Denon DJ has announced its Prime Series DJ hardware will soon be enabled for both hard-wired and Wi-Fi internet connection. This exclusive, ground-breaking innovation brings the capability of playing digital music content from the world’s premier DJ streaming services as well as directly from the Prime Series units, with no necessity for a laptop computer. […]
Noise Engineering has announce the availability of the newest addition to its Ruina line of distortion modules and two contrasting oscillators for the 5U format. Kith Ruina brings the utility of a guitar tonestack—complete with distortion and pristine EQ—to a Eurorack module. Noise Engineering announced earlier this year that they would be releasing a distortion […]
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.
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:
Once upon a time, Propellerhead ran an ad showing a bunch of hardware synths in a trash bin to make a point. This time, we get the opposite – a KORG Polysix for Reason running back in hardware.
By now, these arguments about analog versus digital, software versus hardware are all surely irrelevant to music making. But recent developments go one step further: they produce an environment in which inventors and developers no longer have to care. The vision is, make your cool effects and synthesis code, then freely choose to run them inside a host (like Reason), inside hardware. or even on the Web.
Propellerhead showed me some of these possibilities of their Rack Extension technology when I visited them this winter and talked to their developers.
You can actually try the Web side of this right now – Europe for Reason runs in a browser. It’s not just a simulation or a demo; it’s the complete Rack Extension. That clearly offers a new take on try-as-you-buy, and allows new possibilities in teaching and documentation – all without threatening the sales model for the software:
A browser may be a strange place to experience the possibility of Rack Extensions running in hardware, but it’s actually the same idea. ELK MusicOS from MINDMusicLabs allows the same tech to run on a Linux-based operating system, on any hardware you want. So if you want self-contained instruments with knobs and faders and buttons – and no distracting screens or awkward keyboards – you can do it.
It’s not so much post-PC as it is more PC than your PC. Computers should be capable of ultra-low latency, reliable operation, even running general purpose systems. The problem is, musicians aren’t the ones calling the shots.
MusicOS can cut latency below 1ms round-trip, runs on single Intel and ARM CPUs, and has official support for VST and Rack Extensions – plus full support for connectivity (USB, WiFi, Bluetooth, 4G mobile data, and MIDI).
What was cool at Superbooth was seeing some recognizable hardware prototypes using the technology. We saw a VST plug-in just before the show from Steinberg; for the Rack Extension side of things, you get a Eurorack module version of KORG’s Polysix, using their own Component Modeling Technology. (So it is a software model, but here with hands-on control and modular connectivity.)
For now, it’s just a prototype. But Rack Extension support, like VST, is officially part of MusicOS. Now it’s just up to hardware makers to take the plunge. Based on interest we saw from CDM readers and heard around the show, there is serious market potential here.
In other words, this could be the sign of things to come. ELK’s tech works i such a way that more or less the same code can target custom hardware as desktop software. And compatible systems on a chip start around ten bucks – meaning this could be an effective platform for a lot of people. (I’m not clear on how much licensing costs; ELK ask interested developers to ‘get in touch’ so it may be negotiated case by case.)
Arturia has announced availability of the MicroFreak, an experimental hybrid synthesizer featuring an advanced digital multi-mode oscillator. A synthesizer like no other, MicroFreak is a peculiar, exceptional instrument that rewards the curious musician. It blends wavetable and digital oscillators with analog filters. It features a unique poly-aftertouch flat keyboard. It adds controlled randomness to sequences. […]
Pioneer DJ has announced the DDJ-200, a smart DJ controller that is compatible with streaming services and the free WeDJ app for iPhone. Enter the world of DJing with the DDJ-200, our new smartphone and iPhone compatible smart DJ controller. Priced at just £139 the DDJ-200 makes it easy to start DJing with the help […]
Hey, modulars are great. But you can’t call up presets at will, like on a computer. And you can’t head for a day of patching to the shore of your local lake. Or – can you? The folks at Polish maker Polyend are breaking the rules.
I think these are devilishly clever ideas – and there’s certainly some devilishly clever marketing.
Centralized encoders, grids for saving and recall, sequenced presets, an LFO, gesture recording – this unit does a lot.
Presets on a modular
First up: Polyend Preset. Okay, it’s not quite preset storage for your modular – you can’t sample the voltage level of other patch cords, so you’re going to have to remember some of how you patched together a sound. But Polyend have made a matrix of knobs and pads that gives you full nine different outputs. The encoders have variable RGB lighting for UI feedback and for checking values, and that’s paired with Polyend’s signature pads. It all looks ideal for live performance.
Here’s the workflow: you consolidate the parameters you want to control, save, and recall on Polyend’s own module. That gives you a centralized command station for tweaking all the rest of your modular rig. You have 9 CV outs – one of which is also an LFO. And you can restore and recall values. You could use that to save particular sounds as you’re working, or to set up a setlist of patches to play live. Or you could also ‘play’ those different values from the pads, or even sequence them (internally, or driven by external CV).
You choose continuous CV, scaled musical pitches, gate, or on the ninth encoder, LFO. Specs:
9 CV outs
1V/Oct, 0-10V, or gate output
32 onboard musical scales
Phrase automation – record and send out voltage changes – each output has up to 30 seconds recording
Instant preset recall (so you can play the grid, too)
Sequence from external gate / 0-10V
Hey readers – does anyone remember an April Fools joke about a year ago that featured ‘preset storing’ patch cables? It was a funny idea, even if it was obviously a joke. Looked for the video and couldn’t find it. And this is… kinda sorta that.
Okay, summertime, looks like we’ll have some modular in the park. Everything is running off that little power bank you see with the USB cable popping out of it.
Into the woods
Polyed Anywhere is also great stuff – it’s a simple power supply module with a USB input, to which you can connect a 20,000 mAh battery for modular busking, open air synthing, seaside noodling, whatever. (They were using this at the show.)
Future shot some video of these two together:
And a new Poly
Poly 2 is the latest version of their MIDI to CV converter. Trigger 8 voices, use Gate, V/Oct or Hz/V for pitch that works with anything, velocity, CC, and clock – and now it’s also got Smart Thru for daisy chaining, more onboard musical scales, and crucially, MPE compatibility. This isn’t the only game in town – we need some comparison to offerings from Expert Sleepers and Bastl – but it’s certainly one of the more capable.
I’m still most excited about Polyend’s desktop polysynth, though, not modular – stay tuned for that review this week, as Medusa holds up nicely even against the latest polysynths revealed this week.
No updates on the Polyend site as I write this, but check them out:
System80 has announced that it is now shipping its new 810 Eurorack module, a 3-in-1 analog voice module that combines a VCO, VCF, and VCA in one 30 HP module. The 810 offers convenient normalization between sub-modules to create a traditional subtractive analog signal path. While not strictly a clone, the design of each sub-module […]
Gamechanger | Audio has unveiled a revolutionary synth with a completely new way of sound generation at Superbooth19. Motor Synth is a digitally-controlled analog electro-mechanical synthesizer that uses a system of electromotors as its main sound source. Motor Synth uses 8 electrical motors that are fitted with magnetic pickups and infrared photo sensors that read […]
Erica Synths has announced several new products at this years Superbooth in Berlin, including the new Black System II, Black Sequencer, Black Spring Reverb, Black Stereo Delay and many others. From rich synth leads, massive basslines and cosmic sounds to impressive drones in stereo, Erica Synths Black System II – a well-considered selection of Black […]