Modal Just Blew Up Analog With 8-Voice Polysynth, More

UK maker Modal Electronics last year surprised the synth scene with a move into premium analog. This is luxury synthesis – the Aston Martin of synthesizers. Well, it turns out they were only getting started. The product line for 2015 today gets a full range of models. And the 008 is the new headline instrument – an 8-voice analog synth that’s worthy of pinning up to your ceiling and staring at at night, boys and girls (or, um, “grown-up” boys and girls, perhaps). Yes, we’re keen to test this and see if it sounds and functions as well as it …

The 100m is probably a more appropriate model for whatever is coming from Roland next, but check out the stunning industrial design on the original System 100. This might inspire a custom Eurorack cabinet with keyboard, or two. Photo (CC-BY Notreshuggie.

The Last Time Roland Did Modular: The System 100

With widespread reports that Roland will soon have a new modular product, it’s worth remembering: Roland has done modular before. That legacy carried the name System-100. The original 100 semi-modular lineup of the late 70s, and the Synthesizer-101, might actually be more relevant today than it was when it first shipped. The clever concept here was to put a full-featured monosynth with a keyboard at the center, then add modules around it. That seems to make loads of sense to me, as it creates a playable instrument that can nonetheless be patched for more creative sound design options. The full …


Dave Smith Prophet 6 Synth: 6 Analog Voices, and a Dilemma

Never say never. Few would have imagined just a few short years ago that essentially all – not most, but all – the major 2015 electronic instrument news out of the annual NAMM trade show would come down to 70s-/early 80s-style analog synthesizers, in the form of keyboards and modular. Nor would you imagine two of the big names would still be Tom Oberheim and Dave Smith, alongside Korg and Moog. (Well, maybe Tom and Dave did – how ambitious were you three decades ago, gentlemen?) Certainly, no one ever expected to see the name Sequential Circuits again. But that’s …


Everything You Need to Know About KORG’s Arp Odyssey Remake

KORG, having resurrected their own MS-20 monosynth, have now turned to another analog classic: the duophonic ARP Odyssey. We’ve known for some time that they would begin manufacturing a new edition of that in collaboration with its original creators. Now we know what it looks like, and what it’ll cost. If you already love the classic ARP Odyssey, there’s not much to say. KORG’s launch, in fact, focused on the ARP you know – the fact that its sound is something you recognize from songs. That’s partly an explanation of why such instruments deserve recreation. And the original holds up …


Akai Analog Drum Machine, Revision 2 – And a Four-Voice Wolf Synth?

It seems Akai is staying in the analog synth business. Following the Rhythm Wolf – introduced quietly at Messe (literally, it couldn’t make sound), and then getting a mixed review here on CDM – they have both a second drum machine and a four-voice synth. Availability has leaked as July – which means again, we may not know how these actually sound until they ship. Let’s look at what we know. (Bookmark this page, as I will simply update information here as it comes in.) First up, the Tom Cat. It’s definitely a second take on the Rhythm Wolf – …


How Akai Advance Could Best NI’s Komplete Kontrol in Smart Keyboards

Smart keyboard controllers that integrate with software have been something various makers have tried frequently over the years, with various degrees of success. Propellerhead helped lead the way with Automap in Reason, which could cleverly link on-screen controls to devices. But by the time this was translated to multiple pieces of software, the resulting “automatic” features could be harder to use on than off. I tried at various points Novation’s ReMOTE, M-Audio’s Axiom Pro, and Cakewalk’s A-PRO keyboards, and found them all to be perfectly nice hardware – once I gave up and turned the automatic stuff off and just …


Nord’s Electro 5 Revises A Favorite Stage Piano

Year after year, a lot of what the music instruments industry does is iterative – evolutionary, not revolutionary. But for the day-in, day-out operation of a lot of gigging musicians, some of the less-thrilling announcements are the ones that simply make life better. That means, for example, Clavia’s announcement of a new Nord Electro 5 keyboard matters. The number of stage musicians who rely on the signature red keyboards from Sweden is simply stunning. Nord aren’t cheap, but their attention to detail has earned them a lot of impassioned enthusiasts. I actually had the pleasure of visiting Clavia when I …


Antiques Roadshow? Yamaha to Celebrate Its Synth Legacy with Vintage Gear

Hey – don’t forget Yamaha. For all the buzz about Roland and KORG (and American makers like Moog), the titan Japanese maker surely deserves its own enormous claim to synthesizer history. This is the company that made one the most influential polyphonic synths of all time (the CS-80), and introduced the world to FM synthesis (DX series) and physical modeling (VP series). You can still make DX and VP sounds that seem like they fell out of the future. And Yamaha are no newcomer, either. This year will mark the 40th anniversary since the firm first entered the synth market …


Perfect, Beautiful Music for Free From Erased Tapes [2014 in Review]

Erased Tapes was an endlessly inspiring label in 2014. With a singular, understated focus on quality and music orbiting the keyboard, the acoustic, and minimal post-classical introspection, they were a calming counterpart to the year’s steroid-pumped festival commercialism. And first and foremost, they were about records — not fancy design accessories, not “throw everything at a wall and see what sticks” experiments in distribution. (There’s a place for that, yes, but a record label about records was nonetheless refreshing.) And Nils Frahm was a consistent star amidst all of this, a favorite live performer cutting across genres, wrangling keys electronic …


What’s The Deal With This Leaked Roland Analog-Digital Hybrid Synth?

Synthesizers in the mass market are forever part of up and down swings – and we’re back in an up swing. At the same time as other musical instrument segments lag in sales, NAMM reports both more synths at their trade show and double-digit year-on-year sales growth. (In music, that’s just huge.) So, you can expect we’ll see a lot more synthesizer options. And the first of the 2015 products has already leaked out. As Synthtopia noted on Friday, Japanese artist Daisuke Asakura leaked a new Roland keyboard on Twitter, following a public performance on New Years’ Eve in Japan. …