Jan 22

It is that time of year again – Namm 2017. I try not to get too excited about these events nowadys to avoid dissappointment as I am always expecting so much more. I am probably just like you in that I want every musical instrument manufacturer to announce a new product, that doesn’t cost much; is instantly available; will integrate immediately into my setup and will take my music to another level giving me that “Wow” factor.

The reality of a Namm event is somewhat far from this and varies every year and of course means different things to different people.You have to also appreciate that Namm 2017 will be full of products that were released earlier in 2016 and perhaps have not completely hit all of the shops yet like Roland’s TD50 electronic drum kit. There are of course always products that catch my eye and the first is Roland’s 88 note Digital RD2000 stage piano which looks gorgeous with 1100 tones; V-Piano technology; a weight of 21.7KG but a price of over £2100.


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Jan 24

No it is not Kylie Minilogue it is another little GEM from Namm 2016 from Korg – the new Korg Minilogue Analog Poly. The information on this synth was leaked before the Namm show. It’s an all-new 37-key, 4-voice true analog polyphonic synthesizer with onboard delay and 16 step poly sequencer.

Korg believes that the Minilogue is the first of its kind in design, virtue and affordability. They say that newly developed analog synth circuitry provides a rich, diverse sound palette, instantly recalled from its 100 factory presets plus 100 user programs.

Specifications:

Keyboard: 37 keys (slim keyboard, velocity sensitive)
Maximum Polyphony: 4 voices (8 voice modes inc unison layering)
Controls: 41 dedicated panel controls deliver immediate parameter access
Sequencer: 16 step polyphonic sequencer with automation of up to four synth parameters
Connectivity: MIDI IN / OUT, USB B, Sync IN / OUT allows you to jam with volca and electribe series
Sound Generation: 2 VCO (saw / tri / sqr), 1 VCF (2 / 4pole), 2 EG, 1 VCA, 1 LFO, DELAY
Input / Output Jacks: Headphone Output, Line Output, Audio Input
Oscilloscope: Real-time OLED oscilloscope provides visual feedback of parameter changes

Display
Real-time OLED oscilloscope provides visual feedback of parameter changes

Dimensions (W x D x H)
500 x 300 x 85 mm / 19.69″ x 11.81″ x 3.35″

Weight
2.8 kg / 6.17 lbs.

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Jan 22

One of the biggest surprises for me this Namm is the release of the Yamaha Montage with its new Motion Control Synth engine. Yamaha state that it “sets the next milestone with sophisticated dynamic control, massive sound creation and streamlined workflow from the company that brought you the DX and the Motif”. The Montage is certainly very good-looking synth packed with sounds, so much so that I immediately think this is going to be expensive. There are the usual 3 models with 61, 76 and 88 keys and the cost ranges from approx £2100 to £2800. I really wish they would bring out a rack mounted version of it as I have said before like many other synth enthusiast, I do not have room for another keyboard.

The Motion Control Synthesizer Engine controls two famous Yamaha Sound Engines – Advanced Wave Memory 2 (AWM2) and FM-X. What is really useful is the AWM2 engine is compatible with previous generation Motif libraries, but is exponentially more powerful than the previous Motif XF flagship, with nearly ten times more wave memory, integrated flash, double the effects and twice the polyphony.

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Jan 15

PD*60708286

Hi,

I am very sorry but 2016 has started badly with my website out of action. I am very pleased to announce that it is now back up and running again and I appologise for any inconvenience this has caused you.

It may well be half way through the month but we are getting very close to The 2016 Winter NAMM trade show in Anaheim, California which begins next friday . Already the excitement has started with the anouncement of a new synth from Korg called the Minilogue, a 37 slim-key fully programmable analog polyphonic synthesizer costing £435.

Also, there are the rumors of a new synth from Yamaha called the Montage. Speculation as to whether or not this will become the successor to the Motif is being discussed in Yamaha forums.

We may also see a new Roland sampler added to the product line-up, possibly as part of the AIRA series.

It seems that all the main companies have been recently bringing out products regressing back to yesteryear recreating sounds from the 70’s and 80’s. Personally I wish one of these companies would build a synth for 2016 that would produce sounds like Spectrasonics Omnisphere which are right up-to-date but not rely on a computer to store all of its sounds and have problems of latency. The Korg Kronos is probably the best at this at present but it is still heavily loaded with presets that look to recreate real instruments. Whilst this is good to have, it would be nice to have a synth that recreates solely the software synths sounds that we have today.

Anyway, let’s see what Namm brings us next week.

Dec 20

ROLI NOISE 5D – Free Virtual Seabord for iPhone and iPad

This looks like the best freebie available before Christmas for your iPhone or iPad. I really like the idea of having a Roli Rise keyboard that they released back in September but they are a bit expensive. I was therefore very surprised to hear about this freebie which is absolutely brilliant – you have got to get this.

The RISE, has this awesome MPE which stands for Multi-dimensional Polyphonic Expression. In simple english the whole keyboard surface has note on, key position along the length of it, and pressure (all per note). They are not the first company to do this but I would say they are or will be the most successful.

Apple meantime, with the iPhone 6S also introduced 3D Touch to its capabilities. No doubt the boffins at ROLI had a light bulb moment, as since then, they’ve been working to bring thier new free NOISE app to the market. Essentially on iPhone 6S, NOISE gives you the MPE playing experience (aside from the largess of the actual keyboard) but on your phone screen. You can apply the same pressure and positional control that you can with the Seaboard together with its own Mobile Sound Engine.

It has some 25 great sounds which I think come from their EQUATOR software synth. If you want more sounds you will be able to get these by purchasing from the App itself.

So if you are like me and want to experience what MPE is like but can not afford a Seaboard Rise, this is for you – free. You can only currently get it for the iPhone (iOS 9 up), the iPad version is not yet available.

Available free via the iTunes Store – what are you waiting for?

Sep 20

It looks like Roland’s secret is out as someone has accidently leaked details of three new (rather old) synths as small desk models:- The Roland JP-08 synthesizer module, the Roland JU-06 synthesizer module and the Roland JX-03 synthesizer module. Have a look here:-

roland-jp-08-module

roland-ju-06-module

roland-jx-03-module

All looking very colourful like the originals. I can’t help feeling Roland has done this to directly compete with Yamaha’s Reface series of Keyboards which are their reimagined interfaces of classic Yamaha keyboards. Personally I think it is great to see these classics from both Yamaha and Roland.

I am pleased that Roland do not have a small keybed attached to their modules, although you can get the K-25m keyboard unit if you wish. Instead of spending £2000 on one keyboard that does all we will all be buying 10 little synths at £300 each. Where do you put them all?

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Sep 15

roland-juno-ds-61-and-88

Roland have launched a new synth Roland Juno-DS which comes in two types the Juno-DS61 and the Juno-DS88. Are they just referbished Junos?

I do get annoyed with Roland when they bring out a new synth that has all of the sounds of the old synth. They also continue to make keyboards like their current range in cheaper and lightweight materials. Don’t get me wrong, we all want lightweight but can they stand up to the rigours of gigging. I suppose it just means you have to take greater care with them.

Roland are advertising these synths as feature packed performance that you can use anywhere and run from battery. They say that it comes with all of the sounds of the Juno-Di, but adds freshly updated pianos, electric pianos, organs and other essential sounds that all keyboard players need. I wonder how different these freshly updated sounds are?

They do however give you access to over 1000 free addition sounds by way download at Roland’s Axial website. Just download onto a USB stick. There are no sounds for the Roland Juno-DS at present as the keyboards have only just been released. It would be good to have some audition facility at this site to give you an idea of what the additional sounds sound like.

What is also new to these models is the capability to connect a microphone. You can then add reverbs,vocoder effects and auto-pitch to your voice, couple this with an eight-track pattern sequencer with non-stop recording and you have a great piece of kit for fast song creation. Not forgetting it also has a sample import function for playing user WAV files on the JUNO’s keyboard and eight Phrase Pads for triggering samples and audio songs stored on USB memory.

The 61 note keyboard has 61-note velocity-sensitive keyboard with synth action whilst the 88 note has an 88-note Ivory Feel-G Keyboard. Cost is approx £550 and £800. I think I will check these out.

L

Sep 14

I can’t help saying that I think the “Seaboard Rise” is such a silly name especially as it is a inovative new instrument (similar to a keyboard) that allows you to touch and shape your sound, opening endless possibilities of musical expression. Although they say it is futuristic, I am also not sure about it all black / grey looks but it is very portable to play where you want and has a superb interface with a pressure-sensitive, continuous surface.

The Seaboard RISE is the baby of the Seaboard GRAND which is a bit expensive for most of us but the Rise is a lot smaller with just 25 keywaves. What is a keywave you ask? Well I suppose it like a piano key but it allows you to play a lead guitar solo to produce the same guitar skills a guitarist would use with his guitar. You need to see the You Tube clip to fully understand what I am trying to say.

The expression on this keybed is fantastic as many artists like BT, Rudess and Zimmer are discovering. With pitch and pressure on each note, as well as positional data as to where you are on the key, its possible to play very expressive sounds modulating the character of sound in real time with simple movements of your finger. This seems right up Jordan Rudess’ street as Roli have made him Head of Music Experience.

What does it sound like? Well Seaboard RISE comes with Equator which is ROLI’s own software synth designed for Expressive MIDI instruments. ROLI state that “in Equator, the Seaboard RISE’s five primary dimensions of touch and gestural control – strike, press, glide, slide, and lift – are easily and independently mapped to a wide variety of sound parameters. Sliders on the left-hand control panel regulate the extent to which these parameters of gestural modulation are utilised, allowing the Seaboard RISE to behave like anything from a conventional keyboard controller – in easy-to-use “piano mode” – to a completely open-ended interactive surface”.

ROLI also say that it is a first. It is the first Expressive MIDI device to offer an easy-to-use multi-platform synth, the first with an integrated user control panel, and the first to perform wirelessly with an integrated battery and Bluetooth over MIDI. ROLI also believe that its retail price of $799 (£599) puts it within reach of beginners as well as studio professionals.

Seaboard RISE 25 Features

Seamless hardware-software integration
Beautifully crafted using premium materials
Sleek, intuitive design accessible to musicmakers of all technical levels
Completely wireless with MIDI over Bluetooth
Bundled with Equator, the world’s first purposebuilt, multidimensional software synthesiser

Seaboard RISE 25 Technical specifications

25 Keywaves
505 mm x 210 mm x 22.9 mm / 2.8 kg
(19.88 in x 8.27 in x 0.9 in / 6.17 lbs)
Continuous pedal input (1/4″ jack)
USB B port (MIDI out and power)
USB A port (for charging peripherals)
18 W
Internal battery with 12hour playability
Full MIDI compatibility over USB and Bluetooth

System Requirements

OS X 10.8+ / Windows 7+ / iOS 7+
Intel Core i5 2.5GHz or faster recommended
4 GB RAM minimum / 8 GB RAM recommended
2 GB available disk space for Equator installation
USB 2.0+ port for USB compatibility

I want one.

Jan 24

NAMM 2015: Roland Unleash the JD-Xi Compact Crossover Synth

This is a lovely looking synth, the only thing I hate is 37 mini keys – great if you are a child. I don’t understand why they could not make it like the Roland SH-01. Admittedly it would be more square-shaped but at least it would be nicer to play. Actually looking at this a bit further, this would make a great rack unit. I know many companies seem to not be making rack units anymore, but it is a real shame, especially as if it was rack you could have it right in front of you to connect up to you favorite keybed like my Fantom G 88. Come on Roland make this little beauty into a rack unit as there is a limit to the amount of keyboards one can own.

However, also in the news but not for release yet is it’s bigger brother the Roland’s flagship’ JD-Xa Analog/Digital Crossover Synthesizer also on preview at the 2015 NAMM Show. The Roland JD-Xa maybe available by the next great show at  Musikmesse 2015. The Roland JD-Xa briefly has a keyboard jam packed with knobs and controls but with full size keys. It also has four independent analog monophonic voices, so you can use it as a four-voice polysynth. As you would expect it comes with four additional synth voices, based on Roland’s SuperNatural technology and lastly it has eight channels of step sequencing.

Anyway, let’s not get carried away with things to come let us focus our attention on the Roland JD-Xi.

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Jan 19

Well welcome to Namm week 2015 and Nord have just announced some familiar looking keyboards. Yes they look like all the other Nord keyboards but it is actually the new Nord Electro 5 series.

nord-electro-5-namm-2015

They come in three types, the Nord Electro 5d 61 note, the Nord Electro 5d 73 note and the hammer action Nord Electro 5HP 88 note. So what is the difference between the Series 5 and the previoous 4 series? Well Nord have made enhancements to every sound-generating section. They have improved its user-interface and functionality. Nord tell us that the Electro 5 series keyboards are more refined, live-focused, flexible than any of their previous models.

Nord introduced the Electro in 2001 and it has been used my many players over the world who crave for that authentic emulations of classical electro mechanical and acoustic instruments in a portable package.

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