Here’s how to update KORG’s wireless nano controller, and use it with iOS 13 (and more)

In case you missed it, in November, KORG fixed issues with their portable Bluetooth MIDI controllers/keyboards and iOS 13. Wireless operation works with desktop OSes, too – and it’s really cool.

Firmware updates I know can be a bit scary, and it’s possible some owners of the KORG wireless devices didn’t even know that there was a fix (or that you can do this, for that matter)! So it’s worth sharing this video KORG posted at the end of last week.

iOS changes have kept developers scrambling lately, but at least this catches you up. And it’s tough to beat the iPad and a wireless nanoKEY as an ultra-portable rig on the road.

Wireless Bluetooth MIDI operation is a strong, low-latency solution on desktop OSes, too, though – useful if you have your computer handy and just need some input device to sketch in ideas or try our your latest virtual modular patch. (That’s me, anyway!)

KORG’s wireless controllers do support both Mac and Windows, too. (I’ll check if there’s a way to get this working on Linux; I suspect someone ported over Apple’s implementation. I also don’t see Android officially supported, but there’s some version there – or you can just use USB and an OTG cable, in a pinch.)

There are a few features that make the nanoKEY Studio easy to recommend, specifically. Everything is ultra-low-profile, so it’s more optimal for tossing in a backpack. There’s still velocity sensitivity on both the pads and keys, and back lighting for dark situations. But I think what’s especially winning is – not just knobs, but also an X/Y pad (KAOSS style), onboard arpeggiator, scale and chord mapping.

KORG push the notion that this helps when you’re not a skilled keyboardist but – obviously, even if you’ve got years of piano training, on a little controller like this you’re in a different mode.

https://www.korg.com/us/products/computergear/nanokey_studio/

Also quite useful on the go, nanoKONTROL Studio:

https://www.korg.com/us/products/computergear/nanokontrol_studio/index.php

In fact, I can imagine nanoKONTROL Studio with the new (wired) Novation Launchpad mini would be ideal. The Launchpad mini has input but not anything that works easily as a mixing layout – other than a somewhat crude mode that uses the pads for that, but doesn’t give you continuous control. Both would fit in a slim-line backpack with literally nothing else, for an easy iPad or notebook computer studio.

Or couple the Launchpad mini and nanoKONTROL Studio, because then you can lock individual controllers to particular instruments without swapping (useful!), or separate clip triggering and instrumental playing.

I just personally love being able to work when traveling and to fit live rigs into small spaces.

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ARP 2600 will return with KORG, says Jean-Michel Jarre

KORG will remake the iconic semi-modular subtractive instrument in 2020, or so says Jean-Michel Jarre.

The ARP 2600 is the legendary semi-modular synth from the 70s. It’s the instrument that made the sound of R2-D2 and a ton of music in the rigs of everyone from Orbital to Herbie Hancock. Software emulation has some advantage here, in that there were so many variations. But before Behringer was fighting with … uh, well everyone else … Moog raised alarms about the ladder filter copy in ARP’s 2600.

http://www.vintagesynth.com/arp/arp.php

And that brings us to Jean-Michel Jarre’s 2600 reflections:

I’m here in Japan, where I haven’t seen much of KORG this trip, so I can’t tell you whether Jean-Michel Jarre just broke an NDA. (I am guessing that answer is ‘mais oui.‘ But, uh, what are you going to do to the guy? At least this time a legend leaked the news, and not some random German dealer.)

Maybe the most interesting parts of what Maestro Jarre says – the year 2020, the original filter design, and “cheaper”… well, cheaper than eBay.

I’m sure someone somewhere prefers the later variants to the original, but there you go.

If you’re wondering why this particular synth, that’s presumably the ongoing partnership with ARP co-founder David Friend. This also seems to have been part of the plan from the beginning, but with KORG and Behringer possibly each remaking the 2600, we may see multiples of this once-rare semi-modular synth.

I’m not as worried about the endless remakes of vintage synths, even if it does threaten to make us perpetually relive the 70s, 80s, and 90s. I would ask instead this:

Historical parts, new whole: Will synth makers find a way to leverage the historical work on new instruments? It’s unclear exactly what form that would take, and so far it seems on the surface like the recreations compete with new engineering. But it remains a question.

Back to the future: Will the push toward historical analog finally motivate more radical designs? We’re seeing plenty of that in individual modules or software, but (understandably) integrated desktop synths may not seem the best venue to take chances.

There is a feeling that the high-tech push is framed as automating out musicians entirely (let’s use AI to make the music! let’s choose what you hear!). And that gets contrasted with the idea that electronic instruments only become retro (let’s make this look like NAMM 1981 and put wooden side panels on the wooden side panels so it’s even more ‘warm and so you can play an instrument everyone’s heard of even the people who have never heard of it!’).

I don’t think it’s that bad. But part of why these things could come in waves is, the feeling that that’s where we’re at might easily make some people rebel and go somewhere else altogether.

The gorgeous cover image has a whole text from it and comes from a great Flickr account (CC-BY-ND-SA rockheim)

I know you’ve always wanted to read about the ARP in Norwegian.

While looking for that, it’s worth noting that the DIY efforts to clone the 2600 have produced some lovely results. Hey, at least the DIYers will now turn to new designs, perhaps.

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SH-101, the next generation? Superlative Instruments launch the svelte SB01

There’s an all-new keyboard instrument, born in the USA. It’s got the spirit of the Roland SH-101, but with modern design features. And CDM is getting an exclusive first look.

It’s analog for the 21st century – rechargeable and thin, like a smartphone, but with analog circuitry and instrumental interaction, like the classics that inspired it.

Superlative Instruments showed a non-final version of this instrument back at the Superbooth show in Berlin, but the company tells us they’ve been hard at work developing the design through the summer.

What’s new? They’ve changed materials, including upgrading to an all-aluminum chassis. It’s rechargeable, with up to 16 hours of battery life. And they’ve updated the design.

We’re seeing some new keyboards these days, but generally with big manufacturers behind them. SI is a real indie hardware label, and they tell us they have some ambitious progressive ideas about keeping the design open and supporting good causes (we got talking about bee health, for one). There will even be open-source firmware.

Of course, the irony of this is that, wonderful an instrument as it may be, the engineering on the SH-101 was anything but luxurious. So curiously what you get on the SB01 is like a deluxe remake, retaining the workflow and basic layout but re-imagining the 101 in a much more attractive “space bee” look.

If original synth designs is what you want, this isn’t it – it is intentionally a clone of the analog essentials, which on some level puts it in contention with the likes of Behringer. But rather than cloning being a race to the bottom, here you get more of the equivalent of what happens in boutique sports cars – recreations that modernize the form and engineering while retaining basic function.

What’s actually inside?

  • Analog circuitry, inspired by the original Roland (in collaboration with Open Music Labs)
  • 3340 voltage controller oscillator + 4-pole OTA filter (that’s what makes this sound like a 101)
  • USB-C connector for both power and data (MIDI)
  • MIDI in and out (on minijack)
  • Pedal input
  • Full CV inputs, too – CV (1v/octave) for pitch, gate, trigger, and mod CV input for the VCO/VCF
  • And CV output – 1v/oct, gate, trigger
  • Phone and line audio outputs
  • 32-key keyboard with octave transposition, portamento
  • A new “performance” bender – 360 degree joystick for pitch bend, filter, and vibrato
  • Keytar grip (as on the Roland) 3-axis accelerometer control (that’ll be new)

There’s also a new step sequencer. This basically expands the original, with 256 notes x 64 different locations. It’s got the signature SH sequencing (LOAD, PLAY buttons, rest, slide), but also an arpeggiator and chord mode/hold. There’s also a CHAIN mode and JUMP for immediately triggering sequences, so you get deeper sequencing possibilities but still oriented around live performance.

Sequencer specs:

  • Dual sequencer / arpeggiator
  • Arpeggiator modes: up, down, up&down, random
  • Sequencer: play directions, live editing
  • Key transpose, latch, hold
  • Bi-color LED layer indicators
  • 256 steps per sequence
  • 2 banks x 32 pattern memory locations

The keys are actually full size, but fit into a slim casing – so they say this is carry-on friendly (and they’re offering a tote bag as accessory). The action is a quiet rubber dome switch to allow that slim shape.

The whole package is 491mm x 249mm x an incredible 24 mm (that’s 19.3″ x 9.8″ x 1″)!

No pricing details yet, but Kickstarter is launching shortly. 200 “Early Bee” units will be available in the preorder.

Waiting on updated videos on this one – I’ll post an update soon – but here’s a slightly outdated look at what they had going earlier this year:

More info:

https://playsuperlative.com/

Kickstarter campaign (pre-notification)

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Hydrasynth is a no-compromise polysynth, and a key Akai, Arturia alum designer was involved

It calls itself a “dream synth” for sound designers and performers alike. It’s got polyphonic aftertouch. And it signals a return of the designer of the Arturia ‘Brutes and Akai APC40.

Today is the first time I think most of us have heard of Ahun Sound Machines. Evidently, it’s a new synthesizer brand backed by Hong Kong-based Medeli Electronics Co. If you were watching Glen Darcey’s LinkedIn, you might have noticed that Medeli was where he left after departing an epic run at Arturia.

Who’s Glen? Well, you might or might not know him from CDM and YouTube, but you definitely know the products he worked on. At Akai, he led design of the MPC5000 and software/hardware MPCs, the APC40 (in collaboration with Ableton), the MPK keyboards (a couple of which get used way more than I might ever have expected around my studio here), and the somewhat unsung MAX49, which got a patent and heralded the CV control of products to come.

At Arturia, there were iPad apps, V-Collection instruments, and crucially the ‘Brute line of synths (through the MicroFreak) and BeatStep Pro.

Product design is always a team effort. But Glen did lead the way in tapping into some key trends – in particular, how digital controllers (like the BeatStep Pro) might thrive in a reinvigorated age of analog. The module I mentioned yesterday, the MOK WAVERAZOR, has MIDI minijacks on it for a reason – it can easily connect to the BeatStep Pro, which has become oddly ubiquitous as an inexpensive add-on to so many Eurorack rigs.

The Hydrasynth is more in line with the MatrixBrute – it’s a no holds-barred keyboard synth chock full of wish fulfillment. Think deep sound creation engine meets extensive live performance controls.

And while a few other recent polysynths have nodded in this direction, it’s also something else – a futuristic keyboard, in a landscape that at the moment remains dominated by retro features.

On the performance side:

There’s a four-octave ribbon controller. (Shades of Kurzweil, even?) There’s the polyphonic aftertouch I know many of you have been clamouring for on forums. There are pitch and mod wheels – but ones that seem designed by people who like wheels. There are a ton of fabulous knobs. And there are little colored pads… because I guess we need them.

(By the way, if you just want the sound side and not the keyboard, there’s also a desktop version.)

On the sound side

…you get 3 oscillators with “advanced wavetable synthesis.” (That’s way better than “primitive wavetable synthesis.” Oh, wait… actually, I like that, too; I sort of run a business on it. But yes, advanced.)

219 single cycle waveforms can be morphed from one into the next, or stacked (via what they call Wavestack – a kind of swarming engine), with some intriguing takes on pulse width and slicing and harmonic sweeping, in addition to the usual hard sync and so on. If that sounds familiar, yes, the module I wrote up yesterday has some parallel ideas. Clearly, the epoch of wavetable and polysynth is upon us.

You also get elaborate filter and mixing options, with two filters that sweep SEM-style between modes.

And then of course there’s tons of arpeggiation and modulation and mod matrix and envelope control and the rest. In some unique twists, you also get 5 low frequency oscillators and mini step sequencers, so you can create some sophisticated rhythmic morphing sounds.

It all seems very cool. If there were still a print Keyboard Magazine, I would love to read (write?) a cover story of this, with Herbie Hancock at the keys, smiling. Ah, those days.

SonicState were also given a look at this:

And Loopop are out with a review:

Check the product site, which inexplicably tells us “digital is the new analog.” I … guess they’re being ironic?

The post Hydrasynth is a no-compromise polysynth, and a key Akai, Arturia alum designer was involved appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Arturia’s KeyStep just got way more useful

Arturia’s KeyStep was already appealing – a mobile MIDI keyboard with sequencer and arpeggiator. But the 1.1 update improves some details and adds major new musicality.

Let’s look at this in detail – though the sequence length and arp octaves alone already have me sold.

A ton of power is now available on the fly, as you play.

Three new features are now available from the KeyStep’s physical controls, as you play:

Sequence length. Hold Record, and press one of the MIDI Channel keys, and you set length of the sequence on the fly. This actually works from 1 – 64 steps, just by pressing a few keys in sequence.

Quantized tempo adjustment: Now you can hold shift and turn the tempo knob to move by increments of 1 bpm. That lets you round off bpms from the tap tempo or quickly dial in a bpm without winding up with something weird. (127.62, anyone?)

Arp Octaves: With the arpeggiator running, you can now shift notes you’re playing up or down the octave. (The Arturia site is a little unclear on this – it sounds like they mean just shifting the arpeggiator up and down by octave. It’s actually cooler than this.) So hold Shift+Octave + or -, and whichever notes you’re playing will be arpeggiated up or down by octave. Hit the +/- key multiple times for multiple octaves. I can’t think of anything that works quite like this; it’s really cool and performative, because it’s all on the fly.

You’ll need the editor to access some new features.

Three modes are available in the updated MIDI Control Center software editor (so not onboard, but something you set in advance):

“Armed” clock. This gives you the option of using external sync, and passing it along, but controlling the KeyStep’s sequencer with the play button. There’s now a new parameter for switching on or off Arm to Start, which determines how the KeyStep responds to external clock.

Off is the original mode – the KeyStep Pro will just run or pause or stop with your external clock signal. But switch this to on, and the KeyStep lets you start and stop the sequencer as you see fit. You still pass the sync on to other gear. So for example, you could keep your drum machine running with the master clock, but turn on and off the sequencer on the keyboard, stop and jam for a second live, or whatever.

Pattern and Brownian Randomness. You can set randomness to Brownian Motion (“drunken walk) or “Pattern,” which creates randomized but repeating patterns. Pattern Mode is borrowed from Arturia’s MicroFreak synth.

Change LED brightness. Finally. No more blindness.

I still would love to see a KeyStep Pro, akin to the way the BeatStep Pro built on the original BeatStep. It’d be terrific to have a keyboard with some knobs for parameter controls. Having to use tiny DIP switches to set sync modes is a pain. And obviously there will be limits to how much Arturia can do with key combos (which already mean a little time spent cracking the manual), or software editor options. It’s not hard to imagine something that expanded this with extra features.

But for now, the KeyStep stays nice and compact – and you could always add a little box with some faders or knobs, since it is so small. Plus, even with some of its rivals, Arturia has a serious edge:

  • The keys feel great.
  • There’s MIDI DIN support for external gear.
  • There’s a standalone option (including a dedicated power plug).
  • It works with USB when you need it – no drivers required. (Hello, Linux/Raspi, etc., in addition to mobile, of course)
  • Its power consumption is low enough to work with iPad, etc., without additional power.
  • It’s stupidly affordable.

I think that with the additional performance options, this is the one to beat.

https://www.arturia.com/products/keystep/details

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1000 free Novation presets from Legowelt, Emily Sprague, Shawn Rudiman…

Novation are going patch crazy, with 1000 free artist patches for their Peak synth and newest Summit. And they come from some of our favorite artists.

“Presets,” “artists,” blah blah… but wait, the lineup here includes Legowelt, Craig Williams, Lightbath, Hinako Omori, Emily Sprague, and Shawn Rudiman, plus others to be announced.

Novation use their Components Web interface to deliver updates, content, and expanded functionality to their users, and they’ve been pioneers in innovative use of the tech for that role. That interface has sometimes been in need of a refresh, though, and so the other big news is that they’ve overhauled the UI.

Now you can see the Bank Editor next to content, you can filter presets, and you can choose to see your own stuff alongside Novation’s if you choose. Plus – mercifully – login isn’t mandatory any more (though you’ll need it to authenticate your own content you store online, of course).

Peak and Summit are well suited to some clever patch design, what with multiple synthesis methods simultaneously, modulation, and effects. It’ll be interested to see what they’ve cooked up.

More:

https://novationmusic.com/peak-summit-presets

Speaking of Legowelt and Shawn, flashback time:

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The OP-Z now samples, too, in Teenage Engineering software update

The OP-Z is the aggressively minimalist, love it-or-hate-it compact synth. But now an update makes it make way more sense – with sampling available, this pint sized synth turns into the instrument it was meant to be.

Teenage Engineering have always said the OP-Z isn’t a replacement for the Teenagers’ original OP-1. Instead, it’s a … successor that comes after the OP-1, builds on the OP-1 features, and at first was available in place of the OP-1, which was initially not available and now is available but prohibitively expensive.

Okay, whatever. The OP-Z is totally a replacement for the OP-1, with some new ideas and form factor and no more screen. But that’s great, actually. To the extent the OP-Z pisses off and confuses some consumers, it does so even more than the OP-1 initially did.

And what’s the point of having a compact, candy bar-shaped synth that obviously resembles a Casio CZ-1 if it doesn’t sample?

Adding sampling to the OP-Z means you can really make it your own, mangling sounds through its grungy but expressive interface. All that minimalism may lessen the value of this device for some, but for those willing to throw themselves into the workflow, it’s liberating – the portability and lack of distraction or surface complexity propelling your musical imagination somewhere different.

Or not. Because I think the thing that’s lovely about Teenage Engineering is that their synths don’t have to please everyone – they’re willing to please some people more while pleasing other people less.

But the bottom line is, this is the update that brings the OP-Z in line with its initial promise and what the OP-1 could do. Once you learn the shortcuts and use the force, you might not even miss the display (though the iPhone/iPad app is there, at least while you memorize the layout).

Sampling also lets this double as an audio interface. I still think you’ll want the oplab module for I/O, and I wish they’d just make that standard. But if you’re willing to splurge on an idiosyncratic device, there’s nothing quite like the OP-Z.

In this update:

new sampling mode

2 channel audio interface

full OP-1 sample format support (pitch, gain, playmode, reverse)

improved stability

support importing raw samples to drum tracks

apply track gain before fx sends

don’t allow copying empty steps
restart arpeggio with TRACK + PLAY on arpeggio track
don’t trigger gate step component if track is muted
toggle headset input with SCREEN + SHIFT

send clock out if enabled even though midi out is disabled
don’t loose clock sync when switching project via pattern change
fix broken parameter spark random setting
fix force save not working on project 1
fix inverted headphone gain levels dep. on impedance

note!
this firmware adds support for the gain, play direction and playmode settings of the OP-1 sample format. in older firmwares, these settings were ignored. this might lead to your patterns sounding different if you are using custom samplepacks. the most likely culprit will be the playmode setting. the OP-1 defaults to GATE, while the OP-Z used to treat everything as RETRIG. Adjust your playmode setting on each sample to RETRIG, to get it sounding like before.
if your track levels change due to the gain setting, either adjust the track volume, or adjust the per sample gain value.

Here’s the original OP-1 sampling feature, explained:

The post The OP-Z now samples, too, in Teenage Engineering software update appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The OP-Z now samples, too, in Teenage Engineering software update

The OP-Z is the aggressively minimalist, love it-or-hate-it compact synth. But now an update makes it make way more sense – with sampling available, this pint sized synth turns into the instrument it was meant to be.

Teenage Engineering have always said the OP-Z isn’t a replacement for the Teenagers’ original OP-1. Instead, it’s a … successor that comes after the OP-1, builds on the OP-1 features, and at first was available in place of the OP-1, which was initially not available and now is available but prohibitively expensive.

Okay, whatever. The OP-Z is totally a replacement for the OP-1, with some new ideas and form factor and no more screen. But that’s great, actually. To the extent the OP-Z pisses off and confuses some consumers, it does so even more than the OP-1 initially did.

And what’s the point of having a compact, candy bar-shaped synth that obviously resembles a Casio CZ-1 if it doesn’t sample?

Adding sampling to the OP-Z means you can really make it your own, mangling sounds through its grungy but expressive interface. All that minimalism may lessen the value of this device for some, but for those willing to throw themselves into the workflow, it’s liberating – the portability and lack of distraction or surface complexity propelling your musical imagination somewhere different.

Or not. Because I think the thing that’s lovely about Teenage Engineering is that their synths don’t have to please everyone – they’re willing to please some people more while pleasing other people less.

But the bottom line is, this is the update that brings the OP-Z in line with its initial promise and what the OP-1 could do. Once you learn the shortcuts and use the force, you might not even miss the display (though the iPhone/iPad app is there, at least while you memorize the layout).

Sampling also lets this double as an audio interface. I still think you’ll want the oplab module for I/O, and I wish they’d just make that standard. But if you’re willing to splurge on an idiosyncratic device, there’s nothing quite like the OP-Z.

In this update:

new sampling mode

2 channel audio interface

full OP-1 sample format support (pitch, gain, playmode, reverse)

improved stability

support importing raw samples to drum tracks

apply track gain before fx sends

don’t allow copying empty steps
restart arpeggio with TRACK + PLAY on arpeggio track
don’t trigger gate step component if track is muted
toggle headset input with SCREEN + SHIFT

send clock out if enabled even though midi out is disabled
don’t loose clock sync when switching project via pattern change
fix broken parameter spark random setting
fix force save not working on project 1
fix inverted headphone gain levels dep. on impedance

note!
this firmware adds support for the gain, play direction and playmode settings of the OP-1 sample format. in older firmwares, these settings were ignored. this might lead to your patterns sounding different if you are using custom samplepacks. the most likely culprit will be the playmode setting. the OP-1 defaults to GATE, while the OP-Z used to treat everything as RETRIG. Adjust your playmode setting on each sample to RETRIG, to get it sounding like before.
if your track levels change due to the gain setting, either adjust the track volume, or adjust the per sample gain value.

Here’s the original OP-1 sampling feature, explained:

The post The OP-Z now samples, too, in Teenage Engineering software update appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The Casio CZ is a huge highlight of Arturia’s V Collection 7

Arturia’s V Collection 7 continues to expand as the go-to software library of every vintage synth you would ever want. But let’s focus on one new gem: the brilliant CZ-101 remake.

First off, V Collection 7 is worth a look. Arturia keep making their mega-bundle software instrument bundle better. That means both reworking the modeling inside these tools, and adding new features, as well as – of course – continuing to expand the library of available instruments. As modeling has improved, these instruments have gotten more and more like the originals in sound and not just in function and look. At the same time, Arturia keeps beefing up those originals with new features – so the authentic sound engines get new sound design features atop them.

The EMS Synthi V makes an appearance in the new V Collection, too – if your tastes go more 70s than 80s. And it’s a big deal.

Version 7 continues to balance the desires of the casual keyboardist and the obsessive synth sound designer – and everything in between. So if you just want to add a convincing Mellotron or B-3, you’re covered – with an all-new Mellotron and a total ground-up sound engine overhaul for the B-3 V2. Jimmy Smith Strawberry Fields Forever, check and mate.

If the idea of a whole bunch of unfamiliar keyboards and control layouts is unappealing, V Collection 7 also includes the new Analog Lab 4, which consolidates all these things into easy presets and macro controls, and hundreds of new presets in their “Synthopedia.” That way if you do want to look up the way a familiar sound was produced – then tweak it yourself – you can.

Of course, if you read CDM, your favorite preset may be “default template,” and the idea of getting lost for hours in a vintage synth control layout may be the whole selling point. For that crowd, the V Collection 7 adds the EMI Synthi V and the CZ-101 from Casio, circa 1985.

Photo (CC-BY-SA) Neil Vance, via WikiCommons.

The ability to just dial up a menu and say, “do I want an Oberheim SEM or a CS-80” is already pretty crazy, and the number of choices continues to grow. So my approach to V Collection is actually to ignore all those presets – apologies, dear sound designer friends – and try to focus on one instrument. It’s a bit like what you do in a packed studio – you pull out one piece of gear, and say, hey, tonight is going to be about me and this instrument and very little else.

I want to talk about the CZ-101 because it’s long been one of my favorite instruments, and it’s a fairly unsung one. The CZ is somehow too easy, too friendly, too compact, too inexpensive to have the kind of adoration of some of the other 80s and 70s throwbacks. It’s not a collectors’ item. You can still find them at flea makrets. So yeah, Arturia are quick to drop names who have used it, like Salt-N-Pepa and Vince Clarke. But to me the whole appeal of the CZ-101 is that it’s for people who love synths, not people trying to emulate their heroes.

Of course, you could for these reasons go get an actual CZ-101. That means Arturia has to sweeten the deal a bit so the software can compete. They did just that. Let’s dive in.

CZ V reproduces the simple hardware interface (at bottom) but also expands to this view with lots of additional visual feedback and features, at top.

Phase Distortion lovers, rejoice

The original CZ-101 is about two things: a simple front panel layout, and phase distortion. If you just want to drop the CZ into a session as-is, CZ V does that.

Phase distortion synthesis isn’t so much a different synthesis method as it is a compelling way of mucking about with two digital oscillators. It’s easy enough to dismiss PD as Casio’s cheaper, non-patented answer to Yamaha’s DX7 and frequency modulation (FM). But now as we grow more accustomed to digital, non-harmonic timbres, PD is better appreciated on its own terms – as a way of producing unique digital color.

In short, what phase distortion does for you is to add rich harmonic content to sound. It can be a distortion. It can sound something like a resonant filter – in its own way. And because it’s normally using synced oscillators – here’s the important bit – it’s way easier to control than FM generally is.

On the Casio, this allows some unique filtering and sound shaping and distortion sounds that can easily be controlled by macros. And on the Arturia remake, graphical access to envelopes and expanded power means that you can use that shaping creatively.

The CZ V kind of goes a bit nuts versus what an original CZ-101 would give you. Let’s compare 1985 and 2019.

Arturia’s effects mean you don’t have to listen to the CZ dry.

The modulation matrix makes this feel as much modern soft synth as 1980s hardware.

The original oscillators are there – sine, saw, square, pulse, resonance, double-sine, saw-pulse – as are the 8-stage envelope generators and vibrato and LFOs. You can even import SysEx from the original. But being able to program these features on a display makes sound design accessible.

In addition to making hidden CZ features more visible, Arturia have expanded what’s possible:

  • 32-voice polyphony (the original had just 8).
  • A modulation matrix – no, really.
  • More modulation: a Sample and Hold module, 2 LFOs with 6 waveforms, 3 sources combinators and an Arpeggiator
  • New effects – while an authentic approach to the CZ might leave it dry, now you get all the Arturia multi-effects (adding things like chorus and reverb sound especially nice, for instance)

There’s visual feedback for everything, too.

Where the CZ fits in

In some ways, the CZ-101 is weirdly going from dated 80s thrift store find to … ahead of its time? After all, we’re seeing modular makers embrace these kinds of digital oscillator effects, and phase and phase distortion even inspired the upcoming sequel to Native Instruments’ Massive, the new Massive X.

Envelope editing is powerful – and includes animated visual feedback.

The CZ architecture is uniquely suited to making a lot of different sounds – including percussion and modulating timbres and edgy digital business – with a minimum of resources. So there’s a noise source built-in. You can modulate with the noise source. There’s ring modulation.

Using the CZ, DADSR, and multi-segment envelopes, you can them sculpt those percussive and metallic timbres over time – including using the DCW (Digitally Controlled Waveform) envelope that morphs between a sine wave and distorted wave.

The reason I’m using the CZ V to talk about the new V Collection edition, though, is that it’s an instrument where it feels like Arturia’s authentic side matches up with the “vintage on steroids” additions. So, by the time you have something like the new Synthi, you’re already presented with tons of sound design possibilities. Arturia has added some amazing ideas there – a step sequencer, a beat-synced LFO, plus onboard effects, atop all the new graphical options for working with envelopes and modulation.

The thing is, on a Synthi, that starts to feel like too much. I almost was tempted with the Synthi to force myself not to expand the tab full of new stuff. If I want an open-ended sound environment on a computer, I can use Reaktor, not try to recreate a 1970s take on the idea.

On the Arturia edition of the Casio, though, all these additions help the CZ graduate from fun toy to serious sound design tool. The visual envelopes make more sense. Effects are something most CZ owners invested in anyway. And more polyphony means you can run one instance and do a lot with it. Heck, even the matrix is easier to follow than on the original EMS Synthi because the architecture of the CZ-101 is so straightforward. In other words, because the original did less, it’s both a good match for software remake and for some thoughtful additions – which Arturia delivers.

Check these templates for an easy way to get started making your own sounds.

Here’s a little sketch I made with this. This is all one patch – noise and ring modulation and layering the ring source, plus some DCW and pitch envelope use, are what generate all those sounds. I added Arturia’s Trid-A Pre and some reverb from Softube’s TSAR-1 Reverb and … that was it.

More on the products:

V Collection 7

CZ V

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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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