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Hands-on with Novation Circuit, drum machine synth sequencer hardware all-in-one

Written by Site Update on October 1st, 2015

circuit hands on 6

Novation has been doing things with grids and knobs for some time, but those have come in the form of gadgets you plug into a computer and use with software like Ableton Live. Circuit is different: it’s an all-in-one groove workstation with sequencer, drum machine, synth, and arrangement in control, and it doesn’t even need to be plugged into power.

We’ve got one of the first Novation Circuit units here, so in advance of our full review, here’s a quick hands-on.

First, Novation’s video shows off the idea:

I first saw Circuit on a visit to Novation’s London office in August – the place where they’re cooking up a lot of their ideas for attracting more people to music. (iOS apps were getting sketched there, too.)

And there, Circuit was immediately all about getting you going with music ideas quickly. (I suspect anyone working for a music technology company, finding their own leisure time severely restricted, appreciates personally the import of getting things started – and of course, that was the topic of the teaser campaign for this hardware.)

So, it starts with an 8×4 grid interface and encoders. Those are velocity-sensitive pads, and the feel of them and the entire build makes this clearly the sibling to the Launchpad Pro controller. The difference here is, you can untether from the computer and use this box on its own. (You can get an idea of what standalone hardware Novation likes in the teaser video, which features a Dave Smith synth, a 303, and an Elektron.)

From there, what do you get?

It’s a modeled synth. There’s a two-part analog-modeled synthesizer in there, which Novation describes as “Nova-heritage.” It certainly has that edgy, modern, somehow English Novation sound.

It’s a drum machine. You get four parts here – simple, but tweakable.

You can play chords. There’s 6-voice polyphony onboard, so you aren’t limited to mono synth lines. And there’s actually a very clever chord mode, which I’ll talk about more when we do the full review.

It’s tweakable – albeit blind. At first blush, this may seem like a preset machine and a bit of a toy. But those eight encoders are paired with a whole lot of parameters for changing the sound. You can switch oscillator types and wavetables, not just twist the filter (though that’s there, too, of course). And all of those encoder adjustments can be recorded and played back in real-time, if you choose.

circuit hands on 4

It’s a step sequencer and pattern recorder. You can play in live, or adjust one step at a time, or a combination (navigating between those modes is atypically easy, in fact). You get up to 128 steps, so you aren’t limited to the 1 bar-patterns you hear in the first demos. Also, if you’re not a fantastic musician on the pads, things do auto-quantize and can be restricted by key – handy for low-pressure live performance. You also get 32 sequence slots for playing live, making this a bit like the Poor Boy’s Octatrack.

It does effects, mixing. Delay, reverb for effects, each fully tweakable, and live mixing plus side-chain capability.

It works with your other gear. USB for the computer, MIDI for external devices. True to form, there’s still a copy of Ableton Live Lite in the box – a bit odd as the main draw here is getting away from your computer. On the other hand, Live (or something like it) is likely to be how you finish whatever you start on the Circuit.

The MIDI support for me keeps this from being overly limited or turning into a toy. You can receive and send MIDI notes and controls, and automatically sync to received MIDI clock (plus forwarding it to the Out jack). More details on that in our review.

It’s ultra-portable and works standalone. You can run on 12V DC power via an adapter, or 6x AA batteries. (I do sort of wish manufacturers would start using rechargeable batteries, though you could invest in rechargeable AA’s if you aren’t already buying AA in bulk for your music gizmos.) But with a decently loud (if tinny) built-in speaker, and a headphone jack, you can go to the park with this one. (Or, as our UK-based friends say, “to the bus” – yes, London will offer long Night Bus trips to start and finish songs.)

And incredibly, the whole package is US$ 329.99 (£249.99 UK or 349€ including VAT in Europe).

So, how does it feel?

circuit hands on 2

I was actually impressed: this doesn’t feel like a do-everything $ 300 box. The pads are nicely velocity sensitive and everything feels solid. There’s a blue anti-slip, grippy surface to the bottom. It’s an incredible dirt magnet, but it holds everything in place.

It’s terrifically portable – it’s tough to say just how easy this is to toss in a bag.

Also, it’s clear that Novation has learned a lot from the Launchpad about workflow. You get all of that ready access, minus the computer. You can quickly add patterns, clear, duplicate, nudge, and change pattern length, plus easily get at effects and synth/drum sound parameters.

The oddest part about using the Circuit is perhaps that while all of the usability controls are well-labeled, you often don’t really know what twisting an encoder will do. Only the brightness of the LED underneath tells you the level, and you just have to learn what the assignments are. On the other hand, Circuit really feels like it’s about intuition, experimentation, and happy accidents, so the absence of a display doesn’t really kill the fun.

Let us know if you have questions about this, and what you think, in advance of our full review. Here are some unboxing pics in the meantime. (And yes, it does include the MIDI minijack connections that are fast becoming an accidental standard, plus breakouts and power and USB all in the box for you.)

circuit hands on 1

circuit hands on 9

circuit hands on 3

circuit hands on 5

By the way, this is a 13″ MacBook Pro – it really is small, the Circuit.

circuit hands on 7

The post Hands-on with Novation Circuit, drum machine synth sequencer hardware all-in-one appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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Moog Mother-32 wants to be your intro to modular synthesis

Written by Site Update on October 1st, 2015

mother-32

Moog Music was already there for you with modular products if you wanted to live out a Keith Emerson fantasy and had thousands of dollars burning a hole in your pocket. For some, that may read like learning the Leerjet company is happy to indulge your dream of flying — so long as you’ve got a few million dollars and time for pilot lessons.

Okay, so what about everyone else? Hot on the heels of the discontinuation of the Minimoog Voyager, the Mother-32 might just be Moog’s new answer to what synthesis lovers everywhere might crave. It’s a desktop (but also rack-able) semi-modular synth, and at just US$ 599.

The Moog Mother-32 isn’t massively expensive. It doesn’t need other modules to go with it. (This is Moog’s long-awaited entry into Eurorack, in case you were wondering – but it also stands happily on its own.) It doesn’t even insist that you connect a single patch cord: it’s a very sensible semi-modular design, with loads of patching options when you like them, but also the ability to start making sound right away.

So, if you have caught Eurorack fever, this will fit right in. But if you haven’t, it’s finally an instrument that brings back some of the appeal of semi-modular design.

mother-32-frontpanel

In fact, while it’s semi-modular, it approximates a lot of starter modular rigs. What’s onboard:

  • 10-octave analog oscillator with variable pulse width
  • Analog white noise generator
  • Voltage-controlled mixer
  • Moog Ladder Filter (low/high-pass types) – of course, it’s a Moog (accept no substitutes and whatnot)
  • 32-step sequencer, with 64 pattern recall. (Weirdly, that looks a bit Elektron-like because of the buttons!)
  • External MIDI control

You combine that with a 32-point analog patchbay.

It also looks beautiful, with black, laser-etched extruded aluminum and (it’s a Moog!) wooden sidepieces.

Moog is also fully accessorizing this, with 2- or 3-tier rack kits and a nice soft carry case. If you do want to use this as the beginning of a slow descent into the wallet-draining, life-destroying power of Eurorack – uh, I mean the “joys of modular synthesis” – there’s a 60 HP Eurorack case – power supply not included.

mother-32-rack

Actually, if I had any kneejerk concern about this, it’s that I would look hard at what the Eurorack community can offer, since part of the appeal of modular is customizability. This is by contrast a very Moog-y offering, the vanilla stuff. If you fancy vanilla, this is, well, premium vanilla. If you fancy rum raisin, you might look at other builders. (Full disclosure: yes, I eat ice cream in the long Berlin winter. So sue me. It’s delicious. Love both those flavors. I… lost track of what I was writing about.)

But it’s tough for small builders to compete with Moog’s $ 599 price – and some will find the Moog character (in aesthetics, build, and sound) a big draw.

For a sense of the sound, Moog invited synthesists Erika, Max Ravitz, and Bana Haffer to contribute video. (Erika can absolutely kill it doing techno, too, by the way, with her Ectomorph all-hardware show at Panorama Bar last month – more on that on CDM soon.)

More:
http://www.moogmusic.com/Mother-32

The post Moog Mother-32 wants to be your intro to modular synthesis appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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Bremmers Audio Design updates MultitrackStudio for iPad to v2.3.1 – Supports iOS 9 Audio Units

Written by Site Update on September 30th, 2015

Bremmers Audio Design has released version 2.3.1 of MultitrackStudio for iPad. New in version 2.3.1: Supports iOS 9 Audio Unit effects and MIDI instruments. Note: presets and automation are currently [Read More]
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Idyllic nature meets heavy beats on an emerging Paris label

Written by Site Update on September 30th, 2015

stage Lpc

We talk about the idea that online democratization should be unearthing new musical gems – but you have to find them first. CDM contributor Zuzana Friday is scouring the Web, looking for the collectives and labels and artists who stand out of that virtual noise. First up: Paris’ Lpc.

With the growing popularity of contemporary (post)techno, there have been many collectives, platforms and labels forming around the globe who want to promote and share their own angle on this music, its aesthetics and its attitude. Amidst that overwhelming superabundance, one of the collectives that genuinely deserves your attention is a Paris-based Lpc, aka La petite compagnie. We already shared Aquatic Life, a beautiful oceanic video of theirs; now let’s check them out in detail.

Lpc is an independent label founded in 2012 by a small collective of friends who met in the south of France. They’ve dedicated the project to the memory of Antoine Debens, who they call “their faithful friend and former president of the association.” So far, Lpc consists of duos Keadz and Monochrome and two solo artists, XVII and Mas, who all name-check influences like labels Stroboscopic Artefacts, raster-noton, and 12k, and artists like Yves de Mey and Samuel Kerridge.

In the productions on Lpc, various elements of techno, dubstep/post-dubstep, and deep dub techno meet ambient and ethereal, organic atmospheres — a mix of inspiration from contemporary techno titans and nature. Those natural aesthetics are interwoven with field recordings in the sound, but also in the images they choose for promotion and music videos. The visual side of the label is run by Mas, who shares his inspiration in photo albums dominated by black-and-white shots of trees, forrest, and sky.

Keadz blurred

Mas

Nature for Lpc means “purity, timelessness, and simplicity,” says member Tarek Iked, “and that joins the idea of beauty that we have. Nature is very inspiring for us. When we are in a countryside, listening to nature’s sounds, we don’t have the impression that someone is talking to us — in contrary to music made by humans. Nature’s sounds are random and unpredictable, they vary constantly, and that’s what makes them beautiful.”

Opening Ceremony// Abyss from LPC on Vimeo.

In Paris, Lpc runs parties called Ceremony, each themed with headings like like “Abyss,” “Night,” and “Desert.” “We choose the themes so that the image and sound are completely inseparable,” says Ikeda. “By defining a theme, we have the feeling that the artists we’re inviting make a special performance for this occasion. We also noticed that artists like to be given a sort of restriction, because it awakens their creativity.” Records take themes like this, as well.

The previous compilation, Quiet Sum, aimed to “transform summer’s rest and quietness into music.” The compilation is the work of a group of friends, retreating together to the countryside to produce the music. Lpc’s next release deals with chosen artists’ perception of silence. It will include tracks by Elle from Hypnus, Fjäder from Full Panda Records, Lpc artists, and Paris’ Hydrangea, whose album Dawn Lights I also highly recommend.

Was 4’33” an inspiration? “Of course we know John Cage’s work, but it didn’t directly inspire us,” says Ikeda. “This album was an opportunity for the different artists to reveal their personalities through the meaning of silence. It was also a way to create something homogeneous and linked. For the moment, we have most of the tracks, and we can say that there are no blank records. But in case we would have received something like this, we would have probably keep it as it is.”

With the positive feedback for Monochrome’s fourth EP by artists like Cio d’Or, Cassegrain and Edit Select, the awareness of Lpc’s artists and activities slowly grows. But with such beautiful work, this is a label to watch.

Horty Shooter

lpc

http://soundcloud.com/la-petite-compagnie

https://www.facebook.com/PetiteCompagnie

keadz.bandcamp.com

quietsum.bandcamp.com

Keadz
soundcloud.com/keadz
on.fb.me/1iKgWE9

Monochrome

soundcloud.com/monochromemusique
on.fb.me/IcD3EN

XVII
soundcloud.com/lpcxvii/mix-i

mas
soundcloud.com/mas111

The post Idyllic nature meets heavy beats on an emerging Paris label appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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xoxos releases Caprice Spectral Enhancer for Windows VST

Written by Site Update on September 30th, 2015

xoxos has released Caprice, a VST effect plugin for Windows that will enable you to achieve new creative effects with spectral resynthesis. Caprice includes several discrete processes that transform [Read More]
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Ilya Efimov releases “Low Whistle” – Irish wind library for Kontakt

Written by Site Update on September 30th, 2015

Ilya Efimov Production has released Irish Low Whistle, the latest addition to Ilya’s library of ethnic folk instruments for Kontakt. The Irish Low Whistle library is an instrument based on a [Read More]
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Toontrack releases new EZdrummer 2 expansion: Post-Rock EZX

Written by Site Update on September 30th, 2015

Toontrack has released Post-Rock EZX, a new sound library expansion for EZdrummer 2 recorded in Iceland’s iconic Sundlaugin Studios. This marks the fifth EZX since the EZdrummer 2 launch in 2014. [Read More]
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Win A 1 Year Pass For The Berliner Philharmoniker’s Digital Concert Hall

Written by Site Update on September 30th, 2015

berliner_small
This is a great chance for all you classical music buffs…
Since the opening of the Digital Concert Hall in 2008, the Berliner Philharmoniker have broadcasted more than 250 concerts live.
Nearly all the great conductors and soloists of this time and more than 1,000 works can be found in the concert archive of the Digital Concert Hall.

A particular emphasis of the current season is the film section, which has been expanded to include numerous documentary films on current topics – such as the concert »Violins of Hope« and Wim Wenders’s portrait of the Philharmonie.

The Berliner Philharmoniker’s Digital Concert Hall video streams classical music concerts to your tablet, smartphone, smartTV or PC.
You can test the service for free (to make sure your connection is fast enough) and subscribe for €14.90/month or 149.00 €/year (also available, 7 and 30 days options).

A unique look
I’ve been at the Philharmonie, and nothing beats being there BUT… the Digital Concert Hall offers a unique (and much closer) look at the orchestra’s performance.
The streaming service is rock solid, and you can capture every nuance of what’s happening on stage (not to mention the interviews with directors and musicians, the archive, etc.).

Trust me, if you love (classical) music, the Digital Concert Hall is simply a must!
This is why we’re really excited to offer you the chance of winning 3 12 Month Tickets (149.00 € value!)

How to win
Enter the competition following the instructions below.
Pro Tip: boost your chances using all social options (FB and Twitter) ;-)

The competition expires on October 7th at 12:00 AM Berlin Time. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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rf music releases the Dodge, for Windows

Written by Site Update on September 29th, 2015

rf music has released the Dodge, a VST plug-in for Windows designed for modulating the level (Volume) of the incoming audio signal using an advanced and easy to use line editor and a precise [Read More]
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Learn electronics with the vintage Side Man drum machine

Written by Site Update on September 29th, 2015

ENG_SIDEMAN_PREVIEW from Darsha Hewitt on Vimeo.

Darsha’s sound electronics class is in session – and it’s a little different to what you’d normally expect.

Rather than a bunch of animations of electrons moving about, sound artist and educator Darsha Hewitt has created a long-form video tutorial around the world’s first commercial drum machine.

Wurlitzer’s Side Man 5000 is hardly practical by modern standards. The pioneering 1959 hardware weighs some 38 kg, and is controllable only via push buttons and a speed fader, pre-programmed to happenin’ grooves like “rhumba.”

Inside, though, this gadget is an electro-mechanical wonder. And taking it apart and making it work again is an opportunity to understand how that technology worked, introducing ideas ranging from the basics of how a tube works to some novel ideas of how to use moving wheels to produce rhythm. You’ll be reminded both what a cathode is and how machines can produce music.

PRESS_DARSHA_00

Darsha Hewitt leads with a friendly, patient style accessible to even those with no electronics background – but if you are interested in the intricacies of this hardware, there’s plenty of detail for you, too. The SideMan she’s got is one of only a handful left, to say nothing of the few in proper working order. That means that this is also the most comprehensive documentation yet of the Wurlitzer device’s innards.

The series is presented in episodes, with the teaser out today and the first episode launching on October 6. Or meet Darsha and celebrate the series in person, if you’re around Montréal:

03.10.16 – Advanced Screening and Q&A hosted by Jonathan Sterne @ Mutek_IMG Montréal
04.10.16 – Side Man 5000 Sample Salon Workshop @ Goethe-Institut Montréal

It’s great to see Darsha completing this project, having collaborated with her on a past MusicMakers Hacklab for CTM Festival. I got to visit Side Man in person; it’s an amazing machine.

Disclosure: CDM did publicity support for the launch of this series (and a little video editing), for which we were compensated. (Our coverage of the machine is not sponsored, though – we think it’s a cool project!) Additional funding was provided as part of the “Art and Civic Media” program – Innovation Incubator @ Leuphana University – Lüneburg. Further support provided by Foundation for Art and Creative Technology and Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.

sideman5000.org

PRESS_TEMPO_WHEEL

PRESS_TEMPO_WHEEL_TEXT

PRESS_SWITCH

PRESS_GEAR

PRESS_SCOPE

sideman5000.org

The post Learn electronics with the vintage Side Man drum machine appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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