The vinyl comeback couldn’t hit much more of a high note than this: it seems Pioneer, the company that popularized digital DJing and CDJs, is building phonographs.

Pioneer isn’t saying anything about the hardware that’s under plexiglass at Musikmesse, only that it’s a concept prototype. But they hardly need to. The hardware looks like someone took the most popular DJ turntable of all time, the legendary Technics SL-1200, painted it black, and re-lettered it with Pioneer markings. I don’t think they literally did that, though it almost doesn’t matter; the effect is unreal, like entering a bizarro universe where Pioneer invented the 1200.

The most tantalizing sign that Pioneer intends to make this a product is that the lettering is blacked out where the product identifier would be. It’s simply labeled “professional turntable.”

Technics walked away from the 1200 in 2010, just as vinyl records were making a niche resurgence. Vinyl still isn’t a mass market product, but then Pioneer is king of its main audience, DJs and clubs. And in a way, whatever Pioneer is cooking, it might make more sense to just make a turntable than bother people with thinking of it as part of a digital vinyl system.

Now, of course, Pioneer being digital, that may be exactly what they’re doing. But even so, the challenge of finding SL-1200s means that record lovers might pick it up anyway. This one should be interesting to watch.

I’ll say this: if Pioneer is going this route, it’s fantastic news for anyone pressing dance music on vinyl. It could create an entirely new market, just at the time that iPad apps start to stream digital downloads from Spotify. I can’t imagine anyone isn’t rooting for this.

Beatport Wax? Think about it.


“Bastl” is Czech slang that’s roughly equivalent to the maker culture or DIY. And now, from the makers of the glitchy, odd, and wonderful world of Standuino, comes a new granular sampler, a follow-up to a terrific earlier kit.

The Bastl crew are showing off the microGranny 2.0 among lots of other new gear here at Musikmesse. They’ve added some functionality to the instrument (copy/paste, more presets), and put it in a very attractive housing.

But as before, you get a hackable, happily lo-fi sample mangler. Load up your sounds on SD card, then manipulate them with hands-on controls or via MIDI. You can loop, change the sample rate, crush, and add envelopes. And check out the code; it’s built from open libraries.

The whole project is made in the Czech Republic: Continue reading »


Ever wished for something, but figured it was more or less impossible?

At the end of a Roland briefing yesterday, a rep pulled out the CUBE Street EX amp almost unceremoniously. And then he showed me what it could do:

  • It produces “50 watts” of power.*
  • It runs on eight AA NiMH batteries – for five hours.
  • It weighs just 7.4 kg (that’s just over 16 pounds).
  • It connects whatever you want – two XLRs, four independent channels, for any combination of instrument, vocal, laptop.
  • It’s angled, so you can use it as a stage monitor.
  • It has a mounting hole, so you can put it on a stand like a PA – and you can easily connect two together for a stereo PA.
  • It’s got a strap, so you can pick it up and carry it around like a normal amp (there’s even a water-repellent carry case.
  • An extra jack lets you record to a mobile device (three-pole connector), as with Roland’s app for iPhone and iPad.

There are some extras, too: you get guitar tones (Clean, Crunch, Lead, Acoustic simulator), chorus/delay, and reverb effects, all with footswitch controls, plus a built-in tuner. Or you can plug in an acoustic to an AC preamp for an uncolored sound.

So, let’s get this straight: it weighs nothing, runs on batteries, adds effects, connects anything, lets you busk, gives you a PA, or gives you a floor wedge.

Is that actually even possible, or was this marketing nonsense? Continue reading »


As I suspected, Akai did not have a working, sounding model of the upcoming Rhythm Wolf drum machine. But I did get my hands on a prototype with sequencing firmware, got a sense of what the build will be like, and got to talk with Akai more about the design ideas behind this groove machine.

Here’s what it feels like to pick it up:

This thing feels great – not toy-like. This was the big (and pleasant) surprise for me. Whatever the Rhythm Wolf may sound like, at least it feels serious. In fact, it’s:

Real metal. Fake wood. The chassis is all metal, which gives it a more rugged feel, keeps the panel from flexing, and by making the unit a little weightier, keeps it firmly in place as you bang on those pads. The only plastic in the enclosure, ironically, is those faux-wood end panels. (That’s right – they’re plastic, not wood.) The prototype knob caps felt nice enough, too, and Akai says they’re continuing to improve the pots.

What will it sound like? Both the drum set and sounds are said to be something new. The drum engine – with kick, snare, hats, and “percussion” – is a new analog engine that draws inspiration from the 808 and CR-78, we hear from the engineers. The bass synth is a single-oscillator synth that’s “something new,” not just a 303 knock-off (though still probably somehow related to a 303, if distantly). Of course, right now, the Messe Rhythm Wolf isn’t analog but acoustic, making the pristine sound of silence. (John Cage rave!) But these seem like no-brainers to me as far as direction; we’ll see how good Akai’s engineers are at analog synth circuitry shortly. Continue reading »


– before they’ve even happened.

Here at CDM headquarters, there’s nothing worse than the sinking feeling when other publications scoop us with content like exclusive reviews. So, we’ve decided to pre-empt all coverage of the sure-to-be-hot Akai Rhythm Wolf.

In case you hadn’t heard, the Rhythm Wolf is a $199 analog drum machine with an actual picture of a wolf on it. Now, sure, it’s hard to review a product that so far doesn’t make sound. But after years of experience in this business, I can at least anticipate that lots of headlines and subheads in these reviews will make terrible wolf puns.

So, we’re going to use all of them right now. It won’t feel like you’re getting to use the Rhythm Wolf, exactly. But you will feel as though you’ve read all of those reviews.

It’s like we’re staking out our territory here by, you know, peeing on it.

The news, before it’s even happened yet.

Here we go. Some are better than others. We won’t rest until all are exhausted, thus de-fanging all future reviews of Rhythm Wolf and reducing poor music journalists to sticking entirely to the facts: Continue reading »


Remember when a $200 budget used to buy you a metronome and flight case, if you were lucky? Now, you have a range of great synths you can choose from. And now it’s Akai’s turn.

The Rhythm Wolf is an integrated analog groove box – a 32-step sequencer, an analog drum machine, and a bassline synth in one. And it’s just $199 street. We’ve got all the details on the box, and should have more hands-on impressions later this week. Continue reading »


It all started in 1966 as a way to fake multiple takes – and it works pretty well for any vocals. And now, in one of the more ambitious emulation efforts undertaken recently, software engineers are hoping to recreate a sound you know quite well from artists like The Beatles.

And oh, yeah, even if you don’t want to sound like Paul or John or George, this turns out to be a pretty easy way to double up vocal recordings. That is, if they’ve done a convincing emulation.

Plug-in giant Waves Audio has partnered with Abbey Road Studios themselves, and say they’ve succeeded in emulating the effect partly because they’ve gotten an inside track on how the technique was performed.

Whether Abbey Road gave up some essential secret or not, though, it seems the quality of this effect will depend on how good the modeling is – and modeling non-linear processes like wow and flutter and specific musical effects isn’t easy. But first, let’s talk about what we mean. As Waves themselves explain:

By connecting the primary tape machine to a second, speed-controlled machine, two versions of the same signal could be played back simultaneously. And by gently wobbling the frequency of an oscillator to vary the speed of the second machine, the replayed signal could be moved around just enough to make it sound like a separate take.

(The video below goes into more detail with the original creator.) In other words, “Artificial Double Tracking” or ADT as created by engineer Ken Townsend is really a fancy name for “doubling up tape recordings and intentionally making them wobble.” Even if you don’t want to emulate the Beatles, that’s juicy stuff for modeling. And it has real historic import, an effect beloved by John Lennon (who called it “Ken’s Flanger,” says the Waves press release).

There are definitely creative possibilities here. Waves has added individual saturation controls, and can be used not only for doubling efects but flanging and phasing. There’s MIDI assignable controls, too, so you can get that “twisting the knob” feeling. You can set it to either automatic or manual.

It’s also not expensive: the intro price is US$99, after which it rises to $200.

Now the question remains: how does it sound? While we wait on that answer, it’s a treat to get to hear from the real Ken Townsend. He’s absolutely real, and not an emulation.

Great tidbits there – one of them being why some of the mono mixes are better than the stereo ones.

Here’s the obligatory promo video: Continue reading »