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Here’s a video tour of Novation’s drool-worthy Peak polysynth

The fine folks of Sound on Sound took a tour of the new Novation Peak polysynth in their UK offices. There’s a lot that can be said about the Peak, but here are the two obvious advantages. First, those digital oscillators are quite clever. It maybe tripped up marketing and some press initially, but the point here is that these should really be indistinguishable from analog equivalents – while with the flexibility (and cost, and power draw) of digital oscillators. Second, while there is a display, it seems there’s almost no menu diving involved. Each section of the instrument is …

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blawanmatrix

Watch artist Blawan go hands-on with the monster Arturia MatrixBrute

The term “beast” may be overused in describing synthesizers, but the massive, heavy, feature-packed Arturia MatrixBrute certainly deserves the term. Now, we get to hear and watch as Blawan takes us on a tour. Blawan is one of my favorites in adventurous techno, not least for his unique skills in playing live – because finding great DJs is still considerably easier than finding artists who can produce on the spot. So he’s a smart match to launch a new series pairing artists with gear, run by Electronic Beats and German-language Bonedo. Now’s a good time – the MatrixBrute has been …

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The AS-1 synth from Pioneer and Dave Smith is looking really cool

Here are two quick takeaways about the TORAIZ AS-1 monosynth introduced by Pioneer DJ, in collaboration with Dave Smith. One, it sounds great – but we figured that, given it’s basically a single voice from Dave Smith’s Prophet-6. Two, it’s got a surprisingly powerful sequencer/arpeggiator, with some extras like alternative tunings. And it’s that second point that matters. If you just want to add bass lines to a DJ set, Pioneer has some competition. Roland can sell you not one but two different variations of the classic 303 – either the AIRA TB-3, or the Boutique Series TB-03. As many …

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The new MPCs in videos, including how those clips work

Following Akai’s announcement of the new standalone MPC models – MPC X and MPC Live – they’ve also released some videos. Sound on Sound has a walkthrough: And there’s the requisite promo film from Akai: It’s important to note that adding standalone mode here doesn’t mean taking away anything from the computer/hardware combo. The software on the standalone MPCs is identical to what was previously available via the controller — even besting it, thanks to the MPC 2.0 software launch. Plugged into your computer, you get all the advantages you’re used to. You can add plug-ins, control MIDI on the …

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0-coast

Two videos show why the Make Noise 0-COAST modular is cool

2016 was the year when people said, hey, I want to get in on some of that modular goodness, but … maybe I don’t want to buy a rack and spend thousands of dollars to do that. So it’s great to finally see desktop semi-modular becoming a thing – and an affordable thing at that. There’s the best note entrant, Moog’s excellent Mother 32. But I also like the much odder, but still affordable Make Noise 0-COAST (that’s a zero, not the letter o). It’s got a far more idiosyncratic front panel, but that shouldn’t put you off: it’s still …

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rolandmeeblip

We added MeeBlip to TB-03 and TR-09 for really too much bass

You can now really have a ridiculous amount of fun playing live without a ridiculous amount of gear. That’s certainly the sense I get with Roland’s Boutique series, among other recent entries. In just a fraction of the size of the original AIRA, you can add a synth, a bassline, or a drum machine. And it’s not just Roland. In the under-$500 category, there’s loads of desktop gear from Korg, Waldorf, MFB, Novation, and Arturia, plus even compact modular/semi-modulars like the Make Noise O-Coast and Moog Mother-32. It’s all affordable, and all really easy to port around. What I like …

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MeeBlip users are posting lots of great sounds of our new triode synth

Little. Red. Different. Better. We got into the synthesizer business because we weren’t satisfied with just writing about synths. We wanted to spread a little synth love into the world, too. And wow, have our MeeBlip users responded – flooding the Internets with videos of the new synth. It’s great to see how they’re responding to the instrument – designer James Grahame and I have our own view of it, but now we get to see the user perspective. Maybe that bright red color helped. And yes, the key here is, behind this small number of knobs are a large …

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Serato’s Ableton Link sync could change how you DJ

Quick! Name one good reason to use a computer running DJ software instead of just toting along some USB sticks to play on a CDJ! Well – one answer is, maybe your DJ set involves more than just mixing two decks. And with Ableton Link support, Serato is the first DJ software to open up to easy, peer-to-peer sync. It could change how you play.

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Why Roland’s new 303 and 909 might even be better than the originals

One, two, three – Roland has finally made the 303 bassline, 909 drum machine, and VP-330 vocoder that so many people wanted. They’re small, they’re really affordable ($349-399), and they’ve got modern features. But after decades of remakes that strayed from the very things that made people love the originals, at last Roland has learned from their own legacy. So, let’s talk about what’s new and what, mercifully, isn’t.

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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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