Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai takes his sweet time getting to the point in a new Financial Times editorial. But when he gets there, he leaves little room for interpretation: "...there is no question in my mind that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated. It is too important not to."
I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on the history of guitar pedals. But, I'm fairly confident in saying there has never been a pedal quite like Rainger FX's Minibar. It's an overdrive pedal, but one that requires a little something extra to work -- a liquid. There's a small container on the top that says "pour liquid here" and, until you put something in there it simply wont make a sound.
Regardless of your opinion of Behringer, you can't deny that the company is tireless in its efforts to bring affordable versions of classic synths to the masses. In 2019 alone it successfully launched clones of the Korg MS-20, ARP Odyssey, Sequential Circuits Pro-One, Electronic Dream Plant (EDP) Wasp Deluxe, not to mention the TB-303, TR-808, VP330 and SH-101 all from Roland, and a polyphonic version of the Moog Model D. And we know there are plenty more to come, like the Octave Cat. So it's no surprise that, shortly after it revealed it was getting into the Eurorack case game, Behringer announced its plan to clone some of the most iconic modular synth components ever made: Roland's System 100m.
When Arturia announced the Microfreak at NAMM last year, we told you there was nothing stopping the company from adding new oscillators down the line through firmware updates. Well, guess what -- it's got a new oscillator.
Anytime Moog releases a new synth it's worth getting at least a little excited about. And the Subsequent 25 (or Sub 25) is no exception. It's the successor to the Sub Phatty -- basically the standard bearer for classic Moog bass sounds over the last several years. The Sub 25 takes what made its predecessor such a powerful and aggressive tone monster and just goes bigger.
It's been a few years since Akai's iconic MPC line has seen a significant new entry. But at NAMM 2020 the company is not only introducing a new model, but specifically going for the entry level... or at least what qualifies as entry level for an MPC. The MPC One in a $699 standalone production studio that basically takes all the essential parts of the series and skips the luxuries.
Roland basically abandoned pure analog synths. Instead it's been focused on improving its digital instruments and software that pay homage to the past, while embracing the future. But here's the thing, thanks to powerful audio processors there's very little these days keeping one synth engine tied to any particular device; The Microfreak borrows heavily from Mutuable Instruments Plaits and the Organelle runs patches built in the cross-platform, for instance. Roland has apparently decided this is a harbinger of the future of synthesis and so it's launching Zen-Core, a synth engine that will work across a wide swath of its instruments.
Arturia's KeyStep is pretty beloved among hardware synth enthusiasts and bedroom producers alike. It's an affordable, versatile and impeccably built MIDI controller. Honestly, the only real criticism I have of it is that, for something that's supposed to be portable, it's just a bit too big and heavy. So, Arturia decided to lean into the idea of the Keystep as a studio staple with the KeyStep Pro and just forgot about the whole portable thing. Instead of simply adding a bunch more keys though, Arturia decided to focus on what made the KeyStep so popular in the first place. It beefed up the sequencing capabilities and added even more ports to the back for connecting gear.
The Korg MS-20 is an undeniable classic. It's been reborn as an app. As a shrunken-down mini model. As a DIY kit. And then as a DIY kit again, but without the keyboard. Until now though, there hasn't been a ready-to-roll, full-size reissue. But for NAMM 2020 Korg is going all in on the nostalgia with a faithful to a fault rendition of the MS-20 -- right down to the packaging and manual.
Empress Effects ZOIA is perhaps one of the most exciting guitar pedals to come out in recent years. It's effectively a self-contained modular synth in a stompbox format. So, it only makes sense then that Empress would take it and stick in a Eurorack format, so that this mini digital modular synth could sit inside a larger modular synth.
The ARP 2600 is one of the most iconic synthesizers ever made. (And easily the most expensive piece of music equipment I've ever actually touched.) Everyone from Brian Eno, to the Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails and Stevie Wonder have played one. It was even used to create the voice of R2-D2. And after being discontinued 39 years ago it's making a limited return to production thanks to Korg.
Sensel has always prided itself on the flexibility of its force sensing tech. In fact, it's the primary selling point of the Morph, the company's shapeshifting touchpad that can be a drawing tablet, a drum machine or a video editing bay. But, no matter how wide of a net the Morph cast, it's definitely a bit of a niche product. So, the next step for Sensel is to get its tech into other devices made by other companies. This week at CES, it's showing off a proof of concept that puts its Pressure Grid sensor in a phone, beneath a flexible AMOLED display made by Visionox.
There are countless different styles of synthesis, but one of the more rare and distinctive is vector synthesis, in which different sound sources are dynamically blended to give a sense of movement. One of the most iconic vector synthesizers is the Korg Wavestation. Its unique sound was all over the place in the early 90s, from Genesis, to Depeche Mode to the X-Files. It was particularly well regarded for its pad sounds. But, it was also a very short lived family of instruments, being introduced in 1990 and discontinued in 1994. There have been a few other vector synths (including the Korg OASYS) in the years since, but none have resonated with musicians quite like the Wavestation. Korg is ready to give it a go again with a spiritual successor called the Wavestate.
MIDI 2.0 is (hopefully) right around the corner. And Roland is trying to stay ahead of the game. The A-88MKII keyboard is the first from the company to support the new standard as it works its way toward finalization. Unsurprisingly, Roland isn't starting its MIDI 2.0 journey with a budget controller. The A-88MKII is a premium music making machine with a wooden body and 88 weighted keys that are made to feel like ivory (even though they're plastic).
Being a tech journalist is a stressful job. And CES is the most stressful time of year. So naturally, I'm looking for any opportunity I have to take a couple of minutes, breathe, relax and just focus on myself. Which meant the first thing I did when I rolled into Unveiled -- basically the officially kickoff party for CES -- was wander over the booth for Core, a device designed to help you meditate.
For Engadget editors, life is just a series of moments while you wait for CES to come back around again. Sometimes it almost feels like we never left. But we did. And now we're back. CES 2020 is about to get started in sunny (and slightly smelly) Las Vegas. As always there will be plenty of cars, TVs and smart (fill-in-the-blanks). But our real job is to separate the wheat from the chaff and bring you only the best of what the world's largest tech conference has to offer. The show floor hasn't officially opened yet, but we've already seen plenty shiny new laptops, a lot of 8K screens, and even a shower head that's also a smart speaker. Of course, you don't want to miss out on our liveblogs for Sony (January 6th at 8pm ET / 5pm PT) and Samsung (January 6th at 9:30pm ET / 6:30pm PT). And as always we are hosting the official Best of CES awards on Thursday January 9th at 8pm ET / 5pm PT.
There are very few objective truths out there that everyone can seem to agree on. But one of them is most certainly the fact that playing guitar through headphones sucks. Whether you're using a dedicated headphone amp (which often look like relics from the 1980s) or just plugging your trusty over-ears into a tube amp that would wake the neighbors even at the lowest settings, the experience is underwhelming at best. A number of companies have tried different things to try to improve the situation, but Boss' Waza Air are probably the most novel I've seen. For one, this is the first time I know of that a company built a guitar amp directly into a set of headphones. And secondly, the Waza Air includes some pretty unique features that make it feel more like you're listening to an actual amp in a room, rather than just blasting a raw guitar signal into your ears.
I am simultaneously deeply fascinated by and deeply skeptical of strange niche instruments. As fun as a classic Stylophone is, for instance, it's pretty tricky to make decent-sounding music with. Even quirky controllers like Roli Blocks have a hard time finding a foothold in my life. But I still can't resist their allure. So of course when I heard about Orba, the new instrument from Artiphon, I had to check it out.
There's more than one way to turn a guitar into a synthesizer. But Boss and Roland have always gone for the most elaborate and complicated approach. While the new SY-1000 can be played simply by plugging in a guitar or bass via a standard 1/4-inch instrument jack, it really shines when connected via Roland's proprietary GK pickup. Unlike a lot of other guitar synth pedals, the GK pickup system allows for polyphonic tracking of notes on a guitar without the use of MIDI, which can be a little unreliable. The SY-1000 builds on the tech in the SY-300 which turns your guitar licks into everything from a gnarly synth lead to a rich pad, or even a thick Leslie-like organ.
Whether you're a musician always on the go or just tight on space, there are plenty of reasons to pick up a portable MIDI controller. I've been on the hunt for the perfect portable and affordable controller. (You don't want to lose or break something expensive while you're traveling, after all.) But honestly, there is no perfect controller. There are some very good ones out there, but none has ticked every box for me. Similarly, you'll need to figure out which one best addresses your specific needs, with the fewest trade-offs. None of these controllers rises head and shoulders above the rest to make it the clear winner. So I've laid out the strengths and weaknesses of what I think are the five best options currently on the market.
Elektron's synths, samplers, drum machines and grooveboxes are known for their top-notch sound and unique sequencing features. Once thing they're not known for, though, is being affordable. The Model:Samples is the big exception to that rule. And it's getting even cheaper for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Most retailers have knocked $100 of the price, bringing the Model:Samples price to just $299 -- making it perhaps the best bargain in grooveboxes right now.
Artiphon first made a splash back in 2013 when it started showing off a rather rough prototype of a device that would eventually become the Instrument 1. By the time it hit Kickstarter in 2015 it had undergone a serious facelift. In its final version it was sleek and futuristic, with an almost minimal design. Now that company is back with it's second product, the Orba, and it takes many of the core concepts of the Instrument 1 to their logical extremes.
Expressive E isn't quite the household name that, say, Korg is. It's a small French startup with just a couple of niche musical devices under its belt. But its Touché and Touché SE are unique in the way they allow musicians to control and sculpt their sound. They're essentially expression pedals with four degrees of motion that you control with your hand. It's hard to explain, so maybe just watch this demo. What's exciting though is that Expressive E took what it learned from the Touché and built its first standalone synthesizer: Osmose. While it looks rather unassuming and perhaps even a tad boring, it hides some powerful features inside.
Not long ago, "portable" was basically a synonym for "toy" when it came to keyboards and synthesizers. Sure, a classic Casio like the VL-1 is not without its charms. But it's not exactly a serious musical instrument. That's changed a lot in recent years, partially due to miniaturization and clever engineering but mostly thanks to the relentless march forward of computing power. Perhaps no device is more emblematic of this than Critter & Guitari's Organelle. It is, at its core, a computer, and I don't mean that in the same broadly defined way that almost all electronics are computers. I mean that inside there's a Raspberry Pi running Linux. It's this fact that makes the Organelle so unique and flexible. Unlike other portable music gadgets, like the Pocket Operator, that focus on being a drum machine or a sampler, the Organelle tries to be all the things. It's a synthesizer, a sampler, a sequencer, an effects processor -- almost anything someone with the right coding skills can dream up. But there is a danger in trying to be a jack-of-all-trades: You often end up as a master of none.
It's hard to believe, but it's been 25 years since R.E.M. released Monster. And, like any classic album approaching such a milestone, it's getting a massive reissue complete with a remastered version of the album, demos and outtakes, plus two discs worth of live material. But, perhaps most interesting, there's also a remix of the album done by original producer Scott Litt. Some of the changes are not subtle, and for something that has been in the pop culture consciousness for so long, there's bound to be some brush back. (For instance, ditching the stuttering tremolo guitar in "What's the Frequency, Kenneth" seems pretty brazen.)