Arturia’s KeyLab Essential and the new KeyLab MK2 look quite similar but the premium MK2 version costs about two and a half times more than Keylab Essential. Let’s take a look at the real differences between them, the pros and cons of each, and review the competitive marketplace. Let’s start with what they are – both are designed to serve a few functions – a couple which I think may get overlooked. The first is to be a keyboard MIDI controller for software based instruments, with an emphasis on a tight integration with Arturia’s software instruments and in particular Analog Lab, which comes bundled withRead More →

Novation’s SL MkIII is a big departure from versions one and two that came before it, and most other MIDI keyboards on the market, because it’s not just a DAW and Hardware instrument controller, it’s also a standalone 8 track MIDI, USB and Control Voltage Sequencer. The idea behind the SL MkIII is that all three – the DAW controller, the Hardware controller and the sequencer – sit behind one interface and blend together into one control center. That kind of integration has the potential to change the game for what is expected of a DAW or MIDI controller. Does the SL MkIII deliver? Let’sRead More →

Make Noise have just released the new version of Rene – an update to the original Rene from 2009, which, according to Modular Grid, is the most popular Eurorack sequencer and one of the most popular eurorack modules overall. The original Rene introduced the concept of Cartesian, or X/Y, or GRID based sequencing, which is a method of sequencing, where rather than going through steps sequentially, as is done in traditional sequencers, you can go back and forth, up, down, left or right, or in any angle or number of steps, and in any direction on a grid of locations.   What’s new? The newRead More →

I’ve been traveling this week – to Knobcon in Chicago – and took two very odd travel companions on the road with me – Bastl’s SoftPop and Gecho’s Loopsynth. They’re very different, but the thing they have in common, other than being battery powered, is that they are entirely unlike any synth or instrument you may be used to, and that they can both make bubbly water sounds…. So, for those reasons I reviewed them together, but if you’re interested particularly in one and not the other, just skip ahead. Bastl SoftPop Let’s start with SoftPop. It’s described by the company as a psychedelic analogRead More →

Native Instruments just released MASCHINE MIKRO MK3 – the new entry level hardware controller for MASCHINE – its hardware-software beatmaking/groovebox platform, and two immediate questions come to mind – how is it different from the MK2 version of MIKRO, and how does it compare to MASCHINE MK3 – it’s bigger brother in the product line. What is MASCHINE A bit of an intro to MASCHINE as a platform: unlike standalone hardware, like the Elektron Digitakt, the Korg Electribes or the Novation Circuit, MIKRO and other MASCHINE controllers are just that – they need to be connected to a computer to work. That has advantages andRead More →

Medusa is an innovative new synth, the result of a collaboration between Dreadbox and PolyEnd. The core of what’s new with Medusa is the GRID – a multi-mode expressive interface that can be used as an instrument, a sequencer, a modulator, or any combination of the above. Medusa combines Dreadbox’s great sounding analog synth capabilities with PolyEnd’s experience in making SEQ – its powerful and yet easy to use sequencer. They call it a Hybrid Synth and it is indeed a combination of a few things – it has both analog and digital oscillators, it’s both a monophonic and polyphonic or paraphonic depending on yourRead More →

Grandmother is the latest semi-modular analog synth from Moog. There have been increasingly more and more semi modular synths released in recent years and the demand for rewiring synths and interfacing them with other modular gear grows. In this clip I explore what’s special about Moog’s Grandmother, and it turns out there’s quite a lot there, especially if you look beneath the surface. For example, while the front panel seems to show only two oscillators and one envelope, in reality, Grandmother has three fully functioning volt/octave oscillators (four if you count the self resonating filter), two and even three envelopes, and is capable of beingRead More →

A few years ago 1010Music released Bitbox – a simplified but extremely powerful Ableton-Live style sampler, slicer and clip launcher – by far the most advanced Eurorack sampler I’ve ever seen. Where it gets a little confusing is that since then they’ve released two completely different firmware versions for the same hardware – Fxbox and Synthbox, which transform it into radically different modules. I’m not talking about just updates with new features (which have also come out separately), but rather alternate firmware versions with entirely different functionality. In parallel, they’ve released independent modules with said firmware versions, which can also load each other’s firmware. So,Read More →

REVIEW The DrumBrute Impact is new smaller and less expensive brother to Arturia’s DrumBrute. It’s an analog drum machine that packs a punch at an aggressively low price point for an analog synth. My video review shows you what it can do, and discusses its pros and cons. ANALOG VS DIGITAL First, and most importantly, the DrumBrute Impact is an analog drum machine – which means it doesn’t work based on playing back samples, but rather there’s a physical synth circuit behind every one of its instruments. This is not to say that sample based machines are bad, just very different in how they makeRead More →

The H9 is an effects pedal from Eventide that as evolved over the past few years: it contains all the effects previously released in the Eventide Factor series pedals – TimeFactor, PitchFactor, ModFactor and Space, and quite a few more that are exclusive just to it, that don’t exist in any of the Factor pedals. It’s basically all of Eventide’s hardware effects in one box, which is a pretty big deal, especially considering is doesn’t cost much more than one pedal. In the accompanying video I give an overview of the H9’s interface, and then explore my top favorite presets for synths. Finally I’ll summarizeRead More →