Wonders of DIY Synths: A New PreenFM, a Polyphonic Oberheim Clone

It’s a new golden age for synth lovers, past meeting the future and so on. At least, we have a stunning number of wonderful toys. And the DIY community is coming up with a number of particularly special creations. Take the terrific open source PreenFM, an original, 6-operator FM synth that’s entirely open source hardware (code and schematics). On Sunday, we learned what creator Xavier Hosxe has in store for the new model:

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In Magellan on iOS, Warm Virtual Analog Meets MIDI Everything [Hands-on, Tech Details, Gallery]

Occupying some space between hardware and computer plug-in, the iPad synth is reaching a new level of maturity. We saw that last year with Moog’s Animoog (see various coverage), and, while I took some flak by arguing that it wasn’t equivalent to hardware creations from Moog and others, I think it is a beautiful example of some of the best of this “third category” of synthesizer instrument. Animoog, for its part, has grown in depth since then and attracted long-time users, along with a handful of other top-notch synths that rise above the crowd. Musicians using these instruments often blend …

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Tom's FM radio-sequencing module project, in all its glory.

Music Thing: A Radio Sequencer, How to Get Into DIY Synth Modules, How to Have Fun

Lured by the siren song of modular synthesis and DIY electronics, but not sure how to navigate the piles of requisite knowledge – or uncertain what the trip down this rabbit hole might have in store? For years, Tom Whitwell’s Music Thing was a beloved daily read, as that site and this one were among the early blog-format destinations for music tech. Tom moved on – something about a major day-gig at a paper called The Times, perhaps named after the font? – but that makes us all the more delighted to get a dispatch from him. In this guest …

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Free Generative, FM Sequencer for Max/MSP, Max for Live

If you liked the generative, probability-based sequencing seen earlier this week, here’s another example – and it’s free and open source, so if you do want to pick it apart and you own a copy of Max/MSP or Max for Live, you can. Co-creator Giuseppe Sorce points us to the work: This is a simple generative music synthesizer built in Max/MSP created by Diego Caponera, Nicolò Paternoster and Giuseppe Sorce. It involves 5 FM generators which play notes randomly based on a root key and intervals defined by the user. It’s an university project made for an exam for Sound’s …

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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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Omnisphere Review for Keyboard: Amidst Gigs of Sounds, Real Creative Sound Design, Too; Videos

I took a look at Omnisphere 1.5, the synth so big it’ll make your head hurt, for Keyboard in a story out now (and readable now). As I begin the story: Seeing its six DVDs of sound content, you might be tempted to duct-tape a key down and let Omnisphere finish your film scoring gig. While the director would probably love the results, you’d be missing out on the real fun. In other words, what I discovered in that review was that Omnisphere, particularly with additions in the new 1.5 update, is a powerful creative sound design tool, not just …

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A Tranquil, Twinkling Set of Synthesized Cycles, Made for arc’s Wheels

We looked at the arc controller, and interviewed creator Brian Crabtree, early this year. In a way, the design is as much conceptual, kinetic sculpture attached to a computer as it is music hardware. It’s not for everyone, but it does inspire some sound designers and composers whose work I love, giving it a secondary advantage – without owning one, I can still see people doing interesting things with it and find musical discoveries in their work. stretta in his latest video turns the controller into synthesized sounds that reference in the title of the piece the Dharma Wheels, the …

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Powerful Crystal Synth is Free for Windows, Mac, 64-bit; 99 cents on iPad, iPhone

For years, anyone with doubts that soft synths had become commodity needed only to look to Crystal. Not only is this proprietary synth completely free-as-in-beer for Windows and Mac, but it could easily be your only synth if you so desired. Crystal is a semi-modular instrument with the usual trimmings – subtractive and FM synthesis, modulation, multi-stage, graphical envelopes, tempo sync, chorus, flanger, comb filter, delay, and even a band splitter for adding effects per frequency band. If the bread-and-butter stuff doesn’t satisfy, Crystal also has Granular and Wave Density parameters for wavetable synthesis that can be used for granular-style …

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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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$5-10 Modular Studio on the iPhone, Mac, PC, Mobiles: SunVox Video Tutorials

So, you’ve seen lots of interesting looking iPhone apps, but most of them strike you as gimmicky. Others have interesting workflows, but limit you to working on the mobile device, not switching back to a computer. And maybe you’re perfectly happy with a phone running Windows Mobile or Palm OS. Enter SunVox. This is not a mobile music making app for the timid. It’s a powerful suite of soundmakers and sequencers, baked together into a modular environment that lets power users tweak to their heart’s delight. It’s small, it’s fast, and it looks – and sounds – a lot like …

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