NAMM Leaks: The Synclavier is Coming to the iPad w/ Physical Knob Controller

Spotted this one on Synthtopia

“Synclavier Go! (for iPad) and Synclavier Pocket! (for iPhone and iPod Touch) re-create the original Synclavier II FM Synthesis engine, with a touch-screen interface inspired by the original hardware. The Synclavier DSP Engine – used by Arturia in its Synclavier V product line – is a faithful recreation of the FM- and Additive-Synthesis functions of the original

NAMM Leaks: New Akai APC – Stand Alone MPC Crossed with Ableton Push w/ CV?

Spotted this one on Sequencer.de who has a link to the manual, and Create Digital Music who has a good write-up on it.

“And here’s the bombshell: Akai taken the APC workflow and even cloned elements of Ableton Live. But this is basically a Live knockoff – not the real thing. Hence the manual refers to “Matrix View,” not Session View, and so on. So even though Ableton could have – arguably even

Ableton Live as standalone hardware? Leaked Akai APC Live

It’s what a lot of people wanted – an MPC crossed with an Ableton Push – which could mean it’s too good to be true. But the APC Live leaked in images looks viable enough, and it could signal big changes for electronic performance in 2019.

Standalone hardware that does what software does – it’s a funny thing. It has seemed inevitable for a long time. But lots of hardware remains tethered to the ubiquitous computer (Ableton Push, Novation Launchpad, Native Instruments Maschine, Native Instruments Traktor) … or is exceptionally expensive (Pioneer CDJ). Then there was Akai’s own MPC Live, which seemed to be both affordable and flexible – you can use it with or without a computer – but failed to catch on. That may be because the MPC Live was too late to win people over to a new workflow. It wasn’t really like the original MPC hardware, and computer users had opted for Maschine, Live, and other tools.

That makes these leaked photos of the supposed Akai APC Live so interesting. Ableton, with a user base literally in the millions, doesn’t have to convince anyone of a new workflow. If the APC Live does what the MPC Live does – work as a controller with your computer plugged in, but then switch to standalone mode for onstage use – it could be a winner.

The ever leak-savvy sequencer.de get the scoop, in a forum post (which seems to get these from an FCC filing):

https://www.sequencer.de/synthesizer/media/apc-live-3.976/

Behold:

It seems to have everything you’d need:

A Push-style grid surface with shortcuts.
Encoders and heads-up display for parameter editing.
An MPC-style workspace with edit buttons.
USB connection (locked, so it doesn’t come out accidentally) and 2-port USB hub for expansion (or storage, hard to say).
SD card slot (load samples, sets?).
Separate cue mix for your headphones.
4 outs (so you can also have a separate cue line mix/monitors out, or easy quad output, or whatever)
CV and gate, MIDI – though crammed on minijacks, so you’ll need some dongles, no doubt.
XLR input for a vocal mic.

The only thing that’s odd about this is that the MPC-style screen is tacked rather awkwardly on top, giving this a really tall footprint.

The other big question will be what happens with plug-ins. Akai for their part first came out talking about embedded Windows on their MPC Live, but eventually shipped a Linux-based application. That makes their MPC software behave the same as a self-contained app on the hardware as it does on your computer. But Live users are accustomed to using third-party plug-ins; will they have to stick to Live internal devices when running in standalone mode?

Another possibility – maybe the “live” moniker doesn’t really mean this works on its own. This could just be an oversized controller for Ableton Live, but still tethered to the computer. That would make sense, too – it would be a lot of work to get Live to run on its own, and just shipping another controller would be an easy solution.

Just don’t rule out standalone as a possibility. It’s technically possible, and we know Ableton has posted some Linux and embedded engineering jobs on their site – plus Akai has done this once before, meaning they have the talent in-house to work on it.

I expect we’ll know later this month, either at the NAMM show or slightly before.

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Images of KORG volca modular, volca drum appear online

Unconfirmed and unofficial images identified as KORG volca modular and volca drum are circulating across social media channels today, after first appearing on Reddit.

Normally, this site refrains from posting leaks and rumors, but in this case, the images have quickly become ubiquitous – perhaps speaking to the unique appeal of the volca line. (Literally, my inbox and feeds now are clogged with people posting them.)

The images appear to show a drum synth and patchable mini-modular, in the existing volca form factor. We can’t comment on their authenticity.

They’re even becoming the buzz of YouTube:

What do you think? Let us know in comments.

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New Roland SYSTEM-500 analog Eurorack modules spotted in the wild

Roland hasn’t made any announcement about new modular – but it seems a handful of SYSTEM-500 analog modules have just made an appearance in the wild, rounding out an existing range. We’ve got some “spy” shots.

Yes, it seems unannounced Eurorack products from the Japanese maker found their way into a shoe event. These modules will extend Roland’s existing range of SYSTEM-500 modules, made in collaboration with boutique Eurorack manufacturer Malekko Heavy Industry Corporation. Like the other AIRA offerings, Roland is looking to their own past: the SYSTEM-500 line is inspired by the SYSTEM-100M made in the early 80s.

But what’s significant about the SYSTEM-500 is that Roland are working with a smaller maker. And lest you confuse these with the 303, 808, 909 remakes and the like, these are analog, as was the original source material.

All of that’s interesting, even in the crowded Eurorack landscape, because it isn’t just following the mold of the Moog or Buchla modulars. So you might add SYSTEM-500 to your rack to get a distinctive Roland modular sound.

Okay, so how do we know these are new? Well, first, here’s the range of Roland SYSTEM-500 that was available previously:

512 Dual VCO
521 Dual VCF
540 Dual Envelope Generator and LFO
530 Dual VCA
572 Phase Shifter, Delay and LFO

Malekko actually have the best overview:
https://malekkoheavyindustry.com/system-500/

Now, here’s what was spotted in Berlin:

505 Dual VCF
555 LAG / S&H
531 Mix
510 Synth

That mixer looks really useful, alone – mute switches, actual faders, actual panning. Not everything there can be CV-automated, but to me that misses the point: it’s useful to have hands-on mixing when you’re playing.

And then the LAG/S&H gives you a whole bunch in one module – and the Synth looks like it could be a starting point for an entry-level modular rig.

A quick play says these can sound really nice. I expect we’ll know more at Superbooth in Berlin next month. (Roland aren’t showing this at Musikmesse.)

Some poor pictures from me to give you a taste – let us know questions and I suspect we can get answers when these launch:

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Roland’s SH-010 looks like a 101 reboot, latest Boutique

It seemed inevitable since Roland first announced its Boutique series: of course Roland would at some point remake the SH-101.

Now, it looks as though Roland is set to do just that – and in the process keep with its current habit of liberating your money from you by offering vintage classic remakes in compact Boutique form.

Nick de Friez, the Roland specialist now here in Berlin, is teasing the Interwebs this week with what appears to be an “SH-010” but is almost certainly also an SH-101 remake. Here’s a closer look at a still:

Owners of the original AIRA desktop synth, the SYSTEM-1, already had access to digital models of the SH-101 in the form of PLUG-OUT add-ons. (These are digital models that can either be used in software plug-in form or loaded onto hardware for use on the go. See our original hands-on look at that PLUG-OUT.)

With the TB-03 and TR-09, Roland has said they’ve updated previously released digital models of the original analog circuitry, so it stands to reason that we’ll get a refreshed version of models first released for the SYSTEM-1. We’ll see if those sound better. It’s also going to be interesting to see just how Roland maps the hardware controls, since the SH-101 is about nothing if not hands-on control.

It’s also an open question whether this is a “clone” of SH-101 functionality, or whether Roland will riff on the original with some new twists. (Adding in effects seems likely – note the ones already in the screen grab of the PLUG-OUT edition above – but maybe that ‘010’ moniker hints at some other new ideas.)

This does raise a question, though. Remakes are fun, but eventually companies like Roland are going to run out of low-hanging fruit. (I’m still waiting for my Latin-flavored TR-727 Boutique drum machine, though!)

It strikes me that what really needs to happen next is for some new inventions in the same category. Roland’s own SYSTEM-1 was a stab at that, if not the most successful of their recent creations, and KORG have done a nice job with new creations like the volca series. So, now, Roland, it’s your turn – can you come up with a new idea here?

Also, to modders, just saying – obviously someone needs to make a tiny keytar out of the SH-010 when it’s here.

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Novation Mono Station synth sequencer just leaked via retail

Novation’s Circuit drum machine/synth/sequencer combo already found a lot of fans. Now it looks like they’ve got another all-in-one grid instrument – this time, a mono/paraphonic synth with sequencer. And whereas the Nova polysynth in the Circuit is hidden behind controls, here you get loads of hands-on control.

The Novation Mono Station has leaked via retailers like Dutch prodjstore and are already making rounds on social media. Most interesting I’d say, apart from combining the grid sequencer with a hands-on synth, is that modulation matrix. (It’s not bad having distortion plus a multi-mode filter with overdrive, either.)

In a nod to analog fans, you also get a full complement of CV controls round the back, in addition to MIDI and USB.

Novation are in town here in Berlin for Superbooth, so we’ll be sure to talk to them – and see what they’ve got to tell us about this or anything else new.

But to see this from the makers of the beloved Bass Station I’d say is good news indeed for desktop synthesis fans. And it continues the trend of putting sequencers on these instruments instead of keys. (See also: volca series, Roland AIRA, Pioneer AS-1, Circuit of course, and so on.)

novation-circuit-mono-station

novation-circuit-mono-station2

Specs leaked, too:

Two oscillators with individual control of sync and tuning parameters
High-pass, low-pass and band-pass filters with slopes of 12dB and 24dB
Three distortion modes
Choose monophonic or paraphonic modes with individual glide control
Four-by-eight modulation matrix that enables complex alteration and routing
Load and save up to 64 patches on the device
Three sequencer tracks (two oscillator sequencers, one modulation sequencer)
32 velocity-sensitive RGB pads
16 scale types
Changeable sync rates
CV/Gate, CV mod plus MIDI In, Out and Thru for connecting and controlling separate hardware
Backup patches and sessions with Components

— and there are selectable waveforms, sawtooth, triangle, square, and sample + hold. (No PWM, unfortunately…)

Looks like another hit.

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Akai’s standalone MPCs just leaked – and they could replace your laptop

Welcome to the post-PC drum machine age. After years of leaving fans of standalone MPCs in the cold, Akai have unveiled machines that promise the flexibility of computer software – minus the computer.

And somehow all the specs and photos are on the Sweetwater website (doh!), so let’s copy-paste here. (For once, I’m glad not to be under an NDA.)

The MPC Live is probably the one you want, in a compact form factor and with a not-insane US$1,199 street price. And it’s no slouch:

mpclive-large

7″ touch screen
16 pads (hopefully these are these build on the quality of those on the previous MPC Renaissance flagship)
Weight: 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs)
Rechargeable battery (clever, that!)
16 GB of internal storage, plus external hard drive support
MPC 2.0 software has upgraded time warp and audio track recording (also putting it ahead of Maschine for DAW-like tasks)
Audio inputs: 2x 1/4″ plus 1 stereo RCA (and GND for connecting a turntable)
Audio outputs: 2x 1/4″ master, an additional 4×1/4″, plus the minijack headphone
MIDI I/O – 2 in, 2 out (that’s surprising on a small unit)
SD card
USB: 2x type A (for storage, presumably), 1x type B (for computer)
2.5″ SATA drive connector

Even the mid-range MPC Live has a surprisingly generous complement of I/O.

Even the mid-range MPC Live has a surprisingly generous complement of I/O.

We’ve already seen reasonably clever MPC software in the computer-tethered products. Now, the touchscreens on previous Akai products haven’t been the best ever, in my experience – though the bar is set high when you’re used to things like Apple’s superb iPad screens. But it absolutely beats menu diving – compare, for instance, the experience of using Pioneer’s new sample hardware. And perhaps they’ve upgraded the touchscreen component; that’ll be interesting to see.

The audio track thing to me is huge, as it vastly increases the range of what you can do with just the MPC. I suspect for a lot of producers, that’s enough to finish tracks (even if they move back to the computer for mixing and mastering).

It seems that basically what you’re getting is the MPC Touch with the software running internally on an embedded system – and some significant upgrade to I/O and better software. But given the MPC Touch was already pretty darn good, this could move the MPC Live into must-buy territory.

Of course, if you want something bigger and more powerful / own a car to carry it around or want to leave something in the studio, there’s the US$$2,199 MPC X.

It’s got everything the MPC Live has, with a bigger form factor, a bigger screen, more dedicated controls, and more I/O.

The big'n.

The big’n.

So you get:
10.1″ multi-touch screen
CV/gate for analog connectivity – 8 of them! (seems it’s output only)
Audio inputs 3/4 are both jack and RCA a
8 outputs instead of 6
4 MIDI outputs instead of 2

Another sign that this is power over portability – there’s no mention of battery power.

A big, articulated screen, extra hands-on control, and loads of I/O are what you get on the MPC X, in exchange for being a bit less mobile and paying over two grand.

A big, articulated screen, extra hands-on control, and loads of I/O are what you get on the MPC X, in exchange for being a bit less mobile and paying over two grand.

The leaked specs don’t yet have weight, but then, you’re not really buying this one for portability.

That’s all very cool, and it should be big in the American market where larger equipment is more desirable. But worldwide, the MPC Live is already powerful enough that it seems it’ll be the winner.

Who should be a little nervous? All the competition, clearly.

It’s hard not to feel Native Instruments have missed a major opportunity here. I can’t imagine anyone buying the flagship Maschine Studio when it lacks so much connectivity, let alone the need for tethering to a computer, especially with a standalone MPC Live hitting this price point. And ironically, while NI have through their history pioneered the use of native software, they could have taken that same native software and made it run standalone. They certainly could have shipped a Maschine that looked like this – and I would have been one of the first to buy it. But even as a devoted Maschine fan, I’m going to wonder about whether I really want to play live with a laptop when I could ditch it for an MPC with similar capabilities. The same is true of the Traktor line – there really is some truth to the resistance to DJs showing up with computers.

(Of course, that said, it’s a shame the new MPCs don’t support Ableton Link – at least not that I can see.)

Pioneer have their own market niche because their Toraiz sampler has sync capabilities with the CDJ. But since DJ/producers often differentiate between live acts and DJ sets, I expect a lot will choose to do a live set with an MPC and just use CDJs when DJing. That’s already the case with the Elektron machines you see so often in live sets.

Elektron probably have the least concern. Their user base is pretty loyal, and the Analog line sounds absolutely terrific. But even some would-be Elektron customers may decide a sample-based workflow and more DAW-style flexibility is desirable – without all the menu diving.

Even Ableton ought to have a look at this and wonder if the Push is going to stay as desirable as a performance solution.

Don’t get me wrong – there are still advantages to computer software. When it comes to more complex arrangements, I’m all about a big screen. And past leaks suggest the new Akai hardware won’t support plug-ins. So these machines for many producers will be about live performance. Then again, there’s nothing stopping you from using the MPCs with a computer for those contexts. The category this will clearly damage is the computer-plus-machine area — meaning things like Push and Maschine look less desirable.

I’ll definitely be keen to test this. It’s still down to software – despite the embedded context, that’s what you’re testing. And I’m curious to see how you would integrate this with studio workflows on the computer.

But long before NAMM, it seems we have the big NAMM story for producers.

Just remember – drum machines have no soul. 😉

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Roland teases ’boutique’ with three mystery mini keyboard synths

Roland continues their journey into uncharted waters – following the unexpected entry into categories like DIN sync, control voltage-manipulated analog, and Eurorack modular, the Japanese titan today teases something new it’s calling “Roland Boutique.”

The legacy is spelled out in the opening – Jupiter-8, JX-3P, and Juno-106 synth keyboards from the early 80s give way to three backlit boxes with just-visible faders with LEDs on them. And at least we see there’s no eye-blinding green LEDs (cough, AIRA).

So, this is pretty obvious: you get one box inspired by each of the earlier ones. Really, it’s the word ’boutique’ that’s confusing – is this a limited run? Another partnership with a smaller builder? Just marketing? Is it proof that at last evil, mustachioed hipsters somehow broken into Roland headquarters and are they now running the company? Will we never be able to buy a BOSS pedal again, but we will get a line of bespoke Roland gourmet pickles and craft beers, after they relocate to Oakland?

Let me give you a hint about what they are, though. If you ever want someone to disguise your identity, don’t let it be the people who light Roland teasers. Because I just adjusted my histogram, and… well, these are mini keyboards. (Hmmm, Yamaha, starting a trend here?) At least they have what appear to be loads of controls.

rolandboutique_spy

rolandboutique

Also, I never expected Roland would be the first large maker to learn from the classic EDP-Wasp:

edpwasp

And yes, if I hadn’t done this, Roland, you know the forums would have.

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