bastldemo

Go gear crazy with the best synth gear unveiled at Superbooth

In just its second edition, Schneidersladen has turned the Superbooth into the world’s coolest synth gathering and most focused electronic music gear get-together. The Berlin-based event attracted a who’s who of international music gear makers, from modular to desktop, tiny to huge. So that led to the inevitable question: “what have you seen? What’s cool?” Sometimes you got to that topic before, like, “hello, how are you?” Well, while there was a litany of great new stuff, particularly (unsurprisingly) in the modular sphere, here are the prototypes and gear launches that I think represent the best of the best. We’ll …

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montagekeyboard

Yamaha may have the best workstation synth, now quietly improved

The workstation keyboard hasn’t died in the age of the computer and the analog revival. Instead, it’s just gotten, well, more workstation-y. Advances in embedded computation have gone alongside general purpose computer hardware, making the workstations from Japanese giants like Yamaha, Korg, and Roland do more than before, with expanded functionality, memory, and sound. These instruments do so much that it’s hard to describe them. But I know even some serious synth enthusiasts who have a lot of respect for Yamaha’s Montage. That may come as a surprise, partly because Yamaha’s marketing is aimed squarely at other groups. So yes, …

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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 …

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casioface

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.

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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.

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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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anodeweb - 1

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.

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volcafm2

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.

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refaceback

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 …

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reface_cs

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:

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