It runs on three AA batteries. It’s not really much bigger than those three AA batteries. And yet somehow, it’s a modular. You can use it like a synth, or even plug it into other gear. It’s the Kastle, from Bastl Instruments, those wizards from Brno, Czech. And at 65€ (79€ fully assembled), it’s going to sell like hotcakes. (Makes me hungry for hotcakes, even.)
araucann looks like what would happen if someone’s plug-in SDK … exploded on the floor. It’s a six-oscillator synth – okay, so far, so good – but then it also has 33 envelopes and 32 LFOs and things sort of get out of hand from there. This ocean of parameters is then encapsulated into a set of simple, musical controls that let you easily — ha, no, only joking. They made a knob for everything and called it a day. Each individual oscillator has its own bank of controls, and then even one of those banks is already slightly overwhelming. …
Our MeeBlip synth is back. It’s still a tiny box you can add to a synth setup. It’s still just US$139.95. But now, it packs some improved features – and bigger-than-ever bass.
808. 909. 303. 330. No, really “330.” VP-330. That last one is also a classic Roland product with a cult following, but suffice to say, it isn’t a household name on the same level. It’s Roland’s 1979 “Vocoder Plus” instrument – the “plus” added because it was not only a vocoder, but also a string and vocal synth. It also got a reboot on Friday’s mega-launch of Roland instruments. Here’s the surprise: it might be the most interesting of the Boutique offerings yet.
We’ve seen a minor renaissance in mobile music gear – KORG’s volca series, Teenage Engineering’s tiny Pocket Operators, the Gakken synths, Roland’s boutique series, and more. (We’re a believer in this – that’s why CDM co-produces the MeeBlip synth.) But while these small instruments are great, they wind up getting tossed into a bag. That risks damaging them, and there’s a lot of business of packing and unpacking them when you play. We wanted a solution, so we made our own. It’s called BlipCase.
PPG’s Phonem vocal synth for iPad is one of the nicest synths to come out this summer. So, let’s get straight to using it. Our friend Jakob is here with a great tutorial: It’s a nice introduction to the architecture, by way of a drone sound design. Also, I can’t say enough good things about Jakob’s YouTube channel – it’s one of the best tutorial sources out there, with a particular focus on affordable hardware and mobile apps and gear. His Haq Attack series has now climbed well into triple figures in episode count and more keep coming. It’s hard …
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.
Okay, enough teasing already. Behringer has a 12-voice polyphonic synth called the DeepMind. And now let’s talk about exactly what to expect, in one place.
Roland’s Boutique Series is … dangerous, frankly. These little sound modules (based on the Jupiter-8, Juno-106, and JX-3P) really do sound terrific and are totally adorable in person. They’re one of the things you can easily dismiss when you first see them … then fall in love with in person. The 1.10 update fixes one fatal flaw: now the whole series supports MIDI Control Change send and receive.