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OK Go get their own KORG volca sample

Okay, OK Go fans – now there’s synth hardware as quirky and charming as the band’s Internet-viral synth-pop. We got our hands on a very limited edition KORG volca sample made especially for OK Go. This is the battery-powered sample unit with grungy digital sound playback and loads of knobs for manipulating sound, plus the usual touch strip step sequencer for making patterns. It’s fun to play, a unique collectors’ item even if you just want an extra sample playback instrument around. And the built-in samples can be terrific, as you can hear in our playlist.

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Hands-on with Novation Circuit, drum machine synth sequencer hardware all-in-one

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.

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A new ROLI instrument wants to make expressive control mainstream

We are all slaves to the piano. Two or three centuries after the instrument rose to dominance, and well over a half century after it became intertwined with the synthesizer (hello Minimoog!), it’s still something of a challenge to work out some alternative. And I love the piano. One of my great frustrations with some advocates of expressive new interfaces is their disregard for my favorite instrument. But let’s look at it this way: we’ve got beef. Beef is fantastic. We still really ought to have some chicken, some duck, and some vegan options. The formula for solving this in …

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Here’s a visual tour of what’s new in Reaktor 6

Reaktor 6 arrives today, and it’s the most significant update to Native Instruments’ deep modular environment in years. Blocks, which we cover separately, are clearly the banner feature. But there’s a lot of new functionality both apart from Blocks and underlying it. Let’s take a tour. First, it’s worth saying: Reaktor is a vital part of NI’s DNA. It’s the software that really launched the company (as Generator, back in 1996). And Reaktor is a prototyping and development tool for the company. Of course, the flipside would be, if NI weren’t taking care of Reaktor, you should fear for the …

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Mikme, GoPro of microphones, is also serious about sound

Being simple and mobile has its advantages. I bet at least once, you’ve recorded some audio sample on your phone. But simplicity often comes at the expense of audio quality – the phone being a perfect example. An upstart hardware project wants to change that, with a crowd funding campaign that’s winding up its final days now. The Mikme is a small rectangular box, with a single button for recording. It’s wireless, with the ability to connect to mobile apps for tweaking and sharing. Now, your first impression, then, might be that this is a consumer product – convenient, but …

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Launchpad Pro Grid Controller: Hands-on Comprehensive Guide

Novation’s Launchpad Pro is here. It shares the same compact footprint as earlier Launchpads, but adds full color, pressure-sensitive pads, and MIDI inputs and outputs, plus the ability to operate without a computer. So, with other grids to choose from, where does this one fit? The Launchpad line of controllers has always been about simplicity. Even when the original Launchpad was introduced, it did less than its nearest rival, the AKAI APC. But it was popular partly thanks to being simple, light, small, and affordable. That fits many users’ needs, and can be nicely combined with other hardware. The Launchpad …

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Hands-on Video of the Yamaha Reface Series

Extensive videos emerge to give you a hands-on look at Yamaha’s new electric piano / synth / organ keyboard line. They put some of the company’s favorite instruments at your fingertips in an uncommonly compact package. Our take:

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I Played the Oval Digital Hand Pan, And It’s Amazing

Making a futuristic new music instrument requires more than just the spark of a clever idea. It needs resources, funding, input from musicians, and other ingredients, in perfect balance. Those dimensions can offer cold, hard reality, but met properly, they can also offer opportunity. And that’s part of what made Barcelona’s SONAR+D such a compelling place to be last week. Tucked into the packed SONAR festival was a convergence of the engineering, musical inspiration, and business knowhow required to make musical inventions. The Oval, superstar of a pavilion hosted by Kickstarter, was the highlight for me. We saw it in …

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How to Sequence on a Budget with the Arturia BeatStep and MeeBlip anode

It’s no step backward. Standalone hardware is now smaller, lighter, more affordable, more capable, and easier to use than before. So why not help focus on a live gig or creating musical ideas by getting away from the computer now and then? This video from Meta Micro Labs shows how easy it is to plug in and get going – even if you’ve never worked this way before. And it stars the MeeBlip anode, our own humble monosynth (co-produced with CDM), featuring our gritty bass sound with analog filter. The timing is right, as we’ve just put anode on sale …

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This Video Demonstrates How Akai’s New Keyboard Controls Everything

It’s a horse race. Two keyboards – one from Native Instruments, one from AKAI – really want to be the interface between you and every plug-in you own. And we’re getting closer to find out if either deserves your attention. You’ve heard this story before. Sure, you have powerful software on your computer screen. But when you want physical control of those instruments beyond just playing keys, you’re left either manually mapping controls or reaching for your mouse or trackpad. So, over the years various solutions have tried to solve this automagically. There was Automap, seen in Propellerhead Reason and …

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