Thursday, 29 August 2013

Tomorrow's World today......

I recently bought the Arturia emulation of the Moog Modular synthesizer called the Modular V. Whilst trawling the Internet (as you do), I happened upon this segment from an old B.B.C. television program called "Tomorrow's World". I used to avidly watch "Tomorrow's World" every week, scheduled as it was just before "Top of the Pops".
I love the old B.B.C. voices, but these old shows provide a wonderful insight to things that we take for granted today.

New synth - Roland SH-201

In a surprise move, taking into account that I said in a previous posting that I was done buying more hardware, I've added another synthesizer to the fold!!!
Yep, and so it is that I now have a Roland SH-201 synthesizer nestling nicely on the keyboard stands with the Roland Juno-D, Alesis QS6 and Korg 01/W FD.
What I like about this latest addition is that it has knobs and sliders, which ultimately means more real-time control. This is something I have been longing, though it was partly satisfied by the Juno-D, but it's controls were only really for envelope and filter settings. The SH-201 has the lot which will be great for live stuff as I like the idea of changing and shaping sounds on the fly.

Sound-wise, it's lovely, really lovely. Pads are lush and expressive (as one would expect from Roland), the basses are deep and dirty and the leads can really cut through a mix, thanks to the sync feature and the SuperSaw waveform (as seen on the Roland JP-8000). There's a cracking arppegiator which can be programmed via the supplied software and a useful phrase recorder.
As well as top-notch MIDI implementation, it also has excellent computer comms, all of which happen via the USB socket on the rear. This, along with the software, means that the SH-201 can be used as a VSTi instrument within any DAW and it's multi-timbral - for me this is just great. Everything from standard parameter control to arppegiator programming to MIDI settings can be accessed and the librarian software makes saving and loading patches and patch banks an absolute doddle.

As with the Juno-D, the SH-201 also has the D-Beam performance control, excellent for Theremin style playing or wacked-out-wavy-handed filter tweaking. I've not really explored the D-Beam much on the Juno-D, but after messing about with it on the SH-201, I think that may change.

I'm very happy with this latest acquisition and know that it is going to be an important part of the GTK Studio set up.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

New soft-synth......

Today saw the addition to the GTK Studio arsenal of a software synthesizer called Scanned Synth Pro (SSP), created by Scottish software house,  Humanoid Sound Systems.
The SSP doesn't sound like other synthesizers, and it was the aim of the developers for it not to. It uses a new sound engine that Humanoid Sound Systems call Scanned Synthesis engine, which appears to combine physical modelling and wavetable synthesis, apparently it's a technique that was developed in the late 90s by a pioneering team of scientists at Interval Research. The SSP has a unique sound and is packed full of personality and presence, which whilst endearing itself to lovers of chaos in it's purest form, retains an element of control that oozes sonic power. This synthesizer is very easy to use, and it doesn't take long to start coming up with some very complex sounds that kind of create an atmosphere of their own.
I have to tell you that if you're looking for a synthesizer that does warm, luscious pads and sparkling leads, Scanned Synth Pro is NOT for you. It's aggressive, it's dirty and you need a bath after using it. Naturally, I love it already. And when you have controls such as "Psycho" and "Danger" that give you some serious nastiness and unpredictability, what's not to love???!!!
It has a good range of features, an excellent effects section and is great to use within a DAW owing to it's comprehensive MIDI implementation.
Humanoid Sound Systems also offer a range of additional presets, one of which is both free and excellent.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Look what's happened to the GTK Studio!!!

Strange things have been happening in the GTK Studio - it's been changed AGAIN!!!
But......and I do mean this - this time it's not likely to change as I am going to get back to writing and recording and with this layout, I am finally happy.
Simple additions, such as two cabinets to hold the Peavey SRC2400 mixing console, have provided me with both proper storage space and a less cluttered environment within which to work. Let's just say that it's very Feng Shui darling......
I've made one or changes on the equipment front, not least the selling of the Novation ReMOTE 61 SL MIDI keyboard controller, the Kawai K4r, the Yamaha TG55 and the Novation Bass Station Rack. I also had a synthesizer expire beyond repair on me, that being the Kawai K5m, a bit of a blow, but I now have some rather cool bits and bobs in their place. I also sold the Emagic Unitor 8 MIDI interface as it became surplus to requirement after the purchase of the better spec'd AMT8 (USB makes all the difference!!!).
Added back to the collection is the Roland Juno-D synthesizer. This developed a series of faults, and I was right on the brink of selling it for "spares or repairs", but I really liked this synthesizer and couldn't actually bear to part with it, so through the wizardry of my very good chum Kent Spong, it's now back in the GTK Studio, as good as new and sounding simply marvellous.

Also joining the ranks is a rather splendid Korg M1R EX synthesizer module, the rack-mount version of the hugely successful Korg M1, but what really sets this synth apart is it's history. I bought it from none other than Tim Dorney of the group Republica and formerly Flowered Up (they had a massive hit with the excellent "Weekender", on which this synth was used). It's plumbed into the GTK Studio system now and I can tell you, it sounds simply fabulous.

Also on the hardware front is the addition of an Alesis NanoVerb, the mark 1 version. I have to tell you that this is a stunning little piece of kit, I was completely bowled over by the clarity and integrity of the reverbs on offer. My intention was to use this purely for vocals, but I didn't expect the quality of it's reverbs and so I've decided to add it as a send option on the Peavey. It sits very nicely with the Alesis NanoCompressor and between the two of them, I have a nice little mini-rack, which, as intended, is great for vocals, but it will also have other applications now.
And you know, that's not all.
On the software front, I have managed bagged a few rather spiffing bargains.
First up is Dimension Pro from Cakewalk. A very fine additive synth that has filled the void left by the departure of the Kawai synths. It is both luscious and gloriously digital and provides me with the lovely spectral sounds that I loved on the Kawai's. It works beautifully with Cakewalk's Rapture synthesizer which I got last year.

Also added is The Oddity by U.K. software house, GForce. The Oddity is a software emulation of the classic ARP Odyssey and it is a little beast - I love it. Full of aggression and raw power, this little software hottie provides particularly ripping lead lines and quite dirty basses as well as nutritional fast-food for sequencers. I almost feel like I need to shower after using it.

Another synth addition is Element from the premium software house, WavesElement is their first software synthesizer and is the newest piece of programming in the GTK Studio software folder. It's great, as one would expect from a company such as Waves, and can be cutting, punchy, luscious, cold, warm and downright filthy. I've been amazed at how many features it has and as you might well imagine, I love it. I also purchased their Q10 paragraphic equaliser and C4 multi-band compressor. Both are gold-standard products in my book, with the Q10 providing wonderfully transparent frequency control and the C4 giving me an awful lot of control over errant frequencies and dynamics. Waves had the ingenious idea of doing a one day sale where they were offering certain goods with up to 80% off of the usual price - the C4 usually goes for $250, with a $50 voucher from Waves and the 80% discount, I got it for a measly $19 - that's roughly £12.50 in proper money. You can't turn up an offer like that!!!


Joining the synths ranks is the utterly brilliant Modular V from Arturia. It's an emulation of the Moog Modular Series III and whilst it is never going to sound like the original (so I've been repeatedly told), it's a great introduction to the world of modular synthesis. I love the beefy tones and cannot wait to get playing with the sequencer which can also be routed through to the filters as well as the oscillators. Sounds great alongside the Minimoog V - I have the free version offered by Arturia last year, it lacks the effects etc, but still sounds stonking. Arturia do a great range of vintage software emulations and I will be making every effort to get them all ;-)

A very interesting recent purchase was the Discovery synthesizer from discoDSP. It's based on the Nord Lead 2 synthesizer and I thought it would make an interesting addition to the GTK Studio software list because of it's bold sound and expressive capabilities. It has a really good arpeggiator and a good collection of filters and on-board effects. I feel that it'll be very useful for leads and sequenced/arpeggiated backings.

U.K. based music software house Superwave have also tempted me with some of their products. They offer a bundle called the D-7x7 which includes two drum modules based on the Roland TR-707 and Roland TR-727 (the latter being a latin percussion based instrument). The D-707 and D-727 don't have on-board sequencers or anything, but they do have a raft of controls which include pitch, filter, decay resonance and frequency to name but a few - all of the controls can be assigned to MIDI CC's which allow you to automate them when using a sequencer such as the Reaper 4 that I use. And the sound? Well, I used a Roland TR-707 a lot during the mid-late 1980's and consider I know the unit quite well, both in use and sonically. I can tell you that these two units just sound superb and will provide me with some seriously cool and punchy drum sounds, and with the little experiments I've already done, it sounds excellent alongside the awesome Battery 3 from Native Instruments. Also from Superwave, I got their Superwave Professional Synthesizer. It's a full on super-saw powerhouse going from rich trance-driven gated chords and sequences to delicate pads and arpeggios at a price I cannot get my head around - £19.99. It's very flexible, easy to use, stacked with highly useful options and effects and sonically out there. It's obviously based on the Roland JP8080 and to my ears, sounding just as good.

I've recently discovered a small software company called Hideaway Studios run by sound designer Dan Wilson. They're akin to Stephen Howell's Hollow Sun, no surprise because Stephen and Mario help out with the Kontakt sampler programming. I availed myself of Dan's ever increasing Blue Zone collection. As with Hollow Sun, Dan uses vintage gear to create new and interesting instruments that sound fantastic. Looking forward to getting some of them into the next Geigertek album.

And talking of Hollow Sun, the mad Welshman has been sending me more of his wares such as the excellent YouKnow 6 (no prizes for guessing which synth he sampled), Sounds Of The Universe (SOTU), Newtron Bomb III (Mellotron based and sounding awesome), Optomotron (a truly sensuous mating of the Optigan and the Vako Orchestron) and a couple of smaller bits Stephen has called MLM Lites, which are like the baby siblings of his stonkingly bonkers brilliant Music Lab Machines, these being the Cronk-O-Tron and the Stringodyne. They have mental names, they are mental to use and sound mental. But they're great and yes, I love them.

And finally, for now, I got hold of Ohm Force's supremely excellent OhmBoyz multi-delay. It's an incredible bit of software that does the craziest delays, armed as it is with 4 pre-delays, complex resonant filters, distortion high shelf and a total of 39 LFOs!!! This thing is an absolute animal of the wildest kind, but wow, does it sound cool.

So, with all this added goodness, I have a wonderful palette of sonic goodness with which to paint the audio colours of the next Geigertek album, "Hollow Sun".