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.

The excellent Eurorack Moog clones from AJH Synth (as featured at this year's Superbooth16) was available to check out in one corner. While I cannot say anything about its authentic Moog-like sound, these were some seriously well made Eurorack modules that even with a few basic patched points produces a pleasingly deep and phat bass sound. Definitely worth getting a look at if you want that Model D sound!
Some rather interesting modules from a German chap who calls himself Rebel Technology, this small yet powerful Eurorack system features quite a few special modules. The first is a Wireless MIDI module (on the left side), which allows you to control two lanes of CV into your modular from any compatible device - in this instance, I believe this was controlled by an Android tablet running a sequencer. Secondly, the two larger modules on the right side are programmable modules with an ARM core, so you can download and assign functionality to the controls as you see fit. Perfect for the hacker or software DIY'er, though the lack of feedback (screen, lights etc) might be an issue if you can't remember what you are editing!
Paul Soulsby was all out in fine fashion and was showing off his Atmegatron synths in module, DIY Arduino and Eurorack forms. In particular, the new Strings firmware for the Atmegatron provided a lovely string machine with a crunchy, 8bit aftertaste.
According to Paul, there are quite a few new ideas for new firmware updates down the road to compliment the drum machine, string synth and atmegatron firmwares. Seems like a great time to buy one of these!
Roland's stand, replete with green modules and Eurorack setups, was one of the more complicated of the setup, though at times it was difficult to hear other stands as Roland's was so loud!
All five of the Korg Volcas in one place, including the most recent FM unit so I got to play with this a few weeks before I had the chance to pick up my own. More interesting here was the Ikea laptop stand with pre-cut holes for all the sync and power cables so four of them could be presented together, which seems like an easy and straightforward Ikea hack to share.
It's not just the exhibitors who had a chance to show off products; KVR Audio had a great selection of keyboards including these two from Tom Oberheim and Dave Smith. Both are far over the top in terms of features and price, but were nonetheless impressive - my favourite of the two was by far the OB6 that put out some absolutely stunning and complex sounds.
Novation's lineup, including the Bass Station 2, Mininova and most recently released Circuit showed off some pretty awesome tricks. I hadn't been much taken with Circuit but within a few minutes I was able to start jamming something pleasing out - a small yet feature-packed setup, but I don't think it's going to tempt me just yet.
Thanks to product demonstrator Alex (Mylar Melodies and Source Distribution), this was a great little stand full of interesting gear, not limited to a Roland JP-08 module linked to an Arturia Keystep (apparently the only one in the UK!) and a 3 way Moog Mother32 setup. The Keystep demo that I got showed off just how easy it is to set up comlpex arpeggios and one note chords for those great old school House sounds or just sound doodles. As a unit, it feels solid enough with the same synthesiser-like keys found in other products. Arturia should have another great controller on their hands for players as long as they can keep quality control high.
Can't talk; too much synth noodling (apart from the chap from Arturia in the foreground!)
Finally, Korg brought along a Minilogue in the UK to play with! Naturally, this was the star of Korg's stand and had loads of people playing it throughout the afternoon. Getting some hands on time really helped to develop my opinion of this new synth and I hope to put this into a larger post later, but sufficed to say I am very impressed with what Korg have packed into a relatively small package.
I had to take a quick photo of this - KMR's busy outboard racks, complete with loads of 19 inch units and blinking lights. Not necessarily something I am that interested in but it looks very impressive nonetheless.
Dreadbox in full effect, complete with their Eurorack modules, FX boxes and the famous Erebus / Hades synthesisers. Again, a firm favourite on the day, probably because of the strong delay on the Erebus that everyone was driving pretty hard.
Thanks to KMR Audio for the shindig!