AF’s Weblog

April 25, 2012

Korg Monotribe Review

Filed under: Synthesizers — Tags: , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:13 am

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see: Korg Monotribe Review

Presented during the Musikmesse 2011, the Monotribe is the big brother of the Monotron. This standalone sound module includes one synth voice and three analog drum sounds and was conceived to change patterns while playing live. To write this review I decided to take it with me on my skiing vacations…

Korg Monotribe

You know, February is time for holidays in the mountains among friends. Usually when night falls, Paulo grabs his guitar and steals the hearts of the girls present… I mean women — time flies! Like every year, Paulo plays while the fire crackles inside the chalet covered with snow. But I have decided Paulo will have a serious competitor this year! While the mountains disappear behind the thick clouds, a wonderful Bang Bang Chack Bang Wiiiiizzzz will pierce the silence. This year our dear Paulo lost the competition (Sylvia won’t be waiting for him) — a small analog box took his throne. “But, what the heck is that box with a black ribbon keyboard and trashy loops?” .” Explanation…

Unpacking

Korg Monotribe

The Monotribe is a small drum machine that includes four different instrumental parts (one mono synth and three drum sounds) and a 16-step sequencer. Battery operation and the small integrated speaker ensure autonomy. That’s why I didn’t hesitate to take it with me to the mountains in spite of the very low temperatures. By the way, the announced battery life is 14 hours — enough to compete with Paulo the whole week. As for design, the Monotribe is a small black box (8.2″ x 5.7″ x 2.8″) made out of plastic and weights 1.6 lbs (without batteries). The product seems to be sturdy and well manufactured. The front panel provides quite a lot of action: five rotary controls, six slim trim pots, six three-way selectors, 17 push buttons, 15 LEDs, and a ribbon/keyboard controller.

Korg Monotribe

On the rear panel are all connections, which aren’t many! Besides the on/off switch and the power in for external 9V DC power supply (ref. KA-350, unfortunately not supplied!), you get only four minijacks and one 1/4″ jack: step sync input (impulse-type sync with adjustable polarity, for example the rim shot of a drum machine), sync out (delivers +/- 5V during 15ms for every step), phones out, audio in, and mono audio out (1/4″ jack). No CV/Gate or MIDI connections! This means you can program and sync the Monotribe but you can’t control it remotely… at least in the original version since some DIY fans have managed to create upgrade kits. The bottom side gives you access to the integrated speaker and the battery compartment for six standard AA batteries (this time, Korg does provide the batteries).

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

In the end, this small box can serve more purposes other that annoying Paulo when he’s sitting next to the fire. This mobile solution is made for people who prefer intuitive and spontaneous creativity rather than complex menus and multiple memories. It’s a pity that the hidden features accessible via button combinations are not printed on the device. The ribbon keyboard is really hard to use to use if you are looking for precise triggering. With the Monotribe, Korg reinforces the idea that live electro musicians can be unexperienced keyboard players or programmers. If you want to trigger real analog, MS-20-like loops in real time without spending a fortune or learning by heart the product manual, the Monotribe is probably your instrument of choice.

Advantages: 
  • Dirty, intuitive analog sound
  • Resonant low-pass filter inherited from the MS-20
  • Fast and versatile LFO
  • Clever features (gate, flux, …)
  • Independent number of steps for each part
  • Easy to use and fun
  • Good manufacturing quality
  • Mobile device with battery operation and integrated speaker
  • Hardware modifications possible
  • Very affordable price
Drawbacks:
  • Only for live applications
  • Ribbon doesn’t allow precise triggering
  • Only two user sequences possible
  • Playback only in one direction
  • Drum sounds not editable
  • Button combinations not printed on the unit
  • No CV/gate nor MIDI
  • Optional external KA-350 PSU

To read the full detailed article with sound samples see: Korg Monotribe Review

Advertisements

July 8, 2011

Moog Music Slim Phatty Review

Five years after having introduced the Little Phatty, Moog decided to launch the compact synth in module version. Did the Slim Phatty succeed in making the famous Moog sound available to anyone?

The Little Phatty is the last project of the late Bob Moog who passed away in August 2005. A few months before passing way, he recruited Cyril Lance who finished the work of his master. The first Little Phatty saw the daylight for the first time at the Frankfurt Musikmesse in March 2006. The unit is a mix between a Prodigy and a Source, two synths based on the Minimoog D and developed in the early 80’s. In fact, the Little Phatty resembles the Prodigy in its looks and the use of two VCOs, but it takes advantage of the memories and programming method of the Source. In late 2010, Moog Music announced an affordable Little Phatty module. Don’t be fooled — affordable Moog means under $1000. Is the Slim Phatty the small synth everyone was waiting for?

Lightweight

Moog Music Slim Phatty

The Slim Phatty is Moog’s “feather-light” analog synth, considering that it weights less than 6.6 lb. and is 20″ width. Its fully metallic construction is very solid and even if the metal sheets are slim, they don’t bend easily. Like all Moog products, the housing was not screen printed but coated with Lexan instead. The front panel features not less than 34 switches with LEDs (some of them are two-colored, red/orange, depending on the status of the device), four big controls surrounded by 15 red diodes (which show the value of the parameters assigned), two standard controls (a bit too responsive) for tuning and volume setting, one push-encoder for value setting, program selection and browsing), and 18 LEDs. The controls and encoders are a bit loose, so they don’t feel as solid as the ones on the Voyager. A 2×16 light blue LCD display shows additional parameters while editing or playing.

The connections on the rear panel are a bit recessed, which allows you to mount the unit on a standard 19″ rack without any cable problems. The unit requires 3U in a 19″ rack. As it is always the case with Moog, the device is equipped with high-quality connections firmly screwed to the housing. You get one USB connector, one phones out, one mono audio out, one audio input, four CV/Gate ins, MIDI in/out/thru, a power switch, and a power connector (universal internal power supply… thank you!). The type-B USB connector only transfers MIDI signals. The CV/Gate inputs allow you to control the Slim Phatty with an external analog controller (foot controller, modular synth, sequencer, Theremin, etc.): they are connected to the pitch (CV), filter (CV), volume (CV) and keyboard (Gate). It’s a pity that Moog didn’t provide optional CV/Gate outs like on the Little Phatty: they would make the Slim Phatty the perfect USB–Midi–CV/Gate converter. It’s also a pity that Moog placed the phones out on the rear panel while it was conveniently placed on the front panel of the Little Phatty…

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

The Slim Phatty is the most affordable Moog synth ever. Described and marketed as the antithesis of the luxurious Voyager XL, it still provides the typical Moog sound without making you go bankrupt. It is well thought-out, very simple to use and easy to transport. However, there are sacrifices to be made: it has no directly accessible noise generator nor a comprehensive set of modulations. Nevertheless, for studio or live musicians who want to add the typical Moog sound to their setup without mortgaging their house or having to stack modules in order to build an analog polyphonic Moog, the Slim Phatty is a very nice solution that combines a real analog sound with an affordable price.

Advantages:

  • Typical fat and punchy Moog sound
  • Oscillators with continuous waveforms
  • 1 to 4-pole filter with overdrive
  • Very fast envelopes
  • Integrated arpeggiator
  • Microtonal scales
  • MIDI CCs can be sent and received
  • Responsiveness of the controls
  • Well thought-out design
  • Compact size
  • Affordable price

Drawbacks:

  • Very limited modulations
  • Noise generator only for modulations
  • No ring modulation
  • No additional effects

To read the full detailed article see:  Moog Music Slim Phatty Review

July 8, 2009

Tascam M-164 Series Analog Mixers

Tascam unveils their new M-164 series, a new line of analog mixers featuring new digital technology that allows each channel to be recorded individually to a computer through USB.

To see more exclusive video demos visit Audiofanzine Videos.

June 17, 2009

Antelope Audio – Zodiac D/A Converter

Antelope Audio presents their new Zodiac D/A converter with 64 bit clocking technology.

To see more exclusive video demos visit Audiofanzine Videos.

May 3, 2009

Video Demo: Doepfer A-100 Compatible Modules

Filed under: Musikmesse 2009, Synthesizers — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 7:58 am

This one’s for die-hard modular fans: a demonstration of modules compatible with Doepfer’s A-100 modular system.

To see more exclusive video demos visit Audiofanzine Videos.

April 19, 2009

Video Demo: Vintage Tools VT-Trakker Mixer

Vintage Tools presents their new VT-Trakker which they say is the sum of everything they’ve developed up to now.

To see more exclusive video demos visit Audiofanzine Videos.

Blog at WordPress.com.