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Learn electronics with the vintage Side Man drum machine

Tuesday, 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.


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.








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


Peavey Electronics releases David Ellefson ReValver Artist Bundle

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

Peavey Electronics has announced the immediate availability of the David Ellefson ReValver Artist bundle. Here’s what they say: Megadeth bassist David Ellefson redefined the role of bass guitar [Read More]

Peavey Electronics announces ReValver ACT Profiler

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Last August, Peavey Electronics introduced the fully redesigned ReValver 4 amp modeling software, and with it, ACT (Audio Cloning Technology). Now, Peavey is introducing the ReValver ACT Profiler. [Read More]

Darkglass Electronics Duality Fuzz

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Read more about Darkglass Electronics Duality Fuzz at MusicRadar.com

Darkglass’ Duality takes its name from the fact that it contains two discrete fuzz circuits, exhibiting a similar underlying concept to the Frazz Dazzler but differing in the way it’s presented, in that these two can be blended rather than switched.

“You can go from a gated saw-tooth wave for a buzzy staccato to a high-gain fat sustaining fuzz”

From extreme left to extreme right on the duality knob you can go from a gated saw-tooth wave for a buzzy staccato to a high-gain fat sustaining fuzz that cleans up really well with guitar volume.

All points between the two are available, making for interesting blends, but you can mix the dry guitar sound in for more variation – a blend knob mixes the clean input signal with the fuzz, working with the level knob that sets the volume of the fuzz signal.

Add in the filter knob – an extremely wide-ranging tone control – and you have myriad tones to play with.

Read more about Darkglass Electronics Duality Fuzz at MusicRadar.com


sE Electronics ProMic Laser

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Read more about sE Electronics ProMic Laser at MusicRadar.com

With the ProMic Laser, sE Electronics has taken the not so big leap into camera microphones.

“The ProMic Laser is sturdy, but remains lightweight courtesy of the aluminium construction”

With the huge growth in DSLR filmmaking, it’s no wonder the company have decided to take the plunge. The ProMic Laser is a powered, directional shotgun mic with a hot-shoe mounted shock-mount.

As the unit is powered, sE has included a -10dB pad which will help you curtail any unwanted noise during recording.

The build quality is up to sE’s usual high standard and the unit feels more sturdy than its nearest rival, the Rode VideoMic, and yet still remains lightweight courtesy of the aluminium construction. You would hardly notice it attached to your camera.

One thing we would like to see is a nice big furry windshield accessory released in the near future, which would certainly help against stronger winds for location work.

Read more about sE Electronics ProMic Laser at MusicRadar.com


Eat a Cucumber! A Musical Playground Gets Kids Hooked on Veggies, Music, and Electronics

Monday, September 8th, 2014

Quick, we need kids to be able to express their feelings, they really ought to learn more about electronics, and — more veg. Definitely need to eat more vegetables.

You know what we have to do.

Let’s combine all that.

Moscow-based collective/project Playtronica has gone wild with the Makey Makey “invention kit,” and built a whole range of projects around interfacing electronics to vegetables and other creative inputs. They have hands-on workstations for kids that look like your Farmers’ Market was taken over by Leon Theremin. Kids are making rhythms, recording sounds, making songs.

And in a CDM-exclusive premiere, we get the first look at the music video for The Cucumber Song. (Sorry, Pitchfork — you’ve been scooped.)

Olga Maximova sends us more information.

First, the video details:

Playtronica uses conductive objects like fruits and veggies as triggers to play sounds arranged into a song.
Hands – OMMA, Vasily Volchek, Sasha Pas, Liliya Danieva Music and cucumber – OMMA Camera and editing – Vasily Volchek

What’s Playtronica?

Playtronica is an interactive playground for self-expression through rhythm & sound.
Our mission is to change kids and young adults’ vision and perception of music.
Playtronica is a unique and innovative modern music platform to provide a comprehensive musical training to kids; stimulating creativity and promoting sound and rhythm heritage.
Learn to be creative by playing, composing, improvising and arranging musical compositions. Cutting-edge musical technology enables children to do so in a creative and interactive way. Transmit music understanding, passion and accessibility to children.

And they’ve been busy. Apart from letting kids discovery new musical ideas through veggies, they’ve also got them discovering sounds. At a Master Class at the Gagarin space museum, they recorded sounds and voices, which Olga transformed into a track. It’s a nice way for a new generation to celebrate the first human being’s journey into space — they’re apparently talking about what Pluto sounds like, given its blue color:

Here’s more playful music from Olga’s experimental band, OMMA:

Find OMMA on Facebook, as well:

We’ve also got some images of Playtronica in action, including a cameo by friend-of-the-site Jekka (Jenny Nedoskina).







Finally, I love this mix — resonant frequencies of musical loves here, from Moscow:

The post Eat a Cucumber! A Musical Playground Gets Kids Hooked on Veggies, Music, and Electronics appeared first on Create Digital Music.


sE Electronics X1D

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

Read more about sE Electronics X1D at MusicRadar.com

The idea of a reasonably priced family of microphones based around a basic large capsule design, with each mic aimed at a specific set of purposes has proven to be a winner for sE. The X1D is the latest addition to the range and is aimed at drums and percussion.

As with all sE products it looks and feels solid and well built. There is a side mounted stand adaptor, and switches for the -10dB pad and bass rolloff, and the capsule has a built-in rubber shock mount that helps prevent knocks and vibrations being transmitted through the stand and body. The cardioid response capsule is titanium sputtered (coated) as titanium capsules are stiffer and so have a good transient response.

“We compared it to an AKG D112 and an Electrovoice RE20 (both dynamics) and it came out very well”

As sE describes the X1D as a drum microphone, the first place we put it was straight into the bass drum. The side mounted adaptor makes it ideal for this purpose and it’s easy to get it into place and the mount itself is firm and holds its position. The results are excellent.

We compared it to an AKG D112 and an Electrovoice RE20 (both dynamics) and it came out very well. As you would expect from a condenser, the high-end response was very fine and detailed, but the low-end is all their too. The flat response was very impressive.

Of the three microphones it captured the natural sound of the bass drum the best and with some radical EQ you can really hear how the excellent transient response of the capsule captures the whole spectrum of the drum.

Moving it out of the bass drum and onto a floor tom, that bass response really came into its own. Floor toms are tricky beasts because you need to balance transient against a long low resonance. The X1D handles both with aplomb giving both warm lows and a crisp attack.

The same was true going up to the racks. We often use condensers on toms, Neumann U87s being a usual weapon of choice, but we wouldn’t be unhappy to have a set of X1Ds instead.

Finally we went for the snare drum. On a more highly-tuned, smaller snare we preferred the colour of an AKG 414 but once we swapped to a deeper low-tuned drum the X1D won us over again. It sounded fat and punchy with a real clarity to the highs and we found we had to add far less EQ than with any of the other microphones we tried.

Crossing over

Moving over to bass and guitar amps it showed its versatility. Bass amplification is notoriously difficult to capture and, although the playing was finger style so not necessarily in the percussive domain of the titanium capsule, it certainly didn’t disgrace itself – good balanced low-end response with plenty of upper mid detail to bring out the clarity. The same on guitar and in fact it was here that we felt we got to understand what was going on a bit better.

The X1D seems to have a slightly scooped response, pulling out a bit of low mid and emphasising the lows – great on cleaner tones where you want the clarity of the attack and a bit of bass for warmth. It is certainly an interesting alternative to the array of guitar microphones we would usually go for.

“Its ability to step out of the drum world into other domains makes it a great general purpose studio tool”

So, while the X1D is probably most suited to its intended application of drum and percussion recording, it does cross over into other instrument groups too, particularly anything with a percussive element that would benefit from a fast transient response.

That detailed high-end response allows you to tailor the click of a bass drum with EQ far more easily than with many dynamics whose response dictates the peak frequency, and at this price point it compares very favourably to some of the more expensive drum dynamics out there.

That said, its ability to step out of the drum world into other domains makes it a great general purpose studio tool and one that you will find yourself reaching for long after the drums have been laid down.

Read more about sE Electronics X1D at MusicRadar.com


Blood and Electronics: Don’t Miss the Stunning New Lusine Arterial Video

Friday, July 18th, 2014


The new music video for Lusine, like the track itself, is almost sickeningly stomach-turning, it’s so beautiful.

Director Christophe Thockler has made an epic opus. The last time we caught up with Thockler, he had set 36,000 photos of melting ice to the chilling music of Ben Neill and Mimi Goese.

This time around, we’ve gone from ice to the titular blood. And that’s lots of blood — enough to attract vampires from a couple of cities away. 5 litters of blood rush through some 15 kg of components salvaged from TVs, phones, and computers, waste turned into what the director dubs “electrorganic” material.

He isn’t just shooting stills this time — but 30 minutes of video and 7,000 photos combine to the result you see here.

Lusine — Arterial from DaBrainkilla on Vimeo.

For his part, Lusine (Jeff McIlwain) is in his usual top form, meticulous and painstaking with his attention to sound. Ghostly’s press release talks about spanning styles, but to me, Lusine’s voice overshadows any particular genre fascination. “Arterial” is pure headphone music, more introspective than the recent The Waiting Room but with the same patiently-humming grooves and Lusine fingerprints. What’s new is an especially exquisite obsessiveness about each sound, synths treated delicately with acoustic noises tucked together. It merits repeated listening, as there are so many harmonious layers of sound design. But the overall texture is McIlwain, a cover of some interior song he keeps reworking.


Really looking forward to this EP.

Lusine’s tour appearances are rare these days, so look to Missoula Montana and The Badlander on August 1 or Le Salon Daome in Montreal September 4.

Here, Thockler’s process in the video I think fits perfectly with Lusine’s approach — not just the aesthetic match, but a conceptual parallel to what the musical artist is doing. Thockler writes:

The complexity of this electronic track, mixing both cold and warm sounds, inspired me to create something I call “electrorganic” : a mix of blood and human tissues with electronic components like LEDs, screens and boards. The result is an intriguing video, where you don’t really know what’s happening, but you can imagine that some sort of electronic machine is powered by, or producing blood.
Movies and music videos from the 80s and 90s were also a source of inspiration for this video, there are some sequences that are very small tributes to audiovisual works I love like Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo, Coppola’s Dracula, Cameron’s Terminator, Carpenter’s The Thing, Cronenberg’s Videodrome, the music video Digging in the Dirt by Peter Gabriel…

And that synergy is another reason why this summer’s main project for CDM is joining the needless divide between Create Digital Music and Create Digital Motion, in a way that you can still focus on what you care about. More on that very soon — first an editorial explaining where we’re coming from, and then how we’ll get to where we’re going.

The post Blood and Electronics: Don’t Miss the Stunning New Lusine Arterial Video appeared first on Create Digital Music.


sE Electronics X1T

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Read more about sE Electronics X1T at MusicRadar.com

The original X1 large diaphragm condenser mic was launched by sE in 2009 as an affordable mic to take on the likes of Rode’s NT1A and other contenders in the entry-level price bracket, offering a handcrafted capsule rather than the off-the-shelf capsules other companies were using.

Since then there have been other versions of the X1 – the X1R ribbon mic, the X1 USB for plugging straight into a USB port, announced at the NAMM show in January, and, also launched earlier this year, the X1D kick drum mic and the X1T valve mic that we are taking a look at here.

“The X1T features the same handcrafted, gold-sputtered capsule as the original X1 but pairs it with analogue valve circuitry”

The X1T features the same handcrafted, gold-sputtered capsule as the original X1 but pairs it with analogue valve circuitry. Unplugged, the actual microphone looks pretty similar to the X1, only the X1T legending on the trademark black finish giving the game away. But when plugged in and up and running you immediately see the difference.

Valve mics require their own power supply and here this takes the form of a rectangular black box that the mic connects to with a 7-pin cable that is around five metres long, allowing you to keep the power supply well away from the mic.

The power supply is switchable between 115 and 230 volts so you can use it anywhere in the world. It connects to the mains with an IEC lead and features a standard XLR output socket for audio.

Mic, power supply and power lead all come in a smart aluminium carry case along with a standard mic clip – if you want a shockmount cradle, sE points you in the direction of its Isolation Pack (£46.80) shock mount and pop shield set.

The X1T features a fixed cardioid polar pattern but has switching for a bass-cut filter which kicks in around 80Hz and a 10dB pad for use with louder sound sources. On powering up, the first thing we noted was that the mic was quiet. So far so good… we checked it out on a male vocal and found a pleasant sound with the slightly warmer low mid-range, that you’d expect from a valve mic, imparting a reassuring solidity. There was also plenty of detailed breathy top-end.

Bright and airy

The sound is in fact very airy; there’s a definite lift in the top-end above 10kHz, although it’s not overdone. That brighter character worked well when recording a range of acoustic guitars, where the sparkle and zinginess of the strings came through loud and clear. We also got the chance to use the mic on hand-held percussion and got really good results on tambourine and shaker.

Overall, the X1T is, as you might expect, very similar in character to the original X1 but the valve in the circuitry offers a shift in the tonal perspective that some users may prefer, particularly if they are looking for a smooth, airy vocal sound.

It’s always good to have a valve mic in the cupboard to give you something different from your standard condenser and the X1T gives you that option in a handy package that’s reasonably affordable – at least in comparison to sE’s high-end valve mics like the Gemini II.

We’d have liked a cradle mount to have been included, as it would have made sense to have all the necessary components in the same carrying case but the isolation pack at a street price of £39 won’t break the bank and, as expected retail price is around £229, the whole lot should clock in below £270. That’s about twice what you’d pay for an X1 with the isolation pack – but if you really like the sound, that valve character may be worth the difference.

Read more about sE Electronics X1T at MusicRadar.com


Homebrew Electronics Detox EQ

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

Read more about Homebrew Electronics Detox EQ at MusicRadar.com

The Detox, from US firm Homebrew, is a Paul Gilbert signature pedal and has a party piece in that it can turn a distorted rock sound into a clean sound.

“The key is in using the pedal’s level knob at a low level”

The key is in using the pedal’s level knob at a low level – the effect is different from simply turning your guitar volume knob down (which can make the sound a little muffled), as you have the treble, bass and mid knobs to compensate for any EQ changes.

Without any EQ boosts, unity gain seems to be near the full travel of the level knob, so dialling it back will take the edge off a dirt amp and really clean it up when you are back to about 10 o’clock (Paul Gilbert’s preferred setting).

The Detox is no one-trick pony, though; with the level knob up, those cut and boost tone controls can really tweak your amp to your taste, adding a bit of sparkle, bottom-end whomp or whatever – especially useful if you have an amp with minimal tone control.

Read more about Homebrew Electronics Detox EQ at MusicRadar.com