It’s about time to solve this power problem on music gear once and for all. Here’s the thing: USB has quietly simplified powering everything else. Look at your phone. Now, a USB cable not only means you can charge from your laptop, but also various travel adapters – and, crucially, from battery power. With mobile batteries getting steadily better, that’s huge. You can just pack a battery and not worry about finding a wall socket, for hours or (with high capacities) even days. And those batteries are getting better as products, too – you can buy some nice looking, nicely …
When Novation’s little Circuit came out, it was already an appealing, simple box for making music. You got two polysynths and a four-part drum machine built in, coupled with a step sequencer, RGB pads and encoders for control, and MIDI, all for just a hair above $300. At the same time, though, you were restricted to the built-in sounds. Today, Novation are unveiling a bunch of updates that open up the machine to more customization – to personalizing it for your own use.
Tools like the iPad have brought us lots of nice new things – day-long batteries, ultra-thin lightweight devices, beautiful touchable apps, less time spent troubleshooting. But then they’ve also forced us to make weird choices. Do you want electricity or do you want accessories. (Um, both? Wait, what?!) And so it is that I’m writing this piece of news. Now, you can plug into a wall for electricity! (Wow!) And, you can use USB accessories! And you don’t have to choose!
There’s a reason “mobile music” has become synonymous with iOS. Apple has been unmatched in terms of how appealing they make their mobile platform to developers. Today’s announcements are likely to be heavily covered by tech and Apple-focused sites, but we can cover the music angle pretty easily. It’s now possible to buy a new phone or tablet very cheaply with high-end performance capable of running demanding music apps. And that means the platform is likely to continue to attract both users and developers, in a continuous cycle. On the phone side, a 16GB iPhone 6SE starts at US$399, without …
Wish granted, hackers. The full specification for Ableton’s Push 2 hardware is now online on GitHub, after passionate Live users clamored for its release. And there’s a lot. This isn’t just a MIDI specification (though that’s there). Every minute detail of how colors appear on LEDs gets covered. (The color “white” has its own section. Yeah, like that minute.) Every animation. The pixels that show up on the display. This isn’t just a guide to how to hack Push 2 – though it’s certainly that. It’s a technical bible on how Push 2 works.
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.
“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.
There are plenty of hardware step sequencers out there. But now Arturia has a compact entry friendly to keyboardists. This isn’t about dialing up melodies with knobs. It assumes you actually know how to find melodies on some keys. Clearly building on the success of the BeatStep Pro sequencer hardware, Arturia’s Keystep is a keyboard with both step sequencer and arpeggiator modes. And Arturia has given CDM an exclusive first peek, to share with you.
There may be an Ableton logo splashed on it and integration designed specifically for Live. But one of the nice things about Ableton’s Push and Push 2 hardware are that, at their core, they’re open. Everything sends and receives standard MIDI messages. As we’ve seen, even the display is hackable. And that is admirable not only from an engineering standpoint, but because it means the hardware you invest in has a life beyond just specific drivers and software updates. Now, that extends even to rival software Bitwig Studio – which means you can even use a Push 2 on Linux.
We know Pioneer is dominant in the clubs. (Heck, as a brand, Pioneer is almost more of a sure thing than even Red Bull.) But as the global DJ population booms, is it something people will also take home? Pioneer sure does seem to hope so – and as it gears itself toward DJs outside clubs, it’s starting to look more like a direct rival to Traktor and Serato and their ecosystems.