0 comments on “Reactable’s ROTOR (Tangible Modular Music Synth) gets full controller support now”

Reactable’s ROTOR (Tangible Modular Music Synth) gets full controller support now

Reactable has brought together the best aspects of both of their offerings with ROTOR controllers. This is something of a big step forward. When Reactable released the ROTOR app they promised the tangible controllers and now they’re delivering. Controllers are available on their site right now, and I can’t wait to try them out.

Also the app’s been updated at the same time to take advantage of the new hardware. Here’s what’s new:

  • Full ROTOR controllers support! Use the optional rotors to enhance the interaction with any of the modules; try our unique 3D control on 2D panels when using them
  • Play with Bluetooth MIDI enabled devices

Improvements:

  • Improved Virtual Keyboard control in the synth module
  • Improved MIDI IN ports selection
  • Major performance optimization and bug fixes

2 comments on “The micro modular is here, you need to take a look at Kastle from Bastl Instruments”

The micro modular is here, you need to take a look at Kastle from Bastl Instruments

I was lucky enough to bump into the guys from Bastl Instruments at Ableton’s Loop Summit. They were running workshops building their Kastle micro modular synth in the space I was using after them. I’ve bumped into these guys once before a few years ago at Musik Messe, but this time I got to spend a bit more time with them, and they’re really cool.

But enough of that for now. What I did do is get a chance to take a longer look at the Kastle synth and have a really long play with it.

The Kastle synth is tiny. I mean really tiny. It’s footprint is the same as 3 AA batteries. You can plug it into headphones and it sounds awesome. The real power of Kastle is its tiny patch cables, like patching any other modular but on a very small scale. It’s tiny patching capability gives it enormous power and verstility, but much more importantly it makes it loads of fun and that’s what’s really attracted me to it.

So let’s find out a bit more about what Kastle is from the Bastl Instruments site:

Kastle is a mini modular synthesizer with headphone output, 2 in/out ports for interfacing other gear and it runs on just 3 AA batteries. It is DIY friendly and ideal for beginners in modular synthesis, but it will add quite some unique functionality to any modular synthesizer systems. It delivers the fun of modular synthesis at cost and fits into your pocket so you can play it everywhere!

It has unique digital lo-fi sound and it can be melodic as well as very noisy and drony, soft or harsh. It is designed to be fun on its own but it is most powerful when combined with other modular gear.

Kastle is an open source DIY project which runs on two Attiny 85 chips that can be reprogrammed with an Arduino (google: “programming Attiny 85 with Arduino”). One chip is dedicated to sound generation while the other handles modulation. Several firmwares for the Attiny chips are available.

The Synth version combines complex oscillator and LFO with stepped waveform generator.

The oscillator section has 3 sound parameters pitch, timbre and waveshape – all under voltage control and with 3 different synthesis modes. It has a main output and a square wave output. Both can be used independently or combined. The 3 synthesis modes are phase distortion, phase modulation (also known as FM) and track & hold modulation. Each mode utilizes two oscillators. The Pitch controls the main oscillator, the Timbre sets the pitch of the modulating oscillator and the waveshape depends on the synthesis mode. The waveshape also controls the pulse width of the square wave output from the main oscillator.

The voltage controllable LFO has a triangle and square output and a reset input. The stepped waveform generator is inspired by the Rungler circuit by Rob Hordijk. It can produce 8 different voltages either in random order or in 8 or 16 step looping patterns depending on how the BIT IN is patched.

Here are the main features of the Kastle:

  • complex oscillator
  • 3 synthesis modes: phase distortion, phase modulation and track & hold modulation
  • pitch control with offset and CV input with attenuator
  • timbre control with offset and CV input with attenuator
  • waveshape control with offset and CV input
  • voltage controllable LFO with triangle and square outputs and reset input
  • stepped voltage generator with random, 8 step and loop 16 step mode
  • 2 I/O CV ports are available and can be routed to any patch point
  • the main output can drive headphones
  • 3x AA battery operation with power switch
  • open source
  • possibility of exchanging different LFO and OSC chips
  • the pattern on the sides changes and every unit is an original

From using the Kastle for a couple of weeks now I can safely say that it fantastic and enormous fun to play with and experiment with. I’d highly recommend it to anyone.

If you want more information about the Kastle you should check out the Bastl Instruments site, and you buy one right here.

0 comments on “Are modulars getting smaller, and is it important?”

Are modulars getting smaller, and is it important?

Modulars are hugely popular right now, but, so far, as far as I’m aware, there isn’t a really mobile version, and you might ask, why you would you want one. That’s probably a good question, and one that could only really be answered once someone has created a really compelling mobile modular.

For now I’m interested in talking about some of the smaller modulars that are appearing at the moment. Like the AE Modular on Kickstarter right now.

This is a smaller format than Eurorack and is not compatible either, so it’ll be interesting to see if it takes off and gets adopted by other manufacturers. It’s passed its funding goal so it’s going to happen, but where it goes from there will be the real test.

Another similar development is the Erica Synths Pico Modular System, which is Eurorack compatible, but is just nice and small and tidy. This actually looks pretty cool and quite a lot of fun, and also as a nice way to get into modular in a compact format.

Of course there are other ways to get into modular. You could just use one of the many excellent modular apps for iOS, like Audulus, Model 15, Reactable ROTOR, or the excellent zMors Modular for example. If nothing else then these are very good ways to keep a modular synth in your pocket at all times.

But for many the app route isn’t quite enough, and they’d prefer a real modular that can be portable. Well, there is one. When I was at Loop earlier in the month I bumped into Tom Whitwell from Music Thing Modular, and he showed me this.

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And this is battery powered and very portable. He called it a lunchbox modular, and it was very cool.

Is it the shape of things to come? I’m not sure. I think that there’s still a space for a modular that is battery powered and portable but perhaps that doesn’t look like what we have now.

0 comments on “Roli announces BLOCKS and takes a huge step in the world of mobile”

Roli announces BLOCKS and takes a huge step in the world of mobile

What a week it’s been so far. With Arp Odyssei from Korg, PdParty this morning, and now Roli announcing BLOCKS. I knew something big was coming from them, but I had no idea that it was this impressive.

I’ve known Roli for a long time now and even tried one of the early prototypes of their SeaBoard. They’re a lovely bunch of people and I’ve spoken at some of their events in the past. Roli have also support my SoundLab project too, so these guys really do have a passion for music technology, and that shows with BLOCKS.

I have to say that from what I’ve seen so far, BLOCKS looks pretty amazing, and I think that this is just the start of what we can expect from Roli’s BLOCKS. Here’s what they say in about it:

ROLI BLOCKS is a modular music studio that opens up the world of music-making to everyone. Each individual Block offers unique capabilities that let people create music in simple but far-reaching ways. The Blocks connect together to create customisable kits that suit any budget, skill level, and musical style. With a click of magnetic connectors, music-makers can now build their instruments as they go.

Renowned artists including Grimes, Steve Aoki, and RZA are already making music on BLOCKS and creating signature soundpacks for BLOCKS musicians. Grimes — a composer, producer, and global superstar whose sound is redefining pop music — said, “ROLI BLOCKS will democratize music production. It’s so intuitive and versatile. I’m always on the go, and BLOCKS is the most powerful mobile production tool I’ve ever used.”

Three Blocks launch today. The Lightpad Block features a tactile, glowing surface that lets people shape music through presses, glides, and other natural gestures. The Live Block and Loop Block have controls that make it even easier to perform and produce in real time. BLOCKS is powered by NOISE, a free music app for iPhone and iPad that is now available at the App Store. NOISE connects to BLOCKS wirelessly over Bluetooth, becoming the system’s sound engine as well as a standalone app.

Roland Lamb, founder and CEO of ROLI, and inventor of BLOCKS, said, “Many areas of life have been transformed by the digital. Music, though, remains a universal language that everyone understands, but only a few can speak. BLOCKS will change that, and enable people around the world to experience the joy of music-making for the first time.”

The Lightpad Block, Live Block, and Loop Block are exclusively available at ROLI.com, Apple.com, and Apple Stores around the world. With a Lightpad Block retailing at $179 (£169.95) and the Live Block and Loop Block at $79 (£69.95), BLOCKS is extraordinarily affordable as well as powerful.

I think that this is just the start of BLOCKS. I’m looking forward to getting to try the system out very soon hopefully. When I do, I’ll let you know what I find.

19 comments on “Apple have turned a corner, Android is still lagging behind, and why is there no third option?”

Apple have turned a corner, Android is still lagging behind, and why is there no third option?

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If you don’t know already then you should be aware that Apple has started the process of killing off the headphone jack in their latest iPhone version. Aside from that it’s a lovely new iPhone. More RAM, better speakers, and stereo ones at that. But I can’t go there without the jack. All of this adapter stuff doesn’t work for me, and as for the AirPods, they just don’t make sense to me. They last for 5 hours before needing a charge, that’s great, but I’ve never had to charge my headphones ever. And, more importantly, there’s no mention of the audio latency anywhere, I don’t think that bodes well.

apple-airpods

What’s more, I doubt that Apple will stop there. This is the beginning. The iPad will be next, then the Mac too. Jacks will vanish and others will do the same.

So if you’re not going to the iPhone 7, where else is there to go? Well there are of course lots of other devices available. Personally I may go to the 6s next, it seems a reasonable compromise for now. There is Android of course, but for mobile musicians this might not be a palatable move from iOS, as, let’s face it, as a platform it doesn’t rival the range and diversity of iOS music creation. That’s only fair to say I think, and in itself a real shame. Android always had promise, but it doesn’t seem to have delivered so far.

And what’s more, the jack removal movement is there already, with the Moto Z already going jackless! It was in fact a device I was looking at with some interest due its modular nature, but with no jack it really lacks appeal. It won’t be the only jack free device soon either, that’s my bet.

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So where else is there to go? Well that’s really the point of this piece. There isn’t anywhere else to go that really works as an iOS alternative. Apple have really done what they set out to in making it an ecosystem that you can’t get out of. If you like your iOS music apps you’re pretty stuck right now, and that seems like a real shame. There’s little chance that Apple will licence iOS to another handset manufacturer, so there’ll be no device that really comes close.

You could view this as a real market opportunity, but in all honesty, who will take it on? It’s a gap that no one is likely to fill at all, and that’s so disappointing.

Personally I could attempt a return to Palm OS, or even Windows Mobile (the really old one), but I know that it wouldn’t last. What I’m really after is a real alternative, but who’s got pockets big enough for that?

Any thoughts? I’m stuck!

0 comments on “ZONT looks like a modular Pocket Operator, but we won’t see it for more than a year”

ZONT looks like a modular Pocket Operator, but we won’t see it for more than a year

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I originally saw this over at Matrixsynth and ever since I’ve been meaning to take a closer look.

My first impression is that I love the idea of it, especially the modular design using interchangeable sound cartridges. I’m sure that I’m not the only person that’s going to appeal to. Bluetooth pairing to a mobile device is also a smart move.

Also the dock with RCA, MIDI, USB-C and 3.5mm jack outputs is a nice touch for using the thing when you’re not on the move. A very smart move indeed.

But Zont is a long way off for now. We won’t see it until late 2017, which is a long time to wait. Also there’s no mention of a price point as yet, which is to be expected, and whilst this might have a similar form factor to a Pocket Operator I’d expect the price to be significantly higher.

So for now you can check the pictures on the ZONT site and the tech specs below

Tech Specs:

  • Universal input interface
  • Stereo speakers
  • AMOLED display
  • Bluetooth connection
  • Wi-Fi cloud sync
  • Built-in rechargeable battery
  • Interchangable sound cartridges
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • USB-C
  • iOS and Android app

As soon as I know more about this device I’ll be sure to share it with you.

0 comments on “More modular fun for your iPad, waverails arrives, can be tried for free, needs an IAP for full use”

More modular fun for your iPad, waverails arrives, can be tried for free, needs an IAP for full use

I’m all for more interesting tools for iOS and this does look quite unusual indeed. I haven’t tried it out as yet, but I expect I will do soon enough, and when I have I’ll be able to tell you if I think that the IAP is worth it or not.

On that note, I have to say that I think that this is quite a good way to offer up an app. In effect it is a ‘try before you buy’ option. I quite like that.

Anyway, for now here’s the app’s app store description:

waverails is a modular path-based loop processor, inspired by avant-garde tape music and early electromechanical musical contraptions. Instead of recording, overdubbing and splicing together tape, waverails lets you splice, warp, blend and reverse audio (live input and/or samples) in real-time by using path-based modular components. waverails can be used as an audio processor or live performance tool to create effects and performances that aren’t easily replicated in real-time with traditional audio software and effects.

Create:

  • Lo-fi warped sound collages
  • Phased loops (just like your favorite 20th century minimalist composers!)
  • Chopped up real-time glitchy beats
  • Massive glittery ambience
  • Granular textures
  • Harmonic and rhythmic effects that transform input sounds into music

Features:

  • Audiobus support (filter port)
  • Control each modular component’s parameters in real time
  • Jump functionality lets you easily set cues and sync object positions and speeds
  • Fine grained or musical interval-based speed control
  • BPM control to match audio input tempo
  • Perform any task with a few taps, without needing any gestures/long presses.
  • No additional hardware or apps required, create new sounds using internal or imported samples
  • Info function to share and learn information about custom patches.

note: full patch editing and save functionality require in-app purchase.

Click below for waverails on the app store:

0 comments on “Video: MINISIZER Overview & Sound Demo”

Video: MINISIZER Overview & Sound Demo

Modular is big right now, but this isn’t it’s tiny! The minisizer is from the people who made the Tinysizer and it looks amazing. My only reservation is that it isn’t battery powered, which is a bit of a shame. Even so, I really want one of these.

Video description:

“The Anyware Instruments MINISIZER is an almost palm-sized analog modular synthesizer from the maker of the Tinysizer and Moodulator.

Features:

  • 1 OSC, 6 Waveforms incl. 2 Sub´s
  • Glide
  • 2 ENVs (ADSR,AD),
  • Moog-style ladder filter,
  • 3 VCAs,
  • 4 CV-MIDI & Gate
  • 6 jacks for interfacing with “the world”,
  • 24 Knobs,
  • 143 Patch Points
  • 2 AC/DC coupled lin/exp ctrl,
  • PWM, sync,
  • noise generator (white)
  • ring modulator
  • 2 LFO & inverter,
  • 1 more inverter, clipper
  • 3 Mixer

More info:
http://www.anyware-instruments.de/

Video published by The Tuesday Night Machines.

1 comment on “Moments in Mobile Music: 6 – Jasuto”

Moments in Mobile Music: 6 – Jasuto

Let me start this moment with a statement that I am (currently) not a modular synth guy. That may surprise some of you but I’ve resisted that temptation so far. Although it isn’t easy. However, I’m very interested in ideas around modularity and I’m not just talking about modular synths. So when the first modular synth arrived on iOS I was really interested. I didn’t hurt that it looked amazing too. The design was really appealing. I know that for a lot of people Jasuto didn’t make sense at first but when you’re u gave it a little time it was pretty easy to get into. Also it wasn’t modular in terms of its look and feel and by that I mean that it didn’t try to look like a physical modular synth. I think that was a major plus point for Jasuto too. In fact, in my view its design was and still is a stroke of genius.

I started using Jasuto when it first landed. It was a main stay of my iPhone 3G and after that on my ipad first generation. Which in fact I’ve still got around somewhere. Apps like Jasuto showed just how innovative the developer community could get. It was a real signal for people to do things differently and I think it made users realise just how powerful the platform was. Let’s not forget that this was even before Apple decided to call the os iOS.

Moments like Jasuto show us that our devices are capable of a lot more than we thought. They make us realise that this tiny computers give us the ability to go to places that were unavailable only a few years ago.

I still like Jasuto. I still use it and find it useful. I’d like to hope that it isn’t abandoned. I’d like to think that there’s another massive version in the offing. I live in hope!

0 comments on “From the beginning … PalmSounds on video, back in 2013: Molecule Synth”

From the beginning … PalmSounds on video, back in 2013: Molecule Synth