Pigments from Arturia is a new software synth that is their own original creation, rather than an emulation of a vintage synth. Is it the best sounding synth ever? I think it sounds pretty good but I’ll leave that decision up to you. What I think they really did well here though, is make a synth that’s an extremely useful tool for learning synthesis, for a few reasons. #1: Arturia’s Demo Policy The first reason Pigments is a good learning tool isn’t actually unique to it, but is true about all of Arturia’s software synths and that’s their demo policy. You can download Pigments andRead More →

Yamaha’s MODX is the less expensive, more portable version of their flagship Montage synth. It has the same exact synth engine as its bigger brother – but at a price which makes it a very interesting player in today’s synth market. There’s a lot going on in MODX – in this review and companion video I’ll look at the most important things you need to know to figure out if this synth is for you.   What’s a performance? Let’s get started by looking at some basic terms. A performance consists of everything you can do simultaneously with the MODX – the song I playedRead More →

The ContinuuMini is a new portable synthesizer and smaller brother to one of the most unique instruments I’ve ever played – the Continuum, also from Haken Audio. There are two things that make the Continuums special – their extremely sensitive playing surface, and the advanced built-in synth engine, called the EaganMatrix with its custom built in presets – designed to work with, and make the most out of the playing surface. I reviewed the bigger Continuum earlier this year – and I really liked it, but as I mentioned in that review – I wished it cost less and that it had more on-board controlsRead More →

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 →