Run your audio gear off of USB power banks: KOMA’s Strom Mobile

You’re on the go. And those wonderful USB power banks will charge your phone – so why not audio gear, too? KOMA Elektronik’s new Strom Mobile makes it possible.

Here’s the problem: USB power banks (mobile batteries and whatnot), while plentiful, only output 5V power for phones and USB, and they’re anything but “low noise” (meaning you’ll hear garbled interference when you plug a lot of them in).

A lot of your compact audio gear is probably running on 9V or 12V power, and it’ll make you happier if it’s low noise. (Some gear is 5V, of course, but that’s another story.)

Enter Strom Mobile, a small accessory from KOMA that adapts power banks for your gear. Specs:

  • 9V/12V DC power compatibility (clean, low noise)
  • Two power channels – plug in to one or both, and set each channel to either 9V or 12V
  • Indicators to show you which power is connected, and how much current you’re using
  • Four outputs for gear – or connect more via daisy chaining (until you run out of current, anyway)
  • Cables and manual in the box: 1x USB B, 2x DC-DC, printed guide

The USB B cable is especially designed for this application.

There’s also a Strom Mobile Cable Pack you can buy as an add on, which includes another of those special USB B cables, a 1-5to-5 daisychain DC cable, 2 more DC cables, and 1 polarity changing DC cable.

And of course, this is intended for use with the Field Kit and Field Kit FX from KOMA, but the list of 9V/12V drum machines, recorders, samplers, effects pedals, mobile synths, and the like is very long.

Pricing: 175EUR suggested retail, or 35EUR for the Cable Pack.

Check the intro video:

Artists Hainbach (known for his lovely cassette tape videos and ambient creations) and Wouter (KOMA founder, here with his ODD NARRATIVE project) play and record using the gear en plein air at Berlin’s former airport-turned-park Tempelhofer Feld.

Product page:

https://koma-elektronik.com/?product=strom-mobile-portable-power-solution

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Sounds Of Berlin (Documentary)

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Watch enchanting experimental live acts from Atonal’s control room

Berlin Atonal Festival wrapped up last week, and for all of the breathtaking impact of the power plant’s cavernous main room, as per usual, the sleeper hits came from the more intimate control room tucked next to the mainstage.

Once you’re done acting out your Homer Simpson fantasies on the controls, this room – staffed by the synthesis lovers of Schneidersladen – is home to more experimental acts and jam sessions and modular patching extravaganzas. And the crowd is different, too, more family style sound nerd reunion than festival scenesters.

Photo at top: Mark Verbos, modular builder, alongside Lady Starlight. Photo courtesy CTM Festival.

Our friends from FACT captured three performances. (Don’t watch on Facebook; that social network’s encoding is crap for some reason. YouTube seems fine.)

There were lots of great shows, but they also selected well with what they recorded, with two gorgeous ambient solo sets and one quirkier duo. (Also, anyone else noticed that laptops have just quietly reappeared alongside modulars? And why not – who cares what particular gear you’ve assembled, if you find some way to be expressive with it?)

There are some dropouts here and there, but it’s worth checking out anyway.

My favorite is object blue – all on Ableton Live/Push, but a kind of shuffled, irregular looping musique concrete:

London-based artist object blue has a bunch of great stuff in her discography:

https://objectblue.format.com/

Really digging this one, just out this year:

But then this is lovely, too, adding more vocal goodness, also a 2018 creation:

Hiro Kone (aka NYC’s Nicky Mao) is looking chill with her Elektrons and modulars, and with good reason – some chill sounds happening. Lounging in the control room, genau:

Nicky is one busy, multi-talented, insanely prolific touring musician. And she’s got a well-organized site to discover more of her music (we would all do well to learn from that, too… rarity these days):

https://hirokone.com/

She’s done a nice mix for Secret Thirteen recently too:

https://secretthirteen.org/stm-246-hiro-kone/

KILLER-OMA is the off-kilter, leftfield (and inter-generational) combo of Isao Suzuki and KILLER-BONG – yes, one bare chin on gear, and one long beard on contra bass.

More from them:

Check out their release on Bandcamp for Tokyo’s Black Smoker:

https://blacksmokerrecords.bandcamp.com/album/killer-oma

Mixed feelings about the live stream age, actually – and something to think about, as CDM revisits how to work with live performing friends. (I’d go for higher quality audio, no? Thoughts?) At the same time, a live stream is a nice place to introduce people, and it’s great to see what people are doing – if we can sort those occasional sound dropouts. Open to ideas for what you’d like to see, especially as a community of music makers.

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CFA-Sound launches Massive Berlin Techno Presets soundset for NI Massive

Resonance Sound CFA Sound Massive Berlin Techno PresetsCFA-Sound has announced the release of Massive Berlin Techno Presets, a new soundset featuring a collection of 94 patches for the Massive synthesizer instrument by Native Instruments. For many Berlin is the true capitol of techno, not just by it`s legendary clubs such as Tresor, Berghain and Watergate, also by being home for many different […]

Cues: Detroit innovator Alan Oldham talks to us about techno, creation

It’s easy to forget if we get too deep into hero worship and seriousness, but real creativity is fun and boundless. So nothing energizes like talking to people like Alan Oldham, the multidisciplinary Detroit techno artist.

Oldham, sometimes DJing as DJ T-1000, had a multifaceted series of roles in techno. So he’s served in Underground Resistance – including as “Minister of Information.” He did artwork for Derrik May’s legendary Transmat label. He’s a comic artist as well as a producer, savvy enough to interact with the art market and not only the music industry. A lot of us in the USA got our first introduction to techno and the full story behind it through his story “Fast Forward” on National Public Radio. But then, in this age of overabundant production, we need those kind of voices now more than ever – people who can narrate what’s happening in music, DJs in the club sense and DJs in the radio sense.

Meanwhile, as CDM finds its evolved voice this year, I got to invite Alan (now a Berlin transplant) to talk about his process, to jam a little, and to chat about music, aesthetics, and futurism.

Alan is a big Native Instruments Maschine fan, and it’s nice to see how the MPC and other hardware workflows have made the transition to the computer age. I think immediacy is important to tapping into that creativity.

Have a look:

Off camera, it was also great that Alan got to hang out with our other guests, HRTL and Oliver Torr and their live project Windowlickerz. Growing up in Detroit, meet growing up in Czech Republic.

Alan Oldham in the studio.

Making beats (MASCHINE MIKRO), making comics (paper and pen).

Since January, Alan has been busy, in the studio and in the club (as well as continuing his visual art work). Message Discipline is the EP dropping in October on Pure Sonik Records.. The timbres, the tech are decidedly future-looking, not nostalgic. But as a lot of techno gets cold and clinical, overthought, or overly … well, dreary (not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that) — this is none of those things. It’s “up,” as Alan says. Maybe it’s hard to find words for that funky, groovy feeling because it’s better to describe it me moving my body around than it is just wiggling my fingers over the computer keyboard.

You know you’re in for something special when you’re dancing around to the damned excerpts on SoundCloud. Tell me I’m wrong:

Even that last cut swings, like a nice makeout slow dance. And the title track sounds ready to blast into orbit to some, uh, really sexy space lounge, I would imagine.

Message Discipline is all bangers, but for a more tripped-out experience, DetroitRocketScience is the ticket:

Alan and Ellen Allien can often be caught side by side, so expect more on Ellen’s BPitch Control, like this excellent remix:

He’s also got a great remix of Sky Deep’s “In This,” but looks like I can’t share that – take my word for it.

Now who wants to don an Andy Warhol wig and dance around a bit? Yeah? Have a great weekend, y’all.

Related – in summer 2011, Wax Poetics provided us with this article they ran exploring early Detroit techno history, and even talked to Alan. of course, now you meet the Detroit artists in Berlin.

Future Shock: The Emergence of Detroit Techno, Told by Wax Poetics

Photos courtesy Native Instruments.

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touchAble Pro for Ableton Live: touch control on iOS, Android, Windows

touchAble was already the benchmark app for controlling Ableton Live from an iPad. Now touchAble Pro has been recoded from the ground up with new features like custom layouts and waveform views – and it supports iOS, Android, and Windows touch, too.

Berlin developers Zerodebug are announcing a beta today for their new app, touchAble Pro. And so we get a first look at what they’ve been up to. The software sports a new, cleaner UI, but also comes a lot closer to being Ableton Live with complete touch support – or at least as close as you can get with the APIs Ableton make available.

You can edit patterns with an overhauled piano roll view, and audio clips using a waveform display.

There are new layouts, letting you view modules side by side or fullscreen.

You can draw in or edit automation inside clips.

It’s really starting to look like the touch app Ableton forgot, complete with full device support (including those pretty new Live 10 graphics), and even little details like being able to access I/O setting on channels right inside the app.

Plus, you can customize exactly the layout you need, which means touchAble shines for live performance. Years ago, I caught the early live show by Glitch Mob, all on original JazzMutant Lemur hardware (that is, before the iPad was released). They were able to make giant buttons so they could trigger stuff in Live without distracting from a live drum routine. You can do that with this if you want – or any number of other layouts. Need specific clip triggers, huge? Want a particular mixer or clip launch layout? Draw it right on the device.

Watch:

The limitations of touchAble really come down to limitations of Ableton Live itself – connectivity with external devices, Live’s archaic scripting installation, and restrictions on the API. touchAble Pro is a good demonstration of why it’d be great to see Ableton add a complete API for their Arrangement View, in particular – even if that doesn’t make sense on their own Push hardware. But that said, this works. (I can’t evaluate final stability, because I’ve only had a pre-beta build, but it’s definitely promising.)

Initial pricing: US$29.99.

http://touch-able.com

That’s actually touchAble Pro running on Windows – giant touchscreen, go!

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Soundbox releases Deep Tech Ibiza, Afro Tech Glitch Vocals 2 & more

Soundbox Deep Tech Ibiza & Afro Tech Glitch Vocals 2Soundbox has launched its latest sample pack Deep Tech Ibiza, a collection that brings the infamous deep tech sound from the Balearic island of Ibiza. Deep Tech Ibiza features the very latest deep-pumping grooves, solid kicks, subbed-out bass, hook-ready synths and section-defining FX and vocals to make your next track pound on the terraces. All […]

5Pin Media releases Dub Techno Aus Berlin & Techno Modulaire sample packs

5Pin Media Dub Techno Aus Berlin5Pin Media has released Dub Techno Aus Berlin, a sample pack featuring dark atmospheric drums, seismic bass, deep tech chords, scintillating synths and mind warping FX from the Techno capital of Europe. The 1GB collection comes with loops, one-shots, sampler patches and MIDI files for producers looking to create their next Dub Techno hit or […]

Neon Noir, Eclectic Drum Fills & Analogue Berlin Sessions at Sample Magic

Sample Magic Neon NoirSample Magic has announced the release of Neon Noir, a sample pack that offers sinister sound design, brooding tones, and ominous musicscapes. Dark melodics, cinematic textures, late night workouts – Neon Noir dives into a dystopian collection of retro synths, eerie motifs, filmic synth lines and beautiful sound design. Served with 24-bit Wav, MIDI, Massive […]

Take a tour of the dreamy ACL modular synthesizer system

Part of the appeal of modular systems is there in the name – modularity. But as the modular market grows, there’s increasing demand for modulars that are again designed as coherent systems. The ACL System 1 is ready to serve as a synth on its own, or the centerpiece of a larger modular rig.

The ACL System 1 launched this week, available here in Berlin from Schneidersladen (and shipping elsewhere). And here’s a look at how all those pieces come together:

The Audiophile Circuits League do their assembly in Berlin – joining a growing number of boutique makers, including Koma, MFB, Jomox, and Verbos, just to name a few. With a direct-order price of 3930 EUR, it’s not exactly a budget synth. But figure that even pretty recently, digital workstation polysynths were going for near this … and a whole modular rig is a lot more fun. (The price of modular synths as a category, meanwhile, have absolutely dropped – this high-end model is far less than the historical instruments that inspired it, calculating for inflation, to say nothing of prices that drop down to literally zero if you go to software).

Okay, so what’s in there?

6U 84HP Eurorack configuration in their EVZ-1 case
Two Variable Sync VCOs, linear and exponential FM
Dual State Variable VCF
Gate Mix for summing up to four sources
VC Panning Amplifier
M/S Matrix (for mid/side processing)
Three ADSR envelopes (Envelope X3)
Dual Delay
QLFO with phase-shifted sine waves

Basically, you get a synth that’s very inspired by Roland’s System 100M. (Roland, for their part, have also been resurrecting the Japanese modular lineage – something I hope we’ll look into soon.)

So you can make freaky synth sounds, lots of effects, and (of course) precise, thumping kicks. And the whole thing feels really nice, including some really luxurious knobs (they’re “Vernier dials” for anyone interested).

But… if you don’t know what the above means, then this probably isn’t for you.

There’s also an audio interface module and nice touches like a low impedance headphone jack – all the sorts of things that sometimes get overlooked by odd DIY modules.

Also, in a nod to the fact that this is a modular, they did leave a little (tiny) space for expansion, though those 4HP aren’t going to accomplish a whole lot! Most of the people I’ve seen buy these kinds of systems, though, already own a smattering of modules and are upgrading to an integrated instrument that sits at the center of it. (Yes, for those people warning of “Eurocrack” addiction, it’d look like that.)

I’m not personally in the market for something like this, but I always find them interesting to play around with and as a demonstration of how designers approach building a modular system. Nice stuff:

www.audiophilecircuitsleague.com

These folks being in Berlin, they’re neighbors to CDM, so if there’s anything you’d like to know or see, tell us and we’ll find out!

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