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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When Arturia first releasediMini, 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…
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.
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:
“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.” –
iMini is a faithful reproduction of the iconic Minimoog synthesizer, for iPad. It is based on Arturia’s TAE® technology which first brought the Minimoog to desktops with its Mini V software. iMini can share presets with its predecessor Mini V, and includes over 500 sounds created by “the top sound designers in the world.” Not sure if he was involved, but iMini already has the support of well respected sound artist Richard Devine.
On top of being compatible with Mini V, iMini supports CORE MIDI, allowing MIDI controller mapping, and WIST sync with compatible apps running on other iDevices. It is also part of Retronym’s Tabletop app environment. Through Tabletop, you can share sounds via Soundcloud, render to .wav, or Audiocopy/paste into another iApp. At this time, iMini doesn’t support Audiobus yet.
Not only does iMini pay homage to the great Bob Moog, but Arturia literally pays back to the Foundation:
To support Bob Moog’s legacy, we are donating a portion of each sale to the Bob Moog Foundation to support their work in science and music education via Dr. Bob’s SoundSchool, their work to preserve, protect and share Bob Moog’s archives, and their vision to build a Moogseum in the coming years (Moogfoundation.org)
Check out the awesome promo vid and tutorial:
Arturia iMini requires at least iPad 2 and iOS 6.0 or later, and costs just $9.99
If that’s not enough info to get you moist and/or downloading the app already, head over to Arturia.com for the full nitty gritty (they always have tons of in depth product info).
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.
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.
This past weekend the music world met at the NAMM show to ooh and ahh over lots of shiny new toys. And sadly I was not among them. But! My buddy and talented producer Drew Skinner (aka Duskrider) was on the scene to capture some gear pics for the rest of us to fawn over. Behold:
Alien Twister Fuzz from Analog Alien. Even the photo is fuzzy! Another boutique builder I have never heard of. I wonder if this is what aliens sound like?
And! Here are a few of my favorite NAMM blurbs from around the web:
Via themusiczoo: The Fender Diamond Legend Cabronita, built by Yuriy Shishkov, could be yours for only $120,000.
Via catsynth: “There are analog synthesizers, and then there are instruments that are even more analog than analog. The Wheelharp from Antiquity Music falls in this category. The Wheelharp is an electromechanical instrument in which a performer accesses 61 bowed strings via the keyboard. There is a cylindrical version, as illustrated in the photograph below, as well as a standard linear-keyboard version. The instrument evokes the Baroque era in its appearance, both the reversed coloring of the keys and the details of the construction and wood finish. The sound of the bowed strings in response to pressing the keys is quite eerie. This video shows part of the mechanical system that drives the Wheelharp as it is being played.”
Via synthtopia: The Buchla Music Easel comes in its own suitcase for easy traveling. This little Electric Music Box holds a special place in my heart, as I once got to use one of the original Buchlas while at NYU studying electronic music synthesis.
The good news is this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of all the crazy new music tech out there, so we can keep talking about this stuff indefinitely. Care to share any of your fondest NAMM moments?
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
For a piece of technology to inspire true lust, it should have a combination of sleek stylish design, ease of use, quality build, and, more and more these days, portability. The Critter & Guitari Bolsa Bass is a prime example of this. I’ve been enamored of their wooden-keyed products for some time, but this little pink critter really takes the cake (I guess I’m a sucker for bright colors). The Bolsa Bass is a bass synthesizer in a small package, with its own a built-in sequencer, MIDI In/Out, and six sound modes:
The entire keyboard may be tuned over a 1 octave range by turning the knob second from right. Volume is controlled by the right-most knob. The function of the remaining two left knobs depend on what mode is selected. The synthesizer modes provide elemental monophonic bass sounds, great for all kinds of musical scenarios. From classic filter sweeps to simple and pure tones, lush FM, and even a stretchy tuned delay which makes great string like drones.
The built in sequencer lets you quickly create bass lines with the touch of a button. With MIDI in and out you can synchronize your sequences with other devices. The Bolsa Bass also sends and receives note messages so you can use it as a sound module or simple controller.
Pink Neon Powder Coated Aluminum Enclosure
Power From 9v Battery or Adapter (not included)
1/4″ Line Output Jack
High quality 32 Bit Floating Point DSP Synthesis
Some sound samples:
If you’re gleefully adding the Bolsa Bass to your holiday wish list, why not check out the rest of their stuff?
Start here with this psychedelic animation of Critter & Guitari explaining the Kaleidoloop, a handheld sampler:
While they do have a child-like quality, rest assured, Critter & Guitari sound toys are good for all ages!