Czech builder Bastl Instruments are working simultaneously in modular and desktop instruments. But it’s not about choosing one or the other – it’s getting inspired to play musically, either way.
So Patchení s Nikol is back, with Nikol to show you some serious patching techniques. And yes, of course, this is a nice showcase of Bastl’s own skiff of modules. But it’s also a nice example of what you can do with modulated envelopes – adding modulation to an amplitude envelope to give it a more complicated shape than just attack and release and so on. You could certainly apply this to other modular environments.
Actually, one of my favorite modules Bastl have put out lately is this one: Hendrikson is designed just to make it easier to add stomp box and external effects to your modular rig. It gives you easy-access jacks for patching in your pedal or pedal chain, some handy knobs, and all-important wet/dry mix. Plus, you can patch control into that wet/dry to automate wet dry controls with your modular if you like.
Speaking of economizing, how about that Zoom MultiStomp you see in the middle of the video? It’s got a whole massive list of different effects, all of which you control, and a street price of around $100 right now.
Vaclav I believe turned me on to that Zoom. And now switching to the desktop hardware they make, here’s a personal testimonial about how much he’s appreciating their THYME looper – seen here played live and with some destructive looping.
Vaclav tells us: “I have been playing the THYME for quite a while and has a certain instrumental quality that is quite hard to master – as with any other instrument… it really became one of the most essential pieces of musical gear that I use all the time. I am really proud of it being a real instrument now and not just a dream that I had more than 3 years ago!”
I’m here in Moscow now for Synthposium where we’ll see Bastl at the Expo and in a talk on music gear business in the online age. Stay tuned.
Roland has a simple idea: take digital drum pad hardware, and simplify it. What you get is fun and ready little boxes you can stamp with your foot, play with your hands, or hit with a stick.
Instead of one big unit with a bunch of features or a whole electronic kit, the SPD::ONE line is four different compact units with particular sets of sounds. There’s a kick, an “electro” unit, a “percussion” unit, and a “WAV” sample loader. All four also double as MIDI controllers for your computer.
I think people who never even thought they wanted a drum pad might suddenly decide they do. I’m not a drummer, but I like hitting stuff, and I sort of have rhythm. That counts, right?
Today’s news kicks off another batch of products Roland is announcing online via stream rather than a trade show. Now, if you were hoping for a Boutique series 808 (or 727!), you may be disappointed. But what we get instead, while showing Roland’s BOSS side, is also useful.
All four units have some common features:
Super simple four knob controls: dial in a sound, tune, adjust volume. (Depending on the unit, you get some other basic parameter control – over effects and tuning on three models, or headphone mix on the WAV.)
Battery (4xAA) or plug-in power
Use them on a surface, or stick them into your kit, via a mounting adapter in the box (also works on mic stands)
USB MIDI support for use as a controller (transmits a single note and velocity from the pad only)
Drag and drop sample import – on all but the WAV, you get one slot for up five seconds, 44.1 x 16-bit mono. The WAV gives you 4GB, and includes more options.
Small and light: 2 lbs (900 g), and a sort of thick-ish palm-sized config, just 150 cm wide.
Nice pads. I’m told the feel should be similar to what you get from Roland’s PD-8 V-Pad. (In fact, someone should go DIY a rig with that and a Raspberry Pi. Just sayin’.)
The number of sounds (not including the WAV) isn’t immediately obvious. There are 12 banks, set by knob. The first 11 are presets, with each having a variation accessible via a small button on the front panel. The twelfth is your user storage. On the WAV, there’s a different configuration, but more on that in a bit.
Full retail list (street should be less):
255EUR (incl. VAT), or 309EUR for the WAV
US$250, $300 for WAV.
The price really says it all. Something like Roland’s own Handsonic is way more powerful, but it’s also less portable – and it’s $900. It’s a different beast. This is more like an impulse buy you can add to an existing rig.
Mounting hardware is included in the box.
Note the sensitivity controls on the side.
The WAV is definitely the most versatile of the four, and because you can load your own samples, could well replace the others. Let’s look:
The three sound models
The electro comes with 808 and 909 sounds. Now, some CDM readers em>might opt for this over the WAV, just because there’s a built-in reverb/delay.
The percussion is a bit like the electro, but with more realistic sounds (well, since now an 808 or 909 sounds like an 808 or 909 to us). It’s got the full range of greatest-hits percussion. It also has the reverb/delay.
The kick is a bit of a misnomer – it’s more than just kick sounds. It’s more like a set of sounds you’d want to play from your foot. (You can do that with any of the units here, but this one is set out of the box with that assumption.) So of course there’s a TR kick, and some variations on acoustic kick drums. But there’s also a guiro, ankle bracelet, cowbell, clap, and cymbal.
Instead of reverb/delay, this is the one with reverb/distortion.
And the fourth one for custom sounds
Prediction: the SPD:ONE WAV PAD is about to become one of those pieces of kit you see in live electronic rigs and drum kits.
First, what you lose versus the other models: there’s no built-in delay/reverb, and you do pay another fifty bucks.
But what you gain is 4GB of internal storage and more flexible playing modes.
In place of the tune and delay/reverb knobs, you get a dedicated headphone knob and click/master mix knob. That means you have hands-on control over your monitor mix and can listen to a click if you want.
And then there’s the various ways you can make use of that 4GB of space. It’s a bit hack-y, but that’s somehow cool.
First, you bump up the hardware to stereo support in addition to mono.
There are three use cases here:
Click tracks. You can create a custom click and run that through the headphones, while playing at the same time.
Backing tracks. You have 4GB of space, so full backing tracks are totally possible. But the SPD:ONE WAV is restricted. Once you’re playing a backing track, you can’t layer anything else. (For that, Roland would prefer you buy something like their SPD-SX, which can do both simultaneously.) I’m guessing this might still be useful to someone – like keeping the unit around to play backing tracks on a couple of songs, then using the remaining slots for triggering live sounds. (It’s still a set of backing tracks you can trigger with a foot or a stick, but I don’t know if everyone wants to pay three hundred bucks for just that alone.)
Custom layered sounds. There are multiple monophonic, polyphonic, looping, and layered options here. Let’s break them down, since Roland’s info isn’t so obvious. You’re essentially the sound designer here, in that you’ll choose the mode based on the filename you enter for your sounds. (There’s a cheat sheet silkscreened onto the front panel, so you don’t have to go hunting for a PDF.)
One shot mono: each additional trigger stops, then re-triggers the sound.
One shot poly: each additional trigger starts a new sound layer over top. (Forgot to check the maximum polyphony; will do that.)
Loop alt: trigger to start a sound. Once the sound ends, it will loop from the beginning. Trigger again to stop the loop.
Phrase alt: trigger to start a sound. Once the sound ends, it will stop playing until it’s re-triggered.
Layering: Here’s where things get interesting. You can layer up to three sounds per patch, set volume for each, and even have certain layers trigger at particular velocities. (Betcha some intrepid hacker makes their own GUI editor.)
Watch this video for more on that advanced functionality:
And here’s a quick start on using this for click tracks:
I was scratching my head for a directly comparable product. (There are more sophisticated options that do more, but this is unique in doing one task in a very particular way.)
It turns out, the brand that did this before is Roland / BOSS. And actually, their first effort looks nice – I like that one is a synth. (Maybe a Roland AIRA variant to go with the others is in order?)
At last, the world of modular meets the world of stompboxes. It’s a no brainer: after all, a modular rack already has a lot in common with a crowded pedalboard.
I expected that our friends at Bastl Instruments from Czech would come up with something for this week’s Superbooth synth gathering here in Berlin, and sure enough, they’ve got three new modules, with one stompbox-friendly standout.
First, the other two:
Dynamo is “bonkers” envelope follower + comparator + voltage-controlled switch. It can be a conventional compressor. It does weirdo “deep” modulations. And thanks to flexible options — negative ratios, inverted and non-inverted follower output – you can use it with kind of anything in your rig.
Tromsø is the one I rather crave. It’s inspired by a 1994 Norwegian invention that did “analog” downsampling and bit distortion. (Yes, you read that right.) Combining a VCO, Comparator, and Sample & Hold unit, you can use any of those three utilities separately, or make vintage sampler sounds in the analog domain by combining them to produce distortion. And in the process, you can go all Norwegian and emulate the “Tromsø sound” the 1994 Distortotron inspired.
Hendrikson, though, I think will be the breakout hit. Tom of Music thing was saying at dinner the other day (have to credit you, Tom) that there’s a certain parallel between the guitar stompbox scene and the Eurorack module scene. Well, now you can combine them.
Hendrikson is an amp for guitar or instruments, and an interface to external effects. You can plug in your guitar. You can plug in a stompbox.
That’s already cool, but making this even better, you get CV control over the wet/dry mix. That means you can modulate an effect, or even add quick-and-dirty tremolo. It also means that if you create a feedback loop (by connecting the output back to the input), you can modulate effects loops with CV.
Since this is for guitar stuff, you naturally get a big 6.3mm (1/4″) Neutrik connector.
Electro-Harmonix have a new looper out, introduced last week in Nashville, that I suspect could be a really big hit. The winners: dual stereo operation, loads of recording space, and then easy connection via USB so a looped improv today could be the beginning of a track tomorrow. Oh, and it’s not expensive, either.
When it comes to looping in live performance, most folks haven’t taken to the computer as much as the standalone looper, particularly BOSS’ LoopStation line. And that’s with good reason: you want dead-simple operation so you can focus on playing.
The heart of the idea is giving you access to two loops. And their implementation couldn’t be simpler. There are two footswitches, one for each loop, so you can record, play back, or overdub on each loop with your foot – tap once to start, tap twice to stop.
You can use those individually or link them together, with separate mix controls for each.
Around that, there’s a lot more power if you want it:
Up to 100 individual loops, selected by knob.
Up to 13 hours record time (because it records to an SDHC, with capacity up to 32GB)
“Verse/chorus” switch (what, no “bridge”?)
Mic input, gain control
Pitch up/down octave – with dedicated controls if you get their optional foot pedal
USB port connects to the computer so you can save your loops
Built-in drum patterns (definitely keeping the soloist in mind here, whether practicing or playing)
Included power adapter, 8GB SDHC card
There are also different looping modes: in series, in parallel, quantized rhythms, free-form looping, unlimited layering, and the ability to undo.
This being Electro-Harmonix, it’s made in the USA and comes in a metal case.
US list is US$359.97. If you want the additional foot controller, that’s another US$117.15. (Uh… odd pricing there, but okay! I’ll be glad they didn’t set it to $119.99 and buy myself a medium coffee.) That’s running about 270€ street with tax in Europe.
Sound on Sound got a walkthrough. (Ah, as a Kentucky native now living in Europe, something oddly amusing about the British-meets-Southern drawl accent collision in this series.)
I’m not a guitarist, and I kind of want one. This was first mentioned in Germany, but now gets its formal release.
You’ve got a lot of looper choices, including others even from E-H. Their fanciest is the 4-channel 45000 multi-track looping recorder, though I suspect for some dual stereo will be enough. Which looping hardware are you using? Or are you using software? Let us know in comments.
The line between pain and ecstasy on a computer for music making can often boil down to some key elements. One commonly on that short list is getting the sound you might from a studio. Another is making all your inputs and outputs work in your interface.
Universal Audio is one of a handful of vendors that aims to bridge both of those gaps in a single product, with devices that are audio interfaces as well as DSP platforms for hosting high-quality effects. And UA are starting out 2015 with a fairly big benchmark for the company in that software/hardware integration.
That’s the good news. The bad news is, you need a Mac, and the latest-generation hardware, to come along for the ride with some of the new goodies. So, let’s take a look both at what’s new and what’s required to get the latest-and-greatest stuff – as well as where that leaves people with older hardware.
A new generation of Universal Audio software
UA has been a name in hardware DSP for quite some time. Recently, though, they’ve pushed further into a wider range of instrument choices, more hardware that makes sense for a solo producer and instrumentalist, and more fluid hardware/computer integration.
First shown at the NAMM trade show in January, this week Universal Audio is shipping its latest software. This software generation is actually made up of several different pillars:
1. Apollo Expanded. For owners of UA’s Apollo audio interface hardware, you can now use all that extra Thunderbolt bandwidth to mix and match gear. Use one interface in the studio, and another in the road. Use a smaller Twin for your monitors and extra DSP muscle, and a bigger interface for everything else. Or add ins and outs and DSP with up to six devices.
2. Flex Driver. Part of the Apollo Expanded idea, but I think worth a separate mention, is a new Apple Core Audio driver that lets you name, save, and share presets when you swap DAWs or hardware setups. This obviously makes the previous scenarios still more practical.
3. New Console software 2.0. Not specific to Apollo (but rolling across the platform gradually), updated Console software is a whole heck of a lot more modern. The Console was already a useful reason to invest in UAD hardware, giving you a virtual mixer and full control over routing and all the UAD’s signal processing. Now it’s 64-bit, it’s Retina-compatible and high-resolution (and generally looks better than before), and it’s more flexible. You can more easily manage plug-ins, cueing and monitoring, and so on. (More on that below.)
4. UAD 8.0. All the UA software is now fully compatible with OS X 10.10 (though to be fair, I’ve had reasonable success with the previous version since upgrading months ago). You also get new categories and other features.
5. And more plug-ins covering a wider range. Now the goodies – the fruits of collaborations with some big names. You get “Wood Works” plug-ins for acoustic guitars. Distortion (hello Electro-Harmonix, Ibanez vintage stomps). Brainworx guitar amps, modeled on the classic Friedman amps. And Auto-Tune (yes, that Auto-Tune).
With More Hardware
In addition to the Apollo line, which covers both audio interfacing and DSP, you can also buy your DSP brainpower on its own in the form of the new Satellite Thunderbolt line. The hardware was introduced late last year, but is further enabled by this month’s shipping software updates I still prefer the Apollo myself, because I think it’s a great audio interface on its own, but the Satellite will likely appeal to some studio rigs, especially if they have their own audio I/O already.
And New Plug-ins
The UA platform at first meant largely reproductions of vintage studio equipment – compressors, EQs, channel strips, plate reverbs, and so on. Now, when I first saw the soloist-oriented Apollo Twin, I immediately asked when we might see stuff for, say, guitarists. There were already some great Softube options, but it seemed the time was ripe for more.
Well, here we go, with some fairly interesting new goodies on offer.
Sound Machine Wood Works. First up, acoustic guitarists – long ignored in favor of amps and such for electrics – finally get their due. The Wood Works plug-in claims to make acoustic guitar piezos sound like they’ve been studio miked. US$299.
Distortion Essentials. Now, UA turns its obsessive compulsive modeling skills to stomp boxes, with the Pro Co Rat, Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi, and Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808 all getting digital reproductions. I love using this sort of stuff in production even when guitarists are nowhere in sight, and I think there’s room for better models, so yes, I’ll be testing these to see if they’re up to snuff. US$299.
Auto-Tune Live. Auto-Tune isn’t news. But putting it on this platform is, because of lower-latency monitoring – you can live track, or play live, with this. US$249.
There are also plug-ins made exclusively for UAD-2 and Apollo:
Friedman Amps by Brainworx. We knew Brainworx was working with Universal, and now we get to see the result: DS40 and BE100 amps from Friedman get their own emulation, plus a noise gate, EQ filter controls, and host-syncable lo-fi delay. Interested in this one, too, especially as it’s been surprisingly quiet on the guitar emulation front lately. (Yeah, Native Instruments, will we ever see Guitar Kontrol? Erm, Gitarre Kontrol?) US$249.
New Console Features
There’s so much new in the Console, it’s worth mentioning separately.
Channel Strip presets – so you can save and recall chains of UA plug-ins, at last
More monitoring: new Alternate Monitors, Control Room, headphone cue options.
Categorize plug-ins, show/hide.
Drag and drop plug-ins.
Per-input switching between record/monitor.
Multiple level undo/redo for plug-in assignments, parameters.
I’ve used this stuff live a lot with Apollo; it’s really nice to see.
Here’s an overview:
Plus a clearer view of how this Flex Driver works with the system:
Why Thunderbolt and Apollo Matter
There’s a lot of confusion around Thunderbolt. First off, Thunderbolt itself isn’t “lower latency” than a technology like FireWire – in fact, Thunderbolt simply extends the PCIe bus of the computer. Nor do audio interfaces individually consume the greater bandwidth provided by Thunderbolt over USB3, FireWire, and USB2. When UA says they’re getting lower latency from Thunderbolt, they mean they’re able to get more stable performance from the devices that allows them to run at smaller buffer sizes without dropouts.
Instead, I think it’s safe to say Universal Audio is benefiting from two things:
1. You do have more bandwidth on the whole Thunderbolt bus, when connecting multiple audio interfaces.
2. UA has a more reliable set of test configurations in limiting to more recent OS X machines – less hardware variability, less OS variability.
This is my own opinion, but I have had conversations with different vendors about both the OS support and Thunderbolt issues. Point number 2 is important, because it means that the very thing that’s understandably upsetting some UA customers is also what’s enabling these expanded features reliably. I could be wrong; I’ll check with UA.
The upshot, though, is clear. I have gotten way more addicted to my Apollo Twin than I ever imagined, and the reason is reliable low-latency performance of UA effects on the interface.
Suddenly, those guitar amps and stompboxes and plate reverbs and compressors and so on get a lot more interesting. And that’s why the AutoTune Live news is relevant, too.
AutoTune isn’t news. AutoTune the news … isn’t news.
But now, with AutoTune running on an Apollo, you can finally do what the vocal enhancer did to the Party Posse on The Simpsons. You just switch it on and it works – in the studio or live onstage.
Join the navy.
Left Out: Older Systems, Hands
Not everyone is going to be happy at the moment.
First, Universal Audio early adopters who went FireWire rather than Thunderbolt run into some real limitations. I’ve run into this issue myself, personally, in the studio.
FireWire users will eventually get the welcome new console, but not until an estimated ship date of fall. And they’ll need to update to Thunderbolt to get Apollo Expanded.
They also miss out on software, too. UA right now ships one integrated installer with all the plug-ins and drivers. They’ve explained to CDM that the reasoning is that all the software and drivers have to be in sync. But that means a very big unified install. That’s all fine and well, until you discover that you can’t unplug a Thunderbolt Apollo and plug in a FireWire Apollo – you have to reinstall the entire software package.
That has left a lot of FireWire users griping about the need to purchase a Thunderbolt upgrade card. (We’re getting one in our studio, so I’ll let you know how the upgrade process goes; my instinct says it may be worth it – even if you gripe while doing it.)
Windows users are generally left out in the cold, too, and I’m seeing some folks upset about that.
Meanwhile, there’s reason to see Universal Audio as still in a sort of studio mindset. You don’t get any MIDI control of the Console and its plug-ins. That seems somewhat essential given the sales pitch of a lot of this stuff would be, say, playing a guitar into your Apollo Twin and tracking live. That’s not a time you want to be fumbling for a mouse: you want MIDI faders and foot pedals. UA acknowledges this issue; we’ll see if they can ship that soon.
But a strong package…
If you do have a recent Mac and the scratch to invest in the Thunderbolt hardware and a reasonable collection of UA plug-ins, though, I think it’s a uniquely robust platform. Consider, too, that a modest laptop is now perfectly capable of running even the most dense multichannel project. We’re now well past the point where the laptop is the cheapest part of the equation.
I’ll be talking about my experience in production with the Apollo and its effects soon, as well as test driving some of this new stuff. If you have questions you’d like me to investigate or to pass along to UA, let us know.
You’re not hallucinating. This is a stomp box that adds a Japanese robot woman singing along as you play. If you’ve heard the now-popular Vocaloid effect, this is that, in a stompbox.
Just how Japanese is this product? Let us count the ways. First, let’s just quote the product text:
Hatsune Miku sings when you play your guitar! A design that fuses the worlds of Hatsune Miku and guitar effects. Nearly unlimited possibilities; 11 lyric patterns are provided. Lyrics for “Senbonzakura” (a Japanese song) are preset. An iPhone app for entering lyrics is available, so you can make MIKU STOMP sing your original lyrics.
This all uses the latest Yamaha engine to make the sounds – “she” sings along to your actual playing.
There’s a knob for different vocal modes. And yes, there’s a Nyan mode. (Rejoice!)
Random 1, random 2
Phrase 1, 2, 3
You can also use an iPhone app to add your own lyrics – though I’m all for adding Senbonzakura to your set list – enter them via your pickup, and cue your new robot lead vocalist with your foot.
Ah, yes – about those lyrics. This feature is slightly less accessible if you’re an English speaker. I’ll let KORG explain:
Although this iPhone app can be used with an English system, MIKU STOMP’s vocal functionality supports only Japanese. While it does not support input of English lyrics, it does support input of “romaji,” the method of using the Latin alphabet to express Japanese. When entering Japanese directly, “hiragana” and “katakana” input are supported.
Right. So, “Pahh” it is.
Then there’s the artwork. I… um… I mean, the front panel design feels horribly wrong to me but I’m not living in the target region for this product. So I’ll let them explain how it achieves a fusion of the world of Hatsune Miku with … foot triggers or … whatever:
The aluminum diecast body of this compact effect carries a specially commissioned original illustration. The design achieves a fusion of Hatsune Miku’s world and the world of guitar effects. Whether you place it on a table or include it in your effect pedalboard, MIKU STOMP will certainly stand out and make your performance that much more enjoyable.
Moog’s latest are more portable and more affordable than ever. And with expression and CV inputs, they can also unlock a world of sound exploration entirely in a shoe-compatible interface.
Yes, it’s a good time to be in love with synths and drum machines. But for all the hype around those instruments lately, adventurous guitar effects are also seeing a new renaissance. While guitarists have always had a lovely palette of oddball stompboxes and grungy distortion and effects, they’ve lately been seeing more affordable, more accessible tools for sound design that had been more associated with synths.
And, of course, wherever you see the word “guitarists,” any instrumentalists who need stomp form factor will also benefit – bass guitar, electric violin, experimental accordion, whatever.
Say the name “Moog,” and most people will see keyboards in their head. But Moog Music has become as much a maker for guitarists as keyboardists. That includes the brilliant if spendy Moog Guitar, but also the Minifoogers, a tasty lineup of compact stomp effects that make the sounds of the Moogerfooger line and Moog synths less expensive and more portable.
And there’s also Eventide, whose H9 harmonic processor is both one of the best of its breed in the harmony category and a platform for more Eventide stompbox effects. That is, you can load up any effects you like while still accessing the features with your feet – it’s like a computer you can use with shoes.
Chris Stack of Experimental Synth has been making videos for years showing off all the Moogerfoogers can do. Now, he’s gotten a loan of the Minifoogers and came away impressed. His nephew Vincent Crow shot a quick video to show off the sonic range of these boxes, neatly arrayed into a pedalboard full of Moog-ness:
Chris’ favorites? He tells CDM, “I found the Drive pedal to be surprisingly interesting. I’ve always loved the overdriven Moogerfooger sound, and this takes it to another level.”
The Minifooger’s smaller size and price made me a bit surprised at how useful I found them to be.
The variable wave shape on the MF Trem made it easy to sweep from standard tremolo to more outside effects. Using an expression pedal with the MF Boost turned it into a handy volume pedal. The tone control on the MF Ring made it a piece of cake to add everything from warm non harmonic overtones to a clangorous metallic edge and the MF Delay can take you everywhere from a quick slapback to spacey dub madness. The MF Drive is a great combo of warm overdrive and synthy filter resonance.
My favorite thing about them all is that the expression pedal inputs can be used as control voltage inputs. I was able to do some very wild things with them and a Moog CP-251 Control Voltage Processor or a MP-201 Multi-Pedal. It’s a great way to tie your stomp box setup into your mega-modular synth or other similar gear. Step-sequenced analog overdrive is a thing of beauty.
I think it’s a myth that guitar effects all have to fit in a narrow box. The whole, beautiful tradition of guitars over the last century has been rooted in experimental sound design, including the noises that found their way into popular music.
And if you do want to use this sort of approach to approach sound – without hovering your nose over your computer for still more hours – this gear can deliver. Chris has suggestions for those who want to journey deeper into outer space. And for that, we’ll bring in the Eventide H9, too.
Of course, if you’d like to venture farther from the traditional guitarist’s sound palette, or mix and match with other types of effects, the sky is the limit.”
Some of the possibilities when running an Epiphone “Chet Atkins” electric nylon string guitar through an Eventide H9, Moogerfoogers and other effects pedals.
BlueBoard is targeted at iOS, but supports recent OS X laptops and minis, as well. That means wireless switches that light up, plus jacks for expression pedals.
Singers or instrumentalists have plenty of brilliant-sounding apps these days running on iOS and Mac. But unless you plan to strip off those socks and play with your toes, you might want a stomp interface.
IK Multimedia’s iRIG BlueBoard could be an ideal solution for Mac and iOS mobile users alike, a $99 wireless box that adds four switches and two expression inputs.
It’s not the pioneer in this territory. On iOS, any USB MIDI interface will theoretically work with the Camera Connection Kit – now supporting the iPhone – though, oddly enough, there aren’t so many popular, currently-manufactured USB or MIDI DIN solution that immediately spring to mind. (Two important exceptions: first, there’s Behringer’s FCB1010, which costs not much more than this and could be used with a MIDI interface even on iOS. Just be prepared to add more weight to your carry-on; the FCB is big and heavy. Second, while it’s pricier, the Keith McMillen SoftStep is also very portable, runs via USB, and provides more expression – though it isn’t wireless, if that matters to you.)
But Dock Connectors and, worse, docks, seem an invitation to obsolescence. And they don’t work with the Mac, either.
Italian maker IK Multimedia has come up with what seem to be cleverer solutions. Having been the company that led the charge to convince guitarists to use their computers to model amps and effects with AmpliTube, they’ve had an aggressive accessory and app strategy on iOS, including a range of free apps (you only pay when you want to add more models).
iRIG STOMP, their earlier offering, is simple but effective. The idea: swap out the minijack for jack plugs, and add a metal bypass footswitch and volume knob, so you can add an iPhone/iPod touch effect to your existing floor rig. Since it just uses audio connections, no control connection is needed.
For more than one switch, IK announced a Bluetooth-based, four-switch solution at the beginning of this year, but they’re just now shipping it.
It represents a long-overdue move to transmitting MIDI over low-energy Bluetooth 4.0. This isn’t a proprietary controller: it’s just a generic MIDI controller transmitting messages over Bluetooth. As such, you can use any app that can receive MIDI messages. That includes, IK is quick to point out, AmpliTube, VocaLive, SampleTank, iLectric Piano, and iGrand Piano. But it also includes even rival apps, including Apple’s own GarageBand.
IK has dropped the nice metal footswitches found on their iRIG and other interfaces. But the good news is, using rubber pads instead means you can get light-up feedback behind the switches, so you know which effect is active.
And while you might initially be disappointed that there’s no expression pedal, that’s a good thing, too. Not one but two TRS jack plugs on the back let you add your own expression pedals, which I think is a whole lot better than having one molded into the design.
Nerd break here: I’m actually rather eager to see if we can use this as a simple way of loading audio effects in Pd on Android and iOS, stompbox style, and it should be equally useful with desktop.
Smaller than these pics may suggest: 27 cm wide x 9 cm deep (10.6″ x 3.5″), 2 cm tall (less than an inch)
4 AAA batteries for power.
What you need is something with Bluetooth 4 support. That’s iPhone 4S or later, iPod touch 5th generation or later, or iPad 3rd generation or later (including mini).
On the Mac side, Apple quietly added support in summer of 2012 for the Mac mini and MacBooks.
Made in Italy, US$99.99, EUR79.99 pre-VAT, shipping now.
This one definitely makes sense for review, so we’ll be looking at it.
(Oh, and… IK. The name. Just have to remember to think “Bluebeard,” and not “Blue b…” something else.)
A family of affordable all-analog stompboxes should appeal to guitarists and bass players and … sort of everyone.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never witnessed a hotcake sale. I can’t say how “selling like hotcakes” goes down.
Now we’re seeing more details of the affordable analog stompboxes from Moog. Looking like the ideal stomp effects for both musicians on a budget and the guitarist/bass player, these Minifoogers should sell as fast as hotc– well, as Minifoogers.
What they have in common:
Analog signal path, with “true bypass” (so when they’re off, they’re off)
Optional battery power
Single expression pedal input for hands-free control (badly missing on many other nice analog effects)
Control voltage input, if you like, via that expression in
Moog-y sound design features
As we reported before, you get a number of choices here in flavors, including an exceptionally-interesting Drive effect and some classic Moog effects. Since we summarized these before, here are the full Moog PR descriptions:
The MF Drive is a filter-based overdrive pedal employing a Moog Ladder Filter, boutique FET amplifiers, and OTAs in its drive section making it highly reactive to picking dynamics. The panel features a bi-polar tone control and sweepable filter that work dynamically with input gain to offer each player unique and customizable sounds that retain the core timbre of their instrument. A filter Peak switch shifts harmonic content to the filter’s cutoff position, adding new tonal creation and dirty wah performance possibilities not found in other drive pedals. MSRP: $179.
The MF Boost is a selectable topology boost pedal that allows the player to switch be-tween an “articulate VCA” signal path and a “colored OTA” signal path. Each is tailored to deliver boutique amplifier sound and responsiveness from any guitar/amplifier combina-tion. The design also imparts natural compression to an input signal, which brings out note articulation and significantly increases the performance of other effects pedals. When paired with an expression pedal, the MF Boost can be used as a tone enhancing volume pedal, sweepable-gain boost pedal, and VCA. The expression pedal input also provides access to higher gain values not available on the panel. MSRP: $149
The MF Delay features 35mS-700mS of completely analog delay time. At shorter set-tings, repeats are fast and bright for creating classic slap-back and plate sounds. At me-dium and long settings the repeats become darker and naturally trail into reverb-like state. A Drive circuit allows the player to adjust the tone and feel of the MF Delay as well as overdrive the Bucket Brigade Delay line, and the input of a guitar amplifier for bigger sound and feel. Also, the expression pedal input is switchable between feedback for ex-pressive swells and delay time for tape delay and chorus/flange effects.
The MF Ring is an analog ring modulator that is based on the world’s best selling Ring Mod, the Moogerfooger MF-102. Its refined frequency range and tone voicing circuit add new-musical elements to ring modification, making it easy to dial in everything from oc-taves and choral dissonance to harmonic undertones and synthesized lead lines. The expression pedal input provides hands-free control of the Freq parameter for sound sweeps, pitch shifting effects, and playing between two scales on the fly. MSRP: $159
The MF Trem is an analog tremolo pedal designed around a balanced modulator and Sub Audio VCO. This design creates a wide range of effects that are based on phase cancellation and addition. Players can create classic optical tremolo, hard tremolo, rotary effects and more that react dynamically to harmonic content. A variable Shape control interacts with Tone and Mix to craft subtle swells and gallops to rhythmic percussive, and swirling effects. When pushed, the MF Trem can also approach the beginnings of phas-ing and chorus. The expression pedal input adds control of the Speed parameter for hands-free swells and rotary effects. MSRP: $189
“Tremolo” also describes what happens to my credit card looking at these.
It is really nice to see Moog-style effects in a more affordable, accessible box, in units that appear to retain the maker’s sonic character and versatility.
The units ship this month.
If you have questions for Moog, let us know and we can pass them along. (The most frequently-asked question was about CV, so nice to see that there, but let us know if you’ve got any other queries.)
American retailer Sweetwater leaked news of Maschine Studio yesterday; today, it’s pocket-sized, affordable versions of Moog effects that seems to be out of the bag.
Yes, it’s a rumor, non-official, unconfirmed, yadda yadda – but this one’s hard not to believe at face value, it makes so much sense.
The units, many of which appear to be intended for combination with an expression pedal:
Delay, US$199: bucket-brigade analog delay.
Tremolo, $179: Tremolo pedal with sub.
Boost, $139: Both volume pedal and “boost” functions, each with either a more Moog-like voltage-coltrolled amplifier or a classic-sounding operational transconductance amplifier for overdrive.
Drive, $169: pairs an operational transconductance amplifier (for overdrive) with the Moog Ladder Filter.
Ring, $149: The Moog MF-102 ring modulator, essentially – pocket edition.
How does double-entry accounting work again? Shall I just deduct a few of these figures from my bank account now?
These all look handy, and would make even more sense than the current Moogerfoogers for a broad audience of guitarists. I’d be especially glad to get a ring modulator for $150 or the Drive, since those are tougher to find in outboard units, at least at this price. And we continue to see hardware that you can use in sound design without necessarily needing a suitcase analog modular rack.
It seems like the KORG monotron/volca effect, in a way, too – it’s inevitable that makers will begin to realize that focused, affordable hardware can find a wide audience, especially factoring in gifts and impulse buys. (And, you know, because they’re fun.)
The only surprises:
With the emphasis on pairing an expression pedal, I’m surprised Moog isn’t making their own.