I wiggled the Nyborg 12, here are my thoughts

Introduction

I have slimmed down my workspace by shedding some weight in terms of analog synth gear, but I still have a soft spot for physical knobs and I will always want a solid analog instrument on my desk.

On that note, I looked around for what my next analog synth should be, and there was one that really stood out for me, the Analogue Solutions Nyborg 12. The thing that caught my eyes, besides the well rounded specs, was the fantastic design and form factor. Like something taken straight from the set of a 50s sci-fi movie I pictured it towering on my desk with its LFO led slowly pulsing…

Right??? Yes, awesome indeed!

Still it’s a pricey piece of kit, so I wanted to actually ‘play’ it for a while to get a feel before I pulled the trigger, and here are my initial thoughts after wiggling with it for about 20min in the store.

Impressions

nyborg-12-rightYes, the design is fantastic, including the font and color scheme, size and slight inclination of the font panel.

Ergonomically it’s a great kit to work with. Knobs are large and easy to grip and the placement of the patch points along the top makes it easy to connect to the outside world without cables cluttering up the whole front panel.

(You really wish the Dark Energy from Doepfer would take a cue here…)

The whole unit is also a lot lighter in weight than you might think, which at first had me worried that it would tip over. Turns out the wider base is enough to support it though, and you can flip the front panel over and lay it down flat on your desk if that suits your taste.

Soundwise the filter (SEM style, 12dB, multimode) sounds every bit as nice as you would expect. Friendly, warm and creamy, especially the LP. It does lack some of the biting quality of a Moog style 24dB filter, but that’s not what the Nyborg is trying to deliver. If you want that you want another synth.

The oscillators I found to be very well behaved. Suffering perhaps a little from the same somewhat constrained qualities (a bit tame?) as I often hear in DSI instruments like the Tetra and the Prophet 12. (Yes, I know those use DCOs and not VCOs, but to my ears they sounded similar for some reason.)

The build quality was OK but not as stellar as Analogue Solutions like to tote on their website. Potentiometers felt a bit wobbly and the casing was not 100% sealed in the edges meaning dust could easily find its way in. Could just be that the unit I wiggled had stood in the store for a while and taken some abuse…

Conclusions

front-flatI’m sure there’s an audience for the Nyborg and that in the right hands it can and will sound great, but for me it was not that immediate fit that I had hoped for.

I had a hard time dialling away the metallic cleanliness which I did not expect to find in an all analog instrument like this, and the build quality just didn’t feel as solid as I had wished for.

Still, it’s a fantastic instrument if this is what your looking for, and there’s a good chance me and the Nyborg might meet again. Perhaps then the stars will align and it could be the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship…


If you like this post, please share or hit Like below. Thank you!

Advertisements

2013 Mini Synth RoundUp

This is a follow up to my previous post where I was wining about not having a proper keyboard to play.

This weekend I was at one of the local synth stores in Stockholm (4sound) messing around with some of the smaller synths (BassStation 2, MS-20 Mini, MiniBrute, Sub Phatty) that have entered the market recently. Smaller in footprint but not in sound. I thought I’d collect some of my thoughts on them, but this is not a comparison in anyway. Remember, they are different instruments with different character so comparing them would be unfair and pointless.

Novation BassStation 2

Base-Station-II-elevated-rear-3quartersNovation’s reincarnation of the classic BassStation. Very intuitive panel with lots of hands-on goodness. The keybed felt sturdy and nice, with just the expected action for a smaller, somewhat cheaper synth. During the 15 minutes I played around with it I found it really easy to get lost (in a good way) in tweaking a sound to go all the way from a subby bass to a crunchy lead.

I have to say the sonic palette was really impressive, and I would not write this one off as just a Bass synth. Compared to the Moog Minitaur, which I feel is an amazing, great sounding, creamy and fat one-trick-pony, the BassStation 2 might not have that warm, Moogy sound but who cares? It’s not a Moog, instead it’s much more versatile, hands-on and fun.

The Acid filter is an obvious (and great) nod to the X0X machines of the 80s and 90s where you can easily dial in great, classic acid techno sounds. In fact, it felt like the machine was quietly beckoning me to do just that. ‘I know it’s cheesy but admit it, that’s what you want me to sound like…’ Or perhaps that was just in my head… The signal path also contains an overdrive stage where you can really fatten it up and add plenty of dirt.

Thumbs up for this one, especially if you want a dedicated Bass synth, but really for any classic techno sound!

Korg MS-20 Mini

Such a difficult instrument to approach. I’ve dreamt of owning an MS-20 ever since I discovered that all my favourite sounds in the Arturia library came from their MS-20 emulation. Now that I’m standing face to face with one that’s actually within reach it feels so strange that it’s not 100% the ‘real’ thing. I know it’s almost exactly the same components, but I kind of want to find some problem with it to give me an excuse to get the vintage one.. Silly, I know…

korg-ms20-630-80

Anyways, the MS-20 Mini is simply put a blast to play. While the keys feel a bit flimsy and the knobs have quite a lot of wiggle to them, the patch bay felt sturdy and extremely inviting.

With my modular background I immediately felt at home and within just a few minutes I was able to patch bells, drones and straight out weird noises. (Yes, the filter is fantastic!)

The layout of the panel is very easy to understand, and since everything is given plenty of on-panel explanation I think this would be a fantastic beginner synth that’s both easy to get in to and extremely deep thanks to it’s semi-modular nature.

Thumbs up on this one too, especially if you are looking for your first analog synth.

Moog Sub Phatty

I have a Little Phatty Stage 2 in the studio, and I’ve always felt it’s like a Rolls Royce of synthesisers. Not necessarily the most exciting synth, or the most innovative, but very well built (despite it’s plastic front panel) and with a very reliable sound and character. For some reason I alway use it either as a Bass synth, or in combination with delay, reverb and distortion pedals. I feel like it lacks just that little extra spice to make it interesting as a Lead synth.

Sub-Phatty1wht-e1369738309637Not so with the Sub Phatty. In fact if it was my only chance of owning it I would trade my Little for a Sub any day. The new panel layout is an order of magnitude easier to get around and much better for live tweaking and performance. The oscillator section (with the sub osc), dedicated noise knob, the separation of the amp and filter envelope sections and the overdrive all combine to make this an excellent instrument for sound creation and live playing.

Some might say that the 2 vs 3 octave keyboard is thing to consider, but I disagree. I have no problem dribbling the octave up and down buttons when necessary and I actually think the smaller foot print is a big plus.

Of all the synths I played with this day I have to say the Sub Phatty was the most fun, and I found myself seriously considering buying one.

If you own a synth or two but you want to add that classic Moog sound, albeit in an updated and in my opinion more interesting incarnation, the Sub Phatty is a no-brainer.

Arturia MiniBrute

I have a complicated relationship with Arturia. I love their software emulations and the presets they bundle, but the quality of their hardware has never impressed me. I find this interesting since many reviewers of both their MIDI controllers and synths give them praise for great build quality.

The gear I’ve owned (2 Analog Factory boards, a MiniLab and the Spark Drum machine) have all broken down in one way or the other. That said, their prices are very competitive and the software is ace…

Minibrute

So is the MiniBrute any different? Yes and no. Yes, the build quality of the chassis and keybed feels reassuring compared to their MIDI controllers, but the the knobs and faders feel like they would easily break or get cranky if you get too excited during a live session.

The MiniBrute has one of the most interesting oscillator sections I’ve ever seen, essentially allowing you to mix 3 waveforms, noise, a sub oscillator and an external audio input in a 6 channel mixer. What’s really interesting though is that the waveforms are all generated from a single oscillator. Add to this waves haping capabilities on each wave and the famed ‘Brute Factor’ and you’re in for a ride.

Yes, the MiniBrute lives up to it’s name. I found it to be gritty, dirty, growling and just awesome in sound character. Very disrespectful of any fancy Moog smelling classical synth lead sounds, instead just begging you to steal it and start a punk band. My only fear is that the knobs, keys and faders might fall off before you make it to the first gig…

In summary, definitely a unique and fun sounding synth, and if I found a used and functioning one for a good price I would probably buy it. Is it a must-have? No, I would save the cash for the MicroBrute slated to be released on November 1st.

New Video (Dark Echoes)

A little video I pulled together while jet lagged in Stockholm. It’s just the Doepfer Dark Time sequencing the Dark Energy with some percussive clickety-clacks from an Elektron MaschineDrum.

The delay and Reverb are from the built-in FX section of the Allen & Heath ZED-10FX mixer.

Novation Launchkey Mini vs Arturia MiniLab

Disclaimer:
I have not used the Launchkey Mini yet, the below is based on specs and photos.

launchkeymini_angle-640x412So Novation has announced the Launchkey Mini (sp ~$99). With 25 mini keys, 16 pads, 8 rotary knobs and 2 performance buttons, all assignable of course, it makes for a sweet little MIDI keyboard, not at all unlike the Arturia MiniLab that also launched recently.

I got a chance to play around with the Arturia board for a couple of days and it certainly has the upper hand when it comes to design in my opinion. Of course the two are not entirely comparable given that you get a bloody awesome collection of 5000 analog synth emulation presets with the Arturia board..

My biggest gripe with the Arturia MiniLab was the touch strips. Very poor quality and performance which in the end rendered it almost unusable for me. The keys and the pads though were very nice and responsive. The Launchkey Mini has gone a step further and done away with the traditional modulation / pitch controls entirely. My suspicion is that you can use the two ‘performance buttons’ for this by assigning them your self?

MiniLab_275In terms of connectivity the only difference is that you get a foot switch input on the MiniLab. This could be important to you depending on your playing style. Both are USB powered and class compliant. I for one really wish they had a MIDI out port for connecting straight to some of my older analog gear, but that dear old round connection seems to be an endangered species these days…

Looking at the bundles software (Launchkey Mini: Bassstation, V-Station, Live Lite, Samples, Launchkey app for iPad vs. MiniLab: AnalogLab with 5000 classic synth presets) it really depends on your style of music and workflow. I love the Arturia emulations since they fit very well with the kind of music I make, but the flexibility of the Novation soft synths where you are not limited to presets is also very attractive. In the end it’s up to you.

Check out the rivals at their respective websites below:

Echigoya, another synth power-spot in Tokyo

In January this year I presented the FiveG store in Harajuku, Tokyo, but the city is home to many other fantastic gems for synth heads. Today I’ll post some pictures from the Echigoya Music (えちごやミュージック) store in Shibuya.

Along with FiveG, I would list Echigoya as probably one of the best spots in Tokyo to go searching for vintage or just used synthesizers and other studio gear. It’s a small shop but filled floor to ceiling with some really fantastic gear. Prices are reasonable too, and the manager is more than happy to assist with shipping to just about any region of the world.

To get to this store you get off at the Shibuya station and walk towards Harajuku along the JR (Yamanote) line tracks. You’ll bump into Tower Records on your right side.

TowerRecords

Echigoya will be across the street.

EchigoyaExt

You have to take the elevator up to the 9th floor.

EchigoyaElevator

Inside you’ll find keyboards, synth modules, rack gear, accessories and tons of other gear.

E_Keyboards

Look at that, a used Korg Volca Beats makes a surprise appearance. I would have bought it but my mind is set on a Elektron Machinedrum now…

E_VolcaBeats

Lots and lots of gear.

E_Keyboards2

If I had the means I would have picked up a SEM or two…

E_SEMmodules

Lot’s of MPC goodness. With some custom skins too…

E_MPCs

On a side note, when I was walking back to Harajuku I spotted this charming sign near the Yoyogi park:

Sign

It basically says that all unauthorized live music performances using amps are forbidden in the park. The background is most likely that this has traditionally been one of the most popular spots for amateur bands and performers to do impromptu shows. Thus, today the area was entirely devoid of any music and mostly desolated. Sad to see such a nice ‘tradition’ go, but I’m sure they will find other spots across the city.

Check out the Echigoya Music website here!