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 

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.” –

Rob Papen Limited Edition EDM & Urban Synth Bundles

Rob Papen, EDM Synth, Urban Synth, synth bundles, Predator, Punch, Blade, SubBoomBass

World-renowned Dutch soft-synth designer Rob Papen has two LIMITED EDITION software bundles available UNTIL 3/31/13 ONLY, so get on this deal QUICK!!!

Rob Papen, EDM Synth Bundle, Blade

The EDM Synth Bundle contains 3 virtual instruments to shake that dance-floor. Blade is an additive synthesis engine loaded with sound sculpting effects and a programmable XY control pad. The schwanky graphical interface is clean, futuristic, and has a bad-ass blade up top! What more do you need to make cutting edge sounds? (ugh sorry couldn’t resist pun). Anyway, you actually need a lot more, and thankfully, it’s all here. Papen has packed Blade full of so many options, it’s a veritable sonic swiss army knife. At the core is what Papen has dubbed the Harmolator – an oscillator system that allows precise, varied control of harmonic content and timbre. Next there is a mangling section that offers 21 distortion and 14 filter options. Then there is a sequencable arpeggiator, where each pulsing note’s pitch and velocity can be finely tailored. The centerpiece of Blade is the aforementioned XY control, which makes it possible to inject that oh so important human element. You can record modulation, then loop it backwards and forward, adjust and sync speed.

Rob Papen, EDM Synth Bundle, Urban Synth Bundle, Predator

Common to both bundles are Predator and Punch. Predator is a classic triple oscillator synth with filters, LFO modulation, arpeggiator, and a whole slew of effects. Also included is the PredatorFX plug-in, which allows you to use all these functions as a sound processor in your DAW. Punch is a drum synth/sampler/groove-machine. You can mix and match preset sounds or add your own to create a custom kit. Tweak, filter, add envelopes, LFO’s, and modulation to each individual sound. Trigger built-in key-mapped sequences, all programmable on a grid similar to the arpeggiator found in Papen’s other instruments.

Rob Papen, EDM Synth Bundle, Urban Synth Bundle,  Punch

Finally, SubBoomBass replaces Blade in the Urban Synth Bundle. As the name clearly states, this synth brings some serious sub to the equation! SubBoomBass features dual oscillators (each with sub-oscillation), pre-filter distortion, two filter stages, amplitude, envelope, LFO, a mappable modulation matrix, and of course, Papen’s full range of FX (if your bass isn’t quite phat enough). There are several different play-modes: mono, legato, poly, and seq. This brings us to the sequencer that seems to be the running theme of Papen’s suites. The 16-step pattern sequencer offers detailed control of each note, as well as “swing” and “slide”, to make your sub more slanky. This is perfect for building groovy bass-lines or rhythmic parts with some of the included sub-tuned percussion sounds.

Rob Papen, Urban Synth Bundle, SubBoomBass

The bottom line is all four of these instruments are seriously function deep. The sonic possibilities go way beyond my simple descriptions, but the way they are laid out makes everything intuitive. You can easily play around for hours just trying out different combinations, or start with the already great sounding presets and quickly fine tune them to your taste.

Both EDM Synth and Urban Synth bundles cost €199.00 EUR/$239.00 USD/£169.00 GBP (a combined savings of around 45%) and can be purchased online at http://www.robpapen.com

Arturia SparkLE Shines

Arturia, SparkLE, drum machine

I’m a sucker for sparkly things, and the Arturia SparkLE is certainly no exception.

SparkLE is a sleek hardware/software hybrid drum-machine that is bound to light up your life (nyuk nyuk) in a few different ways. Spaceship-LIGHTshow aside, this little beatbox is LIGHT, weighing in at only 1 kg (2.2 lbs.). And of course, it will simply deLIGHT you. (End of horrible pun.)

You can build beats using the step sequencer buttons or pound them out in realtime on the pressure sensitive pads. Throw down a groove with the Looper and then introduce variation with the touch sensitive XY pad, which can control 8 filter modes (including the classic Oberheim SEM filter) and 7 different Slicer modes. Engage the TUNE mode and play a synth melody on SparkLE’s 16 keys, or simply add pitch to a percussion sound.

SparkLE, Arturia, hardware software hybrid drum machine

The SparkLE sound engine boasts a wide range of ever expanding sounds, with layering, Virtual Analog, and Physical Modeling for further tweaking. The software component offers a Mix view, effects, automation & editing capabilities, and can be used as a standalone program or AU/VST/VST3/RTAS plug-in (without the hardware connected). Alternately you can map the hardware to control your DAW via MIDI, or use the included templates for Ableton LIve and Reason.

All this functionality is built into a seriously compact (284mm x 171mm x 17 mm) and portable (comes with a travel case) package. SparkLE is a truly versatile tool for a musician on the go!

Arturia’s SparkLE is an obvious competitor to Native Instruments’ Maschine Mikro. In the race to get smaller and smaller, it wins; the Spark drum controller is thinner, takes up less desk space, and the price tag is lower ($299 vs. $399 for Maschine). Although Maschine might fair better with MPC drum pad enthusiasts, I must say I prefer Spark’s keyboard/’TR’ style layout. I’d love to get the two of them in a room for a real sonic shootout sometime.

The Synth You Want: KORG MS-20 Mini [Video]

With all the hooplah going on right now around NAMM, the synth on everyone’s lips seems to be the Korg MS-20 Mini. Who can resist its teeny tiny charms? Not me, that’s for sure.

Since vanishing from shelves, the MS-20 has gone through several new iterations: a plug-in, hardware controlled version, and most recently the iMS-20 iPad app (on a side note, if you can get your hands on the hardware controller, I’ve heard it CAN also be used with iMS-20 via an Apple USB camera-connection kit.)

Korg has now taken the much beloved MS20’s guts and stuffed them into a package that is only 86% of the original size. And with space at such a premium these days, this is a serious boon to the reboot of an already much sought after classic.

Korg, MS20, MS20 mini, Namm,

Even the patch cables have been miniaturized to 1/8″ mini plugs. The only thing Korg neglected to make smaller is the gooey analog sound, which remains true to the original’s sonic girth.

One modern twist is the addition of MIDI IN and USB jacks. You can use these to send MIDI or sequence the MS-20 mini from a computer or external device (such as an iPad running one of the countless alternative touch/sequencing apps out there perhaps?).

And possibly the most important reduction – the price! At $599 the MS-20 Mini won’t shrink your wallet as much as other analog synths out there. Release date is still to be confirmed, but the word on the street is April…

Check out official Korg MS-20 mini promo video and press release below:

Korg MS-20 mini official information

The classic MS-20 –resurrected in mini size!

An analog synthesizer that reproduces the original circuitry from 1978

Korg’s MS-20 monophonic synthesizer, first introduced in 1978, is still a coveted instrument to this day, thanks to its thick, robust sound, its powerful, iconic analog filter, and its versatile patching options. Over 300,000 people have enjoyed the distinct MS-20 sounds from the original, from Korg’s MS-20 plug-in synth, and the iMS-20 iPad app.

Today, the sounds of the MS-20 have been reborn as the MS-20 Mini. The same engineers who developed the original MS-20 have perfectly reproduced its circuitry and fitted it into a body that’s been shrunk to 86% of the original size, yet retains the distinctive look of the original that remains unfaded despite the passage of time.

The MS-20 mini will amaze you with its absolutely authentic analog synth sound.

Highlights:

  • Overseen by the engineers of the original MS-20; a complete replication of the original analog circuitry:
  • 2VCO / 2VCA / 2VCF / 2EG / 1LFO structure
  • Self-oscillating high-pass/low-pass filters with distinctive distortion
  • External signal processor (ESP)
  • Extremely flexible patching system
  • Faithful recreation of the MS20 at 86% of the size
  • MIDI IN and USB connector
  • Replicates every detail of the original, down to the package binding and the included manual

A complete replication of the original analog circuitry

The MS-20 mini painstakingly replicates the original MS-20. A development team led by the original engineers themselves worked to recreate the original circuitry, and when it was necessary to substitute a part, these engineers made the decisions based on careful listening, in order to reproduce the original sound faithfully.

In fact, the sound of the MS-20 mini has a somewhat bright and extreme quality to it because its sound is that of an original MS-20 in mint condition at the time it went on sale, before any of the components aged.

2VCO / 2VCF / 2VCA / 2EG / 1LFO structure

The MS-20 mini reproduces the distinctive synthesis of the MS-20; two oscillators with ring modulation, and envelope generators with hold and delay. The VCA maintains the basic design of the original, but it’s been modified to produce less noise than the original.

Self-oscillating high-pass/low-pass filters with distinctive distortion

One of the greatest characteristics of the MS-20 was its powerful filters, which provided resonance on both the high-pass and the low-pass. Maximizing the resonance would cause the filter to self-oscillate like an oscillator, producing a distinctive and dramatic tonal change that was acclaimed as inimitable, and was later used on the monotron and monotribe. The filter circuit was changed mid-way through the production lifecycle of the MS-20; the MS-20 mini uses the earlier filter, which was felt to be superior due to its more radical sound.

External signal processor (ESP) for processing an external signal

The ESP carries on the experimental spirit of MS-20; it allows you to use the pitch or volume of an external audio source to control the synthesizer. For example you can input an electric guitar and use the MS-20 mini as a guitar synthesizer, or input a mic and use it as a vocal synthesizer.

Extremely flexible patching system

The patching system provided to the right of the panel lets you create complex sounds by plugging-in cables to change the connections between the various units. The possibilities are limited only by the user’s imagination; different combinations of the modulation input/output and trigger, sample and hold, and noise generator can produce an incredible variety of sounds. By patching according to the MS-20 flow chart that’s printed on the panel, even the beginner can start taking advantage of these possibilities right away.

Faithful recreation of the MS20 at 86% of the size

MS-20’s design concept started by borrowing from the vertical layout found on larger and more expensive modular synths of its time, and then creating a more portable, inexpensive, and easier to use version.

To make it even more approachable, the MS-20 mini has been shrunk to 86% of the size of the original MS-20. In spite of its smaller size, meticulous care has been taken to accurately reproduce the knob design and the printing. The patch cables have been changed from 1/4″ phone plugs to mini-plugs, and the newly-designed keyboard is also 86% of the original size.

Replicates every detail of the original

Our effort to remain faithful to the original is not limited to the unit itself. Even the package that contains the unit replicates the original as far as possible. Also included are the original MS-20 owner’s manual and settings chart, explaining how to create sounds. Now you can experience the excitement of the MS20, just like it was during its original release in 1978.

MIDI IN connector and USB connector

The MS-20 mini provides a MIDI IN jack for receiving note messages, and a USB-MIDI connector that can transmit and receive note messages. You can even connect the MS20 mini to your computer and play it from a sequencer.

Nude Moog!

Moog, Analog, Synth,

Happy Moog gear!

Moog has shared a video of a mysterious as yet unnamed analog synth – without its clothes on! This naked circuitry gets its knobs tweaked by Herb Deutsch, who is credited with co-inventing the original Moog synth alongside Bob Moog in 1964.

Deutsch happily shows us the sonic functions, which include that classic warm Moog filter, multidrive (pre and post filter gain distortion), sub-oscillator, noise generator, and the added modern twist of oscillators that are in tune!

Professor Herb Deutsch, synth pioneer and collaborator of Bob Moog, visited the Moog Machine Shop during Moogfest 2012. While here, Professor Deutsch explored Moog’s next generation analog synthesizer, while still in it’s research & design phase. In the past, Bob Moog always tested his ideas, instruments and sounds with musicians and colleagues. This spirit of collaboration continues at the Moog factory to this day and is essential to our work. It is a key part of the product development process, as it furthers our ideas and helps us shape better tools for musicians.

Making its official debut at NAMM 2013, the first 24 of these new instruments are being handcrafted at the Moog Factory this week. Until you get a chance to see it in its final form at NAMM 2013, please enjoy this video. Love, your friends at Moog.