Akai is a name synonymous with pad controls, via their MPC. But the MPD line of controllers hasn’t gotten a lot of attention lately – until now.

Today, the company unveils a big update to the MPD line. The numbers are parallel to the MPD18, MPD26, and MPD32, but these are really new pad controllers. They remain inexpensive but add additional hands-on controls and features, as well as a redesign of the pad sensing that Akai says is “ultra-sensitive.” Sounds a bit like something condom packaging would say, but Akai’s flagship MPC Revolution has terrific pads, so I’ll forgive the marketing-speak for now and look forward to trying them.

The MPD26 and 32 had hands-on controls, and the MPD18 had … well, a fader. But now you get lots of controls on the whole lineup and a new step sequencer on the top-of-range MPD232.

Also, following a growing industry trend, the whole line is class-compliant, which means it can work with iOS (and Linux and Raspberry Pi and all that, too – and your laptop, without drivers).

Here’s the quick run-down. All have 16 pads, but they have different bank sizes so you can assign those 16 to a different number: Continue reading »

I’m going to keep this article atypically short (as I finish up some other writing).

Is it just me, or is everyone’s studio turning into the above? I know I’m not the first to say this.

Side note: why has someone not exactly replicated the above on hardware? (Next Ableton / Native Instruments / Novation hackathon, kids, seriously – get on it. I promise you’ll be more famous on CDM than John Travolta. Is. On CDM.)

Feel free to link to this post every time this happens for the rest of 2015. And take a shot. (Of vegetable juice or something; I really don’t want to kill you when the next NAMM rolls around this week.)


The classic electronic instruments of the past are fast-becoming the big mass market play electronic instruments of the present. Case in point: Yamaha.

Today, the Japanese maker accidentally leaked its entire Reface line on a Korean site. UK-based synthjam on Instagram caught it and tipped us off – apparently whilst my fellow former Colonials were off celebrating with a BBQ or something.

And it’s pretty obvious what these instruments are. They appear to be compact keyboards (so perhaps not full-sized keys, despite what I saw in the video). And there are four models already:

1. An YC combo organ, with drawbars.
2. A CP stage electric piano.
3. A DX synth.
4. A CS synth. Continue reading »

I know you’ve been there. Somehow, even with a small assortment of gear, you find that you have exactly the wrong combination of plugs.

It’s actually even worse if you’ve bought into the inexpensive mobile music revolution. iPads are chock full of apps; little boxes like the KORG volcas can be great fun. But… the iPads don’t have any ports, and compact devices (including our own MeeBlip) often have just MIDI in to save space. And then there’s trying to clock everything.

That’s why I’m really excited by the promise of the iConnectAUDIO4+. (And I know from feedback, I’m not alone.) It’s an audio interface for one computer. It’s also an audio interface for two computers. It works with your iOS stuff. It does MIDI. It does USB hosting for all those gizmos that lack MIDI ports. And it’s still a multichannel audio interface with mic pres and four outputs – while remaining nicely portable. (Too many audio interfaces are limited to two outs.)

In fact, it does so much, that the review I’m working on won’t be done until next week. In the meantime, though, our friend Chris Stack of Experimental Synth has posted a lovely walk-through video. Continue reading »

“Instead of going to music school, I studied design.”

Wiggle, wob, drum, pads, and scan are new gestural instruments that seek to cut the distance between an idea, making a move with your body, and a sound. Think you could draw a doodle that expresses a sound? Wish you could just air-drum in that percussion line? Easier to wave your hand to describe a noise? These modular components let you do just that.

OWOW, the startup behind it, is nearing a funding goal on Kickstarter – but it’s not quite there, five days until the deadline. So now is the perfect time to go behind the scenes. Not satisfied with that demo video? We’ve got our own resident contributing design expert to head to the source and investigate – completing today’s three-part look at cutting-edge Dutch design startups from the town of Eindhoven.

From the edge of the Netherlands’ slick design scene, industrial designer and music technologist Arvid Jense joins CDM for a series of interviews with Eindhoven Music Startups.

Eindhoven music startups: OWOW

Pieter Jan Pieters is the founder of OWOW, the Omnipresent World Of Wizkids. After graduating Design Acadamy Eindhoven with the Sound On Intuition project (in which he explored movement and musical computer control) and an internship at Teenage Engineering, he’s starting to make his way with things like the Social Project and Booty Drum. Aiming to earn their marks as an independent design studio, OWOW is bringing out a new breed of intuitive MIDI controllers in early spring through Kickstarter. The first series will be brought out in credit-card and product format with an estimated price of €50 and €80. After this series, the same form-factor is planned to be extended for analog modules and digital effect. See their instagram for more pictures and videos.


Continue reading »

18€ buys you this lunchbox-style synthesizer kit – and it’s just the thing to put together on your lunch break.

Unit Unlikely is a hardware startup working with simple parts to make accessible, fun instruments. And its founder joins our resident Dutch design expert to talk about what it’s like diving into the synth business for the first time – and where he might go.

It all continues our series from Eindhoven, NL. From the edge of the Netherlands’ slick design scene, industrial designer and music technologist Arvid Jense joins CDM for a series of interviews with Eindhoven Music Startups. Here he talks to Unit Unlikely.

Eindhoven music startups: Unit Unlikely

Tijs Duel is a master student at the Industrial Design faculty at Eindhoven University of Technology. Together with Sebastiaan de Monte, he makes the Lunchbox synthesizer with their company Unit Unlikely. The Lunchbox is sold as a kit for €18.

Continue reading »

It looks like Pin Art or Pinscreens – those moldable frames full of pins popularized in the 80s. But the result is something that lets you dig your hands into sound and musical structures in new ways. It looks expressive and, let’s be honest, really fun.

(For the research minded, there’s also a NIME report below.)

From the edge of the Netherlands’ slick design scene, industrial designer and music technologist Arvid Jense joins CDM for a series of interviews with Eindhoven Music Startups. Here’s his encounter with Nupky.

Eindhoven Music Startups: Nupky

Rhys Duindam is a graduated Industrial Designer from TU/e. Through Nupky, he is creating a tangible music controller which aims to bring back a the acoustic touch and feel to digital music creation. Inspired by a pinscreen, the Tingle will let you mold sounds with your hands or anything else. A release date is not yet available. Continue reading »