Here are all the gear videos from NAMM you should watch

The mighty NAMM show, a mind-bogglingly crowded gathering of basically anyone with anything to do with the sale of musical instruments, brought with it its usual slew of new music tech.

Now, you could wade through all the videos from that show, until your brain is numbed by trying to make out rushed, rehearsed product spiels. And you’ll find that some are … well, less important than others. We’ve instead separated the wheat from the chaff to bring you our favorite videos of our favorite new stuff. Grab the popcorn.

Even though it was announced before the show, the KORG minilogue simply stole the show. It’s what everyone wanted to talk about – even people I know with only a passing interest in new tech. With a low price and poly analog sound, plus a friendly front panel, it was an unsurprising immediate hit.

But the best way to see it is via Japan’s musictrackjp. Apart from the Japanese cool factor, you get a beautiful walkthrough of its sonic capabilities. And there are subtitles.

Behind only the minilogue in attention from synth lovers, Dave Smith and Tom Oberheim unveiled the OB-6. And it’s a hell of a beast: inspired by Tom’s original SEM, but modernized and cross-bred with a DSI synth, it’s a 6-voice monster with all the fixins’.

It’s wild enough seeing new synths from Dave and Tom at a 2016 NAMM show. But this latest announcement cemented their newly revitalized celebrity. Each synth legend had a big crowd around.

There’s tons of content out there, but the singular Cuckoo nailed the hands-on video:

The minilogue and OB-6 couldn’t compete for sheer insanity of the Arturia MatrixBrute. Glen Darcey explains to Source where this thing came from and why it was designed the way it was:

Roland’s A-01 was perhaps the announcement that surprised me the most. It’s in the dockable Boutique form factor. But it’s an unexpected combination of digital (8-bit synth, wireless Bluetooth, step sequencer) and analog (CV/gate connections onboard). It’s somewhat charming, a little like Roland’s take on a chip synth. But it’s impossible to get that from the show floor videos, so instead, let’s watch Roland’s own hands-on videos:

And let’s head to Japan for a suitably, wonderfully weirdo demo of this weird instrument:

This was an amazing show all around for expressive alternative controllers. MIDI manufacturers were talking a lot about how to add additional “expressive” data to their instruments, with the likes of Roger Linn and ROLI in attendance.

What you might have missed among these is the brilliant new Expressive E Touché. It’s a sort of shoe-sized paddle that sits next to a keyboard or other instrument. But it’s both simple and surprisingly sensitive. For me, it wasn’t a direct competitor to the ROLI Seaboard so much as something else — and something a hell of a lot better than the usual pitch and mod wheel fare.

This was the last thing I played with before leaving the show, running to catch a train, and for me it was easily a show highlight. I want one and the ROLI. It’s easier to show than explain, so have a look:

Speaking of new controllers, the Jambé is something else entirely, an expressive percussion instrument. I got a hands on with it; it’s absolutely beautiful, handmade stuff. It was first shown at NAMM last year, but I think it counts as 2016 news, as they’re just now taking pre-orders at US $799.99 to ship next quarter. And they had a lot more to show. Here’s a demo from the makers:

The KORG volca FM was my personal favorite surprise announcement. I discussed the functionality already, but here are some actual sound demos, courtesy Synthtopia and Cuckoo. (Synthtopia is slightly overstating the “exclusive” here, but – the two demos are in fact so different, it’s worth having a listen to each.) Note that this hardware isn’t entirely done yet, so some details may change.

I live around the corner from MFB, so hope to do a detailed review of the Tanzmaus and Tanzbär Lite soon. But I can’t wait to share them with you, so here goes. These are two smaller drum machines from the creator of the 522 and the Tanzbär. Audiofanzine has a walkthrough with creator Uwe:

The Avalon Bassline is an intriguing new synth, with a price of US$949. Here, the manufacturer talkes you on a walkthrough (so you don’t get any NAMM crowd noise).

It’s no secret we love Teenage Engineering’s Pocket Operator line. A demo might or might not make you follow what’s going on with them. Via SonicState:

I can’t remember who, but one CDM reader very specifically asked that we look at Keith McMillen’s K-MIX hardware. A very basic prototype was at Musikmesse last year, but now we get it in full form, and see a demo via Cuckoo:

NAMM has weirdly become the hub of modular instrument news. Once relegated to the basement – indeed, you used to expect trips to the basement to run into fellow synth lovers – modular is now literally front and center on the show floor. I remember the old days of using someone like Digidesign as a meeting point. Now it’s modular.

As modular in general grows more crowded, smart makers like this one are building more context and cohesion around their product lines. Of the American makers, Make Noise was really on fire, with both their O-Coast and the Cartesian system. Watch both via SonicState:

Pittsburgh Modular are also thinking about systems, and their new offering looks really terrific, even when up against the likes of Moog.

Tom Oberheim had offerings of his own, too, showing his SEM re-release now in Eurorack, plus a mini sequencer. It’s getting to the point where a manufacturer offering a Eurovision version of something they make is no longer news, but – well, these offerings I think will still make an impact.

As if Tom getting into modular weren’t enough, so, too, is E-MU founder Dave Rossum. And of all the makes of modular, this one I think got the most attention.

Remember when you said Audio Damage and only thought of plug-ins? Well, they’ve gotten fairly deep into hardware. For the first time, they’re doing an analog module.

And it looks like it’ll be a big hit: an analog drumvoice with waveshaper and lots of envelope features, aiming for US$450. That hits a nice niche. That, plus an updated DubJr, in the Sonic State video:

I was a great fan of what maker 4ms did with delays back before the Eurorack craze had really set in. Their dual looping delay looks really beautiful:

Of course, for the wackiest and most distinctive offerings, we return to our European neighbors Bastl Instruments from Czech. Their booth was greatly downsized from the robotic wonderland that they offered at Messe, but it was still delightful – and they keep putting out new modules, still nicely made in wood:

Soulsby also have new offerings out and were earning a lot of attention. The wild wavetables of the Atmegatron are now in Eurorack form, plus there’s an Odytron Special Edition of the 8-bit synth.

And last but not least, by far the most peculiar electronic musical instrument shown at NAMM was the bizarre ZOOM ARQ, a sort of plastic toy frisbee that you use as a sampler. Let’s watch.

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Here are two new ways of combining a synth with Arduino


In the last couple of weeks, we’ve gotten not just one, but two new synthesizers that piggy-back on the Arduino electronics platform. The result, then, is instruments that you can modify via Arduino code.

You’ll need an Arduino for each of these to work, so figure on adding some bucks to the purchase price. (I also recommend only using a real Arduino or Genuino; the clones I’ve found are often unreliable, and it’s better to support the developers of the platform.)

The miniATMEGATRON from Soulsby Synthesizers is especially appealing. It uses the same grungy, nicely lo-fi sound engine of the Atmegatron, but it’s in kit form. It’s a pretty easy kit to put together – I watched folks assembling them in Brno earlier this summer, and they’ll be accessible to anyone with some soldering experience (or some supervision).

Just built as-is, the miniATMEGATRON is fun, but not terribly useful – it just plays back some sequences. Where it gets interesting is if you either write your own code or, more likely, add the MIDI “hack.” This involves adding a MIDI port to the Arduino. Once you do that, this is a playable MIDI synth, complete with clock sync. And then there are some fun features – 16 PWM waveforms, an LFO with 16 waveforms of its own, modulation extras, and a digital filter with 15 algorithms. There’s also a “wavecrusher” and phaser and distortion effects. Basically, you get a lot of grungy digital fun in one package.

The code is open source, though this isn’t strictly speaking open source hardware (only the firmware is open).

If you want a ready-to-play instrument, the original Atmegatron is really your best bet, and comes in a beautiful case. It’s also still possible to modify using the friendly Arduino development environment. But the miniATMEGATRON is a steal for DIYers, and I suspect for them, the soldering and hacking will in fact be a selling point.

Soulsby miniATMEGATRON


Tasty Chips, who made the analog Sawbench before, are back with an Arduino Piggyback Synthesizer. The concept as far as Arduino is the same as Soulsby’s: you use this board as an add-on to Arduino, and then use Arduino coding to hack your own custom functions. But the Tasty Chips route is analog, like the Sawbench. You get a fully-analog oscillator, an analog VCA, and low-pass resonant filter.

You can also do frequency modulation with sine or saw, controlled via mod wheel or MIDI. That’s a good thing, as otherwise I find a single oscillator setup can get a bit bland – analog or not.

What Tasty Chip have done that frankly I wish Soulsby had is add MIDI right on the board. In fact, you get both in and thru built in. As with the Soulsby, MIDI functionality leans on the Arduino. It’s 59€ without the Arduino, or bundled for 79€.

Arduino Piggyback Synthesizer A Hackable Analog Synth

Both boards also rely on USB power, but with a proper adapter, you can plug into a wall socket, so these will stand on their own.

What I’m interested to see is if users find clever uses for the Arduino hacking aspect. You could certainly build novel applications into firmware by modifying the code. On the other hand, these shields block the ports on the Arduino, which means you can’t easily take advantage of Arduino’s ability to hook up knobs and switches and drive motors and the like. (Here, too, there’s an edge to Tasty Chip – they’ve added header to the top, and they haven’t used up all the connections on the Arduino, so if you keep the boards side by side, you can still, for instance, add your own knob.)

That said, at these prices, both boards provide some great musical fun and some easy hackability.

And both makers could provide some added stimulation with promised tutorials.

I’m curious what readers think and what you do with them if you pick them up. Do let us know.

Full disclosure: we of course make the MeeBlip, which means we’re thinking about these very questions a lot. (The MeeBlip isn’t Arduino-based, but it is hackable and open and built on the AVR platform with our own Assembly code, as you can check out on GitHub.)

The post Here are two new ways of combining a synth with Arduino appeared first on Create Digital Music.

Nice demo of the Soulsby Synthesizers Atmegatron in 90 seconds

Tweet The Atmegatron is an 8-bit MIDI synthesizer. This video gives an overview of what it can do. Music by _ensnare_ and created entirely on the Atmegatron. Hear the full track hear:… From the 24th August, the Atmegatron will be back in stock here: and at dealers all around the world.