Nick from SonicState reviews the Alesis IODock. Basically you put your iPad into the dock and you get Microphone input (with Phantom Power), Balanced Outputs and Midi. I could use one of these.
“The iO Dock provides microphone and instrument users with two combination XLR and 1/4-inch inputs, each with its own gain control and switchable phantom power for condenser microphones. Producers can use the iO Dock’s MIDI jacks to sequence external keyboards, samplers, drum machines and synthesizers, or perform using the iO Dock as the sound module and their favorite MIDI-compliant keyboard, drum pad or other controller. An assignable 1/4-inch footswitch input enables remote control of any app-defined function such as stop/start or record. – alesis.com/iodock
Dave Smith Instruments Tempest. An all new analog drum machine. Awesome. If you listen carefully the demo goes from all the way from 606 to 909ish with some nice Simmons tom emulation and synth stabs. There are a lot of specs but does it matter? A lot of buttons and analog stuff. $2000. link
Avid Torq 2. I secretly always liked Torq better than Traktor. I don’t know why I’ve keep it a secret. It’s just more fun to use and I like the flat interface a lot. I’m not sure 4 decks is better than two. Can you say tiny things to see in a big display? The new Traq Morph feature “blends music tracks in exciting new ways by intelligently applying audio effects during crossfade.”. That could be cool right? Lastly, the software is decoupled from any hardware so you can use it stand alone or with any controller. $250 link
Akai Synthstation 49. I want my car dash to be an iPad. Just the same let’s make my keyboard interface and sound source and iPad too! It’s from Akai so a few MPC pads are included. This will win or loose depending on quality. link
Alesis Studiodock. Professional audio and MIDI I/O for your iPad. Oh… and composite video out. I’m getting very close to being able to play an entire live show off my iPad! link
Izotope Stutter Edit. I love plug-ins like this. Stutter, a Stutter Matrix, Buffer Tricks, Bit Reduction, Pan, Gate, Delay, Filters and more take normal audio and mess it up. $149 link
Arturia Spark. I’m going to tell you right now that this new drum machine from Arturia won’t sound as good as the DSI Tempest. Your going to pay a lot less though and it does have a super fun TR style roll by sequencer. All drum machines are awesome. All of them. $600. link
Rob Papen Punch. I sense a theme at this year’s Namm. I remember it used to be work making killer electronic drum sounds, loops and patterns. Boy to kids have the toys today! If your not an analog purist Dutch Papen’s new VST punch could be of use to you. Will it compete with products like uToniq? Time will tell. link
M-Audio Venom. I wasn’t excited about a new VA synth. Then I learned the price would be $499. I also learned it came with a VST editor. The marketing hype is pretty good for the new Avid synth too. link
MORE UPDATES TO COME. I will be adding things I find worthy to this post as the weekend continues.
Take a look at that cassette above called “Unics”. I made that sometime in the late 80’s and it has some of the first songs I ever recorded on it. I should have probably spelled it “eunuchs” right? Maybe since I was a geek then too possibly “Unix” was the correct spelling. I’d like to say I was being smart and wanted my own unique band name and way of spelling but you all know I’d be lying to you. From what I remember the music was sequenced on a Yamaha QX7 and the sounds were from a DX7, Electrocomp-101 and some Casio home keyboard. I had a Tascam 4-track and Shure SM58. Do you like the cover I printed on a dot-matrix printer?
So where’s the hilarious audio samples of my old songs? Well if I had a working cassette deck you would be listening and laughing right now. I did save two old decks but both are eating tapes so I don’t dare but the above mentioned gem in them. I could order a head cleaning kit or even possibly find a repair shop to look at a deck. However, there’s a new kind of Cassette deck that just recently became available: USB Cassette Decks.
The Ion Tape2PC and Alesis TapeLink USB are both dual cassette decks with built-in audio interfaces. Take a close look at these two units. They must come from the same Chinese manufacturer right? The Tape2PC is silver and comes with “EZ Tape Converter for free with Gracenote® MusicID technology”and has a street price of $149. The black Alesis comes with BIAS SoundSoap (which I have used to good effect in the past) and has a street price of $199.
So what do you think? Should I clean and repair my old Sony Dual Deck or just grab one of these new USB guys? The advantage of the built-in USB is I can bring it around with me to different rooms without an extra interface and cabling. I do wonder though if these new decks will sound as good as my old Sony.
If I had unlimited cash I would go onto eBay right now and buy every single drum machine I could find. The next best thing is a good sample collection. Puremagnetik has an interesting subscription model that delivers you monthly “Micropaks” of sounds all ready to go in Ableton Live. This month they hit my sweet spot with some nice 80s digital drum machine sets. Here what you get:
Korg DDD-1: A programmable drum machine from 1986. Includes 18 drum sounds with a famous 12-bit crunch. Alesis HR-16: One of Alesis’s first drum machines manufactured in 1987. Includes over 40 unique drum and percussion sounds. Kawai R50: Legendary 12-bit sound from 1988! Includes a selection of over 20 dirty drum and percussion sounds. Sound: A very rare Soviet era drum machine manufactured by Zhitomir electronic factory in 1989. Includes sampled percussion sounds with a tightly compressed flavor. – puremagnetik.com
For more info including a video walkthrough and audio clips: click here
What is the worst piece of studio gear you ever bought? Something you thought, “I can put this to great use!”. However, in reality it never helped you create a single song. For me this is an easy choice: The Alesis Airsynth.
Many times when songwriting after I finish the arrangement I will use an analog synth to add a wash or layer of sound behind the entire song. I thought a Theremin could also be useful in a similar way to me. There was a cool looking new orange gadget showing up in the pro-audio catalogs I received in the mail called the Airsynth. It was supposed to be similar to a Theremin or Roland D-beam controller with a mini synthesizer inside producing 50 sounds. You hold and wave your hand over the unit and the sound changes. After reading this review in Sound on Sound Magazine I bought the dam thing for about $250.
I was disappointed immediately. As soon as I hooked it up I got that sad weird feeling I was taken advantage of. You know the feeling where you feel sorry for yourself. You have been scammed by marketing and advertising. First off, the Airsynth felt so light as if there was nothing inside it’s plastic box. Of course if the unit sounded great or something that wouldn’t matter but the Airsynth sounded lame. Lame sounds with very little control. As much as I waved my freakin hands all over the place the Airsynth did not react in anyway fun or musical. It was so lame I hid it in my studio when people came over. I was afraid they would want to try it out and then if they did they would call me a sucker for buying it!
With the wonderful magic known as eBay I reduced my chances of getting into heaven by putting the dam thing up for auction. Some poor soul bought it and I was free of my burden. Why the Airsynth scarred me so bad only a therapist can say.
I never replaced the Airsynth but lately I have been eyeing the Moog Etherwave Theremin. Another option would be the Eowave Persephone or maybe adding a Doepfer RM2 ribbon controller to my set up will do the trick. I made a post about the latter two already: click here. My guess is when the new Portishead album “Third” comes out in April I will be inspired to go shopping!
Robert Green has been circuit bending instruments for about 7 years. If your not the type to pick up a soldering gun and risk electric shock but need a bent device definitely take a close look at what Robert has to offer.
Besides the usual Speak N Spell and Casio SK modifications, Robert specializes in digital drum machines including the Alesis HR-16, Roland TR-707 and Yamaha series. Some of his bends use a patch bay modification and others metal switches.
This Alien-Devices modified Alesis HR16 drum synthesizer features 28 sound modifications which are controlled by 14 three-way switches. The modifications can effect the drum sounds in subtle or drastic ways creating beat mutations, digital filtering, distortion, synth tones, envelope warping, overload, bizarre beats and electronic textures. These units are excellent sample sources as well as stable live instruments and are fully MIDI capable.
If you want to get your hands dirty and try some modifications yourself there is a CD-Rom video tutorial for sale on Amazon called Circuit Bending for Beginners. I personally have not seen it but I’ve heard good reviews. There is of course plenty of free stuff to start watching on YouTube including “Circuit Bending Workshop” by Ben Goldstone. The comments under that video are pretty interesting.
A few years ago I went to the Bent Festival in New York. It’s a nice geek fest of circuit bending. My favorite “instrument” was a old dot matrix printer rigged to play audio notes depending on which key you pressed. Here are the upcoming dates/locations for 2008:
Los Angeles Bent Festival – April 17th-19th, 2008.
New York Bent Festival – April 24th-26th, 2008.
Minneapolis Bent Festival – May 1st-3rd, 2008.
The NAMM Show acronym stands for “National Association of Music Merchants”. The event takes place twice a year. There is a summer event in Austin, Texas but the bigger of the two happening this week in Anaheim, California. There are many websites covering NAMM down to the very last detail. I’d like to only list here what I personally think are the most interesting new products. So without further ado here is Wire to the Ear’s Winter NAMM hot picks:
Moog Voyager OS. Take a normal Moog Voyager and get rid of its Midi, presets, display and XY pad and you have the new “OS” which stands for Old School. I’m not sure I totally “get” this new synth. Unless the sound quality improves by removing those features what’s the point? Having midi, XY and patch memory has to be worth a few hundred bucks to anyone, no? link
Dave Smith Instruments Prophet ’08 Synthesizer Module. A table top or rack mount version of the Prophet ’08. If you want to play chords and you want real analog it’s either an uber pricey Studio Electronics Omega, something used or the new Prophet 08. The new module will be the least expensive way into the polyphonic analog world. link
Access Virus TI Snow. A small table top version of the Virus TI. I would rather have a real analog synth or a Waldorf Blofeld but I know the Virus sounds great. Somewhat unique in a hardware synth is the new Atomizer utility announced for Virus TI’s which allows for stuttery effects. link