What’s the most limited edition piece of equipment you have? It could be the Dam Drum if you’re quick… Continue Reading
Tablet based production edges slowly closer to mainstream potential…
We’ve been fans of Livid for a while, we reviewed Block last year and were quite taken with its aesthetic – and its usefulness, of course. Livid have some modular controls in development that we got to take a quick look at, and I’ll write about them soon, but the star of their stand at this year’s NAMM show was the CNTRL-R, which has been designed in conjunction with Techno legend Richie Hawtin. I think Livid are going for the CNTRL-R live performance crowd with CNTRL-R, but we really think that it’s got a future in the studio too, as workflows become more fluid and less stuck in the mud.
We had a chat with Jay, Livid’s CEO, about how they make their controllers, and the process by which they try to make instruments rather than MIDI controllers that don’t have much of a vision. There’s a bunch of interesting stuff in here! We also got to watch Gabe take us through some of the workflow with CNTRL-R and Ableton Live along with the custom Max 4 Live patch that powers the step sequencer control. Enjoy!
Just before we went away to NAMM we put out our review of the Teenage Engineering OP-1, and sure enough the team were at NAMM showing off their new operating system with, coincidentally, a bunch of stuff that we said we wished was in the version we reviewed. Typical. At least NAMM meant we didn’t have time to get the video review done, though, so I’ll be putting together a review of the OP-1 with its brand new operating system in the next couple of days and it’ll be nice and fresh! In the meantime here’s a chat I had with David on how Teenage Engineering think about the instrument creation process, with a really interesting insight into the way the team try to make sure their instruments technically powerful and yet still facilitate a fun way to make music. Watch on, and let us know what you think!
Over at NAMM we decided that we’d leave product demonstrations and the like to the million other sites that do them – especially seeing as we like to do our reviews in house where we can really get the best quality and a truly objective opinion (trade shows are loud!) – so instead I decided to interview a few of who we consider the key players in the electronic music manufacturing industry. Dave Smith is definitely one of those guys, so we had a chat with him about all things Tempest – the new drum machine from Dave Smith Instruments and Roger Linn Design. Take a look!
Arturia have surpised a lot of people with the Minibrute; after all, they’re one of the biggest advocates of analogue modelling in the game so turning up with an analogue synth is a little strange – they did raise the very valid point that having actually researched just about every analogue synth out there and exhaustively figured out why they sound like they do, they’re actually very well placed to create an analogue synth.
- Sounds fantastic
- Very easy to use
- MIDI over USB
- CV in and out, and the unit acts as a CV converter too
- No audio over USB
- Utilitarian design
- Monophonic synthesizer
- 100% Analog Audio Signal Path
- Steiner-Parker Multimode Filter (LP, BP, HP and Notch)
- Voltage Controlled Oscillator with Sub-Osc
- Oscillator Mixer (Sub, Sawtooth, Square, Triangle, White Noise, Audio In)
- LFO1 with 6 waveforms and bi-polar modulation destinations
- LFO2 with 3 vibrato modes
- Brute Factor™ – saturation
- Metalizer – harmonic increaser for triangle wave
- Two ADSR Envelope Generators
- 25 note Keyboard with Aftertouch
- USD 549.00 / EURO 499.00
- Available April
The wave mixer on the VCO allows you to mix saw, square, and triangle waveshapes, as well as the white noise generator, to taste. Arturia have added three extra controls to the signal: Brute introduces foldback distortion, ultrasaw stacks sawtooths, and Metaliser adjusts the angle of the triangle waveform to increase harmonics. All this goes towards the raw sound of Minibrute being fantastically rich and sweet. They all go through a Steiner-Parker designed filter that features notch, bandpass, lowpass, and highpass modes, and the calibre of the filter is bananas. It is unbelievably smooth and squeals so musically that it’s undeniably worth the price premium that it presumably added over using a stock filter design. In general the unit’s solid – it’s not the most beautiful design we’ve ever seen but its plain look means it’s also completely inoffensive – and the aftertouch keys are really responsive.
We’re not calling it until we’ve had one in the studio for a play, but I’m pretty excited about the Minibrute – Let us know how you feel!
The Akai Max49 is another of NAMM’s little surprises, and I don’t think anyone was quite expecting it. It’s a reversion of the MPK49, essentially – although that’s not to say that the MPK49 is being discontinued – with far superior pads and ribbon controllers in place of physical sliders. There’re also CV connections round the back, a cool step sequencer function, and the debut of Akai Connect, which looks to be pretty much the same concept as Novation’s Automap. It commands a bit of a premium over the MPK49 for all these reasons, but the removal of the rotary pots has detracted from the value in our opinion. The pads are much better than the ones on the MPK range, and that’s what stuck out to us most I think. That and the metallic red paint job of course. Expect a review around release time!
- Markedly improved pads over MPK range
- Ribbon strips for pickup of software changes
- Same excellent keys as the MPK49
- No knobs
- Premium price
- 49 semi-weighted keys with Aftertouch
- Built-in step sequencer
- Expanded arpeggiator with latch and time division controls
- Included AkaiConnect software automatically maps to VST plugins
- 12 backlit, real MPC pads with MPC Note Repeat and MPC swing
- Eight backlit LED touch faders
- Four pad banks & four fader banks
- CV & Gate outputs for use with vintage analog synths (1V/Oct)
- Large, centrally-positioned transport controls & rubberized pitch and modulation wheels
- Mackie Control & HUI modes
- Ability to choose the all in one or controller version
- Superb workflow for quick creation of a song
- Better looking black colour scheme
- It’s very big and unwieldy
- The angle might become tiring to use after a while (even at the lowest) – we’ll have to see.
- Four 24 bit colour screens
- Velocity sensitive pads
- 32 encoders
- Embedded i5 processor Windows 7 system, or bring-your-own computer option
We first saw Rhizome at last year’s Musikmesse, and it impressed me then; it’s an all in one production solution with various modules that allow VST plugins to become part of its workflow, from step sequencers to piano roll and live remixing tools. I had a few reservations here and there, but Feeltune have more or less totally cleared them up with their reboot. The original white Rhizome is discontinued to make room for the SXE and LE models, which are a more attractive black colour and feature improved specs and no embedded computer, respectively. The software (which can be used to update the original model too) is now a real force to be reckoned with, as the sampling engine has had a big overhaul and live performance features have been tweaked and refined. We’ve been promised a review model next month, so expect the usual in depth look soon!
We’ve been following the Akai MPC Renaissance since its announcement, and NAMM gave us the perfect opportunity to get some hands on. Rather than get the same old sales pitch, I decided it would be a whole lot more interesting to get some cool background information from someone who worked (and is still working) closely on the development of the product, so I roped in Dan Gill, Product Manager at Akai Pro.
Here’s a quick lowdown of some of the key points in the video:
- How the choices for the visual design were made, and some of the big names that were consulted
- How coloured pads help work flow
- The nitty gritty on the emulation modes, including the plans for SP1200 mode
- The audio interface and its features (did you know that the signal path is a replica of the MPC3000? Interesting…)
- The decision to use rotary pots and drop the sliders
- Software capabilities
- How the JJOS has influenced the design of the Renaissance
Whilst the hardware is finalised – except for the fine tuning of the feel of the pads – the software’s still in early beta and there are a lot of bugs still to iron out. We were told we’re to expect things to be finished up in around six months, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing it develop; the reason we’ve not included much footage of the software in action is because it’s not particularly stable and in many aspects not fully functional so there’s very little point in showing you something that’s just not going to represent the final (or close to final) product.
It seems apt, on that note, to bring the Studio and Fly into the conversation. Neither products are as close to being final as Renaissance, and whilst MPC Studio was out for a hands on it was still very much in prototype; MPC Fly was in a plastic cage to keep it away from prying hands. Because of this we’ve not focused on them, but that’s not to say we’re not interested because we most certainly are – I’ll write up some of my thoughts in our wrap up coverage.
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