3 Approaches to Accessorizing the Studio: SPL, Softube, UA at Musikmesse

How can hardware make the computer-based studio more productive? Each trade show invariably brings new offerings that seek to answer that problem as vendors hawk their wares. At Frankfurt’s Musikmesse, steps from one another, three well-known names each each offered their own take. It comes at a time when the industry is re-imagining the role of our machines. It used to be that big, metal boxes said “pro” – and the studio was no exception. (Cue flashbacks trying to set up Digidesign expansion racks in the late 90s. Okay, now putting that out of my mind.) That’s still true in …

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The Newest Analog Goodness: Highlights from Berlin’s ALEX4, at Musikmesse [Synth pr0n]

Andreas Schneider, famed owner of Berlin synth boutique Schneidersladen, has a unique talent for finding the best idiosyncratic electronic sound creations. Now leading European distributor ALEX4, he’s bringing more of those goodies to the rest of us. There’s something a bit odd about going to Frankfurt when ALEX4, Schneidersladen, and Andreas himself all live in my neighborhood. But amassed at Musikmesse, you get a sense of the current state of the ALEX4 stable of gear – and we’ve got the synth pr0n to prove it. And you know Musikmesse is off to an interesting start when you head behind the …

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BassStation II, Hands-on: First Direct Sound Samples from Novation’s Analog Synth [Musikmesse]

Novation’s BassStation II, a US$500 street all-analog monosynth, is already big news. If Korg is bringing back the late 70s/early 80s sound in an analog keyboard, Novation is giving us the early 90s. And since sound is what it’s really all about, we wanted to get a hands-on with the actual sounds of the BassStation II. I recorded directly from the line out on the BassStation (only a mixer in between), into Sonoma WireWorks’ GuitarJack Model 2 for iOS. (That interface, by the way, sounds and feels terrific.) The BassStation II so far shows some serious promise, something that should …

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Hands-on with Livid Base Controller, and Streamlined Control of Ableton Live [Musikmesse]

One highlight of Musikmesse for me was getting to catch up with Jay Smith of Livid Instruments. Base, their touch controller (grid plus touch strips), is even more appealing in person than online. And it seems like it could really sit in a niche in controllers, even with lots of grids out there these days. By comparison, Novation’s new Launchpad S, while much cheaper, lacks pressure sensitivity. And Ableton’s Push also leaves plenty of room for Base. Push I still think is a terrific controller, even as it has some growing pains with its initial launch – I’ve had some …

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First Hands-on Impressions, Korg Volca Analog Grooveboxes: How They Feel

They really are $149.99. And they really are a lot of fun. Korg’s Volca analog Keys synth, Bass synth, and Beats drum synth/drum machine were naturally one of the first stops yesterday. (See our official write-up and images, which just broke the record set by Korg’s own MS-20 mini to become the most popular CDM launch news story ever. Readers are evidently cuckoo for Korg.) It’s hard to get a proper feel for sound at a trade show, but I was especially interested to know how these feel – particularly with some compromises keeping price and size down. Benjamin Weiss …

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Video: Hands-on with the M01D for Nintendo 3DS (Cooler Than You Thought M1 Was?)

Following our preview of Korg’s upcoming Nintendo eShop synth, here’s the one and only, incomparable CardiacTrance all the way from Japan to show it off. Trying to tell someone there’s a Korg M1 for the Nintendo handheld doesn’t really do this justice – or even make intuitive sense. But it is actually good news. Somehow, the combination of sequencing features, transforming the game system into a workstation, with the silly-small design makes the result more than the sum of its parts. And in the hands of a producer/musician, they become a lot more. Modern gaming, game music aesthetics, and some …

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Korg M01D is a Crazy-Awesome New Synth for the Nintendo 3DS; Listen to CT+X Kill It

Nobuyoshi Sano is kind of a mad genius. The writer behind some of the scores for Ridge Racer and Tekken, the talented musician has also turned out some of our favorite mobile music apps, as founder of Japanese dev house Detune. He built the somewhat-ridiculous iYM2151 workstation on iPad, but is best known for the Korg iMS-20. And now, he’s got something new. Japan has already gotten a taste of M01D, the classic Korg M1 remade and rethought for the Nintendo 3DS. But only a select few have been in the know outside Japan. That changes now. I just got …

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$150 Korg Volca Analog Synth, Bass, Drum Grooveboxes, with MIDI: Official Details, Pics, Video

The rumors are true: Korg has not one, but three pint-sized, $150 analog groove boxes – two analog synths and a PCM/analog drum machine. Korg established a bit of a formula with the Monotron and Monotribe: pack some vintage sound and quirky personality into a small box, make it all self-contained (with speaker, batteries, simple touch strips), and then make it affordable. The result is cute, little analog boxes that only Korg could make – and at a price only a big maker could pull off. Volca keeps to that formula, with new synthesis and drum adding step sequencing features …

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Novation Bass Station II: All-Analog Sequel to a Classic Instrument, $499 Street [Video, Pics]

The original Bass Station would now be old enough to drink. But the new Bass Station II (which, in a typical marketing twist, Novation would like to remind you can also do leads) is improved, expanded, and more connected. And with a street price of US$499, the competition for affordable synths has gotten just plain ridiculous – in a way that can only benefit the synth consumer. Now, the Bass Station II has two filters, two oscillators and a sub-oscillator, patch save capability, and analog effects. It also looks playable, with a step-sequencer, arpeggiator, onboard modulation, and MIDI and USB. …

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Nord Drum 2, Playable Drum Synth, Gets More Sound Options, Nord Pad Companion [Photos]

Swedish maker Nord may be known for keyboards, and justly so, but their drum products are perhaps even more distinctive. If it seems like Nord only just released something called “Nord Drum,” it’s true. But they’re already back with a sequel, and Nord Pad as an accessory. The latter’s compact trigger design could appeal to producers and musicians who don’t have room for a whole kit. The original Nord Drum was a four-channel “modeling” virtual analog synth. The new model is six channels, and has more sound options. As before, you can trigger synthesized drum sounds from conventional electronic pads …

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