The overview screen, for navigating - some overtones of both Kai's software from the 90s and the better stuff from Apple (Sculpture).

Substance is a new software approach to every kind of bass

There are those desserts that are subtle. And then there are the ones that are layered chocolate and peanut butter and cream that you drench in still more chocolate sauce, but in a way that holds together. You know – layering. Substance, a new soft synth from Output, is all about layering. It’s about making enormous bass things out of other already pretty-large bass things. And it represents a nice latest chapter in what the boutique software developer has been doing with sound design

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Why Roland’s new 303 and 909 might even be better than the originals

One, two, three – Roland has finally made the 303 bassline, 909 drum machine, and VP-330 vocoder that so many people wanted. They’re small, they’re really affordable ($349-399), and they’ve got modern features. But after decades of remakes that strayed from the very things that made people love the originals, at last Roland has learned from their own legacy. So, let’s talk about what’s new and what, mercifully, isn’t.

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Watch these video reviews of 303, 909 and comparisons to originals

Now, with the embargo lifted on new Roland gear, brace yourself for a lot of discussion. On some level, any comparison of a $349-$399 new gadget to anything before it is a bit silly – when original 909s start selling for three figures, let us know. And I think starting with a direct comparison misses the point: the TR-909 and TB-303 sound terrific, and you’re unlikely to record or play either totally dry. (Classic records, uh, used processing too, ya know?) Relax and go enjoy a great drum machine and bassline.

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Maschine Jam is new hardware built around live performance

These days, various combinations of faders and touch sensors and grids of pads and buttons and encoders and knobs appear with cyclic regularity. We’re past the point of inventing the automobile – we’re down to tuning particular cars for particular tasks. But what do you want to use if you’re really playing live? Maschine Jam is a combination of software and hardware that focuses on that scenario. We’ve met with the team that built it at Native Instruments and have our own unit in now to test, so here are some first impressions.


fluXpad is an insanely immediate music drawing tool for iPad

Make an interface simpler, and you might push your musical expression further. That’s the realization you have using fluXpad, a new drawing app. It’s not that it’s a dumbed-down rendition of other tools. It’s that doodling with sounds is a totally different experience than the point-and-click fine editing you might be used to.


Zoom’s weird frisbee groove machine looks fun in this Japanese video

The ZOOM ARQ AR-96 can be filed confidently under “wha?” in the annals of music tech. It’s a round, all-in-one groovebox with drum machine, loads of patterns and sounds, and synths. Oh yeah, and there’s a rechargeable, detachable doughnut/frisbee, uh, thing, which has velocity-sensitive touch sensors and responds to orientation so you can wave it around. Basically, it’s insane. But as at least one friend of mine suspected, it could also be insanely fun. No English-language reviewers could really do this thing justice. No, for that we turn to musictrackjp – who do better demos, anyway. Sure, 97% of CDM’s …


iZotope Mobius and the crazy fun of Shepard Tones

I always figure the measure of a good plug-in is, you want to tell everyone about it, but you don’t want to tell everyone about it, because then they’ll know about it. iZotope’s Möbius is in that category for me – it’s essentially moving filter effect. And it’s delicious, delicious candy.


Virginia’s Fierce For The Night brings the heart house needs

Caught in the shadow of lost idols and shaken faith, pop is wanting some new soul. Now, Ostgut Ton might be the last place you’d expect to look for one of 2016’s great songwriting fixes. (“Singing along” and “Berghain” tend not to be uttered together.) And yet, here we are. Virginia, the Panorama Bar resident, as a new record. And it’s an utter triumph.


Tested: Chromaphone 2 has kinder, gentler acoustic modeling

If it feels at times like everything has been done in sound synthesis, every new sound uncovered, then look to physical modeling for a way forward. This collection of techniques simulates the way sound is produced by acoustic objects. Applied Acoustics Systems (AAS) of Montreal has been one of the leaders in that field – and they’ve got a new product out that might be the friendliest offering in this field yet.


Listen to 21 minutes of new Brian Eno ambient music, free

Call it music for Internets. Brian Eno has a new album coming, and you can listen to 21 minutes of gently undulating sonic seas, a weary plodding deep melody bobbing atop it, in the stream of “The Ship.”