New Free Plugins, Custom Keyboards, Inspiring Plugin Update and Discount

This week’s Around the Web is a compilation of a few of our favourite news items of the week – read on for free plugins, workflow keyboards, and updates to the Ohm Force range with a discount to celebrate!

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NAMM 2012 Interview: Teenage Engineering on New OP-1 OS

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!

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NAMM 2012: Arturia Minibrute

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.

Best Bits:
  • Sounds fantastic
  • Very easy to use
  • MIDI over USB
  • CV in and out, and the unit acts as a CV converter too
But:
  • No audio over USB
  • Utilitarian design
Specs:
  • 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
  • Ultrasaw
  • 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!

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NAMM 2012: Akai Max49

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!

Best Bits:
  • Markedly improved pads over MPK range
  • Ribbon strips for pickup of software changes
  • Same excellent keys as the MPK49
But:
  • No knobs
  • Premium price
 Specs:
  • 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

 

 

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First Look Video: Nektar Panorama P4

It’s the first day of NAMM, and there’s not much to see for the lowly press yet. We did get a sneaky look at the Nektartech Panorama P4, though – check out the video for the scoop!

Novation Impulse

Novation Announce Impulse Controller Range

The latest music production product out of the Novation stable is Impulse, an entirely new range of keyboard controllers. Sitting side by side with the existing Remote SL range, Impulse has enough points of difference to warrant its inception – some features feel like a devolution from the SL, some things are cool and new, and some are just different. Importantly, though, the price is right for a more ‘entry level’ offering.

the keys look great – especially for a keyboard in its price range

It’s an interesting design choice, one that we’re not totally sold on just yet but it’s certainly got a distinctive look. Features wise, the keys look great – especially for a keyboard in its price range – with solid rather than lipped design and aftertouch capability; the pads feature aftertouch too and three colour back lighting. Other than the lighting, the lack of detailed displays mean visual feedback on the keyboard isn’t as strong as on the SL series, but Impulse does benefit from dedicated transport controls and separate pitch and mod wheels and an onboard brain capable of arpeggiator.

At considerably less spend than the SL series, competing aggressively with the M-Audio Axiom series might be one of the goals for Impulse. We’ll see how it feels soon enough when we get one in for review, and you can also see for yourself soon enough as they’re shipping this month (for $250, $350, and $399 for the 25/49/61 key versions, respectively).

Slider Perspective

Video: Alesis QX49 Review

Our written review, which includes our some fine examples of our eye for a beautiful photo, can be found here. In the latest in our series of video reviews, though, we’re proud to present the Alesis QX49…

Questions? Head over to our forums to ask away!

Review: Alesis QX49

 

Miniaturisation has been vogue for some years now – 25 key keyboards were first, and then mini controls blocks saw 49 and upwards sized keyboards increasingly forgotten in the budget market. Alesis know that when it comes to keyboard control, bigger can be better; here we have the QX49, a 49 key controller with a host of features. How does it fare?

In/Out: USB out, MIDI out, MIDI out from computer.

Bundled: Ableton Live Lite 8 Alesis Edition

Dimensions: (WxDxH) 32″ x 9″ x 3″

Weight: 5.9lbs

Styling wise, the QX49 nails the smart casual look with matt black plastic, round bevelled edges and an ice blue backlit display.

The QX49 nails the smart casual look

The pads illuminate red when pushed – the transport controls don’t, though, however much they look like they might.

The QX49’s main attraction however is the sheer number of controls it features for its knockdown price. As well as a 49 key keyboard with dedicated pitch and mod wheels there are eight faders, eight pots, four velocity pads, transport controls and system buttons. You also get expression pedal input, a MIDI out for the keyboard and a thru from the computer. There’s a 9V DC power option for controlling other hardware (not included), although the QX49 takes power directly over USB.

All these features do come at a price, though… and in lieu of the actual price tag going up, build quality inevitably takes a hit.

The top panel bows when banging on the pads and tweaking the controls

The top panel bows when banging on the pads and tweaking the controls, and whilst it doesn’t feel like there’s any danger of it breaking it does have have an effect on the feel.

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Arturia Analog Experience

More Musikmesse!

So, today is the final day of Musikmesse, and it’s open to the public – are you down there? I’m safely home now, and sorting through the mountains of information and footage I have; things will start getting uploaded over the next few days. My Day One Highlights post has some of the things that really caught my eye, but it’s by no means everything!

I was very lucky to be able to run my hands over Native Instruments’ Komplete Audio 6

It was great to be able to get my hands on Apogee’s Duet 2 interface, I was very lucky to be able to run my hands over Native Instruments’ Komplete Audio 6, I got a nice preview of Arturia’s Spark and Analog Experience Laboratory ahead of my reviews,

I got a nice preview of Arturia’s Spark and Analog Experience Laboratory ahead of my reviews

a new monitor range from ESI featuring ribbon tweeters, Presonus’s 16 channel StudioLive, and Tascam’s new 8 track digital recorder. It’s all in the works, so keep checking back, subscribe to RSS, Like the Oh Drat Facebook page and Follow Oh Drat on Twitter!

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Video: Akai MPK Mini Review

Check it out – the first of many Oh Drat videos! First up a review of Akai’s MPK Mini keyboard controller. Look out for more videos, from reviews to tutorials to interviews and even more, from now on! You can subscribe on YouTube and Vimeo, depending on your favourite…

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