Roland teases ’boutique’ with three mystery mini keyboard synths

Roland continues their journey into uncharted waters – following the unexpected entry into categories like DIN sync, control voltage-manipulated analog, and Eurorack modular, the Japanese titan today teases something new it’s calling “Roland Boutique.” The legacy is spelled out in the opening – Jupiter-8, JX-3P, and Juno-106 synth keyboards from the early 80s give way to three backlit boxes with just-visible faders with LEDs on them. And at least we see there’s no eye-blinding green LEDs (cough, AIRA). So, this is pretty obvious: you get one box inspired by each of the earlier ones. Really, it’s the word ’boutique’ that’s …


Sync that 303: One little box does MIDI to DIN sync

Put some actual “computer-controlled” in the 303. The folks at British maker Kenton have a way of churning out little boxes that do things people need. MIDI Thru, check. Connecting those USB gizmos that lack MIDI, check. Plugging MIDI to your modular, roger. So, to that, add a single box that translates MIDI to DIN Sync (sync24) – and back again. DIN Sync, as developed by Roland, is suddenly news again because of a rekindled interest in vintage gear. If you want to synchronize a TR-808 or a TB-303, DIN Sync is what you need. The Kenton D-SYNC isn’t the …


Celebrate 808 day by building a beat live with Egyptian Lover

Happy 8th of August, everybody – that means it’s 808 day, of course. So, to celebrate, let’s flash back to a 2012 video of Egyptian Lover assembling a beat in his hotel room. The LA rapper/producer was a big part of the early hip hop and electro roots of 808 use. There’s something that still resonates in the beautiful simplicity of this Roland box. I’m struck when I hear it and watch in use that there’s something that seems futuristic – cold, even, but in a Stanley Kubrick 2001 sort of way. Of course, that doesn’t mean you need to …


Cool Things Chrome Can Do Now, Thanks to Hardware MIDI

Plugging a keyboard or drum pads into your Web browser is now a thing. One month ago, we first saw hardware MIDI support in Chrome. That was a beta; this week, Google pushed it out to all Chrome users. So, what can you actually do with this stuff? Well, you can open a Web tab and play a synth on actual hardware, which is pretty nifty. Support is still a little dicey, but the available examples are growing fast. Here are some of the coolest, in addition to the MIDI example and demo code we saw last month. The examples …


Inside The Glitch Mob’s Crazy Rockstar Live Electronic Rig

Press play? More like bang drums hit stuff finger warp touchpad go crazy. The Glitch Mob are one of America’s leading festival electronic acts. (And members like EdiT have IDM, not just EDM, credits to their name – so they were “glitching” before it was cool, in other words.) But while that circuit is in a frenzy of one-upmanship when it comes to spectacle, there’s some real playing behind this act. And that distances them from artists that put on a big show visually but have shied away from anything risky in the set – like actually playing the parts, …


‘R is for Roland’ is Coffee Table Pr0n For Synth Lovers

Blah, blah, the influence of the Roland drum machines, their musical/cultural significance… I’ve actually written those words before, so I’ll skip doing it this time. In case the YouTube subtitles aren’t working, let me translate the German from the making-of video below: “We decided to make a giant bit of pr0n for you because these old Roland boxes are so beautiful. Try to keep our finely-printed pages from sticking together.” Actually, the still above looks like something out of Blow-Up< – Antonioni for the studio set?


These are the Best Things at Musikmesse: CDM Best of Show Awards

What a week it’s been. Musikmesse in Frankfurt, one of the world’s largest gatherings of the music instruments industry, was host to a range of new gear, new technologies, and new revelations. I decided it’s finally time to crown my own picks as the most significant appearances at the show. Not because I have any particular right to do so, but I felt strongly enough about who was deserving. First, some honorable mentions:


This is the Latest Music Gear, in Pictures: Musikmesse Photo Essay

Some people have to go to trade shows that cover nothing but various types of floor tiles. We’re fortunate that we get to go to one about musical instruments. Benjamin Weiss, seasoned German journalist and now product designer, as well, lets us see through his eyes at the show. I have to say, to anyone who has been to California’s NAMM show but not Musikmesse, the entire feeling is different. Space is spread out and oddly quiet; meetings include leisurely meals of Bratwurst and beer in the sunshine. Whereas the nerdiest sound technologies at NAMM are often relegated to hidden …


Roland AIRA Modular: Tabletop, Eurorack, Digital, Analog, Our Comprehensive Guide

This is how much the world has changed: we aren’t just talking the resurgent, enduring synthesizer. Nor are we talking about retro reissues. We aren’t even talking the return of analog control voltage. We’re uttering “Roland” and “Eurorack” in the same breath. Roland has taken the wraps off their AIRA modular plans, and they’re extensive. Make no mistake, this is still AIRA, and it’s still Roland – these are devices that look and sound like the AIRA series. That is an obvious point of differentiation for the boutique makers, the sometimes one-person manufacturers, and the uniqueness of what they produce. …


Roland Confirms AIRA Modular Next Week, Shows Revealing Picture

Roland apparently doesn’t want to leave too much to the imagination – or online leaks. Now, it’s official. Roland has posted a teaser image to their AIRA site. It’s marked with the catch phrase “Start Patching,” plus “Frankfurt Musikmesse 2015” (next week’s industry trade show here in Germany). So, we know a lot for sure now: It’s an AIRA product. It has patch cords. It’s modular. (The filename on Roland’s own site is “b_airamodular.jpg”) They’re doing a rack-mount SYSTEM-1. (That’s the AIRA SYSTEM-1 layout in the device on the top. It seems they’re breaking it out a bit like the …