Dam-Funk gets his own drum machine + sequencer. Photo courtesy Bleep Labs.

Artist Gear: Dam-Drum 2.0 is a Handheld Drum Machine from Bleep Labs, Stones Throw Records [Listen]

You know those science fiction episodes where someone’s personality gets transferred to the computer? Imagine if an artist could do that with a drum machine, and you get the idea behind Dam-Drum. Bleep Labs’ John-Mike Reed of Austin, Texas has a unique talent for engineering fun music electronics. His work is sonically adventurous – always with enough rough edges to keep things interesting – and simultaneously demonstrates an ability to compact designs to their most basic elements, while wrapping everything in a veneer of quirky personality. Yes, of course, his googly-eyed robots the Thingamagoops are immediately cute and anthropomorphic. But …

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Endeavour’s Evo, Touch-Sensitive Keyboard, Reimagined, Now From EUR499 [Gallery, Videos]

Endeavour’s evo keyboard closely resembles a conventional music keyboard controller. But its piano-style keys and high-performance internals are custom engineered from the ground up for additional expression. High-speed connections mean lower latency than is possible with MIDI, and touch- and pressure-sensitive keys allow additional ways of adding to a performance, all in an aluminum case hand-built in Germany. I was impressed playing the keyboard at Musikmesse earlier this year, but cost put this innovative instrument out of reach of many would-be experimenters. Now, as the product matures, pricing is coming down to Earth. A 24-key version – perhaps just fine, …

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Reinventing the Wheel: Engineering arc2, Digital Instrument from monome Creator [Gallery, Interview]

Engineering a production instrument is a kind of study in compromise. For mass-produced musical instruments, it’s a fusion of practicality and economics, made affordable by a mass-market supply chain. What makes the monome creations special isn’t just that they look beautiful; the art isn’t aesthetic only. They are uncommonly uncompromising. They’re designed in such a way that tells a story about materials, one that weaves connections between suppliers – many of them local suppliers – and focuses the experience of the device on the interface. They have the kind of obsessive attention to detail associated with the finest acoustic musical …

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The Linn Tools That Never Were: Roger Linn Shares Shelved Designs [Gallery]

Designer Roger Linn is beloved by producers for drum machines like the MPC, beloved by guitarists for AdrenaLinn, and now newly respected for the Tempest with Dave Smith. But for anyone who imagines design is a direct line from idea to product, it’s not. Whether Roger Linn or Apple, the process leaves the way littered with discarded creations. Of course, that doesn’t mean these are bad ideas. Now that we live in a world of DIY, some intrepid musical souls will make products for an audience of one. And where designs are discarded, ideas often survive. Roger Linn writes CDM …

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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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Radio in an Online Age, Made Tangible: Skube Are Smart, Last.fm + Spotify Speakers

Computers give you sophisticated ways of connecting to online music. But do you ever miss that physical object of the radio? Or wish that a speaker could be just as smart when, with a sigh of relief, you’ve pressed the laptop lid shut? Skube is a design experiment from Copenhagen focused on making portable devices more connected and communal sharing easier. They’re speakers that you might consider members of the Internet of Things, using Arduino and Xbee wireless networking to make the device mobile while piping sounds from Spotify and Last.fm. Here’s some demo footage of the speakers in action: …

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Maschine, in Color: First CDM Hands-On With New Maschine Hardware, Software [Gallery]

Looks smart. There are smart features coming in version 1.8, too – and you get Massive for free. Photos by Arvid Jense for CDM. In living color: the popular drum machine – combining integrated hardware and software – is more colorful, but also more usable, via updates to the screen and pads alike. We’ve gotten a hands-on test with the gear to share some first-hand first impressions. Native Instruments’ Maschine hardware gets a major update today, and color is likely the first thing you’ll notice. The pads are backlit with a rainbow of RGB LEDs, as found on NI’s Kontrol …

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Little White Box: A Look at the Ambitious Kinektron Music-Making Cube

How much music making can you pack into a space-age, sealed white box? Developers Kinektron proposed one solution last month. To examine their design direction so far, we turn to Create Digital Music’s summer intern in industrial design, Arvid Jense. Arvid is completing unique dual studies in Media Music (at the ArtEZ Conservatorium, Enschede) and BSc Industrial Design Engineering (at the University of Twente), both in the Netherlands. He’s working with us to research instrument design and musical interaction, and doing a set of studies and design experiments related to our own MeeBlip open source synthesizer. (More on Arvid and …

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SJS-ONE: Open, Arduino-Based Synth, with Crazy Cases and Web Troubleshooting

SJS-ONE is an 8-bit synth that you add to an Arduino board, making it ideal for hardware and firmware tinkerers and lovers of unique monosynths. But we’ll give it bonus points for two other reasons. First, it has some really bizarre cases available as add-ons, which look a bit like punk birdhouses. (Birdhouse squats? Hot rodded bird tenant buildings?) Second, in a really clever move, they help you troubleshoot hardware issues with a Flash animation. It could make it clear even to a complete beginner how to use a multimeter (a measuring device that checks electrical connections). The Arduino design …

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Ready-to-Play, Tuned Beer Bottles, and Other Design Experiments with Sound

From label to physical shape to the boxes they come in, these beer bottles have been reimagined for musical aims. Cheers! All images courtesy the artist, Matt Braun. What if blowing tunes on beer bottles was raised to the level of musical science? Through even the mundane medium of packaging, design can transform the everyday. DJ and designer Matt Braun of Philadelphia, collaborating with Chris Mufalli, use labels to tune the level of beer remaining in the bottle for musical results. Pitches are printed on the labels, allowing you to exactly match the liquid inside to a pitch you want, …

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