Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New Post Office Rates Threaten Indie Label's and Musician's Livelihoods

"Cool story, bro" time.  Over the weekend, as I was browsing Facebook, a guy I know who ran a label and sells his own music was complaining about the post office's recent hike in the price of international shipping rates.  Having been to the post office mailing international packages just a couple days prior and not noticing any difference, I asked what was up.  Turns out that although I knew the post office was raising the price of a stamp by 1 cent, somehow an outrageous increase in international shipping had slipped under my radar.

Cut to today and I head to the post office with some international packages.  I ask the clerk what the story is and he informs me that international shipping rates have gone up by an average of about $6 per package.  My jaw hit the floor.  Nearly 60-65% of the merch and CDs I sell online ships to Europe.  I already charged a flat rate of $8 for shipping, which covered small orders fine, but I still paid out of pocket for some of the additional shipping expense just in the hopes that offering a flat shipping rate would encourage larger orders.  Today, I mailed a copy of my recent vinyl release to Germany.  The record retails for about $17. With the increased postal rates, the shipping was an additional $17.50.  This is not okay.

I sympathize with the plights of the USPS.  I know it's a popular thing to complain about, but in the 15 years or so I've run my online store, they've delivered stuff for pretty damn cheap and did so fairly reliably.  A good part of what has hurt the post office is a 2006 law that said they must pre-fund $5.5 billion worth of employee pensions aside.  As the post office is not funded by taxes, their rates have to somehow support this huge amount of money, plus enough to run day to day operations, pay their employees, etc.  Now consider that less people are using the mail than ever.  As less people mail letters and more send emails or texts and as more people pay their bills online versus mailing them, the post office has seen a dramatic drop in volume.  So they're fighting an uphill battle.  I get that.

But this new policy could prove pretty harmful to small businesses, or indeed anyone who can't ship high-cost products or in bulk.  Many of these businesses (especially record labels and musicians) are running on slim profit margins to begin with. So we're now left with the choice of raising shipping costs for our overseas customers and risk losing their business (who wants to buy a CD when the shipping costs as much as the CD itself?), or eating the additional cost and losing around $6 per order in expenses we didn't have before.

Unfortunately, we are a bit over the barrel, as even with the new rates, they're still cheaper than pretty much all other international shipping services when it comes to the shipping of individual items.  But I can't help but feel the post office is insuring their own demise here. For the time being, my solution is going to have to be to raise shipping costs a bit and pray it doesn't scare off customers.  I can't screw my customers by overnight raising my shipping by $6, but I'll increase it somewhere halfway, so I still absorb some of the cost, but not all of it.  Rest assured, I'll be looking for other, cheaper solutions than the USPS for my international shipping.  If the folks at FedEx and UPS were smart, they'd come out with a cheap international shipping option pronto and eat the USPS's lunch.

Lest you think I am cheering for the demise of the US Postal Service, I assure you, that's not the case.  Aside from my own relatively positive experiences with them over the years, the lower prices the Post Office offered kept the prices of private shippers in check.  With them out of the picture, it's hard to avoid the feeling that  FedEx and UPS would take advantage of the lessened competition by raising their international prices further.  The cable industry has been enjoying the spoils of lessened competition for decades.

I do hope that the USPS will reconsider their new policy.  As I said before, I understand the position they are in.  Yet, just jacking the rates for international shipping by such a huge amount out of the blue feels like a lazy fix, and one that doesn't solve the USPS's problems.  In fact, I'd be willing to bet it only exacerbates them.  If you're someone who does a lot of international shipping, I urge you to call and register a complaint with the USPS consumer line at: (253) 214-1800.

Restored Yamaha CS-80 on eBay

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Arp Omni 2 on eBay

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review: KV331's Synthmaster 2.5

Product: SynthMaster
Developers: KV331 Audio
Format: Windows (VST, RTAS), Mac (VST, RTAS, AU).  32 or 64 bit.
Price: $129
Demo: Available on the website.  Demo disables saving patches and begins sounding random notes after ten minutes.  Audio demos also on the product page.

I want to start this review out with an apology to KV331 Audio.  They were kind enough to send me a review copy of SynthMaster late last fall when my band was out on tour.  However, the case is this is quite a complex synth, and I knew it would take me quite some time to put it through its paces, so rather than deliver a lazy, quick review, I wanted to take the extra time to make sure I got things covered. Once you read the review, I think you'll see why it took so long!

SynthMaster might best be described as a synthesizer jackknife in that it provides a semi-modular environment for multiple types of synthesis.  What types?  How about virtual analog, additive, wavetable, wave-scanning, FM, phase modulation, physical modeling, and SFZ sample playback?  Combine this with both analog and digital modeled filters of various types, 11 types of effects, and extensive modulation capabilities (over 650 modulatable parameters), and it’s clear SynthMaster is an ambitious synth.  So does SynthMaster live up to its potential, or is this a case of “Jack of all trades, master of none”?  Read on…

To install SynthMaster, download the version you need and run the installer.  When you’ve purchased it, you will receive a serial number which unlocks it.  That’s it.  You’re good to go.

Documentation comes in the form of an illustrated 41-page “QuickStart Guide”.  If you own a few softsynths and are generally familiar with subtractive synthesis, you'll likely only need to crack it for some of the more esoteric features (of which, to be fair, there are quite a few).

 As I said before, Synthmaster is a seriously deep synth with a lot of features, so you'd expect the interface to be complex and overwhelming.  Happily, that is not the case and through good use of multiple pages and tabs, KV331 has managed to squeeze everything in in a manner that is nice to look at and easy to navigate.  Synthmaster is also skinnable, should the default look not be to your liking.

The top of the interface consists of a series of buttons on the left that control what is displayed in the bulk of the screen.  It's here that you can select one of SynthMaster's two layers, controls for the 4 global LFO's, the Global FX section, a patch browser similar in feel to the type Native Instruments tends to favor, and the "Preset" page, where you can categorize, add author information, and comments to patches.  

To the right of this is name of the current patch, buttons to scroll through patches one by one, a panic button in case you get stuck notes, and saving options.  A parameter display resides beneath this, as do settings for Quality (lower settings help save CPU), Buffer and Polyphony, as well as the velocity curve for the current patch.
The main part of the interface is split into four squares, each of which houses a different function.  Each of these windows is tabbed to allow you to quickly switch in between further pages.  One thing that is especially awesome is that each of these areas has a Save function allow you to save just the settings to that particular set of parameters.  That way, if you have a specific type of envelope setting you use a lot, for example, you can save it and then recall it whenever you need to use it programming a new sound.  Very handy!

The top left section houses tabs for the structure and settings for each layer.  Here, you can select whether a layer is in Mono or Poly mode, change the pitch bend range, turn unison on or off, turn the arp on or off, and choose a mode for the routing of the two filters with Split, Parallel, and and Series options.  A nice display shows the structure of the layer and allows you to quickly turn parts in the voice path on and off, as well as setting wet/dry levels for the Layer's effects.  At the very bottom, you can add two different kinds of Portamento and control the specifics of the Unison mode.
A click of the tab switches us over to the controls for the layer's Arpeggiator.  This was the one area where I wished the display was a bit larger.  It's workable, but the Glide and Hold buttons for each step are pretty damned tiny.  The Arpeggiator consists of multiple different modes, up to 32 steps, Glide and Hold settings per step, and your options for the note value of the arpeggiator.  The Volume knob allows you to set the Volume of all the steps at once if you need them to be uniform.  Duration controls the Gate time for each note, and Swing adds - wait for it - swing.  Just about everything you might want in an Arpeggiator.  And if that wasn't enough, it can alternately be used as an analog-style step sequencer, opening up the door to all manner of cool rhythmic modulations.  This switches the display to a display similar to the piano roll sequencer in your DAW, making it extremely easy to program melodies. Very nice!  MIDI sequences can also be imported if you prefer to build sequences that way.
The next three tabs feature controls for each layer's Layer Effects.  These consist of nicely featured Distortion, Lo-fi, Ensemble, EQ, and Phasers.
The bottom left consists of the Oscillator related controls.  Each layer offers two independent oscillators.  Each of those oscillators can use a variety of different synthesis types.  The display above is the Basic mode.  This is the mode for your tried-and-true virtual analog sounds.  The standard sawtooth, sine, triangle, pulse, and white noise options are available, but that's not all.  There's also an insanely generous selection of sampled single-cycle waveforms sourced from all manner of classic gear, and if that's not enough, you can load in full samples in SFZ format.

A "Pitch Drift" function allows you to simulate the imperfections that make analog synths so appealing.  Of course, you can also abuse it into Boards of Canada like warbling at higher settings. You can also control how the oscillator's pitch is tracked across the keyboard, set the oscillator's Volume, Tone, Phase, Pitch, Pan and more with a series of knobs along the bottom.
The Additive mode allows you to combine up to eight different waveforms, each with its own volume, pan, frequency, detune levels.  Although additive synthesis is typically performed with sine waves, you can use any of the previously-mentioned waveforms or samples.  Since 8 partials is not a lot by additive standards, the ability to use different waveforms is helpful in trying to create more complex timbres.  Of course, if you stick to traditional analog waveforms, you can simulate the voice structure of old Roland synths like the SH-101, where you can add different amounts of saw, pulse, sine, and noise to shape the tone.

Fancy a little Wavetable synthesis?  Just switch the Oscillator Type to "Wavetable" and you can build your own scannable wavetables by combining up to 16 different selectable single cycle waves (most of which are actually different than the previous types).  Couldn't be easier, and done well, it can sound fantastic.  Maybe it won't totally quell your gear lust for a Microwave or PPG, but it's a lot of fun to play with and rewards experimentation with some sounds you could never get out of those classics.
The final mode (there is an AUDIO IN, but this is the last synthesis type) is Vector Synthesis, the style famously championed by the Sequential Circuits Prophet VS.  You can select up to 4 waveforms or samples that can be smoothly crossfaded.  They can each have their own tuning as well.  X and Y indices can be independently modulated.

The Basic, Additive, and Wavetable oscillator modes all offer FM, PM, and AM for further sound-mangling capabilities with 4 dedicated modulators (read: LFOs) that can also be used to control things like pulse width for PWM type sounds.  Additionally, in Basic mode, Oscillator 1 can be hard-synced to Oscillator 2.

The right top square houses SynthMaster's twin filters per voice.  Lowpass, highpass, bandpass, bandstop, low and high shelves, peaking, multi (allows you to smooth transition from one filter type to the another), and dual (a filter with two sets of peaks) modes are all offered in both Digital and Analog flavors with selectable Slope controls.  One of the really nice features here is the display.  If you click and drag within it, you can quickly tweak the filter's cutoff and resonance at the same time.  A simple distortion can be applied before, inside, or after the filter, and a simple limiter is available to keep those crazy resonant peaks on your next acid jam from getting out of control.  The difference between the analog and digital modes is most noticeable in how they handle resonance.  The analog ones will go handily into self-resonation, while the digital ones will not.  A Comb filter  is also available only in Digital mode.
The fourth square holds the settings for SynthMaster's multiple Envelope types, the LFOs, and Keyboard Scaling.  The first four envelopes are your standard ADSR affairs with the interesting additions of a Bit Depth control (which sets the 'resolution' of changes in levels), and a Drift parameter, which introduces random fluctuations to the envelope level.
Two "2D" Envelopes are next.  These are multi-stage envelopes offering up to 32 stages, each with their own length.  However, unlike a standard multi-stage envelope, this envelope is in two dimensions and outputs an X and a Y for use in modulation.  They are also loopable.
Two "traditional" Multi-stage envelopes are available with settings identical to the 2D envelopes, but they only output a single value for modulation.
The two layer LFOs offer not only the expected analog waveforms, but also a Step mode with up to 32 steps, and a Glide mode with is similar, except that it smoothly glides in between values as opposed to the hard transitions of the Step mode.  LFOs are syncable to your host's tempo with controllable phase and speed.
The Key-scaling modulator offers 4 different key-scale maps for modulating parameters according the position of the key played on the keyboard.

At the far right of SynthMaster's interface you'll find the modulation matrix.  This is about what you would expect allowing you to assign a source, destination, and amount.  Alternately, you can assign modulation by right clicking on a parameter and choosing your source.  This will automatically add the modulation to the Matrix, which is a much more stream-lined way of setting up modulations in such a complex synth.  A tab allows you to open up some Global Settings for the synth, and knobs at the bottom let you set the master volume, as well as the volumes of each individual layer.  Bypass switches allow you to switch a layer on and off, and the Tune control allows you to tune the instrument as a whole.

Now, keep in mind what I've just long-windedly described is just ONE layer of the two available and you can start to understand the depth of programming Synth Master offers.

Switching away from the Layer 1 and 2 controls, if we select the LFO tab at the top of the interface, we gain access to four additional LFO's.  These are identical to the Layer LFOs except they operate at the Synth level and not just the Layer level.

Beneath the LFO tab, we find the FX tab which lets you set up global effects that operate on the entire sound as opposed to the layer-specific effects.  Available effects include a Vocoder, Chorus, Echo, Reverb, Compression, and Tremelo. The right column allows to control the FX routing for both layers and globally, and lets you control the wet/dry balance of the global effects.
Finally, we have the Browser tab.  This allows you to sort through your patch library according to Instrument Type, Attributes, Music Styles, Author, and Bank.  At the bottom are 8 "easy knobs"that can be assigned to modulate any parameter, with the idea being that if your are overwhelmed by the thousands of modulatable parameters on offer, 8 of the most useful controls can be assigned to these knobs and that's all you have to deal with.  What makes it most useful, however, is that you can assign multiple modulations to a single Easy Parameter knob, allowing you to make quite drastic changes in the sound with the turn of a single knob.  Two X/Y modulators are also available for assignment. 

As you can imagine, there are a lot of variables that come into play in regards to how much of a CPU hit SynthMaster delivers.  Simpler voices and low voice counts will definitely result in lower, barely detectable CPU drain.  But more complex patches can eat up enough to max out my Mac Pro Quadcore if I play two-handed chords.  Fortunately, SynthMaster offers multiple quality levels [Draft, Good, Better, Best], each upping the sound quality, while requiring more CPU power.  So even if your machine isn’t state of the art, you can build your arrangements  in Draft mode and bump the quality all the way up when you render your tracks down.  It would be nice if they offered the ability to set separate quality levels for just screwing around and for the actual rendering.  U-he’s DIVA offers this feature, and that kind of “set it and forget it” convenience is something I’ve come to appreciate.

I wonder how many people will skip the wall of text above and just get to this point.  I can't say I blame you, but I always strive to be in-depth with my reviews and the amount of firepower this synth offers is pretty obscene.  Before I even get to the sound, I want to emphasize how well thought-out and designed this synth is.  As I was learning to use it, I found myself uttering the phrase "Man, they've thought of EVERYTHING".  Just the sheer amount of THINGS you can alter about the sound will send hardcore synth programmers into a state of pure geek lust.  I get the sense that KV331 really studied what was available in the synth market, adapted some of the features they liked, and invented new ones where they felt there was an absence.  But what is most astounding about this synth is that it manages to cram all these features and parameters in a package that is easy on the eye and not nearly as overwhelming as it could've been.

Soundwise, SynthMaster is a beauty.  It has a very clear, hi-fi sound to it with a mostly digital sheen to it.  That's not to say it can't do analog sounds well.  It can.  But I found these took a bit more coaxing to sound convincing than other sounds.  Fortunately, SynthMaster provides an abundance of ways to coax, as should be clear now.  But buying SynthMaster to use as a virtual analog is missing the point a bit, I think.  With multiple types of synthesis combinable in a single patch and such depth of programming offered as a whole, this is a forward-looking synth with an eye on the future.

I see SynthMaster especially to two different types of users.  Obviously, the amount of features and synthesis types gives this a hard to beat bang to buck ratio, so people who want lots of different types of synthesis without having to buy a separate synth to do each one are going to want to check this one out.  But who I really see this appealing to are the hardcore synth geeks.  If you like to program your own sounds, there aren't many options on the market that offer the depth of programming SynthMaster can.  Little touches like being able to individually save parameters for each section of the synth to import into new sounds are fantastic time-savers and are the types of things I really appreciate as a sound-progammer.

If you already have a ton of different types of softsynths residing on your hard drive, you might not find you "need" SynthMaster, but I'd encourage you to check it out and spend some time with it anyway.  While it's true you probably already have tools that can individually do things that SynthMaster can do, but you'd be hard-pressed to find it all in one place and with such an elegant interface.  

I'll admit, I underestimated SynthMaster.  When I first heard of it, I listened to some demos and thought it sounded pretty decent, but it kind of faded into the background noise of all the other synths on the market.  Upon rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty with it, however, I am seriously impressed.  I like it when synth designers trust me.  Instead of playing it safe and eliminating features "you'll probably never need", I like when they give me the whole 64-Crayon pack to color with.  And that's what KV331 have done with SynthMaster.  [10/10]

OP-1 Styled iPhone Case on eBay

How geeky is THIS?

Info at the listing...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Dmitry Sches Releases Mac Version of Diversion

Dmitry Sches has release a Mac version of his popular Diversion synth in both VST and AU formats.  As a special introductory offer, he is offering the Mac version for half off ($89).  Diversion is a full-featured synth with 4 oscillators, multiple syntesis types, 4 LFOs, 4 envelopes, multiple filter modes, and extensive modulation possibilities.

XILS-Labs Releases LaMasque Delay 1.5

XILS-Labs has released what they call a "major revision" of their LaMasque Delay plug-in.  LaMasque will also be on sale until February 20th for 20% off at only $58.  Here's the details:
  •  FREEZE/DUB button: When this function is engaged, it will read the "loop" of the delay until you disengage it. The one and only solution for huge DubDelays. It can also be used to generate all sorts of interesting loops and textures, and allows you to keep playing and improvising over the loop, in Live or improvisation situations
  • LOCK DRY/WET LEVEL Button: You can now browse all presets while preserving the Dry/Wet level ratio you have set. This feature is very handy to experiment with the 120+ presets currently available in the factory libary.
  • 16 Masks instead of 8: Like in our Oxium synthesizer, you can now benefit of a larger number of Masks, or grid zones. More possibilitites that are especially usefull combined with the new multiSelect and MultiEdit features of the Masks.
  • MultiMasks selections: The only way to approach real complex grooves, or to edit in a fast and intuitive way. You can now select several Masks with a combination of different techniques, and move their locations, or change all their locators with a single mouse drag. Three fast buttons to select ALL MASKS, ODD MASKS, or EVEN MASKS. Or the combination CTRL + CLICK to select continuous or discontinuous Masks. MouseOver of a mask will now select it automatically. Background color and shape changes will reflect the status of each Mask ( Selected, Unselected )
  •  Display of the incoming audio signal inside the Grid Area: Everybody will love this feature, that will drastically improve workflow, speed of use, and represent a giant step in the global ease of use of Masks based instruments. It's so cute you could spend hours just playing and watching it. Its not only cosmetics, it will greatly help you positionning the Masks exactly where you need them while you play a part.
  • Revamped management of the Masks locators: When you approach the right locator of a mask with the mouse, it will gradually turn Red, : you can then safely move it ( Green is the color for the right locator). In the V1 version you could move a mask by accident while wanting to only change its length, the V1.5 behaviour completely removes this possible confusion.
  •  New Level Toggle for the Masks Level Parameter: When this button is on, the delay signal will only be heard if the incoming level is over the Mask Level. It therefore acts like a treshold parameter, and its a great tool for playing and experimenting Live, or to find quickly the best Masks configuration while moving them on the grid..
  • New Zoom Function: Zoom x4 the grid area for accurate editing of the position and lenght of the masks.
  • New Presets & video tutorials (see below): around 50 new presets have been added to get you started. The focus have been put to add usefull presets like Slap Back Delays, PingPong Delays, Resonators, Pseudo Spring Reverb delays, et etc. The number of presets in the factory library is now over 120
  • Installers: You can now choose the format you want to be installed on your system (VST, RTAS, AU)
Fixed bugs
  • Windows: With certain combinations of Daws/Systems, the GUI could become sluggish. Now fixed
  • Windows 7 RTAS: now installing fine.
  • RTAS version: now alaways in perfect sync with all Protools versions (also decimal tempo is now working )"

Details on the New Depeche Mode Emerge

More details emerged a few days ago about Depeche Mode's upcoming 13th album.  The album will be called "Delta Machine", which at least partially explained the controversial logo re-design.  "Delta Machine" will be released on Columbia Records on March 26th.  A single, entitled "Heaven" will precede the album in February.  A video featuring the album's second track, "Angel", was released at the end of last year with some footage of the band in the studio.

Here's the track-listing...

01 “Welcome To My World”
02 “Angel”
03 “Heaven”
04 “Secret To The End”
05 “My Little Universe”
06 “Slow”
07 “Broken”
08 “The Child Inside”
09 “Soft Touch/Raw Nerve”
10 “Should Be Higher”
11 “Alone”
12 “Soothe My Soul”
13 “Goodbye”

[via Stereogum]

Spectral Audio Neptune 2 Synth

Info at the listing...

FutureRetro Mobius Analog Step Sequencer on eBay

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Yamaha CS-10 on eBay

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Access Virus TI Desktop on eBay

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Free Sample Friday: Monotribe Beats

The weekend is almost here, and that means it's free sample time!  Today is a mini-pack of 8 drum loops I programmed on the Korg Monotribe's tiny analog drum selection.  The loops are included both as WAV files at 120 BPM, and as REX2 files, which can transpose it among a wider tempo range.


Metasonix S2000 Vacuum Tube Synth on eBay

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Moog Memorymoog Plus on eBay

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dave Smith Instruments Announces the Prophet-12

Dave Smith had hinted he'd be introducing an entirely new instrument soon, and managed to do a much better job of keeping it secret than Korg did.  Today, that new instrument, called the Prophet-12, was officially announced.

Here is the official statement:

"Dave Smith Instruments today introduced a new polyphonic synthesizer, the Prophet 12, at the 2013 NAMM Show. “After 35 years of creating synths, this is simply my best synth yet,” said Smith. “We sort of started from scratch on this one rather than spinning off another product from our previous designs.”
At twelve voices, the Prophet 12 boasts the greatest polyphony of any instrument designed by Smith. Each voice features four oscillators capable of generating classic and complex waveforms, a sub-oscillator, resonant analog low- and high-pass filters, and analog VCAs. The new Character section adds a variety of wave shaping and sound sculpting options, like Drive, Hack, Decimation, Girth, and Air. Additional features include a tuned feedback path, a four-tap stereo delay per voice, expanded arpeggiator functionality, deep modulation capabilities, and bi-timbral operation. The LFOs, delay, and arpeggiator can all be synced, either to the internal clock or an external MIDI clock. Two programmable position- and pressure-sensitive touch sliders take the performance controls beyond the standard pitch and mod wheels (also included).
“We’re already blown away by the sonic breadth of this synthesizer’s new voice architecture,” Smith continued. “It doesn’t sound like anything else and I’m very excited for people to hear it.”
The Prophet 12 is expected to be available Q2 of 2013 with a projected MAP of $2,999."

Korg Officially Announces the MS-20 Mini

Although the rumor mill and an accidental early posting on Korg's German website, we knew that Korg was likely going to be releasing a new version of their seminal MS-20 analog synth.  Today, they made it official.  The Korg MS-20 Mini is housed in more or less the same controller as the Korg MS-20 Legacy controller than initially shipped with their Legacy Collection.  What's inside is pure analog, however.  Many have complained about the mini-keys, but if that's what it takes to get me a fully analog MS-20 for $599, I think I can let that slide.  Here is the full press statement from Korg:

 "Korg's MS-20 monophonic synthesizer, first introduced in 1978, is still coveted to this day for its thick, robust sound, powerful, iconic analog filter, and versatile patching options. It has now been reborn as the new MS-20 mini. The same engineers who developed the original MS-20 have perfectly reproduced it in a body that's been shrunk to 86% of the original size, yet retains the distinctive look of the original.

The MS-20 Mini offers the same distinctive synthesis that made the original MS-20 popular: two oscillators with ring modulation, and envelope generators with delay and hold. The VCA (Voltage Controlled Amp) maintains the original basic design, but it's been modified to produce less noise. Particular attention has also been paid to delivering smooth parameter adjustments, which are a distinctive feature of analog synthesizers. Special care was also taken to completely reproduce the original specifications of the MS-20, to deliver the same powerful sound, from deep, growling basses to crisp, rounded leads.

One of the most well-known - and still most sought after - characteristics of the original MS-20 was its powerful filters, which provided both high-pass and low-pass with peak/resonance. Maximizing the peak/resonance would cause the filter to self-oscillate; producing a distinctive and dramatic tonal change that was acclaimed as inimitable, and was used many years later on Korg's monotron and monotribe. The filter circuit was changed mid-way through the production lifecycle of the MS-20; the MS-20 mini uses the earlier filter, which was felt to be superior due to its more radical sound.

The ESP (External Signal Processor) functionality carries on the experimental spirit of MS-20, allowing users to utilize the pitch or volume of an external audio source to control the synthesizer. For example, an electric guitar can be used as an input signal, and the MS-20 mini can be used as a guitar synthesizer, or the mic input can allow it to be used it as a vocal synthesizer.

The patching system enables the creation of complex sounds by allowing the rerouting of both modulation and audio (both the internal oscillators and external audio). Different combinations of the modulation input/output and trigger, sample and hold, and noise generator can produce an incredible variety of sounds. By patching according to the MS-20 flow chart printed on the panel, musicians of all levels can take advantage of these possibilities right away.

To make it even more approachable, the MS-20 mini has been shrunk to 86% of the size of the original, with meticulous care taken to accurately reproduce the knob design and the printing. The patch cables have been changed from 1/4" phone plugs to mini-plugs, and the newly-designed keyboard is 86% of the original size as well.

The MS-20 mini is equipped with a MIDI IN jack for receiving note messages, and a USB-MIDI connector that can transmit and receive note messages. Users can also connect the MS20 mini to a computer and play it from an external sequencer.

For added authenticity, the MS-20 mini packaging replicates much of the original. Also included are the original MS-20 owner's manual and settings chart.

The Korg MS-20 Mini will be available April 2013 for a U.S. Street price of $599.00 Additional product information is available at "

Depeche Mode's New Single Announced

The first single from Depeche Mode's upcoming and as of yet untitled 13th album will be called "Heaven" and will be released on February 5th.

[via SlicingUpEyeballs]

Coolest Couch Ever

The Bob Moog Foundation posted this picture of their own Marc Doty and this rather nifty couch at NAMM.  Now if they can just make a working version...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

PSP Releases Pianoverb 2

Developers PSP have announced the release of PianoVerb2, the follow-up to their highly-regarded freeware Pianoverb.  PianoVerb2 is a "resonant reverb" that uses multiple resonant filters to simulate the behavior of piano strings.  This allows everything from run-of-the-mill reverbs to unusual resonator-type effects.  The new version offers a modulation section, a high pass filter for tone-shaping, independent dry and wet controls, and more.  PianoVerb2's will regularly retail for $49, but for a limited time, you can save 20% and get it for only $39.

The Effect of Minor vs. Major Keys Illustrated Nicely

Major Scaled #2 : REM - "Recovering My Religion" from major scaled on Vimeo.

Although it's apparently been around for awhile, I first learned about MajorScaledTV's videos yesterday via this post on Gawker.  What they do is feed famous minor-key songs such as the Doors' "Riders on the Storm" and REM's "Losing My Religion" and change them to major keys, presumably making use of Celemony's mind-blowing Melodyne software.  If you're familiar with the original material, the effect is quite unsettling.  And it illustrates very well the difference it makes whether a song is in a minor or major key.  It really is integral to how a song is able to manipulate our emotions, especially in conjunction with the mood of the lyrics.

Do You Know Anything About Techno?

If so, could you clue this guy in?

Korg Poly-61 on eBay

Info at the listing...

Triadex Muse on eBay

Info at the listing...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Moog and Korg Surprise With New Analog Synths

Over the years, many musicians, perhaps unfairly, tended to dub the winter NAMM show as "the boring one".  Indeed, it seems as if many manufacturers have chosen to unveil their latest and greatest products at summer NAMM, while leaking out controllers, digital pianos, and (generally) less exciting stuff at the winter show.  That certainly doesn't seem to be the case this year, however.

First up is the Moog Sub Phatty, the company's first new synth after Dr. Moog's passing.  It'll go for around $1,100.  Here's a look at the specs:

·      Sound Engine: Analog
·      Number of Keys: 25
·      Type of Keys: Semi-Weighted
·      Other Controllers: Pitch Bend, Mod Wheel
·      Polyphony: Monophonic
·      Sound Sources: 2 Variable Waveshape Oscillators, 1 Square Wave Sub Oscillator, 1 Noise Generator
·      Oscillator Calibration Range: 22Hz-6.8KHz.Guaranteed note range at 8’ of Note 18 to 116
·      Mod Sources: Triangle, Square, Saw, Ramp, SH, Filter Envelope
·      Mod Destinations: Pitch, Osc 2 Pitch Only, Filter, Waveshape
·      Filter: Moog Ladder Filter 20Hz-20Khz
·      Audio Input: 1xTS
·      Audio Output: 1xTS, 1xTRS Headphone
·      Presets: 4 Banks, 4 Patches Per Bank
·      MIDI I/O: DIN In, Out, and MIDI over USB
·      CV/Gate Inputs: Filter CV, Pitch CV, Volume CV, KB Gate
·      Transposition: +/- 2 Octaves
·      LFO: 0.1Hz-100Hz


·      Filter Velocity Sensitivity
·      Volume Velocity Sensitivity
·      Ext. Audio Level
·      Osc2 Beat Frequency
·      VCO Gate Reset
·      LFO Gate Reset
·      Pitch Bend Up Amount
·      Pitch Bend Down Amount
·      Glide Legato
·      Glide Type
·      Filter Poles
·      Wave Mod. Destination
·      LFO KB Tracking
·      LFO Range
·      Filter EG Reset
·      Amp EG Reset
·      Legato
·      Gate On/Ext.
·      MIDI Ch. In
·      MIDI Ch. Out
·      Local Control
·      14-Bit MIDI Output
·      MIDI Path In
·      MIDI Path Out
·      MIDI Merge DIN
·      MIDI Merge USB
Korg's offering, is apparently in the form of a miniaturized re-vamp of their heralded MS-20.  As I am writing this, an official statement hasn't been released, but the re-released MS-20 is rumored to come in a smaller form factor (with mini keys), MIDI, and MIDI over USB.  Aside from that, however, it is supposed to be completely analog and, perhaps most surprisingly, the rumored price is only around $800.  If all of this proves to be true, I think Korg will have an enormous hit on their hands.