Category Archives: tech

NAMM 2016 Rumours & Facts

Oh! I love this time of the year! NAMM around the corner and lots of new products about to be presented, some stuff leaked, some stuff officially released before NAMM, speculation, etc, etc.

What a great time to be alive!

So, synth-heads, what may we expect from NAMM? Let’s check out some rumours & facts

Fact From Korg
Man, you’ve gotta love the guys from Korg! For the last five years or so, they’ve introduced lots of analogue affordable products and reissues. This year a week before NAMM, they’ve released this wonderful analogue poly called Minilogue (it’s quite hard not to miss read Korg Minimolgue as Kylie Minogue). The Minologue, it’s a four voice analogue synth with a street price of 500 dollars (US). Two VCOs, with pulse, triangle and saw waveforms, wave shaper for all waveforms, cross modulation, sync capabilities, ring mod, noise, resonant VCF which can be switched between 2 and 4 poles, keyboard tracking and velocity tracking, VCA with dedicated envelope generator, a second envelope generator which can be assigned to cutoff, pitch, LFO rate or intensity, an LFO which can modulate almost anything, analogue HPF, delay circuit (can be set pre or post HPF), 16 step sequencer, 200 presets memory and 8 different voice allocation. Probably this will be selling a lot!

Rumour from Akai
Akai has been experimenting with analogue products for the last couple of years, and there’s been some weird hate towards their analogue drum machines (rhythm wolf and tom cat) all over the internet which I don’t understand nor share it at all. Well, they posted a video on their Facebook page celebrating the 30th anniversary of their AX synth series saying it would be a nice product to bring back… lets just wait on it!

Roland Rumour
The guys from Attack Magazine think Roland will be presenting something that has to do about the Space Echo, claiming that the RE-201 UAD plugin quietly disappeared from UAD store, so, maybe we’ll see an AIRA range space echo?

Nord almost fact
The sweedish company has teased a video on their youtube channel showing some new product, so, we will probably see a new Nord Piano 3?

Oberheim Fact
Tom Oberheim is bringing new eurorack module, the SEM plus and a sequencer module, so, modular guys might be very happy about this news.

What other good stuff would we see at NAMM? Leave your comments!

Pre Namm 2015 rumours and facts

Well, this is one of the most exiting times of the years for all of us gear geeks! Namm is around the corner and rumours and new products are all over the internet! Let’s check out some of them…

One of the most exiting news for this year is the reissue of the ARP Odyssey by Korg. They put up the site arpsynth.com and there’s a live stream that will take place the 21st of January.

But in the last days of December, Behringer started some rumours of their own version of the Odyssey for about U$500 on their Facebook page.

Some days ago, a few images of a new Roland Synth were leaked on Facebook, and deleted a few days after, but, according to MusicRadar, the synth exists and it would be an analog/digital hybrid, and the guys at create digital music say that it might have some polyphonic capabilities, very much in the original Junos fashion.

Clavia has also posted a teaser for a new synth in their Youtube channel. We don’t have a clue of what this might be!

Akai has launched three new controllers with lots of control, specially for plugin instruments with seamless integration.

Dave smith has launched a new Eurorack modular, the DSM002 character module. According to Dave Smith himself, this is the character section from the Prophet 12 and the Pro 2, with all the digital effects like grith and air, hack, decimate and drive.

Legendary italian company Generalmusic (GEM, LEM, Elka) apparently has been bought by a finish company which will be manufacturing new products

Casio has announced the XW-PD1 and XW-DJ1. The first one is a groovebox and the latter a DJ controller.

Also, Arturia, has been talking about a new interface that promises to be revolutionary…

Any thoughts? Leave them on the comments section!

Pirate sites & our products

In the last couple of months, we’ve found out that los of our products (specially presets) are all over pirate sites for download them. We don’t mind at all, it just means that our products are really good!! If you can’t afford our products, or wanna try them before buying, it’s ok, go ahead, do a search and download them, but, if you can afford them or you really like what we do, we encourage you to buy them. Remember, we are a really small company, and to keep up making good stuff at a good price, we need some profit. Trust us, in an ideal world, we would be designing presets just for the fun of it and giving them away for free. So, if you like what we do, and your wallet allows it, go ahead and buy our presets from us or from the guys at adsrsounds.com
Thx! Enjoy!

Substractive synthesis Part II – Filters

Today, I’ll talk about the one thing that no other synthesis method uses: the filter.
As you probably imagine, the filter, does filter something, in this case, the harmonic content produced by the oscillator.

So, basically, the filter shapes the tonal characteristics of the raw sound. In other words, it re shapes the waveforms produced by an oscillator. It can make the sound darker, or brighter. or thinner or fatter, etc.

There are various types of filters, being low pass filter and high pass filter, the most common ones in synthesisers. As their name states, low pass filter, let frequencies lower than the cutoff point pass, and gradually, frequencies higher than the cutoff point start to roll off; on the other hand, the high pass filter, does exactly the opposite: frequencies lower than the cutoff point are rolled off, and the higher frequencies are allowed to pass. In any synthesiser, the cutoff point is variable, and is the user who defines it. Another common filter type is bandpass filter, this, as it name suggest, it allows only a band of frequencies to pass, rolling off higher and lower frequencies, it’s like using a high pass and lowpass filter in tandem. Similar to the bandpass, is the notch filter, this, does the opposite: one band of frequencies is attenuated and higher and lower frequencies pass.

Most filter designs in synths also add an emphasis control. This, as it names states, boosts the cutoff point frequency, making this frequency highly audible and resonant. This is why in many synthesiser, this is labeled as resonance. In some other designs, it’s labeled as peak. Anyway, Emphasis (as in most Moog synthesisers) or Resonance (as in most Roland synths), or Peak (as in most Korg synths), they all mean the same, an extra boost right on the cutoff frequency.
So, lets say that we are dealing with a low pass filter with the cutoff point set at 8khz, we know for sure that all frequencies above 8khz will be rolled off until they disappear. Lets say we will add resonance (or peak, or emphasis), this will boost the 8khz frequency (and some of the near frequencies, too).
In most analog synths, the boost produced by the resonance can even produce a sine wave, transforming the filter in an oscillator. This is called self oscillation, and it’s quite beautiful when used in a musical way, in fact, as we will see later on, you can totally play melodies with a self oscillating filter.

Besides having different filter types, there are also different slopes, some low pass filters will roll off frequencies above the cutoff point for 6 dB per octave, some others for 12 dB per octave, some for 18 dB and some for 24 dB per octave. The most used slopes are 24 dB and 12 dB per octave. This are also called 4-pole filter (24 dB/oct) and 2-pole filter (12 dB/oct).

Almost every synth has a low pass filter. Some others also add a second filter, mostly a high pass filter. Some other synths uses what is called a multimode filter, having at least low pass, high pass and bandpass filter modes that are defined by the user. Every analog filter design has its own tonal qualities, and every major synth is recognisable for its filter. Think about a Roland Tb-303… well, it’s hard not to recognise its sound, and that is not because of the oscillator; the oscillator in the 303 can only produce standard sawtooth or pulse waves, something that pretty much any synth can do, but its filter design is unique, specially when you crank up the resonance. In the case of the 303, it’s a 3 pole 18 dB per octave low pass filter. Now, think of the Minimoog… that absolutely fat sound is hard to confuse with the sound from the 303, and that’s because of the filter; the famous Moog filter is a 4-pole 24 dB per octave ladder low pass filter, and it’s quite unique and musical. Another example of this, is the Oberheim filter, they sound brighter, more polite, more gentle than the Moog, some people say their sound is creamier… Well, they use a 2-pole 12 dB per octave filter. And then you’ve got the classic Yamaha CS-80… think of all those sounds from Vangelis, well, the Yamaha CS-80 used 2 different filters in cascade, a 2-pole 12 dB per octave low pass and, then another 2-pole 12 dB per octave High pass filter; none of them was able of self-oscillation, so, even though you crank up the resonance, filters would not produce sound on their own.
Quite an opposite case comes when talking about the Korg Ms-20, although it has a low pass and a high pass filter set in cascade, and despite they are just 1-pole 6 dB per octave filters, they will self oscillate, and they will start to scream a lot when you start cranking up resonances. And then, there are the Curtis chips used by SCI and nowadays by DSI, this filters are switchable between 4-pole and 2-pole, they are clean, even though in the 4-pole mode it will self-oscillate, it’s a filter somewhat creamy, very musical. Then the Steiner-Parker 2-pole multimode filter, used in many modular systems and recently in the Arturia Microbrute and Minibrute models, it’s also a very musical filter, with lots of character.

Thanks to Dr. Robert Moog, who came up in the late 60s with the Voltage Controlled Filter or VCF, cutoff points can track the keyboard voltages, so, for example, lower notes will sound darker than higher ones. VCF, also, let the user produce sweeps by closing and opening the filter with a knob, also, thanks to VCF, we can modulate the filter with an envelope generator or an LFO, or control the cutoff point by velocity, aftertouch or a mod wheel, or even a expression pedal.

Some designs can make the filter track the keyboard, as I’ve said before, in this designs, if the filter can self-oscillate, you can tune the filter to an specific note and play, like if it was an oscillator. Pretty cool, right?

In some other designs, like the DSI MoPho, the Oscillator can modulate the filter. This is called audio modulation, and it works in a pretty similar way than FM synthesis.

Most filters sound absolutely great if you overload the signal before the filter, this was a trick used pretty much in the Minimoog, where one would take the phones output, to the input of the minimoog, and then the signal gets overdriven by feedback before the filter. Nowadays, almost every modern analog synth has some means to achieve this feedback overdrive without using a cable.

Speaking of audio inputs, a lot of synths have an audio input for you to filter external sources, so, the VCF can be used as a processor, too. You should definitely try that out with drums, or guitars!

So, filter is what gives character to a synth. No analog filter design is perfect, and that’s the beauty of it. In digital synths, when you crank up the resonance, if you sweep the cutoff point you will hear some stepping, some unnatural quantising due to digital limitations… this is something you don’t hear in analog synths (unless of course the filter is digitally controlled or quantised by poor midi resolution). No filter is a bad filter, every filter has its own charm! Oh, BTW… you can definitely create some wah wah style effects using the filter!

See you in 15 days when we talk about the Amplifier!

Korg + 2014 = New ARP Odissey!!

Well, for the last couple of years, Korg seems that can’t stop with the great news!

First the Monotron Series: 50 dollars for plastic enclosure analogue ribbon synths, the three of them are quite limited, and for many people, toys. At Piggysounds we make extensive use of the monotron delay and we truly love it! They are three of them, each with a different voice architecture.

Some time after, the came out with their second line of analogue synths in more than 20 years: the Monotribe: again, ribbon controller, fairly basic voice architecture, no MIDI (like monotron), but analog sync for it’s sequencer. Yes, Electribe style step sequencer. Still seemed to be a toy for some people… For some others, it looked like something was going on between Korg and its analogue history.

Last year, they really made it: a reincarnation of one the most important mono synth of all times, the MS-20 mini. Every synth-head was going crazy with this. As if this was not enough, they’ve announced 3 new synths: the Volca series. A drum machine, pretty much inspired in the Tr 808; a Bass synth, also with step sequencer pretty much inspired in the Tr-303, but with Korg’s own MiniKorg filter; finally, a Volca inspired in nothing: the Keys a three note polyphonic (paraphonic) synth with looper and analog style delay. All of the three have tactile keyboard, sequencer, MIDI in and analog sync i/o.
We all thought, this can’t get any better…

But, this year, they’ve announced at NAMM a full size DIY kit of the Korg MS-20 with both filters circuitry letting you choose if you prefer to use the first grittier-screammy filter or the more gentle used in the latest models… so, you can have a 1978 MS-20 and a 1980 MS-20 in this recreation. Oh my god! What else?

Today, they have just announced they are working on a new recreation of the (drum roll, please) ARP Odissey!!

Here’s what they have to say (directly from Korg’s site):

Tokyo, Japan – February 17, 2014 – KORG INC. is proud to announce that a faithful recreation of the legendary 1970s analog synthesiser, the ARP Odyssey, is being developed by Korg for release later in 2014. The ARP Odyssey was released in 1972 by ARP Instruments, Inc. and quickly became famous for its unique rich sound and innovative performance controls. It was a staple for many recording and performing musicians worldwide and was used on countless hit records over many years. The Odyssey was one of the highlights of the ARP company and became a long selling product. With slight updates and improvements it was sold through to 1981. Korg is also proud to welcome Mr David Friend as our chief advisor on the Odyssey. David Friend established ARP Instruments, Inc. along with Alan Robert Pearlman and is a past president of ARP Instruments, Inc. He was also the lead designer of the original Odyssey in addition to designing or co-designing many other products. After ARP, Mr Friend became a successful technology entrepreneur. In 2010, he was named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the Emerging Technology category for the New England Region, he has been a lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and is now Chairman & CEO of Carbonite, Inc. He has been a trustee of the New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music. In the last few years, KORG INC. has released several top selling analog synthesizers such as the monotrons series, the monotribe, the volca series and the hugely successful MS-20 mini, a faithful fully analog recreation of the 1978 MS-20. With Korg’s technology capabilities and planning ability for analog synthesizers, and in collaboration with David Friend, we believe the legendary ARP Odyssey will become a “must have” for an all new generation of music makers. The ARP Odyssey is scheduled for release in September 2014. – See more at: http://www.korg.com/us/news/2014/0217/#sthash.GJgfFxPv.dpuf

Well… guess now we’ll just have to wait…

Pre NAMM 2014 Rumours

With NAMM 2014 around the corner, since last week we’ve been hearing and reading and watching rumours, teasers, leaks, of new products… This are the ones that got our attention:

Moog Sub37 – Seems to be a polyphonic, paraphonic analog sinthesizer. Pretty much the structure of the SubPhatty: 2 VCOs, 1 Sub OSC, Noise, 6, 12, 18 or 24 VCF with multidrive, 2 EGs, etc.
The cool thing about this, is the 37 note keyboards, and the fact that it can play more than one note at a time, I suppose that for it’s structure, it can handle duophony. 2 notes at a time sharing same VFC and VCA.

Nord Lead A1 – Well… not a rumour, but a fact. The swedish company has a new Virtual Analog synth. They say it’s the best analog modelling they’ve made so far; 24bits DAC should make this statement true. 24 voices of polyphony, 4 parts multitimbral with 4 independent line outs, a new oscillator design, multimode filter with emulations of the Moog Ladder filter and the TB-303, and a new effects section should make this synth very appealing for live usage as well as for the studio users.

Elektron Analog Rytm: They’ve just announce this on their Facebook page. It’s an analog drum machine with sample support. Analog filter and overdrive per voice, 12 velocity and pressure pads, reverb and delay (as sends), step sequencer, analog master compresor and distortion… Seems to be something you should definitely want to have in your studio.

Blue Microphones Hampton: Blue says it’s a small diaphragm condenser mic, and they say it will be exceptional for miking instruments like guitar, percussion, toms, strings, etc. And as a Blue mic’s user, I’ve got to tell you, if they say so, trust them.

Roland Aira: See? this is where I truly get lost. Roland has been teasing and leaking it’s new line of products named Aira. They seem to be four products in the line: something based on the TR 808, something based on the TR 909, VT-3 vocal modifier, and everyone out there is assuming that the fourth product will be something based on the TB 303.
There’s no much information, only speculations and some leaked images, and a couple of videos that doesn’t show that much. Some people are saying that Roland will be joining Korg at the analog revival, some others are saying that this machines will be digital recreations of the originals, and others say this will be digital products that will have nothing to do with the original… something like the Jupiter 80…
It’s Roland, so I’m a bit sceptical about this, but, in the bottom of my heart, I’ve got the hope that this will be a new analog line of products from the company… guess we will have to wait…

Any Bets?