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The Magical Universe of Rodney Orpheus

Being the Thoughts of a Modern Dilettante

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Frankfurt Musikmesse
on stage
rodneyorpheus
Frankfurt Musikmesse is the biggest music instrument trade show in the world, by a very long way. Twelve halls of everything from tablas to grand pianos. I've been coming here nearly every year for about twenty years, first as a customer, and then as an exhibitor. This year I could definitely feel the economic woes hit - it used to take me about half an hour to walk from one end of a hall to another, this time it was taking five minutes. However we did damn well, our booth was packed to the eyeballs for the whole week. I did get a chance to get off the stage a few times to walk around. A few highlights:

Prosoniq showed an alpha version of some remarkable new software that allows you to take any fully mixed stereo file and pull out individual vocal and instrument multi-tracks from it. I saw it, I heard it, but I still find it hard to believe you can do that. "It's like unscrambling an egg!" remarked a friend of mine who saw it. If it works it'll revolutionise remixing the day it comes out. Unfortunately it'll be MacOS only, and require a minimum quad core computer to do the processing. Still, very very cool technology.

Watched an interesting demo of the Moog Guitar. Infinite, controllable sustain and a Moog filter on every string. Looked and sounded interesting, but according to a guitar playing friend of mine, sucks totally to play. I didn't get the chance to play it myself, so I leave that open till I do.

Presonus/KristalLabs Studio One. Beyond any doubt the best new music composition software in years. Beautifully designed (by some ex-Steinberg developers), loads of cool features, yet really slick and easy to use; it's the only sequencer I've seen since Cubase 1.0 that I've actually wanted to use.

I ran across Plugiator on the Musonik booth, and it definitely looked interesting. It's basically a programable DSP in a small synth shell. What that means in practice is that you can program it to emulate several different synths and have them all available at the push of a button. If this sounds like what Creamware used to do with their Scope stuff a few years back, that's not odd, because it's basically a spin-off of that technology. It comes with four different things built in:
  1. Minimoog - which didn't impress me too much, but I'm not a huge Moog fan anyway
  2. Lightwave - oh hell yes, it's a wavetable synth like the Waldorf MicroWave. Nice digital sounds, they don't sound that great on their own, but I bet they will really useful in a mix.
  3. Organ - it's another Hammond B-3 emulation. Why do people bother with this? It's a frakin' organ, big deal. On the other hand, if they had stuck some serious distortion on the back of it I could like it a lot.
  4. Vocoder - now this is what will sell it to me. There's a mic input on the back panel, though unfortunately it's a jack, not an XLR, but it is a TRS balanced input. And it's a frakin' VOCODER! We use vocoders live all the time in The Cassandra Complex, so a small cheap, easy to carry box with a good vocoder in it is always interesting. And this one seems really damn good too. Would definitely like to spend more time with it.
So out of that lot, there's two definite pluses, one could be good, and one yeah whatever. But hold on, you can buy four more synth models for it for about 99 Euros! So far there are:
  1. Prodyssey - is a ARP Odyssey emulation. I've always liked this synth, and it's definitely great for Gary Numan impersonations. Would like to play with it a bit.
  2. Pro-12 - now we're talking. I've been a huge Prophet fan ever since the early days. Most of the first Cassandra Complex songs were written on an old Pro-One; and this emulation sounds really damn fine. I really wish this one was one of the basic onboard synths, it's an absolute godsend. I love this synth.
  3. FMagia - another DX style synth. Didn't impress me much from what I heard, I'd like to play a bit with it though. Most preset FM sounds are very boring, but you can do cool things with them if you kick it a bit.
  4. Drums & Bass - loads of drums... and loads of bass. Definitely useful, it basically turns the box into a rhythm machine. So yeah, if you need a box that'll do excellent backing tracks live, this will do it. Unfortunately you can't run the other synth models while you're doing it, so it makes it slightly limited. Still pretty ok though.
You can have all of these loaded into the machine and flip between them on the fly. The Pro-12 is a must-buy, and for 99 bucks you can't really go wrong with the rest either.

I forgot the best part: Musonik do custom faceplates for it! They already told me they'd design a Casandra Complex faceplate for me if I wanted one... that's hard to say no to! So all in all, I could really go for getting a couple of these.

The other contender for great small synth is the new MicroKorg XL. I remember when Korg first showed the original MicroKorg, everyone in the industry said it was junk, but I loved it and predicted it would be a monster hit. I am glad to say that I was more than right: Korg just sold the 100,000th unit, making it the best selling synth of all time. So now they are following it up with a new one, and it's bitchingly good. It looks great, they nailed the 70s vintage look on it. Sounds great too, it's got the Radius engine in it for some killer Korg patches. The microphone is better, and is a real gooseneck with a real XLR socket on the synth itself. Vocoder is improved and it even has Kaoss Pad effects built in. You can edit the sounds with a computer patch editor, and it even reads MS2000 sounds. And it's only 100 Euros more expensive that the original one! Since The Cassandra Complex currently has 2 MS2000s and a MicroKorg that we use live, this synth is looking like a no-brainer choice for us for the future - that's unless we switch to using a couple of Plugiators instead.#

So that's about all I saw that was really interesting to me, but then again, I never even left Hall 5 where our stand was located! I couldn't face two halls full of guitars, or even two full of home organs...

All in all, it was a surprisingly good show. I've got a free day tomorrow so I'm hoping the weather will be nice here so I can explore a bit - I've been coming here for forever and I've never actually walked around here! Back to the West Country tomorrow night, which is good, because I'm missing it.

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Prosoniq showed an alpha version of some remarkable new software that allows you to take any fully mixed stereo file and pull out individual vocal and instrument multi-tracks from it. I saw it, I heard it, but I still find it hard to believe you can do that.

Wow. Thinking about how overtones, harmonics, formants and mixing work, I can't imagine how such a thing is even possible. I look forward to hearing more about this software.

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