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


Your guide to the 3 best new underground synths from NAMM – not a clone in sight

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 21 Jan 2020 5:22 pm

Nothing new under the sun? Think again. Independent manufacturers are still creating novel designs for music making – and last week brought a lot of news.

Just as acoustic instruments often start with simple building blocks – blow on something, hit something, pluck something – these creations do work with existing known synth methods. (Think FM, wavetable, whatever.) But let’s dump the notion that “everything” is a clone now, just because one manufacturer starting with the letter B has been pulling its product news from a 1981 Roland product catalog.

In fact, there’s so much new stuff, it’s easy to get lost. So here’s your quick guide.

MEGAfm

The pitch: It’s a powerful synth with the heart of a SEGA. Imagine a hands-on, polyphonic instrument built around the same chip that powered the SEGA Megadrive and Genesis game consoles.

Who makes it: Indie French builder Twisted Electrons, who already has a great track record with handheld and desktop acid and chip music synths, plus a Eurorack modular collaboration with Crea8audio.

Specs in a nutshell: 12 voice polyphony (and various voicing modes), two of the YM2612FM chips already onboard, 8 algorithms, presets, tons and tons of controls, 3 LFOs, full MIDI I/O, and an arpeggiator and sequencer, all in an aluminum case.

How much, and when: 474EUR before VAT, apparently available now.

Buzz factor: This thing looks like a beast – an all-in-one, deep polyphonic chip music composition machine in a box, either with that onboard sequencer/arp or if you prefer using MIDI from the outside.

And oh yeah, prediction for 2020: the world will have a collective realization that we don’t always want to hear someone playing on a modular synth who sent over a four page rider and needs a three hour sound check, and chip music will come back. Nintendo Switch battles backstage, go!

Look/listen:

Learn more:

Erica Synths Bassline DB-01

The pitch: This is the bass from the luxury-priced Techno System, in a desktop box the rest of us can afford. So you get the distinctive Erica BBD delay-based detune on the oscillators, a swarming delicious sound, plus an aggressive Acidbox-derived filter, extras for modulation and dirt and noise, and an onboard sequencer.

Who makes it: Erica Synths, the Riga-based boutique superbrand who have turned ex-Soviet spaces and manufacturing into an assembly line for Latvian awesomeness – enough so that they hold their own festival every year. Look out, Ableton Loop.

Specs in a nutshell: DRIVE and DETUNE knob on the left. CUTOFF and RESONANCE on the right. There’s a reason the knobs are oversized for those. So it’s a transistor-based sub oscillator + overdrive + BBD-based detuned oscillators + noise source + syncable LFO + FM and VCF modulation + independent envelopes… well, you know that dessert menu item called “Chocolate Overload Deathwish”? This is what happens when that person specs out a bassline synth. Then add in CV + MIDI I/O, aluminum case, presets, and play either externally from analog or MIDI or with a simple onboard sequencer / arpeggiator.

How much, and when: Spring, 460 EUR.

Buzz factor: Sorry, 303. This thing is thicker / dirtier / nastier. I love the 303, but it’ll give you a daily fix of “wow, acid is my favorite thing ever,” before you get bored a few minutes later and switch it off. A DB-01, if you fall for it, will make you run away from home, assume a new identity, and live in a warehouse you squat in rural Latvia where you go feral and make nothing but experimental industrial music all day. Yes, Erica, you can quote me on that – if for no other reason than to warn the unwise.

Look/listen:

Sonicware LIVEN 8bit warps [Kickstarter]

The pitch: A lo-fi, grungy 8-bit synth with loads of voices plus onboard audio looping and lots of performance features (and warping) around the keyboard.

Who makes it: Sonicware, who created the portable ELZ_1 via Kickstarter – and which also shared a candy-bar keyboard design that recalls instruments from Casio and Teenage Engineering. It’s all the work of Yu Endo from Tokyo – part of a new generation of innovation in Tokyo’s synth scene.

Specs in a nutshell: Sequencer with chaining and real-time and step recordings and parameter locks per-step, sync and MIDI I/O, runs on batteries and has an internal speaker. Multiple synth engines (WARP, ATTACK, MORPH, FM) meet powerful envelopes and modulation and filtering, plus a bunch of FX (chorus, flanger, delay, hall, plate).

How much, and when: Well, delayed gratification as it’s Kickstarter, but estimated for June 2020. But amazingly, early bird starts at … EUR148.

Buzz factor: Come on, at this price, how can you say no to this 4-engine synth + looper + sequencer? One indie Japanese developer might just outdo the fun factor of a KORG volca for the same price, with a more flexible housing and more powerful features. Sure, a 16-bit engine might have made the different modes more varied, but – sounds like Yu-san has programmed this so you can exploit the 8-bit grime.

Look/listen:

Learn more

Save up your pennies?

Honestly, I think any of one these three tops the other product reveals from this month. Sure, the KORG Wavestate looks powerful, but … the freak factor of that new Twisted box might well outdo the KORG offerings. It promises to build on everything designer Alex from Twisted has been working toward over the years.

The DB-01 meanwhile might quietly be the most indispensable thing Erica have done yet – it’s got some of the best bits of the Techno System, but in a form factor you can both a) actually afford and b) carry with you in an airBaltic carry-on allowance. Now if Erica just does a TR-01 drum machine to go with it, I’m completely sold.

And Sonicware have nailed the amount where you’d impulse-buy yourself a Kickstarter present for June.

So, dear Santa Claus… uh, wait, it’s the end of January… dear Saint Patrick, are you listening?

And with each of these priced under 500 bucks, can we collectively admit that the idea that independent synths are expensive or everything has to be a clone is just objectively not true? Thanks.

The post Your guide to the 3 best new underground synths from NAMM – not a clone in sight appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Pioneer’s new 6-channel DJ mixer could be a producer and live act favorite

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 17 Jan 2020 8:32 pm

Its expanded mixing and EQ section have already inspired memes, but live acts will sure be happy to see it in the booth.

Pioneer, of course, faces an ongoing problem. Having taken over the world, there’s not much left to conquer. At the entry level, the strategy isn’t hard – there’s an expanding market of first-time DJs, and the company’s combination of Rekordbox-for-computers with Rekordox-for-USB-stick-prep seems a winner. But at the high end, the product stury is murkier. What do people want? Samplers? Synths? Decks that work like samplers? Giant touchscreens?

The DJM-V10 makes more sense – and it helps build a platform in the booth for plugging in those other Pioneer toys.

More quality: Thanks to the onboard sound engine and ESS9016 chip, they deliver 64-bit mixing and 32-bit A/D and D/A, respectively. Oddly, they say this gives it more “warmth,” which is not what warmth means, but it should provide more transparent mixing.

New EQ, new compressor: You now get a new 4-band EQ – an extra shot across the bow of Allen & Heath – and a built-in compressor. I have no earthly idea why anyone would run today’s over-compressed tracks through another layer of compression (gah!), but that should come in very handy with live inputs, where you really do miss it.

Expanded FX: They’ve grown the send/return section so you can use your own external effects – which I also suspect means we’ll see new effects boxes from Pioneer soon.

3-band master isolator: The good thing about this – it’s got dedicated controls for high, mid, and low, rather than making you flick a switch like on most DJ mixers.

More I/O: 6-channel digital mixer design, which doubles as a USB sound card. They advertise a range of inputs, but it’s still unbalanced phono plugs – 6 line + 4 phono.

What they have done is add digital ins, so in addition to the USB interface acting as multichannel audio interface to your computer, there are also 6 digital coax ins.

2 USB B ports, 1 USB a port. Seems it’s odd to release in 2020 without USB-C, but that’s what they’ve done.

Oh, yeah, and they win me over with this alone – the inputs are aligned with the channel strips. Finally, no more hunting around the back of the mixer to find the right input.

MIDI out: Maybe this is really the lede. Pioneer continues pushing Pro DJ Link for sync, but each gadget they ship with MIDI DIN out proves the company might be open to connecting non-Pioneer gear. (It’s not the first Pioneer mixer to do this – and there’s still not a deck with MIDI out – but it’s something.)

DJ-friendly monitoring: Dual headphone outs mean you finally don’t have to fight the DJ/performer before or after you for the headphone jack as you switch over. And booth EQ helps prevent destroying your ears on the booth monitors – finally.

There are a lot of other nice touches – built-in iPhone/iPad mix recording (via DJM-REC), a lockable power cable, DVS integration with Rekordbox and TRAKTOR and Serato, and even visual ShowKontrol integration for AV and lighting.

Plus, it’s a DJM, so you can count on a lot of onboard effects – and then it’s up to you to use them tastefully. At least they’re more tasteful, as I see dedicated buttons for “short” and “long” delays, dub echo, and reverb – like the stuff you actually would want to use.

I would stand by the DJM line. I think they’re more usable and friendly than the competition, and I think having built-in effects is a good thing – it’s a show with an audience, not a studio.

The rest of this we have to actually test, in that Pioneer says a lot about how they’ve adjusted fader feel and EQ.

So sure, this is funny —

Not really the DJM-V10. But you know Richie Hawtin is dreaming of this right now.

— but no mind. I’d sure like to have this mixer in the booth. And I could imagine it doing double duty in some home studios, too, depending on price – at least for people who have DJ rigs at home that double for production.

Do most DJs need it? Probably not. Will it make plugging in for the rest of easier? Absolutely so.

Now we just need to know the price (gulp). But hey, the club will buy theirs.

https://www.pioneerdj.com/en/landing/djm-v10-6-channel-professional-dj-mixer/

The post Pioneer’s new 6-channel DJ mixer could be a producer and live act favorite appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

KORG has a sneak peak of a new DX7-like FM synth – the opsix

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 17 Jan 2020 7:39 pm

Imagine a DX7, but with more parameter controls via extra faders – and it’s a KORG. That’s the best we can tell about the new opsix.

MATRIXSYNTH got the scoop on this one before the American NAMM trade even began this week:

New KORG DX7 – the opsix

I’m not sure if calling it a “new DX7” is quite fair, as we just don’t know about it enough. But certainly KORG have copped the look and feel of the original – curious how Yamaha will react there – and added additional controls. Whether there are other KORG touches, it’s hard to say, though you’re welcome to squint at this image:

It’s not unheard of for manufacturers to show up with synthesizers hidden under glass. (I hear if a certain Prince Charming comes along and gets into the glass coffin and kisses the prototype, the enchantment will be lifted and it will magically wake up with complete firmware. But maybe that only works in Disney movies.)

FM synthesis remains a tough nut to crack from a usability standpoint, so I’m not sure about this one. It at least adds to the pile of retro-themed synths this year.

It seems likely that this came from the Japanese engineering team at KORG, given their past with FM on the volca series – and it seems equally likely that they were busy on other products, too. But KORG are proving themselves to be still prolific and provocative.

Watch this space.

The post KORG has a sneak peak of a new DX7-like FM synth – the opsix appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

If you’ve got $7500, you can also have an E-mu SP-1200 sampler remake

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 17 Jan 2020 7:12 pm

Also new in 2020 – a remake of the legendary 1987 E-mu SP-1200. Just get ready for some sticker shock, because it’s not just a clone, it’s an actual SP-1200, rebuilt.

This one is an extremely, extremely limited edition because it starts with an original working SP-1200. So the price tag is similar to a top-condition refurbished 1200 because that is literally what it is. The new SP-1200 undertaking comes from E-mu Systems co-founder Dave Rossum, so we can think of this as passion project more than anything.

Rossum Electro-Music calls it “better-than-new.”

Starting with an original SP-1200 and upgrading and calibrating it, you get (copy-pasting here):

  • A new 3.5″ disk drive (seriously), plus an SD card floppy emulator integrated with the software (by Dave himself, no less).
  • Manual filter cutoff frequency control sliders for the SSM 2044 analog filters for channels 1 and 2 added to the rear panel
  • A new metal chassis
  • A new panel overlay
  • The top shell restored and painted “SP Grey.”
  • A new power supply with locking connector (and cool operation)
  • A new LCD display with adjustable brightness and a selectable red, blue, or green color LED backlight
  • All new play buttons
  • All new programming buttons
  • All new 1/4” and MIDI jacks
  • All electrolytic and tantalum capacitors replaced with high-reliability ceramic or aluminum-poly caps
  • All rotary potentiometers replaced with million cycle lifetime pots and installed with new knurled black metal knobs
  • All slide potentiometers replaced with 200,000 cycle lifetime sliders and installed with new slider knobs
  • All original trimmers replaced with 20-turn versions and precisely calibrated
  • New rubber feet
  • An individualized Dave Rossum signature plaque
  • A dust-proof, crush-proof, lockable Pelican™ brand case with press-and pull latches, wheels, and an extendable handle.
  • Full testing and calibration by Rossum Electro-Music

Yes, there’s a wait list. So Dr. Dre, if you’re reading, go get on it.

I’m lost, to be honest, so coming soon to CDM, I’m proud to launch a new feature: a round-up of what legendary classic gear isn’t being cloned/remade/rebooted.

Actually, if I wait a few days even that story may be unnecessary.

Also, anyone want to take bets on when we get a Behringer BS-1200? (for “Behringer Sampler,” you know…)

The post If you’ve got $7500, you can also have an E-mu SP-1200 sampler remake appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Moog’s Subsequent 25 synth is here, and it’s got an animated film to go with it

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 16 Jan 2020 6:03 pm

For all Moog’s synths, it’s been a while since there was a sweet spot that said – oh, if I want a Moog, I should start here. The Subsequent 25 could be that instrument.

Okay, “subsequent” feels a little too much like an SAT word, compared to the endearing “Little Phatty” and “Sub Phatty.” But you could call this thing practically anything – it’s a cute little Moog, and about as Moog-y looking as anything since the 1970 Minimoog.

It’s just … adorable. I mean, someone should say that, because I fully expect this Moog will trigger some serious consumer instincts.

And appreciating that synths for a lot of musicians are about feelings and fantasy, Moog are repeating their collaboration with Flying Lotus to make an animated short film. (Scoff all you like – if you had a marketing budget, wouldn’t you want to spend it like this?) The inimitable Brainfeeder maestro FlyLo teams up with designer-musician Julian House. You might have heard House’s own music as The Focus Group and Ghost Box label, but you almost certainly know his album covers for the likes of Oasis and The Prodigy.

Anyway, this is all good fun. Here:

Okay, but you probably do want specs, too. In the year of polysynths, this isn’t that – it’s a massive bass synth that also happens to have a new Duo Mode to split osc 1 + osc 2.

So you have three oscillators – including one sub oscillator – and additionally a noise source

Four CV inputs, which is a decent-sized complement for a mid-range analog synth.

Multidrive, which combines two types of distortion to color the sound (and really makes all of this dirty and interesting).

It’s a Moog, so yes, there’s a Ladder Filter, but with 6, 12, 18, and 24 dB/octave slopes.

Audio input as well as (mono) output

USB and MIDI and full MIDI implementation – that’s actually a bigger deal than it seems, as there’s MIDI control of everything, including things like gate reset. Paired with the right sequencer, this could be a total beast.

Flexible LFO, with tri, square, saw, ramp, S&H shapes

It’s heavy – 16 lbs – over 7 kg. But you probably like that if you want a Moog.

Proper pitch and mod wheels

Now that the rational part of your brain is engaged, it’s also worth saying that you might want to save up for the powerful Subsequent 37, the Sub 25’s bigger sibling. It’s a significant price difference (though there is the used market). But in addition to more keys, the big draw of the Sub 37 is – more hands-on controls, more envelopes and modulation, and a built-in arp/step sequencer.

Sounds:

(Writing synth press releases is hard. Duophonic synths require you to sound like you’re an over-excited Leonin or Perotin attending NAMM – “opening new doors of musicality by playing two different notes at once.” Wait ’til the monks and sisters catch THIS bad boy!)

Certainly looks Moog-y. It’s almost a Mini-Minimoog… with Sub. That seems a good thing. Note the options on the filter, and the Multidrive distortion circuit, plus the easy-access, Minimoog-style mixing section.

There’s also editor/librarian software included free, so the notion is you can extend the 16 x 16 (256) onboard patches with more stuff on the computer. And that’s what makes this somewhat unique: it is an analog synth, but it’s one that you might go deep into editing or sequencing. It’s obviously a performance-oriented, jam- and improv-focused keyboard axe, but it’s got enough CV that you could still devise some detailed patches with modular or semi-modular gear.

The free editor/librarian is meant to be part of the workflow here.
And yes, Moog as usual include tons of build photos from their North Carolina factory in the press. This is really what it looks like, though, I’ve been there (as have some readers, I’m sure).

Moog have staked out this territory as the premium synth makers, and that’s what this looks like. It’s a pretty middle-of-the-road synth, but with tons of detail – and that Multidrive thing makes sure it isn’t too tame.

And for all the creativity of the Moog line lately, I fully expect the Subsequent 25 will get people past the hump of trying to decide what to buy. I’d say shame about the name, but I bet a lot of people just call it Moog.

US$895 list.

For more Moog film watching, check this behind-the-scenes with Uncut Gems composer Daniel Lopatin:

As an addendum, and part of why I think this appeals to the frontal lobes (even as the design triggers some irrational emotional appeal), here’s the amount of stuff you can control with MIDI – including high-resolution output. Even if you don’t use this via MIDI, it’s an interesting window into the architecture:

  • Mono/Duo Mode  
  • Duo Osc 2 Priority  
  • Filter Velocity Sensitivity 
  • Volume Velocity Sensitivity 
  • Ext. Audio Level 
  • Osc 2 Beat Frequency 
  • VCO Gate Reset 
  • LFO Gate Reset 
  • Pitch Bend Up Amount 
  • Pitch Bend Down Amount 
  • Glide Legato 
  • Glide Type 
  • Filter Poles 
  • Wave Mod. Destination 
  • LFO KB Tracking 
  • LFO Range 
  • Filter EG Reset 
  • Amp EG Reset 
  • Legato 
  • Gate On/Ext. 
  • MIDI Ch. In 
  • MIDI Ch. Out 
  • Local Control 
  • 14-Bit MIDI Output 
  • MIDI Path In 
  • MIDI Path Out 
  • MIDI Merge DIN 
  • MIDI Merge USB 

Specs:

  • Sound Engine Type(s): Analog (2 x Oscillators, 1 x Sub Oscillator, 1 x Noise Generator) 
  • Number of Keys: 25 
  • Type of Keys: Semi-weighted, Velocity-Sensitive 
  • Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel 
  • Polyphony: Monophonic, 2-Note Paraphonic 
  • LFO: Triangle, Square, Sawtooth, Ramp, Sample & Hold 
  • Filter: Moog Ladder Filter with 6/12/18/24 dB per Octave Slopes 
  • Number of Presets: 16 (4 Banks of 4) 
  • Effects Types: Multidrive 
  • Audio Inputs: 1 x 1/4″ (ext in) 
  • Audio Outputs: 1 x 1/4″ 
  • USB: 1 x Type B 
  • MIDI I/O: In/Out/USB 
  • Other I/O: Filter CV in, Pitch CV in, Volume CV in, KB Gate in 
  • Software: Plug-in and standalone editor and librarian for Mac/PC 
  • Power Supply: 110V AC-240V AC (Internal) 
  • Height: 6.75″ 
  • Width: 20.25″ 
  • Depth: 14.75″ 
  • Weight: 16 lbs. 

The post Moog’s Subsequent 25 synth is here, and it’s got an animated film to go with it appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

2hp have a lunchbox modular synth in a literal lunchbox

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 15 Jan 2020 2:28 am

One thing Eurorack modular doesn’t normally make you say is, “awwwww… cute!” But here’s a modular synth rig that looks as likely to contain a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as a synth.

Meet the 2hp Lunchbox, which is literally an oldschool lunchbox with handle. It’s 42hp – which isn’t itself a new idea, as the Erica Synths Pico System does the same. The new idea is putting that in an actual lunchbox, which is adorable – and practical, since it comes with a handle.

In order for this to be useful, you need modules that take up as narrow a footprint as possible. 2hp are already deep into that business, focusing exclusively on tiny modules. The fat-fingered or clumsy need not apply, but lovers of kawaii and tiny will be happy. They’ve got loads of stuff in their shop:

https://www.twohp.com/modules

Put that together with modules like the Erica Pico line and a handful of other minimalist makers, and you could have something really wonderful. It’s ambitious to say you’d use this on a plane as they claim, but … taking it on a budget short hop flight as carry-on sure as heck gets practical.

They’ve got full-blown systems in mind, in case you’re unsure how to populate your new lunch box. There are four systems coming (guess you can think of this as having mum or dad pack your lunch for you, eh?):

  • Picnic Basket
  • Synth Voice
  • Drum Machine
  • Effects Box

I don’t know what a picnic basket is, but all in all sounds, good.

And the minimalism is inspiring compelling designs – also upcoming from 2hp this spring: a compressor with sidechain, a time-domain pitch shifter with flutter, and a sound on sound looper. That looper should appeal to ambient creators; it’s got a 5-minute (!) loop time.

All of this stuff is economical to buy, meaning you get your fix of a new module for $119-149. And they’re not clones of existing modules (ahem) but new ideas.

Plus the more makers like 2hp join in with this form factor, the more choices tiny modular lovers will have. That sounds great indeed.

https://www.twohp.com/

https://www.twohp.com/coming-soon

Now can someone just get me a real food-oriented bento box matched with a modular? Then I’m in.

The post 2hp have a lunchbox modular synth in a literal lunchbox appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Sequential’s Pro 3 is a new Prophet, while the others clone – so how does it stack up?

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 15 Jan 2020 2:06 am

One person who isn’t just copying Dave Smith is – Dave Smith. Sequential are back with the new Pro-3, a flagship mono/paraphonic synth instrument.

Okay, to be fair – a Sequential synth (or Dave Smith Instruments synth) is always going to give you certain predictable elements, if in different combinations. But the Pro-3 at least continues the evolution and refinement of that line. And it offers an extraordinary amount of depth as a result – in the sense that you could really just play with this thing a … long … time … happily so …

The Pro 3 is right in line with the Pro line – the Pro 1 and Pro 2 monosynths, that is – but with some new ideas thrown into the mix. With that in mind, let’s first talk about what just went away – the Pro 2, the previous flagship monosynth. And in some ways, the Pro 2 is likely to be missed – for its uniquely accessible oscillators and architecture, and its 4-voice paraphonic mode.

The Pro 3 is pretty irresistible, though, in that it does three things:

  1. Builds a new architecture around three of everything – three oscillators (2 analog + 1 wavetable), three LFOs, and three filters to choose from to keep it fresh.
  2. Acts as a central workstation, with a powerful front panel sequencer (building on the Pro-2) and now CV integration so it fits in with modular.
  3. Costs just US$1599.

And that last one is a big deal. A producer can easily save up for this one instrument and wind up with a massively flexible powerhouse for sound design, with sequencing built in. Sequential’s stuff has managed to get more powerful but less expensive, and yet you still get something that feels luxurious, boutique, and – well, personal, in a way a big mass-produced thing might not.

This is Dave. As far as we know, no one has yet cloned him or his team.

Some highlights:

Dual digital effects – again, you can do a whole lot right on this one keyboard, but without menu diving as you might on a digital workstation

A 32-slot mod matrix for loads of modulation

Analog integration – four CV ins, four outputs, dedicated gate output – all running at audio rate (take that, MIDI!) and all assignable from that powerful mod matrix

Classic Sequential analog oscillators, times two

One wavetable oscillator for the edgy digital spice when you need it, for the third oscillator – 32 tables of 16 waves each, with wave morphing, so a lot of spice

Three vintage filters to choose from – 4-pole low pass (a la Prophet-6), 2-pole state-variable (a la Oberheim OB-6) for continuously moving between low-pass + notch + high-pass,

Analog distortion, Drive control on the filters

And all of this combines with a sequencer, included on the keyboard so the workflow is integrated. That includes ratcheting, input via both real-time and step-input, and works with both MIDI and CV (and analog and MIDI clock, too).

Plus, the sequencer integrates with the mod matrix – noticing the pattern here? That justifies the inclusion of a sequencer on the keyboard, because then integration is already done for you. Instead of spending your time programming, or working to assign your sequencer to your instrument, you can get right into playing and sequencing.

(I say all of this because – I just read some concerns from a colleague, and this is essentially my answer.)

So sure, you get 3-voice paraphonic mode instead of 4, but as deep and wild as the Pro-2 was, the Pro-3 seems deeper and wilder.

The SE edition, if you have extra money and want something more collectible. Also – tilt-up panel is definitely cool, whether or not you crave wood.

Heck, in this giant wave of polysynths, the Pro-3 is a pretty damn good argument for getting back to monosynths again.

And you know the package will be plenty luxe, as per usual Sequential standards. If you want it to be even more so, you can spring for the Special Edition, for US$2099. That includes a tilt-up control panel and “full, premium-grade walnut trim.” I’m sure it’ll be a collectors’ item, but I’m tempted to just buy a stand to tilt this up and then go with a nice bottle of bourbon while I invite friends over for some Pro-3 jams, you know?

A little birdie told me some close friends of CDM might have worked on this beautiful beast, and I know it’ll be at NAMM, so I will send our espionage network out to learn more.

But even in this deluge of synths, the Pro-3 looks really lovely.

More on the somewhat complicated endless stream of DSI/Sequential instruments can be perused in the PDF chart they put together. Basically, if you want a really cheap 4-voice, find a used MOPHO X4. The Pro-2 was all digital oscillators, but you did get more of them – 4x + 1 sub oscillator, meaning a used Pro-2 should still be on your radar if you’re thinking Pro-3. And then there are the very excellent polyphonic Prophets.

More at Sequential (formerly DSI aka Dave Smith Instruments):

Previously:

The post Sequential’s Pro 3 is a new Prophet, while the others clone – so how does it stack up? appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Arturia KeyStep Pro is the sequencer keyboard we were waiting for

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 14 Jan 2020 8:35 pm

It’s like a BeatStep Pro, but with keys, but with KeyStep features, but with extras. And it’s still compact. Sounds like Arturia may have a hit on their hands.

Remember when we were all repeatedly saying that the KeyStep was cool, but it’d be nice if there were a KeyStep Pro? To their credit, Arturia did keep cramming functionality into their compact keyboard, and that means the latest firmware turned it into a little powerhouse – and one you still might want to consider:

But now the KeyStep Pro expands that. If you loved the BeatStep Pro but wish it had keys instead of pads, or if you loved the KeyStep but wish it had extra encoders and polyphonic features, well… mark your calendars for March the 20th. That’s the date this model launches.

Yep, it sequences all this stuff – MIDI (via minijack or minijack to DIN adapter), USB, analog, with computer or standalone.

And this is still a beat sequencer, so just because it’s a tricked out sequencer keyboard doesn’t mean you need to start making only tripped-out prog rock.

Basically, it’s an ideal performance hub for anyone who likes keyboards. You get loads of compositional flexibility:

  • 4 independent sequencers, which you can route to whatever synths or drum machines or modular or gear you want – just as on the BeatStep Pro
  • 4 tracks have 16 patterns each, and chain 16 patterns into a song
  • Scenes snapshot all the sequences within a pattern, for swapping between sets of patterns
  • Projects let you load up different scenes

And then there’s a nicely balanced complement of physical control.

  • 37 keys with velocity and channel aftertouch
  • LEDs above the keys give you added visual feedback for sequencing
  • Touch strips give you pitch + mod or other assignable controls
  • There’s an internal metronome, which you can listen to (to sync humans) or output as audio (to sync analog hardware)
  • Finally, five encoders with LED ring feedback – that’s an improvement on the BeatStep Pro, at least if you want to swap scenes without having to fiddle with the knobs to get them to pick up the right value
  • And of course step editing buttons, or this wouldn’t be an Arturia ‘step

It’s less portable than the original, but it’s still reasonable – 5.9 lbs or 2.7 kg, and slightly larger. They’re still slim keys, but that also makes this easier to drop into a backpack.

There’s also a crisp new OLED display – nice.

Price is US$449 / EUR 399 list, so it isn’t cheap – the BeatStep Pro is then a nice bargain buy if you like pads as well as you do keys. But for those of us who wanted exactly this as a hub, it looks like a good investment, rather than building a collection of keyboards that kinda sorta do what we want but not really.

More details and full specs:

https://www.arturia.com/products/hybrid-synths/keystep-pro/overview

And the video. Now is a good time to announce CDM’s exciting pivot to video features. Stand on one toe… good… oh, okay, stop groaning at me.

(Heh, I just noticed that Arturia’s own mailing list says this was the sequencer that we’ve “been waiting for.” Well, their product people knew that I was waiting and CDM readers were waiting, as I’d talked to them about it! Review coming soon, hopefully!)

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KORG have new hybrid/analog mixers, made with Greg Mackie and Peter Watts

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 14 Jan 2020 4:27 pm

Surprise – the best product news from KORG this year might not be a synth. Their new mixer looks like the one we’ve been waiting for.

Let’s face it – it hasn’t been a great time for mixers. The mixing class divide has only grown. So there are some excellent high-end analog boutique and live-oriented digital mixers that you can’t afford. And then at the entry level, there’s been the race to the bottom that sees armies of clones and dropping quality without much innovation. Those you can afford, which is a good thing, but there’s not much to be passionate about.

KORG have gone back to the mixer design team that made a lot of stuff that producers and live performers really love as much as mix engineers. That means bringing in Greg Mackie and Peter Watts.

I don’t want to get too excited too fast – especially not knowing the street price. But at least on paper, this looks like promising stuff.

The KORG SoundLink comes in very reasonable looking 24- and 16-channel models. They’ve got nice, compact form factors that are nonetheless packed with features. And then they have DSP and KORG effects.

So you get the MW2408 (24-channel) and MW160 (16-bit) – analog mixers with digital control and DSP from KORG.

Looking at the layout, features, and the people behind it, I’m very, very interested. Some highlights:

HiVolt mic preamps – and keeping in mind Peter Watts worked on the Trident preamps that everyone is trying to copy

Mute groups – even on a compact mixer. (YES.)

Independent musician phone outputs, with dedicated knobs so your musicians can hear what they’re doing and control their own outputs. (YES, again.)

Built-in KORG effects and easy-access DSP. All your dynamics and reverb and EQ and spectrum analyzers and essentially what you’d expect on your computer DAW are now also in your mixer. The surprise is, it looks like there’s not too much menu diving – thanks to dedicated buttons to assign these. There’s even a test tone generator.

And yes, it’s Greg Mackie – that Mackie – who perhaps more than anyone has bridged the gap between what musicians and mixing engineers want and the mixer design and engineering that delivers. That sounds like marketing copy, but once you get past the influential early studio consoles, and very practical mixers for studios, most of the design of mixers used by musicians and producers has some ideas borrowed from Greg.

Peter Watts is an equally legendary engineer, and seeing the two of them with KORG’s own input – I think that’s a big deal.

If the price is within reach, I think it’ll be a hit. I mean, if it’s in reach, this is the one I would be looking to buy.

I have loads of questions, as I didn’t get complete specs on this, so I’m inferring a lot from the images (click through for bigger ones). Stay tuned for some answers.

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Return of full-sized KORG MS-20, as retro trend continues

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 14 Jan 2020 3:56 pm

It’s badly upstaged by the ARP 2600, but for those who want it, KORG are again making full-sized MS-20 synths. That caps a long string of MS-20s from KORG.

The KORG MS-20 was one of the products that helped launch the current wave of big-name remakes. And KORG has done versions of the MS-20 every way imaginable. Let’s review just a few:

Nintendo DS game – KORG DS-10 (loosely based on the original)

iPad app – iMS-20 (plus KORG Gadget, too, if you want to be completionist)

MS-20 Legacy Collection plug-in, which briefly had available an external controller for the computer that supported patching:

A mini version – the MS-20 mini (hey, Japan does seem to appreciate things being small and – I’m totally with them on this, so like Japan and me)

The best of all of these, perhaps, is the full-sized MS-20 kit. I made one; and it’s brilliant – because of its reliability and flexibility, maybe even a little better than having the original around.

But the MS-20 kit was a limited edition. And so now we have the MS-20FS (for Full-Sized). It appears to be identical to the kit in every way – USB and MIDI, switchable filter, and even the original 1978 manual included in the box. But apart from the switchable filter and new I/O, it’s indistinguishable from the original – enough so that once it’s got some dust on it, these are regularly mistaken for the original.

The only news in the reissue is colors – four powder-coat options, in an attractive green, white, blue, and black.

No word yet on pricing, but this is coming this year.

White looks fresh. Note to self – idea for new stage persona, Colonel Sanders suit — new note to self, delete previous note.
Built like a tank, looks like a …
In blue, it’s obvious, but in black, these ports on the back are the only way to easily tell the FS isn’t an original MS-20.

That’s all fine and well, but am I alone in wishing for a new semi-modular, patchable thing from KORG? The MS-20 is great, but the more we live with it, the more I wonder what a new instrument catering to modern tastes might be.

Then again, I celebrated my birthday yesterday and I was also introduced in 1978 so — never mind. Things from 1978 are for more relevant than anything younger and cooler and all of you should really just throw money at us. Good, there, done. Oh wait – I should work on some color options for myself.

For more MS action – here’s a minisite dedicated to the MS-10 synth:

And sorry, 1978, but this NAMM is all about 1970, because of this:

The post Return of full-sized KORG MS-20, as retro trend continues appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Behringer appears to have a TR-606 clone coming to NAMM

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 13 Jan 2020 5:47 pm

Behringer continues to look to vintage Roland gear to make new products. The teaser for the next product looks like a TR-606.

The 606 was a great cheap little box in its day, and has a cute form factor. But it was never the hit its 303 sibling was, and there are other compact drum machines now. That is, you’ve got not only the Roland Boutique Series, but also actual boutique items like MFB. And many drum machine lovers prefer larger form factors.

Cloning the 606 is old news:

If you didn’t like the sound of that, well – you probably just don’t like the sound of a 606, because that’s what it sounds like!

I always had a special affection for the 606, as did plenty of genuinely famous and relevant artists over the years (not just weirdos like myself). But the actual sound is pretty easy to replicate with samples, so this one is a puzzler.

And that may answer the question of why Roland didn’t do a TR-…. uh TR-06? … with the other Boutiques. The TR-08 and TR-09 are already essentially 606-sized, but with the 909 and 808 sounds and controls that more people are after. And you can more or less get some 606 sounds loading samples into a TR-8S or any other drum machine with sample import. (Heck, a volca sample will do the trick.)

I’m sure there are 606 fans who will be looking for this. You are presumably the ones Behringer “hears.” We’ll have to wait and see how Behringer executed their take on a bare-bones early 80s design.

The bigger question for Behringer at NAMM may be to find out where their TR-909 “tribute” is, as I think that’s the item more people will covet.

(Original) TR-606 image at top (CC-BY-SA) Midas Wouters.

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KORG add two more Nu:Tekt kits: headphone amp, valve overdrive

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Sat 11 Jan 2020 3:17 am

KORG are adding to their inexpensive, easy put-them-together kits with a headphone amp and valve overdrive.

The Nu:Tekt line came out first with the NTS-1. That’s still the most exciting Nu:Tekt, in that it’s pretty close to having a voice from the ‘logue line – and since it supports the ‘logue SDK, you can run a variety of downloadable third-party oscillators and effects on it, some of them free.

The valve overdrive and headphone amp are not really anything like that, but they do look like fun and useful tools, and they’re still delivered as a kit.

There’s no soldering or anything advanced on these kits – as far as assembly, they’re the musical equivalent of those snap-together model airplanes for children. But on the other hand, they’re the opposite of a lot of our consumer society today. You still handle the parts and put them together.

OD-S Overdrive kit parts. All photos courtesy KORG.

And while that’s just busy work, KORG are keeping with the idea of customization with each of these products, which is interesting – especially from a big music gear brand, and not just a boutique operation. The customization takes different forms on each of these two new products.

Short version:

  1. There’s a tube-based overdrive effect
  2. There’s a tube-based headphone amplifier

…and each lets you modify parts to customize its sound, if you so choose.

OD-S Nutube Overdrive

KORG have been pushing their all-new, all-analog Nutube tubes, made with Noritake Itron Corporation. They’re small, energy-efficient, and stable compared to vintage tubes, but offer similar sound.

So just as the NTS-1 put a ‘logue synthesizer voice into a compact kit, so does the OD-S give you quick and easy overdrive access in your own little overdrive pedal. And that’s appealing to synthesists and guitarists alike, I think.

Part of what makes this interesting are the controls. There are two gain knobs instead of one. There’s input gain, as you’d expect, but also TUBE GAIN, which adjusts the load on the tube – so you get a second timbral control to color the distortion, in other words. And there’s a switch with two overdrive types / ranges – low and high.

But what’s customizable about it?

Well, that’s the fun part – this thing is built to be modified. As KORG explains:

For advanced users who want to customize their tone further, the modification-friendly layout allows you to change out discrete components to create your own unique pedal to match your desired tone and performance. The possibilities are endless. Circuit diagrams are readily available in the download section.

Of course, if you’re advanced enough to do that, you could also just build your own overdrive from scratch. But the nice thing here is, your basic layout is done, you’ve got a housing, you’ve got that cool, modern tube, and you can just swap out parts. That puts you in the role of the engineers finishing and tuning a design rather than trying to start one from scratch.

HA-S Nutube Headphone Amplifier Kit

On the headphone amp, you also start with the Nutube, but apply it to a warm headphone amp. (Blah blah “audiophile” something something. Hey, if it sounds good, I’m in.)

KORG have included a switch so you can choose whether or not the tube adds harmonic content. That gives you an option of a colored or clean sound; hopefully the clean sound is useful for monitoring applications.

But as with the OD-S, you can make modifications:

For further sound modification, we have included two OP amp options for the output: the premium audio oriented “MUSES01” and the industry standard “NJM4580”, both from JRC. These can be easily replaced so even the most purist audiophiles will be able to customize and adapt the sound of their HA-S to their heart’s content.

For advanced users who want to customize their amplifier even more, the circuit diagrams are readily available, making it really easy to change discrete components and make your own and unique headphone amp matching your desired tone and performance, the possibilities are endless!

To me, this doesn’t look as generically useful as the overdrive – I’d prefer my headphone amp to be as neutral as possible, and I’m not particularly interested in modifying it, especially if I need to monitor a mix for production. I realize that probably means I’m not the target demographic anyway.

But they’re both nifty ideas, and they demonstrate that KORG are up for sharing kits containing small but tasty bits of their tech. There’s not any other big maker doing anything like this, and it builds on work KORG has already done, like making hackable analog instruments and releasing their MS-20 filter circuit.

It also shows that hackable and open can be made manageable by focusing on a particular area. That seems to broaden appeal of those sorts of modifications, and brings music gear back full circle to an era when manufacturers posted circuit diagrams as an expected part of documentation.

CDM is awaiting final availability and pricing on these products. Let us know if you have other questions for KORG.

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Now your smartphone can livestream with proper audio and more, using this new Roland gadget

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 9 Jan 2020 5:26 am

The GO:LIVECAST promises to transform your smartphone from a craptacular lo-fi hassle into an all-in-one multitasking studio.

Webcasting, livestreaming, livecasting, broadcasting, recording, podcasting … let’s drop all the buzzwords and put this into one category. You know the drill: if you’re a one-person show, or you’re on the go, there’s a lot to juggle. And going mobile means doing exactly that – juggling.

The smartphone should be a great solution, until you realize it isn’t. Sound is the main issue, in that it’s a chore to get past the internal mic – even worse if you need to mix, say, voiceover and an instrument. And then the other tasks you have to solve tend to multiply from there.

The funny thing is, these problems now span a big group of people and use cases, blurring together “casual” and pro. Let’s not ever use the word prosumer again – this is really about mobility and autonomy. Smartphones have given us the promise of recording and broadcasting in all places. And people are doing it, regardless. The question now is, will we get tools so that the creation process isn’t frustrating and the results don’t look like crap.

Roland is one of the companies most aggressively vying to fill that use case, and crossing traditional audio production with new consumer uses. (See also: Zoom/Samson.)

GO:LIVECAST does aim to solve a lot of your problems, and it looks like it might pull it off.

Roland’s GO:MIXER is already a solid solution for mobile audio mixing, and if it’s just audio you’re dealing with in your smartphone recording, it might already be enough. But GO:LIVECAST also lets you easily integrate multiple audio feeds with your stream, and has an ambitious list of other functionality:

Add in audio inputs. No more relying on the internal mic on your phone. You get multiple ways of merging your phone’s high-quality imagery with (finally) higher-quality sound:

  • Built-in mic. (Roland claims this captures “high-quality” sound, so we’ll have to compare their hardware with popular phones to find out.)
  • External XLR input so you can use a proper microphone.
  • Stereo line input (for your synth or instrument or an external mixer, etc.)

Plus, there are actual knobs for adjusting levels, not to mention a reverb option for if you want to sing.

Monitor what you’re doing. GO:LIVECAST has the headphone jack that your phone now probably doesn’t, and the ability to monitor the other audio inputs, too.

Trigger titles and media. Radio has long had “soundboards” for triggering audio buttons or sound effects or IDs. This is that for not just sound, but also titles, photos, and videos, since you need this capability for AV generally. It appears the push-buttons on the device integrate with Roland’s app.

There’s some pre-built content (ewww) or you can make your own libraries (oooh).

Multi-camera support, with phones! You can use wifi to add a second camera, not only with the app, but even – didn’t expect this part – with the hardware.

Photo: Roland.

An app to solve all those problems logging in, starting, and monitoring. Anyone who’s tried to do a live stream knows this agony, especially as one person. There’s dealing with logins for streaming services. Then you have people commenting and want to respond. It’s a major pain bouncing between different interfaces.

Roland says they solve all of this with their app. The app logs you into popular services. (That’s YouTube, Facebook Live, and Twitch plus other “major” options – have to find out which.) And it lets you handle the camera and other features alongside checking comments in-app.

There’s in-camera mirroring so you can see yourself, and automatic switching between portrait and landscape modes (another major pain). There’s even a skin filter (took me a second to work out what they mean – I think as in the skin on your face, though some of these features are controversial elsewhere, so we need to see how they implement that.)

I/O: Runs on USB power, connects to Android and iOS devices, stereo minijack line in, XLR and 1/4″ TRS phone input with phantom power.

I’m a little concerned about those buttons and having them locked into Roland’s app. And it’s annoying that Roland is still on microUSB and not USB-C (though they have an adapter cable in the box). But the functionality looks useful, especially if paired with the existing GO:MIXER.

It all looks great – will it deliver? Roland definitely has the right idea. I’m keen to test this to see if it delivers on its promises.

And actually, far from being experienced pros, I think as musicians we’re even more desperately in need of help. Music making doesn’t necessarily prepare you for video production tasks. It makes you more demanding of sound quality, but you also have to deal with, you know, trying to play music and be inspired at the same time, leaving little bandwidth for streaming headaches.

Roland’s GO:MIXER was great, which gives me hope. And the basic features here really do look useful. Plus Roland in general – via their Edirol brand – have been on top of these kinds of production needs at the mid- and high-end, too.

I’m sure there are other streaming tools around CES this week, too. Stay tuned.

Check Roland’s product page, meanwhile:

https://www.roland.com/us/products/golivecast/

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2020 = 303 + 808 + 909, literally

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Sat 21 Dec 2019 7:37 pm

As many have observed (even before Roland themselves caught on), the year 2020 is the sum of 303 + 808 + 909.

So 2020 means some serious techno (and acid techno), and auspicious dates to celebrate March 3, August 8, and September 9. Mark those techno calendars.

If you want to consider the zodiac, you may need a different year. Japan’s Juunishi is derived from the Chinese zodiac, and 2020 (which starts toward the end of January) is the Year of the Rat. Then again, it is associated with wealth, so – business techno? Consider also charm, persuasiveness, artistic talent, and creativity meaning all techno fits.

The closest year of the rat to the Roland machines in 1984, which is a little late. On the other hand, here’s some Cybotron for that year, just so you’re prepared.

Photo (CC-BY-SA) Alexandre Dulaunoy.

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Kijimi, key planet in new Star Wars flick, is named after the synthesizer

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Sat 21 Dec 2019 2:35 pm

J.J. Abrams, mega-nerd – not only is the Star Wars writer/director a scifi fan, but synth fan, too. No spoilers here, but his love of a certain synthesizer comes out in Rise of Skywalker‘s script.

Kijimi is the lush polysynth from Black Corporation, also makers of Deckard’s Dream (the Yamaha CS-70 homage) and assorted modules. Kijimi, the creators say, doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a name that struck them, and one originating in Japan, the country in which the company is headquartered.

But J.J. apparently liked the name, too. The Star Wars boss is a known Black Corporation customer himself – you can spot him in a photo posing on the balcony of Black’s Shibuya, Tokyo offices. (Hey, wouldn’t you blow your Disney money on synths if you were in J.J.’s position? Oh, wait – it was a gift. Man, it’s good to be the king.)

Here’s the next round of nerdy meta-references – hang on. So the Kijimi is based loosely on the rare 1970s polysynth, the RSF Polykobol. Fans of Battlestar Galactica will immediately recognize Kobol as the legendary ancestral home of humanity, sought by the exiled fleet of the surviving colonists. (Sadly, much like J.J. buying his Kijimi before you could, the Cylons got to Kobol first. Uh… spoilers, sorry. From 1978, though.) So the French synth makers named their synth after the planet.

J.J. just turned the tables. While synths have been named for spacecraft before – I believe including the Moog Voyager – now the space franchise takes a name from synths. Kijimi isn’t just a passing reference, either – it’s evidently (no spoilers) a prominent planetary setting in The Rise of Skywalker. Abrams is co-credited with the story and screenplay, so he gets both the synth and its placement forever enshrined in Star Wars canon.

A Reddit user potted the reference even before the film came out, let alone before Black Corp acknowledged the connection:

I would include a photo of the planet Kijimi, but I don’t have an official press pack for Star Wars, and Disney lawyers frighten me. I will be going to see the movie, though – John Williams inspired me as a kid that being a composer was cool, and Star Wars was possibly the first movie I ever saw, in greatly shortened form on my parents’ sound super 8 film projector.

All I want for Christmas, meanwhile, is a Kijimi – I visited Black in Tokyo this fall, and it’s just a splendid splurge instrument.

So none of this story makes me jealous, in regards to either synth or Star Wars. Why, does it make you jealous? No. We are cold, stoic unfeeling walls, definitely not in any way responding to any element of this story. Good.

Full-blown Kijimi costs US$3749, but if you’re willing to put together the (elaborate) kit, that drops the price way down to US$999. So basically, don’t subscribe to Disney+, and it’s yours. You can pirate th — mmm..–dskklsggggrrrh — mmmm, my throat — jeez, Disney lawyers can even do force chokes?! (As if I’m not going to the film and to Galaxy’s Edge and seeing twenty more Marvel things in theaters this year. Uh-huh.)

The post Kijimi, key planet in new Star Wars flick, is named after the synthesizer appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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