What if we used stereo minijack cables for MIDI?

“It was acceptable in the 80s…” The standard MIDI DIN cable – that’s the big honkin’ connector you use on most of your MIDI gear – has become the bane of music hardware makers. The problem is, as gear has gotten smaller, the standard DIN connector hasn’t. And that’s a big problem, literally. To add a MIDI port to a device, you need to not only have enough clearance for the connector itself, but the whole around the port and the physical assembly that contains it. Speaking as a hardware maker, that takes up space you can’t even see from …

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beatstepproangle

Watch how Arturia’s BeatStep Pro sequences all your gear – mega meta roundup

Do call it a comeback. The hardware sequencer, once a forgotten relic of the computer age, has returned with a vengeance. And the reason is simple: we need it. Sure, we might play with a computer, but we’ve fallen for other synthesizers and drum machines – a lot of it quite cheap, too. We want hands-on control so we can play live again, improvise with our hands rather than furrow our brows over a mouse and screen. And we might even have beloved analog gear and want it to groove along with everything else. Few companies represent the blossoming of …

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meeblipstep

How to Sequence on a Budget with the Arturia BeatStep and MeeBlip anode

It’s no step backward. Standalone hardware is now smaller, lighter, more affordable, more capable, and easier to use than before. So why not help focus on a live gig or creating musical ideas by getting away from the computer now and then? This video from Meta Micro Labs shows how easy it is to plug in and get going – even if you’ve never worked this way before. And it stars the MeeBlip anode, our own humble monosynth (co-produced with CDM), featuring our gritty bass sound with analog filter. The timing is right, as we’ve just put anode on sale …

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minibrutehack

Hack Arturia’s MiniBrute, MicroBrute for More Synth Goodness

Arturia’s quirky, compact, unmistakable-sounding MiniBrute – and the patchable MicroBrute – are among some of the nicer desktop instruments to hit recently. But you can make them do more with hacking. And that’s especially relevant as the original MiniBrute goes on sale. The MiniBrute is already a nice synth. Sure, it’s not as compact as the more recent MicroBrute and lacks that synth’s cute little modulation patching section, but you also get full-sized keys, and it’s still a lovely instrument. The trick is, you can hack it to add an SH-101-inspired step sequencer as found on the MicroBrute and the …

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The Snap-Together Studio: What littleBits Can Do Now

For all the power you might imagine of various tools, sometimes it’s combining simple devices that yields the greatest results. Our friend Chris Stack is no stranger to deep synths and powerful modulars. But he’s been doing inspiring things with the littleBits line of snap-together modules made with KORG – particularly now that they’re paired with modules for MIDI and CV. You might have seen some of these videos on (cough) other sites, while I was getting behind in my workload, but Chris has kept making more in the interim. He writes: “I was able to hook LittleBits into my …

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Advance_61

This Video Demonstrates How Akai’s New Keyboard Controls Everything

It’s a horse race. Two keyboards – one from Native Instruments, one from AKAI – really want to be the interface between you and every plug-in you own. And we’re getting closer to find out if either deserves your attention. You’ve heard this story before. Sure, you have powerful software on your computer screen. But when you want physical control of those instruments beyond just playing keys, you’re left either manually mapping controls or reaching for your mouse or trackpad. So, over the years various solutions have tried to solve this automagically. There was Automap, seen in Propellerhead Reason and …

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This is the Latest Music Gear, in Pictures: Musikmesse Photo Essay

Some people have to go to trade shows that cover nothing but various types of floor tiles. We’re fortunate that we get to go to one about musical instruments. Benjamin Weiss, seasoned German journalist and now product designer, as well, lets us see through his eyes at the show. I have to say, to anyone who has been to California’s NAMM show but not Musikmesse, the entire feeling is different. Space is spread out and oddly quiet; meetings include leisurely meals of Bratwurst and beer in the sunshine. Whereas the nerdiest sound technologies at NAMM are often relegated to hidden …

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propack

Now littleBits Modules Play with MIDI, USB, CV: Videos

littleBits’ Synth Kit began as a lot of fun. Snap together small bare boards connected by custom magnets, and you can create basic synthesizers, or mix and match more exotic littleBits modules light light sensors. No soldering or cable connections are required. But while you could use various littleBits components, your options were comparatively limited as far as connecting to other gear. That changes today with the release of new modules for MIDI, USB, and analog Control Voltage (CV), ranging $35-40 each. There are three modules, each made in collaboration with KORG: You can also buy a US$139.95 “Synth Pro …

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Why BeatStep Pro Could Become the Heart of Your Live Rig

The original Arturia BeatStep already looked good. Start with a compact drum pad controller, add some encoders for more control, then add a step sequencer that can control MIDI and analog gear. But the problem is, the execution of the sequencer idea is complex. It turns out you need even simple sequencers to do a lot. And so the original BeatStep, while still an amazing buy for a hundred bucks, was a little disappointing. It was just hard to actually sequence on the thing. You could get one sequence going, but that’s not enough for really playing, and simple rhythmic …

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poundforpound

Watch How Much Hardware You Can Jam With On a Budget

Who said electronic musical bliss required deep pockets? We’ve seen a steady flow of budget-minded gear over the last few years. What makes this equipment special isn’t just that it’s cheaper. It also has personality and produces distinctive sounds, loads of hands-on control, and fits compactly into carry-on luggage, meaning it’s a no-brainer on the road and in small live performance spaces. That’s encouraging more people to play live. MeeBlip owner Zachary Hollback sent over a video that sums up why this can be fun. This isn’t necessarily about inventing new kinds of music: it really is, in the mode …

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