Inside BeatStep: $99 Step Sequencer and Controller Looks Compact, Versatile [Q+A, Videos]

Every new season brings new music tools. Some of these designs, of course, are splashy and grab headlines. Some just look like no-brainers that will see heavy use in your work. Arturia’s BeatStep stood out at the recent NAMM trade show as just an insanely-great use of a hundred bucks, in a tiny box that sort of does everything you’d want. It’s a pad controller. But it’s also a step sequencer. It connects to your computer via USB. But it also does analog CV and MIDI (via breakouts) when your computer isn’t around. It works as a controller. It works …

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M-Audio Trigger Finger Pad Controller is Back – with a Step Sequencer, High-Res Screen

This is not your father’s Trigger Finger. The Trigger Finger has to be one of the biggest success stories in controllers, ever. Back before “controllerism” was a thing, this was what you took along – cheap, light, easy-to-abuse, it was a warhorse 4×4 grid of pads with faders. I’ve watched Flying Lotus tear up his; I’ve seen it win laptop battles. I’ve seen people play them with pads weirdly half ripped-off and all the knob and fader caps missing. I’ve seen Trigger Fingers that looked like someone dragged them through the mud tied to a pickup truck. (I knew that …

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Elektron Opens Mystery Box, Revealing – An Analog Drum Machine with Maschine-Style Pads?

What’s in the box? Starting at an event in Berlin in the fall, the folks at Elektron have been teasing new hardware, hiding it inside a padlocked, frosted-plexiglass case. Today, they opened the case. Inside is what appears to be an anticipated new Elektron drum machine – though various readers tell us this latest drum machine from the company will use analog drum synthesis. (That’s unconfirmed.) The obvious addition is given away instantly: you get a colored 4×3 grid of pads, looking a bit like Maschine and Machinedrum had a love child. (Then again, that love child doesn’t sound like …

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Photo (CC-BY-NC-ND) Magic Trax.

Loe Pesci Sings Love Song to MPC60; MPC Complains It Doesn’t Get Enough Love [Video]

Loe Pesci loves his sampler. No, really loves his sampler. (Video omits any NSFW parts, though; you only see smoking in bad afterward.) Lyrics in this number are — well, complex. It seems there was more sampling going on early in the relationship. That didn’t stop AKAI from sharing the video, even if there is a brief glimpse of Ableton. The music: http://www.OGHinduKush.bandcamp.com http://www.AGLisAGoodLook.com Montreal-based Loe Pesci also surely deserves credit for working “12-bit sampling engine” into a rap. That’s some nerdcore action, right there. A forum posted complains that they wish the tune were more serious, apparently because love …

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Hands-on Visual Tour: What’s New in Maschine 2 Software, Maschine Studio Hardware

Native Instruments’ groove-centric production studio Maschine today gets its most significant update ever. The software has been completely rewritten from the ground up, bringing expanded editing and sound capabilities and enhanced performance. And alongside the software release, there’s also a new, “flagship” controller, called Maschine Studio (above) – a big (but lightweight) beast with bright, crisp color screens and a price to match. I took a tour of the software and hardware upgrades in NI’s offices, and so we can bring our own hands-on look at both before they ship. Please note that this is a first look at a …

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Samples, No Computer: $99 Akai MPX8 Combines Pads, SD Card, MIDI and USB Port

Sometimes, there are designs that seem almost impossibly like an answer to a specific need. Let us illustrate. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a box that you could play, independent of a computer, that just let you mess about with samples directly from an SD card? And wouldn’t it be nice if it had MIDI jacks on it, too, and not only USB, so that you didn’t need the computer handy? That’s the MPX8 from Akai Pro. It’s dead-simple, so you’ll do most of your sample manipulation away from the hardware. (There’s a free Mac and Windows sample editor …

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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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In Drawings, A Producer Looks at Big Acts’ Live Laptop Rigs, Deadmau5 to FlyLo

In a charming set of schematic doodles, self-described hip-hop producer deejers has assembled an exquisitely-researched compendium of live laptop rigs from top music acts. In the lineup: Flying Lotus, Skrillex, Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, Daft Punk – a reasonable sampling of artists playing big shows live on the US circuit. And, oh, yes, deadmau5, who despite claiming that everyone just presses play, has put together a fairly impressive controller setup with monome, Maschine, Lemur, and Pioneer EFX-1000. (Just one of those four controllers could let you assemble a track from scratch, let alone all four.)

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RGB color grid? Mais ouis! Here, though, add in velocity-sensitive touch strips, too. Product photos courtesy Livid Instruments.

Livid Base: Colored Pads Meet Touch Faders, $399 [Gallery]

So, other than lots of new analog monosynths, the one thing we now have lots of is grids of RGB pads. Livid is betting you want your touch-sensitive, pressure-sensitive pads paired with some touch faders. So, unlike offerings like KMI’s QuNeo and Ableton’s Push, the grid at the bottom is coupled up with a set of strips for fader control at the top. That opens up some flexibility for expression or as a control surface. Specs: 4×8 grid = 32 pads (so, two groups of 16 pads if you want to think of it that way). Nine touch sliders. Eight …

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Video Walkthrough: Maschine Meets Ableton Live in New Template

New Year’s Resolution: hands off that mouse / trackpad. Let’s get more physical with our production. If you’re not eager to wait for Ableton’s Push hardware, or you’re just a fan of traditional pads or a Maschine owner, combining Maschine with Live can be a great choice. Native Instruments quietly updated Maschine control integration with Ableton Live. It’s one Berlin-engineered tool meets another. Of course, this arrived in the midst of the holiday rush, so we’ll turn to producertech.com to give us a detailed walk-through, from installation and configuration to how the integration works when playing. And the results look …

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