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Modal’s Craft Synth is a surprising £79.00 monosynth

Imagine if Boeing or Airbus, in the midst of releasing airliners, suddenly unveiled a paper airplane kit for kids. The Modal Craft Synth isn’t that extreme – but maybe it’s close. Unlike their flagship synth, a monster luxury instrument that will set you back about five grand (USD), the Craft Synth is kit priced. £79.00 (about US$100 at the moment) buys you a complete monosynth. It’s labeled a “kit,” but you snap together pre-made circuit boards – think IKEA lay-flat cleverness. Of course, at that price, you don’t get a case or any particularly high-quality or rugged components. But if …

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Novation’s Circuit goes polyrhythmic, and other 1.4 goodies

Firmware updates aren’t supposed to be something that gets talked about. But somehow, Novation’s actually generate some buzz. There’s a lesson here for the whole industry. Social media strategy could actually be part of the development process. (Your engineers are part of your PR?) Anyway, the new Novation Circuit continues to get cooler. And some new features I’ve been waiting for arrived – the ones that made me stick it back into my MIDI rig, where it’s been earning lots of attention with that friendly face. The big ones for me: drum pattern length (for polyrhythms) and instant pattern switch. …

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$300 KORG Monologue synth is a sequel, not a mini Minilogue

A 25-key, monophonic version of Korg’s clever 4-voice Minilogue polysynth wouldn’t be a bad idea. And it’s what you’d expect, given the Minilogue came out only at the beginning of this year. But that’s not what the Monologue is. No, the Monologue is more a sequel to the Minilogue than it is just one with less keys and voices. And there are a number of smart ideas here. There’s a new filter. You want some different character with a monosynth than a polysynth, so here there’s a new 2-pole VCF and analog drive for what Korg says gives you “more …

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Joué is a modular touch sensitive controller that changes into anything

Like pressure-sensitive control – but don’t want to commit to one layout? Joué is a fascinating new controller concept that has touch sensitivity but lets you change layouts on the fly – with tactile control. The concept: add physical, modular overlays to the top to change the function of the controller. At its heart, the Joué is a USB-connected controller – much like the ROLI Seaboard, roughly speaking. It transmits data over MIDI. The difference is the physical overlays. Combined with configurable settings in a software editor, they let you add piano-style keys, drum pads, guitar-like frets, or other 3D …

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Here’s how Roland improves upon the original 303 sequencer

If you pick up the new Roland Boutique Series TB-03, you get more than just an emulation of the squelchy 303 bass synth. As with the AIRA TB-3 before it, the hardware is also a sequencer. So that means it’s capable of creating basslines for the internal instrument – or external gear, too. What’s special about the new TB-03 is that it both recreates the classic original 303 sequencer, and introduces a new, modern “reboot” of the same. Now we get to see how they differ in a pair of videos released by Roland.

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Elektron’s Analog Heat is a new distortion, filter, computer accessory

Surprise: Elektron’s latest isn’t a drum machine or sampler or sequencer. Analog Heat is instead a box you use with other stuff. And it has two missions. Mission one: add character to other sounds, via distortion, EQ, a filter, and modulation. Mission two: work with your computer, as an audio interface and as a way of adding that same analog business to software signals.

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Why Roland’s new 303 and 909 might even be better than the originals

One, two, three – Roland has finally made the 303 bassline, 909 drum machine, and VP-330 vocoder that so many people wanted. They’re small, they’re really affordable ($349-399), and they’ve got modern features. But after decades of remakes that strayed from the very things that made people love the originals, at last Roland has learned from their own legacy. So, let’s talk about what’s new and what, mercifully, isn’t.

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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.

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Grids in key, with Novation’s new Launchpad Pro scales

A piano keyboard or fretboard is set up with a particular mapping of pitch in mind. But the major advantage of any undifferentiated grid is the ability to work with scales. You can have any tuning and modes you like. A new free update to Novation’s Launchpad Pro adds that functionality to their grid controller – and that transforms how you’d use it musically. Now, Novation’s grid controller is far from the first such hardware to add the ability to map the pads to scales. Native Instruments’ Maschine (4×4) and Ableton’s Push (8×8) each have scale modes for their grids. …

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Zont is a futuristic pocket synth that takes snap-in cartridges

Time to start singing about how we’re the operator with our pocket calculator again. The ZONT Synthesizer is an upcoming handheld instrument. And it’s what one designer imagines for the synths of the future. Apart from being tiny, you can change its function by snapping cartridges in and out – Game Boy style. And whereas we think of synths now as big, clunky boxes with wires coming out of them, the ZONT can either plug into a desktop dock for connectivity or connect wirelessly. We’ve had a chat with its designer to see what’s in store.

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