From March 12th to 15th, Frankfurt again hosted the Musikmesse and I went there with Dr. Walker and a mission: check out new gear and promote Liquid Sky Berlin’s Psychedelic Kitchen TV. Here’s what I felt about some of the new great stuff presented there.
After all the discussions on Facebook and Twitter, I was super-interested in the new Roland AIRA series. Apart from their own Roland/ Boss booth, they also showed the AIRAs on a dedicated AIRA booth. Looks like Roland will define the AIRA family as it’s own product class. So far they showed a drum machine (TR-8), a monophonic bass synth with internal sequencer (TB-3) a vocoder/ voice processor (VT-3) and the System-1, a so-called „plug out synthesizer“, which can load dedicated plug ins. The first plugout-plugin shall be an emulation of the legendary SH-101, which was not available yet.
The TR-8 is a convincing emulation of Roland’s classic and defining drum machines TR-808 and TR-909.
The good: it has the authentic sound (and some of the limitations) of the two. Really phat 909 bass drum. 808 bass drum may be not as subtle as the original. But he 909 bassdrum kicks away like a mule. I was jamming with it for maybe 10 minutes on the Musikmesse and especially the most important sounds bassdrum, snare and hi-hat just felt so right. Programming it is just fun and feels super-natural. When you ever have programmed an 808 or 909, you’ll be right into the game and enjoy the additional features like the FX (Reverb and Delay), that can be step-programmed too and so can the external sidechain input.
The bad: I don’t like the gain levels of the drums. A Detroit groove with toms requires Toms on max level and BD on a third level only. Hope they’ll fix that soon. Another bad: only 16 patterns. Say what? Is that a new trend (AKAI Rhythm Wolf)??? But programming is so easy, I guess it makes sense to see those patterns just as buffers.
I can’t wait to grab my own TR-8 and use it in my next live performances.
The Roland AIRA TR-8 is set to be released on March 21st.
Also a candidate for my live set list could be the VT-3. Being a faithful user of the Boss VT-1 since it came out and having used the deep pitched effect live and on many of my own productions („More“), I was very excited to check out the VT-3. It has got all the presets you’d expect and some more. Wanna impersonate Phuture or the Kraftwerk-Robots? Build in. Wanna do Dubstep bass-wobbles with your mouth? Look no further. Highly recommended to human beat boxers. Comes with 48V phantom power as well. Nice!
The bad: no physical line-in and the presets are relatively fixed. But that’s the case with TR-8 and TB-3 as well. What you hear is what you get, like it or not. It’s a robot voice right out of the box. And for a street price of under EUR 200,- there’s not much room for complaint. We’ll find out more on the predicted release date: March 21st 2014.
Of course the TB-3 is Roland’s take on their own Acid Bassline classic TB-303. Judging the Roland AIRA TB-3 only by its emulated 303 sounds ain’t fair though: it’s an innovative new bass synth with Kaoss pad style useability and all kinds of bass sounds. The sequencer resembles the original 303 and those 303 sounds sounded convincing at the booth. Need to check thoroughly.
The Roland AIRA TB-3 will be released also on March 21st 2014.
I can’t say much about the System-1 synth yet. It will be interesting to check it again with the SH-101 emulation. And I’m looking forward to further emulations. Juno-106? Jupiter-6 and 8? Please bring em on in such a compact size. And just considering: if the System-01 can be fed with new emulations, maybe this could be the case as well with the other members of the AIRA family? Predicted release date for the System-1 is June 16th 2014.
And finally and off the record, the AIRA team (Roland’s new development group thinking out of the Roland box, pun intended) showed the protoytpe of a blacked-out Sync box, which could connect the AIRA range to all kinds of hardware gear, vintage or new.
For all those nice cool indie analog enthusiats, the „Synthi-Bude“ was hosted by distributor Alex4. Peter Kirn of CreateDigitalMusic presented his take on super-compact monophonic synths with the MeeBlip Anode. It’s hard to find more synth at the size of a Ritter Sport chocolate bar and a price of EUR 129,-
Also there as always, the super-sympathic Dieter Doepfer with new extensions for his A-100 modular system. I was most impressed by a little sequencer ,module which resembles the surface of Doepfer’s Schaltwerk hardware sequencer on a very compact footprint for the modular system.
Small footprints also at the AKAI booth: the company extended their APC range of dedicated controller for Ableton Live. With almost the same functionality PLUS faders at a street price of € 99,- the APC Mini could be a Novation Lauchpad killer. If you need keys instead of faders, you might wanna go for he super-compact APC key25. Of course the keyboard ain’t good for keyboard wizardry, but it’s so small, it will slip easily in the bag next to laptop and give you not just 8 knobs but also those fancy multi-coloured launch clip matrix buttons. AKAI also revamped the original APC: the APC40 Mk.2 boasts multicolor pads, smaller, lighter. Good form factor. I personally prefer the clear and clean layout of my white APC40 Mk.1 but the new APC40 Mk.2 might be the better choice when compact size matters. Read more about the new APCs at DJtechtools and JustMusic.
The AKAI Rhythm Wolf looked super-nice: analog drums and monophonic bass in a box for 200 €/$. Unfortunately just a prototype, no sound. But what a price for that package. We have heard that the drum sounds shall be inspired by TR-808 and CR-78. The bass synth is NO 303 clone. It boats a 24 dB filter and I could not help to compare the overall design with a mix out of Jomox Xbase-09 (just a few analog drums) and Quasimidi Rave-O-Lution 309 (drums AND monophonic bass synth Major specs downer for me: only 16 patterns…
Also I heard that the basic idea for the Rhythm Wolf was floating through the brains of the AKAI engineers already for a couple of years. The success of Korg’s Volca Series seems to have given AKAI the confidence to finally build this little machine.
It seems like they are still tweaking the sound as well as the feel of the hardware (which feels really OK, just the pots feel a bit cheap but it looks like they gonna change that) until end of July. If AKAI does not mess up completely this will be a no-brainer and a hot competition for the Volca Beat.
Read more about AKAI’s next sureshot on CreateDigitalMusic and JustMusic.
M-Audio showed the TriggerFinger Pro. This is not just another DAW controller. It’s also a standalone hardware sequencer that works without a computer. Connected to a computer, you can trigger M-Audio drum software in MPC/ Maschine style and control the DAW. But standalone the TriggerFinger Pro acts as a hardware sequenzer without sound engine. This does look not so spectacular at first sight, but it could be the perfect solution for everybody looking for an MPC-style stand-alone hardware setup sequenzer.
„Basteln“ in German means „tinkering“ and the little boxes by Bastl Instruments look like DIY projects, but they are invented and build in the Czech Republic.
They build presents supercool grungy little instruments: drum machine, poly synth, FM mono synth, sequenzer and the MIDI module can all be connected easily to share power supply, audio and MIDI. Highlight is probably the super-grungy microGranny. This little box is a hardware grain sampler capable to deconstruct and destroy a loop. Super-noizy indeed. Plays 16 bit samples from SD cards or samples in 8 bit. Should be around € 150,-, check the web: www.bastl-instruments.com
The wooden caveman keyboard seems like a toy, but it actually works.
Createdigitalmusic also loves the microGranny.
I recently purchased the Waldorf Rocket and love it. The new addition to the range looks promising: if you also always loved the string sounds of Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre, if you ever dreamt of owning a vintage Solina String ensemble, that spreads this thick and buttery sound on your digital tracks, the Streichfett is for you. „Streichfett“ is a pun on the German definition of butter or margarine spread. Boxed like the Rocket, probably priced with a similiarily cheap price tag, it will be certainly for me.
The Elektron family grows bigger and bigger. The AnalogKeys is the keyboard version of the Analog Four. The Analog Rytm is an analogue drum machine in a box similiar to the Elektron range. For Elektron enthusiats there is also a street wear range.
The most exciting news to me however was the announcement of Overbridge, a system to seamlessly integrate Analog Four, Analog Keys and Analog Rytm into any DAW via USB. Overbridge will connect via it’s own VST/ AU plugin and also offer total recall of all settings in a project. The audio stream functionality was already shown at Musikmesse. The whole Overbridge should be released by the end of 2014 as a free update for all Elektron users. Check at theier website or all associated links in this article.
German Synthesizer Magazin again installed a synth museum where people could play all the old synths that the kids today only know as a plugin. And I met my first synth again, the Moog Prodigy. When I posted these pictures on my personal Facebook page, there was the most reaction on the rare PPG Wave Racks 340 B, 348 A and 380.
Pioneer made every DJ’s imagination run wild when they showed a new vinyl turntable in a glass show case. Spinning round like a record (sic) we could not touch it, so here are the visual impressions: it looks not as solid as a Technics turntable, it has no digital outs and certainly no sync button. Just a stereo out and a ground connection. Pitch range can be pushed in 3 steps up to +/- 50%
They did not mention anything about price and release date, not even if they are gonna produce it all. But the reaction at the Musikmesse clearly indicates that there is the need for a professional high quality turntable to replace the discontinued legendary Technics 1200 series.
Createdigitalmusic and DJtechtools have more.
Since one year/ last Musikmesse we are waiting for Bitwig, the alternative new DAW. Now finally they’ve got their act together and are ready to roll on March 26th. Mea and Placidus from Bitwig showed their impressive and fresh software and gained a lot of interest at their booth. Check more details at Createdigitalmusic and of course at bitwig.com.
On a short walk through Hall 8 I was amazed by huge SSL consoles, amused by a Behringer Digital Console with a smartphone parking pad and very well entertained by my friend Tom Wax, who together with singer Evelyn von Eschenbaum and keyboarder presented the HK Audio Lucas Nano 600, a super-small and super-smart PA system that can be paired for double inputs and stereo sound with the weight and size of a Coke crate. Very promising for spontaneous outdoor parties.
The adventurous camera company sported a glass booth with drums, guitars and bass and invited me to jam there with their crew, being recorded in pristine HD by their range of GoPro Hero cameras. So I picked up the bass and had a superb moment at the end of my Musikmesse trip, thanks to Isa and Neil from GoPro. The recording quality of that supersmall little camera is just sooo amazing. It’s he perfect cam to take out and just record.
Overall this was a great Musikmesse. Lots of exciting new developments in small affordable and yet powerful hardware as well as further integration between software and hardware (Roland AIRA, Elektron Overbridge, UAD Apollo Twin).
So expect to catch me soon live with one or more of the Roland AIRAs, crushing sound with a BASTL and recording my show with a GoPro Hero3. Maybe soon in a club near you. Mijk out!