Squeezebox of the Future: Playing the Striso [Video]

It’s a beautiful, sunny day in London. A velveteen grassy green field calls out under pure blue skies and lazy clouds. And… you can’t see your laptop in the glare, you’re out of battery, and your music studio is underground. Not only will you be miserable, you’ll be playing alone. So, kudos to Striso, the Italian-dubbed (but Dutch-built) squeezebox, evolved digitally. And it’s an electronic instrument that you can still don to serenade your friends in a picnic. Looking a lot like a free-reed instrument such as the bandoneon or concertina (or, yes, accordion), it’s in fact a purely digital …

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M-Audio’s Trigger Finger Pro, in Videos: Think Three Devices in One

M-Audio’s first Trigger Finger might be the most ubiquitous controller in laptop music. Pads, faders, knobs. It was almost a stupidly simple equation, but it caught on. The Trigger Finger Pro is something different. It takes on three roles: 1. It’s a controller for included software. If you want hands-on control of software right away, M-Audio has bundled tools that integrate directly with the controller: there’s Arsenal, a kind of drum sampler-style tool M-Audio calls a “production hub,” AIR Drums, a dedicated drum module, and Hybrid 3, a very lovely synth, plus loads of sample content. But what sets Trigger …

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Roland AIRA SYSTEM-1 Synth Video Mega-Roundup; SH-101 Due July

It’s the fourth and final piece in the AIRA puzzle: Roland’s AIRA SYSTEM-1 has finally appeared in finished form in the last few weeks, and is starting to arrive in dealer and user hands around the world. Like the other AIRA models, the SYSTEM-1 is build around component modeling, new digital models of analog components. But whereas the TR-8 and TB-3 model the 808/909 and 303, respectively, the SYSTEM-1 initially ships with an all new synthesizer assembled from the sounds of its Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) models. For a Roland classic of yesteryear, we’ll be waiting until the end of …

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Moog Werkstatt: Listen to its Creator Make Sounds; Why It Could Bring Moog Back to Modular

The newest Moog Music synth is in the hands of a select few. Werkstatt means, effectively, “workshop” in German. And so, Moog Music at Moogfest this year unveiled a synth you can’t buy anywhere but in a workshop. (Not to be confused with the one you might be able to buy, but can’t afford! Start on those lottery tickets!) Available exclusively to Moogfest Engineer VIP Package purchasers, Werkstatt was more than just a fun piece of gear. Designer/engineer Steve Dunnington of Moog Music, creator of the instrument, led participants in soldering and assembling the synth, then into exploring the world …

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The $100 BeatStep Sequencer and Controller: Everything You Want to Know [Review, Resources]

Even if Arturia’s BeatStep did nothing other than act as a dumb controller, it might get your attention. The compact control surface / sequencer hardware runs about $100 street. As a controller, it has both 16 pads and 16 endless encoders (with notches, so you can feel where you are), plus transport triggers and a larger encoder. With driverless USB operation, some of you will already be happy and can proceed. But the BeatStep is more ambitious than that. It has sophisticated software customization via a companion program, and a built-in step sequencer. It operates standalone, with MIDI gadgets or …

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One Day, One Track, 3 Roland AIRAs: How They Sound, Would We Buy Them?

It’s probably the greeting I’ve heard most in the past couple of months, apart from “Hello.” Sometimes even before “Hello.” Everywhere I go, people are asking me what I think of the Roland AIRAs – particularly the TR-8 drum machine. There are now reviews everywhere of the AIRA TB-3 and TR-8 (and some of the VT-3, as well). For CDM, we’re planning some additional detail, but we’re still awaiting our review hardware. Fortunately, I got to spend an action-packed day with the trio of AIRAs with Benjamin Weiss. So, I can do what I’d do in a bar: I can …

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Build a Classic Synth, Reissued: Hands-on with KORG’s MS-20 Kit [Gallery]

Call it the MS-20 “Biggie.” A year after remaking their classic 1978 MS-20 synthesizer in a hugely-popular “mini” version, KORG surprised everyone by unveiling a second reissue this year, the limited-edition MS-20 Kit. Its innards are entirely identical to the MS-20 mini; component-by-component, the sound circuitry is the same. And since the MS-20 was a fairly convincing replica of the original, inaccurate mostly in that it can’t reproduce the aged components we’re now used to, that’s a good start. Now I’ve had the experience of assembling and playing the kit, following up our debut with the mini last year, and …

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Pushing the Guitar, Sound Further, with Moog Minifooger, Eventide H9 Stompboxes [Videos]

Yes, it’s a good time to be in love with synths and drum machines. But for all the hype around those instruments lately, adventurous guitar effects are also seeing a new renaissance. While guitarists have always had a lovely palette of oddball stompboxes and grungy distortion and effects, they’ve lately been seeing more affordable, more accessible tools for sound design that had been more associated with synths. And, of course, wherever you see the word “guitarists,” any instrumentalists who need stomp form factor will also benefit – bass guitar, electric violin, experimental accordion, whatever. Say the name “Moog,” and most …

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Control, Shortcuts for Ableton Starting at $99: A Look at the New AKAI APC Line

For any tool that has “live” in the name, physical control will always be important. And so even with a broad market for controllers targeting Ableton’s flagship software, now including the slick Push hardware from Ableton themselves, AKAI’s re-vamped APC line earned intense interest when it debuted at Musikmesse this month. Let’s make sense of what the new APCs can do and how you might choose between models. I got some hands-on time at Messe, and now even in advance of a review of finished, shipping hardware, it’s worth teasing out the breakdown of the 2014 APC line. The original …

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Listen to Waldorf’s Buttery, New String Synth, the Streichfett [Hands-on]

A dedicated hardware synth just for vintage string sounds is about the last thing you’d expect to make headlines at Europe’s biggest music trade show. But an even bigger surprise: Waldorf’s new Streichfett is pretty delicious. The pun isn’t directly translatable. German speakers use the same word for “bowing” as spreading (as with a knife), and are passionate enough about putting fat on bread that they have idiomatic ways of talking about it that makes sense only to them. (At least, this is what my research into the Waldorf name and, um, eating have suggested.) But after a first hands-on …

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