All posts by Aidan

Akai MPC Makes A Return With Two New Standalone Models

Back in January at NAMM Akai announced the release of two new additions to the MPC line – the MPC X and the MPC Live, with a clear focus on  bringing back the standalone functionality to the range. Beat fiends around the world are waiting with anticipation for the launch date of the new MPCs and while no solid date is available at the time of writing, what we do know is that it is going to be soon!

I’m one of the lucky folk to have actually had my hands on the MPC X and even though my time was limited I can tell you that it certainly impressed from the off. There are so many features on this new line that I could literally write for a week and will have probably only scratched the surface so I’ll try and keep this short. The first thing you notice when sat in front of the behemoth MPC X is that this thing is huge, it feels like you’re sat at the helm of some other-worldly spaceship armed with rapid fire beat blaster rays! Every control and function you could want is surgically positioned to be at hand when you need it, the encoders feel solid and the little OLED screens above each pot is a very nice touch. We’ve got a plethora of I/O, CV outputs, countless controls, a VU meter, 16 RGB pads and a nice responsive 10.1″ touchscreen which I will come to later.

The pads are tight and responsive just as you would expect from the company that basically swamped the world with the things! The easiest way to describe the pads is – they just work, and they work damn well. They are able to capture every nuance of your performance. If you have played with an MPC before then you will be right at home with either of the new models. The MPC swing returns in full glory, breaking up, yet gluing together your drum hits for a natural swing that works flawlessy.

The screen is a big highlight on this new line. The X has a 10.1″ screen while the Live has a 7″ display, both are way more responsive and tactile than I thought they would be. They work brilliantly, integrating the hands-on approach to a deeper level than previously available. It supports multi touch for pinch and zoom allowing you to snip, chop and move as you please with absolute ease. I was genuinely impressed by how well it worked and I’m sure you will be too!

The Live is a gorgeous little black box which retains most of the features of the X with a much smaller footprint. We lose CV outputs and a lot of encoders and front facing controls but this doesn’t detract from the experience at all, thankfully the touchscreen takes over some duties here – so it’s a good job they’ve done a cracking job with it. It also houses a rechargeable Lithium-ION battery so you can unplug from the box, go and sit in the sun and knock out some beats!

The release of the new MPC line also brings with it MPC Software 2.0, fully loaded with critical in-demand productions and performance capability. Both units are able to record audio directly into the unit and use as audio tracks within MPC. The software was still in late Beta while I played around with it and was already solid, I didn’t experience any glitches or crashes. When hooked up to a PC 2.0 allows you to use VST instruments and effects and then bounce the audio down for use in standalone mode! Absolutely phenomenal.

Now I’ve not mentioned one of the new highlight features yet – clip launching! This is the familiar performance mode found on other devices and gives the MPC another weapon in it’s already formidable arsenal. Add to that the outstanding collection of expansions from well respected sound designers such as Capsun Audio, Loopasters, Toolroom and more, and you have a truly fearsome expandable music machine!

So, if the thought of a brand new, all singing, all dancing Akai MPC gets you all giddy, keep your eyes peeled for more info on the release date. If it gets you more than a little giddy then you might want to get a pre-order in and be one of the first to get hold of one of these beauties! In the meantime, take a look at some videos to get more of an idea what the new line brings to the table.

https://www.scan.co.uk/products/akai-mpc-x-standalone-music-production-center-101-full-colour-multi-touch-display-16gb-of-on-board-s

https://www.scan.co.uk/products/akai-mpc-live-music-production-center-standalone-capable-16-pads-7-inch-multi-touch-display-16gb-on

Optoma Nuforce BE6i – Is It Time To Ditch Those Pesky Wires?

So right off the bat I have to confess that I’m not the biggest fan of wireless. Every computer in my house is wired to my router, every pair of headphones I own is wired and my past experiences of Bluetooth didn’t exactly persuade me that it’s time to ditch those pesky wires. Infact besides a cool little BT speaker I bought, my experience has actually been pretty shocking. Constant connection interruptions, poor battery life, annoying loud and heavily compressed Chinese vocal prompts that deafen you and the worst offender of all was noise. A little BT receiver I bought had so much noise that you literally had to listen at uncomfortable levels to drown the horrible electrical noise being pumped down your ear canal. We recently had a sample pair of Airpod wannabes for us to test in the office and they were catastrophically bad. And that was that, Id had enough of this technology and the “wireless audio revolution”.

With all that in mind, I’m a little surprised at what I’m about to say…The Optoma Nuforce BE6i have become my weapon of choice for commuting to work, listening to music in the office and watching movies and TV shows at night. So what has brought about this change of heart? Let me tell you!

The BE6i’s are available in 2 colour schemes and come in a really nice looking package with a lovely selection of tips and clips including 5 pairs of custom designed silicone tips. The inclusion of 2 pairs of Comply tips (Medium and Large) is a bonus for me as I’m an absolutely massive fan of them and they also help keep the heavier than usual earphones to stay in while you’re on the move. Optoma have also included a high-quality hard case to protect your earphones which is a welcome touch. They support aptX and AAC codecs for best quality on all your devices.

The earphones themselves are understandably chunky, have a nice aluminium finish, 10mm drivers, they come with a flat, tangle-free cable and an in-line remote that strangely doesn’t quite match the finish of the rest of the product. Aesthetics aside, the remote works perfectly even in torrential rain! The BE6i are also IPX5 water resistant which is quite a high rating, especially useful in England. They connected to all devices I tried them with – Android phones, an Ipad, multiple USB BT dongles without any problems – the BE6i will also store up to 8 seperate device connection settings! The battery life is outstanding too, Optoma state up to 8 hours and I can confirm this isn’t a pie-in-the-sky number as they seem to last forever.

So how do they sound? Well, there is absolutely no inherent noise which was the first thing I noticed and one of the most important things I was listening for. The BE6i’s have quite a flat sound signature which may disappoint bassheads but with some EQ you can remedy this and the earphones will pump out the extra bass without deteriorating into an awful mess. The very top end of the treble region seems to be slightly clipped but this I imagine is at the mercy of the aptX protocol rather than a limitation of the earphones, The stereo seperation is there, the soundstage is wide enough for in-ears though depth does suffer a little and the midrange vocal region is probably their strong point. These will probably be more of a hit with rock lovers, the sound signature definitely leans in that direction and doesn’t disappoint when listening to Trent Reznor scream on NIN – Terrible Lie!

In conclusion, against expectations, I really like these earphones. Do they hold a candle to my favourite wired setup – no they don’t, but there was no expectation for them to do so. Have they replaced my go-to wired setup for the commute to work and in-office listening – yes they have indeed. They sound good, they’re weather proof, they don’t get caught on things, they do what they are supposed to do and they do it very well! They have also made it possible for me to watch TV shows in bed without annoying the hell out of my neighbours or dealing with my crazy dog jumping up and ripping my earphones out. Unfortunately some of the problems inherent to Bluetooth have still not been rectified such as audio delay. This makes them useless for gaming imo, although the delay can be compensated for from within KODI (ahead by 0.100s works for me) so watching movies and TV shows is fine. They also play ball with Waves NX which is another bonus for me.

If you’re looking for a pair of Bluetooth in-ears then you should definitely check these out, just be aware that some of the limitations of the technology have not been overcome yet. Otherwise I’m pretty confident in recommending these earphones and also happy to announce that they are on sale at the moment too so theres no better time than the present to give them a try. Reduced from £99.99 to £79.99 for a limited time!

https://www.scan.co.uk/products/optoma-nuforce-be6i-bluetooth-earphones-ipx5-water-resistant-30m-range-comply-tips-aac-aptx-(grey)

https://www.scan.co.uk/products/optoma-nuforce-be6i-bluetooth-earphones-ipx5-water-resistant-30m-range-comply-tips-aac-aptx-(gold)

 

To D Or Not To D…Behringer Targets Classic Synth Revivals

Last week the internet spontaneously combusted at some news from Uli Behringer that his company was thinking about developing a cheap ($400) Minimoog Model D clone. Ok, that may be a little bit of an exaggeration but the salt was definitely flowing over at the Gearslutz forum and it’s safe to say that Mr Behringer sure knows how to split people into two distinct camps. His following comment rubbed some people up the wrong way:

“Many people have asked us to revive synth jewels from the past and make them affordable so everyone can own one. This very much resonates with me because when I was a kid, I spent hours in stores playing and admiring those synths – however I couldn’t afford them which was tremendously frustrating.

Frankly, I never understood why someone would charge you US$ 4,000 for a MiniMoog, when the components just cost around US$ 200.”

I actually see a lot of merit in this and hot on the heels of the success of the Deepmind12 I see no reason why the company shouldn’t use the engineer talent from MIDAS for every good use they can possibly think of. I highly doubt with that level of talent on-board that they will settle for simple clones, the Juno 106 clone that slowly transformed into the DM12 is a prime example of this train of thought.

Anyway, I digress. On one hand we have a group of people who think that this behaviour is total sacrilege. More so coming from Uli’s company who have the manufacturing facilities and buying power to make this cheap Model D a reality. Certain commenters have been quite vocal about this being a case of big B throwing a serious spanner in the works for the smaller boutique companies who simply cannot compete in terms of buying power and manufacturing cost – especially as Moog have reissued the Model D recently themselves.

On the other hand we have struggling musicians and those who don’t care what badge a piece of gear has, as long as it sounds good and they can afford it then its a win-win. After all the posturing and proverbial mud slinging, Uli posted a gorgeous little render of a Eurorack compatible Model D clone…and with it the internet fire seemed to be suffocated by the lack of oxygen due to the communal gasps.

Some of the staunchest naysayers on the thread seemed to relax a little once Uli revealed it wasn’t going to be just a cheap 1:1 clone. Among the ashes of the weeks bickering and moderated comments, there were posts that say Behringer may have plans for another 20 synths. Wait, what?!

Fast forward a week, Uli has now teased that the OSCar and ARP 2600 are high on the priority list and I am personally over the moon! He left this comment on Gearslutz last night

“Aside from the Oscar synth, I can confirm that the 2600 is high on our priority list as it is a truly remarkable synth; I always wanted one for myself:-)

We are currently trying to acquire an original unit for benchmark purposes.

We hope we will be able to show you a first design draft within the next few weeks, while we’re studying the circuit diagrams to provide you with an estimated retail price.

Once ready we will reach out to you to see if there is enough interest.”

Considering I’m not rolling in dosh, I have never had the opportunity to play on any of these mythical beasts, and his projected price range is much more suitable for someone like myself. I personally don’t see these units taking any market share away from the likes of Moog as they are aimed at completely different price points and completely different customer bases that very rarely venture into each others gear territory.  Uli Behringer I salute you!

For more info be sure to head over to the Gearslutz forums, unfortunately some of the more colourful posts have been moderated but these threads are still a fantastic read.

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/electronic-music-instruments-electronic-music-production/1142144-behringer-mini-model-d-good-idea.html

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/electronic-music-instruments-electronic-music-production/1141074-what-synths-should-behringer-make-next.html

Uli’s post regarding the OSCar and ARP 2600:

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/electronic-music-instruments-electronic-music-production/1141074-what-synths-should-behringer-make-next-9.html#post12499056

If this little article has got your synth buds salivating, why not take a look at the oscillating goodness we have in store!

https://www.scan.co.uk/shop/pro-audio/instruments/synthesizers

Back To Black – Antelope Bring Out A New Addition To The ORION Family, The ORION32 HD

Bulgaria seems to be a bit of a busy place for Pro Audio at the moment with Antelope pushing out some absolutely fantastic gear and progressing on the software side of things at a staggering pace. The Balkan Mountains truly are alive with the sound of music…courtesy of Antelope’s pristine AD/DA conversion and supreme clocking!

Truth be told, it’s a pain (in a good way) keeping the content updated for their products, the guys and girls over at Antelope are like a machine, churning out updates to their FPGA based ecosystem of interfaces – giving their customers extra functionality and making additions to the free FPGA FX packages.

Enter the new addition to the family – the stunning looking ORION32 HD was announced at NAMM and I imagine Pro Tools HD users are pretty happy. It’s compatible with any DAW on the market via a HDX port or USB 3.0. This means no matter what you choose to use in the studio you can benefit from 64 channel 192kHz audio I/O, Zero Latency Monitoring, industry-leading AFC clocking and as you’d expect, flawless conversion. Throw in the usual plethora of connectivity such as ADAT, MADI, S/PDIF, Wordclock and mastering-grade Monitor outs and you have a beast of an interface. Now if you have a Pro Tools HD setup and a customer comes in with a laptop project made on Cubase, Logic or Presonus etc then you can simply use the USB port to integrate their project directly into your existing setup – no extra interfaces needed!

Coming back to the free FPGA FX package, if you’re not aware of it – Antelope have integrated a fine selection of free hardware-based vintage FX. The ever growing library includes hardware-based vintage EQ’s, compressors and Auraverb. The exquisite collections of Vintage EQ’s include authentic models of Lang PEQ-1, BAE 1073, 1084, 1023, UK-69 and many other classic British and German vintage units. If vintage compressors are more to your favour, how about a life-like model of the FET76 aka the legendary UREI 1176LN?

One more thing to note is the impressive software control. The routing matrix is pretty neat and even that has had some little tweaks over the last few software revisions to make it even easier to use. The control panel can be run on any machine on the network allowing for remote access to all the important stuff and as a side bonus, the control panel can be resized at will – its the little things that can make a huge difference in the right circumstances!

The ORION32 HD is available for pre-order at Scan Pro Audio, go take a look!

Soundtoys Join In The Freebie Goodness – Tremolator Plugin

It seems like Waves aren’t the only ones feeling generous this Black Friday, Soundtoys are giving away their oldschool Wurlitzer / Fender Vibrolux inspired tremolo plugin – Tremolator worth $129!

tremolator

“Need tremolo? We’ve got you covered. Tremolator emulates the tremolo effect of classic hardware like the old Fender Vibrolux guitar amp, and even the great tremolo sound of the Wurlitzer electric piano.

We added dynamic control of speed and depth that lets the tremolo respond to the music, and then tossed in MIDI sync to lock to your tremolo to tempo. Of course we also included our programmable Rhythm Editor that let’s you write custom patterns and turn Tremolator into a outrageous rhythmic auto-gate. Vintage guitar effect and modern remix tool at your service.”

tremolator-shape-tweak

Features:
– Unmatched auto-gate rhythmic control for a powerful remix tool.
– Lock to MIDI for tempo and beat-synced tremolo.
– Dynamic controls allow real-time musical and emotional expression.

Make sure to pick it up before the giveaway ends HERE

Waves Black Friday Giveaway – Supertap Analog Tape Delay!

Everybody loves a freebie and Waves have been nice enough to offer their analogue tape delay plugin – Supertap, for free this Black Friday!

Supertap

“Inspired by the legacy of the classic analog tape delays, SuperTap’s extensive modulation, panning, and filter options give it unprecedented processing power. Sync to your host tempo or tap it in; SuperTap gets you into the right groove.”

The plugin has the following features:
– Versatile delay and echo effects
– 2-Tap and 6-Tap components
– Tap-pad for tempo tapping or pattern switching
– Global LFO modulation and 2 feedback modes
– Spatial positioning vector display

Grab it while you can HERE