Arturia add CMI, DX7, Clavinet – and Buchla Easel – in software

Arturia refreshed their mega-collection of synths and keyboard instruments, with new sought-after additions – including a recreation of the Buchla Easel.

Get ready for some numbers and letters here here. The resulting product is the Arturia V Collection 6. The ancient Roman in me apparently wants to read that as “5 collection 6” but, uh, yeah, that’s the letter “v” as in “virtual.”

And what you’re now up to is 21 separate products bundled as one. Inception-style, some of those products contain the other products, too. (If you just want the Buchla, sit tight – yes, you can get it separately.)

So, hat we’re talking about is this:

Synths: models of the Synclavier, Oberheim Matrix 12 and SEM, Roland Jupiter-8, ARP 2600, Dave Smith’s Sequential Prophet V and vector Prophet VS, Yamaha CS-80, a Minimoog, and a Moog modular. To that roster, you can now add a Yamaha DX7, Fairlight CMI, and a Buchla Music Easel.

Keys: Fender Rhodes Stage 73 (suitcase and stage alike), ARP Solina String Ensemble, Wurlitzer. And now there’s a Clavinet, too.

Organs: Hammond B-3, Farfisa, VOX Continental.

And some pianos. Various pianos – uprights and grands – plus other parameters via physical modeling are bundled into Piano V.

The bundle also includes Analog Lab, which pulls together presets and performance parameters for all the rest into a unified interface.

This isn’t all sampled soundware, either – well, if it were, it’d be impossibly huge. Instead, Arturia use physical modeling and electronics modeling techniques to produce emulations of the inner workings of all these instruments.

About those new instruments…

There’s no question the Clavinet and DX7 round out the offerings, making this a fairly complete selection of just about everything you can play with keys. (Okay, no harpsicords or pipe organs, so every relatively modern instrument.) And the Fairlight CMI, while resurrected as a nifty mobile app on iOS, is welcome, too. But because it’s been so rare, and because of the renaissance of interest in Don Buchla and so-called “West Coast” synthesis for sound design, the Buchla addition is obviously stealing the show.

Here’s a look at those additions:

The DX7 V promises to build on the great sound of the Yamaha original while addressing the thing that wasn’t so great about the DX7 – interface and performance functionality. So you get an improved interface, plus a new mod matrix, customizable envelopes, extra waveforms, a 2nd LFO, effects, sequencer, and arpeggiator, among other additions.

Funk fans get the Clavinet V, with control over new parameters via physical modeling (in parallel with the Arturia piano offering), and the addition of amp and effect combos.

Okay, but let’s get on to the two really exciting offerings (ahem, I’m biased):

The CMI V recreates the 1979 instrument that led the move to digital sampling and additive synthesis. And this might be the first Fairlight recreation that you’d want in a modern setup: you get 10 multitmbral, polyphonic slots, plus real-time waveform shaping, effects, and a sequencer. And Arturia have thrown us a curveball, too: to create your own wavetables, there’s a “Spectral” synth that scans and mixes bits of audio.

I’m really keen to play with this one – it sounds like what you’ll want to do is to go Back to the Future and limit yourself to making some entire tracks using just the Fairlight emulation. If you read my children’s TV round-up, maybe Steve Horelick and Reading Rainbow had you thinking of this already. Now you just need a PC with a stylus so you can imagine you’ve got a light pen.

The Buchla Easel goes further back to 1973. It’s arguably the most musical of Don Buchla’s wild instruments, bringing the best ideas from the modular into a single performance-oriented design. And here, it looks like we get a complete, authentic reproduction.

Everything that makes the Buchla approach unique is there. Think amplitude modulation and frequency modulation and the “complex” oscillator’s wave folding, gating that allows for unique tuned sounds, and sophisticated routing of modulation. It all adds up to granting the ability to make strange, new timbres, to seek out new performance life and new sound designs – to boldly go where only privileged experimentalists have gone before.

This video explains the whole “West Coast” synthesis notion (as opposed to Moog’s “East Coast” modular approach):

Arturia makes up for the fact that this is now an in-the-box software synth by opening up the worlds of modulation. So you get something called “gravity” which applies game physics to modulation, and other modulation sources (the curves of the “left hand,” for instance) to make all the organic changes happen inside software. It’s a new take on the Buchla, and not really like anything we’ve seen before. And it suggests this software may elevate beyond just faux replication onscreen, with a genuinely new hybrid.

My only regret: I would love to have this with touch controls, on iOS or Windows, to really complete the feeling. It’s odd seeing the images from Arturia with that interface locked on a PC screen. But I think of all the software instruments in 2017, this late addition could be near the top (alongside VCV Rack’s modular world, though more on that later).

But it’s big news – a last-minute change to upset the world of sound making in 2017.

Watch for our hands-on soon.

Intro price and more new features

Also new in this version: the Analog Lab software, which acts as a hub for all those instruments, parameters, and presets, now has been updated, as well. There’s a new browser, more controller keyboard integration, and other improvements.

Piano V has three new piano models (Japanese Grand, a Plucked Grand, and a Tack Upright), enhanced mic positioning, an improved EQ, a new stereo delay, and it’s own built-in compressor.

There are improvements throughout, Arturia say.

There’s also a lower intro price: new users get US$/€ 249 instead of 499, through January 10.

And that Buchla is 99 bucks if that’s really what you want out of this set.

More:

V Collection

Buchla Easel V

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Now your Nord can sound like the very first Steinway, No. 1

The instrument was crafted, literally, in a kitchen in 1836 in Seesen, near Hannover. But it defined piano history. It’s pianoforte “Steinway No. 1,” built by Steinway founder Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg. And now its sound is inside more modern electronic keyboards, from Swedish builder Clavia.

Clavia aren’t unveiling any new gear this week, but they do have two interesting new sound libraries. One is “Steinway No. 1.” There’s been a lot of effort between the original instrument and Herr Steinweg’s kitchen and you. Expert builder Chris Meane of Belgium got an exclusive authorization from the Steinway company to recreate the historical instrument, with 2000 hours of work and x-rays and photos and digital sketches and the help of a specimen from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and more. That story is itself fascinating even if you don’t care about Nord.

If you do have a Nord, though, you can take advantage of a specialized sound library sampling the recreating instrument. (That’ll be a fairly sophisticated sample of a sample of a piano, in other words.)

dummyhead

Equally cool, Clavia are also releasing what they call the Royal Grand 3D, a binaural dummy head recording of a grand. That should give you the feeling of sitting at the piano, which I think will make this particularly nice for anyone using a Nord for practice.

Fun fact: “dummy head” is also how I would best describe my piano sightreading skills.

The news:

http://www.nordkeyboards.com/about-us/press/namm-news-2017

Sounds:

(There are sound samples of the Steinway, too, on their site, though those appear not to be available yet on SoundCloud.)

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A piano, played by clouds and sky

We can reinvent the instruments we already have; we can try to steer a pathway to something new. Or we can sometimes imagine a known instrument in a new context.

This new short film covers a robotic piano that’s got an unusual angle. Using image analysis, those mechanical fingers transpose patterns of cloud and sky onto the keys.

This poetic take on cloud gazing comes from media artist David Bowen. It’s a nice take, I think, on sonification, in that it isn’t just about a stream of data that’s abstracted from its source. It’s really as though the drifting clouds could play the keys – like something out of a childhood daydream.

More of Bowen’s work here:
http://www.dwbowen.com/cloud-piano
http://www.dwbowen.com/

cloudpiano1

cloudpiano2

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Here’s all that new Roland stuff in one place, even accordions

It was called “909 day.” It was on the ninth of September. And it included a new 909 product. So far, so good. But Roland’s 909 day stops making sense around there. It launched over 30 products, many of them unrelated, over 24 hours. “909 Day” saw new … accordions. Also, record players that said 909 on them. There were four continents, and a marathon Web stream that would have taken 24 hours to watch, sometimes switching between Japanese and English. In years of covering this business, I’ve never seen anything like it. But before you blow this off, there was some cool stuff in there – depending on whether you play the accordion or sax, for instance. Let’s make sense of it.

Roland_SYSTEM-8_Top

The new PLUG-OUT flagship

Roland’s SYSTEM-1 was actually in some way the most interesting of the first AIRA offerings, not so much because of its PLUG-OUT technology, but because its default mode was a genuinely new synth. So, yes, it was built on ACB – their name for their proprietary component modeling techniques – but it was alive and weird and wonderful. The problem is, PLUG-OUT had some growing pains when it shipped with drivers, and the build on the SYSTEM-1 was to me really poor.

I hope the SYSTEM-8, a keyboard version, improves on the original. Roland is promising updated ACB – as with the Boutique line, they’ve been tweaking all their models. It does seem it has a better keybed, which to me was the deal killer on SYSTEM-1.

Because it works with “PLUG-OUT,” you can load different software models of instruments (purchased separately) … a bit like plugging in expansion cards in Roland products of yore. JUPITER-8 and JUNO-106 are included, or add SH-2, SH-101, PROMARS, and others.

The good news: Roland has smartly added more hands-on controls, and the excellent step sequencing from the AIRA TR, plus chord memory. That makes this look like a lot of fun to play, and I do believe they can make interesting ACB-based instruments.

The bad news: it’s still green. And at US$1499, I have to wonder who it’s for. Here’s the thing: this would make loads of sense to people who hate computers, because they can swap whatever model they want on it and play standalone. The only problem is, if this works like the SYSTEM-1, you can only have one model at a time. So you need the computer to swap models. And accordingly, Roland is modeling PLUG-OUT and SYSTEM-8 to people who love computers, but also don’t want to just use a controller and software, except that they also want to buy this a as a controller.

So, it’s a keyboard for people who love but also hate computers. Somehow that describes me, actually, but I still can’t quite make sense of it. More research needed; stay tuned.

For futuristic wind players

By far, the product I expected least is something called the Aerophone. It’s a kind of digital wind instrument with sax fingerings. That puts it in the category of things like the AKAI EWI series and digital brass instruments, but with some important differences.

First, if you’ve played a sax, you can pick this up and play it right away without any new fingerings. Second, it comes with all the sounds ready to go – clarinet, flute, oboe, trumpet, violin, plus all the sax parts, and you can layer those.

I think wind instruments are as natural a match for electronic performance as keyboards are, so to me, this is a great development.

Between the AKAI EWI series and the Aerophone, there’s something that works for you. I think Roland has an edge for built-in sounds and sax players, while the AKAI remains a more flexible controller (especially as it’s wireless). Fingering matters – check out this page for a discussion of all the different ways you can adjust fingering to the EWI (apart from standard woodwind fingering).

A visual inspection will see what I mean: the EWI looks like a clarinet, and the Aerophone looks like a saxophone … from another planet.

That Aerophone also looks freakin’ huge, a bit like a keytar for the mouth, but … I’m still interested to see it.

Oh yeah, and synth heads can make fun of these all they want. There’s a whole world of instrumentalists out there, though, and they’re a lot larger than the synth community.

Meanwhile, in Japan:

Roland_FR-4xb_Black

For Accordionists

Yes, there’s a new V-Accordion – the FR-4x. That’s Roland getting under the $4000 mark. Uh, for everyone who thinks Roland is just cheap stuff made in Asia, this is a flagship accordion of the future built in Castelfidardo, Italy – seriously. There are people in Italy building MIDI accordions. We live in a wonderful age.

Otherwise, it’s a V-Accordion — just a bit cheaper, lighter, and more portable.

Accordions are cool. No, seriously. Don’t believe me? Watch – Finnish style accordion rock:

You can actually tell a lot about the traditional side of Roland looking at this thing. There’s a similar philosophy as to other instrument categories: load this with sounds, let it run on batteries, meet different genre needs, and offer things like USB playback to keep up with the Internet.

Ernie Rideout, former editor of Keyboard magazine, is actually an accordion player and reviewed the very first V-Accordion. Again, make fun all you like: there’s a lot of accordion music in the world.

I’ve seen Matmos play Whirpool washing machines in Berghain, so … I’d also like to see someone make techno with a V-Accordion, quite frankly.

It’s available in all black finish, so it won’t get turned away at the door.

gp607_image_7_gal

For pianists

The funny thing is, in the midst of something called “909 day,” Roland not-so-quietly made an aggressive play for the home digital piano market – one that pits it head to head with Yamaha.

There are some interesting features here. Roland’s progressive hammer action has improved a lot lately, and SuperNATURAL has upped its sound game. These are premium-priced digital pianos, but you get a compelling offering.

More gee-whiz stuff lately involves Bluetooth MIDI, which allows integration with tablets and hands-free page turning. There are also interactive features for immersive sound, interactive metronomes, and more. I really wonder what the experience of growing up with this stuff is; it’s the one and only case where I really don’t feel digitally native.

The new lineup starts at US$1500.

Roland_Pianos_collage

td-50kv_kd-a22_main_gal

For drummers

The latest model V-Drums actually represent a big upgrade. The sound module is all new, and does what Roland is doing elsewhere – from circuits to acoustic instruments – bundling together a bunch of proprietary modeling stuff that’s meant to make things more playable.

What’s nice here is, this isn’t just a black box of presets. You can customize heads and shells, choose mics and ambience, add compressor and EQ, and even save and compare snapshots.

In other words, what the V-Drums represents is the latest attack on computer software. To my mind, I can’t see a whole lot of benefit to a drummer working with soft synths, because they can get similar power in a drum kit – and they need the hardware anyway. (Film composers and whatnot are another matter, more likely to customize the software.)

Oh yeah, and – interesting to CDM readers, you can even load your own samples on SD card for the first time.

New sensors, new snare and ride pads – technologically speaking, the V-Drums might be the most sophisticated of the new Roland announcements, even if it was the one that got the least attention. (Create Drum Music? Dunno… somewhere. Me in an alternate universe, possibly. I hope I also have a goatee there and that I’m totally evil.)

BOSS_Katana_Amp_Series

For guitarists

The first BOSS announcement is easy to sum up, because you start with the price – BOSS are making a US$199 version of their GT effects processor. I almost don’t care what it does; I think that’s going to be competitive with other offerings, partly because of the name (and the GT has a lot of sonic experience in it). The looks are nothing to write home about, but on the upside, they’re also not confusing, which may be the key here.

BOSS_GT-1_Front

More interesting is the BOSS Katana amps, BOSS’ big new amp play. It’s interesting because the line integrates BOSS effects, which I think is meaningful to a lot of people. And Roland are also playing up on their Japanese-ness using script and name to evoke quality, which I think is smart marketing. Here’s where things get Roland-y, though – you control the head via MIDI? Customize the effects via software? Head-scratcher for me, but, well, different, at least.

Roland_EC-10M

For cajon players

Here’s why I love Roland. Their ELCajon EC-10 was an acoustic cajon (a percussion instrument) that layers electronic sounds – basically, the best busking product I’ve seen in years. Now, it’s available as a standalone module, so you can use it with your existing cajon.

Now, there’s just no excuse for anyone not to have some cajones.

Sorry. I’m really sorry for that. There were a lot of announcements. I lost some sleep. Moving on.

It’s still cool, even if I’m lame.

Roland_TT-99_Front

Roland_DJ-99_Front

Roland is putting “909” on things

I’ve saved these for last, because… they appear to be bog-standard products that Roland has just rebranded, and are otherwise not worth mentioning. Still, Roland: if you’re doing mixers and turntables, I really would like to buy 909 sneakers and underwear. Consider.

And a video switcher

But I’ll put that in another article. Okay, so not quite everything fits here.

This is of course on top of the Boutique and DJ ranges we’ve already covered.

I’ll say this, though: Roland is coming for the market, in an aggressive way I haven’t seen for a long time. Combine this with their DJ partnership with Serato and the Roland Product Group’s more particular approach to our electronic production market, and Roland seem to be on their game again.

The post Here’s all that new Roland stuff in one place, even accordions appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Nord’s Electro 5 Revises A Favorite Stage Piano

Nord-Electro-5-Angled

Year after year, a lot of what the music instruments industry does is iterative – evolutionary, not revolutionary. But for the day-in, day-out operation of a lot of gigging musicians, some of the less-thrilling announcements are the ones that simply make life better.

That means, for example, Clavia’s announcement of a new Nord Electro 5 keyboard matters. The number of stage musicians who rely on the signature red keyboards from Sweden is simply stunning. Nord aren’t cheap, but their attention to detail has earned them a lot of impassioned enthusiasts.

I actually had the pleasure of visiting Clavia when I was in Stockholm last year, hosted by the city. These things really are built by hand in the middle of the city, in a tiny assembly line tucked away in an unassuming residential block. Now, that wouldn’t ordinarily make any difference, except that the keyboards’ success I think is owing to some careful design and construction and a lot of listening to customers. (The Scandinavian wood is just icing on the cake.) This isn’t an enormous business, but it represents what modern electronic instrument building is about – it’s making highly tailored tools for a small but dedicated clientele.

Now, the Nord Electro 5 series doesn’t really have any banner features; it’s just the old Electro, but better. In fact, you might have some trouble working out what’s new from the press materials, so let me help. A lot of this borrows from Nord’s combo organ and piano – but that could mean the Electro is the Clavia axe you really want:

Nord-Electro-5-HP-Top

It’s a better piano. 1GB of sample memory with sympathetic string resonance, first seen on the Nord Piano, have made it to the Electro. Making a stage piano sound right is sort of voodoo; there’s something special about those Nord samples that people really love for gigging, so this matters.

It’s a better, bassier organ. Here, the Electro borrows from the Nord C2D Combo Organ. You get a new Principal Pipe Organ, and a B3 Tone Wheel Bass.

It has more samples. The dedicated Sample Synth section has a library of sounds including some licensed officially from Mellotron and Chamberlin. This is no computer – think 256 MB – but it’s still in a special league for dedicated keyboards.

It finally has stereo effects. Everything is in stereo, you get control pedal access to effects, there’s a new Stereo Tub overdrive, and you can use Delay and Reverb separately.

It’s gone OLED. You get a brighter, clearer OLED display.

It’s more capable in live situations. Layer or split Organ/Piano, Piano/Sample Synth, or Sample Synth/Organ into separate sound slots. And – in a feature every single live keyboard and live-oriented software ought to have, you can make Set Lists of programs so you’re not lost dialing through presets between songs.

Nord-Electro-5D-61-Top

There are three models. The 5D 61 and 5D 73 sport drawbars, and semi-weighted “waterfall” keyboards preferred by electric piano and organ players. That also keeps their weight at 8 kg or less.

The Electro 5 HP 73 is for piano players, with a 73-note hammer action piano. And it weighs a tidy11 kg. It’d be high on my list for serious dedicated keyboards, alongside entries like the Kurzweil or Kawaii – but more portable. (Why so many hammer action keyboards insist on a full 88 keys, when you don’t need that many keys to actually play music, I don’t know. Acoustic pianos depend on sympathetic resonance from the bigger strings for their sound, so at least they have an excuse.)

Press announcement:
http://www.nordkeyboards.com/about-us/press/nord-electro-5

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NI Officially Reveals Komplete 10, Kontrol Keyboards [Details, Gallery]

NI_Komplete_Kontrol_S-Series_Keyboards_Perspective_Macro

You’ve seen the leaks; now here’s the official announcement.

Native Instruments is releasing an update to its Komplete suite of production tools (including Massive, Kontakt, Absynth, Reaktor, and others). And while the software update is largely composed of some (nice) new instruments, the banner news here is hardware.

As NI has done with its DJ line (Traktor Kontrol) and Maschine groove workstation, the company is unveiling integrated hardware that makes for a hybrid hardware/software solution. The Komplete Kontrol instruments come in 25, 49-, and 61-key variations, coupled with touch strips for pitch and mod, 8 encoders paired with interactive displays for parameter control, sound browsing, and arpeggiator and scale-mapping functions.

While you can’t quite take your eyes off the display with the same ease as you can Maschine Studio or Traktor, you do get interactive access to your Komplete library, and Reaktor instruments, too.

I’ve been testing the Komplete Kontrol S25, so I’ll leave impressions for a separate story. (A full review will come closer to the October 1 release date; the software isn’t entirely finished yet.) Instead, let’s stick to the facts – after the obligatory, heart-pounding promo video.

Seriously, I wish you were here. Every time I touch a MIDI keyboard, it’s totally this exciting. It’s like watching NASCAR cars explode inside a galaxy going supernova with an Icelandic death metal band – and that band is buck naked.

Komplete 10 / Komplete 10 Ultimate

As previously leaked, you get six new instruments.

There are three new Reaktor-based instruments, regardless of which bundle you choose. They don’t require the new keyboards, but if you do spring for the new gear, they map to the color-coded light guides on the keyboard and encoders.

Rounds. Imagine a sequencer combined with sound design.

Kontour. This is the latest synth from Stephan Schmitt, founder of NI and originator of both Reaktor and, before it, Generator. Stephan’s name alone should get your attention, and this synth is something special from what little I’ve heard out of it. You can span from more organic sounds to distorted stuff, with loads of clever modulation.

Polyplex. This is the sampler/drum sampler Reaktor users have been waiting for. Because you can randomize samples per slots globally or locally, it’s brilliant for mixing up drum kits and percussive patterns. And it’s full of effects.

Each of these tools is really interesting, and worth following up separately – stay tuned later this month.

There are also three new pianos, part of what NI now calls The Definitive Piano Collection:

The Gentleman. A sampled 1908 upright.

The Granduer. A sampled grand – yes, this is the ubiquitous Steinway Model D, even though NI can’t say that.

The Maverick. Probably the most interesting of the bunch – a 1905 grand made for the Prince of Prussia.

The pianos got a lot of flak on the forums, but as at least one CDM reader pointed out, they’re overdue. NI has made some beautiful sampled piano libraries recently, but the ones in Komplete haven’t kept pace with the accelerating quality of sampled pianos on the market. This should help modernize the piano offerings, and given how often they’re used, that’s significant.

Komplete may not be everything NI makes, but it’s big. Komplete 10 is 39 instruments and effects; the Ultimate version is all 75 products in the Komplete lineup at the moment, with over 440 GB of content.

Pricing: $499 / 499, or $999 / 999 € for Ultimate.

Don’t sweat yet if you recently bought Komplete; NI says it’ll have its upgrade/update/crossgrade info and the like shortly.

NI_Polyplex_Screenshot

NI_Kontour_Screenshot

NI_Rounds_Screenshot

Kontrol Keyboards

The biggest news with Komplete 10 is what happens when you add the Komplete Kontrol S-Series keyboards.

See our separate hands-on, but the basic idea is really applying to Komplete what Maschine and Traktor Kontrol brought to groove production and DJing, respectively.

The keyboards:

  • 25-, 49-, and 61- key models.
  • Fatar synth keybeds – sorry, no hammer-action model here yet, though that seems likely some time in the future.
  • Komplete Browser controls let you look up sounds, similar to those on Maschine. (No display, though – for that, you’ll be looking at your computer screen.)
  • Parameters map to eight touch-sensitive encoders, with displays showing parameter name and amount.
  • “Light Guide” color LEDs above the keys reveal switches, zones, and other preset information. (Don’t worry, you can also turn this off.)
  • Chord mode, with ready-to-play progressions.
  • Built-in arpeggiator with interactive controls mapped to the display.
  • Scale mapping, which maps to white notes of the keyboard – for specialized scales, fun with arpeggios, or avoiding wrong notes.
  • Touch strips for modulation, pitch bend.
  • Physics modeling for touch strips, so you can have Lemur-style animations as well as the normal functions.
  • MIDI in and out jacks.
  • USB operation. (Note: it requires power; not USB powered.)
  • Two pedal input jacks.

The intention of the Komplete Kontrol hardware is to work with associated software. That’s the only thing bundled with the keyboard, so you need either Komplete 9 or Komplete 10 to make use of this functionality. (Komplete 9 works, though, so you could conceivably buy the keyboard but skip the software upgrade.)

I’ll explain how the software works separately, in my hands-on.

What you don’t get is any bundled instruments with Komplete Kontrol; you need to own the Komplete software to really make use of it.

You can also use the Kontrol S-Series keyboards as MIDI controllers, with custom MIDI templates, as you can Maschine. Colored lights still let you indicate splits in your MIDI templates, too. But the arpeggiator, scale, and chord modes – for now – work only with the NI software. The transport controls are mapped to Mackie Control for control of your host.

Pricing:
S25: $499 / 499 €.
S49: $599 / 599 €.
S61: $699 / 699 €.

Both Komplete 10 and the new keyboards are due October 1.

www.the-komplete-instrument.com

NI_Komplete_Kontrol_S-Series_Keyboards_LightGuide_StudioDrummer

NI_Komplete_Kontrol_S-Series_Keyboards_NativeMap_01

NI_Komplete_Kontrol_S-Series_Keyboards

NI_Komplete_Kontrol_S-Series_Keyboards_SmartPlay_02

NI_Komplete_Kontrol_S-Series_Keyboards_Perspective_03

NI_Komplete_Kontrol_S-Series_Keyboards_Komplete_Browser_02

NI_Komplete_Kontrol_S-Series_Keyboards_Perspective_02

The post NI Officially Reveals Komplete 10, Kontrol Keyboards [Details, Gallery] appeared first on Create Digital Music.

NI Officially Reveals Komplete 10, Kontrol Keyboards [Details, Gallery]

NI_Komplete_Kontrol_S-Series_Keyboards_Perspective_Macro

You’ve seen the leaks; now here’s the official announcement.

Native Instruments is releasing an update to its Komplete suite of production tools (including Massive, Kontakt, Absynth, Reaktor, and others). And while the software update is largely composed of some (nice) new instruments, the banner news here is hardware.

As NI has done with its DJ line (Traktor Kontrol) and Maschine groove workstation, the company is unveiling integrated hardware that makes for a hybrid hardware/software solution. The Komplete Kontrol instruments come in 25, 49-, and 61-key variations, coupled with touch strips for pitch and mod, 8 encoders paired with interactive displays for parameter control, sound browsing, and arpeggiator and scale-mapping functions.

While you can’t quite take your eyes off the display with the same ease as you can Maschine Studio or Traktor, you do get interactive access to your Komplete library, and Reaktor instruments, too.

I’ve been testing the Komplete Kontrol S25, so I’ll leave impressions for a separate story. (A full review will come closer to the October 1 release date; the software isn’t entirely finished yet.) Instead, let’s stick to the facts – after the obligatory, heart-pounding promo video.

Seriously, I wish you were here. Every time I touch a MIDI keyboard, it’s totally this exciting. It’s like watching NASCAR cars explode inside a galaxy going supernova with an Icelandic death metal band – and that band is buck naked.

Komplete 10 / Komplete 10 Ultimate

As previously leaked, you get six new instruments.

There are three new Reaktor-based instruments, regardless of which bundle you choose. They don’t require the new keyboards, but if you do spring for the new gear, they map to the color-coded light guides on the keyboard and encoders.

Rounds. Imagine a sequencer combined with sound design.

Kontour. This is the latest synth from Stephan Schmitt, founder of NI and originator of both Reaktor and, before it, Generator. Stephan’s name alone should get your attention, and this synth is something special from what little I’ve heard out of it. You can span from more organic sounds to distorted stuff, with loads of clever modulation.

Polyplex. This is the sampler/drum sampler Reaktor users have been waiting for. Because you can randomize samples per slots globally or locally, it’s brilliant for mixing up drum kits and percussive patterns. And it’s full of effects.

Each of these tools is really interesting, and worth following up separately – stay tuned later this month.

There are also three new pianos, part of what NI now calls The Definitive Piano Collection:

The Gentleman. A sampled 1908 upright.

The Granduer. A sampled grand – yes, this is the ubiquitous Steinway Model D, even though NI can’t say that.

The Maverick. Probably the most interesting of the bunch – a 1905 grand made for the Prince of Prussia.

The pianos got a lot of flak on the forums, but as at least one CDM reader pointed out, they’re overdue. NI has made some beautiful sampled piano libraries recently, but the ones in Komplete haven’t kept pace with the accelerating quality of sampled pianos on the market. This should help modernize the piano offerings, and given how often they’re used, that’s significant.

Komplete may not be everything NI makes, but it’s big. Komplete 10 is 39 instruments and effects; the Ultimate version is all 75 products in the Komplete lineup at the moment, with over 440 GB of content.

Pricing: $499 / 499, or $999 / 999 € for Ultimate.

Don’t sweat yet if you recently bought Komplete; NI says it’ll have its upgrade/update/crossgrade info and the like shortly.

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Kontrol Keyboards

The biggest news with Komplete 10 is what happens when you add the Komplete Kontrol S-Series keyboards.

See our separate hands-on, but the basic idea is really applying to Komplete what Maschine and Traktor Kontrol brought to groove production and DJing, respectively.

The keyboards:

  • 25-, 49-, and 61- key models.
  • Fatar synth keybeds – sorry, no hammer-action model here yet, though that seems likely some time in the future.
  • Komplete Browser controls let you look up sounds, similar to those on Maschine. (No display, though – for that, you’ll be looking at your computer screen.)
  • Parameters map to eight touch-sensitive encoders, with displays showing parameter name and amount.
  • “Light Guide” color LEDs above the keys reveal switches, zones, and other preset information. (Don’t worry, you can also turn this off.)
  • Chord mode, with ready-to-play progressions.
  • Built-in arpeggiator with interactive controls mapped to the display.
  • Scale mapping, which maps to white notes of the keyboard – for specialized scales, fun with arpeggios, or avoiding wrong notes.
  • Touch strips for modulation, pitch bend.
  • Physics modeling for touch strips, so you can have Lemur-style animations as well as the normal functions.
  • MIDI in and out jacks.
  • USB operation. (Note: it requires power; not USB powered.)
  • Two pedal input jacks.

The intention of the Komplete Kontrol hardware is to work with associated software. That’s the only thing bundled with the keyboard, so you need either Komplete 9 or Komplete 10 to make use of this functionality. (Komplete 9 works, though, so you could conceivably buy the keyboard but skip the software upgrade.)

I’ll explain how the software works separately, in my hands-on.

What you don’t get is any bundled instruments with Komplete Kontrol; you need to own the Komplete software to really make use of it.

You can also use the Kontrol S-Series keyboards as MIDI controllers, with custom MIDI templates, as you can Maschine. Colored lights still let you indicate splits in your MIDI templates, too. But the arpeggiator, scale, and chord modes – for now – work only with the NI software. The transport controls are mapped to Mackie Control for control of your host.

Pricing:
S25: $499 / 499 €.
S49: $599 / 599 €.
S61: $699 / 699 €.

Both Komplete 10 and the new keyboards are due October 1.

www.the-komplete-instrument.com

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The post NI Officially Reveals Komplete 10, Kontrol Keyboards [Details, Gallery] appeared first on Create Digital Music.

New Native Instruments Komplete Keyboards, Software Updates Revealed in Various Leaks

Guessing that 'new' flag will not be a feature. This image has been making the rounds.

Guessing that ‘new’ flag will not be a feature. This image has been making the rounds.

Keeping new musical instrument announcements under wraps prior to embargo dates is proving, again, to be more or less impossible. Native Instruments’ Komplete updates, teased in a video on Friday, have now been prematurely revealed via one print magazine hitting newsstands (Beat, in Germany), and multiple leaks by dealers (some even crawled by Google, according to a CDM reader). Forum members at GearSlutz have been dutifully reproducing everything, leaving few secrets. From there, the cat’s out of the bag; I’m seeing this spreading through German-language outlets and expect others will pick this up soon. Oddly, forum members and commenters have also proceeded to review the announcement in some detail, apparently on the merits of a serious of text bullet points and screen shots alone.

I think that’s a little ridiculous. You need to hear instruments to judge them; you need to actually use hardware and software to judge its quality. Implementation is everything.

This isn’t the whole story – not yet. The leaks don’t yet reveal any details of how that works, only the basic physical form of the keyboards, as well as what instruments have been added in Komplete 10′s software.

So, I’m posting it here in the hopes that more inquisitive CDM readers will ask us some questions. What would you want to see tested; what would you want to know? Let’s see some questions rather than premature reviews, and we can find some answers. (My experience is, readers here ask terrific questions.)

But for starters, here’s the information shared on GearSlutz and in a story on (German-language site) Amazona.de. The big story, as the teaser video suggested, is keyboards designed for controlling instruments in Komplete. Many of the hardware features you’ve already seen in the “teaser” video (which actually showed quite a lot):

Komplete Kontrol keyboards:
25-, 49-, and 61-key models
8 encoders with displays
Touch strips
Browser
Scale and Arpeggiator controls
USB, MIDI in/out, pedal inputs
Pricing starting at 499€ (as reported in Beats’ print article, now on newsstands here in Germany)

Komplete 10 update – 12,000 sounds, 130GB of content:
Three new pianos: The Grandeur, The Maverick, The Gentleman
Three new synth/instruments: Kontour, Rounds, and Polyplex
Drumlab, Session Horn, and Supercharger Driver now included
Komplete Kontrol keyboard ready

polyplex

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Do stay tuned for official information from Native Instruments and CDM’s own take. (For instance, I would hope you’re wondering a little bit about what’s behind these leaked screenshots.)

That said, I think it’s hilarious that one forum poster has already prepared a parody image. The team at NI is pretty thick-skinned; I think they’ll have a chuckle at this and assume the serious reviews will occur once people actually try what they’ve built.

And – yes, forums are amazing, weird places. I don’t have enough time to do things like this image, and this is actually my day job. Kudos. I think.

Someone should create a Reaktor ensemble for The Disappointment that actually makes sound. I’d use it in a set. Where’s Tim Exile?

Lolz all around. Someone named "jokerone" on GearSlutz has a lot of time on his/her hands.

Lolz all around. Someone named “jokerone” on GearSlutz has a lot of time on his/her hands. Actually, I’d very much like an impulse response of a dumpster. Let’s get on that.

See you soon with all the solid details. Have a good weekend, and make sure your Photoshopping leaves some time for making music.

The post New Native Instruments Komplete Keyboards, Software Updates Revealed in Various Leaks appeared first on Create Digital Music.

Acoustic Revelation: Inside the Una Chorda, the 100kg, 21st Century Piano Built for Nils Frahm

It's all acoustic technology. But, at last, it's 21st century acoustic technology. Photo: CDM.

It’s all acoustic technology. But, at last, it’s 21st century acoustic technology. Photo: CDM.

Now this is a revolutionary etude.

There’s no question the acoustic grand is an engineering wonder, a musical instrument with literal tons of string tension producing unparalleled sound. But it’s a 19th Century technological marvel. Innovations, apart from subtle variations, have been largely frozen since the likes of the Steinway & Sons Model D-274. The Model D is a beauty; the question is, what have builders been doing with the 155 years since it was introduced?

Builder David Klavins is a master instrument maker re-imagining the piano for our century. And he isn’t afraid to go to extremes to do it. His 1987 Model 370 was so named because it’s 370 cm – over 12 feet – tall. It’s an upright piano so huge, there’s a flight of stairs attached to it to give the pianist access. (Native Instruments sampled the 370i as The Giant, in case you don’t have a two-story-high living room.)

The Klavins UC – Una Chorda – is more down to earth. With one string per key, rather than the usual two or three, it’s far lighter and easier to build. Those strings are paired with a thinner soundboard, shedding still more weight. It omits the bulky bridges necessary on a conventional grand, exposing more sound. The result is an instrument that is phenomenally more mobile; the entire instrument weighs under 100 kg (just over 200 lbs), even with its complete action installed.

The first UC is a special commission for pianist Nils Frahm, the Hamburg-born composer and musician. Nils invited guests into the courtyard of the Michelberger Hotel in his home base of Berlin in order to give the UC its first public debut. David Klavins came along for the event, quick to give anyone an earful of philosophy about how piano innovation can again move forward.

We got hands-on (literally) with this new instrument, and got a chance to talk to its maker about how it’s different, and why it sounds the way it does.

Crowds gather in the sweltering summer to cool off with exquisite music from Nils Frahm - and their fellow guests. Photo: CDM.

Crowds gather in the sweltering summer to cool off with exquisite music from Nils Frahm – and their fellow guests. Photo: CDM.

To really appreciate the UC, you have to play it in person. First, the una chorda name is a bit of a misnomer, if you’re accustomed to the meaning as it applies to the pedal of the same name. That pedal shifts the hammers, but still strikes as many as two strings, and the resulting sound can be a bit muted or dull, because you’re still using the same thicker soundboard.

The klavins UC is anything but muted. That thinner soundboard, unobstructed by the bulky metal and wood structures in a normal piano, feels almost like it was borrowed from a guitar. The resulting sound is delicate and intimate. It sounds like a piano, but in a way that seems almost impossible; it’s bright and resonant the way the sweet spot of a concert grand might be, but across every register, and emanating out of tiny instrument. The sound is whisper-soft: even with amplification, you could hear the soft rustling of the metal-foil flags suspended above the courtyard as they blew in the breeze. But it’s also clear and rich with color.

Then there’s the action, which is what got me hooked. It’s feather-light, confident but unbelievably quick. It feels like a small spinet piano, if that were tuned like a high-performance race car. It’s so easy to play, in fact, that it could fool almost anyone into believing you suddenly had virtuoso powers. I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical of the whole instrument. Then I sat down at it – and desperately wanted to roll it back home with me. (And, in fact, had no one notice, I could have. This is a piano one person can move.)

Nils Frahm’s pensive, gentle music was perfectly suited to the character of the instrument built for him. He also made use of a clever feature: because access to the strings is uninhibited, it’s possible to add preparations simply by attaching strips of fabric via velcro stands on either end of the soundboard.

Attaching a cloth preparation, via velcro - smart. Photo: CDM (erm, actually, someone I lent my camera to).

Attaching a cloth preparation, via velcro – smart. Photo: CDM (erm, actually, someone I lent my camera to).

Guests give the instrument a try.

Guests give the instrument a try.

But this isn’t just a piano for Mr. Frahm. Klavins intends to put the instrument into production for the general public, with customizations possible. The pricing should be under 10,000€ – a bargain for a piano of this quality, let alone one custom built, and all thanks to the elegant design inside. And it’s not hard to see a market. The instrument is equally well suited to historical and new contemporary compositions, and it’s vastly easier to tune, move, and afford than more conventional acoustic pianos.

For a sense of the instrument, listen to David demonstrate its sound, followed by an impromptu recording of one of Nils’ performances. (The sound quality of the latter is poor, but you get the idea. The former I thought initially was some sort of experimental tuning, but I see from the description that it’s a sound test and the tuning system here is “not quite yet tuned.”)

Guests of the event were able to come play the instrument. In a moment that took the audience’s breath away, a skateboarding English tourist proved to have an angelic, otherworldly voice. (That tourist turned out to be musician Tom Adams.) Nils first acted as a human microphone stand, then joined in. In the oppressive summer heat, it was a magical moment: not a spine without chills, not a dry eye.

I grew up a piano player before all other things, from the time I was literally old enough to reach the keys. So I was thrilled to get to talk to David about his instrument for CDM. It’s a chance to meet the man who might be the first great new piano innovator in generations.

CDM: Let me just clarify: you’ve paired the single strings with a soundboard that is – half as thick as a conventional concert grand? Anything else that you should share about the construction?

David: The soundboard of the UC is on average half the thickness of a concert grand piano. An additional major difference is the cross-laminating of two layers of solid spruce at the UC, versus a single layer solid spruce soundboard at any conventional piano, including the Steinways. Plus, there’s no ribs on my soundboard, which makes it way more flexible, enables the soundboard to vibrate freely at all the various regions where the respective string vibrations are transferred via the bridge.

The strings themselves, do they differ from what you’d find on a similarly-sized upright or spinet?

Yes, the strings differ. I’ve chosen 3 different types of Stephen Paulello steel wire, versus one general type of wire that is applied to all industrial production pianos world wide. Stephen Paulello has developed steel wires of differing strength, which allows for choosing optimal types of steel to adjust the percentage of load of the strings, which again is one of the most important factors to achieve a balanced tonal character at the piano. You can find a general description of Stephen’s wires here:
http://www.stephenpaulello.com/en/cordes

Can you describe the way in which the string and soundboard interact? I was really surprised that this piano has some of the brightness of a grand piano, but with the sort of intimacy of a guitar and guitar resonance.

At the UC, the acoustic concept of design is a tension-less soundboard of high vibration ability that offers a maximum sensitivity to the strings, at the given frequencies that range from 55 to approximately 2100 [Hz]. For an optimal interaction of strings and soundboard, it is vital that the soundboard shows no excessive stiffening, which inevitably occurs at the traditional design of a piano soundboard, because of the ribs and crown, essentially, plus the 3-chord wiring. Once you will have a chance to analyze the UC sound character, you will notice much more similarities to a grand, than an upright piano, except the absolute loudness, for the reasons mentioned above.

The action itself was to me as impressive as the sound. You mentioned that you had introduced some innovation in the construction of this action, as well – how is it constructed?

The action design takes advantage of the fact that I use much lighter hammers, compared to any traditional piano. The mass of the piano hammer is a crucial factor directly relating to the potential speed of the hammer movement, in particular because its location at the farthest and of the moving lever – the hammer shank.

Because of the mass reduction at the hammer, which I achieve by thinner hammers and the materials in use (bamboo cores in particular), I have added weights to the back check, which fosters a precise control of touch, and significantly supports a fast let-off of the jacks. Altogether this concept achieves a more ‘grand-like’ feel of the action, including a repetition speed that is unmatched by regular upright action mechanisms.

What was the working relationship like with Nils Frahm? Was there specific feedback or input he provided?

Nils’ input throughout all stages of the designing process was as significant technically as it was inspiring by its very nature – his subtle, thorough attitude and approach to our project, paired with a deep understanding of how piano sound can be created and influenced was a major factor for me to finally carve out the details of the design. At all stages of the designing and building process we stayed in close contact, exchanging our thoughts, discussing the various options, finally finding agreement on all aspects of the design that were implemented. In my view, Nils’ input was vital for achieving the final results with the UC.

The tuning in the video sounds interesting. Are there other tunings you’ve found work well with the instrument? And tuning appears to be quite simple and quick, closer to what you’d do on a harpsichord than a piano, yes?

The UC should turn out to be the most appropriate modern piano to suit the acoustic visions of pianists who specialize in historical music compositions, in my view, because its sound potential (and design) accomplishes several aspects of significant importance on this field:

a) the una-corda-principle creates a pure tonal character, that (depending on the playing technique) resembles the early hammer pianos, harpsichord sounds, and something of a clavichord, at the same time offering the versatility of touch of a highly sophisticated modern action.

b) though the string scale is that of a modern piano, it is most easy to apply different historical tunings to the piano, as you suggest – it takes roughly 20 minutes for a fine-tuning of the UC.

Would adding pickups or other amplification be possible? Would it be desirable? I imagine it could open some possibilities, since the instrument is so quiet, but might also expand sonic possibilities.

Adding pickups and other means of sound amplification (or modulation) seems to me a logical option, adding to the versatility of the sound potential of the UC. It is possible very easily, and I believe Nils will definitely demonstrate a lot of such variations, in the course of time. Straight stringing in combination with the steel-frame without inner support bars offers a lot of space for all kind of additional ‘attachments’.

You’ve of course worked on a variety of instruments. Can you tell us how the UC fits in with other creations? Obviously, the Klavins Klavier Modell 370 (and 470i) is an opposite extreme.

The UC fits perfectly in my philosophy of piano sound design, which can be defined as: exploring and expanding acoustic piano sound to a maximum, be it the maximum range of dynamics, or the tonal colors, or other factors, like sustain, balance of registers, and last not least, the range of the keyboard. In my view, piano sound generally must be as versatile, as pleasant, inspiring to pianists, composers and listeners, as possible. To achieve all of the mentioned, we need to step outside the boundaries that have been imposed by the traditional piano industry.

What’s next for you – will you focus on the UC?

My intentions is to focus on the UC as much as possible, trying not to delay my next concert piano model, the 450i. For sure I find it most fascinating to explore the sound potential of a small size piano as well, especially thinking of how relevant it is for a multitude of creative artists who can’t afford a private concert hall, but are eager to find new means of musical expression. It is my very personal opinion that music can ‘save the world’, at least in a way, and if I can contribute to this perspective by building inspiring pianos, I feel like the luckiest man on Earth. :-)

Your work now is really in acoustic technology. Would you ever consider incorporating electronics such as pickups, or is it simply a matter of acoustic technology offering enough to explore without it?

While my personal expertise is piano acoustics, I’m absolutely open to, and would welcome any way of a meaningful collaboration with experts on the field of electronics, if thy have ideas to offer how to increase the potential of the acoustic piano by combining it with the means of modern technology – definitely positive.

Photo Essay: Nils Takes to the Keys

Photos: Claudia Gödke.

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More on the piano:
http://www.klavins-pianos.com/
A World First in Piano Building – The ‘klavins UC’ – Una Corda Piano

More on the pianist:
http://www.nilsfrahm.com/

The post Acoustic Revelation: Inside the Una Chorda, the 100kg, 21st Century Piano Built for Nils Frahm appeared first on Create Digital Music.

The Player Piano with Drums and Gunshots: An Oddity of the Silent Film Era [Videos]

If you want wild, futuristic, and inventive, some of the craziest inventions come from the past. The Photoplayer makes today’s music tech look positively dull.

Joe Rinaudo has made a business of bringing back antiques, but his 1926 Photoplayer may top the list.

Built to add dynamic soundtracks for silent films, the machine is an ingenious contrivance for live music generation. First, it has the ability to run “two decks” – that is, by having two rolls instead of one, you can queue up the next roll while the other is playing. (Okay, so it sort of invented DJing.) Second, the traditional piano roll is accompanied by sound effects and percussion noises triggered by chains called “cow-tails.” So, again, like live electronic music today, you can add live percussion atop the prepared music.

They were also machines anyone could play. The device handled the tricky piano playing bits; you only had to add in sound effects. But with everything from gunshots to bird chirps to thunder, various levers and chains and switches let you do all the foley yourself – critical at a time when silent films lacked sound.

Then again, now that we have sound, we might appreciate this effect more than the audience of the time. Food for thought.

Our friends at Network Awesome have pulled together a playlist of YouTube gems, many featuring Rinaudo, so you can hear the range of the instrument:
Live Music Show March 31

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The post The Player Piano with Drums and Gunshots: An Oddity of the Silent Film Era [Videos] appeared first on Create Digital Music.