2023 Music Production Hardware: A Rundown of the Best Options For This Year

This 2023 list of hardware for music production is by no means exhaustive and each of the headings here could deserve a list in its own right. However, to kick off 2023, this article is a snapshot of the BEST hardware to consider across multiple categories. To make this list, gear had to be both affordable for the average home sound designer or producer, as well as stand out somehow in its niche. Read on for a brief look at ways to inject some new energy into your studio for 2023.

2023 Music Production: Best Hardware Drum Synth – Korg Volca Drum

This is a really affordable and staggeringly sophisticated little drum machine which makes the bold decision to generate its kick and snare sounds through digital FM synthesis as opposed to via samples. This isn’t the only drum machine in the Volca series but it is the most creative. Billed as Korg’s bold experiment in introducing you to new sounds on their website, it lives up to the hype there by totally delivering on its unusual features whilst still making them sound great. The Volca hits the sweet spot between innovation and crowd pleasing, which is no small feat and at a low budget is a seriously exciting and compact drum machine.        

Features: 

  • Sound produced digitally from a six part DSP engine 
  • Automate up to 69 parameters
  • Wavesculpting and waveguide resonator effect 
  • 2 layers per part for lush, sonorous undertones and overtones 
  • Slice and accent features 
  • Clean and intuitive LED screen to keep track of your work 
  • Layer isolation capacity to give you total control over undertones and overtones 
  • Compact and intuitive control matrix with connection to LED screen 
  • Can produce both drum and synth sounds 

Availability and price:  circa 150 USD from Korg’s website. You can also scoop a great deal on Reverb.com by clicking here.

2023 Best Hardware Sampler – Elektron Digitakt MKII

At over 600 USD, this isn’t a cheap sampler. Yet despite the fact it’s in the higher range of the price spectrum, it absolutely delivers on what it promises. The ability to use both internal tracks and external MIDI sources means that you have limitless creative possibilities, especially in terms of tonal and textural variety. This is a sampler which has the processing power to cope with your wildest sonic imaginings. 

Like with most Elektron products, the sequencer is also top notch and the Digitakt MKII could have taken a spot on this list based on that alone. However, where it really shines is its workflow, opportunities for streamlining your music making, and ability to encourage creative sampling due to how it seamlessly blends internal and external audio. 

Features: 

  • Cutting edge power and processing 
  • Combines 8 internal tracks with 8 external MIDI sources 
  • Over 400 factory samples
  • 23 drum kits 
  • Two LFOs for double the modulation 
  • Full processing for external audio sources including stereo capacity, reverb, and delay 
  • One basewidth and multimode filter each per audio track for ultimate variation of parameters
  • Stereo compression 
  • Ability to send reverb and delay 
  • Smooth yet gritty high quality overdrive 

Availability and price: arround 800 USD, and available from their website. Also available on Reverb in both new and second hand options – click here.

Best Music Production Hardware Sequencer 2023 – AKAI Professional MPC One

AKAI actually developed the term MPC, standing for MIDI Production Center. The MPC One is basically a standalone sequencer and workstation, which can create beats and loops plus also lets you compose melodies both from built in samples and from your own sample uploads. Where it stands out is in its compactness and versatility; it really shines even when away from the rest of your studio equipment.

In fact, AKAI are adept at making gear which helps you be flexible. Their products are easily adaptable to the rest of your gear and always high quality at great value for money. Indeed, they’re still relatively underrated and you can check out another of their best offerings here where we cover the MPK mini MKII MIDI controller. The MPC One offers the same level of connection and fluidity in a standalone workstation.

Demos show how it can be used to create full fledged, seamless, and modern beats but there’s a lot more to it than just that. The MPC One Standalone lets you access you Splice library and other sound files too, so you can take your favourite sounds with you. Just remember it needs to be plugged in at a socket.

Features: 

  • Looping, sampling, and arpeggiation 
  • 16 backlit pads for playing at all venues 
  • Ability to sync with your MIDI technology in the studio 
  • Totally modern up to date sounds capable of producing trap beats or old school melodies 
  • The single most compact MPC from AKAI yet
  • Standalone capability makes it an ideal workstation for on the go 
  • Built in drum programs with a leaning towards urban and dance music but with real creative potential for all musicians 

Availability and price: Ranging from 700 to 850 USD. Not available on their site but can be purchased from all good retailers such as Andertons and Thomann. If you want to support the channel, use this link to buy from Reverb – we get a small kickback. 

Best Overall Synth – Uno Synth Pro From IK Multimedia

If there had to be one lesser-known modern synth to make this list as the absolute best recently updated machine, it’s the Uno Synth Pro from IK Multimedia. Although not a synthesis heavyweight such as Korg or Behringer in terms of output, this affordable and intuitive little synth has been met with rave reviews despite or perhaps because of features like it’s potentially polarising capacitive touchplate keys.

Plus, IK Multimedia also offers the Uno as a tabletop synth, which is a great dealbreaker if you have limited space or a small studio. 

Features: 

  • Variable waveshape oscillators 
  • FM and ring modulation 
  • Hyper-connectivity including midi inputs and outputs plus ability to connect audio input directly to FX and filters 
  • Studio grade delay and reverb 
  • Weighted keyboard
  • Free mac/pc editor 
  • Comes in black or red 

Availability and price: 300-350 USD for the desktop version and available from their website, and also on Reverb.com – click here to see the deals.    

Final Thoughts

This music production hardware roundup for 2023 obviously doesn’t cover every great bit of gear out there – just some of the most interesting in each category. Some entries could have easily taken a different spot, and the beauty of music is there are no hard and fast rules. However, these were chosen due to both their high quality, value, but also for their potential for inspiration to ensure new musical beginnings for the upcoming year. Happy music making!

Love music hardware? We have a whole section here.

80s Music Synths Re-created – The Best Modern Gear Inspired by the Golden Age of Synthesis

80s music synths range from the classic Yamaha DX7 which pioneered FM synthesis, to the Roland 808 drum machine. Most of the legendary synths which defined the era are now discontinued. However, these modern machines which weigh in at budget prices to top-of-the-range will have you feeling similarly inspired.

80s Music Synths – Best FM synth: The Korg Volca FM

When FM synthesis entered the market, it changed the course of music and gave rise to a reputation for being difficult to understand or work with. Decades on, FM is now a staple part of the synthesis and the Korg Volca FM does an amazing job at resurrecting the heyday of FM, especially the sounds of the classic Yamaha DX7. In fact, a short introductory video on their website from chief engineer Tatsuya Takahashi reveals it is fully DX7 compatible, meaning DX7 patches can actually be loaded onto the Volca. 

Important Specs: 

  • 3 voice polyphony
  • Multi-touch keyboard
  • 16-step sequencer with warp, pattern chain, and active step controls 
  • MIDI connection and ability to convert files created on the Yamaha DX7 
  • Ability to edit modulator, LFO, carrier, and algorithm parameters
  • Brilliant, DX7-inspired FM synthesis 
  • 9 arpeggiator types
  • Poly, unison, and random voice modes

Price and Availability: 194 USD, available from Korg’s website or dealers. You may also get a great deal on Reberb.com by clicking this link.

80s Music Synths – Best Drum Machine: The Roland TR – 08

The Original Roland 808 drum machine has been the subject of many clones over the years. Its legendary status as the first drum machine which allowed users to program their own rhythms means it is a popular source of inspiration, though not all homages are created equal. However, the TR-08 really succeeds in reviving everything which made the 808 special as a drum machine in itself – not just as the first machine of its kind but as one of the best. With its own character which came through tone variations and analogue warmth. Roland’s Analogue Circuit Behaviour means the TR-08 does it’s predecessor justice.

Important Specs: 

  • Directly modelled after the 808 with the original design sheets. 
  • Powerful sequencer with 16 sub-steps per step
  • Deliberately built to capture the quirks of the original 808 such as tone variations
  • 16 kits and 11 instrument types 
  • Inspiration from both the 808 and the Tr – 909 drum machines 
  • 16 pads and LED display 
  • Assignable analogue outputs and full parallel outputs via USB 

Price and Availability: Find a dealer feature on Roland’s website and also available on Reverb.com – click here.

Behringer Deepmind 12 – Best Emulation

The Behringer Deepmind 12 takes inspiration from the classic Juno 106 for a versatile beginner synth to get creative juices flowing. It’s modelled off the 106, and Behringer has indeed made a name for themselves by emulating classic synths with high quality and at a fraction of the price. However, the Deepmind 12 is a hybrid which stands out with its fully analogue signal chain which differs from the Juno with its two digitally controlled oscillators.

In some ways, the Deepmind 12 can sound more 80s than the most famous 80s music synths themselves. It has the ability to switch from super fat, lush, warm tones to futuristic, space-age arpeggiation. Ultimately, it fully deserves a spot on this list as a power-packed synth, ready for inspiration from both classic 80s synth pop and descendant genres.

Important Specs: 

  • FX from Klark Technik and TC Electronic, including delay, flanger, comp, EQ, phaser, plus room, hall, plate, rich plate and the 80s classic gated reverb 
  • Two VCOs and 12 independent voices 
  • Variable pulse width and modulation depth 
  • Three-octave range
  • Unison mode
  • Mono, poly and spread modes on LFOs
  • Stereo VCA
  • Modulation matrix
  • Arpeggiator
  • Chord and polychord features 
  • 8 banks of 128 programs

Price and Availability: Available from Behringer’s dealers, but you may also find a great deal on Reberb.com by clicking on this link.

Best Bass Synth: The Moog Minitaur

Moogs have made a well-deserved comeback with features which perfectly suit the sub-genres spawned by New Wave and goth at the tail end of the 80s, plus the current 80s revival in general.

For the pulsing bass and memorable riffs of much of New Wave, the Minitaur totally delivers a great value-for-money synth which has all the quality and nostalgia of a the old Moog Taurus without breaking the bank. The ability to poly-chain with other Moogs is a big plus, as is the Minitaur Editor which allows parameter control by MIDI. Ultimately, the Minitaur manages to be technologically intuitive whilst still having a creative, driven sound that will completely draw you in.

Important Specs: 

  • Polychaining ability
  • Pitch bend, mod wheel, after pressure, and velocity
  • 2 VCOs, square and saw waveforms
  • oscillator hard sync
  • ability to integrate with your DAW with the librarian feature
  • space for 128 presets
  • ultra fat analogue bass with tons of character
  • super snappy ASDR
  • 20 hidden parameters such as Note Sync
  • Ability to control all knob features by MIDI

Price and Availability: Coming in at 599 USD, this is Moog’s most affordable synth and is available from all good retailers such as Thomann, Andertons, or Sweetwater. You may want to also explore Reberb.com – click here.

80s Music Synths – Best Hybrid: The Arturia Minifreak

The 80s were a decade which saw many musical innovations including the change from just analogue to digital options after the introduction of FM synthesis in 1983. To emulate the range of sounds available in the 80s, a hybrid synth is always a good choice. We’ve covered the Arturia Microfreak as one of the best beginner synths specifically for guitarists getting into synthesis. However, the Arturia Minifreak is a step-up hybrid synth which means you have the best of both worlds. 

Important Specs: 

  • Dual digital engines and analogue filters 
  • Destroy features offers the ability to replicate classic retro video game sounds  
  • 14 modelled filters 
  • Analogue modelled strings
  • Blend frequency and ring modulation 
  • Saw, square, sine, and triangle waves 
  • 6 voice polyphony (compared to the microfreak’s paraphonic capacities)

Price and Availability: Ranging from 599 to 699 USD and available from all good retailers such as Sweetwater and Andertons. Also worth checking options available on Reverb by clicking here. And if you buy using that link, we get a small kickback so you will be supporting our work and this website.

Final Thoughts

Many of the legendary synths of the 80s are now discontinued and can only be found second-hand at a high price. However, these modern synths will give you a similar sound and feel whilst still being accessible. In this way, you can take inspiration from one of the most important decades for innovations in music tech – and fall in love with new gear which will open up a wealth of different creative routes to go down.  

Love physical hardware you can really play with? We have a whole hardware section dedicated to just that.

Best New Hardware Synths: A Guide to the Top Three Instruments released in the recent years

The best new hardware synths call is a difficult choice to make. Finally rounding it down to three options, this article looks at what makes these synths stand a cut above the rest. To find out the results of this difficult choice and draw in some inspiration for the new year, read on.

Teenage Engineering OP-1 Tenth Anniversary New Edition

Ten years ago the OP-1 made waves for its unparalleled creativity and now it’s been re-released for its tenth anniversary. Modelled off a pocket calculator, it has more unique points than possible to list. The Op-1 has ultimately become one of the most talked-about releases of recent years – so let’s take a look at why…

Teenage Engineering Op-1 Tenth Anniversary Edition: Features Included

Don’t let the size of this little synth mislead you! Courtesy of the classic creativity of Teenage Engineering, it has a neat and efficient selection of features, including the following…

  • mixer and FX – it has a four-channel mixer with 7 distinct stereo FX to apply to your sound, giving effortless numbers of sonic permutations.
  • a wide range of synthesis options ranging from string synthesis (physically modelled) to FM Synthesis – 10 in total
  • unique fingerprint to EVERY OP-1 due to the fact its ‘DNA synthesis’ feature is modelled on a machine’s unique processor ID. No two machines sound the same! This is broken down further in one of their blog posts and is essentially a noise synth, but with a difference.
  • works as both a synthesizer, sampler, and sequencer
  • controller mode changes the synth into a portable MIDI controller
  • disc mode allows the export of sounds made on the OP-1 as separate tracks to be stored on your computer

Best new Hardware Synths: What Makes the OP-1 Stand Out From the Rest?

The OP-1 is billed as ‘the portable wonder synthesizer’ by Teenage Engineering and it’s not hard to see why. It is versatile enough that it has been used by both Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails as well as French ambient and electronic musician Jean Michel Jarre.

A real innovation is how you can use its FM radio feature as a form of input, meaning you can sample real radio stations and then modulate them with the synth’s effects. the possibilities are endless – ultimately, this is just a snapshot of what has made the OP-1 so popular.

Price and Availability:

At the time of writing, the Op-1 Tenth Anniversary Edition costs 1683 USD and is available from Teenage Engineering’s official website. You can also check the options available on Reverb.com by clicking this link.

Best New Hardware Synths: Behringer 2600 – A Much Needed Gap in the Market

The Behringer 2600 is a version of the 1970s classic ARP 2600, updated for the modern age. This is a synth which plays with nostalgia yet remains innovative. It comes in three colours – black and orange, also known as Christmas Tree, Blue Marvin, and Grey Meanie. The synth is semi-modular, so if you’ve always wanted to get into modular synthesis it makes both a great intermediary as well as a fantastic value high-quality synth in itself.

Behringer 2600: Features Included

For a full breakdown of features, visit Behringer’s website. However, the below is just an example of what the 2600 offers for different purposes…

  • 3 VCOs which also double as LFOs, VCA, and VCF
  • Completely analogue circuitry modelled off the original ARP 2600
  • Semi-modular synthesis possibilities don’t require patching, although the Behringer 2600 also offers the option of 83 patch cables for those who really want to shape their own sound
  • Attenuator, mixer, inverter and post-filter distortion, and other interesting creative options
  • Noise generator
  • ring modular, lag processor, sample and hold modules and much more

What Makes the Behringer 2600 Stand Out From the Rest?

Ultimately the Behringer 2600’s only competition is the Korg 2600, which is much, much more expensive, clocking in at over 1000 USD. The original ARP 2600 was responsible for classic seventies tones and fat bass sounds. If you want a budget replica, the Behringer is your only real option, but it’s a very good one.

However, this synth also stands out on its own merit. It manages to be both a crowd-pleaser and an innovative homage, and its semi-modular capabilities and technical possibilities make it an option for modern styles of all kinds too.

Behringer 2600 Price and Availability:

Currently, the Behringer 2600 sits in the 400 to 600 USD price range and is available from a variety of retailers including Andertons, Thomann, and Sweetwater. For other options including second hand, click here to check out our partner Reverb. We get a small kickback if you use this link to buy so you will be supporting this website.

Arturia MiniFreak: Best New Hardware Synths – Keyboard Synthesis

And to round up the list, we have chosen the Arturia MiniFreak, adding a keyboard synth to the top three. The MiniFreak has been subject to rave reviews and when you take a look at what it includes for the price, it’s not hard to see why.

The Arturia MiniFreak: Features Included

The MiniFreak excels at being intuitive with its keyboard and OLED screen, however, it has many other draws to it such as the following:

  • two LFOs
  • 6-voice polyphony
  • ability to modulate everything up to and including filters, FX, and sound engines
  • FX ranging from bitcrusher, multi-comp, 3-band EQ, phaser, flanger, distortion, reverb, and delay
  • randomisation capacity for all new permutations of sound
  • chord mode which turns notes into chord stacks
  • scale mode ensures effortless harmonisation
  • OLED display
  • USB capability
  • stereo outputs
  • can work with MacOS 10.13+ as well as Windows 10+ (64-bit)

Best New Hardware Synths: What Makes the Arturia MiniFreak Stand Out From the Rest?

Described on Arturia’s site as producing sounds which are ‘curious, beautiful, and chaotic’, this keyboard synth generates stunning results at a low price. The MiniFreak is clearly branded as non-linear and creative, with a ‘modulation matrix’ which can modulate virtually any part of the signal. Basically, this synth is designed to give you fluidity and intuition. If you want high-quality sound and an artsy, left-field bias, the MiniFreak offers plenty of possibilities.

Price and Availability:

The MiniFreak can be bought from Arturia’s website for 599 EU (628 USD) but alternatively you can get it from Reverb.com by clicking here.

Final Thoughts:

Choosing the top three new hardware synths was not an easy task. However, this roundup offers both the pinnacle of classic mini synths with the OP-1 as well as two other options which won’t break the bank.

if you liked this but still want to look at more options for hardware synths, we have a whole selection here in our hardware section.

Build Your Own Synth: Intro to Erica Synths mki x es.EDU Series

Ever wanted to build your own synth? Erica Synths’ mki x es.EDU series allows you to do just that. In this way, it’s both a project and a way to learn modular synthesis from a hands-on perspective. In this way, you can really familiarise yourself with how signal chains and sound design works, too. Read on to find out more about this exciting new way of getting to grips with modular synthesis.

mki x es.EDU: What Exactly Is Involved?

Modular synthesis has a reputation for being challenging. However, it’s ideal to learn with as it breaks down the signal chain. Moritz Klein has been providing accessible synth-building information for a while now, but their collaboration with Erica Synths is like nothing they’ve done before. It helps bridge the gap between technical knowledge of synthesis, and using it fluently as a musician.

Any modular synth is comprised of different modules which are then patched together by connecting cables to alter the signal flow. These include LFOs, VCAs, and envelope generators. Together they give the input a number of interesting pathways through which to travel, altering the soundwave as it goes. The mki x es.EDU series allows you to build each of the 9 models separately. As a result, you end up with a fully formed modular synth which you are ALREADY super familiar with – inside and out.

What makes the series so great for hands on learning is it doesn’t introduce any technology of its own. Instead, it just picks from the best available. This means as you go along, you learn familiar components of modular synthesis AND get a snapshot of what modules are out there for future reference. The sample and hold module, for example, is less commonplace than an envelope generator, but after building it, you will have this in your arsenal to be able to freely experiment with. 

Build Your Own Synth: Technical Specifications

  • What does it include? 

The mki x es.EDU (Moritz Klein x Erica Synths) system includes a Eurorack case for the synth as a whole plus three sets of braided patch cables comprised of 5 pieces each of different lengths. In addition, the synth modules included are as follows:

  • VCO (voltage controlled oscillator)
  • VCA (voltage controlled amplifier)
  • Envelope Generator
  • VCF (voltage controlled filter
  • Sequencer
  • Mixer
  • Noise Generator/Sample and Hold module
  • Wavefolder
  • Output

So, How Does it Fit Together?

Erica Synths released each module alongside a detailed instruction manual every 4 to 6 months. Now all modules are out, you could in theory order them all in one go. However, it could also work to build each module separately and really get to grips with it. Either way, you end up with a fully working modular synth.

  • What’s it like as a synth?

The series is meant to be educational, as opposed to a game-changing modular synth. However, the mki x es.EDU modular synth is both creative and high quality. The wavefolder module, for example, is designed to make simple waveforms more complex. ES is great at introducing musicians to concepts not found on the mainstream market. The sample and hold module is also a great addition. Here, the company knows how to create interest in a way which is both simple and educational.

The kit is also value for money. As you build it yourself, its quality is obvious, but Erica Synths have a history of creating well-designed synths which are value-for-money. The mki x es.EDU series lives up to this.

How Does the Learning Process Work?

On the Erica Synths website, the page for each module has a selection of videos. These are both introductory but also take you through some of the construction processes. They include official ones from Moritz Klein, as well as samples of users putting the synth together themselves.

The instruction manual for each module is available for download as a pdf. It does a pretty good job at approaching the topic, both for absolute beginners – and for those with prior experience.

The manual includes the absolute basics, such as an introduction to using a breadboard. Additionally, it breaks down the fundamental concepts that synth building requires. Even if you’re completely new, it’s approachable and breaks down what comprises a synth internally. Between this and the variety of resources out there, Moritz Klein and Erica Synths have left no stone unturned when it comes to making something which works for everyone.

Build Your Own Synth: mki x es.EDU Pros and Cons

  • Pro: Suits multiple styles of learning

Moritz Klein has been making accessible introductions to synthesis for a long while. In fact, they have posted plenty of videos online on this topic.

We all know how some musicians can perfectly read music and follow along. Others have to take the song apart and get into the details before they can learn it from scratch. 

Luckily, the mki x es.EDU series caters to both. Its instruction manuals have good text-based explanations. Its handly flow diagrams make it useful for those who prefer to work visually, too. Additionally, the synth-building process itself really breaks things down if you prefer a hands-on way. And just to be on the safe side, there are plenty of video tutorials online.

  • Pro: Transferrable skills

One bonus of the synth-building project is it allows you to develop transferrable skills. By using it, you are understanding sound right down to the bare bones. This happens in a way which only comes from building a synth from scratch on a practical level. As a result, you gain the knowledge needed to work with sound more competently. This can extend to recording, mixing, mastering, and other music and sampling. Deeply understanding things like signal flow can make your production work smoother, too. Ultimately, the amount of extra skills you gain from the series is a real draw. 

  • Potential Con: Investment if unsure 

The only downside is that it is a big project. If you’re not sure whether it’s something you want to commit to, it’s probably better to start smaller. That said, it is also a unique birthday or Christmas gift. Its novelty factor is part of this. It’s also just really high quality – perfect for the synth lover in your life. so in many ways, rewards outweigh the risks.

Interested in the synth? You can check reverb.com for it by clicking here.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately this is one of the most exciting synths out there on the market. There isn’t much out there like it. Synthesis – and especially modular synthesis, can be hard to break into. High in technical terms, it can be daunting for a beginner. The combined creativity of Erica Synths, with Moritz Klein’s prior experience introducing newcomers, makes a powerful combination. This is a rare hands-on experience which provides fundamental knowledge. As a result, it makes a huge difference in developing your skills

Love hardware synths? We have a great collection which we’ve covered in our hardware section.

Access Virus Synths: Why these Vintage Synths Are Still Relevant and A Guide to Their Range

Amongst vintage synths, the Access Virus line is a real gem. These are highly versatile, with a varied cultural legacy. In fact, they have been used by Tool, Butch Vig, and Garbage, as well as Richard Barbieri of Porcupine Tree. Yet they have also graced the tracks of Neptunes and Mary J Blige, Stevie Wonder, Fatboy Slim, and Nsync. Even Hans Zimmer has used them. Read on to find out what makes these synths so appealing to musicians of all stripes.

What Synths Are Included in the Access Virus Line?

  • Virus TI: Desktop, Polar, Snow, and Keyboard

Perhaps the most publicised part of the TI series, these were released in 2005. Snow and Desktop are small enough to keep by your computer. Polar is larger with 37 keys and Keyboard is the largest of all with a lush 61 keys. They also have:

  • Two independent multi mode filters with an analogue filter modelled after the Minimoog
  • 3 LFOs with 68 Waveforms
  • Knob quantising which syncs to the Virus clock
  • 192 Parallel effects
  • 512 RAM patches
  • Virus A, B, and C series

These were early editions of the Access Virus line when customers first discovered its fantastic features. Unlike the TI series, these do not feature wavetable synthesis. However, Access Virus A, for example, features 12-note polyphony and all basic analogue waveforms. Yet, its gritty, analogue sound is what really makes it a favourite.

  • Virus TI2

Released in 2009, the T12 features faster DSP controllers and additional polyphony. Like all in the line, it is a virtual analogue synthesiser. Otherwise, it is roughly similar to the TI series.

  • General traits of the range

As a general pattern, the filters and oscillators of these synths help them hit a sweet spot between genres. Their high-quality german manufacturing means they can cope with many different oscillators and effects. All models use a mix of techniques from FM synthesis, phase distortion, and subtractive synthesis. This design on the part of inventor Christoph Kemper unifies customers through love for quality as opposed to genre. Indeed, it also allows for new, cross-genre experimentation and super creative composition all on the same machine.

The Virus family of synths are widely available as second hand purchases on Reverb.com. You can check the current prices by clicking here.

What Else Makes Access Virus Synths so Great?

  • Combination of sounds

Another way Access manages to encompass different facets of music is through its VSTs. These allow you to connect your hardware synth to your DAW and store data directly on the sound files there. It’s a revolutionary way of working, meaning Access keeps what’s great about analogue yet also keeps pace with DAW-based production.

These synths are capable of creating a level of depth and variety as good as the options on any DAW. It’s super impressive in its ruggedness and processing power and some models in the line have up to ten different oscillators. Filters and FX such as wah and fuzz add layers of sound without exhausting your synth. These are really, really high-quality synths which Access has done its best to keep compatible with modern musicians’ habits. 

  • Keeps the pace with modern technology

Access Virus first hit the market in the 90s during the boom in DPU chip usage. This allowed for greater processing power and ambitious sets of sounds which were bigger and bolder. However, this DPU processing can easily keep pace with the average CPU needed on a DAW-created project. As a result, they are super relevant even today. In fact, when rigged up to a VST on your DAW, the Access Virus synths can save processing power. How? They actually do a lot of the work at the hardware end. This condenses the sound so when it reaches your master bus there isn’t too much data to handle. 

  • Complex and creative sounds

The raw material the musician is given with these synths allows for exciting and complex sound. To achieve this, Virus’s virtual VCOs range from sine to square waves, with 63 synthetic, spectral waveforms, a programmable filter section, and matrix modulation. Its legendary processing power also supports (on the TI):

  • between 20-90 voices on it’s dual DSP system
  • 6 balanced outputs
  • 26 banks of 128 ROM patches
  • A unique business model

The last major bonus of the Access Virus line is that they occupy a unique market niche. They are the only line of synths on the market which offer total system updates. These upgrades, overhauls, and other innovations actually come completely for free. Here, you can buy a product made 20 years ago and get entirely new sets of filters charge-free. Access is only able to do this because they are upfront about the fact that they are a premium product. They don’t hesitate to price their synths high. Nevertheless, for those who are willing to make the investment once, this pays off with future rewards. 

The Virus family of synths are widely available as second hand purchases on Reverb.com. You can check the current prices by clicking here.

Are There Any Downsides?

Perhaps the only complaint against Access Virus is they are a risky investment. Some fans have found that little support from the developers leaves them adrift. Others have discovered that there is no support at all for the VSTs. This isn’t necessarily a huge surprise. Access also focuses on other products such as guitars and is also the mind behind Kemper, so they’re pretty busy. It does mean, however, if you’re about to shell out for one of these synths it’s best to be certain about it. At prices of about 1200 plus USD – it’s really worth having a bit of experience behind you and a working studio setup beforehand. 

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. This vintage product shows how relatively recently the approach to music tech and sound design was very different. In some ways, Acces Virus shows synths used to be made of deeper stuff. Although financially accessible synths like the Korg Minilogue still had great hardware, the Access Virus opens sound designers’ eyes. These synths create a whole new world of musical layering. This really is from-scratch sound design on a totally different level. Even if they’re not in your price bracket, these synths are worth investigating for inspiration alone.

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Bleass Omega: A User Friendly FM Synth with a Twist

The Bleass Omega is a perfect introduction to user-friendly FM synthesis. How come the Bleass Omega is so good at introducing guitarists to synthesis in general? Here, Bleass break down FM Synthesis, which is reputed to be trickier to get the hang of than analogue. The Bleass Omega markets itself as a user-friendly FM synth. FM synthesis became known as difficult to master due to its technicality. FM synths were also known for sometimes requiring the musician to already have a working knowledge of sonic terminology. This meant it was challenging to get exactly what you wanted, especially with early FM synths like the Yamaha DX7. Whilst these synths were legendary, they were nevertheless tricky to pick up. The Bleass Omega does away with all this. Instead, it provides a slick, clean interface which is already friendly towards newcomers to FM synthesis. 

What Makes the Bleass Omega Perfect for User-Friendly FM Synthesis

Fm synthesis stands for frequency modulation. FM synthesisers use a tone to modulate the frequency of a soundwave and change its pitch. This means Fm synthesis relies much more on an in-depth knowledge of the way sound is built up. Sometimes, this can include what exactly is going on within the oscillator. What the Bleass Omega does is break down the process visually for you. Therefore, it demonstrates what is happening within the oscillators and to the soundwave onscreen. It is smooth, easy to use, and attractive looking. The interface also compartmentalises the process via colour coding. As a result, it is easy to see what is happening at exactly each stage of the signal chain. 

User-Friendly FM Synthesis for iPad and iPhone

What Bleass have also done is adapted the Bleass Omega for iPad and iPhone. Fancied a high-power, authentic, yet user-friendly FM synthesis right on your handheld device? This is not a simple app with a basic replica of the main plugin. Instead, this is the real deal and includes everything needed. Bleass manages to do this by placing its focus on streamlining FM synthesis. As a result, the versions for iPad and iPhone are equally good as the desktop version for composing while travelling. 

Features of the Bleass Omega: User-Friendly FM Synthesis at Your Fingertips

  • Contains a chorus processor, tremolo effect, tempo-synchronisable delay processor, flexible reverb processor, motion sequencer, configurable length and randomness,
  • Available LFO waveforms – sine, triangle, saw up, saw down, square and sample-and-hold.
  • LFO visualation
  • Assignable ADSR envelope
  • 9 different shaping algorithms on the waveshaper
  • Choose from 11 FM algorithms, with colour-coded graphical representations to help with your choice. Each algorithm corresponds to a different routing of the four FM operators. Here, the flow starts at the top of the diagram and working downwards. Where operators are linked, the upper operator(s) modulate the frequency of the lower operator(s).
  • Transpose and fine-tune the synth using the Octave and Tune controls

This is just a small part of what’s available with the Bleass Omega. For a full breakdown, head to their website by clicking here.

Bleass Omega and MPE Technology (MIDI Polyphonic Extraction)

Like the Bleass Alpha, its user-friendly analogue subtractive synthesis counterpart, the Bleass Omega has MIDI polyphonic extraction or MPE. More on this is outlined in the article on the Bleass Alpha. This recent development allows synths to create bends, slides, and other sounds similar to those on the guitar. This is what made our review of the Bleass alpha so geared towards it as a beginner synth for guitarists. However, if you want to explore FM synthesis, the Bleass Omega suits anyone looking to easily create unusual sounds. In fact, the combination of FM synthesis and MPE is a powerful one. Bleass has taken advantage of this, as there aren’t that many FM synths with MPE on the market. Furthermore, the Omega is one of the most user-friendly of the lot. In addition, the kinds of timbres and textures which FM synthesis creates work well with the features of MPE.

The Bleass Omega can also be purchased as a bundle and individually. This comes with multiple presets. These are part of user-friendly FM synthesis as a whole, but they also work well as starting points. The designers have really taken care to showcase how FM and MPE work together. Therefore, you don’t mind spending the extra money, these bundles provide almost everything for you. 

Bleass Omega System Requirements and Price

The Bleass Omega requires Windows 8 and later on PC, AAX, and 64-bit VST3. On Mac it requires iOS 10.9 or later, AAX, VST3, or AU. It is compatible with all DAWs which can run VST3, AU, or AAX.

You can check the price and buy the Bleass Omega over at our friends at Pluginboutique by clicking here. You will be helping this website a lot buy buying it using this link.

Bleass Omega Interface: How Come the Bleass Omega is So Easy to Understand?

Is the Bleass Omega really as user-friendly as the website makes out? Synthesis is a huge and varied topic. Therefore, manufacturers – unless they are marketing towards the pros – make their products easy for bedroom sound designers to use. What makes or breaks a synth is whether you can use it to produce a real variety of sounds. This comes down to whether it is flexible as opposed to just providing shortcuts via a variety of presets. This is what really separates the Bleass Omega from other so-called user-friendly FM synths on the market.

With its interface, even those unfamiliar with FM synthesis can understand what is happening the soundwave. This allows musicians to mentally build a connection between the things they see on screen and the sounds they produce. And this is especially important for user-friendly FM synthesis. It can create many sounds and timbres which you cannot make with subtractive, analogue or semi-analogue synthesis. As a result, FM synth users often find they are really searching for a specific tone. By breaking down the soundwave visually, Bleass has made it easy to remember the steps to creating sound. This way, musicians can get what they want without shooting in the dark.

Final Thoughts

The Bleass omega does for FM synthesis what the Bleass alpha does for analogue. They are both excellent synth plugins for streamlining the synthesis process. Their focus seems to be on making it easy to visualise exactly how the sound is changing. They don’t boast anything flashy, but the designers have thought them through and they are great at simplifying a complex process. This ability to cut through complexity by the designers also means they include MPE technology without complicating things. Instead, they integrate it seamlessly as another possibility available. At the same time, they have kept the interface easy to navigate. Therefore, you can retrace your steps if you hit upon a really fantastic sound which is too good to waste. 

You can check the price and buy the Bleass Omega over at our friends at Pluginboutique by clicking here. You will be helping this website a lot buy buying it using this link.

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Easy Granular Synthesis: Portal’s New Granular Synth

Previously on idesignsound.com, we covered granular synthesis with the Lemondrop mini synth. You can read that review here. This synth has introduced many musicians to the concept and made it intuitive, easy to use, and attractive. There aren’t actually that many granular synths on the market, but another of these is the portal granular synth. This synth is very different from the Lemondrop. Instead, it is a digital VST which works on DAWs such as logic. However, the makers have designed it similarly intuitively to the folks at 1010 music. This is because they know that fewer people know of granular synthesis than some of its counterparts. As a result, they realised it was important to translate this type of synthesis. This led to a smooth, clean, and easy-to-use synth so that it is accessible to every kind of musician. 

What Does Granular Synthesis Involve?

Ultimately, granular synthesis is a kind of synthesis which involves samples. Granular synthesis chops up samples of real-life sounds and mixes and matches them at very small sizes, known as granules. Each granule makes up part of the soundwave. By manipulating these granules you can sculpt and shape them to create a sound of the desired timbre, tone, and texture. It is so precise, this can be anything you may want.

Granular synthesis is very different from the classic forms of synthesis which arose in the 80-s and 70s. Instead, it is perfect for creating space age, alien, or otherwise more underground and unusual sounds. This is really a type of synthesis for audiophiles who enjoy constantly seeking the best kinds of new sounds. It also suits artists who are looking for something really special 

Granular synthesis allows the artist an unprecedented amount of control over the shape of the sound. It offers an entirely new way of looking at soundwaves. Instead of the wave as a whole, fluid thing, granular synthesis breaks it down to its absolute building blocks. This means you can get to grips with exactly how to create sound. Ultimately, it can show you fractal patterns and meta arrangements of new sounds. These help you really get to see what makes a sound harsh or soft, light or dark, etc. 

What Does the Interface of the Portal Granular Synth Look Like?

The interface focuses mainly on a circle which allows you to actually map out the different grains of sound. This way you can see how they interact with each other to create the sounds you are making. There’s a drop-down menu on the left-hand side, which offers you many presets that appeal to adventurous artists. This includes really weird, glitchy, and otherwise unpo[pular or unusual sounds. These can add just that little extra something to your new track.

With a simple drag of the mouse, you can affect the amount of granulation. It also lets you turn knobs and dials for the more conventional effects such as tape delay. In this way it is like you would find on any other synth. Not only can you use it as an instrument in itself, but it can also combine it creatively with vocals. This further allows you to alter sounds in a really unusual way. 

You can check the price and buy the Portal Granular Synth + some cool presets over at our friends at Pluginboutique by clicking here. You will be helping this website a lot buy buying it using this link.

How Does Portal create Such Easy Granular Synthesis?

Luckily, the designers at Portal know that most of their customers will be new to granular synthesis. Therefore, they have made it easy for you. It has over 250 presets, all of which are seriously good in themselves. The portal granular synth is interesting based on those alone. However, it really excels at tempo-based granulation. The designers of this synth made it with the knowledge that timbre and tone do not exist in isolation. Portal wants all your tracks to really hook together and get into the groove. A value readout panel also helps you get to grips with controls. Luckily, due to the way it breaks everything down, this is a perfect synth for learning transferrable skills. You can then use these on other granular synths.

A time manipulation control really shows you how your sound waves interact with tempo. Furthermore, an XY-based control lets you plot sound systematically against these axes so you can actually visualise it. Seven built-in FX, a master compressor, and scale-based pitch modulation also add to it. All in all, this makes a super slick machine which can take you on a whirlwind tour of granular synthesis. With this, there is no doubt it will then become your trusty companion. 

Requirements to Use the Portal Granular Synth:

AAX, AU, VST and VST3 versions included

Mac OS X 10.9 or higher
Windows 7 or higher
32 and 64-bit compatible (PC)
4GB of RAM required, 8GB recommended
At least 300 MB of free drive space

And at 131 GBP (156.59 USD) it’s actually a really affordable synth. This is mostly due to the fact it is relatively unrelated and that the market hasn’t given it much publicity yet. In terms of innovation, granular synths tend to be high end. Therefore, along with the Lemondrop from 1010 music this is one of the best and most affordable out there. In fact, it provides not just an introduction ot granular synthesis but also lets you explore it further.

Final Thoughts on the Portal Granular Synth

This synth doesn’t boast any historical credentials. It isn’t modelled off a classic piece of gear. The design team also doens’t include any particularly notable minds. However, it doesn’t need it, and for what it is, it works really well within itself. It does what it needs to do, yet excells at it. Furthermore, it takes on a little known part of synthesis and makes it accessible. This is no easy feat.

Sometimes analogue or analogue modelled synths are subject to high standards. They tend to have a lot of history to live up to. However, musicians often overlook what can be doen with just a DAW in mind. This is a powerful example of a really good digital example of a synth that can hold so much possibility. The designers also haven’t felt the need to include huge amounts of complicated features. They are instead safe in the knowledge that the style of their product really is enough to turn heads. In the end, actually doesn’t need anything more. The portal granular synth is available from the portal website for download. 

You can check the price and buy the Portal Granular Synth + some cool presets over at our friends at Pluginboutique by clicking here. You will be helping this website a lot buy buying it using this link.

Synthesis for Guitarists: How to go from playing guitar to sound design with synths

If you choose to go from playing guitar to using synths in your music, you may think at first that it is a big step. Nevertheless, some similarities between guitar playing and synthesis make synthesis for guitarists much easier. Read on to find out more about these and how you can use them in your own work. This is especially true if you are investigating using synthesis in sound design for the first time.

Synthesis for guitarists is different to synthesis for other musicians. It is a lot easier to go to synthesis from programming beats than it is from playing guitar.. The reason why? When playing guitar, the musician affects tone and timbre with their fingers. Whilst guitar still involves adjusting knobs, there is much more control over tone simply by the guitarist handling the strings. However, guitarists can adapt to synthesis more easily by following a few simple tips. With these, you can easily create the same kind of feeling as your favourite Fender or Gibson.

Synthesis for guitarists: Find Your Tone

As a guitarist, it is likely you pay attention to tone. Tone is that hard to pin down quality which can make the difference between good and bad guitar playing. It is as much about the guitarist themselves as it is about the instrument. Many factors affect tone, from temperature, to air pressure, and the age of the guitar itself. With both analogue and digital synthesis, the musician will gain more control over tone and can remove this random variability.

With synthesis, musicians truly sculpt the exact tone they like, allowing for precision control. This includes variables such as timbre, richness, and depth. However, guitarists who are used to having tone come naturally can find it difficult to adjust. You might find it frustrating to get into the building blocks of sound – especially when you aren’t able to pin down those random, ephemeral moments you get when playing guitar.. Nevertheless, if you find a tone you like and memorise how to achieve it on your synth, everything will go much more smoothly.

Synthesis for guitarists: Choose Your Synth Wisely

For a guitarist, some of the best synths to start off with are analogue synths. This is because they mimic the rich tone you would find on a guitar. Small, portable, and easy-to-use classic analogue synths such as one of the ones by Korg are a good choice for a guitarist who is new to synthesis.

Four brilliant beginner analogue synths for guitarists (and one FM synthesizer)

  • Korg Monologue – The monologue is easy to use, does what it says on the tin, and focusses on lead lines. This monophonic synth is an easy transition to synthesis for guitarists. https://www.korg.com/uk/products/synthesizers/monologue/
  • Moog Minitaur – As one of the cheaper synths from a classic band, this is a bass synth but uses transferrable skills. The Moog Minitaur will give you the opportunity to play with big fat sounds which you can’t achieve on guitar as well. It this plus it’s other features which make it it a welcome addition to what you may be doing already. https://www.moogmusic.com/products/minitaur
  • Korg Microkorg – The Microkorg is another fantastic, small, and portable synth from Korg. The hands on nature and simplicity of this synth makes it ideal for transitioning guitarists. https://www.korg.com/uk/products/synthesizers/microkorg/ It also doubles as a vocoder.
  • Arturia Microfreak Hybrid Synth – As a hybrid synth, this uses a cross between analogue and digital technologies. The Microfreak is a perfect easy way to get used to the basics of synthesis for either of them. https://www.arturia.com/products/hardware-synths/microfreak/overview
  • Elektron Model:Cycles 6-track FM Synth and Groovebox – a small, easy to use synth which creates sounds which are fantastic for solos or riffs. These have much more space-age, ethereal possibilities than analogue synthesis. https://www.elektron.se/jp/modelcycles-explorer

Learn How Synthesis Works from Scratch

If you learn how sound works from the bottom up, you will be able to truly understand your synth. This means you will not only learn how it works, but how music works as a whole. As a result, the learning process will come quicker. You will be able to sculpt sounds to your liking whilst understanding where, how, and why they differ from the guitar.

Try getting technical with your guitar too. Learn exactly how to affect it’s sound with the subtlest things you do, and you will find that you can craft noise more easily. If you understand the roots of music as a whole, you can transfer these skills to almost any instrument. In addition, by specifically learning the details of your exact model of synth, you will become more in tune with it. Synths can have staggering differences between models and each of these inevitably has it’s own characteristics.

Synthesis for guitarists: Find your Flow

Every musician has to find their flow. Neuroscientists identify as the state in which you are playing and time appears to speed up or stand still. This happens as a result of the way music slightly alters the brainwaves. Guitarists who prefer to hold an instrument in their hands might struggle at first to achieve flow with a synth. However, when they learn how synthesis works can quickly program sounds without having to stop and get technical. Then, it is as easy to reach a creative state of mind with your synth as it is with your guitar. The only difference is that your flow state when playing synth may be a little bit different.

Make it Apply to Your Guitar Playing

Synthesis not only creates new sounds but mimics those which already exist. Lead lines and guitar solos are exactly the types of playing which translate really well to synthesis. As a result, an easy way to master a synth is to transfer some of your favourite riffs or soloing patterns to it. Therefore you will see the similarities, differences, and connections between the two instruments. Once you master this, you will be able to move more easily between them.

Synthesis for guitarists: Final Thoughts

Making the transition from guitar to synthesis is as simple as learning their similarities and differences. This means you can avoid too much technical detail, while still understanding how to make sound. At a deeper level, synthesis for guitarists allows you to design textures and timbres beyond those of the guitar. Knowing what sounds you want first is also very important. Once you do, you will find that synthisers can produce sounds which are strikingly similar yet give you have the freedom to craft your own forms of noise. This is a popular and creative way of producing riffs for both instruments. Therefore, knowing where you’re starting and where you want to end up before you move on to anything more synth-specific means you will have the best of both worlds.

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Bleass Alpha: One of the Best Synths for Guitarists on the Market

What is the Bleass Alpha and why its praises have been sung so widely this year? This honest review of the Bleass Alpha will guide you through its features. In addition, it will break down what sets it apart from other synths on the market. In keeping with our guide to synthesis for guitarists, the Bleass Alpha is one of the most guitarist-friendly synths available. This is partly due to the way its MPE technology can imitate playing styles found on the guitar. Read on to find out more about the Bleass Alpha. 

MPE: The Secret to the Usability of the Bleass Alpha

One of the most significant features of the Bleass Alpha is its MPE technology. MPE technology has been around since 2018 and stands for MIDI Polyphonic Expression. MPE has been one of the most important advances in synthesis since the 1970s and 1980s.  It especially stands out as a development because it allows for more nuance and accuracy in producing sound. This allows synths to mimic the varied, microtonal qualities of common practices on guitar such as string bends. These are also found in vocal work, such as slurs and slides..

MPE is one of the main things which make the Bleass Alpha an exceptionally guitarist-friendly synth. Guitarists new to synthesis can often find the natural fluidity of their instrument and playing style translates badly to synthesis. In general, synthesis tends to promote a more linear way of working based on sonic building blocks. On the one hand, a good musician can avoid this by learning the ins and outs of it. Nevertheless, MPE allows for a musician to control very subjective qualities of sound such as timbre. This extends as well to concepts such as the darkness, lightness, or richness of a note. As these are difficult to pin down, MPE opens up a new world of music more quickly than otherwise possible. It’s this which really allows the Bleass Alpha to stand out as one of the best synths for guitarists on the market.

What Additional Features Make the Bleass Alpha one of the Best Synths for Guitarists?

Other features also make this a perfect synth for guitarists. These are based on how it mimics many phenomena which happen when playing the guitar. An individual instrument like a guitar is subject to lots of individuality and randomness. Designers at Bleass have done thei best to mimic this using the Bleass Alpha via its dice presets generator. This works well with helping a guitarist new to synthesis think outside the box. When playing, guitarists can get stuck in patterns of playing which may have been confined by scales and arpeggios. However, Bleass has also taken this into account. For those used to the fluid and interconnected world of scale patterns, the left-to-right signal flow is a lifesaver. This shows every part of the signal chain onscreen.

Although a guitarist will still have to learn technical skills, this is one of the best synths for guitarists as it allows them to adapt easily. However, this is not just helpful for guitarists but anyone else new to synthesis. Breaking down signal flow, helps musicians develop a sense of how the changes they make affect the entire sound. This allows sound designers to see the structure of the sound that is created. In addition, it breaks down how each and every part interconnects. 

Bleass Alpha Specifications

  • 3 oscillators, 2 stereo and 1 mono 
  • Cross & ring modulation between oscillators, Phase control on stereo oscillators for wide stereo, Hard sync, ADSR, single noise source
  • 2 variable state filters with drive settings
  • 4 Filters shapes: Low Pass / High Pass / Band Pass / Notch
  • Filter Envelope
  • 2 LFOs per voice with multiple waveforms & multiple modulation targets
  • Envelope ADSR with assignable modulation targetsOverdrive
  • Bitcrusher, Tremolo, Delay with filter and ping-pong effect
  • Reverb with length, filter and color control
  • Advanced presets management: import / export multiple presets, assign category, rename, edit. Presets are compatible with the iOS version.
  • Presets Generator (dice)

Pricing and Availability of the Bleass Alpha

The Bleass Alpha is available from the Bleass website. For such a great all-rounder synth, it doesn’t break the bank. At 69 USD, it is a great low to mid-range virtual polyphonic analogue synthesizer. On top of this, it combines great workflow and an interactive interface with real thought about what musicians need. However, if necessary you can buy it as part of the Bleass Alpha bundle which goes for 99 USD. This bundle contains all the presets, whereas the synth by itself only has the first of them unlockable. However, you can also purchase the others in addition. What’s so great is actual musicians have designed all of these presets, too. In keeping with the guitar-friendly theme of the Bleass Alpha, they haven’t restricted this just to sound designers and producers. 

You can check the price and buy the Bleass Alpha + some cool presets over at our friends at Pluginboutique by clicking here. You will be helping this website a lot buy buying it using this link.

What Makes the Bleass Alpha Stand Out as One of the Best Synths for Guitarists?

Bleass Alpha made some headlines when it was subject to a price drop earlier this year. While its price may now be back to normal, it still hosts a variety of other exciting new features. In fact, the team at Bleass have really been working on things this year. Beyond the typical bug fixes, there is a fantastic new presets pack from Sound Test Room’s Doug Woods. What the makers do really well is to think about its presets from the point of view of artists. This maximises variety and usability. These new presets are no different. With both the Alpha and its sister synth the Omega, Bleass keeps innovating. Therefore it’s really worthwhile to buy in general – these synths are ones which are often subject to fantastic updates. 

Playing guitar often gives a much more hands-on playing style and interconnected understanding of the signal chain. Guitarists enter an entirely new world when they approach synthesis. However, with the Bleass Alpha, you can transferr many of your existing playing habits. This synth has an intuitive workflow and easy ways of breaking down sound. Ultimately this allows control over those things which make or break good guitar playing such as timbre.

Final Thoughts

On the surface, the designers have kept this synth basically but extremely well thought through. It has all the features needed for awesome-sounding analogue synthesis, without so many special additions. This stops it from becoming confusing and ensures it just does what it does best. However, when you look at it more closely, this means the Bleass Alpha excels as one of the best synths for guitarists. Nevertheless, it is enough of a good all-rounder synth that even experienced synth aficionados can also benefit from it. Although it is not as flashy as some other products on the market, the Bleass Alpha has everything you need. 

You can check the price and buy the Bleass Alpha + some cool presets over at our friends at Pluginboutique by clicking here. You will be helping this website a lot buy buying it using this link.

1010 Music Nanobox Lemondrop Review – All About this Portable Polyphonic Granular Synthesizer

What is 1010 Music Nanobox Lemondrop mini synth?

The Lemondrop is one in a series of nanobox synths released by 1010 Music where the company has combined awesome colours in a compact little box which really is unbelievable in terms of both its intuitive nature and it’s portability.

With the other synth in their series being the Fireball, it really doesn’t have much difference except for one thing – the fact it is a granular as opposed to wavetable  – but what a difference this makes. For those unfamiliar with granular synthesis, this little synth allows you to take almost any sample you like – whether running water, a snatch of music from your favourite song, or something else entirely – and it’s efficient processing will chop your sound up into tiny pieces, each of which is called a grain. When these grains are put together, it creates an otherworldly sound which is perfect for soundtracks or even for more experimental music projects, where it’s lushness can create atmosphere and add some depth to other elements of a track.

What features does the 1010 Music Nanobox Lemondrop mini synth have?

By using such a unique type of synthesis you could assume that the designers at 1010 music have already done all their work, but no – they’ve ensured that the Lemondrop has all the features which are available with the fireball as well.

In keeping with the way it is designed for musicians on the go, the Lemondrop has an extremely intuitive interface which involves a touchscreen which allows the user to shape the waveform directly giving the ultimate amount of flexibility and control over the shape of the wave and the way it interacts with other features such as distortion, compression, and so on. The only thing which has been noted by users is the fact that with the Lemondrop’s small size there can come a significant amount of menu diving which means that if you are not an organised musician or producer finding the things you need and the pre-sets you have created can sometimes come with some difficulty and annoyance. However, it is a small price to pay for such a portable synth which otherwise has an incredibly wide range of effects which are easily accessible and extremely creative.

The Lemondrop includes:

  • 153 presets and 311 wave files
  • 16 grains per oscillator for a total of 128
  • Sample memory per oscillator 30 seconds
  • 24-bit DAC and ADC resolution and 32-bit internal resolution
  • A 49kHz sample rate
  • Included USB-C connection
  • 3.5mm audio input and output
  • MIDI support for the following – note on/off, mod wheel, sustain, pitch bend, mono & poly aftertouch, assignable CCs, and clock

How does the 1010 Music Nanobox Lemondrop mini synth compare to others on the market?

What really stands out about the Lemondrop mini synth is the way 1010 music have taken a relatively uncommon type of synthesis – granular synthesis – and completely streamlined it. One of the ways they have done this is by taking into account that the target audience for granular may be slightly wider than for classic wavetable synthesis such as with the fireball – instead attracting artists and sound designers who are looking for something different to experiment with but as a result may not be fully versed in all the basics of using synths. As a result, it is the small size and simplicity of user interface which works so well with granular synthesis. This is how the Lemondrop – in comparison to the Fireball – provides something completely different as a result of the same smart hardware design – with the Lemondrop really making an unusual type of synthesis accessible and opening the learning possibilities for sound designers due to its hands on nature and the fact a visual waveform can be manipulated by touch.

If, to get the best of its granular capabilities, you want to involve as many of your own samples, the menu diving could become cumbersome. However, it isn’t much of a price to pay for a synth which can be easily slung into a back pocket. As an introduction to granular synthesis and at a much lower price than the rare few other granular specific synths on the market, it can’t be beaten. And with this encouragement to sample, the Lemondrop could easily become part of a portable kit bag which also includes a sampler for a sound designer who is looking for something to complete a fluid, on the go workflow.

Pricing and availability

Like the Fireball, the Lemondrop is a mid-range synth at 399 USD although if bought together the two end up coming to a pricier 798 dollars. It’s generally always available from the 1010 music website, although as a high quality and relatively specialised synth it isn’t produced in bulk.

Should you buy the two alongside each other? The 1010 music website demonstrates how they can work alongside each other as tabletop synthesizers. The Lemondrop’s sister synth the Fireball provides a wavetable synthesiser which, due to being more common, is potentially better at slotting into a roll with the rest of your equipment and established sound. Nevertheless, the uncommon nature of granular synthesis really gives the Lemondrop an edge on many other synths on the market. You can see the current price on the Reverb.com website by clicking here.

Final thoughts

Overall, the Lemondrop mini synth is really one of a kind. As a granular synthesizer, it doesn’t have many other competitors anyway, and as a mini, pocket sized, technologically smart and extremely efficient and compact little synth, it really steals the show in terms of the way it’s been designed for the needs of the creative. With portability as one of its greatest assets, it combines the rarity of finding it’s unique granular engine with the technology which helps it fit into the lifestyle of today’s modern music producer or sound designer – very often a digital nomad, one who goes from gig to gig or studio to studio and needs a compact synth to take with them. In this way, 1010’s Lemondrop is truly something special.

And if Music Production hardware is your thing, we have a full category for you, click here!