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Bastl’s Thyme is an advanced digital effect inspired by tape

What if you had an effect in hardware that acted like tape – with tape heads, adjustable speed, and so on? But what if that tape were … digital, instead of analog? And what if it were run by a … robot? And sequenced? Wait, huh? Well, step again into the wacky imagination of Bastl Instruments. They showed off an early prototype of this concept back in 2015, only to have the hardware go off the radar for a while. Now, it’s back in a more or less completed instrument, one that delivers on that early potential. It’s called Thyme. …

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Eowave’s Quandrantid Swarm is a weird scifi synth like no other

“All synths today just sound the same.” Sure. Fair. Well, but then something comes along that sounds more like it’s ready to produce a trippy soundtrack for a wandering scifi epic about a journey to Jupiter, filmed in early-70s Czechoslovakia.* Meet the Quandrantid Swarm. It’s the latest creation from French boutique Eowave, whose inventions have always tended to the experimental and unique. And while they also do modular now, I can’t help but feel this is Eowave at their best – making desktop instruments and oddball interfaces. These are creations with an eye to the past, but in some sort …

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Novation Mono Station synth sequencer just leaked via retail

Novation’s Circuit drum machine/synth/sequencer combo already found a lot of fans. Now it looks like they’ve got another all-in-one grid instrument – this time, a mono/paraphonic synth with sequencer. And whereas the Nova polysynth in the Circuit is hidden behind controls, here you get loads of hands-on control. The Novation Mono Station has leaked via retailers like Dutch prodjstore and are already making rounds on social media. Most interesting I’d say, apart from combining the grid sequencer with a hands-on synth, is that modulation matrix. (It’s not bad having distortion plus a multi-mode filter with overdrive, either.) In a nod …

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The nerdiest synth meet in the world, plus Tangerine Dream on a boat

Even in the age of the Internet, there’s no substitute for seeing people face to face. It just seems now we want a more concentrated dose – one or two really big international gatherings where we go all-in. And apart from California’s mighty NAMM show, it seems there’s nothing quite like Superbooth. Here’s a preview, some highlights from last year – and don’t worry, if you can’t make it to Berlin, there will be a continuous livestream to the world and coverage we’ll deliver from the various partners covering the event. With just one past edition under its belt, Superbooth …

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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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Analog Strings from Output melds string orchestras, string synths

There are string synths. And then there are sample libraries of orchestras. The strings synths produce sounds that are recognizably vintage, and more or less unrelated to actual orchestras. The sample libraries can get into obsessive compulsive detail and sound like an orchestra. But either way, we’ve been there before. There are great string synths around, but they tend a certain direction. And sampled orchestra libraries, while great, give you that feeling that what you’ve really done is to skimp the musicians of the Bratislava Radio Orchestra on a gig (and your feeling of being in the room with a …

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Behringer to make an analog Minimoog clone for around $400

Since the classic synth has made a resurgence, the entry of low-cost remakes was pretty much a given. And no brand is perhaps more associated with cut-rate gear than Behringer. So, while the 12-voice Behringer DeepMind 12 has only just arrived on the market, the company is already teasing some kind of sub-$100 synth line a well as the $400-ish (proposed) BEHRINGER D. It’s a clone of the original 1970 Minimoog Model D, in a desktop case (no keyboard). And, well, it’s … as advertised, at least as far as what they’ve shared. And it puts an analog remake in …

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STEREO FIELD is a beautiful touchplate instrument and controller

This might just be a real spiritual successor to the Cracklebox. (That’s the classic – and very nicely unpredictable – creation of Michel Waisvisz, one associated with the research program at STEIM and many of the ideas about expression and nonlinear sound ever since.) STEREO FIELD is a sound box / controller centered around touch plates, marked with concentric overlapping circles that represent the interconnection of two analog stereo circuits. It’s a sound generator: you can make some (raw sounding) analog, atonal sounds by patching its circuitry to an output. It’s also a sound processor: use incoming signal to combine …

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More details on the $650 Elektron Digitakt – and why we’re into it

The Elektron Digitakt sampler/drum computer may have been sitting silently under glass at last month’s NAMM trade show. But no matter: it was still the gear generating the most buzz. The thing is, we’re already hearing enough about the Digitakt to pique our interest. First, there’s that price — US$/€650. That’s terrifically affordable by Elektron standards. And then there’s the compact size, the accessible-looking controls and OLED, and the focus on sequencing and sampling. This just looks like a fun, friendly groove box. It also looks like a device that could significantly expand the audience for Elektron gear, not only …

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System 80 is a control-for-control 808 clone in Eurorack

Wait… I don’t think I’ve ever basically said everything I needed to say in a story right in the headline before, but… yeah. This is a control-for-control 808 clone in Eurorack. And for anyone disappointed that Roland didn’t do a TR-08 Boutique Series at NAMM, here’s one that is probably exactly as analog fans would want it. You get the layout of the original 808, if a bit miniaturized and squashed, but control-for-control an image of the original. You get independent outs for each part. You get CV I/O for connecting to other modules. It’s Eurorack. It’s 60HP. It looks …

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