Synthesizer Artists and Bands From Japan Worth A Listen

Synthesizer Artists and Bands From Japan Worth A Listen
Naomi Bolton
Mon, 08/10/2020 – 08:38

Firstman SQ-01

Firstman SQ-01

Specifications
Polyphony –
1 Voice
Oscillators –
1 Oscilattor
Waveforms –
Saw Up
Filter Slopes –
24dB Slope (4-pole), Low Pass, Resonance
VCA –
1 VCA Wiith ADS
Controls –
CV IN, CV OUT, Gate In, Gate Out, Trigger In, Trigger Out
Sequencer –
1024 Note Sequencer

Naomi Bolton
Thu, 08/06/2020 – 10:09

Although Multivox was no more by the 1980s, they had some interesting products during the mid-1970s. One of these was the Mutivox Firstman SQ-01. The SQ-01 was licensed by Firstman, one of the lesser-known Japanese companies at the time. Hillwood initially released it under the Firstman brand in 1980, before it was released in 1981 by Multivox.

The SQ-01 was essentially a synthesizer and sequencer combo in one which was noted for actually offering much more low end than the Roland TB-303 released later. Apparently, only about 200 of these synthesizers were ever made, so getting one in good condition can be tricky.

The SQ-01 manual describes it as a monophonic multi-sound producing source and digital recording device in one compact control box. It also states that the SQ-01 is easy enough to use that even someone with no previous musical background can compose and playback compositions flawlessly, which is obviously a bit of a stretch.

This synth required two AA penlight batteries for its “Memory Back-Up” compartment and could then be operated on D.C. power using six AA penlight batteries or A.C power using its adapter. CMOS chips are used for the sequencer and it is operated using eight touchpad Sequence controls that are located on the right of the unit. There are also TEMPO, Release, and Bar knobs to control the sequencer. The synthesizer portion of the SQ-01 can be manipulated using five knobs that are situated next to these.

At the back of the SQ-01, you’ll find a range of interfacing options There is a control voltage in jack for interfacing the SQ-01 with a linear control voltage external controller as well as a gate in jack for interfacing it with a positive gate voltage external controller. You’ll also find a clock in jack for synchronizing the clock or tempo time of your SQ-01 with another SQ-01 unit along with a footswitch in jack. In terms of output jacks, there’s a synchro jack for synchronizing the Play/Stop function of your SQ-01 with other SQ-01 units, a control voltage out jack, gate out, clock out jack, and audio out jack for connecting to an amplifier or powered headset.

Overall, the Multivox Firstman SQ-01 is a rather quirky synth. Fans of old analog bass sounds will enjoy what the SQ-01 has to offer, but few will prefer it over the legendary TB-303. The limited number of SQ-01’s that were made also makes it a bit of a rarity these days.

Make

Year
1982

Musical genre

Synth type

Interface features

Sound types

Price range

Image
Multivox Firstman SQ-01

Files
Firstman SQ-01 ManualFirstman SQ-01 Manual

YouTube

FIRSTMAN MODEL SQ-01 TEST RUN

by

hi4ma

Firstman SQ-01 demo 1

by

LyndonTCorbett

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Monophonic instruments

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TherapSid MKII

TherapSid MKII

Specifications
Polyphony –
3 Voices
Multitimbral –
3 parts
Oscillators –
3 VCOs
Waveforms –
Saw Down, Square, Triangle, White Noise
VCF –
1
LFO –
3 LFO with Envelope, Sample & Hold, Saw Down, Square, Triangle, Freerun, Key Sync
VCA/Envelopes –
3 VCA with ADSR envelope
Controls –
MIDI In, Out, CV In, CV Out
Arpeggiator –
Off, Up, Down, Up/Down, Random
Memory –
99 Patches RAM

Naomi Bolton
Wed, 08/05/2020 – 08:20

The last of the therapsids became extinct more than 100 million years ago, but the synthesizer that Twisted Electrons named after them was released in 2014. It was then followed in 2017 by the TherapSid MKII. Twisted Electrons claims that the TherapSid sound is no less aggressive than the vicious dinosaur it was named after and this synth is definitely capable of cutting through any mix.

The TherapSid was handcrafted in the south of France and is a SID based synth with a definite focus on control. Instead of following the route of LCDs and tiny sub menu fonts TherapSid instead provides users with 35 knobs and 33 buttons. This gives you full control over the sound of the synth at all times.

The basis for the TherapSid is the Sound Interface Device or “SID” chips used in the Commodore 64 and other early home computers during the 1980s. It’s not the first synth-based around this popular chip, but the amount of knobs and buttons definitely makes it one of the most hands-on ones. Initially, the TherapSid shipped with an included SID chip, but Twisted Electrons eventually ran out. However, you could send them a SID chip if you already had one when ordering the TherapSid nad they would test and install it for you. The synth is compatible with all variations of the SID chip and installing one yourself is not too difficult either.

In terms of features, the TherapSid features a 16-step sequencer, arpeggiator with 4 auto modes and manual scrubbing, as well as CV/Gate control. It has three oscillators with four waveforms per OSC and a multimode analog filter. The filter can be assigned to each voice individually and the TherapSid also has three CV inputs for LFO override. It’s a multi-timbral synth as the three voices can be played on separate MIDI channels and you can even mismatch different SID types. Also, the TherapSid has a VST Editor so that you can integrate it with your DAW.

CV/Gate control, as well as the 3 CV LFO override, are new to the MKII version of the TherapSid. The first version of this synth also lacked the MIDI output, paraphonic 3 voice mode, preset randomizer, and arpeggiator that TherapSid MKII has.

The sound of the TherapSid is obviously the sound of the SID chip, so you can expect it to be very iconic and retro. Twisted Electrons also improved the build quality of the MKII and overall it’s a great synth to own for anyone who grew up with the sounds of the SID chip.

Year
2017

Musical genre

Synth type

Interface features

Sound types

Price range

Image
Twisted Electrons TherapSid MKII

Files
Type
File

Title
TherapSid MK2 User Manual

Description
TherapSid MK2 User Manual

YouTube

TherapSid MKII Overview and demos

by

Twisted Electrons

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Jon Benjamin Releases Moog Soundtrack Album

Jon Benjamin Releases Moog Soundtrack Album
Naomi Bolton
Wed, 08/05/2020 – 09:57

Blipblox After Dark Synthesizer Making Waves On IndieGoGo

Blipblox After Dark Synthesizer Making Waves On IndieGoGo
Naomi Bolton
Sat, 08/01/2020 – 10:06

Elektron Octatrack

Elektron Octatrack

Specifications
Polyphony –
8 Voices
Multitimbral –
16 Parts
Oscillators –
4 VCOs
Filter Slopes –
12 dB Slope (2-pole), 24dB Slope (4-pole)
LFO –
6 LFO
VCA/Envelopes –
1 VCA with ADSR Envelope
Control –
MIDI In/Out/Thru
Sequencer –
8-track sequencer
Memory –
256 patches RAM, Flash Card Storage
Sample rates –
24 bit, 44.1 kHz

Naomi Bolton
Tue, 07/28/2020 – 08:24

Elektron released their Octatrack DPS-1 in 2011 amidst claims that sampling is a dying art that they want to re-established. Of course, this wasn’t exactly true as most people had simply switched over to the convenience of software over the use of hardware when it comes to sampling. However, credit should be given to Elektron for trying something very different with the Octatrack. If the Octatrack was purely a sampler it might not have fared as well, but thankfully it had a lot more to offer. Software sampling freed users from the limitations of hardware with features such as time-stretching and independent pitch, so Electron had their work cut out for them to make the Octatrack more attractive to people used to these options and more.

In addition to eight stereo tracks of samples, the Octatrack also offers eight tracks of MIDI step sequencing. Although it has a USB port, it can only be used to transfer samples to a computer from the Compact Flash card, which is used as the storage device. The maximum capacity of supported cards is 64GB, which was ample at the time. The Octatrack features a step sequencer and offers users eight stereo tracks of samples along with eight tracks of MIDI step sequencing. Samples can be streamed either directly from the Compact Flash cards, which means fewer limitations in terms of length, or loaded into RAM. The latter gives you access to more advanced real-time manipulation at the cost of total sample length.

The build quality of the Octatrack is really good and everything has a sturdy, solid feel. Elektron has once again made use of dual-speed rotary encoders, which allows you to adjust parameters normally with a twist or make quick adjustments with a push and twist. What really set the Octatrack apart for its time was the excellent step sequencer. With a little work, it is possible to create very complex rhythms and the ability to set parameters independently for each of the sample triggers is great. It’s not the easiest machine to play around with, but it is worth the effort as the payoff is great. Some of the things holding back the Octatrack is the lack of individual outputs, so those who enjoy dabbling in external mixing and signal processing are out of luck. Compared to software there is also a bigger learning curve involved with using the Octatrack. Nevertheless, it was a very exciting bit of hardware for its time and offered a great hardware alternative for something that was increasingly becoming software only.

Make

Year
2011

Musical genre

Synth type

Interface features

Sound types

Price range

Image
Octatrack

Files

YouTube

Octatrack product presentation

by

Elektron

Elektron Jam Session 6: The Octatrack Pickup Project

by

Elektron

User Rating
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Polyphonic instruments

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Setting Up Your Computer For Software Synths

Setting Up Your Computer For Software Synths
Naomi Bolton
Mon, 07/27/2020 – 08:45

Best Portable Midi Keyboards For Mobile & Laptop Producers

Best Portable Midi Keyboards For Mobile & Laptop Producers
Naomi Bolton
Thu, 07/23/2020 – 09:08

Dubreq Stylophone S2

Dubreq Stylophone S2

Specifications
Polyphony –
1 Voice
Multitimbral –
1 Part
Oscillators –
1
Waveforms –
Square
Filter Slopes –
12dB Slope (2-pole), Resonance
LFO –
1 LFO with Triangle
Keyboard –
37 Keys

Naomi Bolton
Tue, 07/21/2020 – 08:14

The original Stylophone launched in 1968 and didn’t do too badly for itself before it was shelved seven years later. However, it wasn’t until 2007 that it saw the light of day again as the Stylophone S1, which was similar to the original but offered a couple of additional sounds along with a signal input. This brings us to the Stylophone S2, which is an improvement in virtually every way.

Dubreq marketed the S2 as the ultimate Stylophone instrument and stated that their miniature analog synth was aimed at serious musicians and synthesizer fans. At the time it also boasted features that could typically only be found in larger or more expensive synthesizers. Unfortunately, the S2 came with a hefty price tag, which deterred people who thought that the Stylophone was just a toy.

The S2 features a three-octave 37 note printed circuit keyboard with larger keys than previous Stylophone models. The keyboard has +/-2 octaves of OCTAVE shift too. Although it is designed to be played with the wireless stylus that is included, the S2 keys are large enough that you can play it with your fingers too if you are so inclined.

The S2 is also quite a stylish looking instrument with a sturdy metal cased construction that has a matt black finish. In terms of dimensions, it’s about 30 centimeters in length, 2 and a half centimeters high and 12 centimeters wide. The keyboard occupies the lower half of the case while the top left half is dominated by a brushed aluminum disc that is illuminated by blue LEDs. It not only looks great with the logo on it but also functions as a port for the built-in speaker. Six touch-pads are situated around the disc and the right side of the case features a horizontal row of ten rotary knobs. Above these, you’ll find the Stylophone logo and a smallholder for the stylus that. The overall look is very stylish and minimal.

On the left side of the S2 are the sockets for the headphone, external input, line out, trigger in, and control voltage in. The latter is particularly interesting as it means the S2 can be controlled with an external keyboard or sequencer. The power supply socket is located on the right-hand side of the S2 along with buttons for the volume, power, and self-tune. It’s worth noting that only the built-in speaker and headphone output is affected by the volume buttons, so be careful when playing through an amp. Although it can run from a power adaptor, the S2 also has space for four AA batteries to make it more portable.

In terms of features, the S2 offers an all-analog signal path, a classic British 12dB/octave state-variable filter, and LFO with 14-octave range. It has all transistor voltage-controlled oscillators and sub-oscillators for nice bass. It’s certainly not a very conventional synth, but sounds good and is very easy to pick up and play. There are better options available for anyone interested in more conventional synthesizers, but for what it is the S2 is not a bad instrument.

Make

Year
2012

Musical genre

Synth type

Interface features

Sound types

Price range

Image
Dubreq Stylophone S2

Files
Type
Link

YouTube

The Dubreq Stylophone S2- part 1

by

AutomaticGainsay

User Rating
Texture
Monophonic instruments

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Soundmit & Faselunare Team Up For Free Synth Panels Designer

Soundmit & Faselunare Team Up For Free Synth Panels Designer
Naomi Bolton
Mon, 07/20/2020 – 08:49

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