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ENHANCED EDITION WITH VIDEO AND AUDIO Issue 324

Making the future since 1992

THE ESSENTIAL

DRUM MACHINE Get experimental with your hardware!

MASCHINE MK 3 & KOMPLE TE KONTROL M K2

Hands on revie ws + tutorial

IN-DEPTH ACCESS

STEFFI VESSELS//BLONDES

SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO

ISSUE 324


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Editor Si Truss, simon.truss@futurenet.com Reviews Editor/Online Content Manager Simon Arblaster, simon.arblaster@futurenet.com Art Editor Phil Cheesbrough, philip.cheesbrough@futurenet.com Production Editor James Russell, james.russell@futurenet.com BIG THANKS TO… Joe Rossitter, Jono Buchanan, Hamish Mackintosh, Tim Cant, Roy Spencer, Danny Turner, Dan ‘JD73’ Goldman, Tom Jones, Ben Wilson, Bruce Aisher, Jon Musgrave, Joby Sessions, Joseph Branston, Olly Curtis, Mark Gyver, Robbie Stamp, Oli Bell, Adam Lee, Catherine Hood ADVERTISING For Ad enquiries please contact: Steve Hymas, steve.hymas@futurenet.com MARKETING Direct Marketing Executive: Will Hardy PRODUCTION & DISTRIBUTION Production Controller: Fran Twentyman Production Manager: Mark Constance Printed in the UK by: William Gibbons & Sons Ltd on behalf of Future Distributed in the UK by: Marketforce (UK), 2nd Floor, 5 Churchill Place, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5HU CIRCULATION Trade Marketing Manager: Michelle Brock Tel: +44 (0)207 429 3683 SUBSCRIPTIONS UK reader order line & enquiries: 0844 848 2852 Overseas reader order line & enquiries: +44 (0)1604 251045 Online enquiries: www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk Email: futuremusic@myfavouritemagazines.co.uk LICENSING Senior Licensing & Syndication Manager: Matt Ellis, matt.ellis@futurenet.com Tel: +44 (0)1225 442244 MANAGEMENT Managing Director, Magazines Division: Aaron Asadi Art & Design Director: Ross Andrews Music Group Editor-In-Chief: Daniel Griffiths

Beat Of The Drum Right from day one, drum machines have provided the foundation on which dance music is built. In a practical sense, before DAWs were common-place, the beating pulse of a drum machine would be the heartbeat around which electronic productions were synchronised. In stylistic terms too, it’s not hyperbole to state that the not-so-realistic sound of Roland’s classic drum boxes have defined whole genres with their crisp, punchy hits and distinctive swing. Whether it’s sample or synth based, software or hardware, at some point dance music producers are going to want to get their hands on a drum machine. But with so much use over the years, is there anywhere fresh to take your drum machine sounds? Join us on page 26 where we try to do exactly that. Don’t forget to grab this issue’s videos and samples from the cover disc and our new download site FileSilo, at www.filesilo.co.uk/FutureMusic

All contents copyright © 2017 Future Publishing Limited or published under licence. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be reproduced, stored, transmitted or used in any way without the prior written permission of the publisher. Future Publishing Limited (company number 2008885) is registered in England and Wales. Registered office: Registered office: Quay House, The Ambury, Bath, BA1 1UA. All information contained in this publication is for information only and is, as far as we are aware, correct at the time of going to press. Future cannot accept any responsibility for errors or inaccuracies in such information. You are advised to contact manufacturers and retailers directly with regard to the price and other details of products or services referred to in this publication. Apps and websites mentioned in this publication are not under our control. We are not responsible for their contents or any changes or updates to them. If you submit unsolicited material to us, you automatically grant Future a licence to publish your submission in whole or in part in all editions of the magazine, including licensed editions worldwide and in any physical or digital format throughout the world. Any material you submit is sent at your risk and, although every care is taken, neither Future nor its employees, agents or subcontractors shall be liable for loss or damage.

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FM | CONTENTS

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IN THE STUDIO WITH: Steffi The DJ and label owner’s Berlin studio is bursting with gear, and it’s our job to find out how she gets the most from it

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This Issue | Contents

92 88

96 86

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INTERVIEW: Vessels tell us about the challenges they faced in dropping their guitars and turning fully electronic

TECHNIQUE

REVIEWS

In-depth tests of all the latest gear

Essential production advice and ideas

78 Native Instruments Maschine Mk3

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82 Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol Mk2

The Essential Drum Machine Masterclass Push your beatmaking hardware to its limits

INCLUDES VIDEOl

86 Analogue Solutions Dr Stangelove 88 Vox Continental 61

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92 PreSonus FaderPort 8

INCLUDES VIDEOl

Producer’s Guide Native Instruments Maschine Mk3

94 Round-Up: UAD 9.3 96 Stam Audio SA4000 98 Group Test: iOS Studio Accessories 100 Lauten Series Black LA-220 102 Allen & Heath Xone:PX5 104 Sound & Samples

78 REVIEW: Native Instruments Maschine Mk3 We put the latest version of NI’s groovebox controller to the test in our extensive review

82 100

68

INCLUDES VIDEOl

Toolkit Vintage Reverb

72

INCLUDES VIDEOl

Modular Monthly Qu-Bit Electronix Chance

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FM | DVD & DIGITAL

Your bonus content… filesilo.co.uk/futuremusic YOUR DOWNLOAD CONTENT HAS MOVED! This issue’s DVD content and more is available to access from FileSilo. At the link above, login or register, then unlock over 10GB of goodies!

SAMPLE PACKS

VIDEO & AUDIO

Exclusive new sounds with every issue

Hear the gear first with our demos

ON THE VAULT: GROOVE CRIMINALS PRESENT…

Vocoded Loops inspiring samples of instruments, drums and more fed through vocoder setups

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ON THE DVD

> Essential Drum Machines > Toolkit: Retro reverb > The Track: Wehbba > Acid bass in Maschine > Modular: Qu-Bit Chance

ON FILESILO

> More Essential Drum Machines content > Maschine’s Ideas View > FM Sample Archive

ON THE DVD: CYCLICK SAMPLES PRESENT…

Dub Percussion Get into the vibe with this colection of reverband delay-heavy percussion hits

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PLUS

ACCESS THE FM SAMPLE ARCHIVE!

Download the ‘Sample Archive’ packs and get over 8GB of loops, hits and instruments from our back catalogue of high-quality and royalty-free samples. From vintage synths and beats to esoteric sounds and FX – think of it as our best of. All the samples you need to create great music!

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48 INCLUDES VIDEOl

THE TRACK: Wehbba We join the Brazilian beatmaker in his studio to watch him deconstruct Fake


This Issue | Contents

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FEATURE: The Essential Drum Machine Masterclass Push your beatboxes into unexplorered territory with our full guide and accompanying videos

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INTERVIEW: Blondes We speak to Zach Steinman and Sam Haar about their unusual hardware setup and their music making philosophies

12 16 15 14

FEATURES

Expert tips, techniques and tutorials 16 Classic Album: Simian Mobile Disco, Attack Decay Sustain Release 23 Album Reviews 26 Feature: The Essential Drum Machine Masterclass

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In The Studio With: StefďŹ

FILTER

Find us online at www.futuremusic.co.uk

Watch our videos www.youtube.com/ futuremusicmagazine

All the latest gear from around the world

55 Producer’s Guide: Working with Maschine

12 Reason 10

60 Interview: Vessels

14 Roli Blocks

68 Toolkit: Vintage Reverb

14 Waves Reissues

74 Interview: Blondes

15 Talking Shop: Ian Chang

108 Gear Guide

20 Subscribe to FM

Follow us on Twitter @futuremusicmag

Join us on Facebook www.facebook.com/ futuremusicmagazine 9


Contents | This Issue

BONUS SAMPLES

See this month’s selection of free demos at www.filesilo.co.uk/futuremusic

01

02 03

04

05 06 www.loopmasters.com 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08

Loopmasters Presents Aurora Ambient Chill Loopmasters Pres. Booming Trap RV Samplepacks Live Drum & Bass Breaks Singomakers elements for Experiments Loopmasters Sample Pack Dark Electronic Textures By Fluke Luke Loopmasters Artist Series MJ Cole UK Garage & House Organic Loops Presents Real Strings: Dark Moods Vol.2 Loopmasters Jazzmaster Series Keys: Craig Milverton

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FM | FILTER

HIGHLIGHTS… 14 Roli Blocks update

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14 Waves Reissues

15 Talking Shop: Ian Chang

16 Classic Album: SMD, ADSR


The Future Of Music | Filter

Reason 10 Fresh from its VST-toting update, the original virtual studio is returning with a load of new instruments

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aving added VST plugin support by way of Reason 9.5 earlier this year, Propellerhead Software are back to focusing on first-party content with the announcement of Reason 10. This comes with two brand new synths, three sampled instruments, and a couple of devices that were previously only available as paid-for Rack Extensions. Considering Propellerhead’s track record with synths, we’ve got high hopes for the new ones. To things kick off, there’s the Europa ‘shapeshifting synthesizer’, a dynamically-generated wavetable instrument that enables a wide range of modulation to be applied to the waveform. This deep

but supposedly accessible synth also offers spectral filtering, harmonic processing and the option to draw your own waveforms. Reason users will hope that this could be Propellerhead’s answer to wavetable super-synths past and present (by which we mean Massive and Serum). The Grain ‘sample manipulator’, meanwhile, uses granular synthesis. Drop a sample into it and you can start working with its multiple algorithms, modulation features, routing options and effects. Away from the two new synths, there are three sampled instrument collections that have been produced in collaboration with Soundiron: Klang Tuned Percussion features ten

melodic percussion instruments; Pangea World Instruments contains 11, er… world instruments; and the Humana Vocal Ensemble is full of choirs and solo vocals. Also joining the Reason 10 fold are Radical Piano and Synchronous Effect Modulator, which arrive from the Rack Extension store to form part of the standard rack. The former is a “flexible and bendable” piano instrument, while the latter enables you to create quick sidechain effects or draw your own LFO curves to control filter, delay, reverb, distortion and level. There’s also more than 3GB of new sample content via two new ReFills. A hefty update in terms of noisemakers, then – and plenty to check out in our upcoming review. Reason 10 will be hitting the virtual shelves on October 25, 405 Euros as new or 129 Euros as an upgrade from any previous version.

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Filter | The Future Of Music

IK Syntronik comes to iPad

Roli Blocks gets a major update It’s been almost a year since Roli launched their Blocks mobile music making platform, and in that time we’ve seen various software updates and the introduction of the Seaboard Block. Now a new version of the Lightpad Block, which was the cornerstone of the original range, is set for release, and the Noise iOS app, which provides Blocks’ sounds, is getting a much needed overhaul for version 3. The new Lightpad Block M includes ‘microkeywaves’ – inspired by the keywaves on the Seaboard – and promise to offer more tactile feedback. 225 of these sit on the redesigned silicone layer, enhancing the pressure-sensitive control. The ‘M’ model is also brighter, with a richer range of colour definition. Noise 3.0, meanwhile, offers improvements in the areas of clip editing, clip launching and user interface navigation. There are new acoustic sounds, while more can be added as soundpacks. More significantly, the previously ‘walled off’ Noise can now be used as an iOS Audio Unit in hosts such as GarageBand. On the desktop software side, the Lightpad Block M will ship with Tracktion’s Waveform DAW, which is definitely a big bonus. It will also come with a copy of Ableton Live Lite and a cutdown Player version of FXpansion’s Strobe2 synth. You can purchase the Lightpad Block M from the Roli website for £189/$199/199 Euros, while the original model can still be had for £170/$179.

Waves turn 25, reissues three classic plugins Waves is celebrating its 25th anniversary by introducing revamped versions of three classic plugins: Q10 Equalizer, AudioTrack channel strip and L1 Ultramaximizer. Each one comes with new features, and can be used with its ‘legacy’ interface or a new GUI. The Q10 is a multiband paragraphic EQ that offers up to 10 bands. It's now got proportional Q filters among other improvements. AudioTrack, meanwhile, emulates a channel strip from a mixing console

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and gives you EQ, compression and gating in one plugin. The anniversary edition adds a focused EQ band display, separate meters for Comp and Gate gain reduction, and the same double precision 64-bit processing option as Q10. Finally, the famous L1 Ultramaximizer offers an advancedlevel maximizer, look-ahead peak limiter and high-resolution re-quantizer. New features include Auto Release and a measure said to eliminate inter-sample clipping.

Now on iPad, this sample-based app features 17 synths that, collectively, emulate 37 iconic and rare instruments, including models from Moog, ARP, Roland, Yamaha and Oberheim. In addition to a set of carefully captured multisamples, Syntronik features IK’s Drift technology, which emulates the behaviour of analogue oscillators. There’s a modelled filter section with seven types, each of which can be used within any synth. 36 effects can be inserted in a lunchbox-style interface, and you can create four-part layered Multi setup – 200 of these come ready-stacked. A free version of Syntronik can be had from the App Store, coming with 25 sounds from across the 17 synths; Syntronik Full can be had as an in-app purchase (currently £38.99); Individual synths are priced at £9.99/$9.99 each.

AVP’s MBS-100 conjures up memories of Polivoks and Aelita Moscow-based synthesist AVP has announced its latest instrument, the MIDI Bass Synth (MBS-100). This bass-centric monosynth has a hybrid digital/analogue architecture featuring two voltage-controlled digital oscillators, each with four waveforms. Saw and square waves are joined by a pulse wave fixed at a 25% rate and another fixed at 10%, similar to the classic Aelita and Polivoks synthesizers. The MBS-100 is available now for 449 Euros, including free shipping to Europe and North America (USA/Canada).


The Future Of Music | Filter

TALKING SHOP

IAN CHANG The Son Lux drummer on his debut solo EP ince moving to NYC in 2007, Hong Kong-born drummer Ian Chang has performed and recorded with artists including Matthew Dear, Joan As Policewoman and Moses Sumney, alongside his role behind

S

the kit with Son Lux. His debut solo EP Spiritual Leader – which sees him using his kit to trigger and tweak samples – is out now. FM: Tell us about your studio… Ian Chang: “Currently, my setup is in

its nascent stages. It's just my laptop, a four-piece mesh head drum kit with Sunhouse's Sensory Percussion attached, a MOTU 4pre (this allows Sensory Percussion to communicate with my laptop) and a pair of DT770 pro headphones. “There's so much I'd like to change but it's a slow-growing situation. The next step is to find a space (I'm currently set up in my bedroom) that I can acoustically treat and put up monitors. I would also love to get a live drum-tracking situation figured out, but that's several steps down the line.” What's the latest addition to your studio? “I just got a bunch of FabFilter plugins that have been helping me up my game. I've mainly been getting into using Pro-Q 2, Pro-L, Pro-C 2 and Pro-MB, and I've been loving it.” What dream bit of gear would you love to have in your studio? “There is so much gear that I would love to have, but more importantly,

what I would like to be able to do is to have a situation where I can record drum tracks on my own.”

Ian Chang's essential production advice Listen analytically “Make it a habit to step back and listen to music, including your own works in progress, from a nonanalytical standpoint. It's easy to focus too much on the details and to lose site of the general emotional impact of music.” Work with intention “Do everything with intention. There's no right or wrong, so the best you can do is to make decisions that you can really get behind. When making creative decisions, don't forget to ask yourself why?”

Read the full interview: http://bit.ly/fmtschang Talking Shop continues regularly at www.futuremusic.co.uk

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FM | CLASSIC ALBUM

Simian Mobile Disco Attack Decay Sustain Release Wichita, 2007

Words by Roy Spencer

W

hen the fun is gone from making music, it’s time to call it a day. That was the dawning realisation for the psych pop outfit Simian as they finally descended into fisticuffs in a Texan fish restaurant. They’d had a good run, birthing two acclaimed studio albums and a run of successful singles, but the peculiar stresses of touring had taken their toll. Drummer James Ford and programmer Jas Shaw had already been tinkering away with what would become their Simian Mobile Disco offshoot, so shedded bassist Alex MacNaghten and vocalist Simon Lord, to concentrate on their increasingly carefree electronic music-based splinter project. Cheerful remixes with the Simian Mobile Disco stamp came thick and fast, but along the way the duo had also been stockpiling

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enough of their own material. So, while the going was good, thoughts naturally turned to making their own artist album. “We collected together all this stuff we’d been working on,” says Shaw. “It was so much, it wouldn’t fit on one CD. It was like 30 tracks, and the album was made of the ones that had risen to the surface. It was stuff we’d made after little gigs in pubs, and on weekends pissing about the studio.” Without the bitter in-fighting and creative differences of their previous outfit, Shaw and Ford effortlessly complied and polished the meat of what was to become their debut, Attack Decay Sustain Release. Its ten tracks took in punchy, hooky, bleepy, beautifully crafted electronica. It was nostalgic for a bygone era of ’80s and ’90s dance music, and it was a joy to make. No more squabbles. No more stress. No more fighting over the smell of fish. “In Simian our relationship got very painful and fractious,” says Ford. “Me and Jas just went back to what we knew – making what we thought was dance music with a little mixing deck and guitar peddles, influenced by people like Autechre and that ’90s Warp sound. We just went back to having fun.” 2017 marked the ten-year anniversary of Simian Mobile Disco’s debut album, Attack Decay Sustain Release, and to celebrate, they’ve just re-released the original LP, remastered and on double vinyl for the first time, along with a special digital compilation Anthology: 10 Years Of SMD, featuring tracks plucked from their extensive back catalogue. Out now on Wichita Recordings.


Classic Album | Filter

Track by track with Simian Mobile Disco Sleep Deprivation James Ford: “I remember all the bits and loops for Sleep Deprivation came from us trying to get sounds out of an Analogue Systems Modular synth. The tune started as a drum pattern, and we left it to one side for a few weeks and then added this bassline and it really took a new direction. It was like, ‘Wow! This is where we should be going!’ When we landed on that one it was like we’d figured it out.” Jas Shaw: “When we did that bassline we were already mixing the album downstairs. It was the last record we finished in the whole bunch. It actually knocked something else off the album. We’d almost finished the album at that point. We were both like, ‘This is the one; this is where we wanna go.’”

I Got This Down Jas: “This track has a lot of echo effects on it. James had just bought an Ibanez delay box. At the time we were really into [early electro outfit] Jonzun Crew. They were quite silly and, in there own way, psychedelic. There was an oddness to them, about being in space and stuff that we liked. “We used some 808 into a delay that was set really short – that made it all sound weird and spacey and chrome. I remember when we got that Ibanez box we were like, ‘Right, everything is going through that’. Whatever you put into it, it just came out the other side sounding more magical.”

It’s The Beat James: “This features Ninja, the vocalist from [Brighton beat boppers] The Go! Team. They were just around, or in the premises. We knew them at the time from gigs, and we’d remixed [their single] Ladyflash for them. It was a case of, ‘Hey. You wanna try a coupla hours of fucking around and seeing if anything works?’ Again, we were trying to go for something ridiculous. “The ‘beepy’ noises were borderline... well, not even borderline,

“Jas bought an Analogue Systems Modular synth off Nick McCabe from The Verve. At the time his girlfriend, who became his wife, drove us down there to pick this thing up, all the while going, ‘You know this is three months’ rent?’ He was going, ‘It’s great. it’s great. It’s gonna change everything.’ And when we got back and plugged it in she went, ‘You’ve seriously spent all that money on a machine that goes ‘blooop'?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah! But listen to how many ways it does it!’ [laughs].”

In the studio these days, SMD enjoy running instruments and vocals through loads of synths, extracting MIDI from the performances, as well as processing sounds through modular bits like Clouds and all of those “weird Eurorack boxes”. They’ve also been using an H3000 and some kooky old delays. “We’re just fucking around with stuff again," says James Ford.

annoying. We wanted kinda out-of-tune, kinda odd party vibes, really. And we liked some of the stuff The Go! Team were doing at the time. “Ninja came to the studio and we gave her a beat. It wasn’t like there was any writing involved. It was a case of messing around for 20 minutes and see you later, sort of thing.” Jas: “We used the Korg MS-20 on here. We were going out a lot to clubs like Fabric and places like that at the time. You’d just hear all these really mental techno tracks that didn’t have any obvious tonal centre. The idea was that everything, apart from the odd stab, would be quite liquidy and bendy. “A lot of the time we’ll set up a sound source, and then something that will modulate it, and then something else, and then fiddle with it until it did something good, or we got hungry.” James: “Yeah. Work stopped when we got hungry. We would be writing out names for the tracks and once I

absentmindedly wrote out ‘potato’. The cafe downstairs did really good jacket potatoes. After that anytime someone was hungry we would surreptitiously drop the word ‘potato’ into sentences. That would mean work stopped [laughs].”

Suddenly that idea of someone improvising over what we’d been working on, and then us chopping it up and manipulating it, appealed to us. Hustler was one of the first ones we hit on that with. After that we went looking for more of those types of vocalists.”

Hustler James: “We had quite a lot of instrumental stuff. We’d been messing around for six months or a year, DJing, making tunes to play out. And at that time I’d just started to try to become a producer and was working with different bands. There were a few random bands coming through doing try-out sessions. At the end of these sessions I would go, ‘I’ve got this electronic thing, you wanna try some vocals?’ That’s how Hustler came about. “I was trying to do this track with Char Johnson and she just freestyled over some instrumentals and messed around. I put it to one side until Jas got back in the studio and we chopped it up and took bits we liked.

Tits & Acid James: “This title came from a random mixtape I picked up in record shop or something in New York – Just a tape of silly old-school electro.” Jas: “We borrowed a 303 at one point. We had it in the studio and were just going, ‘This is fucking amazing.’ It’s one of those charmed boxes. Anything you put into it comes out ten times more amazing.” James: “This was one of the first times we really recognised that something being a bit confusing and chaotic was a good thing. We tried to get stuff out of the 303 and didn’t know how to use it. It’s so weird the way you program it. You have an

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Filter | Classic Album

intention of what you want the machine to do and it does something totally different. I think we learned to embrace that, and it pretty much became our ethos for the rest of our careers – Get a system that is heinously complicated, try and get it to do something, then stop when it sounds good, or we get hungry [laughs].”

We were trying to do something like that. Ninja brought that playground rhyme and we chopped it up and used it. We were just trying to have some fun with it. We weren’t too serious.” Jas: “We were also shooting for an Italio disco type of sound, too. You know what I mean? Kinda campy. We missed though, as it landed somewhere else [laughs].”

I Believe Jas: “The chords on this are the most boring chords you can have in the world.” James: “It was a bit of an olive branch to Simon [Lord, vocalist in Simian] because we’d fallen out with him a little bit. He was, and still is, a great songwriter. He always comes up with great melodies and ideas. “In a way I’m a little sad that Simian didn’t carry on a bit longer, because we could have done some interesting things.” Jas: “He was also one of the few singers we knew at that point [laughs]. He wrote a really great song on this. It still sounds good to me, that song. It was the first time we tried to do something slower, and less clubby. It was our attempt at a ballad.”

Hotdog James: “Ninja from The Go! Team again. We were taking it back to that Malcolm McLaren, Buffalo Girls type of sound – that nursery rhyme style.

Jas: “This track stayed in the live set for quite a while. We reworked them a bit down the line, but they managed to fit in with the more dancey/ravey direction that we went in later. This track was an early signpost to that type of direction.”

Love James: “This was from one of the weird production sessions where I asked people to do stuff for me. I remember doing something with Clor who were, and are, a brilliant band – proggy pop. Kind of underrated, but bonkers. Their singer, Barry Dobbin, is a genius, and we got him on here.” Jas: “Quite often we’d have these sketches of stuff we’d made, and the only way it could make sense for a vocalist was if you’d loop a little bit up for them, or choose a simple bit, and let them do something over the top of it. Then once they’d finished doing stuff over the top of it you’d pick a tiny bit and edit it together, and then make the entire track around the vocal. His vocals on this had such a strong drag in a direction.” James: “We went down the vocalist/song route a lot more on the second album. On the first album it was whatever stuck or was easy. And with Barry we just looped his vocals around in a simple way.”

We went back to what we knew – making what we thought was dance music Wooden Jas: “Bit 808 Statey there. We really wear our influences on our sleeves!” James: “It was great working with 808 State and Graham Massey in Manchester. I toured with them for a while, playing drums. He was a big influence on me, and then Jas, via that. “The odd chords that don’t really work together on Wooden and the parallel chords that move around in quite an unnatural way were inspired by him.”

Scott

In the studio with Simian Mobile Disco Jas Shaw: “Back then we didn’t have much equipment. I blew three months’ rent on that Analogue Systems Modular. Most stuff passed through that. We had a Sequential Circuits Pro-One from the Simian days, an Ibanez delay box, and a Korg MS-20. We would run live stuff through the filters, gate stuff and chop it up. I bought a Sequential Circuits DrumTraks, and borrowed a Roland 303. And for drum sounds we’d use stuff from remixes, or make hit patches from scratch. Software-wise, we started on Cakewalk, and then went Pro Tools by the second Simian album. Then we mixed the whole album in one go, which is useful, as it binds all the tracks together. We had a week or two with this desk in this treated room with outboard. We got stuck in and it forced us to get it done, after it all being so piecemeal, and it really brought it all together.”

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James: “Again, wearing our influences on our sleeves. This was our tribute to Raymond Scott, who was an early synth pioneer guy. He made loads of strange, oddball, advert music, but really outer-space.” Jas: “He pretty much invented the sequencer; he was way ahead of his time. We tried to play his stuff out and were really influenced by him. We tried to do our own version of his style to end the album off – that more melodic, esoteric, synth prog sound.”

WANT TO KNOW MORE? Head to www.simianmobiledisco.co.uk for all the latest news. We hear a “strange, sort of textural choir record” is imminent.

LIKE IT? TRY THESE…

The Go! Team Thunder, Lightning, Strike Day-Glo debut from the Brighton-based rockers. Front woman, Ninja, would go on to provide guest vocals for the SMD tracks It’s The Beat and Hotdog. ADD THESE TO YOUR PLAYLIST: Huddle Formation, Bottle Rocket,| Ladyflash|

Toolshed Toolshed Experimental electronic supergroup of sorts assembled by 808 State’s Graham Massey, featuring SMD’s own James Ford on drums. ADD THESE TO YOUR PLAYLIST: Pazuzu, Mathematica, Wok & Goblet’|

Simian We Are Your Friends Final album from Simian. Ironically, not really friends anymore. Still, it features Never be Alone, which would take on a remix life of its own. ADD THESE TO YOUR PLAYLIST: La Breeze, Never be Alone, Skin|

Simian Mobile Disco Welcome To Sideways SMD’s latest album veers further down the minimal techno and house route, to great effect. ADD THESE TO YOUR PLAYLIST: Happening Distractions, Far Away From A Distance, Staring At All This Handle|

Simian Mobile Disco Anthology: 10 Years of SMD A special digital compilation of a decade’s worth of Simian Mobile Disco output, available for the first time digitally? Go on, then. ADD THESE TO YOUR PLAYLIST: Wheels Within Wheels, Calyx, Cerulean|


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FM | ALBUM REVIEWS

Saved Records

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highly acclaimed and much-loved DJ, producer, and label owner for the last two decades, UK house and techno stalwart Nic Fanciulli finally unveils his polished and diverse debut album. One of the last electronic artists to break through on the strength of their DJing alone, Fanciulli has long been releasing standout EPs on the world’s premier labels. Now releasing his debut LP on his own Saved Records, the Maidstonebased artist showcases his underground, expansive and diverse palette as he touches on classic house, Detroit techno, UK bass, old-school synth-led workouts, wonky afterparty vibes, psychedelic

electronica and downtempo with assured maturity and confidence. Fanciulli’s ability to merge deep, dark club-focused excursions alongside more laidback, cinematic tracks in such a coherent way is testament to his deft ability as a producer. Beautiful melodies, rich light and warm atmospheres wash over the top of a darker, rawer bottom end of deep, rolling bass and addictive beats as Fanciulli creates a landscape that is as immersive as it is intriguing. Fanciulli enlisted Guy Gerber, Audion, Jamie Principle and Agoria to work on tracks across the album. Exploring varying moods, emotions and tempos, the fee-flowing landscape of My Heart once again showcases Fanciulli’s habit of making timeless electronic music that feels so free of trends and hype. Encapsulating a long career at the top, My Heart is another reminder of Fanciulli’s enduring, impressive talent. Tom Jones

ALBUM OF THE MONTH

Nic Fanciulli My Heart

ADD THESE TO YOUR PLAYLIST: Wrong, Resistence, My Love|

9/10 23


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Matti Bye This Forgotten Land Tona Serenad Records This Forgotten Land is the haunting, beautiful and ethereal new album from acclaimed Swedish film composer, Matti Bye. Across eleven tracks, the contemporary pianist creates a warm, introspective world completely of its own. Highly atmospheric, the record is at once serene, sublime and eerie with plenty of emotion and soul. There is a distinct timeless quality, aided by the undercurrent of

crackling ambience that truly allows the listener to sink into his dream-like compositions. Gentle piano keys weave between soft, drifting melodies, warm bass, muffled tones and distant bells. Rich in beauty and dense textures, the album is awash with beauty, romance and human emotion, taking you on a long, meandering journey through your own mind; dreams, reflections and

memories coming to the fore in its alluring, heart-felt melodies. The record merges a distant, otherworldly feel with an intimate atmosphere to give This Forgotten Land an unforgettable complexion. This is a wonderful album from a truly distinctive and singular visionary of contemporary music. Tom Jones ADD THESE TO YOUR PLAYLIST: Of Dawn, Galloping Waves,| Cascading Sun|

8/10

Rødhåd Anxious Dystopian

melodies and restless and shuffling beats. Steamy, balmy atmospheres rise up throughout as analogue synths swirl and sublime chords chug away to build momentum. Soulful, euphoric, warm, upbeat and bristling with soft light, this is Lindstrøm at his expansive, joyous and flawless best. Tom Jones ADD THESE TO YOUR PLAYLIST:

ADD THESE TO YOUR PLAYLIST:

Tensions, Shinin, Drift|

Escape, Awash, Left Behind

8/10

9/10

Lindstrøm It’s Alright Between Us As It Is Smalltown Supersound Five years on from his last record, Norwegian space disco extraordinaire Han-Peter Lindstrøm is back with his shimmering, upbeat fifth studio album as Lindstrøm. It’s Alright Between Us As It Is finds the Oslo native heavy on cosmic, glittering disco vibes once again. Full of upbeat energy and warm analogue sounds, the album is a continuous mix of nine tracks, taking us on a

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club-focused, polyrhythmic and diverse excursion across many of the genres that have inspired Lindstrøm throughout his acclaimed career. Crossing boundaries between 70s synth disco, sparkling house, refined techno, cosmic electronica, jazz and Balearic, It’s Alright Between Us As It Is is a heady concoction of arpeggiated synths, warm and melodic basslines, soulful

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ark, brooding, atmospheric and intense, Anxious is the impressive long-awaited debut album from acclaimed techno DJ and producer, Rødhåd. The record finds the much-loved Berlin-based artist, real name Mike Bierbach, moving further away from the dancefloor-focused EPs that initially garnered him attention. Now favouring more experimental soundscapes that are rich in beauty, diversity and spatial freedom, Bierbach leads us along a mindbending, perception-shifting journey through a collection of offbeat techno. Alien tones skirt past curious melodies, futuristic FX and swirling textures as an undercurrent of pulsing grooves, throbbing basslines, dubby breaks and simmering synths sweep by with an unfriendly air of menace. The slower, more spacious soundscape gives Bierbach an even deeper and more hypnotic sound than before, giving individual sounds the focus to truly resonate through the bleakness. His raw and magnetic style is still a key component of his work though, manifesting itself in the intoxicating, complex rhythm structures that ignite Anxious. But what really makes the record standout is Bierbach’s ability to lure fascinating intricacies out of the constant battle he wages between toughness and fierceness with beauty and style. The result is techno at its most intelligent and compelling. Tom Jones


Feature | The Essential Drum Machine Masterclass

THE ESSENTIAL

Be they synth or sample based, drum machines are the backbone of the club producer’s toolkit. Let’s coax some fresh sounds from them…

In our humble opinion, an electronic musician that doesn’t love drum machines shouldn’t be VIDEO ON trusted. Yes, synthetic FILESILO percussion has been absolutely rinsed to death by now, and these sounds are often used in formulaic ways, but that’s why it’s so special when a producer actually does something fresh and unexpected with them. We love the 808’s booming kick; the machine-gun 909 snares; those ‘cowbells’ and ‘rimshots’; and all the other tinny ’80s drum sounds

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that evoke memories of late nights dancing to mechanical grooves. That’s why, over the following few pages, we’re going to break away from the norm to explore the creative universe of drum computers, grooveboxes and electronic beats in the search for new and exciting sounds. Whether synthesized or sampled, drum machine tones deserve to be treated as experimentally, aggressively and creatively as any classic synth. Let’s jump in over the page and push our beats to some exciting new places.


The Essential Drum Machine Masterclass | Feature

RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE When it comes to experimental sound design, drum machines aren’t always the first instrument the electronic musician thinks of – they’re essentially cut-down synthesizers or basic sample-playback units. A dedicated synth can create the exact same tones, and is probably filled with way more wave-sculpting features. Then there are samplers, which can do everything synths can do, but use audio files as sources. And we haven’t even mentioned the new generation of synth/sampler hybrids that can quite literally do anything you can think of. So why use a single-purpose machine for such sonic adventures? Well, like we said on the previous page, electronic musicians have a strong bond with drum computers. No matter what futuristic new sounds emerge, we’ll always love our favourite sampled breakbeats and done-to-death synthetic beats. Which

means we can always bring those raw hits into the modern age with cuttingedge processing and inventive programming, and still acknowledge the heritage of dance music. We now live in a golden age of both affordable analogue hardware and limitless software. Today’s drum machines force you out of your comfort zone, packing in features that go way beyond those of old. Using Elektron’s drum machines as examples, a single unit – although costing a fair amount in comparison to software – will become the hands-on creative hub of your entire studio. Yes, you can sequence beats like the classics, but you can go so much further: they’re synthesizers, futuristic samplemanglers, live performance instruments, MIDI brains for other studio gear, and much more. Plus, when you’re stuck for studio inspiration, no amount of piano-

playing or synth-twiddling may get you out of that rut. Yet programming some proven beats will get you at least part of the way there – the restriction of the usual kick-snare-hat palette gives you limited parameters to work within. Does a rock drummer ever get stuck for ideas? Going beyond the norm then becomes a welcome challenge that you can explore further in the studio. Why not try turning stock drum hits into melodic riffs? Or processing basic grooves into fodder for your own sample packs? These are just oscillators, after all. All this is genre dependent, of course. If you’re producing avant garde techno, futuristic D&B or minimal house, there’s more scope to turn atonal drums into something else usable; but producers of straight-up melodic pop may reject this in favour of synths or guitars. For this feature, we’re going to lean towards the more creative and unusual, but there’s no reason for any musician to get stuck in a rut with drums. Throughout our main tutorials, we’ll use a mixture of hardware drum machines and analogue processing to get the job done – but if you mainly work in the box, don’t be put off, as the techniques and approaches transfer to the software equivalents.

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Feature | The Essential Drum Machine Masterclass

ROLAND DRUMS REIMAGINED From Frankie Knuckles to Aphex Twin, Roland’s classic ’80s drum machines – especially the TR-808 and TR-909 – are as synonymous with electronic dance music as the acoustic drum kit is to rock. Even though the majority of producers have never had their grubby mitts the original machines, we all recognise the sounds instantly thanks to their ubiquity in dance music. Luckily for us mere mortals, having enough dosh for the now-antiquated originals doesn’t matter: not only can we download countless sample collections packed with processed permutations of these drum hits, but Roland themselves have brought hardware fetishists affordable digital replicas of the originals: the Aira TR-8 (a hybrid 808/909) and the new Boutique TR-08 and TR-09. So basically, it’s never been easier to use

these infamous drum sounds in your productions. But with every producer and his dog sequencing these iconic one-shots, it’s become harder and harder to customise and innovate with them. Take the genre of trap (plus its

pop/urban crossover offshoots) as one example: you can’t get away from that distorted 808 kick, rhythm-shifting closed hats and skippy snare ďŹ lls. Likewise, you hardly hear a house or techno record that doesn’t feature the interplay of the 909 closed and open hi-hats; or that robotic, rattling 16th-note snare ďŹ ll. So how exactly can we take these sounds into the future? Well, the secret is to maintain the original timbre – after all, that recognition factor is the power of their appeal – but add your own dimension of originality somehow. For instance, use a pitch envelope to bend the 909 OH, then use a short delay to mix in a

Creative cowbell adventures Here we’ll transform the classic 808 cowbell sound into an extended, pitch-manipulated riff, drenched in effects for a completely new sound All of the TR-808’s drum sounds are iconic, of course, but aside from the thunderous kick, one stands out: that cowbell! Sounding absolutely nothing like a traditional cowbell, this synthesized hit has a ringing, nasal timbre that you either love or hate. Its tonal nature makes it a great candidate for all manner of processing – tune it to an appropriate pitch and use it as the basis of a sampled riff; drench it in endless ambience to ďŹ ll out space behind a dry rhythm track; or wildly automate pitch changes for techno-style trippiness.

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In this ďŹ rst example, we’ve programmed a rhythmic 16th-note pattern to emulate sequenced 808 steps. To give this recognisable hit some character, we’ve pitched down certain frequencies by an octave, widened the sound, then assigned ďŹ lter cutoff to velocity for mufing movement.

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To design a tonal FX bed, we take one single cowbell hit and swamp it in an alien space courtesy of Eventide’s weird ’n’ wonderful Blackhole reverb. That plugin is doing the heavy lifting, obviously, but you can still decipher the original cowbell sample’s key and timbre within the effect – a nifty way to put your own spin on a recognisable sound.

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Finally, we’ve used an 808 cowbell sample as a tonal note to create a simple one-bar riff. We’ve duplicated our MIDI notes to span two octaves for unison density. Creative distortion, plate reverb and dark delay repeats disguise the original sample, and we can play with amp decay and release parameters to evolve the riff.

metallic tone. Heavily distort the 808’s tinny cymbal, then smother it in weird reverb. Or try crazy stereo tricks in parallel on your 808 kick. It’s up to you to take the sounds further and give them a unique sonic stamp. Another way to give the sounds a shot of life and character is via organic humanisation. Yes, timbrally, these robotic drums are a million miles away from realistic acoustic drum kits, but you can still program them in clever ways. Take the electronic hi-hat: we all know the original machines featured decay parameters for shortening or lengthening the hits. So by manually ramping the decay knob up and down in real time (we’re talking in subtle increments), as well as gently pumping the sound’s level in and out of other parts of your track, you’ll instantly bypass the ‘machine gun’ repetitiveness and give those hats an underlying feeling of authenticity and movement. However, we’re straying into subtleties here, and this feature is all about sound design. In the modern day and age of unlimited choice, it’s actually quite refreshing to limit yourself to that restricted palette of electronic drum sounds when you need some source material to mangle, distort, ďŹ lter, loop and GENERALLYFssKUP!LTHOUGHITSA clichĂŠ by now, look at the use of the 808 kick in jungle and D&B. It’s no longer a ‘drum’; that kick is considered a low-frequency oscillator that can provide more sub bass and harmonics than your average cheesy synth patch. And since a good ol’ drum machine is as good a studio starting point as any, that makes it a fantastic candidate for processing on those days when you can’t nail a chord progression or synth patch. We’ve kept this pretty conceptual, but let’s wrap up with a few practical ways to make your drum machine sounds stand out from the crowd. For starters, as you’ll see in our tutorials, mashing up tuned kicks and toms with delicious distortion can create interesting bass and synth loops. Programming-wise, rapidly repeating notes off the grid – or lashings of delay effects – will induce rhythmic oddities that become groove enhancers. And treating percussion like synths and melodic samples will also broaden your horizons beyond the expected. Time to plug in and start experimenting!


The Essential Drum Machine Masterclass | Feature

Transforming stock Roland TR-8 drums into weird loops Roland’s famous drum machines have been rinsed to death, so let’s take the sounds much, much further with creative signal processing

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We’ve put together this 124bpm drum groove using the TR-8. The loop comprises an 808 kick on the downbeat, 909 toms acting as bass, and the usual house-style clap, hats, cymbals and perc. This drum machine is great for on-the-fly experimentation, as we can pull down faders to mute individual hits.

Our drum machine’s mono output is routed into our chain of three Moogerfooger pedals – a ring mod, phaser and chorus/flanger. Before turning the effects pedals on, we crank up the first pedal’s Drive knob to maximum. This instantly decimates the clean loop into a crunchy, characterful mess of analogue distortion.

Time to engage the Ring Modulator, which multiplies the incoming signal with its internal carrier oscillator to produce dissonant partials. After a bit of tweaking, we turn the distorted loop into a clangorous, pumping groove. The kick and toms in the loop have become a weird robotic riff among the crunchy hats.

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Currently, all 11 of the TR-8’s drum channels are playing. How will the processing react if we mute some of the drums? Pulling down TR-8 faders lets us try. Isolating the hi-hats leaves us with an aggressive ‘top loop’, whereas the removal of everything except the kick, rimshots and small crash create a sparse, alien-like bubbling effect.

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Finally, we mute the Phaser, then turn the Cluster Flux on. It’s set to Chorus mode, with high negative Feedback, and Mix at halfway. Again, we have more luck when certain drums are removed from the groove – with the bass drum and toms silenced, we create a bouncy metallic rhythm that sounds nothing like the sounds we started with. Mission accomplished!

Next, we bring all 11 drum sounds back into the mix, then engage the Phaser. As well as imparting the expected ‘whooshing’ effect, this also dampens the loop’s heavily distorted top-end frequencies. Again, muting drums helps us find completely new creations. Soloing the kick and toms now creates sweeping synth-like tones.

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Feature | The Essential Drum Machine Masterclass

Tonic meets Moogerfoogers We run PO-32 drum hits through a trio of boutique analogue pedals, before sampling the results. Watch the video to see our session in action, and download the samples from FileSilo!

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To show you a fun way to create all manner of weird and wonderful sounds from a basic drum machine, we’re going to run percussion hits from a Teenage Engineering PO-32 Tonic drum machine through our chain of three Moogerfooger pedals. Let’s get started…

Before we begin, we’ll break down the signal flow. Audio is piped out of the PO-32 Tonic, and into the right Ring Modulator ’Fooger. That’s running into the middle Phaser, and then into the leftmost Cluster Flux and out into our audio interface. We’ll record the incoming signal onto an audio track in Ableton Live.

It’s now time to punch in percussion hits from Tonic, and tweak as we go. To keep things simple, we’ll only adjust Tonic’s two main control knobs (Pitch and Morph), as well as Moogerfooger parameters. We won’t need to process with all three Moogerfoogers – we can whack a pedal’s Bypass button to remove that effect from the signal path if required.

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Obviously not every single move we make will sound good, but that’s not the point – by experimenting and taking our time, we’ll eventually hit upon some interesting sounds and sweet spots. After a while, we get into the flow, and juggle the various parameters to suit the sound in question.

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Once we’re done recording, it’s time to sift through the long take. At this stage, it helps to be familiar with your DAW’s audio editing functions – we scan through and use Live’s Cmd-E shortcut to split the audio, tiny fades are applied at non-zero crossing points, then we render out sections with the Cmd-Shift-R shortcut.

To transform one of the PO-32’s kicks into gritty bass noises, we sweep the signal’s pitch while rhythmically wobbling one of the ‘Fooger’s Drive knobs. Pitched-up, rapidlytriggered hi-hats become plinky metallic grooves. And ring-modulating the crash cymbal generates inharmonic FX sweeps.

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Feature | The Essential Drum Machine Masterclass

Creative melodic sequences and rhythms with Digitakt Elektron’s hot new digital drum machine isn’t just for drum programming. Let’s load up some esoteric samples and build a personalised loop

To begin, we’ve loaded a bunch of samples from our previous PO-32 jam session into Digitakt via USB and the Elektron Transfer app. These sounds are strange knocks, tones, bleeps and glitches. We assign eight of these samples across the eight audio tracks.

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We clear the current sequence so we can program a new 95bpm pattern. Using some of the weirder synth and noise stabs, we punch in a basic one-bar groove. This is made up of two distorted synth tones, a white noise splash sound, a tom-style knock, and other oddball samples.

Next, to add variation to individual notes, we employ Digitakt’s Parameter Lock feature. By holding a step and then changing parameters, only the selected note is altered on that particular step. We ‘reverse’ one of the stabs by raising its attack on certain notes, and we pitch every other splash sound down.

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Now to the onboard send/return effects. Using the Parameter Lock feature again, we send only certain note steps to reverb and delay. While we’re in the flow, we also apply bit reduction to the second splash sound, and layer a second crunchy snare hit on the 2 and 4.

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Another cool Digitakt feature we can employ is overall changes on a global scale. By holding down the Trk button and tweaking parameters, all the sounds are changed at once. Doing this with the Tune knob pitches down all the sounds together, and we completely change the loop’s vibe.

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To finish, we use Digitakt’s looping functions on our main synth stab, to cycle its tail and produce a bleepy buzz effect. And we also mute the snare part in the loop, which then gives us a beatless melodic sequence that can be bounced out and laid over drums to form the basis of a track.


The Essential Drum Machine Masterclass | Feature

FUN WITH DRUM DISTORTION Although the Roland TR-8’s Scatter effect can sound a bit gimmicky over a regular beat, it can be a great source of glitchy percussion and effects when used purely as a sound source on its own. Ramp the knob up to explore its buzzy, granular-style tones, then quickly sweep the knob back to capture unique repeats and speed shifts.

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Electronic drums are awesome sound sources for FX design. Throw a kick through a cavernous reverb to create breakdown booms; granulise hats into background textures; and reverse percussion to make rubbery, bubbling elements.

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Bolster a synth line by layering a short, subtle hi-hat or rimshot over each note of the riff. This’ll add gentle front-end sharpness that may be lacking in the original synth sound.

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Ring modulation and frequency shifting can be a bit too dissonant when applied to musical sounds – but that makes them ideal for processing drum machine hits and loops!

In their raw states, drum machine sounds can sound rather wimpy within a modern production. Luckily, it’s easy to add harmonics and beef with a healthy application of saturation or distortion. At subtle levels, a bit of drive will keep the original character intact, but will add the required weight and colour – electronic beats just sound ‘right’

when distorted. For more retro applications, analogue preamps or drive stages will bring out low-level noise and dull everything a touch to remove digital harshness and spikiness. And at the extreme end of the spectrum, completely obliterating drum machine hits and loops with strong digital distortion or overdrive will transform them into

pumping, breathing blocks of flavour and noise. For a more customisable ‘3D’ effect, mix this distortion in parallel to fill in missing gaps in the frequency and dynamic spectrum. Guitar amps are particularly good for this task, providing an extreme ‘bloat’ and push that’s too much in one go, but provides character in subtle doses. And don’t forget harsh digital distortion and bitcrushing, that can ruin other more finessed elements of a mix, but give that fizz you need for sterile hi-hats and claps. Keeping with our hardware theme for this feature, you can’t go far wrong with guitar distortion pedals or outboard drive units. Listen to our audio examples to hear the tasty effect of Moogerfooger drive stages; get tweaking with Elektron’s Analog Heat; or coat beats in the perfect combo of insane filtering and distortion with the famous Sherman Filterbank. In the software realm, try more characterful distortion plugins such as NI’s Driver, iZotope Trash 2 or FabFilter Saturn: the former is great for overdriven weirdness, while the latter two provide multiband options for supreme customisation and shaping.

When drums meet delay Echo effects are ideal for spinning groovy rhythms and effects out of drum machine hits. Let’s go! While traditionally used for vocal ambience, sound effects and general repeating, delay effects can also be a fantastic creative tool when you don’t know where to take a sterile drum groove. Plus, with the sheer amount of feature-packed delay hardware and software available, you can quickly play around and spit out weird fills, stutters and embellishments that you’d never think to program with a mouse. Rendering and repiecing audio works well with these techniques, as you won’t be at the mercy of a feedback-heavy delay’s randomness. In this quickfire tutorial, we’ll start with a bog-standard drum machine groove. By firing percussion hits into creative delay plugins, it’s easy to generate quirky loops, ghost snare-style skips and entirely new rhythms that can be bounced out to your samples folder.

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This 130bpm 808 beat is as simple as you can get: a two-step kick, snare, and sparse closed hats. Sending the hats to a delay (set to tempo-synced 16th notes) creates sprinkling hat flourishes spread to the sides of the stereo field. We bounce the delay signal to audio and move on…

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Next, we send the snare signal to an aux return containing a tape delay plugin. By wiggling the delay time as we record the return’s signal to audio, we induce pitch-wobbling echoes, creating an audio loop of transposed ghost snares that would be tough to program manually.

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For a final round of extreme loop synthesis, we send every drum channel to an aux and load up a creative delay plugin. This saturated, filtered delay peppers odd hits throughout the groove, adding life and motion throughout.

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Feature | The Essential Drum Machine Masterclass

CREATIVE TRANSPOSITION

How to…

Surgically alter drum machine sounds

How to…

Use arpeggiators and note repeat

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All drum hits have a static, predictable pitch. This means that, when you’re on a sound design mission and want to create unusual sounds from drums, a good thing to reach for is your drum machine’s transpose knob. Tune a hi-hat down by an octave or more to turn it into a weird snare layer; pitch kicks up into rimshot territories; or move a crash cymbal down by two octaves and swamp it in reverb to create a spooky, drone-like sound effect. Tuning doesn’t have to be static, either: assign an LFO or envelope to modulate pitch, then experiment with LFO shapes and speeds. Or, if your drum machine doesn’t feature modulation, do it manually and twist the tune knob in real time as you print the results. Transposing all your drum parts on a global scale is a terrific way to create everything from creative fills and edits to complete obliteration. See this in action in our Digitakt tutorial.

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How to…

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How to…

A drum sound is made up of the attack portion – the inharmonic transient element that provides the initial punch – and the more harmonic sustain section. Process a drum signal in its entirety, and you’ll affect these components uniformly. The more extreme the processing, the more you’ll destroy that all-important attack. Therefore, try chopping out and detaching the smack section from the tail element. This way, you can apply different processing to each, retaining the transient’s clarity and still being able to push your processing harder on the body.

When programming grooves, there are traditional positions for most hits – the kick on the downbeat, hats on the offbeat, and so on – and so you can easily subvert expectations to elevate your drum machine programming into more creative realms. One great tool for this is the ‘note repeat’ function found on devices such as MPCs, Ableton Push, Maschine and Komplete Kontrol. Set a rhythmic division, hold a note, and the device will repeat the note at your chosen speed. Flick between speed settings to create rhythm-shifting hi-hat rolls, snare fills, or even hypnotic chord patterns for genres such as techno.

Extend a short drum hit’s tail

Generate ideas with drum machine sequencing

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Many drum machines and samplers have a loop function, and a cool way to extend the length of a drum hit is to loop the sustain section after the initial transient; so once that crucial ‘crack’ has fired, a short tail section is smoothly extended and sustained. Once the loop is correctly set up, you can tweak the amplitude envelope’s ADSR settings to shape the drum’s volume response over time. Not only does this looping trick work as a correctional tool for too-short drum sounds, it can also be abused to create granular-style buzzing effects – reduce the loop length to extremes for ultimate control.

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In a recent Steinberg Studio Session video, drum ’n’ bass producer Heist broke down his track Grebe. The tune is brought to life by a bunch of weird 16th-note percussion skips. To create them, he sequenced five sounds in Maschine, and recorded his random pad-playing to create a shuffling effect. He then used the same MIDI to trigger completely different sounds, to create a second variation – and so on. This illustrates the power of drum machines as inspiring sequencing tools. Don’t be afraid to load a bunch of random sounds, then punch in sequencer steps or record your playing to generate something new.


The Essential Drum Machine Masterclass | Feature

Building a personality-packed drum loop with Elektron’s Analog RYTM and processing To round up our drum machine adventures, let’s sample bits and bobs from Elektron’s drum computer to craft a bespoke groove

To begin, we’ve completely reset the Analog RYTM to factory settings. Hitting play starts the default preset’s drum pattern. As expected, it’s a standard analogue drum machine groove – let’s run it out through some processing.

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Now back to the RYTM. The kick and toms sound nice and ‘pushed’ with this drive applied, so we hit RYTM’s mute button and deactivate all the rest of the drums to isolate these low-frequency parts. We then tweak our drive settings to find the perfect sweet spot of distortion.

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We’ll now adjust these individual sounds to suit our distorted drums. First up, the kick: we extend its release for more length, and raise up its attack (see pic) to remove the initial punch and turn it into a gritty, wobbling bass note.

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We mute the kick and toms, and unmute the other sounds. Adjusting this hi-hat and perc combo’s decay level extends the hats to create a groovy loop. To wrap up, we take all of these sounds we recorded and sequence them in our DAW, to create a vibe-laden groove that sounds like a crazy, analogue-driven drum loop from a sample pack.

Next, for our high tom, we mix in a touch of the RYTM’s onboard delay. We also fade up the noise oscillator’s level, which imparts loads more aggression into this bleeping, overdriven perc hit. In our example audio, we’ve muted the kick from the previous step so we can capture these parts on their own.

As in our other tutorials, we’ve got the RYTM piped through our chain of three Moogerfoogers. Our first move is to ramp up each ’Fooger’s Drive knob, to cram the drum machine loop through three stages of analogue distortion.

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In The Studio With | Steffi

Steffi

© Joby Sessions

Globe-trotting DJ, label owner and purveyor of pristine underground club sounds, Steffi, unveils exquisite new album, World Of The Waking State. Hamish Mackintosh suffers some serious gear envy at her Berlin musicmaking HQ

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Steffi | In The Studio With

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ecamping from her native Holland to Berlin in 2007 proved the perfect accelerant for Steffi’s fledgling career. Signed up by legendary Berlin techno label Ostgut Ton, Steffi’s star rose rapidly with a residency at the Panorama Bar (in Berlin’s equally legendary Berghain nightclub who operate the Ostgut Ton imprint). Steffi’s debut album, Yours And Mine, showcased her burgeoning production skills and single, Yours (feat Virginia), filled countless dancefloors with its hypnotic brand of techno. There followed a slew of collaborations and remixes cementing a unique place within the global dance community for Steffi. 2012’s EP Schraper further attested to Steffi’s love of techno along with her ever-increasing production talents and ear for a killer bassline. Never one to rest on her laurels, Steffi has travelled the world as an in-demand DJ (with various mix CDs for Panorama Bar, Fabric and others), as well as launching and managing four of her own labels, Klakson (with Dexter), Dolly, Dolly Deluxe and Dolly Dubs. Presumably somewhere in amongst all this frenetic activity she even finds time to sleep occasionally! World of the Waking State is Steffi’s third solo artist album and is her finest and most thoughtful offering to date. Revealing as it does a more contemplative and experimental side to Steffi, tracks such as The Meaning Of Memory, Kokkie and the sublime album closer, Cease To Exist, perfectly illustrate that you can deviate from 4/4 with an 808 and still make excellent dance music. FM caught up with the multi-talented Steffi in her… how shall we put this… well, her incredible Berlin home studio, which houses her collection of some of the most desirable hardware synths you might ever want to make squelches and bleeps with. All of which have been put to excellent use on World Of The Waking State. So, without further ado, FM speak to Steffi about gear, beats, bleeps and workflow.

FM: World of the Waking State has a real sense of you growing as an artist. Is that fair to say? Steffi: “Absolutely. For me, it feels like the best stuff I’ve done so far but I guess every time you deliver a new album that feels like an achievement! I’m this far now in my career that I just wanted to really do something without having a concept in mind and just go with the flow and explore the possibilities if I really don’t put any limitations on myself. That was quite a free fall into the deep for me, which is maybe why it feels like my biggest achievement so far. It came out so naturally and I was surprised by the outcome too.” How can you manage to put limitations on yourself with such an incredible studio set-up? “I think if you’re coming up with a plan like ‘I want to come up with something that fits my record bag as a DJ’ then that’s already a limitation, really. You’re just sketching within a concept… there are lines

drawn like ‘let’s do an 135bpm electro-jam or 130bpm techno-jam”. Those lines are set but it doesn’t mean that you’re restricted in what you want to use in the studio but you already have an image of things you’re going to use. The bpm needs to be between this or that, is it gonna be straight-beat or an electro-beat, which requires a certain way of using the 808 and a way of programming that’s connected to that genre. With this album I didn’t give a fuck if the bass kick sits on the 3 or the 8, I just wanted to explore more deeply what was possible with what I’ve got in the studio. I guess because I didn’t really restrict tempos or make it a four-to-thefloor album it does widen the horizons.” What was your main machine for beat-making with the new album? “I actually went through the album the other day to prepare some stems for the live show and it reminded me that many of the kicks are just layered from two or three different instruments. For example, there might be something from a Yamaha DX200, like a deep, bassy sound and I’d use it as a kick layered with something from the Pearl Syncussion and maybe a couple of hits from a modulated 909 or something. It’s always a case of several instruments creating one kick drum. Most of it is accents, you know. Maybe a hit on the 1 and a hit on the 9 and everything else gets filled in with low-frequency synthesizers to create the same atmosphere as a kick drum but coming from different sources it makes it a little less predictable.” With an array of classic 909/808 machines in your set-up, FM can’t pin the sound of your beats down to any specific machine… “They’re not there, no. I used mainly drum synthesizers and drum brains from the ’70s and ’80s like the Syncussion and the Pearl Drum X. There’s the Ult Sound DS-4, which is an old Japanese drum synth and PAiA DIY one. So, I use those to create the length, pitches, velocity and tone, which is what makes the drums so organic, I guess.” Have all these wonderful pieces of rare gear come about from hitting the music shops when you go to a new town? “I think it’s more just a general interest in hardware and I should state that it really doesn’t matter to me whether it’s analogue or digital because I’m as much a hardware-freak for the digital stuff as I am for the analogue. It’s an interest that I’ve built up over the years. Listening to music, thinking where the sounds could have come from or just enjoying the aesthetics of the sounds. [laughs] I just go infected with this gear-collecting virus! “I started collecting in about 2000 and I’ve never really felt the urge to sell a lot so I’ve kept most of it. It’s a good investment and it’s nice to make a record with it.” Do you envisage yourself constantly evolving and adding to your hardware set-up? “I feel like there’s so much still to learn. With this album, I’m laying out a jam on the desk and hitting

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In The Studio With | Steffi

a point where it’s pretty solid and has all the elements that a song might need; then I’m multitracking and what I do is I take a dry signal and take one or two effects signals and record that separately. That’s a thing I’m doing now but god knows I might even go deeper into things next time and maybe program all the parts on the sequencer and jam it live… I don’t know. The further I get into music production; the newer stuff develops and the more

love of hardware sequencing, for me that was a way to connect all my instruments. Working with the Cirklon (https://www.sequentix.com) I can have over 20 instruments running at the same time, which is really heavy but, at the same time, it allows you to create a song that you can lay out, apart from the arrangement, in the way you think it should be. The desk has a very important role in that because if I had to record each sound separately you kind of

which are very important to me to be able to connect things together and run it through effects and get the unexpected. Everything is plugged into the Cirklon hardware step sequencer and I have a CV/gate box that’s able to get all the instruments going without needing any conversion to MIDI. There’s a drum-trigger box also attached to the Cirklon to trigger all the old drum brains, which makes them all accessible through the step sequencer, which is amazing! The Pearl Drum X, Pearl Syncussion and the Ult Sound are basically where all the drums on the new album are coming from. I’ve got the whole Roland line but it’s not so present on this album.”

It doesn’t matter whether it’s analogue or digital – I’m as much a hardware-freak for the digital stuff as I am for the analogue diverse ways of working I learn. So, it really does feel, after three albums, that I’m only just starting!” It’s apparent from your studio layout that the mixing desk still plays an important role in your workflow… “Yeah… absolutely. I guess I just like to get everything laid out before I record so I started with a small desk but over the years I got more gear. When I stepped away from the computer and found my

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lose the moment. It’s all about pushing the fader, see what it does, put some effect on it then move on. I feel if you’re loading everything into a computer then, for me, it becomes static.” Maybe now is a good time to ask you to talk us around the main gear in your studio rig… “Of course… The mixing desk, an APB DynaSonics 32-channel, is the base where everything gets plugged in. I work with five rows of patchbays,

So, once everything’s running through the desk, is it then going into a computer? “As soon as it’s on the desk I’ll run the mono drum sounds and the basslines through a UAD compressor/limiter/preamp and I have a nice lunchbox channel-strip from an old ’60s desk, which I’ll use parallel with a bit of LA-2A tubecompression. There’s the Ensoniq DP/4 that’s used for reverbs and crazy effects. Everything then goes into Logic.”


In The Studio With | Steffi

The studio seems very ergonomically designed… you seem to know your own workflow very well… “Yeah, I do… [laughs] after all these years! When I switched to hardware sequencing instead of playing it into the computer and at the same time, switched to five rows of patchbays, it was a lot of mathematics and I wondered how I’d ever deal with it all! The guy who helped me set it up is a real troubleshooter so there was almost a year of changing things around and experimenting until we got the final layout that works for me. When you’re confident with that then it’s worth keeping.” 42


Steffi | In The Studio With

You have so many different jumping-off points in your set-up, how do you decide what to start using on a project? “It can change on the fly. I might have an image of a bass sound in my head so I’ll try to create it but maybe not quite get it so I’ll switch to another synth. My main thing is deciding what the basic rhythm is going to be and getting the percussive elements right and then I’ll come up with the melody. That can be making a string sound or bleeps and basslines. Of course, I have favourites… when I finally got my Memorymoog that was the synth to go to but I know with certain things I maybe need a more stable synth. So, if I need a square sound bassline I’ll go to the Waldorf Pulse as I know I can get it quickly there. It kind of all depends on where I feel the track is going, if that makes sense.” FM assume you must have a serious amount of maintenance to keep the older hardware working at its best… “I recently had a lot done. I didn’t used to be into taking good care of my synths in the beginning so, when I finally had the financial means to have everything cleaned and tuned I found a guy at Xtended in Berlin who is really nice and good too. So, I started taking things in one by one and it made me realise that that is what you must do as part of owning a hardware studio. You should put a lot of maintenance into looking after everything. “I finally decided to have an extra function put on my 808 so I can switch from the original 808 to a MIDI-fied 808 without losing proper swing. It makes it more convenient for me to program it on my Cirklon. As soon as you get serious about your studio then you realise that it’s important to make it happen in a way that works for you and not really giving too much of a fuck about what other people say about certain bits of equipment.” How do you take this album out live? Will much/any of the vintage hardware go out of the studio with you? “I’ve only done one performance so far, for the release of the album, and I just took the basic stems and used a controller and lots of effects to jam it out a bit more. I’m not sure if I’m going to tour this album… I think I will but it needs a good environment to communicate with the crowd so I’ve kept it a bit low key until I decide just what I want to do. “This type of music asks for a lot of improv so I’m considering taking a hardware sequencer out on the road. I want it to be very hands-on with a few select machines as I don’t want to take too many things out of the studio as it would be a bit of a nightmare! I’ve gone on the road with hardware in the past and it does break down. These old machines are very sensitive and people at airports don’t always appreciate what you’re carrying. “This album is all about modulation; it constantly changes. Even the drums are constantly changing and there aren’t any sounds that repeat themselves for seven minutes. So, to bring this album out to a live audience I have to work out ‘how

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In The Studio With | Steffi

do I communicate in the proper way’. I’m going to dive into it in 2018.” How do you manage to balance your various roles of label manager, DJ and artist? “Because it’s all about music it is one thing and it’s all connected. What I’ve learned over the last three years is that I’d rather separate DJing from making music because when I’m in the studio and I know

periods of time off where I’m not touring and not leaving Berlin and I’m at home concentrating on making music. That really clears my mind and I’m able to devote myself to studio time. I guess it’s more like how a band would do it – to write an album in the studio, then tour it and when the tour’s over I’m going to go back in the studio. That works for me as I take DJing very seriously but I also take making music in the studio very seriously.”

It would be nice to have someone helping… [laughs] but I can’t lose control of cooking in my own kitchen!” Something FM often ask artists (very possibly out of a vested personal interest) is what is the secret to knowing when something you’re working on is finished? “It’s interesting you’re asking this as when I was starting to make music, around 2000/2002, I could never finish anything. So, there was a long time of me throwing things straight into the bin. When I started to write my second album I knew that there needed to be less pressure so what I did was I started to do a ‘two jams a day’ principle. So, I’d go into the studio in the morning, do a jam and make a good foundation for a track, which I’d then multi-track into the computer and record everything… dry signal, effects tracks, seven minutes of tweaking how I thought it could be developed. It’s like you’re practising the track but you’re recording everything into the computer then I’d lock it away after a while, go for lunch then do a second jam and not touch it. Then, the next day, do the same thing until, after a week, you’re listening back to what you’ve done and because you haven’t really overheard it you have a fresh take on what you’ve done. Working like this, taking a week or even two away from something new then listening to it back, instantly lets me decide what sounds great and what doesn’t work at all. If something was good I’d write down what it needed, maybe a bassline or a little bit of extra drumming. I’d then do another session with the track, again multi-tracking everything back into the computer and then, when I felt like I’d got everything I need and I was starting to edit the arrangement of all the audio files then it would begin to feel finished.”

Taking a week or two away from something then listening to it back, lets me decide what sounds great and what doesn’t work at all I’m going to have to go on the road a lot, I feel the pressure of having to leave the studio. If I did a full weekend of DJing then I’d take the Monday off which would only leave me Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to produce… even though, by Thursday, I’ll already have someone breathing down my neck saying I need to pack my records and get on the road Friday. “What I’ve done the past couple of years, especially with this new album, is to take bigger

And all your various record labels…? “Yeah, you do need a day per week to get the labels running and I do all that on my own. I haven’t got anybody who does that for me but I run a non-promo policy so, basically, when the release comes out I don’t send the files to anyone… it doesn’t go to the press. It’s just there for the lovers, really. They see the physical product in the record shops and they know that two weeks later the files are going to be there so it’s all pretty manageable.

That makes a lot of sense… “At some point you need to overcome your fear and I had a massive fear of arranging a track… ‘I don’t know how to do this’ or ‘it sounds like shit’. Until the ice breaks and the water pours out and you realise that this is how it works! For me, to create a certain distance and not go insane working on the same loop for days I would record it, finish the session then go back to it. It’s such a good system.” Did the wonderful Cease To Exist that closes the album come to fruition that way? “[laughs] Well, some tracks do take the piss because they’re so difficult to mix. So, if I listen to it now there are lots of little bits I wish I’d done differently on it. Out of ten tracks there are usually about three tracks where you wish you’d done something differently but, I guess, that’s a normal critical state of mind.”

WANT TO KNOW MORE? World Of The Waking State is out now on Ostgut Ton. Check out http://ostgut.de/label/record/201 for regular updates.

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Steffi | In The Studio With

Tell us about some of those envy-inducing vintage synths… “I used the Memorymoog a lot for this album. It’s an amazing, unpredictable synth that was on my wish-list for a long time. The Korg PolySix is a simple synth but very effective… very ’80s but raw and beautiful sounding. I used it a lot and the new version of the Minimoog, which I used for snare and hi-hat accents. The Moog Little Phatty is present too. I’ve got the Waldorf Pulse 2 and the Microwave, which both get used a lot as does the Oberheim Matrix 1000. I’ve got the Modor NF1, which is a new, digital synth, and I used a Yamaha DX-200 and lots of Moogerfooger pedals like, Super Delay, Ring Modulator and a few others.” 45


FM | THE TRACK

Wehbba Fake Drumcode 2017 Brazilian bombshell Wehbba (aka Rodolfo Wehbba) has been steadily rising up the ranks of techno royalty over his decade-long career, with releases on Tronic, Soma and Suara along the way. Most recently he’s VIDEO ON appeared on Adam Beyer’s ubiquitous Drumcode with FILESILO his trippy, ominous Fake which can be found on the compilation A-Sides Volume 6. FM caught up with Rodolfo in his Barcelona studio to find out how he created his Drumcode debut.

© Joe Branston

How did Fake come about? “It came out of nowhere. I was just watching TV, and because I have the luxury of having a home studio. I was able to just run in there and get started! I had the idea of making this really harsh lead

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sound that wouldn’t change note or anything. Once I got that sound, the inspiration for everything else came really quickly; there wasn’t a bassline or anything, just drums full-on all the time and the lead sound. Then I did the polishing touches… it was kind of a fast track to write, but very slow to treat later. The post-production was long!” Why was the post-production process so time-consuming? “It took a long time because I was just kind of ‘brushing’ the ideas in; I was just taking them as they came. I had the idea of the lead recorded, but I didn’t know if it was sounding as good as it should. Then I recorded the drums, just doing everything super-fast. As the ideas came I was just recording, recording and recording. I didn’t really care about how the stuff sounded while it was being recorded. So making it fit together later was a big challenge, and it took almost like a year to get the sound to where I wanted it to be!” How long did the actual composition process take? “A couple of hours – like three hours?” Amazing. What challenges did you face in the post-production? “The first challenge was to get the lead sound to work on different sorts of systems, because it was too wide. It was tricky to manage it,


Wehbba | The Track

“The first demo I had of it was a big pile of sounds together and it didn’t make a lot of sense. I wasn’t really too happy with that sound! But because the track was good I was like, ‘Okay, it doesn’t matter’. It had the strength it needed to work even though it wasn’t sounding as good as it should.”

especially for club systems where they have a very narrow image so lots of sounds get lost if they’re too wide and have negative phrase correlation and stuff like that. So I had to eliminate one of the channels and work with the other one and try to make it wider. Getting it to match the sound that I had initially was tricky. The next challenge was the drums, because I recorded them so fast and I didn’t really care how they sounded together. They were coming from different drum sources; I used this really old Roland drum machine the DR-110 – it’s analogue but it’s kind of a toy drum machine – and I also used the Roland TR-8 and the Elektron Analog Rytm, so they are very different. I didn’t treat them or play them together. I was just laying sound after sound on top of each other, so I didn’t really care about how they sounded together, and that was a big challenge to make that fit as well.” How do you decide on the balance between making things sound good in mono and stereo? “That’s a very tricky question. It depends a lot on each track of course and the material you have; you have to prioritise what is going to make a bigger difference when it’s in stereo. So the lead kind of has to be big and wide because it’s a main element of the track, but often times it’s better to have the main elements in mono

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The Track | Wehbba

THE GEAR Software: > Ableton Live 9 > Apple Logic Pro X > Kush Audio plugins > FabFilter plugins > Massenburg Design Works EQ5 > UAD plugins > ValhallaDSP plugins > Arturia plugins

Hardware: > Elektron Analog RYTM > Roland DR-110 > Roland TR-8 > Roland MKS-80 > Access Virus

so that it sticks out and it’s right in the middle, which is the case with vocals for example. Normally they are right bang-on in the middle because they need to poke out of everything else. So it’s very tricky to decide on these things. I try to behave myself and not make everything too wide so they will all sound good everywhere. Because most of the music I make is club-focused, I tend to make stuff that will sound good on club sound systems and festival sound systems and that kind of thing. The simpler the better it is for those systems I think; it’s easier to make them sound good anywhere. So I don’t really go crazy about the wideness and stuff like that!” How do you manage to get a full drum sound while also having other elements in the middle of the mix? “It’s more about the relationship with frequency. Once you get pretty good separation with the frequency range of each element it makes it easier to have a lot of things in the middle. The first demo I had of it was a big pile of sounds together and it didn’t make a lot of sense. I wasn’t really too happy with that sound! But because the track was good I was like, ‘Okay, it doesn’t matter’. It had the strength it needed to work even though it wasn’t sounding as good as it should. But getting those frequencies in the right spot made it easier to have everything not opened up so much in the stereo field.”

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Wehbba | The Track

Making Fake’s bassbin-rending kick drum Wehbba processed the Analog Rytm’s lush tones with digital effects inside Ableton Live

03 >

Next the UAD API Vision Console Channel Strip is added. “I have the compressor on, I’ve turned the Gain up a little to get a bit more saturation and character. That’s pretty much it for the channel strip, I don’t have any EQ on here.”

01 >

04 >

02 >

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Getting a full-sounding, solid kick is of fundamental importance when creating a slamming techno track, so selecting suitable source material is key. “The kick was done with the Elektron Analog Rytm,” Wehbba begins. “I recorded a huge take tweaking the knobs and I picked the best section from the recording.”

To enhance the kick’s analogue feel, Wehbba uses a transformer emulator from the Kush Audio Omega range, specifically the Model N. “These little plugins are amazing to emulate transformers from different types of gear,” enthuses Wehbba. “This one is emulating the transformers on a Neve preamp. It makes everything sound more ‘real’, less digitised and stuff.”

For his equalisation needs, Wehbba turns to Massenburg Design Works EQ5: “After the API I loaded an EQ and took some of the more midrange out of there. This EQ is nice because it’s really clean and doesn’t really change the character of the sound so much.”

The final stage is FabFilter’s Simplon filter. “This filter is just for sections where I need to cut the low-end on the kick drum,” says Wehbba. “Normally if I’m writing the track I just do it live; I use Push for sequencing, so I’d just trigger the effect with a shortcut or whatever. Then I’d fine-tune it during the production processes.”

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FM | YOUTUBE MORE UNMISSABLE VIDEO FEATURES FROM FUTURE MUSIC Meet our line-up of exclusive YouTube goodness. Head online for all this and more!

THE TRACK

Top producers go in-depth on the sounds, ideas and techniques behind their latest releases

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HIGHLIGHTS

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From our famous studio sessions to gear tours, technique tips and much more DON’T MISS:

Swedish artist Solar Fields shows us exactly how he creates cutting-edge sounds in Cubase

New to Eurorack? Discover the best modules and essential techniques in our Modular Monthly playlist.

We visit the studio of Dutch acid jazz band Tristan to find out how they produced their sublime Admiration

Want to get the most out of your gear? Head for our Producer’s Guide video playlist for some essential tips.

We’re back in the studio with UK stalwarts Wideboys. Watch them work on the creation of a track in Cubase.

Master your music-making with our Best Of playlist of essential production technique tutorials.

We visit Bridgend to meet Welsh producer and musician Jayce Lewis in his Northstone Studios facility.

See more studios of the stars! Peruse our extensive playlist of classic In The Studio sessions.

KSO, Nasty Kissy Sell Out invites us into his Shoreditch studio to find out how he put together this jump-up D&B-influenced track DON’T MISS:

Muzzy, Spectrum We catch up with big room bass don in his Hampshire studio, to find out how he created the D&B monster from his Spectrum EP

Dapayk & Padberg, Sink This Ship The German duo show us how they created their lush, synth and vocal driven track from thier latest LP.

Black Saint, Could You Love Me? The London trio break down their recent hit, with its blend of deep house and classic noughties R&B vibes, in Logic Pro X.

Reset Robot, Guitar Man The tech-house artist deconstructs one of his latest tracks, showing us how he does it in his Southsea studio.

KEEP IT WWW.YOUTUBE.COM/FUTUREMUSICMAGAZINE FOR YOUR REGULAR ELECTRONIC MUSIC TECHNIQUE AND TECHNOLOGY FIX 52


Studio Sessions The monthly video series from the makers of The world’s top producers show you how they get more from Cubase

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This month we meet up with pop producer Si Hulbert, getting a glimpse into his work behind the moody pop of Don’t Make Me Choose, featuring Stealth.

Direct link: http://bit.l /2fJabXY


FM | PRODUCER’S GUIDE

NI Maschine Get the most out of Ideas View, Bass Synth and more The recent release of NI’s Mk3 Maschine hardware has brought plenty of new functionality to the controller itself, but that VIDEO ON hasn’t been matched by a FILESILO significant update at the software end. Some users might bemoan the continued wait for Maschine 3.0, but in reality the application has already evolved massively since it hit version 2. Possibly the most significant change came last year, in the form of an arrangement view overhaul that added the Live-like Ideas View. This gives Maschine users a sleeker method of experimenting with track structures, one based around scenes and pattern variations. The launch of Jam brought a new perspective to the Maschine ecosystem too, with a focus on performance features and tools for varying and adapting loops and patterns. NI also introduced MIDI CC support for external hardware, which expands the platform’s scope as a hub for live performance or hardware-centric studios. With so much on offer, Maschine can occasionally feel bafflingly deep and labyrinthine. So let’s take a look at some of these tools and see how they can enhance the overall Maschine workflow. 55


Producer’s Guide To | NI Maschine

Let the Ideas flow The Ideas View was added to Maschine last year in version 2.6.5, expanding the software’s arrangement and composition capabilities pretty significantly. Rather than completely replacing the existing Arranger view, the Ideas View offers a space for users to experiment with Pattern combinations without affecting anything that’s been created in the Arranger. In essence, Ideas view is a software version of Maschine Jam’s Pattern triggering interface, but the approach will also look familiar to users of the clip launchers in Ableton Live or Bitwig Studio. In Ideas View, Groups are laid out in columns from left to right, as they are in the mixer window. Each Group has a column containing individual patterns in vertical stacks, similar to Ableton Live’s clips. Tabs along the top of the Ideas View toggle between Scenes, each of which can be set to trigger any combination of Patterns from each of your groups. Scenes and patterns can easily be duplicated to experiment with adding or removing elements. Because Ideas

View encourages users to work in this way, it’s worth splitting different sounds across separate Groups as much as possible. If you stuff your full beat, bassline and chords into the 16 Sound slots of a single Group, you’ll find yourself deleting sequencer

Arranger is now populated with Sections. Each section can be assigned a Scene via a dropdown menu. This makes it easy to sketch out a rough arrangement and then expand and develop it later. Try piecing together a rough timeline from a few simple elements, then, with your rough arrangement in place, create duplications and variations of each element, and use multiple Scenes and the dropdown for each section to mix and match your different versions. Sections can be dragged around on the timeline to extend their length within the Arranger. Maschine might not yet be capable of full DAW-style arrangement – it can still prove difficult to, for example, add and edit events that don’t sit exactly within the preset time signature – but the combination of Ideas View and Arranger make sketching longer ideas in Maschine much more creative and satisfying.

Ideas View and Arranger make sketching longer ideas more creative and satisfying data just to create a variation. With separate Groups for your basic beat, bass, chords, toplines and so on, it’s much easier to quickly mix and match variations. Although Ideas View acts as a separate entity to the Arranger, the two aren’t entirely disconnected. The

Controlling external hardware with Maschine With the addition of external CC control, Maschine is now a far more capable hub for a hardware-heavy setup Maschine’s 2.6 update added the ability to send external CC messages to control external gear. This is a significant addition for hardware-centric producers; Maschine could always sync and trigger drum machines and hardware synths, but now it can fully integrate with them, sequencing and automating parameters within its Patterns. This is particularly good news for users of the Mk3 controller, since the built-in audio interface makes it much easier to pair it with a hardware instrument without the need for extra peripheries. To make this easier, NI have created presets for a host of synths and drum machines. Head to bit.ly/maschineccpresets for downloads and instruction. For gear not covered by the presets, it’s easy to create custom setups for any hardware via Maschine’s Macros. Here’s how...

QUICK TIPS The ‘+ Routing’ option in Maschine’s Group browser can be used to dictate whether a Group preset will change existing audio or MIDI routing when it’s loaded into a Project.

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When using Bass Synth with Maschine Jam, the upper row of the piano roll is used for engaging glides between notes.

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File >> Manage Products is the quickest way to open Native Access, to add new Kontakt instruments or update products.

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Jam or Mk3 users, try adding Perform FX to your Multi Effect groups for a cool way to further mangle, sweep or morph your existing effects.

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Maschine’s Sampler Modes emulate the crunchy feel of classic samplers. These can be even better than a compressor or limiter for adding punch.

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Start with an empty sound slot, head to the Channel menu and the Sound’s Output settings, then MIDI page. Route MIDI to the appropriate output and channel for your hardware device.

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>

Now jump to the Sound’s Macro page. Hit the down-pointing arrow to the left to enter assignment mode. In the dropdown beneath the Macro select MIDI, then the appropriate CC number for the parameter you want to assign (check your hardware’s MIDI implementation chart).

>

You can rename the Macro as you wish. Hit the ‘+’ to add another Macro to your sound. For multi-sound instruments such as drum machines, you’ll need to repeat these steps to assign each individual sound to a pad in Maschine.


NI Maschine | Producer’s Guide To

Six tips for Ideas View Get the most out of the recently-added Ideas View with these quick tips for improving your Maschine workflow

01

You can drag Scenes and Groups around the Ideas View to change their order or position. Dragging a Scene or Group while holding down CTRL on PC or ALT on Mac will duplicate it.

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Created a new scene in the Ideas View and want to quickly add it onto the end of your composition? Simply right-click on the scene and select Append To Arrangement to instantly create a new Section out of it at the end of your Arranger View timeline.

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Need inspiration? Duplicate a scene and use Maschine’s variation engine to generate some randomised versions of your existing patterns. The Mk3 and Jam controllers have labelled Variation Engine buttons, but it can be accessed on older models too, simply hold Shift and hit Pattern.

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You can trigger Scene or Section changes and parameter Lock Snapshots from your DAW or external hardware via MIDI notes or Program Change messages. Hit the gear icon in Maschine’s transport bar and select MIDI Change to turn this on and configure it.

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Sequence effects! Create a Multi FX Group (ie, a group where each Sound is an effect chain) and send Sounds from your other Groups to it. Create Patterns for this FX group containing automation for parameters such as volume, pan, filter sweeps etc. You can now jam with these automation patterns in Ideas View independent of other Patterns or insert FX.

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Created a Scene out of existing Patterns and want to make some edits without affecting other Scenes that use those Patterns? Right click the Scene and select Unique to create fresh versions of any pattern that’s also used elsewhere.

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Producer’s Guide To | NI Maschine

How to…

Manually Slice a Loop

How to…

Use the Isomorphic Keyboard with Maschine Jam

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How to…

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How to…

Since version 2.4.5, Maschine has been capable of ‘live’ loop slicing, allowing users to manually assign parts of a sample to pads in real time. To do this, select a sample, open the sampling window, select Slice and make sure you’re set to Manual mode. The first of the 16 pads will blink – hit this to assign the first slice and begin playing your loop. As soon as one Slice is added to a pad, the next pad will begin to blink. Hitting these pads in order as the loop plays will assign consecutive slices across the duration of your sample in real time. A very handy little addition.

Version 2.6.8 added an isomorphic keyboard mode for use with Maschine Jam. This is designed to allow users to play chord shapes using Jam’s 64-button grid. The isomorphic mode means that chords will retain the same relative shape across the pad grid regardless of the scale being used or the position the chord is played on the grid. This is handy for users lacking much experience playing or composing with traditional chord and scale structures, as it allows the user to memorise just a few basic shapes that can be applied to different scales. For a chart of common chord shapes head to: bit.ly/maschineiso

Create Sampled Tape Stop Effects

Combine Maschine and Komplete Kontrol Mk2

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Want to replicate the classic slow-down effect associated with stopping a tape or vinyl record? This is easy with Maschine’s Sampler. Simply select the Sound containing the sample (or slice) you want to use and then – either by drawing automation into the pattern or recording it manually – automate a drop in the sample’s pitch. It’s a good idea to set the Sampler Envelope to ADSR mode, to have a bit more control over the length and volume of the effect. Want to do the same thing with a non-sample track element, or even a section of your whole track? Bounce it out as audio and then re-import it into a Sampler.

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The second-gen Komplete Kontrol keyboards make great partners for Maschine. As with Maschine Mk3, these updated controllers have gained a pair of good-sized, full colour screens. These can be used to browse sounds or mix in Live, Logic or GarageBand. With the controller connected, selecting an instance of Maschine will allow the hardware’s screens to display Maschine’s browser, mixer or sequencer views. You can also use the keyboard to play sounds loaded into one of Maschine’s groups. This offers a handy alternative way to play sampled kits and instruments away from Maschine’s pads.

What’s next for Maschine? While it might have begun life as an MPC-alike sampling beat maker, there’s little doubt that Maschine has now grown into an exceptionally deep tool for sound design, arrangement and even mixing. So where can we expect it to go next? Native Instruments have been pretty open on their forums in recent months about the fact that they’re looking to add audio into Maschine in some way. While there’s no confirmation on exactly how this would be implemented, it looks likely that it will first arrive in the form of a loop recording/playback system, that will allow Scenes of full audio to be added to the Arranger or Ideas View. This would seem like a sensible place to start – allowing simple audio recording to be added to the platform without having to alter the structure of the current application. NI have also mentioned the possibility of adding real-time timestretching to the sampler into a future update. All of which will bring Maschine closer than ever to being able to function as a standalone DAW. 58


NI Maschine | Producer’s Guide To

Exploring Bass Synth Maschine’s 2.6.8 update added a 303 and 101-inspired monosynth to the software’s inbuilt toolkit. Let’s take a look…

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For classic acid house bass, increase the filter resonance and filter modulation. Adjust the cutoff to suit your bass pattern. The Decay control can now be used to dial in the length of those distinctive acidic filters sweeps.

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Bass Synth’s interface may not look very much like a Roland classic, but its sound engine has a distinctly acid-friendly feel, thanks to its combo of a single oscillator with a resonant filter. A basic modulation envelope – with just a single delay control – allows for squelchy filter modulation.

The oscillator can morph continuously between a sine wave (far left setting) and square wave (far right setting) via triangle and saw waves. The sine mode will give a clean, punchy bass tone, and as you turn this toward the right it will add more grit and midrange harmonics.

Glide between notes helps give that authentic acid feel. The Glide Time control dictates the length of these, but by default Glide is turned off completely – the switch to turn it on is tucked away on the Advanced parameter page. Try automating Glide off/on to add it to just a few notes in your pattern.

Turn up Bass Synth’s Drive dial for a bit of authentic added grit. A few insert effects will help polish your sound – a short delay, analogue-style compression and tape or vinyl emulation will give a proper vintage house feel.

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In The Studio With | Vessels

Vessels

The Leeds-based band began with post rock before undertaking a remarkable career change, embracing electronic music using modular gear, synths and software. Danny Turner chats to Lee J. Malcolm and Tom Evans about their extraordinary transformation

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Vessels | In The Studio With

T

ipped by Radio 1 in 2007 as one of the hottest new bands in the UK, Vessels flew to Minneapolis to record their debut album White Fields and Open Devices under the stewardship of Grammy-winning American producer John Congleton, who also produced their second album Helioscope (2011). Yet seemingly at the peak of their powers, Vessels risked the wrath of their fan base by moving from their post rock foundations to embrace the euphoria of the dancefloor. Motivated by the sound of synthesisers and a combination of live and electronic percussion, the band’s third album, Dilate (2015) stripped out the guitars and grungy feel of their previous productions. Meanwhile, Vessels’ latest album The Great Distraction goes one step further towards what has been an almost seamless transition… although as Lee J. Malcolm and Tom Evans explain, the mutation was not without its challenges.

Your debut album White Fields and Open Devices showed no signs of the electronic band you would become. What precipitated that transition? Lee J. Malcolm: “Basically, a lot of what those first two records were about was experimentation. I know that’s kind of a cliché, but generally we were trying to make the guitar sound different by experimenting with different pedals and stuff. The turning point was when we thought to ourselves, instead of trying to make guitars not sound like guitars, why not use something that’s not a guitar – like a synthesiser. That was progressed by the fact that we all kind of listened to electronic music as well.” Tom Evans: “Obviously, when we started we were a rock band playing guitars, and that was our instrument. It was always Lee who would be putting electronic touches on the tunes, and he’s been writing electronic music since the early 2000s, as have I to a certain extent. When we were doing the second album, the first track we wrote was Monoform, and at that point we felt that live dance music was the way forward.” Was it easy to get everybody in the band onboard with the change? Lee: “The drummer was an empire built on sand basically [laughs]. Everybody was nervous about it, of course, including myself. But once we got the first collection of songs together and started playing them, we started to realise that something could come of it.” Tom: “It was a very a gradual process in terms of how we worked out what our new roles would be and how we’d do it. We’d been trying in rehearsals to make dance music with guitars, but it never really worked - it just sounded like guitar music. It’s only when we decided to ditch the guitars large-scale that it actually started to work properly, and Lee designed a way of performing using Ableton Live that allowed us to sync everything together.”

How did you adapt to using Ableton Live? Lee: “It worked at the beginning, but the more stuff we had running through it the more it started to let us down - so we had to change the system again. Essentially, we had one computer running Ableton with eight in/out soundcards and a MIDI hub. Everybody’s setup was going through it, and we were all using a hardware synth and a software synth. I’ve got an original Korg MS-20 and used to put that through my Marshall stack because it’s great for basslines and lead lines, but we soon realised we needed something a bit more stable, because if the computer went down, everybody went down.” Tom: “Yeah, including three-fifths of the band and the drummer’s click, which happened at several gigs and left us pretty red faced. Now we have three laptop stations running all the synths and we’re syncing that off MIDI clock. But since Ableton Link came out, it’s changed everything.” Initially, you must have cultivated a following that was used to listening to a certain type of music. Were you concerned that you’d lose that early momentum you’d gained? Tom: “100%. We don’t take lightly the love and support that people have shown us. It’s massively humbling and half the reason why we do it. One half is because we want to make music and explore stuff together, and the other is the symbiotic relationship you have with the people who listen to it. It was a massive concern, and I can’t speak for everybody, but personally I was terrified about how it would be received. There was one guy who’d come over from India to see us play in London and had a massive Vessels tattoo down the inside of his forearm. He told me he was terminally ill and that one of his dying wishes was to come and see us play. Then he said, ‘I don’t know what this new record’s about, but I can’t get on board with that mate. I want the Prog Vessels’. The gravitas of what you do does hit home in situations like that. I think we probably lost some people, but gained others as well.” Lee: “As much as we’re going on about the importance of paying respect to the people who support you, at the same time you’ve got to keep one eye on the fact that if you don’t keep moving, learning and progressing then you get bored yourself. If we hadn’t have made this change, we probably wouldn’t have kept going.” You evidently took to it like a duck to water, but the one artist I find you comparable to is Jon Hopkins. Was he an early influence? Tom: “Yeah, he’s great. It’s a strange one, because he’s an influence but at the same time we were kind of making music like that anyway. There’s another guy called Rival Consoles, who’s a mate of ours, and we’re kind of in a similar headspace. I think a lot of that has to do with having a similar musical heritage.” Lee: “Jon Hopkins has been playing one of our tunes, Are You Trending, in his DJ set for about a year I think. One artist we like is Alex Banks. He’s from Brighton and did a track called Phosphorous that’s the absolute tits. You should check it out!”

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In The Studio With | Vessels

The new album, The Great Distraction, is probably your most technology-heavy to date. What aspects of the sound have you tried to push, tech-wise? Lee: “Tom might have a different answer, but I’ve been making electronic music for a long, long time and have just started getting into the modular world now. Triggering things using CV is what I’ve been exploring to create more interesting sound design work. We’ve pretty much always used hardware for nearly everything we do, and I think a lot of the push has just been taking what we learned from the last album, Dilate, and exploring more of that. We recorded that with Richard Formby who produced Ghostpoet, Darkstar and Wild Beasts, and he’s got a massive modular setup. During the production of Dilate, we spent a considerable amount of time re-amping stuff and sending things back that I’d made through his setup. I learned quite a lot from how he works and his approach to synthesis.”

was too unstable to use live, which was a right pain in the arse. Instead, we’re using an old Roland SH-32, which was knackered but still works.” Tom: “I’ve also bought an Elektron Analog Keys, which is a game changer. Total recall on an analogue synth in a digital shell; it’s pretty fantastic. We also got one of the ARP Odyssey remakes, which is amazing for basslines.” Of course, it’s not just the sound that’s changed, but presumably the themes you write about no longer apply. Or is it a case of simply expressing them through a different vocabulary? Tom: “There’s definitely been a different approach, and I had a different aesthetic in my mind for this album. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s a lot colder and a bit more unforgiving. I don’t know whether that’s a true representation of where we’re at in our lives, because we’re all mid-to-late 30s and your priorities change and your outlook is more

Presumably, the creative process has changed a lot since you first started too. Do you still jam together as a five-piece and evolve ideas from those sessions? Tom: “We’d love to be able to jam together more but life gets in the way, so it’s basically been Lee writing most of it with me chipping in now and again. When we’re all together in a room, it becomes about learning how to play the new tunes or rehearsing them for gigs.” Lee: “We’re always watching the clock. Even when we’re looking to have a bit of free time and try out ideas, we’re usually feeling a little bit stressed out and guilty that we’re having fun. But then sometimes you just jam out a lot of old cobblers don’t you?” It sounds like there’s a ton of effects on whatever you’re using? Lee: “Everybody’s got different stuff, so there’s production stuff and live stuff and they crosspollinate. In terms of the live setup, it’s actually quite simple. I use an original Korg MS-20 and a Roland System 1M and just use a reverb and the delay in Ableton on the end of my channel and mess around with the delay time. But Tom and I will also use Ableton’s Looper, because that’s where a lot of the layering comes from.” Tom: “I run hardware, like the Analog Keys, through a Kaoss Pad for live effects. I like the hands-on performance aspect and that’s what they’re built for. Simple, intuitive and you can choose an effect and be expressive and perform it slightly differently every time. The problem with electronic music, and the thing we’ve always been aware of, is that it’s generally performed by a geezer behind a table and you never really know what he’s doing. To be honest, a lot of

There’s definitely been a different approach, and I had a different aesthetic in my mind for this album Tom: “Lee’s been building up his modular setup throughout the course of making this album, and as he was getting more toys started chucking bits in here and there. Some of the vocal chops were done using a Radio Music Module and Mutable Instruments’ Clouds to create stutter vocal chops and interesting soundscapes. We’ve also got a little MIDI Roland JP-08, which is one of the boutique Roland modules.” Lee: “We’d been using the Jupiter plugin for so long and it was such a go-to in our productions, but it

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cynical, but you’re also more content. It’s a strange time in your life to call upon inspiration.” Lee: “The second to last track on the album, Radio Decay, did have a specific concept. It’s kind of about the last signals from a planet that died a long time ago, and the beauty and sadness that comes with knowing that you’re not alone, but also finding out that those people died thousands of years ago because it’s taken that long for the signal to travel across the cosmos. I guess that’s a reflection on getting older, mortality and the idea that nothing’s finite.”


In The Studio With | Vessels

The Roland System 1M plug-out synth seems particularly interesting… Lee: “I’ve got two of them now. One is at home plastered to the top of my modular with a bit of electrical tape and the other’s used in my live set on top of the MS-20. I originally got it because I needed something for a solo set I was doing at Berghain in Berlin. I had a play with it in the shop and it felt a bit like a toy, but the longer I’ve had it the more I’ve realised that it’s such versatile synth. It sounds incredible for a fairly budget digital synth, and it’s all over the new record.”

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Vessels | In The Studio With

the time they’ll give themselves things to do just to look busy, but we wanted to make the tracks as performable as possible. Yes, we try to get as close to the record as we can, but as the tunes progress in the live show, we think we can get more expressive and experimental so we don’t get bored playing them night after night.” Lee: “We’ve also got an original Roland Space Echo and we’re running some of our synths and drum machines through that. I’ll smash a Vermona DRM1 Drum Machine through it, but we’re also using a Dynacord Echocord. That’s got a sick preamp on it and we’ll put a lot of the drums though that.” You mentioned using the ARP Odyssey synth earlier, which is an absolute monster, right? Tom: “It is. We initially bought it to replace the MS-20 just because it’s flat and would fit in a flight case easily. But when Lee started playing with it, we realised it’s so unhinged that it sounds amazing. It goes out of tune really easy, so it’s a bit of a liability to use live, whereas the MS-20 is really versatile and quite dependable. But you’re right, it is an animal and really great for percussive, weird synth sounds.” I understand the Roland Boutique JP-08 is a rework of the Jupiter-8? How do they compare? Tom: “I watched someone of YouTube do an A/B between the JP-08 and the natural Jupiter-8, and when he pulled the scope up they were bloody close. Obviously, the original one is going to behave differently; it’s got the idiosyncrasies of a big old machine with big old circuits, but they’ve nailed it fairly well. It’s annoying that the controls are really tiny and it’s quite difficult to find a sweet spot, but once you do you just save your patch and off you go. “But talking about re-releases of old synths, when we were trying to find a replacement for the MS-20, we tried some of the new MS-20s and took Lee’s original one to the shop to A/B them. Apart from the filter, they were pretty much identical, but the filter on the original is so beautiful and expressive and is one of the main things we used live, so it’s worth taking a bigger box around just for that extra filter nuance [laughs].” Do you still have live drums in the band, or has that aspect gone fully electronic too? Lee: “We’re still using a live drummer and there are live drums all over the records, but they’ve been messed about with a bit. On the first track, Mobilise, the drums are clearly live but it’s all mixed in with programmed drums. It’s actually been quite a challenge to get the acoustics and electronics to sit nicely together. There are two live drummers in the band and we also had two Roland SPD-Ss, which were OK but a pain in the arse to get sounds on and off. The new SPD-SX has a USB interface, and there’s loads more you can do once the samples are on there.” Tom: “We’ve got three now. The guitarist has one, Lee has one on his little mini-kit with the hi-hat and the snare, and the drummer’s got one on his hybrid kit, which is a full drum kit with a trigger

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In The Studio With | Vessels

get it out. As I’m still learning, it’s giving me new ideas, so I’ll mess around a bit in the morning and experiment without any agenda and just record what I’m doing.” Maths by Make Noise seems to be quite a common module these days… Lee: “I think most people have that in their setup. It’s an amazing function generator and a constant source of surprises and inspiration. It’s basically an envelope generator, but with rise and fall rather than sustain/release, and you can add algorithmic or exponential curves to the release and trigger it, cycle it or cross-patch from one side to the other so that one envelope can trigger another on its decay or end of cycle. And then you’ve got a bunch of attenuators in the middle, so you can really fine-tune incoming and outgoing signals. The whole thing about Maths is that it’s about cross-patching itself to get much more interesting envelope generation.” What other interesting modules do you have? Lee: “Mutable Instruments Veils, which is a quad VCA. It sums all of its inputs down to the last output, so you can use it as a mixer, and then you’ve also got logarithmic and exponential curves on the volumes. Then I’ve got a Xaoc Devices Batumi, which is a quad LFO module with three different outputs for each LFO: sine wave, saw wave and square wave. It just gives you very complex and interesting modulation outputs. The thing that I’m still really exploring is the Intellijel Cyclonix Rainmaker, which is a 16-tap stereo spectral rhythm delay and comb resonator [laughs].”

kick pedal, a trigger snare and pads. For him, it’s all about making it ergonomic, so he can still play quite openly.” Lee: “By the way, the kick drum on the Korg Volca Beats is absolutely amazing. With stuff like that, we’ll make drum sounds and resample them. The Vermona DRM1 is great too. It’s got a distinctive sound and eight separate outs, which go into the

Reaper, but it’s so intuitive to me that it’s a joy to work in, and obviously you’ve got all the VSTs available too. I used to use a lot of VSTs and third-party plugins, but not as much these days as I’m often sharing projects. When it comes to mixing, we’ll take the tracks down to the studio and use whatever software we need to use. To some degree you can have too many plugins and it can

Could you explain what that does to our readers? Lee: “It’s basically 17 delays in one, and you have various controls over each delay. You can have each delay pitchshifted by plus or minus 15 semitones, or anywhere in between, and each delay can be filtered to a different spot with a different resonance and cut-off, and you can pan them wherever you want and adjust the level amounts. It’s absolutely amazing because you can build incredibly complex delays that can all be modulated and clocked.”

It can be quite daunting and difficult to start a track. Setting yourself restrictions often brings out more creativity desk and allow me to EQ and affect everything separately and kind of perform with it. You’ve got control over every aspect of each drum, and you can make basslines on it too.” What role do DAWs, soft synths and plugins play in your production process? Lee: “I started off with Cubase back in the Atari ST days, but Ableton was a total game changer. I know people argue that it doesn’t sound that great and you should mix in Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, or even

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be quite daunting and difficult to start a track. Setting yourself restrictions often brings out more creativity.” How do those restrictions tie in with using your modular rack, where it’s easy to get carried away noodling for hours? Lee: “Not that much actually because it’s not that big. I’ve only got two rows and the Roland System 1M on top. I’ve got to a point where if I need a sound, I’ll turn to an appropriate module and try to

What does the comb resonator do? Lee: “The comb resonator allows you to create interesting tonal resonances, but that’s the side I’m still trying to figure out. I’m a musician at heart and want to be able to play an instrument, and modular jut makes me feel like I’m accessing that part of my brain again. It’s horses for courses, but the most important thing is that, whatever equipment you use, it’s inspirational and intuitive and doesn’t get in the way of the process of writing good music.”

WANT TO KNOW MORE? The Great Distraction is out now on Different Recordings. Find out more at vesselsband.com


Vessels | In The Studio With

You’re clearly a big fan of the Mutable Instruments modules? Lee: “Clouds has become quite the staple. The guy who makes the Mutable Instruments stuff is a genius. Clouds’ Parasite firmware has a resonator function, which is awesome if you stick bass or drums through it. I’ve only got two oscillators and they’re a little bit similar. Of the two, Braids is a macro oscillator that has 40 oscillator modes, and the other one I have is Intellijel’s Cyclonix Shapeshifter. Shapeshifter is awesome but a tough nut to crack. I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of it, and it’s a beast for weird sounds, but I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone just getting into synthesis. Braids is much easier to use, and it has a meta-function where you can use the FM input to modulate between all the different oscillators, which is fun.” 67


FM | TOOLKIT Vintage reverb We dial back the clock to a time when reverbs weren’t so pristine and ‘digitally transparent’ As in so many aspects of modern music production, we’re rather spoiled when it comes to the types of reverb we can add to our mixes. We can work with convolution VIDEO ON reverbs, which use impulse responses FILESILO recorded in real spaces to create formerly unfeasible levels of authenticity. Or, we can take our pick from a spectacular range of ‘artificial’ algorithmic reverbs, which use the lightning-fast capabilities of our computers’ CPUs to dream up similarly impressive sounding spaces; useful for everything from extreme special effects to perfectly tailored ambiences. As a concept, ‘artificially added space’ has been central to the sound of recorded music since recording itself became viable, so it’s no surprise that the ingenuity of engineers in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s helped forge a range of techniques and pieces of equipment which satisfied the technical and creative whims of maverick music producers. Take plate reverb as an example – plate reverbs don’t sound ‘natural’ at all. Try selecting a Plate algorithm in your modern reverb plugin of choice and solo it on a vocal or instrumental part and you’re unlikely to immediately associate the sound with a type of room or hall. However, they tend to shine a light on the sound being processed, offering it a focus, warmth and colour which is, sonically, hugely appealing.

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Spring reverbs, meanwhile, offer a different take along similarly ‘retro’ lines; this approach uses a transducer to transmit sound to a coiled metal spring. Throughout the 1960s, guitarists were seduced by the sound of spring reverbs – so much so, in fact, that Fender started using them in amplifier designs. Even with the advent of digital reverb units such as Lexicon’s 224, the input transformer stage and 12-bit digital to analogue conversion ensured that colour and a unique sonic identity were central to the sound. So no wonder that, inspired by these unit and many others, leading plugin manufacturers are flocking to create clones of the most coveted reverbs ever developed. Among these are UAD’s emulations of AKG’s BX 20 and the AMS RMX16 reverbs. Waves’ Abbey Road Plates are wonderful recreations of proprietary devices constructed at the world’s most famous recording studios, while Valhalla’s VintageVerb manages to provide its own unique sonic (and visual) style to echo the sound of spatial treatments from yesteryear. Through this month’s walkthroughs and video, we’re exploring how a number of classic reverb techniques can benefit your mixes, irrespective of the musical genres you produce. Let’s remind ourselves why the sound of these boxes has never fallen out of favour.


Vintage Reverb | FM Toolkit

QUICK TIPS If you want to add a little ‘dust’ to your reverb chains, try a bitcrusher after your reverb. Setting this at 12-bit with a sprinkling of downsampling can take the ‘pristine’ edge off modern plugin reverbs.

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Looking to add a gentle pitch wobble to long reverbs but don’t have a plugin which offers pitch modulation? Bounce your reverb as a ‘wet only’ audio file and load it into your sampler.

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Tone-wise, vintage reverbs are often less transparent and pristine than their modern digital equivalents. If your chosen plugin doesn’t feature its own EQ, use a plugin after the reverb to contour bass and treble. Also, try other plugins such as saturators and tape emulators to further colour your reverb returns.

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FMCHOICE

6 vintage-style reverbs UAD AKG BX 20 | £149

Waves Abbey Road Reverb Plates | $249

Lexicon PCM Native Reverb Bundle | $720

These four pioneering plate reverbs have been modeled by Waves to give you the classic sound of five decades of recording history.

Included in Lexicon’s flagship PCM bundle are a range of individual plugins, including the warm, lush tones of its Vintage Plate (pictured).

UAD AMS RMX16 | £260

FabFilter Pro-R | £149

Valhalla VintageVerb | $50

You’ll still see AMS RMX16 hardware reverbs in top studios. Perhaps its most famous algorithm is ‘NonLin’. As Phil Collins discovered in the 1980s, this + tom fill = hit record.

Via its comprehensive range of parameters, including frequencydependent Decay Times, Pro-R is extremely good at emulating the behaviours of reverbs new and old.

A glorious plugin, capable of deep, rich pitch modulation and chorused spatial treatments. It too features several algorithms to allow you to design your perfect ‘retro space’.

Combines the immediacy of a spring reverb with a longer decay phase. UAD’s emulation matches the unique colour and density of the original hardware beautifully.

NonLin snare weight A classic ’80s reverb treatment can come into its own if you’re looking to add weight to mid-range drums and percussive sound sources. You may well be familiar with the concept of gated reverb. By putting an aggressive gate after a spatial treatment, as it decays, the sound abruptly ‘stops’. Once volume drops before a chosen Threshold in a Gate, it ‘closes’ altogether, stopping any more sound from being heard. It’s a powerful technique which shares a lot in common with the NonLin algorithm made famous by the AMS RMX16 reverb. This hardware reverb unit contains a number of algorithms but ‘NonLin’ became particularly synonymous with drum sounds after Phil Collins used it on the tom fill to his smash hit In The Air Tonight. Whilst that drum sound owes as much to the choice of drum microphones and heavy compression, the NonLin algorithm makes a huge impression too.

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We start with an electro track with separate kick, snare and hat tracks from a Battery 808 kit. To this, two basslines playing the same part are added, along with a distant, reverberant lead sound. The last part is an audio snare sample, doubling the programmed one.

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The snares lack weight. We set up a new auxiliary and use UAD’s emulation of the AMS RMX16, selecting its NonLin algorithm. We adjust Decay Time so that the ‘gated reverb’ like sound it produces feels ‘in time’ with the track – 2.5 seconds feels right.

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We adjust the High Filter so that a little more ‘air’ is added to the reverb. It’s also much too loud, so we adjust the Auxiliary Return volume to -10dB. In this clip, you can hear the ‘before and after’, with the NonLin reverb treatment automated to start halfway through.

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FM Toolkit | Vintage Reverb

Mix glue with vintage reverb treatments Through the following six steps, let’s glue a mix together with some careful vintage reverb choices

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We want a brighter, dirtier reverb for the top end of the mix, so we use the hats as a trigger for this. We pick Valhalla’s VintageVerb as our plugin for this purpose and spend time choosing the amount of high-frequency damping and top-end EQ attenuation. We’re using the Dirty Hall algorithm.

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Our track starts with kick and hats from Battery 4, a basic bassline and a pad from Spitfire Audio’s Phobos. The two more dynamic parts are a guitar loop and an auto-panning synth pluck sequence. There’s no reverb added to the mix at this stage; it sounds very dry.

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We start by sending the guitar loop to a treatment with UAD’s AKG BX 20 emulation. We use the EQ controls to thin out both treble and bass, whilst selecting a reverb time of around four seconds. As the frequency spectrum of the reverb is tamed, the overall sound feels more vintage.

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There’s plenty of both midrange and high-frequency content in the Phobos pad part, so we add both reverbs to this channel. This adds a new layer of mix glue; it seems right that the most sustained part of the mix feeds into both reverberant spaces.

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We reintroduce the other sounds in the mix before deciding to add a little of the AKG BX 20 reverb to the bassline. This features plenty of bass roll-off, but to ensure things don’t get too muddy in the low midrange, we add FabFilter’s Pro Q-2, using a low shelf, to avoid muddiness.

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We add the same reverb to the plucked synth part, which immediately glues the two sounds together. This is appropriate as they have some similarities in tone and in envelope shape. There’s a pleasing moodiness to these two feature sounds now.

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FM | MODULAR MONTHLY

Come and take a chance! We delve into the world of random with Qu-Bit Electronix’s Chance Qu-Bit made a splash on the Eurorack scene back in 2013 with the granular sampler VIDEO ON Nebulae, before going FILESILO on to release a series of FX, modulation and control modules. Our personal favourite from Qu-Bit was the Nano Rand, which offered four switchable random algorithms and random gates that were always musical derivatives of the internal (or external) clock. It was fantastic for ‘musically random’ CV and gate signals, so we were delighted when we saw Chance enter the new Qu-Bit product line up. Chance is a one stop shop for random signals with noise sources, musically changing rhythms, random bursts, smooth or discrete stepped random and a random wavetable LFO that randomly shifts waveshape and

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LFO rate – ace! The Qu-Bit website states that “Chance is a unique modulation source that uses chance operations and musical voltages. Inspired by John Cage’s use of the Chinese divination text, I Ching, Chance generates random voltages in response to a digital generated coin toss.” But if all that sounds a bit too experimental for your tastes, rest assured Chance still offers lots for you too. Think about a drummer playing a hi-hat – however hard they try they cannot play the cymbals exactly the same each time, nor could a guitarist pluck a string in the exact same place with the exact same picking angle and velocity. Adding some subtle changes to our patches can add more organic, lifelike and all-round more human musical result.


Tutorial | Modular Monthly

Random voltage generation with Qu-Bit’s Chance With percussion sources, envelopes, oscillators and VCAs, Chance can add humanity to all your patches

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We can further explore random rhythms with the burst output, which means that at every clock pulse (or coin toss) a gate burst is generated with a random number of gates, rests and gate lengths. The rate and density of the bursts is determined by the rate knob.

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We’ll start nice and simple, using the discrete output to add stepped random changes to the decay of an open hi-hat. Take the clock out of Chance to trigger a hi-hat module and then use the discrete output to decay CV for more life.

Sticking with percussion, let’s add some randomly shifting rhythms to our drum beats. Take the rhythm output into a percussion module of choice for shifting rhythms over your beats. Play with the rhythm knob to control the probability of change in the pattern.

We get two types of noise on Chance: white noise is great for lots of things, but we also get digital noise which has a changing tone. Patch the digital noise into a VCA controlled by an envelope to create shifting percussion sounds.

Patch a pulse wave into a filter then into a VCA controlled by an envelope. Take the smooth output to PWM, filter cut off and decay time on the envelope. Using the onboard ‘attenuverters’ on Chance, you can control the range of movement added to your patches.

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The wavetable output offers a continuous tempo-synced LFO. Each clock pulse generates a new random wavetable shape and random division or multiplication of the clock for the LFO rate. Patch the wavetable output to modulate filters, VCAs, waveshapes or FX for random wobbly LFOs.

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Interview | Blondes

Blondes

Bright lights on New York’s electronic scene, Blondes return with mesmeric new album, Warmth, on legendary dance label R&S. Hamish Mackintosh caught up with the hardware-centric duo

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Blondes | Interview

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londes (aka Messrs Sam Haar and Zach Steinman) have spent almost a decade creating their unique blend of beats and hypnotica together. New album, Warmth, their third but first on much-respected dance label R&S, is a pulsing, rhythmic trip, awash with ideas, again highlighting Haar and Steinman’s love of hardware synths and outboard effects for fashioning their distinctive sound. Having garnered plaudits for 2012’s eponymous debut album, and for the equally sumptuous Swisher a year later, the New York duo’s percussive and rhythmic penchants have risen more to the fore on Warmth. Tracks such as Clipse or the deep techno of Tens showcase Blondes at their best with bristling beats, percussion and reverb-drenched hooks aplenty. FM caught up with Haar and Steinman in their respective music-making lairs to get an insight into how the pair make music together.

Warmth is your third album as Blondes but the first on the R&S label. Is it exciting to be on such a prestigious dance music label?

There must be scope for experimentation with the way you chain all the hardware together. Sam: “Yeah, absolutely. If we’re playing something, there’s usually a fair amount of ‘I wonder what happens if I plug this into that or feed this back into that.’ The performance process is this continuous experimentation; a lot of it is about finding and discovering new things. Maybe you’ll filter out a sound with EQs in a certain way, then run it into something else that creates another new musical state.” Do you have set roles within Blondes? Zach: “Not as such. We both do rhythmic and melodic elements because we both have synths and sequencers. Usually, when we’re recording or writing, one of us will come with an idea, which we’ll then play off together or maybe combine our ideas to see how they work together.” Warmth seems to go deeper into the rhythmic and percussive side of things than your previous outings… Sam: “Stylistically, we were interested in a more drum-forward, percussive style of music and having the atmospheres and the synths all sit a little bit

warmth and richness to any sound. I always reserve that for adding an extra layer of modulation and warmth. I used to use it more on synths for that phasery, washy effect, but these days I mostly use it with audio-speed modulation so there’s more of a ring-modulator feel. What’s important to us is, does a piece of gear sound good when we set it up, and do we respond to it? Is it easy to find stuff you like with it? We’re not really gear fetishists, so it’s not really about what’s the next great thing – more about how it responds and how it guides you to easily make things that sound good to you.” …and what about your setup, Zach? Zach: “Not too long ago I got the Korg Minilogue, which is really playable –it’s so easy to find great sounds. Like Sam, I’ve got an Octatrack running as the brain with a Moog Voyager. I’ve got a Strymon TimeLine delay pedal, a Strymon Mobius multi-FX pedal and an Electro-Harmonix Memory Man. Some of the delays and reverbs you’re using on Warmth really enhance the overall sound of the album. Are they all hardware, or do you have any software ’verbs in there? Sam: “Through the evolution of our setup, the types of reverb have evolved a lot. We’ve got four different reverb pedals that we currently use, but each one has a slightly different colour and use. For a while I was actually using a Lexicon rack, which sounded so good, but the Eventide H9 is way more portable and sounds great too.”

After you release something, you’ve spent so much time on it that you often just want to work on new material Zach: “Yeah… so far, it’s been really good working with them and it’s such an awesome label that it’s kind of an honour to be a part of it.” Are you guys still sharing your studio in Williamsburg? Sam: “Not any more – we live in different places now, so we’ve got separate studios. This new album we did make in the Williamsburg studio… or rather we tracked it all there.” You’ve both got a reputation for being hardware devotees, and your system’s a little different to most… Sam: Absolutely. We both use a 16-channel, medium -format mixer, which acts as the main hub or the main instrument in a way. We use all the sends so we can route everything and break-out all the hardware that comes into the mixer which we can then route to different effects units, which lets us dynamically create new effects chains and play the EQs etc. It’s kind of like dub in that sense.” It’s becoming more and more unusual, though still refreshing, to find people still having a pivotal place for a mixer in their studio setup. Zach: “One of the main things we use them for is routing things into different pedals and effects. That give you a lot more playability at your fingertips and allows for a lot of improvisation. It’s really fun doing it that way.”

behind that. We’ll often write different elements through the process of playing together so it’s not all improvisational. We’ll maybe come up with a line or a synth part that we’re interested in exploring, but when we then come to the development of the music, that’s all done through improvisational playing. So, we’ll have a system of loops, and how we bring it all together and shape it is improvised.” Zach: “Also, a lot of things are flushed out when we play live. That gives us some immediate feedback on new material.” Do you both write when you’re touring or travelling, or is that reserved for the studio? Sam: “A little bit of both. After you release something, you’ve spent so much time on it that you often just want to work on new material. A lot of times after a new record, our sets will be mainly us experimenting with new work – pushing forward.” So what’s at the heart of each of your individual studio setups? Sam: (laughs) “They’re getting pretty common these days, but we both use the Elektron Octatrack as they’re such amazingly powerful sequencers and samplers. I use that as the brain, which then controls a Dave Smith Tetra and a Waldorf Blofeld desktop synth. Then I’ve got effects pedals, delay, reverb, am Eventide H9 multi-FX pedal, and a Moogerfooger phaser, which has been a staple of the Blondes setup since we started playing. It adds so much colour,

What made you choose the Electro-Harmonix? Zach: “It’s like Sam’s Moogerfooger, really – it’s just the pedal I’ve had the longest and the one I know my way around the best. It’s just fun, and I can do great reverbs, delays, and I can even use it for flange effects. Just to complete the earlier question about my setup, on the record I did use a little bit of Doepfer Dark Energy II on the album. It’s not necessarily part of my setup but we also used a fair bit of Korg M1 on it too.” So, the Elektrons take all the sequencing duties in the studio…there’s no place for computers at all? Sam: “That’s right. We also use the Elektrons to play back digital audio, drums and vocal samples or whatever samples we’re using. I strip the Octatrack out via four mono outputs that I bring into the mixer; Zach does the same with his. That way you can treat each one separately with EQs and effects.” The Octatracks seem like quite monstrous workhorses for such small machines? Sam: (laughs) “Almost too much sometimes! If you a certain task you want to achieve then there’s generally three or four different ways you can technically achieve it within the Octatrack. It’s a beast!”

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Interview | Blondes

A beast with a steep learning curve? Zach: “The learning curve is high but I think once you spend some time with it and, at least initially, find a way that works for you to play it then you can crack it.” Sam: “Like we said earlier, there are so many different ways you can play it, and I think everyone that has one has their own workflow. You need to just spend some time learning what it can do, and then you find a workflow for how you want to work with it. If you don’t know how you want to work that might be dangerous as there are infinite ways you can use them! I know some people who might want to just use an MPC or something, because it’s fast and intuitive, but the Octatrack you have to spend a little more time on.” If you had to pick one bit of gear that most epitomises the Blondes sound, what would it be? Zach: “That’s a tough question as there’s been different phases of gear…” Sam: “…also we use different pieces of the gear for our essential building blocks at different times. Maybe it’s the network of them…or the mixer!” Which mixers are you both using? Zach: “When we go on tour, we backline mixers, and it’s usually Mackie mixers. I have a Mackie in my studio. The Mackies are more durable.” Sam: “I have an Allen & Heath Mix Wizard at mine.

When we first started touring we had an Allen & Heath Z14, but it definitely didn’t handle being toured very well.” Zach: “It was our first show in Europe when it broke, which was very stressful!” Sam: “One of the main coils on the power distributor literally fell off the circuit board! (laughs) There’s always a single point of failure somewhere!” How about the communication between different gear – with such a mix of old and new hardware, does everything communicate without a problem? Sam: “We mostly just use MIDI for Clock and sequencing; we’re not doing any crazy CC LFO stuff or anything.” Zach: “That is actually one thing we have to back up though – the MIDI-Thru box. We’ve realised that we need to take a couple of them on tour – if that broke… it would be pretty tragic!” Is MIDI still enough for what you guys do, or does music technology need a new standard? Sam: “It totally depends on what you’re using it for. We just use it for sending note information and some Clock/Sync. I’ve run into its limitations in other contexts, and for the music that I make myself, I’m trying to use things like OSC a little more – but that’s more laptop-based. The Blondes stuff is more a case of us making sure everything clock.”

Do you think maybe people who do everything in-the-box might miss out on the ‘happy accidents’ of jamming or experimenting with different signal paths? Sam: “Yeah…although the reason we use hardware isn’t about gear fetishism – it’s just that certain hardware sounds really good. Certain plugins sound good too, but for us, it really is about the process of playing and making music, having that tactile response. If you had some crazy, massive MIDI control system set up for your laptop, then you could achieve a similar thing. It’s really just about being able to reach out and touch the gear you want to use.” Zach: “There’s also a playful looseness to our music that I’m pretty sure people pick up on as coming from having this cockpit of gear. It’s in front in our music but I’m not sure people miss out by not doing it that way.” All the same, it must be quite liberating not being tied down to a mouse? Sam: “Yeah and one of the things that’s even more important is not using a screen. I’m on the screen so much in my day-to-day life that it’s really nice to step into a different psychological space when you’re making music. Music is so tied to the physical experience so tapping into that is great.” Zach: “You’re creating limitations for yourself as well, which in a way is quite freeing. You have to work within those limitations rather than sitting in front of the screen with a million different options. You also have to keep figuring out new ways of altering your setup so that you’re not stuck in some set pattern.” If you’re looking to procure a new piece of gear for the Blondes setup, how do you go about deciding what to get? Zach: (laughs) “We watch YouTube video demos.” Sam: “If I’m going to get something new, there must be a functional reason. Maybe I’m feeling limited by the way my setup works in a certain way and I’m wanting to break out a new level of control that you didn’t have before.” That said then, is there anything either of you want to add to the Blondes musical arsenal? Sam: “Right now, I have both my table-top synths, the Tetra and the Blofeld, sequenced to the Octatrack, and I’ve been playing around with the idea of using a synth, instead of the Blofeld, that has an inbuilt sequencer. That’s currently a limitation when we play live that, with the Octatrack as the brain for everything, then you’re kind of locked in to its presets and pattern saving system.” Zach: “I don’t actually have anything on the horizon that I have my eye on, but the Minilogue is exciting for me just now with a keyboard that I can play live, which is something I didn’t have before.”

WANT TO KNOW MORE? Warmth is available now on R&S Records. For more on Blondes visit blondeblondeblondes.tumblr.com

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FM | REVIEWS

Native Instruments Maschine Mk3 £479 NI revamp their core Maschine controller. Si Truss investigates how much substance lies beneath the aesthetic overhaul CONTACT

KEY FEATURES

WHO: Native Instruments WEB: www.native-instruments.com I/O: 2x line in, 2x line out, mic in, headphone out, MIDI in, MIDI out, expression pedal in, (optional) power in, USB 2.0 DIMENSIONS: 320 x 301 x 41 mm WEIGHT: 2.2kg INCLUDED SOFTWARE: Maschine software, Maschine Factory Library, Komplete 11 Select

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NI Maschine Mk3 | Reviews

THE PROS & CONS

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Controller layout has been shuffled and rearranged making it more logical and easier to use Built-in interface is a sensible addition Enlarged screens and improved pads look and feel great

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Line and headphone outputs can’t be used simultaneously NI could do more to reward users upgrading from Mk2 Mic input would have been better placed on the front of the hardware

ack in 2009, when it first appeared, NI’s beat-making platform Maschine represented the tightest controllersoftware relationship on the market. At the application end, the software offered a pretty much self-contained platform for sampling and sequencing, while the associated hardware was designed to offer tailor-made control over every element of the platform.

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Over the years that have followed, NI have expanded the Maschine ecosystem considerably, adding multiple variations on the hardware and significantly expanding the capabilities of the software. While there’s no doubt that this has made Maschine as a whole far more powerful, it’s also loosened that hardware-software relationship considerably. With the variety of functions available across different controllers, along with an expanded remit now encompassing arrangement, external sequencing,

creative effects and much more, there’s no longer one single Maschine controller that can claim to offer truly comprehensive access to every aspect of the software. Although the Mk3 version of NI’s core Maschine controller does tout several eye-catching additions to the hardware – which I’ll come to shortly – the main theme of this update seems to be a reunification of that hardware-software relationship. While this hardware overhaul isn’t accompanied by a significant update at the software end, thanks to some

subtle adjustments to the controller layout and capabilities, the overall workflow ends up feeling significantly streamlined and more flexible. Mk2 users will immediately pick up on a number of ways in which the hardware layout feels more sensibly aligned with the latest incarnation of the software. Possibly most notable of these is a new row of buttons sitting directly above the pad grid, which are used to flip between Pad, Keyboard, Chord and Step modes. While this might be a minor adjustment, it has a noticeable

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Reviews | NI Maschine Mk3

THE ALTERNATIVES

Akai MPC Live £999 The latest gen MPC can do sampling and sequencing like Maschine, plus full audio tracks. It’s fully standalone too, with a built in CPU and rechargeable battery. www.akaipro.com

Ableton Push £599 Ableton’s DAW controller is probably the closest direct rival to Maschine. The Mk2 Push is excellent, although it is more expensive and you’ll need to shell out more on top for a full version of Live 9. www.ableton.com

NI Maschine Jam £299 If the Mk3’s performance touchstrip sounds appealing, check out NI’s alternative sequencing/ performance focused Maschine controller. www.nativeinstruments.com

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impact on the workflow; on the previous version these functions were scattered around the interface, with some hidden behind shift presses, whereas the new layout places every method of using the pads in one easily accessible, logical place. The same goes for the rejigged page/browsing buttons to the top left of the interface. Here, along with browser access, we now get buttons for jumping to the mixer and arrangement windows, along with buttons simplifying navigation between each sound’s plugin and channel pages. It makes navigating around the Maschine software’s (by now fairly complex) architecture considerably more intuitive. Mk3 is about more than minor adjustments though. Along with a layout reshuffle and sleek, industrial new look, the hardware has had several significant new features, as well as gaining a built-in audio interface [see Onboard I/O]. The most instantly noticeable of

these additions are the revamped screens, which are now considerably larger, higher definition and full colour. These are very similar to those already found on Maschine Studio, and function in much the same way, making the process of browsing, editing sounds and sequencing far more visually engaging. As was the case with Studio, this additional visual feedback does a lot to draw attention away from the computer screen. Also brought across from Studio are the eight touch-sensitive rotaries that sit beneath the screens. Among the applications of these, most interesting is the ability to assign Macros by simply hitting the assignment button and then touching the appropriate rotary. This makes the previously somewhat convoluted process of setting up Macros considerably simpler. Along with these eight smaller rotaries, the hardware’s main browsing rotary has been upgraded

into what NI call a ‘four-directional push encoder’. This essentially acts as a one-stop shop for menu scrolling, browsing and selection. Another change likely to catch the eye of seasoned users is the overhaul to the central pads themselves. The 16 pads are now larger with improved sensitivity, particularly towards their outer edges. Despite the beefed-up size, the pad grid maintains the same centre-to-centre positioning as the previous version, meaning that seasoned finger-drummers can still rely on their muscle memory. I’m more of a sequencer person than a pad drummer personally, and probably lack the beat-bashing dexterity to give these new pads a definitive test, but they feel certainly feel nicer to play and are noticeably more responsive to velocity changes. The other major front panel addition is the new touchstrip, which sits just above the transport controls. This is essentially a single, horizontal

ONBOARD I/O Possibly the most significant change for the Mk3 is the addition of a built-in 96kHz/24-bit audio interface. This adds a pair of line outs, pair of line ins, a mic input and headphone output onto the rear panel, alongside the previously existing MIDI in and out ports, and an expression pedal input. The interface is a sensible addition. Seeing as Maschine has always been touted as a self-contained platform for sampling and sequencing, it felt a touch odd to need an extra periphery to get the most out of it. One thing worth noting is that the mic and line ins can’t both be used simultaneously – plugging into the mic input overrides the line-in. Because of this it would have been more convenient to have the mic input along the front edge of the hardware, since it’s not possible to leave something in it constantly plugged in. Similarly, you’ll find you can’t output the same thing from the line outs and headphones simultaneously (although the phones can be set up as a cue output). This is a bit of a pain if you want to switch quickly between monitors and phones when A/Bing sounds, for instance.


NI Maschine Mk3 | Reviews

version of the touchstrips found on Maschine Jam, and brings some of that controller’s best functionality across to the Mk3. This includes control over Maschine’s Performance FX and the ability to ‘strum’ notes across a scale, multiple drum sounds or slices of a sample. One area where it does feel like NI have missed a trick by not implementing touchstrip control is the note repeat. As before, repeatts are triggered by holding down thee note repeat button, with buttons beat above the screen controlling the b at divisions of the repeats. Given tha the touchstrip is placed so close under the note repeat button, it would be great to be able to use it to e control repeat timings, for a more convenient way to sculpt drum fills. On the subject of fills, another Jam-era function added to the Mk3’s interface is access to Maschine’s variation engine, which can be ussed erns. to humanise and randomise patte The final Maschine Jam feature eate brought across is the ability to cre and morph between parameter lock states. This is a great tool for automating live performances or A/Bing mix states; it’s just a slight shame you can’t currently record ents parameter morphs into arrangeme as MIDI automation. What’s impressive about the Maschine Mk3 is that it managess to add functionality to the controllerr while simultaneously feeling like it’s mart been simplified. Thanks to the sm reshuffling of the interface, some d clever use of the new screens and improved rotaries, and general ergonomic improvements, the Mkk3 ends up being less cluttered while also putting more functionality at your fingertips. It’s impressive too that, despite the added interface and enlarged screens, Mk3 maintains the rough size and weight of its predecessor, and even still runs on USB buss power. The controller does now come with an optional power adaptor, and you’ll need to use this to get full brightness out of the screens and pads, but the drop when running solely via USB is fairly negligible. In all, this is the slickest, most user-friendly incarnation of Maschine we’ve seen so far. For new users it represents excellent value too; despite the added interface and screens, the Mk3 comes in at the same price as its predecessor. Add

OUC UC CHSTR HSTRIP IP The Maschine Jamstyle strip can control performance FX and ‘strum’ through sounds.

PAD GRID The 16 pads p are now larger g and more sensitive, but maintain the centre-to-centre position of the Mk2.

in the inclusion of the – now exceptionally powerful – software, plus Komplete Select, which includes Massive, Monark and a healthy selection of quality sounds and effects, and the package seems very reasonable. As an upgrade it’s less of a no-brainer; NI have never been great at rewarding existing hardware owners, so there’s little to sweeten the deal if you’re coming from Mk2 or Studio and already own the full suite of software. A few free expansion packs or some bonus

SCREENS SCRE ENS As with Maschine Studio,, the larger colour screens make browsing and editing more engaging.

Komplete content would certainly be welcome. Don’t get me wrong, the Mk3 is a significant improvement in terms of workflow and overall experience but, if you can survive without the sleeker workflow and interface, it doesn’t revolutionise what the platform is capable of. Upgrade considerations aside, the overall Mk3 experience is probably NI’s finest product to date and arguably the pinnacle of controller-centred music making right now. Sleek, fun and inspiring – what more could you ask for?

LAYOUT LAYO UT A subtle reorganisation g of the control layout really speeds up the Maschine workflow.

FM VERDICT

9.1 A few minor bugbears aside, this is probably the finest hybrid hardware/software music-making platform on the market right now. 81


Reviews | NI Komplete Kontrol S61 MkII

NI Komplete Kontrol S61 MkII £559 The second gen NI keyboards have arrived, with improved interface and integration. Jono Buchanan gets Konnekted CONTACT WHO: Native Instruments WEB: www.native-instruments.com

KEY FEATURES

PRICING: Kontrol S61: £559 Kontrol S49: £479 PLUG-IN FORMATS: OS X (64-bit only): Stand-alone, VST, AU, AAX, Windows (32/64-bit): Standalone, VST, AAX, DIMENSIONS: 1006x297x84mm, WEIGHT: 6.55kg, Komplete Kontrol software and Komplete 11 Select Instruments and Effects Collection provided as downloads after hardware registration.

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NI Komplete Kontrol S61 MkII | Reviews

THE PROS & CONS

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NI titles and NKS-ready content easier to access and audition Improved workflow from sound browsing to recording, automation writing, transport and parameter control Maschine integration

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No sliders, making in-DAW mixing less intuitive Only at its most powerful if you’re working with NI software

ery few companies oversee a software product collection as diverse and comprehensive as Native Instruments. Over the years, its libraries and instrument collections have expanded to cover so many musical genres that musicians, producers and composers of all styles and descriptions have been seduced. Whilst NI have, through the years, also designed hardware to harness the power of some of their software titles,

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until Komplete Kontrol’s release in 2014, never had such an integrated solution been released. Now, Komplete Kontrol returns with a considerable list of enhancements, all driven by a focus on even deeper integration into your creative workflow. Anyone familiar with the original Komplete Kontrol hardware will see immediate changes on MkII. The most arresting of these is the addition of a pair of high-res colour screens whose functions switch to reflect your choice of operation. In the bottom left-hand corner, the previous

Anyone familiar with the original hardware will see immediate changes on MkII incarnation’s pitchbend and modulation sliders have been replaced by more traditional (and more controllable) wheels, whilst beneath these, a ribbon-style slider is adorned with a discreet row of lights to show current position. The whole of the upper surface is redesigned too, with a broader collection of buttons and rotaries which hint heavily at the extended functionality NI hope to provide through Komplete Kontrol; not just of supported software libraries, but over your host DAW too. Round the back you’ll find connections as follows; a USB 2.0 port which provides bus power as well as communication with your computer, a twin pair of MIDI ports, and two pedal controller sockets. Whilst it hasn’t been updated since the original version of Komplete Kontrol, it’s still worth drawing

attention to the aftertouch-enabled Fatar keyboard, which is pleasingly musical to play. One last hardware consideration: at present, only the two ‘middle-sized’ keyboards from the Komplete Kontrol range have been updated. We’re yet to see what NI have planned for the baby of the range – the S25 – and the flagship S88. To use your Komplete Kontrol keyboard, you’ll need to register it via the Native Access portal, which enables an optional download of a software bundle called ‘Komplete 11 Select’ (see the next page for what’s included). Thereafter, Komplete Kontrol has been designed foremost for driving the initial, creative stages of building a track, and many of its new functions have this in mind. None more so than the Browser, which allows you – as in the Komplete Kontrol software – to narrow a sound

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Reviews | NI Komplete Kontrol S61 MkII

THE ALTERNATIVES

Arturia Keylab €429 Like Native Instruments, Arturia boast an impressive collection of software synth titles, and Keylab provides a neat solution to drive them. It’s also capable of controlling DAW-specific parameters aplenty.

NEW SCREENS The twin screens offer high-resolution, real-time feedback of sound lists, mixer settings or whatever else you wish.

NKS READY Third-party libraries from Sonic Couture, Spitfire Audio, Output and many others can also be accessed directly from Komplete Kontrol.

BROWSING You can now audition sounds directly from the hardware. For some of Kontakt’s RAM-heavy patches, this is particularly handy.

TOUCHSTRIP & MODULATION Real pitch and mod wheels represent a major upgrade, and the touch strip is fun and offers creative options.

arturia.com

Nektar Panorama P6 £419 The P6 is a great all-round keyboard controller. At home with numerous workstations, its panel is awash with customisable sliders, rotaries and pads. nektartech.com

Novation SL MkII 61 £460 Also available in 25and 49-key versions, the SL is Novation’s flagship keyboard controller range. In tandem with Automap, you can target almost any parameter with its extensive control set. uk.novationmusic.com

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search via keywords. But now, once a shortlist of sonic candidates is presented, audio clips are triggered as you scroll through the options, without having to load an entire patch for it to be auditioned. Brilliantly, this is part of NKS (Native Kontrol Standard) content too, so not only can you audition sounds from NI’s own instruments, third-party content from Arturia, Spitfire Audio, Output and many others will also appear. This means that you no longer have to think ‘by manufacturer’ when you’re looking for sounds to suit your track. DAW integration has been tightened too, with Komplete Kontrol now much more ready and willing to talk to Ableton Live, Logic Pro X, GarageBand, Cubase and Nuendo. Alongside the transport controls you’ll find on the left-hand side, the four-way push encoder comes into its own

here. Here you can move between tracks, record enable the template of sounds you have up and running, or move the Transport playback bar by scrolling. Once you’ve used Browser mode to target a sound you like, Plug-In Mode (with its corresponding button) lets you go further, providing access to key parameters. If you want to record those parameter changes into your DAW, hit the Auto(mation) button on the front panel and you can tweak on the fly. Very neat and tidy. But things get better still. The Mixer button will display your DAW’s Mixer screen, with the surrounding controls then able to grab hold of parameters like Volume and Pan. Integration with third-party DAWs is one thing, but as so much of the new functionality here is lifted from Maschine (MkIII of its hardware controller is out now too), it’s no

surprise that deeper integration with Maschine is offered via Komplete Kontrol as well. If you’re working with the Maschine software, you’ll find driving this much more straightforward in terms of an arrangement, whilst the buttons above the display make jumping from one section of your Maschine arrangement easier still. If you liked the idea of Komplete Kontrol the first time around, the good news is that there’s even more to like about it now. You can do so much more from the device itself, with better visual feedback and much deeper levels of integration front and centre of its workflow. In particular, having Browser access to NKS-ready content is a great addition, whilst being able to quantize and add automation direct from the front panel (among other DAW-specific controls like Tap Tempo) really lets you make music on the fly. If you’re already wedded to a Komplete software package, nothing will help you work with it as musically as Komplete Kontrol.

KOMPLETE 11 SELECT With a purchase of one of the new Komplete Kontrol keyboards, you’ll receive a download link to Komplete 11 Select, containing Massive, Monark, The Gentleman, DrumLab, Reaktor Prism, Scarbee Mark 1, Retro Machines, Vintage Organs, the West Africa percussion library, Solid Bus Comp and Replika. Whilst it’s highly likely that you’ll be most interested in the Komplete Kontrol hardware if you’re already a Komplete 11 user, this comprehensive bundle is a great starting point if you’re not, with upgrade paths available to those who want to step up at a later date.

FM VERDICT

9.3 Komplete Kontrol MkII brings a whole sonic universe under your fingertips like never before, with much deeper DAW integration too


Reviews | Analogue Solutions Dr Strangelove

Analogue Solutions Dr Strangelove £255 Analogue Solutions take the nuclear option with their new desktop effect. Bruce Aisher presses the red button for a closer look CONTACT WHO: Analogue Solutions WEB: analoguesolutions.com KEY FEATURES Analogue Ring Modulation with two audio inputs, Analogue LFO (audio rate capable), with two waveforms, Lo-fi Digital Echo / Delay (approx 30 to 300ms) I/O: 1/4" audio inputs and outputs, Minijack (eurorack) audio & CV ins/outs

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Analogue Solutions Dr Strangelove | Reviews

his is the second of Analogue Solutions’ synthBlocks we’re testing, after last month’s Mr Hyde filterbox. Here once again, the core principle is a (largely) analogue but this time signal signal path, p manglin ng takes the form of ring modulation and lo-fi digital echo. The ‘ma ad scientist’ nomenclature is also maintained m in the unit’s Dr Strangelove tag (a reference to the ex-N Nazi nuclear war adviser in the Kub brick film of the same name), with parameter labels such as Fallo out and Half Life following g the theme. A su upplied external 12VDC PSU provides power, with rear panel 1/4" jacks employed for the main audio inputs and audio out. The relatively spartan front panel iss populated with a switch, five knobs and a series of 3.5mm jack sockets for easier interfacing with modular gear.

Da bomb Ring Modulation is not a new technique, with origins – like so many electronic components and circuits – in experiments carried out to push the capabilities telecommunications technology. In circuit terms, ring modulation can be achieved using four diodes in a ring formation (hence the name), though it is easier to understand when thought of as a form of amplitude modulation. In this case, the level of a ‘carrier’ (the audio to be processed) is modulated by another source (the ‘modulator’). The resulting waveform will be derived as both the sum (Modulator plus Carrier) and difference (Modulator minus Carrier) of the input frequencies. In general terms, if the two inputs are harmonically related, you get a signal that’s harmonically related to both out from the other end; if they’re not, (or if they consist of something more complex than a sine wave), the result will be much more harmonically rich, and possibly dissonant. The beauty of a technique such as this is that adjusting a single parameter can result in a massive change in tone. The simplest way to use this unit is to plug an audio source into the Carrier In socket, and use the

THE PROS & C CONS

Two useful processors conveniently combined. Very solid build quality

No Ring Mod mix control foor balancing pro ocessed sound with input (carrier) signaal

It’s a shame that there’s no way to modulate the echo time other than by hand internal LFO as the modulation source. The Fallout knob controls the LFO rate, and Change determines its level (depth). At lower Fallout settings (and with Change pushed-up) a tremolo-like effect is heard. As the Fallout LFO rate gets into the audio range, the sound transforms into classic ring modulation territory, as the carrier is replaced by two ‘sideband’ signals representing those sum and difference frequencies. One major omission is the inability to balance the ring modulated signal with the original via a simple mix control.

E h ti Echo time modulation via second LFO or CV input control would expand the tonal range of the echo Not enough choices of LFO waveshape

alternative way to pass audio through the unit and also allow access to the LFO’s signal as an output. It’s a shame that there’s no way to modulate the echo time other than by hand. CV control of this would have been an excellent addition.

FM VERDICT

Fission for compliments

7.0

The echo works very nicely, and adds movement and additional retro character to the ring-modulated signal. I can’t help thinking that some of the ‘hip’ parameter naming makes things a little confusing, but maybe I’m old-fashioned! Minijacks along the bottom of the front panel unit provide an

A useful tool that combines two decent-sounding processors in one place. However, the addition of extra patch points and a ring mod ‘wet/dry’ control would have upped its flexibility considerably 87


Reviews | Vox Continental 61

Vox Continental 61 £1,769 Korg and Vox have revived, reinvented and colour-inverted these classic keys. Dan ‘JD73’ Goldman scrutinises the modern revamp

CONTACT

KEY FEATURES

WHO: Vox Amps TEL: +44 (0)1908 304600 WEB: www.voxamps.co.uk Metal chassis and top panel, NuTube valve technology, 61 or 73-note waterfall keyboards, performance slider, touch sensitve drawbars, Organ, EP, Piano and Keys/Layer engines, global FX including chorus, flanger, phaser, wah and compressor. Delay and Reverb. DIMENSIONS: 939 x 350 x 86 mm WEIGHT: 7.2kg

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Vox Continental 61 | Reviews

THE PROS & CONS

+

No menu diving, ‘what you see is what you get’ design ethos Well built and very portable CX3 and EP engines sound great, along with some solid pianos and basic layer sounds

-

High price. No mod wheel or aftertouch. Background noise can get intrusive when using valve drive Keyboard splits are unavailable except in the organ section Whilst the FX sound good, tweakability is very basic, plus there are no amp simulations onboard

O

riginally launched in 1962, the Vox Continental become popular with many acts of the time, including The Animals and The Doors, largely due to its portability compared to Hammond’s super-heavy tonewheel beasts! It also had a very distinctive bright, edgy and charming character which allowed it to really cut through a mix against loud guitars. For the new Continental, Vox have gone for a complete reinvention, the

only thing remaining being the tomato-soup-red and black colour scheme, along with a new take on the original chrome stand (while you don’t pay extra for this, it’s pretty ugly!) The overall design is quirky and feels very high-quality (as you would expect from Korg). The chassis and top case are metal (like Nord’s) and this machine is most definitely roadworthy. With this in mind, the 61-note model is particularly lightweight, plus all the switchgear feels solid. There are another couple of nice touches, from the backlit Vox logo on

You can also use the drawbars to EQ sounds and to change certain settings the rear, to the backlit NuTube valve grille (this is the first time Korg’s new mini-valve technology has appeared in a keyboard). I also dig the free space to the right of the controls, which is handy for placing a laptop or small synth. I would have loved to see the inverse-style keyboard re-appear, but that could be an option for the future. The keyboard itself feels like a scaled-up version of the excellent minikey action found on the MicroKorg XL, and it works very well, with enough accuracy and control for piano sounds, while retaining speed for synth and organ playing. Vox have also minimised the lip on the key front edge, making this board very comfortable for palm slides and piano playing too. If you want a longer version, there’s a 73-note model for an extra £100. From left to right: first up you’ll find controls for valve drive and a

Dynamics dial which controls how the sounds interact with your playing style. Then you’ll find a splittable (natively or over MIDI) organ engine capable of Tonewheel (CX3), Vox and Farfisa Compact emulations. Although the LED drawbars work fine in the main, if your fingers get sweaty or you want to make super-quick changes, then it’s sometimes tricky to be accurate with them. Regardless, it’s great that you can also use the drawbars to EQ sounds and to change certain settings (such as LFO pitch speed, envelope controls and filter cutoff/resonance). It’s nice that, unlike Nord’s Electro, there’s a multifunction lever to the left of the keyboard that acts as a pitchbend on the synth sounds, as a tremolo/panning switch on the electric pianos and as a rotary speed control for the organs. For percussion, though, key click and vibrato are all

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Reviews | Vox Continental 61

THE ALTERNATIVES

Nord Electro 5D SW61 £1449 The Continental’s most direct competitor, the 5D is very well established and comes in a fair bit cheaper too, plus it can do splits, has real drawbars and more comprehensive FX control. nordkeyboards.com

Korg SV-1 73 £1399 The SV-1 is still a very worthy purchase, featuring a weighted 73-note keybed, a vintage-inspired design (with valve stage), tasty EP’s and pianos, useable synths and organs and some lovely vintage-style FX. www.korg.com

Roland VR-730 £1309 Just announced, this is Roland’s answer to the 73-note Electro and Continental. It features a 73-note waterfall keybed, organ with real drawbars, plus synth, piano and drum sections, splits/layers and FX. www.roland.com

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PERFORMANCE SLIDER A sprung slider (with centre detent) that can change rotary speed, pitch bend, and EP tremolo depending on the mode.

DRAWBARS These operate as traditional organ drawbars, but also work to control EQ bands, envelopes, filter, LFOs, effects and more.

preset and not editable, letting down an otherwise solid engine. Next up is the EP section which, like the other engines, features a dedicated volume control along with a variation screen with preset variations of either Tine, Reed or FM-style pianos (which sound nicely authentic; warm, clear and soulful). In particular, the tine and reed pianos are excellent, and with some valve drive and a little custom EQ and compression, you’ll find the Vox to be a very convincing electric piano emulator – it’s a real joy to create and play classic Rhodes/ Wurli patches. Next to the EP section is the Piano section, which includes various piano types (grands, uprights and electric grands). There are several

CONNECTIONS Jack and balanced XLR outputs, a damper pedal socket, a rotary speed pedal input, a control pedal input, plus MIDI and USB ports.

useful and solid-sounding piano variations to choose from, and all work well for comping and soloing. The final engine is the Key/Layer engine, which offers a small range of mostly useful (though ultimately pretty unexciting) keyboard and synth sounds, including some good clavinets, basic lead sounds, warm string and synth pads, and useable synth brass and poly patches. You can layer any two engines simultaneously, though there’s no splitting, except for within the organ engine itself. General patch selection and saving is easy via Scene memory (four banks of four patches). So whats the conclusion? Well, on one hand you have solid build, portability and a lovely-feeling

ENGINES Choose your engine: Organ (CX-3, Vox, Farfisa), EPs (tine, reed, FM) Piano (acoustic, electro-acoustic) and a Layer (clavs, strings, leads).

keyboard with decent organ, piano and EP engines, paired with some really solid-sounding FX. However, there are quite a few downsides which let down what should have ultimately been a Nord Electro challenger: it’s roughly £400 more than the market leading Nord Electro 5D SW61, plus there’s no octave transposition per-engine, no separate outputs per-engine, very rudimentary FX tweakability, no amp simulations, no splitting between the piano/EP/ organ/layer sections, no user-sample memory, and unfortunately – at higher levels – the valve drive brings up some pretty intrusive pitched background noise on all the engines (with the organ being the worst for this). With all this in mind, as much as I was initially excited about the Continental, ultimately it has left me with very mixed feelings.

NUTUBE, FX AND CONTROL Switching in the NuTube valve circuit adds weight and harmonics to all the sounds, and hopefully we’ll see this make its way into more upcoming Korg instruments. I’d like to be able to push the drive higher, and without incurring the level of background noise as I’ve experienced here. The onboard effects all sound very musical and warm and there’s enough onboard to cover most situations including a delays, reverbs, chorus, flanger, phaser, wah and compressor. Each of the sounds has its own preset effects, which can then be layered with the front panel global effects. You can control wah and volume using the included expression pedal.

FM VERDICT

7.1 The Continental promises so much but can leave you with mixed feelings. It delivers great-sounds with solid build and portability, but falls short in features and affordability compared to the competition


Reviews | PreSonus FaderPort 8

Presonus FaderPort 8 ÂŁ509 A compact, mechanised and yet somehow affordable DAW controller has landed from the US. Jon Musgrave takes a ride CONTACT WHO: Source Distribution TEL: 020 8962 5080 WEB: www.sourcedistribution.co.uk KEY FEATURES Eight 100mm touch-sensitive motorised faders, eight parameter/scribble strip LCD displays, Windows & OS X compatible, Footswitch input for hands free start/stop, Native support for Studio One (v3.2.2 or later), Class compliant Mackie Control and HUI support, Studio One Artist included

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PreSonus FaderPort 8 | Reviews

THE PROS & CONS

+

Compact design that won’t dominate your desktop Native use with Studio One is excellent Good build quality Full-sized 100mm motorised touch sensitive faders

-

There’s no getting around the fact that MCU and HUI feels like a let down compared to Studio One

his compact table-top DAW controller includes native integration with Studio One (v3.3.2 and later) and supports both Mackie Control and HUI protocols for use with many top DAWs. It can also work in tandem with the original FaderPort, should you have one of those. At about a foot square and just over a couple of inches deep, it won’t eat into your table top space, and it’s also compact enough to sit on your lap. Just bear in mind it’s not USB powered, so it’s always trailing a USB and DC power lead. The layout is dominated by eight 100mm motorised touch-sensitive faders and a plethora of multicoloured rubberised backlit buttons. At the top of each strip, you’ll find a context-specific parameter and scribble strip LCD display. Functionality is clearly delineated across sections, with the Shift key adding a second function to over half of the buttons. On the right-hand side, automation and transport controls sit above and below the session navigator, whose push button encoder knob and

cursor buttons follow one of eight modes, including Zoom, Scroll, Bank, Marker, and Master, which attaches main fader control to the rotary encoder. Select Shift, and the same mode buttons trigger your keyboard function keys (F1 to F8). Looking at the fader section, Faderport 8’s faders work in one of four modes handling fader level (Track) as well as further parameters (Edit Plugins, Sends and Pan). This means you have to switch modes quite a bit, but it feels like a reasonable compromise, with the LCD display keeping you abreast of what’s happening. On the upside, you get dedicated Mute and Solo buttons for each strip, global Solo and Mute Clear buttons, and a rather nifty button, Bypass, which bypasses all plugins on a track. If you really want to see Faderport 8 at its best, you’ll have to fire it up with Studio One (a free copy of Studio One Artist comes bundled). Here the subtleties of its design bear fruit, with the multicoloured backlit buttons following the DAW colours, and decent (and easily editable)

plugin control of up to eight variable and eight on/off parameters. So, any gripes? I did have a couple of hangs (easily resolved by rebooting the FP8), and in Logic Pro X a few details need ironing out (some of which we’re told will be addressed in the next firmware update). Overall though, FaderPort 8 is a decent, compact and affordable controller for MCU or HUI users, while alongside Studio One it really flies, delivering without a doubt one of the best DAW/ controller combinations I’ve tried.

Maximum parameter control limitations in native mode may limit its use with virtual instruments

FM VERDICT

8.7 A good, compact DAW controller at a reasonable price, but to really see it shine you’ll want to pair it with PreSonus’ Studio One 93


FM | ROUND-UP

UAD 9.3 plugins In UAD’s latest update, you’ll find an emulation of one of the most famous delay units of all time, alongside a panning processor which refuses to be governed by the confines of two-dimensional sound. The first Dynamic EQ to reach the UAD platform arrives too… FM | MUST HAVE!

Korg SDD-3000 Digital Delay £149 If ever proof were required that not all delay effects are born equal, the SDD-3000 is exhibit A. Released in 1982, Korg’s rack-mounted echo unit fell into the hands of U2’s Edge and the rest is rock/pop history. However, there’s plenty here if you’re more of a synth-smith than an axewielder. Each module is clearly labelled, with temposync’d or millisecond-based delays flanked firstly by a frequency-selectable Feedback knob, which can provide everything from single subtle echoes to multi-tapped layers. The Modulation section introduces transformative effects in a variety of ways (including LFOs, Envelope and Random triggers) to produce delay, flanging, phasing and chorus treatments. A flexible, warm-sounding echo unit which beautifully echoes the 13-bit colour of the original. www.uaudio.com

VERDICT 9.2 94

Oxford Dynamic EQ £189

Volume-sensitive tone shaping is an extremely useful technique. Taming harsh frequencies from sounds with fixed, ‘traditional’ EQs is one thing, but having EQ bands which work harder as the level increases often provides more flexibility. The Oxford Dynamic EQ offers five overlapping bands of processing, letting you carry out anything from single-band de-essing to multiband processing at the mastering stage. Precision is assured thanks to switchable audio detection options. ‘Peak’ responds to overall peak signal level, whereas ‘Onset’ reacts to more sudden signal spikes and aggressive transients. In ‘Peak’ mode, you have a choice of ‘Above’ and ‘Below’ modes, which provide ‘conventional’ (downwards compression/upward expansion) and ‘inverted’ (the opposite) processing. Stretching flexibility even further, each band can operate in mono, stereo or mid/side modes too. www.uaudio.com

VERDICT 9.1

ENGL Savage 120 £115

UAD’s range of ENGL amplifier emulations gains a new addition, with Brainworx having developed the Savage 120. The clue to its character is in the title; this is an amp with metal on its mind and it’s phenomenal at roughing up and punishing input signals.


UAD 9.3 plugins | Roundup

It will, of course, find favour with UAD’s army of guitar players first and foremost, but there’s plenty here to consider for electronic musicians too. If you like aggressive synth treatments, more extreme sound design flavours or metallic overtones on parallel drum channels, the Savage 120 offers plenty of girder-strength sonics. As with Brainworx’s other UAD amp emulations, there’s a built-in FX rack which provides lots of customisable options. www.uaudio.com

VERDICT 8.3

AMS RMX16 Expanded £260

Mark Crabtree’s AMS RMX16 reverb continues to find favour in many world-leading studios, which is no surprise when you consider the thousands of hit records which have employed its services. UAD users have had access to an emulation of its coveted wares for some time but the 9.3 update provides a second iteration of the plugin, branded as AMS RMX16 Expanded. This offers nine rare algorithms made for the original hardware including NonLin 1, Freeze and Reversed effects. The way in which these algorithms were originally added to the hardware was via a barcode reader but, of course, life is more straightforward on the UAD system, where the ‘Expanded’ plugin appears alongside the original. The new algorithms make this reverb significantly more flexible and it will appeal to a broader range of musical applications as a result. It’s awash with new presets to explore these options, while both iterations of the plugin are bundled for the stated price. www.uaudio.com

VERDICT 9.0

FM | STUDIO ESSENTIAL!

Dytronics Cyclosonic Panner £115 There are so many ways to get sounds ‘moving’ in a mix with volume automation and filter movement perhaps the most used. However, auto-panning is another popular technique, as it gets sounds zipping from side to side in assorted ways. The Dytronics Cyclosonic Panner, released in 1984, attempted something revolutionary, by imparting a threedimensional processing approach to stereo sounds. Left and right-hand sides of the signal are labelled A and B and the Pan modes allow you to work with these in tandem, or separate them, so they can move independently. Then, you can choose the Pan Rate, Waveform (for smooth circling, or squarer ‘jumps’), Width and Depth dials. The results can be staggering, as auto-panning and Doppler style effects converge. www.uaudio.com

VERDICT 9.0 95


Reviews | Stam Audio SA4000

Stam Audio SA4000 $599 Bruce Aisher checks out this new take on the design of the classic stereo VCA compressor CONTACT WHO: Stam Audio Engineering WEB: www.stamaudio.com KEY FEATURES True to the original G Series desk circuit and schematic as fittedd to classic SSL consoles. 4x THAT 2180CL VCA, Electronically balanced outputs, five ratio and fivve release settings, sidechain input, bypass switch, Less than 0.5% THD, TRS inputs + XLR and TRS outputs

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Stam Audio SA4000 | Reviews

THE PRO OS & CONS

Performs the essentiaal mix ‘glue’ function just like the original Excellent build quality and authentic analogue metering

The headline price doesn’t include VAT (to be paid before it’s released from customs) There are no functional extras such as wet/dry mix (for parallel compression) espite the move to digital recording and in-the-box mixing, the need for external audio processing gear has never gone away… but it might have seen a shift in balance. 20 years ago there was still a profusion of low- and mid-priced units sitting alongside expensive high-end boxes. Whilst the lower-end has contracted, the high-end remains, now including both new designs and old favourites – after all, why use a cheap analogue unit when a better-sounding plugin can be employed. There has, however, been a growth in tribute-style designs, those that attempt to emulate older classics. We’ve seen plenty of manufacturers aiming to bring the past back into production. Stam Audio – based in Chile – are one such company, attempting to balance the (often conflicting) goals of sound quality and price. Their focus is firmly on unavowed classics, with their starting point being the SA-4000, a recreation of SSL’s legendary G Series Console Buss Compressor) and SA-2A (a replica of the Teletronix LA-2A). The original G Series design dates from SSL’s consoles of the 1980s,

and found fame as the default device for overall mix compression by numerous engineers. Known for its ability to glue a mix together and to add punch if required required, it has since been immortalised in countless plugins (from SSL themselves, as well officially-licensed versions and broader ‘tributes’). In fact, SSL still include a hardware variant of it in their XLogic series and as a 500 Series module (at £3000 and £1800 respectively). Like the original, the Stam SA4000 is a VCA-based stereo compressor with a very simple set of controls. Whilst Threshold and Make Up gain are continuous pots, all other elements are switched. Three compression Ratio settings, six Attack times and five Release times (including an Auto setting) are all you get. This makes for a limited range of choices which, in these days of almost infinite digital processing possibilities, is rather empowering. Stam have chosen to skip the ‘Auto Fade’ feature of the original, but most aspects of the broader design remain the same. It should be clarified that the dbx-designed VCAs that were employed in the first SSL design are not used here. In its place are the well-regarded THAT 2181X’s,

(and as the original discrete dbx ‘Gold Cans’ are no longer available, even SSL themselves employ a THAT VCA these days). Stam are now also offering an SA4000+, that (for an additional £230) adds Carnill transformers and upgraded buffer circuitry to the outputs. But while the SA4000 may not sound exactly the same as the early SSL units, it comes extremely close. This compressor exhibits all the the characteristics for which the original became popular, including its ability to ‘glue’ a mix together, and at an extremely competitive price.

FM VERDICT

9.0 Even taking into account the shipping cost and VAT (payable on entry to the UK) this is a great value, well-built, excellentsounding stereo compressor that just works 97


FM | GROUPTEST

1

2

Shure Motiv MVi £109

3

Focusrite iTrack One Pre £120

IK Multimedia iRig Pro I/O £150

iOS Studio Accessories If you want to make the most of your iOS device’s audio and MIDI capabilities, a made-for-iOS peripheral is the way to go

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iOS Studio Accessories | Grouptest

IK Multimedia iRig Pro I/O IK Multimedia’s iOS, Android and Mac/PC compatible iRig Pro I/O is not only the most expensive in our group test, but also the best equipped. Features include combo XLR/jack input, input gain, line/headphone mini jack output, headphone level, 48V phantom power, and up to 24bit/96kHz conversion. There’s also an impressive bundle of IK software. For use with iOS it incorporates a battery booster (2 x AA), but there’s also an add-on PSU (49 Euros) that rather handily also provides feedthrough charge to your iOS device. iRig Pro I/O ships with a plethora of cables, and with it firing on all ports it can look a bit messy. Even so, you’re getting excellent flexibility. www.ikmultimedia.com

As the name implies, the One Pre is designed for input duties and in fact includes no output capabilities at all. Nevertheless, this super stylish cube looks and feels great, and rather impressively can deliver 48V phantom power just from your iOS device. What’s more, to accommodate more demanding condensers there’s also a micro USB input so you can plug in a USB sourced power boost should you need it. Despite its modern visuals One Pre’s two controls (Gain and 48V Phantom) are traditionally tactile, with the Gain knob also providing green or red illumination for basic input level metering. Finally, as you might expect from Focusrite, the mic pre offers excellent fidelity. All told, One Pre is a simple but decent device. www.focusrite.com

VERDICT 9.0

VERDICT 9.0

Shure Motiv MVi

Korg plugKey

Shure’s compact and metalcased MVi is designed for both iOS and USB (Mac/PC) use and provides audio I/O via a combo XLR/jack and a minijack headphone output. Primarily designed for mic, line and DI recording, the MVi routes the input to the headphones for zero-latency monitoring. There’s also phantom power, although at +/- 12V when hooked up to an iOS device, you’ll need to check your mic can handle a lower than typical voltage. Gain and headphone levels are adjusted using the flat touch sensitive controls, and there are also five DSP modes that incorporate EQ, compression and limiting. If you install Motiv (the companion iOS app) you have further control over the processing settings. www.shure.co.uk

Korg’s mobile MIDI/Audio plugKey is the smallest of our group test devices, and designed for audio output and MIDI input duties. Despite its diminutive size, you still get a pair of 1/4 inch jacks and a separate minijack headphone output. Both follow the master Volume knob on the side. Device connection is via a short captive lightning cable, and MIDI input is via 5-pin DIN. There’s a micro USB input on the side, providing through-charge to your device. Pair the plugKey with a regular MIDI keyboard and you’ve got a super compact programming setup. Or hook it up to an unused iOS device to create a nifty sound module. All told, our only minor gripe here is the lack of bundled cabling. www.korg.com/uk

VERDICT 8.6

VERDICT 8.8

1

2

Korg plugKey £90

4

Focusrite iTrack One Pre

3

4

FM VERDICT FOR RECORDING If you just want to record, Focusrite’s iTrack One Pre sounds excellent, is easy to use and also looks incredibly cool FOR INSTRUMENTS The iRig Pro I/O handles anything you throw at it, and with onboard MIDI in and out, it’s also ideal for hardware integration 99


Reviews | Lauten Series Black LA-220

Lauten Series Black LA-220 £239 Lauten Audio drop three new mid-price mics as ‘Series Black’. Robbie Stamp tries out the FET condenser model CONTACT WHO: Synthax TEL: +44 (0)1727 821 870 WEB: www.lautenaudio.com KEY FEATURES POLAR PATTERN: cardioid CAPSULE: 25.4mm (1") dual diaphragm CIRCUIT: JFET transistor with transformer balanced output SENSITIVITY: 16mV/Pa (-40dBV) OUTPUT IMPEDANCE: <200 FEATURES: 120Hz low-cut and 12kHz high-cut filters

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Lauten Series Black LA-220 | Reviews

he LA-220 is flanked in the Series Black range by a small diaphragm condenser stereo pair and a valve condenser, all of which are eminently affordable. This does put them in a fierce and overcrowded market, but Lauten, with their Signature Series mics, have built a reputation that should give this range a head start. The LA-220 is fairly light and slim for a large diaphragm condenser, which is a good thing for mic stand and placement options (it comes with a standard shockmount cradle).

Versatile mic The 1-inch dual diaphragm capsule is amplified by a JFET (Junction Field Effect Transistor)-based discrete circuit which terminates in a balancing transformer; a nice combination at this price. FETs were the first solid state components used to replace valves and have continued in this role to mimic some of their characteristics (especially with regard to harmonic distortion). An output transformer can also be a source of colouration and character, as opposed to the clean transparency promised by transformerless topologies (it doesn’t always pan out like that though). The LA-220 presents a natural and well-balanced mid range, and this in turn delivers vocal and instrument sources in a mix-ready form that many mics at this end of the market fail to. The high-end possesses the bright detail you expect from a condenser with a

THE PROS & CONS

At the low-end there is plenty of heft without impinging on the upper bass region relatively smooth rise into this region, avoiding the harsh narrow response peaks cheap designs often throw up. At the low-end there is plenty of heft without impinging on the upper bass region, so this will rock a bass but not cover it in wool. All this can be reined in with the low-cut switch (120Hz cutoff), which is accompanied by the more rare high-cut control (12kHz cutoff). The high-cut filter may see less action than its lower frequency sibling, but it is a welcome addition for keeping harsh cymbals, scratchy acoustic guitars and high-sibilant vocals in check. Married to the quality mid-range response this all adds up to a versatile microphone.

Great sound The balanced clarity of the LA-220 comes with a healthy output level and appreciably low/well-shaped noise. Though this is a ‘clean’, not overtly colourful mic, it does not come off as clinical or in any way harsh, but rather a natural window on the source. It sounds great on everything I tried, and though different from the mics I set it up with, many times I couldn’t necessarily say it was better/worse – just different. The closest

example in terms of price and design fared worse than the LA-220 on most sources (only drew level on a guitar amp); whereas the LA-220 gave the £2k valve condenser a damn good run across the board. The LA-220 is an excellent value mic and will provide quality results for recording novices and pros alike. It can be reliably leaned on for a single mic set-up as well as fitting easily into a larger multi-mic studio setting. The dual low-cut and high-cut filters make it especially useful in the latter context, as setting tone at source reduces phase problems down the line – essential to quality recordings.

Natural clarity without sounding clinical or harsh High-cut and low-cut filter switches High output level coupled with low self noise

-

No pad control

FM VERDICT

8.8 An affordable format that doesn’t compromise sonic integrity, the LA-220 is a seriously flexible mic at a seriously attractive price 101


Reviews | Allen & Heath Xone:PX5

Allen & Heath Xone:PX5 £1,149 Looking for a super-flexible, high-end, club-ready mixer? A&H’s latest aims to please. Roy Spencer is checking it out CONTACT WHO: Allen & Heath Limited TEL: +44 (0)1326 372070 WEB: www.allen-heath.com KEY FEATURES Traktor-ready, 4+1 stereo channel club mixer, with 10-in/10-out USB audio interface, built-in digital effects unit, send/return, Xone filter, and Xcite FX suite

102


Allen & Heath Xone:PX5 | Reviews

ioneer’s DJM range of o mixers are everywherre, and always have been. Perhaps they just appeared in spots around the globe, years ago, and people felt compelled to build DJ booths around them. Their ubiquity clearly riles the suits at Allen & Heath, who think it’s come time to dethrone king-of-the-club mixers like the 850 and 900 Nexus. Their dog in the fight? Enter the Xone:PX5. It’s a serious-looking machine. The grills on the side and front look ready to snort hot air like a bull, whi e the matt black finish and bold white lettering give the unit a utilitarian, no-nonsense façade. It may be mean on the outside, but inside beats a warmer heart, likee meeting a club doorman who keeps budgies on the side. Once you’re pumping music through this beast, the sound coming out is rich and warm, with filtering and FX that’ll givve you goosebumps. The controls have a nice spacing to them, too. No mean feat as there’s 39 buttons and switches, five faders, and seven rotary controls to contend with. The faceplate real estate is taken up with four line faders, a crossfaderr, three-band EQs, FX module, and a d fifth channel with a mic/aux input and EQs. While the much-loved, never bettered, Xone VCO filter is present and correct, but two might have been nice, right? The crossfader? It’s not built for scratching, as the cut-in is performance-sappingly wide. However, it’s Innofader compatible, so a quick add-on and you’re up and cutting with the best of ’em. In the mix the channel faders don’t disappoint, though, and have terrific fluidity and resistance, enabling meticulous blends. Like all the buttery smooth knobs, the rotary pots on the EQs have a satisfying 12 o’clock dimple, so judging merciless frequency kills is nice and intuitive. For FX, the Xone:Xcite suite is icing on the cake. The digital panel over on the top right offers up the classic workhorse settings that everyone likes to overindulge in, and a nice constrained bank of other useful delays, resonators, and reverbs. Round the back you have the full complement of sends and returns, too, and enough ins and outs to light up the face of even the sourest

P

THE PROS & CONS

+

That signature Allen & Heath warmth and build Super playable Xcite FX suite High-quality sound card supporting Traktor

-

Just the one VCO filter Scratch-unfriendly crossfader out-the-box Serato not built in

With few minor quibbles and many plus points, the PX5 achieves what it set out to do soundman. Add to that the X:Link input, Line/Hi-Z input switch, a single USB port for full Traktor integration, a MIDI sync/out port to link external units to the machine’s super-tight MIDI clock engine, and you have a shockingly flexible mixer right here. An extra USB in would have been cool, though, for easy DJ changeovers... With few minor quibbles and many plus points, the PX5 achieves what it set out to do – take a shot at the title, and launch itself as a serious contender for the next industry-standard 4+1 channel high performance club mixer. Stunning work.

FM VERDICT

9.1 Allen & Heath builds on its Xone legacy with its new flagship 4+1 channel mixer, and holds its own against Pioneer’s DJM series 103


FM | SOUNDS & SAMPLES UVI OB Legacy €199 In the world of synthesizers, Oberheim need no introductions, and for readers of FM and fans of sample based instruments, UVI should also be pretty familiar. UVI have now turned their attention to capturing some of the magic for which Tom Oberheim’s design have become famous. This collection – which, like most of UVI’s takes on classic synths, utilises samples distilled through a subtractive, effects-equipped, front-end – focuses on six items of Oberheim hardware. The journey starts with UV-1 (based on the monophonic OB-1), and takes in VCO and DCO polysynths of the 80s, oddities like the OB-12 (made by Viscount and nothing to do with Tom Oberheim) and finally the recent DSI OB-6. UVI’s GUI designs are always alluring, and certainly help provide each instrument with its own identity,

even if having a single front end for all of them might be more straightforward in functional terms. Sampling will always have some limitations when it comes to recreating all the nuances of an analogue synth – especially something like the Matrix 12, with its stupendous modulation and control options – but UVI do a great job of capturing some of the magic. I tested the UV-XXX against my OB-8, and there is clearly a family resemblance when stepping through the raw material (with all additional processing switched-off). The fact that you can layer and tweak should be seen as a nice extra on top of what remains a solid collection of vintage-inspired presets that would work all across many genres. Bruce Aisher www.uvi.net

VERDICT 7.6

FXpansion BFD Vintage Recording Techniques £79 FXpansion’s well-regarded software-based drum instrument comes with its own set of highly detailed sampled kits. If you choose the full install, then 55GB will be eaten-up in one gulp. Whilst you might think that this sort of level of disk real-estate use might take care of most eventualities, sonic nerds know there’s always room for experimentation. Vintage Recording Techniques is one such case. Here a single (four tom) Ludwig Classic Maple kit (with matching Zildjian six cymbal set) is captured using a range of vintage recording techniques alongside a set of direct mics. Put all these together and you have a whopping 29 simultaneous mic channels to play with. This collection does not employ vintage mics, and there is no mention of the studio/room, mic pres, or console used during the capture process. In fact, you’ll find a number of mid-priced mics in the mix alongside a few of the more high-end Neumann and AKG staples. However, this doesn’t detract from the overall quality. There is immense flexibility on offer here, and there are bunch of presets to get you started that include the classic ORTF, Glyn Johns, Blumlein, Spaced Pair and Single Mic configurations. Drum bleed is recorded across all mics and kit pieces (except cymbals which only send bleed into other channels). If you’re after a great-sounding, flexible kit, VRT could be for you. It is also a great way of learning about how different mic configurations alter the sound of a decent drum setup. Bruce Aisher www.fxpansion.com

VERDICT 8.9 104


Sounds & Samples | Reviews

Organic Loops – Retro Funk & Disco | £29.95 www.loopmasters.com Looking to add a splash of the 70s to your samplers? Then you’re in luck, as the Organic Loops crew have formed a Soul Train line and are inviting you in. Over the course of this throwback pack they take you on a groovy journey through Kool & The Gang-era funk and disco. Add other key elements that ignited Saturday night fevers across the globe, like fly strings and stabs ‘on the one’, and enough funky drumming to make Clyde Stubblefield blush, and you’re halfway there. Tempos range between 110 and 130bpm. Good times, indeed. Roy Spencer

VERDICT 8 Sonic Mechanics – Boom Bap Breaks 2 | £14.95 www.loopmasters.com The ‘Boom Bap’ era of hip-hop was characterised by its neck-snapping drums, something this pack promises, and delivers,

AX

in spades. Comprising around 140 loops ranging from 60-120BPM, as well as 300 layered hits, these drums have been programmed with expert knowledge and processed through an array of iconic vintage outboard gear to make sure that coveted neck-snap effect is present and correct. The flavour moves from jazzy to funky, and each loop is begging to be slotted into your productions. If you have itchy fingers, though, the real fun is had crafting individual snares and kicks into your own patterns. Besides the WAV files, you get five sampler patches for EXS24, Kontakt 3+ and Halion, as well. Now go get wicked! Roy Spencer

VERDICT 8 Sample Magic – 2-Step Garage | £19.90 www.samplemagic.com For a handful of years at the end of the nineties, 2-step garage ruled the club and pirate radio landscape. If you missed it the first time around and want to explore the twitchy drums and soulful melodies of this dancefloor-ready genre, Sample Magic has got you covered. The drum loops have the

correct skip and shuffle; the processed claps ring through, while the kicks have enough meat on their bones to hold it all together. The cone-troubling bass loops roll, too, and are sure to get a few champagne flutes raised in the air when they drop. Add poly chord synth playing, some tasty DX7 keys, and authentic vocal stings to layer on top, and you’ve got a rather classy release. Roy Spencer

VERDICT 8 Audentity Records – Ultra Drum & Bass | £16.00 http://sounds.beatport.com Audentity are one of those labels that keep dropping packs that end up in the samplers of both scene leaders and bedroom producers alike. Normally providing fodder for future bass and techno heads, here they give drum ’n’ bass a proper going over and, as before, it’s sure to be another well rinsed release. Presented as five full construction kits, this set is inspired by drum ’n’ bass dons like Sigma and Netsky, so the vibe is tough and bass heavy, but with a commercial enough edge to win over fair weather fans, too. The quality of the loops is high, and the

SERIES

range of material flexible enough to spill over into more EDM territory, if desired. 218 files in total, with 28 MIDI and 34 Serum presets thrown in. Roy Spencer

VERDICT 7 Engineering Samples – FX & Atmospheres Vol.2 | £16.90 http://sounds.beatport.com FX staples likes risers and drop sounds can be the last things most producers think about when crafting their latest banger. Yet, these elements often glue tracks together. Engineering Samples have donned their lab coats and gone into atmospheric scientist mode on your behalf here, armed with seminal synths to craft a whole host of soon-to-be-vital additions to your usually sad looking FX folder. Over the 561MB of sounds whooshes and builds abound, all rich and full of goose-pimple pestering texture. But it’s those aforementioned risers that you’ll be coming back to again and again, as they have the gift of giving everything from dubstep to deep tech the lift they deserve. Roy Spencer

VERDICT 9

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FM | ADVICE Laptop keys vs hardware keys

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If you want a solid, reliable, headache free setup then hardware such as a Kronos, Montage or Nord Stage is the way to go. However, sometimes it’s not always possible to hire in the ’boards you need when touring abroad, so a laptop makes a lot of sense as you can travel light with all your sounds.

Can I sing a melody and convert it to MIDI? Many melodies are composed when people start humming or singing them, but if you’re not a competent keyboard player, recording these quickly can be a bit of problem. Quite a few DAWs can turn audio into

>

MIDI with just a few clicks, and there are also a few plugins out there that do the same job. Another option is HumBeatz, a cloud-based web app that can convert audio to MIDI and assign it to one of 100 General MIDI instruments. There’s even a four-track looper

included, and recordings can be exported to Amptrack’s Amped Studio online DAW or to your desktop. HumBeatz is free, and can be used in Google Chrome at humbeatz.com.

Can I stream audio from my DAW to the web?

>

Most DAWs are equipped with numerous export options, and some even let you share directly

to online streaming services, but real-time streaming isn’t a feature you’re likely to find. You could try and find a workaround involving some clever audio routing, but there is now a plugin that’s devoted to helping you to do this: Audiomovers’ Listento. This is designed to send high-quality audio at low latency via a link – a client or someone that you’re working for, perhaps. This could be advantageous if you need to discuss the fine details of a mix, pausing it and having discussions as you go. The downside is that, although the plugin is free, you have to subscribe in order to use it, with prices ranging from $3.99 for a week to $9.99 for a month and $99.99 for a year. This may be enough to convince you that sharing a rendered file will do, but if you absolutely must have real-time streaming, at least you know that you have an easy option.

How can I make a good YouTube music performance video? Video might have killed the radio star, but it’s been a godsend for many musicians. The likes of Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes both got their starts on YouTube while, more pertinently, French producer Madeon rose to prominence after his Novation Launchpad-powered Pop Culture mash-up went viral in 2011. In short, having a ‘hit’ on YouTube can give your profile a massive boost, but raking in the views is by no means easy. Thousands of ‘performance’ videos are uploaded every day, so how do you stand out from the crowd? Firstly – and this may sound obvious – you need to make sure that your actual performance, whatever it is, is good. If you’re filming a synth jam, for example, get it as tight as possible, and capture multiple takes until you get one that’s spot on. You

>

Working better with the Electribe Sampler The latest Electribe sampler is a really fun piece of kit to use and create with and generally flows well. It sounds great, too, and runs off batteries. The main head scratcher is the filing system which is initially confusing, but check out the electribe forum (korgforums.com) which will give you all the answers you need.

> 106


Your Production Problems Solved | Advice

Tracking live bass What’s the best process for adding a real bass guitar recording to my tracks? Adding a spot of real bass to your recordings will bring a lot to the table in terms of vibe and soul. Before you even start recording, make sure you have your bass properly set up by a good tech so that it plays and functions optimally. It’s always best to try and record whole takes through your tune from start to finish, then comp one main take together from several runthroughs – this gives you options and takes the pressure off too! Subtle, or not so subtle, ways to provide bite and enough power to set up euphoric choruses. Here’s how it’s done…

A flexible used desk under £2000 One of the most flexible used desks is the Midas VF32 (now discontinued). It sounds fantastic with plenty of auxes, lovely heavy sounding preamps, sounds great when summing, has great eq and also the desk functions as a 32 in/out firewire interface allowing you to stream audio to/from your computer using one cable. The VF series still represents a lot of bang for buck, especially when you can pick them up for around £1500.

>

may have loved losing yourself in that two-hour improvisational workout, but something shorter and more focused is a far better bet if you want to grab and keep people’s attention. Bear in mind too that, if you’re an unknown, you’ve probably got a better chance of getting seen if your material is familiar, so consider posting a cover, live remix or mash-up (see Madeon again). It’s often the unusual treatments of well-known songs that get the most views and – just as importantly – shares. There’s always a chance that the copyright owner will ask you to take the video down, but if your goal is to get

noticed, by the time that happens the job might already have been done. Also, think about your production values. Noisy, badly shot videos just don’t cut it anymore, and are likely to attract nothing more than derision. Make sure your audio is well-mixed and of high-quality, and get your camera angle(s) right. Finally, you need to be prepared for the fact that, no matter how good your video is, you’re probably going to get some negative comments, particularly if your view count starts mounting. Talent is one thing, but having a thick skin and faith in your ability is just as important.

Firstly, decide if you’re going to run through an amp, record direct through your interface, or use both methods and combine the recordings. A miked cab blended with a DI signal gives you the best of both worlds, and you can use either or both in your final mix.

>

Check your input level and play as loudly as you’re going to play, making sure the channel doesn’t clip. Have a few practice runs through and then start recording, or go straight into record – often your initial ‘messing around’ or takes may end up as the takes!

>

>

Once you’ve recorded several takes and are satisfied that you have enough quality material to work with, you can begin to comp a final take together. Logic’s ‘quick swipe’ comping lets you simply swipe across the area you want, including in the main take. Job done!

>

Now that your take is comped, you can ‘flatten’ (merge) it for further editing. If your timing is off, simply switch on flex time and quantise the whole take to your desired resolution, (much as you would MIDI takes). Your take is now ready for final processing and mixing.

Today’s best hybrid synths There are some really great new hybrid options around including Novation’s Peak, (three digital oscillators plus analogue filters), Roland’s JD-XA (supernatural digital sounds fused with analogue poly) and DSI’s Prophet-12 which (like Peak) includes digital oscillators through an analogue filter and digital FX.

>

Got questions that need answering? Send us your Qs via Twitter @futuremusicmag or facebook. com/futuremusicmagazine and we’ll endeavour to solve them!

107


FM | GEAR GUIDE

HYBRID CONTROLLERS

NEW ENTRY

NI Maschine MK3 £479

Roli Seaboard Block | £279

Full Review: FM324

Full Review: FM322

A few minor bugbears aside, this is probably the finest hybrid hardware/software musicmaking platform on the market right now.

A unique and high-quality controller that offers MPE capability at an accessible price. You can combine multiple Seaboards or other Blocks too.

NI Komplete Kontrol S61 | £539

Akai Advance 49 | £399

NI Maschine M hi JJam | £29 £299 9

Arturia KeyLab 88 | £659

Review FM285 A beautiful hardware

Review FM293 Combined with Akai’s VIP

Review FM310 Jam is a great, creative controller

Review FM301 A top keyboard controller,

and software package that just works.

software, the Advance controllers remove the

in its own right, but it’s best used as a

and the addition of all those sounds makes

Now works with third-party plugins too.

disconnect between controller and DAW.

counterpoint to the existing Maschine hardware.

it one of the best synths on the market too.

Ableton Push 2 | £599

Arturia MiniLab MkII | £89

N vation Launchpad Pro | £249 Nov

Akai MPC Touch | £479

Review FM302 Push and Live were already

Review: FM316 The Mk2 is only a subtle

Review FM296 The Launchpad Pro’s Live

Review FM301 The addition of a touchscreen

a great combo, but version 9.5 and Push 2

step on from the Mk1 hardware-wise but

control isn’t quite as extensive as Push,

narrows the gap between software and

raise the bar for one of the best hardware/

it’s a solid little controller, and worth the

but it’s more compact and works standalone

hardware, bringing an all-round more tactile

software experiences around.

price for the included content alone.

too. Easily one of the best controllers around.

and integrated creative experience.

108


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Gear Guide | Essential Tools For Music Making

DRUM SYNTHS Korg Volca Kick | £139

Elektron Analog Rytm | £1,140

Review FM316 The Volca Kick is capable of beefy

Review FM282 The Rytm sounds massive

drum and bass sounds that belie its compact

and is very flexible. It’s inspiring and addictive,

form factor. A must-try for club-focused producers.

and the sequencer is hugely versatile.

DSI/Roger Linn Tempest | £1,819 Review FM248 Doubtlessly lives

Teenage Engineering PO-32 Tonic | £89

up to the heritage of the two names

The palm-sized drum synth is a lot of fun,

behind it – certainly destined to be

and compatibility with Sonic Charge’s

a future classic.

Microtonic synth makes it surprisingly flexible.

Arturia DrumBrute | £379 Full Review: FM312 A characterful and flexible analogue drum machine with some uniquely creative sequencing tricks up its sleeve – at a winning price.

HARDWARE SAMPLERS Elektron Octatrack | €1,240

Elektron Digitakt | £659

Review FM244 Elektron’s reimagining of

Review FM320 With deep sequencing and a

hardware sampling results in a unique

powerful sound engine, Digitakt is the

approach to sample-based composition

‘affordable’ Elektron groovebox we’ve been

and performance.

dreaming of.

Korg Electribe Sampler | £329 Review FM295 Not the perfect sampling

Pioneer DJ Toraiz SP-16 Sampler | £1,279

solution, but fun to use and a creative

Review FM310 The SP-16 was impressive at

alternative to the ever-present DAW. It’s great

launch but has got better through subsequent

for live use too.

firmware updates – there’s a lot to like here.

Akai Professional MPC X £1,859 Full Review: FM323 MPC X is hugely powerful, it works impressively standalone and as a controller, and it’s on the way to replacing your DAW, live or in the studio 110


Gear Guide | Essential Tools For Music Making

AUDIO INTERFACES

UAD Apollo Twin MkII | from $699

Arturia AudioFuse | £519

Full Review: FM317

Full Review: FM321

UA’s desktop interface has been refined across the board for better sound and lower latency. There’s now a Quad DSP version too.

A nicely designed, highly configurable interface read wn ntial downside. at it. Its price is the only poten

Apogee Element 46 | £859

Audientt iD4 | £120

Review FM318 If you’re happy with your

Review FM312 This compact interface

Roland Super UA | £409

Review FM311 The second generation benefits

studio interface being controlled via software,

delivers audio quality and stripped-back

Review FM314 Super UA does everything you’d

from increased preamp performance, extended

Apogee’s Element range offers great quality

functionality for a thoroughly reasonable

expect and more, and can easily hold its own

sample rate compatibility and a better overall

and features.

price. A great budget interface.

alongside similar compact high-end interfaces.

sound. A quality package.

Antelope Orion Studio | £2,345

Focusrite Clarett 4Pre | £500

M-Audio M-Track 2x2M | £100

Antelope Audio Zen Tour | £1274

Review FM304 A comprehensive multi-channel

Review FM304 The whole Clarett range is

Review FM312 As budget audio

Review FM310 A high-quality compact

interface with 12 quality mic pres, onboard DSP

excellent, and this punches well above its weight

interfaces go, it’s hard to go wrong with

interface for studio, rehearsals and gigs,

and very flexible I/O options.

in audio quality, functionality and ease-of-use.

M-Audio’s MIDI-equipped 2-in 2-out box.

with excellent built-in DSP processing.

112

Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 | £290


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