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

Make Noise are turning a classic 1972 synthesis book into a video series

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 21 Mar 2018 6:57 pm

Even as modular synths make a comeback, the definitive work on the topic languishes out of print since its 1972 publication. But now, one synth maker is translating its ideas to video.

The folks at Make Noise, who have been one of the key makers behind Eurorack’s growth (and a leader in on the American side of the pond), have gone all the way back to 1972 to find a reference to the fundamentals behind modular synthesis.

“Where do I find a textbook on modular synthesis?” isn’t an easy question to answer. A lot of understanding modular comes from a weird combination of received knowledge, hearsay, various example patches (some of them also dating back to the 60s and 70s), and bits and pieces scattered around print and online.

But Allen Strange’s Electronic Music: Systems, techniques, and controls covers actual theory. It treats the notions of modular synthesis as a fundamental set of skills. It’s just now out of print, and a used copy could cost you $200-300 because of automated online pricing (whether anyone would actually pay that).

So it’s great to see Make Noise take this on – if nothing else, as a way to frame teaching their own modules.

And… uh, you might find a PDF of the original text. (I think most people read my own book in pirated form, especially in its Russian and Polish translations – seriously – so I’m looking at this myself as a writer and sometimes educator and pondering what the best way is to teach modular in 2018.)

I’m definitely watching and subscribing to this one, though – and this first video gives me an idea… excuse me, time to load up Pd, Reaktor, and VCV Rack again!

Allen Strange wrote the book on modular synthesizers in the 1970s. Electronic Music: Systems, Techniques, and Controls. Unfortunately since the expanded 1982 edition, it has never been reprinted, and in today’s landscape where more people have access to modular synths than ever before, very few have access to the knowledge contained within. This video series will explore patches both basic and advanced from Strange’s text. Even the simplest patches here yield kernels of knowledge that can be expanded upon in infinite ways. I have been heavily influenced by Strange since long before I became a modular synth educator. Please share this knowledge far and wide. The first video in the series covers one basic and one slightly less basic patch using envelopes.


The post Make Noise are turning a classic 1972 synthesis book into a video series appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

From Argentina, spectacular custom controllers and a DIY platform

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 21 Mar 2018 1:23 am

Latin America has long been a source of creativity in electronic music. But a bright spot in growing its own electronic hardware comes from Yaeltex, and their vision of unique custom instruments.

A new producer in Argentina

Based in Buenos Aires, Yaeltex are specializing in custom controllers for a range of musical and visual applications, hardware and software. There’s the Miniblock – a high-end, boutique wood-cased controller made in a run of just 30 units. (The wood even comes from their hometown in Patagonia.) And they also make wild, one-off custom controllers direct from customers’ imaginations – plus a platform that lets DIYers make their own stuff from scratch. And they’ve got growing plans in the works, too.

Whether you’re a customer in Buenos Aires or Barcelona, it’s also a big deal that this is coming from Latin America. It’s a first indication of the kind of makers we could see spring up in the area.

And there’s a need. While the particulars differ from country to country, South America faces two major problems. One, a lot of people just don’t have the purchasing power on local salaries and with local currencies to afford products priced for countries like the US, UK, Japan, or Germany. Two, as if that weren’t bad enough, these countries typically slap high import duties on top of the products, making them even more expensive to import. (To the north, Mexico’s trade alliance and economic integration with the USA helps on that second point, at least.)

Of course, these problems could also be an opportunity for a new wave of musical inventors based in the region. And then there’s the chance to localize directly to Spanish and Portuguese.

Custom controllers

On the custom side, you’ve got a range of custom modules that can be combined into a dream controller, including faders, pots, switches with LED lighting, distance sensors, joysticks, and arcade buttons. And they do cool color panels. These are made into the one-of-a-kind rarities you see here, made in conversations with the buyers.

And an open platform

Then there’s the Kilomux shield, which makes it easier to produce your own MIDI controllers using the open, artist-friendly Arduino environment.

Around that, they’ve constructed a whole ecosystem of tools for connecting modular controller add-ons, and configuring the hardware with custom names and I/O mappings – all of these tools open source.

How is this being used? Mateo Ferley Yael tells us:

Most of our clients are making custom controllers for Ableton Live, Traktor, dedicated VST controllers and Hardware Synth controllers like MORPHI, that is designed to control Dave Smiths Mopho and Tetra, making possible to access most “hidden” parameters of the synth in its hardware interface. We also have lots of interest from VJs that are designing their own controllers to use in Resolume, Modul8, Isadora, vvvv or processing.

With Ableton users in mind, there’s a 20% discount for nativeKONTROL DDC for adding integration with Ableton Live.

In conversation

I asked some other questions of Mateo about how their projects are evolving.

Peter: What led you to produce the Kilomux?

Mateo: We were inspired by Livid’s Brain, the Highly Liquid [DIY MIDI range], and the Doepfer DIY MIDI boards, which we used in our first projects. After using them, we had the idea to make an Arduino-based and open source take on this kind of board. Because “Arduino-based” sounds difficult by default for many musicians and artists, we also made a friendly framework to work with, without the need to solder (using ribbon cables to connect modules) or write code (using our Kilomux configuration tool, Kilowhat). We are now working on a new version of it, adding lots of new features and stuff we learned since 2015, that we hope to launch in early 2019.

What does it mean that you’re trying to build up the scene in Argentina – what’s that like?

Well, even if in Argentina we have a big and competitive software industry, there’s not much hardware development for arts and expression, but happily, we see more brands coming up every year. In a context with such economic constraints and instability, it is really hard to grow a business around products that are not about basic needs. Our brand and most of the hardware manufacturing brands around here are all led by passionate people that choose to risk their time and economic resources to make what we love. There is an amazing synth and Eurorack community and a growing offering of locally-made modules and synth-related products.

Are you finding you’re getting a Latin American customer base, too? What do you think the future of that may be?

Presently, our main target is Latin America. Most of our customers are in Argentina; we have a growing customer community in Mexico and we’re starting to get orders from other Latin American countries. For people from this part of the world, it’s not typical to see products like ours made in Latin America, because of the lack of a local hardware industry. Most of the equipment we buy comes from EU, US, or China, and that’s not because we don’t have the talent or knowledge – the main cause is high manufacturing costs. Shipping charges and taxes make it almost impossible for us to be competitive with the prices of leading manufacturing countries. So people that get to us and see our products are happily surprised when they find we have something special, well done, with support and care for details.

We find that Latin America is a missing voice inside this industry. The way we decided to go is to add value by making unique and original products. We already ship worldwide through FedEx, but we are looking forward to hitting the international market in 2019.

Ed.: this also of course illustrates why protectionism doesn’t necessarily benefit the local manufacturing scene – because it makes importing components more expensive, thus driving up local prices. So it’s terrific they’ve managed to navigate around that problem.

What are you sourcing locally actually, versus importing?

We are locally sourcing all the casing (front-back panels, wood case custom made in Patagonia) and have in-house software development, hardware design and product assembly workforce. All the electronics comes, after testing and tough-selecting the best providers, from the US and China. Even import taxes and shipping costs are really high, we are working hard to keep prices as low as we can.

Thanks, Mateo! We’ll be watching!

So, there’s so much to see with their custom platform for DIYers, that I’ll devote that to another story. And keep your eye out for other developments from Yaeltex and the scene in Argentina and around Latin America. (We’re spoiled with all the interchange in Europe, thanks to being closer geographically and bound together by cheap, fast trains, buses, and flights! So we should definitely get not only more coverage from South America, but see that it’s in Spanish or even Portuguese, since online information becomes critical! Happy to partner with any other sites working on this, too.)



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Universal Audio get two Neve preamps – in two knobs

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 20 Mar 2018 11:40 pm

Turn a knob, dial in a sound – that particular magic associated with specific hardware is showing up in software, too. Or such is the promise of the latest Universal Audio mic model.

Maybe that makes sense. As software gets better at modeling nonlinearity – the particular character of a sound, one that may lie a little outside rational, predictable behavior – it’s also possible to have fewer knobs.

Certainly, leading vendors keep upping the ante when it comes to believable models of classic gear. For Universal Audio’s part, the latest addition is a new set of models of classic Neve mic preamps. In UA’s case, they can tout not just their usual modeling prowess, but also the ability to integrate with their hardware – down to matching the model to the impedance of whatever you’re connecting, so it’s even more like plugging into real hardware.

And case in point: the press release sells you on “clarity,” “grit,” and “complexity” – even though those three things wouldn’t normally make sense together. (It’d be like describing lunch as “fresh,” “greasy,” and “subtle.” At the same time, I totally understand what they mean. There’s sound for you.)

Oh, and there’s a red knob, because who doesn’t like that?

The basic idea – start with a class-A Neve mic preamp, and combine both the 1037 and 1290 designs.

The original models.

Say what now? Well, the stock 1290 had just a mic input. Here, it gets combined with a padded input you can use with line ins, plus the 80 Hz cut filter from the 1073. That plus some additional signal modifications and impedance behavior borrowed from the 1073 have prompted the new moniker “1290A.” (UA confirmed some of those details to CDM.)

Or, for lay people, UA have cross-bred the best bits of two favorite Neve amps into a single model that never existed before.

Impedance matching with the hardware, though, is everything. A good mic preamp model is pretty meaningless if all you can do is feed it raw signal into your DAW. One place where UA unquestionably has an edge – at least technically speaking – is that they’re able to couple the impedance of their audio interfaces with behaviors of the software. On the Neve, that’s particularly important, because the character of the mic preamp will depend on what’s plugged into it.

Part of the UA pitch – their software is designed to emulate a mic preamp thanks to integration with hardware settings.

This is only meaningful in practice, though, so I’m interested to try it with UA’s new Arrow interface (as well as the other Apollos).

And while it’s meant to model historical gear, my feeling is, if it works, you should feel something even if you never used the originals.

This particular mic model also promises lower DSP hardware requirements than some other Unison plug-ins. So I’m curious to see if it’s a good match for the new Arrow, which has only one DSP chip – meaning it can’t normally run quite as many plug-ins at once.

The Neve is US$149, exclusively from UA for their UAD-2 DSP platform and Apollo interfaces.


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Oi, Kant! is a raunchy, glitchy, out-of-control patchable groove machine

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 20 Mar 2018 4:56 pm

Artist Ewa Justka has built a drum/bass machine that’s as chaotic as our times – a dirty, feature-packed, mayhem generator. And you can buy or build one for yourself, too.

Ewa’s project is open source – warts and little mistakes and weird bits and all. And it makes one hell of a sequenced racket – the hardware embodiment of Ewa’s mind-scrambling live shows as well as her workshops. (Ewa’s frequently played Berlin, London, and around Europe, and at Unsound Festival – and co-hosted a MusicMakers Hacklab with me, too, at CTM Festival, where she spread just this sort of mischief and sonic ingenuity to a whole group of people.)

So what is it, exactly? Ewa calls it “a sort of drum machine” or “drum-ish machine.” Basic features:

3 voices: drum, bass line, cymbal
Sounds all based on CMOS chips (hence their glitch-y, aggressively digital timbres)
Multiple independent sequencers, synced to a master clock
External clock input (for pulse from other gear) – patchable to each of the four voices
Independent audio outputs for each voice (though no master out – BYO mixing)
Power via 9V battery or external source (sold separately)
Knobs and buttons and bright lights and photosensors (because D-BEAM!)

So patch it together, and what you get is four screaming voices, clipping along either to the internal clock or external sources. Make separate sequences, clock everything together – as you like.

Watch the madness:

All those separate ins and outs and independent triggers mean you can put this together with other analog, DIY, or modular gear, for effects processing or more complex rhythms. Or just plug those four outs into a mixer and use as-is.

But you can get pretty experimental or pretty groovy or pretty groovy-experimental sounds out of this thing. Excellent.

And, of course, apart from a product name featuring Kant, you get all of this in a unique, art-y looking package. There are also awesome parameter names, like “cantaloupe,” “Canterbury,” and “canteen,” and some … less family-friendly ones.

It’s a boutique creation, designed and built by Ewa herself, and sells to you for £205.00 plus shipping (from the UK), available on her Etsy shop.

Optotronics: Oi, Kant! [Etsy.co.uk]

That page also has links to the documentation and circuit files (on Dropbox). If you get one, do share the noises you make.

Note, there’s no specific open source hardware license on this at the moment, but that was evidently the intention — talking to Ewa about an explicit license.

The post Oi, Kant! is a raunchy, glitchy, out-of-control patchable groove machine appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Upcoming Dreadbox Medusa combines analog synth, grid sequencer

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 19 Mar 2018 3:36 pm

The boutique maker of synths, effects, and modular are teasing something new for May. And it looks like this compact analog synth is getting a grid sequencer, too.

The result looks a bit like someone crossbred the Novation Launchpad and Circuit range with the hands-on, analog approach of Dreadbox synths like (most recently) the Hades monosynth we saw in the fall. This time, the Athens-based maker Dreadbox has enlisted the help of Poland’s Polyend, who make the SEQ sequencer.

And what that means is, you get the sequencing (and arp, etc.) powers of the grid on one side, with lots of faders and knobs to tweak to shape the sound on the other side. (Novation’s own Circuit Bass Station did that, but now you get a new boutique instrument to join, too.)


To be perfectly honest, I’d totally forgotten about the Medusa. (CDM never forgets – so I found myself writing about it in the fall.) But what’s striking is how Dreadbox have redesigned the front panel, after incorporating that svelte grid sequencer from Polyend – apparent even in these steeply angled photos. The filter and envelope controls appear like they might be the same, but it seems some pots have possibly replaced faders, and there are whatever those buttons are. See our earlier photo:

Medusa is a Dreadbox analog synth with Polyend arp, sequencer

Big disclaimer here – Dreadbox have not repeated the specs they shared in the fall, but for review, here they are again – and we’ll see if anything was tweaked along with the change in appearance:

All Analog Circuit developed by Dreadbox
Midi to CV, Sequencer and Arpeggiator developed by Polyend
64 step Sequencer that can store the Filter’s Cut off, Modulation Wheel and Velocity values, with a memory of 7 sequences
Arpeggiator with Up, Up-Down, 2 Octave Up, 2 Octave Down, 2 Octave Up-Down or Played Order
3 Classic Dreadbox VCOs:
2x osc with saw, pulse or triangle wave
1x osc with advanced wave forming (7 different waveforms)
A brand new 12dB/oct Filter design with variable thickness (active for frequencies 110Hz and below)
A dedicated Attack, Decay/Release, Sustain Envelope Generator to the Filter and the Amp
A Simple and Easy to use Modulation section
You can Polychain multiple units and achieve Polyphony
8 patch points for eurorack experience

Medusa will be available in May 2018, according to the banner on the front of Dreadbox’s site. (That coincides neatly with Berlin’s Superbooth event, too, which has fast become the premiere event of the year for synth lovers – eclipsing even America’s NAMM show.)

They also have a slogan: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

We’ll see – looks like one of the more interesting product launches this year.

Tip of the hat to our friends at Synth Anatomy on this one!

Dreadbox Tease New Compact Analog Synthesizer With An Built-In Polyend Sequencer

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Watch a VU meter turn into percussion, control voltage

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 16 Mar 2018 6:47 pm

Here’s a fun hack: a vintage-style meter needle turns into a source of percussion and signal for a modular.

“Don’t plug this into that” or “that’s not what this is supposed to be for” are not really concepts obeyed by the electronic musician. So thanks to Simon Kitson for sending this in. In this case, a modular synth is involved but — really, you could do something like this with any random bit of gear and some piezos. (Piezo mics, in turn, are something you can build yourself for a few bucks with decent – to – terrible soldering skills.)

From a capitalist perspective, I should have course regularly be encouraging you to go spend your money on gear all the time but … this hack is totally compatible with “I just found some junk someone left by a dumpster.”

Simon writes:

I thought that you might be interested in this video of a vu meter being used as percussion with CV and a balanced piezoelectric pickup. It is a great return on a limited investment in time.

Excellent. Plus those needles are fun to watch wiggle, of course. Enjoy!

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This custom TR-09 controller is also a great starting point for DIYers

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 16 Mar 2018 6:26 pm

Sometimes, when manufacturers don’t give us exactly what we need, a wonderful thing happens: people invent something to make up the difference.

In this case, while the solution involves Roland’s cute li’l TR-09, the resources here will be useful to anyone curious about making custom controllers – with or without pint-sized Roland drum machines.

Kyle Evans, aka pulseCoder, wanted more hands-on controls for live shows of the TR-09. Those tiny little pots on the machine just weren’t cutting it. The resulting build is beautiful and futuristic – partly because when you build stuff for yourself, you can lavish some extra expense on parts and not worry about pesky things like shipping weight and profit margins. (That’s one reason the DIYer will always, always have an edge over store-bought gear.)

But the other story here is, building this sort of controller has gotten a easier in the past few years than it used to be. Advancements like Arduino, Teensy, and kit-friendly multiplexers may not mean much to people building similar microcontroller-based projects some twenty years ago. But if you’re a musician and say something like “uh, what’s multiplexing?” – this is a nice leg up.

With live performances enjoying a nice renaissance on techno lineups and such, it seems the time is right for some tinkering. So here you go:

1. The Teensy LC microcontroller is the brains of the operation – it’s an easy, inexpensive, flexible chip you can program with the artist-friendly Arduino environment.

Teensy LC store

How to use MIDI with Teensy

2. Multiplexing is a way way to use all those switches, pots, and LEDs without needing so many separate wires. And to help you prototype faster, hobbyist emporium Sparkfun makes a kit that handles just this problem:

Sparkfun Multiplexer

Multiplexer hookup guide

3. The glue to make this work is a little bit of code. You can check out Kyle’s code as a model, especially if you’re also interested in making a TR-09 controller:

TR-09 MIDI code

4. Power tools! It’s not a fun DIY project if you don’t get to do some drilling, satisfying the basic human need to make loud noises and accomplish stuff. Kyle tells CDM: “these arcade switched are not illuminated by default, I drilled holes in the bottom of the plastic casing and added LEDs 🙂

Here’s a look at that finished build:

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Control and unlock hidden features on Roland’s TR-08 (the small one)

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 15 Mar 2018 6:59 pm

While everyone is chasing after Roland’s new TR-8S (see our hands-on test), there are lots of the little TR-08s around. This tool will help you get more out of the Boutique 808.

Okay, first, let’s review:

TR-808: the original 1980-1983 drum machine.
TR-8: the first “AIRA”, the big one with the neon green trim (which can be an 808, 909, 606, 727, 707…)
TR-09: the Boutique Series made to resemble the TR-909 – small and (for extra confusion) more 303-sized
TR-08: the second Boutique Series drum machine, also in a small form factor
TR-8S: the second flagship AIRA, now with sample playback

I’m sure I accidentally referred to that last one as “TR-08S” at least once. Mea culpa.

But there’s still a place for the pint-sized TR-08. And I hear it’s been an enormous hit. Why not? The TR-8S may be more powerful, but the TR-08 is cute and compact and also doubles as an audio interface, so you can pack it into a micro-sized setup.

And with that popularity, you can expect some editors. Often times the user community comes up with stuff that bests what Roland provides.

Momo Müller writes us with his editor/librarian/controller, which joins his exhaustive set for the Boutique Series.

Run this as a Mac or Windows plug-in/standalone, and you can do some handy things:
1. Store parameters in files
2. Recall parameters when you open a project (via the plug-in)
3. Control and automate hidden parameters not on the front panel

#1-2 of course are things you can’t do with an actual 808 – so for live performance or studio sessions, you can quickly recall different settings without having to tweak your way back yourself.

Hidden parameters:
Bass Drum and Snare: Tune and Compression
Clap, CB, Tom, CY, RS: Decay
RS, CB, OH, Clap, CH: Tune

Gorgeous UI, too, Momo – I don’t even have a TR-08, but I would hire you to do UI design. (Plus… does this actually look better than the hardware itself?)

Acid. Demo. Video.

Find the whole series – they call cost just a few bucks, and work in VST/AU/standalone:


For instance:

The post Control and unlock hidden features on Roland’s TR-08 (the small one) appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

A free download turns Reaktor into a powerful Buchla modular emulation

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 14 Mar 2018 7:14 pm

West Coast synthesis is yours for a song, by combining a free/donationware download with Reaktor. And now Cloudlab 200t just got a major V2 upgrade.

First, okay – this is not an authorized Buchla product. The Buchla legacy is alive in hardware and software forms. The Buchla Easel got a full-blown remake from Arturia. The Twisted Waveform Generator module has an official remake from Softube – though it’s silly spendy, at US$99. (That’s the price of some actual hardware module kits, or halfway to getting Reaktor!) And of course Buchla the hardware company are back in action with some of the original engineers.

But that’s besides the point: this is in Reaktor. And because it’s in Reaktor, you can pick it apart from the outside in and see how it works. And you can combine it with other Reaktor stuff, and then run the result as a plug-in. That’s something unique – ever wondered what a granular patch would sound like routed through some Buchla effects, for instance?

Does it sound any good? Yes – enough so that colleagues who have spent considerable time on Buchla hardware say they appreciate it. It certainly replicates the control layout and basic ideas of the Buchla, even if it has its own unique sound.

There’s one major downside of Reaktor: all the patching is hidden in the structure. That’s pretty weird if you’re use to patching on the front panel, as on hardware (and software emulations). But it will be familiar to Reaktor users, and it means the control layout on the Buchla is clean – even if there’s some tension behind the way the Buchla was conceived and how it works here.

In version 2, you get some significant updates – starting most importantly with clock sync:

External clock. Any gate in or clock out can be synced to external input, and the 266t Chronikler gets a clock output. Now you can sync to DAWs – or, if you like, stuff like VCV Rack.

Lemur control works both ways. The popular iPad and Android controller app now gets parameters back from Cloudlab, so it responds in realtime.

More noise. Noise sources on the 266t Noise module now include -3 Pink, Flat, and +3 White noise. If this makes you swoon as it does me, then you’re definitely a synth nerd. (Flat is labeled “Buchlesque,” a word I hope to now apply in completely inappropriate situations…)

Easier on the CPU. You’ll still want a hefty processor, but this version promises to be more stable and efficient, says the developer.

More modules. 227t Output interface & 248t Multiple Sequential Generator.

Be sure to make a donation if you like this.

It’s also wonderful to see these ideas spreading. From efforts like this to the rising stardom of people like Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, it’s now not uncommon to meet aspiring musicians on the street who know the name Buchla. That’s a sea change from a few short years ago, when people might know the name “Moog” (and pronounce in a way that rhymes with a sound a cow makes), and referred to all computer production simply by “Pro Tools.” Now, they’re very likely to start lecturing you on their thoughts on West Coast versus East Coast synthesis or tell you what oscillator module their favorite producer just started raving about.

And that’s relevant here, too. It means Reaktor can help spread the viral interest in esoteric synthesis. And that means Native Instruments customers are likely to want to do more than just dial up presets. And certainly as the Buchla brand and other lesser-known names catch up with the giants like Roland, Moog, and KORG, we’re seeing synth lovers willing to look to hardware and software from a greater variety of models.

I’d say this could be overwhelming, but – I think that ignores the possibilities of sound. Once you dive into the Buchla Way, you may just find yourself … really happy.

Let us know if you make some sounds with this.

Big thanks to the wonderful Synth Anatomy where I saw this first:

Cloudlab 200t V2 Released – A Stunning Buchla Based Modular Synthesizer For Reaktor 6

The gorgeous GUI comes from David Frappaz

Trevor Gavilan, who designed and programmed the ensemble, has also used it to make some of his own music. Here’s something entirely produced in just one instance:

More information and download at the NI Reaktor User Library:

Cloudlab 200t V2

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Virtuoso Commodore 64 composer Martin Walker is back

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 14 Mar 2018 5:23 pm

News for nerds: one of the musicians who was most adept at coaxing intricate music from chips is set to make a return. And that means it’s time for some chip music.

Nowadays, the MOS Technology SID chip might as well claim its place as an instrument, not just a chip with a particular game legacy, but among beloved classic synthesizers. And if instruments from the Minimoog to the Roland D-50 are seeing a return, it’s because there are particular techniques you can apply to those synthesizers. (For instance, our friend Francis Preve has delved into remaking the D-50’s synthesis approach, with or without Roland hardware – while we’re talking about the 80s.)

And this isn’t just nostalgia, partly because this stuff takes practice.

Talk about practice: Martin Walker makes the SID sing.

The radar engineer-turned programmer-turned composer, Mr. Walker is something of a legend in chip music circles. His productions are just dense. It wasn’t just chip music, either – he’s gone on to other projects, including circuit bending, composition on other instruments (like he likes the Chromaphone plug-in as much as I do), and has seen bylines in Sound on Sound.

Commodore Format reported yesterday that he’ll make a return to C64 music for the first time in almost 30 years.

Here’s the thing: far from nostalgic, those 80s creations sound positively forward. Here are a few:

Dragon Breed

Altered Beast

Indiana Jones: Fate of Atlantis

(this is a funny one for me, as this game was oddly a favorite of my composition teacher in college…)

Speedball 2 [love this]

And a whole collection of “Walker’s Warblers”:

Full list of his creations:


And his own site/label/project:


We’ll be watching Commodore Format for the news this Friday, because… the future ain’t what it used to be?


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Blue’s new mic boom seems an obvious accessory for the DIY age

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 12 Mar 2018 6:42 pm

It’s a fairly mundane thing – it’s a boom arm for a microphone. But Blue’s latest accessory, aimed at desktop computer users, seems ripe as DIY publishing starts to think audio.

There’s certainly no absence of gear and toys now aimed at streaming and broadcasting, a market that now covers everything from podcasting to game streaming. But most of that has focused on video, and ignored sound.

And strangely enough, while there are all kind of floor booms, boom mics and shocks that sit next to you aren’t as easy to find as you might hope. These have tended to target the old “broadcast” market – and so, if you walk into a radio station, you’ll see all kinds of solutions. In studios, not so much.

Blue Microphones have been really clever about straddling the line between what had been thought of as the “pro” and “consumer” market – distinctions that sound a bit quaint now. But whether or not you buy into their line of mics, this universal boom looks intriguing. It’s called Compass, referring to its 360-degree movement.

It seems various people could benefit from having this mic positioning near a computer at all times, even for solo production – when you might want to sing a line or even do something more experimental like use a mic as an input to control synths. (And then, if you’re doing voiceover on a Pro Tools tutorial for some extra money, all the better.)

The basic idea: make the boom attach to your desk, then have a 360 degree swivel so you can get it in a comfortable position when you need it – without that swiveling making sound.

The boom/stand is $99.99 on its own, and it works with any number of heavy mics – you’ll need to bring your own shockmount. Or there’s the US$199.99 bundle of the Radius III shockmount, the Compass boom, and a Blue Yeti mic.

I’ll try to get one in for test.


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Blue’s new mic boom seems an obvious accessory for the DIY age

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 12 Mar 2018 6:42 pm

It’s a fairly mundane thing – it’s a boom arm for a microphone. But Blue’s latest accessory, aimed at desktop computer users, seems ripe as DIY publishing starts to think audio.

There’s certainly no absence of gear and toys now aimed at streaming and broadcasting, a market that now covers everything from podcasting to game streaming. But most of that has focused on video, and ignored sound.

And strangely enough, while there are all kind of floor booms, boom mics and shocks that sit next to you aren’t as easy to find as you might hope. These have tended to target the old “broadcast” market – and so, if you walk into a radio station, you’ll see all kinds of solutions. In studios, not so much.

Blue Microphones have been really clever about straddling the line between what had been thought of as the “pro” and “consumer” market – distinctions that sound a bit quaint now. But whether or not you buy into their line of mics, this universal boom looks intriguing. It’s called Compass, referring to its 360-degree movement.

It seems various people could benefit from having this mic positioning near a computer at all times, even for solo production – when you might want to sing a line or even do something more experimental like use a mic as an input to control synths. (And then, if you’re doing voiceover on a Pro Tools tutorial for some extra money, all the better.)

The basic idea: make the boom attach to your desk, then have a 360 degree swivel so you can get it in a comfortable position when you need it – without that swiveling making sound.

The boom/stand is $99.99 on its own, and it works with any number of heavy mics – you’ll need to bring your own shockmount. Or there’s the US$199.99 bundle of the Radius III shockmount, the Compass boom, and a Blue Yeti mic.

I’ll try to get one in for test.


The post Blue’s new mic boom seems an obvious accessory for the DIY age appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Crazy8Beats puts MIDI, analog sequencing, and insanity in one unit

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 8 Mar 2018 6:40 pm

This boutique hardware melds live performance and programming, MIDI and analog triggers, into one desktop pattern maker. And it’s now shipping.

One of the nice things about Roland’s TR-8S this week is that it doesn’t try too hard to be a sequencer. That is, it’s a drum machine with the ability to do some triggering, but it doesn’t get wrapped up in so much functionality that it starts to get complicated.

All of this leaves room for desktop boxes that really focus on creating patterns. And ideally, they’d be suited not just to people who want to do a lot of involved programming, but might limber up their fingers and play live, too.

That’s essentially what the Crazy8Beats from Twisted Electrons is. True to their roots in making weird boxes for acid and chip music, they’ve packed it with features for lots of pattern permutations. But unlike some past attempts by other boutique makers, they’ve kept those features handy with one-touch buttons. (You know, I’m beginning to think that one easy test is – look for sequencers with either simplified screens or no screen at all, if you crave hands-on tactile control.)

The price is at EUR303, but integrates both MIDI I/O and plenty of dedicated trigger outs. So it’ll talk to your MIDI gear. It’ll talk to your analog gear. And if you must, you can even bolt it in a Eurorack case (though it seems way easier to access if it’s flat on a surface).

What I suspect may make this one tantalizing to people, though – in addition to that clever MIDI and analog integration, and a big punch-board style display showing off the different tracks – you get per-track swing and a “crazy” feature with live remixing and randomization.

Plus, you can modulate CC as well as patterns

So… it’s crazy. Oh, yeah, it’s crazy.

Check this nice walkthrough:

Or trip along as Liquid Sky Berlin puts this in action on some acid-flavored madness with other gear:

Via gearporn.berlin


8 Hybrid Analog/MIDI Tracks

8 MIDI tracks, 3 MIDI ports (1 In & 2 Out)
8 Analog Trigger outputs

Variable Accent/CV output per step

MIDI velocity amount, CC modulation, or both per step.
8BIT 0-5V Analog CV output per step

Trigger input/output to sync Crazy8Beats to other devices
MIDI input to receive MIDI clock and set up parameters
MIDI Clock sent on both ports
16 patterns per track
Up to 16 steps per pattern
Individual patterns change per voice (or all at once)
Up to 16 patterns can be chained to create a song
4 play modes per track (forward, reverse,ping pong, random)
Copy, Paste, Clearing of patterns
8 Levels of Swing per track
Crazy feature enables probability and live remixing of patterns
Rhythmic Drill effect with variable rate

16 Pads can be used to punch record patterns live or program visually.

The pads are backlit to provide visual feedback of the pattern you are programming and the tracks that are active.

64 Step LEDs enable you to see 4 tracks advance at any time.

Shipping now.

EUR303 including VAT.


The post Crazy8Beats puts MIDI, analog sequencing, and insanity in one unit appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Arturia now let you add classic filters and preamps to anything

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 8 Mar 2018 1:49 pm

Here’s a simple sales pitch: preamps and filters you’ll actually use. No, seriously – that’s the real product name. Here’s a look at what Arturia just unveiled.

It does seem these days we’re being offered recreations of the same gear in a slightly dizzying combination, but here’s another set. Arturia this time have come up with models of three preamps, plus three filters.

Of the two sets, the filters seem the most useful. (We’d have to do a proper shootout – maybe with blind A/B testing and the original gear – because the pres are everywhere.) The filters, for their part, are a unique take: the fact that you can just tear off these popular filters and insert them wherever you want.

Here’s what you’ve got, with those cheeky product names:

3 Preamps You’ll Actually Use
1073-Pre = Rupert Neve solid-state preamp, with different transformers selectable
TridA-Pre = Trident Studio A range
V76-Pre = Telefunken tube (hello “White Album”), now with shelf EQ

To be fair, some of these models are glued into something else (like a channel strip model), so it’s potentially useful to have dedicated models like this.

3 Filters You’ll Actually Use

SEM-Filter = Oberheim meets a sequencer
Mini-Filter = Moog ladder filter
M12-Filter = Tom Oberheim Matrix-12 multi-mode filters

Here’s where this all gets interesting – that M12. You get twin filters, random generators, a modulation matrix, and programmable envelopes. So these three filter tools essentially add modular filtering to anywhere you want it in a DAW – and that’s a big deal.

And the filters are the good deal, too – US$99 intro price. (After that, it’s $199 – but a hundred bucks for this could unlock a really powerful sound tool).

The pres are $199 intro, $299 after that. That’s in more competitive waters, as there are quite a few models you can get for those prices. Arturia do have an interesting take on the design and UI here, at least.

Existing Arturia users will find their pricing gets a whole lot cheaper… and that’s where I suspect these suddenly get more tempting.

Now, all that said, if you really want a bargain buy, consider investing in something like Reaktor, which is an entire, open modular environment for the price of what a lot of standalone tools are these days. (Or Max/MSP. Or VCV Rack or Pd, which get yo into this for free – if you’re willing to invest an amount of time – okay, to be fair, sometimes a considerable amount of time!)

But those filters look tasty. And it’s simply awesome being able to drop them anywhere you want in a DAW! (This pairs nicely with that sequenced filter that just got added to Apple’s Logic. I see a lot of filtering in our future.)

The best way to understand what’s here is in the pics, so have a look.


Here’s the best bit – getting the Matrix-12 anywhere you want it, complete with powerful modulation and envelope options.

SEM and still more sequencing.

Minimoog filter mania.

Telefunken pre.

Trident. (The preamp, not the missile.)

And of course, Yet Another Neve emulation.

The post Arturia now let you add classic filters and preamps to anything appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Roland TR-8S hands-on: a more playable, powerful drum machine

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 5 Mar 2018 9:00 am

Roland today unveils the TR-8S, an updated take on the AIRA TR-8 drum machine. We’ve been testing it – and it looks like exactly the sequel we all wanted.

Basically, if you threw out the limitations of the original TR-8, put it in a more attractive case, and expanded the sound and performance powers of the box, of course you’d make us happy.

So the TR-8S loads your own samples, atop a wider, updated range of built-in models of classic Roland gear and preloaded sonds. It’s more playable and immediate, thanks to expanded controls and functions. It has effects sends for each part, plus a bunch of new effects to choose from. It lets you record automation, so you can make the sound shift along with your drum patterns. It integrates more easily with other gear, thanks to separate audio outs, and with your computer, thanks to a multichannel USB connection that also lets you use the onboard effects.

To put it even more simply: the TR-8S makes more sounds, and it’s more fun to play. Oh yeah, and it looks pretty instead of fugly.

It’s still not a sampler – you only get sample playback. And it’s not a new drum synth – while it models the original Roland machines, there are only emulations of old circuitry, not any new models.

But instead of just feeling like an 808/909 rehash, the new TR-8S really feels like a new hub for sequencing and drum parts, one that is equally at home with gear or a computer.

Price – US$699 (EUR699 with VAT), available this month.

But as I’ve had some time to play, let’s take a closer look.

Breaking down the new features

Let’s not forget the reasons the TR-8 became a hit, shortcomings or no. It pretty well nailed widely-used 808 and 909 sounds and behaviors. But that alone wouldn’t be enough – to become a live gigging favorite, the TR-8 had to also add hands-on controls. And that seems to be why so many people adopted it. The faders alone make it instantly more appealing than a whole host of competing drum machines. It means you can actually play the thing, as if it’s an instrument. So any number of fancy, expensive drum machines are useless as live instruments if you’re navigating those features by diving through menus rather than playing them.

The problem with the original was, the box wasn’t much more than a nice interface to those sound models. Even adding 727 sounds was a paid add-on. And the available effects were limited. Plus there was the weird “scatter” function, which scrambled patterns rhythmic variations and effects in a way that seemed to cater to EDM fans, but afforded very little control. And let’s not get started on the toy-like green case and blinding lights.

The “S” revision does more than just address some shortcomings. It manages to present a much more capable device, all round.

More sounds. The TR-8S has a host of sounds included right out of the box: 808, 606, 909, 707, and (Latin!) 727. (Let’s assume they’re saving the Roland CR-78 for a small Boutique Series remake?) Roland also says these now incorporate new modeling tech running on a new processor, though I haven’t yet been able to evaluate how that compares to their other recent gear.

Note again that this means they’ve modeled the analog circuitry of their original analog drum machines, not simply included samples of the sounds those make. That’s the Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) technology they like to tout.

The unique ploy here is being able to mix up that engine with other sample-based sounds, including your own.

Sample loading. That “S” in the name is obviously for sample playback. There are a bunch of new built-in samples, plus an SD card slot round the back of the unit. Load your own samples there, and adjust basic parameters (speed, start point, direction).

You can’t load big one-shots, so this is about custom kits, not playing stems or backing tracks. There’s no live sampling capability, either.

But you do get to build kits up from your own sounds or mix and match with the TR’s circuit models.

Smarter, more fluid rhythms and expression. The step sequencer is of course part of the draw of the TR line. But now you can break up some of the potential monotony of that interface. Sub-steps and fills let you program in more complex rhythms. (The original TR-8 let you do basic fills and variations, but now you can hit one button and program in exact sub-steps.)

You can also automate fills and variations. You can add 8 variations and chain up to 128 steps. (The previous model lacked chaining and additional variations.)

In addition to step-programming accent, you can also use a single, velocity-sensitive pad for adding more levels of velocity live. This isn’t an MPC by any means, but it fits the workflow of the Roland, while allowing more nuanced performances. You can add flam, too, via the step sequencer. And all of this is just as easy as toggling steps normally is – so complex rhythms become easily accessible.

This unassuming green pad lets you add velocity and not just push-button steps and accents.

The other reason all of this matters: think of the TR-8S as a powerful rhythm programmer. Because it has trigger outs, you can use this power with synths and other drum machines, not just the internal TR sound engine.

More patterns and automatic chaining mean the TR-8S lets you make more complicated rhythms – but while retaining the simplicity of the original. The same is true of adding subdivisions to a rhythm. Tap “sub” and you can add more complex rhythms on an individual step.

For automating variations, you can now use sophisticated fill controls.

Powerful effects. The first TR-8 had some basic effects, but the TR-8S has effects that work both on individual parts and on the master, with more complete control over each. There are independent stereo reverb and delay sends for each instrument.

You simply dial in the effect you want, and then it’s always there for use from the CTRL knob on each part.

Above those signature faders, a new third “control” knob is assignable and lets you tweak parameters and effects sends for each part.

Everything is tweakable. Each sound gets its own tune and decay parameter, plus an assignable controller (the additional knob) which you can use to gain access to more parameters or to the effects sends. This means you can take those TR sounds and warp them, or work with your own samples in new ways. And those three knobs let you shape sounds as you play.

You can also record motion automation and add it to patterns. That was definitely an oversight on the original TR-8, but now that it’s here, it pairs nicely with the new rhythmic features and assignable controllers.

Multichannel connections with gear and computers. Separate outputs – at last!

For use with gear, you get eight separate outputs, plus a stereo external audio input. This means you could trigger external gear, use external effects, add internal effects to external gear, and use external mixing and recording. (You don’t get melodic sequencing – you’ll have to do that externally – but the interface of the TR-8 isn’t really built around that anyway.)

Connect via USB, and you get not only MIDI I/O, but multichannel I/O with all those audio ports. You can use just a USB cable to connect to the Roland MX-1 mixer, too, via what they call AIRA Link. You can also even route round-trip to the TR-8S’ effects from a computer. (Why would you do that? Simple – still more controls, all in the same interface.)

Loads of I/O – input plus separate outputs/triggers. Connect to a computer, and all of this is also an audio/MIDI interface.

Flexible lighting. It’s not just the green trim that’s gone. The LEDs now seem designed for users and not just to look flashy in music retailers. So in addition to dimming the lights, you can set color and glow options to keep track of what you’re using.

What it’s like to use

The important thing to me about the TR-8S isn’t really its power on paper, but the fact that you get all of this as something you can play and improvise with.

There’s some light menu navigation required to get things working the way you want – deciding what the CTRL knob for each part does, adjusting a particular parameter, selecting your kit.

But then once that’s done, everything is accessible without menus or complexity of any kind, in a spacious, obvious control layout. That frees you up to focus on rhythm and sound, directly through physical interaction – not through a bunch of programming and editing.

I spent an afternoon with Nick de Friez from Roland here in Berlin, combining the TR-8S with a MakeNoise 0-Coast semi-modular synth and an original Roland SH-101. (A newer SH-01A would be an obvious substitute.)

We actually had two TR-8S units on hand, so … we used both of them. (I manually synced by mashing the play buttons at the same time, which works. Nudge is also available. MIDI out between the two units won’t work until Roland adds the ability to disable note information being sent over MIDI.)

And here’s some extended audio of the four instruments together. Some of those crazy sounds are the new effects on the TR-8S:

What I learned here was: this is a heck of a lot of pure, unadulterated fun. And it’s fun that’s uniquely easy to share with others, because the front panel is roomy and easy to understand.

I’ve also uploaded audio – not so much to try to document the sound of the box, so much as the expanded range of rhythms and sounds that come from its new functionality, and how freeing that might be in a real-world live improv.

Bottom Line?

Roland’s own moniker for the first TR-8 was “rhythm performer.” What’s cool about the TR-8S is that it actually delivers on that idea.

It was easy to see the first round of AIRA as just an inexpensive reboot of stuff from the past. But I think it’d be unfair to characterize the TR-8S that way. It now presents a really complete sequencing workflow, and a set of use cases for outboard gear (both analog and digital), and for combination with a computer.

Do you still need to be an 808/909/vintage Roland fan to apply? Yeah, probably. But that no longer has to be the end of the story.

What already promises to set the TR-8S apart is, it has an unparalleled amount of sequencing power right on the front power, coupled with those sounds.

Consider the main competitors in this price bracket. MFB’s boxes are cool, but they’re mainly about sound. Elektron’s Digitakt is cute and compact and powerful, but that power isn’t nearly as accessible under your fingertips – and it lacks separate outs for instruments and triggers. Arturia’s DrumBrute has full analog synthesis for each part coupled with dedicated controls specific to them, and 12 separate outputs. It’s arguably more focused as an instrument, to be sure – but it’s more limited in sound (synth only, no samples) and sequencing (roll your finger along a touch strip for live rolls, but none of the sub-step and more powerful variation and fill features of the TR-8S).

Here’s the funny thing: each of these boxes becomes a nice pairing with the TR-8S.

The first AIRA was middle-of-the-road thanks to a friendly interface and known sounds. But this one does that and then also can literally sit at the center of the other gear you might like to use. It removes the kind of limitations that might make you make boring sounds or boring music, but keeps the simplicity so that people can feel free to jam.

Really, if there’s anything bad to say about the TR-8S, it’s that Roland aren’t using their circuit modeling techniques to open up this box to new sounds. We have software with great drum synths (including recent releases of Ableton Live and Maschine), and new hardware with new synthesized drum (Moog DFAM, Arturia DrumBrute), and modular, and so on. And we have a ton of music that already uses those sounds. The absence of solo and undo – plus MIDI transmit options – cry out for a firmware update already, too.

But apart from those criticisms, everything about this box – the balance of the design, its capabilities – represents the best of what we’d hope for from Roland. And I think the combined utility of this box will make it wildly popular onstage.

Expect this to be one of the devices that helps lead the charge toward spreading more live sets.

There’s more to say about the specifics of how MIDI and performance options work (and some room for improvement in some of these details for future firmware updates). So expect more on this topic soon, plus some videos Roland is producing on how the gear is used.

The post Roland TR-8S hands-on: a more playable, powerful drum machine appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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