Monday, 26 December 2016

No More Heroes Any More - Requiem pt 1

2016 has been a tough year in many respects; Brexit, Trump, Syria, terrorist bombings, Snooper's Charter. The same has been true for celebrities, with a large number of musicians in particular having been sent to the great gig in the sky this year. This post is not meant to state the obvious but to highlight some of the artists who perhaps didn't get as much screen time  as others and to remind us all of the losses of these cultural icons.

Monday, 5 December 2016

A guide to Second Hand Synths in UK - part 2

The internet is a great thing; connecting people with similar interests together in a meaningful way that allows for more collaboration and idea sharing as well as the buying and selling of goods. In some cases, second hand websites are the only way you can get hold of older equipment that isn't available through retail channels and there's a great number of them to check out that I have covered before.

The problem I have is over the bad rap that certain sites get when targeted by the criminal element in society who use these sites to lure victims into situations where they get robbed...or worse. In fact the impetus for these articles was a story about a court case where a 28 year old university graduate was stabbed trying to sell his Apple laptop via Gumtree (luckily he made a recovery, but I digress!)

So, I want to share some best practice tips for meeting up to do a swap or purchase. It makes a lot of sense for sellers to do face to face 

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Monologue: too many mono synths?

After hyping up their November announcement with images of five different coloured bands, Korg unveiled their latest product; the Monologue, a dual oscillator monosynth from the same stable as the Minilogue, though sporting more than a few tricks under the hood.

As the colours seemed to echo those on older synths, the Mono/Poly and Polysix respectively, many fans felt that they were going to be looking forward to a new recreation of these classic synths. Korg’s partnership with ARP over the Odyssey had already born fruit, so there was plenty to suggest this may have been on the cards. That the new product was something completely new and the colours merely reflected the cosmetic choices available meant that some were understandably deflated by the Monologue's unveiling.

Put simply: do we really need another keyboard mono synth?

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Saturday Soundtracks: Grand Theft Auto Vice City Theme

Kicking off with a cheeky Commodore 64 reference to the burgeoning home computing revolution at the time of the game, Vice City is a stylish follow up to the first Grand Theft Auto to grace the Playstation 2 console and rather than continue with a present-day story looks to the past for inspiration and motifs - the 1980s.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

7 things I learned about Korg from their AMA

Following a recent Reddit AMA on the r/synthesizers subreddit shortly after the announcement of the newly minted Monologue, Nick Kwas from Korg was on hand and able to answer questions from the synthesiser community and it was gratifying to see how many questions Nick was able to go through.

Having read the rather large post, I have collected some of the insights I found of interest from the AMA based on Nick’s responses in a short form version here.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Saturday Soundtracks: GTA San Andreas Theme Song

GTA 3 was big, a full playground in three dimensions that full realised what the meagre Playstation was trying to achieve with the first two releases. Vice City expanded on the former, with a full story with all the 80s music and tropes you could ever wish to have in all of the main and side missions, plus helicopters, boats and loads more besides. 

But at some five times the size of Vice City, itself a large world to play in, GTA San Andreas is an absolute monster of a game and at times it's amazing to think of how Rockstar managed to pack so much into just a Playstation 2 disc.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

MyVolts Splitter Version 2 - review

Thanks to MyVolts for supplying the review cable for this post. If you want to get your own with a discount, CAROLVOLCA2 on their website will get you £3 off before 14 October 2016.

As alluded to earlier in the week, the folks at MyVolts have just released version two of their power splitter cable for up to five Korg Volcas, and now that mine has arrived I thought I would take it for a quick spin.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Saturday Soundtracks: Star Goose for Atari ST

Back to the old school Atari ST with this vertical scrolling shooter, featuring a tank that fired bullets or collected missiles and disappeared down 3D tunnels picking up tokens to recharge fuel and shields. The premise is simple: shoot down everything in your path, collect the gems and don't run out of shields or fuel.

A game that featured exactly zero sound effects during the game but made up for it with a wonderfully pumping soundtrack. Now that I think about it, I struggled to get the link with geese and I assumed that it was something to do with the shape of the ship, but nevertheless a solid scrolling shooter.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

MyVolts Power Splitter Version 2: Power Harder

Fresh from coverage and feedback from all the major synth sites including Synthtopia and SonicState, those geniuses at MyVolts have been busy updating their five-way Korg Volca power splitter for powering multiple Volcas through either one wall wart or a single USB charger. I have been a fan of this device ever since it was announced, so more updates are very much welcome.

From the looks of things, the cable seems to be the same length from the split point and the connectors are now right angled rather than upright/straight ones. I recall this was one of the main suggestions that Nick Batt had when they covered this via YouTube and when you're using Volcas in an upright rack or next to each other the upright connectors can obscure the controls of another Volca. With right angles I'm hopeful that the connector will be much more inconspicuous.

MyVolts have kindly provided me with one of the new splitter leads to try out, so as soon as I get it plugged in I'll let you know how it fares. In the meantime, if you have multiple Volcas and haven't sorted out a power solution, you can do a lot worse than picking up one of these, plus use code CAROVOLCA2 on the MyVolts website before 14 October 2016 and save yourself a few quid too.

Links: New 5 way splitter

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Ikea RAST 6U rack case

For about a year or so, I've had a couple of rack sized effects units on my table that were being used for live jamming for my MiniBrute; a Behringer Virtualizer and an Alesis Microverb 4. For the longest time, they have been taking up space on the side of my room in a non-optimal place to store and use them, so I have been looking for another solution.

Step in the Ikea RAST, a cheap side table with an amazing feature: it's 19" wide, the perfect fit for a rack unit. Just add some 6U metal rack rails and M6 bolts and you can convert this into a 6U rack unit - the cheapo wood preserver from B&Q was a couple of quid so in total the project was only £15 if only.

I can't take any credit for being able to build this, as I completely followed the great Instructables how-to for the 6U version and managed to get hold of a Rast unit before they were discontinued in the UK.

Putting the unit together, but not fully together so we can take it apart easily for painting. 
Offering up the rack units on the inside of the side table. I measured 10mm at the bottom edge and used the racks and some pencil markings for the screw holes. After putting the marks in I used the tip of a wood screw to make some pilot holes.
Taking it all apart before using the wood preserver on each section
Putting it all back together once it had a good coat of wood preserver and screwing the rack ends on. As you can see, it comes together very easily - obviously your mileage will vary but it took about 20 minutes to coat all four pieces of wood and 50 minutes for this to dry. 
All done! Plenty of space for the couple of rack units I have and loads of space for other units, trays etc. What's nice about this is that I can put things on top of the table as was originally intended by Ikea, plus a unique way to put the rack unit gear in.
I've already asked my dad if he has any rack unit gear to add to this, plus there's plenty of cheap accessories for under a tenner each from Amazon.

If you want a cheap audio rack, there are some quite cheap alternatives on Amazon that are worth a look at. I have seen one of these in the flesh from Stagg that is also under £15, but the practical advantage of the Rast is that you can use it as a normal piece of furniture regardless of how many rack units you're using.

The biggest problem as I can see is the availability of the Rast side table. It's still available in the US, but as it's probably at least triple the cost to ship one to the UK, an alternative to the Rast needs to be found. Some ideas are:

HOL Side table:

50cm wide, but not sure how wide the end legs are so potentially could be just too small.

LACK table:

Cheap and would work, but apparently the legs are not constructed so that they are strong enough to deal with the weight.


Thursday, 8 September 2016

DSI Evolver and MoPho

Sometimes, good things come in pairs. I recently jumped on the chance to buy two second hand synthesisers from a chap in Kensal Green; a MoPho module and Evolver module from Dave Smith Instruments. Despite only wanting the Evolver initially, I found that to buy both was only £100 more so I jumped at the chance to grab another cheap analogue box.

I have always been attracted to the Evolver, initally because the keyboard versions looks and sounds like a blue UFO but now because a 4 oscillator monosynth with three delay lines and four sequencers sounds immense.

Both synths, now discontinued, have had a good run; the MoPho in particular providing cheap and reliable analogue bass and lead sounds to a generation of musicians with both enough hands on control with a deep and rich feature set for those looking to get under the hood.

Monday, 20 June 2016

A guide to Second Hand Synths in UK

So you want to buy a synthesiser, but don't necessarily have the budget to go all out on a new item: where do you go next? The UK second hand market is full of options and people selling their gear for a variety of reasons, whether it's to raise funds for newer hardware, whether children on the way, a change to all in the box or perhaps relocating to another country.

However, it can be daunting for newcomers to know where to get the best deals or just what to expect in terms of prices, availability, selection and so on. So here's a little run down of some of the places to go where you can check listings and maybe pick up something fun to play with at a decent price.

And as always with these things; Caveat Emptor!

Friday, 10 June 2016

KMR Audio Synth Expo - May 13th

In an effort to get some interest in their new range of synthesisers, the good folks at KMR Audio in North London organised a little get together of synth makers last month. I popped up to a far off place at the end of the Northern line called Totteridge and Whetstone to see what all the fuss was about, chat with makers and have a few free beers.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Ripcord - USB flavoured power for music gear

As I have already made clear on this blog, I am a fan of sensible, no nonsense solutions for synthesiser power. With quite a few different products to power, it's not always convenient to run around with power supplies and multi-way adaptors - not to mention the ugly, bulky bricks that some come with.

Thankfully, there's a new project from the guys behind MyVolts that they are calling Ripcord, which they are touting as a a plug and play anywhere USB power cable. Powered either from a laptop, computer, phone charge or even a portable battery recharger or micro USB enabled phone, it's clear that this opens up more opportunities for playing with your gear on the go as well as making it easier to power things in a desktop scenario. I'm not entirely sure with the battery power I get out of my LG G4 that I would find this viable but I do like having the option!

From what I can see, Ripcord is clearly positioned as the next stage in the evolution of the USB splitter cable that powers the Volcas (which I had lovely things to say about here) and is currently available via a Kickstarter, which at the time of writing has just over 20K EUR to go. The video there explains everything more succinctly, so take a look and see what you think!

Jump on the kickstarter page here:

Hiatus ended (hopefully)

I've been pretty busy with work and other projects, while being distracted by Reddit's r/synthesisers group and Twitter updates, but I'm hoping to get back into blogging again soon. 

Priorities for me:

  • More Saturday soundtracks
  • Modular DIY building
  • Experiences with Bitwig
  • KMR Audio's Synth Expo tomorrow
  • Novation's XioSynth - new second hand hardware!
  • Novation BassStation II - borrowing for a while
  • Volca FM impressions
  • Finally finishing some stuff for Soundcloud

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Saturday Soundtracks: Spring Yard Zone / Sonic the Hedgehog

Now we're talking! Everyone and their mum has played this game and some of the music and sound design was of a great standard for a launch title. Well, that comment about mums was definitely true for mine; she made it most of the way through Emerald Hill Zone before dying at Robotnik and giving up at the continue screen.

No matter - Spring Yard Zone is a great bit of hard edged FM Hip Hop goodness, even verging into Bobby Brown / Bel Biv Devoe new jack swing with those claps and offbeats. Still great today as it ever was, even if Spring Yard Zone was a fairly short experience compared with later levels like Labyrinth Zone and that this game was shortly surpassed in graphical fidelity and sound by its sequels.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

MyVolts 5 way power splitter cable - Part 2

After the great reaction I got from my first article on MyVolts’ rather handy five way splitter cable I thought I would do some additional testing to see if it can play nicely with some other Korg gear that uses the same power connectors.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Saturday Soundtracks: Full Throttle

After a week off, it's time to get back to Saturday Soundtracks. This week, a bit of rock from LucasArt's Full Throttle.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Saturday Soundtracks: Disruptor

Another Saturday, another soundtrack; this time it's stylish PlayStation shooter Disruptor.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Saturday Soundtracks: Time Crisis (End Theme)

Another foray into video game soundtracks, this time into Namco's arcade classic Time Crisis (which also got ported to the PS1).

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

NAMM 2016 rumour roundup part 2

More NAMM 2016! With only a couple of days to go before the press day, I have discovered that there are plenty of other things of note that I completely missed in my first article.

So here are even more NAMM rumours!

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

NAMM 2016 - rumour mill roundup

It's nearly here! Now that the New Year has been and gone, the Winter NAMM show will be returning to Anaheim, CA from 21-24 January 2016 and promises to showcase all the latest products that musicians will be lusting after over the next 12 months. Naturally this gets the gear geek in me incredibly excited!

As is customary, I usually scour the usual news sites about a couple of weeks before the event takes place for the inevitable product teasers and fakes that are running around that will interest me and some thoughts about other manufacturers that will be joining the show (so expect a subjective list full of synthesisers, drum machines and sound effect news - no guitars sadly). We certainly won't have to wait very long, as the Wednesday before the show is usually a press day, with videos starting to trickle out of conference rooms from the evening onwards.

So here's a collection of all the NAMM 2016 news that I have collected ahead of next week's convention!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

MyVolts 5 way power splitter cable - Review!

Now nearly two years old, Korg's set of analogue grooveboxes continue to be a source of useful sounds and musical experimentation. While you do have the option to run all four Volcas from batteries, as each unit needs six AAs it's a far more economical proposition to buy a power supply for each one. Sacrificing portability for sustained play also has other advantages; when the batteries start to run low, users have reported sync and volume issues with the units, likely due to the analogue nature of the internals. However, Korg neglected to include a power supply in the box and instead give you a set of rather dodgy looking batteries to keep you going. 

Step in MyVolts, who have recently released a 5-way power splitter designed specifically for the Volcas and I picked one up as soon as it was released. Here's a look at what you can expect.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Happy New Year & Resolutions

Photo courtesy of the awesome people at
A very Happy New Year to everyone, I hope you enjoyed the break over the Christmas period. May 2016 bring you everything you are working for!

As is customary for the time of year, I have a few resolutions for the new year that I would like to stick to for music making and branch further out into a wider variety of music-related topics and coverage.