I would dare to say the only thing electronic drum wise out there better than a real Roland TR-808 is the Tiptop Audio Eurorack drum modules. The reason I say that is each module actually gets the sound right but is also controllable in a creative modular environment. It’s not just the sound they get correct. It’s also the pressure or chest feel. Tiptop gets it right. The fact that you can then take these sounds a throw them into Euclidean sequencers, Echophons, Plague Bearer’s etc is just fantastic. They just released the MA808 which emulates the TR-808s Maracas. $99 USD.
“The MA808 is Roland’s TR-808 Maracas sound generator adapted for modular
synthesizer use.” – tiptopaudio.com
Whenever a new Noystoise creation comes out I usually post about it. They are just so beautifully hand crafted. The latest NT02 would be nice in a live set up. It is available now for $260 USD.
“The NT02 consists of a square wave VCO with chorus/delay, a white noise generator, a ramp LFO, and individual 12db resonant lowpass filters for the VCO and white noise generator. the pitch of the VCO is controlled by one axis of the VCO joystick, while the other axis controls the delay time of the chorus. the chorus circuit is basically just your typical PT2399 delay chip setup, except there is no feedback loop. the VCO is fed to the delay chip, and the delayed signal is recombined with the initial signal before the filter stage. the effect makes the VCO sound much bigger and warmer with the chorusing effect. almost like an old analog poly-synth with detuned VCOs. the white noise generator is your basic two transistor type found in many old synth designs.” – Noystoise
A great eureka moment is when you get your modular system in sync with your computer and DAW. There a multiple ways to do this using various modules or by even simply sending a click track out of an output of an audio interface. In my studio I use a Innerclock Sync-Gen IIls. It works great but it’s not the most cost effective option. For my laptop set up I use a Mutable Instruments CVpal. The CVpal is a very inexpensive kit only that is actually very good. Without any software it gives you MIDI note control and gate outs. If I were to buy a solution today I think it would be another Mutable Instruments product called Yarns. It gives you MIDI and Gate outs. It also gives you a polyphony mode of 4 MIDI outs, a Roland SH-101 sequencer and other tricks. Watch the great Sonic State video review above to see all it can do. $360 USD.
“Yarns is a MIDI interface providing up to 4 channels of CV/Gate conversion, and providing some of the MIDI message processing features of Mutable Instruments’ MIDIpal, including arpeggiator, euclidean sequencer, and a SH-101 inspired step sequencer.” – mutable-instruments.net
While I am using a lot of hardware these days software is still very important in my workflow. I often want a simple software synth to get things going. Audio Damage’s new Basic will definitely be useful. It may seem like a strange reason but I bet I end up using Basic often for the simple fact that out of all my plug-in folders in my Ableton sidebar I already go to the AD folder more than any other.
“One day not long ago, we were speaking with the music department head of a local college; he lamented the fact that there really wasn’t a commercial-quality low-cost three oscillator subtractive mono-synth available for the educational market. This puzzled us, because there’s no shortage of synth plug-ins out there, and this seems like a fairly glaring oversight. So we did some market research, and discovered he was right. All the available options are either slavish recreations of classic synths, with all the foibles and strange UI decisions intact, or modern behemoths with every feature under the sun. We decided to tackle the challenge of an inexpensive, simple 3-osc mono-synth that followed the classic subtractive style, and Basic is the result. While it is designed with ease-of-use, low cost, and simplicity in mind, the panel sits in front of a powerful modern synthesizer engine with an aggressive tone and self-resonating filters that scream when pushed. We’re sure every electronic musician will find a place in the mix for Basic.” – Audio Damage
I am working on my next album. I have equipment lying all over the place in several totally different locations. In one corner of my apartment I have “little” Eurorack set up and for the sample of the track above Im using a Korg SuperDrums DDM110 for beats and sync. Your also hearing a Noise Engineering Basimilus Iteritas through a Synthesis Technology E440 which has it’s filter controlled by a Make Noise Pressure Points and transpose controlled by a Flame Tame Machine. Now to do some vocals…
“Where does all this leave the DDM110? Not realistic enough to satisfy people who want a drum machine to act as a convenient substitute for a real drummer, not considered ‘classic’ enough to command the extortionate prices paid by retro enthusiasts for just about anything 15 years old with a Roland badge and no MIDI port. This ‘half-way’ status, coupled with its more eccentric qualities, is enough to place the DDM110 in the ‘love it or hate it’ oddity category. I personally gravitate towards the former opinion.” – Sound on Sound
Born in 1970 I spent plenty of time turning radio knobs searching for signals. The Evaton Technologies RF Nomad put that fun in a Eurorack module and makes it CV controllable. How fantastic! $176 USD.
“The RF Nomad voltage-controlled sideband shortwave receiver Eurorack module is currently in final stages of prototype evaluation. The RF Nomad adds the squealy, squelchy, noisy, unpredictable vintage sounds of shortwave radio to your modular. But this is no ordinary shortwave; it’s been designed to be extra noisy, extra squealy, extra gritty, and just downright nasty. No built-in output filtering means that a rich spectrum of harmonic content is available on the audio output jack. Audio levels can be driven to distortion. CV control lets you add your own creative spin on sound design. Hissy interstation audio. Squealy heterodynes. Fading stations. Atmospheric noises. Faint voices in foreign languages from distant broadcast stations. Fire and brimstone. It’s all in there, just like your granddad’s old tabletop shortwave. But, the RF Nomad adds a twist: The tuning is voltage controlled. Sure, when you were a kid, you discovered you could make spacy noises on Papa’s shortwave by slowly turning the tuning dial. But just how fast could you twist that dial? Faster than an audio-rate LFO? Hardly. Voltage controlled tuning means that the RF Nomad will let you explore sounds you never imagined you could get out of a shortwave receiver.” – evatontechnologies
When I first got into Eurorack there were not too many options for Reverbs. Now we have a handful including the Audio Damage and soon to be release Make Noise modules. Intellijel has announced the availability of the Springray. You can choose between three tank sizes and has a host of other good features. $240 and the tanks range from $10 -$25.
“PRE tank and POST tank Ambler Tilt EQ. VC Feedback. Limiter in feedback path so you can prevent high gain feedback from clipping the output. (Uses THATcorp RMS and VCA ICs). Selector switch to choose up to three different connected tanks (one on the front and two on the back). VC Mix of the wet/dry balance (uses a full linear VCA xfade circuit). Drive input with large gain (can overdrive the tank inputs). External processors can be inserted into the feedback path via the SEND/RETURN normalled inputs. Extremely interesting results when patched through modulated BP filters etc. Three different sizes of Accutronic tanks are available.10HP (skiff friendly)” – Intellijel
I use Audio Damage plug-ins all the time. I have to admit I was excited to see them get into Eurorack Modular however I didn’t grab any of their first efforts. On Chris Randall’s blog Analog Industries he posted info on their new module called Sequencer 1. I will be grabbing this one day one. Besides it’s myriad of features for the sequences themselves it has a mini keyboard quantizer (yes!) and a LCD screen with patch storage. This is fantastic. Expected to be released soon at about $600.
36HP, 20mm depth. 4 banks of 16 patterns, each pattern can be from 1 to 64 steps long. The entire state (all banks and patterns) can be saved to SD card as a preset, so the memory is essentially unlimited. Clock input can be per step (like any other sequencer’s clock), or 24ppq or 48ppq for DIN sync (via a simple 5-pin DIN -> 3.5mm adaptor). Clock output can be a staggering number of choices, which is handy if the unit is acting as the master clock. The Run input can be operated a couple different ways, as can the output. In short, it can interface to pretty much anything clockish, and can in turn drive pretty much anything in a clocklike fashion. Each step gets a 1v/Oct output, three CV outputs (that can each be either 0-10v, -5 to +5v, or 0 to +5v), a main gate output, and an auxiliary gate output. Gate length is programmable per step. The playback modes are forward, reverse, pingpong, pingpong with double end triggers, skip forward, walk, and random. This is programmable per pattern. There are several ratcheting features; you can program a ratchet of various lengths per step, or you’ll note the 6 buttons labeled “REP.” These will repeat, in order, the last 8, 4, 2, or 1 steps as a loop, or cause the step you hit them on to repeat in half or quarter time. (In the same manner that the MIDI triggers in Replicant work, basically, if you own that plugin.) As I hinted before, SD card for storage and OS updates.” – Chris Randall (Audio Damage)
One of the most famous synth synth sounds ever recorded is the bassline on New Order’s Blue Monday. It is in fact a Moog Source. Above Retrosound gets close but I think he needs a little more resonance. Ministry also used a Source in their Twitch era recordings. When I lived in Berlin I used the band Camouflage’s Source and was blown away by it. It’s also in my top five most beautiful looking synths ever. The Source was released in 1981 and Blue Monday in 1983.
“At nearly seven-and-a-half minutes, “Blue Monday” is one of the longest tracks ever to chart on the UK Singles Chart, and is the biggest-selling 12″ single of all time. Despite selling well it was not eligible for an official gold disc because Factory Records was not a member of the British Phonographic Industry association. According to the Official Charts Company, its total sales stands at 1.16 million in the United Kingdom alone, and “Blue Monday” came 69th in the all-time UK best-selling singles chart published in November 2012. The song begins with a distinctive semiquaver kick drum intro, programmed on an Oberheim DMX drum machine. Gillian Gilbert eventually fades in a sequencer melody. According to band interviews in NewOrderStory, she did so at the wrong time, so the melody is out of sync with the beat; however, the band considered it to be a happy accident that contributed to the track’s charm.” – Wikipedia
Yesterday I stopped by Control in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to see Peter Kirn demo his upcoming MeeBlip ANODE synthesizer. The MeeBlip ANODE has digital oscillators, an analog filter, envelope, MIDI, and an LFO. You may be thinking what’s the big deal. Well the ANODE is very inexpensive (a little over $100), small and most importantly sounds very good. It’s also open source and by grabbing one you support Peter who with his blog Create Digital Music has given a huge amount to the pro-audio community over the years. When I arrived it was hooked up with a tasty P3 Sequentix sequencer and Korg Volca Beats. I quickly ran home and grabbed my new Roland TB-3 to hear it sequence the MeeBlip too. The MeeBlip/TB-3 combo sounded quite good and I was glued to their knobs for a good thirty minutes.
“Combining an analog filter with unique digital sound sources, all in an easy-to-understand, compact sound package, MeeBlip anode is synth hardware anyone can enjoy immediately. anode is part analog, part digital, capable of producing a range of uniquely aggressive, bass-heavy sounds. And inspired by the best classic synths of the past, getting your hands on that sound is always simple, direct, and intuitive. Simply plug in a keyboard, computer, iPad (via adapter), or controller via the MIDI port to play notes. Then, adjust sounds via knobs and switches – you don’t need to navigate a single menu. Its digital side reproduces the sound and architecture of classic synthesizers, but with an emphasis on adding personality, especially in the low end. Its all-new analog filter with resonance can range from smooth to raunchy – perfect for shaping sound or making squelchy basslines.” – meeblip.com