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PreenFM, Open Source Hardware Synth: Behind the Scenes with the Creator

First revealed last month, PreenFM is an open source hardware synth. As the name implies, it’s an FM synth, with some very serious specs: up to six-operator FM synthesis with some nine algorithms, up to 4-voice polyphony (depending on algorithm), glide, selectable LFOs, modulation matrix, and preset banks with SysEx support. It’s all usable via a display and MIDI support. It’s also fully open source hardware; whereas early efforts often had commercial restrictions attached, PreenFM is free for use under the GPLv3 and Creative Commons. And it’s got a unique platform under the hood: the open source LeafLabs 32-bit development …

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Now with MIDI: Critter + Guitari Pocket Piano

The Pocket Piano remains one of my favorite boutique creations – a devilishly simple, irresistibly fun musical instrument. And now, in addition to other subtle tweaks it has received, it gets MIDI – see video above. We got to spend time with the Pocket Piano at CDM’s Handmade Music Lounge at Solid Sound Festival, presented by Moog Music; video from that coming soon, to remind us of the warmth of summer as we slip into fall. What does MIDI mean for the Pocket Piano? Send MIDI (controller): key presses as note messages Receive MIDI (sound module) all 88 notes of …

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Expressive Soundplane Touch Instrument: Decibel Video, Preorder, Tour, Images

Touch on devices like the iPad is functional, but limited in its expression – there’s no pressure or tactile feedback. That’s why we’ve enthusiastically followed Randy Jones’ “continuous capacitive sensing” technology on the Soundplane for some time. Sensing pressure, it behaves more like an acoustic instrument might – that is, if such an acoustic instrument were possible beyond the imagination of the digital realm. As advertised, it “transmits x, y and pressure data for every key continuously at 12 bits of resolution and about 1000 samples per second, letting players move beyond the ADSR envelope model of synthesis and articulate …

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New Performance Controllers: Midi-Fighter Pro will Face Grid+Fader Rivals

With game-style arcade buttons – and the pre-mapped combos to match – DJ TechTools’ latest wants your pocket full of quarters. Midi-Fighter images courtesy DJ TechTools. What should DJing with a computer look like? We’ve seen over a decade of products that can emulate the vinyl turntable experience, of course. But a native hardware interface for the computer – with all its internal looping, slicing, and effects capabilities – by definition must be different. DJ TechTools, led by DJ Ean Golden, has mixed writing about technology with designing custom solutions to that problem, interacting with the community on the DJ-centric …

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CDM@SxSW: Free Live Electronics, Academik Record Launch, Local Electronic Instrument Get-Together

Get your dancing boots on. Striped footware spotted recently at Austin’s hip rooftop lounge Lanai, where we’ll be with Academik Records Friday night. Photo (CC-BY) Cameron Russell. Next week, as the South by Southwest Music Festival descends on Austin, Texas, I’m pleased CDM gets to be involved in a few terrific independent events. No badges, no cover, free drinks and even free giveaways – if you happen to be in Austin, you can save money and then do what I’ll probably do, spend it all at the awesome Switched On synth boutique. Here’s the schedule: Wednesday 3/16: Switched On Meet …

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A Custom Shop for Music Gear, a “Third Deck” DJ Controller, and DIY Hardware Secrets

Dave Cross thinks more about the design of DJ gear than even most passionate electronic music enthusiasts. Aside from stints at DJ Times and Ableton, this is a man who wrote an honors thesis on the history of the DJ mixer [PDF]. Then again, maybe it’s more a matter of the industry being painfully behind. In, 2006 when he designed his beautiful, vintage-styled Briefcase into the chassis of a 70s Sony mic mixer, there were few MIDI controllers for DJs even on the market. Times have changed, and in the mind-numbing cycle of industry products, it’s likely this year’s NAMM …

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Critter and Gitari’s $150, Battery-Powered Pocket Piano

Pocket Piano from Critter and Guitari on Vimeo. Apologies to the immense powers of lumbering studio gear, but a new lifestyle may be forming around unique, mobile, small, simple synths. The latest entry comes from none other than Critter and Gitari, some of our favorite electronics designers, based in Philadelphia. This time, they’re touting a pocket synth. No MIDI, no control voltage – just wooden keys, some knobs, an audio out jack, and a speaker. But the killer feature is, it runs on batteries. That allows you to take it anywhere, including – as evidenced by the video – on …

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Create Analog Music: All-Analog Kick Percussion Joins Compact Boutique Range

Image courtesy Abstract Data. Rockstar sparkle not included. Operating small runs out of his basement, Justin Owen is on a mission to bring his idiosyncratic, all-analog sounds to musicians in affordable, portable form. “Affordable” and “portable” often aren’t associated with analog, though even players as big as KORG have gotten in on the game recently, with KORG’s monotron. Now that musicians are spoiled for choice in “things making noise with numbers or electricity,” though, I think there’s added pressure. For lack of a better way to put it, you have to be interesting. And Justin’s circuits are indeed interesting. The …

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Sequencing with Color: Colorflex works with Reaktor, Maschine, Kore

COLORFLEX, developed in Reaktor 5, offers a fascinating take on matrix sequencing. It’s just a sequencer, not something that makes noise itself – it sends notes, Control Change, and IC send – but what a sequencer it is. Color zones act as different “tracks” of material, allowing complex patterns to be layered atop a single grid. Multiple layers also work with available functions like copy/paste, randomize, and shuffle, allowing you to creatively spawn patterns from other patterns. There are also analog-style master controls for swing, random step, and variation. Because it’s a sequencer, Colorflex becomes useful when combined with other …

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