This Korg keyboard plays with you to help you learn

Learning to play an instrument is a long process and it’s a lot easier when you have someone to play along with. What could be better than accompaniment from the keyboard itself?

Korg have unveiled their EK-50, an entertainment keyboard made for any level of player. It sets itself apart by “growing with you” with an entire backing band that accompanies whatever you play with increasingly advanced functions as your skill grows.

The EK-50 uses a function which they call ‘Styles’ to follow and play along to what you’re playing. Play a chord or just a note with your left hand and the keyboard will produce a rich accompaniment allowing you to improvise and play a melody with your right hand. The styles cover over 280 genres from all over the world, each of which has four variations ranging from simple to complex so that you can get creative in any style you like.

You can switch up the rhymths and even add intros and endings to the accompaniments. An STS (Single Touch Select) function that automatically selects recommended styles when you switch it up. Korg say: “It’s a perfect pairing of sound and Style, all set up and ready to go, so that you can focus on learning, creating or performing.”

Beyond it’s Style feature the EK-50 comes packed with 702 realistic sounds to play, including pianos, violins, sax, and drums. It comes with a split function that allows you to split the keyboard between two different instruments and vary your sounds between your left and right hands. Play guitar with your right hand and drums with your left and your on your way to being a one-man White Stripes tribute act.

Beyond that it comes with all that you’d want in a good but affordable keyboard with a centre display which features a grand piano button, making it simple to return to the basic piano sound with one push of a button regardless of your current instrument setting. You can also record what you play, save it and play it back.

There are built-in speakers so that you don’t have to plug it in to anything else to hear what you’re playing and a USB flash drive for playing music through it. You can also add new styles through the flash drive which will be added to Korg’s website in due time.

Currently the EK-50 keyboard is scheduled for release sometime in October, next month and will cost $400/£390. Find out more here.

Gibson may emerge from bankruptcy, new guitars on the way

Gibson are synonymous with guitars after a 100+ year legacy, so their bankruptcy came as a shock. But it looks like they might crawl out from it yet.

Back in May of this year we were shocked to learn Gibson had filed for bankruptcy after having helped define guitars since the company launched in 1902. The filing came after a series of asset sales and restructuring in an attempt to recuperate years of evidently poor business choices that culminated in $60 million of debt. But they may rise from the ashes once more.

Gibson filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy which means that their operations are protected, allowing them to attempt to turn business around and financially re-emerge from their debt. Gibson’s plan of action to climb back out of their losses is to take the company back to it’s roots – making solid, quality guitars, including a s**tload of Les Pauls.

Last week Gibson unveiled their first range of guitars since they filed for bankruptcy, with a whole slew new guitars planned from the company for 2019. The new guitars won’t be cheap but they see the return of Gibson’s ability to make some of the best quality guitars in the world.

Amongst the new range are updated Les Paul Standards, SG Standards, Flying Vs, Explorers, Firebirds, and that’s just their solid-body electrics. There is also an entire new range of semi-hollow body electrics and acoustic guitars too. You can browse through the whole new range here: www.gibson.com/Products

Paperwork filed in the US Bankruptcy Court in Delaware last week suggests that an agreement with various creditors is being arranged and is close to finalising. The deal would see some of Gibson’s chief creditors like Blackstone and Philips Electronic accept reduced paybacks for their outstanding loans to Gibson. The companies could then benefit further from the potential reborn success of Gibson.

Roland announce 3 new secret products this Thursday

Roland have revealed that they will be announcing some exciting new products they’re working on this week, but what they are is a secret.

Roland have created some of the most monumental instruments and devices in music over their 46 year lifespan. From genre-defining drum machines to game-changing synths, Roland are the purveyors of quality and exciting innovation – so we are very excited that they’re announcing 3 brand new products this week.

There are no details on what they will be yet, apart from that they will be “three brand-new Roland drum and synthesizer products”. They are planning to announce all 3 of the products this Thursday, September the 13th which gives you a couple of days to “get ready to make some noise!”.

Roland will be announcing the new products on their Music Connects website. Be sure to come back here on Thursday to find out what’s happening in the world of Roland.

Behringer just unveiled the return of a Roland drum machine classic

It’s been a month since 808 Day and Behringer have just gotten the world drooling again over the return of another of Roland’s classic Drum Machines.

At this year’s Knobcon, the self proclaimed “World’s Only Synthesizer Convention”, Behringer unveiled the latest modern update for one of Roland’s classic and modern music-shaping drum machines. This time they are are bringing back the 909 day, as announced on 909 Day unsurprisingly, in the shape of the RD-909.

The interface seems to have a similarly updated design as the RD-808 has been given, however details are currently limited. The prototype currently is unfortunately only a 3D printed prototype and not a working device so we don’t quite know how it works or sounds yet.

There is also no word yet on release dates or prices so we’ll just have to make do with salivating over a picture for now until Behringer bring out more details, hopefully soon.

How to use jack connections on MIDI devices

A new specification from the MIDI Manufacturers Association outlines how to use jack connections with your MIDI devices.

The MIDI Manufacturers Association (MMA) have released a guideline for using TRS Connectors instead of DIN connectors for MIDI In/Outs. TRS connectors which include many jack connectors are far more widespread and common than the MIDI standard 5-pin DIN connectors so the new specification will be great news for many MIDI lovers.

The MMA explain how you can wire TRS (tip-ring-sleeve) connectors for use with MIDI devices using the correct device circuitry and cable specifications that will allow the TRS connection to support MIDI signals. MIDI connections have been slowly going out of fashion as musicians and manufacturers opt for smaller connections allowing for more compact designs.

With the increase of 2.5mm and 2.5mm TRS connections on new devices the MMA have decided to release an official specification to allow all MIDI devices the same opportunities with a little wiring. They say: “By specifying the pin-out for the TRS connection, and also the connectors for the adaptor cable, we can ensure greater interoperability between TRS and DIN-MIDI devices.”

The specification is free to download buy you will need to create an account with the MIDI Manufacturers Association. Find out more, download the guidelines and get connected here: www.midi.org/articles-old/trs-specification-adopted-and-released

Sony want you to spend $7,900 on their new music player

Sony have unveiled a new music player that promises audiophiles a premium listening experience with a snazzy gold-plated look – but it’ll cost you.

Sony have unveiled their DMP-Z1 digital music player, a hi-res music player capable of playing all hi-res music formats. The player comes with a headphone amp that has been assured to be “audiophile-grade” and the volume dial is gold plated “to ensure absolute sonic purity” with gold soldering “to enhance the signal flow”.

By incorporating an audiophile-grade, high-power headphone amplifier, the DMP-Z1 realises 1500mW (16Ω) headphone output to drive even the most demanding headphones. It’s controlled with an intuitive touch screen user interface which makes it easy to access and customise the settings. It features a spectrum analyser which visualises frequency amplitude instantly.

The player has a vinyl processor which gives a boost of warmth and character that you get from vinyl records to your digital music. The subtle reproduction of the low frequency resonance, tone-arm resistance and surface noise deliver an authentic listening experience.

The DMP-Z1 comes with five built-in battery cells for both digital and analogue amplification circuits independently for enhanced dynamics and reduced internal electromagnetic interference. By isolating the power delivery from conventional AC power supplies, you enjoy both a more open treble response and tighter bass delivery without the harshness transmitted through AC line noise. It’s battery also offers up to 10 hours of non hi-res playback and roughly 9 hours of high resolution music playing.

All this sounds fantastic right? Well it could all be yours, but that’s if you have $7,900 to spare. That’s how much it will set you back. If you’re a wealthy audiophile the Sony DMP-Z1 could well be worth it but for the rest of us, we’ll probably stick to streaming Spotify on our smartphones.

Samsung have unveiled their UFO-looking Smart speaker

Samsung have revealed their entry into the, definitely not already over-saturated with players, world of smart speakers and it looks like it descended from the sky.

The Galaxy Home is Samsung’s first home speaker and will see them enter competition with major tech companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google. Whilst it makes sense for Samsung to enter the market the smart speaker industry has already been firmly established, especially with Amazon’s incredibly popular Echo speakers powered by their Alexa AI.

The Samsung Galaxy Home will be powered by their own AI called Bixby which will use eight far-field microphones to hear voice commands. Samsung say that Bixby will be capable of many of the things you can use it for on their smartphones. Personalities like Alexa and Siri have become synonymous with artificial intelligence for their power and diversity but Bixby doesn’t seem to have particularly impressed it’s users. Samsung will have to improve their AI a lot if they want to stand up to beloved speakers like the Echo.

Samsung have been scarce on details so far but they’re joining Apple’s HomePod at the high end of the market, promising superior audio to the Amazon Echo and Google Home. They say that the speaker will combine “amazing sound and elegant design.” I don’t know if I’d use elegant to describe the design but it’s certainly unique. The speaker stands upon three metal legs making it look like a fat, headless Kiwi bird. However perhaps the surface separation enhances the sound through a lack of surface vibrations, although this could diminish the bass – we will have to see.

Control your MIDI devices on iOS with this $1 app

Who needs a MIDI controller when you’ve got an iPhone? Play and record MIDI all from this versatile app for your iOS devices.

Ribn is an iOS app that works as a MIDI controller with 8 assignable ribbons. You can assign a unique MIDI channel and CC (Continuous Controller) to each ribbon if your gear is responsive to MIDI CC messages allowing you to control your instruments, effects, racks or any other devices you have.

The Ribn app is unique in it’s ability to record and loop finger movements so you can create repeating modulations for synths and effects like a complex LFO. The app works simply by using a MIDI interface, wired or bluetooth, to connect your iOS device to MIDI gear and then selecting your interface in the app’s settings. Then you can find out which CC and MIDI channel your gear responds to and enter this in Ribn’s edit view. Then just tap and slide your fingers to control your gear.

Ribn’s features include:

• 8 MIDI CC ribbon pads
• Add modulation to your MIDI hardware synths, effects, eurorack modulars, drum machines, etc.
• Configurable MIDI channel and CC# per ribbon
• Ribbons record and loop your finger movement
• Looping can be turned off to enable standard ribbon sliders
• Choose 2, 4 or 8 ribbons
• Use a wired MIDI interface, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi
• All settings are saved automatically
• Works on iPhone (including iPhone X) and iPad

Examples of how it can be used: 

• Control hardware MIDI synths parameters like the filter cutoff frequency, resonance, oscillator octave, etc.
• Control any soft synth in Ableton Live (or your favorite DAW) by connecting your iOS device to your Mac via Wi-Fi and choosing “Session 1” as the MIDI output in Ribn.
• Control your Eurorack modules by running Ribn through a MIDI to CV converter.
• Control drum machines and effects. For example, try controlling the room size of a reverb effect unit with a looping ribbon or the snappiness of a snare drum on a drum machine. The possibilities are endless.
• Daisy chain your MIDI hardware using MIDI Thru ports and assign each ribbon to a different MIDI channel. This way you can control more than one piece of hardware at a time. For example, you can assign the first 4 ribbons to a synth and the last 4 to an effect unit.

You can get Ribn on iPad and iPhone from the Apple App Store for just $0.99/£0.99/€1.09.

Fender’s latest Parallel Universe guitar makes Telecaster’s sparkle

Fender have been launching a bunch of quirky hybrids in their new Parallel Universe range to re-enliven the guitar industry and their latest actually seems quite good!

Fender have launched a limited line of their newest guitar to join their wacky 2018 line of new guitars. The Limited Edition Tele Thinline Super Deluxe combines the beautiful semi-hollow design of their classic Tele Thinline with a gorgeous (or garish – subjective) bright orange finish and silver sparkling pickguard.

The guitar gives a modern, funky flair to their classic sounding semi-hollow thinline Tele’s. It’s semi-hollow build gives the Tele an acoustic warmth but doesn’t detract from the Tele’s powerful sound, especially when it’s backed up by TV Jones pickups giving it a gnarly growl that punches through the air. As you’d wish for in any Tele, this Limited Edition Tele Thinline Super Deluxe will sound beautiful clean and sound fat as f**k with some distortion.

Vegans may be disappointed as the nut is fashioned from bone although this is an authentic original-era Fender design element which many guitar nuts swear by for a superior tone and performance. Below the bone nut the fingerboard is crafted from gorgeous rosewood that looks and plays like a dream. The guitar comes with an American Professional Tele Deluxe Bridge providing accurate intonation and vintage-informed tone.

Here’s the highlights of this sexy guitar:

  • Semi-hollow alder Tele Thinline body with double white binding; lacquer finish; ‘70s Tele Thinline silver sparkle pickguard
  • American Professional “Deep C”-shaped neck; 9.5”-radius rosewood fingerboard
  • Dual TV Jones Classic humbucking pickups
  • American Professional Tele Deluxe hardtail bridge; Limited Edition neck plate
  • Includes hardshell case and Certificate of Authenticity

Other guitars to come out of Fender’s Parallel Universe line have included another Telecaster that was hybridised with my personal favourite, the Fender Jazzmaster. The Jazz-Tele didn’t exactly offer what people wanted but it was an interesting design. Then there was the model which looked like a Tele had a shameful night with a Gibson LP resulting in the Troublemaker Tele. We’re excited to see more of these bizarre mash ups bringing some fun back into guitars.

Check out the 2018 Limited Edition Tele Thinline Super Deluxe and nab one for yourself for £1,609 at Fender’s website.

Finally! A looper pedal that stays in time with your band

Loop pedals allow you to expand on your playing and create larger soundscapes than you ever could on your own and TC Electronic have just perfected the loop pedal.

TC Electronic have just revealed their latest Ditto looper pedal and it introduces possible the greatest function a loop pedal could have – beyond it’s ability to loop. The newly announced Ditto Jam X2 pedal will listen to the music being played around it and keep it’s loop in time with it, eliminating the frustration of getting your loop milliseconds out.

Whilst loop pedals are an incredible tool, especially for solo musicians to create a layered sound, getting the loop in time and then keeping it in time is often an infuriating process – not something you want to have to deal with on the fly or at a gig. The Ditto Jam X2 from TC Electronic uses built-in microphones to listen to the rhythm being played around it and will keep the loop in time internally.

TC Electronic aptly call the feature BeatSense and it will dynamically stretch or compress your loops to fit the tempo all the time you’re playing without losing quality. The pedal even comes with a clip-on mic which you can attach to a rhythmic instrument such as the bass drum so the pedal can tune in to the groove precisely and keep itself in time.

The Ditto Jam X2 does come with a lot of other, really cool features too though. There’s the Groove Guru, a toggle switch which lets you switch quickly between recording, loop playback, and overdubbing for total control over your loops. As well the two stomp switches on the pedal are dedicated to loop recording and stopping loops so there’s no messy confusion over your functions.

Let TC Electronic sell you in their own words with the amazing roster of features that you get with this revolutionary looping pedal:

  • Intuitive looper pedal with first ever intelligent loop synchronization that responds to your band
  • Innovative responsive BeatSense technology automatically adjusts loop tracks to your beat
  • Choose between Record-then-Play or Record-then-Overdub functionalities
  • Unlimited overdubs and undo/redo for total creative freedom
  • Dual built-in mics accurately track band tempo by focusing only on rhythmic elements
  • Included clip-on mic attaches to percussion instruments for total rhythmic precision
  • Dedicated stop button for easy control of loop ending
  • Analog-Dry-Through maintains total integrity of analog dry signal path even when looper is engaged
  • 24-bit uncompressed audio for ultimate sound quality
  • True bypass allows for optimum clarity and zero high-end loss when the pedal is off
  • Sturdy die-cast metal case designed for life on the road
  • 3-Year Warranty Program*
  • Designed and engineered in Denmark

The Ditto Jam X2 will be available in August for £199. Find out more: www.tcelectronic.com/Categories/Tcelectronic/Guitar/Stompboxes/DITTO-JAM-X2-LOOPER/p/P0DAT