Here’s the story of how the Mac and Atari found their voice

There’s something magical about the moments in history when computers were able to speak (and sing) like a human. That’s certainly true of Bell’s famous “Daisy Bell” performance (the real-life moment echoed in 2001). But it’s also true of the Mac, which first spoke to uproarious applause.


Roland and Serato made a monster DJ controller that does everything

What do you get when you combine Roland and Serato? Well, a little bit of everything, it turns out. The flagship DJ-808 is a monster mixer controller sampler step sequencer audio interface drum machine vocoder. (Whew!) Some of its functionality is provided in the hardware itself; some is a control interface to Serato software on a computer. But together, you get a device that is perhaps the most ambitious all-in-one DJ gizmo yet.

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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.


Percussa want you to make modular music with cubes, blank knobs

Modular synthesis is everywhere – but there aren’t a lot of new ideas apart from using patch cables to connect them, a concept that dates from the early 1960s and telephone switchboards. Percussa are an outlier – an odd one, to be sure. Their blank, RGB light-up cubes (“AudioCubes”) connect wirelessly, and control associated software. To their credit, while plenty of “tangible” interfaces made the rounds as experiments and research projects, they went as far as commercializing the product. And that’s no mean feat. Anyone with some basic engineering knowledge can snap something into a Eurorack case and be part …


Bengal could be the Ableton synth you’ve been waiting for

Years ago, when Ableton’s Operator FM synth designed by Robert Henke made its debut, it was a revelation. Its clear panel design and flexible architecture made FM synthesis more accessible to countless Ableton Live users. But now Operator, while still a great go-to instrument, certainly deserves some competition. And that makes Bengal special. The production of Max for Cats (and Christian Kleine, another key designer of Ableton instruments), Bengal also innovates in the area of clear design and architecture. And with a semi-modular design, it goes further than Operator in opening up avenues for creative sound design.


Rent-to-own Serum means Kanye doesn’t have to pirate it

Somewhere – tonight, even – some unknown producer is going to make some brilliant new track using software. (Seriously, this is the world we live in.) And when they do, odds are they might well turn to a popular synth like breakout-hit Serum. The problem is this: someone getting started in producing is probably unwilling or unable to shell out US$189 for a single software instrument. So that individual is likely to pirate the software.


PPG Phonem, now on iPad, synthesizes sound like the voice

One of the things that makes the synthesizer beautiful is that, in some ways, it’s an extension of the voice. From the synthesizer’s early history, entangled with the Theremin and vocoder, to crossovers with vocal synthesis and artificial song, synthesis gives us another means to sing. So PPG Phonem is a lovely addition to that history. Creator Wolfgang Palm has made this a labor of love of late, and he’s on a roll with new synths for computer and iOS. The inventer of wavetable synthesis as we know it and founder/owner of PPG, he’s got the resumé, for sure. You …


Vocalists, track on your computer as if it were outboard gear

Maybe you’re tracking in a studio full of everything you want. But otherwise, it’s tough to argue with the appeal of being able to add tools freely, connecting just the cable from your mic to your computer. And so, for anyone recording vocals, this week’s news from Universal Audio is welcome indeed. It means that you can use a simulation of a powerful channel strip full of gear in software form – but track in real-time, as if you owned the actual hardware. And you can do it for a price that’s pretty humane.


Form is an all-new hybrid sample synthesizer

Native Instruments has been a pioneer in making tools like Reaktor that employ unique synthesis techniques. But more recently, that power has found its way to self-contained instruments. Tucked into the release announcement of Komplete 11 comes some very big news for lovers of creative sound design and synthesis. It’s a new instrument called Form. It’s powered by Reaktor, but it’s been built from the ground up, according to NI. And it lets you drag and drop sounds to manipulate them into playable instruments.