Production legend, accomplished live electronic musician, and inspiration and friend King Britt has been deep in his lab again. So hop in the polyrhythmic time machine, as you may want to set its controls to “loop.”
There have been few surprise hits in the world of patchable instruments like Make Noise’s 0-Coast. But they just might have another hit – a tabletop, patchable, clockable controller-sequencer. And it’s adorable – and US$399.
It’s an uncertain world out there for music gear as in other industries – but isolate engineers, and you’ll at least get some code that helps musicians play.
Maybe that sounds obvious. But as our societies and economies and supply chains and shipping all shut down in phases around us, well – there’s always stuff like sending out firmware downloads!
Firmware updates are terrific because they keep your customers busy and you can ship them now over the Internet without running into weird new shipping problems. So it’s really important that the Mother-32 semi-modular synth gets all this good stuff in a free download this week:
Multiple sequencer directions
Improved and expanded clocking options
CV-addressed sequencer control
Selectable swing intervals
New pattern change behaviors.
Ability to ignore MIDI clock or start/stop messages
Improved LED visual feedback
Options to auto-save and write-protect patterns
Selectable analog clock input and output resolutions
Completely rewritten sync and timing engine
Note completely rewritten. This means both having the engineering forethought to make something that can be updated, and the kind of skill and employee retention that lets someone do this work.
I’ve tended to ignore some of the variety of gear to talk about particular instruments that get this kind of update, and obviously not just from Moog. It’s not going to make sense for every product, but it does give you an indication of a manufacturer’s commitment.
This is part of what has kept electronic musical instruments from becoming commodities in the way a lot of other tech has. We’ve seen a wide range of ups and downs in the industry in terms of who can attract and retain talent. Music really requires engineers who understand or at least can communicate with musicians – and we have to woo them away from companies like defense contractors who can pay a lot more.
I know making payroll and paying budgets is going to be tough for our industry like so many others. But let’s hear it for all the people in our business who do everything from pack and test our instruments to try to describe complicated music gear in press releases to designing and building it. There are small Eurorack and kit makers where all of those people are one person. There are bigger employers.
If anything gets us through this wild ride, it will be those people. So I hope you all both stay safe and stay supported – and stay in touch.
Oh, and mess around with step sequencers and make grooves in good health, of course!
Polyend’s Tracker may be getting all the attention, but the company’s Medusa – an expressive controller and synth combo – just got another batch of improvements. And that builds on one of the more unique and versatile pieces of electronic instrumental hardware around now.
To entice would-be Medusa owners, the latest edition is nire affordable ( 699€ / US$799) and has attractive, minimalistic new letter.
To add to what the Medusa does, it’s got a new firmware with some big features.
It’s not just about finding the new shiny; there’s reward in instruments that grow and evolve with you over time. It’s a two way street; smart makers add depth and respond to users, too.
Medusa was interesting from the start in that it is multi-dimensional. It’s a collaboration between makers (Polyend and Dreadbox), it’s a controller and a synth, and it has analog circuitry (noise and oscillators and filter) but also digital innards (wavetable sounds and digital control and modulation). Of course, it has to then add up to more than those, or you get the dreaded “shampoo plus conditioner in one / shampoo and body wash” effect where it’s trying to be too much at once.
That’s where the digital side comes in. There’s no question the analog sounds are edgy and rich, but with firmware upgrades, you’ve gotten more wavetables, more control, and – crucially, a better and better controller.
Since this thing is long and made of metal, it’s most useful when it also works as a controller for other instruments. And that’s what this firmware 3.0 is all about.
More modulation: as has been often requested (including by me, for instance!), now the Medusa has a random wave LFO.
More controller features:
MIDI Local Off option lets you use the MPE pads to play another instrument while an external controller (or sequencer) play the internal sound set.
That is actually a big deal – because it is pretty common that you might start building sounds on the Medusa, but then want to have a live performance where you use it with something else (like a software or hardware modular rig). Now you can do that and still trigger/sequence/tweak the internal sound engine.
Use envelopes and modulation for control. The Medusa’s grid is expressive and sends MPE, it’s true. But now the powerful LFO and envelope system onboard also spits out MIDI CCs for other gear.
CCs are displayed on-screen. If you are sequencing some elaborate control, you’ll appreciate that there are CC numbers shown on the crisp Medusa screen.
As Jacek from Polyend points out, “With all the LFOs and ENVs being sent out as MIDI CC communicates and the Grid controller working in the MIDI Local off, Medusa becomes a much more potent modulation source/external sequencer/MPE controller. Especially bundled with our Poly2 for Eurorack systems “
It’s also a powerful system for use with VCV Rack, for people like me, I might add.
These are renders of the new hardware, matte black anodized aluminum.
But the firmware is for everyone – including new preset packs. You won’t get the nice new lettering, but all existing Medusa owners can use the new firmware.
The Tracker is really cool, but there are reasons to pay attention to its lesser-known sibling. Medusa is still the box you want if you want a deep synth – and its analog + wavetable + rich hands-on modulation and envelope system is still like nothing else out there. Plus, it remains one of the most unique MPE polyphonic expressive controllers available – and one of the few under a grand that has differentiated pads.
I am literally off to spend some days with this now.
SynthR3 ist dem Namen nach der dritte aufwendige Synthesizer von SynthR aus Frankreich.
Mit drei VCOs und einem Suboszillator kann er sehr mächtig sein. Der dritte VCO ist alternativ als LFO einzusetzen und es gibt noch einen weiteren LFO für Modulationszwecke dazu. Der zweiteLFO reicht bis zu 100 Hz hinaus und ist damit weitreichend für FM-Sounds geeignet. Mit dreiHüllkurvengeneratoren mit Fadern ist er eher üppig ausgestattet.
Die größte Überraschung ist aber die doppelte Filterabteilung mit Oberheim SEM, ARP 4072, Moog-Kaskade, Steiner-Parker, dem Curtis 3320 sowie dem SSM 2044. Das sind faktisch alle relevanten Klassiker, die man jeweils den beiden Filtersektionen zuweisen kann, verwenden kann man zwar „nur“ zwei jeweils gleichzeitig – aber sie sind alle verbaut. Die klangliche Vielfalt und Auswahl sollte daher gewaltig sein.
Auch angeboten werden: Pulsbreitenmodulation , Crossmodulation, Ringmodulation oder Sync. Die beiden ersten sind recht ähnlich aufgebaut, während der dritte VCO etwas anders konstruiert ist, schon weil er ja auch als langsamer Modulator gedacht ist. Es gibt natürlich auch einen Rauschgenerator mit rosa und weissem Rauschen. Außerdem ist auch eine Sample & Hold Abteilung verbaut.
Das System, was optisch ein wenig an die GRP-Synthesizer erinnert, bietet zwei VCAs. er wird via MIDI gesteuert und hat für die Einstellungen dazu sogar ein Display eingebaut.
Für 1800€ ist er zu haben und natürlich handgemacht. Bisher wird er nur innerhalb Frankreichs angeboten, dennoch sollte es sicher möglich sein auch von weiter weg zu bestellen. Die Website ist ausschließlich auf französisch und deshalb half die Übersetzung von Synth Anatomy.
Sampling and modulation and sound generation all come together in the Nerdseq Portable – fully standalone, original tracker hardware for live performance and production.
Yes, there are two standalone tracker devices out this week. They’re both from independent makers. They’re both fully integrated hardware that run on their own. And if you want to go tracker mad, you can even use them together. Both are due later this year – virus-influenced production delays willing.
The Nerdseq Portable has its lineage from the Eurorack module of the same name. But as a handheld, this thing is a bit like a Game Boy on steroids – or a computer crammed into a paperback book-sized powerhouse.
It’s a sequencer. That’s the tracker bit, to be sure – this looks like 90s software on its 480×320 color IPS screen. It does have “nerd” in the title. Think fast editing, as quick as your thumb on a boss in Metroid. And it supports polyrhythms and probability and dividers and multipliers and more.
It’s a sampler. Capture and play polyphonic stereo samples (actually stereo, not mono as on the Polyend), with 150 seconds sample time and pitch support. That can be captured both from your sequence itself but also an external input. So actually – let’s linger on this a moment, in that this is a more powerful sampler than a lot of standalone hardware from major manufacturers not to be named here.
It works with MIDI stuff. You can actually use this as a MIDI sequencer if you want – there’s full-blown polyphonic sequencing and recording per track with support for everything (clock, NRPNs, aftertouch, CC, program changes…) So, again, this is more capable than a lot of more obvious stuff out there.
It does modulation. Part of the whole appeal of trackers is not just sequencing notes and rhythms, but everything else – wavetables, retriggering, LFOs, effects, and more. This thing is deep.
It connects to your Eurorack and other gear. Nerd-Sound-Adapter modules work here, too, so you can still integrate the handheld with a Eurorack modular – like a very powerful satellite to your modular rig – and work with CV/gate.
It has a nerd button. Of course it does.
So how is this different than the modular nerdseq? Well, basically this is as much a more powerful sequel as it is a handheld version of the original nerdseq. You finally lose some of the restrictions of the first model – more buttons, visual feedback, and crucially massively expanded sample memory.
Or to look at it another way, having talked to Thomas, this is the culmination of years of feedback from Nerdseq users. I think it looks friendlier and more capable – and the form factor means it can go anywhere. Or you can squeeze it next to any other gear you want to sequence.
Wait so with this and the Tracker, which should you get? Neither, dummy, they’re not shipping yet.
But these do represent a different approach. The form factor isn’t just aesthetic; it means different use cases and audiences. It’s not that nerdseq is for chip music people – it’s more that you’ll have controls under your thumb and it takes up less space. nerdseq also comes closer to the feeling of tools like LSDJ – or if you’ve never touched those before, again, it’s still about focusing on the tracker itself.
Polyend’s Tracker lacks stereo samples, but expands to more performance and editing features that make it feel like a cross-breed with what you’d expect from Maschine, MPC, or an Elektron box (for example).
Or put the two together. (Yo, dawg, I hear you like trackers, so I — wait, I’m being told by someone under age 35 that I should cease making references to the Xzibit Yo Dawg meme in 2020.)
No videos yet, but – for all of you who whine “I don’t know if I was impressed by the demo video,” I have a solution. You will definitely not be impressed by this video. (Creator Thomas hasn’t been able to go see his video demo person! You know – social distancing. So if you yell at him, really, you’re saying human lives don’t matter.)
Okay, actually I love it, because it keeps with the bossa nova theme that is subtly threaded through this week on CDM.
Working with image signal instead of sound remains to many an undiscovered country. One artist is producing beautiful meditations on analog video – and charting his work.
Christopher Konopka treats the Eurorack modular as a canvas, carefully producing slow-moving, richly organic work. He calls them “emotional abstractions” – and relates the experience of navigating new textures to that of our perception of time and memory.
You can watch this, along with musings on what he’s doing and how the patches work, in an exhaustive YouTube channel. It’s some mesmerizing inspiration:
Oh yeah – so how do you remember work, when it exists as ephemeral combinations of knobs and patch cables? Christopher has added one obsessive layer of digital organization, a data project he calls “broadcast-research.” Using scripts and code he shares on his GitHub, he automates the process of recording and organizing texture output, all in open source tools.
So there’s a meeting of digital and analog – and Christopher even suggests this data set could be used with machine learning.
(Hot tip – even if you’re happy to let your own creations disappear “like tears in the rain” and all that jazz, you might poke around hit GitHub repository and fork it as you’ll find some handy recipes and models for working with these tools for other projects. It’s done in Go + Bash command line scripts + free graphics tools FFprobe, FFmpeg, and ImageMagick, which are great alternatives to getting sucked into Photoshop glacially loading and then crashing. Ahem.)
Behringer promised to recreate the Roland System 100 modular system, and they’ve done that – with a system they call the System 100. $49-99.
There’s no final pricing or other details yet; everything is in a single YouTube video.
There’s not a lot to say, because spec-for-spec, this is the same as a 1975 System 100. It’s just been scaled down to make sense as Eurorack and (presumably) to keep the price down.
Roland oscillators are … well, pretty vanilla now given other options. But there are useful utility modules, a particularly interesting phase shifter, and all the other features that made the Roland system popular in the first place.
On some level, it’s a shame no one is copying the charming look of the original System 100 – or its distinctive keyboard hub. Even Roland aren’t attempting that. But of course that would mean a higher price tag, and it might not fit as readily into a Eurorack system.
But these should be expected to be solid sellers, even before knowing the price – because Behringer have done a complete set, and it looks like fit and finish and so on are dead-on. Also, Behringer have a leg up that even Roland didn’t have with their own modular additions – I suspect a lot of people will do exactly what you see in the video, and couple Behringer’s rack-mountable, patchable desktop synths with these modular add-ons. The Neutron and its ilk made an obvious entry level for selling people up to more modules.
Say what you will about Behringer, but if other makers didn’t offer that option, that’s on them.
Of course, what you don’t get here is new ideas – so as with all the remakes debuting in 2020, the best advice to any independent maker remains, make something that isn’t from the 1970s … for example. I’m not sure even the 1970s had as many announcements from the 1970s as this week.
Again, still no pricing or availability, but here at least are those stills so you don’t have to pause through (why, Behringer, did you do that, exactly?)
Kleiner und dennoch nicht weniger Funktionen. Der Subsequent 25 ist der kleine Bruder des Moog Subsequent 37.
Nun ist er doch und hochoffiziell angekündigt. Es gab bereits den Leak eines Ladens in Polen. Inzwischen ist genau dadurch eigentlich nichts mehr überraschend, denn er sieht genau so aus wie auf den Bildern. Nur etwas schärfer.
Er hat alles, was der größere Subsequent auch hat, nämlich USB-MIDI, CV-Anschlüsse für Tonhöhe, Gate, Filter und Lautstärke. Interessanterweise wird ihm auch eine Software beigelegt, um Klänge zu verwalten und zu editieren.
Neben den bekannten Daten wurde der Drive-Bereich noch einmal verändert. Es gibt ein wirklich kleines Display, dennoch gibt es Speicher. Sie werden über die Taster auf der linken Seite angewählt und sind in 4 x 4 Struktur organisiert. Vermutlich hat man den Editor auch dazu gelegt, weil es vermutlich eher schwer sein wird Namen oder Parameter zu lesen.
Die beiden Oszillatoren mit Sync und Pulsbreitenmodulation, das Ladder Filter und die Möglichkeit in 6 dB / Oktave – Schritten bis zu 24 dB / Oktave zu erhalten ist auch dem kleinen Bruder gegeben. In diesem Teil gab es eine Verbesserung für jede der 1-Poligen Filterabteilungen und deshalb klingt er auch noch einmal anders und fetter im Bassbereich. Die Hüllkurven kann man loopen.
Schon jetzt im Januar soll er bereits verfügbar sein und $849 kosten. Damit ist er definitiv nicht der günstigste Synthesizer auf diesem Erdenrund. Moogs Website wird sehr bald entsprechende Kunde tun.