Bitwig Studio 3 offers fully-modular sound design with The Grid

Bitwig Studio 3 The Grid

Bitwig has announced the upcoming Bitwig Studio 3, a new major upgrade to cross-platform music production software. Version 3 will open a new window for working with sound with “The Grid”. As was hinted at from the start, Bitwig Studio was always intended to provide a fully-modular sound design option, and this has become reality […]

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Kilohearts announces Phase Plant hybrid modular synth with Snapin integration

Kilohearts Phase Plant

Kilohearts has officially announced the upcoming launch of Phase Plant, an endlessly flexible virtual instrument that takes the company’s Snapins eco-system to new heights. Combining the proven power and flexibility of Snapin effects with an array of all-new signal generation and modulation devices, Phase Plant is a state-of-the-art hybrid modular system that gives you unprecedented […]

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NAMM 2019: Korg Volca Modular – semimodulare Wunderkiste?

Korg Volca Modular West Coast SynthesizerKorg Volca Modular West Coast Synthesizer

Wir wussten zwar schon durch den Leak vom Volca Modular, aber nun haben wir die Gewissheit: Er kommt zur NAMM 2019. Der Name ist allerdings etwas überschwänglich gewählt, denn er ist eigentlich nur semimodular. Wie es klingt, erfahrt ihr hier.

Korg Volca Modular

Eigentlich passiert beim Modular, was alle wünschen, alle lieben, aber niemand gewagt hat, dass Korg das ausgerechnet in das Volca-Format stecken würde. Sie haben es aber getan. Wir berichteten dazu auch bereits. Was für Make Noise 0-coast und für Buchla und Co. üblich, landet in minimaler Form auch im Volca und lässt sich mit kleinen Käbelchen patchen. Das Prinzip wurde klar vom Anyware Tinysizer übernommen, er war deutlich der, der dieses Prinzip erstmals verwendet hat. Er enthält sogar eine Art Woggle-Bug, einer erweiterten Mehrfach-Sample & Hold Einheit, die von Grant Richter (Wiard) in die Welt gebracht wurde.  Es gibt zwei Lowpass-Gates und somit haben wir es mit Westküsten-Denkweise zu tun. Der Oszillator ist mit Wavefolding/Waveshaping ausgestattet, um obertonreiche Klänge zu generieren, auch Grant Richter hat damals das Borg-Filter, eine Kombination aus Buchla und Korg gemacht, was hier wohl auch hier teilweise mit drin steckt, allerdings gibt es keine Resonanz, so wie das bei LPGs üblich ist. Mehr Verarbeitung bekommt man über die logischen Verknüpfungen hin, die für Audio und Modulation tauglich sind.

Die Bedeutung dieser Volca ist wohl doch als hoch einzustufen und der Preis soll dennoch unter 199 Euro liegen. Die Beliebtheit des 0-Coast ist nach-wie-vor hoch und nun kann „jeder“ in diese Welt einsteigen, die bei Make Noise immerhin noch 529 Euro kostet. Korg hat inzwischen alles nachgeliefert, was man liefern kann – wie macht man die berühmten Buchla Bongos? Wie geht man damit um? Und was macht er wirklich genau? Richtig gut ist auch der Hall, denn zu Geräten dieser Bauart passt immer etwas Hall. Die Hüllkurve ist natürlich vom Typ AR. Das reicht aber auch und ist für diese Form auch genug. Der Sequencer hat 16 Steps und kann auch zufällig abspielen, was durchaus wichtig ist für Synthesizer dieser Art.

Mehr Infos

Video

KORG volca modular and volca drum are real – and now we’ve got details

Some things are too good, or too improbable, to be true. Apparently that doesn’t apply to KORG’s volca series. Because if the ultra-compact, affordable modular and drum were exactly what you wished for, well – they’re here.

These will look familiar, because images of the top panels of these two pieces of kit hit the Internet in December. The funny thing was, a lot of people responded with “oh there’s no way that modular could be real.” Guess again.

The newest volcas are a modeled drum/percussion unit and a compact modular with tiny header pins for patching.

volca drum

This isn’t the volca series’ first take on percussion. It’s had a full drum machine with analog circuitry (volca beats), a bass drum synth piece built around the classic MS-20 filter (volca kick), and a digital sampling machine (volca sample).

But volca drum could turn out to be the most interesting yet, if they’ve nailed its sound source. volca drum is a percussion synth, with diffeent DSP-based models for sounds.

The WAVE GUIDE controls in the middle are the most interesting. And of course, having KORG’s sequencer with motion controls attached to a parameterized percussion synth seems really tasty – as with the volca kick, this could be interesting for all kinds of different parts, not just the obvious ones. But we’ll have to wait to hear more about it.

KORG for their part promise “standard percussive sounds” and “eccentric drum styles.”

Price: US$169.99

Availability: early 2019

volca modular

The volca drum has been so far overshadowed, though, by the curiosity of the volca modular.

There are eight independent functional modules in this unit. They’re pre-wired for patchless operation, but you can also reconfigure them with a whopping 50 patch points. Tiny jumper wires are included for connecting to the onboard pins. The volca modular is like a tiny toybox of sound design – a Buchla Easel for cash strapped millennials. (Okay, all of us older folks, too.)

Okay, but then – is it a modular? Well, even KORG cautiously dub it “semi-modular,” but while there’s no clear line, I’d say even modular is a reasonable term. While modular is now taken by some to mean something with interchangeable modules, especially in this age of Eurorack, I’d say anything with discrete functional modules that be interconnected in different ways ought to qualify.

And yeah, while this will work without patching, so too did the ARP 2500, and no one called that semi-modular.

Enough of semantics, though: it’s cool, as you’ll see in today’s hands-on review from Francis Preve.

The price is a little higher for a volca, but … no matter. This is a spectacular amount of modular patching in a single unit, and I think it’ll be really popular.

Price: US$199.99

Availability: early 2019

Side note: KORG are hardly the first to suggest this kind of modular patching. Phillip Stearns and Peter Edwards envisioned a modular system you’d build entirely on a breadboard – hyper-modular, if you will:

Edwards went to work for Bastl Instruments, who not coincidentally employed these jumper wires on their own instruments (like Kastle).

And if you feel volca modular isn’t quite what you’d want in a volca modular – like you’d rather have interchangeable, separate modules – that’s been done, too, in the form of the AE Modular Synth:

But the volca modular is unique in focusing on West Coast style synths – an oscillator source you make more complex with modulation and wavefolding, and which even gets fed into Buchla-style modules like the LPG (low pass gate).

And let’s be clear: it’s also unique and cool. Hope I get to play with one, too, soon.

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FamilyTool expands Moog, other semi-modulars with more patching

Moog’s DFAM and Mother-32 have attracted their own dedicated following. Now a Kickstarter project aims to expand patching flexibility on the Moog and other semi-modulars – so you won’t outgrow them.

There are two product ideas in the FamilyTool line. One is a unit for adding multis and splits, which extends patching on semi-modulars like the Mother-32. (There’s no multi, which would let you duplicate a signal.) A second product is a case with internal power for making a little “baby” modular – without having to make the leap into Eurorack. (The latter could get more expensive and means more to lug around. Arturia also recently showed small cases with this idea.)

The product looks really nice, and gets hand-assembled in Munich. One interesting twist: they say they’re only marketing this on Kickstarter, so there won’t be any units for sale after that.

Specs:

The MULT-OR-SWITCH is all about giving you more patching flexibility for more elaborate patches.

MULT-OR-SWITCH Module

6 A/B switches for up to six switchable routings
2 of which are OR-logic mixers
No external power source needed*
Passive MULT (1:4 or 2×1:2)
Patching fun with 24 I/Os

And the case is perfect for, say, a DFAM owner who wishes they also had just the awesome Mutable Instruments Clouds to play with (which, seriously, is possible):

powered UNCPROP Case

Fits eurorack modules up to 20hp and 35mm depth (e.g. Clouds and MATHS)
Perfectly fits DFAM/Mother-32 and
Is a great addition to any other semi-modular synth
For heavy users & beginners
internal PSU
works as a 20hp standalone eurorack case/effects unit
Handcrafted wooden panels (walnut)

Pricing starts at EUR199 depending on which round you’re in.

Maybe the coolest option: you can spring for a workshop and dinner with the makers in Munich.

Or you can get a scarf, which sounds appealing to me.

FamilyTool – a versatile modular synthesizer extension

Previously:

Arturia’s new easy, affordable modular cases also mount to MiniBrute 2

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Cherry Audio releases new Poly Stereo Spread & Poly Quantizer modules

Cherry Audio Poly Stereo Spread and Poly Quantize

Cherry Audio has announced the release of Poly Stereo Spread and Poly Quantizer, two new modules for the Voltage modular system. Poly Quantizer is a polyphonic version of our Quantizer module. It features lots of built-in scales, and the ability to easily create custom scales, too. Poly Stereo Spread is a module designed to automatically […]

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Haken’s ContinuuMini is expressive, post-keyboard sound for $899

Want some evidence that the future of expressive digital instruments and MPE is bright? Look to Haken’s ContinuuMini, which emerged over last year, bringing greater portability and a US$899 price to the out-there controller.

Forget anything else, and listen to this gorgeous video (using a clever setup with an Onde acoustic resonator*:

Why does the ContinuuMini matter?

Expression really is a combination of sound and physical control. Say what you will about piano keyboards (and some electronic musicians who hate them certainly do) – the reason an acoustic piano is still expressive has to do with the sound of a piano.

So when we talk about MPE, a scheme for allowing polyphonic expression through MIDI, we’re really talking about allow greater depth in the connection of physical gestures and sound.

If this is going to catch on, it’ll require more than one vendor. I think it’s wrong to assume MPE’s future, then, is tied solely to ROLI as a vendor. From the start, MPE was an initiative of a range of people, from major software developers (Apple, Steinberg) to hardware inventors (ROLI, but also Roger Linn and Randy Jones of Madrona Labs, for instance).

And Haken Audio has been a boutique maker pushing new ways of playing for years – including with MPE on their Continuum. The Continuum may look arcane in photos, but feeling it is a unique experience. The ribbon feels luxurious – it’s actually soft fabric. And the degree of control is something special. But it’s also enormous and expensive – and that means a lot of people can’t buy it, or can’t tour with it since it won’t fit in an overhead.

I believe that what makes an instrument is really finding that handful of people to do stuff even the creators didn’t expect, so if you can lower those barriers for even a run of a few hundred units, you could have a small revolution on your hand.

That’s what Haken have done with ContinuuMini, which closed crowd sourcing late last year and has started shipping of the first hardware.

Here’s what sets it apart:

It’s a Continuum. Well, first, nothing else feels like a Continuum. That feeling may not be for everyone, but it’s still significant as a choice.

It’s continuous. Because you aren’t limited by frets or keys, there’s a continuous range of sound. This is a controller you’ll want to practice, finding intonation with muscle memory and your ear. And there are artists who will want that subtlety.

It has internal sound. Like its larger sibling the ContinuuMini has an internal sound engine. That means that it’s not just a controller. Haken have conceived control and sound in a single, unified design. You can play it without connecting other stuff. And the builders have worked on both the physical and aural experience of what they’ve made. I think that’s significant to anyone making an investment, particularly in an age in which abstract controller hardware tends to stack in our closets.

It’s 8-voice polyphonic, as well. The ContinuuMini isn’t just a controller: it’s a complete, gorgeous polysynth and a controller, for this one price.

It connects to other gear, without software. Bidirectional digital control – MIDI, with MPE, MPE+ – and bidirectional control voltage analog (with converter) are possible. That means you can play the ContinuuMini with gear and software (like recording MIDI and MPE in your DAW for playback), and likewise the ContinuuMini can control your software and gear. There are also two pedal inputs so your feet can get in on the action.

It’s only a quarter kilogram. 9 oz. You can tote the bigger ones with a case but – the ContinuuMini is incredibly portable.

It feels like an extraordinary development.

https://www.hakenaudio.com/continuumini

* Synthtopia has a great, in-depth interview on the Onde and Pyramid, acoustic resonators that make an electronic instrument feel more like an instrument and less like “something disconnected that produces sound through speakers” as with conventional monitors:

La Voix Du Luthier & The New Shape Of Electronic Sound

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Bob Moog Foundation brings Moogseum and historic Modular to NAMM 2019

Walter Holland

The Bob Moog Foundation marks its auspicious return to the 2019 NAMM Convention with an expanded booth presence celebrating its recently launched endeavor, the Moogseum. The dual booths, 10310 and 10409, will be located in Hall A, the synthesizer section of the NAMM floor, with KORG, Casio, and Roland nearby. As part of the Moogseum […]

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Bob Moog Foundation brings Moogseum and historic Modular to NAMM 2019

Walter Holland

The Bob Moog Foundation marks its auspicious return to the 2019 NAMM Convention with an expanded booth presence celebrating its recently launched endeavor, the Moogseum. The dual booths, 10310 and 10409, will be located in Hall A, the synthesizer section of the NAMM floor, with KORG, Casio, and Roland nearby. As part of the Moogseum […]

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Synth pioneer Alan R. Pearlman, founder of ARP, has died

One of the great names in synthesis, founder of a brand that helped define what electronic sound is today, was lost over the weekend. ARP Instruments founder Alan R. Pearlman died Sunday the 6th, and synthesists worldwide remember the legacy he leaves.

Pearlman started ARP and was a principle engineer, specifically of the ground-breaking 2500 and 2600 modular synthesizers.

It may be hard to conceive now, but there was a time when ARP and Moog were major rivals. And it’s worth noting that Pearlman was uniquely advanced in his vision. Even as an engineering student in 1948, he looked forward to a time not so far off “when the electronic instrument may take its place … as a versatile, powerful, and expressive instrument” – provided those engineers paid attention “to the needs of the musician.”

And so in 1977, when Close Encounters of the Third Kind imagined an instrument that was far enough advanced to communicate with aliens, they chose the ARP 2500 that was Pearlman’s first commercial instrument. And Close Encounters were far from alone, as even the Martian voices were ARP 2500 produced in Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds.

Other notable 2500 instrumentalists: David Bowie, Jean Michel Jarre, The Who… and Eliane Radigue:

The 2600 was itself legendary enough to be fairly dubbed a holy grail.

And speaking of space aliens, the one Doctor Who variant that matches Delia Derbyshire’s haunting whoo-whoo sounds with some sparkles and badass bass is also made on an ARP (the Odyssey), by Peter Howell:

And while the Rhodes Chroma originated at ARP was hardly a huge success, it is in many ways a template for the computer-integrated workstation-style instruments to follow.

Remembering Alan:

Richard Boulanger notes the unique musicality of this engineer’s vision and the impact it had – and that leading right up to his illness, he kept dreaming up new instrumental ideas:

.Yes, even at 90 and beyond, Alan R Pearlman was still dreaming of new circuits, modules, and controllers!) Undeniably, Alan R Pearlman was an engineering genius. Everyone recognizes that his synthesizers were beyond brilliant. But I truly believe that the heart and soul in his machines drew their spirit and life from Alan’s musical virtuosity on the piano, his truly deep musical knowledge, his passion and enthusiasm for “all” music, and his nurturing and generous support for young composers and performers, regardless of whether they were into classical, avantgarde, film, fusion, rock or pop. He wanted to make something that we could play with, that we could play on, and maybe even learn about music as we played (check out his “Learning Music Through Synthesizers” book and his MSL boxes). Alan R Pearlman created truly playable electronic musical “instruments”. He made aesthetically and ergonomically beautiful instruments, and beautiful sounding instruments. His synthesizers opened our eyes and ears to new sonic worlds

NAMM has an oral history interview

He recalls first seeing the Buchla, and the impact of Moog’s controller approach. The company was named with his nickname (and initials ) – ARP. And arguably ARP’s approach to matrix switching (ARP 2500) and hard-wired control even with patch cord access (ARP 2600) is still valuable today.

Just how modern can the ARP designs be? That was proven when KORG revived the Odyssey recently, with some input from Pearlman, along with a collaboration with ARP co-founder David Friend.

And while we think of Moog and Buchla, ARP also significantly contributed to a lot of the technological innovations of the modern synth, as evidenced by this list of ARP patents (thanks to Synthtopia for spotting that):

http://www.till.com/articles/arp/patents.html

Various ARP owners have been posting tributes:

And have long sung the magic of these instruments – here’s Marc Doty, giving the instrument extrahuman autonomy:

Surviving daughter Dina Pearlman shared the news yesterday:

ARP employee Rick Parent shares his remembrances, along with ARP’s David A. Frederick:

David Mash remembers:

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