Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.

Tags: Grinch

December 15, 2013

Insert Pun On The Name SEM...

by Chris Randall

A few months back, I was at my family reunion in Oregon, and I borrowed a barely-working original SEM from my good friend Jeremy. I trundled it back to SandLand in my carry-on, and a while later dropped it off at Five Star Engineering in Mesa for a thorough going-over and fixemup. It had a ton wrong with it, including some very old, very poorly-implemented mods. I had Five Star remove all the mods, re-cap it, and bring it back to its former glory.

And then I set it on my shelf, because I was busy remodelling a house.

Fast-forward to today, I was thinking "man, I bet Jeremy wants his SEM back one of these days." So I sat down to sample the living shit out of it, and this is the result. (90mb .zip file.)

I just sampled it directly with AutoSampler (looped back in to Live so it could control Silent Way Voice Control.) It is sampled at 48K, every 5th note, for 13 different patches. These are all Kontakt 2 .nki files, with no programming/looping/layering/anything, so they should load directly to virtually every sample playback device made.

Obviously, these would benefit from some programming and production; dry, this synth is fairly unimpressive. But there should be enough here for you to work with to make them your own. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays! If you want to spring for some bandwidth, as always, I'll never turn down a little drop in the Paypal bucket. But it is in no way necessary. I would be sorely disappointed if I found these for sale somewhere, but the worst I'll do is call you names in public to my thousands of Twitter followers and readers. Otherwise, they are unencumbered.

December 4, 2013

The Synth Nerd Holiday Gift Guide...

by Chris Randall

I present to you the guaranteed-to-please good for all budgets Synth Nerd Gift Guide. You're here because someone you know is a Synth Nerd, and they have given you a link to this article, and said "anything off this list is fine." Well, they probably mumbled it, as your average Synth Nerd isn't much of a people-person. But you're here now, so settle in. You don't have to know what any of this stuff is. Just click the link for the amount you want to spend, then click "Buy Now." Easy peasy.

1. The Cheap Bastard (less than $25) You really can't go wrong with the Stylophone Retro Pocket Synth, which will set you back $24.99. Even if the Synth Nerd in your life already has one, or has an original one, or one of the new super-duper ones, they'll still find a use for this, if only to annoy their co-workers. I guarantee it.

2. The Cheap But Not A Bastard ($25 - $50) Another fun little pocket noise-maker, only a bit more capable. I chose the Korg Monotron Duo ($49.00) here, because virtually everybody bought a Monotron a couple years ago, and while it was fun and all, the shine has probably come off that penny. And of the three Monotrons, this one sounds the most interesting, in my opinion.

3. The Risk:Reward Ratio ($50 - $100) Now we're getting in to things that are actually useful to, you know, make music. Sorta. This is useful enough to actually elicit a "wow, you actually put some thought in to this and got me something you think I might like." Of course, you didn't. I did. But that'll be our little secret. Anyhow, if you want to drop a little more bank, go get that Nerd an Axle Grease Delay. It'll only set you back $69, and there are zero scenarios where a Synth Nerd isn't happy with a new analog delay. Especially one that is kind of semi-awesome. (For the money, anyhow.)

4. The Now We're Getting Somewhere ($100 - $250) If you're looking to spend a bit more, pick up a Korg Volca Bass synthesizer. ($189.) That is, if you want the easy way out (i.e. Amazon.) If you don't mind putting in a touch more effort, and perhaps risking not getting your gift before Christmas, then the thing to buy is the MeeBlip Anode. ($129). I personally think the Anode is the better gift, and I'd go with that, even if it's late. It'll show you care.

5. The Groove Is In The Heart ($250 - $500) I had to think about this for a while. My initial inclination was to go with the Waldorf Rocket, as it sounds very cool. However, I feel that it is overpriced at $329.99. It simply doesn't have the feature set or usefulness of other synths in this price range. Which is too bad. It's a cute little guy, with a unique twist on the tiny synth. No, in this price range, the hands-down winner is the Arturia Microbrute. ($299.) As of right now, this is probably the best value on this list, when you look at capabilities, feature set, and general usefulness. Very difficult to beat, and your Synth Nerd will be ecstatic. And you'll be happy because the keyboard doesn't have enough notes to play the lead line from "The Final Countdown."

6. The Hey, Big Spender ($500+) If you're gonna make it rain on your Synth Nerd, probably best to just give him a Visa gift card, because it's everywhere he wants to be.™ Just throwing that out there. But if you want something with a more personal touch, then I recommend the Korg MS-20 Mini. ($599.) I personally don't care for this synth, and I certainly don't want it for myself. But I'm demonstrably strange, and absolutely in the minority. Your Synth Nerd will definitely be happy with it.

So, there you go. Something for all budgets. Happy holidays!

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