Think of it as the real world interface for your Eurorack modular.

The boys from Brno have been busy. After a range of desktop modules (one that continues to grow), they’ve quietly put together a complete modular system this year. With a bunch of new gear announced at the beginning of the year, you might have thought they were getting some much-deserved rest.

Not so. Among other introductions this week, they have unveiled three modules that work with motors, and one that takes sensor inputs. Together, these can let your modular make stuff happen in the physical world. And they showed off just what that could mean in their Messe booth, to spectacular effect. Toothbrushes bang percussion. Solenoids tap out drum patterns and strum a guitar.

It’s just unreal. Watch the video at top to enter their wacky world, and then we’ll have a look at the modules themselves:

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Some people have to go to trade shows that cover nothing but various types of floor tiles. We’re fortunate that we get to go to one about musical instruments.

Benjamin Weiss, seasoned German journalist and now product designer, as well, lets us see through his eyes at the show.

I have to say, to anyone who has been to California’s NAMM show but not Musikmesse, the entire feeling is different. Space is spread out and oddly quiet; meetings include leisurely meals of Bratwurst and beer in the sunshine. Whereas the nerdiest sound technologies at NAMM are often relegated to hidden corners, here Schneidersb├╝ro occupies a central space in a bustling music tech hall, and knobs and patch cords are everywhere.

It’s Friday, so we’re all getting a bit bleary-eyed from the din and drinks, and more of the public is flooding in. But there’s still a nice sense of some of the good stuff assembled here.

We’ll have more picks through the coming days. Back to editing video. Enjoy.

(And for more photos, you can now follow us on Instagram.)

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Leave the selfie sticks to others – welcome to Music Nerd Instagram.

Social media can be a real chore at times, but Instagram for me is a bright spot. Following the right people and tags, it’s a place where you can actually find useful and inspiring stuff, and a visual record of where you’ve been, a form of external memory. I’ve been using it as such on a personal account, but it was high past time to give CDM its own home.

Follow us – and feel free to tag us, as we’ll be reposting the best images from around the world of music making, music technology, and creative technology and visual performance.

Right now, you can watch as we roam around Musikmesse looking for the cool and downright weird.

MeeBlip will follow soon, too.


I’ll be honest: my Komplete Kontrol keyboard has been sitting on a shelf. But I believe that’s about to change in a big way.

So how did it wind up on the shelf in the first place? Yes, this is one of the nicest-looking, nicest-feeling keyboards around. And yes, it works seamlessly with Native Instruments’ own instruments and effects – particularly in that it makes it easy to dial up presets and to map parameters to the encoders and display their values.

The problem is, most of us don’t live in a world where we only use Komplete. Because Komplete Kontrol software didn’t originally support plug-ins, and because you couldn’t capture MIDI events from features like the arpeggiator and chords, it didn’t fit into our workflow.

An updated version of Komplete Kontrol changes that experience – and in an event last night here in Frankfurt, the future of the keyboard looks like it will realize some of its original potential.

First, there are some subtle fixes coming in updates. Finally, the arpeggiator and chord mode on the keyboard transmit MIDI back to the host – so you can record those patterns and chords directly, or route them to other instruments. (Previously, these were invisible to your host.)

And now, you can use your own plug-ins inside Komplete Kontrol, for features like the keyboard’s color-coded splits. Continue reading »

You… might not want to watch this if you’re prone to motion sickness.

The array of press releases and new gear at a show can be dizzying. But this is literally dizzying – though not boring. This is a fly-through of the bigger-than-ever 2015 Musikmesse Schneidersb├╝ro Superbooth, hosted by our friend Wouter of KOMA Elektronik and shot with an iPhone and Instagram’s Hyperlapse.

There is just a whole lot of modular here. (Schneiders’ has a lot, but not even all the boutique makers here at the show.)

And… it’s just plain cool. It’s blinky. It has lights. It has knobs. It’s not hard to understand the appeal here to non-specialists as well as specialists, after years of bland gray gear entombed in look-alike plastic cases that resembled nothing if not a collaboration between a toy manufacturer and an office supply company. (Okay, that’s harsh, but – you know what I mean.) This is spaceship stuff.

It’s going to be an interesting year in gear.


It’s deja vu all over again. This time last year, the big announcement from Sweden’s drum machine mavens at Elektron was Overbridge – technology for integrating their hardware with your computer setup.

Overbridge is the topic again this year. And it’s still not quite shipping – though at least there’s a new date of “summer 2015.” (And in Sweden, “summer” is a pretty specific time, marked by the sun never going away. A public beta is due next month, which we’re keen to try.)

But it seems that what’s happened is that Elektron has expanded the scope of the technology. The pitch: make an “analog” plug-in.

The original idea of Overbridge is the same. At its simplest, you plug in a USB cable and get all your ins and outs from the hardware. And they’re still planning editor/librarian features, so you can recall settings and automation with projects easily.

The new angle is what they’re calling “real analog VSTi’s,” with the dramatic promise that “for the first time in history, seamless computer integration of analog synthesizers and drum machines is a reality.” Continue reading »

This is how much the world has changed: we aren’t just talking the resurgent, enduring synthesizer. Nor are we talking about retro reissues. We aren’t even talking the return of analog control voltage.

We’re uttering “Roland” and “Eurorack” in the same breath.

Roland has taken the wraps off their AIRA modular plans, and they’re extensive. Make no mistake, this is still AIRA, and it’s still Roland – these are devices that look and sound like the AIRA series. That is an obvious point of differentiation for the boutique makers, the sometimes one-person manufacturers, and the uniqueness of what they produce. But we’ll have to see what the impact of Roland is on that market. What we know right now is that a big player is acknowledging the world those small makers have forged over the past couple of decades.

You can use the AIRA modulars on a tabletop – you don’t even need to rack mount them. But if you do care about Eurorack, everything they’re unveiling today can be mounted in a Eurorack setup. One mass-produced product can sit next to something that was part of a run of 50 built by hand by one guy in his kitchen.

Let’s look at the lineup.

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