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


Roland’s Boutique JU-06A JUNO is insanely fun

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 5 Sep 2019 1:10 pm

It doesn’t look like much. The latest Roland Boutique might even give you a sense of deja vu – because Roland did a tiny JUNO before. The difference: this time they got it right.

I’m the last person to want endless remakes of old synths. But a JUNO is something special. I assume I’m not alone in this – if I’m in someone else’s studio and there’s a JUNO-106 or JUNO-60 lying around, I’ll usually say let’s plug in that. It’s not even necessarily that they’re my favorite analog polysynths; it’s that something about them has a unique ability to blend into a mix, and be versatile in a number of situations. It’s also a pleasant early 80s sound that seems to blend well with more contemporary timbres, too. (I’ve found plenty of other artists who seem to feel similarly, ones whose opinion you should probably value more than mine, so I don’t feel I’m going out on a limb.)

Okay, so a JUNO is something you just want handy. And you don’t want it to be a plug-in – that’s terrible for jam sessions and live. The full keyboard is now pricey on the used market, takes up a lot of space, and is now at an age when it starts to break down. (I’m a few years older than these Rolands, and I start to feel their pain. Literally. I look forward to the digital remake of me.)

So you do really want an inexpensive hardware remake.

You would then presumably want it to be small and portable, so you can always keep it around.

You’d want it to still sound like a JUNO.

You’d want it to be playable, so you could use it as a sketchpad or easily work it into jams and live sets.

You wouldn’t want it to be terribly expensive.

The JU-06 that launched this whole oddly-named Roland Boutique phenomenon almost got this right, but then mostly screwed it up. There’s a step sequencer, but no external clock in. (There’s MIDI clock in, just not analog clock in.) It’s overly authentic in that modulation isn’t tempo synced – even though it’s now a MIDI device. There’s a step sequencer, but it shares the same buttons as the patch controls, a guarantee that you’ll wind up accidentally changing patches at an inopportune moment.

It sounds good, like a JUNO-106. But lots of things sound good now – and the JU-06 was mediocre enough that you start to go back to the thought that maybe a plug-in isn’t such a bad idea.

Roland are now back with the JU-06A, and not only does it fix all the issues with the JU-06, but I think it’s just edged out the SH-01A as the Boutique synthesizer I would buy first.

Step sequencer, external clock in, and a little toggle switch to make this either a convincing JUNO-60 or JUNO-106.

Everything is fixed now

Courtesy Roland. Apologies to anyone wanting to sell your JU-06.

The JU-06A doesn’t look radical, but little differences make this something you want to keep rather than return.

JUNO-60, too. Inside, Roland have added a second sound engine to emulate the 1982 JUNO-60, as well as the 1984 JUNO-106. There’s a toggle switch on the front panel that lets you swap models – an advantage of going digital. As with the other Boutiques (apart from the Studio Electronics collaboration), this is circuit modeling (ACB). But it sounds terrific.

Adding the JUNO-60 adds some more idiosyncratic sound options. In addition, you can reproduce the noise of the vintage chorus (with parameters tucked in settings for off/half/full noise). There are lots of other details that give this tiny box some of the growl and warmth of the original and its filter without taking up much space. Someone I’m sure will do some obsessive comparison, but it’s uncanny enough to be fine in a mix.

In addition to the step sequencer, the arpeggiator and chord modes here replace the less-useful touch strips for pitch and mod. HOLD works with both arp and chords, and the arp works with chord mode, too. Unfortunately, you can’t program individual chords into the step sequencer.

Chord and arpeggiator modes. This makes a major difference in playability. There are now simple chord playback and arpeggiator controls on the left-hand side of the unit, replacing the mostly pointless touch strip pitch and mod. Chord mode is lovely on a poly, of course; you get just 16 slots for chords, but that’s about the amount I can remember, anyway. Each memory slot can be edited from the front panel.

The arp is similarly basic but useful – you get up, down, and up/down modes, a range (from 1-3 octaves), and a rate knob, which always divides the master clock. It’s pretty basic, but all the controls are dedicated, which is great live.

There’s also a dedicated HOLD button, and the arp will work with both the HOLD and CHORD modes.

On its own, that would still be too limiting, but fortunately there’s also —

A step sequencer. 16 steps times 16 patterns, all monophonic. And now this also works with external clock – there’s a little minijack next to the sequencer itself (odd positioning, but it works).

The step sequencer is surprisingly usable, with practice, on the front panel. You can switch steps on and off, TR x0x style, and also enter in steps one at a time from the onboard keyboard. You can also use an external keyboard for pitch entry – like the Roland Boutique keyboard dock, or something else via MIDI in.

What’s evidently missing, which was on the SH-01A, is the ability to add individual chords to steps. That’s too bad, though what you get instead is, the monophonic step sequencer becomes the root note of the chord when chord mode is on.

LFO and Delay Tempo Sync. Both the LFO and Delay effect can now be clocked free, or synced to the master tempo. That’s obvious, but for some reason the JU-06 lacked it.

There’s more user memory. You get both 64 dedicated slots for each mode – JUNO-60 and JUNO-106 – which doubles the slots on the JU-06, and lets you effectively keep a library for each instrument.

The Ribbon Controllers are gone. If you particularly desire touch strips for pitch and mod, you should pick up a used JU-06 and not this. I don’t miss them, though, and I think most people will vastly prefer the chord and arp.

Fun in use for fans of tiny things

If I had one gripe about the JU, it’s the ongoing Boutique form factor. These units are compact and lightweight, but there’s still this strange docking scheme. That lets you choose either a keyboard or a little box that lets you tilt up the unit. (That’s the DK-01 docking station and the K-25m keyboard dock.) They each run a little under $100 street, with the keyboard costing more.

Back panel I/O. A minijack affair, but you do get full-sized MIDI DIN.

The upside is, of course, if you buy multiple Boutiques they don’t all have to have keyboards. But they do make you feel like Roland is squeezing you for extra cash (well, because they are), and the impression of the actual design is sort of toylike. My JU-06A review unit came without either, and my delicate aesthetic sensibilities made me not want to dock it in the silver 303 or beige 909 docks I had around, so I found… okay, actually, the thing is even more portable and lightweight without it, is still usable, and just has some funny edges. In an ideal world, this would have USB host so you could plug in anything; in this world, I’d probably still use a different keyboard and not the keyboard dock.

Roland wants you to budget extra for a dock that folds up the unit, or this kinda-okay mini-keyboard.

But I got over it. I love tiny things. The JU is small enough to fit in your backpack, and since it’s battery powered, you can sprawl in bed and program nice step sequences for a gig the next day.

This thing is definitely Japanese in scale – the land that miniaturized electronics in the first place. So if your fingers fit comfortably on tiny controls, you’ll love it. If not, you’ll (justifiably) hate it.

Assuming you can handle it, though, I think the JU-06A is a total joy. I took it to a jam session with some studio neighbors and a live club gig (disguising the unreleased hardware’s identity), and it excelled in both cases – enough that people clearly responded to the sound.

The step sequencer would definitely benefit from parameter locks, but then maybe that isn’t the way to think of the JUNO. With the stupid-simple step sequencer, chords, and arp, you can just go wild with the (tiny) LFO and (tiny) envelope controls and (tiny) filter, and this thing is a performance beast.

I’m sure I’ll get some pushback from people who think it’s still a toy, who hate that it’s digital, who are interested in a certain clone manufacturer rather than the company that did the first JUNO. But no matter. This thing is still affordable, it’s got loads of controls, the sound engine is clearly good enough, and the digital aspect makes it practical, flexible, and power efficient.

It’s not the only compact remake poly in town – the Yamaha reface cs is now running about $300 street, with a keyboard. But the JU-06A to me is now an ideal addition.

So yeah, Roland I should… probably let you know I’m keeping this one.

The post Roland’s Boutique JU-06A JUNO is insanely fun appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Roland’s Boutique JU-06A JUNO is insanely fun

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 5 Sep 2019 1:10 pm

It doesn’t look like much. The latest Roland Boutique might even give you a sense of deja vu – because Roland did a tiny JUNO before. The difference: this time they got it right.

I’m the last person to want endless remakes of old synths. But a JUNO is something special. I assume I’m not alone in this – if I’m in someone else’s studio and there’s a JUNO-106 or JUNO-60 lying around, I’ll usually say let’s plug in that. It’s not even necessarily that they’re my favorite analog polysynths; it’s that something about them has a unique ability to blend into a mix, and be versatile in a number of situations. It’s also a pleasant early 80s sound that seems to blend well with more contemporary timbres, too. (I’ve found plenty of other artists who seem to feel similarly, ones whose opinion you should probably value more than mine, so I don’t feel I’m going out on a limb.)

Okay, so a JUNO is something you just want handy. And you don’t want it to be a plug-in – that’s terrible for jam sessions and live. The full keyboard is now pricey on the used market, takes up a lot of space, and is now at an age when it starts to break down. (I’m a few years older than these Rolands, and I start to feel their pain. Literally. I look forward to the digital remake of me.)

So you do really want an inexpensive hardware remake.

You would then presumably want it to be small and portable, so you can always keep it around.

You’d want it to still sound like a JUNO.

You’d want it to be playable, so you could use it as a sketchpad or easily work it into jams and live sets.

You wouldn’t want it to be terribly expensive.

The JU-06 that launched this whole oddly-named Roland Boutique phenomenon almost got this right, but then mostly screwed it up. There’s a step sequencer, but no external clock in. (There’s MIDI clock in, just not analog clock in.) It’s overly authentic in that modulation isn’t tempo synced – even though it’s now a MIDI device. There’s a step sequencer, but it shares the same buttons as the patch controls, a guarantee that you’ll wind up accidentally changing patches at an inopportune moment.

It sounds good, like a JUNO-106. But lots of things sound good now – and the JU-06 was mediocre enough that you start to go back to the thought that maybe a plug-in isn’t such a bad idea.

Roland are now back with the JU-06A, and not only does it fix all the issues with the JU-06, but I think it’s just edged out the SH-01A as the Boutique synthesizer I would buy first.

Step sequencer, external clock in, and a little toggle switch to make this either a convincing JUNO-60 or JUNO-106.

Everything is fixed now

Courtesy Roland. Apologies to anyone wanting to sell your JU-06.

The JU-06A doesn’t look radical, but little differences make this something you want to keep rather than return.

JUNO-60, too. Inside, Roland have added a second sound engine to emulate the 1982 JUNO-60, as well as the 1984 JUNO-106. There’s a toggle switch on the front panel that lets you swap models – an advantage of going digital. As with the other Boutiques (apart from the Studio Electronics collaboration), this is circuit modeling (ACB). But it sounds terrific.

Adding the JUNO-60 adds some more idiosyncratic sound options. In addition, you can reproduce the noise of the vintage chorus (with parameters tucked in settings for off/half/full noise). There are lots of other details that give this tiny box some of the growl and warmth of the original and its filter without taking up much space. Someone I’m sure will do some obsessive comparison, but it’s uncanny enough to be fine in a mix.

In addition to the step sequencer, the arpeggiator and chord modes here replace the less-useful touch strips for pitch and mod. HOLD works with both arp and chords, and the arp works with chord mode, too. Unfortunately, you can’t program individual chords into the step sequencer.

Chord and arpeggiator modes. This makes a major difference in playability. There are now simple chord playback and arpeggiator controls on the left-hand side of the unit, replacing the mostly pointless touch strip pitch and mod. Chord mode is lovely on a poly, of course; you get just 16 slots for chords, but that’s about the amount I can remember, anyway. Each memory slot can be edited from the front panel.

The arp is similarly basic but useful – you get up, down, and up/down modes, a range (from 1-3 octaves), and a rate knob, which always divides the master clock. It’s pretty basic, but all the controls are dedicated, which is great live.

There’s also a dedicated HOLD button, and the arp will work with both the HOLD and CHORD modes.

On its own, that would still be too limiting, but fortunately there’s also —

A step sequencer. 16 steps times 16 patterns, all monophonic. And now this also works with external clock – there’s a little minijack next to the sequencer itself (odd positioning, but it works).

The step sequencer is surprisingly usable, with practice, on the front panel. You can switch steps on and off, TR x0x style, and also enter in steps one at a time from the onboard keyboard. You can also use an external keyboard for pitch entry – like the Roland Boutique keyboard dock, or something else via MIDI in.

What’s evidently missing, which was on the SH-01A, is the ability to add individual chords to steps. That’s too bad, though what you get instead is, the monophonic step sequencer becomes the root note of the chord when chord mode is on.

LFO and Delay Tempo Sync. Both the LFO and Delay effect can now be clocked free, or synced to the master tempo. That’s obvious, but for some reason the JU-06 lacked it.

There’s more user memory. You get both 64 dedicated slots for each mode – JUNO-60 and JUNO-106 – which doubles the slots on the JU-06, and lets you effectively keep a library for each instrument.

The Ribbon Controllers are gone. If you particularly desire touch strips for pitch and mod, you should pick up a used JU-06 and not this. I don’t miss them, though, and I think most people will vastly prefer the chord and arp.

Fun in use for fans of tiny things

If I had one gripe about the JU, it’s the ongoing Boutique form factor. These units are compact and lightweight, but there’s still this strange docking scheme. That lets you choose either a keyboard or a little box that lets you tilt up the unit. (That’s the DK-01 docking station and the K-25m keyboard dock.) They each run a little under $100 street, with the keyboard costing more.

Back panel I/O. A minijack affair, but you do get full-sized MIDI DIN.

The upside is, of course, if you buy multiple Boutiques they don’t all have to have keyboards. But they do make you feel like Roland is squeezing you for extra cash (well, because they are), and the impression of the actual design is sort of toylike. My JU-06A review unit came without either, and my delicate aesthetic sensibilities made me not want to dock it in the silver 303 or beige 909 docks I had around, so I found… okay, actually, the thing is even more portable and lightweight without it, is still usable, and just has some funny edges. In an ideal world, this would have USB host so you could plug in anything; in this world, I’d probably still use a different keyboard and not the keyboard dock.

Roland wants you to budget extra for a dock that folds up the unit, or this kinda-okay mini-keyboard.

But I got over it. I love tiny things. The JU is small enough to fit in your backpack, and since it’s battery powered, you can sprawl in bed and program nice step sequences for a gig the next day.

This thing is definitely Japanese in scale – the land that miniaturized electronics in the first place. So if your fingers fit comfortably on tiny controls, you’ll love it. If not, you’ll (justifiably) hate it.

Assuming you can handle it, though, I think the JU-06A is a total joy. I took it to a jam session with some studio neighbors and a live club gig (disguising the unreleased hardware’s identity), and it excelled in both cases – enough that people clearly responded to the sound.

The step sequencer would definitely benefit from parameter locks, but then maybe that isn’t the way to think of the JUNO. With the stupid-simple step sequencer, chords, and arp, you can just go wild with the (tiny) LFO and (tiny) envelope controls and (tiny) filter, and this thing is a performance beast.

I’m sure I’ll get some pushback from people who think it’s still a toy, who hate that it’s digital, who are interested in a certain clone manufacturer rather than the company that did the first JUNO. But no matter. This thing is still affordable, it’s got loads of controls, the sound engine is clearly good enough, and the digital aspect makes it practical, flexible, and power efficient.

It’s not the only compact remake poly in town – the Yamaha reface cs is now running about $300 street, with a keyboard. But the JU-06A to me is now an ideal addition.

So yeah, Roland I should… probably let you know I’m keeping this one.

The post Roland’s Boutique JU-06A JUNO is insanely fun appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

KORG NTS-1 is here: A pocket ‘logue voice as $99 DIY kit

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 4 Sep 2019 2:21 pm

KORG is kicking off a new product line – the DIY-focused Nu:Tekt – with a $99 screw-together instrument. And it has the same programmable guts as you find in the prologue and minilogue xd, complete with SDK.

The Nu:Tekt NTS-1 is funny to describe, in that it represents different things to different people. For the very few of you who are actually audio programmers, it’s something special … but it might also be of interest if you just want an inexpensive sound toy or particularly like operating a screwdriver. Let’s break it down.

If you just really love using screwdrivers: Yes, this is a kit. There’s no soldering involved, if you need the smell of hot solder flux more than the calming grip of a Philips head.

But if you do enjoy a bit of assembly, you do get the NTS-1 in pieces you screw together. If you love screwdrivers but also have … misplaced all of them (I feel you), there’s even one in the box.

If you want an amazing pocket instrument for $99: Holy crap. The NTS-1 is very possibly the most synthesizer per dollar I’ve seen. KORG actually don’t even really describe how powerful this is in the press release, sheepishly saying it’s “inspired by the MULTI engine” on the prologue and minilogue xd.

So, you have something that’s small and has some onboard jamming features, like a KORG volca, but with the audio depth of their flagship instruments. And it’s even cheaper than a volca – even if you’re the one doing some of the final assembly, and the case and fit and finish are a bit more ‘rustic.’

It actually is the guts of the ‘logue voice. See the developer section below; the NTS-1 retains compatibility with the prologue and minilogue xd.

So that means you get the single oscillator from the ‘logues, plus a multimode filter, a single envelope generator, three (!) LFOs, and three (!) effects processors – reverb, delay, modulation.

You can play that, volca style, using an onboard arpeggiator. Or you can connect MIDI input. Or there’s an audio input, too, making this a very handy pocket-sized effects units for other gear.

For those of us who love collecting little sound boxes, like the Pocket Operators, volcas, Twisted Electrons, and our own MeeBlip, I can see the NTS-1 doing double-duty as an effects box and extra sound source. Life is getting pretty darned good for us – you can literally put together a full studio of gear for the price of one high-end Eurorack module, you know.

That’s already worth a hundred bucks, but the really interesting bit is that the NTS-1 is supported by the ‘logue SDK. This means you’ll be able to load custom effects and oscillators onto it, almost app style.

There are 16 custom user slots for loading your own oscillators, plus 16 slots for custom modulation effects, 8 reverb effects slots, and 8 delay effects slots.

That’ll be fun even if you aren’t a developer. As a non-coder, you probably don’t want to mess around with GitHub and the SDK, but KORG is planning a librarian and custom content page you’ll be able to use on the Web. which will eventually be here:

https://www.korg.com/products/synthesizers/nts_1/librarian_contents.php

And if you are a developer, well –

If you’re a developer: This just solved two problems for you in getting into KORG’s SDK for the ‘logues. First, it makes your price of entry way cheaper. (And even developers I know who own the keyboards are considering buying this, too, because it looks like fun.)

Second, if the NTS-1 takes off, the installed base of people who can make use of your creations also expanded.

The SDK here supports both custom oscillators and custom effects, as with the full-fledged keyboards. Check out the dedicated SDK page:

https://www.korg.com/us/products/dj/nts_1/sdk.php

Full details:

  • Ribbon keyboard
  • 1 digital oscillator, 1 multimode filter, 1 EG, 3 LFOs
  • Multiple effects: Mod (chorus, ensemble, phaser, flanger), delay, reverb
  • Minijack audio in and out
  • Minijack MIDI in jack
  • USB port (definitely necessary for loading custom programs, but I think also supports USB MIDI – I’ll check)
  • Runs on USB bus power (< 500 mA)
  • 129 mm x 78 mm x 39 mm / 5.08” x 3.07” x 1.54”
  • 124 g / 4.37 oz
  • USB cable, manual, and screwdriver in the box

The NTS-1 ships in November. I’ll definitely try to get one. US$99.

https://www.korg.com/us/products/dj/nts_1/index.php

The post KORG NTS-1 is here: A pocket ‘logue voice as $99 DIY kit 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.

Crossover VCV Rack modular: Vult goes hardware, as Erica adds free software

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 29 Jul 2019 6:50 pm

Hardware or software? Yes. Modular synthesizers, of all things, are blurring the line between the two. The popular Vult line of software modules for VCV Rack is going hardware, just as Erica Synths offers its popular hardware in a free software form on the same platform.

VCV Rack has rapidly established itself as a platform for other modules in a way that nothing else has. The software modular is free, with a rich free ecosystem, with only useful add-ons (from the developer and third parties) costing money. It’s also strikingly approachable for developers as well as users.

But that’s in turn leading to some fascinating crossovers.

This week, developer Leonardo Laguna Ruiz announced that his Vult module, which existed only in VCV Rack virtually, is now up for preorders as actual hardware.

Vult Freak incorporates a bunch of different modules in one (thanks, code modeling):

  • Tangents – Steiner-Parker filter containing three different variations.
  • Lateralus – Ladder filter.
  • Nurage – Low pass gate / Borg filter.
  • Ferox – CMOS filter.
  • Vortex – Russian fitler.
  • Unstabile – Circuit bent State Variable filter.
  • Stabile – State Variable filter.
  • Rescomb – Resonant Comb filter.
  • Vorg – MS-20 style filter

Demos:

I’ve used a lot of these in my own musical experiments in Rack, and do they sound good? Yes, they do. (Unstabile and Vortex are particularly delicious for those of us who enjoy rich, manic distortion.)

€225 buys you this stuff as physical device – and frees you from having to mouse around and worry about crashes or running out of CPU, natch.

A community of followers built on the VCV Rack ecosystem now are likely to follow Vult on into hardware. Preorder-ready hardware, seen here.

Maybe it’s the story behind the device that’s just as compelling – a few years developing a language, a couple of years experimenting in VCV Rack, then making the leap into hardware. There’s a bug that bites people who get into buying Eurorack, but there’s one for development, too.

I don’t doubt that some of the loyal users of the software will splurge for the hardware, too. And rather than blowing cash on something, then bolting it into a rack and hoping you can figure it out, the software-first model means many people who do buy Vult Freak will already know how to use it.

With that in mind, it’s also worth mention that Latvian titan of modular Erica Synths, with their expansive catalog, have made their first steps into providing software editions. Head to the Library on the VCV site, and you can grab a collection of Erica modules:

The new Erica offers, in software form – Wavetable VCO and Octasource from the Black series, and DRUMS from the Pico series.

https://vcvrack.com/plugins.html

They’re free of charge; just click ‘+ Free’ and update Rack and you’ll get them. Erica are a long way from porting everything they make in hardware – this is a tiny fraction of the full lineup. But they’re a decent taste of what Erica hardware can do. The Black Wavetable VCO is a uniquely capable oscillator with bitcrush and tons of wave modulation options. Octasource is a unique modulation oscillator, and its interface works differently from others, meaning having it in software form is really fantastic. DRUMS is ridiculously compact as is everything in the fascinating Pico series, but it’s a natural for cramming into virtual rigs.

https://www.ericasynths.lv/

I’ll be curious to see if this attracts some new Erica customers. Erica aren’t the first to do this, either – Befaco, Mutable Instruments (as Audible Instruments), and Music Thing (as Stellare) all offer software renditions of their hardware. It’s not hard to imagine at some point that VCV Rack will have a “buy hardware” button on the software. Softube Modular has software ports, too, of some big brands – Mutable Instruments again, the mighty Doepfer, Buchla, 4ms, and Intellijel all have software modules available.

The big difference is business model: VCV Rack is tending more toward either inexpensive paid modules as software, or free software that serves as a demo/preview of hardware.

A minority of electronic musicians live in a place where they can easily just run to a shop and try gear out. But more than that, software promises to create a new communications link between musicians and creators, year-round. We’ll see if that gives Vult a boost in the crowded modular world.

Check out VCV Rack on all platforms:

https://vcvrack.com/

And if you want a hand getting started, the legendary Jim Aikin has written a free e-book that explains what Rack is and how to use it, plus (the bit I liked most) gives a guide to the jungle of modules out there:

The post Crossover VCV Rack modular: Vult goes hardware, as Erica adds free software appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The Sony cassette recorder that went to space and predicted the Walkman

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 24 Jul 2019 2:17 pm

Sony’s Walkman turned 40 earlier this month. But look to the TC-50 before it for some of the technology and usability innovations that changed the world – and joined the Apollo mission – plus a glimpse of where music might boldly go next.

Sony’s story will sound familiar to a lot of today’s sound DIYers, synth makers, and Eurorack inventors. The operation began with a cheap disused space and a few people learning on the job by repairing electronics. The company might be known for transforming cassettes, but earlier projects involved a rice cooker and an electric cushion.

But long before Apple, it was Sony that introduced the world – and especially the lucrative American market – to the idea of miniaturized portable electronics. That included the TR series transistor radio. (Oh, note the other similarity – yes, it’s a safe bet that Roland’s Western-friendly brand name and XX-NNN product names are inspired by the likes of Sony and Sanyo.)

And that brings us to the TC series cassette recorders. There’s really a lot in these devices that predicts not only the Walkman, but devices like the iPhone, as well. As with transistor radios, miniaturized electronics enable a design that becomes personal and portable, which changes the whole relationship of user to device.

The 1968 TC-50 looks elegant and modern even by today’s standards. It combines a number of key innovations that make that possible – not necessarily invented by Sony or by the TC-50, but combined in a single product in a way that transforms that technology into user experience:

Integrated circuits. ICs are what has brought us the entire consumer electronics – and musical electronics – revolution. The chip replaces whole circuits of separate components. On the TC-50, that lets the design revolve around the user’s hand, the controls, the mic, and the cassette – everything else more or less disappears. Sony began in the 50s designing its own components, thanks to tech it had licensed from Bell.

Compact component mounting. This is actually equally as big a deal – each component’s mounts are also reduced, which further miniaturizes the design.

Built-in microphone. This is the innovation that’s the reason the TC-50 went into space – and while we take it for granted now, it’s what cleared a pathway for the likes of the iPhone. Sony’s custom mic design is small, integrated with the device, but still records high-quality audio. When NASA equipped its astronauts with the TC-50, it was for personal memo recording, not mix tapes (though more on the latter in a moment). That personal functionality also establishes the handheld device as a portable companion. If that seems a stretch when talking about the iPhone (even with “phone” in the title), I might also observe that Apple has told me its Voice Memos app is one of its most popular.

One-handed, wireless operation. Here’s the other big innovation that brings it all together. The entire design – placement and operation of buttons, form factor – is built to enable one-handed operation. Just as with so many accessibility innovations, that in turn yields unexpected advantages. In the case of the TC-50, it meant astronauts could record audio while wearing their bulky spacesuit gloves, starting with Apollo 7 and most famously on the Apollo 11 moon voyage. That kind of usability thinking would go on to inspire companies like Apple, and it’s always worth revisiting. (When I worked on WretchUp with Mouse on Mars, I did a lot of adjustment work with Andi to design gestural controls that you could use with a single hand, and even without looking closely at the device, for onstage use.)

Natural industrial design, focused on materials. You can almost hear Jony Ive marveling at the luxurious, exposed “aluminium” – and yes, years before he met Ive, Steve Jobs also saw Sony as a personal design inspiration (alongside Braun and Mercedes-Benz). The TC-50 came too soon to benefit from the 21st Century’s economy of scale, so you can bet the “luxury” of that aluminum surface had a price tag attached. But Sony excelled at modern adoption of these material processes, which had allowed it to work with companies like watchmaker Bulova back to the TR-55 transistor radio. And so it is that today’s smartphones also telegraph their use of strong materials. See also this excellent story on the 1972 TC-55, which starts to look more like a Walkman, and moves public perception from “cheap plastic” to “fine metal.”

Apollo and the TC-50

NASA astronauts definitely used portable cassette recorders, the Sony TC-50 being one. They also made famous use of a modified Hasselblad 70mm film camera, including on the lunar landing during Apollo 11 (see National Air and Space Museum).

I found some differing accounts of which missions the recorder was aboard. Sony themselves note the TC-50 debuted on Apollo 7, the mission that was the first Apollo to carry a crew (and the first human spaceflight mission after the conclusion of Gemini and the tragic Apollo 1 launchpad fire). The TC-50 also got pretty close to the moon on Apollo 10, the key mission that simulated the lunar descent.

From the accounts I’ve read, it sounds as though there was a TC-50 on Apollo 11, but it probably didn’t go “to the moon” in that it seems it stayed aboard the Apollo Command Module, not the Lunar Module that made the trip to the moon’s surface. And Buzz Aldrin did request a mix of music for the trip, dubbed to the compact cassette format of the TC-50.

Astronaut Walter Cunningham during Apollo 7. You can’t see the Sony cassette recorder, but you can see an equally iconic piece of AV equipment of the Space Age – the Hasselblad, at top. (You can hear the Sony, slightly, on the voice recording of Apollo 11.) Photo: NASA.
One more of Cunningham, who piloted the lunar module on Apollo 7. Did I mention usability considerations were important in space? Yeah, the crew using the TC-50 relied on it being accessible in extreme situations. Photo: NASA.

Vanity Fair learned the details of the Apollo 11 mixtape from record exec Mickey Kapp in an interview late last year:

Music on the Moon: Meet Mickey Kapp, Master of Apollo 11’s Astro-Mixtapes

They made the essential playlist for Spotify, natch:

One Aldrin favorite, now featured in the upcoming documentary on the mission, is this poignant – and self-critical, self-aware, hardly jingoistic – John Stewart release:

There’s nothing particularly cosmic in the mix; the choices are sentimental, personal. When they go to the lunar theme, they’re lush and romantic as much as trippy. And they’re singular; this isn’t background music. I think that says something about our connection to music, something that generative tunes or machine learning are unlikely ever to replace – they’re still, you know, songs.

The mix for Buzz was made in a living room, reports VF, complete with mistakes. That’s something that’s been unquestionably lost, and even at the time must have stood in contrast to the mission-critical clockwork of a space mission.

I wonder, though, if the TC-50 doesn’t point us to a fresh perspective on music. Right now, so much of our thinking about how music should be shared is stuck in the past. Whether lamenting the loss of tangible media and record stores, or defending them by stalwartly DJing with “vinyl only” sets, the whole conversation is framed by what was.

The TC-50, apart from having been aboard humankind’s most audacious mission yet out of our planet’s orbit, isn’t bound by any of that past. It’s informed by watchmaking-quality metals and the iteration of electronics. But it’s designed anew around the best quality of each of those disciplines. It looks familiar and inevitable to us only because we are the children of the age it shaped.

That is to say, maybe the first and most reasonable answer to the question of “what should music listening look like in the future” might well be I don’t know. The people at Sony didn’t know right away. They cut their teeth on rice cookers in the wreckage of a ruined empire, dug deep into the latest advances from Bell in the USA, and spent incalculable hours just disassembling someone else’s electronics, and putting them back together so they worked again. Sony’s first introduction to the cassette was hitting on a technology that improved on primitive wire recorders they’d seen in military use. Apollo for its part was built on iterations from missiles and ran on computers whose memory was woven together, literally, by textile workers.

We live in an era that values fast answers and quick financial returns, but the very breakthroughs that make those people so rich weren’t brainstormed in a coworking center on a whiteboard by someone microdosing LSD. They were crafted over years through hands-on, sweat and tears work on physical materials and engineering.

Maybe we don’t need new devices or new physical media for sound – that’s possible. We’ll certainly need devices to record sound and to play music; anything that must be touched can’t simply be streamed.

I suspect, too, that we may see new devices for listening, built around new developments in immersive sound.

I also think it’s telling that the TC-50 was a recording and creation device as well as listening device, and that those functions were ultimately linked. The smartphone fits that mold, of course – but other as-yet-undreamt-of devices could go there, as well, in ways the smartphone can’t.

So why not return to some of that day-in, day-out engineering and craft to find the next big thing?

Some of the TC-50s still work, too:

Image at top – Dave Scott peeks out of the Apollo 10 Command Module, in this photo shot by Rusty Schweickart as the Lunar Module was docked, in a “dress rehearsal” of Apollo 11. Photo: NASA.

PS – I have no idea what kind of audio or film equipment was used aboard Soviet missions of this period, so maybe my Russian friends or space buffs can answer that.

The post The Sony cassette recorder that went to space and predicted the Walkman appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

A tour of a high voltage coil in a rack: Gamechanger’s PLASMA

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 22 Jul 2019 6:56 pm

Rack-mounted audio equipment – once fairly vanilla stuff, now it’s turned to high voltage coils. Meet PLASMA Rack, now in a new full-length video tour from Gamechanger Audio.

When we last caught up with Gamechanger Audio, they were screwing about with motors:

PLASMA RACK is a rack-mounted larger sibling to the company’s PLASMA Pedal. The rack form factor accommodates even more power – a big xenon tube with voltages of up to 5500 volts. (Don’t, uh, lick it.)

This really is a bit like bottled lightning. The rapid discharge gives you instant, ultra-heavy distortion with unique harmonic saturation characteristics. And because it’s lightning-quick, you also get a sort of noise gate effect out of it.

That is … absurd. But as with the Motor Synth, the folks at Gamechanger have managed to wrap some smart extras into the package:

  • Tremolo/ring modulation
  • Drive (powered by Op Amps)
  • MIDI sync
  • Oversaturation (Octa-Fuzz-esque)
Signal flow of the rack.

You also get ample I/O, including three external effects loops, for patching this into a larger rig. If you’re really feeling flush, you can get two of these and work in stereo; they can be configured with one as master timing source.

I have no idea who you are, people who can spend EUR1499 on this, but – I’m jealous of you. For the rest of us, though, there’s also the 299EUR PLASMA Pedal, which has the same bonkers idea but at a price that’s musician-friendly. Regardless, it’s a very fine concept. I’m happy it even exists:

The post A tour of a high voltage coil in a rack: Gamechanger’s PLASMA appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

SEGA, Taito arcade come to KORG Gadget on Nintendo Switch

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 4 Jul 2019 6:46 pm

Here’s one serious Japanese game + music nerdgasm: legendary arcade maker Taito, game giant SEGA all come together on the KORG platform on the Nintendo platform.

KORG Gadget on the Nintendo Switch was always at least an intriguing novelty. As with titles for Nintendo DS and Game Boy before it, bringing a music creation tool to a game platform means the ability to swap between gaming and music making for maximum fun. The Switch doesn’t have a unique onboard hardware synth like the Commodore 64 or vintage Nintendo machines. But it does also have the twist of connecting to a TV.

That’s cool, but frankly, it’s also not quite enough. Handheld gaming for musicians caught on partly because of a unique sound, and it happened before platforms like iPhone, iPad, and Android were available. If you have a choice between using Gadget on a Switch or in its original version on the iPad, well, it’s no contest – the iPad is more capable.

That’s what makes this a development. Now you get something that seems tailored to a game platform, from two titans of the arcade era.

Otorii is a sample-based instrument and rhythm generator, based on 80s SEGA arcade titles.

Titles: Out Run, After Burner

Ebina is a synthesizer built on FM sounds (apparently not doing FM itself, but capturing some signature FM sound samples), also with 80s colors in mind.

Titles: Darius, The Ninja Warriors

Kamata is a sound engine (already part of the Switch title) developed with Bandai Namco.

SEGA and Bandai Namco presumably need no introduction to anyone interested enough in gaming to even read this far. If Taito is familiar and you don’t know why, that’s because its name has graced the likes of Space Invaders, Bubble Bobble, Arkanoid, Battle Gear, and Kick Master. Sometimes Americans saw these titles with other distributors onboard, and Taito hasn’t been independent since the mid-90s, but you’ve likely also encountered the development house as part of its new life as part of Square Enix.

In short – this is Japan at its best, making us fall in love with something fun in childhood and then staying with us through our adult lives. Whether you’re particularly bound to Taito in the arcade, that’s something other Japanese music tech makers might learn from. (Partnership is key to the success of KORG here – they work with experienced mobile and game developer and Japanese neighbor DETUNE for these titles.) Roland, Yamaha, and Casio continue to have a rocky relationship with their own legacy (with some promising recent signs). But if the games industry has fended off clones and rivals, surely music tech could do the same – with plenty of back catalog to mine.

In any event, I know plenty of electronic musicians who are just as addicted to gaming – men and women, young and old, and plenty who even work inside the gaming industry. There’s nothing to do but smile when you see it come together. Game on.

http://www.detune.co.jp/

http://gadget.korg.com/nintendo_switch/

The post SEGA, Taito arcade come to KORG Gadget on Nintendo Switch appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The OP-Z now samples, too, in Teenage Engineering software update

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 1 Jul 2019 4:04 pm

The OP-Z is the aggressively minimalist, love it-or-hate-it compact synth. But now an update makes it make way more sense – with sampling available, this pint sized synth turns into the instrument it was meant to be.

Teenage Engineering have always said the OP-Z isn’t a replacement for the Teenagers’ original OP-1. Instead, it’s a … successor that comes after the OP-1, builds on the OP-1 features, and at first was available in place of the OP-1, which was initially not available and now is available but prohibitively expensive.

Okay, whatever. The OP-Z is totally a replacement for the OP-1, with some new ideas and form factor and no more screen. But that’s great, actually. To the extent the OP-Z pisses off and confuses some consumers, it does so even more than the OP-1 initially did.

And what’s the point of having a compact, candy bar-shaped synth that obviously resembles a Casio CZ-1 if it doesn’t sample?

Adding sampling to the OP-Z means you can really make it your own, mangling sounds through its grungy but expressive interface. All that minimalism may lessen the value of this device for some, but for those willing to throw themselves into the workflow, it’s liberating – the portability and lack of distraction or surface complexity propelling your musical imagination somewhere different.

Or not. Because I think the thing that’s lovely about Teenage Engineering is that their synths don’t have to please everyone – they’re willing to please some people more while pleasing other people less.

But the bottom line is, this is the update that brings the OP-Z in line with its initial promise and what the OP-1 could do. Once you learn the shortcuts and use the force, you might not even miss the display (though the iPhone/iPad app is there, at least while you memorize the layout).

Sampling also lets this double as an audio interface. I still think you’ll want the oplab module for I/O, and I wish they’d just make that standard. But if you’re willing to splurge on an idiosyncratic device, there’s nothing quite like the OP-Z.

In this update:

new sampling mode

2 channel audio interface

full OP-1 sample format support (pitch, gain, playmode, reverse)

improved stability

support importing raw samples to drum tracks

apply track gain before fx sends

don’t allow copying empty steps
restart arpeggio with TRACK + PLAY on arpeggio track
don’t trigger gate step component if track is muted
toggle headset input with SCREEN + SHIFT

send clock out if enabled even though midi out is disabled
don’t loose clock sync when switching project via pattern change
fix broken parameter spark random setting
fix force save not working on project 1
fix inverted headphone gain levels dep. on impedance

note!
this firmware adds support for the gain, play direction and playmode settings of the OP-1 sample format. in older firmwares, these settings were ignored. this might lead to your patterns sounding different if you are using custom samplepacks. the most likely culprit will be the playmode setting. the OP-1 defaults to GATE, while the OP-Z used to treat everything as RETRIG. Adjust your playmode setting on each sample to RETRIG, to get it sounding like before.
if your track levels change due to the gain setting, either adjust the track volume, or adjust the per sample gain value.

Here’s the original OP-1 sampling feature, explained:

The post The OP-Z now samples, too, in Teenage Engineering software update appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The OP-Z now samples, too, in Teenage Engineering software update

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 1 Jul 2019 4:04 pm

The OP-Z is the aggressively minimalist, love it-or-hate-it compact synth. But now an update makes it make way more sense – with sampling available, this pint sized synth turns into the instrument it was meant to be.

Teenage Engineering have always said the OP-Z isn’t a replacement for the Teenagers’ original OP-1. Instead, it’s a … successor that comes after the OP-1, builds on the OP-1 features, and at first was available in place of the OP-1, which was initially not available and now is available but prohibitively expensive.

Okay, whatever. The OP-Z is totally a replacement for the OP-1, with some new ideas and form factor and no more screen. But that’s great, actually. To the extent the OP-Z pisses off and confuses some consumers, it does so even more than the OP-1 initially did.

And what’s the point of having a compact, candy bar-shaped synth that obviously resembles a Casio CZ-1 if it doesn’t sample?

Adding sampling to the OP-Z means you can really make it your own, mangling sounds through its grungy but expressive interface. All that minimalism may lessen the value of this device for some, but for those willing to throw themselves into the workflow, it’s liberating – the portability and lack of distraction or surface complexity propelling your musical imagination somewhere different.

Or not. Because I think the thing that’s lovely about Teenage Engineering is that their synths don’t have to please everyone – they’re willing to please some people more while pleasing other people less.

But the bottom line is, this is the update that brings the OP-Z in line with its initial promise and what the OP-1 could do. Once you learn the shortcuts and use the force, you might not even miss the display (though the iPhone/iPad app is there, at least while you memorize the layout).

Sampling also lets this double as an audio interface. I still think you’ll want the oplab module for I/O, and I wish they’d just make that standard. But if you’re willing to splurge on an idiosyncratic device, there’s nothing quite like the OP-Z.

In this update:

new sampling mode

2 channel audio interface

full OP-1 sample format support (pitch, gain, playmode, reverse)

improved stability

support importing raw samples to drum tracks

apply track gain before fx sends

don’t allow copying empty steps
restart arpeggio with TRACK + PLAY on arpeggio track
don’t trigger gate step component if track is muted
toggle headset input with SCREEN + SHIFT

send clock out if enabled even though midi out is disabled
don’t loose clock sync when switching project via pattern change
fix broken parameter spark random setting
fix force save not working on project 1
fix inverted headphone gain levels dep. on impedance

note!
this firmware adds support for the gain, play direction and playmode settings of the OP-1 sample format. in older firmwares, these settings were ignored. this might lead to your patterns sounding different if you are using custom samplepacks. the most likely culprit will be the playmode setting. the OP-1 defaults to GATE, while the OP-Z used to treat everything as RETRIG. Adjust your playmode setting on each sample to RETRIG, to get it sounding like before.
if your track levels change due to the gain setting, either adjust the track volume, or adjust the per sample gain value.

Here’s the original OP-1 sampling feature, explained:

The post The OP-Z now samples, too, in Teenage Engineering software update appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Motor Synth is brutal, electro-mechanical synth – last days of discount

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 24 Jun 2019 2:48 pm

Gamechanger Audio’s Motor Synth is a devastating industrial machine – with actual motors driving the sounds, all built in Latvia. Here’s everything you need to know about it, as this week is the end of its steep crowd funding discount.

Electro-magnetic induction is a technique beloved by noise artists and experimental sound creators – about 40 seconds into the promo video, you’ll see what happens when you run a power drill near an electric guitar.

The Motor Synth creators ask the question, what if you took that gnarly, unruly chaos, and packed it into a desktop synth? That makes this raw sound force and not only makes it more portable, but also more controllable. You can unleash the full power of electro-magnetic sonic destruction if you want, but you can also direct it into musical form.

The result is a unique combination of sound produced by mechanical motors and electro-magnetic energy, and musical, digital and electronic control.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/motor-synth#/

Gamechanger Audio also have the track record to pull off this kind of custom manufacturing. As with their other neighbors in the capital city of Riga, Latvia, Gamechanger benefit from having their engineering and design in an industrial city that’s newly reborn, and ready to work with innovative clients while literally speaking the same language. (That’s inside the European Union, in case you’ve been asleep since the 80s – sit down, there’s something huge I need to tell you about the USSR.) And they’ve made some exceptionally fine products, like the PLUS Pedal and PLASMA Pedal.

There are plenty of crowd-funded projects that seem to do it for the sake of it or for lack of a better idea. But the Motor Synth really does appear to be something where a crowd funding campaign, preorder style, enables a unique design. And in exchange, you get a steep discount – right now US$899 early bird instead of $1299.

So, what can you do with those motors?

The basic sound itself produces wild harmonics and overtones. There are eight motors, grouped into four-note polyphony – two motors/two voices per note.

The interesting twist is that there are two simultaneous synthesis methods build around the motor:
Magnetic pickups, for raw electro-mechanical chaos, and
Optical (infrared) sensors, which produce pitched signal by “reading” the discs’ motion visually

The optical approach echoes the optical synthesis approaches of early Russian pioneers and BBC Radiophonic Workshop innovator Daphne Oram. Check Derek Holzer’s terrific outline history of these optical tonewheels, or Moscow’s Andrey Smirnov. Smirnov in particular had championed a revived interest in these approaches – and Evgeny Sholpo’s Variophone, an early instrument that did what the Motor Synth did, at its most basic level. Like the Motor Synth, the Variophone employs mechanical, rotating disks.

Andrey’s presentations can become almost wistful in imagining an alternate history where optical and mechanical synthesis evolved instead of just today’s analog synths. Gamechanger are punching a hole through the multiverse and taking us into an alternative future.

Okay, but with that as the sound source, how does this actually become a synth and not just a sound art experiment? That’s where the Motor Synth comes alive:

Waveshape between three optical waveshapes and one (noisy!) inductive motor sound
Amplitude envelope
Accelerate, brake (your glide here is mechanical!)
Filter with drive
Modulation of voice envelopes (tremolo), pitch, filter
Onboard keyboard with scale, latch/momentary, and adjustable pitch – very analog
Mono, poly, unison modes
Arpeggiator, sequencer, loop modes
Digital recall of parameters
MIDI control of all parameters – you can even use MTS for microtuning, send MIDI CC, or assign velocity and aftertouch

It’s really pulling this together with the sequencing options, including slots for live-saving sequences, loops, and arpeggiators as motion sequencing as you play, that makes this a full-featured instrument. You’re limited to 4-voice polyphony, not 8-voice, but they are planning something called split mode for working with per-motor controls.

You also get not only the requisite MIDI, USB, and audio out I/O, but also audio input (which you can pitch track), separate sends pre-filter for inserting effects, CV (pitch/clock/gate), and more. Those features are evolving but already look terrific.

Check all that I/O, including CV on the lower left-hand side of the image.

All in all, it’s a complete and new sonic toolkit, not just a simple synth with a weird motor gimmick. And having heard it live, it really comes alive – the properties of both the optical and electro-magnetic sound sources produce something that’s deeply organic and beautifully unpredictable.

Plus there’s a strobe light to make the whole thing look insanely cool.

Heck, even Jim Jarmush wants one:

There’s lots more information on the crowd-funding page, plus my favorite FAQ addition, which I’ll paraphrase – no, you don’t want to touch the motors, unless you like turning your fingers into a bloody mess. (I don’t want to know how you handle power tools, either.)

Motor Synth @ indiegogo.com

The post Motor Synth is brutal, electro-mechanical synth – last days of discount appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Motor Synth is brutal, electro-mechanical synth – last days of discount

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 24 Jun 2019 2:48 pm

Gamechanger Audio’s Motor Synth is a devastating industrial machine – with actual motors driving the sounds, all built in Latvia. Here’s everything you need to know about it, as this week is the end of its steep crowd funding discount.

Electro-magnetic induction is a technique beloved by noise artists and experimental sound creators – about 40 seconds into the promo video, you’ll see what happens when you run a power drill near an electric guitar.

The Motor Synth creators ask the question, what if you took that gnarly, unruly chaos, and packed it into a desktop synth? That makes this raw sound force and not only makes it more portable, but also more controllable. You can unleash the full power of electro-magnetic sonic destruction if you want, but you can also direct it into musical form.

The result is a unique combination of sound produced by mechanical motors and electro-magnetic energy, and musical, digital and electronic control.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/motor-synth#/

Gamechanger Audio also have the track record to pull off this kind of custom manufacturing. As with their other neighbors in the capital city of Riga, Latvia, Gamechanger benefit from having their engineering and design in an industrial city that’s newly reborn, and ready to work with innovative clients while literally speaking the same language. (That’s inside the European Union, in case you’ve been asleep since the 80s – sit down, there’s something huge I need to tell you about the USSR.) And they’ve made some exceptionally fine products, like the PLUS Pedal and PLASMA Pedal.

There are plenty of crowd-funded projects that seem to do it for the sake of it or for lack of a better idea. But the Motor Synth really does appear to be something where a crowd funding campaign, preorder style, enables a unique design. And in exchange, you get a steep discount – right now US$899 early bird instead of $1299.

So, what can you do with those motors?

The basic sound itself produces wild harmonics and overtones. There are eight motors, grouped into four-note polyphony – two motors/two voices per note.

The interesting twist is that there are two simultaneous synthesis methods build around the motor:
Magnetic pickups, for raw electro-mechanical chaos, and
Optical (infrared) sensors, which produce pitched signal by “reading” the discs’ motion visually

The optical approach echoes the optical synthesis approaches of early Russian pioneers and BBC Radiophonic Workshop innovator Daphne Oram. Check Derek Holzer’s terrific outline history of these optical tonewheels, or Moscow’s Andrey Smirnov. Smirnov in particular had championed a revived interest in these approaches – and Evgeny Sholpo’s Variophone, an early instrument that did what the Motor Synth did, at its most basic level. Like the Motor Synth, the Variophone employs mechanical, rotating disks.

Andrey’s presentations can become almost wistful in imagining an alternate history where optical and mechanical synthesis evolved instead of just today’s analog synths. Gamechanger are punching a hole through the multiverse and taking us into an alternative future.

Okay, but with that as the sound source, how does this actually become a synth and not just a sound art experiment? That’s where the Motor Synth comes alive:

Waveshape between three optical waveshapes and one (noisy!) inductive motor sound
Amplitude envelope
Accelerate, brake (your glide here is mechanical!)
Filter with drive
Modulation of voice envelopes (tremolo), pitch, filter
Onboard keyboard with scale, latch/momentary, and adjustable pitch – very analog
Mono, poly, unison modes
Arpeggiator, sequencer, loop modes
Digital recall of parameters
MIDI control of all parameters – you can even use MTS for microtuning, send MIDI CC, or assign velocity and aftertouch

It’s really pulling this together with the sequencing options, including slots for live-saving sequences, loops, and arpeggiators as motion sequencing as you play, that makes this a full-featured instrument. You’re limited to 4-voice polyphony, not 8-voice, but they are planning something called split mode for working with per-motor controls.

You also get not only the requisite MIDI, USB, and audio out I/O, but also audio input (which you can pitch track), separate sends pre-filter for inserting effects, CV (pitch/clock/gate), and more. Those features are evolving but already look terrific.

Check all that I/O, including CV on the lower left-hand side of the image.

All in all, it’s a complete and new sonic toolkit, not just a simple synth with a weird motor gimmick. And having heard it live, it really comes alive – the properties of both the optical and electro-magnetic sound sources produce something that’s deeply organic and beautifully unpredictable.

Plus there’s a strobe light to make the whole thing look insanely cool.

Heck, even Jim Jarmush wants one:

There’s lots more information on the crowd-funding page, plus my favorite FAQ addition, which I’ll paraphrase – no, you don’t want to touch the motors, unless you like turning your fingers into a bloody mess. (I don’t want to know how you handle power tools, either.)

Motor Synth @ indiegogo.com

The post Motor Synth is brutal, electro-mechanical synth – last days of discount appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Delaydelus 2 is a patchable sampler/delay from Daedelus, Dr. Bleep

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Scene | Fri 21 Jun 2019 6:04 pm

Delaydelus 2 is a devilishly clever box that’s really two devices in one – it’s a sampler, and it’s a pitch-able delay with feedback. And the whole thing is patchable. Meet the latest from Daedelus and Dr. Bleep.

Daedelus is the southern California producer and artist who among other things has pioneered visual immersive shows and was one of the first champions for the monome. Dr. Bleep is John-Mike Reed, the imaginative engineer behind the likes of the Thingamagoop. The original Delaydelus certainly embodied their collective ideas. But it was more of a alligator-clipped art oddity. Delaydelus 2 looks like a serious pedalboard contender.

There’s a great demo video:

Check the specs:

Stereo 16bit 44kHz audio i/o
Banana plug patch bay allows you to play up to 4 samples at once triggered from the two arcade buttons or trigger inputs.
Control the speed and direction of the samples with the knobs as well as the CV FM (-5V to 10V) input
CV envelope follower out (0-8V) based on audio playback level
Trigger outs (10V) from each sampler button.
One shot mode, Gate (mpc style) mode, + Send external audio through the built in 1 second stereo delay.
Record into one of 10 banks. Each can hold up to 17 seconds of high quality audio.
Delay sync in and out with the ability to divide and multiply incoming sync rate.
Micro SD card slot allows loading and saving WAV files to and from the 10 banks.
Built-in new samples from Daedelus
Powered by a 12V DC adapter – included.

Gorgeous artwork on the top panel by Chicago’s Trek Matthews, too.

What I think makes this musical, as on any musical delay, is really making pitch and time open to control and modulation. Pairing the delay with a sampler means this instrument can do a whole lot – and it’s nice having removable SD storage.

This is available for preorder now, with the first units hitting production in August (if you get in on that preorder).

US$295.

https://bleeplabs.com/product/delaydelus-2-preorder/

By the way, as we wait on this preorder, I’m in the next days putting the wraps on my review of Snazzy FX pedals, including in particular their wonderful WOW AND FLUTTER. I could imagine this pairing with the Bleep offering nicely – like faking a whole tape studio in two compact pedals:

The post Delaydelus 2 is a patchable sampler/delay from Daedelus, Dr. Bleep appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Delaydelus 2 is a patchable sampler/delay from Daedelus, Dr. Bleep

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Scene | Fri 21 Jun 2019 6:04 pm

Delaydelus 2 is a devilishly clever box that’s really two devices in one – it’s a sampler, and it’s a pitch-able delay with feedback. And the whole thing is patchable. Meet the latest from Daedelus and Dr. Bleep.

Daedelus is the southern California producer and artist who among other things has pioneered visual immersive shows and was one of the first champions for the monome. Dr. Bleep is John-Mike Reed, the imaginative engineer behind the likes of the Thingamagoop. The original Delaydelus certainly embodied their collective ideas. But it was more of a alligator-clipped art oddity. Delaydelus 2 looks like a serious pedalboard contender.

There’s a great demo video:

Check the specs:

Stereo 16bit 44kHz audio i/o
Banana plug patch bay allows you to play up to 4 samples at once triggered from the two arcade buttons or trigger inputs.
Control the speed and direction of the samples with the knobs as well as the CV FM (-5V to 10V) input
CV envelope follower out (0-8V) based on audio playback level
Trigger outs (10V) from each sampler button.
One shot mode, Gate (mpc style) mode, + Send external audio through the built in 1 second stereo delay.
Record into one of 10 banks. Each can hold up to 17 seconds of high quality audio.
Delay sync in and out with the ability to divide and multiply incoming sync rate.
Micro SD card slot allows loading and saving WAV files to and from the 10 banks.
Built-in new samples from Daedelus
Powered by a 12V DC adapter – included.

Gorgeous artwork on the top panel by Chicago’s Trek Matthews, too.

What I think makes this musical, as on any musical delay, is really making pitch and time open to control and modulation. Pairing the delay with a sampler means this instrument can do a whole lot – and it’s nice having removable SD storage.

This is available for preorder now, with the first units hitting production in August (if you get in on that preorder).

US$295.

https://bleeplabs.com/product/delaydelus-2-preorder/

By the way, as we wait on this preorder, I’m in the next days putting the wraps on my review of Snazzy FX pedals, including in particular their wonderful WOW AND FLUTTER. I could imagine this pairing with the Bleep offering nicely – like faking a whole tape studio in two compact pedals:

The post Delaydelus 2 is a patchable sampler/delay from Daedelus, Dr. Bleep appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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