Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

korg volca sample session 3 (sample+keys)

volca sampleで演奏しました。3回目です。keysと合わせてみました。

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Kong announce new Volca Sample and Electribes, with pictures and video of each!

 Today Korg made a surprise announcement unveiling some new gear, most notably a new Volca called Sample, and the newest generation of the Electribes, the Electribe and Electribe Sampler.  The Volca Sample is an impressive little box, holding 100 samples with a max polyphony of 8 sounds.  The Sample has 4 MB of memory for 65 seconds of sampling and individual digital reverb per sound, and some impressive sample editing on the front panel as well.  The two large knobs on the left are analog isolators, used to filter out low or high frequencies on each sample.  The Volca Sample also retains the ability to record parameter changes, so you'll be able to edit the parameters across your 16 step sequence.  Samples are loaded via iOS app, although I imagine they'll expand this later to other forms.

The new Electribes are the replacements for the SX and MX Electribes, based on sampling and synthesis, respectively.  The new form factor includes an XY pad, an SD card slot, and a 64 step sequencer.

The new additions seem like logical expansions and actually look incredibly fun.  The Volca Sample, which will likely be the same price as its siblings, could be the gateway into the sampling world that many beginners are looking for.  The videos below make the new gear look immediate and inspiring.  Can't wait to try these.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

ROOM8 Interview

When I first heard ROOM8, the classic sounds and catchy synth hooks immediately resonated with the synth pop lover in me, and I was hooked from the first verse- but this was a couple years ago, near the band's first releases.  My interest piqued again when they recently released their new EP Visions of You, featuring Electric Youth, whom you may know from the Drive Soundtrack.  ROOM8 is the collaboration of Ezra Reich and Nic Johns, who have teamed up in LA to bring back true vintage tones and classic song writing to the SoundCloud age.  Their highly anticipated (but still in progress) album Transduction features a host of contributors from the synthesizer's golden years (more info on that on their SoundCloud page).  I recently got the chance to talk to the band about their studio gear and influences.

You guys have a very distinctive 80s feel to your music. Can you give me a run down of what you have in your studio, in terms of synths and rack gear? Are you using any plugins for sounds?
ROOM8: We never sit down and go after an "80's" sound. We just love the synthesizers that were built in the late 70s and 80s and we use them to make music. We also love song structure and pop music and soundtrack music which incorporates some of that structure. On some of our earlier material which has begun coming out with the "Visions of You" EP we used a hybrid of VST's and Hardware. On the newest stuff in our studio we are now primarily using hardware. We use Arturia primarily for software (with a few others). In terms of hardware their are a few secrets but some things are:
arp solina
korg polysix
korg lambda
korg wavestation
roland juno 60
roland jx 10
Oberheim OB8
Oberheim Matrix 6R
Yamaha DX7
Prophet 600
Novation Bass Station 2
and a few other ones including a massive rare one that will remain a secret
also our guitar rig is a secret but we can say it's the same rig used on every 80's Giorgio Moroder record.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

XILS Lab XILS 4 Review

Recently I was given the opportunity to check out XILS Lab's new XILS 4, which is the successor of XILS 3, a plugin version of the famous VCS3 by Electronic Music Studios (EMS).  The original release of the VCS3 came in 1969, making it one of the oldest synthesizers, yet today it's still lusted after and used by many great electronic artists, like LCD Soundsystem, Vince Clarke, Brian Eno, and Kraftwerk.  At first sight, the VCS looks more like old communications equipment than it does a musical instrument, and the plugin's interface accurately recreates that feeling.  The interface isn't quite as easy to grasp as your more modern plugins at first, but if you're considering the X4, you likely know that and are embracing it, as different interfaces are what allow synthesists to create so many different sounds.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Dave Smith announces the Pro 2

After teasing an announcement all week, Dave Smith Instruments has unveiled a new flagship monophonic synthesizer called the Pro 2.  The Pro 2 marks a natural progression of Dave's synth engines, using the digital oscillators and analog filters of the Prophet 12 but using a form factor similar to the Mopho SE.  At $1999, the new mono synth isn't cheap, but the incredible list of features justifies the price point.

The Pro 2 has a ton of great little features, like paraphonic mode, 32 step sequencing, and control voltage integration.  The amount of connectivity and control it offers is astounding, and this looks like it could be THE modern style mono synth, bucking the analog oscillator standard of today in favor of digital, albeit more editable, oscillators.

This is a slam dunk for Dave-- the keyboard won't attract the low-price aficionados, but DSI already has multiple synths for those crowds, between the Tetra, Mopho, Mopho Keyboard, and Mopho X4.  The sound demos in the video above show how warm and deep it can be.  The sheer sonic possibilities could make this a great all-in-one modern mono synth, with full blown connectivity.  The only thing that might hold it back is its price-- for just $1000 more, you could get a full on Prophet 12, or for $200 more the Prophet 12 module.  Can't wait to hear more.  For more information, read on below or check out the official DSI site.

From Dave's site:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Buying Your First Analog Synthesizer: The 2014 Guide

EDIT: Looking for the 2015 guide?  CLICK HERE!

It's already that time of year again-- Musikmesse 2014 has come to a close, Winter NAMM '14 ended in January, so most of this year's synth offerings are out in the open, waiting to be picked apart.  While only a handful of new synths have been added to the roster this year, some of these are very significant, and have changed the recommendation order.  I'm going to mark the synths that were not announced at the time of last year's guide with NEW, so you will be able to easily distinguish what's new.

As with last year, this guide will be focused on new synthesizers, so don't expect anything that's not currently in production.  I've also mainly chosen to focus on analog synthesizers, although there will be a couple recommendations that are not analog in some form.

Special note:  I've included Amazon links on the names of all the synths, so if you're interested in buying from Amazon, use that link!  Not only will it help support the blog, but you will also find Amazon has sales at times, so you'll find $10~$50 off on some synths. #ad

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Wolf of Synth Street: Akai announce new analog bass synth and drum module

As if things weren't complicated enough for your synth budget this year, Akai has announced a new drum and bass module called the Rhythm Wolf.  A $199 mono synth and drum combination, the Wolf will allow you to sequence drums and synth together, and play the drums live via nifty pads.  The Wolf also includes a "howl" knob if you're interested in distorting your beats.

No sound demos just yet, but I'll try to have them up as they become available.

The Rhythm Wolf does seem to fit a slot nicely between a Volca and Monotribe, in price and functionality.  While you're certainly limited in terms of drum sounds compared to the Volca Beats, you gain the simple synth function and have drum pads to play on.  Since it's yet to be heard, the drum sounds could either be either great or awful, which will probably be the biggest selling point.

It's also great to see that Akai is interested in putting out new analog gear!

Thanks to Synthtopia for the tip.

From Akai:
"5-voice analog drum machine and synth
Thick analog drum sounds—kick, snare, open & closed hi-hat and metallic percussion
Onboard 32-step sequencer with classic drum machine workflow
Gate trigger In/Out for triggering your sequences via modular synths, vintage sequencers, or external sound sources
"Howl" knob with custom distortion signal path lets you crush and mangle sounds
Six custom-calibrated MPC pads for sequencing and finger drumming
Dedicated audio outputs for percussion sounds and bass synth

- See more at:"

Full Press release: 
Leading music production equipment manufacturer debuts an analog drum machine 
and bass synthesizer inspired by the classics. 

Cumberland, RI, USA—March 11, 2014. Akai Professional (, a leading innovator of 
music equipment for production and performance, announces the Rhythm Wolf, an analog drum 
machine and bass synthesizer module with built-in sequencing. 

The Rhythm Wolf is an authentic analog instrument that combines the coveted sounds of early 
electronic and hip-hop music with genuine Akai Professional workflow. Inspired by the classic 
analog beat machines and synthesizers of the past, Rhythm Wolf enables today’s musicians to 
harness iconic analog sounds for music production and performance. The drum machine 
consists of five highly-tweakable drum sounds and includes a kick, snare, open & closed hi-hat, 
and metallic percussion. Onboard controls allow users to customize the tuning, amplitude 
envelopes, and volume of each drum voice separately for precise real-time adjustment. The 
bass synthesizer features a selectable oscillator (sawtooth or square wave), classic filter design, 
a filter envelope with variable decay, and is capable of creating powerful bass sounds and 
squelchy leads. 

Outfitted with six genuine MPC pads and a built-in 32-step sequencer, the Rhythm Wolf 
provides an ultra-responsive interface with a classic drum machine layout. Drum patterns can 
be fine-tuned using the Swing function, Pattern Select, and Tempo Control knob. A custom 
distortion signal path, activated by the “Howl” knob, adds grit and character for additional tone 
shaping. Rhythm Wolf features USB-MIDI, MIDI In/Out, a gate trigger, and integrates 
seamlessly with modern and vintage equipment. Two audio outputs enable producers and 
performers to mix percussion sounds and bass independently. 

Rhythm Wolf Highlights: 
• 5-voice analog drum machine and synth—authentic analog design that references 
classic rhythm machines and synthesizers 
• Legendary analog drum sounds—kick, snare, open & closed hi-hat, and metallic 
• Synth-bass module—selectable square or sawtooth wave with classic filter design for 
warm, deep basses and squelchy leads. 
• Onboard 32-step sequencer—classic drum machine workflow for quickly laying down 
grooves and melodies Six genuine MPC pads—responsive controls for sequencing and finger drumming 
• Howl knob—custom distortion circuit for additional sound design
• USB-MIDI and MIDI In/Out—flexible MIDI connectivity for easy integration into modern 
• Gate Trigger—triggering via modular synths, vintage sequencers, or external sound 
• Independent audio outputs—dedicated outputs for the drum machine and synth-bass 
module for precise mixing 

Akai Professional Product Manager Dan Gill notes, “The Rhythm Wolf puts those sought after 
analog drum machine and synthesizer sounds right into the hands of today’s musicians. We set 
out to make a compact drum machine and bass synthesizer, inspired by the classics, that can 
adapt to any studio setup and integrate with modern and vintage music equipment.” 

The Rhythm Wolf will be available in Summer 2014, distributed worldwide with a $199.99 USD 
street price. Akai Professional will unveil the Rhythm Wolf at Musikmesse, Hall 5.1, Booth B45, 
March 12-15 in Frankfurt, Germany. For more information, visit: "

Monday, February 17, 2014

Korg announces ARP Odyssey Remake

Yup, I can hardly believe I wrote that title.  Korg has announced a new remake, but not from their own line-- they've dipped into ARP's synths, and are releasing a remake of the ARP Odyssey, one of the best synthesizers in history.

The ARP Odyssey is considered one of the best mono synths of all time, and the prices that are floating around eBay for one second hand demonstrate the demand for such a warm beast.  Korg has taken on Mr. David Friend, one of the original founders of ARP, to be the chief advisor for the recreation.

Not much information is known now-- only a picture of the prototype exists.  It's not clear whether the synth is full size, or with mini keys.  Expected release date is September 2014.  Stay tuned for more news until then!

Full press release:
"Tokyo, Japan - February 17, 2014 - KORG INC. is proud to announce that a faithful recreation of the legendary 1970s analog synthesiser, the ARP Odyssey, is being developed by Korg for release later in 2014. 

The ARP Odyssey was released in 1972 by ARP Instruments, Inc. and quickly became famous for its unique rich sound and innovative performance controls. It was a staple for many recording and performing musicians worldwide and was used on countless hit records over many years. The Odyssey was one of the highlights of the ARP company and became a long selling product. With slight updates and improvements it was sold through to 1981. 

Korg is also proud to welcome Mr David Friend as our chief advisor on the Odyssey. David Friend established ARP Instruments, Inc. along with Alan Robert Pearlman and is a past president of ARP Instruments, Inc. He was also the lead designer of the original Odyssey in addition to designing or co-designing many other products. 

After ARP, Mr Friend became a successful technology entrepreneur. In 2010, he was named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the Emerging Technology category for the New England Region, he has been a lecturer at MIT's Sloan School of Management and is now Chairman & CEO of Carbonite, Inc. He has been a trustee of the New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music. 

In the last few years, KORG INC. has released several top selling analog synthesizers such as the monotrons series, the monotribe, the volca series and the hugely successful MS-20 mini, a faithful fully analog recreation of the 1978 MS-20. With Korg's technology capabilities and planning ability for analog synthesizers, and in collaboration with David Friend, we believe the legendary ARP Odyssey will become a "must have" for an all new generation of music makers. 

The ARP Odyssey is scheduled for release in September 2014. - 

See more at:"

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Going forward to go backward: Will Roland's AIRA series be a major hit or total miss?

The AIRA series, over-exposed to show detail

Rumors have been bouncing around on what Roland's new AIRA series could be, but I've been staying off the topic since Roland's mysterious unveils have not been what the synth community wants.  Furthermore, the initial news that the AIRAs would be digital quickly crushed the hopes that the line would be analog recreations of their popular 80s analog drum machines and synths, a la the Korg MS-20 Mini.

The most recent pictures unveil the true nature of each of the AIRAs, however-- a synthesizer called the System-1, a 303-like synth called the TB-3 Touch Bass, a vocal effect called the VT-3 Vocal Transformer, and a drum machine called the TR-8 Rhythm Performer.  The System-1 seems to be knob encrusted, with every standard synth knob accounted for, albeit with a 25 key keyboard.  The TB-3 appears to be light-up with a 16 step sequencer and some form of memory (I actually think the look of the keys is pretty cool-- see the picture below).  The VT-3 is the most mysterious, with some faders and a large knob with settings like "Vocoder", "Lead", "Bass", and "Auto Pitch'.  Finally, the TR-8 looks like a drum machine with volume-per-part faders, parameters for each sound, but also with a large knob that looks like it changes sound banks.  It's also worth noting it's called the "Rhythm Performer", not "Rhythm Composer" like the traditional 808 and 909, so perhaps it's hiding some nifty performance secrets.

So why does all of this matter to me, as a pretty analog-biased blogger?  Well, the AIRAs are a new technology for Roland, called Analog Circuit Behavior, or ACB.  ACB is not the standard "sample the instrument!" technology we're used to.  ACB works by modeling each component of the source of the sound-- so if Roland wanted to do a new 808 kick drum, they wouldn't sample the kick drum at different levels and settings and extrapolate in between those settings-- they would write equations for each resistor, capacitor, and transistor that goes into making the sound on that drum.  This same sort of technology was used for U-HE's Diva, which was heavily praised for its ability to capture analog-type sounds all within a plugin.  The AIRA series might just have a shot at doing the same, but instead of having this all in your computer, it's locked in the box of each of these new sound modules, with no ties to CPU, and portability, and immediacy for use live.

The most troubling question I find myself asking through all of this is, can Roland really do it at a good enough price?  Analog has become a huge standard in the past couple of years, and so many other synth companies have jumped on the bandwagon, so to speak-- Novation has the Bass Station II, Korg has the Volca line, Arturia jumped from pure digital lineage to the analog world.  The people crave the sound of analog, whether they think they know that it is or not.  So how can digital Rolands, which seem to be marketed at the same consumer base, make a splash?

My hope is that the fact that Roland is a big enough company with good enough R&D to find a good enough way to code all of this rich analog lineage into a chip inexpensive enough to shell out the AIRAs at a bargain.  The knobs and case are pretty much what you'd expect from a Korg or Arturia, so Roland is fighting on the inside, and it seems like a really tight race, considering there is a $300 MicroBrute out there.

Roland is trying to outsmart the industry with the AIRAs-- they've always said that they refuse to go backward, and always want to look forward to new technology.  The AIRAs are in some way a contradiction of that, but in the true spirit of looking forward.  Can the coded version of analog circuits beat out true analog competition?

What would you pay for an AIRA?  I can only think these stand a change if they're at the $300 level.  But I am hoping for the best-- the AIRAs look like a great design from the outside, and if they sound good and are fun to play, they might just restore some faith in the former synth giant.

Be sure to check out some videos below on the AIRAs and ACB.

(Pictures via CreateDigitalMusic)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Elektron Analog Rytm Price and NAMM Demo

The Elektron Analog RYTM will release Q1 2014 with an MSRP of $1,549.  As mentioned before, it's an 8 voice analog drum machine with sample support from Elektron.  Elektron's designs have been praised for their fantastic workflow, and the RYTM seems to follow in the footsteps of the Analog Four in terms of style.

Check out the video below to see the RYTM in action.

Korg MS-20 Kit -- Build a Full Size MS-20 without Soldering

Korg's first synth bit out of NAMM is the Korg MS-20 kit, a limited edition 'some assembly required' full size MS-20.  If you can't solder, it's no problem, it doesn't need it.

The kit will sell for $1,400, which seems to be a tall order since the Mini is less than half the price at $599.  However, the kit does add the option to switch between the older and newer MS-20 filter designs of the original.

Look for this one in March.

NAMM 2014 Moog Sub 37 - Prototype 1st Look

Here's a first look at the new Sub 37 from Moog!  In short, it's a 37 key version of the Sub Phatty, with an added paraphonic voice.  Looks like a huge hit.

I know plenty of you are hoping for a "Polyphonic Moog!" but this isn't quite there-- it's better to think of it as the Sub Phatty Deluxe, since the features are so similar, save for the extra paraphonic voice, and a new feedback overdrive knob.

I'll be posting any more videos I can find of the new beast, but you won't be seeing it until late spring or summer-- with a price tag of about $1,499.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

New Drum Machine: Elektron Analog Rytm - 8 voice analog drum machine with sample support

If you were hoping for a new drum machine this year, Elektron has granted your wish with an analog 8 voice drum machine called the Rytm.  Elektron has teased at this machine for months, keeping it in a frosted glass box but letting people hear it.  Looks wise, it seems Ableton Push and the older Elektron devices had a baby.  Depending on the price (which I'll post here when I have it), this could give DSI's Tempest a run for its money.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Moog gear up to release new polyphonic paraphonic synthesizer, the Sub 37 Bob Moog Tribute Synthesizer (Updated!)

Click to enlarge!

I can hardly believe that I'm typing this, but Moog Music plans to release a new paraphonic polyphonic synthesizer called the Sub 37 Bob Moog Tribute Synth.

While official word won't be out until NAMM, this screenshot of Moog's post on the official Moog forums pretty much confirms the new beast.  The post was made by the official Moog account, and the image was originally hosted on the official site as well.  Looks like the dreams of many are finally coming soon.

Of course, paraphony isn't "true" polyphony, because the notes of the synth are tied together in one way or another (think of one oscillator that divides down to make all the pitches), and can't be programmed individually.  Many polyphonic synths use this technique to lower the cost, like Korg's new Volca Keys.  The Polymoog used a paraphonic style of polyphony and is widely considered a classic, so have no fear in the quality of the beast.

The Sub 37 boasts all the classic Moog controls, so if you're familiar with the Phattys, you should be right at home.  NAMM '14 is already off to an awesome start!

Update: As per some new information found on MatrixSynth, the new Moog synth will be 2 notes polyphony.  Read more here.