPM, a simplified version of the multi-engine VPM oscillator)
– Multimode analog modeled filter with 2/4 pole modes (LP, BP, HP)
– Analog modeled amp. EG with ADSR (fixed DS), AHR, AR and looping AR
– modulation, delay and reverb effects on par with minilogue xd/prologue (subset of)
– arpeggiator with various modes: up, down, up-down, down-up, converge, diverge, conv-div, div-conv, random, stochastic (volca modular style). Chord selection: octaves, major triad, suspended triad, augmented triad, minor triad, diminished triad (since sensor only allows one note at a time). Pattern length: 1-24
– Also: pitch/Shape LFO, Cutoff sweeps, tremollo
– MIDI IN via 2.5mm adapter, USB-MIDI, SYNC in/out
– Audio input with multiple routing options and trim
– Internal speaker and headphone out

That would be fun enough, and we could stop here. But the NTS-1 is also built on the same developer board for the KORG minilogue and prologue keyboards. That SDK opens up developers’ powers to make their own oscillators, effects, and other ideas for KORG hardware. And it’s a big deal the cute little NTS-1 is now part of that picture, not just the (very nice) larger keyboards. I’d see it this way:

NTS-1 buyers can get access to the same custom effects and synths as if they bought the minilogue or prologue.

minilogue and prologue owners get another toy they can use – all three of them supporting new stuff.

Developers can use this inexpensive kit to start developing, and don’t have to buy a prologue or minilogue. (Hey, we’ve got to earn some cash first so we can go buy the other keyboard! Oh yeah I guess I have also rent and food and things to think about, too.)

And maybe most of all –

Developers have an even bigger market for the stuff they create.

This is still a prototype, so we’ll have to wait, and no definite details on pricing and availability.

Waiting.

Yep, still waiting.

Wow, I really want this thing, actually. Hope this wait isn’t long.

I’m in touch with KORG and the analog team’s extraordinary Etienne about the project, so stay tuned. For an understanding of the dev board itself (back when it was much less fun – just a board and no case or fun features):

KORG are about to unveil their DIY Prologue boards for synth hacking

Videos:

Sounds and stuff –

Interviews and demos –

And if you wondered what the Japanese kits are like – here you go:

Oh, and I’ll also say – the dev platform is working. Sinevibes‘ Artemiy Pavlov was on-hand to show off the amazing stuff he’s doing with oscillators for the KORG ‘logues. They sound the business, covering a rich range of wavetable and modeling goodness – and quickly made me want a ‘logue, which of course is the whole point. But he seems happy with this as a business, which demonstrates that we really are entering new eras of collaboration and creativity in hardware instruments. And that’s great. Artemiy, since I had almost zero time this month, I better come just hang out in Ukraine for extended nerd time minus distractions.

Artemiy is happily making sounds as colorful as that jacket. Check sinevibes.com.

The post KORG’s nutekt NTS-1 is a fun, little kit – and open to ‘logue developers appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

IK UNO Drum: portable, $249.99 analog-PCM drum machine

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 8 May 2019 11:41 am

Like the UNO synth before it, IK Multimedia’s new drum machine is a collaboration with boutique Italian maker Soundmachines, runs on batteries, takes up very little space, and it looks like a whole lot of fun, for EUR/USD 249.99.

As with some of the best-known classic drum machines, the sound engine is a combination of analog circuitry and PCM samples.

On the analog side of the sound engine, there are six drum parts: two different kicks, snare, clap, closed high hat, open high hat, and of course controls for shaping each.

On the PCM side, the default parts are toms, rim, cowbell, ride, crash. There are 54 samples onboard in total. And again, you can adjust Tuning, Snap, and Decay.

Sound samples are interesting – the kick sounds appropriately heavy and analog, and it sounds like you can glitch out those PCM samples, so … yep, I’m happy.

The voice architecture evidently lets you freely swap analog and digital parts as you wish to customize your kit, with up to 12 elements in each kit (and 11 of these can sound at the same time).

They’ve also added Drive and Compressor, both analog effects.

So that sounds already like a winning combination: customizable kits, plus some analog processing to make them punchier.

And then there’s the playing and programming bit. Touch entry has two velocity zones which you can map to sound parameters – so you don’t have to dive into a separate accent mode. You get 64 steps (with step and live performance), some serious automation recording (eight parameters per step), and even chaining up to 64 patterns together (for a kind of song mode). And you can trigger patterns live on the fly.

There are also some “performance effects” in the sequencer – Roll, Humanize, Swing, and Random.

More specs:

USB
2.5mm MIDI (with cables included)
Audio input for chaining – also routed through the compressor
400 g
4 AA batteries or power via USB
Ships in June
249 EUR/USD (not incl. VAT)

That little audio input with compressor makes this a nice companion to a number of little boxes.

They don’t say that you can customize samples, which may sound like an odd thing to complain about on a $250 box, except that some inexpensive machines have actually provided that (albeit some made it exceedingly difficult to do, like the KORG volca sample).

So sure, while everyone else eyes modules with prices starting for around this, I bet you could do a lot of damage with this little box.

https://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/unodrum/

And they have a ton of tutorial/demo videos up already:

Uh… my music doesn’t sound like this, but maybe yours does?

And the specs with… okay, more of that song. (To be fair, my mood today for a mega-distorted 150 bpm acid techno track is probably not the best music bed underneath someone trying to explain how you feed power via USB or AA batteries. You could, like, shout over it into a vocoder?)

(You can still hire me to do your voice over / demo video. UnO drUM g1vv33s yoU meg444 Cr444zYYY ACID DRUGGY SPACECAT psych0000 so888uunnddsss! L0000kieee!! No? I charge by the hour, it’s easy. I’m sure Dr. Walker / Liquid Sky Berlin will join in our tripped out machine PR agency.)

The post IK UNO Drum: portable, $249.99 analog-PCM drum machine appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Novation’s super synth for Superbooth leaks: 16-voice Summit

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 8 May 2019 2:26 am

What if Novation put everything great about their recent analog and digital synths into one keyboard? That appears to be exactly what Summit is – and it looks like a show stealer.

The information is leaking via German media through a couple of print and online outlets (Beat and delemar.de so far, with the Facebook post of the latter picked up by Gearnews. Oh, and, uh… there’s an image sitting around on Novation’s site.

And it’s too good to sit on this time.

16 voices digital/analog hybrid, bi-timbral modes, 60 wavetables, multimode filters, and then tons and tons of onboard controls – four dedicated LFOs right on the front panel.

3 oscillators per voice
FM synthesis
An arpeggiator with pattern and chord modes
A 61-key keyboard with conventional pitch and mod wheels
Stereo outputs (or 4x mono)

Okay, so why all those keys? Think performance – layers and splits and dual mode and that powerful chord/arp/pattern business, all at your fingertips.

Times like this I miss writing for Keyboard in print. But I’ll let you figure the rest from photos. And be sure we’ll head to that booth – I’m glad I’m bringing a couple of friends, as maybe then we can do four- or six-hand performance on this for you, provided Novation are bringing a working unit.

2200 EUR appears to be the price – and while that’s nothing to sneeze at, it’s tough to get this much bang and hands-on control for your buck any other way.

Oh yeah, and this does mean a shot across the bow of a certain rival manufacturer who has been posting “what-if” scenarios and random images. It appears Novation has done the actual engineering to finish a product here. But Novation’s coup here may be packing all the sound and modulation controls of a polysynth up front without having an overwhelming layout. No vintage instrument pulled that off – so instead of repeating the past, they’ve come up with a new design.

More when we talk to Novation Thursday.

(Bass Station 2.5 is also in this leaked image, but that we’ve seen already. It’s still cool.)

Of course, this is a leak so – all bets are off until we get official information.

And now your German word of the day is stimmig.

Novation Peak was a megahit at Superbooth, and it seems the gang from the UK have done it again.

The post Novation’s super synth for Superbooth leaks: 16-voice Summit appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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