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

Thursday, October 1st, 2015


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.


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.


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.)


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


This young Czech lady wants to teach you modular synthesis, and Bastl have a granular update

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Our friends at Bastl Instruments / Noise Kitchen are preparing a modular synth tutorial with their usual charm, friendliness, and directness.

And, if your native language happens to be Czech, this is absolutely the video tutorial you’ve been waiting for! If you don’t, though, there are English subtitles. (And, of course, the occasional recognition of a word or two by hearing.)

The name sounds cool in Czech, too: Patcheni!

And host Nikol already has an advantage over … well, almost every other tutorial on modular synthesis I’ve seen:
1. The tutorials are beginner-friendly.
2. They’re short.
3. They’re cheery.
4. They don’t ramble on and on and on… (hey, to be fair, making tutorials is hard!)

Teaser at top, and on to the first video — which is superb:

Now, modular is all well and good, but sometimes it’s fun to have an all-in-one box — and it can often fit the budget nicely.

So, don’t feel left out if you’re not taking the modular plunge. Bastl also have a terrific update to the firmware of their grungy, glitchy, good-time granular giant the MicroGranny:

More on this great box:


Lots of variants, and now you can buy them all direct:

East coast synthesis? West coast synthesis?

Czech synthesis.

Next week, we’ll have a photo journal of our trip to Brno, CZ, home of Bastl and their new Noise Kitchen store. And don’t miss this amazing drum machine organ thing, a Communist-era relic that can nonetheless amaze any synth builder today.

The post This young Czech lady wants to teach you modular synthesis, and Bastl have a granular update appeared first on Create Digital Music.


New Sonic Arts Granite Review: A Great Introduction To Granular Synthesis

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 12.03.38

A ‘granular texture generator’, Granite was released by New Sonic Arts way back in 2011. It has been updated regularly since then and should now be considered mature. For those of you who haven’t met Granite, let me introduce you.

Granite comes as VST, AU and standalone, 32 and 64bit. The demo doesn’t drop out or make white noise stabs at your ears, it just won’t save or recall your presets.
Open Granite and it drones at you, in a clicky kind of way. You can set it up to sit there noising, or be triggered by a gate signal. In the full version, settings are remembered by the host, so if you reopen a project and gate is selected, Granite will be silent as a Victorian child in the coalhouse until you press play.

First impressions
Granite’s blue, grey and black interface is clear and concise. I can honestly say I have never had a headache looking at it. The GUI has a large waveform display across the top and a row of knobs across the middle divided by 4 tabs and a universal gate selector button. Below all this is a row of modulators for the knobs. The knobs also feature recordable modulation. It’s all well presented and makes sense pretty quickly. The preset browser opens and closes on a search button keeping things tidy when you’re not looking for something.

The presets
The factory presets show what Granite is capable of: clicky spaces, smooth and/or grainy drones and some really striking sweeps and swoops. The extra packs, Aura and Horror each consist of 150 surprisingly diverse sounds with additional samples, useable for soundtracking and game sound as well as electronic music. All presets are well programmed and at €29 a piece these packs expand the functionality of Granite for the preset user and show the way for those just setting out on their exploration of granular synthesis. You can also buy Granite bundled with the Aura pack for €89, which I think represents good value.

There is a cohesion to all the presets, and indeed any sounds you may come up with, and this is down to two things:
1: the modulation setup, which encourages the development of a certain ‘type’ of moving pads and textures. Most of the ‘traditional’ granular controls are there, it’s just that making them recordable makes sound design more fun. Much more expressive than having to automate from your DAW which, frankly, is boring and repetitive.
2: the reverb, which has a distinctive sound that coats everything in a glossy, deep sheen. It is very pleasant, even seductive, but worth switching off to see what is going on, or maybe trying one of your other reverbs.

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 12.02.57

Almost everything you could wish for. There are Grain pitch, density, speed, attack, reverse and pan controls, each with individual LFOs and recordable automation. You can drop your samples from your DAW into Granite, set the loop area and record dragging the looped area around the display. All great and trouble free.
The master tab allows for setting retriggering on and off as well as amplitude shaping and velocity sensitivity.
The FX tab offers sample rate reduction, bit reduction and a multimode filter. Again, all with LFOs and recordable knobs.
The final tab gives access to That Reverb.

Granite grants easy access to granular worlds previously only available through Reaktor and other expensive tools. With an easy interface reminiscent of Reaktor’s Travelizer ensemble, Granite has that air of simplicity coupled with a sensible GUI that can result in a spectacular mix.
The only major ‘what it doesn’t do’ is sync samples to tempo and sync modulation to tempo and I wish in both cases that it would. Tempo sync would make this an absolute killer instrument as opposed to a very good product.
New Sonic Arts has not long released its Vice slicer, which I have only briefly looked at and a combination of the two would make me a very happy bunny.Granular soft synths are still relatively rare and accessible ones even more so. At €79 it could be seen as a little expensive, but there’s no competition and it is a high-quality product.


Primal Audio FM4 Review – FM Synthesis Made Easy

Friday, March 20th, 2015


With FM4 Primal Audio accomplished 2 seemingly mutually exclusive tasks. They’ve created an credible instrument based on the original Yamaha DX series (complete with all its idiosyncrasies), yet designed an intuitive and powerful control interface for it that fits on a single page of an iPad. In addition to the main synth elements they’ve modeled the “defects” (aliasing, converters, distortion, etc.) of the original hardware (actually 3 different versions, no less.) This is last point is significant as the subtle “imperfections” give it some of the attitude that is missing from a lot of FM software instruments.

Primal has a good and succinct web manual available online. (Additionally they include links to some FM synthesis guides which are recommended reading if you’re not already familiar with it.)
In any case, the basic architecture is as follows: It’s a four operator FM synth with one global LFO and and arpeggiator. Both the LFO and Arp are tempo sync enabled (unlike the originals.) Each of the operators has its own control section for level, envelope, frequency, wave choice (from a handpicked selection of the originals), and modulators. The routing section allows you to pick from predetermined carrier/modulator configurations. There is an onscreen keyboard with pitch & mod wheels, and pseudo velocity control can be accomplished by finger position along each key. While I certainly prefer a physical keyboard, this one is surprisingly playable.

In practice, the FM4 is so much easier to edit than a DX7, and a lot more fun. The clean UI and well-curated preset selection might be enough for many users. Punchy basses, glassy bells, metallic pads, and retro synth percussion are within a finger’s reach. Conveniently, the preset browser latches open, allowing 1-click browsing of presets, which is super handy for quickly exploring a lot of sounds. If the preset selections aren’t enough then usually they can provide a basis for developing other sounds which can be stored in the user bank. The tempo sync of the LFO and Arp is a critical feature for me. I love it for faster rhythmic patches, as well as for setting up slower FM timbral sweeps that are nonetheless in time.

One aspect of FM synthesis is that minor adjustments in the oscillator frequency can have a large effect on the sound. Sometimes iPad knobs are not best tool for precision. FM4 has a clever solution by having a dedicated button for Fine mode, which gives finer control over the knob values. Still, it would have been nice to be able to enter frequency values numerically.

Start with 1 oscillator and 1 modulator in order to learn the synth. It’s easier to hear the interactions between the components, and you can build up from there.
FM4 sounds even better when run through analog hardware such as a good DI or preamp.

FM4 can be a great tool for your first adventure in the FM world or a fun and solid alternative to your other more complex synths. It’s not the deepest FM synth, but it doesn’t try to be. Native Instruments’ FM8 is always there if you need it.


Bob Moog Foundation to feature Modular Synth and host Synthesis Innovation at NAMM

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

The Bob Moog Foundation is returning to NAMM. Furthering the success of their educational project, Dr. Bob’s SoundSchool, and their preservation efforts of the Bob Moog Foundation Archives, the [Read More]

sonicLAB releases “Cosmosƒ vSaturn WFS edition” with Wave Field Synthesis Audio Rendering Support

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

sonicLAB has released Cosmosƒ vSaturn WFS edition, a collaboration between sonicLAB with BARCO NV and the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute, Berlin. Now Cosmosƒ vSaturn “advanced stochastic [Read More]

VirSyn releases 64-bit versions of Tera – Synthesis Workstation and Cube – Spectral Morphing Resynthesizer

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

VirSyn has updated Tera – Synthesis Workstation and Cube – Spectral Morphing Resynthesizer. Both products are now available for 32/64-bit Mac OS X and Windows 7/8. The upgrade to the 64-bit versions i [Read More]

EverythingTurns releases MoGi – Modelling Synthesis, Instrumentalist for Reaktor

Friday, April 18th, 2014

EverythingTurns has released MoGi, a “Modelling Synthesis, Instrumentalist” for Reaktor. MoGi is not a synthesiser nor is it a sequencer. It is both Instrument and Instrumentalist combined, producing [Read More]

Xen-Arts releases Xen-FMTS 2 – FM Synthesis Windows VSTi for Microtonal and Xenharmonic Music

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Xen-Arts has released Xen-FMTS 2, a 4-Operator FM Synthesis with a specialized set of features for computer musicians interested in exploring the expressive possibilities of making music with alternat [Read More]

UVI releases “Vector Pro” – Synthesis Collection for UVI Workstation and MachFive

Friday, February 14th, 2014

UVI has released the Vector Pro suite of three software instruments inspired by the Sequential Prophet VS and Yamaha SY22. Vector Pro offers over 30GB and more than 500 factory patches of vector synth [Read More]