Yamaha’s Reface synth line are out now, with full details. You can dig through the site rather than have to do it here – but let’s look at what you might find surprising.

It has Web MIDI, not just MIDI. Yamaha promises the line will connect to Google Chrome via Web MIDI. Now, theoretically, that’s possible in the latest Chrome builds with any MIDI keyboard, not just the Yamaha. But it suggests that Yamaha are atypically embracing bleeding edge tech (previously seen only at hackdays and such) and making it a standard feature. And there’s more: “Soundmondo is a free sound sharing community that lets you discover, create and share reface Voices and Set Lists using Google Chrome any place, any time you’re online.” Okay, then.

Those mini keys don’t have a mini action. This is the best news. Yamaha says the action comes from their Motif XF flagship – and those feel great. So this may be the first mini keys that don’t make you say, at best, “meh,” and at worst, “$#(&*$.”

refaceback Continue reading »

After all of this talk about streaming license rates and Taylor Swift and tangible media and the vinyl resurgence and cassette tape labels – no.

This is the future of music. Tortillas.

Actually, come to think of it, what are three things hipsters love? Mexican food, record players, and laser cutters. Done and done.

Yes, it’s ridiculous. But you have to admit: the phonograph is kind of one of the most ingeniously simple gadgets the human race has ever devised.

Also, I want to be able to stuff my next release with beans.

Apparently inspired by this, only – real. Thank you, Andrew Cavette, for making my day. And my lunch.

SonicState got an exclusive hands-on with the new Yamaha line. And the story is becoming clear: the word for these is convenience. You get sleek, minimal design that reduces hands-on control to the essentials, while providing real-time effects and the ability to dial in loads of sounds. The mini keys aren’t a full-sized keybed, but it seems what Yamaha hasn’t done is make something cheaply. Both the sound and apparently physical form are top-of-range, and you don’t sacrifice essentials like MIDI ports. So that bucks some industry tendencies to a race to the bottom. And even if you don’t like these Yamahas, I think it’s important that someone in the industry is doing that apart from boutique Eurorack.

Another reason I’ll defend mini keys – provided these feel good – is that piano-sized keys are just enormous. Recall that part of the reason they’re the size they are is nothing to do with ergonomics and everything to do with the size required by acoustic strings and so on. Continue reading »


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 »