Monday, April 11, 2011
Musikmesse Gear That Grabbed My Ass
When it comes to synth exotica, this year's Musikmesse was one of the best I've seen in years. No, no, no... I was too busy with Academik to make the trek, but considering I've already had my grubby mitts on a couple of these delights, I can safely say that the world of synthesis has been going through a bit of a renaissance lately.
Here's a rundown of my favorite products of this show. It is by no means comprehensive, it's just the stuff that I plan to either buy, review, or recommend.
[Update: Some browsers are having problems displaying this piece's layout, notably Safari. Not sure what's going on, since I've posted numerous YouTube videos in the past without incident. Looks great in Firefox, for what that's worth... Apologies...]
With three months of teasing and rumors, Roland's Jupiter-80 made one of the biggest splashes in tradeshow history - and I'm not just saying that because I designed a fuckton of its presets.
This performance-centric synth sports a three-oscillator analog-modeled synth, Roland's new SuperNATURAL modeling/sampling technology, massive array of world-class effects, and a whopping 256 voices, making it worthy of its $3999 price tag.
How does it sound? Well, having had one in my studio for nearly four months, I can tell you first-hand that it's a true beast of a synth with a VERY Roland vibe. Kind of like a menage a trois between a Jupiter-8, D-50, and Fantom X8 - but targeted directly at live performance.
Howard Jones also designed a bunch of the Jupiter sounds and gives his take on the beastie in the YouTube video above.
More gear porn after the jump...
KORG MONOTRIBE & WAVEDRUM MINI
While Roland was dazzling attendees with the Jupiter, Korg was unveiling lightweight gadgets with a cool factor that's absolutely off the charts.
Their new Monotribe fuses a hot-rodded Monotron - now including octave and waveform selection for its VCO, a noise generator, three selectable VCA envelopes, and a multiple waveform LFO - with an integrated sequencer. That would be cool in itself but the inclusion of a simple all-analog drum machine positions the Monotribe as a true successor to the TB-303.
Peep the droolworthy YouTube video above and see for yourself.
In addition to the Monotribe, Korg also unveiled the Wavedrum Mini - a portable percussion synth with 100 preset sounds, 100 preset rhythms, 10 built-in effects, and a super-cool clip-on sensor that can be attached to a table, cup, or even a sneaker so you can play two sounds at once.
Korg has carved out an extremely cool niche in the under $200, portable, battery-powered instrument market that is quickly making them the hipster version of what Casio was in the 80s - and I mean that as a sincere compliment. With just the Monotribe, Wavedrum Mini, Monotron and Kaossilator, you can have an entire EDM studio on your coffeetable for about $500.
That's pretty damn cool if you ask me.
SCHMIDT ANALOG SYNTHESIZER
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Schmidt Analog Synthesizer. Coming out of seemingly nowhere, this 100+ pound beast is arguably the most powerful non-modular analog synth ever. Period.
With four oscillators, seven filters, tons of modulation, zillions of LEDs that change color (Hey, to me that's a big deal. K?), and a price tag that could reach five figures (yes, FIVE figures), Stefan Schmidt's über-synth is poised to become the Fairlight of the 21st century, now that the original Fairlight is an iPad app.
JOHN BOWEN SOLARIS
Vying for the über-synth-of-all-time title is John Bowen's Solaris, which has been in buzztastic development for the better part of the last decade and is finally in production. I played a prototype a few years back at NAMM and was utterly blown away by its depth and richness.
Granted, this isn't that big of a surprise considering Bowen's resume, which includes design credits for classic Moogs, Sequential Circuits, the Korg Wavestation and legendary OASYS, as well as Creamware's ahead-of-its-time Scope platform.
With a price of $4000, the Solaris is planted firmly in the rockstar section of Toys R Us, but at a fraction of the price of the Schmidt, it's going to be a must-have for the high-end synth crowd.
It's common knowledge that I'm a huge fan of boutique analog synths like the Oberheim SEM, Vermona Mono Lancet and Doepfer Dark Energy, so the new AtomoSynth Krakken has my antennae twitching wildly, especially considering its $449 US price tag.
Aside from looking like a radioactive cross between an EDP Wasp and a Gleeman Pentaphonic Clear, the Krakken sounds duuuuurty and very analog. I plan to petition my editors for the review, so you'll get the hands-on scoop in the next few months (and maybe a few loops too, if you're really nice ;)
NI KOMPLETE AUDIO 6
In addition to revolutionary synths, Musikmesse also hosted the debut of some very cool audio gear, notably Native Instruments' new Komplete Audio 6 interface, which is basically a DAW-centric cousin to their Traktor Audio 6 DJ interface.
While my studio interfaces consist of the MOTU Ultralite MK3 and M-Audio Profire 610 (both of which I love dearly, thank you), my touring rig has included either the Audio 4 DJ or Audio 2 DJ for over two years now and I've been really happy with the rock solid performance of both.
So if you're in the market for an audio interface, the Komplete Audio 6 should be on your list of devices to definitely check out.