KORG has a sneak peak of a new DX7-like FM synth – the opsix

Imagine a DX7, but with more parameter controls via extra faders – and it’s a KORG. That’s the best we can tell about the new opsix.

MATRIXSYNTH got the scoop on this one before the American NAMM trade even began this week:

New KORG DX7 – the opsix

I’m not sure if calling it a “new DX7” is quite fair, as we just don’t know about it enough. But certainly KORG have copped the look and feel of the original – curious how Yamaha will react there – and added additional controls. Whether there are other KORG touches, it’s hard to say, though you’re welcome to squint at this image:

It’s not unheard of for manufacturers to show up with synthesizers hidden under glass. (I hear if a certain Prince Charming comes along and gets into the glass coffin and kisses the prototype, the enchantment will be lifted and it will magically wake up with complete firmware. But maybe that only works in Disney movies.)

FM synthesis remains a tough nut to crack from a usability standpoint, so I’m not sure about this one. It at least adds to the pile of retro-themed synths this year.

It seems likely that this came from the Japanese engineering team at KORG, given their past with FM on the volca series – and it seems equally likely that they were busy on other products, too. But KORG are proving themselves to be still prolific and provocative.

Watch this space.

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If you’ve got $7500, you can also have an E-mu SP-1200 sampler remake

Also new in 2020 – a remake of the legendary 1987 E-mu SP-1200. Just get ready for some sticker shock, because it’s not just a clone, it’s an actual SP-1200, rebuilt.

This one is an extremely, extremely limited edition because it starts with an original working SP-1200. So the price tag is similar to a top-condition refurbished 1200 because that is literally what it is. The new SP-1200 undertaking comes from E-mu Systems co-founder Dave Rossum, so we can think of this as passion project more than anything.

Rossum Electro-Music calls it “better-than-new.”

Starting with an original SP-1200 and upgrading and calibrating it, you get (copy-pasting here):

  • A new 3.5″ disk drive (seriously), plus an SD card floppy emulator integrated with the software (by Dave himself, no less).
  • Manual filter cutoff frequency control sliders for the SSM 2044 analog filters for channels 1 and 2 added to the rear panel
  • A new metal chassis
  • A new panel overlay
  • The top shell restored and painted “SP Grey.”
  • A new power supply with locking connector (and cool operation)
  • A new LCD display with adjustable brightness and a selectable red, blue, or green color LED backlight
  • All new play buttons
  • All new programming buttons
  • All new 1/4” and MIDI jacks
  • All electrolytic and tantalum capacitors replaced with high-reliability ceramic or aluminum-poly caps
  • All rotary potentiometers replaced with million cycle lifetime pots and installed with new knurled black metal knobs
  • All slide potentiometers replaced with 200,000 cycle lifetime sliders and installed with new slider knobs
  • All original trimmers replaced with 20-turn versions and precisely calibrated
  • New rubber feet
  • An individualized Dave Rossum signature plaque
  • A dust-proof, crush-proof, lockable Pelican™ brand case with press-and pull latches, wheels, and an extendable handle.
  • Full testing and calibration by Rossum Electro-Music

Yes, there’s a wait list. So Dr. Dre, if you’re reading, go get on it.

I’m lost, to be honest, so coming soon to CDM, I’m proud to launch a new feature: a round-up of what legendary classic gear isn’t being cloned/remade/rebooted.

Actually, if I wait a few days even that story may be unnecessary.

Also, anyone want to take bets on when we get a Behringer BS-1200? (for “Behringer Sampler,” you know…)

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Behringer 303 clones revealed: $199 street

Behringer’s analog remake of the 303 is now out in the open – a $199 set of red, blue, and silver synths called the TD-3.

On one hand, this might be the least exceptional of the low-cost Behringer synths, in that there are a lot of 303 remakes around already. There are boutique models, things called “Boutique” from Roland, the open-source hardware x0xb0x and its ilk (which even served as a template to open source music hardware generally), and plug-ins and software emulations galore.

On the other hand, the same thing makes the TD-3 newsworthy. It’s a synth everyone knows, and it’s now US$199 street. Get ready for a lot more acid — that’s for sure.

So what did Behringer actually do?

The TD-3 roughly approximates the TB-303 layout, without being slavish. And Behringer says they’ve recreated the essential analog circuits, down to the matched transistors.

It’s easier, then, to describe what’s new – apart from seeing a Behringer logo instead of a Roland one.

There’s a distortion circuit, which Behringer says is modeled on the DS-1. That presumably means a BOSS DS-1. And that’s actually the ballsy move here; Behringer has tangled with Roland before over BOSS.

The sequencer functionality borrows the 303’s interactions, but there’s more here – an arpeggiator, 250 user patterns x 7 tracks, and an intriguing ppq (parts per quarter) setting.

There’s also more I/O, bringing this more in line with a hacked/modded 303 than the original. You get USB, MIDI, and filter in / sync in / CV out / gate out, in addition to the original’s basic sync features.

Behringer are offering this in three colors, which otherwise are functionally identical – so TD-3-BU, RD, and SR are blue, red, and silver, respectively.

It’s really the price that’s the big deal, at US$199. That mainly hurts the Roland TB-03, which has a street of nearly twice that. Now, I don’t much expect anyone to dump the TB-03 – it sounds great whether it’s analog or not, it’s got a delay/reverb this lacks, and it runs on batteries. For that matter, I don’t know that people will dump any of their existing 303 emulations.

But for someone picking up the 303 who doesn’t have one, it’s going to be tough to compete with Behringer.

On the other hand, Behringer now joins a lot of low-cost, cool synths. Synthtopia compares the TD-3 with the KORG volca NuBass. I don’t know if that comparison came from Behringer, but the KORG seems like a totally different animal – different sound, different features, different workflow, and you know, a volca.

https://www.behringer.com/search/Behringer?text=TD-3

My question is – who’s going to use some strange bass sound to invent a new musical genre? It feels like we’re due.

I know, I know – “Karplus-Strong Techno” is really not a thing like acid house.

Okay – can someone make that a thing?

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808 Day: NYC’s 808, for Run DMC, Beastie Boys, and Whodini

Yes, yes, Detroit techno and all that. This 808 Day, Roland is giving NYC and hip hop some props – by shining the spotlight on pioneer Larry Smith.

Don’t get me wrong – the TR-808 certainly feeds my techno addiction. But part of what made Roland’s drum machine such a legend was that it crossed genres. And even as today’s club kids focus on techno when they dream of the 808, the 808 was also shaped by hip-hop, whose producers embraced the Roland box just as it did the MPC (think Public Enemy) and E-MU (Amen break, hello SP-1200).

Larry Smith is one of the visionaries you can thank for that, so it’s fitting Roland make him and his personal 808 the star of today:

In fact, I have to say, as a child of the 80s, this was my first exposure to the 808 as a kid. (And wow, so the sound of this exact box – crazy.) I absolutely remember that sense of what the hell is that strange sound the first time I heard Run DMC’s self-titled debut album; maybe you do, too. And its minimalist, Japanese electronic detachment is the perfect timbre to accompany rap and let the words stand on their own. But I think you can experience that now, even, listening to it today. Everything Larry Smith did has a sense of raw, elemental futurism. It practically begs you to strip down your 2019 production and get back to basics as much as in the mid 80s, before anyone had to worry about going VST crazy or applying some kind of weird AI-powered mastering.

And what a resume – Kurtis Blow, The Fat Boys, Run DMC, Whodini, Jimmy Spicer, Russell Simmons.

The other interesting aspect of Roland’s video here is that Smith was literally able to pass along some of his aesthetic by passing on this very TR-808 to Larry Smith, Jr., and Rashad Smith. Smith in turn goes on to be beat craftsman to the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Uptown Records, and Bad Boy Records, a production powerhouse spinning the DNA for a lot of the sounds to come. The machine itself, as son Larry Smith, Jr. tells it, is part of history: “This my father’s original TR-808…This machine is Run DMC’s first two albums, all of Whodini, and also Licensed to Ill by Beastie Boys.”

But given the 808 is a household name, and for too many people this whole playlist might be news, let’s go ahead and declare this Larry Smith Day, too, while we’re at it. Part of what made the 808 a force was that he shaped it into a unique sound through some extraordinary musical collaborations:

Reading:

(great footnotes / timeline in that one)

Obituary for Larry Smith in The New York Times, 2014

More on the 808:

https://www.roland.com/global/promos/roland_tr-808/

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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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The Casio CZ is a huge highlight of Arturia’s V Collection 7

Arturia’s V Collection 7 continues to expand as the go-to software library of every vintage synth you would ever want. But let’s focus on one new gem: the brilliant CZ-101 remake.

First off, V Collection 7 is worth a look. Arturia keep making their mega-bundle software instrument bundle better. That means both reworking the modeling inside these tools, and adding new features, as well as – of course – continuing to expand the library of available instruments. As modeling has improved, these instruments have gotten more and more like the originals in sound and not just in function and look. At the same time, Arturia keeps beefing up those originals with new features – so the authentic sound engines get new sound design features atop them.

The EMS Synthi V makes an appearance in the new V Collection, too – if your tastes go more 70s than 80s. And it’s a big deal.

Version 7 continues to balance the desires of the casual keyboardist and the obsessive synth sound designer – and everything in between. So if you just want to add a convincing Mellotron or B-3, you’re covered – with an all-new Mellotron and a total ground-up sound engine overhaul for the B-3 V2. Jimmy Smith Strawberry Fields Forever, check and mate.

If the idea of a whole bunch of unfamiliar keyboards and control layouts is unappealing, V Collection 7 also includes the new Analog Lab 4, which consolidates all these things into easy presets and macro controls, and hundreds of new presets in their “Synthopedia.” That way if you do want to look up the way a familiar sound was produced – then tweak it yourself – you can.

Of course, if you read CDM, your favorite preset may be “default template,” and the idea of getting lost for hours in a vintage synth control layout may be the whole selling point. For that crowd, the V Collection 7 adds the EMI Synthi V and the CZ-101 from Casio, circa 1985.

Photo (CC-BY-SA) Neil Vance, via WikiCommons.

The ability to just dial up a menu and say, “do I want an Oberheim SEM or a CS-80” is already pretty crazy, and the number of choices continues to grow. So my approach to V Collection is actually to ignore all those presets – apologies, dear sound designer friends – and try to focus on one instrument. It’s a bit like what you do in a packed studio – you pull out one piece of gear, and say, hey, tonight is going to be about me and this instrument and very little else.

I want to talk about the CZ-101 because it’s long been one of my favorite instruments, and it’s a fairly unsung one. The CZ is somehow too easy, too friendly, too compact, too inexpensive to have the kind of adoration of some of the other 80s and 70s throwbacks. It’s not a collectors’ item. You can still find them at flea makrets. So yeah, Arturia are quick to drop names who have used it, like Salt-N-Pepa and Vince Clarke. But to me the whole appeal of the CZ-101 is that it’s for people who love synths, not people trying to emulate their heroes.

Of course, you could for these reasons go get an actual CZ-101. That means Arturia has to sweeten the deal a bit so the software can compete. They did just that. Let’s dive in.

CZ V reproduces the simple hardware interface (at bottom) but also expands to this view with lots of additional visual feedback and features, at top.

Phase Distortion lovers, rejoice

The original CZ-101 is about two things: a simple front panel layout, and phase distortion. If you just want to drop the CZ into a session as-is, CZ V does that.

Phase distortion synthesis isn’t so much a different synthesis method as it is a compelling way of mucking about with two digital oscillators. It’s easy enough to dismiss PD as Casio’s cheaper, non-patented answer to Yamaha’s DX7 and frequency modulation (FM). But now as we grow more accustomed to digital, non-harmonic timbres, PD is better appreciated on its own terms – as a way of producing unique digital color.

In short, what phase distortion does for you is to add rich harmonic content to sound. It can be a distortion. It can sound something like a resonant filter – in its own way. And because it’s normally using synced oscillators – here’s the important bit – it’s way easier to control than FM generally is.

On the Casio, this allows some unique filtering and sound shaping and distortion sounds that can easily be controlled by macros. And on the Arturia remake, graphical access to envelopes and expanded power means that you can use that shaping creatively.

The CZ V kind of goes a bit nuts versus what an original CZ-101 would give you. Let’s compare 1985 and 2019.

Arturia’s effects mean you don’t have to listen to the CZ dry.

The modulation matrix makes this feel as much modern soft synth as 1980s hardware.

The original oscillators are there – sine, saw, square, pulse, resonance, double-sine, saw-pulse – as are the 8-stage envelope generators and vibrato and LFOs. You can even import SysEx from the original. But being able to program these features on a display makes sound design accessible.

In addition to making hidden CZ features more visible, Arturia have expanded what’s possible:

  • 32-voice polyphony (the original had just 8).
  • A modulation matrix – no, really.
  • More modulation: a Sample and Hold module, 2 LFOs with 6 waveforms, 3 sources combinators and an Arpeggiator
  • New effects – while an authentic approach to the CZ might leave it dry, now you get all the Arturia multi-effects (adding things like chorus and reverb sound especially nice, for instance)

There’s visual feedback for everything, too.

Where the CZ fits in

In some ways, the CZ-101 is weirdly going from dated 80s thrift store find to … ahead of its time? After all, we’re seeing modular makers embrace these kinds of digital oscillator effects, and phase and phase distortion even inspired the upcoming sequel to Native Instruments’ Massive, the new Massive X.

Envelope editing is powerful – and includes animated visual feedback.

The CZ architecture is uniquely suited to making a lot of different sounds – including percussion and modulating timbres and edgy digital business – with a minimum of resources. So there’s a noise source built-in. You can modulate with the noise source. There’s ring modulation.

Using the CZ, DADSR, and multi-segment envelopes, you can them sculpt those percussive and metallic timbres over time – including using the DCW (Digitally Controlled Waveform) envelope that morphs between a sine wave and distorted wave.

The reason I’m using the CZ V to talk about the new V Collection edition, though, is that it’s an instrument where it feels like Arturia’s authentic side matches up with the “vintage on steroids” additions. So, by the time you have something like the new Synthi, you’re already presented with tons of sound design possibilities. Arturia has added some amazing ideas there – a step sequencer, a beat-synced LFO, plus onboard effects, atop all the new graphical options for working with envelopes and modulation.

The thing is, on a Synthi, that starts to feel like too much. I almost was tempted with the Synthi to force myself not to expand the tab full of new stuff. If I want an open-ended sound environment on a computer, I can use Reaktor, not try to recreate a 1970s take on the idea.

On the Arturia edition of the Casio, though, all these additions help the CZ graduate from fun toy to serious sound design tool. The visual envelopes make more sense. Effects are something most CZ owners invested in anyway. And more polyphony means you can run one instance and do a lot with it. Heck, even the matrix is easier to follow than on the original EMS Synthi because the architecture of the CZ-101 is so straightforward. In other words, because the original did less, it’s both a good match for software remake and for some thoughtful additions – which Arturia delivers.

Check these templates for an easy way to get started making your own sounds.

Here’s a little sketch I made with this. This is all one patch – noise and ring modulation and layering the ring source, plus some DCW and pitch envelope use, are what generate all those sounds. I added Arturia’s Trid-A Pre and some reverb from Softube’s TSAR-1 Reverb and … that was it.

More on the products:

V Collection 7

CZ V

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It’s 606 day – remember when Roland made a drum machine like a 303?

808 day, sure. But let’s pause for 606 day – the logical anniversary of the 1982 TR-606, a drum machine squeezed inside a tiny enclosure that looks like a 303 but isn’t. It’s the lesser known runt of the Roland family, and you kind of love it for that alone.

If you think about it, the 606 was way ahead of its time. Now selling customers on buying a little bass machine, then buying a little drum machine to go with it is par for the course. But in the early 80s, the music that would make the 303 and even the 606 desirable … hadn’t been made yet.

Why 606?

The TR-606 is certainly simple. It’s got all analog circuitry inside, for seven parts – kick, snare, two toms, open and closed hats, cymbal. There’s an accent control. It isn’t the most sought-after sound of the TR series, by any stretch, but now that you’ve heard way too many 808 and 909 hats, you might appreciate this just for some variety.

It can trigger other gear. It’s got accent. It was designed so you could chain 606 models together. So it’s not a terrible little machine. And it is – I’ll stand by this – the cutest drum machine Roland ever made. (I have to admit, I just went back to my boutique TR-09 this week and had a blast. Sometimes getting something tiny and restricted is oddly inspiring. An itsy bitsy teenie weenie silver TR drum machine-y?)

It’s famous, and yet mercifully no one has ever called it iconic. It just is what it is. Here’s Tatsuya of KORG fame giving it a one-over – as he should, as nothing channels the spirit of the 606 (even from Roland) quite like the entry of the KORG volca series he helmed:

And here’s Reverb.com giving it the once over:

The 606 has been in some great music – Aphex Twin, Nine Inch Nails, Autechre, Orbital, plus one favorite artist that shares its name – Kid606. Moby I think also used one, probably in that spell when he and I were dating that he doesn’t like to talk about. (Man, did that beetroot smoothie we shared together while programming 606 patterns mean nothing to you? Nothing?!)

It’s also been heavily modded and copied. It’s a reminder, basically, that drum machines need not look like a truck. They can be a funny sidecar you can easily squeeze into spaces where no one else can parallel park. When people talked about buying unloved Roland drum machines for $50 in pawn shops in the 80s – the TR-606 was one likely candidate. This was one of the machines cheap enough to enable people without cash to change music.

You know the sound. Because it was tinnier than the 808 and 909, the 606 often stood in when someone wanted something with an even thinner Roland sound.

Put that sound with the 303, and you really do get a combo that makes sense.

Bonus – this bit. You can swap between PLAY and WRITE pattern modes while the TR-606 is running – so you can edit as a pattern is playing. The other TRs would ideally work that way, but they don’t.

Here’s a guide to the controls:

Samples and software

There have been numerous software recreations, too, like this iOS app mR-606:

Or this one, which also runs on iPad:

EGDR606 Drum Machine

Most famously of all, there is Propellerhead’s ReBirth, which cloned the 303 and 606 and launched, arguably, the entire electronic dance music production revolution on computers. Roland must have taken note, because they convinced Propellerhead to remove the iPad port. (Okay, that was probably more about the TB-303. But still.) If you’re ambitious, you can still run ReBirth on recent Windows versions, with some effort.

And here’s a free sample set:

http://www.rolandclan.com/library/tr-606/

Samples From Mars also have a sale on their much broader sample library, which resamples the 606 through various gear. Check it:

https://samplesfrommars.com/products/606-from-mars

Adverts

It may not have translated into sales, but Roland had a slick presentation for its 1982 product line.

Check out those specs:

Dear advertisers – please create stuff like this, which is what people saw if they flipped open a glossy issues of Keyboard Magazine in 1982:

Source: https://retrosynthads.blogspot.com/2010/08/roland-tb-303-and-tr-606-keyboard-1982.html

And yes, Roland at various times has brought this back in … strange ways, like on the SP-606 which really … has nothing to do with the TR-606. But here it is, because D-Beam! It’s also been spotted inside the recent recreations like the TR-8S and even the Serato-collaboration DJ controllers.

Image at top:

Roland TR-606

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Strange Moog history: a telephone, an air hockey game, more

You know the Minimoog and the modular. But do you know The Operator – a business telephone? Or the Moog air hockey game? The Moog name wound up in some strange places in the 80s.

These creations have little to do with Bob Moog. The company first known as R.A. Moog underwent buyouts by other manufacturers, before Bob Moog left the company bearing his name in 1977. Then around 1981, Moog turned to contract manufacturing – at aroundthe same time as the last Minimoog came off the assembly line. Management bought out the company in 1983 and did even more contract work.

But some of the weird side tracks that happened next are nothing if not intriguing. And synth manufacturers diversifying isn’t actually that strange a concept. We have to remember that part of what allows our industry to make weird devices like boutique modules is that we can source components and contract manufacturing from companies making other stuff. (Case in point – I spent Friday morning at ALFA in Riga, who partner with Erica Synths, Gamechanger Audio, and others. Even ALFA gets the lion’s share of revenue from other stuff – in their case, it seemed to be electronic safe circuitry and supplying the Russian car industry. That’s to say nothing of factories in Shenzhen, China.)

So, sure, the most infamous contract synth was the SSK Concertmate for Tandy Corp (aka the brand name used by Radio Shack). But there’s more. As Moog Electronics in the mid-80s, the company made subway door openers and climate control systems. And then these:

A phone

The Operator (originally the Telesys 3) in 1983 was a business phone with some features I’d find handy today, even if they’re dated:

  • A digital clock with stopwatch, automatic call timing, and alarms
  • Custom ring tones, plus a timer that sets the ringer to mute automatically
  • Tons of memory positions and automation
  • Built-in calculator
  • Built-in paper address book
  • Call scheduling
  • Automatic redial for getting through on busy numbers
  • A “privacy detector” that warns you if someone has picked up the line and is listening in

— plus this being the 80s, it also boasted all kinds of archaic compatibility features so it would work with touch, rotary, and pulse lines and corporate PBX and interfacing. Some things we definitely won’t miss.

Of course, the main synth connection here is, Moog Electronics accidentally predicted the FM synth that would one day come from Ableton. Ahem. But the “Moog Telecommunications” name tells you they aspired to make more devices, even if that never happened.

The Operator resurfaced this weekend on Reddit.

You’ll find this image and history on Moogarchives, which has the best timeline of the company’s story:

http://moogarchives.com/chrono.htm

An air hockey game

The Moog air hockey table surfaced in 2012 on a Gearslutz, captured by user plaidemu. If we look back to 2004, we find some trivia background on what this was – evidently also around 1983 or so.

Moog’s logo is on the scoreboard because they made the sound generation circuits. User vorlon42 (whoa, is that a Babylon 5 reference crossed with a Hitchhikers’ Guide reference?):

About 20 years ago, a Buffalo, NY-based company called Innovative Concepts in Entertainment rolled out a heavy-duty arcade-quality table hockey game called Chexx. Like the old “slot hockey” games many of us who grew up in the northern US and Canada had when we were kids, we could control each player (forwards, defensemen, and goaltender) by pushing and pulling a rod for each player, and turn the player by twisting the rod left and right. The playing arena was encased in a hard lucite dome, so that the puck wouldn’t fly out of the arena.

On top of the dome was an box scoreboard with three lights on each of its four sides, and sound-generation circuitry that would play crowd noises and organ “charge” riffs. The electronics for the game was manufactured by…..Moog Music. The Moog logo was featured prominently on the scoreboard.

The Chexx game, and successive versions, can be found in various game rooms, arcades, amusement parks, and sports bars around the world. The most recent version is called Super Chexx. (Unfortunately, it lacks the Moog music circuitry.)

https://forum.moogmusic.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=848

You can still find the game manufacturer.

I love that the Russia-US matchup lets you recreate the miracle on ice. (Well, unless Russia wins, of course.)

A music system for the Commodore

The Moog Song Producer was a very useful looking interface for the Commodore 64 – something you might want even now, if you’re a chip music fan. It’s a combination of software (for sequencing) and I/O for both MIDI and analog signal:

· 1 MIDI in
· 1 MIDI thru
· 4 MIDI outs
· 8 drum trigger outs
· 2 Footswitch ins
· 1 Clock/sync in
· 1 Clock/sync out

Friend of the site (and Retro Thing alum) Bohus Blahut wrote into Matrixsynth in the heady days of 2005 to add more detail:

These aren’t actually rare at all. I’ve seen them on Ebay dozens of times. I think that I got mine for $30 a few years back. I haven’t used it yet (know how that feels?), but it is an amazing package. The thing that would make it even more amazing is if Moog had ever come out with the device mentioned in the manual; an analog sound module. How hip would that be?

Moog Song Producer

A Gibson guitar

Long before the 2008 Paul Vo Moog Guitar, there was the Gibson-Moog collaboration RD series guitar. This even predates Moog Electronics, so Bob Moog himself designed the circuit – an active preamp intended to widen tonal range and make the sound compete with the synth. Or something. With bright, treble, and bass modes, plus compression and expansion, it was more complex than guitarists might have wanted at the time – but also more capable. You can read up on it at Reverb.com:

When Gibson Put Moog Preamps In Guitars: Les Paul Artists, ES Artists, and RDs

Evidently, it sounded like this?

As for those electronics creations – well, it was acceptable in the 80s.

Got more? Hit us up.

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The ultra-rare Sequential Prophet T8, reborn as a flagship add-on

It was the stuff of legends – a richly capable polysynth from the mind of Dave Smith, with only 800 units making it into the world. But now as makers chase the same clones on repeat, the T8 finds its way onto another innovative and overlooked flagship, today’s Sequential Prophet X and XL.

I wouldn’t normally write about sample packs, let alone add-ons for particular hardware. But Sequential’s Prophet X and XL are already uniquely sophisticated instruments – monster polysynths combining dozens of gigs of “deep sampling” sample content with analog synthesis, in a hybrid giant. The sample shop that assembled the sounds for that Prophet, 8dio, have gone back to painstakingly recreate the T8 as an add-on to the new Prophets.

The resulting combo could be the best modern Prophet available at the moment. The T8 had the soul of a Prophet-5 architecture, but was decades head of its time by unveiling polyphonic aftertouch keys (take that, MPE). Those T8 sounds, sampled here in detail, are a natural pairing with the Prophet X’s stereo analog filters, deep modulation, dual digital effects, and polyphonic step sequencer, plus its own superb keyboard.

8dio worked with Dave’s own, immaculately maintained T8 for the samples.

8dio has also made add-ons featuring the ARP 2600 and OBX.

The pack is just US$48, so while picking up a Prophet X or XL is hardly cheap, what you do get here for your investment is a serious alternative to assembling a bunch of software plug-ins for this sort of sound design depth.

Sequential Prophet X/XL Add-On 5 T8

The bad news here is really about a limitation of the new Prophets – Sequential doesn’t do polyphonic aftertouch or MPE on their new keyboards (though there is polyphonic glide). I’m rather hopeful that the reemergence of the T8 prods Dave and team to consider doing that, following Bay Area leaders like Roger Linn who helped drive the adoption of polyphonic expression in MIDI. These sounds deserve some control from more than one of your fingers at a time. (You get just mono aftertouch on the Prophet X/XL.)

But whether you’re a Sequential owner or not, it’s worth spending some time revisiting the T8 in all its 1983 glory – this is an early 80s synth that seems more like something you’d get now.

You absolutely should check out this copious review / history from greatsynthesizers.com for everything you could hope to want to know about this axe:

https://greatsynthesizers.com/en/review/sequential-prophet-t8-pure-analog-luxury/

There’s a lot of stuff in that keyboard – optical sensing, release velocity as well as polyphonic aftertouch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAN-hnr4HCg

Photo at top – greatsynthesizers; seriously, do go check them out!

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Gallery: a new documentary digs into techno’s 80s Detroit roots

“God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines” is the story through the eyes of a documentary team that grew up in Detroit – and with time running out, they’re short of their funding goal. Happily, you have the power to change that.

God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines: The Story of Detroit Techno

Behind all the history and legend, there’s always a human story of how things happen. What’s appealing about this film above others is, it’s not just one icon or one machine, but the relationships between the artists that takes the spotlight. And, it’s at last a film about Detroit’s influence from Detroit’s perspective – not just the European scene where the genre eventually turned into a runaway financial success.

The requisite originators all star – Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May, Eddie Fowlkes, Blake Baxter, and more – so this is definitely one I look forward to watching.

Of course, funding independent film is these days a major ordeal, particularly for American filmmakers. And so it’s disheartening to see that with days running out on crowd funding, the filmmakers haven’t made their very modest funding goals. There are some lovely benefits in there – just US$5 gets you an exclusive mixtape – so I hope you’ll get the chance to give this a nod.

Motor City natives Kristian Hill and Jennifer Washington are looking just for the finishing funds to put this out.

I asked Jennifer to walk us through some stills from the film, so here’s an exclusive gallery for CDM.

Young child at Movement Festival, Detroit.

Motor City, now.

Cover of Record Mirror, June 1988.

The Scene Dance Show, Detroit, circa 1983.

Cybotron’s vision of future cities, 1983.

Blake Baxter plays those drum machines.

Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May, Juan Atkins.

Juan Atkins, Eddie Fowlkes.

Classic Transmat label, illustrated by Alan Oldham.

Mike Huckaby.

Kevin Saunderson.

God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines: The Story of Detroit Techno [Kickstarter]

Previously:

Detroit techno, the 90s comic book – and epic new DJ T-1000 techno

In a documentary film, a return to Detroit and speaker f***ing

The post Gallery: a new documentary digs into techno’s 80s Detroit roots appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.