roli-seaboard-block-and-touch-block-10-low-res

ROLI now make a $299, ultra-compact expressive keyboard

ROLI are filling out their mobile line of controllers, Blocks, with a two-octave keyboard – and that could change a lot. In addition to the wireless Bluetooth, battery-powered light-up X/Y pad and touch shortcuts, now you get something that looks like an instrument. The Seaboard Block is an ultra-mobile, expressive keyboard for your iOS gadget or computer, and it’s available for $299, including in Apple Stores. If you wanted a new-fangled “expressive” keyboard – a controller on which you can move your fingers into and around the keys for extra expression – ROLI already had one strong candidate. The Seaboard …

READ MORE →
skinnerbox4up

Inside Skinnerbox’s live sets, including a song they play backwards

“xobrenniks era ew olleh.” Skinnerbox, the duo of Olaf Hilgenfeld and Iftah Gabbai, are now so comfortable in their roles of playing live that they’re playing backwards to spice things up. (It seems there was some effort involved here – like, learning a song backwards in order that they had composed it the way they desired when reversed. I just find it oddly enchanting watching things defy gravity and roll across cymbals.) Playing with other people can feel like a mind meld. There’s a special discipline to working things out alone, to be sure. But it’s when you play with …

READ MORE →
peak

Peak is the new polysynth from the creator of Novation’s classics

Novation the synth manufacturer looks to be back with a vengeance. In addition to the new Circuit Bass Station as its mono/paraphonic synth offering, the company has a new polysynth flagship. The UK company says they brought in Chris Huggett, the creator of the Bass Station, Supernova, and OSCar. What you get is sort of an 8-voice synth inspired by the Bass Station II. You get eight full-featured new Oxford voices with a hybrid analog/digital sound – numerically-controlled oscillators that behave like analog oscillators, plus 17 digital wavetables for the full palette of digital sound. You can also use these …

READ MORE →
tournage-keylab49-nuit-7

The new Arturia keyboards work with anything, under $300, with sounds

“Someone has introduced a new MIDI controller keyboard” ranks right up there with “an off-price mall big box retailer is now doing basic solid color tees.” It’s potentially still useful (as in, my luggage got lost in Dallas and I have no clean clothes), yet not exciting. But Arturia have deserve special mention here, because they have lately had a knack for giving users exactly what they wanted, apparently. At least that’s my impression as I notice the number of BeatSteps Pro and KeySteps cropping into rigs. MIDI controllers, like DAWs, tend to become boring because they have to be …

READ MORE →
dsc03290

These circuit-bent instruments and sounds are simply gorgeous

Mention “circuit bending” and you may think of someone making unlistenable noise on a Speak & Spell they … broke. But in the grand tradition of Reed Ghazala, circuit bending can mean instruments that have exquisitely mutated from vintage devices, resplendent in new paint and making bizarre but wonderful new sounds. I guess you can think of it as the difference between a conservatory-trained woodwind quintet and … the sound of your first-grade music class playing those plastic recorders. Ivo Ivanov is squarely in the master builder category. We can drool over his visually beautiful creations, in this gallery here. …

READ MORE →
ni_komplete-kontrol-1-8_chord-feature_a

Komplete Kontrol adds scales and modes, cooler chords, Reaktor Blocks

If you just want a nice MIDI keyboard, frankly, you’ve got loads of options. So Native Instruments’ Komplete Kontrol S-series of keyboards has got to do more. The 1.8 release that came out yesterday takes a step in the right direction, with enhanced scale and mode support and enhanced integration with both Reaktor Blocks and Maschine. And Reaktor Blocks might be the winner here. Reaktor Blocks. This is almost an afterthought in this release, but to me, it’s the nicest feature so … the heck with it, I’m going to talk about it first. You can now control the clock …

READ MORE →
montagekeyboard

Yamaha may have the best workstation synth, now quietly improved

The workstation keyboard hasn’t died in the age of the computer and the analog revival. Instead, it’s just gotten, well, more workstation-y. Advances in embedded computation have gone alongside general purpose computer hardware, making the workstations from Japanese giants like Yamaha, Korg, and Roland do more than before, with expanded functionality, memory, and sound. These instruments do so much that it’s hard to describe them. But I know even some serious synth enthusiasts who have a lot of respect for Yamaha’s Montage. That may come as a surprise, partly because Yamaha’s marketing is aimed squarely at other groups. So yes, …

READ MORE →
toraiz-as-1-main-n

What the new Dave Smith instruments sound like, no talking

There is absolutely nothing like the feeling you feel when you hear the sound of a synthesizer. Listen. “Hi, we’re at the 2017 NAMM show in Anaheim California, and I’m here with –” Wait. No. That is definitely not why I love synthesizers. Nor am I particularly enamored with the hum of a convention show floor with the apparent adjacent guitar booth blaring over the top of someone reading a product sheet. (As I write that, I realize I’ve just dared some CDM reader to make an eerie, ambient 5-hour version of an Akai demo using paulstretch.) Here’s what you …

READ MORE →
rev2_left-angle

Dave Smith REV2 is like getting a Prophet 08, squared

Dave Smith’s collaboration with Pioneer tends to the minimalist side, but not so the new DSI keyboard. The REV2 is all about more. While it’s not called a Prophet 08 II or something, the REV2 is rooted in that earlier synthesizer. It still has two DCOs per voice. It still opts for the sound of Curtis filters at its core. (In other words, you had better like that particular flavor.) The ’08 “squared” business is all about newer and more, in this year’s model. So this is a 16-voice standard configuration over 8. (8-voice is available, and … heh, actually …

READ MORE →
steinwayno1

Now your Nord can sound like the very first Steinway, No. 1

The instrument was crafted, literally, in a kitchen in 1836 in Seesen, near Hannover. But it defined piano history. It’s pianoforte “Steinway No. 1,” built by Steinway founder Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg. And now its sound is inside more modern electronic keyboards, from Swedish builder Clavia. Clavia aren’t unveiling any new gear this week, but they do have two interesting new sound libraries. One is “Steinway No. 1.” There’s been a lot of effort between the original instrument and Herr Steinweg’s kitchen and you. Expert builder Chris Meane of Belgium got an exclusive authorization from the Steinway company to recreate the …

READ MORE →