Posts Tagged drum

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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Roland TR 606 videos

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MFB Dual ADSR review

MFB Berlin started with simples and cheap drum machines and the Synth-lite, a DCO based Moog Prodigy clone.
With the Eurorack explosion MFB started producing modules derived from their synths and drums.

The latest creations are the semimodular synth Kraftzwerkg and his brother Schlagzwerg, a semimodular drumcomputer.
MFB built this two semimodular using the modules they produce in eurorack.

The DUAL ADSR

First this module is not a classic ADSR but an AHDSR, in fact after the attack there is a HOLD!
The HOLD is really useful for “sequencer sounds”, you can turn every knob to 1 and just use the hold to control the duration of the sound.

MFB Dual ADSR

MFB Dual ADSR

It can be useful also for a smoother change between the attack and the decay curves to get a rounded tones.
The Dual Env is an EXPONENTIAL ENVELOPE, but has a switch wich let you decide if one of the two can act in LINEAR mode.
When the env act in linear mode even the hold changes its behaviour shaping the sound in a more “angular” way.

An interesting add tipical of MFB modules is the buss control, so you don’t have to connect the midi-to-cv interface to send the gate signals to the gate in socket in the envelope module, it uses the buss connection, and I find it really useful.
An other useful thing is that every env has 2 cv out, so if the patch is not too complex you don’t need a multiply module.

There’s no switch to choose a fast or slow behaviour as in the Doepfer Envelope, but the Dual env is really snappy and has a really fast attack time.

For synthetizing percussions and especially Kick drums this env is top!
It can get rounded kicks but also hard edge sounds.
Using the HOLD can lead to interesting results programming drum sounds.
With the hold we can create a “slightly compressed” kick with a fast decay, so the sound get fatter and the peak is less accentuated.

Programming bass sound it can result both smooth or percussive.
Using the linear mode for the filter env the result is a percussive “angular” bass , while using both exp the sound plays smoother.

All in all this module is quite cheap (98 euros in EU) , works really well and has its own carachter.
For me is  a really good buy!

MFB Synth Berlin

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Elektron Monomachine review

The Monomachine is what I call THE unortodox synth concept in an alluminium box.

Elektron MonoMachine SFX60

Elektron MonoMachine SFX60

Everybody interested in innovative music machines  knows the philosophy of the Elektrons, an easy and intuitive approach to manipulation/creation of sounds and sequencing, multi synthesis to have a extremely versatile palette of sound at your fingertips, a really good support from tutorials to fresh new O.S. often released to get more power from your machine.

The Monomachhine is  structured as six digital monosynth with efx, arpeggiator and a 64 step sequencer track.
Every “monosynth” can be a synth , a efx processor or an audio in track (to process external signals).
So this box can generate, process and manipulate audio material all together in a really easy way.
Let’s get deeper into the machine…

MULTI SYNTHESIS

Every track can use one of the machine:

  • GND (gnd/sine/noise generator)
  • SuperWave (kind of virtual analog machine)
  • DigiWave (wavetable synthesis and a drum machine 12bit sample based)
  • FM+ (kind of Frequency Modulation synthesis)
  • SID (emulation of the C64 synth chip used even in the Elektron Sidstation)
  • VO (vocal synth)
  • EFX (a processing machine for internal or external sounds)

You can build a kit with a different machine on every track , so you can have a very versatile  sonic palette of sound .
Every machine can do different things and even the oddest one (as the VO) can be really useful and amazing , when you use them with  creativity.
The thing to keep in mind with the Mono is that it’s not a standard synth, it’s a Monomomachine!
Machines , usually, have only ONE oscillator, and this can be considered a great limitation, but it isn’t so.
If you want the machine to make detuned trance leads  you have only to choose the Superwave SAW machine and turn up the unison and work with the detune and you will get a “supersaw” sound in few seconds…
If you’re searching for bells, the EFM machines are the best, choose the parallel and play with the knobs, you ‘ll get a bell sound as soon as you turn those knobs.

Considering the “Generator” part of the synth (oscillators machines) the MonoMachine is really versatile and easy but even a synth of its own kind, as for the other parts as filters, envelopes and modulations…

The filter section is composed by a really particular filter that act as a multimode.
You have:

  • Base freq
  • Width
  • Highpass Q
  • Lowpass Q
  • Base env amount (bofs)
  • Width env amount (wofs)
  • Attack
  • Decay

In use I can say that it can cut the low freq turning up the base freq(highpass),  cut the high freq turning down the width (lowpass), or can be a band pass using the base to chose the”freq” and the width choosing the  “band”.
All in all is a very versatile filter that sound “elektron”, not a moog o roland replica/emulation, but it’s really rounded and acid, when you turn up the Qs, but it can even select the frequencies in a clinical way just to shape a minimal sound.
The filter does not have an auto normalization/headroom, this can give it that carachter, if you want a clean resonance you ha to turn down the “volume” or “distortion”(headroom) in the AMP page.

The AMP page is where we have the amp and volume settings and the particular AHDR env.
The reason this particular env was chosen by Elektron is because the Monomachine was born as a sequencer based machine so, the holod can take advantage of the sequencer way of thinking.
Apart from HOLD the other things are quite standard, as volume, pan, portamento.
The only parameter that really shape the armonics of the sound is the DISTORTION, that is the headroom.
A higher distortion doesn’t “grunge” the sound or add noisy harmonics, but saturate the signal making higher harmonics less evident getting a darker sound.

The EFX page is one of my favorite in the MonoMachine, they are not the classic delay /reverb, but Sample Rate Reduction, a parametric EQ and a delay.
As everything can be automatized with the “parameter locks” (this is the name in elektrons  for the MOTION SEQ in the Korgs) you can have awesome results using parameter locks on SRR or delay parameters…

Last but not least  the LFOs.
Lfos  are the key to the monomachine together with the parameter locks, because there are 3 of them and everyone can modulate every parameter of the synth  generator.
Imagine a modulated delay with a oscillating SRR… amazing!

to be continued…
stay tuned!

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Hello synth lovers!

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Power on!
Hello synth lovers , drummachine addicted and music machines courious too!
This blog is for you!
I’ve switched my machines on, so let’s start making some good vibrations…

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