CatSynth Pic: Black Cat and MiniMoog

Black cat checking out the wonder that is the MiniMoog Model D. From James Johnson‎ via Facebook.

“Finally! My turn…needs more sawtooth.”

One can never have too much sawtooth.

CatSynth Pic: Bonnie in the Studio

Bonnie has definitely found a nice napping spot in this studio. Submitted by David Lemur via our Facebook page.

Bonnie says: ‘More of John Cage’s 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence please Donny’.

We see an Arturia Keystep, Roland TR-8, a TB-303 clone, a vintage Korg sequencer, and even a bit of Buchla in the upper-left corner.

NAMM 2019: New Modules from 2hp

We at CatSynth are fans of 2hp, and not just The Cat. They’ve given us so many things to put in those pesky little spaces left in our modular systems, from highly useful VCAs (you can never have too many VCAs), to more exotic offerings like physical modeling.

At this year’s NAMM show, the debuted four new modules covering both utilitarian and creative terrain. The one that most intrigued me was the Bell, a physical modeling voice that brings metallophone sounds. It can do vibraphone-like sounds, wine glasses, bowls, and of course, bells. With the main mallet and bar parameters (indicating that is likely based on modal synthesis), one can get a variety of combinations with CV modulation. This looks like a lot of fun – I already on the Pluck – and look forward to its release.

At the other end of the spectrum is the DC module. It offers three different DC offsets along a -5v, +5v, and 10v scale. These are useful utilities when crafting specific CV signals. I could see this pairing nicely with a Make Noise Maths for more precise control, or for tuning 1v/Oct controls.

Next up is the Sine, which is more than a simple sinewave generator. It does have a pure sine wave, but also a sub that allows blending of the fundamental, one octave below, and half an octave above. It also includes a wave folder function for rich harmonics. Essentially, this is another harmonic oscillator.

Finally, there is the Grain, a granular processor that buffers incoming signals and allows them to be output using granular synthesis. This is a bit different from a sample-based granular module like the original Nebulae from Qu-bit which works on stored samples (the v2 of the Nebulae does allow processing of live input). The buffers can then be mangled and stretched by setting the density and periodicity of grains, along with the overall pitch. The demo we saw had this hooked up to The Cat.

The result of the new modules plus the Cat and percussion made for a delightful demo as you can see and hear from our video.

For more information about these upcoming modules from 2hp, including estimated release dates, please visit http://www.twohp.com/soon/.

Owlsynth Pics for Superb Owl Day

We at CatSynth feel there is no better way to celebrate Superb Owl Day than with “owlsynth pics”. Here is our stuffed owl atop our main modular system.

And with our trusty Roland Boutique VP-03 vocoder.

And with our Arturia MiniBrute 2.

(Definitely need to tidy up a bit there.)

Owls are quite captivating as they are so different from other birds, even from other birds of prey. We all know their unique front-facing faces and nocturnal behavior. But they also have amazing auditory capabilities.

Both the cat and the Barn Owl have much more sensitive hearing than the human in the range of about 0.5 to 10 kHz. The cat and Barn Owl have a similar sensitivity up to approximately 7 kHz. Beyond this point, the cat continues to be sensitive, but the Barn Owl’s sensitivity declines sharply.

Some Owl species have asymmetrically set ear openings (i.e. one ear is higher than the other) – in particular, the strictly nocturnal species, such as the Barn Owl or the Tengmalm’s (Boreal) Owl. These species have a very pronounced facial disc, which acts like a “radar dish”, guiding sounds into the ear openings. The shape of the disc can be altered at will, using special facial muscles. Also, an Owl’s bill is pointed downward, increasing the surface area over which the sound waves are collected by the facial disc. In 4 species (Ural, Great Grey, Boreal/Tengmalm’s & Saw-whet), the ear asymmetry is actually in the temporal parts of the skull, giving it a “lop-sided” appearance.

Owls and Hearing – The Owl Pages

We at CatSynth hope you all have a fine and enriching Superb Owl Day!

CatSynth Pic: Häbbmaster modules

Cat showing off this collection of unique custom synth modules from Häbbmaster. Via haebmaster on Instagram.

You can hear a bit of of his percussion modules in this video.

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A little bouncing ball demo. #sdiy #sergesynthesizer #sergemodular Sound is from the smooth generator, pitch modulated by a sequencer . Upper half of the DUSG is a sawtooth modulating the speed of the lower half and triggers the sequencer. Lower half triggers the envelope which controls a low pass gate.

A post shared by Rainer Burkhardt (@haebbmaster) on

NAMM 2019: Korg Volca Modular and Minilogue XD

We can always count on something new from Korg these days. Sometimes it’s completely new, but this year it was new incarnations of existing lines. We introduced them in a recent CatSynth TV episode and describe them in more detail below.

The Volca series continues to grow with its newest offering, the Volca Modular.

Korg Volca Modular

The Volca Modular is a self-contained semi-modular synthesizer in a tiny volca-sized package. It has a VCO and modulator for complex waveforms, a function section with envelopes and an LFO, a sequencer, and various patch points for splitting and mixing. Its novel element is the LPG, a low pass gate that can be used as an amp, a filter, or something completely different a la west-coast synthesis. It puts quite a lot in a little box for just $199.

It reminds a bit of some other “tiny tabletop semi-modular synthesizers” such as the Moog Werkstatt or the newer Bastl Instruments Softpop (my CDP bandmate Tom Djll uses one of these and thus I want one, too). Like those, the Volca Modular has tiny little patch points and chords, which are adorable. But unlike those, I found it difficult to patch. The wire tips were a bit flimsy and I bent at least one of them trying to create a new patch on the fly. Otherwise, though, I think this is a fine little instrument, and could end up in my Volca collection.

Minilogue XD

The other new instrument was the revamped Minilogue XD. The original Minilogue made quite a splash a couple of years ago as an affordable polyphonic analog synthesizer. In addition to a nice, darker finish, the XD adds their expandable digital wavetable technology from last year’s Prologue. The digital engine has several different oscillator types and functions, and is essentially a “third sound source” for the instrument. It’s not clear to me whether this includes the same open API that the Prologue has, which would be an unfortunate omission for us at CatSynth, though probably not an issue for most users. It also has microtonal capabilities, something which is missing from many structured MIDI-analog combinations.

Both of these instruments are interesting, incremental changes, with Korg seemingly defending the turf it established in the synthesizer resurgence. Neither is a top priority for us at CatSynth, but I would be surprised if they find their way to us at some point.

NAMM 2019: Behringer Synthesizers

Our 2019 NAMM experience began a little earlier this year when we stopped by Behringer’s offsite event in the Chatsworth neighborhood of Los Angeles. It was an opportunity to check out their current and upcoming synthesizer offerings. You can see some of them in this video.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylvIpER

There is perhaps no synthesizer maker more controversial and more talked about these days than Behringer. Some dismiss them outright, others condemn their cloning of classic instruments, and others applaud their making affordable synthesizers that sound good and play well. Mention them in any synthesizer forum, and you are likely to get more responses than with any other topic.

Overall, I was happy with what I saw from them this year. I particularly liked the Vocoder VC340, a clone of the legendary Roland VP330 vocoder.

I already own a Roland Boutique VP-03, so I have access to this sound and signal path, with all its temperamental qualities. But the VC340 comes in a larger package with full-size keys, with electronics more similar to the original, including the voice and string synthesizers. It would make a great stage vocoder if I had need and space for one. It is also easier to get external signals into it, and we played around using Behringer’s new Rhythm Designer RD-808 as the modulator signal (you can hear it in the video).

Behringer has also come out with a clone of the Odyssey, simply called Odyssey.

It’s industrial design, font, and colors are remarkably similar to the original (something which probably makes Behringer’s critics howl). But it’s a good sounding unit, and quite rugged looking. The layout of the sliders is a bit different from what I know from the original, the Korg clone, and my Octave CAT, so I didn’t have the opportunity to dial in the “Chameleon” tone and give it the Herbie Hancock test, but I did get some interesting modulated sounds familiar from the original Odyssey.

It is important to note that Behringer has also produced original instruments such as the Neutron.

The Neutron is a Eurorack-compatible synthesizer with all the expected VCO, VCF, and VCA sections, as well as an extensive modulation matrix. It does not have a sequencer, but the Eurorack ecosystem is awash with sequencers so that shouldn’t be much of an issue. The Neutron is on the surface similar to the Moog Mother-32 and Arturia Microbrute (sans sequencer), but it does have its own sound. Is it different enough to want it if you already own those instruments? That is subjective. But it played well, and at $399 is quite affordable.

There is also the clone of the Minimoog, the Model D, affectionately known by many of us as “The Boog.”

It sounds like a Model D. And it is Eurorack compatible. It’s a great affordable option to get that sound. End of story.

And finally, there is the new MS-101, a clone of the Roland SH-101, complete with red and blue finishes.

I don’t think the controversies around Behringer will fade anytime soon, especially as they continue to ramp up their synthesizer catalog. For those who complain about their cloning, there are others who charge “elitism” at their critics, considering the high prices vintage instruments and even current Eurorack modules command. Plus, these instruments have MIDI, USB, and other features that are rather handy when making music. We at CatSynth come down somewhere on the outside of this discussion, and simply enjoyed playing the instruments; and we might look into that vocoder.

CatSynth Pics: MiniMoog Voyager

From @ModularSynths (Daniel.ModularSynths) on Twitter, we have this photo of a cat inspecting a MiniMoog Voyager. Specifically, it appears to be the Voyager XL model.

Immer neugierig (Always curious)

IWe are sure this cat is making some interesting music with his curiosity, although the Voyagers are monophonic. So we will only hear one paw at a time.

Please tweet us your cat-and-music @catsynth to be featured in a future post and across our social media platforms.

CatSynth Pic: Roland Jupiter-4

Cat with a vintage Roland Jupiter-4 synthesizer. By Matt Vraja via Facebook.

Jupiter-fur

The Jupiter-4 was a transitional synth in Roland’s early offerings, from the more modular mono-synths to its dominant analog and digital models from the 1980s.

The first Jupiter synth. It was among one of the first poly synthesizers (4 individual voices which could be synced together for one fat monophonic lead), it had a pitch wheel that could be assigned to the VCA, VCF, VCO or all together, there are 8 memory locations and a cool arpeggiator – the arpeggiator can be heard in the Duran Duran classic, “Rio”. It also has a very slow LFO for those ever-so-long filter sweeps. Pretty good for 1978!

http://www.vintagesynth.com/roland/jup4.php

CatSynth Pic: Bondo with Moog, Roland and Vox

Bondo sits proudly on an original-series Moog Voyager. Next to him is a Roland RE-501 chorus echo. In the corner, one can see a bit of a vintage Vox Super Continental organ. Quite a collection!

From Davor Gazde via our Facebook page.