Control, Shortcuts for Ableton Starting at $99: A Look at the New AKAI APC Line

For any tool that has “live” in the name, physical control will always be important. And so even with a broad market for controllers targeting Ableton’s flagship software, now including the slick Push hardware from Ableton themselves, AKAI’s re-vamped APC line earned intense interest when it debuted at Musikmesse this month. Let’s make sense of what the new APCs can do and how you might choose between models. I got some hands-on time at Messe, and now even in advance of a review of finished, shipping hardware, it’s worth teasing out the breakdown of the 2014 APC line. The original …

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The One Module Everyone Needs: KOMA’s Cable Organizer Accessory, 25€

The beautiful thing about modular synths is making connections physically – each link with an actual cable between them. It is, really, the whole point. Of course, you need somewhere to put all those cables and keep them organized. There are various cable racks available, but they’re generally mounted to walls and such. Synthtopia this week covered a nice option that can mount to a mic stand, from Synthesizers.com. But for sheer utility, it’s hard to beat what KOMA Elektronik this week was showing at Musikmesse. The Kabelhänger goes the obvious, “why didn’t anyone do this before?” route: it makes …

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Listen to Waldorf’s Buttery, New String Synth, the Streichfett [Hands-on]

A dedicated hardware synth just for vintage string sounds is about the last thing you’d expect to make headlines at Europe’s biggest music trade show. But an even bigger surprise: Waldorf’s new Streichfett is pretty delicious. The pun isn’t directly translatable. German speakers use the same word for “bowing” as spreading (as with a knife), and are passionate enough about putting fat on bread that they have idiomatic ways of talking about it that makes sense only to them. (At least, this is what my research into the Waldorf name and, um, eating have suggested.) But after a first hands-on …

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The boys of Elektron, jamming out. The analog lineup at the booth was a big hit at Messe, but the news story was making that analog play nicely with your lappy.

Elektron, Bridging Gap Between Synths, Drum Machines and Computers: Overbridge Explained

It’s a funny thing about this latest hardware resurgence: everyone kind of expects to use that gear with their PC and Mac. Elektron isn’t the first ever to attempt to make their gear integrate smoothly with computers; some of the techniques they use in Overbridge we’ve even seen before. (Roland and Virus spring to mind.) But with complete features for making their hottest, latest equipment behave well with software, they’re firmly in the territory of “why wasn’t everyone doing that before?” Elektron unveiled their approach this week at Musikmesse. It’s called “Overbridge,” and it applies to their latest analog equipment …

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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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Pioneer, The Company That Made CDJ a Hit, Teases a Turntable

The vinyl comeback couldn’t hit much more of a high note than this: it seems Pioneer, the company that popularized digital DJing and CDJs, is building phonographs. Pioneer isn’t saying anything about the hardware that’s under plexiglass at Musikmesse, only that it’s a concept prototype. But they hardly need to. The hardware looks like someone took the most popular DJ turntable of all time, the legendary Technics SL-1200, painted it black, and re-lettered it with Pioneer markings. I don’t think they literally did that, though it almost doesn’t matter; the effect is unreal, like entering a bizarro universe where Pioneer …

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microGranny 2.0 is a New Handmade Granular Sampler from the Czech Republic

“Bastl” is Czech slang that’s roughly equivalent to the maker culture or DIY. And now, from the makers of the glitchy, odd, and wonderful world of Standuino, comes a new granular sampler, a follow-up to a terrific earlier kit. The Bastl crew are showing off the microGranny 2.0 among lots of other new gear here at Musikmesse. They’ve added some functionality to the instrument (copy/paste, more presets), and put it in a very attractive housing. But as before, you get a hackable, happily lo-fi sample mangler. Load up your sounds on SD card, then manipulate them with hands-on controls or …

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This Could be the Perfect Busking, Mobile Amp and PA: Roland’s CUBE Street EX

Ever wished for something, but figured it was more or less impossible? At the end of a Roland briefing yesterday, a rep pulled out the CUBE Street EX amp almost unceremoniously. And then he showed me what it could do: It produces “50 watts” of power.* It runs on eight AA NiMH batteries – for five hours. It weighs just 7.4 kg (that’s just over 16 pounds). It connects whatever you want – two XLRs, four independent channels, for any combination of instrument, vocal, laptop. It’s angled, so you can use it as a stage monitor. It has a mounting …

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Hands on with Akai’s $199 Rhythm Wolf Drum Machine, More Details

As I suspected, Akai did not have a working, sounding model of the upcoming Rhythm Wolf drum machine. But I did get my hands on a prototype with sequencing firmware, got a sense of what the build will be like, and got to talk with Akai more about the design ideas behind this groove machine. Here’s what it feels like to pick it up: This thing feels great – not toy-like. This was the big (and pleasant) surprise for me. Whatever the Rhythm Wolf may sound like, at least it feels serious. In fact, it’s: Real metal. Fake wood. The …

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An Analog Filter That’s Playable for Producers, Guitarists Alike: Waldorf 2-pole Video

Synth maker Waldorf revealed the 2-pole Analog Filter in the USA at the NAMM show. Now, they’re coming home to Germany with more details. The emphasis here is making a filter for everyone: producers and synthesists, yes, but also DJs and guitarists. We already know guitarists like having access to this stuff if it can be playable (see KOMA, Moog), and if Waldorf can sell DJs a buttery filter instead of the awful stuff you get on many DJ mixers, they may be doing the world a public service. The hardware has an all-analog filter path, which makes sense for …

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