Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Arturia Condenses Spark to SparkLE, Lowers Price

If you were interested in Spark before, but thought it was too pricey or bulky, Arturia has just announced the next generation of Spark, called SparkLE.  It's the basic idea of Spark cut down to a thinner controller with some knobs removed and repurposed.  Seems like an excellent move since the original could be a bit bulky.  At $299, it's a bit cheaper as well, so if you were on the fence before perhaps this will sweeten the deal for you.

Not sure why the name "SparkLE" was chosen, but it seems to be pronounced "Spark LE", not "sparkle."  No word yet if the unit comes with glitter and sparkles.


"NAMM news: Arturia redefines drum machine with SparkLE

“The drums, samples, and FX in SparkLE are so spot-on with what’s happening today. And the patterns are genius. I’ve never loved a drum machine this much!”
- Junior Sanchez, 2013 (remixer: Daft Punk, Placebo; producer: Katy Perry, Ima Robot)

GRENOBLE, FRANCE: music software and hardware company Arturia is proud to announce the NAMM 2013 launch of SparkLE Creative Drum Machine, its newest hybrid beat production centre combining intuitive hardware hands-on control with software strength and integration...

Quite simply, SPARK Creative Drum Machine revolutionised hands-on beat-making by cleverly combining TAE® (True Analog Emulation) synthesis, sample playback (with multiple layering modes and post-processing), and physical modelling technologies with the intuitive workflow of a hardware drum machine upon its June 2011 launch; today, SparkLE Creative Drum Machine joins its bigger brother to take this concept to the masses in an all-new, ultra-portable package at a takeaway price point that’s tough to beat (€249.00 EURO/$299.00 USD).

The solidly-constructed, super-slimline SparkLE Creative Drum Machine hardware measures a mere 1.6cm in depth and comes complete with a handy neoprene slipcase to take your beats to the streets with that ‘real instrument feel’ so many other controllers clearly lack. With it comes direct access to all the features needed to create patterns, write automation, and perform live.

SparkLE Creative Drum Machine serves up classic ‘TR-style’ workflow via its brightly backlit step sequencer buttons, while a musical platter of bangin’ beats can quite literally be banged out using its eight velocity- and pressure-sensitive backlit pads. Stunning live performances are a breeze thanks to the advanced Looper and beat-slicing functions, while beats can be transformed on the fly with the touch-sensitive FX pad that features eight filter modes (including the famed Oberheim SEM V filter featured in Arturia’s acclaimed Oberheim SEM V soft synth namesake) and seven Slicer modes. Three assignable encoders ease writing automation and realtime sound control. More musical still, TUNE mode permits playing sounds chromatically across those 16 step sequencer buttons or eight pads — try having the kick drum follow the bass root note for truly trouser-flapping lows, play a synth bass/lead sound, or transform percussion sounds into pitched instruments... it’s all there for the hands-on taking!

Software-wise, SparkLE Creative Drum Machine makes use of the same full-featured Spark Engine software shipping with the original SPARK Creative Drum Machine. It includes an awesome library of over 1,500 instruments and 100 kits, providing top-notch, professional sounds covering a variety of dancefloor-friendly genres and stylings, ever-expandable with Arturia add-ons (like the Hip Hop Essentials and DubStep Essentials Expansion Packs).

Priced to go, there has never been a better time than now to add a little sparkle to your rhythmic creativity with SparkLE Creative Drum Machine!

SparkLE Creative Drum Machine will be available to purchase from the Arturia online store (http://www.arturia.com/evolution/en/buy/online-shop.html) or any dealer for €249.00 EURO/$299.00 USD from mid-March 2013."

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Prophet 12: Dave Smith's Newest Monster is Genius

DSI unveiled their newest synth today, which Dave is calling the finest he's ever made. It's the Prophet-12, an incredible 12 voice, 4 oscillator-per-voice synthesizer for the price of $2999.  This keyboard has everything.  While the oscillators seem to be purely digital, the VCA and filters remain analog.  There's an effects section, with delay and distortion.  There are knobs to change the character of the oscillators.  Just by hearing it, you can tell its one of the most fantastic and innovative synths around.  I applaud Dave and his small team of engineers.  He's created a synthesizer that you could sell the rest of your gear for and not regret it.

Don't just take my word for it.  Listen below, in DSI's official video, and an additional demo.

"ANAHEIM, Calif.—January 24, 2013—Dave Smith Instruments today introduced a new polyphonic synthesizer, the Prophet 12, at the 2013 NAMM Show. “After 35 years of creating synths, this is simply my best synth yet,” said Smith. “We sort of started from scratch on this one rather than spinning off another product from our previous designs.”

At twelve voices, the Prophet 12 boasts the greatest polyphony of any instrument designed by Smith. Each voice features four oscillators capable of generating classic and complex waveforms, a sub-oscillator, resonant analog low- and high-pass filters, and analog VCAs. The new Character section adds a variety of wave shaping and sound sculpting options, like Drive, Hack, Decimation, Girth, and Air. Additional features include a tuned feedback path, a four-tap stereo delay per voice, expanded arpeggiator functionality, deep modulation capabilities, and bi-timbral operation. The LFOs, delay, and arpeggiator can all be synced, either to the internal clock or an external MIDI clock. Two programmable position- and pressure-sensitive touch sliders take the performance controls beyond the standard pitch and mod wheels (also included).

“We’re already blown away by the sonic breadth of this synthesizer’s new voice architecture,” Smith continued. “It doesn’t sound like anything else and I’m very excited for people to hear it.”

The Prophet 12 is expected to be available Q2 of 2013 with a projected MAP of $2,999."

Korg MS-20 Mini Information and Video blowout!

So many people have been waiting for this day, and for it to be official-- the Mini MS-20 is finally a reality, with an astounding price of $600.  By now you've probably read the full details on Korg's site, but there's still alot to be said about this instrument.  It's been such a long time coming-- the dreams of everyone who's bought the Monotron series.  The MMS-20 is the perfect addition to the family.

Sit back, and enjoy some of the videos of the new beast.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Why the Moog Sub Phatty is More Impressive Than You Think

NAMM officially starts up tomorrow so it's my last chance to write something like this for a little while, since we'll be inundated with debates of what to buy starting tomorrow, due to the shiny new offerings of Korg, Dave Smith Instruments, and Moog.

Moog's new synth was the first news to come out (unless you count the earliest Mini MS-20 rumors) a few weeks ago.  While initial speculation had some fans pretty excited, I think a portion have dropped out already-- some complaints of cost, keyboard size, and lack of new features have been floating around the message boards.

Sure, it's smaller than the Little Phatty, and it's not polyphonic, but this is the true evolution for Moog.  The video above demonstrates the fantastic small changes that really take this synth to the next level-- in my opinion, enough to sell your current Phatty.  I'll paraphrase some below.

I'll start with my favorite.  It's small, but it's this attention to detail that really has my excited.  Moog has found a way to have fantastic control over oscillator frequency, so a new trick in the Sub Phatty allows the user to control "beating" frequency, rather than oscillator frequency.  When two oscillators are played slightly detuned, they have a warm "beating" sound as the waves constructively and destructively interfere.  There's a sort of sweet spot around .1-2 Hz, but as you change octaves (an oscillator's frequency doubles when you increase an octave) this beating becomes faster, and less appealing, so jumping an octave or two spoils the sound a bit, and you leave the sweet spot.  With beating frequency, this is no longer an issue-- you can set the slow, warm oscillator interference to be the same regardless of note on the keyboard.  I've never heard of this idea before, but it's this attention to detail that Moog has that is really cool.

A feature recycled from the Minitaur is the VCO reset, which allows the waves of the oscillators to return to a starting point each time they're pressed.  Standard oscillators don't leave the point in the waveform so pressing the same note causes slight variations in the sound, and can really drag down performance.  VCO reset negates this pretty nicely, so a bass sound is always smooth.

The bold choice of dumping out the larger memory is one of my favorite parts of this synth.  I've always thought that the future would be pure patching through a computer (who likes dealing with scrolling through a ton of sounds, and stifling creativity in the process?), but Moog has found a happy medium between.  There's patching still available through the computer, but a very basic 4 bank 4 patch memory still exists, to help account for live performances, or the days where you jam on your synth and don't turn on your computer.  Still, it's nice to know that if I start a track in a DAW I can always count on my sound to be right where I left it, and put it right back into the Sub Phatty.

The part most worth hearing of the above video is the multidrive circuit, which apparently distorts post filter.  The oscillators can be distorted going into the filter, and the filter can be distorted, giving two distinct styles of warmth or growl-- the beauty is in the detail.  You can hear an incredible range of what can be done with the multidrive circuit, and it's pretty promising as a tool-- not something you'll never use.

And finally, the suboscillator and noise knob just sweeten the deal.  I'm really glad they put the noise right on the front panel, because it's so essential to percussion creation.  You can hear some really fantastic examples of kicks and snares on the web of this thing.

Also, there's always room to expand this thing-- the use of the "under the hood" button means that any of those unused buttons can be triggers for cool features in the future.

This thing is awesome.  I'm torn between what to buy next, but this is no slouch.  Don't dismiss it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Legend Returns: The Korg Mini MS-20

We've all been dying for the moment-- Korg steps up, and releases something full fledged and analog, after the efforts of the Monotron and Monotribe.  Finally, the day has come, and not just in the form of a Monotron XL, or Monotribe + keyboard.

A full on recreation of the original Korg MS-20, redesigned at 85% of its original size.

Although it was taken down, an official German Korg page listed the Mini MS-20 as a product, complete with full specs.  85% of the original size, all analog, parts chosen to reflect the original MS-20, USB and MIDI, and the design is supposedly made by the designers of the original.  It is also set to come with throw-back style packaging and patch diagrams, just like the original.

The best part?  Estimated price is somewhere between $600-800.  Listed at 600 euros, the current exchange rate puts this at $800 but we could see it fall a bit as the European prices are often higher than the US's.

I don't know what else to say, besides the fact that this thing is a surefire hit if it manages to stick in that price.  The MS-20 is beloved to this day, and most customers aren't willing to pony up $1500 for one.  Watch out for more details and sounds from NAMM this weekend!

Some notes via Matrixsynth, who copied and traslated what was on the German page:
"The MS-20 is reborn! 1978 original circuits come to life

Presented in 1978, the MS-20 monophonic synthesizer, thanks to its rich, robust sound, his powerful, iconic analog filters and flexible patching options to be popular today. The typical sounds of the original MS-20, the Korg MS-20 synthesizer plug-in the Legacy Collection and the iMS-20 app for the iPad, now attracting more than 300,000 users.

Now the sounds of the MS-20, MS-20 are in the mini wakes to new life. The same engineers who developed the 1978 MS-20, today's circuits reproduced faithfully and its physical size reduced to 86% of the original size, without changing the traditional and timeless look of the model or to waive details!

The MS-20 mini fascinated today with absolutely authentic analog synthesizer sounds of his ancestors.

Developer comments

The 50-year anniversary KORG we again engaged in an analogue synth and this effort to create flowing parameter settings that characterize analog synthesizer especially. The original specifications of the MS-20 should remain intact. The developed by us 35 years ago, analog circuits still deliver the same unbeatable, powerful sound, from the lowest bass to the extreme heights. To experience the depth of the MS-20 mini, you have to play it yourself!


The MS-20 mini was realized by the engineers of the first MS-20 and used a complete reproduction of the original analog circuit

2VCO / 2VCA / 2VCF / 2EG / 1LFO structure
Self-oscillating high pass / low pass filter with a unique distortion
External signal processor (ESP)
Extremely flexible patching system
Reproduction of the MS20 at 86% of its physical size
Reproduces every detail of the original, down to the packaging, the manual in the original style, the template for the patch panels and patch cables
MIDI IN and USB port

"Keyboard - control voltage output (exponential) (0 - +8 V)
Keyboard - trigger output (+5 V -> GND)
VCO-2-1 + VCO control voltage input (linear response) (0 - +8 V)
VCO-2 control voltage input (linear response) (0 - +8 V)
Second VCO:
VCO-1 + VCO-2 external frequency control input (OCT / V) (-5 V - +5 V)
Third VCF:
External signal input (max 3 Vp-p.)
External control input for the cutoff frequency of the high-pass filter (2oct / V) (-5 V - +5 V)
External control input for the cutoff frequency of the lowpass filter (2oct / V) (-5 V - +5 V)
4th VCO + VCF:
Total external modulation input (T.EXT) (-5 V - +5 V)
5th VCA:
External control input of the initial gain (0 - +5 V)
6th EC:
EC 1 envelope - Normal output (-5 V - 0 V)
EC 1 envelope - turned output (+5 V - 0 V)
EC EC 1 + 2 trigger input (-> GND)
EC 1 trigger input (-> GND)
EC 2 envelope - turned output (+5 V - 0 V)
7th MG:
Delta output (sawtooth positive - Triangle - Sawtooth inverted) (5 Vp-p)
Square-wave output (pulse width - rectangle - narrow pulse) (0 - +5 V)
8th Noise Generator:
Pink noise output (5 Vp-p)
White Noise output (5 Vp-p)
9th Sample and Hold:
Clock trigger input (-> GND)
Sample signal input (5 Vp-p max.)
S / H output (5 Vp-p max.)
10th Modulation VCA:
Control voltage input (0 - +5 V)
Signal input (-5 V - +5 V)
Signal output (-5 V - +5 V)
11th Game Help Manual:
Control Wheel-output (-5 V <-0 v=""> +5 V)
Non-locking switch output (-> GND)" 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Full Sub Phatty pricing, specs announced, plus video

Well, here it is.  Moog's latest and greatest, the Sub Phatty, in all its glory.  A 25 key pure knob affair, coming in at $1,100, meaning we'll see it at about $1000 as the street price.  It's incredibly similar to the Little Phatty in form, with the wedge shape being identical.  The main new ingredients are the improved oscillators, which take less time to warm up and are more stable, and the multidrive circuit, which should allow for better aggressive tones.

You can hear a myriad of demos on Moog's Soundcloud, or watch the video below for the full experience.  I'm really impressed by the Sub Phatty's drum sounds.  It seems like a full on improvement in sound quality from the Little Phatty, and that's no easy feat.


Specs from Moog:
·      Sound Engine: Analog
·      Number of Keys: 25
·      Type of Keys: Semi-Weighted
·      Other Controllers: Pitch Bend, Mod Wheel
·      Polyphony: Monophonic
·      Sound Sources: 2 Variable Waveshape Oscillators, 1 Square Wave Sub Oscillator, 1 Noise Generator
·      Oscillator Calibration Range: 22Hz-6.8KHz.Guaranteed note range at 8’ of Note 18 to 116
·      Mod Sources: Triangle, Square, Saw, Ramp, SH, Filter Envelope
·      Mod Destinations: Pitch, Osc 2 Pitch Only, Filter, Waveshape
·      Filter: Moog Ladder Filter 20Hz-20Khz
·      Audio Input: 1xTS
·      Audio Output: 1xTS, 1xTRS Headphone
·      Presets: 4 Banks, 4 Patches Per Bank
·      MIDI I/O: DIN In, Out, and MIDI over USB
·      CV/Gate Inputs: Filter CV, Pitch CV, Volume CV, KB Gate
·      Transposition: +/- 2 Octaves
·      LFO: 0.1Hz-100Hz


·      Filter Velocity Sensitivity
·      Volume Velocity Sensitivity
·      Ext. Audio Level
·      Osc2 Beat Frequency
·      VCO Gate Reset
·      LFO Gate Reset
·      Pitch Bend Up Amount
·      Pitch Bend Down Amount
·      Glide Legato
·      Glide Type
·      Filter Poles
·      Wave Mod. Destination
·      LFO KB Tracking
·      LFO Range
·      Filter EG Reset
·      Amp EG Reset
·      Legato
·      Gate On/Ext.
·      MIDI Ch. In
·      MIDI Ch. Out
·      Local Control
·      14-Bit MIDI Output
·      MIDI Path In
·      MIDI Path Out
·      MIDI Merge DIN
·      MIDI Merge USB

Sunday, January 13, 2013

New Moog is the Sub Phatty, according to NAMM Flyer (and First Front Panel Picture!)

Via Audiofanzine by way of Matrixsynth

So here it is.  The front panel of the new Moog, the Sub Phatty.  Looking at the image, we can see the new panel is a sort of mixture between the Voyager and Little Phatty, shedding the LED circled knobs and LED buttons, yet making up for them with a function-per-knob interface.  The obvious guess here is that this Moog dumps the Little Phatty's digital side, keeping only MIDI.  Without the digital brain, Moog should hopefully be able to reduce the price, hopefully bringing this down to the under $1000 level.  The new features mentioned before in the promo video are present-- noise, multidrive, and sub oscillator.  While the Sub Phatty doesn't seem to reinvent the wheel (and doesn't seem to feature any of Moog's mysterious new synthesis ideas,) the (hopefully) lower price point will bring in new customers.  The suboscillator and multidrive might swing back owners of the previous Phatties or Voyager as buyers as well.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Watch Herb Deutsch discover Moog's next analog synthesizer [Video]

Well, here it is.  The new Moog for NAMM.  Haven't even watched the video yet, just wanted to post it.  Awesome long video!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Goodie Bag! - Free Music

Hey everybody! Happy 2013! Here's a goodie bag of free stuff. Ten free tracks that I've selected, a great free mix from French Express, a free mash-up from our friend SilenX, and a free oldie favorite of mine. [Some tracks may have links in the description - or you may need to "click through" to DL, that is up to you!]  [Follow Synth Symp on Twitter]  ::  [Like us on Facebook]

Free Mix from Frech Express' Isaac Tichauer ::

Free "Mash-Up" from SilenX ::

And a Free Oldie Favorite  - a Kartell Remix of a Poolside jam ::

Stay tuned for more synth hardware news as well!! ~ sorry about the length ~

Friday, January 4, 2013

Artur Vilao - You Bring Me Joy (Original Mix)

Here is a small sample of a soulful producer from Germany. He uses a wonderful vocal sample from artist Ann Nesby to transform this darker track into a deep heart filled groove. Some interesting synth sounds compliment the strong and clean production.

Follow & Like us for more! Share us with your friends!

listen to the sampled track HERE

Hior Chronik - Still Foggy (Cosmonaut Grechko Remix) - Free Download

We've been following Cosmonaut for a few years now. It's amazing how the elements of his old stuff creep into his newer music ~ the wonderful arrangement, the bells, the feeling. This remix will take you to a sublime place - please check it out, show it some love, and download it for free!

For more free stuff & synth news -- Like us! Follow us!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Is Korg planning an MS-20 reboot? Is the Analog King Korg real?

Word on Vintage Synth is that a new Korg MS-20 is coming through the pipeline and set to appear at NAMM 2013.  The leak supposedly comes from an Argentinian distributor for Korg.  The MS-20 appears to be the same as the Legacy Controller released some years back, but changes in the patch panel, and the fact that these screenshots don't already exist on the web indicate these are indeed new.  The picture below shows that this new MS-20 is miniature, and much smaller than its original older brother.  The MS-20 isn't listed as analog or digital, so it could go either way.  The mini keys make me think it's an expansion on the old MicroKorg, but the fact that Korg has had so much success with the Monotron and Monotribe makes me think they'd really go for it.

Also included in this leak is the King Korg, listed as an analog polysynth.  No real details can be gathered from this synth-- it's new, but certainly looks like something in the style of Korg.  While it's listed as analog, it could also be a virtual analog-- Korg likes to throw the word "analog" around, especially in the case of the PolySix iPad app.  CFNorENa on VS also points out that the XMT in King Korg's logo could be a hint at digital, as the Radias uses the MMT engine, and XMT could be the next generation of it.

My take on these?  They both seem legitimate.  The story checks out for me-- distributors get promo images and information early on, so a leak doesn't surprise me.  Both moves make sense for the company.  The MS-20 is popular enough to be a success if it's digital or analog, and the King Korg makes sense as a performance synth, which we haven't seen from Korg in a little while (they've mostly been putting out big workstations.)  My personal guess is that they're both digital...

Let's hope, regardless of analog or digital, they all have a great price.

2013 is here!

So the site's been pretty quiet these past few weeks as I've taken some time off from posting to relax and enjoy the holiday break-- music news is generally pretty slow in late December as well, but now that the new year has rolled around, we're back to an exciting time for musicians and listeners across the globe.  NAMM is just about 3 weeks away, and we'll have a wealth of new information on some hopefully insanely cool synths and maybe some great software as well.  If recent trends continue, we'll hopefully be seeing companies take some cool risks with design while they try to push things forward, and that's really what it's all about!

I'll do my best to keep you all posted on everything cool that comes out of NAMM this month, and any other cool news that comes through the grapevine.  The beginning of the year is always the most exciting time for gear, so be sure to check back quite a bit this month!  I'm also looking to line up more interviews for this year from some cool young talent, and maybe some veterans on the scene as well.

Stay tuned, and Happy New Year!