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Watch these video reviews of 303, 909 and comparisons to originals

Now, with the embargo lifted on new Roland gear, brace yourself for a lot of discussion. On some level, any comparison of a $349-$399 new gadget to anything before it is a bit silly – when original 909s start selling for three figures, let us know. And I think starting with a direct comparison misses the point: the TR-909 and TB-303 sound terrific, and you’re unlikely to record or play either totally dry. (Classic records, uh, used processing too, ya know?) Relax and go enjoy a great drum machine and bassline.

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Roland and Serato made a monster DJ controller that does everything

What do you get when you combine Roland and Serato? Well, a little bit of everything, it turns out. The flagship DJ-808 is a monster mixer controller sampler step sequencer audio interface drum machine vocoder. (Whew!) Some of its functionality is provided in the hardware itself; some is a control interface to Serato software on a computer. But together, you get a device that is perhaps the most ambitious all-in-one DJ gizmo yet.

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fluXpad is an insanely immediate music drawing tool for iPad

Make an interface simpler, and you might push your musical expression further. That’s the realization you have using fluXpad, a new drawing app. It’s not that it’s a dumbed-down rendition of other tools. It’s that doodling with sounds is a totally different experience than the point-and-click fine editing you might be used to.

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Zoom’s weird frisbee groove machine looks fun in this Japanese video

The ZOOM ARQ AR-96 can be filed confidently under “wha?” in the annals of music tech. It’s a round, all-in-one groovebox with drum machine, loads of patterns and sounds, and synths. Oh yeah, and there’s a rechargeable, detachable doughnut/frisbee, uh, thing, which has velocity-sensitive touch sensors and responds to orientation so you can wave it around. Basically, it’s insane. But as at least one friend of mine suspected, it could also be insanely fun. No English-language reviewers could really do this thing justice. No, for that we turn to musictrackjp – who do better demos, anyway. Sure, 97% of CDM’s …

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Watch this futuristic Roland TR-808 ad to celebrate 808 day

Who would have thought in 1980 that the Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer would change drum machines and dance music forever? If you went out dancing this weekend, you probably heard its distinctive sounds. Well, if you’re the sort of person who cracks a smile every time you check the time and it’s 8:08am, you’re probably already doing something to celebrate the eighth of August, “808 day.” So here’s a video for even more. Clarification: The ad copy in this ad’s voiceover? All totally real. This is actually text Roland used to describe their TR-808 in ads from the era – …

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Novation just packed more into small, affordable Circuit box

It’s tiny. It’s battery powered. It costs just over US$300 street. But Novation’s Circuit sample/drum/synth groovebox has been squeezing in a whole lot of functionality that makes it into a really serious tool, great for starting ideas or jamming or playing live. And we’ve been testing the latest build, version 1.3, for some days now. It’s available to everyone free right now, and it adds some significant changes that make this tool more flexible than ever. Let’s have a look.

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Meet Skram, the free iPad app full of patterns and synths

We’ve reached the mature age of music apps. You’re likely to use fewer of them, and the landscape is saturated with the most popular ideas. It’s also clear that iPad, not Android, is the viable tablet platform. But the few apps that are left standing as serious music tools are better than ever. They’re easier to integrate with your computer and standalone hardware, and they feel more like instruments and less like toys. They walk some line between making music production more accessible to beginners, and offering refreshing simplicity to people who are mixing them with other gear. And Skram, …

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Zont is a futuristic pocket synth that takes snap-in cartridges

Time to start singing about how we’re the operator with our pocket calculator again. The ZONT Synthesizer is an upcoming handheld instrument. And it’s what one designer imagines for the synths of the future. Apart from being tiny, you can change its function by snapping cartridges in and out – Game Boy style. And whereas we think of synths now as big, clunky boxes with wires coming out of them, the ZONT can either plug into a desktop dock for connectivity or connect wirelessly. We’ve had a chat with its designer to see what’s in store.

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Ruismaker is an iOS drum synth that feels like hardware, works like a plug-in

Software drum machines aren’t kingmakers the way hardware is. So Bram Bos of Eindhoven is not a household name the way, say, certain hardware makers are. But back in the 90s, Bram’s HammerHead Rhythm Station was one of the first pieces of software that showed what a drum machine in software could be. Flash forward to 2016. Bram is here with an iOS app that’s all drum synth – no samples. And while that puts it in a category with some other apps, it takes a slightly different approach. First, Bram advertises it as “the most hands-on” option for iOS. …

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Elektron sell off the final Machinedrum, Monomachine

It’s the end of an era. The Elektron Machinedrum (2001) and Monomachine (2003) will see this month their last batch from manufacturing. It’s pretty remarkable how far these machines have come – spurred on by passionate users and a string of software updates that kept them fresh. Our Swedish friends at Elektron aren’t being terribly subtle with their marketing announcing the event, either, going for a funeral motif. Wait. Let’s back up. These are new units arriving, and unless a software update is going all Blade Runner on these things, not sure “funeral” was what they were looking for. But …

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