Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Music Production Expo 2015

I just realised that I hadn't posted up some of the photos from the Music Production Expo that took place last month at the London Emirates Stadium. The show has definitely improved over recent years and now sports two seminar/presentation areas and tons of exhibitors, including Korg, Yamaha, Erebus, Roland, Bitwig...and of course, loads of instruments and gear to play. Here's a look at what you missed from this year's show and a tonne of synth spotting to boot.

In London and want to visit next year? Check out for details of the 2016 expo - this usually starts to get interesting around the Spring time.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Stocking fillers for Christmas 2015 - Noisemakers

As I have been a fan of highlighting in the past, we live in an amazing time where there are lots of different synth and music production products out there to suit all budgets and uses. So with Christmas coming up, here's a quick look at some of the options at the lower end of the market that would suit a budget of under £100 for stocking fillers to make for a noisy Christmas morning!

Friday, 30 October 2015

On "Fake Synthesis" and more

Something written on Twitter from a synthesist I admire for his in depth demos and rather spiffy narration style stuck with me recently. He was upset that someone had used the term fake synthesis in the context of a comment on Synthtopia when describing the new Roland Boutique synthesisers, which are finally getting some official (ie: not retailer) demo videos.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Roland CM-64

From some of the most recent Roland releases to something over 20 years old, this blog sees quite a lot of different things here. In this most recent case, my dad has given me his treasured Roland CM-64 synth module on extended loan and now that I have the necessary hardware and software to drive it, I thought I would share what it does and what you can do with it.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Alternatives to Soundcloud

A recent announcement heralded the news that after a supposed 5 years of negotiations, the PRS for Music in the UK (Performing Rights Society, collect revenues and royalties for artists) are to open legal action against Soundcloud for lack of paid revenues and licenses. Initially I was incredulous at the entire news, especially that Soundcloud had stuck to a single defence for over five years and my first thoughts contemplated the death of the service as it buckles under the weight of a lawsuit - something made more poignant as I have only just paid for another year's subscription. 

NB: Apparently PRS' official name is "PRS for Music", but it is rarely referred to as this in the news. In this article, PRS and PRS for Music refer to the same organisation.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

New Roland Boutique range

It's been a busy week for all concerned in the Roland world, with lots of speculation on Roland's Boutique new range of synthesisers - presumably from the video based on their popular JP-8, Juno 106 and JP-3X synthesisers from the 80s.

Despite people looking at and enhancing the end of the video for further insights into the trailer, very few details were forthcoming from Roland about their new product lineup - not even a date when the next teaser or announcement would be made. 

Much to the chagrin of Roland, that all changed over the weekend.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

A case of cases

I recently bought a Korg Micro X that sadly didn't come with its signature case. As a collector as much as a fan of things that make wizzy noises, I resolved to keep an eye open in case one came on the market. Like a hunter waiting for the antelope to hit the watering hole, one recently came up on Gumtree so I managed to pick it up earlier this week. I had heard some comments and seen a few photos but nothing really prepared me for the reality of the Micro X's case. Which made me ask the question: whatever possessed Korg to make the Micro X case the way they did? 

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Perler Jam / Bad Hama Jammer

Sometimes I get rather bored and instead of playing more video games or try making more music, I try doing something a bit different to break the cycle. Here, I thought I would revisit some older technology for a bit of fun.

In the UK, these things are called Hama Beads, though they seem to be called Perler Beads in the 'states, and I had them originally bought for me by my other half to make retro video game pixel art with. But rather than do more of the same, I wanted to try making something a bit different that was a little 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Twitter channel

In case you don't know, I'm on Twitter as @southern_trax and I tend to share music news, synthesiser stuff, highlight great Gumtree deals and reshare interesting things from Matrixsynth, If you haven't already, come take a look, follow and get more regular updates from me.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015


One of the more interesting things about newer style synthesisers is that their creators sometimes go out of their way to make their products slightly more tweakable and editable for the masses to enjoy. Korg are an excellent example of this, as they are well known for going the extra mile on their recent analogue gear (Monotrons and Volcas) to label the PCBs with convenient solder points to easily add further functions.

As an owner of both the MiniBrute and MicroBrute, in part due to the involvement of Grenoble's Yves Usson in the design as well as the sounds they can make, I am pleased to see that he has convinced Arturia to release PDFs of the internal schematics and is currently curating a list of hacks, modifications and alterations on his Hack a Brute website.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Matrixsynth turns 10

Amazing news from Matrix over at long-time blog Matrixsynth - the blog has just reached the ripe old age of 10 years old.

It's certainly an awe-inspiring achievement and amazing to think that the blog is updated every single day with new content from across the globe. While I wish I could do the same, unfortunately I don't have the time to do so but it's good to have the bar for quality raised quite so high for synth-related content. I still remember it was the first place I found out that George Duke had died, along with the original Volca press release and numerous other newsworthy items. If you haven't already bookmarked the blog, then you really ought to.

Some amazing site stats from Matrix himself:

  • Formed in 2005, a year before Facebook became open
  • 127,448 posts, all hand curated
  • 46,832,215 page views (as of midnight EST)
  • Only missed a single day of posting back on August 6, 2005

"I had no idea there would be something to post every single day of the year moving forward. Think about that a bit. There is something to share every single day. What an wonderful world of synths we live in."

Here's to another ten years!

Original post:

Monday, 13 July 2015

Helm - multi platform VST

Another day, another pretty VST to try out! Helm gets some interest for running as a multi-platform virtual subtractive synth with lots of interesting features that I haven't come across in a free VST so far. Whether you're PC, Mac or Linux, 32 or 64bit, VST or standalone executable, Helm has all the major options covered for all major DAWs, so it would be rude of you not to download it.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Tutorial: Korg Micro X and Windows 7

After having quite so much trouble hooking up my Micro X to my Windows 7 PC I thought what I would do is to give a bit of a tutorial / troubleshooting guide on how to get the machine working in harmony, just in case anyone else needs some help.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Korg Micro X - new toy!

As fortune often favours the brave, or in my case the persistent and damned lucky, I happened to see a set of posts on Gumtree featuring audio gear, mixers and synthesizers late in the day on Monday. So far so normal, what was different here was that the seller was in the next town away and as I'm based fairly far out from central London I was unlikely to get the usual competition from other eagle-eyed users.

Yamaha ReFace - thoughts

Unfortunately this wasn't mine, but I think it works in this case. For a bit of background information, Yamaha have recently dropped the ball on their recent new range of ReFace synthesiser, piano and organ keyboards and announced them early by accident. Based on the in depth reviews from outlets like Sonic State and Doctor Mix, there have been some really strong reactions and this more or less sums up the popular opinion. I'm going to take a more measured approach and talk about them once I have listened to them all!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Standing on the shoulders of giants: top 10 house samples

Getting the same sound as your musical heroes is tough; without having the same equipment, playing style and production techniques, that elusive sound is often too difficult to accurately reproduce, though I have found that it can be a satisfying experience to give it a try. Easier then is to sample your favourite artists to get a solid base to work with that you are happy with quickly and then clear the clips later.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Saturday Soundtrack: Transistor

After a slight hiatus, I hope to be returning to my Saturday Soundtracks series, which highlights music in video games that have really stood out for me and are worth talking about,

Having only recently bought and played this title, I am in a mood to rave about it to people who perhaps haven't already had the chance to try it and to share experiences with fellow players. At the heart of Transistor, a real time and turn-based brawler in an isometric view (similar to SuperGiant Games' other title Bastion), is the incredible attention to detail that makes up the beautiful world and the soundtrack, which in the case of Transistor is an essential element of the plot as well as an excuse for a damn fine score.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Brighton Music Conference 2015 - Pics and show floor

Now that the dust has settled, here's a quick look at the offerings in and around the show floor at this year's Brighton Music conference on the Friday. While the size of the exhibition area is not as big as some of the larger exhibitions in Germany or the US, the exhibition area was split in two areas: one dedicated to music production (including synthesisers, keyboard controllers and the like) and the other half looking at club furniture (such as lasers, booths and DJ equipment), with lots of other organisations like the PRS, Loopmasters and music schools in attendance. 

Monday, 4 May 2015

4th May

In another wonderful "Today I Learned...", Google's front page highlights the birthday of the inventor of the piano, Bartolomeo Cristofori, in a charming little Google Doodle. 

It's amazing to think that the piano is nearly 400 years old and continues to influence all manner of music.

External Links:

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Party in the park - Lovebox weekender lineup announced!

Looks like a great lineup, especially with Rudimental returning for the Friday after they smashed it silly a couple of years ago.

From the press release:

"Across the entire weekend, the Lovebox masses will be treated to an exclusive set from Despacio, the innovative, custom-built soundsystem brought to you by LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy and 2manydjs. This is going to be an unmissable experience.
Another Lovebox exclusive is an extra-special A/V set from the revered Bonobo. His appearance is set to be immersive and unforgettable, as is Squarepusher's - his pioneering, experimental shows have wowed crowds the world over, and now he's set to stun Lovebox following a sold out show at the Barbican and the release of his highly-anticipated sixteenth album Damogen Furies."
As long as the weather holds, I'll be there!

Friday, 6 March 2015

NAMM 2015: New Korg gear

A little late out of the running, but worth talking about nonetheless. Meanwhile in camp Korg, the other major Japanese synth maker still seems to be powering ahead with their own ideas and released a number of new hardware units at NAMM this year. Nothing quite on the lines of the Korg volca range but still some interesting things nonetheless.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Pocket Operators - SonicLab review

Arriving in my inbox this morning was notification that Gaz Williams, frequent contributor and panellist for Sonic State, had published a series of videos about the wonderful new Pocket Operator series of digital synths. These are a look into these three machines and I have quite a few take homes from a more thorough look into them.


  • Lots of interesting sounds
  • Shuffle (Volcas, take note!)
  • Built in effects
  • Syncable
  • Charming Game & Watch style displays
  • Cheap
  • Straightforward to use


  • AAA battery powered only
  • Only Ionian scale (no sharps/flats!)
  • Danger of damaging components too easily
  • Game & Watch display nearly useless when making music
  • Controls look far too small
  • Very few parameters
  • Almost demands the use of the case (sold separately)

Any negative feedback for the Pocket Operators can be easily dismissed in terms of the especially low price, though getting hold of one (or all three) is another thing altogether, with stock shortages at the moment. The more I look at them, the scaling problem in particular, I have started to see a number of large compromises in these units that will make me want to take a closer look at them until I eventually get to play with them myself.

Keep any eye on Sonic State as they are due to release another video on chaining all three together and good to see Gaz outside of Sonic Talk!


Friday, 27 February 2015

More space for Google Music!

First 10,000, then 20,000, now 50,000 songs can be added into Google Music. While the jump from 10K to 20K was useful as so far I have uploaded 11,379 according to my latest figures, I still am no where near digitising my entire back catalogue, including lots of album samplers, compilations etc etc. Last time I did some tidying up in my room I managed to fill two large toy crates full of CD compilation albums that I haven't dared to touch yet, so there's plenty to go. 

If I've managed to amass at least 11.5K's worth of tracks, rounding up to around 12K with everything else I haven't added just yet, that means that if I keep collecting music at the same sort of rate by the time I die at around 80 years old that's nearly 33,000 tracks. Assuming that they will never put the library size up again and even for a free account, it is quite amazing that a company can offer enough space to store all the music I could ever buy (let alone download illegally) in my lifetime.

I still don't think I'm going to get rid of any of my CDs though, despite what George Takei recently posted on Facebook.

Monday, 16 February 2015

NAMM 2015: Teenage Engineering - Pocket Operators

It's been a while since Swedish music technologists Teenage Engineering had produced a new hardware unit since their OP-1 machine (a very swish all-in-one digital machine that can now be found for around £450-£600 second hand), however their recent releases at NAMM have been causing a stir at the lower end of the market.

30 years old today..

Thanks to everyone who has been in touch to wish me well today - I can't wait to get cracking with finishing my most recent records and moving on to Bitwig!

Keep in touch for the next thirty years!

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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

NAMM 2015 - New Roland gear

I can just picture the rage around the Roland office over the last couple of years - while Korg decidedly trump them each year with cheap analogue gear, they had to bide their time with electronic accordions and development of the Aira range before coming back with any kind of clout. Which is what I am glad to see them doing, as it doesn't do for any company like Korg to get complacent and not keep pushing the envelope to stay on top.

Monday, 26 January 2015

40 Years of Yamaha

While I get my thoughts together on NAMM 2015, here's a great run through of Yamaha's history from Sonic State that I couldn't help but share. Includes the SY1, a working CS80 and innards and a better look at FM synthesis. While they have been a little quiet on the synth front in modern time, I am glad that the company recognises its rich heritage in music hardware like this.

Monday, 19 January 2015

NAMM 2015 predictions

On a day that is supposed to be the most depressing day in the calendar (so-called Blue Monday - when the brain figures out that going to work for a third week after Christmas isn't a temporary thing - you're stuck with it until spring), I have taken to listening to long stints of Robert Wyatt and plenty of Dark Side Of The Moon to keep the demons away.

However there is plenty of good news this week with NAMM coming up in Anaheim and the promise of lots of news stories with new videos and technology. I had the good fortune to speak with John Price of Kenton Electronics over the weekend, who will be exhibiting alongside Andreas Scheider and the Schneidersladen - it seems that like most exhibitors they have new products to show off, which strangely enough is the topic of this post. So after sifting through all the pre-NAMM articles in the press what am I most looking forward to?

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

ChucK - music programming language

Something I've come across recently via the Coursera website is a programming language for making music with, called ChucK. More or less you can program entire synthesisers and music with it in code, which seems like a nice meeting-of-the-minds for me!

Not yet actually made anything worth listening to but it's definitely cool to see what people have done with this.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Sister Ray

A recent walk through Soho's trendy Berwick Street and came across the following, disturbing sign. Whiteout on the windows? Bill posters everywhere? Shop closed?

No more Sister Ray Records? Please say it ain't so!

Monday, 5 January 2015

Reverb Units part 1: Alesis MicroVerb

Despite a reputation for the stomach-churning low end bass sounds that the Minibrute and Microbrute can produce, both are capable monosynths in their own right for fluttery leads, clean arpeggios, sequenced runs and all sorts. In fact, I really enjoy using the MiniBrute to simulate CS80 leads for Vangelis-like synths. The only thing I find fault with is the flat, mono output; it doesn't really sit well in a mix or if you're just jamming. In fact, what the world needs is more reverb.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2015, I hope the Christmas and New Year has passed and that everyone is well.

Sorry for the near 6 months of silence; it's all been on hold for some time. However, I have plenty of other things coming up, especially in the light of the new NAMM show coming up in a fortnight's time. Always a good time to look at new gear and equipment!

Looking forward to posting more into 2015!