Welcome to all the best bits of synth, modular and music tech news from the last month in a wonderfully long transcript from my packed-out video. For the video version please head over to my YouTube channel.
We had a NAMM, it seemed to go by and nobody really noticed. There are a few guitars and bits of bobs, people talking about MIDI 2.0 as if that’s ever going to happen but otherwise, in terms of synthesizers there were a couple but really most of it had already been wrung dry at Superbooth. But we have a couple of things to talk about and plenty of other things going on this month including:
- Nina is a 12-voice motorized synthesizer.
- The 3rd Wave of wavetables is getting groovy.
- Happy Nerding goes pro.
- Blipblox has another synth for toddlers.
- Cre8audio has a second little desktop synthesizer.
- Audient does the right thing with the id44.
- Simon the Magpie has his fingers stuck in a Beehive.
- Apollo View falls down the Rabbit Hole.
- Softube decides to model the SH-101.
- Nano Modules comes up with an interesting little case.
- Frequency Central also finds itself tumbling down the rabbit hole; it’s getting crowded in the world of Alice in Wonderland.
- Ge0synch has some 303 modules.
- Music Equipment Concepts is going to automate your eurorack.
- Moog Mavis
- Steinberg is going to take you off for some live VST performance.
- Bitwig and U-He get the CLAP.
- Roland does its software thing on the Jupiter-4.
- Novum is another weird granular synth.
- Noise Engineering does it smaller
- Midicake wants you to have your ARP and eat it.
- Enjoy Electronics releases The Godfather.
- And Akai reinvents the Korg M1.
But first this month we have the really sad news that Dave Smith has left us. Dave Smith was the guy who invented the Prophet-5, he went on to produce extraordinary things and technology with MIDI, software synthesis, and digital technology. He then came back, rebuilt his old line of synthesizers and in recent years re-emerged as Sequential and gave us back the Prophet-5 and the Prophet-10 and other bits of awesomeness. He was an all-round good guy, well respected, loved, revered I think, an awesome bloke who worked really hard throughout his entire career to generate and create extraordinary electronic instruments for us to play with. He will be desperately and sorely missed.
I had the pleasure of meeting him very briefly at Superbooth. I was able to fist pump him and say thanks very much for everything that you did – that was kind of it and he was there running his booth at the age of 70 odd, doing his thing, showing off the new Oberheim. So he was running his industry, running with his passions until his very last. And so Dave I don’t think your legacy can be overvalued, it’s just been an extraordinary thing and I thank you for all of the synthesizers.
Melbourne Instruments Nina
One of the standout things at NAMM was the Nina motorised synthesizer. This is one of those things that we’ve talked about a lot over the years, the fact that when you’re looking at hardware, physical, analogue type hardware, you can’t really see exactly what’s going on when things change. You can see the positions of all the knobs but as soon as you start to control stuff, as you automate stuff, as you start to send modulation about the place, you’ve no longer got that visual indication of what’s going on. Similarly, once you start getting into digital synthesis and digital control with analogue synthesis you have presets. As soon as you select a new preset the knobs are no longer pointing to what they’re supposed to be pointing to. So, you know, it’s a thing.
It’s something that software synthesis does very well. You can completely visualize all of the movements and you know exactly where you are. That’s not what you can do in hardware. Well, you can, but it has been up to now expensive and terribly troublesome. Motorised knobs are a wonderful idea it’s just that they are expensive and difficult to fix when they inevitably break.
Melbourne Instruments says that they’ve taken on drone technology where there are a lot of little tiny motors that they’ve adopted in order to run their knobs. The result is you’ve got these very fast, very quiet knobs that spin all over the place in order to recall your patches. But also, apparently, the encoders feel very analogue because they essentially have motors built-in which gives a certain amount of resistance to your turning, which is quite interesting. But of course, the most interesting thing is that you select a new patch and all the knobs go around – it’s quite brilliant!
Otherwise, the specs are pretty good, a mixture of analogue oscillators with wave morphing, a digital wavetable engine and potentially sampling and wavetable building within the device itself. You’ve got all the usual synthesizer and filter bits going on but it is undoubtedly the movement of those knobs that grabs the attention and I think, and it’s probably elevating what would otherwise be a half-decent synthesizer to a position of fascination.
I like the fact they’ve got this morph knob down in the bottom right-hand corner so you can morph between presets so it’s not just a quick recall you can slowly move from one thing to another and all those knobs are doing the dance at the same time. It also raises questions like if you were to stick audio-rate modulation in there would the knob respond to that, would it be moving at the speed of sound?
In the demos that I’ve seen the movement tends to be between patches as opposed to showing or demonstrating modulation but that may be simply because the right questions haven’t been asked yet.
- Melbourne Instruments website.
Groove Synthesis 3rd Wave synthesizer
Next up from NAMM we saw the 3rd Wave from Groove Synthesis. This very much looks like a PPG Wave mainly because they’ve painted it blue. I mean they could have chosen any other color and it wouldn’t look anything like it but perhaps they’ve gone full on for the “let’s be a bit like a PPG” and then people will understand what we’re doing.
It’s 24 voices of wavetable PPG-inspired synthesis that pulls in all the classic and crappy wavetables from the old days and puts them together with some very high-quality modern up-to-date high-resolution wavetables. It has all the usual things like some virtual analog style waveforms in there along with dozens and dozens and dozens of other morphing waveforms that can run into each other and back again while being super modulated by a super modulatable envelope. And there are lots of matrix types options so I kind of feel like we’re going over the same ground a lot at the moment.
One nice thing about it is that it is 4-part multi-timbral. So you’ve got your 24 voices and you can cut that down to four different parts, which kind of moves it on from being just a synthesizer you play, into a synthesizer that you can work with, you can layer with, you can split with, perform with, or multi-track with. It’s a mighty machine at around about just under £4000 so it’s a serious piece of work.
- Groove Synthesis website.
Happy Nerding FX AID PRO
Igor from Happy Nerding was operating out of Ukraine but my understanding is that he’s safe and relocated to Spain. The FX AID Pro builds on the other effects modules they’ve done and this gives you everything, all the effects, in the one module. It’s got a display you’ve got knobs and inputs and outputs on it and it contains 200 effects – that’s 200 effects within one module!
It’s quite wide on this occasion whereas the other FX AIDs have been quite small even the XL is relatively small but this one just goes all the way to give you more effects than you could possibly imagine. I don’t know what you would do with 200 effects in your rack but I guess the idea is that you have every effect that you could possibly want and you just choose the one you want at that time. I tend to find that I like to have a module that does that one thing so I’m not having to fiddle about with it all the time so you’ll probably end up buying one, turn it on to reverb and leave it there. But i mean I think the point is that it gives you endless endless possibilities of trying things out and testing things and finding new effects and new ways of modulating and interacting with those that you haven’t thought of before. So that’s awesome.
- Happy Nerding website.
Blipblox SK2 and myTracks
Blipblocks released this Fisher-Price style kind of kid synthesizer with great handles on it, big buttons, a built-in speaker, flashing lights and it looks like a lot of fun. You kind of expect it to be about 20 quid and it’s not, it’s a couple of hundred quid. It’s a real proper synthesizer built into a child-friendly, dribble-proof, chewable interface. Is that awesome? If you’ve already got every synthesizer in the world and you want something for your toddler to play with then fill your boots.
Now you’ve got the updated SK2. It’s even better, even spacier, even more durable. Alongside it Blipblocks has released the “myTracks”. You slap it like an MPC. It’s a groove box, in fact, it’s probably got an MPC 6000 in there somewhere and you slap away at it and create grooves and stuff. It’s got a couple of handles on it, I don’t know why, anyway, they seem to be really popular with many many people. I just feel I have better things to spend my money on than synthesizers for toddlers. But in terms of educational potential for your children then it’s an awesome $500 worth of stuff. There you go kids, no you just want to play with the box? Oh, ok, all right then never mind. Fun!
- Playtime Engineering website.
Cre8audio West Pest synthesizer
Meanwhile, the similarly priced West Pest was inbound from Cre8audio. They already dazzled us with the East Beast and now we have the not unexpected West Pest. I’ve done a review of it both on YouTube and a written version on this website.
It’s a great little synthesizer. A desktop synth done right as far as I can tell. It’s got great knobs, a fascinating look, great sound and lots of connectivity. It’s got some interesting digital elements within an analogue environment it plays well and it’s a great price. I mean you could get your myTracks MPC or your SK2 or you could get yourself like something that feels like a proper synthesizer and that sounds like you could craft away at this thing for hours producing interesting things. It even looks chewable and I think your kids could chew it and dribble on it and it would still work. So I would suggest that this would be the better choice even in terms of education for kids.
Anyway, the West Pest is a west-coast-inspired synthesizer from Cre8audio and Pittsburgh Modular. It takes the dynamics of a low-pass gate and a wave folder which has loads and loads of stages, and ways to wrap themselves around each other. It includes some resonance to push some of those peaks out and some sustain to make it last longer than your standard Buchla blip. In the low pass gate dynamics department, it uses actually a VCA and a filter to generate a longer release time so you can get a more interesting and more varied range of tones out of it. It still has the same digital modulation possibilities as the East Beast so you can run different envelopes, LFOs, and randomization. It has this really simple and easy sequencer and arpeggiator which can morph from one mode into the other. So you can sequence stuff by adding a few notes in, and then you can just switch it to arpeggiator and bring that in, and then use the arpeggiator as a sequencer and add to that later on, so it has some really great, well thought out little features. And it just sounds brilliant!
- Cre8audio website.
- Buy from Thomann – https://thmn.to/thoprod/545070?offid=1&affid=1460
- Buy from Perfect Circuit – https://tinyurl.com/molten-westpest
Audient has upgraded their ID44 to MKII. I think the ID44 is probably the most ideal audio interface for your home studio or semi-pro messing about that wants a few inputs and potential for expansion with the highest quality in and out that they can get. And have all of that wrapped up in a really nice-looking interface. Yeah, the ID44 absolutely does it.
So you’ve got four mic preamps going in so you can record a band or you could have a couple of synths going in, your guitar and brilliant, that’s exactly the sort of level of stuff that I’m currently using an Arturia Audiofuse for, which is also a good interface. But I’m really taken with the Audient although the original version didn’t really offer anything over what I had. However, they recently upgraded a couple of their other modules and I thought well that’s exactly what I want; they’ve added in the loopback they’ve improved the performance and made it look a little bit better. Now they have finally got around to upgrading the ID44 and I think it’s a peach. Along with the four proper mic preamps you’ve got a nice big knob on the top which also controls other bits and pieces, you’ve got good metering you’ve got everything accessible, headphone sockets, inserts, you’ve got some nice JFET-based instrument inputs, all just lovely. Now it includes a loopback function so that it has the ability to run internal software through itself which really elevates the id44 to being the interface of choice. it also has ADAT in and out which means you can add another eight channels and stuff those in or back out again, which also means running dc-coupled stuff potentially to your eurorack and back out again.
It’s just a great selection of features in a great-looking box in a good size for about 600 euros, so you know, it’s premium but is not unreachable. And for being like the centre of your recording world it could be a decent upgrade.
- Audient website.
- Buy from Thomann – https://thmn.to/thoprod/544989?offid=1&affid=1460
- Buy from Perfect Circuit – https://tinyurl.com/molten-audient0id44mk2
Simon The Magpie The Beehive
The forever lovely Simon the Magpie has released his own synthesizer. 42 oscillators slapped into a bright yellow box for droning and fun things. It’s called The Beehive and you can imagine why. What you’ve got is a 7×7 grid but with six oscillators and then a volume knob on each row. So you could see it as seven, six-oscillator drones which is quite extraordinary. You can take those out of individual outputs at the back, pan them about the place, and just submerge yourself in this ever-evolving rattling, morphing and phasing sound of all these oscillators going to town.
The idea, Simon says, is that it’s primitive, minimalist and makes a whole load of noise. It’s there for you to enjoy exploring what you can do with all of those different individual oscillators. He builds them himself which you can also watch him do live on his live stream.
- Simon’s website.
Apollo View Rabbit Hole and Curiouser
Apollo View is a new modular maker coming out of somewhere in England I think, and their ethos is to bring some special spark or some special source to your modular. The first pair of modules is the Rabbit Hole. It looks rather striking from the front, it’s got this enormous valve sticking out of the middle and these angry rings of lights and modulation that are going on. It’s a bit of a summing mixer it just mixes stuff together, you plug stuff in, it mixes it and infuses it through the tube for saturation and for adding a bit of character. It has only two channels and so you could see it as kind of an overly elaborate stereo VCA. But it’s more like a two-channel vintage VCA because of the tube and the sort of circuitry designed to emphasize the classic tones. And if that sort of drive is not quite enough for you then the delightfully named Off With Their Heads (OWTH) distortion circuit will push it further.
So we’re talking about warmth, about juiciness, we’re talking about lovely valve-infused distortion and diffusion which is a lovely idea.
If you’re still thinking that two channels is not quite enough then they have a companion module called the Curiouser which adds another two channels. You can also use it as its own two-channel VCA. DivKid has done a big video on it with patch examples and all sorts of stuff showing you all the ins and outs. It looks like a very fun module.
- Apollo View website.
- Buy the Rabbit hole from Perfect Circuit – https://tinyurl.com/molten-apollo-rabbit
- Buy Curiouser from Perfect Circuit – https://tinyurl.com/molten-apollo-curiouser
Softube Model 82
I know that every software manufacturer likes to believe that they’re the first person ever to have invented any emulation of any synthesizer ever. Softube do this really brilliantly by never actually mentioning the thing they’re emulating although making it completely obvious. This time around it’s the SH-101 oh yes, never seen one of those before, good gracious no, this is the first time ever. Isn’t it extraordinary that we live in such times that such things will be made available to us? However joking aside I quite like Softube, I like what they do, I like the vibe that it seems to give off. They have a way of capturing stuff that really does give it some meat and some kind of sound that resonates with me.
So with their Model 82 they’ve taken on the classic Roland SH-101. It has everything in there that you can imagine it’s supposed to have, including the quirky sequencer and the look and the layout and the workflow that you can expect from that classic Roland synthesizer. They couldn’t, of course, leave it alone so they’ve added velocity, aftertouch and a drive saturation knob.
The other thing that I really like about what they do is that they then break it all up and allow you to run it as separate modules within their Modular software Eurorack environment. And so if you’re into Softube modular as well then that gives you a whole extra place to play with these things.
- Softube website.
Nano Modules CAIXA 104
I like nano modules a lot. I’ve got the Ona oscillator and I’ve got their Quartz quad envelope thing going on – nice stuff. Unexpectedly they’ve released a bit of a case it’s called the Caixa 104. It’s a 104 HPwide row of eurorack, but what’s interesting about it is they’ve stuck a 1U row at the top, not unlike the Intellijel Performance case. However, this 1U row is already populated, it’s an entire strip made of utilities that Nano Modules has curated for you, which removes the need for you to fill the case with any utilities. Instead, you can put the good stuff, the oscillators, the filters and the interesting effects within the row itself because all of the utility stuff is taken care of in that top row.
So what you get in the top is some input modules, some buffered mults, you get a precision adder, LFO, sample and hold, stereo mixer, and a stereo output and headphone module. So it makes it a very self-contained little modular case which I think is totally brilliant. The price would initially seem out of whack because it’s a lot more expensive than the Intellijel case but you have to remember that it’s got about £300 worth of modules in there so that makes a massive difference.
The marketing for this thing is extraordinary, the video they put together is amazing, they’ve got far too much time on their hands, it just looks phenomenal. So yeah it’s a cool little case for a little performance rig, just a single row with a row of 1U utilities are all ready to go, nice handle on the top, job done.
- Nano Modules website.
- Buy the CAIXA 104 from Thomann – https://thmn.to/thoprod/544861?offid=1&affid=1460
- Buy the CAIXA 104 from Perfect Circuit – https://tinyurl.com/molten-nano-caixa104
Frequency Central Wonderland and Looking Glass
Meanwhile, back in Wonderland, Frequency Central has come up with a pair of matrix mixers. We’ve got Wonderland which is the 8×8 and then another one the Looking Glass which is a 5×5. What’s the difference? Well, more than you’d think and so I’m not entirely sure why they decided to do two.
You’ve got an 8×8 matrix in a module that allows you to root 8 inputs to 8 outputs but also 8 inverted outputs which can be very interesting in terms of modulation, less so probably for audio mixing. But essentially you hit the button and that connects an input to an output, or an input to many outputs. You can use it as a mult, you can use it as the opposite of a mult, and you can use it to mix modulations or signals together. You could use it for sends and returns from effects and all sorts of different things. The slight downside with the 8×8 is that it has tiny attenuators on the inputs you have to use a screwdriver on them which seems weird. But also there’s no way of knowing what it is you’ve allocated anything to because there’s no kind of visual indication. There’re buttons but the buttons don’t light up and there’re no LEDs or anything to tell you what’s actually going on. So it might be a little bit exploratory or simple but then that’s cool because it’s not expensive, and it’s a great way to create and craft some routing through your eurorack.
The Looking Glass, on the other hand, is a 5×5 matrix which includes full-sized attenuators and LEDs to let you know that there are signals going from one place to another. The LEDs are exactly what you need to use a matrix properly so I would say the Looking Glass is probably the better bet. You’re going to be less frustrated with it than the 8×8.
Matrix Mixers are brilliant, they’re the sort of module that really opens up your eurorack to all sorts of different possibilities that you hadn’t previously thought of, simply because you didn’t have the routing or mixing power. With something like that it just opens up a whole mass of versatility.
- Frequency Central website.
Ge0synchronous synths has released a little range of TB-303 Eurorack modules. So you take your Roland TB-303 and you pull out the oscillator, you pull out the filter and the VCA, and you stuff those into different modules that you can then run within your Eurorack. You can use them in different ways in different configurations, good solid stuff.
They’ve not just done it individually they’ve also mixed it together a bit so you’ve got the TB-O which is the oscillator from the 303 but also outputting square and triangle waves along with a sawtooth and a strange mix of a sine-shark-sawtoothy-square thing with pulse width modulation.
Next up you get the TB-EF. Now, this has an envelope and filter together so you’ve got the filter section from the 303 but with the envelope section also built-in to give you that squelchy acidy sound which is vital. I think that’s a brilliant idea, rather than having the filter by itself and expecting you to have an envelope to emulate a similar sort of sound. Instead, you can go directly to what you need. They’ve also taken the resonance into the crazy zone and let you really go to town on some self-oscillation, and there’s a bit of filter drive in there to really just go nuts.
The third module is the TB-EFA which is the envelope, filter and VCA giving the rest of the voice. It has the one envelope to run both the filter and the VCA, like it is in the 303 which had bugger all in terms of control over these things. You’ve got a bit more going on in these modules including a bit more decay which is nice for expanding the palette.
They also have a Super Oscillator coming along which is where they’ve taken three of the TB-0s and stuck them together in a single module for a wonderful stack of square waves, some wonderful unison or awesome intervals going on.
- Ge0synch website.
Music Equipment Concepts Phrader Bank
Music Equipment Concepts were the people behind the slightly strange Chord Monger. It was just a whole bunch of buttons on a strip of stuff which gave you different chords over MIDI. I liked it and played with it quite a bit. This time they’re having to go at Eurorack with something which really does interest me. It’s called the Phrader Bank.
You’ve got eight sliders/faders and all it does is generates voltage. So it’s like a Voltage Block. You pull up the fader and it generates voltage. Well, that’s exciting! But there’s more to it than that, you see what it has inside is a little computer system which is going to record every single movement that you make, up to minutes of stuff. So if you think about it, it suddenly turns into an automation system for your Eurorack where with each slider I can create some modulations. I move the fader up and down and then that will loop around. So whatever it is I want to modulate in my system I can patch it in, do the thing on the fader and it will just continue doing it. So I might want to do a little bit of filter action and it will keep going while I play on something else. And then come back to it and change it or modify it or something.
Having something that generates voltage in and of itself is useful, just so you can put in an offset or do a change or potentially mult it out like a macro to change a lot of different things at once. It is simply eight sliders some buttons and some lights, it’s nothing more complicated than that. It’s not synchable, it’s not clickable, it doesn’t have anything like that going on it’s all just hands-on, move the thing around, hit the button and it will loop. Brilliantly simple, useful and I think the sort of thing that could run the modulation of your show.
- Music Equipment Concepts website.
The Moog Mavis was first shown at Superbooth at a secret event. People were put on a boat, blindfolded, taken to a secret location and discretely shown the Mavis. There was so much secrecy around it and then when it was released there were like a hundred videos cascading into your feed – I can’t believe it didn’t leak. Every YouTuber on the planet had one, even people who weren’t really YouTubers, we were awash with Mavis’. It was kind of like we’ve hit this critical point now where there are so many people being given synthesizers before the release day that the amount of videos you get is almost overwhelming and you start to wonder about the usefulness of all of that.
Sadly, mine got lost in the post so I didn’t have one to do my own video on and ride that Mavis wave. But I do now, which is very nice, so I will do something about it, although I’m going to have to think long and hard about what to do because I think it’s pretty much been covered and done to death now.
So, what is it? Well, it’s a great little desktop mini synth. It’s got a VCO and VCF but perhaps more interestingly it has a wave folder, which is something a little bit different from Moog. So it’s not a mini Mother-32 it’s not a Werkstatt, it is its own thing. It has a little button keyboard, doesn’t have a sequencer, and has a patchbay on the wrong side of itself. So, it’s an interesting little analogue synthesizer and it’s a great way to perhaps get into synthesis. If you’re interested in getting a Moog synth and the Mother-32 is just too far out of reach then maybe the Mavis is for you.
My initial reaction to it is that I’m not really sure that Moog needs to do this. I think things like the DFAM Mother-32 and Subharmonica are exactly what they should be doing. They are entry-level enough to give you a beautiful synthesizer in a beautiful layout with the quality and the sound that you want from Moog. I think that’s low enough and I don’t know that they need to go further down because it starts to get more and more compromised. It’s got tiny weeny knobs on it a bit like a Volca, it’s not as semi-modular as perhaps you would think, you’ve also got to put the thing together yourself, so there are compromises and it still ends up not being as cheap as some comparable alternatives.
I will have a video on it sometime in the next month and as I work on it I’m sure I’ll think of something fascinating and interesting and new no-one’s-ever-thought-of way of looking at it.
- Moog website.
- Buy the Mavis from Thomann – https://thmn.to/thoprod/544471?offid=1&affid=1460
- Buy the Mavis from Perfect Circuit – https://tinyurl.com/molten-moog-mavis
Steinberg VST Live
Steinberg has got into the live performance gambit. Many people use their DAWs for live performance, running it on their laptop or whatever and that that’s a known thing, but to have something a little bit more specialized is always a good thing. We’ve seen it in PreSonus Studio One with their Show Page which is very well integrated into their DAW. You can port projects across and then perform them live and it gives you all sorts of interesting live performance possibilities running everybody’s show from the one laptop. Main Stage on the Apple of course is another one so as Gig Performer. These ways of running virtual instruments and mixing and effects and bits and pieces all within a single piece of software that’s not weighed down by all the facilities that a DAW would bring.
So Steinberg has given this a go with VST Live. It includes virtual instruments, it has a live sequencer within it, and it has DMX lighting control which is cool, I mean I guess we’re controlling our own lights from our rig as well of course. We want control over everything and it makes sense that that is synced directly to your music. VST Live can also generate different clocks to send to different people in different ways it gives you the opportunity to run backing tracks either MIDI or audio. It brings everything together.
It’s exactly the sort of thing that they need to be doing because there’s a lot of great stuff within Cubase but a more streamlined version running on a tablet or a laptop would be a brilliant way of running your show without having to worry about all of the complexities and all the clicking that you need to do within a DAW. I think it’s a great direction for them to go.
- Steinberg website.
CLAP – Biwig and U-He
Talking about new directions, we have the CLAP plug-in format from Bitwig and U-He. It’s a collaboration between these two powerhouses of synthesis, audio and virtual instruments in order to give us a new plug-in format. VST has been around for donkey’s years and it’s always had its restrictions. VST2 seemed to be really fruity and funky and open and then they shut that down and they’ve forced everybody into VST3 format which seems to be more powerful and versatile but also clunkier and more difficult to use. It seems that to have a single protocol that runs our entire plug-in situation is perhaps dangerous and unnecessary. This new format called CLAP is open source so that anyone can write for it you don’t need to have a special development pack from a particular manufacturer. It’s been in development for a long long time but it’s just about ready to go.
CLAP incorporates all the aspects of MIDI 2.0 which makes it potentially very exciting in that absolutely every parameter can be addressed polyphonically, and hopefully, it will bring in all sorts of advantages and improvements to the plugin interface that we’ve probably all been asking for, but I just can’t remember off top of my head. I think it’s going to be great and I think it’s well past the time that we need something new.
Of course, we’ve got AU on ios and Apple and AAX for Pro Tools and that’s fine but the advantage that CLAP is going to bring is the fact that it’s so open that it can be worked on by a community and developed to do anything we can possibly imagine. So I like the limitlessness of that possibility.
Roland Jupiter-4 VST
Back in Roland land they’ve released a new software synthesizer. It’s an emulation of the Jupiter4. Haven’t they done that already? Surely they must have done that already? No, apparently not. So now they have Jupiter-4 as a software instrument plugin.
The Juipter-4 was the first Jupiter synthesizer and with four voices it was Roland’s first polysynth. It essentially gave birth to the range of Jupiter and Junos and it has this look about it which is kind of a cross between organs with those buttons down under the keyboard, as well as the emerging synthesizers of the time.
The plugin has all the cool stuff from the original one and also the ability to dial in the crappiness. So if you wanted to sound like you did just find it in a bin out the back of some old rehearsal rooms then you can dial that in so it sounds a bit kind of rubbish. Otherwise, just enjoy the wonderment of Roland’s emulation technology and their ability to recreate their own old synthesizers in software form and sell them back to you as part of a Roland cloud subscription.
They’re also releasing a bundle so you can buy a bunch of these things together and that includes the absolute classics the Jupiter -4, Jupiter-8, Juno-60, Juno-106 and the JX-3P or whatever it is, the one that nobody really cares about. You can buy those together now as a bundle which is pretty exciting, although it’s a lot more expensive than you’d like it to be.
Now a while ago we had a fascinating synthesizer called the Abyss from Dawesome via Tracktion Corporation. They’re following that up with a new one called the Novum. It’s similarly is weird and bizarre and interesting, visually arresting, fantastically granular, and I don’t really know what’s going on. You turn it on, select a preset, press your keys and stuff happens. There’s this band of stuff, all these circles knocking around and moving around and I guess graining out different bits of samples and stuff. It’s just super weird in a wonderful way. Then you’ve got this kind of colour wheel that you click on and that changes the way the tones and timbres are rattling about and affecting one another. Very interesting and weird.
I’m not entirely sure what it’s doing in any particular position but I think one needs to take a little bit of time with it which I haven’t done in the slightest. So yeah don’t take my word for it because I really don’t know what I’m talking about, but it looks beautiful, and the sounds coming off it are awesome. I think you should go and try it out because the last stuff that your man from Dawesome made was brilliant, I really liked it. It was a fascinating and really interesting way of creating strange and bizarre textures and this seems to be along a similar vein.
- Tracktion website.
Noise Engineering Legio
Noise engineering has released a new DSP platform called Legio. They already have a DSP platform that they’ve put on these quite chunky Versio modules that can run different firmwares which use the same front panel. They’ve now released Legio, a newer platform which is small about half the size of 6 HP. Same idea really you’ve got different firmware that can go onto the little microcomputer at the back and then you’ve got different front panels which tell you exactly what’s going on. You buy the one that you want with the firmware that you want and then we stick other firmwares in it and ignore what it says on the front panel.
The first one, the Vert Iter Legio, is a stereo oscillator which sounds quite exciting and actually what you’ll find inside is the algorithms that Noise Engineering wrote for the Arturia Microfreak. Those are also available in the free plug-in software versions that they’ve released quite recently so you can actually go and try this out in software first and decide whether that’s the kind of thing you’d like to have in a hardware module. Then we have Librae Legio which gives you dynamics processing, so compression, limiting, EQ, that kind of thing.
So you can swap between the two firmware and there are more to freely available to all of the people who own these modules. So the functionality is just going to increase over time. I get slightly confused by things that don’t say what they are, so as soon as I put an alternative firmware on something I lose all coherence over what a module is doing. But it is an interesting and fascinating way of adding a great deal of value to a module.
- Noise Engineering website.
- Buy the Virt Iter Legio from Perfect Circuit – https://tinyurl.com/molten-noise-virtiterlegio
- Buy the Librae Legio from Perfect Circuit – https://tinyurl.com/molten-noise-libraelegio
The ARP from Midicake is a complex parametric MIDI arpeggiator with 4 channels of arpeggiation. It’s got a little keyboard you can see on the front, so you could probably just put in chords and it will do that as an arpeggiator, or you can stack and chain chords. So you program in a whole bunch of chord changes and it will then arpeggiate those. It’s got a row of buttons for different quantities of chords so you can quickly put in a seventh or a diminished minor just by hitting a couple of keys. Quite simple and brilliant.
With four channels it could actually run your entire show because really when we’re doing a sequence on modular in particular you’re only really looking for arpeggiators, they pretty much do what you would put in as a sequence. But you can also create arpeggiations within the box; put in your own row of notes that will then be the source of the arpeggiation. Ultimately you can pump chords in from your sequence and it will then react and play along to those.
You can mute all the different channels, you’ve got directions and stepping and velocity and all those other things that you’d imagine you can build into such a machine. It’s not quite ready yet but I spotted it this morning and thought that it looks pretty awesome. I can imagine it sitting on your desktop running a bunch of synthesizers that you would otherwise have to be sequencing separately. With this, you can just fire a bunch of chords into something and have that running while you then work on something else. I think it’s a brilliant sort of time-saving instant generation of melody and that sort of thing. And I love arpeggiation and use it all the time, it’s one of my favourite things just to get stuff going.
- Midicake website.
Akai MPC Key 61
I haven’t been taking a blind bit of notice of this. I know that a whole bunch of people are bouncing up and down about it going whoa this is the most amazing thing ever! I thought it was just a MIDI controller but obviously, I’m completely wrong. It has the MPC engine built into it so you can run it like one of the most recent MPC One or MPC Live type machines so it has that sequencing and sampling engine but in a big keyboard that looks like a Native Instruments keyboard controller. As I understand it, it has a whole bunch of software synths built into the system. This is not the Akai VIP thing which was this host environment for hosting all of your plugins and stuff, instead, they’ve put the MPC software within this keyboard and within that you can then run all sorts of proprietary plugins. I believe they’re proprietary, I believe you have to buy them separately and they’re not cheap.
So in some ways it’s a modern take on the workstation keyboard, something like the original Korg M1 which I adored back in its day, which is now taken care of by things like Yamaha Montage and the Korg Kronos and that kind of big synthesizer workstations with multiple synthesis engines. Akai has done this with all of its power from the MPC engine.
Loopop has done a fabulously intensive video dive into it so you should probably go and check that out.
- Akai Pro website.
- Buy Akai MPC Key 61 from Thomann – https://thmn.to/thoprod/541332?offid=1&affid=1460
- Buy the Akai MPC Key 61 from Perfect Circuit – https://tinyurl.com/molten-akai-mpckey61
Enjoy Electronics The Godfather
And finally the fabulous looking The Godfather from Enjoy Electronics is about to be sold out on Indiegogo. We first saw it at Superbooth last year but now it’s almost ready to go.
The Godfather is a four-channel audio processing interface, done in kind of a Mother-32 eurorack style. While it very much can be a desktop unit by itself it definitely lends itself to being integrated into the Moog kind of setup. You’ve got four independent channels which have their own filtering, EQ, delay, saturation and modulation. It’s got LFOs built-in and envelopes and stuff going on. It’s got a very interesting screen which seems to be able to show you exactly what’s going on at all times while still providing essentially one knob per function functionality in its four horizontal channels of awesomeness. It looks great, the quality of it looks excellent, those knobs and other bits and pieces; it just looks pretty phenomenal and would perfectly fit into a little Moog studio.
It’s exactly the sort of thing I think Moog should be doing. They should have by now produced the 60 HP Mooger Fooger type thing, packed full of all their stomp box type effects. I can’t understand why they haven’t done it. It’s exactly what you need in your desktop audio situation and rather than having just a mixer or a mixer with effects this has got each of the four channels individually tied to its own delay, its own filter, I think the reverb is shared but otherwise, everything is independent which I think makes it far more exciting than just using a standard analogue or effects mixer.
It is on IndieGoGo now and they’ve probably already sold out or sold through on all the ones they were planning to do because this has been phenomenally popular at about 800 euros. The price seems about right for something of this level of audio processing quality.
- Enjoy Electronics website.
Lots of things coming along as ever, I have a whole raft of endless videos just waiting to be made as soon as I can find a spare breath or a spare moment. I have a video coming up on the Behringer 2500 modular system, I’ve got Look Mum No Computer oscillator and filter to play with, I’ve got the Feedback Punk, I’m going to do a video on the Bastl Pizza, the Moog Mavis, I’ve got a video coming along on all about 1U modules and I’ve got a video coming about all about patch cables. Endless stuff!
I also want to embark on a series of thinking and thoughts about songwriting on Eurorack and modular and synthesizers. There’s no end to the stuff I could be doing so there are lots of exciting things coming up so do stay with me.
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Join me for my live stream this Sunday the 3rd of July at 8pm BST which I’ll confirm closer to the date. We just get together, we might play some music, we chat about the technology, the stuff we’ve seen and just generally have a good old chin wag, drink some beers and sit back and relax into this awesomeness of synthesizers eurorack modular technology. It’s fantastic, we love it! Also coming up it’ll be another Erica Synth’s DIY modular thing soon with the Mixer which is going to be the next module. But I’ll let you know when I’ll be doing a live stream on it.
So I hope that’s enough for now and in the meantime go make some tunes.