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.

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: http://www.akaipro.com/tradeshows/messe2014#sthash.cBi7UQij.JApAK6fj.dpuf"

Full Press release: 
"AKAI PROFESSIONAL UNLEASHES THE RHYTHM WOLF 
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 (akaipro.com), 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 
percussion 
• 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 
studios 
• Gate Trigger—triggering via modular synths, vintage sequencers, or external sound 
sources 
• 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: akaipro.com/messe2014. "