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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novationhardware

Here Are Two Rigs That Let You Play Live with Hardware [Videos]

A funny thing happened on the way to the future. Thing is, at the same time the computer has improved as a music-making instrument, so, too, has standalone hardware. The reality is, hardware rigs for music making are more affordable and more accessible than they ever were before. They do more, better. They’re easier to use. And when it comes time to record and arrange, the computer doesn’t require the investment of cost and time it once did, either. So the upshot is, even the computer is making it easier to spend some time working with hardware. And that means …

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Squint, and you might see Arturia's new audio interface.

Arturia Teases an Audio Interface to Fix All Your Problems

Word had already hit the street that Arturia was working on a new audio interface. Now, the company has announced its agenda for the product – and set the NAMM show at the end of January as a release date. And, boy, are they being ambitious. Basically, if you can name a complaint about audio interfaces, Arturia is promising a solution. Let’s count their litany of problems to solve: 1. One-knob setups. UA’s Apollo Twin, Focusrite’s Forte, and (leading the trend) Apogee’s Duet have all popularized this trend (first seen on devices like NI’s since-discontinued Audio Kontrol 1). I never …

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TriggerBox-iPad_mini

Free iOS App Plays Synths Like MicroBrute, Analog Gear – Out of Your Headphone Jack

Your next modular input might just be an iPad or iPhone headphone jack. Control voltage inputs, once associated only with racks of modular synths, are now showing up on all kinds of synthesizers and keyboards. Arturia’s MicroBrute and MiniBrute are two very lovely, very affordable examples, priced less than most entry-level digital synths were just a few short years ago. And since all you need is a sound signal to modulate those inputs, even a phone or tablet app will do the trick. Developer Justus Kandzi, who came to one of our music app meet ups here in Berlin, has …

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Hey, there's a modular inside my drum machine. Images courtesy Arturia.

Watch Arturia Spark 2, as $129 Drum Machine Adds Modular Sound Design, Song and Loop Powers

For all the wonders of the hardware drum machine, there’s nothing quite like the flexibility of the software drum machine. More than mere groove-makers, beneath the conventional and familiar drum machine paradigm lies some real potential for sample manipulation and sound design. Native Instruments won over users by demonstrating the hybrid hardware/software workflow in Maschine, and various software instruments (FXpansion, anyone?) have put pressure on hardware with the sheer range of what they can do. But somewhere in the shadow of Maschine and Akai’s MPC Renaissance, Arturia’s Spark has been a little-known, compact, inexpensive challenger. And that’s why Spark 2 …

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The $100 BeatStep Sequencer and Controller: Everything You Want to Know [Review, Resources]

Even if Arturia’s BeatStep did nothing other than act as a dumb controller, it might get your attention. The compact control surface / sequencer hardware runs about $100 street. As a controller, it has both 16 pads and 16 endless encoders (with notches, so you can feel where you are), plus transport triggers and a larger encoder. With driverless USB operation, some of you will already be happy and can proceed. But the BeatStep is more ambitious than that. It has sophisticated software customization via a companion program, and a built-in step sequencer. It operates standalone, with MIDI gadgets or …

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Inside BeatStep: $99 Step Sequencer and Controller Looks Compact, Versatile [Q+A, Videos]

Every new season brings new music tools. Some of these designs, of course, are splashy and grab headlines. Some just look like no-brainers that will see heavy use in your work. Arturia’s BeatStep stood out at the recent NAMM trade show as just an insanely-great use of a hundred bucks, in a tiny box that sort of does everything you’d want. It’s a pad controller. But it’s also a step sequencer. It connects to your computer via USB. But it also does analog CV and MIDI (via breakouts) when your computer isn’t around. It works as a controller. It works …

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