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Roland Could Make AIRA Sync Box; New Directions at Company

AIRA, the lineup that now includes a bassline/sequencer, drum machine, synth, and vocal processor, has in just a few months changed the way a lot of people think about Roland. At Musikmesse in Frankfurt, it was clear that it represents a new direction for Roland, too. The AIRA lineup was displayed separately from the usual Roland booth on the main floor of hall 5 (devoted to pianos), upstairs in hall 5.1 alongside electronic and DJ products (“remix”). And there, crowds gathered to watch pounding dance performances. Those first four AIRA units are just the beginning. Roland has created an entirely …

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Inside BeatStep: $99 Step Sequencer and Controller Looks Compact, Versatile [Q+A, Videos]

Every new season brings new music tools. Some of these designs, of course, are splashy and grab headlines. Some just look like no-brainers that will see heavy use in your work. Arturia’s BeatStep stood out at the recent NAMM trade show as just an insanely-great use of a hundred bucks, in a tiny box that sort of does everything you’d want. It’s a pad controller. But it’s also a step sequencer. It connects to your computer via USB. But it also does analog CV and MIDI (via breakouts) when your computer isn’t around. It works as a controller. It works …

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Quick Fix: QuNexus is a Great Way to Do MIDI and CV, Cheap and Mobile

Here’s a really quick tip, but it demonstrates something in one illustrative video: Keith McMillen’s QuNexus is a brilliant, mobile solution for MIDI and analog control voltage. Of course, time was when the mention of control voltage would say to people either eccentric vintage gear collectors or expensive racks of modular. But CV’s appeal is fast spreading. On the modular side, prices are tumbling, and compact suitcase rigs can easily cost less than some pricey plug-in bundles (cough). On the used/vintage side, there’s just a lot of gear you might want to connect. And now, there are affordable units like …

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What Can You Hack on KORG volca series? First Mod Details, as KOMA Meets KORG [Video]

When KORG’s Tatsuya Takahashi is involved in a project, you can expect some hackability. KORG surprised the music tech community by releasing filter schematics for its monotron and designing the boards for the monotron and Monotribe in such a way that opened them to modifications – like adding much-needed MIDI capability absent on those first devices. The KORG volca series already has MIDI input and most other features you want, so the majority of volca buyers won’t need or want to modify anything at all. That’s not bad for boxes that cost just US$150. But there are some opportunities for …

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QuNexus: Slim, Expressive Keyboard in Exclusive Hands-on CDM Review ($150 Street)

Computers and other electronic hardware can be anything as an instrument. But that means you may need something different when it comes time to play them. The first thing to say about QuNexus is that it isn’t a piano. But the first thing to say about pianos is that they’re not at all portable – and they are built for striking strings rather than playing synths. Think instead of QuNexus a super-portable controller for a variety of uses, with added sensors for expression. It’s a hybrid input controller that values expression and mobility above all else. Keith McMillen gave CDM …

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Extra Modulation, Extra Routing: What the QuNexus Keyboard is Good For [Videos]

Various keyboards this week are offering lots of extra features, and Keith McMillen’s compact QuNexus is no exception. The keys add pressure sensitivity, there’s a tilt sensor, and in addition to (driver-free) USB MIDI connectivity and pedal input, there’s control voltage output for use with analog gear. So, it’s worth asking: what’s this for? Do you actually want it? This week, we’ll have the exclusive first review of the QuNexus, but a good prelude to that read is to see how others are using the gear. The short answer is, if you’re using a synth in particular, yes, it’s absolutely …

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C64s, Control Voltage, MIDI … iPads, Keyboards and Audio: NAMM Saturday [Gallery, Impressions]

Everything old is new again. And everything new is everywhere – at least if we’re talking iPads and so on. At Anaheim’s massive gathering of music gear, there were some definite themes. Photographing for CDM, James Grahame and Marsha Vdovin give us a look at the tools on the floor. James has stumbled upon various fascinating oddities, and of course the booth celebrating MIDI’s 30th anniversary. (We’ll be talking more about MIDI’s history and legacy in the coming weeks.) From top, the keyboard models that made the history first connection, and a Commodore 64 talking to an iPad. Synthtopia has …

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Keys and Knobs and Such, New Gear, in Photos: Notes and Gallery from NAMM Day 1

From the Prophet 12 to Korg’s MS-20 Mini (and King Korg – more on that soon), iConnectMIDI interfaces for your iPad to Arturia ultra-portable keyboards, from analog to digital, from big releases to oddities, CDM has some roving reporters out on the floor of America’s biggest musical instrument trade show, NAMM. James Grahame, principal engineer behind the MeeBlip, kicks things off. Looking through his photos is a bit like seeing the show through his eyes. The flagship keyboards you’ve heard of (though Moog-branded water is a surprise). Some of the other good news: the iConnectMIDI4 Plus looks very versatile, indeed, …

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Video: Machinedrum Meets Analog Four Effects with Dataline – And Yes, Machinedrum Does MIDI

Elektron’s upcoming analog sequencer/synth is also an effects unit, and it was born to do the kind of rhythmic hands-on music manipulation you see here. In the latest video from Elektron superfan and hardware-loving musician MrDataline, we get to see the combination of Elektron’s classic Machinedrum with the just-about-to-be-released Analog Four. And really, this is the kind of combination I think we can expect for a lot of real-world Analog Four uses: Elektron gear, combined in lovely harmony. (You lucky bastards.) Here’s what Dataline has to say about it: Wanted to show how you can make use of the inputs …

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A fully-functioning QuNexus prototype. It may look like the pads on the QuNeo, but Keith McMillen tells us new sensor tech should be more friendly to keyboard technique. And the fact that this is real hardware is important - Kickstarter has recently revised its rules. A look at the new hardware - and actually delivering on Kickstarter - as CDM talks to Keith McMillen.

QuNexus is Touch-Sensitive, Tilt Mini-Keyboard with CV, MIDI, OSC, as McMillen Returns to Kickstarter [Q+A]

Can a compact controller not only shrink the conventional music keyboard, but transform it, too? The layout on the just-announced QuNexus is something familiar to keyboard players. But the QuNexus assumes some new ways of playing, with keys that sense pressure and an instrument that you can tilt. Following in the footsteps (fingertaps?) of Keith McMillen’s QuNeo, the QuNexus is built around a custom-engineered set of pressure-detecting, touch-sensitive pads. But whereas previous hardware used USB for MIDI and high-resolution OSC (OpenSoundControl), the QuNexus adds Control Voltage for modular and vintage lovers, too. The QuNexus returns to Kickstarter for crowd-funding production, …

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