Over the years, a wide range of MIDI controller concepts have appeared—from manufacturers simply wanting to rework existing ideas into new forms, to gear geeks who have elected to ditch any and all conventions, utilizing never-before-seen shapes and sizes for their MIDI interfaces. As you can imagine, some of these controllers have fared better than others, and these 15 in particular—somewhat sadly—didn’t have much luck getting into the hands of producers and DJs.
Allow us to introduce you to Palette, a newcomer to the world of Lego-like controllers that will allow users to control virtually any software program with a chain of USB-powered modules.
Some of you may remember a few weeks back when we shared news of MusicInk, an Italian product that was helping school children learn about music by playing pieces of paper connected using conductive paint. In that article, we mentioned how cool it would be if we could one day make our own MIDI controllers out of just this conductive paint and pieces of paper, and, as it turns out, that’s kind of already happening thanks to the Touch Board.
Between offering a variety of in-depth courses and helpful YouTube videos for budding producers, London’s Point Blank Music School also offers its own free Ableton plug-ins now and again, the latest being the Monster Timestretch device, which aims to recapture the sometimes unpredictable sound of lo-fi timestretching.
The debate between gear heads used to always be “analog vs. digital.” Now, it seems that the debate has shifted from deciding which is better to figuring out how both analog and digital can best be used together to create something even greater. Patchblocks, a new company currently raising funds via Kickstarter, seems primed to move that discussion even further forward, designing a modular set of “blocks” that can be digitally programmed to control, manipulate, and generate sound using reconfigurable hardware—like Lincoln Logs for audio nerds.
Often, moving one’s musical efforts “outside of the box” (or, more plainly, outside of the computer) can be the best thing for a budding producer; not only do you introduce a new array of sounds to your music, but you move your creative efforts from the screen (where you do work, answer emails, etc.) onto new surfaces with unique controls that can lead you down unexpected creative paths. Building an arsenal of outboard gear doesn’t always come cheap, though, but now more than ever, there is a growing number of quality pieces of hardware that won’t break a new producer’s bank. Lucky for you, FACT has compiled a new guide to help us navigate the best of the sub-$350 options.
The legendary synth and gear designers at Korg have teamed up with open-source electronics company littleBits for the littleBits Synth Kit, a forthcoming DIY kit which will allow users to build their own mini synthesizers using electronic components that snap together via magnets. And damn, are they cool-looking.
These days, headphone manufacturers seem to be really stepping up their game and offering really nice cans with quality materials and great sound character at reasonable prices. Reloop’s latest foray into this arena, the DJ-aimed RHP-30, is a surprising hit—a comfortable and great-sounding set of headphones at a fair price.
Joe Mansfield is a Boston-based producer, DJ, and drum-machine enthusiast with one of the most comprehensive and pristine collections of rhythm boxes we’ve ever seen. With a picture book entitled Beat Box: A Drum Machine Obsession on the way, which will catalog his full collection in a series of gorgeous photographs, a new online slideshow of a large portion of Mansfield’s drum-machine stash has surfaced—and it is awesome.