Molten Music Monthly – April 2018

Molten Music Monthly

This month Mutable roll out Marbles and Stages, Propellerhead give entry level people a reason to make music, The Exodus Digital Valkyrie is the only thing anyone finds at Musikmesse, String Theory gives us Solina Strings in your Eurorack, Steinberg hatches some interfaces with Rupert Neve, there’s a new Mainstage contender called Camelot, Roland sneak out some new System 500 modules, Pittsburgh come up with a fabulous sequencer, Native Instruments NKS reaches v2 and can now handle effects, there’s another ring in the fight for wearable MIDI control, IK Multimedia add another 5 classic synths to their Syntronik range, and Behringer suggest they are going to clone System 100 and somehow manage to make Eurorack look boring.

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Welcome also to those people listening on the new podcast version – and to honour your interest I’m going to do this months monthly completely naked. (I haven’t managed to achieve the podcast thing yet).

It’s April and what I should be bringing you is all the news and excitement from the Musikmesse show in Frankfurt – but there wasn’t any, no really, hardly a thing. I think it’s safe to say that Musikmesse has had its day and now everything interesting wants to be at Superbooth in Berlin in May. So next month I’ll probably do an earlier than usual Superbooth special. Sadly, as it’s a bank holiday I’ll be off camping so i’ll miss the show – unless someone wants to kidnap me from a field in Suffolk. But of course – repeat after me – family is more important than synths

This month Mutable roll out Marbles and Stages, Propellerhead give entry level people a reason to make music, The Exodus Digital Valkyrie is the only thing anyone finds at Musikmesse, String Theory gives us Solina Strings in your Eurorack, Steinberg hatches some interfaces with Rupert Neve, there’s a new Mainstage contender called Camelot, Roland sneak out some new System 500 modules, Pittsburgh come up with a fabulous sequencer, Native Instruments NKS reaches v2 and can now handle effects, there’s another ring in the fight for wearable MIDI control, IK Multimedia add another 5 classic synths to their Syntronik range, and Behringer suggest they are going to clone System 100 and somehow manage to make Eurorack look boring.

Cakewalk by Bandlab

But first comes the news that Bandlab, who bought Cakewalk off Gibson back in February, have released the full version of Sonar Platinum online for free. All you have to do is register for Bandlab and off you go. A fully fledged, professional DAW for no moneys. Some of the third party content has gone but otherwise it’s the real deal. Not quite sure how any other DAW makers feel they should react to that – i think we’re all still in shock. The idea is that Bandlab will keep supporting it and developing it and who knows where that’s going to take us down the line. It’s now called Cakewalk by Bandlab and you can sign up on the Bandlab website. What are you waiting for?

Mutable Instruments rolls out Marbles and Stages

Following on from Plaits last month comes two new modules from Mutable Instruments. And these are new ideas, not reworkings of a glorious past. Marbles is an all out randomising engine. They call it the “Random Sampler” because all of its randomisation is based upon the sort of number sampling you find in Sample and Hold – but it’s a terrible name because people are going to think it’s to do with “sampling”, like “sampling” and stuff, like this is just some random sampler – it annoys me anyway. But you have 8 knobs to affect the chaos, 7 outputs to feed your rack and 7 inputs to apply modulation. There are two generators – a random gate generator and a random voltage generator. So you can kick out gate patterns to drums and voltages to oscillators. You can push it into repeating and deviating and all sorts of loveliness.

Stages is a segment generator which is no more clear a description than random sampler. The simplest way to look at it is as a 6 stage envelope, but you can split the stages up into 2 x 3 stages or 6 x 1 stage – each segment can ramp, hold or step, each one can loop or be looped with others which also gives it potential as an LFO. So it’s kinda clever which is what Mutable are all about.

With Plaits, Marbles and Stages you’ve got a pretty interesting modular system with lots of random and creative possibilities. Very nice indeed.

Reason 10 Intro:

Propellerhead have worked up an entry level version of Reason called Reason Intro – the thing is that it’s pretty bloody amazing. If you check out the comparison table you’ll find that they essentially lose a bunch of content but otherwise all the functionality is intact. You’ve got a full on DAW and synthesizer workstation including VST support for £69. You don’t get the bigger synths but you do get the new Europa wavetable one, you get all the samplers and drum machines, the player devices, and some of the effects. You just get the Factory sound bank and a limit of 16 audio tracks and 16 instrument tracks – that’s plenty!

Exodus Digital Valkyrie multi-timbral synthesizer to debut at Musikmesse 2018

The one synth at Musikmesse who probably wasn’t told about Superbooth was the Exodus Digital Valkyrie. It’s a big fat digital synthesizer that models virtual analog synthesis with 10 oscillators per voice, 128 voices, 4000 odd waveshapes and 8 part multi-timbral. It’s built with lots of oversampling and tries to push the quality in all sorts of ways which is especially noticeable in the filters. There are 64 LFO shapes, 9 effects on each part.

Now it was knocking around a year or so ago looking very sleek and Access Virus like. The version they had on show looks like they’ve taken a nice sleek device and dropped it into a quite horrible and overlarge case. Presumably some of the technology wouldn’t fit into the original design which is a shame because it just looks a bit weird. The demo videos from the show have been ok but there are some much better examples on Sound Cloud. In many ways it comes across as a hardware version of a huge VST Rompler – it just feels like we’ve been here before and for £2000 it needs to be awesome – and maybe it could be.


This popped up in my feed somewhere and I was immediately attracted to the idea of some strings in my Eurorack. StringTheory is made by Dave of Make Synths Not War and is essentially a 4 voice Solina String synth on a chip strapped to a Eurorack faceplate. What’s cool is that it’s a very cheap way to get some polyphony into your rack – pads – can you imagine? The slight downside is that you can only play it via MIDI – there’s no CV input. The reason being that to integrate polyphonic CV control is a huge job and would make it a very different project. There is a gate output so you can trigger a filter envelope or something every time you trigger a note. This is cheap and cheerful and ready to go with Ensemble and Modulation controls. Buy the kit for £45 – sorted. I got myself one that you can hear in the Hermod Noodle i did the other day.

Let’s make something cool…

Steinberg teams up with Rupert Neve Designs on new USB interfaces

Steinberg have come up with some very boring looking audio interfaces in that annoying short 1U format. But these ones have the signature of Rupert Neve on the front – what does that mean? It means they have switchable Rupert Neve Designs transformers giving you that legendary Neve sound. Easy to spot on the radio – i often find myself going oh well that was definitely mixed through Neve switchable transformers.

Like the existing UR range it has some DSP and Yamaha effects for zero latency processing. Those transformers though are designed to add warmth, saturation and harmonics to whatever you run through it. And that’s very cool. Available in 2 and 4 input versions although at €399 and €649 you’ll pay for the quality.


Here’s something a little different that appeared at Musikmesse and will be sharing Yamaha’s stand at Superbooth. Camelot is a Mainstage style live performance and VST instrument manager. You can create and configure your entire set in Camelot and have it load the right instruments and presets, layer up your keyboard, even bring up chord sheets, lyrics and order you a beer. However, what it also does is communicate and manage hardware synths. It will pull the presets out of your synth and let you save those in Camelot as well. So it runs hardware as well as software and it’s cross platform so anyone can use it. Still being developed but looks quite handy.

Forget the TR-808 trainers what about these new Roland System 500 modules?

One of our most successful articles on was about those Roland Adidas 808 trainers that never materialised. Well we had another massive hit a couple of weeks ago when Puma released their Roland TR-808 trainers. People don’t care about the gear, they just want to wear the iconic colours on their feet. But hidden away in a corner of the Puma launch party was a modular rack containing some never-seen-before Roland System 500 modules.

Pittsburgh Modular Electronic Sequence Designer and primary oscillator

Pittsburgh had one of the coolest new products at NAMM in January – the Microvolt. It was very unlike them in style – they’ve always looked very utility and a bit dated with their otherwise excellent Lifeforms range. But the Microvolt was cool, it was dark and interesting. Well they’ve followed that up with a similarly fabulously styled Electronic Sequence Designer. I mean look at it – all those lovely sliders and glowey buttons it ticks all the boxes for me in terms of flashy lights and desktop glamour. It has 32 steps and 4 channels for CV or MIDI sequencing – it’s going to be interesting seeing this one Superbooth.

Then they dropped back to their dull Lifeforms look for what they are calling a Primary Oscillator which features cascading analogue waveform sculpting.

Komplete Kontrol and NKS 2

Native Instruments have released version two of their NKS format and Komplete Kontrol software. This means that you can now drop effects onto loaded and control them all from the Komplete Kontrol keyboards. It’s quite neat and very welcome and gives you a much more versatile playing space. I did a demo with the excellent Eventide Blackhole reverb which is NKS2 compatible which you will find in the channel.

War of the Rings: Neova MIDI controller ring hits Kickstarter as Wave funds 200%

I spoke last week about the Wave ring controller and how I was quite taken with it as a means of waving at your gear in order to control parameters. Well another one has arrived. This used to be called the Oria Ring and has been knocking around for a while, but now it’s relaunched as the Enhancia Neova and has fully funded on its first day on Kickstarter. They were at NAMM where they filmed all sorts of proper keyboard players and creative people having a go – it worked fabulously and they have tons of cool footage of cool people smiling with their product. It’s the same deal – wave you hand to control stuff. As with Wave it doesnt have to be big movements. This time though it’s not Bluetooth. Neova uses it’s own wireless protocol to a little plastic looking 1990’s peripheral hub which then connects via USB. The idea being is that it will always work, be of a higher resolution and faster than bluetooth. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Neova and the Wave compare and compete.

Behringer to clone Roland System 100M and somehow makes Eurorack look boring

Meanwhile, back in Behringer land Uli has been asking the community what they’d like to see in Eurorack. He then ignored everyone’s suggestions and put out some renders of their clones of the Roland System 100m modules. That’s a whole coherent modular system cloned for Eurorack for 89 quid a pop – yay! That’s awesome by any standard but also probably the dullest and most uninspired looking modules I have ever seen. I’m sure they sound good, and do all that Roland stuff that no one was asking for but do they have to look so drab? Anyone who says modular is all about the sound is obviously an idiot. But this does mean that you could put together a Behringer System 100 modular rack for around 1000 pounds. No doubt Behringer will also get into the Eurorack case business – that’s definitely one area that could do with some cheapening. So – kinda great, kinda disappointing, i think Behringer are at their best when they innovate.

5 new classic synthesizers in IK Multimedia’s Syntronik Deluxe

I unintentionally missed out IK Multimedia last month who had just released a massive super duper deluxe bundle that comes with everything they do for a silly price. But not to worry, this month they’ve updated their Syntronik instrument collection with 5 new classic synthesizers. These are a Memory Moog polysynth, a combined Roland SH-5 and SH-2, a hybrid Korg Mono/Poly and Polysix, The Putney EMS VCS3 and a the Modulum which pulls percussion sounds from some of the other synths. It’s a great collection of sample based instruments running with analog modelled wizardry.

They also have allegedly 2 pieces of hardware to reveal at Superbooth. Now IK hardware tends to be on the cheap plastic side of things so it will be interesting to see what they do surrounded by some many real hardware heads.

Lil’ Erebus

Out of no where Dreadbox resurrect the Erebus. They’ve simplified it a bit, changed the layout to fit in Eurorack and released it as a kit for about 150 quid – that’s flippin’ amazing. I was so close to buying the Erebus when i first got back into hardware. I reckon with the Erebus, the Mother -32 and 0-Coast i could have been completely happy and not gone anywhere near Eurorack. Too late now. Anyway, you can have it just for Eurorack or get the desktop kit which also provides a 3 module power bus. You use the box as a case – or you could fudge something together and add a couple more modules. That’s a great way to start a lunchbox Eurorack.


SoundMachines Arches

Soundmachines have been kicking this idea around for a couple of years now but finally they’ve made it to Kickstarter with their great looking Arches tactile controller. They spell it in brackets, presumably to somehow physically reinforce the idea of the arches, although you do get that from the name – arches – i think it’s there just to annoy me. Anyway, it’s full of these lightstrips and XT controllers that you can use to generate CV and patch it all over your Eurorack. It will also do MIDI. It has a built in sequencer and trigger sequencer which cleverly uses the LEDs in the light strips. I think it’s great – looks inspired by those Buchla touch plate controllers. I have a single LS1 lightstrip on its way to me very slowly from wherever they are in the world because i think it’s an excellent way to generate interesting modulation.


And finally there’s lots of stuff emerging and leaking in the run up to what is undoubtedly going to be a classic Superbooth. Everyone seems to have something to reveal or a prototype to show off. Endorphin have something very black, Percussa will be showing the finished super wavetable thing, Audio Circuits League will be showing their new modules, the Pittsburgh sequencer, the IK reveal, Abstract Data have something new, as do Expert Sleepers along with their Bitwig Studio Edition of the ES-8, there is loads going on and I will be reporting back on all that in a week or two in an earlier than usual May Molten Monthly.

Coming up

Hopefully you saw my review of the excellent Vermona randomRHYTHM. I have reviews to do of the Erica Synths Graphic VCO and I’ve just started playing with the Hermod. Eventide are sending me their Euro DDL module to try out which is very cool. I have a round up of different DAWs running on the Surface coming soon along with a review of Waveform 9 and Stagelight 3.5 – it just all takes time.

People have started asking me to do patch videos on the noodles i put out – so i might do a bit of that and i did a practice livestream the other day that seemed to work so I will attempt – this Sunday – to do a livestream on YouTube. Let’s say 8pm BST. It might be crap, it might not work, it might reveal the reality of all my umms and ahhs, coughs and sniffs that i usually edit out of my videos and the fact that i dont really know anything. But i will talk you through my Eurorack, show you what’s new, talk about that Hermod patch and you can ask questions and get involved. Happy to talk about any sort of music technology – not just modular. Let’s give that a go!

The podcast thing was a great idea of someones and i might even make that happen, in which case search for it on iTunes – if you can’t find it then i havent done it – but it’s on my list. If you feel so inspired then please consider becoming a Patron and help me fund these videos going into the future – there’s a fabulous bunch of people doing that already – come and join in.

That’ll do and in the meantime go and make some tunes.