Hartmann Neuron – demo

A video from the taylor12k youtube channel.
I’ve used the little vst version Neuron Nuke and I can say it’s an amazing synth…

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Midi interface for Nintendo Gameboy

This is a really interesting interface to control your Nintendo Gameboy thru midi from your favourite midisequencer or keyboard.
This interface can work even as a sync to midi.
Visit the Firestarter site !

This is a guide to Do It Yourself!

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Akai MPC 500 – review

Akai MPC 500

 

Akai is famous for their tradition in making samplers and recording machines.
The MPC500 is one of the last sampler produced in a world ruled by softsamplers, let’s understand why…
The MPC series is a sampler and sequencer combo that made history.
The MPC60 (the first MPC ever!) was the evolution of the sampling drum machine LINN 9000, a really revolution in the drum machine contest in the 80s.
The MPC concept is basicly a drum/percussion sampler with a powerful midi sequencer inside a box with sensitive touch pads.
That combination seems like a little rhythm making studio in a box, because you ‘re not limited to standard drum sounds but you can sample your own sounds and use it in combination with the sequencer to create a composition that’s something more than a rhythm.
After the 60 came the 3000 that offered more memory and some adds like easy scsi storage, than the 2000 that enhanced the possibilities of the machine with graphic editing and the 2000xl with multi timbral and melodic capabilities.
The top of the line during the 2000xl period was the MPC4000 , a large MPC that used the Z4/Z8 sampling engine (a standard sampler , not geared only towards beat making) with a big sequencer, control surface…

After the the 2000xl and 4000 Akai started a third generation MPCs: the 1000 and than the 500 , 2500 and now the 5000.
The new mpcs have a new dimensions that’s to compensate softsampler limits and the stability, they take the mpc concept a step ahead , to create somenthing that does not compete with softwares but that can be used with sw and workhorse for live duty.

The MPC 500 is the lighter and cheaper model of the serie, it lacks some interesting features of its bigger bros but has some winning points!
First It’s important to say what the 500 miss:

  • graphic editing of the samples
  • the sequencer has 48 midi tracks instead of 64
  • 12 pads instead of 16
  • no individual  outs
  • the volume of outs in this machine is lower than the others MPC.
  • the rubber sensitive pads are harder to on the touch, it seems you have to push them harder to get velocity 127!

The graphic editing is important on machine like this if you want to use it as a standalone production tool, but it has usb, and CF card for storage so you can edit and load or save your samples on your computer and it’s a fast operation, no sds midi dumps or scsi connections…

The sequencer has 48 tracks instead of 64… well 48 tracks for pattern are a lot, I don’t feel like missing the 64tracks using the MPC500…

12 pads instead of 16… well it maybe a limitation but I find useful instead!
When I use tuned samples 12 pads are like 1 octv keyboard, so I use to samples one sound for octv and then with 4 samples I can play a 4 oct sound without the feeling of loosing the “reality” of the sound, because 1 sample does not stretch too much.
And using the 12 levels the sample has 1 octv play!

The 500 has only the stereo out, and this is a limitation if you want to do record a bunch oof tracks at the same time, but if this is not your need the absence of the multi outs is not a bad miss.

One important aspect of this machine is the particular “low” volume output.
In a A-B test with the MPC2000xl the 500 outputs half the volume of the 2000 with an headroom set not to have distortion or degradation of the sound.
I think at AKAI designed this machine as a battery operated , so to let the batterys last longer they reduced the amplification consumption, leading to a lower volume.
I ‘m honest, this is one of the things I don’t really like in the 500, because this aspect influences the sound, annd if you want a “clean” sound you have not to push the headroom to 0dB and stay calm with the mixer section.
The more you try to pump the sound from the internal volumes, the more it sound harsh or with a light distortion on higher frequencies.
But if the volume are set in the right way (70/80 on the mixer, and a headroom of minimum 6dB) everything works very well, the sound is clean and punchy.
The only way to get the 500 pump louder is to rise the volume on your mixer or use a preamp/compressor.

The sensibility of the pads is another downfall of the 500.
They have a particular curve that can be tricky to manage at first.
To get a velocity value 127 you have to thump really hard, so my use of the velocity with the pads is quite limited…
I usually tend to switch velocity to 100% and play the main rhythm (kick and snare ) then I switch velocity on and start playng with the note repeat in order to make a quantised rhythm with velocity movements.
The other alternative is to record every track with velo at 100% and then edit the velocity using the slider in realtime.

Apart from these points  the 500 has some major  strenghts!

  • It’s superportable, superslim!
  • Battery powered
  • USB connectivity and CF card drive
  • A SUPERB timing!
  • A great sequencer that can control the onboard sampler together with other midi devices
  • It’s really easy to use
  • onboard effects are ok
  • can work as a multitimbral sound generator with /without using its own sequencer.
  • Multimode filters are good and are realtime effective (not on the previous models)
  • Sounds really good (if you don’t push your headroom to 0 dB!)

The sampler engine is complete with even resampling and easy editing.
The sound engine is well thought and has indipendent multimode filters , AD envelope, two efx with send/insert, mute groups…
The 12 levels (to play the sample chromatically) works as on the previous models, and the interesting aspect is that every motion recorded is realtime and fluid.
All in all this little machine has many strong features and some minor letdown (the hard sensitive pads and the “not so high” volume) but can be really useful to many task in every kind of music, and could be the portastudio for hip hop & R’n’B producers who want to compose in the park or in the subway…

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Plan B Model 10 – Polyphonic Envelope

Plan B Model 10

The PlanB model 10 is a multifunctional module, not only a simple envelope.
The name “polyphonic envelope” does not describe the functions of this great module, the reason why they called it “polyphonic” is because it can output 4 different type of voltage “envelope” at the same time.
In fact the M10 is way more versatile than an envelope, this is really similar to the Bananalogue VCS module, a multitask voltage controlled cv generator .

The main task is the ENVELOPE.
The envelope consist of an AD env with RISE (0.5 ms-5 min attack)and FALL (0.5 ms – 5 min decay/release) controlled not by gate signals but by Triggers.
The attack and decay time can stretched x8 times their duration with the TIMEBASE control knob (so the complete envelope can last from 0.5 milliseconds to 20 minutes).
You can stretch the time manually just turning the knob or controlling it with the VC TB (voltage control timebase).
The VC TB can act in positive or negative, so it can add or subtract.
Than there is the level of the env, which is bipolar too , so it can act as a positive or inverted envelope.
On the left there are the 5 connectors for the 4 different envelopes generated:

  • EOC
  • EOA
  • RAMP
  • 2x AD (with ad contour switch)

The AD acts as the classic “trig” envelope, with 3 different contour (log, lin, exp).
The RAMP is a ramp with rise time 2x the RISE control time.
The EOA is a sustained square which falls when receive a trig and performs the AD cycle  at the “End Of Attack”.
The EOC acts as the EOA but the AD starts at the End Of Contour.

LFO MODE

The rise-fall cycle can be looped and can also work as an lfo.
Using the rise and fall it can produce various waveform between the tri, square, saw, ramp…
The interesting thing is that the timebase knob can control the time of the lfo, so it a vc lfo, the other thing that can lead to creative results is the fact that the rate of the lfo is not controlled by the timebase only, but it ’s a mix of the rise and fall time.
So the shorter is the R&F the faster will be the lfo rate.

VCO MODE

The third interesting mode is the vco function.
The module has a  triangle-core , so it can sound useful even as a vco.
To get the vco mode  you have to switch into LFO and use fast R&F time and “tune” the oscillator with the timebase function and VC TB to control it with a keyboard cv.
It does not reach very high frequencies but can be used on the low and mid range as an audio modulator or a audio source.

TIPS:
I noticed two useful tips:

  • As the core is a TRI-core the envelope create a sort of clip when, reached the max value,start the fall.
    To avoid the clip it’s useful to use a lowpass filter post the VCA.
  • In LFO mode don’t connect any source to the trig in because the summing of the two sources can damage the module , too high voltage!

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www.synthvibrations.com is online!!!

This site is now online at www.synthvibrations.com !!!!

 

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Alessandro Cortini in his studio

This is an interesting E-musician TV interview.
As we can see the Cortini’s set up is based mainly on analog stuff and software based enviroments:

  • Buchla Modular
  • Eurorack Modular
  • Jomox Sunsyn and X-base09
  • Korg MS20
  • Macbet M3x
  • Monome
  • Native Instruments CORE

The Buchla is his main tool, the euro is the modular for “sperimental sounds” (he keeps the Havestman modules on their own…), while the Sunsyn is his polyphonic beast.
As he described , all the sound are “replicated” (as much as possible) on sw for live use.
The other intersting thing is that he somehow changed  the way NIN approach to live music, becoming more synth based  while before him it was completely sample-based.

Cortini left NIN , and prooduces his music as “Blindoldfreak”.

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www.synthvibrations.com !!!

Synthvibrations is getting its own domain : http://www.synthvibrations.com !!!
I hope to get the new domain working as asoon as possible.
stay tuned!!

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