Posts tagged: Synthesizer

106.js: Roland Juno-106 emulation in your browser!

A virtual analog Roland Juno-106 by Steven Goldberg using WebAudio and Web MIDI

106.js: Roland Juno-106 emulation in your browser!

Polyphonic and MIDI enabled, meaning you can hook up a midi keyboard and controller and use the synth without having to look at the screen or use your computer’s keyboard. If you’d like to check out the source, it’s an open-source project on Github where you can also find the manual if needed.

You can play with it here, or own my own site, Synthles, where I’ve installed it as well!

 

 

Synthles: The Synthesizer Instructor

Today I’m launching a new service: The Synthesizer Instructor!

SynthLes flyer By Bureau Sculptaal

Where you can learn about the use of synthesizers. From desktop to full modular, audio & midi routing to sound design. One on one on a consultancy basis or in group classes, ideal for schools and bands! You want to learn how to use them and I got the knowledge to help you progress. Check out the synth instructor website for more information (in Dutch). Or check out Facebook and Twitter.

MFB synthesizers, picture by Vivid Suit


Flyer design by Bureau Sculptaal.

Photography by Vivid Suit.

 

Preview: Caustic 3 (Android)

Caustic 3, Android’s most advanced music workstation yet

Caustic 3 Mixer

Some of the improvements are a more detailed piano roll (32/64th notes anyone?!), being able to reorganize devices and of course new sound sources. In fact, many new devices! An organ emulator (pictured far below), an FM synthesizer and even a fully modular synthesizer (pictured below) to name a few. The master section, pictured left, has also been expanded with a new parametric equalizer and limiter while the original master reverb/delay combo is still in place, however with much more controls and much improved reverb/delay algorithms. Which is a posh way of saying “they sound better”.

 

Caustic 3 Modular Frontside

 

For what the app has to offer it feels like having Reason in your pocket. Caustic’s virtual rack might not be as modular as Reason’s it does compare nicely in sense of completeness. But it has it’s own merits that Reason doesn’t have, like a static flanger, Organ synthesizer* and of course ‘fitting in your pocket’. (*Reason might have those features now-a-days, I’m familiar with Reason up to version 5.)

 

Caustic 3 Modular Backside

 

If you buy an unlock key for Caustic 2, it’ll also work on Caustic 3. The price will surely rise when the third installment comes out (if not, it deserves a price-raise), so get in early and familiarize yourself with the controls of Caustic 2.

For more info about Caustic, like news updates, it’s manual, and a user forum head on over to http://www.singlecellsoftware.com/.

 

Caustic 3 Organ

Note: The pictures in this preview say RC3, however I’m currently already on RC4. Improvements and maybe even enhancements beyond RC4 can still be made, and as such I might do a review on the full version later.

Review: MFB 522 Drumcomputer

MFB offers a cool boom for little buck

Being very positively impressed by both the Nano- and Microzwerg, I decided to have a go with the little 522 as well. Offering a full drumkit with it’s kick-drum, snare, clap, tomtom, conga, cowbell, clave, cymbal, hi-hat and rimshot (but no clash) I decided to see what makes it tick. (Cue: Rimshot, Cl… ah dammit!)

MFB-522 Drumcomputer

Offering the same sound-set as the Roland TR-808 it offers instant appeal to producers on a budget, so let’s round up the similarities and differences: Like the 808 the tomtom and conga cannot be played simultaneously. The 522 offers midi however and has separate outputs for the kick, a combined output for snare and rimshot, clap, hi-hat and a combined stereo output for the sounds without a separate output or without a patch-cable inserted. The TR-808 has an output for each sound. Unless patched every sound comes out of the stereo output by default. So, does it sound like the 808? Mmmyeano, probably not. Maybe. You can expect similar results from the Propellerhead Kong drum designer by using the analog parts or with an analog (semi-)modular synthesizer. It sounds thinner and less tinny than you might be used to from an 808, but then again, most 808 sounds and samples out there have already been processed with compression or amplification. The 808’s inner circuitry probably had a lot to do with it’s familiar sound and like the Roland TB-303 there are already too many discussions on as to ‘why it sounds like it sounds’. Plugging the MFB-522 into a distortion pedal or compressor yields very similar results as you might expect from the ol’ Roland. And there the comparison should end. The MFB is a drumcomputer in it’s own right albeit probably marketed at people who lack an analog 1980’s model in their collection.

It’s a joy to just plug in a midi-cable and go to work. The midi-cc’s are neatly sorted making mapping easy. I use each output separately mixing and EQ’ing them back together on a mixer, adding extra crunch to the sound before it’s fed into my audio-interface. Some of the sounds can’t play together because of analog limitations making it impossible to play a snare and a rimshot on the exact same note, same goes for the cowbell and clave and of course the tomtom and conga because you have to flick a switch to choose between them. You can change the tone, tune and envelope of the sounds but playing live might be a bit cumbersome given it’s small knobs and featherweight design. The kick and clap come in two variants, shot and long, adding to the options of possible rhythms, and for some reason I was able to get four notes out of the tomtom and conga while the manual clearly states there should only be three. Oh well, bonus drum for me I guess! The 522 has three shuffle settings when using the internal sequencer, and can be synced to incoming MIDI-clock messages. Some of the sounds are great while others sound underwhelming, this is where layering and effects will make it shine again. It’s these imperfections that give you, the producer, a small challenge to make it do what you want. It might be a turn-off for some, but I kinda like that.. The Adafruit x0xb0x is a perfect clone of the TB-303 and yet it also needs a little work to sound like you remember a 303. Consider that before you give this a pass because maybe after ten years of sitting in smokey, moldy studios, basements and attics these machines’ll start sounding exactly alike, or even’ll start (mis)behaving in their own peculiar way.

The MFB-522 drumcomputer by MFB is an attempt to give us back the joys of analog circuitry and tweaking knobs to fine-tune the percussion contained within. Mimicking, although not perfectly, the sounds and controls of the 808 for a very, VERY reasonable price.

 

Related:
MFB Nanozwerg Review

MFB Microzwerg Review

 

Review: MFB Microzwerg

 

MFB’s medium sized semi-modular synthesizer

MFB MicrozwergMy experiences with the Nanozwerg were enough to warrant buying it’s slightly bigger brother. The oscillators sound good, the modular functions keep surprising you with new sounds and Manfred Fricke always squeezes a few extra functions in the machine, in this case by using a ‘shift’ button. The shift button plays a major role in this machine, as this is the button you use to change between filters 1 and 2, the 2 oscillators, and the LFO settings. The normal oscillators and low frequency oscillators feature the familiar triangle, saw and square waveforms but both OSC’s and LFO’s have an extra trick up their sleeves. OSC 1 features a ring modulator while OSC 2 offers white noise, the LFO has an added ramp in it’s waveforms while LFO 2 has sample & hold.

 

MFB Microzwerg & NanozwergThe Nanozwerg’s bigger brother brings more modularity and patch points than it smaller sibling (the smaller yellow synthesizer pictured on the left). It looks a bit cooler in dark blue with it’s many patch points above the controls, but together they offer a very cool modular combination. Both dwarfs (zwerg being the German word for dwarf) also go well together by using both machines together using the CV (control voltage) in- & outputs. The audio signals can be combined via the ‘VCA (voltage controlled amplifier) add’ and filter inputs. The downside also being the same semi-modularity, with an emphasis on ‘semi’. Not everything can be done, like the lack of being able to adjust the incoming CV value, or scaling as it’s called. This is where a full modular rack would really step-up the sound-designing game. Like the Nanozwerg the filter isn’t awe inspiring but does it’s job well with the 12dB per octave it offers. The resonance is a bit too eager to scream, but together with a distortion pedal this doesn’t have to be a problem. Since I would really would like to expand my studio with a full modular synth in rack format, I’ll probably make use of external filters pretty soon anyway. And there’s always the option to use plugin’s (within a digital audio workstation) to do the filtering. I already play my synths via MIDI inside a DAW and triggering a digital filter is as easy as using the same MIDI notes to trigger the filter’s cut-off.

Because I’ve already tested the Nanozwerg the Micorzwerg isn’t surprising me soundwise. Well, not a lot as I’ve already heard some mad things I didn’t expect when dialing in the sounds. It’s modular side however probably still holds many secrets for me that I’m more than ready and willing to find out. Yeah, it’s not a Moog, but at this price I really don’t care! A great synth to start with to try if analog synths are what you’re looking for. It’s many patch points will stay valuable even if you already expanded your modular synth set-up beyond the capabilities of the Microzwerg making it great value for money.

 

Related:
MFB Microzwerg Patch Sheet

MFB Nanozwerg Review