KORG’s nutekt NTS-1 is a fun, little kit – and open to ‘logue developers

KORG has already shown that opening up oscillators and effects to developers can expand their minilogue and prologue keyboards. But now they’re doing the same for the nutekt NTS-1 – a cute little volca-ish kit for synths and effects. Build it, make wild sounds, and … run future stuff on it, too.

Okay, first – even before you get to any of that, the NTS-1 is stupidly cool. It’s a little DIY kit you can snap together without any soldering. And it’s got a fun analog/digital architecture with oscillators, filter, envelope, arpeggiator, and effects.

Basically, if you imagine having a palm-sized, battery-powered synthesis studio, this is that.

Japan has already had access to the Nutekt brand from KORG, a DIY kit line. (Yeah, the rest of the world gets to be jealous of Japan again.) This is the first – and hopefully not the last – time KORG has opened up that brand name to the international scene.

And the NTS-1 is one we’re all going to want to get our hands on, I’ll bet. It’s full of features:

– 4 fixed oscillators (saw, triangle and square, loosely modeled around their analog counterpart in minilogue/prologue, and VPM, a simplified version of the multi-engine VPM oscillator)
– Multimode analog modeled filter with 2/4 pole modes (LP, BP, HP)
– Analog modeled amp. EG with ADSR (fixed DS), AHR, AR and looping AR
– modulation, delay and reverb effects on par with minilogue xd/prologue (subset of)
– arpeggiator with various modes: up, down, up-down, down-up, converge, diverge, conv-div, div-conv, random, stochastic (volca modular style). Chord selection: octaves, major triad, suspended triad, augmented triad, minor triad, diminished triad (since sensor only allows one note at a time). Pattern length: 1-24
– Also: pitch/Shape LFO, Cutoff sweeps, tremollo
– MIDI IN via 2.5mm adapter, USB-MIDI, SYNC in/out
– Audio input with multiple routing options and trim
– Internal speaker and headphone out

That would be fun enough, and we could stop here. But the NTS-1 is also built on the same developer board for the KORG minilogue and prologue keyboards. That SDK opens up developers’ powers to make their own oscillators, effects, and other ideas for KORG hardware. And it’s a big deal the cute little NTS-1 is now part of that picture, not just the (very nice) larger keyboards. I’d see it this way:

NTS-1 buyers can get access to the same custom effects and synths as if they bought the minilogue or prologue.

minilogue and prologue owners get another toy they can use – all three of them supporting new stuff.

Developers can use this inexpensive kit to start developing, and don’t have to buy a prologue or minilogue. (Hey, we’ve got to earn some cash first so we can go buy the other keyboard! Oh yeah I guess I have also rent and food and things to think about, too.)

And maybe most of all –

Developers have an even bigger market for the stuff they create.

This is still a prototype, so we’ll have to wait, and no definite details on pricing and availability.

Waiting.

Yep, still waiting.

Wow, I really want this thing, actually. Hope this wait isn’t long.

I’m in touch with KORG and the analog team’s extraordinary Etienne about the project, so stay tuned. For an understanding of the dev board itself (back when it was much less fun – just a board and no case or fun features):

KORG are about to unveil their DIY Prologue boards for synth hacking

Videos:

Sounds and stuff –

Interviews and demos –

And if you wondered what the Japanese kits are like – here you go:

Oh, and I’ll also say – the dev platform is working. Sinevibes‘ Artemiy Pavlov was on-hand to show off the amazing stuff he’s doing with oscillators for the KORG ‘logues. They sound the business, covering a rich range of wavetable and modeling goodness – and quickly made me want a ‘logue, which of course is the whole point. But he seems happy with this as a business, which demonstrates that we really are entering new eras of collaboration and creativity in hardware instruments. And that’s great. Artemiy, since I had almost zero time this month, I better come just hang out in Ukraine for extended nerd time minus distractions.

Artemiy is happily making sounds as colorful as that jacket. Check sinevibes.com.

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Studio Electronics baut den SE-1X wieder – Minimoog-Struktur

studio electronics se1x 2019studio electronics se1x 2019

Studio Electronics waren die, die den Minimoog als Rack umgebaut haben und midifiziert im großen Stile angeboten haben. Danach gab es ein eigenes Modell mit Speicher namens SE1 und dann den Nachfolger SE-1X.

Heute ist der Roland SE-02 fast bekannter als alles andere und damit auch der Ur-Vater und die tatsächlichen Minimoogs mit einigen Aufrüstigungen, die zu dem weit besser ausgestatteten eigenen „Minimoog“ führten, den man schon in den Neunzigern kaufen konnte. Er wurde noch ein wenig aufgebohrt und beschleunigt, denn die Hüllkurven hatten lange eine Schwäche beim Tempo.

Es gibt 4 Bänke von fertigen Sounds und 3 für eigene, was insgesamt 693 Sounds ergibt, die er speichern kann. Der SE-1X hat im Gegensatz zum Minimoog, dem SE02 oder diversen Clones zwei Filter, den klassischen Moog-Tiefpass aber auch das 12dB/Oktave-Multimode-Filter. Außerdem hat auch Sinus als Wellenform zu bieten, was für FM-Sound sinnvoll sein kann.

4 Hüllkurven und 3 LFOs sind auch heute noch viel. Da kommt nur der achtstimmige MFB Synth 8 vielleicht weiter drüber hinaus, während die meisten anderen sich eher an die schlichtere Minimoog-Struktur hält.

Der Preis wird bei $1899 bleiben, was aus heutiger Sicht günstiger ist, denn in den Neunziger-Jahren kostete er dasselbe. Wie gut er heute Platz zwischen Model D und SE-02 aber auch anderen Angeboten hat, muss man noch sehen.

Mehr Information

  • Studio Electronics SE-1X 2019 Website.

IK UNO Drum: portable, $249.99 analog-PCM drum machine

Like the UNO synth before it, IK Multimedia’s new drum machine is a collaboration with boutique Italian maker Soundmachines, runs on batteries, takes up very little space, and it looks like a whole lot of fun, for EUR/USD 249.99.

As with some of the best-known classic drum machines, the sound engine is a combination of analog circuitry and PCM samples.

On the analog side of the sound engine, there are six drum parts: two different kicks, snare, clap, closed high hat, open high hat, and of course controls for shaping each.

On the PCM side, the default parts are toms, rim, cowbell, ride, crash. There are 54 samples onboard in total. And again, you can adjust Tuning, Snap, and Decay.

Sound samples are interesting – the kick sounds appropriately heavy and analog, and it sounds like you can glitch out those PCM samples, so … yep, I’m happy.

The voice architecture evidently lets you freely swap analog and digital parts as you wish to customize your kit, with up to 12 elements in each kit (and 11 of these can sound at the same time).

They’ve also added Drive and Compressor, both analog effects.

So that sounds already like a winning combination: customizable kits, plus some analog processing to make them punchier.

And then there’s the playing and programming bit. Touch entry has two velocity zones which you can map to sound parameters – so you don’t have to dive into a separate accent mode. You get 64 steps (with step and live performance), some serious automation recording (eight parameters per step), and even chaining up to 64 patterns together (for a kind of song mode). And you can trigger patterns live on the fly.

There are also some “performance effects” in the sequencer – Roll, Humanize, Swing, and Random.

More specs:

USB
2.5mm MIDI (with cables included)
Audio input for chaining – also routed through the compressor
400 g
4 AA batteries or power via USB
Ships in June
249 EUR/USD (not incl. VAT)

That little audio input with compressor makes this a nice companion to a number of little boxes.

They don’t say that you can customize samples, which may sound like an odd thing to complain about on a $250 box, except that some inexpensive machines have actually provided that (albeit some made it exceedingly difficult to do, like the KORG volca sample).

So sure, while everyone else eyes modules with prices starting for around this, I bet you could do a lot of damage with this little box.

https://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/unodrum/

And they have a ton of tutorial/demo videos up already:

Uh… my music doesn’t sound like this, but maybe yours does?

And the specs with… okay, more of that song. (To be fair, my mood today for a mega-distorted 150 bpm acid techno track is probably not the best music bed underneath someone trying to explain how you feed power via USB or AA batteries. You could, like, shout over it into a vocoder?)

(You can still hire me to do your voice over / demo video. UnO drUM g1vv33s yoU meg444 Cr444zYYY ACID DRUGGY SPACECAT psych0000 so888uunnddsss! L0000kieee!! No? I charge by the hour, it’s easy. I’m sure Dr. Walker / Liquid Sky Berlin will join in our tripped out machine PR agency.)

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Novation’s super synth for Superbooth leaks: 16-voice Summit

What if Novation put everything great about their recent analog and digital synths into one keyboard? That appears to be exactly what Summit is – and it looks like a show stealer.

The information is leaking via German media through a couple of print and online outlets (Beat and delemar.de so far, with the Facebook post of the latter picked up by Gearnews. Oh, and, uh… there’s an image sitting around on Novation’s site.

And it’s too good to sit on this time.

16 voices digital/analog hybrid, bi-timbral modes, 60 wavetables, multimode filters, and then tons and tons of onboard controls – four dedicated LFOs right on the front panel.

3 oscillators per voice
FM synthesis
An arpeggiator with pattern and chord modes
A 61-key keyboard with conventional pitch and mod wheels
Stereo outputs (or 4x mono)

Okay, so why all those keys? Think performance – layers and splits and dual mode and that powerful chord/arp/pattern business, all at your fingertips.

Times like this I miss writing for Keyboard in print. But I’ll let you figure the rest from photos. And be sure we’ll head to that booth – I’m glad I’m bringing a couple of friends, as maybe then we can do four- or six-hand performance on this for you, provided Novation are bringing a working unit.

2200 EUR appears to be the price – and while that’s nothing to sneeze at, it’s tough to get this much bang and hands-on control for your buck any other way.

Oh yeah, and this does mean a shot across the bow of a certain rival manufacturer who has been posting “what-if” scenarios and random images. It appears Novation has done the actual engineering to finish a product here. But Novation’s coup here may be packing all the sound and modulation controls of a polysynth up front without having an overwhelming layout. No vintage instrument pulled that off – so instead of repeating the past, they’ve come up with a new design.

More when we talk to Novation Thursday.

(Bass Station 2.5 is also in this leaked image, but that we’ve seen already. It’s still cool.)

Of course, this is a leak so – all bets are off until we get official information.

And now your German word of the day is stimmig.

Novation Peak was a megahit at Superbooth, and it seems the gang from the UK have done it again.

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Ableton release free CV Tools for integrating with analog gear, made in Max

It’s all about voltage these days. Ableton’s new CV Tools are designed for integrating with modular and semi-modular/desktop gear with CV. And they’re built in Max – meaning builders can learn from these tools and build their own.

The basic idea of CV Tools, like any software-CV integration, is to use your computer as an additional source of modulation and control. You route analog signal directly to your audio interface – you’ll need an interface that has DC coupled outputs (more about that separately). But once you do that, you can make your software and hardware rigs work together, and use your computer’s visual interface and open-ended possibilities to do still more stuff with analog gear.

This is coming on the eve of Superbooth, and certainly a lot of the audience will be people with modular racks. But nowadays, hardware with CV I/O is hardly limited to Eurorack – gear from the likes of Moog, Arturia, KORG, and others also makes sense with CV.

CV Tools aren’t the first Max for Live tools for Ableton Live – not by far. Spektro Audio makes the free CV Toolkit Mini, for instance. Its main advantage is a single, integrated interface – and a clever patch bay. There’s a more extensive version available for US$19.99.

Rival DAW Bitwig Studio, for its part, has taken an entirely different approach – you’ll get a software modular engine capable of interlinking with hardware CV wherever you like.

Ableton’s own CV Tools is news, though, in that these modules are powerful, flexible, and polished, and have a very Ableton-esque UI. They also come from a collaboration with Skinnerbox, the live performance-oriented gearheads here in Berlin, so I have no doubt they’ll be useful. (Yep, that’s them in the video.) I think there’s no reason not to grab this and Spektro and go to town.

And since these are built in Max, Max patchers may want to take a look inside – to mod or use as the basis of your own.

What you get:

CV Instrument lets you treat outboard modular/analog gear as if it’s integrated with Live as a plug-in.

Trigger drums and rhythms with CV Triggers.

CV Utility is a signal processing hub inside Live.

CV Instrument, with complements existing Ableton devices for integrating outboard MIDI instruments and effects with your projects in Live

CV Triggers for sequencing drum modules

CV Utility for adding automation curves, add/shift/multiple signals, and other processing tools

CV Clock In and CV Clock Out for clocking Live from outboard analog gear and visa versa

CV In which connects outboard analog signal directly to modulation of parameters inside Live

CV Shaper, CV Envelope Follower, and CV LFO which gives you graphical tools for designing modulation inside Live and using it for CV control of your analog hardware

And there’s more: the Rotating Rhythm Generator, which lets you dial up polyrhythms. This one works with both MIDI and CV, so you can work with either kind of external hardware.

I got to chat with Skinnerbox, and there’s even more here than may be immediately obvious.

For one thing, you get what they tell us is “extremely accurate broad-range” auto calibration of oscillators, filters, and so on. That’s often an issue with analog equipment, especially once you start getting complex or adding polyphony (or creating polyphony by mixing your software instruments with your hardware). Here’s a quick demo:

Clocking they say is “jitter free” and “super high resolution.”

So this means you can make a monster hybrid combining your computer running Ableton Live (and all your software) with hardware, without having to have the clock be all over the place or everything out of tune. (Well, unless that’s what you’re going for!)

If you’re in Berlin, Skinnerbox will play live with the rig this Friday at Superbooth.

They sent us this quick demo of working with the calibration tools, resulting in an accurate ten-octave range (here with oscillator from Endorphin.es).

Watch:

To interface with their gear, they’re using the Expert Sleepers ES8 interface in the modular. You could also use a DC-coupled audio interface, though – MOTU audio interfaces are a popular choice, since they’ve got a huge range of interfaces with DC coupling across various interface configurations.

CV Tools is listed as “coming soon,” but a beta version is available now.

https://www.ableton.com/en/blog/cv-tools-live-coming-soon/

What do you need to use this?

For full CV control of analog gear, you’ll want a DC-coupled audio interface. Most audio interfaces lack that feature – I’m writing an explanation of this in a separate story – but if you do have one with compatible outputs, you’ll be able to take full advantage of the features here, including tuned pitch control. MOTU have probably made more interfaces that work than anyone else. You can also look to a dedicated interface like the Expert Sleepers one Skinnerbox used in the video above.

See MOTU and Expert Sleepers, both of which Skinnerbox have tested:

http://motu.com/products

https://www.expert-sleepers.co.uk/es8.html

MOTU also have a more technical article on testing audio interfaces if you’re handy with a voltmeter, plus specs on range on all their interfaces.

Universal Audio have already written to say they’ll be demoing DC coupling on their audio interfaces at Superbooth with Ableton’s CV Tools, so their stuff works, too. (Double-checking which models they’re using.)

But wait – just because you lack the hardware doesn’t mean you can’t use some of the functionality here with other audio interfaces. Skinnerbox remind us that any audio interface inputs will work with CV In in Pitch mode. Clock in and out will work with any device, too.

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Do some crazy glitchy vidart window shopping on LA’s new FRGTWN

From Frogtown Los Angeles and the eccentric Detroit Underground label comes a new store full of “Art and Technology” and “aesthetics and identities” – which, in part, translates to these amazing, glitch-tastic video art toys! Look:

Detroit Underground have made a name for themselves not just as a label, but as a platform for video, visuals, and custom hardware – including Eurorack modular. The latest addition is a trendy turntable. But with the launch of the new FRGTWN online shop, DU are bringing us other goodies – pretty stuff to hang on your wall, yes, but also my personal favorite, a whole trove of unique custom mod-able video gear.

While everyone is up to speed on analog audio, DU label head Kero works magic with analog video. So looking into this online shop is a bit like gaining access to his unique toybox.

Check it:

FRITZ DECONTROLLER

BLOOD SUGAR SEX VIDEO PRO MAGIK

BPMC AVE CV

DEAD LANGUAGE V2.2

You’ll also find excellent synths by Ewa Justka and Mute Records – more on Ewa’s creations very soon.

And in case you have any money left after investing it in must-have analog video glitch gear, yes, there’s now a custom Detroit Underground turntable, launching alongside the store. It’s a sexy limited edition, custom designed by Neubau Berlin and optimized for high quality playback (so, not scratching/DJing, but for putting on a nice Detroit Underground record or two):

DUTT-181 SERIES LTD EDITION TURNTABLE

The shop is filled with other very specific nerd hipster items that basically sum up things we crave. An app is coming soon, so you’ll be in even more danger of buying this stuff in drunk and/or lonely moments.

https://frgtwn.com/

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SOMA’s PULSAR-23 semi-modular drum machine sneak peak

SOMA laboratory and enigmatic “romantic” engineer Vlad Kreimer have already delivered the strange and wonderful LYRA “organismic” synths. Next up: a drum machine.

The PULSAR-23 takes on that same “organismic” design philosophy, complete with rich, layered, deep space exploration sounds. With a full 23 independent modules, those powers turn to a drum machine design.

And maybe even “drum machine” doesn’t quite do this justice – you could just as easily imagine this as a percussion-heavy synthesizer. There are four independent loop recorders which trigger events, which you can clock into a single groove or leave to independent timing for more experimental rhythms. You can even set each channel to a sustain, so this is a noise/drone synth, too, not just a dancefloor object.

The PULSAR-23 was first announced last year, but now we get to see it move into its production form factor and – wow, it looks great:

It could be a gorgeous standalone machine, or you could see it as part of a larger modular rig. Full specs:

– 4 drum channels: Bass drum, Bass\Percussion, Snare drum, Cymbals\Hi-Hat
– 4 envelope generators with the unique ability to generate a sustain for the drum channels, turning them into noise\drone synthesizers.
– 4 independent loop recorders with the option for individual clocking. They record triggering events, not audio.
– Clock generator with an array of dividers as a very powerful tool for rhythm synthesis.
– Wide range LFO (0.1 – 5000Hz) with variable waveform.
– Shaos – a unique pseudo-random generator based on shift registers with 4 independent outputs, sample and hold and other cool features.
– FX processor with CV control incl. CV control of the entire DSP’s sample rate.
– Distortion.
– 2 CV-controlled gates.
– 2 CV-controlled VCAs.
– 2 controllable inverters.
– 3 assignable attenuators
– dynamic CV sensors for CV generation etc

Plus there’s MIDI control and sync, in addition to all the CV options. And if you want the really important specs – 52 knobs, 11 switches, 100 inputs and outputs for patching.

There’s also – “live circuit bending” whatever that entails, exactly?

This is the video from June 2018, where the PULSAR-23 was still just a bunch of guts – no pretty red case – but at least gives you an idea of the sound possibilities.

No lie here: SOMA will be way on the top of my list of gear to check out at Superbooth. I think this is poised to be a 2019 highlight.

Previously, we checked this out from SOMA this spring:

SOMA’s Ether is a high-sensitivity ear for your electromagnetic world

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Yamaha may revisit its legendary 1970s CS-80 polysynth

Yamaha is the one giant name that has mostly shied away from revisiting its past synth glory – but all that could soon be set to change.

For better or for worse, we live in an age of remakes and reboots. Oberheim and Buchla are back; Sequential Circuits is a name again (even if the instruments are new). Moog have reissued their Minimoog and their modular – even Keith Emerson’s entire rig. And two out of the three Japanese giants have reissued work-alike recreations – KORG the MS-20 and ARP Odyssey, Roland whole sets of their modular series along with TB-303, TR-808, and TR-909. (Sure, the Roland has digital modeling substituted for analog gear, but the fact is you could use their TB-03 by reading the manual from the original, even with its original sequencer mode.) These manufacturers are all going back through their own catalogs and original creators; then, of course, you also have Behringer additionally going after their work.

In all of this, Yamaha has mostly been the notable exception. The closest we’ve gotten to Yamaha even acknowledging its back catalog was the reface series, a set of mini keyboards with some hands-on control covering its FM synths, CS analog line, and electric pianos.

Of those three, I always thought the reface CS was the most compelling. Its faders do a decent job of distilling the hands-on feeling of the CS line into an ultra-compact form factor.

But that’s a far cry from the legion of hands-on controls the mighty CS-80 offers, or even the excellent duophonic CS-40M. (Actually, to me, the CS-40M would be ideal for an all-analog remake, much like the ARP Odyssey and MS-20 were – just shedding some of the physical bulk of the original.)

It seems Yamaha are digging into that. A thread on yamahamusicians.com suggests they want to take on their CS-80. Yamaha’s back catalog is immense and influential, but there’s nothing quite like the CS-80. To say it was a giant is to say it is both the instrument associated with Blade Runner and literally a 200-pound behemoth.

And now Yamaha wants to know a “basic conceptual direction if we were to make a new CS-80.”

Yamaha Idea Scale CS80 Questionnaire [thread on yamahamusicians.com]

As noted on musicradar

There’s some interesting discussion in that thread. Sure enough, people are open to digital recreations. Basically, don’t believe everything you read online; whereas loud-mouthed Internet trolls will scream and howl about digital modeling, these devices do well in the market. Roland’s recreations, for instance, have satisfied plenty of people with sound, and the digital modeling allows these devices to be not only inexpensive, but to run on battery power and to provide direct-digital (zero circuit noise) recording via computer.

I think the most intriguing comparison in that thread is to the Alesis A6 Andromeda. That instrument, still sought after online, heralded the return not just of analog but of one-to-one, hands-on controls – at a time when manufacturers forgot that musicians love turning knobs and moving faders.

I also think it’s worth noting that an avalanche of Behringer remakes have not appeared to dampen the desire of people to see remakes from the original manufacturers.

Yamaha make great, high-quality instruments, but it’s been a while since they were grabbing equivalent buzz – maybe not since the likes of the Tenori-On.

In the meanwhile, if you want an authentic CS-80 recreation, sell your car and get a Deckard’s Dream.

https://www.deckardsdream.com/

My guess is that Yamaha will not choose to go this route for cost, and that this ultra-luxury boutique instrument will remain your all-analog CS choice. It is absolutely the polysynth I would buy if I ever had, you know, money.

But could Yamaha pull off a digital remake in a smaller shell? Why not? They’ve already got deep workstation keyboards unlike anyone else’s; it’s about time they go Andromeda on those engines and give people more hands-on controls. They certainly have the manufacturing prowess to pull it off.

Photo: Pete Brown [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons“]

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Analoger 12-Stage-Phaser Bodengerät für Synthesizer Velvet Dream

Artificial Noise - Velvet DreamArtificial Noise - Velvet Dream

Bisher gab es schon einige Phaser diesen Typs, also analoger Bauweise und mit analoger 12-Stufen-Phasenschieber-Technik. Bekannte Vertreter sind der Moogerfooger MF103 oder der Vermona PH16.

Während ersterer auch ein „Bodentreter“ ist und letzterer ein 19″ Rack-Gerät mit 1 HE Bauhöhe und in hellem Vermonablau, wirkt der Velvet Dream eher sachlich und ist auch deutlich günstiger als die anderen. Es dürfte also vor allem preisbewusste Synthesizerbesitzer interessieren, wie das Gerät klingt. Ganz offensichtlich ist kein Rauschen oder andere Artefakte zu erwarten. Interessanterweise klingt er besonders gewinnbringend an einem digitalen Synthesizer, nämlich dem sehr günstigen Volca FM und erinnert ein wenig an eine Aphex Twin-Melodie.

Ein LFO bewegt den Phaser von sehr langsam bis sehr schnell. Die Parameter sind klassisch und bedarf vermutlich keiner großen Erklärung. Die Anzahl Filter-Stages kann man jeweils in Zweier-Gruppen von 2 bis 12 mittels Wahlschalter einstellen. So sind tiefe und vielschichtige bis einfache Phasing-Effekte möglich. Das Gerät ist nicht modularisiert, man kann also leider nicht per Steuerspannung Einfluss nehmen sondern muss mit dem manuell Eingestelltem leben. Das ist der größte Unterschied zu den beiden genannten Geräten, die unter Synthesizer-Nutzern neben dem Smallstone-Phaser (Jarre/Oxygene) eine beliebte Alternative ist. Wir wünschen samtene Träume.

Weitere Information

Auf der Website von Artificial Noise erfährt man, dass das Gerät vorbestellt werden kann und $249 kostet, welches jedoch zuzüglich Versand kosten wird. Die Geräte werden in gut 1-2 Monaten verschickt.

Audio

Video

Moog Matriarch puts all your analog sound shaping in one keyboard

Moog has taken the elements of their semi-modular line and given it a flagship – a patchable, calico-colored keyboard with sequencer, 4-voice paraphonic synth, and effects in one keyboard.

The pitch: even before you plug in cables to the copious patch points here, you can quickly get evolving strings of dreamy chords (or rich melodies), complete with delay and modulation. Those extra (analog, they want you to remember) specs aren’t just about more features. They’re about dialing in imaginative sounds. And so the Matriarch is an all-in-one keyboard that draws from Moog’s modular legacy, but in an integrated design you can use both with and without patching.

We’re definitely living in a weird timestream. When I started writing about music tech and joined Keyboard in the early 2000s, “workstation” keyboards were digital affairs, with functionality hidden deep in menus and screens. The key was to put as many instruments as possible – analog synthesis being seen as something retro and niche. Moog for their part had the Voyager, which took the Minimooog line in the direction of new analog exploration. But even Moog’s offering was primarily connected with MIDI cables, and had a touch panel right on the front.

Now, CV and gate – analog interconnects – are standard equipment alongside MIDI. People are happy to twist knobs rather than just dial up presets. (We, uh, could have told manufacturers that all along. Here’s a hint: if it’s fun, we’ll like it. Hence the term “play” music.)

And even if Moog are still (happily) outside the mainstream, there’s nothing saying their Matriarch has anything but broad appeal.

So here’s a keyboard proudly with wires popping out the top. And while Moog prominently tout “all-analog signal path” and “retro” design, we’re really seeing ourselves back in the parallel universe where analog synthesis never went away. On one hand, we’ve come full circle to some of the features first introduced in analog synthesis, but now it’s clearer what they’re for and how to make them more accessible. So for all its 1970s-derived features (Moog name included), the Matriarch is inventive in a way that makes sense in 2019.

Moog are pulling from the modular world, too, more aggressively than ever. Not only is this patchable, but the design does imagine a series of modules. So you get Minimoog oscillators, a mixer, classic Moog filters, envelopes and sound shapers. They’ve also built in a sequencer/arpeggiator.

The voice configuration allows mono, duo, and paraphonic playing modes, plus you have four notes per step in the sequencer.

My sense is what will make this interesting is the multiple modes on the filters combined with a Moogerfooger-like analog delay and tons of modulation. So you have dual ADSR envelopes and dual analog amplifiers, and two filters you can use in parallel or stereo or series. The delay is stereo (and ping/pong if you want) up to 700 ms – still waiting on Moog to tell me how short that delay can go.

Oh yeah, and ring mod possibilities also sound interesting. Plus they’ve got mults in there for making patching deeper onboard.

Specs:

Mono, duo, and 4-note paraphonic playability
Stereo analog delay with up to 700ms of stereo or ping/pong style repeats
256-step sequencer with up to four notes per step and 12 stored patterns
Arpeggiator with selectable modes (Order, Forward/Backward, Random)
Semi-modular analog synthesizer—no patching required
90 modular patch points for endless exploration
Expressive 49-note Fatar keyboard with patchable velocity and aftertouch
Four analog oscillators with selectable waveshape and hard sync per-oscillator
Full-range analog LFO with six selectable waveshapes
Dual analog filters with parallel (HP/LP), stereo (LP/LP), and series (HP/LP) modes available
Dual analog ADSR envelopes
Dual analog VCAs
Three bipolar voltage controlled attenuators with ring mod capability
2×4 parallel wired unbuffered mults
Additional simple analog LFO useful for adding modulation to delay, filters and VCAs
1/4″ external audio input for processing guitars, drum machines, and more through Matriarch’s analog circuits
Stereo 1/4″ and 3.5mm Eurorack level audio outputs

This is a Moog and a “flagship,” so it doesn’t come cheap – US$1999. That’s not to complain about the price, but it does mean if you’re in that budget, you have a lot of options. (Sitting next to me as I write this is Polyend’s Medusa along with Dreadbox, which has 6 voices instead of four, and some digital oscillators and modulation options that take it in a radically different direction from the Matriarch. Oddly, people complained about its price, and it costs half as much.)

I would personally be pretty tempted by Moog’s own Grandmother, the Matriarch’s baby sibling – with a street price around $800. It’s a monosynth, and the whole architecture is scaled accordingly. (It also has a spring reverb tank in place of the Matriarch’s delay). But you could use the saved money for a little Eurorack skiff.

That said, the Matriarch is a thoughtful, colorful, appealing new top-of-the-line for this family of Moogs. And it gets a Moogfest limited edition at the festival happening now – plus a lot of artists gathered who I’m sure will really want one.

https://www.moogmusic.com/news/introducing-matriarch

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