Posts Tagged electronic music

Eurorack modular vs Roland System100 Mod-102 (Part 1)

Roland System100 Mod-102

Roland System100 Mod-102

As I described some days ago , I’m building a little modular in eurorack format to have a little versatile synth to make modular sounds easy, and to expand my system of vintage semimodular synths:

  • Roland System100 MOD-102
  • Korg MS-20
  • Korg MS-50
  • Korg PS-3100

The Korgs work well altogether as they use the same korg “standars” as 1/4″ plugs, hz/volt , etc.
The system is well balanced and is very versatile , there are no tuning problems and connections between one module and the other has no need of attenuators and result open to every use.

Eurorack and Roland System 100 patched togheter

Eurorack and Roland System 100 patched togheter

The Roland System 100 is quite different, it uses 3,5mm plugs, 1volt/oct and is quite difficult to make it interact with the Korgs even because the sound of the Roland is “stronger”.
After analizing different solutions (the first was to buy the other parts : mod 101 the keyboard, the sequencer and the mixer, while the second was to buy a System100m…) I decided to buy an eurorack to have a synth easier to control with computers and midi devices , more stability and however the freedom to build a synth choosing every part.
The result is, as I described, a synth with basic elements that are quite different from the “new analog” I own (DSI Evolver desktop and Studio Electronics ATC1 and SE1), but quite versaatile for a wide range of sound including FM modulations.

The first thing I tried is the interfacing between the Eurorack and the Roland and I was surprised they interact very well .
The Midi-CV interface works very well with the System100 too (I use a Kenton Pro 2000 for it, usually..).

MFB VCO (OSC-02)

MFB VCO (OSC-02)

The first thing I tried was to compare the Roland VCO with the MFB VCOs and I was quite surprised.
The Roland is really thick on the lower frequencies, and the square waves are awesome , but the MFB is really good too and they have a similar sound in many ways.
The MFB is less deep , especially when you hear in A->B comparison , and a little darker on the highest frequencies, but does a really a well job fattening the System100 sound without sounding different.

Roland System100 filter section

Roland System100 filter section

What makes the BIG difference is the Roland Filter.
Using only the MFB VCO in the roland path , with the roland VCO with zero volume, the result is amazing.
The VCO sound smooth and rich, really fat on the lower range and really harmonic and “creamy” in the higher register.
The big difference is evident in the lead sounds, they sound smooth with big carachter and warm sound without being harsh or disturbing but always rich of mid and high harmonics.
As the resonance grows the sound became quite acid (the typical roland filter carachter) but with growing harmonics, and a massive warm sound.

Then I tried to use the MFB dual ADSR to compare the behaviour of the two type of env and even here the different is evident.The Roland one is FAST and SNAPPY but always “rounded”, more musical, and gives the synth the classic Roland touch.
The MFB ENV is really fast, maybe faster than the Roland, but also more angular, with the attacks at zero makes a “ping” sound at the trig of the note.
Maybe the voltage that this env produce is higher and should be attenuated to get more musical results, even if  the different behaviour is really interesting to get different result.
The first thing done was a sequenced upright bass that sounded really awesome.

Eurorack and Roland System100 patched togheter

Eurorack and Roland System100 patched togheter

I did the same sound using only the eurorack and the sound was similar but more enarmonic, the reason is without any doubt the different between the two filters.

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Acidlab Bassline – everybody needs the acid box!

Acidlab Bassline

Acidlab Bassline

This little alluminium box, absolutely handcrafted, comes from Germany as a clone of the famous TB-303.
Acidlab is Klaus Süßmuth, a tech head  famous for his 303 modding, ith the Bassline he creates from zero a TB-clone with some variations…
let’s see the differences!

The incredible sound of the TB-303 is created by particular elements:

  • The FILTER has no normalization , so as the resonance goes up , as the filter start to growl in that acid way…
  • The GLIDE is programmable (and it creates a slide like the legato does but with fixed time)
  • The ACCENT is a really “playable” part of the synth as it creates a “tenuto”on the selected note and and the decay get disabled for that step, and get the filter to open and the rises up the Volume.
  • The Sequencer programming is not so easy as it seems and often leads to strange ipnotic sequences.

The Acidlab Bassline has an identical structure for the synth, with the same knobs and functions, while the sequencer is not the same as on the 303.
The knobs are really good and act smooth , they invite you to twist the sound!

The sequencer works in a different way, first it has a 8-12 selector to choose if you want a 16th note pattern or a 12th.
You cannot chhose the lenght (step ) of the pattern, for example 9 steps.

The programming is really particular because here there’s no minikeyboard, a knob switch is used to choose the note, you hit play and the bassline lets you hear the note selected, then you select accent and/or glide and /or 1octave upand than press next to go to the following step.
With this method you can get, with a bit or a lot of “randomness”, really interesting sequences without having the situation too much undercontrol.
Another difference from the 303 is that the sequencer does not change pattern at the end of the loop, but jumps immediately in the selected pattern.
This can be a creative tool to mix several pattern togheter making more complex melodies, but it’s not possible to compose a chain of pattern in song mode or something realtime like a chain of pattern.
Another interesting add is that the sequencer can drive external analog synths with cv-gate outs and can be syncronized to older machines with din sync and to a daw or midi sequencer thru midi, always with a perfect timing.

Analizing the “sound” of the Acidlab , the knobs are the same as the 303 but this machine has a kind more aggressive carachter.
It sound quite mellow when the resonance is absent, and with the filter closed can do amazing subs, while as we turn up the resonance it became acid more and more aggressive but when the reso overflow the 75% it starts sounding more industrial than the classic TB.
To change the behaviour of the resonance there is a trim pot on the rear to adjust the response , to be similar to the orginal or to have more reso.

The machine can really sound close to the original but has even its own carachter and that’s the reason why I like it!
The strange sequencer is really interesting and when you ‘ve got deep into the way it works it will be an “exclusive” creative tool.

ACIDLAB.DE

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Squarepusher played with Roland MC-202

“Theme from Hernest Borgnine” by squarepusher played on the Roland MC-202

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Roland MC-202 MicroComposer

Roland MC-202

Roland MC-202

It all started with the Roland TB-303, the first cheap alternative to the bassplayer for the pub guitar player…
After the 303 Roland decided to create a more versatile and not limited only to basslines, a micro composer!
The MC-202 is like to instruments in a little plastic box.
The synth is derived from the Roland SH-101 and the sequencer is like a little MC-4 but only with 2 track (against the 4 of the MC-4) , its name could be MC-2… that’s why MC-202!
The synth itself its quite simple but really versatile for the task of making arpeggios, basslines, sequencered blips and blops, and sequenced leads.
There is a single VCO with SUB that can produce a saw and a pulse (with modulation)and the SUB (a square wave 1 or 2 ocyave lower or a pulse 2 octv lower).
The three wave are mixed by the MIXER section , than filtered and after the the filter we have the VCA (amplification) and the ENV.
The FILTER section has Cutoff, Resonance, Env (env amount) , Mod (LFO amount) , KYBD (keyboard tracking).
The filter is a 24dB with resonance with the classic analog roland carachter and sound, it can act quite rounded and smooth and get acid when you turn up the resonance.
With the reso at max  the filter prduce a SINE wave that can be played by the keyboard using the KYBD at max.
The VCA is quite simple and has only a switch, ENVor GATE.
With the Env is switched the env shape the sound and the accent controls the volume, while when switched to gate the synth plays only when the key  is pressed and loose the accent on volume, but ois useful for sequenced sounds when you want the ENV to control the filter only.
The ENV is a simple adsr that acts really snappy and with a fast attack, really great for bass and percussive timbres.
The LFO is quite simple, has only triangle wave with delay, to let the vibrato grows after a while.
The sound of the machine is a cross between a TB-303 and an SH-101, maybe the MC-202 can get more aggressive /acid than the 101 while the 101 has a just a little more sub on the bass end when used to generate sub basses, but the sound is more or less the same.
Maybe the only differences are made by trimpots regulations and not by any difference in electronic design.

The other part of the machine is the SEQUENCER.
The seq is different from the 303, is not a pattern style but a linear sequencer (just like the MC-4).
This difference let the MC-202 creates longer and more complex sequences , as it has a deeper editing on note durations, gates etc, while it mantains the ACCENT (for FILTER and AMP, and it can be choosen individually, so 2 accent!) and the GLIDE (here named PORTAMENTO) with its time knob (on the 303 the time is fixed).
Making a sequence on the MC-202 is harder than on the 303 if you want to get exactly what you have in mind.
Vince Clarke (former member of Depeche mode, Yazoo and Erasure and famous user of old Roland sequencers as MC-8, MC4 and MC-202) is described as one of more trained user as he could compose all the song without hearing the music, just pressing the buttons and than pressed play and BaaaM! the song was perfect!!
Indeed the programming of the sequencer is not the easiest, and it takes time to get into it, but it can create really great results , difficult to get with other gear.
The fact that there is a little LCD display on such a cheap old intrument means something…
I forgot to say that the sequencer has 2 identical tracks with CV-GATE outs to play external analog synths and a DIN SYNC IN and 2 DYN  SYNC OUTs and tape in and out to be syncronized to other machines or tape recorders or DAW.
A classic touch of the 80’s is that the MC has no memory for the sequencer so you have to save and load your seqnces with the TAPE DUMP (you can use a cassette recorder or you can record the data sound directly into your computer to have a far more practical collection of sequences to load..)

The MC-202 has been used mainly by all the electronic producers of the last 25 years, even if it’s not as famous or hyped as the 303.
From Aphex Twin to Autechre, Human League, Sabres of Paradise, 808 STATE, KID606 etc…
This is a great machine, and its sequencer is really a part of the strong carachter of the MC but there is also a software that can generate the data sound to load into your MC to program the sequence on your computer and than load it into the MC to get the best of both worlds.

Here is the link :

MC-202 HACK

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Elektron Monomachine Season’s Greetings

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Nanoloop composition on Gameboy Advance

An amazing song on the Nintendo Gameboy Advance.

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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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personal modular synth

This is my first post and I want to start with something different from other “synth blogs”.
Going modular is really a new strange experience, and it’s hard to describe the reasons why someone choose to start with a modular synth.
It may be our fascination for old sci-fi movies, the old photos of electronic /concrete music studios or just the wish to have a different approach to music creation/production in a far more personal way than using the ever boring presets of modern synths.

My first approach with the “semi-modudular” synth was when I bought my Korg MS-10, a really cheap and powerful synth in the early 90’s (that I swapped for its bigger brother  MS-20).
After some years trying to get a real powerful semi-modular (ARP 2600 or a Roland System100) , I had a close encounter with an old Elektor Formant (that had to be restored..) and I decided to give it a try.

The Elektor is a DIY project developed in the late 70’s and it aimed to be the “moog for the masses” .
The structure was quite similar to the moog modular and even the sound was quite close.
I was astonished how good the synth sounded and he could not only be a “efx machine” in the EMS style, it could sound really musical.
The downside of the Elektor was that it was quite difficult to manage as a “straight synth” for leads and basses as tunung stability was not so good.
After some months I decided to sell it to get a more useful synth.

Roland System 100

Roland System 100

During the following years I got a Roland System100 (yeah!! my dream came true!!) and a Korg MS-50 to expand my Korg MS-20 so my modular needs were satisfied and after getting REAKTOR and the Clavia Nordmodular I didn’t think about getting a “real” modular anymore…

But with the new eurorack producers growing up with really interesting new modules I decided to get into the analog modular psychedelic trip again…

I started with a 2 row Doepfer LC case and a small amount of module to get the thing quite cheap and simple but at the same time quite versatile and powerful to enter the eurorack world.

Eurorack modular

My eurorack configuration is the following:

  • Doepfer A-190-2 (midi-cv interface)
  • MFB OSC-02 (triple vco)
  • Doepfer A138 (mixer)
  • Doepfer A-120(24dB lowpass filter)
  • Doepfer A-132-3 DVCA (Dual lin/exp VCA)
  • MFB Dual ADSR
  • Doepfer A-145 (lfo)

mfb_vco

More or less it looks like a standard synth , but the modular capabilities make it really a powerful soundesign machine even if the modules are quite standard and not a wall of knobs.
I will examinate deeper module by module the whole system and I will post demos.
For now I can say it’s a good soundesign machine but even a really good “straight synth” that resambles quite well the carachter of the old japanese beasts like the Korg MS, Roland SH and Yamaha CS.
I did not want another moog clone…

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Hello synth lovers!

Click..
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…

funky_porcini

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