A Tour of London’s Little Synth Haven Where Thom Yorke and Aphex Twin Shop

Right in the post-industrial surrounds of London’s Hackney Wick, a little store there has become a haven for many musicians.

Known as the London Modular, this particular store is one of the world’s smallest, yet well-renowned synth stores out there. Since Simon Lynch and Phil Ventre opened the store in 2013, it has become the go-to synth store for musicians in London and beyond. It is patronized by amateur hobbyists and professional artists alike, with names such as of Mumdance, Russell Haswell, Thom Yorke of Radiohead, and, reportedly, Aphex Twin as its loyal customers.

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Melbourne’s Vintage Synth “Workshop” Opens

vintage synth modular banner

Vintage synth and gear enthusiasts will be especially delighted to hear Robin Fox, one of Australia’s leading experimental producers, has just opened a new business: a Melbourne-based vintage synth “workshop,” geared towards gear veterans and newbies alike. Operated by Fox and Byron Scullin, the Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio (M.E.S.S.) is a non-profit group offering annual memberships ($220) that allow users to book hours at a time to use any of the gear.

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 As Scullin explained to Broadsheet, “We want it to be like a museum, but one where you can use and touch everything… And also like a gym – come down and work out on a synth.” The M.E.S.S. collection features everything from classic synths and drum machines to outboard analog effects units from top brands like Roland, Yamaha, and Korg, alongside more obscure equipment such as the Chamberlin Rhythmate and the more recent modular systems made by Make Noise.

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For just $44, members can book four-hour timeslots, with up to 16 people participating in the session – users can even record what they play and take home the recordings. The full M.E.S.S. arsenal is so massive that they only have space to display about a third of the gear, which will be rotated every 22 weeks. Unfortunately, only the first 500 memberships will be processed, but Scullin and Fox have stated that at some point in the future, they would like to have school groups and touring artists come to visit. For more information, visit the official M.E.S.S. website.

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Thick Analog Tones From Roland’s New System-500

We first got wind of Roland’s System-1M modular synth at this year’s Musikmesse, and even saw some demo prototypes of the System5500, but we haven’t heard anything about the latter until now. Roland is notorious for slowly teasing us with details regarding upcoming gear releases, so it’s definitely been a long time coming. Based on the iconic System-100M, the brand new 500 series has received a major overhaul, fitting in a sleek and sexy Eurorack format. However, while the AIRA series (including TR-8 and System-100M) are digitally modelled on analog gear, the 500 series is, in fact, fully analog. For the initial launch, we’re looking at five modules, including the 512 dual VCO, 521 dual VCF, 530 dual VCA, 540 Envelope/LFO, and 572 Phase shifter/Delay/LFO. It’s a lot of gear, but the tones you can get from a proper analog modular system are truly unreal. Scroll down for detailed explanations of each module.


System-500 512

For starters, we have the 512 dual VCO; as the name tells us, consists of two voltage-controlled oscilators, each of which can be set to pulse, triangle, and sawtooth waveforms. Pulse width can be manipulated by panel control or even CV modulation. The oscillators’ frequencies can also be synced with each other in one of two modes (weak or strong) to acheive a classic ‘sync’ sound.

For full specs and more info, visit the 512 product page.


System-500 521

Second in the series is the 521 dual VCF module, featuring two separate low-pass filters, each with its own frequency cutoff and resonance controls. Each filter also includes a high-pass filter with a fixed frequency (although there are two switchable cutoff points)

For full specs and more info, visit the 521 product page.


System-500 530

The 530 dual VCA module handles the amplification in your signal chain; each amp mixes three audio sources, and each source has three CV controls available. Finally, the 530 has an enormously useful switch to select between linear and exponential response settings.

Amplification duties are taken care of with the 530 dual VCA module, with each amp mixing three audio signals and three CV controls for each signal. The 530 also features a selector switch for linear or exponential response modes.

For full specs and more info, visit the 530 product page.


System-500 540

The 540 is the next step in the signal chain, featuring a dual envelope generator and LFO, featuring two independent sets of ADSR controls. The sections can be triggered internally, externally, or even manually (separately for each envelope), and the output can even be inverted.

For full specs and more info, visit the 540 product page.


System-500 572

Last, but certainly not least, we arrive at the 572, which features a five-stage phase shifter, analog delay, a control voltage gate decay, and an LFO. The phase shifter includes frequency and resonance controls, and the delay section allows you to set the delay time and feedback. Both the delay and phase shifter allow for modulation via the internal LFO or even external CV signals. Finally, the unit features dry/wet controls, which can be controlled on the front panel, or, (you guessed it) CV control.

For full specs and more info, visit the 572 product page.


syr-e84_3_gal-650-80 system-500

SYR-E84 Eurorack Case

Now that we’ve gone over all five module units, it’s important to remember that we’re going to need a nice rack to put them in. Well, I suppose you could have them sprawled out across the room, but what fun is that? The best option seems to be the SYR-E84 Eurorack case, a rugged and portable rack with a high-current power supply. Although it’s truly perfect for mobile producers or live electronic music performers, we’re fairly certain that SYR-E84 find its way into the hands of producers of all ability levels.

From more information and full specifications on the SYR-E84 check out the product page.



jean-michael jarre in studio

Jean-Michel Jarre Schools Us On The History Of Tech

jean-michael jarreJean-Michel Jarre is a world-renowned producer, performer, songwriter, and composer. He has been an enormous pioneer in electronic music production and performance, inspiring and sculpting generations to come. He learned from Pierre Schaeffer, the so-called “father of musique concrete,” and one of the most innovative composers of the 20th century. Musique concrete is a style that arose in the 50’s and involved playback of primarily non-musical recorded sounds (via tape loops and turntables). This marks the beginning of the sampling era, and the style would be intimately linked with the evolution of technology for decades to come, influencing artists such as Aphex Twin and Brian Eno.

jeam-michael-jarre gear wide

After concluding his studies, Jarre released the album, Oxygène (1976), produced in his DIY home studio. The album was an enormous success, and ultimately went 18x platinum. In total, Jean-Michael Jarre has sold 80 million copies of his 17 albums, and holds a space in the Guinness Book of Records (largest concert attendance) for the 3.5 million people that attended his 1997 performance in Moscow. In this exclusive video, courtesy of Native Instruments, Jarre goes in-depth into the evolution of music technology, and how this evolution affects both the creative and technical side of music-making.

Click here to read his full interview with NI.

boutique square

Roland Teases New “Boutique” Synths

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Roland, one of the world’s most beloved producer of synthesizers, drum machines (including the iconic 808 and 909), and other audio gear, is notorious for slowly teasing us with vague announcements regarding upcoming products. They continue to push the envelope this day, venturing far outside the realm of traditional gear.

Most recently, they have released a video announcing “Boutique,” with little information other than short references to classic synthesizers such as the Jupiter-8 (1981), the JX-3P (1983), and the Juno-106 (1984). One can only imagine what to expect out of this new product, but the gear community will eagerly await for more news.

Stay up to date as Roland plans to unveil new information regarding the “Botique” synth line.

roland aira

Roland AIRA Modular System Announcement


Roland has seen much success in recent years with the release of their AIRA series, which includes a vocal transformer along with digital reissues of the System-1 Modular, TB-303, TR-808, and TR-909, named AIRA System-1, TB-3 and the TR-8 (the latter of which fuses the 808 and 909). Due to the success of the AIRA product line, there has been much speculation about a new addition to the series. Earlier this week Roland vaguely confirmed the speculation, posting the image above on the AIRA mini-site with the caption “Get Patching”.

The image featured on Roland’s site shows a patchbay, so it’s clear that this release will be a modular unit of some sort. The layout is similar to the System-1, although it is uncertain whether this is just a modular version of the same circuitry, or an entirely new machine altogether. We see four modules in the image and can only make wild speculations.

Roland will be officially announcing more details at the Musikmesse Fair in Frankfurt next weekend. Until then, check out some Roland related videos below. We’ve included a video of A Guy Called Gerald jamming with Roland Gear, our exclusive interview with Kink in the Roland booth at NAMM 2015, as well as a throwback to the old Roland System 700 and 100m.

Studio For Electronic Musicians – Handwerk Audio

handwerk audio synth studioStudio fanatics and gear heads, we have a special treat for you. We are happy to announce that there is a new studio in techno town, and this one really is a game changer. Berlin’s Handwerk Audio Synth Studio is a one-of-a-kind innovation in music creation, geared entirely (no pun intended) toward the electronic musician/producer/artist. Rather than “traditional” instruments, this studio features an abundance of synthesizers (both analog and digital), keyboards, drum machines, and much more. The studio is owned by Peter Van Hoesen, Marco Freivogel (Exercise One), and  Ricardo Deazcuenaga (birdsmakingmachine). Located in Berlin’s Kreuzberg District, Handwerk Audio is a must-see next time you find yourself in Germany.

Click here for more info on the studio, including full specs

Human Sized Synth in Tokyo

Synth featured

Those walking the streets of Tokyo may have stumbled upon a fascinating synthesizer display recently. It would certainly be hard to not catch the eye, considering the synth is about twice as tall as most people. This amazing human sized synth was developed by Daito Manabe and Rhizomatiks in conjunction with Red Bull Music Academy and iconic audio manufacturer, KORG. Take a look at this brief video to see what happened when they took a piece of studio gear and transformed it into an instrument of the public.


The human sized synth manages to include many great features that are desirable in any normal sized synth such as a keyboard with arpeggiator, X-Y effects unit (similar to that of KORG’s Kaoss Pad series), and a step sequencer for drum patterns. All the power to make a full track available right in the middle of Tokyo, that’s pretty incredible. Manabe kept the user interface relatively simple to encourage all members of the public to participate, even small children. But at the same time included enough options to allow the synth to function normally, and more knowledgeable audiophiles could manipulate the synth to their liking. Below you can find two diagrams provided by RBMA explaining the layout of the synth and functions.


schematicsThe top picture illustrates what the user sees on the synth itself, and the picture below that is a visual explanation of the features and signal path. Section 1 is the part of the synth with the various parameters commonly found in most synths such as the sound wave oscillators, filters, and envelope adjustments such as attack, sustain, decay, and release.  Sections 2, 3, and 4 are touch screens on the human sized synth, including the specific features such as: the arpeggiated keyboard, the X-Y effects pad, and the drum sequencer.

Music technology exhibitions such as these are a great way to get the public involved and somewhat informed about the gear and processes that go into making music. The human sized synth displayed in Tokyo did just that, and appeared to have people of all backgrounds experimenting with different sound textures and patterns. Probably not the most practical new piece of gear for a home studio, but maybe people will start getting creative and reinvest some time and interest in analog gear.

zMors Modular iOS Synth For iPad

modular ipadThe kind folks at Mobile Only have truly outdone themselves once again. This time, they’re back with an the zMors Modular iOS, an incredibly powerful modular synth that packs a mean punch. For only 8,99 € you can harness this power of this digital, modular synth. Great for synth aficionados or beginners looking to dabble in synthesis and production. With nothing more than an iPad, you can make some amazing dance floor tracks, which makes it ideal for the touring DJ/Producer. Read more