Posts Tagged house

Doepfer MS-404 review

Doepfer  MS 404

The Doepfer MS404 was designed as a TB emulator with a lot of added features in a period  full of cheap and expensive tb clones.
The 404 in fact is not a clone but has a clear personality and can be considered more a single VCO monosynth.

First I want to describe the structure of the synth: a single VCO , with saw/pulse/PWM or noise with a 24dB ladder filter, a VCA with accent and a adsr Envelope generator and two indipendent LFO that can go up to audio frequency!

The VCO seems to be the A110 “standard vco” available as a module for the A100 modular system, but opening the case , I read on the board “HI END VCO”,and that sounds strange because I did not see any CEM3340 as on the A111 “hi end VCO”.
The VCO section has 5 knobs and 3 swithches.
Knobs are: GLIDE, TUNE (fine tune) , LEVEL (LFO1 amount) FREQ (LFO1 rate).
the switches select:

  • saw/pulse/none
  • vco/noise/none
  • pwm/fm/none
  • rate (hi-mid-low)

The VCF section has 5 knobs :

  • Frequency
  • Envelope
  • Modulation level(LFO2)
  • Modulation Frequency (LFO2)
  • Emphasis (Resonance)

and 2 switches : one for the filter tracking and omne for the LFO2 range (hi-mid-low).
The VCF is the same as the A120 MOOG ladder filter eurorack module for the A100.

The VCA has a knob control for the accent amount and the envelope is the classic adsr.

speaking about the sound the 404 has a distinct doepfer carachter, it sounds exactly as the A100 modular system, no audible differences.
The synth behaves as a tb clone if the added features are not used, and with the emphasis quite low.
When you rise the emphasis it takes squelching in a more hard way and at self oscillation it can produce a sine wave , musically playable switching the filter tracking ON.
the PWM sounds awesome, I like it very much, because it does not intend to clone but has a “new minimal sound” very interesting for those involved in minimal techno like Ritchie Hawtin…
It does not sound nor similar to a Roland SH-101, this is more acid and hard, the SH is fuller on low frequencies and smoother.
The interesting feature that makes the doepfer  ms 404 a distinct machine is the use of fast lfo to modulate VCO and VCF.

The LFOs are derived from the A145 (doepfer A100 system) and have a range switch that allows very low oscillation to fast audio range FM.
That’s interesting because the filter is a 24dB Moog Ladder type, a filter that has a fast reaction to modulations and can create incredibles sounds if modulated in self oscillation or nearby…
Using the other LFO on the VCO can create some interesting noise or FM sounds useful for percussions, drones etc.
One thing to say…
The waveform orf the LFOs are fixed, triangle or square and you can choose the one you want to use only using a jumper on the board, there are no external switches.

The impression I had playng the MS 404 is really good.
This is a interesting bassline synth , not so good at emulating the classic TB sound, but this is a good point!
Other than that can be used as a classic monosynth with a great modulation capability, and many sounds with a small amount of functions and knobs.

There is also an audio in (with gain) to process external audio signals  and a cv-gate interface (in/out) so the 404 can be played trhu cv by an analog system/sequencer or can be used to control other cv-gate synth.

I prefer the 404 to a Basstation , for example ,  it sounds more interesting and “analog” and is not the “wannabe everything” emulator.

ms404 schematics

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Roland TR 606 videos

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Acidlab Bassline video

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Back home from holidays…

Hello!
I’m back home from holidays, I’ve spent some really nice time playing with the Nintendo DS on the seaside.
So in the next days I’m going to share some tips & tricks about the DS music applications, they are really interesting!

This is a famous Daft Punk song played by a friend of mine (Gattobus), using only a Nintendo DS lite with Korg DS10 (software) and a Korg Microkorg (reverse keys).
Simply amazing!!!

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Daft Punk played with the CASIO SK5

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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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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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