Deep House News - Deep House Radio, DJ Mixes, Interviews, Record Label and More - Deeper Shades of House Tue, 06 Oct 2015 02:55:10 -0700 Deep House Radio en-gb (Deeper Shades of House) Mobile beat rig: MeeBlip, Elastic Drums, BeatStep Pro


Jamming: the idea is to make music by connecting directly to gestures so you make something spontaneous. And if music technology is jam session friendly, this finally means you can do it together – not just alone.

Part of the reason we’ve remained focused on the MeeBlip project is to get into the process of how to make that kind of jam as accessible as possible. It’s not just limited to that – I spoke with Morton Subotnick about how he used voice input on modulars to make Silver Apples on the Moon as immediate as singing.

When Novation made starting music the theme of a recent campaign, echoing the way Ableton first described Push, a number of people I talked to confessed that finishing music was more of a challenge than starting it. But I think if the initial spark has some character, finishing is far easier.

I recently stopped by the home of Oliver Greschke, developer of Elastic Drums for iOS, to play with a mobile jamming rig. Our jam session isn’t necessarily great music – something about cameras rolling drains any creative impulse out of my brain. But we did get to experiment with the way the setup is working.




Arturia’s BeatStep Pro is fantastic in that it immediately offers three handy layers (for melodies, drums, etc.), and both step-by-step programming (with display) and live programming (with the pads).

Elastic Drums here serves as the clock source. Now, the absence of MIDI thru on our gear means a thru box would be a good idea – makers like Kenton have you covered there if you don’t have a multi-port MIDI box (that’ll do, too). And Elastic Drums is a perfect companion to the MeeBlip basslines, jumping in on drums.

It’s a bit bigger (so maybe “mobile” isn’t right), but we added an Arturia MiniBrute, too.

Now, to be fair, none of these sorts of instruments gives you open-ended sound possibilities. But then, it can be a lot of fun to push against those limitations, too.

The BeatStep Pro and Novation’s just-released Circuit are clear rivals to doing the job (though you could even use both). Circuit does built-in sounds, and BeatStep Pro doesn’t, but the Arturia piece is also a more advanced dedicated sequencer than Novation has built, accordingly. (MIDI is more flexible from the Arturia, and it adds CV.) I’m waiting on some more details of Circuit’s implementation, but we’ll get to look at this.

You can see how it all works together. Oli also shot this video for more clarification:

iPads can themselves become more sociable jamming instruments. Oliver joined other key iOS developers for a 4-iPad jam at the Apple Store Berlin, flanked by the makers of Zmors Modular, Studiomux (formerly Midimux and Audiomux), and touchAble, with an assist from Ableton Live. (That’s all Berlin-made code, right there.)


“Elastic Drums and zMors Modular were synced via Midimux to the Laptop, which was the tempo host. zMors Modular went directly into the laptop via Audiomux VST Plugin. 2 other iPads were controlling Ableton DAW and Ableton instruments with Touchable. All connections were made with standard lightning cables, no special soundcards or connectors have been used.”

What’s been nice about working on the MeeBlip is watching all the jam videos come in, unsolicited, from users. That now includes our soon-to-run-out-forever limited edition model.

Here’s a jam session with KORG’s electribe2, created by Atsushi Nakayama:

And here’s the wonderful Perplex On from Munich, playing for the first time:

Some details there: you’ll spot the Audiobus connection panel on the iPad, running quite a few apps. (From our MeeBlip Facebook page, he reports “If I remember correctly there were some Aufx apps involved (Space, EQ and Push for sidechaining the Meeblip to the PO), Arpeggionome for sequencing and Tonestack to roughen the Meeblip a bit and probably some more apps i didn’t use in this snippet smile emoticon.” Whoa.

Also, talk about mobile: a 9V battery block can battery-power the MeeBlip so it’s entirely mobile.

And the Roland UA-22 audio interface can also be powered by 3 AA’s – handy. So no tricks: this really is running out in some nice patch of grass. (Hey, our friends in the Southern Hemisphere and warmer climes like California can look forward to doing this all winter whilst some of the rest of us hide in a basement and try not to get depressed. Or, at least, get a lot more iOS code written in Berlin.)

Check out Perplex On’s whole video series for more jam sessions. (probably worth a whole separate post)

Lastly, for perhaps better sound quality than the tracks above, here’s what happens when Nerk and I play with the anode limited edition (for our weirdo techno NERKKIRN project):

And you can grab our MeeBlip while there’s still time, before the limited edition runs out and we’re back in black. Free shipping worldwide through October 12:

What does your mobile rig look like, if you’ve got one? What do you like to play with when playing with friends? Let us know in comments.

The post Mobile beat rig: MeeBlip, Elastic Drums, BeatStep Pro appeared first on Create Digital Music.

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]]> (Administrator) tech feeds Mon, 05 Oct 2015 09:13:00 -0700
Pioneer Rekordbox 4.0 DJ Software + DDJ-RZ First Look

We’ve had a chance to jump into the studio with the brand new Rekordbox 4.0 DJ software and explore how it works – and importantly, what the most exciting features are that set it apart from Traktor and Serato. Check out the full video inside of Ean demonstrating the software using the upcoming Pioneer DDJ-RZ controller.

Rekordbox 4.0 DJ: Performance Pack

To summarize a few of the big wins in the software that Ean shows in the video, they include:

  • Slicer-to-Sample: Not only is there a full-fledged Slicer – but you can drop the contents of the slicer into the 16-slot sampler and play it back – which is especially powerful combined with…
  • Sampler sequencer: Set a quantization rate (or leave it freeform) and then record your samples in time with the track – it feels very similar to the RMX’s sample functionality but much more expanded
  • Release FX: Speaking of the RMX line, the fun “ejector seat” of FX that the RMX-1000 first introduced has made an appearance in the software. Put a release effect (echo, back spin, etc) on the end of an effects chain or on your Pad FX to turn off your FX with a flourish.
  • Pad FX: Seemingly inspired by the classic Midi Fighter Instant Gratification mapping, the FX triggers on performance pads allows quick effecting of your tracks – and you can edit the FX and rate in the software and add additional pages of Pad FX to access.

Additionally, a few of the interesting bonus elements of Rekordbox 4.0’s Performance features include

  • Universal Library: Doing all of your prep work in Rekordbox means that all of your metadata, cue points, loops, etc will all propagate across any setup that you decide to go with. Want to make a last minute decision between CDJs, or Rekordbox with a controller? Don’t worry, your playlists and music are already ready for either.
  • Related Tracks: We like having a way to quickly see potentially compatible tracks to your current playlist. Traktor DJ on iOS did this, as did Virtual DJ before it – but Pioneer is the first software to allow you to customize how that process works and what metadata the mechanism uses to curate potential good fits.
  • Controller Compatibility: So far Rekordbox 4.0’s Performance Pack works with almost every DDJ controller (SX, SX2, WeGO3, SR, SB, SB2, SZ, RX, RZ) but they’re also expected to add HID control for CDJ/XDJs and a DVS feature as well. For now it’s a closed system with no MIDI mapping abilities – so other controller DJs are out of luck.
  • Standalone Mode: You don’t need a piece of Pioneer hardware to unlock the mixing features – so if you’re inclined to mix just off of the software, it would work (in a pinch!).

Had a chance to play with the new Rekordbox 4.0 software yet? There’s a free 30 day trial available here, download it now and let us know your thoughts in the comments. 

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]]> (Administrator) tech feeds Sun, 04 Oct 2015 23:27:00 -0700
Traktor Kontrol S5 Review: The True S4 Followup?

Today marks the official in-store date for the new Kontrol S5 controller for Traktor, and we’ve already got a number of DJs who have picked one up in the DJTT store. Many of you had questions about the unit and how it works, so we’ve got a deep-dive review of the controller in today’s article. Read on and chat with us about Native Instruments’ latest DJ device!

  • Product: Traktor Kontrol S5
  • Price: $799
  • Availability: In the DJTT store now
  • The Bottom Line: A welcome addition to the Kontrol line – outclassing the S8 in many ways and giving Traktor users a very solid controller to access Stems and Remix Decks in an intelligent but simple workflow. 

Screens: The Biggest Win On The Kontrol S5


Having the ability to quickly reference exactly what’s going on in Traktor without looking at a second screen is fantastic. The screens are incredibly high resolution (just as on the Kontrol S8), allowing you to focus on the controller instead of the laptop (which you can hide away and turn off if you like). The best element is the easy reference of Traktor’s FX units – which are often difficult to see even with a well-placed laptop.

Same goes for Remix Decks and Stem Decks – having the full visuals for each makes these powerful tools more realistic to incorporate into your DJ set – as they both require significant visual feedback to use effectively.

The bottom line: you could play an entire night without looking at your computer at all, and that’s a major plus for a lot of DJs.

A Simple Control Interface

The S5 (left) has a much cleaner interface than the S8 (right, not to scale)

The S5 (left) has a much cleaner interface than the S8 (right, not to scale)

Let’s be honest here – the S8 is a lot of controller. It’s fantastic for technically-minded individuals and works well as a stay-at-home base of operations for a portable digital DJ rig, but it’s a bit of a beast.

The Kontrol S5 takes the more obvious one-to-one workflow of the Kontrol S4 and keeps the surface of the controller less cluttered and easier to navigate. A few drinks into your local DJ night in the dark booth, and you’re going to want a controller that you know well and can quickly find all of the basic controls.

In terms of portability,  S5 is very reasonable to carry around. It’s got about the same dimensions as a Kontrol S4, and while is a few pounds heavier still is a reasonable back pack carry.

About The S5’s Touch Strips


Yep, they’re not jogwheels. Once you get past that, it actually becomes pretty clear how powerful the touch strips are on the Kontrol S5 – they have a few different modes.

  • When a deck is playing, swipe left or right to pitch-bend, or if your tracks are synced, adjust phase.
  • Hold Shift on a playing deck, and you can scratch a track (you have to enable this in Traktor’s preferences).
  • When a track is stopped, hold the Shift button and you can move around in the track, needle drop style, and then fine-adjust the track with the Shift button released.

We will admit, touch strips will never appropriately replace spinning platters. Especially for open format DJs and those who are doing more standard 1-to-1 blends. For that camp, the S4 might remain a solid controller for years to come. However for anyone that is not scratching or doing heavy pitch manipulation, these will handle the basic beatmatching just fine.

Stems and Remix Decks On The S5


As noted in the video review, we found that the S5’s workflows for dealing with Stem and Remix Decks more than sufficient for easy control. A lot of people questioned the usability of the Stem / Remix decks without having individual faders like on the Kontrol S8, but in reality, being able to use the pads in combination with the loop encoders was just as easy.

The faders are more natural for levels, but I would gladly give up the precise control in exchange for a smaller/streamlined controller. Four Faders are already a bit to manage, but 16 is truly next level. Unless you are constantly adjusting Stem levels and dropping out parts in a musical way that demands fader control, the pad and encoder combo will work just fine.

Potential Drawbacks

A few notes here on things that you don’t get with the S5 – or what might be considered shortcomings of the controller to some DJs:

Sync-Dependent Workflow


Make no mistake, this controller is absolutely designed to be used with sync regularly. We actually think that because the Kontrol S5 (like the S8 before it) has such good integration with Stems and Remix Decks, it’s not “cheating”, but rather the best example of sync allowing you to do more when DJing. It’s more realistic to start chopping up loops into Remix Decks or playing Stems when you’re not worried about beatmatching.

Will it take a little while to get used to this from a traditional DJ set up? Absolutely, but once you do, the floodgates have started to open. Especially if you’ve never actually mixed more than two decks at a time, the Kontrol S5 could really open your eyes to how fun and effective it can be.

That being said, if your music material is not well beat-gridded and with correct BPMs, then you might be in trouble. The world of sync means it’s very easy to drop songs and mix them seamlessly, but it also requires more advance preparation – or a willingness to get good at beat gridding on the fly. If you are the kind of DJ that hates file prep, and just wants to drop a track and manually beat-match it up – then probably look elsewhere.

No Mixer Mode /  Timecode on S5


This is one of the few instances where we recommend upgrading to the S8 over the S5 – if you really need a mixer instead of just an aux input, the S8 has that ability. Same goes for timecode input, although if you wanted you could unlock that on the Kontrol S4 MK2 as well.

The #RealDJing Haters

It’s worth noting here that a drawback of buying any all-in one DJ controller these days are the difficulties of being a controller DJ in an era of CDJs and a mixer. There’s no denying that controller-only DJs get a fair amount of shade thrown at them at times.  We think if you have a controller that actually allows you to do more than a pair of decks (like playing a track, dropping the other elements and isolating ONLY the drums, mixing in a second song, and layer one-shots overtop of the whole thing) and any hate starts to become irrelevant in the face of raw creativity.

At the end of the day, don’t worry about what other people think of your setup – focus on having fun, mixing great music, and creating a unique sound. And a full dance floor never hurts. There are a lot of massive DJs that rock very respectable crowds with the S4, and now that the headphone outputs are at proper club levels, we would not be surprised to see even more on this more portable S5.

The Kontrol S5 is available in the DJTT store today for $799 – grab a unit while we still have stock

Edit: NI has released a series of great videos demonstrating the S5’s various features – watch with the below embedded YouTube playlist: 

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]]> (Administrator) tech feeds Fri, 02 Oct 2015 09:05:00 -0700
What to know about Roland’s mini, dockable “boutique” synths


Roland’s “Boutique” Synths are now here officially, after most of the details of these mini synths leaked out in advance of their launch. And we get a real look at this line of inexpensive, mini synths – three models, with an optional keyboard dock.

First up, Mitch Gallagher has a hands-on for retailer Sweetwater, the first I’ve seen. It’s a 9-minute “Sweetwater Minute” which is to say… it’s made up of several minutes chained together?

The most important thing about the Boutique series is that Roland says they’re powered by Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) – that’s the same modeling employed in the AIRA series, and it’s been pretty well-received there. They also give you a lot of hands-on control, and they’re not expensive. That combination I suspect will make them a big hit.

At the same time, the main thing is whether you’ll want these particular models. There are a lot of ways you could spend your money here, from other synths to soft synths to loading software models onto Roland’s own AIRA SYSTEM-1. And, of course, this prompted speculation as to why Roland didn’t just keep releasing software models for the SYSTEM-1. That seems obvious. One, the SYSTEM-1’s control layout doesn’t really suit every software model – or, really, almost any software model other than the original. Two, it seems there’s more money to be made selling new hardware, not to mention to customers who find this appealing but not the SYSTEM-1.

We also know at last what the “boutique” moniker means. Roland says these are a limited edition, though from one of the largest instrument makers in the world, it’s hard to know precisely what that means. Anyway, we do get color-graded, hipster-friendly images of the line if that makes you feel any better.

Also, this video:

That song.

But no, let’s be honest: these will appeal if you wanted a model of one these synths in standalone, mobile form. If you hate mini keys, the good thing about that dock is, you can also use these modules with your favorite keyboard.

We could go copy-paste all the specs, but I suspect you’re capable of reading the Roland website. Instead, here are the most interesting details:


They’re cheap. Street US$299 for the Juno or JX or $399 for the JP-08, plus $99 for the dock. That might be all you need to know. There’s not much else in that price class: Arturia MicroBrute has a unique, analog character, there’s, um, MeeBlip (bring your own keyboard/sequencer), there’s the KORG volca series (KEYS is still a great choice, and it’s battery powered), some Waldorf pieces, and that’s about it. And now there’s also Novation Circuit. But nothing really doing this sort of emulation, so I think this is a good deal. (Commenters compared the Roland entries to Yamaha’s Reface, but that’s significantly more expensive and covers a completely different sound range. Parallel product philosophies, sure, but different results.)

Metal, dude. If you hate plastic, the front panel here is made of metal (though it appears to have a plastic chassic, and the dock is plastic). Curious how these feel.

They use USB or battery power. Bus power works, too, so you don’t need a wall wart. And that’s only 4 AA’s. The batteries can go in the dock, too.

Each has a step sequencer. And it looks a lot like the TR-8 drum machine step sequencer. Smart – and this means you can fiddle with these on the go even without the keyboard dock, though it’s more useful with the keyboard handy. (I think the clicking in the Sweetwater video is just a wonky envelope setting, not a bug.)


USB works for MIDI and audio. That is a full-fledged audio interface there. And you can run MIDI over USB. And there are still dedicated MIDI DIN jacks. That combination means I do think one of these modules might make a smart purchase. You already own a keyboard with MIDI out, right?

Solo, unison, polyphonic. This makes loads of sense, too.

They’re chain-able. That adds polyphony. But it involves chaining together two of the same unit, and I can’t imagine anyone outside a Roland dealer doing that.

So, one unit gives you 4 voices, which a lot of commenters are complaining about, except… well, do you really want 8 voices of this sound? (ducks)

They’re small. Hey, they’re cute. They’re portable. They’re, according to Roland, “the size of a book.”


You want the JP-08, right? I mean, seriously. The JX-03 cleverly puts the PG-200 controller on the JX-3P keyboard, but … the appeal for both the JU-06 and JX-03 seems to me primarily for people who owned those keyboards; I’m not sure these are the best-aging sounds in synth history. The JP-08 Jupiter is really the sound it seems that has the largest draw; the control layout looks great and the sound is indeed lust-worthy.

Heck, Roland even priced the JP-08 $100 more than the other two, almost as if knowing it’d be the one in demand. It’s like the “this is the one you really want” tax.

Then again, there’s your problem solved: get the JP-08 and the dock, connect them once, and you’re good to go. Or skip the dock and just get a JP-08 and have a good time without another keyboard collecting dust in your studio. (This story concludes as a mob of JX and Juno owners chases me around Berlin…)

And let’s talk about the JP-08. Apart from the dual ribbon controllers and portability, the JP-08 improves on the original Jupiter-8 with extra waveforms and an expanded VCO range.

I’m going to try to get a JP-08 for a proper review, so let me know if you have questions.

Reading comments, my take is obviously different. People either hate this and jump into expletives or immediately want all three. Right, then.

Anyway, have at the official site.

The post What to know about Roland’s mini, dockable “boutique” synths appeared first on Create Digital Music.

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]]> (Administrator) tech feeds Fri, 02 Oct 2015 04:33:00 -0700
Rekordbox 4.0 Out Now; Rekordbox DJ Performance Pack 30-Day Trial

We’ve just finished shooting a hands-on video with the new DDJ-RX and Rekordbox 4.0 – but if you want a taste of the newest DJ software in the industry, now is the change. The new version of Rekordbox has been released, and with it a brand new Performance download that unlocks the DJ software element of it. Keep reading for quick overview – with a full video coming out on Monday!

Rekordbox DJ Plus Pack

The naming of Pioneer’s DJ software is still a bit up in the air – sometimes it’s as simple as “the performance pack” and other times it’s “Rekordbox DJ” – but either way it’s a powerful tool that’s taken some of the most fun elements of DJing on Pioneer gear, and combined them with innovations we’ve seen in other softwares over the last few years to build a solid platform to grow on.

Right now the software is compatible with the DDJ-S line (DDJ-SX2, -SX, -SR, -SB, -SZ, and DDJ-WeGo3) as well as the forthcoming DDJ-RX and -RZ, which have a few additional controls that are Rekordbox focused.

For us, most exciting features in Rekordbox DJ include:

  • Related tracks: Similar to Traktor DJ on iOS, but in RDJ you can dial in exactly the parameters that it chooses the tracks on – match by compatible Key, Tempo, recency of download, similar tags, and more)
  • Slicer-to-Sample: Not only is there a full-fledged Slicer – but you can drop the contents of the slicer into the 16-slot sampler and play it back – which is especially powerful combined with…
  • Sampler sequencer: Set a quantization rate (or leave it freeform) and then record your samples in time with the track – it feels very similar to the RMX’s sample functionality but much more expanded
  • Release FX: Speaking of the RMX line, the fun “ejector seat” of FX that the RMX-1000 first introduced has made an appearance in the software. Put a release effect (echo, back spin, etc) on the end of an effects chain or on your Pad FX to turn off your FX with a flourish.
  • Pad FX: Seemingly inspired by the classic Midi Fighter Instant Gratification mapping, the FX triggers on performance pads allows quick effecting of your tracks – and you can edit the FX and rate in the software and add additional pages of Pad FX to access.

Rekordbox 4.1? What’s Coming Next

We’ve learned of a few things on the “coming soon” roadmap for Rekordbox DJ – including:

  • DVS control (this will be another paid pack)
  • HID control with CDJs (free)
  • Additional FX (we’re guessing these also could be paid, a la Serato DJ)
  • Custom MIDI control

Interestingly, we’ve done a bit of backend poking around and found out that the mappings for Rekordbox DJ are stored in .CSV files – perhaps a bit of DIY MIDI mapping isn’t too far off for adventurous DJ Techtools readers!

Rekordbox 4.0 is available to download for free here – and there’s a 30 day free trial of the new performance / DJ features. Get to it and let us know what you think so far in the comments! 

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]]> (Administrator) tech feeds Thu, 01 Oct 2015 20:51:00 -0700
Moog Mother-32 wants to be your intro to modular synthesis


Moog Music was already there for you with modular products if you wanted to live out a Keith Emerson fantasy and had thousands of dollars burning a hole in your pocket. For some, that may read like learning the Leerjet company is happy to indulge your dream of flying — so long as you’ve got a few million dollars and time for pilot lessons.

Okay, so what about everyone else? Hot on the heels of the discontinuation of the Minimoog Voyager, the Mother-32 might just be Moog’s new answer to what synthesis lovers everywhere might crave. It’s a desktop (but also rack-able) semi-modular synth, and at just US$599.

The Moog Mother-32 isn’t massively expensive. It doesn’t need other modules to go with it. (This is Moog’s long-awaited entry into Eurorack, in case you were wondering – but it also stands happily on its own.) It doesn’t even insist that you connect a single patch cord: it’s a very sensible semi-modular design, with loads of patching options when you like them, but also the ability to start making sound right away.

So, if you have caught Eurorack fever, this will fit right in. But if you haven’t, it’s finally an instrument that brings back some of the appeal of semi-modular design.


In fact, while it’s semi-modular, it approximates a lot of starter modular rigs. What’s onboard:

  • 10-octave analog oscillator with variable pulse width
  • Analog white noise generator
  • Voltage-controlled mixer
  • Moog Ladder Filter (low/high-pass types) – of course, it’s a Moog (accept no substitutes and whatnot)
  • 32-step sequencer, with 64 pattern recall. (Weirdly, that looks a bit Elektron-like because of the buttons!)
  • External MIDI control

You combine that with a 32-point analog patchbay.

It also looks beautiful, with black, laser-etched extruded aluminum and (it’s a Moog!) wooden sidepieces.

Moog is also fully accessorizing this, with 2- or 3-tier rack kits and a nice soft carry case. If you do want to use this as the beginning of a slow descent into the wallet-draining, life-destroying power of Eurorack – uh, I mean the “joys of modular synthesis” – there’s a 60 HP Eurorack case – power supply not included.


Actually, if I had any kneejerk concern about this, it’s that I would look hard at what the Eurorack community can offer, since part of the appeal of modular is customizability. This is by contrast a very Moog-y offering, the vanilla stuff. If you fancy vanilla, this is, well, premium vanilla. If you fancy rum raisin, you might look at other builders. That’s keeping in mind there are plenty of oddball modules out there. And I don’t just mean the ones that are literally full of dirt – consider also very different animals like the Mutable Instruments modules. (Full disclosure: yes, I eat ice cream in the long Berlin winter. So sue me. It’s delicious. Love both those flavors. I… lost track of what I was writing about.)

On the other hand, it’s tough to beat Moog’s $599 price – and some will find the Moog character (in aesthetics, build, and sound) a big draw. And the combination of the Moog with that full spectrum of Eurorack will also clearly appeal to a lot of people.

Updated: To better understand where this has come from, CDM asked Moog to tell us about its lineage and design. Our friend Cyril Lance, Chief Engineer, responds in detail:

The MOTHER-32 is a semi-modular analog subtractive synthesizer very much inspired by the traditional Moog modular and the instruments we’ve developed over the last 50 (15) years.

At it’s essence is a voltage-controlled, 1V/octave sawtooth analog oscillator with control-voltage summing and both linear and FM modulation inputs followed by a PWM comparator with voltage-controlled inputs. The oscillator and PWM engine is very much in the traditional of the Voyager and Little Phatty lineage.

The Noise and LFO sections are both purely analog and again are very much in the vocabulary of our synthesizers. Analog mixers, analog envelope generator, VCA, MULTS, and as you mentioned a classic Moog 4-Pole Ladder filter with a very good sounding High-Pass configuration are all in the Moog vocabulary.

The MOTHER-32 combines this powerful traditional modular sound-engine with both analog interconnectivity (including sync’ing multiple units through analog clock) and MIDI to control one or more MOTHER-32’s from external controllers / DAW’s

Additionally, a very powerful STEP SEQUENCER / One-Octave keyboard is included in the instrument, making this a fantastic tool for creativity and spontaneous composition. As you know, the sequence also heralds directly back to the original modular systems but this modern incarnation, of course, includes MIDI syncing, memory and a much more sophisticated function set.

For a sense of the sound, Moog invited synthesists Erika, Max Ravitz, and Bana Haffer to contribute video. (Erika can absolutely kill it doing techno, too, by the way, with her Ectomorph all-hardware show at Panorama Bar last month – more on that on CDM soon.)


The post Moog Mother-32 wants to be your intro to modular synthesis appeared first on Create Digital Music.

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]]> (Administrator) tech feeds Thu, 01 Oct 2015 09:00:00 -0700
Hands-on with Novation Circuit, drum machine synth sequencer hardware all-in-one

circuit hands on 6

Novation has been doing things with grids and knobs for some time, but those have come in the form of gadgets you plug into a computer and use with software like Ableton Live. Circuit is different: it’s an all-in-one groove workstation with sequencer, drum machine, synth, and arrangement in control, and it doesn’t even need to be plugged into power.

We’ve got one of the first Novation Circuit units here, so in advance of our full review, here’s a quick hands-on.

First, Novation’s video shows off the idea:

I first saw Circuit on a visit to Novation’s London office in August – the place where they’re cooking up a lot of their ideas for attracting more people to music. (iOS apps were getting sketched there, too.)

And there, Circuit was immediately all about getting you going with music ideas quickly. (I suspect anyone working for a music technology company, finding their own leisure time severely restricted, appreciates personally the import of getting things started – and of course, that was the topic of the teaser campaign for this hardware.)

So, it starts with an 8×4 grid interface and encoders. Those are velocity-sensitive pads, and the feel of them and the entire build makes this clearly the sibling to the Launchpad Pro controller. The difference here is, you can untether from the computer and use this box on its own. (You can get an idea of what standalone hardware Novation likes in the teaser video, which features a Dave Smith synth, a 303, and an Elektron.)

From there, what do you get?

It’s a modeled synth. There’s a two-part analog-modeled synthesizer in there, which Novation describes as “Nova-heritage.” It certainly has that edgy, modern, somehow English Novation sound.

It’s a drum machine. You get four parts here – simple, but tweakable.

You can play chords. There’s 6-voice polyphony onboard, so you aren’t limited to mono synth lines. And there’s actually a very clever chord mode, which I’ll talk about more when we do the full review.

It’s tweakable – albeit blind. At first blush, this may seem like a preset machine and a bit of a toy. But those eight encoders are paired with a whole lot of parameters for changing the sound. You can switch oscillator types and wavetables, not just twist the filter (though that’s there, too, of course). And all of those encoder adjustments can be recorded and played back in real-time, if you choose.

circuit hands on 4

It’s a step sequencer and pattern recorder. You can play in live, or adjust one step at a time, or a combination (navigating between those modes is atypically easy, in fact). You get up to 128 steps, so you aren’t limited to the 1 bar-patterns you hear in the first demos. Also, if you’re not a fantastic musician on the pads, things do auto-quantize and can be restricted by key – handy for low-pressure live performance. You also get 32 sequence slots for playing live, making this a bit like the Poor Boy’s Octatrack.

It does effects, mixing. Delay, reverb for effects, each fully tweakable, and live mixing plus side-chain capability.

It works with your other gear. USB for the computer, MIDI for external devices. True to form, there’s still a copy of Ableton Live Lite in the box – a bit odd as the main draw here is getting away from your computer. On the other hand, Live (or something like it) is likely to be how you finish whatever you start on the Circuit.

The MIDI support for me keeps this from being overly limited or turning into a toy. You can receive and send MIDI notes and controls, and automatically sync to received MIDI clock (plus forwarding it to the Out jack). More details on that in our review.

It’s ultra-portable and works standalone. You can run on 12V DC power via an adapter, or 6x AA batteries. (I do sort of wish manufacturers would start using rechargeable batteries, though you could invest in rechargeable AA’s if you aren’t already buying AA in bulk for your music gizmos.) But with a decently loud (if tinny) built-in speaker, and a headphone jack, you can go to the park with this one. (Or, as our UK-based friends say, “to the bus” – yes, London will offer long Night Bus trips to start and finish songs.)

And incredibly, the whole package is US$329.99 (£249.99 UK or 349€ including VAT in Europe).

So, how does it feel?

circuit hands on 2

I was actually impressed: this doesn’t feel like a do-everything $300 box. The pads are nicely velocity sensitive and everything feels solid. There’s a blue anti-slip, grippy surface to the bottom. It’s an incredible dirt magnet, but it holds everything in place.

It’s terrifically portable – it’s tough to say just how easy this is to toss in a bag.

Also, it’s clear that Novation has learned a lot from the Launchpad about workflow. You get all of that ready access, minus the computer. You can quickly add patterns, clear, duplicate, nudge, and change pattern length, plus easily get at effects and synth/drum sound parameters.

The oddest part about using the Circuit is perhaps that while all of the usability controls are well-labeled, you often don’t really know what twisting an encoder will do. Only the brightness of the LED underneath tells you the level, and you just have to learn what the assignments are. On the other hand, Circuit really feels like it’s about intuition, experimentation, and happy accidents, so the absence of a display doesn’t really kill the fun.

Let us know if you have questions about this, and what you think, in advance of our full review. Here are some unboxing pics in the meantime. (And yes, it does include the MIDI minijack connections that are fast becoming an accidental standard, plus breakouts and power and USB all in the box for you.)

circuit hands on 1

circuit hands on 9

circuit hands on 3

circuit hands on 5

By the way, this is a 13″ MacBook Pro – it really is small, the Circuit.

circuit hands on 7

The post Hands-on with Novation Circuit, drum machine synth sequencer hardware all-in-one appeared first on Create Digital Music.

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