The E-mu SP-1200 sampler is getting a reboot: SP 2400

It’s meant as a “spiritual successor,” say the creators – with both emulation of the classic E-mu sound and new features. But the SP 2400 in preorder still hope to bank off the renown of one of the most popular samplers ever, the genre-defining E-mu SP-1200.

All of this could be a test of the clone craze. Sure, 12-bit lo-fi sound has some real potential for music making. And the E-mu layout, with faders and pads, is accessible.

But at US$949, and only a preorder shipping some time in the winter, the SP 2400 isn’t the most practical choice. You’ve now got plenty of options from KORG, Elektron, Roland (including their wildly popular TR-8S), and even smaller makers like MFB for a grand or less – some of them a fraction of this cost. All of those can be had right now, without dropping hundreds of bucks in June to get something that could take until January or longer. Not to mention we may see a Behringer take on this idea shortly, knowing how that company follows social media.

In a way, then, these sorts of reboots are beginning to become like the remakes of classic cars – a sort of genre all their own. There’s a price premium and a practicality cost, but if you want something that looks like a classic with some upgraded innards beneath, you’ve got options.

That said, there’s a nice feature set here. I like the idea of the 12-bit/26k mode, though I wonder if they’ve recreated the signature filter sound of the E-mu. And while I’m a bit too skeptical to endorse dropping cash just for half a year of “bi-weekly progress reports … via this website, social media channels, and emails,” it could be worth a look when it arrives.

The real draw here is probably that this actually samples – including a looper mode. That’s a feature missing on a lot of current gear.

It’s the creation of ISLA Instruments, who also made the KordBot. I’m curious how people fared with that crowdfunding project and the final result, which would be a great indicator of how to take this one.

I just hope that new ideas get as much attention as reboots of old ones. Heck, I feel that way about TV and movies. It’s obviously summer.

But here are those admittedly rather appealing specs –

• Sturdy 4-piece Steel/Aluminium enclosure.
• Mains Powered 100-250V AC.
• Dual Audio Engine:
12-Bit/26.04khz Lo-Fi Engine (Classic SP Sound) and 24-Bit/48khz Hi-Fi Engine
• Stereo Recording/Playback.
• Channels 1-8 Pannable to Main out L/R Channels 7+8 can be ‘linked’ to support stereo audio content.
• Headphone Output (9-10) w/independant monitoring of channels.
• Dedicated Microphone Pre-Amp.
• Looper Pedal Mode (with full duplex recording/playback).
• Record and overdub live audio during playback.
• USB Host & Device Ports:
Connect usb thumb drives, keyboards, midi controllers directly into the SP2400.

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Yamaha may revisit its legendary 1970s CS-80 polysynth

Yamaha is the one giant name that has mostly shied away from revisiting its past synth glory – but all that could soon be set to change.

For better or for worse, we live in an age of remakes and reboots. Oberheim and Buchla are back; Sequential Circuits is a name again (even if the instruments are new). Moog have reissued their Minimoog and their modular – even Keith Emerson’s entire rig. And two out of the three Japanese giants have reissued work-alike recreations – KORG the MS-20 and ARP Odyssey, Roland whole sets of their modular series along with TB-303, TR-808, and TR-909. (Sure, the Roland has digital modeling substituted for analog gear, but the fact is you could use their TB-03 by reading the manual from the original, even with its original sequencer mode.) These manufacturers are all going back through their own catalogs and original creators; then, of course, you also have Behringer additionally going after their work.

In all of this, Yamaha has mostly been the notable exception. The closest we’ve gotten to Yamaha even acknowledging its back catalog was the reface series, a set of mini keyboards with some hands-on control covering its FM synths, CS analog line, and electric pianos.

Of those three, I always thought the reface CS was the most compelling. Its faders do a decent job of distilling the hands-on feeling of the CS line into an ultra-compact form factor.

But that’s a far cry from the legion of hands-on controls the mighty CS-80 offers, or even the excellent duophonic CS-40M. (Actually, to me, the CS-40M would be ideal for an all-analog remake, much like the ARP Odyssey and MS-20 were – just shedding some of the physical bulk of the original.)

It seems Yamaha are digging into that. A thread on suggests they want to take on their CS-80. Yamaha’s back catalog is immense and influential, but there’s nothing quite like the CS-80. To say it was a giant is to say it is both the instrument associated with Blade Runner and literally a 200-pound behemoth.

And now Yamaha wants to know a “basic conceptual direction if we were to make a new CS-80.”

Yamaha Idea Scale CS80 Questionnaire [thread on]

As noted on musicradar

There’s some interesting discussion in that thread. Sure enough, people are open to digital recreations. Basically, don’t believe everything you read online; whereas loud-mouthed Internet trolls will scream and howl about digital modeling, these devices do well in the market. Roland’s recreations, for instance, have satisfied plenty of people with sound, and the digital modeling allows these devices to be not only inexpensive, but to run on battery power and to provide direct-digital (zero circuit noise) recording via computer.

I think the most intriguing comparison in that thread is to the Alesis A6 Andromeda. That instrument, still sought after online, heralded the return not just of analog but of one-to-one, hands-on controls – at a time when manufacturers forgot that musicians love turning knobs and moving faders.

I also think it’s worth noting that an avalanche of Behringer remakes have not appeared to dampen the desire of people to see remakes from the original manufacturers.

Yamaha make great, high-quality instruments, but it’s been a while since they were grabbing equivalent buzz – maybe not since the likes of the Tenori-On.

In the meanwhile, if you want an authentic CS-80 recreation, sell your car and get a Deckard’s Dream.

My guess is that Yamaha will not choose to go this route for cost, and that this ultra-luxury boutique instrument will remain your all-analog CS choice. It is absolutely the polysynth I would buy if I ever had, you know, money.

But could Yamaha pull off a digital remake in a smaller shell? Why not? They’ve already got deep workstation keyboards unlike anyone else’s; it’s about time they go Andromeda on those engines and give people more hands-on controls. They certainly have the manufacturing prowess to pull it off.

Photo: Pete Brown [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons“]

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Behringer teases Oberheim, Roland remakes; hints at production delays

Behringer are busy teasing still more analog synth remakes. But messages from the company suggest they may be struggling to produce their Minimoog clone.

Right now, Behringer are shipping the synth that represented their first major foray into the synth business. That would be analog polysynth DeepMind 12 – a 12-voice keyboard loaded up with extras, including built-in Wi-Fi and a bunch of effects from TC ELECTRONIC and KLARK TEKNIK. And it represents a significant acquisition of engineering talent, as Behringer has brought the MIDAS team into the fold.

The DeepMind is unquestionably inexpensive for a polysynth and, from people I know who’ve had it for longer tests, at least reasonably good. If you don’t need 12 voices, you can get a number of great instruments, some of them for less than the DeepMind. And if you’re willing to spend a bit more, Novation, Moog, Dave Smith and others have offerings, as well. But it is fair to say the DeepMind 12 has found a sizable market for itself, at least for now.

Irrespective of the price, the DeepMind seems to face the challenge all synths do at the moment: potential customers are far more familiar with classic instruments of the past. And remakes of a classic Moog, Roland, KORG, Yamaha, or even Oberheim or Sequential instrument seem to earn more immediate attention and recognition than anything new. (Make of that what you will.)

And so it is that Behringer have managed to upstage… themselves.

The DeepMind was itself accompanied by a whirlwind of teasers and spec-by-spec leaks from Behringer across social media and forums, and … then all hell broke loose. There was an unexplained “spy” shot of someone holding an SH-101 (with different lettering) on a day Roland planned a press briefing. There were threads asking users what remakes they wanted to see. There were random photos of gear and prototypes that might or might not represent something they would make. And then there was the weirdest moment of them all – various clones of drum machines and synthesizers suddenly appeared on the official Behringer website, only to be immediately followed by the suggestion that maybe that was all just a dream.

The Behringer synth story over the past twelve months has had as many unexplained appearances as a season of LOST. (Sorry, dated reference. Hey, you know – retro, like synths.)

In the midst of this, there was one synth we know to be real, and we know to be in production – a rack-mount model D based on the original Minimoog circuit design (minus the keyboard, of course). And Behringer got as far as bringing a prototype around for people to test and hear – with reasonably good results.

But while Behringer was busy teasing the Minimoog recreation – and many other synths – Roland went ahead and actually shipped their own compact Minimoog-style instrument, partnering with independent US maker Studio Electronics. Unlike the other Boutique Series from Roland, the SE-02 is analog – should you care about such things. The SE-02 has some extras, too, like a step sequencer, cross modulation, and filter feedback loop, and sound characteristics that come from SE’s Boomstar line.

And you can buy it now.

So what about the Behringer model D? Well, you should be able to buy it soon. I’ve seen preorders at Germany’s Music Store, though haven’t talked to anyone who’s got one in-hand.

Let me turn it over to Uli Behringer, then, who this week wrote:

Please allow me to clarify that the first batch of Model D’s had arrived at our German retailer Music Store right before yearend, which you can easily verify with them.

The next batch will hopefully leave the factory by end of coming week with some units being air-shipped to the US. The production is still relatively slow due to the fact that each unit takes over 30 minutes to warm up followed by a meticulous one-hour calibration and quality assurance procedure.”

Wait… back up. Couple things here.

First, this suggests that in the midst of teasing literally dozens of remakes, Behringer are stumbling on shipping just this first one. The Model D was shown publicly at Superbooth in Berlin in the first half of last year, with preorders taken early in the summer and shipping promised soon. This represents a significant delay – acceptable maybe for a small builder, but less so a massive instrument manufacturer.

Second, the Minimoog authenticity here may have gone a bit far. Recall that there are reasons other than cost that synthesizer engineers largely moved away from pure analog oscillators, opting for digital oscillators or digital-controlled analog oscilllators.

Thirty minutes to warm up? An hour to calibrate?

Some manual tuning is evidently involved in this instrument, just like on the original. And that’s consistent with the specs, which mention an A-440 tuning reference. Note that one feature of the Roland/Studio Electronics SE-02 is temperature-stabilized oscillators with automatic tuning. That plus the extra features on the Studio Electronics piece (and a better stock outlook) make the Roland look like a better compact Minimoog alternative than the Behringer.

Reading through Uli’s convoluted messages, it generally seems Behringer for all this hype are now lowering expectations for their analog clones.

And that should mean reevaluating their impact on the industry. Low price is one thing, but availability matters, too.

Of course, the model D delays are conveniently here buried by Behringer teasing still more instruments – based on the Oberheim OB-X and the Roland VP-330 vocoder / string machine.

But again, availability is an issue. There’s no pricing, and no ship date. There’s no information on the vocoder at all. And the OB-Xa is described as being fairly far off, if in the hands of the same Midas team who did the DeepMind:

Since this is more a labor of love than a commercially viable project, our engineers can’t work full time on this synth and will use some of their free time, hence the project will likely take more than 12 months.

So, here’s the current status:

DeepMind 12: shipping now. ($999 with 49-key keyboard, 12D without $899)
DeepMind 6: shipping now. ($699 with 37-key keyboard, six voices)
Model D: limited quantities, still a preorder. ($299)
Vocoder Plus: unconfirmed; status unknown.
OB-Xa clone: confirmed, 12+ months out, pricing unknown.

(Prices/availability confirmed for US retailers, starting with Sweetwater. Model D appears to be backordered both in Europe and stateside – though you’re welcome to “call and confirm” as Uli suggests.)

Everything else is just vaporware until proven otherwise.

And here’s the weird thing: Behringer have managed to steal the show from themselves and the fact that the full DeepMind range is shipping.

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Everything You Need to Know About KORG’s Arp Odyssey Remake


KORG, having resurrected their own MS-20 monosynth, have now turned to another analog classic: the duophonic ARP Odyssey. We’ve known for some time that they would begin manufacturing a new edition of that in collaboration with its original creators. Now we know what it looks like, and what it’ll cost.

If you already love the classic ARP Odyssey, there’s not much to say. KORG’s launch, in fact, focused on the ARP you know – the fact that its sound is something you recognize from songs. That’s partly an explanation of why such instruments deserve recreation.

And the original holds up today. It’s a beautifully playable synth with great character, plus terrific envelope controls, a one-of-a-kind, accessible front panel layout that makes everything clear, and nice extras like the Ring Mod and Sample & Hold. It doesn’t have the modular features and some of the more unusual sound possibilities of the monophonic MS-20, but it’s a great keyboardists’ instrument.

And recreation, this is. ARP co-founder David Friend oversaw this effort, so you can count on a certain amount of authenticity – and, as with the MS-20, they didn’t change the circuitry so much as put it back in production. They might not be as obsessive-compulsive as our friends at Moog – we don’t get any mention of hand-stuffing wires – but the sound should be well within the normal degrees of variation on these instruments. The architecture and the circuits themselves are electrically the same, only built via modern parts and methods.

Price: US$1400 suggested list. Street price appears to be about a grand (US$999 – obviously expect it to cost more via the weaker Yen, Euro, and Pound Sterling, plus more tax). That puts the price above the mass-market focused MS-20 mini, but it also includes its own case – and it’s a duophonic synth.

Availability: KORG isn’t saying yet.

But beyond that, what we want to know is what differs between this ARP Odyssey – erm, KORG Odyssey? – and a used instrument? Now we know that, too.


First, what’s retained from the originals:

You get all of the filters. One challenge of recreation is which instrument to recreate. In the case of filters, the ARP shipped with different filters at different times. As on the recent MS-20 kit and new MS-20M, KORG lets you choose – circuits for each generation are included:

TYPE I (Rev1) is a 12 dB/Oct circuit that produces a sharp, punchy sound. TYPE II (Rev2) is a 24 dB/Oct filter with great-sounding lows. TYPE III (Rev3) maintains excellent stability even when resonance is raised. These distinctive filters have been reproduced just as they originally were.

You get a portamento choice. Original revision and later revision behaviors are included.

You get all the Control Voltage connectivity. CV in/out, gate in/out, and trigger in/out are included.

And what’s new?

It does MIDI. You get MIDI in, plus USB for MIDI in from a computer. Now, here’s a gripe: On an instrument this large and representing some investment, it seems a MIDI out port would be welcome, even if just for operation as Thru. But, anyway, you don’t get one.

It’s not mini, but it is leaner. Let’s say “swimsuit season ready” rather than “mini-sized.” KORG has trimmed down the case – no need for the extra room required by the original. This model is 86% of the size of the first. These aren’t tiny keys, but they are what Korg describe as “slim” – reduced in size from the original.

You do well on weight, too – 5 kg / 11.02 lbs.

But it claims improved playability (faders and keys). First, you get smoother sliders. Second, Korg says the slim keys are both lighter and more playable. (Now, note, Korg are still being historical with the keybed – there’s no velocity and no aftertouch.)

And you can transpose. KORG have added a transpose function so you get seven octaves. Actually, apart from MIDI, that’s maybe the biggest change from the original, since it gives you quick access to more pitch ranges. There are two ways this is accomplished:

1. Transposing the whole keybed: 2 octaves down, normal, 2 octave up.
2. Proportional pitch: the pitch pad pitches down or up about -2/3 octaves.

There’s a Drive switch. This one’s interesting – a 2015 addition. Flip a switch, and you get some sort of analog overdrive distortion. We’ll have to hear what it sounds like, but it proves that Korg are willing to try new ideas. Contrast that with the religious fundamentalists over at Moog and their literalism with the modular recreations.

Also, if you don’t like the black-and-orange paint job – though I must admit, it’s my favorite – the other two liveries are being made available as limited editions with launch.




By the way, a couple of final touches. If you’re wondering about the price, KORG has really done something nice here. They’ve included all the patch cables, and even thrown in a nice hard case that looks really road ready – the idea being you’ll gig with this thing. That’s a major advantage over the MS-20, which even in the mini version has an odd shape that’s hard to haul around.


All in all, this looks like a real success. If you’ve a grand burning a hole in your pocket, this isn’t the only option. Suitcase modular rigs are very doable for that price, and offer arguably more sound options. (Doepfer just came out with a starter case I’ll be writing up soon, for instance.) Tom Oberheim has his SEM. There’s Dave Smith. Moog have its keyboards, a number of which are at or below this price. And there’s Korg’s own MS-20 and much more inexpensive MS-20 mini, which certainly deserve comparison. But I suspect most of the ARP’s initial buyers will be the folks already waiting on one. And, hey, you’re in good company – Herbie Hancock looks happy.


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