The DX7 - one of three instruments in a new library for Ableton Live. Photo (CC-BY-SA) Bernd Sieker.

Go full retrowave with a magical FM synth library for Ableton

FM is a conundrum. On one hand, it’s the ideal form of synthesis, capable of a rich range of sounds and transformations. On the other, it’s hard to actually get all that sound under control – the very thing that range would make you want to do. And accordingly, a lot of sound libraries have just skipped over FM altogether. Not our man Francis Preve and Symplesound. Here’s the concept: make FM fun and playable again. Make FM something where you want to start toying around and turning knobs, without fear that you’re going to get lost in a muddle …


Here are some of the best synth ads of all time

Okay, so while we wait for word to spread that the 808 ad we featured today came from 2016 London and not 1980 Japan, here are some real – and really genius – vintage synth ads. (Some of them no doubt inspired that London agency.) And thank you, YouTube, because these all warm our heart.

Photo: Udo Siegfriedt / CTM Festival.

Listen to John Chowning tell how he invented FM synthesis

To this day, it’s a synthesis method capable of producing wonderfully otherworldly sounds. And now as its applications on cell phones and cheap PC audio fade into distant memory, FM synthesis is left as one of the great achievements of musical invention, full stop – let alone being a key milestone of 20th century technology. So perhaps it’s time to revisit its significance.

Steinway Model D. Photo courtesy Steinway & Sons.

These piano breakthroughs changed music forever

Yesterday was Piano Day – a day recently christened by composer/pianist Nils Frahm in order to celebrate that ubiquitous keyboard instrument. (It’s held on the eighty-eighth day of the year.) There are concerts, marathons, project, releases – and unlike Record Store Day, this event won’t clog the ability to produce piano music. With that day as inspiration, I thought it was a good moment to look at some of the technology of and around the piano, to understand what has made this instrument special. That includes both strictly acoustic innovations as well as design features and breakthroughs that either inspired …

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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.


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.


Web MIDI and More Surprises You Didn’t Expect From Yamaha’s Reface

Yamaha’s Reface synth line are out now, with full details. You can dig through the site rather than have to do it here – but let’s look at what you might find surprising. It has Web MIDI, not just MIDI. Yamaha promises the line will connect to Google Chrome via Web MIDI. Now, theoretically, that’s possible in the latest Chrome builds with any MIDI keyboard, not just the Yamaha. But it suggests that Yamaha are atypically embracing bleeding edge tech (previously seen only at hackdays and such) and making it a standard feature. And there’s more: “Soundmondo is a free …


Hands-on Video of the Yamaha Reface Series

Extensive videos emerge to give you a hands-on look at Yamaha’s new electric piano / synth / organ keyboard line. They put some of the company’s favorite instruments at your fingertips in an uncommonly compact package. Our take:


Yamaha Leak Entire Line of Reface Synths; Here They Are

Yamaha’s new keyboards revealed – CP, CS, YC, DX. Small, apparently nice-sounding, and mass market. Who leaked them? Um, Yamaha.


New Yamaha Project Will Include “Totally Alien” New Technology, Says Interview

It seems synth guru Richard Devine couldn’t resist revealing something about upcoming Yamaha technology. In an interview earlier this month, he let slip that the instrument includes “alien” new tech: Usually when I work with a company – for instance I’m working with Yamaha on a project right now; I can’t say what it is, but it’s pretty crazy. This synthesizer has new technology that’s never been implemented before, so it’s totally alien to anything I’ve ever used. I’ve had to spend a few weeks just understanding the architecture of it. This tells us two things. One, whatever Richard is …