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


Arturia’s stay home plan: software 50% off and free, tons of tutorials

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 29 Apr 2020 9:59 pm

Sure, we’re inundated with stay-at-home music messages at the moment. But Arturia has one of the biggest menus of offerings – and crucially, they also teach us how to use their stuff. That’s worth an extra check-in.

Software deals

First, the deals –

Free: As I’ve mentioned before, iSpark is free on iPad and a nice little drum machine through April 30 – that’s Thursday, so act quick. Pigments (desktop plug-in) is an all-in-one synth with an unlimited trial through July, and Analog Lab is free in the same time period, for preset access and basic controls from the V Collection.

SYNTH ANATOMY has done an iSpark tutorial for you iPad users:

Pigments I think CDM readers will especially like, in that you get FM, wavetable, sampling, and virtual analog in a single instrument. There are a handful of plug-ins gunning for that territory at the moment, but it does have its own unique spin on the all-in-one notion, and all of the ingredients of Arturia’s software stable. You could do a lot of damage with it between now and July – and if you really decide you like it before May 7, it’s 50% off now.

50% off: There’s 50% off any individual software, effect, or sound pack lasts through May 7, so you’ve got about a week left:

https://www.arturia.com/make-music

Now, you might actually want to pass on these deals in certain circumstances, just because Arturia’s bundle pricing is so aggressive.

I’ve been using a lot of this stuff myself, so my own humble opinions (to take as you will):

On the synth side: V Collection 7 (that’s v the letter, as in virtual, so “vee collection seven”) will run you 499EUR but split payments are available, and you get 24 instruments. That’s a lab-sized museum full of instrument models.

If you wanted to focus on one historical synth model, I’d pay particular attention to the Buchla Easel V or the [Moog-inspired] Modular V. Either of those at 74EUR is a deep instrument and a solid investment. I’m also personally partial to the newer Synthi V and CZ V – especially that last one, as Casio’s synth history hasn’t gotten near enough love in general, and the modulation and effects options Arturia added make it a deep workstation.

Buchla’s Music Easel gets a powerful software recreation, now on sale.

On the effect side: The effect bundle is now pretty irresistible at 399EUR – I’ve been using it the last weeks, and it’s probably one of the best effects deals on the market, even when compared to subscription offerings. Happily this is no longer divided into the “XX You’ll Actually Use” line-ups, but rather one reasonable bundle that gives you anything.

That said, for 49EUR each, a little focus is not a bad thing, creatively or budget-wise. Any one of the filters offers some sequencing options, so it’s down to which flavor you like. Compressors, delays, too, are really a matter of preference in color and interface.

And reverb – well, I think a plate reverb is pretty indispensable, so out of this whole 50% sale, the Rev PLATE-140 is pretty much a must-buy if you don’t have an EMT in your collection. It’s impressed a few friends here who have some other recreations. And including this vintage plate in your arsenal is just one of those things – it can be hugely useful both for really short delay times and light application all the way up to cavernous, wet, long delays.

If you do have a go-to EMT, the next-best must-by may be Arturia’s unique Rev INTENSITY. The combination of a digital reverb with envelope follower, filter, and sequencing and modulation is something really special.

Rev INTENSITY is a different kind of reverb – a multi-effects reverb-based sound processor and instrument, effectively.

All of these have big skeuomorphic interfaces, which I know not everyone loves. But they increasingly do provide some useful visual feedback – especially on the INTENSITY, which uses that real estate with some purpose.

Learning

Okay, deals are one thing – but the main thing is, now is a great time to actually learn to use the stuff. Skill development is a good place to turn even on days when you might not feel as creatively inspired. (Plus, a couple hours in “school” mode, and if you’re the kind of person who doodled on the side of your homework, you may find that creativity returning!)

Arturia have been both hosting live workshops and posting tutorials. You’ll find all of that on their page, too, but I want to draw particular attention to a few items.

Tomorrow Thursday at 6PM Central European Time (that’s noon east coast USA, 9am west coast), you get a run-down of the DrumBrute Impact. That instrument has a really unique sound and tons of playable features, but a stupidly low price. Since it isn’t a clone of something else, you get something different in your tracks. And its user interface is from our generation, rather than the 1980s. Bryan at Arturia will show it off; I’ll be in my studio with mine tuning in to see what he demonstrates:

The Pigments workshop is also don’t-miss since the software is free through mid-summer. Or, well, I missed it, but – time delay, it’s a thing.

There’s a playlist of more tutorials, too:

The MicroFreak is one of the more interesting instruments on the market at the moment, packing a ton of sound and functionality into a small, economical package. So you’ll want to check in on this sound design tutorial:

(You might well find some even better deals on a MiniBrute, so there’s a tutorial on that, too.)

I am right now figuring out what to do with the KeyStep Pro that just arrived, but it offers a lot of power for us keyboardists – especially having waited for this functionality to migrate over from the BeatStep Pro to something with actual keys on it. There are a few short tutorial/demos on that, as well, which gets especially interesting for performance.

But wait – there are no audiences! Well, “performance” is just as relevant when jamming in the studio and improvising in tracks, even if I leave out that whole “streaming” thing.

Lastly, if you make stuff with any of these tools, or learn some specific techniques, we’d love to hear about it.

Hey manufacturers / users – I know a lot of you are doing this, too, especially while we’re all avoiding going out. So if you’re a gearmaker and want to make sure CDMers don’t miss your stuff, do get in touch. And users, if there’s anything you’re keen to see, let us know that, as well.

The post Arturia’s stay home plan: software 50% off and free, tons of tutorials appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Totally tube-ular: weird and wonderful sounds of Erica’s new Fusion modular system

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 23 Apr 2020 3:55 pm

The synth world may be quieter this April, but that isn’t stopping the saturated, screaming sounds of tubes. Erica Synths have both a new system and new modules, true to their post-Communist, tube-loving legacy.

I’m going to say some words, but let’s marvel for a moment at the grungy, powerful industrial instrumentalism here first:

Tubes and Latvian electronic instrument heritage were part of what got Erica Synths started some years back. The Fusion series modules put those tubes to new and innovative purposes – a sign that the age of tubes isn’t out of new ideas yet.

And the other side of Erica’s formula is this: make new modules, but also make new systems into which those modules fit. That gives a coherence to their modular offerings – each module you buy has a larger system in mind already. You can invest in the system itself as an integrated instrument, or just take advantage of the individual module designs – you still get that sense of how it might fit into a larger whole, with or without the system in your rig.

Three new Fusion modules are here, and quite frankly I’m pretty intrigued by the VCA/waveshaper/ring mod with or without the system:

Fusion VCF3 is a new resonant lowpass filter that combines vactrols and vacuum tubes. It’s got a steep slope (24 dB/octave), a uniquely rich sound, and – surprise, they also threw in motion recording so you can store modulation patterns right on the module.

Fusion Modulator is a new set of modulation tools that reveal how much time the Erica gang have been thinking about the classic EMS Synthi lately. (See also their SYNTRX, not so much an EMS clone, but a from-scratch instrument built around the Synthi workflows – new sounds, historic interface.)

Basically, you get two looping envelope generators with all the options. It’s one of the more versatile modulation sources I can think of recently.

Fusion VCA/Waveshaper/Ringmodulator is the rum chocolate sauce of the bunch. Two pentodes – that’s the electronic circuitry we’re talking – operate together variously as an amplifier, waveshaper, and ring modulator. The idea is, by applying voltage to different stages of the amplifier, you get all those different applications.

It’s tremendously powerful sonic stuff. And to me, it widens Erica’s palette from the BBD delay line stuff we’ve heard before – which is still very much evident in the sounds you get from the new Fusion System, when you want them.

Just how good does it sound? Let’s listen to Headless Horseman:

The other nice thing about the Fusion System II is that it is not terrifically expensive, if you do want the whole system. You get two VCO2s, the VCF3, the modulator, the VCA/Waveshaper/Ringmodulator, and the Delay/Flanger/Vintage ensemble in one skiff case for EUR 1950 (minus lid and VAT).

You can also buy the modules a la carte, though, if that’s more in-budget.

The Modulator and VCF3 are available now; the System II and VCA/shaper are inbound on 5 June.

Of course, money, period in this economy is in short supply for a lot of people. And for the rest of us, I do recommend yesterday’s guide to the latest stuff in VCV Rack and – absolutely grab the Erica Synths modules available free there. The Wavetable VCO is part of why I’m so very addicted to Rack in the first place; Octasource is great, too, speaking of modulation ideas. We can window shop for the days we’re buying hardware again.

https://library.vcvrack.com/?brand=Erica

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MeeBlip jam festival: watch all the wild and wonderful creations of these synth lovers

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 19 Mar 2020 7:24 pm

The joy of synths – as long as you’ve got a box with knobs on it, you’re never alone. And it’s incredible what people can do with tiny, ultra-affordable gear – including ours.

So, we invited our community of MeeBlippers to share what they’ve been making.

And wow, those MeeBlippers are making some fantastic stuff. The whole reason engineer James and I have stuck with making synth hardware, and trying to make it as accessible as possible, comes down to this – you keep surprising us. It’s a different model of music, inventing something that people can use.

We’re in stock and shipping MeeBlip geode synths, plus cubit go interface and cubit splitter. geode remains the best culmination of all we’ve done, with analog filter, tons of hands-on control, and internal USB MIDI so you don’t need an interface. Delivery times may fluctuate as we deal with COVID-19, but we’re doing our best to keep operating, and we really appreciate your support – it’s what keeps our independent effort going and allows us to make new things even in uncertain times.

Here are a few of our favorites who sent stuff in. I declared MeeB-leap Day a special holiday, but keep them coming! We’ll send some MeeBlip thru5 MIDI kits to a few of you, too! Thanks for all the submissions – and do follow these fine musicians. Here we go:

TriWave: I’m in love with this project, new grimy, groovy techno of Jean-Claude Langensand from Zürich, Switzerland. He tells us he makes them all live with just three pre-programmed MIDI clips, combining MeeBlip with Roland’s TR-8 and SH-01A.

Um this (for two examples):

Joseph Rhodes: “Had a lot of fun tonight using the #meeblip for leads. I played a line in Ableton and had it arpeggiated, then freaked out the knobs. Such a cool box.”

Joseph also made a free sample pack for the OP-1. I actually look forward to loading this on the OP-1 and running the geode alongside for a sort of meta geode*geode jam. Doube double your refreshment! (The sample pack is on Google Drive.)

Mårten Nettelbladt: From Stockholm comes this track with MeeBlip geode drenched in reverb, sounding almost like some long-forgotten classic 70s electroacoustic studio recording. Need to learn more about “Peggy” the MIDI arpeggiator on the right! Check out the Peggy project on Instagram, also from Mårten.

Heat Impact posts some raw, rapid techno combining the geode with Elektron’s Digitone. Love this; it’s a jam, but already sounds like a track. “I am sequencing the Geode from the Digitone, which is a great combo as I can use the scale lock on the sequencer and use the full 64 steps. The Phaser and the Zoom really add something extra to the meatiness and fullness of the Geode, a perfect mono bass synth.” And apparently it was a Christmas gift. Take note! (Birthdays, too, naturally…)

Radio Coriolis: James Taylor writes, “Radio Coriolis volumes 25/26/27 feature heavily MeeBlip. The first synth I found that can equal the Moog Rogue of my accomplice.”

zhorli: More with less – just a Novation Circuit and MeeBlip triode are enough for zhorli to make a full jam session in a tiny amount of space (check his polyrhythm tutorial on the Circuit, too):

Dharma Club: Daniel Hengeveld writes, “I have used the triode and geode in a lot of stuff … but I wanted to share this – the ‘blips are in the rotation for my “liminal techno” project with a friend, Dharma Club, which is live techno-adjacent improvising incorporating samples recorded in the middle of the night when waking up from weird dreams.” Top sampling tip, yes!

Eine Kleine China: Jazzy, avant-garde, spaced-out MeeBlippery on this track combines MeeBlip geode (melody) with a vintage MeeBlip triode (on bass):

daionsavage: Studio jam, spread thick, with MeeBlips geode and anode, plus KORG volca kick and volca drum, and KORG minilogue and monologue, and even Waldorf Streichfett (which literally references covering something in buttery goodness). Heavy stuff, and proof the MeeBlips can cut through anything.

Crypto-oriental techno, indeed!

Ac- Tone: Blast from the past: a vintage orange-and-black MeeBlip SE paired with Eurorack rig, MeeBlip grit against luxurious Euro percussion and chimes:

valleyroadex: MeeBlip anode and triode power everything but drums on this hard-hitting clip:

Bonus round here from our friend Alexey in St. Petersburg, who’s back with a quartet of his own DIY hand-built MeeBlip copies (three of them made the original, open-source generation that started it all):

See you at MeeBlip.com. Keep blipping and for all you’ve given to us.

https://meeblip.com

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In Russia, vintage MeeBlips have custom clones, thanks to open source hardware

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 6 Mar 2020 12:42 am

The original version of our MeeBlip synth project has found a quirky new iteration in St. Petersburg – and it’s making some terrific grooves.

Let’s start with this fantastic, primal alien-discotheque vibe of MeeBlip Quartet, featuring three MeeBlips SE and one MeeBlip triode (“Rare Russian Edition”), via two splitter boxes.

Perfect for setting the mood on your space station, really.

Open-source hardware in music can have a life past its normal conclusion. Our original MeeBlip synthesizer is now coming up on its ten-year anniversary. And because part of what we’ve improved is the ease of manufacturing our newest hardware, we don’t intend to go back to the original and “SE” model. The new stuff is better. But anyone curious about its circuitry and firmware – or digital filter code in Assembly language for the AVR microprocessor – can find all of that on our GitHub:

https://github.com/MeeBlip

James Grahame did nearly all of the engineering, but you’ll also find copious credits to other contributions. So you’ll see people like Jarek Ziembicki, who made the open-source AVRsynth that inspired us, or optimizations and new waveforms by Axel Werner, one of our early customers.

This also means people can make new MeeBlips of their own – for people who want those oddball earlier iterations, or in countries where it’s more accessible and affordable sourcing local parts than trying to import a complete synth from overseas.

And that’s what Alexey Evlampiev of St. Petersburg, Russia has been up to. He’s been making cool “Russian edition” versions of the original MeeBlip SE and triode, plus the superb open-source FM synth preenfm2, among other gear fascinations. (Speaking of preenfm2 – that project by Xavier Hosxe has built on musicdsp.org, which is an excellent clearinghouse for algorithms from synths to FX to filters, as well as pioneering work by Mutable Instruments, who has made perhaps the broadest variety of open-source synth hardware contributions.)

Here’s a duo of MeeBlips triode (Russian) and Elektron machinedrum (normal Swedish edition, that):

Also digging the retro-green panel on this anode:

Please do ask before you use the MeeBlip name, though – it avoids confusion about who made the synth. We’ve talked to Alexey in this case, and like his custom artwork, so – approved.

Since the Russian Editions are super-limited, we still suggest our official MeeBlip shop if you want to get your synth on, and the latest MeeBlip geode. (We also make low-cost thru boxes aka MIDI splitters, including the thru5 kit if you want to make one yourself.)

https://meeblip.com

It’s funny hearing our older synths, as the geode has definitely improved in sonic features – and we made it easier to build and ship. It’s in stock now:

But I have loved seeing the crazy custom builds people have made over the years by modding our finished synths, using our free and open-source (GPL-/CreativeCommons-licensed) designs, or working with our kits. It might just give James and me some new ideas for panels and knobs and colors and whatnot – suggestions also welcome.

Open source hardware isn’t the right choice for every project – our current synth uses a proprietary USB interface for reliability, for instance. But it’s nice to have it be part of the music gear ecosystem when it makes sense. It also shows that we can make inexpensive gear and exchange information while giving proper credit – real sharing, rather than simply plagiarism.

And I do hope to meet Alexey for a jam session next time I’m in St. Petersburg. Plus I’ve got to get James Grahame over to Russia and Berlin, as I’m sure he’ll love it.

Russian speakers can follow Alexey at his VKontakte site – https://vk.com/grooveboxmusic; everyone else, subscribe on YouTube.

See you at meeblip.com.

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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. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To that I say, of course —

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

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

Deckard’s Dream site

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1000 free Novation presets from Legowelt, Emily Sprague, Shawn Rudiman…

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 29 Jul 2019 7:57 pm

Novation are going patch crazy, with 1000 free artist patches for their Peak synth and newest Summit. And they come from some of our favorite artists.

“Presets,” “artists,” blah blah… but wait, the lineup here includes Legowelt, Craig Williams, Lightbath, Hinako Omori, Emily Sprague, and Shawn Rudiman, plus others to be announced.

Novation use their Components Web interface to deliver updates, content, and expanded functionality to their users, and they’ve been pioneers in innovative use of the tech for that role. That interface has sometimes been in need of a refresh, though, and so the other big news is that they’ve overhauled the UI.

Now you can see the Bank Editor next to content, you can filter presets, and you can choose to see your own stuff alongside Novation’s if you choose. Plus – mercifully – login isn’t mandatory any more (though you’ll need it to authenticate your own content you store online, of course).

Peak and Summit are well suited to some clever patch design, what with multiple synthesis methods simultaneously, modulation, and effects. It’ll be interested to see what they’ve cooked up.

More:

https://novationmusic.com/peak-summit-presets

Speaking of Legowelt and Shawn, flashback time:

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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.

MASSIVE X synth arrives; here’s what makes it special

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 27 Jun 2019 2:12 pm

The last time Native Instruments released a synth called Massive, they accidentally helped define genres (EDM, dubstep). But MASSIVE X returns to the original vision: make it easier to get deep with wavetables and modularity and go wild with sound. And now, the wait is over.

It’s been years in the making. But the original team behind Massive are back with a sequel to one of the most influential software synths ever made.

I was actually the very first press meeting for Massive, back in the day. But what that tells you is, initially they thought they were making something for nerds, not what would become EDM mainstages.

In 2019, MASSIVE X enters a world that’s not only been shaped by the first Massive, but is also far more comfortable with digital sounds and modularity, the staples of the original. Even inside NI, you’ve got REAKTOR and BLOCKS. There are plenty of other wavetable synths, plenty of semi-modular plug-ins. There are semi-modular synths – heck, Moog alone has three just in one line. There are Eurorack modulars in pricey hardware racks that require a screwdriver and modeled in software so you just need a laptop.

I mean, basically, those of us who love synths are all really spoiled. And like any spoiled child, little wonder there are bunches of those people whining and crying and rolling around on the floor like a toddler who ate too much candy. Well… if you read message forums, which I try not to.

So is there a place for MASSIVE X? You’ll hear plenty of talk from Native Instruments and reviewers alike, but let’s boil this story down.

MASSIVE X is a rarity – a kitchen sink digital synth plug-in that keeps its front panel easy to read.

Deep routing lets you path when you want to. But unlike a full-blown modular, that doesn’t stop you from creating sounds (and even modularity) straight away – and your sound design remains within a consistent interface and architecture.

Bigger on the inside than it is on the outside

Basically, the latest MASSIVE gives you this: it makes an argument for a semi-modular design by packing the oscillators with features, and then giving you ways of playing and modulating and inter-connecting all that depth easily. It walks that balance between complexity under the hood and legibility inside a coherent interface. So while other people might easily dismiss adding another semi-modular plug-in when you could just patch, there is a fundamentally different method to constructing sounds based on this architecture:

All about those oscillators. 170 wavetables, 10 oscillator modes, submodes for each of the oscillator modes – Massive focuses you on one architecture and one UI, but then gives you loads of choices once you’re there.

Get weird without even patching. It’s a true semi-modular, so you can make sounds without patching anything – and you can use its phase modulation oscillators to start that modulation just from the oscillator section. (Yeah, you’ll wind up doing some sound designs where you never get past those oscillators. And that’s fun, anyway.)

Route and patch in ways conventional modulars can’t. With a huge routing matrix and a unique approach to insert effects, you can swap all sorts of unique processors inside an individual sound – and recall all of those as presets. Any control output can be connected to any input; audio can go to and from anywhere you like. It’s enormously flexible.

There are plenty of synths out there with deep architectures, but MASSIVE X allows you to then take that depth and work with it:

Trackers give you sophisticated control over how MASSIVE X behaves as an instrument – by designing how it responds as you play.

Make uniquely playable instruments. NI have added a number of tools for tracking input from performance, as in velocity, and then scaling and mapping that where you like. This means you can make sounds like instruments, and ‘play’ a lot of that sonic depth live. (There are four Tracker modules to accomplish this.)

Add variety in performance and modulation. Tracker modules let you play live; Performer modulators let you draw in up to eight bars of modulation patterns and use those without playing. That can mean either unattended modulation in the sound, or can be triggered live with your controller.

You have 9 slots for LFOs, voice randomization, and then a bunch of potential sources and shapes for those variations.

The original MASSIVE isn’t going anywhere. And that’s important, because it’s light on the CPU in a way the new X – and other plug-ins – aren’t.

But MASSIVE X is simply a beast. As a flagship for Native Instruments, it enters some competitive waters – not the least being the fact that NI itself has, effectively, more than one flagship.

Performer envelopes give you the kind of extensive, visual modulation you expect from 2019 flagship software. The Remote Editor lets you trigger those envelopes live, making this a tool for improvisation or onstage.

Inside the Voice

Having said MASSIVE X is all about having a consistent architecture and UI – there is definitely a candy store inside. Just some rough ideas of specs, to give you an idea:

Wavetable modes: Standard, Bend, Mirror, Hardsync, Wrap, Forant Capture, ART, Gorilla, Random, Jitter

Insert Effects: Anima, BitCrusher, Correction Filter & VCA, Fold Wrap, Frequency Shifter, Distortion, Track Delay

Unit FX: Dimension Expander, Flanger, Nonlinear Labs, Phaser, Standard EQ, Stereo Delay, Stereo Expander

The Voice page. You can also find some possibilities messing about with Noise Restart, Oscillator Restart, Spread and Engine Reset – think serious sound design with phasing. Combine that with the various oscillator types and modes and poly/mono/unison modes, and a really wild option called Unisono (for unique, analog-ish drifts and detunes), and you could probably devote a whole month in the studio just on this page and be perfectly satisfied.

Filling a Massive niche?

The thing is, MASSIVE X makes even more sense in 2019 than it did when it first arrived. And if MASSIVE demonstrated that a larger slice of the population was ready for edgy, hyper-modulated experimental sounds, MASSIVE X might demonstrate that more people are ready for experimental sound design..

This isn’t a straight modular workflow. It isn’t a Eurorack. It isn’t REAKTOR. And it shouldn’t be any of those things. Instead, MASSIVE X brings back what made the first MASSIVE compelling – drag and drop routing, easy visual “saturn ring” modulation – and adds more sonic depth, the kinds of organic quality now possible on today’s CPUs, and more visual feedback. We all spend too much time staring at screens, but MASSIVE X gives us a good reason to look back – and is far easier on the eyes (and brain) in the process.

So, sure, we are spoiled for choice, which I’m sure means MASSIVE X will get some significant hostility from the sorts of people who lurk in comment threads instead of make sounds. But I’m happy to have my cake and eat it, and my other five cakes, too.

From my own vantage point, having not been entirely swayed by would-be contenders to the plug-in throne, I think MASSIVE X will be ideal as a complement to open-ended modulars. Having a single oscillator section that does this much means you don’t get lost window-shopping modulars. And that matrix and the depth of Trackers and Performers means MASSIVE X is manageable when other modulars (hardware or software) turn into messes of spaghetti-routing, at least for sounds you want to pack to the brim with subtle shifting transformations over time.

More details of this as I spend more time with the now-finished build. (Sound design, too – just give me some time on that!)

[watch this space, we should have the overview video from NI shortly…]

https://native-instruments.com/

Cost:
USD / EUR 199
USD / EUR 149 upgrade from the previous version
Included in KOMPLETE 12 (and greater editions)

The competition

There’s indeed a lot of competition. Look to:

U-he‘s ZEBRA2, Hive 2. Also deep modulation, but with a single window mode – more like Massive 1 – to MASSIVE X’s various pages and options.

ARTURIA Pigments We’ll be looking more soon at the sound possibilities of this one. It’s perhaps more conservative than MASSIVE X, but its virtual analog/wavetable hybrid is a crowd pleaser, there’s a unique and easy-to-follow interface, and it has a clear high-contrast dark look to the all-gray/beige Massive approach.

Serum of course arguably stole the bass crown from Massive as NI bided their time on an update. It is focused on wavetables (and custom wavetables) compared to MASSIVE X’s fascinating sprawl.

Who else would you want to see up for comparison? Let us know.

To me, at least my initial impression is all this mayhem of choice makes MASSIVE X stand out, but we’ll be interested to dig deeper and get feedback from other sound designers.

The post MASSIVE X synth arrives; here’s what makes it special appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

MASSIVE X synth arrives; here’s what makes it special

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 27 Jun 2019 2:12 pm

The last time Native Instruments released a synth called Massive, they accidentally helped define genres (EDM, dubstep). But MASSIVE X returns to the original vision: make it easier to get deep with wavetables and modularity and go wild with sound. And now, the wait is over.

It’s been years in the making. But the original team behind Massive are back with a sequel to one of the most influential software synths ever made.

I was actually the very first press member scheduled to see Massive, back in the day. But what that tells you is, initially they thought they were making something for nerds, not what would become EDM mainstages. (Presumably they might have asked someone important not only as a nerd, otherwise.)

In 2019, MASSIVE X enters a world that’s not only been shaped by the first Massive, but is also far more comfortable with digital sounds and modularity, the staples of the original. Even inside NI, you’ve got REAKTOR and BLOCKS. There are plenty of other wavetable synths, plenty of semi-modular plug-ins. There are semi-modular synths – heck, Moog alone has three just in one line. There are Eurorack modulars in pricey hardware racks that require a screwdriver and modeled in software so you just need a laptop.

I mean, basically, those of us who love synths are all really spoiled. And like any spoiled child, little wonder there are bunches of those people whining and crying and rolling around on the floor like a toddler who ate too much candy. Well… if you read message forums, which I try not to.

So is there a place for MASSIVE X? You’ll hear plenty of talk from Native Instruments and reviewers alike, but let’s boil this story down.

MASSIVE X is a rarity – a kitchen sink digital synth plug-in that keeps its front panel easy to read.

Deep routing lets you path when you want to. But unlike a full-blown modular, that doesn’t stop you from creating sounds (and even modularity) straight away – and your sound design remains within a consistent interface and architecture.

Bigger on the inside than it is on the outside

Basically, the latest MASSIVE gives you this: it makes an argument for a semi-modular design by packing the oscillators with features, and then giving you ways of playing and modulating and inter-connecting all that depth easily. It walks that balance between complexity under the hood and legibility inside a coherent interface. So while other people might easily dismiss adding another semi-modular plug-in when you could just patch, there is a fundamentally different method to constructing sounds based on this architecture:

All about those oscillators. 170 wavetables, 10 oscillator modes, submodes for each of the oscillator modes – Massive focuses you on one architecture and one UI, but then gives you loads of choices once you’re there.

Get weird without even patching. It’s a true semi-modular, so you can make sounds without patching anything – and you can use its phase modulation oscillators to start that modulation just from the oscillator section. (Yeah, you’ll wind up doing some sound designs where you never get past those oscillators. And that’s fun, anyway.)

Route and patch in ways conventional modulars can’t. With a huge routing matrix and a unique approach to insert effects, you can swap all sorts of unique processors inside an individual sound – and recall all of those as presets. Any control output can be connected to any input; audio can go to and from anywhere you like. It’s enormously flexible.

There are plenty of synths out there with deep architectures, but MASSIVE X allows you to then take that depth and work with it:

Trackers give you sophisticated control over how MASSIVE X behaves as an instrument – by designing how it responds as you play.

Make uniquely playable instruments. NI have added a number of tools for tracking input from performance, as in velocity, and then scaling and mapping that where you like. This means you can make sounds like instruments, and ‘play’ a lot of that sonic depth live. (There are four Tracker modules to accomplish this.)

Add variety in performance and modulation. Tracker modules let you play live; Performer modulators let you draw in up to eight bars of modulation patterns and use those without playing. That can mean either unattended modulation in the sound, or can be triggered live with your controller.

You have 9 slots for LFOs, voice randomization, and then a bunch of potential sources and shapes for those variations.

The original MASSIVE isn’t going anywhere. And that’s important, because it’s light on the CPU in a way the new X – and other plug-ins – aren’t.

But MASSIVE X is simply a beast. As a flagship for Native Instruments, it enters some competitive waters – not the least being the fact that NI itself has, effectively, more than one flagship.

Performer envelopes give you the kind of extensive, visual modulation you expect from 2019 flagship software. The Remote Editor lets you trigger those envelopes live, making this a tool for improvisation or onstage.

Inside the Voice

Having said MASSIVE X is all about having a consistent architecture and UI – there is definitely a candy store inside. Just some rough ideas of specs, to give you an idea:

Wavetable modes: Standard, Bend, Mirror, Hardsync, Wrap, Forant Capture, ART, Gorilla, Random, Jitter

Insert Effects: Anima, BitCrusher, Correction Filter & VCA, Fold Wrap, Frequency Shifter, Distortion, Track Delay

Unit FX: Dimension Expander, Flanger, Nonlinear Labs, Phaser, Standard EQ, Stereo Delay, Stereo Expander

The Voice page. You can also find some possibilities messing about with Noise Restart, Oscillator Restart, Spread and Engine Reset – think serious sound design with phasing. Combine that with the various oscillator types and modes and poly/mono/unison modes, and a really wild option called Unisono (for unique, analog-ish drifts and detunes), and you could probably devote a whole month in the studio just on this page and be perfectly satisfied.

Filling a Massive niche?

The thing is, MASSIVE X makes even more sense in 2019 than it did when it first arrived. And if MASSIVE demonstrated that a larger slice of the population was ready for edgy, hyper-modulated experimental sounds, MASSIVE X might demonstrate that more people are ready for experimental sound design..

This isn’t a straight modular workflow. It isn’t a Eurorack. It isn’t REAKTOR. And it shouldn’t be any of those things. Instead, MASSIVE X brings back what made the first MASSIVE compelling – drag and drop routing, easy visual “saturn ring” modulation – and adds more sonic depth, the kinds of organic quality now possible on today’s CPUs, and more visual feedback. We all spend too much time staring at screens, but MASSIVE X gives us a good reason to look back – and is far easier on the eyes (and brain) in the process.

So, sure, we are spoiled for choice, which I’m sure means MASSIVE X will get some significant hostility from the sorts of people who lurk in comment threads instead of make sounds. But I’m happy to have my cake and eat it, and my other five cakes, too.

From my own vantage point, having not been entirely swayed by would-be contenders to the plug-in throne, I think MASSIVE X will be ideal as a complement to open-ended modulars. Having a single oscillator section that does this much means you don’t get lost window-shopping modulars. And that matrix and the depth of Trackers and Performers means MASSIVE X is manageable when other modulars (hardware or software) turn into messes of spaghetti-routing, at least for sounds you want to pack to the brim with subtle shifting transformations over time.

More details of this as I spend more time with the now-finished build. (Sound design, too – just give me some time on that!)

[watch this space, we should have the overview video from NI shortly…]

https://native-instruments.com/

Cost:
USD / EUR 199
USD / EUR 149 upgrade from the previous version
Included in KOMPLETE 12 (and greater editions)

Video walkthroughs

Our friends at SonicState and NI themselves have now posted walkthrough videos.

Also I’ve been talking to Richard Devine about how much he’s into MASSIVE X. Here’s a video of him enjoying it:

The competition

There’s indeed a lot of competition. Look to:

U-he‘s ZEBRA2, Hive 2. Also deep modulation, but with a single window mode – more like Massive 1 – to MASSIVE X’s various pages and options.

ARTURIA Pigments We’ll be looking more soon at the sound possibilities of this one. It’s perhaps more conservative than MASSIVE X, but its virtual analog/wavetable hybrid is a crowd pleaser, there’s a unique and easy-to-follow interface, and it has a clear high-contrast dark look to the all-gray/beige Massive approach.

Serum of course arguably stole the bass crown from Massive as NI bided their time on an update. It is focused on wavetables (and custom wavetables) compared to MASSIVE X’s fascinating sprawl.

Who else would you want to see up for comparison? Let us know.

To me, at least my initial impression is all this mayhem of choice makes MASSIVE X stand out, but we’ll be interested to dig deeper and get feedback from other sound designers.

The post MASSIVE X synth arrives; here’s what makes it special appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Here’s what Polyend’s Medusa can sound like

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beneath Polyend Medusa grid and knobs, a wealth of possibilities

https://polyend.com/medusa/

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

Beneath Polyend Medusa grid and knobs, a wealth of possibilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The synth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Musical ideas: synth

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

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

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

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

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

The sequencer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Musical ideas: sequencer

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

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

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

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

Performance pads

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

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

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

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

Musical ideas: pads

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusions

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

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

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

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

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

http://polyend.com/medusa/

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

SubLab is an 808 bass synth and more, from makers of Circle

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 11 Jun 2019 4:36 pm

Hard-hitting sub bass and percussion is the focus of SubLab, a new instrument from Future Audio Workshop. And it puts a ton of sound elements into an uncommonly friendly interface. Let’s get our hands on it.

This begins our Tools of Summer series of selections – stuff you’ll want to use when the nights are long (erm, northern hemisphere) and you need some new inspiration from instruments to actually use.

We hadn’t heard much lately from Future Audio Workshop. Their ground-breaking Circle instrument was uniquely friendly, clean, and easy to use. At a time when nearly all virtual instruments had virtually unreadable, tiny UIs, Circle broke from the norm with displays you could see easily. Beginners could track signal flow and modulation, and experts (erm, many of them, you know, older and with aging eyes) could be more productive and focused.

SubLab takes that same approach – so much so that a couple of quick shots I posted to Instagram got immediate feedback.

And then it’s just chock full of bass – with a whole lot of potential applications.

Sound layers, plus filter, plus distortion, plus compressor – deceptively simple and powerful.

So, sure, FAW talk trap and hip-hop and future bass and sub basslines – you’ll get those, for sure. But I think you’ll start using SubLab all over the place.

If you just want a recipe for 808 bass, this instrument is there for you. You can layer and filter and overdrive and distort sounds into basslines made from punchy drum bits. Then you discover that this produces interesting melodic lines, too. Or that while you have all the elements of various kick drums not only from Roland but sampled from a studio full of drum machines (Vermona to JoMoX), you … might as well make some punchy kicks and toms.

It’s just too fast. And that’s not because the interface is particularly dumbed down – on the contrary, it’s because once all the chrome and tiny controls are out of the way and the designers focused on what this does, you can get at a lot of options more quickly.

The synth has an easy-to-follow structure – sound, distortion, compressor. Sound is divided into a simple multi-oscillator synth, a sample playback engine, and then the trademarked ‘x-sub’ sub-oscillator. You can then mix these separately, and route a percentage of the synth and sampler to a multi-mode filter. (Don’t miss the essential ‘glide’ control lurking just at the bottom, as I did at first.) Pulling it all together, you get a ‘master’ overview that shows you how each element layers in the resulting sound spectrum.

Also in the sound > synth section, you can easily access multiple envelopes with visual feedback. (Arturia, who I’m also writing about this week, have also gone this route, and it makes a big difference being able to see as well as hear.)

The sampler has essential tracking, pitching, and looping features for this application. The x-sub bit is uniquely controllable – you can set individual harmonic levels just by dragging around purple vertical bars. It’s rare to sculpt sub-bass like this so easily, and it’s addictive.

X-sub (trademarked?) means you can sculpt the harmonics inside the sub-oscillator section just by dragging.

The interface is easy enough, but a couple of characteristic additions really complete the package. The sampler section is full of inspiring hardware samples to use as building blocks – great stuff that you might use for your non-melodic kicks, or try out for punchy percussion and melodies even in higher registers. The Distortion also has some compelling modes, like the lovely “darkdrive” and convincing tube and overdrive options.

Tons of hardware samples abound for layering.

There aren’t a lot of presets – it looks like FAW’s plan is to get you hooked, then add more patch packs. But with enough sound design options here, including custom sample loading, you might be fine just making your own.

Really, my only complaint is that I find the filter and compressor a bit vanilla, particularly in this age of so many beautiful modeled options from Native Instruments, Arturia, u-he, and others.

I figured I would be writing this glowing review and telling you, oh yeah, it’s definitely worth $149.

But — damn, this thing is $70, on sale for $40.

Sheesh. Just get it, then. There are lots of deeper and more complex things out there. But this is something else – simple enough that you’ll actually use it to design your own creative sounds. As FAW has shown us before, visual feedback and accessible interfaces combine to make sound design connect with your brain more effectively.

https://futureaudioworkshop.com/sublab

Here’s me messing around with it to prove it can do things other than what it was intended for:

And more hands-on videos from the creators:

The post SubLab is an 808 bass synth and more, from makers of Circle appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

A Buchla synth repair turned into an LSD trip, and made the evening news

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 23 May 2019 5:18 pm

It seems the legends are true – there really was LSD added to vintage synths. A Bay Area, California Buchla 100 reportedly triggered an acid trip decades later.

The equipment in question is a Buchla Model 100, 1960s vintage – the modular that defined what now some people call the “West Coast synthesis” style. I learned on one of these, too, though don’t recall any particular hallucinations.

The report comes from a local CBS television affiliate in San Francisco, KPIX, and their broadcast operator Eliot Curtis. (Synthtopia beats me to this one, though I’d seen the video last night – karma for when I was writing up Elektron news next to them this month!)

The LSD itself was located inside the machine, looking like crystals, and while we don’t have the specifics of the test, was apparently tested for authenticity. Finger contact with that substance triggered a nine-hour trip.

You may be wondering how this LSD lasted this long. I haven’t been able to find any data on that – which might suggest whether or not this LSD originated at the Buchla’s manufacture or whether someone added it later, or even if the story is true at all (CBS or not). The only study I could find deals with decomposition in urine, not storage of the chemical itself. But the synth should at least have kept the substance away from light and most likely also humidity, reducing its rate of deterioration. (Eliot also seems… well, fairly convinced!)

Whether you believe the LSD here is from the 60s or not, there is a verified association of Don Buchla and LSD and the use of the drug at some events. (That doesn’t mean everyone was tripping – I heard the Joshua Light Show creators explain that they needed to stay sober for their work, and the optical effects were effectively trippy enough!)

From the CBS report:

In 1966, some Buchla modules ended up on an old school bus purchased by LSD advocate Ken Kesey and his followers known as the Merry Pranksters.

During the last of Kesey’s acid tests — LSD-fueled parties — at Winterland on Halloween in 1966, electronic sounds, possibly from the Buchla, appeared to interrupt an interview of Kesey.

Buchla used LSD and was friends with Owsley Stanley, the genius behind the Grateful Dead’s sound system. Stanley, also known as Bear, was a masterful sound engineer and legendary hero of the counterculture. He was also famous for making the purest LSD to ever hit the street and kept such a low profile that not many photos of him exist.

What is in question here seems to be the exact provenance of these modules, which might locate the history of the alleged LSD discovery. Knowing who reads CDM, I imagine our readers may have some idea.

Also, while Synthtopia and others say this means the ‘red panel’ myth was true, that may be a stretch. The story is, the red paint on Buchla’s red panels had LSD in it – so you could, perhaps, lick the panel if you needed a little extra creative flow in the studio. I had also heard this story related when I was researching the Moog recreation of Keith Emerson’s modular – don’t forget, the East Coast was into some strange trips in the 60s and 70s, too. But those stories notwithstanding, it at least sounds like this particular acid had been stashed inside the machine, not in the paint as the legend goes.

Then again, who cares where it was – synths that can make you literally hallucinate are a pretty wild discovery, let alone the possibility that they might do so decades later.

As for the TV report, it’s worth watching just to see their reporter do the open in front of the synth – this is not your normal evening news special interest story, so thank you, Bay Area, you’ve still got it:

Repair Of Iconic ’60s Era Synthesizer Turns Into Long, Strange Trip For Engineer

Having just returned from Russia, let me say on behalf of people repairing Soviet instruments, “ah, lucky Americans, they get actual LSD causing their hallucinations, not old Communist chemicals…” (I’ll try to inhale deeply while I’m in Riga near some Polivoks and can let you know what happens. Seriously, don’t lick any eastern bloc electronics. Or… some of our current stuff, for that matter!)

For more Buchla 100 history, here’s an unboxing by the Library of Congress – though no word on whether this got the US government or this University of Chicago researcher high:

Unboxing the Buchla Model 100 [Library of Congress Blogs]

This song seems … literal now:

The post A Buchla synth repair turned into an LSD trip, and made the evening news appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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