Arturia Laboratory 61

Arturia Announce Laboratory 61 Keyboard and Oberheim SEM V Details

Arturia’s Laboratory keyboards, which combine hardware and software to combine into a pretty high value package, has thus far only had 25 and 49 key versions… until now. We’ve had our hands on the existing keyboards briefly, but not yet had time to do a full review.

software – particularly revivals – seems to be Arturia’s real expertise

Whilst admittedly first impressions weren’t great when it came to the build quality of the hardware, The Laboratory Experience software that’s bundled with every purchase is a really nice set of sounds to boost your collection, as software – particularly revivals – seems to be Arturia’s real expertise.

In the software revival vein, Arturia’s upcoming Oberheim SEM emulation has had screenshots and a couple of audio demos released for it too, ahead of its December launch. We’ll be interested to see how it performs and just how warm it sounds then; until December you can head over to Arturia’s site to to listen to a couple of demo audio files, and we also dug up a YouTube video of one of the real things to give you a better taste…

Accelra - EP1 Reversals

Accelra – EP1 Reversals

A relaxing Friday afternoon piece here, a free EP from London based Gavin Singleton, aka Accelra.

There’s something both immediate and distant about the three tracks on this EP

There’s something both immediate and distant about the three tracks on this EP. The simplicity of the instrumentation gives way to the expertly crafted atmospherics whilst maintaining subtle, unobtrusive progression; this is the kind of music you can bask in. The title track Reversals might be the most impressive of the three on offer, deftly creating and manipulating moods spanning relaxation to foreboding. Definitely worth a listen.

 

glassdrops

Robot Koch – Glassdrops

Some midweek musical inspiration today. In the UK, the weather’s been very strange this year; summer rallied very late, and has had the effect of making the impending clock change (it’s Sunday, people – that’s my public service for the week done!) and the rapid decent into winter mode that it brings about feel like it’s been snuck into our schedules.

deep, thick kicks, soothingly arpeggiated and suitably edge blurred synths, and a vocal that can be likened to candlelight, fragile yet with a concentrated warmth

That said, my mood’s already twigged, and those of you that share an almost split personality between your winter self and summer one will be starting to feel it too, no doubt. This track from Robot Koch is the epitome of the sound that tends to become my winter, as deep, thick kicks, soothingly arpeggiated and suitably edge blurred synths, and a vocal that can be likened to candlelight, fragile yet with a concentrated warmth – provided by John LaMonica – mesh in the soundscape. The video is… well, find out below. There’s nothing like a provocative video to make a great track that little bit more special.

animoogmain screen

Review: Moog Animoog iPad Synth


SPECS:

iPad and iPad 2.

PROS:
  • Sounds superb
  • Good keyboard
  • Built in scales
CONS:
  • No in-app help
  • A little light on effects
  • Fiddly menus
Price at Review: $0.99/£0.69 Animoog is the whole package. It’s beautiful, it sounds amazing, it’s easy to use, and at the introductory price (which lasts until mid November), it’s a no brainer. When it goes up to full price, it’s still one of the iPad’s best, even if is is one of its most expensive too.

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Animoog works with what Moog are calling their ‘Anistropic Synthesis Engine’, which is designed to have the power to create hugely varied sounds with much less fuss and modulation than ‘traditional’ synths. Rather than giving you a bunch of spices that never come out of the rack, Moog have chosen to keep it simple when it comes to effects; there’s just a delay and what Moog call a ‘thickness’ suite, of bitcrusher, drive, and detune. Instead, Animoog’s genius is in its modulation capability.

The main screen of Animoog features a large oscilloscope, but more than that: that green grid has a secret which forms the heart of Animoog. You see, that entire area functions as an X/Y pad, but it’s not just your finger that can move the hit point; you can set up a path for it to follow and an orbit for the hit point to circulate around. Of course, both of these parameters can be played with in real time, with rates, direction of path, and shape of orbit manipulatable. The visualisation of these settings looks gorgeous – Animoog might be an app that non-musos get just to look at the pretty colours.

The visualisation of the settings looks gorgeous – Animoog might be an app that non-musos get just to look at the pretty colours

Notes are triggered with easy to hit keys that sit side by side rather than following a traditional keyboard’s raised semitones. Moog aren’t the first to do this but hopefully other manufacturers start to see how much more sense it makes on a tablet device than a traditional setup. The keyboard can be set to a huge amount of scales, from standard major and minor to blues, pentatonic, and exotic scales, and the keys have some play vertically to allow you to slide a modulation while playing. There’s a pitch and mod wheel that’s hidden by default too, and as well as the standard glide knob there’s quite a cool key correct knob that adjusts how strongly the keys and scales are forced. Turned up just a little bit it does that ‘fragile’ sound very well.

There are one or two UI issues, as the keyboard slider is a bit fiddly and the push>hold>release style of menus isn’t as easy to use as menus that are tapped to open and tapped again to select items. While we’re talking about issues, perhaps a couple more effects – notably reverb – might have been included, and there’s also a bit of a learning curve that’s not really helped by the way there aren’t any tooltips or help pages in the app.

Perhaps the biggest issue with Animoog is the fact that its design is slightly obtuse. It’s easy enough to figure out the paths and orbits by simply tapping around, and the filter, thickness, and recorder settings are all in easy reach – as are the scales and envelopes. It’s the actual sound generation that’s a puzzle when starting out, with the confusing Timbres page the only thing to go on. How it works is quite simple in the end: eight timbres can be selected, one for each row of the X/Y pad. The 16 columns select varients, or ‘evolutions’ of the timbre, so in theory there are 128 different sounds ready to be triggered and morphed between in any one patch.
We’re not sure whether Animoog really is the first professional synth app designed for iPad, as Moog state, but it’s definitely one of the best.

We may have to do a video review of Animoog when the new studio’s set up to show you how mesmerising it looks and sounds. In the meantime, Moog’s demo sounds are below; they’re all just from the Animoog app.

 
Animoog by moogmusicinc

studio

Nearly There…

Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Prok and Fitch

Interview: Prok and Fitch

Prok and Fitchs’ star has been rising steadily over the past few years, as DJing has turned into a knack for production and the pair juggle between stage and studio. Their style changes from techy to melodic and much inbetween depending on their moods, and their latest single is a re-version of Chemical Brothers’ Star Guitar. Find it at the end of the interview!

We chatted to the English duo about what it’s like to work in a pair, the importance of not being precious when it comes to making music, and of course got a few tips for you guys too.

“We both have very different ideas, so we kinda just make music in the way we’re feeling at the moment” – James Fitch

Oh Drat: To start off, when it comes to your style how do you go about getting different moods when creating music, and what inspires you to make music that fits into certain places?

James Fitch: We both have very different ideas, so we kinda just make music in the way we’re feeling at the moment. For example six, seven months ago a lot of our tracks weren’t quite peak time enough in our DJ set so we started making some more banging stuff, and at the moment we’re trying to make a little bit more melodic… it’s just whatever we feel like doing to be honest.

OD: I see; does the two of you together having different ideas mean that without a partnership your music would come out very differently?

Ben Prok: Yeah, I think that there being two of us means that we compromise on things, you know, we both have different ideas in the pot so to speak. I think it works really well because we’ve both got quite different tastes in music and they complement each other in the studio with the way that we come out with something that’s fairly unique every time.

OD: So when you say you have different tastes in music, do you listen to very different styles outside of house?

BP: I’d say fairly…

JF: Yeah.

BP: I mean, we both appreciate what the other person listens to. I get subjected to a lot of shit that my wife listens to (laughs) – Rihanna, stuff like that…

OD: Okay, so you can’t see yourself doing a Rihanna remix in the near future then?!

BP: Er…! We wouldn’t say no to doing one, I don’t knock that music, but personally it’s not my taste; a bit too poppy for me really. I can appreciate that it’s popular, but I think the fact that it’s on the radio all the time makes me dislike it a little bit, I think.

OD: I see. Do you think in general there’s an aspect of that with all types of music, and perhaps genres of music are affected by it in different ways. Take perhaps the most obvious example and look at how homogenous the pop interpretation of dubstep has become…

BP: I think there’s this music around that I call ‘bandwagon music’. David Guetta comes along and then everyone tries to make records that sound like that, you know. That’s where I think things lose their individuality, whereas dubstep’s still quite new and fresh I think. It’s going down that route, but it’s still relatively quirky compared to everyone trying to sound like David Guetta – or Swedish House Mafia, every track has to have a big trancy breakdown now.

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Red Dog One - Arctic Keys

Review: One Red Dog Arctic Keys iPad Synth

At Oh Drat we wish we could say we used our iPad all the time, but the truth is it gets neglected. Not because it’s not powerful, no; it’s because it’s lacking a little in integration with traditional studio gear (check out our review of the Alesis iO Dock to see one of the only pieces of hardware that tries to give it ‘pro’ specs) and because we have it in our ‘fun devices’ mindset, we don’t pay it enough attention when there’s ‘work’ to be done. Shame on us. We’re going to get more quick reviews of iPad gear onto our pages, starting with Arctic Keys by Red Dog One.


SPECS:

iPad and iPad 2.

PROS:
  • Knockout price
  • Sounds thick and warm
  • Versatile, with LOTS of presets
CONS:
  • Some slow UI choices
  • Would like to have seen more oscillator types
Price at Review: $4.99/£2.99There’s a lot of sound for not a lot of expenditure in Arctic Keys – if you use your iPad for music, you should definitely take a look.


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Upon first opening up Arctic Keys, a familiar picture fills the touch sensitive screen of your beloved Apple device. Arctic Keys is a virtual analogue synth, and to that end it sports two saw/square /triangle oscillators with PWM, a low/high/band pass and notch filter, and an LFO. The filter and LFO both have an ADSR envelope, although the amp unfortunately does not.  There are mono and poly modes, as well as a well featured arpeggiator – with a neat feature in the shuffle dial that progressively randomises the order of the arp – and a sequencer that can be triggered by the keys and cycles through note values set by sliders. The EQ and distortion that don’t pull punches (beware your ears with the distortion overdrive!), and a filter delay and chorus section are suitably lively for big atmospheres.

amongst Arctic Keys’ features is a sequencer that can be triggered by the keys and cycles through note values set by sliders

Something I really liked was the clear and concise tooltip displays on the pages, which help you get stuck straight in. That said, there are a couple of UI issues; there’s no way to scroll through presets in the main synth window (although you can bring up keys in the browser to test presets), and you can only cycle things like the LFO destination, filter type, arp type and so on – it would have been nice to be able to select from a menu or at least scroll in either direction. They’re mitigated (although we do hope an update adds in a pop up list option)by  MIDI clock sync, onboard tempo with an intuitive step sequencer, a bunch of modulation options, and really great overall sound. Okay, perhaps a couple of extra oscillator types – such as pure sine  - would have been nice, but a dedicated noise generator, the pulse width mod, ring mod, and osc mix all come together to give Arctic Keys plenty of options.

All things considered, Arctic Keys is a very good app. It has its flaws, but it sounds really good and it also seems to be quite kind to battery life.

You can get Arctic Keys from iTunes (obviously), and go to Red Dog’s site for their official info. Check out their demo reel below for more convincing:

Bonecold - Somnipath

Bonechild – Somnipath

The Oh Drat studio move is complete! The set up, however, seems to be dragging on somewhat. Nonetheless, we’re nearly there and I’m really looking forward to getting some more tutorials out to you guys. As usual though, for now we’re marking the end of the week with some music to get you into the weekend.

There’s a necessary melancholy to music like this, as it conjures nostalgic memories, stirs latent desires and feelings, and ultimately fades into peace

Something about Somnipath’s opening gambit really reminds me of golden era Faithless; the ambience, clean sounds and involving atmospherics plus a certain thing I can’t quite put my finger on. As the LP progresses, the future garage tag seems an appropriate pigeon hole – Burial-esque Ark Vase, with filtered drums and haunting vocal snippets, is an archetypal example of the genre and it’s not alone on the album – but to get to the bottom of what ‘future garage’ is, beyond the recognisable wet drums and distant hums, is a difficult task. In many ways, the genre captures the slow motion, soft focused solitary float from afterparty to home, a soundtrack to silence of sorts as the memories of the night’s music and the distant thumps of the last flickers of the night rattle around a tired brain. There’s a necessary melancholy to music like this, as it conjures nostalgic memories, stirs latent desires and feelings, and ultimately fades into peace. Bonechild captures all of this with Somnipath.

Happy weekend, everyone.

Steinberg HALion 4

Review: Steinberg HALion 4

It’s been some time coming, but Steinberg have finally released the fourth major update to their HALion sampler. We delved into the new features to see what was what…


SPECS:

Windows (XP/Vista 7), P4 2.4GHz or Core Duo/Athlon64 min / OSX (10.5+) Core Duo. 2GB RAM.

PROS:
  • Articulation options for natural sounding compositions
  • Integral synth with 3 oscs + sub osc
  • Totally customisable interface layout
  • VST 3.5 support
CONS:
  • Sample library smaller than competition
  • A couple of UI gripes
Price at Review: £292 HALion 4 is a big update to Steinberg’s flagship, with a lot going for it. We love the synth, and if you’re a Cubase user its value skyrockets due to the VST3.5 implementation.[like action=like]

Rather than cramming all of its features into a standard window or forcing you to memorise different page locations, HALion 4’s modular design allows you to create the sampler you’ve always wanted; the interface splits wherever and however you desire, and you can fill each pane of the main window with the elements of the software that make most sense to your workflow. Editing your samples? Why not a huge sample editing window running along the top of the software? Want an easy HUD for live use? Just arrange macro controls, quick select pads and the instrument rack into prime locations and get rid of the technical gubbins. It was great to be able to make full use of large screen, and saving different screen sets allows for all your use cases to be catered for.

Its inoffensive design, based around muted clay and blue colours, is easy to work with if a little utilitarian. Due to its simplicity we went scouting around the options to see whether we could change the dominant colour (or even colour code certain elements), but alas, no dice.

the modular approach that Steinberg have taken with HALion 4 has really paid off

There are some UI gripes, like a lack of tooltips, non alphabetical sorting of modules, and the inability to resize the main window by simply dragging its edges – as well as the aforementioned single colour scheme – but in general the modular approach that Steinberg have taken with HALion 4 has really paid off, making it potentially one of the easiest to use pro samplers available – providing you can settle on setups long enough to get used to them!

HALion 4’s synth is one of the most powerful additions to the software, and also one of the things that sets it apart the most from other samplers. Three oscillators, a dedicated sub osc, plus ring modulation and a noise generator add up to some very thick sound design capabilities, and rather than adding crazy wave table oscillators – which are often not much use – the traditional saw/square/sine pulse waves are on offer in standard, synced, PWM, CM and XOR variants, allowing pulse width/phase modulations to create unique sounds. It’s a shame there’s no dedicated drum synth controls, but maybe that would be asking too much.

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Nektar Announce Panorama: Custom Reason 6 Control Surface

Reason is the perfect software for control surface functionality. Write it up using Propellerhead’s Remote interface, and you can rest assured that the closed box system means your controller will remain compatible with the software until at least the next major update.

we’re quite taken with the looks of the controller, the screen, and its promise of integration at a level that will make you forget that you’re merely using a controller

Many manufacturers, notably Korg (were they the first? We think so, but let us know if you know otherwise) with their Microkontrol have implemented strong mappings, but Nektartech seem to be the first to come out with a dedicated controller. It couldn’t come at a better time; Reason 6 looks like it could genuinely be a DAW killer for home studios, combining the excellent sound of the Record engine that ushered in the SSL console emulating mixer, direct record sampling and all the instruments in Reason 5.

Details are thin on the ground for the moment, but we’re quite taken with the looks of the controller, the screen, and its promise of integration at a level that will make you forget that you’re merely using a controller. Reason 6 is on the way, and we can’t wait to get one of these in the studio to test it with! Until we do, check out Nektar’s slow release of info at their site…

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