We broke the news (okay, uh, I changed the contrast values on the video) of a new line of budget Roland synths last week. Details continue to leak out about those products, and though no one has heard anything yet, the public reaction has been really positive. Now we know more: portable with battery power, optional keyboard, and lots of built-in features. Continue reading »


The MeeBlip synthesizer project is about to reach five years old. I feel this collaboration with engineer James Grahame has been one of the most important to me and to CDM. We haven’t talked so much about its open source side, though – and it’s time.

In five years, we’ve sold thousands of synths – most of them ready-to-play. The MeeBlip isn’t a board and some bag of parts, and it isn’t a kit. You don’t need a soldering iron; after our very first batch, you don’t even need a screwdriver. The MeeBlip is an instrument you can use right away, just like a lot of other instruments on the market.

But unlike those other instruments, the MeeBlip is open source hardware. Not just the firmware code, but the electronics design that makes it work are all available online and freely-licensed. We became, to my knowledge, the first ready-to-play musical hardware to be available in that form in any significant numbers. Continue reading »


PRS for Music, a UK performing rights organization, at the end of last month sued SoundCloud for copyright infringement on behalf of its members.

The action may prove a decisive moment for the Berlin-based streaming service. It represents a collision between SoundCloud’s approach and the organizations involved in administering copyright, and more broadly, between the conventional models for sharing and monetizing music and those evolving on the Internet.

I spoke to representatives from PRS and SoundCloud to try to get greater clarity. Those responses were naturally a bit guarded, as the two are actively engaged in legal action. However, there’s a lot you can read into what they’ve said, and the conflict more generally. Continue reading »

::vtol:: silk from ::vtol:: on Vimeo.

Welcome to the Internet of Sounds.

The latest from our friend vtol, aka prolific Moscow-based sound artist Dmitry Morozov, is an installation of tall, spindly metal towers strung with wire. Standing at two meters, motorized fingers pull on diagonal strings – five of them, for the dollar, Yuan, Euro, Canadian dollar, and Ruble.

The tune, though, is all about data. As Bitcoin and Litecoin cryptocurrencies fluctuate in value against the more traditional currencies, the imagined monetary values generate new melodies and rhythms. Recalling both the controversial recent silk road and its historical analog, these silk strings form a mythological musical song. Continue reading »


The iPad isn’t just a gadget any more. There’s now enough of an app ecosystem that investing in an iPad is investing in a creative platform that turns into lots of other things. That is, it really is like another computer.

For music, that means a lot. An iPad is a drum machine, or a vocal processor. It’s a practice aid, a simulated guitar amp. It’s an extension of your desktop music software, too, whether controlling instruments and transport in Logic or live sets in Ableton. It’s a DJ tool.

Of course, the same is true of a computer. And with computers and hardware (keyboards, stompboxes, Eurorack) competing for your wallet’s attention, the iPad has to justify itself. What it isn’t – which it is for a lot of the general public – is just a window through which you watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix. And so, if the tablet is plateauing for the general public, there is a reason to think the iPad means something different to a creative person.

Apple must think so, too, given it just unveiled a top-of-range iPad called “Pro.” But here’s the trick to it: the iPad Pro is turning out to be really an iPad Big. The introduction of fancy exclusive accessories (Pencil and a keyboard cover) disguise the fact that you can get similar accessories from third parties for less.

No, Apple has really evened out the iPad line. And that means what you’re really buying is two things: size and speed. I’ve put together some rough charts (in Apple Numbers, natch) to demonstrate just that. Continue reading »


If you’re a Windows user who’s been jealous of Universal Audio’s Apollo Twin interface and audio DSP platform, times are about to change.

For those of you just joining us, Universal Audio’s box is special in that it’s a compact, accessibly-priced entry into the UAD line. As an audio interface, it’s just one of the better pieces of gear out there (in terms of fidelity and reliability). And it runs all UAD’s top-notch plugins, too, opening up a window to a lot of analog emulation.

The Apollo Twin is a high-performance box, but it demands Thunderbolt – and it’s OS X only. The Apollo Twin USB DUO works over USB instead. You need USB3, Windows 7 or 8.1 or later. Continue reading »

Roland continues their journey into uncharted waters – following the unexpected entry into categories like DIN sync, control voltage-manipulated analog, and Eurorack modular, the Japanese titan today teases something new it’s calling “Roland Boutique.”

The legacy is spelled out in the opening – Jupiter-8, JX-3P, and Juno-106 synth keyboards from the early 80s give way to three backlit boxes with just-visible faders with LEDs on them. And at least we see there’s no eye-blinding green LEDs (cough, AIRA).

So, this is pretty obvious: you get one box inspired by each of the earlier ones. Really, it’s the word ’boutique’ that’s confusing – is this a limited run? Another partnership with a smaller builder? Just marketing? Is it proof that at last evil, mustachioed hipsters somehow broken into Roland headquarters and are they now running the company? Will we never be able to buy a BOSS pedal again, but we will get a line of bespoke Roland gourmet pickles and craft beers, after they relocate to Oakland?

Let me give you a hint about what they are, though. If you ever want someone to disguise your identity, don’t let it be the people who light Roland teasers. Because I just adjusted my histogram, and… well, these are mini keyboards. (Hmmm, Yamaha, starting a trend here?) At least they have what appear to be loads of controls.

rolandboutique_spy Continue reading »