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Novation just packed more into small, affordable Circuit box

It’s tiny. It’s battery powered. It costs just over US$300 street. But Novation’s Circuit sample/drum/synth groovebox has been squeezing in a whole lot of functionality that makes it into a really serious tool, great for starting ideas or jamming or playing live. And we’ve been testing the latest build, version 1.3, for some days now. It’s available to everyone free right now, and it adds some significant changes that make this tool more flexible than ever. Let’s have a look.

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Ableton Live 9.7 in beta, with slicing and beatmaking news

Ableton Live 9.7 is right now in public beta – just days after the latest 9.6 release went final. Most of the functionality announced so far is related to Push and beat making; 9.7 brings features that let you play, record, and slice more easily from Ableton’s hardware. But that shouldn’t mean you should despair if you’re not a Push user; as with each Push release so far, there are parallel improvements in the software itself.

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Get a free pack that recreates Prince’s signature drum sounds

With so much to talk about in recent days about Prince’s legacy, it’s possible to overlook just what a deep impact he had on production and sound design. Working with Roger Linn’s classic boxes, the LinnDrum and LM-1, the artist left an indelible mark on the sound of pop. And you don’t have to slavishly copy those contributions: by learning how they’re put together, you can understand what went into them and follow your own sound. Just that sort of education in sound design – something for fans and students – is embodied in a free download for Ableton Live …

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We got our hands on Pioneer’s new SP-16 sampler

Pioneer revealed its Toraiz SP-16 hardware sampler earlier this week, along with the news that analog filters from Dave Smith were baked in. But beyond that, online specs were a bit vague. So we’ve just gotten to meet up with Pioneer (and Dave) and get close to a prototype unit. Firmware isn’t done yet, but we got to learn a lot more – and there’s a lot to like.

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Make music by touching waveforms, sampling, in new Novation app

Creating digital music is all about the business of mucking about with sounds. But somehow, the actual sounds themselves have been tangled up in immense grids and spreadsheets and mixers and things called piano rolls and so on. Blocs Wave is the latest attempt to use mobile apps to get back to basics. Here, whether you’re on an iPhone in your hand or the enormous iPad Pro, the sounds are at the center. Touch your way through the waveforms to make music – whether using soundpacks or adding your own.

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Get a free sampled drum kit made in a spacecraft test facility

Last November, I went armed with some LOM label microphones to the Netherlands to find out what sounds you could discover in a space research facility. That exploration produced a lot of sounds, and one way to play with them was to transform them into percussion. Now you can download the drum kit I made for your own use, or to create your own instruments.

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It's all acoustic technology. But, at last, it's 21st century acoustic technology. Photo: CDM.

Watch Una Corda, a software piano with a difference

The piano has been living with a beautiful legacy, but that legacy can double as tyranny. The Steinway Model D, favorite instrument of mine that it is, has also frozen the technological development of the keyboard instrument. And that’s why the Una Corda is different. Built custom by David Klavins, and associated with that builder’s collaboration with pianist Nils Frahm, this lightweight piano is unlike any you’ve seen or heard before. And now, you can get a taste of playing the real thing with a software instrument.

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Watch techno made entirely with physical, mechanical objects

Techno has become folk art, popular music idiom. Yet it’s still often viewed through the machines that first made it. What if you could give it some sort of physical, mechanical form? That’s what Graham Dunning has done with Mechanical Techno. And in a new video (produced by Michael Forrest), he shows how it’s done.

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Flesh from Tim Exile transforms sounds into performances [Interview]

Working with samples is great fun, but there’s a certain sameness to approach. Load a sample. Play back a sample. Slice a sample. FLESH takes a unique angle: it analyzes sound samples and mangles them into new animals. And it’s the latest from Tim Exile, a one-man live performer of madness himself (Warp, Planet Mu), and one of Reaktor’s greatest patching virtuosos on Earth. His first two instruments, THE FINGER and THE MOUTH, were already weird and wonderful tools for performance, but FLESH could be the deepest one yet. (Yes, that’s just Flesh, not The Flesh. So it could be, …

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iMaschine 2 adds steps, arrangement, chords to mobile drum machine [Review]

iMaschine, the iOS drum machine, is back in a new version. Now in mini, pocket-able form, you get arrangement and live play features from the desktop edition. For iPhone 6s/6s Plus owners, it also responds to 3D touch. I always keep sketchpads around – literal sketchpads, of the pencil and paper variety. So when software is described as a “sketchpad,” I take that seriously.

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