What do you call your company if it gives it’s users what they want? Korg. For years everyone has been yelling “real analog” “inexpensive” “analog poly” “303 reissue” and at Frankfurt’s Musikmesse Korg announced the Korg Volca series which pretty much covers all those wants. All the boxes have MIDI and Sync (like on the Monotribe). The Beats has some analog voices and a few samples. The analog voices can be edited via knobs and the length of the samples can also be adjusted. There’s a digital stutter effect for the samples. The Volca Bass is similar to a 303 albeit with a Korg 700s filter and the Volca Keys has a Polyphonic mode. They come out this summer and will be $150.
“Following in the footsteps of the monotron, monotribe, and MS-20 Mini analog synthesizers, Korg announces the volca series. volca is a new lineup of EDM production tools comprised of three distinct models: the volca Keys lead synthesizer, the volca Bass synthesizer, and the volca Beats rhythm machine. These powerful and fun-to-use true-analog devices deliver a diverse array of fat sounds that can be obtained only from an analog synthesizer. Each is also equipped with sequencing/recording capabilities for intuitively generating performances. Multiple volcas can be used in tandem via the vintage-style sync in/out, and with your favorite DAW software or MIDI keyboard via MIDI In. Battery operation and built-in speakers mean that you can conveniently play anywhere and anytime. These are the next-generation analog synthesizers, bringing you the ultimate sounds and grooves with ease and depth. Whether used together or by themselves, the volca series is poised to inject true analog power into any performance or studio setup!” – korg.com
Jomox is going to release it’s Mbase kick drum and Mbrane snare/percussion modules in Eurorack format! I have both desktop versions and I think this is an exciting thing. Besides the fact you can use this in a modular system notice there are now more dedicated knobs for parameters. Want!
“Continuing the proven Jomox analog drum desktop modules, we have decided to expand into the 19” euro rack market while keeping the tradition of our storeable analog sound production. To achieve this, we had to develop a complete new analog control system for our circuitries inside these modules. Everything is storeable and can be recalled via encoder klick from 128 presets. But for the analog feel of modular, eight potentiometers give you the fine and precise editing of the most important parameters without stepping through menus. E-Drummers can create complete E-drum setups, because there is an internal Jomox analog connection bus with a fast digital link which can do a submix and an FX send mix from each module hooked up to the bus. Over this system bus you won’t need to use the audio outputs but instead you have a programmable bus system that can link to future master, sequencer and mixing or effects modules – which can take control over the single modules. This makes the whole modular setup recallable and storeable from a center module like a drum machine.” – jomox.de
Here is an interesting find for you all drum machine collectors! How about an MFB 712? It’s a early digital machine with 40 sounds, dynamics and MIDI. The one you see above is on eBay for $300 (link). I really want a 501 if I can find one.
“One of the world’s first digital drum machines. A pioneering piece of electronic music gear from legendary synth designer Manfred Fricke, Berlin. Beautiful in terms of its design and form factor, this drum machine has the same white housing shared by the legendary MFB-501 analog preset drum machine which is next to impossible to find. Used by Conrad Schnitzler, as evidenced by video of him in his studio.” – spinalgrommet (eBay)
Trigger sequencer are the rage right now in Eurorack. We recently saw Pamela’s Workout, the upcoming Tiptop Audio Trigger Riot and now the Delptronics Trigger Sequencer. They all have interesting ways to get your drums and bleeps going. The Delptronics will be $190 USD and available soon.
“This is a preview of the new trigger sequencer eurorack module from Delptronics which debuted at NAMM 2013.” – delptronics.com
This months issue of Sound on Sound has reviews of the MFB-522 and 503 drum machines. The 522 is sort of a Roland TR-808 clone. It is full analog and in the ballpark but really sounds like it’s own machine. I’ve have a lot of music on my to do list and because I’m using a lot of analog hardware these days I decided to put a mini studio on my dining room table. The heart of it is the 522. I also have an old Boss BX800 mixer from the 80s. I have fond memories of the way it distorted. Unfortunately after playing with it a bit I ended up switching it out to a new Yamaha MG102c. The kick’s attack is much sharper on the new mixer and that’s very important to me. The 522 has individual out, lots of knobs to control the sounds, a fill pattern and it’s fun to program. Check out the little video above of my MFB in action. You can hear it has a nice tight groove and how fun the fill is. The video was recorded with an iPhone though the iPhone’s speaker with the audio coming from a TDK Boombox. There is a suped up version of the 522 called the 523 coming this year. You can buy a 522 for $425 USD.
“MFB-522 is a drumcomputer with a fully analogue sound engine that offers plenty of editing capabilities. It includes a step-sequencer with popular TR-style running-light-programming. Memory locations are available for 72 patterns as well as for 8 songs.” – mfberlin.de
The Trigger Riot is one of three new sequencers from Gur at Tiptop Audio. If you read this blog you know I am really enjoying the TTA drum modules. Very simply you hook some modules to the Riot and as you change knob positions you get different patterns of all sorts. I’ll be getting this one for sure.
“From a conceptual view, the Trigger Riot generates 16 clock streams consisting of multiple time manipulation functions (division, offsets, etc) that interact to create the trigger output, and direct access to each parameter via individual knobs allows for quick manipulation. The 8 outputs are the sum of those manipulated streams per row. The outputs of the module are arranged as either a 4×4 matrix, where each of the 16 knobs affects both row and column, or as a set of independent outputs for each row or column. This allows forming 8 complex musical interactions in a ‘Matrix’ mode or 8 independent streams in ‘Independent’ mode and is switchable from one to the other on press of a button for some unexpected results. Since each of the 16 knobs represents a real time tweakable trigger generator/modifier the Trigger Riot is extremely playable and can result very complex patterns with only few knob turns; patterns that would otherwise take much longer and in some instances be almost impossible to produce using grid based step sequencing. Patterns can have unique time signatures that can repeat or be randomized through probability, time shifted and phased, divided, multiplied and counted, it’s unbelievable how complex this module can get with minimal input.” – Gur (Tiptop Audio)
For years nothing beat having a real Roland TR-909 or 808. Today I would say the Tiptop Audio modules are even better. Just listen to the Tiptop 909 high hats with some Synthesis Technology E355 LFO destroying them on and off. Such pleasure for someone like me.
The HATS909 is the TR-909’s original Closed and Open Hi-Hats circuits adapted for use in Eurorack modular synthesizer format and was tested to sound like a machine coming fresh off the assembly line back in the 80’s. Improving on the original, we have added some great new features that expand the sound palette of hats that can be produced with this small, powerful module. The original TR-909 circuit is made with a combination of low-fi 6-bit samples that pass through a series of analog elements to provide envelope and filtering to the source sound. The HATS909 module allows for manual and voltage control of the sample’s tuning, which provide anything from crushed hats and short ticks to the original sound and anything in between. A modulation with external control signals or for adding AM or FM synthesis in the audio range from external oscillators, other drum sounds, or just about any sound source. HATS909 also offers a switch for a direct tap to the output of the original sample, bypassing all other internal analog processing, giving you the pure source sound for synthesis any way you want with your own modules.” – ctrl-mod.com
My brother got me a Blue Lantern Asteroid BD for X-mas! Here’s two videos and a direct recording for you. It’s teamed up with some Tiptop Audio 808 modules and a Metasonix R-54. No other effects were used. Everything is being triggered by an Innerclock Sync-Gen IIls. I think they all sound fantastic!
“Introducing the new blue lantern modules analog drum kick. This design was sitting in my pc for over 2 years, and i am barely getting around to releasing it. Shame on me. This drum kick module can cover a good range of analog drum kick sounds. I included the essentials in bass drum control and sculpting. You can go from chi-town muddy drums to Detroit techno drums really easy. The key feature i included is that the decay will go long (almost infinite) when fully clockwise. there is a trimmer to adjust and fine tune the decay knob. I already calibrated for the best setting.” – Blue Lantern
I’m really into Eurorack drum modules at the moment so I was excited to discover the Elby Designs CGS747 Cynare Drum Synthesizer. I really like that is has a full EG, VCF and VCA built-in. I’ve been using my AS Telemark for some slowly filtering white noise bursts but the Cynare should be able to cover that and free the Telemark up again for more synth duties. $337 USD.
“The CGS747 is one of a family of 3 CGS drum simulators from Ken Stone. It generates a single drum sound that can be adjusted to sound like a cymbal, hi-hat, snare drum, electronic drum, or numerous other percussive sounds. It is a complete dedicated synthesizer in its own right, including six oscillators, a noise source, a mixer, an envelope generator, a VCF and a VCA.” – elby-designs.com
Wave Alchemy are sound designers from Nottingham in the UK. In the past 5 years Dan Byers & Steve Heath have built up a reputation for producing some of the better sample packs especially when it comes to drum sounds. Recently they released a very ambitious project called Transistor Revolution which uses 22,000 samples to recreate a Roland TR-808 and TR-909. Some people will ask why do we need more 808/909? I think theses specific drum machine sounds are the pencil and pen for electronic music. They are important backbone sounds that can be used a million different ways. Real 808s and 909s are continually going up in value. Last time I checked an 808 is about $2500 on eBay. Transistor Revolution is currently less than $100 USD (introductory price) so if it sounds good it’s value is apparent. “TR” uses Native Instruments free Kontakt Player and is a 6GB download. That’s 6GB of essentially 20 different drum sounds! When you turn a knob in Transistor Revolution changing each of the sounds parameters the drum samples are actually changing from one to the next behind the scenes. In addition, “7 variations of each drum sound… cycle randomly each time a key on the keyboard is played”. Within the custom TR Kontakt player there are 7 effects: EQ, Compression, Tape Saturation, Transient Designer, High Pass Filter, Low Pass Filter and Bit Crusher. Each effect has it’s own page with multiple parameters that can be edited and saved. There is a full mini mixer within the plug-in so you can mix and place drum sounds on separate virtual outputs and add Send Effects. Send Effects inlcude the ones mentioned above and others including a Phaser, Flanger, Chorus, Delay, Rotator, Stereo Modeller, multiple Distortion types and Convolution and standard Reverbs. The interface reminds me of Propellerhead’s Reason. Each drum sound has it’s own rack piece which can be closed and opened. Without reading the manual I was able to find my way around.
So how does it sound? Very good. Different model 808s sound different from each other. However, in my own opinion when listening to hardware or software clones there are things to look for. You want super clear white metalic high hats, rides and crashes. Snares and claps should have a very sharp transient attack. Kicks should go from tight to boomey. Transistor Revolution does an excellent job. I have one criticism and two things for the wish list. There are 4 “multis” which are basically a full 808 or 909 group of samples with some settings. For example there is an MP60, S1200, Lite and Analog version of the 808. I’m not sure if they use different sample sets or just the effect settings are different. Either way I want to see many more Multi presets. As I said above 808/909s lend themselves to treatment very well. Give us 50 flavors of each please! For the wish list I would like to see a TR style sequencer and MIDI file player. Why just give us the sounds? Part of what makes a the drum machines great is the patterns. Give us a few hundred MIDI patterns built-in and give us 16 lights going from left to right please.
Wave Alchemy are on the right path here. I suspect we will see more drum machines meticulously multi-sampled by the UK duo. In short of a real 808/909 or maybe the Tiptop Audio modular stuff this is the best sounding and certainly most affordable convient way to the TR sound.
“Our aim with Transistor Revolution was always to produce a product that could completely replace the hardware in our own productions.” – wavealchemy.co.uk