Tag Archives: synth

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.

Enjoyed this article? Read more about synths in our hardware section here.

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.

If you liked this article we think you should check the whole Software Synthesis category, just click here.

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.

If you enjoyed this post on Music Hardware, we recommend you check the full Music Hardware category by clicking here.

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!

1010 Music Nanobox Fireball Review – All About this Portable Polyphonic Wavetable Synthesizer

What is the 1010 Music Nanobox Fireball?

The 1010 Music Nanobox Fireball is one of two Nanobox synths designed by the team at 1010 audio and as a result, it follows much the same outline as its sister synth the Lemondrop, bar a few key differences and the fact that it is red instead of yellow. The trend for small, portable synths has been a relatively small but significant part of the synth market since the launch of the Volca by Korg in 2013. Nevertheless, with the Lemondrop and Fireball, what 1010 music has done so well is taken every feature you would want in a smaller piece of kit and streamlined them into an updated, cutting edge little polyphonic synth which grabs both the ear and the eye.  

How does the 1010 Music Nanobox Fireball differ from other synths on the market?

One of the most stand-out features of the Fireball’s design is an overall pattern as opposed to a single piece of kit or specification. 1010 music have gone out of their way to create a synth which takes all the features needed to craft fantastic sound and executed their assembly with outstanding efficiency. The result is a synth which is really geared towards the modern musician in the sense that it is easy to learn from, portable, but also follows the natural process of sound designers in the way it facilitates ease and flow of work. Are there any cons?

The Fireball is not as stand out as its sister synth simply due to the fact it is competing against a much larger market due to wavetable synthesis being generally more common than granular. Therefore, if you already have a solid synth collection there may not be as much incentive to buy the Fireball; however, there is something to be said for its portability which sets it apart from other wavetable synths.

Specs and features

For all intents and purposes, the Fireball is much the same as the Lemondrop . The team behind 1010 music does actually market the two synths together, especially in the tutorial videos they have on their website. What’s more, the synths have the same interface and features – right down to details such as the number of inputs and outputs, compatibility, design, and layout of software. Off course, another thing they share is the extremely useful and intuitive touchscreen which allows users to mold the waveform to their liking, enabling them to get hands on experimenting with sound so as to control the custom synth patches they create.

However, there is one very big difference between the Fireball and the Lemondrop, which is that the fireball is a wavetable synthesizer in comparison to the Lemondrop, which is a granular synthesizer. This means they are capable of creating extremely different sounds and as a result it can be helpful to buy them alongside each other. You might not be getting two for the price of one, but the transferrable skills which are gained from learning the ins and outs of one mean that you can easily double the amount of creative possibilities open to you.

What is it like when getting your hands on the Fireball? One thing this synth does very well – like it’s companion – is using simplicity to get a lot of results. With two dials which control multiple parameters it is easy on the eyes and doesn’t require a lot of complicated hardware to create great sound. By simplifying things it leaves a lot more up to the musician’s own capabilities as opposed to spelling out every single possible way that sound can be shifted and altered. Nevertheless, it does have a good selection of default patches all of which share a characteristically creative way of looking at wavetable synthesis from the minds behind 1010 music. And for wavetable as opposed to granular synthesis like the Lemondrop, this means you are taking a type of synth which is more frequently seen on the market and with its bright hardware, easy to use software, and most of all the extreme control which can be had over the waveform, it gives any user a new spin on a form of synthesis which is more frequently seen. The combination of polyphony and visualisation of the wave in particular means that musicians are shaken out of their normal working patterns – this is really a synth which facilitates creativity.

The 1010 Music Nanobox Fireball has:

  • 123 presets and 103 wavetables
  • A USB-C cable and 3.5mm audio input and output
  • 24-bit DAC and ADC resolution and 32 bit internal resolution
  • A 96kHz oscillator sample rate
  • MIDI support for all the following: note on/off, modulation wheel, sustain, pitch bend, mono & poly aftertouch, assignable CCs, and clock

Price and availability

At 399 USD, the Fireball is a mid-range wavetable synth and due to its high quality it isn’t necessarily made in bulk, though nevertheless is generally always available from the 1010 music website. Check out Reverb.com for a price update.

Final thoughts

Overall, the Fireball is essentially the wavetable edition of 1010’s attractive little nanobox synth series and because of this that it really depends on your priorities as a musician. Whilst wavetable synths are much more common than granular synths such as the Lemondrop and therefore the fireball is up against some stiffer competition, if your priority is portability, design, aesthetics, and simplicity – whilst all the while being an intuitive synth – then the Fireball is as worthy a synth for your collection as the Lemondrop despite having more features in common with other products. In fact, perhaps due to it doing similar things but more simply and cleanly than other synths on the market, it is a synth to really push you to use your maximum possible creativity.

And if you have an affinity for Music Hardware, we have a full category waiting for you, just click here!

Expressive E Early Spring Sale (up to 55% off til 31st of March)

Hey deal hunters and welcome to the hottest early spring deal in the music business. If you haven’t heard about Expressive E then you really need to. They make a lot of hardware and software tools that shine when you want to some extra layers of innovative control.

We hare big fans of the Touche MPE device, and of the MPE virtual instruments that they released previously. These instruments are a very nice addition to any music production studio so we can’t recommend them enough. We are also waiting on a (very early) preorder for their revolutionary new MPE keyboard, Osmose.

This time, the guys from Expressive E are offering some very nice VST Plugins with a huge discount of up to 55%. We recommend them all if you want to have a different/new experience in making music in the box. The offer ends on 31st of March so get your instruments ASAP:

  • Expressive E Imagine – 83 €/$ instead of 139 €/$ – Imagine digs deep inside the body of real life instruments, modifies and combines their acoustic characteristics to create an imaginary acoustic landscape. Thanks to a playful multidimensional approach, Imagine offers texture manipulations, mysterious unknown sound dimensions that still sound familiar.
  • Expressive E Noisy – 89 €/$ instead of 149 €/$ – A hybrid between physical modelling and subtractive synthesis, Noisy uses the principles of acoustic resonance to bring life to both electronic and acoustic sounds. Noisy was designed to generate highly playable, multidimensional sounds, whose textures and articulations can be easily combined and manipulated.
  • Expressive E Instruments Collection – 197 €/$ instead of 435 €/$ – This one is a collection of their most famous instruments, including the ones above. The instruments that are contained here are Imagine, Noisy, Violin, Viola, Cello. The last three instruments are based on Physical Modelling and do a really nice job. Already own parts of the bundle? log in and put this offer in your cart to see your special upgrade price!
  • Expressive E Touche Sounds Collection – 239 €/$ instead of 533 €/$ – If you own the Touche controller, then you really must have this collection. It is made to be fully compatible with it and contains the instruments previously presented in the Instruments Collection (Imagine, Noisy, Violin, Viola and Cello) plus two more: Mercury and Helium. As longtime users of the last two, we can fully recommend them if you are looking for new ways to do sound design.
  • Expressive E MPE Collection – 71 €/$ instead of 119 €/$ – The MPE Collection combines four banks of exclusive sounds into one versatile suite, ready to play with any instrument that supports MIDI Polyphonic Expression. The banks are Helium, Mercury, Patchwork and Carbon.
  • Expressive E Arche Collection – 71 €/$ instead of 119 €/$ – Arché is a plug-in suite by Expressive E, containing three exquisitely crafted physical models of a violin, a viola and a cello.

We hope you will find this piece of Deal news useful and actually complete your studio with this!

DEAL ALERT: Pluginboutique 10 year anniversary VST sale

This one is huge, friends. Pluginboutique, probably the best and most complete outlet for all your VST needs is having a blast sale. Indeed, they really want to celebrate their 10th birthday by giving you a lot of options, so if you want to round off your studio virtual gear, now is the time.

Don’t forget that buying anything from Pluginboutique gives you Virtual Cash, their own way of saying thanks for shopping with us. You can use all this Virtual Cash for the next purchases on Pluginboutique.com

Without further ado, this is the list for the Pluginboutique VST Sale, celebrating 10 years of Pluginboutique.com. Most of the offers are available until the 28th of February 2022, so hurry up!

  1. IZOTOPE SALE, UP TO 95% OFF: Pick up 10 unmissable FX plugins from both iZotope and Exponential Audio individually, or get the entire collection of ten plugins in one bundle. CLICK HERE FOR THE IZOTOPE OFFER!. But wait, there’s more. I am talking about a huge IZOTOPE BUNDLE, discounted 96. CHECK OUT THE BUNDLE BY CLICKING HERE!
  2. SOFTUBE SALE, UP TO 76% OFF: Save big on Softube products such as Tape, Parallels and more in the Plugin Boutique Anniversary Sale! Prices from €15 / $15. CLICK HERE FOR THE SOFTUBE OFFER! Not satisfied with the 76% discount? SEE THE SECOND SOFTUBE OFFER, UP TO 88% OFF BY CLICKING HERE!
  3. PLUGINBOUTIQUE BUNDLE SALE, 96% OFF: This one is for the budget oriented, for less than 10 USD you can get a lot of great plugins that may just be everything you need to get started. CHECK OUT THIS ONE BY CLICKING HERE! There is a second bundle offer, 78% off. This one is a bit more expensive but much more powerfull than the first. CHECK OUT THE SECOND BUNDLE OFFER BY CLICKING HERE!
  4. LOOPCLOUD DRUM & PLAY SALE, UP TO 51% OFF: Whether you create kits from scratch or intricately edit loops, Loopcloud DRUM will enhance the way you work with beats. Loopcloud PLAY gives you access to an endless gallery of top-quality sounds from global genres and industry experts, packaged in a focused and easy-to-use interface. CLICK HERE FOR THE LOOPCLOUD OFFER!
  5. ARTURIA PIGMENTS 3, 50% OFF until the 17th of February 2021: Pigments 3 is a state-of-the-art software instrument that gives you the power of every shade of synthesis. With colourful sound engines, effortless modulation, professional utilities, and studio-grade FX explore an infinite spectrum of sound. CHECK OUT THE OFFER FOR ARTURIA PIGMENTS 3 BY CLICKING HERE!
  6. ARTURIA V COLLECTION 8, UP TO 50% OFF until the 17th of February 2021: The most comprehensive anthology of classic synth and keyboards ever made just got an update. V Collection 8 now features even more timeless instruments, lovingly recreated in software. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE ARTURIA V COLLECTION 8 OFFER!
  7. ARTURIA FX COLLECTION, 50% OFF until the 17th of February 2021: An inspiring array of software effects that combine music industry heritage with futuristic features, and unparalleled sound quality with intuitive workflow. CHECK OUT THE ARTURIA FX COLLECTION OFFER HERE!