KORG volca FM is here – and does some unexpected tricks

KORG’s runaway-hit volca series has proven small can be fun. But the volca FM promises more power in a small package. The volca FM, teased in California in January and demoed in early prototype form, is now official. And part of why we’re eager to get our hands on one is that it’s more than just another little synth box. Okay, so it’s a 6-operator FM synth that’s fun to play with – that you probably got right away. But it’s also a way of loading vintage FM patches, and has powerful editing features. Let’s look and listen.


Eowave’s Ribbon 2 synth-controller is an updated classic

Amidst a bumper crop of new, multi-dimensional hardware, it’s a wonderful time for the expressive controller. But Eowave’s unique boutique instrument is one in the classic mold: a long, touch-sensitive strip that can act as a synth or controller. It’s now updated in a new model called the Ribbon 2.


Axoloti board makes sound box the size of a game controller

Hot on the heels of our write-up of a board that makes any hardware you can imagine, here’s a mod that takes all that power and fits it in a handheld space with hands-on controls.


Axoloti makes any music hardware you can imagine

Meet a new, special creature. So, you’ve got your own special dream for a musical tool – the instrument or effect or sound machine you want. Traditionally, you’ve had a few options for realizing that – apart from going to the shops and hoping you can buy something that fits. You could develop in software and run that on a computer (via Max/MSP, Reaktor, Pd, SuperCollider, and so on). You could patch together some hardware rig (as on a Eurorack, for instance). But what if a tiny board could be the computer and the hardware? That’s the third category in …

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Here are all the gear videos from NAMM you should watch

The mighty NAMM show, a mind-bogglingly crowded gathering of basically anyone with anything to do with the sale of musical instruments, brought with it its usual slew of new music tech. Now, you could wade through all the videos from that show, until your brain is numbed by trying to make out rushed, rehearsed product spiels. And you’ll find that some are … well, less important than others. We’ve instead separated the wheat from the chaff to bring you our favorite videos of our favorite new stuff. Grab the popcorn.

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Now you can edit a MeeBlip synth from a Web browser

Thanks to the addition of MIDI to a new generation of browsers, a browser tab could as easily be an interface to a synth – not just a place for social media distractions of pictures of synths with cats. Now, we’ve got an (unsolicited) Web editor for our own MeeBlip synth, joining editors for Roland Boutique and Yamaha Reface instruments.


Meet Teenage Engineerings’ new trio of Pocket Operators

Priced at $59, inspired by vintage Nintendo Game & Watch, and looking like calculators, the Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator line was a runaway hit. So, just adding three more of them seems a no-brainer. Then again, with drum machines, bass synth, and lead synth covered, the next three might easily have been an anticlimax. Good news for Teenage Engineering fans: they aren’t. The Stockholm designers have managed three retro-tinted follow-ups that might easily make as big a splash the originals.

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Teenage Engineering has an OP-Z prototype, and it’s awesome

“Surprise!” might well be Teenage Engineering’s best tagline. The latest unexpected invention from Sweden is the OP-Z – pronounced “oh pee zed.” It’s an all-in-one instrument/groovebox like its predecessor the OP-1, packed into a tiny, game-like form factor. And even from the early prototype shown at NAMM, it’s fantastic.


Hands on with KORG’s new volca FM

Surprise! In addition to the hit minilogue, KORG are unveiling a volca series that does FM synthesis. And KORG are even making a friendly nod to their Japanese rival with a DX7 color scheme. I got to play with the new volca FM, and – well, there’s a lot of cool things I can already share about it.


The new Arturia MatrixBrute is 100% analog, 100% insane

Well, f*** minimalism, apparently. We’ve seen monophonic/duophonic synths. We’ve seen new analog keyboards. What we haven’t seen is analog keyboards that seemed to be designed when an inventory of pads and knobs exploded – in your face. And that’s what the new Arturia MatrixBrute is. It looks like a fake Photoshop mockup you’d see on a forum, perhaps. But it’s real. All real. Close your eyes for a second and let your retinas recover, and let’s sort out what is actually even happening here.