The E-mu SP-1200 sampler is getting a reboot: SP 2400

It’s meant as a “spiritual successor,” say the creators – with both emulation of the classic E-mu sound and new features. But the SP 2400 in preorder still hope to bank off the renown of one of the most popular samplers ever, the genre-defining E-mu SP-1200.

All of this could be a test of the clone craze. Sure, 12-bit lo-fi sound has some real potential for music making. And the E-mu layout, with faders and pads, is accessible.

But at US$949, and only a preorder shipping some time in the winter, the SP 2400 isn’t the most practical choice. You’ve now got plenty of options from KORG, Elektron, Roland (including their wildly popular TR-8S), and even smaller makers like MFB for a grand or less – some of them a fraction of this cost. All of those can be had right now, without dropping hundreds of bucks in June to get something that could take until January or longer. Not to mention we may see a Behringer take on this idea shortly, knowing how that company follows social media.

In a way, then, these sorts of reboots are beginning to become like the remakes of classic cars – a sort of genre all their own. There’s a price premium and a practicality cost, but if you want something that looks like a classic with some upgraded innards beneath, you’ve got options.

That said, there’s a nice feature set here. I like the idea of the 12-bit/26k mode, though I wonder if they’ve recreated the signature filter sound of the E-mu. And while I’m a bit too skeptical to endorse dropping cash just for half a year of “bi-weekly progress reports … via this website, social media channels, and emails,” it could be worth a look when it arrives.

The real draw here is probably that this actually samples – including a looper mode. That’s a feature missing on a lot of current gear.

It’s the creation of ISLA Instruments, who also made the KordBot. I’m curious how people fared with that crowdfunding project and the final result, which would be a great indicator of how to take this one.

I just hope that new ideas get as much attention as reboots of old ones. Heck, I feel that way about TV and movies. It’s obviously summer.

But here are those admittedly rather appealing specs –

• Sturdy 4-piece Steel/Aluminium enclosure.
• Mains Powered 100-250V AC.
• Dual Audio Engine:
12-Bit/26.04khz Lo-Fi Engine (Classic SP Sound) and 24-Bit/48khz Hi-Fi Engine
• Stereo Recording/Playback.
• Channels 1-8 Pannable to Main out L/R Channels 7+8 can be ‘linked’ to support stereo audio content.
• Headphone Output (9-10) w/independant monitoring of channels.
• Dedicated Microphone Pre-Amp.
• Looper Pedal Mode (with full duplex recording/playback).
• Record and overdub live audio during playback.
• USB Host & Device Ports:
Connect usb thumb drives, keyboards, midi controllers directly into the SP2400.

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BAM is OTO Machines’ musical, retro reverb box

Reverb: it’s something everyone needs. And yet in hardware, you almost always see the same couple of boxes. It seems about time for a new player. And OTO Machines, known for their BISCUIT 8-bit effect box and filter, might have just the candidate. BAM, coming soon, emulates the reverbs of the 70s and 80s. And in the demo, it sounds amazing.

Given that reverbs by definition emulate natural reflections, they’re really all about character. And if you’re going to invest in a hardware box, presumably what you’d want is a range of different character traits, and the ability to adjust between them.

That’s where it seems like the OTO folks are onto something. For their stereo reverb, they’ve gone back to late 70s and early 80s digital reverbs. The idea is not to sound like a realistic space, so much as it is to produce a musically flexible sonic character – the warmth and particular “grainy” characteristics of those older reverbs, plus the ability to tune an effect from very short delays to rich, longer reverb tails.

Now, it’s reasonably easy to find those qualities in software, but in hardware, your choices are more limited. And that’s why this demo video has me excited (and probably you, as well).

It’s a common misconception that “digital” hardware wouldn’t be unique, but that ignores all the design decisions that went into vintage digital gear. OTO talk about that in describing their process: they say they’ve been inspired by details like the converters (12-bit gain-stepping converters for 15-bit resolution, for instance), unique algorithms tailored to the limitations of slow processors and limited memory, and analog filters.

I think we’re on the verge of people realizing that those digital restrictions wound up producing musical results in the same way that analog circuitry did. Constraints focus good designers to make particular choices – perhaps to be guided even more by their ears. But whatever the reason, you are already accustomed to many of these sounds.

OTO have taken those design lessons, but they say they’ve also added some new algorithms. And it’s clear from the video that they’ve also provided a range of controls.

bam_cam02_V01

So, you get all the bases covered as far as kinds of reverbs:
Room, Hall, Plate, Ambient, Chorus, Non-Linear and Primitive

You get an input gain up to +15 dB, with analog clipping (phew), so you can get your input loud.

There’s still MIDI control when you want it.

The delay range can move from tight plates to long reverbs, and there’s a pre-delay of up to 500 ms (or 1500 ms with the TAP switch).

Filters: low-cut (20 Hz, 80 Hz, 150 Hz, 250 Hz, 450 Hz), hi-cut (1.8 kHz, 4.5 kHz, 7 kHz, 9 kHz, 15 kHz)

You get modulation, too, via a chorus parameter.

For tempo-synced effects, there’s an assignable tap tempo.

And there’s MIDI input, with CC and program change.

This also looks performance friendly. Apart from MIDI and tempo, there are three bypass modes (relay, spillover, aux), a freeze switch, and 36 user presets.

bam_cam03_V01

All in steel with Neutrik connectors and power in the box. At 460€, it’s spendy before VAT, so I’ll want to try the final unit – but on the other hand, if they nailed this, it could wind up being one of the most essential pieces of gear you own.

Okay, if I sound excited, it’s because I’ve heard a lot of a certain other reverb – one I love – that everyone has. And I’m ready for some diversity. Fingers crossed. Stay tuned.

http://www.otomachines.com/portfolio/bam/

And if this isn’t your speed, keep your eyes out for this 12-bit “BIM” delay that’s coming soon, too:

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Eowave’s Ribbon 2 synth-controller is an updated classic

Amidst a bumper crop of new, multi-dimensional hardware, it’s a wonderful time for the expressive controller. But Eowave’s unique boutique instrument is one in the classic mold: a long, touch-sensitive strip that can act as a synth or controller. It’s now updated in a new model called the Ribbon 2.

The ability to work standalone as an instrument or as a controller set the Ribbon 2 apart – and for a small-batch device of this variety, its asking price of 269€ (less before VAT) is eminently reasonable, the sort of money you’d easily blow on a second-rate MIDI keyboard.

In the package:

  • Position and pressure sensitivity
  • 12-bit synth onboard
  • Acts as a controller over CV/gate, or USB (no MIDI DIN, though)
  • A new software editor, which lets you set 9 oscillator sources, LFO and FM modulation and delay and downsampling effects
  • 16 preset slots, on-the-fly recall and save via buttons

ribbon2

The presets and editor are all new.

Here’s a look at the editor:

Ribbon Editor

You can grab the full manual, firmware, and a Max patch for the editor at:
http://eowave.com/members/Ribbon%20mk2/

And the Ribbon 2 is on the Eowave site:

http://www.eowave.com/synthesizers/ribbon-2/

We look forward to more from these oddball innovators.

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A Trio of Unique, Colorful Effects Boxes from OTO Machines, Coming Soon

BimBamBoum_White_V4

It’s not enough to just release sound hardware. You want something different, something with character. French builder OTO Machines did that with their Biscuit, a gorgeous combination of 8-bit crunch and analog filtering, then later turned it into a synth and step sequencer with nothing but firmware. But now it’s time for a follow-up, and instead of one sequel, we get three.

There’s a 12-bit delay unit, a digital reverb inspired by some 80s classics that never get old, and an analog compressor/”warmer”. That neatly covers three bases of things many people want, and seem to target a nice space where there’s room both to reproduce and invent anew. And these arrive just in time, as the Biscuit fades into the sunset.

The three boxes, cutely dubbed BIM, BAM, and BOUM. I will quote directly here as they’ve been nicely clear with their description:

BIM: “Poetic Repeater”

BIM – Poetic Repeater
12-bit delay (up to 2 seconds in stereo) with modulation (several waveforms available), separate hipass & lowpass filters for the delay signal and the feedback path, extra FXs (Reverse, Flanger, Dual Head, Distortion,…).
True 12-bit converters, filters, compander & feedback paths are analog for a very warm and grainy sound.
TAP and FREEZE function. Delay can be synced to MIDI Clock.

BAM – Space Generator
Digital reverberator inspired by the early 80′s 16-bit units (EMT250, Lexicon 224,…). Several algorithms including Halls, Rooms, Space, weirdos, springs, resonators…
Predelay is up to 1 second. A “Drive” pot let you distort the input of the reverb.

BOUM – Warming Unit
Analog Compressor with tube emulation, octave, soft and hard distortion, followed by a 3 mode-2 pole Biscuit filter.
The compressor have Mode, Attack and Release settings.
An envelope generator (normal or inverse) let’s you create envelope filters or envelope levelers.
The distortion circuit is specially designed for synths, loops, drums,…and keeps the dynamic of the signal.

All units have stereo I/O, MIDI input (CCs for all parameters, Beat Clock, Pgm Change), true hardware relay bypass, 36 user presets.
Size is 145 x 145 x 60 mm. 2 lines of 8 white LEDS for displaying parameters, preset number, input vu-meter…

Price for each unit will be about 325 euros (excluding VAT).
Release is planned for 2014 Q4.

bim

I had hoped to catch up with OTO Machines last week, as they were scheduled to share a booth with us at Frankfurt Musikmesse. They stayed home, though, to work hard on getting these devices finished, so I will instead wait patiently and look forward to getting these gadgets into the studio and making sound – no trade show distractions in sight.

Now, some might see the backwards-looking design trend now in hardware as the opposite of innovation. I tend to view this differently. I think iterative innovation is the essence of musical instrument design. Blessed with the gift of hindsight, we’re seeing certain categories emerge for their sheer usefulness. And smart designers are bringing their own personality and ideas. Sometimes, the greatest innovation comes in improving a design rather than trying to crudely invent something from scratch. Oddly, it’s the latter that often leads to reinvention; the former is where you can more easily introduce new ideas, because there’s a template. Constraints can inspire. Or, at least, that’s my hope for OTO and a crop of new hardware (and music, and myself).

Everything OTO Machines is here:
http://www.otomachines.com/

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