From Caloroso, Michael E
Sent Thu, Feb 10th 2000, 04:13
Today's my first day back on AH, lots of catching up to do... I'd like to extend a HUGE thank you to David Kean for inviting me to NAMM and making a dream come true. Funny, setting up all that vintage equipment didn't seem like work at all :) We're glad you guys all enjoyed the display. I'd say that the highlight of the trip was meeting everybody and finally being able to put a face to a name. I never imagined that the internet community was so friendly, you guys ROCK! Mark Pulver seemed a lot skinnier in person though ;) Hey, AH is becoming a *name* now, I've had people asking about us when they saw my nametag. We're (in?)famous. What's next - the cover of Keyboard Mag? :) This was my first NAMM show, I've had several people tell me I was in for an awakening and they weren't kidding. I come from a small town and we don't see *any* of this great new or vintage analog stuff, this trip was the first time I've ever laid eyes and hands on a Moog Modular, Buchla Music Easel (neat synth!), OSCar, CS-80 (including the inside of one at JL's shop - UGH!), Jupiter-8, Theremin (RCA *and* R.A. Moog), vocoders, Eventides, ARP Quadra, Emu Modular, Serge, Waldorf Q, Technosaurus, etc on and on and on, I was as impressed as everybody else. Besides Bob and Don, I also saw Dave Smith of Prophet-5 fame stop by and glean over past memories. I had a ball patching up the Moog Modular for the show. Half of it was JL's, I added to his handiwork. It was too bad the keyboard and EGs weren't working, but we got cool noises out of it with two sequencers running asynchronously and FMing on the filter. Now I want one. Damn, I envy you guys that have a Moog Modular :) Award Nominees for the display: Synth that made jaws drop: Roger Luther Moog Modular, no contest. Most Photogenic synth: Buchla Marimba Lumina Gold Most deceiving synth: Solina (it's heavier than my Memorymoog!) Crustiest Keyboard: moldy oldy Fender Rhodes piano with *gold* sparkle Most ahead-of-their-time synth: PPG realizer, the first VA circa 1987 Synth that garnered most interest: the Minimoog prototypes Most out-of-place synth: Yamaha DX-7 (not David's idea :) Top Ten comments about the display: 10: This Marimba Lumina lets you pitch bend with a MALLET? 9: I used to work with [artist] on [album] using this [keyboard] 8: Where do I meet this David Kean? 7: I want to know what booth is selling Minimoogs. 6: Who the hell is Michael Caloroso? 5: I used to own one of those! or I wish I never sold mine! 4: How much would a big Moog Modular like that cost me? 3: That's Minimoog Numero Uno?!? 2: This booth is so cool! 1: Are these for sale? ******************* Alesis Andromeda/A6 Mike Peake was generous enough to bring one over to David Kean's place to give us a hands-on tryout a few days before the show. As a happy owner of a Memorymoog and having been disappointed by previous attempts with the OBMx, SuperNova, and SE-1, I must say that Alesis has emerged with a sonic killer. 16 multitimbral voices of real analog VCOs, VCFs, and VCAs with modulation and configuration options up the wazoo. Wow, this thing is LOADED! They really came out of left field with this thing, but a lot of thought went into this piece and it sounds *great*. Two filters, it's got a great 24dB filter, and I *love* the 12dB filter, it sounds so creamy. That's the adjective I use to tell people at NAMM, it really sounds "creamy". I loved the resonant flexibility of the filters and the fact they can be configured in lowpass/highpass/bandpass/notch. Extremely flexible timbre shaping. The post filter mixer section (separate levels of each filter output) is a great touch. Having been well acquainted with the great filter of the Memorymoog, this baby can run with the big boys. And you can route external signals through the filter, the last two or all of them. I couldn't believe the fat sound of this thing with ONE oscillator - I haven't heard so much timbre out of one oscillator since the era of Moog. Sweeping a synced oscillator makes it *scream*. If the oscillator was based on a Moog 921 module, it sure sounds BIG. And THANK YOU for implementing a MIXER, not a balance control! And there's a suboscillator for more beef, not as flexible as a third oscillator (beg more, Mike :) but it's a suitable compromise. Mind you, this thing sounds great and they haven't added the *effects* yet! Modulation options are far vaster than an OB Matrix synth. A great big LCD with soft knobs let you dig deeper into the machine. After Mike demonstrated it once, I navigated on my own with no further assistance. I didn't need to peek in any manual - a sign of successful intuitive design. It's great to see that a standard convention of navigating is maintained all across the board, something sorely lacking in many other user interfaces. EGs - three of them, snappy at minimum times, 130 seconds at maximum times, an extra decay AND release control (not seen since the Kurzweils), and the slopes are selectable from linear to varying curves. Three LFOs and a S&H. Variable portamento slopes and rates. The Ring Mod is sweet - try two oscillators, one a fifth below the other and hear what OBESE sounds like. A Ribbon controller? Too much. You guys are TOO much! At last, a Unison mode that lets me define the number of voices. A crucial tool (also featured in the Memorymoog) for convincing monophonic lines. Separate outputs for each voice - *OUCH* I'm still pinching myself, this can't be true. I forget, did it have monophonic pressure? Parameters are expressed in relevant units (seconds, frequency, +/- percentage, etc), not useless abstract numbers. A damn shame more manufacturers don't do this. And finally, a synth with a NAME, not a model number. THANK you! Comes in two flavors, dark blue and maroon, COOL graphics that don't distract and doesn't clutter the panel legends. Well, they distract just a little in that the oscillator and filter sections look like the hourglass curves of a woman ;) I wouldn't have been surprised to see it with reversed color keys :) Besides the hands-on experience, I also saw the Andromeda in action in Alesis' demo booth - fat brasses, smooth filter sweeps, multiple LFO patches, and - "Caloroso Piano"?!? Seems that one of my "happy accidents" from the demo party made it into the Andromeda preset library. I'm flattered. Great to see my name associated with a killer product. Is there a "Resonant Peake" patch in there yet? ;) Hats off the team responsible for this. You've created a monster. Even in its current "85% complete" state with no arpeggiator, sequencer, or effects, I'd buy it as is. It is now officially on my "must-have" list, and in the last ten years I can count on one hand the products that make that list :) Usual disclaimer applies, I just LOVE this machine! I think I can finally leave my Memorymoog home :) ******************* Alesis DM Pro Drum Kit Way cool drum controller for he-man drummers, not desktop tappers. Pads have REAL drum heads on them (not that silly practice pad Simmons surface) for realistic feel. The snare pad has separate edge trigger for rim shots. It is SO nice to do snare rolls on these things. Finally, a realistic hihat controller with closed, mid, and open hihat plus foot closed. I love the crash cymbal that FEEL like crash cymbals, and the fact you can choke them like the real thing. And a ride controller with separate bell ride trigger. They thought of everything except the 48 inch Chinese gong trigger pad :) So where's the analog content? It's a MIDI controller, innit? Ever trigger a Simmons SDS1000M from MIDI? So there... ;) ******************* AH Party Oh my god, what a party... if it wasn't enough to have so many AHers show up, the two Analog Synth Pioneers show up and let loose for a historical event. Mucho thanks to Glenn Gregory for hosting, what a great place for a gathering. Also to all the others who supplied parking, food, drink, toys to jam away on, etc. I was glad to see many other AHers share in my enthusiasm for the Buchla Marimba Lumina controller (Thank You Don Buchla and Joel Davel) and the Andromeda (Thank You Mike Peake and Alesis!). Amanda's dog blew me away - I couldn't believe the tricks it could do for a robot, just amazing. The 21st century is definitely here, finally a pet you don't have to clean up after - you just feed it batteries! ******************* Big Briar Performance Synth It's here, it's almost done, it's got what we asked for, and Bob's open for more input. I know, we can't hear the Mephisto either, but we're talking *BOB* here. Bob has my name down for one when it's available. Maybe we didn't hear it, but we're talking about the MAN here who BUILT this industry. After hands-on experience with his Theremin and the MF Low Pass Filter, this thing's GOTTA sound good. Looks like a big MoogerFooger pedal with a keyboard. MIDI I/O, lotsa rear panel CV patchpoints, wheels, Mono Pressure, 3-1/2 octave keyboard, two LFOs with extensive sources and routing that can be synchronized to MIDI clock, keyboard gate, or external gate. *THREE* oscillators with voltage-controllable variable waveshaping from triangle to ramp to variable pulse. *TWO* low pass filters, switchable between 12dB/24dB. External input, white/pink noise. A real mixer with on/off rockers. Oscillator sync, FM, and OSC 3 can be switched to subaudio range. Two ADS EGs that can be triggered by keyboard, MIDI clock, or external gate. And no A440 switch :) Between the Andromeda and Bob's new synth, the second age of Analog has officially arrived! ******************* Big Briar CP251 Control Processor A lot of useful power in a seemingly innocent box. Brian Kehew at the Big Briar booth was happily patching into Moogerfooger pedals to further torment the timbre of his Minimoog. Four input mixer for audio *or* DC signals (read: control voltages) with dual +/- complimentary outputs. Lag processor with separate rise and fall rates. A voltage-controlled LFO with triangle and square waves. Sample-and-Hold with external trigger inputs (normalled to LFO), NOISE input normalled to noise (can use other signals for sampling input, IE triangle waves from LFOs), and stepped and smoothed outputs. Two attenuators, handy as "mod wheels" for LFO and S&H but not limited to that application. ******************* Bosendorfer Imperial Grand The Rolls Royce of pianos with a price tag to match, but nothing sounds like it, nothing sings like it. When you press down on a key you can FEEL the string vibrations through your fingers - very stimulating. Steinways don't do this. Whaled away on Ragtime and improv - ah, refreshing to play a *weighted* action after trying out so many spring-loaded keyboards. Call it "time out". ******************* Buchla Marimba Lumina The 21st century has arrived, even though it's officially less than a year away. This thing blows my mind. Don Buchla has conjured up yet another amazing controller. There's far more under the surface than just a marimba controller. The mallets give you so much control over the sound and it doesn't stop at just striking a bar (that's marimba-speak for a key on a keyboard). For starters, you have four independent mallets, and it senses which mallet you hit the bar with. You can configure independent sounds for each mallet. You can modulate the sound by moving the mallet up and down on the bar, pitch bend, filter open/close, fade in, whatever. Still not impressed? The bars are not only position and velocity sensitive, they're impact sensitive. I heard a layer patch where soft strokes play a lush string sound and hard strokes play a tympani sound. MIDI I/O. Arpeggiator that follows your playing (key changes). Ribbon-style controller for the mallets. Two CV controller inputs. Sturdy and low profile, the frame is less than two inches thick. Built-in Yamaha XG sound chip, patches are surprising good. User Interface is manipulated entirely with the mallets and it is very intuitive - I didn't even need a manual. Watching Joel Davel (note the correct spelling Mark) perform on this was a treat. Mark Goldstein is not only the software designer, he's also a master mallet player like Joel, as anybody who visited the Nearfield Multimedia booth has witnessed. David and I enjoyed the company of Don Buchla and Joel Davel in their hospitality suite after hours where they had a Marimba Lumina set up to entertain guests. I started playing "Dueling Banjos" and Joel joined me for the second part, and when we got to the bluegrass section (picture if you can two mallet players playing bluegrass picked instruments!), Don was thoroughly enjoying the show. I wish I had thought of doing that at the AH party, you guys would've enjoyed it! ******************* Encore Electronics Knobby Finally - a knob box that transmits sysex messages - just the thing for Oberheim Matrix 6/1000 boxes. At a great price, too. Software is EASY to use to configure the box. ******************* Motion Sound KBR-3D A Leslie cabinet in a keyboard combo amp. Good idea, sounds great. They had a Hammond XK-2 hooked up to it. 12AX7 tube preamp on the front end (you can overdrive it), solid state power amplifer, it CRANKS. Has a stationary channel for piano sounds and the like, and an enhanced 3D channel for string and stereo pads. Kevin Lightner proceeded to amaze me with his Hammond chops. I was so awed watching him that I forgot that Joey DeFranscesco was standing behind us. No I'm not kidding, the Monster of Jazz Organ was there. ******************* The Kurstins Husband/wife jazz duo, I stood in amazement hearing violin and upright bass timbres out of a theremin - TOO MUCH! Great Minimoog playing, great jazz licks, they really impressed me. Look for a forthcoming debut CD. ******************* Korg MS2000 It's got knobs, but boy does it sound tinny. Four voices ain't bad for the money. After struggling to figure out how to kill the chorus effect to hear the raw audio, I walked away. Beyond the knobs, it's not intuitive. Not impressed. ******************* Kurzweil 2600 Great sounds, all the great Kurzweil library sounds are there, but they need a knob interface to tweak VA sounds, not sliders. I want a ribbon controller now that I've tried it. Forget the PC2/PC2x keyboards and their cheaper counterparts - not the same sounds as their big brothers. You get what you pay for, and those great sounds are worth the money. ******************* Oberheim OB12 see Viscount ******************* Nova Supernova 3.0 Disappointing. I played with a 2.0 (see my review in the archives) and this wasn't much better in raw sound, I'm not counting the improved effects. The best FX in the world won't make a lame synth sound great. I could've sworn the filter sounded better on the older firmware. And yes I used headphones on both units. But a great machine for the money. It just lacks in beef for my taste, especially for three oscillators. ******************* Roland Great booth (Roland-ville anybody?) Eh, nothing interesting at all. In and out in less than a minute. Went there just to say I was there. Now they own Rodgers? Great. What's next - groove approved pipe organs? ******************* Studio Electronics Omega-8 With a little arm-twisting from Cary Roberts, I visited their little booth off the beaten path. Huge, HUGE sounding stuff, real analog all the way. Yes, you can feel the sound from these things. Lotsa knobs too. A wee bit expensive, kudos to the St. Regis brothers for packing a ton of analog fury in a four space rack. Wish I had come back to tweak with the raw sounds. ******************* TBS Mephisto "The Harley for the Sound Purist" Not much to say about an empty shell with no electronics from a company with no recognition in analog synths. Motorized pots? $50- $100 each, thirty-six of those and we're already up to $3600 worse case in motorized pots alone. By the time it's done, it'll be a Harley all right. I know some Harleys that retail for five digits. Nice gimmick, wrong approach. Box looks good though, I could build one of those too. ******************* Technosaurus System C Modular Nice sounding modular, I got to patch up something from the start and it sounded good. Great filter with multiple 12dB/6dB lowpass/bandpass/highpass/notch configurations (needs a 24dB filter though). A serious contender for my potential modular purchase. Love the cabinet which resembled the Roger Luther Moog Modular. Wild color scheme but pleasant, doesn't get in the way like ART reverb panels. Oscillators sound great and are rock solid. Kevin Lightner told of a system he left alone for hours and the oscillators never moved. I REALLY like the fact that the patchbay and cords don't get in the way of the panel controls. Great ergonomic system. The controls aren't squeezed together like Doepfer's (who I couldn't find, BTW). Good modulation options on all the modules. The Triple Resonator module sounds tasty, wish I tried it there. Me like a lot. ******************* Viscount OB12 An embarrassment to the Oberheim name. Didn't hear the factory presets at all, so it's not a slam against the sound designer (who's on AH and is a good friend of mine). I judge an analog synth with knobs by playing with my own sounds, not the presets. I spent a total of five minutes mucking around and left. Well... Viscount has a LOT to learn about good sounding VA, and our fellow AHer is guiding them. But the OBMx sounded better than this, and that's not saying much. At the same time, the machine's not finished, but then again neither is the Real Analog Andromeda which just buries the competition. ******************* Van Koevering Interactive piano Probably the best user interface I've ever seen but beyond the piano, the sounds were lousy. Got to hear this seven year old prodigy whale away while Vako showed him the goods. This kid was *way* too good. ******************* Waldorf Q Just as Mark P was anxious to dissect the Andromeda, I was also anxious to dig into the Q, but failed on two opportunities. The first time I stopped there was too much noise, the second time it was quieter but I was kicked out so they could do a demo. I was going to try a third time on the last day but there was no time. Note to Waldorf: bring headphones. I asked, they didn't have 'em. What I did hear: nice pads, GREAT vocoder. Too many knobs is never a bad thing, and I liked the interface. I REALLY wanted to hear more from the Q, especially to hear those three oscillators and the cross modulation options. Sigh. ******************* Yamaha Yawn... in and out in less than a minute. ******************* MC --------------------------------------------------------------------------- Opinions (and mistakes) expressed herein are my own and not those of my employer.