When Novation’s little Circuit came out, it was already an appealing, simple box for making music. You got two polysynths and a four-part drum machine built in, coupled with a step sequencer, RGB pads and encoders for control, and MIDI, all for just a hair above $300. At the same time, though, you were restricted to the built-in sounds. Today, Novation are unveiling a bunch of updates that open up the machine to more customization – to personalizing it for your own use.
We know an iPad can augment a music setup. But the question for many is, can it replace a computer? Arturia’s iSpark isn’t shy about what it accomplishes. It really looks a whole lot like the company’s drum machine on desktop, only remade for iPad. And it even works with the dedicated SparkLE controller – meaning you now can go pad controller + iPad as you could controller + computer. It also comes with Ableton Link, for easy syncing and jamming with other apps, other iPads/iPhones, and Ableton Live (in any combination).
Elektron’s machines are so beloved, they’re almost an electronic instrumental category all their own. But much of that love is focused on the hardware workflow. The challenge lately has been how to make the latest generation of Elektron hardware fit better with other gear – and specifically, the computer. Some of those improvements are coming from Elektron. But some, too, come from third-party developers. And that’s the case with a useful Mac app.
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.
Technology has done a strange thing to musicians: it’s turned us all into, well, loners. It didn’t used to be this way. Musicians on instruments ranging from folk ensembles to symphony orchestras are able to join up and keep time with one another. So why not do the same with tech? Ableton’s new Link technology promises to allow musicians to jam easily. But it isn’t just for Ableton Live. Today, iOS support is officially launching, allowing you to jam with supported apps even without a desktop/laptop computer involved.
iMaschine, the iOS drum machine, is back in a new version. Now in mini, pocket-able form, you get arrangement and live play features from the desktop edition. For iPhone 6s/6s Plus owners, it also responds to 3D touch. I always keep sketchpads around – literal sketchpads, of the pencil and paper variety. So when software is described as a “sketchpad,” I take that seriously.
Novation has been doing things with grids and knobs for some time, but those have come in the form of gadgets you plug into a computer and use with software like Ableton Live. Circuit is different: it’s an all-in-one groove workstation with sequencer, drum machine, synth, and arrangement in control, and it doesn’t even need to be plugged into power. We’ve got one of the first Novation Circuit units here, so in advance of our full review, here’s a quick hands-on.
ENG_SIDEMAN_PREVIEW from Darsha Hewitt on Vimeo. Darsha’s sound electronics class is in session – and it’s a little different to what you’d normally expect. Rather than a bunch of animations of electrons moving about, sound artist and educator Darsha Hewitt has created a long-form video tutorial around the world’s first commercial drum machine.
Reaktor Blocks Love Eurorack from listentoaheartbeat on Vimeo. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Can you combine computer software with analog hardware? Can you route control signal from computer software to hardware? Can you combine something accessible with a grid (like a drum machine) with more advanced, open-ended machines with wires? Yes, yes, and yes. Does all modular synthesis stuff sound like indecipherable noodling? Do you have to make a religious decision between analog and digital, hardware and computer? Do all modular setups have to be sprawling rigs that eat up all your money and home? No, no, and no. Make what you …
Remember when apps were novel toys for experimentation? Now, an app could give your drum machine a run for its money. It’s the third wave of iOS apps. We’re now onto a moment where, cresting the wave of tools, a few are becoming simply invaluable to the right users. They can make an iPad feel a bit like dedicated hardware, perhaps even in a way that a computer can’t. And that to me makes them worth examining, even if you have no desire to use an iPad. Elastic Drums has that feeling to me. On its surface, it’s just another …