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How Akai Advance Could Best NI’s Komplete Kontrol in Smart Keyboards

Smart keyboard controllers that integrate with software have been something various makers have tried frequently over the years, with various degrees of success. Propellerhead helped lead the way with Automap in Reason, which could cleverly link on-screen controls to devices. But by the time this was translated to multiple pieces of software, the resulting “automatic” features could be harder to use on than off. I tried at various points Novation’s ReMOTE, M-Audio’s Axiom Pro, and Cakewalk’s A-PRO keyboards, and found them all to be perfectly nice hardware – once I gave up and turned the automatic stuff off and just …

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Nord’s Electro 5 Revises A Favorite Stage Piano

Year after year, a lot of what the music instruments industry does is iterative – evolutionary, not revolutionary. But for the day-in, day-out operation of a lot of gigging musicians, some of the less-thrilling announcements are the ones that simply make life better. That means, for example, Clavia’s announcement of a new Nord Electro 5 keyboard matters. The number of stage musicians who rely on the signature red keyboards from Sweden is simply stunning. Nord aren’t cheap, but their attention to detail has earned them a lot of impassioned enthusiasts. I actually had the pleasure of visiting Clavia when I …

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Moog’s Historic Big Modulars Return – You Say You Want a Resurrection?

Synthesizers are now old enough to become “classics,” to have a canonical form – much like the Steinway D in pianos or the Stradivarius violin. So, that leaves us a choice: do we make something new, even if fashioned out of the old, or do we reissue the historical instrument as it originally was? Answer: all of the above. At NAMM this week, I expect you can find representatives from the whole spectrum between past and future. But the company that more than any other has defined what it means to be a “classic” is now setting their time machine …

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One Reason to Watch Casio: They’re Step Sequencer Crazy!

Okay, so Casio have crammed a groove box into a Millennium Falcon, and that was a little strange (and means squeezing some of the controls, since the shape is irregular). But now that the shock has worn off, the next question: should we get one for review when it arrives later this March? Should you keep it on your 2015 gear radar? The answer turns out to be yes, as a few readers have told me online and offline. And the reason has to do with a keyboard you probably ignored from Casio a couple years back. Let us explain. …

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Casio Crosses a Groove Box, DJ Controller With Millennium Falcon

It’s not quite clear what just happened at Casio’s Music Gear division. Last year, their XW DJ line included a pedestrian but perfectly innocuous-looking DJ/VJ controller in partnership with Vestax. Now, in an apparent attempt to corner the market of 12-year-old producers, they’ve made two crazy-looking things shaped like the Millennium Falcon. Not a little like the Millennium Falcon – nearly exactly like it, just short of turning its reflector dish into a knob. (Okay, it looks a little bit like a Roland Handsonic HPD-10, but the Casio has a narrower nose – which in turn squeezes the space for …

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What’s The Deal With This Leaked Roland Analog-Digital Hybrid Synth?

Synthesizers in the mass market are forever part of up and down swings – and we’re back in an up swing. At the same time as other musical instrument segments lag in sales, NAMM reports both more synths at their trade show and double-digit year-on-year sales growth. (In music, that’s just huge.) So, you can expect we’ll see a lot more synthesizer options. And the first of the 2015 products has already leaked out. As Synthtopia noted on Friday, Japanese artist Daisuke Asakura leaked a new Roland keyboard on Twitter, following a public performance on New Years’ Eve in Japan. …

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KORG’s ARP Odyssey Remake to be Revealed in January

KORG has now made it public: we’ll get to see their ARP Odyssey, a remake of the classic 1970s synth involving one of the original creators, in January. Some sort of working unit at the NAMM trade show seems a likely thing to hope for. And we can also see from the image they’ve posted that they’ve opted to recreate the third-generation ARP aesthetics, faithfully reproducing the black-and-orange labels. (Click for a full-size version, without the text.) The Odyssey is a reasonable enough synth to reissue. Moog Music has already corned the Minimoog and KORG themselves the legendary MS-20; the …

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Squint, and you might see Arturia's new audio interface.

Arturia Teases an Audio Interface to Fix All Your Problems

Word had already hit the street that Arturia was working on a new audio interface. Now, the company has announced its agenda for the product – and set the NAMM show at the end of January as a release date. And, boy, are they being ambitious. Basically, if you can name a complaint about audio interfaces, Arturia is promising a solution. Let’s count their litany of problems to solve: 1. One-knob setups. UA’s Apollo Twin, Focusrite’s Forte, and (leading the trend) Apogee’s Duet have all popularized this trend (first seen on devices like NI’s since-discontinued Audio Kontrol 1). I never …

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The Best-Sounding Brass Instrument Tech Makes No Sound At All: Yamaha’s Latest Silent Brass

One thing you mostly can’t do with brass instruments is play them listening through … headphones. And that’s a big deal when you’re practicing, of course. There just hasn’t been a good way to do it without bothering other people. Enter Yamaha. (Yes, it’s no big surprise that a country associated with tiny, closely-adjacent apartments and actually making walls out of paper would find advances in practice technology again and again.) Yamaha’s SILENT Brass system, devised for French Horn, trombone, flugelhorn, and trumpet, isn’t new. But the latest evolution may bring it to a wider audience. The idea is this: …

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The Augmented Guitar: In Final Hours of Crowd-Funding, Watch What Guitar Wing Can Do

Like superhero armor, the sleek Guitar Wing fits over the edge of your guitar – your existing, beloved guitar – and gives it badass bonus powers. The crowd-funded accessory finally brings control for digital instruments and effects to the fingertips of guitar and bass players, without forcing them to change instruments or give up their conventional techniques. Instead, Guitar Wing, via Bluetooth connection, provides pressure-sensitive pads, faders, buttons, switches, and (if you like) three-dimensional motion control right to the instrument. USB charged, rechargeable battery-powered, and with RGB color feedback and editing options, it’s ready to go anywhere and control anything. …

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