Mooer Groove Loop X2: Stereo looper pedal with drum machine

Mooer Groove Loop X2 stereo looper pedal with drum machineMooer has just launched the new Groove Loop X2 stereo looper pedal. The pedal features an onboard drum machine, so you can play against a beat. There are 121 drum grooves that can be synced to the looped audio, making practise a lot less of a chore.

Mooer Groove Loop X2

The new Groove Loop X2 stereo looper from Mooer has 14 save slots, each of which can store up to 10 minutes of audio. Then you have those 121 drum grooves that can be synced to your looped audio, so practising will be a lot more fun. There are 11 different musical styles on offer here, which you can select using the Genre and Pattern controls on the pedal.

Mooer Groove Loop X2

Mooer Groove Loop X2

Three Looping Modes

You also have access to three different looping modes. These include the Normal mode, a Count-in mode that you can toggle on or off, and finally, an Automatic mode. The latter mode automatically starts looping as soon as a guitar signal is detected.

The Time Stretch function enables players to alter the speed of their loop’s playback, without affecting the original pitch. It’s a neat feature that you can really get creative and experimental with. There’s also a Tap Tempo that you can use to set the tempo manually. And when not, the pedal will detect the tempo automatically while you are playing.

Mooer Groove Loop X2

The looper features an onboard drum machine, time stretch and tap tempo

Stereo Operation

You also get stereo inputs, along with the ability to split the looper and onboard drum machine to separate stereo outputs. This could be great for live work, especially if you want to send your drums to their own PA/mixer channel or separate amp setup.

The pedal supports editor software for exporting/importing audio files, which should make life a lot easier. You can download the free editor software directly from mooeraudio.com.

You can see the new Mooer Groove Loop X2 in action in the demo videos below. It certainly packs in the features and, if the price is right, it should sell pretty well.

RRP – TBC

More Information on Mooer

Mooer Groove Loop X2 Demo Videos

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Wavegrove Maji: transformer plug-in saturates and compresses using physics

Wavegrove MajiWavegrove is taking the path that smaller developers are taking increasingly often: instead of selling their products via their own website (which is an ongoing investment), they sell them on Gumroad and Patreon. That certainly makes things a lot easier and frees up more resources for development. Maji is a new plug-in from the up-and-coming manufacturer that combines saturator, compressor, and EQ in a great-sounding way.

Wavegrove Maji

According to Wavegrove, the plug-in is based on principles derived from the laws of physics. It’s not like the same doesn’t apply towards most hardware-inspired plug-ins, anyway. But yeah, physics! Maji works like a kind of transformer that is “pushed” beyond its natural limit, so to say. This creates a natural type of compression that you cannot hone with parameters like attack and release. There are two additional controls, however, to let you determine how the effect of compression and simultaneous transformer saturation behaves.

You can regulate the compression amount with Strain, and the harmonics added by the saturation with Grain. A bias control is also provided, changing up the harmonic overtones by the power of sheer cyber-electricity.

Additionally, there are two EQ controls to let you edit bass and treble. The treble control should be adept at adding soft highs or eliminating harsh frequencies and at the same time providing a little more “air”.

You will also find a controller for output gain , and the delta button is used to adjust the input and output volume even more precisely . And then there is a bypass switch and a button that you can use to switch oversampling from 4 to 16 times.

Price and availability

Wavegrove Maji works in VST, VST3 and Audio Unit formats under Windows and macOS. You can get the plug-in from Gumroad for a tenner (USD 10), or subscribe for a Patreon membership.

More information about Wavegrove

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First Look Review: Akai MPC Studio and MPC Desktop production system

First Look Review AKAI MPC StudioAlmost 10 years ago, Akai presented the MPC Studio, a very compact USB and MIDI controller with accompanying software. At the time, this MPC generated positive feedback but also some critical voices. The famed Japanese manufacturer has just released a completely new model at a surprisingly low price. Will the new MPC Studio blow us away this time? We had the opportunity to build a few beats with it before its release – here’s what we found.

Akai MPC Studio

First off, let me be clear that the MPC Studio is new territory for me. I haven’t used any of the recent products in this series. But me and the MPC have history! I’ve been an enthusiastic owner of an MPC 2000 XL for years, I consider an integral part of my studio set-up. I haven’t yet been “pulled in” by the newer standalone models and the combinations of controller and software, on the other hand. So this review was a great opportunity to get a taste of the modern MPC world.

AKAI MPC Studio

The AKAI MPC Studio

Controller

This is a USB controller that’s also equipped with MIDI connections (one out, one in) in TRS format. The hardware is just 33 cm wide, 17 cm deep and less than 3 cm high, (13″ by 6.6″ by just over 1″). As small and light as this controller is, the workmanship makes a good, solid impression. The MPC Studio definitely fits in any backpack, making for an eminently portable tool for beat makers.

Compared to the ten-year-old version, this new black model looks more elegant and tidier. There are a few changes. The Q-link controls have disappeared, instead you get a touch strip flanked by an LED display. Equally obvious is the reduction in the size of the display. This shows you the parameters you are currently editing but I feel that it’s so tiny that it simply won’t be enough for many future users. To be honest, Akai could just as well have done without the display altogether.

The display on the MPC Studio is really tiny

The display on the MPC Studio is really tiny

The 16 velocity-sensitive pads with RGB lighting at the edges have been retained, of couse. These also offer aftertouch and are modelled on the pads of the MPC X. You can use them not only to play beats, but also melodies and chords. For a faster workflow, there are pad bank buttons on the left side. This way you can quickly switch between different pad assignments, controlling up to eight banks. Switching is done with a double tap on the corresponding button.

Akai MPC Studio Pads

The 16 pads feature LED lighting round the edges

The right side (beyond the pads) is dedicated to menu navigation and the transport functions of the associated software, which offers the functional range of a DAW. Akai has kept the rotary and push encoders for parameter input. Nice!

By the way, the MPC Studio doesn’t have an integrated audio interface. Akai assumes that you already have one or that you are satisfied with the laptop’s headphone jack for listening on the road. If you’re looking to pick up an interface, check out our recent overview of the best interfaces under €200.

Rear panel AKAI MPC Studio

Akai MPC Studio rear panel

MPC2 Desktop Software

MPC Studio only works in combination with the corresponding software, available for both Windows and macOS. The version number I had for this review was 2.10. Shortly I finished this review, a new update appeared. Using the MPC2 software as a plug-in under Ableton Live didn’t work for me, maybe this was fixed in the new update. Unfortunately, I was not able to try this out.

In any case, the software provides you with most of the functions of a DAW and also includes some effects and virtual instruments. External plug-ins in VST and AU format are also available. An integral part is, of course, the extensive possibilities to arrange, sequence and mix tracks.

MPC Studio provides you with a complete package to create entire tracks without additional hardware or software – apart from the computer and an audio interface, of course. And even the latter you could – theoretically – do without when you’re on the road. The computer’s headphone output might be enough for you in that scenario. An audio interface will give you multiple inputs and outputs.

Learning curve

The software’s many functions also mean that the MPC Studio is very complex compared to the “good old” MPCs because of the possibilities it offers. And that certainly requires a certain amount of familiarisation and a learning curve. I can’t help but compare the MPC Studio to the classic models, that were designed for simplicity. You could figure out the concept in no time, and start having fun with it quickly. I miss this aspect here, because first you have to get to grips with the software and the interaction with the controller. I found this to be a hurdle. In fact, I had to do a lot of trial and error as well as reading up. At some moments I found the software not particularly intuitive.

Having said that, you do get off to a stress-free start here. Download the software, install, connect the controller via the included USB cable and everything is ready to go. Then when you launch the app, you’re confronted with a somewhat confusing interface. At first, even simple things like finding a sample via the integrated browser and loading it onto a pad were a bit annoying.

MPC Studio offers you different views that you have to switch between frequently. So when you start out with the MPC Studui, you may feel a bit lost. And newcomers to music production on a computer will probably find all this challenging. The many options probably don’t allow for a GUI that’s overly simple, but I still think that the interface could be a little more elegant in some places.

Possibilities without end

But in spite of this criticism, you will eventually find your way around more quickly and you’ll develop your own flow. And as I said, the possibilities are immense, rewarding your efforts. And you discover more and more details that are genuinely great and heaps of fun to use.

For example, you can play the pads with different scales or directly fire off use them to fire off suitable chords. You can also integrate external hardware easily via MIDI and control it via MIDI CC. The audio track recorded via the interface ran directly in sync with the arrangement without a hitch. Effects can be placed as chains on pads and tracks or integrated via send and return.

The included FX, filters and virtual instruments offer good sound quality and can be expanded at any time with VST and audio unit modules. Popular features such as 16 levels, groove, swing or quantize are provided by the MPC2 Desktop. And compared to the old-school models, a lot of what’s going on is much more sophisticated. The arrangement, for example, can be edited in much more detail.

I could go on here, but we’re not doing an exhaustive test of every function. Suffice to say, working with the MPC Studio will lead you to your own favourite functions.

Conclusion

The new MPC Studio has a pleasing, compact design, a tidy layout and solid workmanship. Most people will be able to do without the built-in display because it is simply too small for practical use. The accompanying software offers an enormous range of functions that can hold its own against most DAWs. The combination of hardware and software requires some training and a little patience. But once you’re prepared, you can do a lot with this small, powerful package. Considering the price, you get a very comprehensive all-in-one solution for (mobile) music production.

Akai MPC Studio is available now and costs €299 at retailers, including our affiliate partner Thomann.

This review was written by Dirk B, a regular contributor at the gearnews.de team.

More about AKAI and the MPC Studio

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Acustica Audio Silver: Acustica presents its take on convolution reverb

Acustica Audio SilverMost of Acustica’s plug-ins are based on impulse responses, so it was only a matter of time until the developer would venture into the world of reverb. It’s taken Acustica surprisingly long, but now they’ve introduced Silver, the company’s first dedicated reverb plug-in. Yes, it’s a convolution reverb, but it comes with a twist that Acustica calls “dynamic convolution”.

Acustica Audio Silver

Convolution reverbs are the current state of technology when it comes to imitating real-world spaces. But Acustica says that most IR-based reverbs sound static and lack dimension. Building on the experience they gained while developing Sienna, Acustica claims that they’ve come up with a solution, which they’ve named “dynamic convolution”. This involves digital sound processing and artificial intelligence.

Silver includes a so-called Perfection Control section, which helps to correct the sampled space by eliminating problems that stem from the geometry of the room, Acustica says. It’s like an EQ that works on every reflection. There’s a slider for mixing the original impulse response with an “ideal” one, which lets you fine-tune the reverb and gives you more flexibility.

Acustica claims that they’ve also improved upon the way in which changes of the length of the reverb tail are handled. The manufacturer says that Silver lets you modify the tail of the reverb at will, without distorting the first reflections like many other convolution reverbs.

Acustica Audio Silver

Acustica Audio Silver Mini

Three free players

Silver has another thing in common with Sienna. The plug-in suite consists of three different players (Silver, Silver Mini, Silver Lite), which are essentially just different GUIs for the same engine with a few differences in the controls. The players themselves are actually free and include four different emulated physical spaces by default. Along with the Silver plug-ins, Acustica has now released Silver Volume A, the first of what will presumably be a series of expansion packs that you’ll be able to purchase. Silver Volume A contains 77 physical spaces ranging from clubs to churches to opera houses and theaters to studios and scoring stages. More expansions are coming soon, Acustica says.

Price and compatibility

The three Silver players are now available for free via the Acustica website. You’ll need Acustica’s Aquarius application to download and install them.

Silver Volume A is now available at an introductory discount. During the first four weeks, the expansion pack costs €119 (down from €159).

The Silver plug-ins run on Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.14 or higher in VST, AU and AAXformats.

More information

Video

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Deal: Overloud’s new Gem Mod plug-in is free for a week

Overloud Gem ModOverloud has released Gem Mod, an emulation of the famous Roland Dimension-D chorus effect from the 80s. And you can get it for free: During the first week, Overloud is giving away 1000 free licenses per day.

Overloud Gem Mod

The latest plug-in of the Overloud Gem series emulates the classic Roland Dimension-D hardware chorus effect, a studio staple of the 1980s. Famous for its rich and musical sound, the Dimension-D is a favorite for vocals, guitar and even full mixes. And now you can add it to your plug-in arsenal thanks to Overloud’s emulation.

The developer hasn’t stopped there, though. The original only offered a handful of buttons for choosing various presets, which have been faithfully modeled, including pressing combinations of buttons. In addition to this, the Gem Mod plug-in offers plenty of controls to play with and fine-tune the effect to your liking. You can adjust the speed, depth, shape and amount of modulation and sync the LFO to the tempo of your track. All parameters can be controlled by input envelopes, which means that the effect can react to the input signal.

Overloud has also added an input saturation stage for generating extra harmonics. And there’s a mix control to blend in as much of the effect signal as you like.

Get Overloud Gem Mod for free

And here’s the best news yet: During the first week, you can get the Gem Mod plug-in for free. The company is giving away a maximum of 1000 free licenses per day until September 27, 2021. After that, the price will increase to USD 99. All you need to do to secure yourself a free copy is create a user account on the Overloud website (if you don’t already have one), and click “download for free”.

System requirements

The plug-in runs on macOS (Apple Silicon supported) and Windows in VST3, AU and AAX formats.

More information

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Flowsonics Intercosm: A creative and affordable shimmer reverb plug-in

Flowsonics IntercosmAlthough fairly new to the plug-in business, Flowsonics has introduced its second plug-in, Intercosm. After Graindrop, Flowsonics goes to other realms – shimmer reverb.

Flowsonics Intercosm

Intercosm starts with the signal passing through a granular pitch shifter that’s then fed into an algorithmic reverb. Processed there, the signal is fed back into the pitch shifter. Alternatively, you can send the output of the pitch shifter back in itself. In the feedback section, you can switch between pre and post modes. The pitch shifter itself can also be operated in three modes (single, inverse, solo). So you can see that there are plenty of sound design options.

But there is more. You can tune the sound up to two octaves up or down and use the gain control to adjust the volume. Because there is a granular engine in here, you get interesting creative options. You will also find a reverse mode that either plays the grains, the incoming signal, or the output in reverse.

The FDN Reverb (FDN stands for Feedback Delay Network) with eight delay lines provides controls for size, decay, damping, and modulation. The output section lets you adjust the pre-delay and use the Mix blend to set the ratio between dry and effect signal. In addition, a high and low pass filter are available.

All the parameters can be automated in the DAW and synchronization with host tempo is also provided. 13 presets are included in advance, the user interface is scalable, and the price seems quite right.

Flowsonics Intercosm – Price and availability

Flowsonics Intercosm works in VST and AU formats under macOS (10.12 or newer) and Windows 10. You can download a limited free demo version from the manufacturer’s website. For a short time, the plug-in will cost USD 19 instead of the regular USD 30.

More information

Video

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Deal: Get Image Line FL Studio at up to 30% off until September ends

Image Line FL StudioDAW and plug-in maker Image Line has reduced the sales price of FL Studio by a whopping 30 percent. The offer comes as part of Superbooth 21 and could nudge you in the direction of buying (especially if you’re on the fence). FL Studio is used by countless producers worldwide, both well-known and at the hobby and enthusiast-level. On the developer’s website, you can see some of the popular hits which were created with this software.

Image Line FL Studio offer

During Superbooth 2021, Image Line would like to sweeten the deal for interested music producers. The latest FL Studio version (20.8.4) is now also natively compatible with the Apple M1 processor. In addition to improvements and bug fixes, it brought aboard a frequency shifter, video scrubbing, and other features.

Prices and dates for the Image Line FL Studio Deal

Image Line FL Studio is now available in full version and upgrade forms from Image Line website at discounts reaching 30% off. All you have to do is enter the coupon code “SUPERBOOTH21” at checkout. The offer ends September 30, 2021 so you better wake up before September ends rather than ‘when’ (unlike those Green Day dudes). Anyway, FL Studio runs under macOS 10.13.6 or later and Windows 8.1 or later. You get lifelong free updates for the DAW, a benefit that’s mostly unique to FL Studio. A limited demo version and a number of tutorial videos can also be found on the website.

More information

FL Studio – Video

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Best free plug-ins this week: Room041, LibreArp and FSUMpeg

Best free plug-ins this weekThis week was all about Superbooth. But let’s not forget about our weekly collection of free plug-ins! We’ve got a beautiful reverb, an inspiring pattern arpeggiator and a lo-fi plug-in that takes you back to the digital stone age. Here’s Room041, LibreArp and FSUMpeg.

You’ll find many more free plug-ins in our archives.

Analog Obsession Room041

Analog Obsession Room041Analog Obsession, a long-time regular of our weekly freeware section, has released its first reverb plug-in. The developer says that Room041 isn’t modeled after any particular hardware unit, and that it can also do plate reverb effects. The plug-in offers a preamp section with a +24 dB drive and a high pass filter (20-100 Hz), a reverb section with stereo separation, pre-delay and decay (up to six seconds) and a post EQ with two bands for shaping the reverb tail. Of course, you can also control the dry/wet mix.

Room041 is available for Windows and macOS in VST, VST3 and AU formats.

Get Room041 here

LibreArp

LibreArpLibreArp is a free open-source project developed by the LibreArp contributors. It’s a very useful MIDI effect that generates pattern-based arpeggios. You can play chords via the MIDI input on your keyboard or controller, and the plug-in will send the resulting arpeggio to the synth of your choice. For editing patterns, LibreArp boasts a neat piano-roll interface, which is easy to use and very visual. You can save user patterns and export and import arpeggios. Very cool!

LibreArp is available for macOS, Linux and Windows in VST3 and LV2 formats (64 bit).

Get LibreArp here

Cybergrunge FSUMpeg

Cybergrunge FSUMpegThis is a digital lo-fi plug-in, but the developer is quick to point out that it’s not another bit crusher. Instead, FSUMpeg emulates the sound of highly compressed, low-quality audio filters formats like low-res MP3s, cellphone voicemail compression and early 90s voice recorders. They even threw in two ring modulators to make it sound “extra sh*tty”. If you’ve ever wished for a plug-in that helps you to relive the years you spent downloading MP3s from Napster, this is the one.

FSUMpeg is a VST plug-in for Windows.

Get FSUMpeg here

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How to choose a hardware sequencer

Korg Arp OdysseySo, you’re thinking of going Dawless and are considering a hardware sequencer. What are the options and what could they bring to the sequencing table?

Sequencers tend to come in two forms. Firstly there’s the MIDI sequencer which mostly deals in the familiar musical territory of notes and arrangements, and secondly, there’s the analogue sequencer that trades in voltages, gates and patterns. They are often conveniently found in the same piece of hardware but can be used very differently. One of the first questions to ask yourself is what am I sequencing? Do you have MIDI-enabled synths and sound modules that you want to run from a central hub or is your desk full of synths with CV and Gate inputs that are looking for a machine to take them over?

Korg ARP 2600 mini SQ-64 sequencer

Korg ARP 2600 mini and SQ-64 sequencer!

If purely MIDI sequencing is your thing then really the computer-based DAW is by far the easiest and most fully-featured solution but once you start to introduce the odd synth that wants CV then spilling out of the computer box into a standalone box starts to get really interesting. What’s really fun is that there’s no proper way of doing this or a correct solution that’s going to replace your laptop. Instead, we have all sorts of possibilities that bring different strengths and ideas to what can become a bit of a journey.

In this article, I’m going to bring together a bunch of possible products that offer a range of sequencing opportunities that will hopefully inspire you into making a good choice. Some will be standalone, some will be Eurorack based but with a little modular skiff, they can be standalone as well. I’m going to assume that, like many of us, you probably want a bit of MIDI and a bit of CV to cover all the bases. We’re deliberately avoiding all-in-one groove boxes or synths with built-in sequencers, this is about pure sequencing.

Simple Sequencers

At the most basic level, a simple row of looping notes can leave you free to explore the sounds and scope of your synthesizer. But a simple sequence can often bring a surprising amount of versatility and be great fun when performing. If you want to make things more complex then you can always add another one and sync them together.

Single track sequencers appear most commonly in Eurorack. There are deliciously simple ones like the 8-step Pittsburgh Modular Micro Sequence or the 16-step Erica Synths Pico SEQ or 2HP Seq. There are the classic random musings of the Music Thing Turing Machine or the 12-notes of Tenderfoot Lattice that can spin off into 3 or 4 note loopings. But my current favourite is the 8-Step from Wavefonix. It has a classic look coupled with the simple interface of 8 knobs to define the pitch. Each step has a switch that turns it on, skips it or resets the sequence back to the beginning. These simple features let you fiddle about with your sequence in a performance to generate dynamic and evolving sequences. It’s fun and intuitive although it follows no musical scales and so a Quantizer is a useful companion.

Outside of Eurorack the Arturia Keystep and Keystep 37 offer a simple and effective sequencer with both MIDI and CV connections. It’s not really about entering or editing individual notes, although you can do that, it’s about hitting record and playing in a sequence using the keyboard. Very quickly you have musical things going on that you can transpose or overdub, or pause while you play notes over the top. The Keystep is the most instantly useful thing I own for getting something going.

Arturia KeyStep 37

Arturia KeyStep 37

As a standalone basic hardware sequencer it’s hard to beat the Korg SQ-1. While strictly speaking it has 2 channels of 8-steps it’s so easy and useful that it belongs in the first category of simple sequencers. Both channels A and B have their own CV and Gate outputs letting you control two different sound sources and there are multiple modes that affect how these channels relate to each other. The 8 buttons for each sequence let you skip around, mute notes and jump into different timings for some excellent performance possibilities.

Korg Arp Odyssey Module with SQ-1 sequencer

Korg Arp Odyssey Module with SQ-1 sequencer

Complex single track

As I started writing about single track sequencers I realised that there are some that have deep functionality and yet still only produce a single note at a time.

The ones that spring immediately to mind are the RYK M185 and the Intellijel Metropolix that are based on the same concept. Both follow the idea that each step can have up to 8 pulses which are governed by pattern switches that give them a different gate configuration. You find yourself being able to generate complex sequences of varying lengths that respond really well to experimentation. Both the M185 and Metropolix have a lot more going on with modulation, splitting tracks into two, slide and MIDI.

RYK M185

RYK M185

For a complex and interesting 8-step standalone sequencer look no further than the 0-Ctrl from Make Noise. Along with 8-steps of pitch, you get strength and timelines, voltage control over direction and pressure and touch gate outputs for expression and triggering events. It’s a very playable sequencer that loves to be interacted with and has a habit of doing surprising things to your synths.

Make Noise 0-CTRL

Make Noise 0-CTRL

Multitrack sequencing

When you want to start writing songs and tracks with your synths and modular then you’re going to need more than a single sequence. 4-tracks of sequencing seems to have become the sweet spot for crafting enough melody as the bedrock of your performance and for that you’ve got several options.

But first, let’s start with a 3-channel analogue sequencer from Analogue Solutions. It’s called Generator and it lays it all out in front of you with these marvellous rows of 16 knobs. While you can use it as a 3 track sequencer it also encourages you to consider sequencing your modulations and rolling a channel into your filter. It has a row of touch plates designed to enable easy transposition or to reset sequences or to simply output CV. It has an innovative pattern system that interactively changes the arrangement of gates for instant variations. It’s a really nice sequencer to play with.

Analogue Solutions Generator

Analogue Solutions Generator

The Black Sequencer from Erica Synths is a mighty chunk of Eurorack sequencing. It can handle 4 channels of CV/Gate but these can also be transformed into all sorts of modulation and CV generating tracks. The 16 encoders are wonderfully clicky and let you twist in sequences really quickly and also act as an interface for many other functions. There are a load of randomisation options, probability, gate lengths and pattern generation, quantization, time divisions and modulators. It can run your whole rack while digging into MIDI in both directions. The song mode lets you chain dozens of patterns or you can seamlessly move from one pattern to another in performance mode.

Erica Synths Black Sequencer

Erica Synths Black Sequencer

For a standalone sequencer, Korg has gone for a deliciously sleek and stylish look with the SQ-64. It fits very neatly in front of your modular or any other synth and offers 4 tracks of CV or MIDI sequencing. Each step is represented by a button and you can show all 64 steps of one track across the front panel or banks of 16 steps for all 4 channels at once. Seeing it in action with all those lights running through the steps is simply fabulous. Each track can have its own timing, direction and movement and you can dial in different randomisations, loops and repeats while quickly taking out tracks and dropping them back in. The 4th channel deals with trigger outputs giving you a dedicated drum machine with 8 outputs on CV or 16 over MIDI. You have a lot of per-step functionality in terms of modulation and probability and the buttons can convert into a keyboard for note entry. While it doesn’t have a knob for each step it has an elegant and fast-moving workflow.

Korg SQ-64

Korg SQ-64

While the Arturia Keystep offers a fast way to set something going the Keystep Pro brings everything else to turn your sequences into a full-blown track. The keyboard makes everything immediately musical and while not everyone wants to be pushed into a piano paradigm it can be enormously helpful to people who do. You have 4 sequencer tracks that can be directed to synths, modulation or drums although there’s only one set of CV trigger outputs. There are a lot of performance controls with rolls, transpositions and randomisation. It has the weight and presence of a proper instrument that feels at home with analogue and MIDI gear and is very accessible.

Arturia KeyStep Pro

Arturia KeyStep Pro

Choice

The choices we have are amazing and there are many more than we have touched on here. Through the use of sync and reset or MIDI sync there’s no reason why you can’t chain different sequencers together depending on what your needs are and how they grow. Standalone sequencers have the advantage of being portable and ready for action in any situation but Eurorack based ones tend to bring an experimental edge and expect to be infected with CV from other sources. You have to think about the space, the cost and also the workflow. You’ll find them a very different experience to using your computer, there’s nothing quite like interacting with the knobs and buttons of a machine with your fingers rather than through a mouse. Although many of them have USB or MIDI connections so you don’t actually have to go fully Dawless unless you want to.

Videos

 

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Bespoke Synth: A modular DAW for jamming and exploration

Bespoke SynthBespoke is an alarmingly blank void that quickly becomes a bewildering adventure in audio and CV connections, modular sound design and complexity.

Bespoke Synth

It’s not a DAW in the way we usually understand that word but it’s certainly software designed for music production. It’s one of those bits of software that looks nerdy, complex and probably impenetrable to non-programmers – but it doesn’t have to be. Developer Ryan Challinor says Bespoke is a bit like smashing Ableton Live to bits with a baseball bat and then asking you to put it back together. So, Ryan has taken all the elements and concepts found in music software and broken them down into modules which you can then patch together in familiar or new ways. The idea is that you can essentially create a “bespoke” layout that works for you – clever.

Most obviously it comes across as a modular synthesizer like Audulous or Reaktor. A place for patching together synthesis and sequences and it has over 190 modules to let you do that. But it can also be a live looper, a complex sequencer, it can host VST instruments and plugins, it can be a MIDI controller performance platform, and it can be a place for livecoding python (told you it was nerdy) and many more things besides.

Ryan developed it for himself and his own workflow but is opening it up to anyone who wants to give the blank void of Bespoke Synth a go. It can be a bit daunting because you have very little to go on when you run the software. You have to begin by exploring and experimenting. There are a couple of example projects you can load but they don’t tell you a whole lot. Also, all the building blocks are not there or at least not in a familiar way. I just spend half an hour trying to find a filter only to discover it’s there as part of the oscillator, so it’s not necessarily going to follow the rules you expect it to.

It looks fabulously mad and spacey though. I love how the patch cables animate with the signals that are passing through them. It’s both baffling and exciting and full of all sorts of potential if you can get your mind around it. Your best bet is to watch Benn Jordan’s video on it below!

Bespoke Synth is open source and completely free if you want to use it although the website encourages you to pay a few dollars to help out with the costs but it’s the same version regardless. You should definitely give it a go.

More information on Bespoke Synth

Video

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