iVCS3 Tease

ivcs3

Some exciting news, via sythtopia.com

Alessandro Petrolati and Densitygs (makers of iPulsaret and iDensity) will be releasing iVCS3, a virtual  recreation of the famed EMS VCS3 (Voltage Controlled Studio No.3) synthesizer.

EMS, VCS3, Voltage Controlled Studio No.3

Featuring iconic patching matrix and joystick controls, the analog VCS3 was infamously quirky, and is now extremely rare. I was lucky enough to play one of these at NYU’s Music Technology Department, and it is such a cool little synth. The monophonic 3 VCO/VCF/VCA synth was originally offered to the public in 1969 at a very reasonable price of just £330 + £150 for the keyboard (more historical info via factmag.com). Soon, iVCS3 can be yours, on your tablet, for just a fraction of that. Estimated arrival is March. Until then, feast your eyes and ears on this video teaser:

On A Personal Note: To Blog Or Not To Blog?

Hello there dear reader! Just a note to say sorry for my radio silence of late… I’ve been wrapped up in a truly staggering number of things that have taken precedence over blogging. I’m grateful for the manic surge of brain activity but frankly, it’s more than my mind can handle all at once. Over the last few months I’ve been engaged in:

1. Learning programming. Took an online course in Python. That has lead me to research an exponential number of paths to follow next, including Java, Javascript, Objective C, C… I’m kind of all over the place, wanting to devour all knowledge in sight yet not really knowing where to start. Anyone care to chime in with advice?

2. Video games. Another result of the aforementioned class, (which delved into creating games), I am trying to absorb everything I’ve missed in the years since I stopped playing video games. I’ve been wanting to learn how to make mobile apps and games for years, (the whole reason I started learning to program in the first place), so it only makes sense to play (err, I mean, research) as much as possible. Any games out there I absolutely must try? 

3. Resumed messing around with MAX/MSP after years of hiatus. I’ve also dabbled in Csound a bit in the past;  I hope to integrate one or the other or both into my musical activities again and, eventually, build some sort of musical app of my own.

4. Trying to upgrade my rig. I set up a Mavericks OS on an external hard drive and am testing out various new softwares on it before I commit to overhauling my reliable yet slightly out-of-date laptop. It’s hard to let go of a system that has so many toys on it and simply works, but I am falling behind the curve…

There are oh so many more things I have on the back burner of my mind that I wish I had time or energy to get into, like pedal building, arduino, analog synth building, amp building… the list goes on. I fear I may never get to any of these things. Which brings me to the question of: To blog or not to blog?

I’ve mentioned that I wanted to convert this blog from a pure product plug format to more of a demonstrative document… If I can get it together, I hope to make this happen very soon. Until then, I guess it will just be sporadic updates, though hopefully more interesting than this one!

In the past I’ve struggled with whether or not to keep this blog strictly “professional,” to throw in the occasional personal update now and then, or to start a whole new personal blog for moments such as these. What do you think? 

Anyway, if you’re still with me, thanks for letting me rant!

The Next Big Thing Is A Small Thing: Arturia Microbrute

Arturia, Microbrute, Analog Synth
Microbrute is Arturia’s even smaller followup to the massive sounding Minibrute.
Squeezing the same 100% analog electronics into a more compact body, Microbrute gets rid of a few knobs and faders in favor of a patchable modulation matrix and a new step-sequencer. Read the press release for all the details, then check out sexy pictures and videos:
Arturia’s award-winning MiniBrute Analog Synthesizer rapidly reset the price/performance ratio benchmark when soaring through the subtractive synthesis sound barrier last year to much critical acclaim and subsequent success. Today it is joined by its equally as big- sounding little brother, the MicroBrute Analog Synthesizer. Putting all the basic building blocks of an analogue synth classic into an even more compact and bijou package that’s pure hand-ons fun at an affordable price, the MicroBrute is guaranteed to bring big smiles to go with those big sounds!
But the MicroBrute Analog Synthesizer is actually anything but basic. For starters, just like its big brother, the OSCILLATOR that beats at its musical heart features SAW, TRIANGLE, and SQUARE waveforms that are all mixable to help shape the resulting sound without the limitations imposed by comparable contemporary and vintage synths alike. Additionally, the new Overtone oscillator generates additional harmonic content, ranging from one octave down to a fifth above the base OSCILLATOR pitch, while the Sub > Fifth control can continuously sweep spectrum. Moreover, Metalizer adds complex harmonics to the TRIANGLE waveform for creating harsh, harmonically-rich sounds, while Ultrasaw adds a lively and bright ensemble effect to the SAWTOOTH waveform — perfect for crafting sounds suited to dance anthems. And let’s not forget the all-important Pulse Width control for creating nasal-thin tones or rich square sounds. Simply speaking, never before has such a small, single-oscillator synth sounded so big!
Of course, filtering helps shape any analogue synth’s sound — be it big or small, and here the MicroBrute does not disappoint. Indeed, its distinctive-sounding Steiner-Parker FILTER plays a big part in helping give the MicroBrute a unique sound — again, just like its big brother. This filter design dates back to the Steiner-Parker Synthacon, an analogue monosynth built by the namesake Salt Lake City-based synth manufacturer between 1975 and 1979. Its HP (high-pass), BP (bandpass), and LP (lowpass) modes make for far more filtering flexibility than that found in synths many times the price! And that’s before factoring Arturia’s acclaimed Brute FactorTM into the equation, adding anything from subtle overdrive to full-blown intermodulation havoc — choose your settings, and let the fun begin!
Speaking of modulation, the easily accessible, front-panel mounted MOD MATRIX is a Volt per Octave-standard patchable system of modulation routing with ENV (envelope) out, LFO (low frequency oscillator) out, Ultrasaw modulator in, PWM (pulse width modulation) in, Metal (Metalizer) in, Overtone/Sub modulator in, Filter cutoff in, and Pitch in — meaning more in-depth, inbuilt sound-sculpting possibilities, as well as allowing Arturia’s own MicroBrute to be easily brought into the interfacing mix, or mixing and matching with third-party modular synth systems for far-out sonic explorations! Dig as deep as you need or dare to go with the MicroBrute!
Similarly, the new eight-Pattern step SEQUENCER is an almost endless source of inspiration and rhythmic creativity — step input notes and rests to create storable sequences that can be played back and switched between on the fly at a variable Rate or synchronised to external MIDI clock. Meanwhile, MIDI, USB, and CV GATE connectivity, of course, combine to ensure that the MicroBrute is ready and willing to talk to the outside electronic musical instrument world wherever it may find itself. It’s even blessed with an external audio Input with Input Level control, so why not use it to process whatever you feel like sticking into its 1/4-inch socket — within reason, of course!
With a space-saving 25-note mini-keyboard and weighing in at only 1.75kg, the MicroBrute Analog Synthesizer is truly compact and bijou, but punches well above its weight with a rip-roaring analogue sound spanning woofer-flapping bass, screaming leads, ear-opening effects, wave-folded growls, punchy drum sounds galore, and much in-between and beyond. Pick one up from an authorised Arturia dealer today!
Arturia, Microbrute, Analog SynthArturia, Microbrute, Analog Synth Arturia, Microbrute, Analog Synth

Moog Minifoogers!

Moog, Minifoogers, Moogerfooger,

Moog is jumping into the downsizing game, with the release of its new line of Minifoogers.  These are the slicker, smaller, tighter versions of Moogerfoogers, which have long been at the top of my want list. Moogers are sort of like the Cadillac of guitar pedals; powerful, large, and a bit pricey. Now that the classic sound shapers are stuffed into a mini package, at a mini price, I’m not sure how long I can hold out!

The Minifooger family –  MF Drive, MF Boost, MF Delay, MF Ring, and MF Trem are all 100% analog, true bypass, hand assembled, and cost under $200. They can be controlled with an expression pedal or CV.

Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen demonstrates:

Minifooger Analog Effects Pedals

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 between 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 combination. 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 settings, repeats are fast and bright for creating classic slap-back and plate sounds. At medium 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 expressive swells and delay time for tape delay and chorus/flange effects. MSRP: $209.

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 octaves 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 phasing and chorus. The expression pedal input adds control of the Speed parameter for hands-free swells and rotary effects. MSRP: $189

Minifooger Analog Effects Pedals are available for preorder from all authorized Moog dealers now. We will begin shipping the first units from our Asheville factory in October, 2013. For more information about Minifooger Analog Effects Pedals got to: MINIFOOGER.COM

Arturia Minibrute [REVIEW]

Arturia, Minibrute, analog synth

If deep throbbing analog synth bass is what you crave, look no further than Arturia’s Minibrute.

That little thing? Well I tell you, the cliche is true – it’s not the size, but how you use it. Minibrute proves that underneath its small exterior lies a sonic girth that can do some seriously brutal aural damage.

The thickness comes from an all analog signal path, pushing gooey warm waves into your earhole. This 25 note keyboard is monophonic, but the sound isn’t simple. Minibrute uses a single voltage controlled oscillator to drive 4 different waveforms: sawtooth, square, triangle, and white noise. The first three can be effected with their respective ‘bi-polar’ modulators; Ultrasaw adds a little je ne sais quoi to le sawtooth, Pulse-Width puts the squeeze on the squarewave, and Metallizer changes the harmonics of the triangle. These can be mixed to taste, along with Audio-Input, and a sub-oscillator, which renders some serious fat in the melange.

Arturia Minibrute 2

Next, your sound must be filtered, and Minibrute’s filter is super juicy. Low-pass, high-pass, band pass, and notch options are available. The real treat here is cranking up the resonance to the point of self-oscillation, then tweaking that with the cut-off. Mmm… Delicious… To take your sound totally over the top, turn the Brute knob for extreme destruction.

ADSR amplitude and filter envelopes give everything some more gravy (you can assign positive or negative envelope responses to all parameters.) You can set the range of the pitch bend wheel, mod wheel control, aftertouch, vibrato, and the amount of glide between notes. Add shuddering LFO action to the Pulsewidth/Metallizer, pitch, filter, and amplitude, with a choice of sine, triangle, saw, square, rough or smooth random waveforms. Finally, there is an arpeggiator with a 4 octave range, 4 modes (up, down, up/down, random), 6 time divisions (1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/4T, 1/8T, 1/16T), 6 swing settings, tap tempo, and hold. And if that isn’t enough, Minibrute connects with the rest of your studio gear via MIDI, CV, and the aforementioned Audio-Input.

Arturia Minibrute 3

Arturia has truly managed to stuff a beast of a synth into a small package. Minibrute delivers a robust sound with fiercely unique attributes, and a bass response that will kick you in the pants. Take a listen to this demo, and make sure you are using headphones or speakers with some sub to hear what I’m talking about.

Squarepusher Composes for Robot Band Z-Machines [VIDEO]

Z-Machines,

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re turned on by robots, and hopefully by the music of Squarepusher. Well friends, you are in luck today, because now you can enjoy both at the same time.

Brought to you by Zima (???), favorite beverage of teenage girls everywhere, (apparently in Japan especially), Squarepusher’s new song ‘Sad Robot Goes Funny‘ is performed by a band of robots. And really, who better to perform Tom Jenkinson’s maniacal sounds? Someone should have thought of this a long time ago. Of course, it was Molson Coors Japan Co., right? These are the lengths that Japanese advertising goes to, and frankly I’m blown away. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen robot used to perform music, (check out Eric Singer’s Lemur Bots or Pat Metheny’s Orchestrion), but this robot band has some undeniable flair. My question is, who gets to compose for the Z-Machines next?

View the video, read the [extremely thorough] press release below, and make sure you scroll all the way to the end of this post for a brief interview with Squarepusher on his thoughts about the project.

To: Members of the Press September 4, 2013 Molson Coors Japan Co., Ltd

78-finger Guitar, 22 Drums, Beyond-Human!

Squarepusher and robot band from Japan in Music of the Future collaboration — a must see video!

On September 4th, ZIMA, an alcoholic beverage brand of Molson Coors Japan Co., Ltd. (President: Kenichi Yano) that has always been at the forefront of youth culture, will start streaming the video of “music of the future” created together by the party robot band Z-MACHINES and highly acclaimed UK electronic artist Squarepusher. The music will be released on iTunes Store under the artist name Squarepusher x Z-MACHINES on the same day.

Referred to as “an attempt to break new ground for emotional machine music” by its composer Squarepuhser, Sad Robot Goes Funny features the superhuman prowess of Z-MACHINES, showcasing in particular the stupendous chops of the guitarist playing multiple melody lines with 78 fingers and 12 picks at lightning speed in the latter half of the song. On the other hand, the music also tells an emotional story contrary to the image of robots always being mechanical. This makes it a truly groundbreaking piece of music from Sqaurepusher to open the way for new music of the future.

The music video featuring Z-MACHINES’s performance was produced by Daito Manabe of Rhizomatiks, an up-and-coming director who recently garnered attention at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. To project the cool, minimal image, the robots’ playing were captured at super-close distance using cameras attached to a robot arm which enabled some dynamic camera work probing into the close-ups of Z-MACHINES in action. Highlighting Z-machine’s structure in detail and how they produce sounds, the music clip is filled with astonishing images that you’ve never seen before. We invite you to come watch this “video of the future”!

About Z-MACHINES

Z-MACHINES is a social network party band of three robots developed by ZIMA for the “party of the future”. Its creation was supervised by Yoichiro Kawaguchi, a professor of the University of Tokyo, and artist Naohiro Ukaawa.

MACH -Robot guitarist challenging the speed of over BPM1000

Mach, Z-Machines,

MACH inspires music creators to advance the possibility of music with super-accurate playing beyond human ability – it can not only play ultra-fast, but also play the slide, mute strings, and use the whammy bar. He’s also equipped with the “Body & Soul: Synchronicity System” where he will bang his head in synch with the movement of the audience watching the performance online. He will bring together the audience and players for a whole new party experience. .

ASHURA -Robot drummer that can play the most complex rhythm on 22 drums!

Ashura, Z-Machines,

The special drum set consists of 19 drums and 3 bass drums which are more than double the usual set – it is the one-and-only drum set in the world specially developed for ASHURA. The extreme dance rhythm possible only for a machine drummer inspires composers for a totally new musical innovation.

COSMO -Robot keyboard player resembling a future life form!

 

Cosmo, Z-Machines,

COSMO’s sexy neon colors add a touch of flamboyance to the Z-MACHINES performance. Designed with the concept of “future life form”, he is supposed to be an ancient life form evolved a few thousand years ahead. He has spiral shapes in many of his body parts, which is a symbol of primordial life energy, and revs up the party “spirally” upward with music. He can emit light from the eyes through user demand online, playing the role to unite the party involving the power of the online audience.

Squarepusher

Squarepusher

Squarepusher, a.k.a. Tom Jenkinson, is a leading artist of Warp Records. His revolutionary style of works is influenced by all categories of music including the experimental and, particularly popular “drum & bass” style inspired by the music of jazz and fusion. Ufabulum, a new album released on May 2 is characterized by the extensive use of electronic sounds throughout the album with super-fast and super-complex rhythm reminiscent of his earlier works. The jazz-oriented feel of “Feed Me Weird Things”, beautiful and pop melody of “Hard Normal Daddy”, and acid and aggressive “Go Plastic”, all make this the best-ever album exceeding the perfection of his classic Ultravisitor.

He played in the Fuji Rock Festival in 2001, and also sold out all shows in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya for his Japan tour of 2004. He also put on an astounding performance recently at the Electraglide Festival in 2012.

Daitdo Manabe

Daitdo Manabe, Z-Machines,

Daito Manabe’s works are created by rearranging familiar phenomena and materials after looking at them from a new perspective and understanding them in a fresh way. His goal is not to create rich, high-definition, and highly realistic works, but rather to use careful observation in order to discover the intrinsically enjoyable elements of phenomena, bodies, programming, and computers. In 2006, he founded rhizomatiks, a design firm that covers a broad range of media, from web to interactive design. In 2008, he founded the hackerspace 4nchor5La6 (Anchors Lab) with Motoi Ishibashi.

Born in 1976, he graduated from the Department of Mathematics, Faculty of Science, Tokyo University of Science as well as the Dynamic Sensory Programming Course at the International Academy of Media Arts and Sciences. He has used his programming skills to participate in various projects across a range of genres and fields. He is also active in educational efforts in countries around the world, holding workshops among other activities in locations such as the MIT MediaLab and Fabrica. Many of his works and workshops are aimed at children, such as a computer workshop held in a Thai orphanage. Participated as a presenter at the openFrameworks developers conference and the Cycling 74 Expo. Juror at the 2009 Prix Ars Electronica, and received the Award of Distinction in the Interactive Art Category at the 2011 Prix. Received 1 Grand Prize, 2 Excellence prizes, and 7 Jury Recommendations at the Japan Media Arts Festival held by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. Responsible for the video projection and creation system as well as the balloon explosion system for Perfume’s 2010 Tokyo Dome concert, for which he received much attention, such as being featured in the opening pages of Japanese Motion Graphic Creators. He directed Etsuko Yakushimaru’s “Venus and Jesus,” “Lulu,” and “Body Hack” music videos, as well as her website. He also provided an earlier-made work as a commercial for the Spring 2011 Laforet Grand Bazar that received attention from media around the world, including the New York Times and the Guardian.Featured in the Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase in 2013, he has also produced music videos of artists outside of Japan including FaltyDL and Nosaj Thing.

Squarepusher’s comment on Sad Robot Goes Funny

Q. When you received the offer (to make a song for Z-MACHINES), what was your first image of the song for Z-MACHINES?

A. My first idea was about the robots being sad because they are just treated by the public as entertainment machines, and all of their other qualities are neglected. And so this sadness comes out in the music they play, and strangely becomes one of the reasons why the public like them because they seem to be able to evoke strong emotions in their audience. But when the public goes home, the robots play their own music which is more fun and to do with their playful aspect – they think back to being young robots, before they were employed in the sphere of public entertainment, and remember the silly antics they used to get up to. So the first section of the piece is them entertaining the public and being sad, then the second section is them having fun when the public goes home, and lastly the third section is when the public comes back and they are sad again.

Q. Why did you decide to join on this project?

A. The idea of making music with machines fascinates me, as people have often assumed that for music to be emotionally powerful it has to come directly from a human hand, whereas I disagree with that, and enjoy proving those people wrong. This project is an excellent way of exploring that area more.

Q. When you actually joined this project, how did you feel?

A. I was very excited and once I had all of the technical information I got to work on it straight away. I made the piece in three days I think.

Q. What do you think about your song?

A. I think that it explores some of the many fascinating possibilities of music-playing robots. I kept the guitar sound clean (i.e., no distortion) so I could freely explore the possibilities of polyphony. The majority of the guitar element of the piece is written to sound like four guitarists playing even though there are only two guitars in the actual performance. There are so many other aspects of the capabilities of the robots that I would like to explore.

Q. What do you think about Z-MACHINES and their playing technique?

A. So far it seems very impressive. I especially like the way guitar robot plays.

Why You Should Give Up On Gear

Someone recently asked me for a guitar rig recommendation (as people who know me are oft to do). The conversation went something like this:

HIM: “I was up till 5am watching videos and browsing forums and wow did you see the [gratuitously expensive but awesome thing any self respecting guitarist NEEDS]???”

ME: “Yes indeed that is ridiculously amazing and I NEED IT, but sadly I have no income at the moment. BUT DID YOU SEE THISSS????”

[sick gear porn exchange ensues over another 10 emails]

So the question is, what do you really need to make great music? Really, nothing but your mind. After all the punkest thing you can do is NOT play music at all. But if you simply must get those glorious refrains out of your head, maybe some staff paper would do the trick, if you know how to read and write music. Ok ok yes we are in the 21st century, who uses paper, yadda yadda yadda. You have heard that even basic computers these days have way more musical possibilities than the Beatles had access to, right? Are you really better than the Beatles??? So what do you really need to get the job done?

Every year, more and more musicians get lost down the rabbit hole of gear, the gear-hole if you will, and many never come out, nary a note heard from them again. I found myself treading down this slippery slope, which caused me to start this blog, which caused me to stop making music.

Recently, I’ve been trying to reverse that trend. Lack of income has helped the process of recovery a bit, though I still troll gear sites and forums lusting after every piece of bleepy bloopy contraption I see. This past year, I took a cross country trip, leaving my studio behind. I missed all my stuff dearly, but you know what? I MADE MUSIC. In a small rehearsal space, with only a guitar, a few select pedals, my little GK Microbass amp, a Pearl drum kit, a pair of [cheap-made-in-China] Oktava MK12 omni condenser mics, a Shure SM57 for vocals, a 2 channel USB interface, and my laptop, my wife and I recorded this:

It’s admittedly lo-fi, out of necessity, but I think it has its own certain charm.

I realize I haven’t posted in a while, and I’m happy to say that it’s because I’ve been working on lots of music (and trying to find an actual paying job)! Going forward with this blog, I am thinking about focusing on products I actually have, and trying to fully utilize the possibilities they offer, instead of just gushing over the latest hot-new-thing. Hopefully this will lead me back down the path of steady COMPOSING instead of merely CONSUMING.

Waldorf Nave: One Synth To Rule Them All?

Waldorf, Nave, wavetable synth, iPad

The number of iPad synths available nowadays is truly mind-blowing. What’s more astonishing is that, while some see these merely as toys, the sound quality is often quite good. Or so I thought. You see, among all the little iSynths who would be king, there is one who stands a bit bigger, bolder, and downright more beautiful than the others: the Waldorf Nave.

This is a serious heavy hitter, packing a punch that knocks you out right from first boot with a slick animated intro. Then, you hear it. “I am Nave,” it says “and I do synth.” Indeed you do, and how!

Nave isn’t just easy on the eyes, though. It’s deep. Complex. It takes time to get to know. First of all, it’s a wavetable synth. So already, you know there is a lot going on under that pretty exterior. What’s a wavetable synth, you say? It’s different than all those other single, double, or even triple oscillator synths out there – it reads. Wavetables, mostly. With an oscillator, you get one wave. With a wavetable, you get a bunch of waves, stacked on top of each other, changing over time, producing a unique waveform with peaks and valleys jutting out all every which way. Confused? Perhaps this will help:

“The wavetable is in essence an array of N values, with values 1 through to N representing one whole cycle of the oscillator. Each value represents an amplitude at a certain point in the cycle. Wavetables are often displayed graphically with the option for the user to draw in the waveshape he or she requires, and as such it represents a very powerful tool. There is also the possibility of loading a pre-recorded waveshape as well; but note that a wavetable oscillator is only a reference table for one cycle of a waveform; it is not the same as a sampler. The wavetable has associated with it a read pointer which cycles through the table at the required speed and outputs each amplitude value in sequence so as to recreate the waveform as a stream of digital values. When the pointer reaches the last value in the table array, it will reset to point one and begin a new cycle.” http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Sound_Synthesis_Theory/Oscillators_and_Wavetables

Nave knows this makes for some interesting sounds. Give this girl a wavetable or two, and it will tell you all about them, forwards or backwards if you like. You can choose from an extensive bank of included wavetables (86 in all), create your own, share with others, load other people’s wavetables…the possibilities are really endless. There is even an onboard speech synthesizer, so you can make Nave say whatever you want, then use that as a custom wavetable. Editing these 3D wavetables on the iPad is a joy, as you can render them fullscreen, twist and turn them around in space. Sculpting with your fingers is more fun than with a mouse, though it’s not as easy as smudging the shape directly, which would be cool but not as precise I suppose. You still have to select areas and control parameters with faders, but it’s pretty intuitive, and the colorful interface is really what gives Nave its pizzazz.

Obviously, I’m impressed by the graphics, but the sound is what really blows me away. It’s thick. It’s tasty. It can be totally weird, in a great way. And it’s extremely versatile. You get leads, pads, percussive sounds, natch – but then there are atmospheric, alien, bowed metal, horror sfx possibilities as well. The presets alone number over 500, and include contributions from sound design rockstars like Smite Matter, Sunshine Audio, and Richard Devine (who created 95 patches).

Nave’s brain is a dual wavetable engine, with controls for both the wave (tuning, startpoint, speed, play direction) and the spectrum (transpose, add noise, brilliance). In addition, there is an oscillator section, with a special Uber-Wave function, which adds up to 8 tune-spreadable oscillators. The mixer allows you to balance the levels between these and offers ring modulation.

Waldorf, Nave, wavetable synth, iPad

Next there is a rich filter, envelope, and drive section. Following that is an assignable modulation matrix, pitchbend, mod wheel, and XY pads. You can choose between a regular keyboard, (which has a strange scrolling ability that might take some getting used to; while you hold a key you can slide left or right through the octaves), a ‘blade’ keyboard, which adds scale, key, and chord functionality, as well as assignable modulation to sliding up/down or left/right on a key, and, finally, an additional set of programmable XY pads. Then there is an FX section, with phaser, flanger, chorus, delay, reverb, EQ, compression, and an arpeggiator.

Waldorf, Nave, wavetable synth, iPad

If that wasn’t enough, they threw in a 4-track recorder (similar to Animoog) with an adorable reel-to-reel tape interface, timeline, and mixer (with pan!). You can also run Nave through Audiobus to an external recording app, sync with other devices using WIST, or put it into background audio mode and switch to another app to play on top.

Waldorf, Nave, wavetable synth, iPad

Phew. While I could possibly accuse Waldorf of packing TOO MUCH into Nave (I mean, it’s just a silly iPad toy, right?), I can’t think of anything they left out, at the moment. Maybe you should try it out yourself and let me know.

Download Waldorf Nave $19.99 

Miselu Kickstarts C.24, A Unique Keyboard for iPad

Miselu, C.24, iPad keyboard

I’ve had my eye on Miselu since their flagship product Neiro, an Android-based, compact keyboard running software from Korg, Retronyms, and Yamaha. While it was certainly interesting, Android devices haven’t really taken off in the music world the same way as their Apple counterparts have. No one can really argue that the iPad rules the mobile music scene. After former Apple hardware designer Jory Bell joined the Miselu team, it was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened.

And so it seems Miselu has discontinued Neiro in favor of the C.24 – an iPad keyboard with some unique twists. First of all, it is an iPad case, attaching magnetically to protect your precious screen. When called upon to produce magical musical masterpieces, C.24 folds out elegantly, showing its pearly white and black piano teeth. The iPad then settles comfortably into the seat of its chariot, connecting wirelessly via Bluetooth.

The two octave keyboard uses anti-polarity magnets to give a semi-weighted feel. MIDI and aftertouch information is transmitted using optical key tracking. What makes the C.24 really exciting is the ribbon controller running along the top of the keys, with LEDs for visual feedback. On the left side are eight buttons for quick octave switching (presumably these can be configured for other functions too). On the right is a continuous controller for pitch bend. Above this lies a gaping hole, which will be filled in the future with any number of imaginable modular expansion modules, such as knobs, faders, XY pads, and who knows what else? Fleshy squeeze boxes?

For more details, go to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/miselu/c24-the-music-keyboard-for-ipad and give them your damn money!

Arturia iMini Review + Demo [Video]

Arturia, iMini, Minimoog, iPad, synth

When Arturia first released iMini, it was already quite impressive. To have a faithful, rich sounding Minimoog emulation running on your iPad for just $9.99 should have been a miracle for most. But of course, it is just our over-priveledged nature to hold an amazing human achievement in our hands and still cry about what it lacks. No Audiobus? Wahhh!!!

Arturia was quick to respond to this oversight, adding the inter-app audio capability in version 1.1, along with a few other bells and whistles. Now, there is truly no reason to complain. You can plug iMini into Audiobus, you can even plug external audio INTO iMini for God’s sake! And that’s not all:

“background audio advances mean that iMini is always live, yet will still respond to MIDI and be able to run its arpeggiator when working as a background app. And on that very note, whenever iMini is making no sound itself its CPU usage drops dramatically — another neat touch that helps keep things running smoothly when running multiple music apps.

Moving onwards and upwards, expanded MIDI support lets those up-to-date iMini users pick and choose from multiple sources; moreover, inter-app MIDI support — which establishes MIDI messages that enable two iOS devices to identify and enumerate each other — makes it much easier for cool controller apps like Audanika’s SoundPrism Pro advanced MIDI controller for iOS to individually control multiple iMini instances while running in the background on the same iPad, for instance. Let’s talk, in other words!” – Arturia

Yeah yeah, that’s all well and good, but what ELSE does iMini do, you say? Let’s take a more in depth look…

Arturia, iMini, Minimoog, iPad, synth

iMini has three tabs: Main, Perform, and FX. In the Main tab, you see a wood-panel framed, familiar synth layout. Choose from a large library of sorted presets, tune it up or down 2 octaves, set the Glide (Portamento) amount, adjust the Mod-Mix (between Osc.3 & Noise), and you’re off to the races.

The Oscillator Bank contains three oscillators, each of which can be tuned over several octaves. If you hold your finger on oscillators 2 or 3, further coarse tuning is revealed. You can also choose a separate waveform for each, from triangle, saw-triangle, sawtooth, square, wide rectangle, or narrow rectangle. Set their volumes in the Mixer section, along with Noise and External Input. The Modifiers section offers a tasty 24db per octave filter, with Cut-off, Emphasis (Resonance), and a Contour setting that controls how the filter responds to the Envelope Generator. There is also a Loudness Contour with amplitude envelope controls. In the Output section, you set the main level, volumes for the Chorus & Delay effects, or switch to Polyphonic mode.

The Keyboard is pretty straight forward with pitch bend and modulation wheels. But that’s not all: if you hold down the small settings icon next to the iMini logo, you get some additional controls, including the ability to change the octave, scale, and key.

Arturia, iMini, Minimoog, iPad, synth

The Perform tab is really where the action is. Here, you have the Arpeggiator and two XY pads. Get that sound throbbing, then give it the two-finger attack tweak. The default filter and contour controls are pretty fun, but you can set any of the controls from the Main page to the XY axis. Add a little Chorus and or Delay in the FX tab to fatten up your sound.

IF THAT IS STILL NOT ENOUGH FOR YOU, go ahead and fire up Audiobus, add some effects from your favorite app, and record that ish! While the sound of iMini is pretty rich and warm, I like to run my keyboards through guitar pedals, so the free GuitarTone app from Sonoma does the trick for me, (although it is a bit buggy with Audiobus on my iPad 2). Loopy HD, another invaluable offering from Audiobus’ maker A Tasty Pixel, is a cool way to lay down ideas on the fly and let them loop on top of each other ’til you’re dizzy.

Here’s a video of me making some noise with these toys:

Download iMini

“With all this talk of added support, it’s good to know that Arturia will make a donation to The Bob Moog Foundation for every iMini sold in recognition of the groundbreaking instrument to which it owes its very existence. In turn, this supports the dream of building the MoogseumTM (Bob Moog Museum), the convergence of The Bob Moog Foundation’s goals of inspiring and educating people through electronic music.” -