It was way back in 1920 that Lev Sergeyevich Termen, better known as Leon Theremin in the west, first demonstrated one of the most important electronic musical instruments ever. The instrument is very much ingrained in the DNA of Moog.
Novation’s Bass Station II is considered a modern classic in the synth world. In fact, even though the core three-oscillator analog sound engine is unchanged, the 2020 version of the Bass Station II feels like a completely different instrument from the one launched in 2013. One of the biggest additions came last year in AFX Mode (we’ll get to the details later), which was created in collaboration with Aphex Twin himself, Mr Richard D. James.
Cooper FX Arcades takes what could be a mere gimmick -- game cartridge-like swappable sound cards -- and uses them to plumb the depths of lo-fi guitar effects.
The Grandmother and Matriarch quickly became staples of the modern Moog era when they were released. The Moog Dark Series replaces the bright green, yellow of the original models with serious looking black panels. There’s no gaming changing features being added, but there’s improved sync and an envelope multi-trig mode for the Grandmother and a few additional enhancements and bug fixes.
Guitar MIDI controllers are usually giant disappointments. But Jamstik seems to have broken the code. The Studio MIDI Guitar has fast and accurate pitch detection, and even does an impressive job of recreating bends, hammer-ons and to a lesser degree slides. MIDI wasn’t designed with stringed instruments in mind, so it’s never going to be perfect, and the $800 asking price is steep. But, this is probably the best guitar-style MIDI controller on the market right now. Plus, it’s actually a guitar.
The PolyBrute is a six-voice analog beast that combines Arturia’s signature mod matrix with its digital effects expertise and a some innovative controls in a true polyphonic instrument.
'Patch and Tweak with Moog' is a book dedicated to tips, tricks and ideas for the semi-modular Mother family — including the Mother 32, DFAM, Subharmonicon, Grandmother and Matriarch. It's filled with synth history, an inside look at the Moog factory plus interviews with synth icons, musicians and Moog employees.
Microsoft has finally announced its budget next-gen Xbox, the $299 Xbox Series S. That price is appealing, but the cuts to storage and graphical power… not so much.
Arturia’s KeyStep Pro successfully marries most of what makes the KeyStep so ubiquitous with the sequencing power of the BeatStep Pro. It’s not perfect, especially if you’re hoping to use it as the core of a hybrid setup that combines hardware synths with the power of a DAW. But there are few controllers out there with this breadth of connectivity options, especially at the price point.
Plus, Google has proven time and again that through smart software optimization it can squeeze great performance out of lesser devices. Just one model that will come with a 6-inch OLED -- which is smack in the middle of the 6.3 inch screen of the Pixel 4 XL and the 5.8 inch screen on the Pixel 4A.
When Arturia announced the MicroFreak in January of 2019 I said “there's nothing stopping Arturia from adding more oscillators down the road through firmware updates.”
The MOD Duo X is a one-of-a-kind desktop effects processor that has the potential to do even more. It's excellent for building virtual pedalboards, but its synth features still feel unfinished. If you’re looking for an all-in-one device that can be a multi-effects unit, a direct recording box, a headphone practice amp and a live sound mangler the Duo X is a solid choice, as long as you’re willing to spend the $749.
Korg’s Volca Sample is one of the most beloved members of beloved family of affordable and portable instruments. The Volca Sample 2 is visually almost indistinguishable from the original. That USB port is definitely the biggest upgrade here.
Akai’s MPK Mini mkII is one of the best-selling MIDI controllers out there. It’s small, affordable, and has a solid arpeggiator plus the best pads on any budget or midrange controller. The portable MIDI controller field has gotten a lot more crowded, not to mention more competitive.
It’s, in theory, a “multi modulation pedal” for your guitar. But, Beebo also has a secret. It’s the same exact hardware as Poly Effects’ last pedal, Digit. It’s just running different firmware.
The Pico System III is a reasonably priced entry point into the world of modular and west coast synthesis. It has everything you need to get started exploring the nuts and bolts of analog sound design.
There are no shortage of crazy and unique MIDI controllers out there. It claims to let anyone create music, regardless of skill level, while also teaching them about music theory. Well TheoryBoard has two 12x4 sets of velocity sensitive pads, with a touchscreen in the middle.
Unsurprisingly, the Blipblox also turned out to be a hit with adults. Earlier this year Playtime Engineering, the company behind Blipblox, announced a new adult themed version -- Blipblox After Dark.
Sensel’s Morph is, by design, a bit of a shapeshifter. Obviously, this is only going to be useful if you know how to program in Pure Data. But, thankfully, it’s a relatively easy programing environment to wrap your head around. But, even if Pure Data is a bit too much for you, don’t worry.
The Subharmonicon indulges its experimental side more than other Moog synths. It's inspired by the Mixtur-Trautonium and the Rhythmicon a pair of early electronic music instruments. Those avant-garde roots show and can make it a bit daunting if you’re just looking for a quick fix of that iconic bass sound. But patience and persistence reveal that the Subharmonicon, for all of its complexity, is still classic Moog.
As part of its revamped Roland Cloud service, it’s also launching Zenology as a standalone VST instrument that can be used in your DAW of choice. The full version comes packed with over 3,500 different synth sounds and 80 drum kits.
The Joué Play lowers the price -- $289 with four overlays -- and adds a companion app that allows you to quickly and easily start making music with built in sounds. In fact, if you ask the company, it think the Play will appeal to even those who can’t play an instrument, but want to make music.