Samples, No Computer: $99 Akai MPX8 Combines Pads, SD Card, MIDI and USB Port

Sometimes, there are designs that seem almost impossibly like an answer to a specific need. Let us illustrate. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a box that you could play, independent of a computer, that just let you mess about with samples directly from an SD card? And wouldn’t it be nice if it had MIDI jacks on it, too, and not only USB, so that you didn’t need the computer handy? That’s the MPX8 from Akai Pro. It’s dead-simple, so you’ll do most of your sample manipulation away from the hardware. (There’s a free Mac and Windows sample editor …

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Surprise: Korg Brings Back the Old School Rhythm Machine, in Pocket Form

Back in the day, rhythm machines were push-button affairs, not elaborate step sequencers. Press a button, get a backing rhythm, play along. Just one problem: these old-school machines were huge and expensive. But they helped launch the electronic fortunes of companies like Korg and Roland, and were the predecessors of today’s far more programmable drum machines. And their peculiar canned sounds shaped some of the electronic rhythms of today. Well, no one saw this coming: Korg has brought the old-school machine back, with the hopes that “guitarists, bassists, pianists or any musician looking for easy rhythm accompaniment” will pick them …

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3D Printing, From Headphones to Synth Accessories, Shows Both Promise and Obstacles

Take it from one now immersed in manufacturing – making things is an epic process of production, delays, shipping, customs… 3D printing is the latest DIY technology to promise to get around that, armed by the seemingly-magical translation of digital files into objects in a way other machines cannot. We’ll be looking in depth at what 3D printing can mean for music starting next week, as interest in this technology reaches fever pitch, but here are a couple of revealing case studies. For Teenage Engineering, makers of the OP-1 synthesizer, 3D printing seems to be a real breakthrough. Their line …

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808, SP1200, MPC, NS-10 Reborn in Miniature as Beautifully-Detailed, Tiny USB Drives [Gallery]

File these designs under “do want.” Some of your favorite gear is rendered in miniature: Roland’s TR-808, E-MU’s SP-1200 sampler, Akai’s MPC 2000XL, and (coming soon) even the Yamaha NS-10 near-field monitors. It occurs to me that someday soon, such tiny things might even work in some form as functioning music equipment. For now, you’ll have to settle for tiny classic gear that contains an 8 GB flash drive – enough to carry especially-precious samples or demos or backups. The drives are US$39.99, but contain extraordinary levels of detail and use Toshiba flash memory (not something overly generic). They work …

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Line 6 Turns Your iPhone into a POD – and Makes High-Quality Digital In for iOS, Free App

It’s small, but I think it’ll be pretty huge. We’ve seen plenty of guitar audio interface adapters out there. Here’s the dirty little secret: they’re pretty awful. Because they connect to the audio jack of the iPhone or iPad, there are issues with impedance matching and noise / signal-to-noise. (Read: they don’t sound great. I’ve tried them, and since they all use the same in/out jack, they all sound more or less the same.) The Mobile In from Line 6 has three things going for it. First, it works with Line 6’s POD effects and guitar amp modeling, which is …

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Your iOS Device Gets MIDI with Thru and Power – and 1 GB of Samples – from IK

For connecting music hardware from the 80s, 90s, 2000s, and today, you can’t beat MIDI and the standard MIDI connector (5-pin DIN). This week, both IK Multimedia and Line 6 announced adapters that support Core MIDI. Previously possible on iPad via the Camera Connection Kit, the new adapters support the 30-pin dock connector for the iPad (no additional adapter needed), iPhone, and iPod touch. IK’s iRig MIDI has a number of features that set it apart from previously-available iOS adapters: It’s got MIDI Thru. MIDI Thru means you can route MIDI into your iOS device, so an external keyboard can …

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Tablet Scores: Avid Answers Our Scorch Questions; Bluetooth Page Turners for iPad, Android

Digital notation took a big step forward last week with the release of Avid Scorch, the first take on mobile notation from developer Sibelius. (It’s the first mobile app, period, from industry titan Avid, so it’s interesting to watch them go first with notation – especially as even Apple skipped scores with their first release of GarageBand.) Anything new is liable to generate a lot of questions. So we’ve taken those questions straight to the source, to the Sibelius team at Avid. One of the things I always enjoyed about the folks at Sibelius is that they’re an exceptionally bright, …

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Hands-on: Rock Band 3’s Keytar, a Surprisingly Serious $80 MIDI Keyboard

The Rock Band keytar Rock Band 3 Wireless Keyboard, next to an iPod touch, for scale. What if a gaping product hole for musicians were filled by a game company instead of a musical instruments company? There’s no need to imagine: pick up the new Rock Band 3 keyboard, and you’ll see what I mean. Consider: most sub-$100 and compact keyboards have dumped 5-PIN MIDI DIN ports in favor of USB only – little comfort if you want to plug a keyboard into that DIY sound module or eBay treasure. (Alesis’ QS25 is one exception, but even a $150 M-Audio …

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iPhone Devs Get MIDI Keyboards, MIDI I/O, But With Some Strings Attached

Mobile devices are here, they’re powerful — get used to them. Now, could they just connect to the rest of your noisemakers and studio rigs? That’s the potential of new iOS SDKs for MIDI I/O and keyboard docking. But aside from some restrictions imposed by hardware support on iOS, what many developers are publicly wondering is whether a different path entirely will be most productive. Hot on the heels of Line 6’s SDK for their MIDI Mobilizer, a MIDI input and output connector for iOS devices, Akai is courting developers for its own music accessory. The SynthStation 25 is a …

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Virtual Reality: Guitar Notation, Amps, and Effects Appear on Apple Mobiles

Competing solutions from IK Multimedia and Peavey extend the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad with custom hardware for connecting a guitar. Here, the AmpKit LiNK, by Peavey and Agile Partners. All images courtesy the vendors. Ah, amplifiers and stompboxes. We hardly knew ye. Once exclusively the stuff of tubes, wires, cabinets, aluminum, and electronics, guitar amps and pedals have for years been available in growingly-sophisticated software models. Once the electronics of sound become software, there’s nothing stopping them from running on any computer – which now includes computers disguised as mobile phones, like the iPhone. (In fact, I expect that …

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