Erica Synths launches Pico System II + DRUM module series & more coming

Erica Synths Pico System IIErica Synths has launched Pico System II, a modular system that adds two new modules for the original Pico System. Pico System II includes the Pico Voice, a sound source which offers considerable timbral diversity, and the Pico Modulator, replacing the Pico EG and the Pico VCA. The remaining single 3HP space has been filled […]

Royal Blue classic British channel for Chroma and DIYRE Colour shipping

Louder Than Liftoff Royal Blue Colour Module featLouder Than Liftoff has announced that it is shipping the Royal Blue Colour Module, bringing the classic British console sound to Chroma and the Colour format, a new modular platform for creating your own custom analog signal chains. Royal Blue’s circuit was inspired by the 1081 Channel Amplifier used in vintage Neve 80 Series recording […]

Erica are set to bring the 909 into the modular age with their latest gear

Erica may be known for their tube-powered, retro-Polyvoks post-Soviet chic – but now they’re taking on the TR-909, in modules and a powerful drum computer.

This isn’t just another 909 remake, though. Take Roland’s legendary drum machine not just as a selection of well-known sounds, but as a way of thinking about synthesizing and sequencing percussion. Then, make those eminently patchable, so you can wire them into other gear and create some new, original ideas. Erica founder Girts Ozolins told me early on in starting the company that he thought the real appeal of modular was in customization – that it was something that allowed musicians to make something their own. And that seems to be the essence of the idea here. It’s a deconstructed, rather than reconstructed, 909.

On the sound side, then, you’ve got two friendly-looking, handsome, patchable modules. You can bolt these in and grab the knobs and it looks like you’ll be pretty happy. But there’s also plenty of CV when you want to get more modular.

On the sequencing side – and I’ll be the first to say this is what has me excited – comes a 909-style sequencer with accents, multiple tracks and banks, and extras like probability, track length (for polyrhythms), live and step modes, and more. You can sync it with MIDI, but there’s also an absurd amount of patchability.

And there’s modulation, too (here’s where we get way out of 909 territory) – two LFOs for modulating drums.

Just as promising, the whole thing comes from a collaboration with French DIY drum machine maker e-licktronic, who have made a name for themselves as a kind of cult-following underground drum machine maker for DIYers. The problem with e-licktronic was their projects required way too much assembly for all but the most dedicated soldering iron gurus. This brings some of their expertise to a wider market – niche, to be sure, but at least allowing you some time to, like, finish tracks and not just finish hardware assembly.

Full specs:

12x Accent outputs
1x CV/GATE track
2xLFO with independent or synced to the BPM frequency
Time signature per track
Pattern length per track
Shuffle per track
Probability per step
Retrigger per step
Instant pattern switching
Solo/Mute tracks
Step/Tap record modes
16 Banks of 16 Patterns
Instant pattern switching
Pattern linking
Midi sync in with start/stop
Track mode
Firmware upgrade via MIDI SySex

It also seems this is just the beginning – Erica have a whole drum module system in store: “Toms, Clap, Rimshot, HiHats, Cymbals, sample-based drum module and, to pull all system together – dedicated a drum Mixer with extended headroom and a limiter of unique design”

But you don’t have to wait long to get started. The kick and snare modules ship early March, alongside that sequencer.

Hey, Santa Claus! Yeah, I…. oh, wait, $#(*&, it’s March.

Hey, St. Patrick!

NAMM news: Drum Sequencer

NAMM news: Bass Drum & Snare Drum

The post Erica are set to bring the 909 into the modular age with their latest gear appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

This low-latency OS could change how music gear is made

You want the flexibility of PC software, but the performance of standalone gear? A new music OS is the latest effort to promise the best of both worlds.

Sure, analog gear is enjoying a happy renaissance – and that’s great. But a lot of the experimentation with sound production occurs with software (iOS or Windows or Mac) simply because it’s easier (and cheaper) to try things out on an Intel or ARM chip. (ARM is the architecture found in your iPhone or iPad or Android phone, among others; Intel you know.) Some manufacturers are already making the move to standalone hardware based on these architectures – at AES last year, I saw Eventide’s massive coming flagship, which is totally ARM-based. But they’re typically rolling their own operating system, which provides some serious expertise.

MIND Music Labs this month unveiled what they called ELK – a Linux-based operating system they say is optimized for musical applications and high performance.

That means they’re boldly going where… a lot of players have tried to go before. But this time, it’s different – really. First, there’s more demand on the developer side, as more makers have grown intrigued by off-the-shelf CPUs. And developer tools for these options are better than they’ve been. And hardware is cheaper, lower-power, and more accessible than ever, particularly as mobile devices have driven massive scale. (The whole world, sadly, may not really feel it needs an effects processor or guitar pedal, but a whole lot of the world now has smartphones.)

ELK promises insanely low latencies, so that you can add digital effects without delaying the returning signal (which for anything other than a huge reverb is an important factor). And there are other benefits, too, that make music gadgets made with the OS more connected to the world. According to the developers, you get:

Ultra-low latency (1ms round-trip)
Linux-based, using single Intel & ARM CPUs
Support for JUCE and VsT 2.x and 3.x plugins
Natively connected (USB, WiFi, BT, 4G)

That connectivity opens up possibilities like sharing music, grabbing updates and new sounds, and connecting to wireless instruments like the ROLI line. There’s full MIDI support, too, though – and, well, lots of other things you can do with Linux.

(JUCE is a popular framework for developing cross platforms, meaning you could make one really awesome granular synth and then run it on desktop, mobile, and this platform easily.)

Now, having done this for a while, I’ve seen a lot of claims like this come and go. But at least ELK last week was demonstrated with some actual gear as partners – DVMark, MarkBass, and Overloud (TH-U).

1ms latency claims don’t just involve the OS. Here, ELK delivers a complete hardware platform, so that’s the actual performance including their (high-quality, they say) audio converters and chip. That’s what stops you from just grabbing something like a Raspberry Pi and turning it into a great guitar pedal – you’re constrained by the audio fidelity and real-time performance of the chipset, whether the USB connection or onboard audio. Here, that promises to be solved for you out of the box.

DVMark’s “Smart Multiamp” was the first real product to show off the platform. Plugin Alliance and Brainworx have signed on, too, so don’t be surprised if you’re soon looking at a dedicated box that can replace your laptop – but also run all your plug-ins.

And that’s the larger vision here – eventually ELK has its own plug-in format, and you should be able to move your favorite plug-ins around to connected devices, and access those gadgets from Android and iOS, But unlike using a computer or iPad on its own, you don’t have to sweat software upgrades or poor audio performance or try to imagine a laptop or tablet is a good music interface live.

This leaves of course lots of questions about how they’ll realize this vision and more questions if you’re an interested developer or manufacturer. I’m hopeful that they take the Eurorack market as a model – or even look at independent plug-in and app developers – and embrace a model that supports imaginative one-person developers, too. (A whole lot of the best music software and module ideas alike have come from one- and two-person shops.)

I at least like their vision – and I’m sure they won’t be alone. Best line: “Whether your idea of music is to be shut in a studio that looks like the bridge of a Klingon cruiser or you are a minimalist that wants everything to sound exactly like in 1958, we think you will be surprised at just how much smartness is going to affect us as musicians.”

I’ll throw this out here for now and let you ask away, and then we can do a follow-up soon. Loads more info at their site:

https://www.mindmusiclabs.com/elk/

The post This low-latency OS could change how music gear is made appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Sennheiser celebrates 20 years of evolution with special offers

Sennheiser evolution g4Sennheiser has announced that it is celebrating the 20 year anniversary of its evolution microphone series with a number of discounts on selected models throughout 2018. Manufactured at the company’s German headquarters, the evolution series has become a global industry standard for live microphones, and Sennheiser’s most successful microphone series to date. In celebration of […]

Here’s how Elektron’s new Digitone makes FM synthesis easier

Elektron have applied their cute-and-friendly formula from the Digitakt drum machine to a new synth called Digitone – and it’s FM.

Now, the phrase Elektron uses is “accessible” – the press release writes “powerful yet user-friendly take on FM synthesis.” But this isn’t just marketing speak; it seems they really have made an effort to make frequency modulation more playable.

Good electronic music instruments give users lots of stuff to touch, and the feeling that the full range of each knob, for instance, sounds good or at least plausible. That’s where the wonders of FM sort of break down when they hit making hardware. Frequency Modulation synthesis is based on a simple principle: modulating a waveform with another waveform in the same audio range. And the whole joy of this is suddenly breaking open surprising tones – covering ranges edgy, metallic, unstable, futuristic.

Or – with a tiny change in parameter – something totally unrelated. Or awful. Or silent. So, to avoid unpleasant surprises, hardware builders have tended to hide away that complexity. So, the mighty Yamaha DX7 has basically no controls – and as it popularized FM, also gave people the (mistaken) impression that it always had to sound like Yamaha’s presets.

Plus, while those sounds are great, sometimes they need softening. (Think of the difference between hearing a reed instrument, and hearing just the reed.)

For fans of FM synthesis, just as exciting as the Elektron news this week is the extensive interview with John Chowning (who’s a natural teacher, always a pleasure to listen to):

Elektronauts Talk: John Chowning

Don’t miss his bit about how he explains FM synthesis to a child – it’s really elegant. And Dr. Chowning picks up on the two things Elektron has done:

1. Set some limits so you get hands-on control over sound without getting lost – exploring space, but not throwing yourself out an airlock.

2. Putting the FM synthesis engine inside a more conventional subtractive synthesis architecture. (Basically – adding filters!)

As John describes those:

I noticed, in your instrument, that you put some boundaries on the possibilities so that one doesn’t end up in a daze without understanding how you got there, or end up in silence.

And regarding the architecture:

[Digitone] lets the user intuitively explore this re-formable, shapeable ball of stuff, then put that through the normal processes of synthesis.

So the thing to watch with the Digitone will be how well its presets and sound design work in practice. You’ve got a four-operator FM synth. That’s the architecture used by Robert Henke for Ableton’s Operator, precisely because it’s more manageable (and covers most of the sounds you want to create); adding operators adds a lot of complexity.

Then each voice (there’s 8-voice polyphony) adds filters: one multimode, one “base-width.” (Think they mean bandpass? I’ll ask.) And each voice comes with two assignable LFOs and overdrive to make things dirtier.

They’ve also added quite a lot in the effects section – sends for chorus, reverb, and delay, plus a master overdrive.

This being an Elektron box, integration of instrument and sequencer are key. And like the Digitakt, even this smaller box can be used to drive external gear. There are four synth tracks and four MIDI tracks, both, so the Digitakt is a bit like a mini Octatrack – it can be a hub for a live performance or synth rig.

With trig conditions (interactive events that can occur on each step) and track lengths and micro timings, you can make some fairly complex patterns. And whereas the DX7 and its ilk let you punch in a preset and then play it as-is forever until everyone got annoyed of the sound, Elektron bring parameter locks to make per-step transformations of your creations. So imagine all that sonic possibility of FM synthesis, changing as the sequence runs. We saw a peek of how much fun that is with KORG’s humble volca fm – now you get it on a deeper FM synth.

Worth investigating in a review – how much work is it to modify or program your own presets, how it works having parameters change with different presets, and how playable the whole thing is. But even though FM synthesis is a creation of the 1960s, having a playable, sequenced FM synth definitely stands out from the crowd of noisemakers at the moment. The new Elektron is available now, though currently listed as sold out. (Someone obviously likes the idea.)

$759 USD/779 EUR/£699 GBP.

https://www.elektron.se/products/digitone/

Specs:

Synth voice features:
8 voice polyphony (multitimbral)
Multiple FM algorithms
1 × multimode filter per voice
1 × base-width filter per voice
1 × overdrive per voice
2 × assignable LFO per voice

Sequencer:
4 synth tracks
4 MIDI tracks
1 arpeggiator per track
Polyphonic sequencing
Individual track lengths
Parameter locks
Micro timing
Trig conditions
Sound per step change

Send & master effects
Panoramic Chorus send effect
Saturator Delay send effect
Supervoid Reverb send effect
Overdrive master effect

Hardware
128 × 64 pixel OLED screen
2 × 1/4” impedance balanced audio out jacks
2 × 1/4” audio in jacks
1 × 1/4” stereo headphone jack
48 kHz, 24-bit D/A and A/D converters
Hi-Speed USB 2.0 port
MIDI In/Out/Thru with DIN Sync out

Physical specification
Sturdy steel casing
Dimensions: W 215 × D 176 × H 63 mm (8.5” × 6.9” × 2.5”) (including knobs and feet)
Weight: approximately 1.49 kg (3.3 lbs)
100 × 100 mm VESA mounting holes. Use M4 screws with a max length of 7 mm.

And of course, yes, Overbridge (Elektron’s tech for helping integrate their external hardware with your software rig).

The post Here’s how Elektron’s new Digitone makes FM synthesis easier appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Mackie intros new audio tools & headphone amplifiers

Mackie MDB-1AMackie has announced a new line of affordable, high-quality, audio tools for studio and live sound. With the MDB Series Direct Boxes, the MTest-1 Cable Tester and M48 Phantom Power Supply, Mackie now offers essential tools for studio and live sound applications with their proven Built-Like-A-Tank construction and premium analog circuitry. “Mackie has always been […]

Teenage Engineering intros PO-33 K.O! and PO-35 speak

Teenage Engineering metal seriesTeenage Engineering has launched the Metal Series, completing its third generation pocket operator family with the introduction of new silver and copper members. The PO-32 tonic is joined by the new PO-33 K.O! and PO-35 speak. the third generation pocket operator family is now complete. introducing new silver and copper members, both with golden features. […]

Universal Audio ships OX Amp Top Box, Thunderbolt 3 Option Card for Apollo announced

Universal Audio OX Amp Top Box featUniversal Audio has announced that the previously announced OX Amp Top Box is now shipping worldwide. OX is a premium reactive load box and guitar recording system, giving guitarists perfectly studio-miked amp sounds from their existing tube amp. OX lets users play and record tube amps in their ideal sweet spots — from the edge-of-breakup […]

BluGuitar unveils AMP1 Mercury Edition at NAMM 2018

BluGuitar AMP1 Mercury EditionBluGuitar has introduced the new AMP1 Mercury Edition at the Winter NAMM 2018 Show in Anaheim, CA. Since its launch in 2015, the BluGuitar AMP1 has become hugely popular, setting a new standard in the industry for guitar amplifiers with the innovative and exciting “pedal amp” format. After 3 years of AMP1 being on the […]