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.
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 …
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
This could be the NAMM of modular synths in the Eurorack format. The question is, with vendors big and small crowding into this niche market, what will stand apart? Waldorf’s answer is to draw on the company’s history (hello, wavetables!), and in an announcement this week, to offer up a range of modules that fit into a keyboard. The upshot: an all-in-one solution.
By now, you’ve heard about KORG’s $499 minilogue analog polysynth, and the next question is: how does it sound? I’ve been playing around with it, and I can at least say this: it isn’t boring. I’m wary of sound samples. Most synths are capable of producing some sorts of good sounds, unless there’s literally something wrong with the way they’re engineered. And likewise, the experience of using an instrument goes beyond what an out-of-context sound can describe. But with that in mind, I’ll share some somewhat random excursions here. My guess is that (cough) more respectable synthesists will post the …