Meet Teenage Engineerings’ new trio of Pocket Operators

Priced at $59, inspired by vintage Nintendo Game & Watch, and looking like calculators, the Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator line was a runaway hit. So, just adding three more of them seems a no-brainer. Then again, with drum machines, bass synth, and lead synth covered, the next three might easily have been an anticlimax. Good news for Teenage Engineering fans: they aren’t. The Stockholm designers have managed three retro-tinted follow-ups that might easily make as big a splash the originals.

Photo (CC-BY) Kevin Wong.

A free app makes a TI graphing calculator make music

“I’m the operator with my pocket calculator.” No — like, actually. HoustonTracker 2 runs on the TI-82/83/83+/84+ Texas Instruments graphing pocket calculators – the kind you probably had to buy for your high school math class. And it doesn’t just make the calculator into a sequencer. All the sounds come straight out of the calculator itself, thanks to some gorgeous-sounding 1-bit noises. (Who needs those 15 or so extra bits, anyway? This is beautiful.) What do I mean? Just watch:


Akai’s Midimix is a $99 USB Mixer Controller With One Key Feature

Akai’s new US$99.99 Midimix is built on a simple idea – so much so that you could easily miss it. But one button makes it much more useful than its nearest rivals. First, the obvious: yes, it’s a MIDI controller with a mixer layout. So, there are eight line faders and a master fader, 3 knobs per channel (for EQ), and dedicated mute (switchable to solo) and record arm buttons, plus bank controls. That’s it – no extra functions, no confusing mappings. And then there’s one very obvious but clever button: SEND ALL. Hit SEND ALL, and you fire off …


Turn a Rock Band Keytar Into a Mellotron, And More Standalone Instruments

Lurking in the bargain bins of game shops is a surprisingly well-built keyboard. The Rock Band “keytar” controller may have been made for games, but the keybed is solid, the thing is light, and it can run on batteries. So why not turn it into a standalone instrument? That’s what Jamie Robertson has done with his, and he shows you how. The magic here is something he calls the WAV Trigger. Without naming any names, while there are a lot of cool Arduino shields and the like out there, a lot of them are pretty functionally limited. They’re cool to …


Teenage Engineering’s Tiny, $50 Drum Machine, Revealed in Videos

It’s called the PO-12. It’s $50. It’s absolutely tiny – a little stand props it up, inspired by the Nintendo Game & Watch. And it’s already sounding like a drum machine. The drum machine first revealed to the world at a panel I moderated at Moogfest is finally, after manufacturing and customs delays, making its way to a select group of first owners – mainly VIPs and artists from that festival. What you’re seeing here is just a prototype; Teenage Engineering now says they’ll have a fully fleshed-out version some time in 2015. There are two things, apart from the …


volca Goodies: Free volca beats Sample Library, $8 Editor-Control Panel, MIDI Out

The love of all things volca continues, as enthusiastic owners of KORG’s boxes create their own accessories. The latest: a sample library (meaning you don’t even need to own the volca), a fantastic editor/control panel package that works standalone or in Ableton Live, and a MIDI output mod. Free volca beats Sounds: First, let’s have a listen to a dark, dirty, free sample library from Dark Side of the Tune, aptly named Volca Beats. The Volca Beats was put through multiple gain stages and frequency modulation to create even more depth and range. From quick thumpy sounds for techno and …


Roll Your Own Looper, Cheap: Raspberry Pi + Pd + KORG monotron Hands-on

If computers are compact and $25, we’re talking a very different world of music hardware. Armed with the popular Raspberry Pi, Servando Barreiro has made an incredibly-affordable, ultimately-customizable rig with free software and the open source community. Oh, and he’s made the KORG monotron polyphonic – after a fashion. See video at top for some beautiful chords. And that’s just the beginning. We’ll let Servando share how he’s working.


Raspberry Pi, Your Next $25 Computer Synth? First Hacks Appearing

Apple may have started the conversation about the “post-PC” age. But part of what this means is that a “computer” doesn’t necessarily have to be something costing hundreds of dollars, in a conventional desktop or laptop form factor. It could look more like the Raspberry Pi, at US$25 and squeezed into a tin of mints. Suddenly, all those years of music software development are liberated from the big, pricey boxes on which we’ve run them all these years. The Raspberry Pi Synthesizer blog documents a project dedicated to this particular device, with a clever UI and yes, even polyphony. There’s …


Useful Music Tools, Built with Max 6, Released on the Mac App Store: Downloads, Developer Info

Make it with Max, sell it here. Photo: CDM. (and yes, this is now the desktop, not the mobile, App Store!) If you’re a Mac user, we’ve got some cheap and free tools for you. And if you’re a Max patcher, you may be surprised with how they were built: they were all exported from Max 6. This week, we welcome a guest writer developer Dan Nigrin. Amidst some new controversy about Apple and app distribution, here Dan looks at how Apple’s marketplace can indeed be useful to developers using Max 6, the popular graphical patching tool. (Incidentally, the libpd …


Lovely Christmas Songbook for iPad, Built with Open Source Scoring Tools (More Platforms Coming)

Have an uncommon yule with tools and music from the Commons. That’s the pitch (so to speak) of the Ultimate Christmas Songbook, an iPad app built with 50 Christmas songs and a fully free and open source notation engine. Making use of public domain songs, the number of songs available continues to grow as the community contributes tunes. (Those contributors got the app for free.) As notation proliferates on tablets, the app also suggests that “commercial” doesn’t have to mean “closed.” The scores themselves are available in open, cross-platform formats (MIDI, MusicXML, MuseScore, and PDF). But by generating revenues, the …