Tuesday, October 18, 2016

EHX Stereo Polyphase Pedal Demo w/ A Synthesizer #7

The Electro Harmonix Stereo Polyphase is not your usual Phaser pedal. It has a lot of controls that many others do not. It is designed to accept either guitar or keyboard line level inputs. It also has a VERY interesting expression pedal input that can be used as a Control Voltage input to directly control the phase shift frequency. So this way you can match the frequency sweep timing to your song tempo using a synthesizer clock! In this demo I use the ARP Solina String Ensemble synthesizer. This has a very familiar sound similar to running an Eminent 310 through a phaser like Jean Michel Jarre.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Modular Eurorack Demo ft. Audio Damage Proton Module

I can listen to music like this for days. It ends up on the minimalism side, perhaps some influences from Air Liquide and Steve Reich. In the previous demo I showed what the Audio Damage Proton sounded like on its own. Here I build some other sounds from my rack around the Proton: DNA Symbiotic Waves and Sampleslicer. The Proton gets stereo panned with the EMW VC Pan. A very short loop is droning on the Sampleslicer, there were some other nice loop points but changing those manually in realtime got out of synchronization. Next time I may try to use a CV to achieve that. Bass drone coming from the Synthesizer Box mix out jack, run through the SEM filter. Also using a Timefactor for delays. Recorded direct to Tascam DR-05, no post production.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Arturia Beatstep Pro Sequencer USB Port Jack Easy DIY Repair

Any system is only as strong as its weakest link.

Enter the Arturia Beatstep Pro Sequencer, tons of user reviews boast solid construction seemingly built like a tank. On the first few uses I would be inclined to agree. However after about a dozen uses the USB port jack on mine has become intermittent. Symptoms include sudden power blackouts and reboots, even when not touching the USB cord. You don't have to play out live to a crowd to know, this is no bueno. I am careful and take care of my gear. I am especially careful with the USB port and its cord, however I run a bunch of other connections back there and the wires usually hang up with the USB cord. Why is this happening?

One condition could be contact fatigue. If you plug/remove the USB cord a lot, the little contacts could become worn away. You will frequently see this in older cell phones. But more likely as in my scenario, the lead-free solder on the USB ground pins disintegrated resulting in a faulty solder joint at the circuit board. It would be too easy to blame the RoHS standard for requiring lead-free solder, which is structurally deficient for such a use. But if I worked in a factory around solder all day long, lead-free is the way to be. What can be done about it?

If the item is still under warranty you could send it to the company and they can fix or repair the item. There may be a repair charge if the company deems the issue to be caused by negligence. And who's to say? Even if there is no charge, you could get your sequencer back and have the same thing happen again. I'm only mentioning all of this because if you choose to repair the USB port yourself, it WILL void your warranty. Also, if you're not careful and touch something electronically sensitive, you may accidentally damage something else. I'm not liable for anything you do, so be careful not to shock yourself. If you're not confident in doing these things, there's no shame in getting an electronics friend or service tech to help. You have been warned. Now let's fix this thing already.

1. Flip the sequencer over and remove all the black screws. Remove the metal back plate. This will expose the circuit board. Remove all the little screws holding the circuit board in place.

2. In this orientation, pull the circuit board away from you to dislodge the minijacks from the case. Then lift the edge closest to you up and away. If this isn't happening, check you have removed ALL the little screws, it may be easy to miss 1 or 2.

3. Flip the circuit board over and note the location of the USB jack near the power switch.

4. Using regular rosin core solder (I use 60/40 from Radio Shack), make new solder joints on the two GROUND pin locations at the locations shown by red arrows. Make sure the pins get soldered nicely to the circuit board contact pins here. I needed a magnifier to see the work area.

5. Put the circuit board back in and secure it to the case with the screws. This is the time to plug in and test it, making sure you DO NOT touch any of the electronic components inside while you do so. At this point you will be able to wiggle the USB cord lightly and make sure it does not blink the power. If so, you'll need to do it over. Or there may be something else going on. Hopefully this has been helpful, this is what I did to restore mine to working order. If everything is good, you can go ahead and put everything back together.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Audio Damage Proton ADM17 Eurorack Module Demo

Here it is, the new Proton Eurorack Module ADM17 from Audio Damage. There's already some good videos on what it is and how to use it. In this demo I get right to making noise, patching, and scratching the surface of this Karplus Strong synth voice and/or delay effects module. There is a wide range of sounds from fat basses, plucked banjo, delay feedback madness, and more.

Gate and sequences come from Arturia Beatstep. Some of the patching sources I use here: LFO and oscillator at slow rate, Sample/Hold, Glide. I also run the sound through a Doepfer SEM module, there's no rules here. Audio recorded direct to Tascam DR-05.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

My Thoughts On the Roland VP-03 vs VP-330 Battle

Well, 909 Day has come and gone. We got a peek at some promising gear, but left wondering again when we can catch our first glimpses of these animals in the wild. YouTube user RetroSound has once again gotten first dibs on a new piece. It's the VP-03, the Boutique version of the rare and almost extinct VP-330 Vocoder with Human Voices and String Synthesizer. It's the one perhaps most notably used in the Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis. I was ecstatic about hearing this news of the VP-03, nobody wants the VP-03 to live up the hype more than me...it's like a dream come true. Take a look and listen...
Before I give my thoughts on this piece I should note two things. First I am a string synthesizer nerd, and used to use and own a real Roland VP-330 MK-I. I used it lovingly on a few tracks. The VP-330 is a special sound near and dear to my heart, however for financial reasons had to sell it to a lucky friend. Secondly, I have studied its voice and string synthesizer section intimately. I also studied the famed quad-BBD choir ensemble circuit and know exactly what makes it tick. I have used this information to author my own plug-in emulation VST, that uses NO samples BTW, called VSP-330. This VST has gotten many raves and high remarks, despite not reaching a wide audience and I didn't make a version for Mac. DOH! But that is not what we are doing today.

Today we are looking at the VP-03. How does it sound compared to the original? Can users go out and make a fortune selling their own real VP-330 now? If you liked what you heard, and are perfectly content with that - there's no need to read more. My opinion is unnecessary and you'll be perfectly happy.

The VP-03 has A LOT going for it. Out of this world...the Human Voice filters sound wonderful, the string filter - perfect, the quad-BBD Chorus Ensemble effect - perfect! Those of you that want this just for the vocoder will probably LOVE this thing, and may not care for the other features. The VP-03 sounds to me one of the better emulations out there, I applaud what Roland is trying to do but it could sound PERFECT if a couple of issues were addressed with a software update.

If you'll notice in the demo, the release time is cranked all the way up on the VP-03. But it just can't maintain a creamy and smooth note release like the real VP-330 can. The notes should hang, and linger a bit longer. Listen to them both again and you will hear this. Maybe it's because the envelope is re-triggering from zero. Or maybe the attack/release curves are not logarithmic like on the original. I'm not sure, but I know something is going on there.

At 3:49 you hear the grating buzz of non-phase-locked oscillators. "What is non-phase-locked oscillators???" you are probably wondering, and "that buzz, my God what is making that buzz?" The VP-330 is a direct descendant of organ technology. Synthesizers from the era were capable mostly of a single note polyphony. So Roland, among others, adopted the divide down organ voice technology to a synthesizer format. Heck, the ARP Solina String Ensemble IS the string circuitry ripped straight out of an Eminent organ. So the way the organ voice worked for some, use a single - Master Oscillator - to produce the waveform needed for the very top note in the organ. Another circuit, called the frequency divider, copies that note 11 times and divides it into the other 11 notes in the Top Octave. Subsequent circuitry then divides each note in that Top Octave for all the other octaves. This is why on these machines if an F# goes out, often all the other F# octave keys go dead at the same time.

Why am I telling you all of this? The whole point is, ALL notes in this circuit are directly derived IN PERFECT SYNCHRONIZATION from the master oscillator. C1 is exactly 1/2 the frequency of C2 and in PERFECT PHASE WITH IT. So what's the big deal if 6 days of the week the ear can't pick up on these things anyway. The ONE day of the week we CAN hear this problem amplified greatly is when we run it through a quad BBD Chorus Ensemble. Yes, the quad BBD Chorus Ensemble AMPLIFIES phase discrepancies between two notes played an octave apart. And it doesn't do it just now and then, it does it 99% of the time.

If Roland could just take care of those two things it would be a perfect unit. I am so serious. Just fix the release time thing and the phase problems and it would otherwise be as close to a perfect emulation as it could ever be. Just modeling the voicing for proper divide down organ behavior might actually save some of the CPU overhead, although it might take more man-hours to see the job through. I know firsthand, this is what I had to do for my own plug-in VST.

Oberheim Matrix-12 Programming Tips + Tricks [#2 Kick Drum]

Quick how-to video making an electronic kick drum on the Oberheim Matrix-12 Synthesizer. You can use any programmable synthesizer that has filter self-oscillation, usually but not limited to a 4-pole (24 db/oct) filter slope. A couple of the tricks I employ here may surprise you, and can be used on other kinds of synth sounds. Be sure to stay for the end of the video, where I fatten my kick drum sound through a vintage audio compressor.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Oberheim Matrix-12 Programming Tips + Tricks [FM]

FM Synthesis is not just for DX7 and Yamaha synths. The Oberheim Matrix-12 can do primitive FM as well, albeit a single carrier and modulator pair. Here are some tips and tricks for exploring the FM possibilities. Some of the ideas come from my Getting Started Programming FM video, so you may want to check that out too.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Roland RE-20 Space Echo Audio Demo w/ Synthesizers #6

This is my follow-up video demo of the Roland Boss Space Echo RE-20 pedal. Previously I talked at length about what the functions do. This time I give more audio examples w/ various synthesizers, lead sounds, bass, arpeggios, and a drum machine. Included here are Roland System-1, TR-606, and XP-30. As well as an ARP Solina String Ensemble, and a Korg 770. Audio recorded direct from mixer into a Tascam DR-05 recorder, no other effects processing other than the RE-20.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ecstasy (Deep Desire Remix) [Dreamy Electronic Music]

Chill out to this dreamy electronic music remix. Textures from the Alesis Andromeda are layered with eurorack sounds, and a TR-8 providing 909 rhythms. Listening with an appropriate sound system or headphones is recommended. Video edited in Adobe Premiere Elements.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Korg MS-20 Mult-Track Demo #4

This is a Multi-Track demo with all sounds coming from the Korg MS-20 analog monophonic synthesizer. Going for some aggressive Acid House sounds today, putting up some of the patches of these sounds, and a tribute to some bands that have used MS-20 in studio or on stage.

The track is called No Refunds. It is inspired by the VCA noise controversy that apparently spawned a few synth returns in music stores. I shall not be refunding mine. :)