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poblequadrat

Friendly gear thread

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This is a thread about friendly gear. For instance, the Yamaha Reface CS looks simple, but it can even do FM sounds, and you can make usable sounds quickly because there aren't a lot of parameters and the interface is hands-on. I also find Yamaha 4-op FM synths friendly, especially the kind with simple envelopes, and they are very powerful, especially if you resample and stack sounds. The Casio CZ-101 is another friendly synth: it's laid out in an immediate way and it offers you three powerful, yet easy to wrap your head around, envelopes for each of the two oscillators.

 

Can you recommend a similarly friendly drum machine? Do you have any piece of gear you get along with?

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Korg em1 is a no-brainer

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i really like korg in general. i think they do a good job at making user friendly products. navigating moog UI (saving patches on the Sub 37) compared to MS2000 is massive world of difference. you can tell Korg know what they're doing when it comes to user friendly interfaces. 

compared to other mono synths (that i have used), i would say the sh-101 is very easy to use and has a massive window of sweet spot. 

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i would love to revisit electribe stuff. i only ever used the EMX1 when i was ~14-15 .. mooching off my brothers and having no clue what i was doing. it was possible though, for a dumb ass 14 year old who didn't know what they were doing to slowly figure it out and make tracks on it 🙂

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I can't speak for the current generation of electribes, but yeah the originals were super fun. I'll keep my ES-1 forever, even though I have other boxes that do a much better job of sample playback. 

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Korg is quite user friendly. The ESX is a classic sampler/sequencer and especially easy to operate. Their Volca line is also super easy but they're also super simple, of course.

I would add the Alesis Micron and the Novation Bass Station II have a very fluid UI.

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Posted (edited)

I got another TR-505 from a friend on indefinite loan/potential trade last week and the sequencer is so much fun on that thing.  Took me about 6 minutes to fill the entire first pattern bank with PHAT BEATS.

 

Plus people still hate them so they're a lot more expensive than they used to be but you can still easily find one complete in the box for about the same as a new Volca, and as far as sequencing goes there's no contest.

Edited by TubularCorporation
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On 7/30/2019 at 3:43 PM, Braintree said:

Alesis Micron

This had such a bad interface and buggy, thin sound engine that it totally ruined it for me. I've never felt so repulsed by a synth. Couldn't get rid of it fast enough. 

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the behringer neutron is a pretty user friendly little machine capable of doing a lot of complex stuff. i was a little wary based on their bad reputation but was pleasntly surprised, sounds pretty damn PHAT. works great with my moog grandmother as a little semi-modular funzone.

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5 hours ago, sweepstakes said:

This had such a bad interface and buggy, thin sound engine that it totally ruined it for me. I've never felt so repulsed by a synth. Couldn't get rid of it fast enough. 

I think it depends on what you're trying to do with it. It's not Elektron gear. If you want to modify presets and get some easy to make pleasant sounds out of it, then it's fine. If you want to make an entire album on it, then don't bother.

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Certainly not Octatrack! 🌩️💹🗿☢️🏁:wtf:

 

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9 hours ago, Braintree said:

I think it depends on what you're trying to do with it. It's not Elektron gear. If you want to modify presets and get some easy to make pleasant sounds out of it, then it's fine. If you want to make an entire album on it, then don't bother.

As a preset machine, it's fine. If you do any degree of tweaking it gets painful fast. The specs look great on paper, there's some pretty compelling UI ideas that have since been appropriated and implemented more effectively elsewhere, and I generally appreciate Bret Victor's ideas a lot. But here it just doesn't gel.

At the time I owned it I was still an Elektron virgin. I think I was comparing it to a TX81Z, which I find more pleasant in every regard except the envelopes, which have similar issues with attack and amplitude scaling artifacts.

It might be OK with an external editor. And some folks have done some good stuff with it. I think 11Hz Robot was who did the most interesting stuff I heard out of it. I'd just personally prefer damn near anything else.

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To answer the original question, the Pocket Operators are great. Good sound, stupid easy sequencing, dirt cheap, great for jamming.

The PO12 is rowdy and nasty like a TR505/TR606 with some tweakability plus some really nasty noise/chip voices. The PO32 can do smooth, booming kicks, slappin' analog snares, melodic tones, and a universe of weird shit that is often nothing like drums. Each has their own useful sequencing effects which can be recorded into a pattern.

Grab that pair, a Bastl Dude, and some cables, and you'll have a little battery powered drum rig that blows away much more expensive stuff and comfortably fits in a lunchbox. 

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For how it's supposed to be a toy for brainlets, the PO-33 is quite unintuitive, relying on sort of random and often undocumented button combos

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7 hours ago, KovalainenFanBoy said:

For how it's supposed to be a toy for brainlets, the PO-33 is quite unintuitive, relying on sort of random and often undocumented button combos

Yeah they overdid that one a bit. Still brilliant for what it is, though.

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Oh right! I have a PO-12, it's absolutely brilliant. I don't use it too much though, because for some reason it doesn't auto power-off anymore, so it drains the batteries in a day or two. I don't think it was like that when I originally got it, but I guess I can always take the batteries out after each use. I should also get a case for it, since the buttons are actually getting rusty...

Yeah, the PO-12 is totally awesome. I think it's enough to produce a full album on.

How friendly is the sound editing software for the PO-32? Is it fun? I've never actually programmed drum sounds other than basic stuff on 4-op FM (you can get nice kicks out of it, but snares and the hi-hats are only ok.)

 

The 505 looks good too.  I'm not so sure I need something in this uncanny valley between synth and acoustic drums, and the toms are just absurd, but it has its own charm and I personally like that kind of late-80s/early-90s aesthetic.

 

As for Korg, I really really love the Polysix VST they made. Also, if I had the money I'd like to get a Volca Kick and a Modular to make bleepy loops on. What do you think about these two? They look like they're a lot of fun.

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3 hours ago, poblequadrat said:

How friendly is the sound editing software for the PO-32? Is it fun? I've never actually programmed drum sounds other than basic stuff on 4-op FM (you can get nice kicks out of it, but snares and the hi-hats are only ok.)

I find Microtonic very friendly. Honestly, it feels like a fancy ER-1 to me. It's just complex enough to give you good flexibility but not so much that it's overwhelming. Once you build up a bank of sounds you like, you can morph between them with (and parameter lock) the knob on the PO-32 which is brilliant. The only thing I haven't had good luck with on it is hi-hats - I can make some passable ones with HPF noise or fast LFOs, but it's so much easier on the PO-12.

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Posted (edited)

The best thing about the 505 is that recording and editing a pattern in realtime is extremely simple and fun compared to most drum machines I've tried, old or new.

 

The worst things are:

-Can't change patterns in record mode, and can't change from record to play without stopping the sequencer, so if you want to edit a pattern live you're stuck on that pattern. Chains only work in lay mode, too, so for live beatmaking you've got 16 bars

-Can't mute individual drums (you can turn down the volume but it's not really convenient for live), no individual outputs, so no dub mixing or anything without doing some modding.

-No swing

 

BUT it's easy to mod if you want to, and now that there's a relatively affordable,relatively easy to install voice chip upgrade you aren't stuck with only the 505 sounds.

 

A few years ago when you could find them for $50 all the time there was no excuse not to get one.  For the $100-$150 they are getting now it's still a good deal but a bit less so. 

 

Anyway, if you do get one be sure to tell everyone it sucks so the prices don't keep climbing.  With what it costs to get a 707 or a Drumulator these days there aren't many good vintage drum machines left.

 

EDIT: actually, it looks like a 626 isn't that much more than a 505, and since it's basically like the 505++ it might be worth a look if you're interested in this kind of thing.  I've never used one so I can't vouch for it being as fun as the 505 but on paper it's kind of like a 505 with the biggest limitations removed.  Tunable sounds, direct outs, and you can edit chains in real time, not just individual patterns.  Sounds good to me.

Edited by TubularCorporation

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I really like the Korg Volca Sample. Same as with @TubularCorporation with the 505, a big downside is that sequences can only be 16 steps, so if you want to build something that contains a break (at the end of a 4x16 loop), then you got to mess with saved patterns and who knows what else so you can chain stuff in Play mode. But Play mode is crap because you can not twiddle and mess with most of the parameters. My half-solution has been just to more or less manually record some stuff as a loop in Live, then mute that part and record some other element as another longer loop.

Aside from that though, it's really nice and you can tweak the samples and get some really psychedelic squeals out of it. Maybe if you could hook up some Max4Live MIDI LFOs and sequence the steps externally it would be possible to expand the machine further, but then it is no longer a nice standalone instrument.

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My picks per-the thread criteria:

Roland Juno-106 (this still requires at least a willingness to become familiar with basic subtractive synthesis but imo, that should be a minimal threshold, even in this thread)

Samplr for iOS

IceGear synths for iOS (Lorentz, Laplace, Mersenne, Redshrike) I still think this is the best UI design for a music app on iOS. Very deep synths that are easy to grasp how they work, very little need for screen changes, and their feature sets are wonderful. I still haven't found a synth that really compares to Mersenne when it comes to bell stuff. And they all have these really great Resonators on them.

Korg Volca Kick (I haven't used the Keys or Sample, the aesthetics of the Bass are dumb, the FM is actually not easy at all to use if you want to edit patches on-board, and the Drum also requires a lot of menu diving)

Roland TR-8 (I understand going for the TR-8S for individual outputs and further parameter editing options, but the TR-8 with the 7x7 upgrade is super cheap these days 2nd hand and just makes sense)

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Posted (edited)

Yeah the Sample is great. It sounds really good and is fun to get weird on. It also looks great - I think it's probably right up there with the Modular for best-looking Volca. The stuff @thawkins mentioned is certainly limiting, although I think having 10 tracks for mutes opens up the fill possibilities a fair amount. Loading sounds is also a little annoying, but it also gives it this kind of charm, like you're building your own little library. I should use it more often, but hey, it's a Volca, I don't feel that guilty.

The FM is pretty great too. When I first got it, I wanted it to be a little DX7 I could do real patching on, which was pretty frustrating. When I gave up on that and just tweaked the real-time knobs, it became way more fun. Honestly, I think it's right up there with the Monomachine and Nord Drum for fun, immediate FM. And there's plenty of DX7 editors out there if you want to properly patch. It was smart of them to leave that door open but focus on making it enjoyable.

Edited by sweepstakes

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Korg polysix vst currently 50% off.

just got it, it’s definitely a simple little box of sweet spots. $25 is more than I’ve spent on any vst for a good while, but it’s very nice and I don’t have to work as hard as usual to get good sounds, even though I’ve learned how to get very good vintage sounds out of any stock subtractive vst

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7 hours ago, sheatheman said:

even though I’ve learned how to get very good vintage sounds out of any stock subtractive vst

Care to share any of your secrets? Asking for a friend.

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Yeah, Juno 6/60/106 are about as friendly as it gets. Literally impossible to make a Juno sound bad as far as I can tell.

 

THawkins helped me get a Boss CE300 at a way better price than I could have found locally and that's another piece of gear that basically can't sound bad (after doing a simple mod to give it enough headroom to handle line level signals). I have to make an effort to not just put literally every instrument through it.

 

I've never actually messed with a Juno 106 (I've got a 6 and 60s used to be a dime a dozen when I was playing in bands a lot in the 2000s so there were always a couple around - at one point a different band had Juno 60s stacked three deep in the corner of our practice space) but from the demos I've heard the 106 chorus sounds a bit cleaner than the 6/60, and it seems like the CE-300 is probably closest to a 106 chorus in a box with depth, speed, mix and tone controls. Definitely a bit smoother sounding than the Juno 6 chorus.

Edited by TubularCorporation

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