Modal Argon8 Gets Free Update That Adds Expanded Synthesis Options, Polyphonic Sequencing

Modal Electronics has released Argon8 Firmware v2.0, a free update that adds expanded synthesis options, a polyphonic sequencer and more.

Here’s what’s new:

  • Firmware v2.0 for ARGON8 delivers an improved overall Audio Output staging and advanced dynamics options. A new Gain Boost setting applies to all patches. It increases the average output level while expanding the range of the Patch Gain control to boost quiet patches, without introducing unwanted noise.
  • Long pads, drones and snappier percussion are easier to dial in with seven new envelope modes & three new curves.
  • A new polyphonic 64 step sequencer mode has been integrated into the 512 note real-time sequencer. It provides an eight note-per-step sequencer, to allow full step-by-step control of melodies and pattern ideas. It also features several Step Modes to unlock significant flexibility to trigger sequences in different ways suiting various setups and performance situations.
  • Musicians and sound designers with MPE controllers can now enjoy polyphonic expression with the Argon8’s wavetable synth engine.
  • Chord Inversions offer an intuitive and experimental way to deploy chord inversions and variations in real-time, enabling a huge array of options to explore and greatly simplify complex chord voicings.
  • New sound library that showcase many of the new firmware features.

Modal has also updated MODALapp, a free editor software available for macOS and Windows computers, as well as iOS, iPadOS and Android mobile devices. To edit and control ARGON8 models directly within a DAW application, AU and VST3 versions will be available, too.

Pricing and Availability

Argon8 Firmware v2.0 is available now as free download from the Modal site.

Erica Synths SYNTRX Hands-On Demo

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Synthesist Hainbach shared this video, which offers his take on the new Erica Synth SYNTRX synthesizer.

“After two months spend with the SYNTRX and recording an album with it,” he notes, “I feel comfortable to make a more detailed video. I give some ideas how it can be more than a synth in the studio, show the raw sound of its individual parts and give my general impression on it.”

The SYNTRX is an interesting example a synth that’s clearly inspired by a vintage design, but which goes far beyond the original. The SYNTRX takes inspiration from the EMS Synthi AKS, featuring a similar form factor and build.

But the SYNTRX is an all-new synth design, taking the original concept to a new level. A key change is that the pin patch matrix of the original, which was loved and loathed in equal measure, has been replaced with a digitally-controlled analog patch matrix. This makes it possible for the synth to save up 256 patches.

Other features features not found on the Synthi AKS are Sample & Hold circuit with individual clock, octave switch for VCO1, synchronization of VCO2, AD mode on the envelope generator, as well as MIDI that accepts CV, Gate, Modulation wheel messages and program change messages for the matrix control.

The SYNTRX also is a key instrument on Hainbach’s new album, Assertion, which he says grew out of his response to the Coronavirus pandemic:

“My new album Assertion is my way out of the gloom of this situation, that sees a world becoming in many ways smaller and more closed-minded, while our most vulnerable waste away. It is an attempt at hope, a conscious choice of traveling joyously in music, while the body stays in isolation. It is a celebration of collaboration, as musicians Maysun and Andrew Raffo Dewar contribute to the sound of this album and Nani Gutierrez spins her fantastic visual world further, in the seventh year of our work together.

It is an album I hope you can put on anytime you need something to underscore your happiness or take you out of the ever threatening darkness.”

Hainbach’s kit for Assertion features the Syntrx, Chase Bliss Blooper, Bechstein Model 10 piano, Brüel & Kjaer 2204 Sound Level Meter with 1613 filter and Roland Juno 60. He discusses the making of the album in the video below:

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You can preview Assertion below:

Pricing and Availability

The SYNTRX is available to order now for € 2500. Hainbach’s Assertion is available in digital and vinyl formats via Bandcamp.

Using The Elektron Machinedrum As A 16-Voice Polysynth To Make Dark Ambient Music

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Australian synthesist ascetik shared this live performance, which explores the possibilities of using the Elektron Machinedrum as a 16-voice polyphonic synthesizer.

Elektron’s gear is known for having deep options that reward, and arguably require, taking time to really learn the device inside and out. In this example, ascetik shows that there’s a lot of unexplored territory still in the Machinedrum, though Elektron retired the drum machine years ago.

Here’s what ascetik has to say about the performance:

“For this video I’m using the MegaCommand, which is an open source midi controller for the Machinedrum that unlocks full polyphony integration, as well as other modern sequencer updates, such as conditional trigs and micro timing. With this controller it’s no longer necessary to manually map each machine’s pitch as it’s all done automatically and you have full access to the entire note range available to every synth engine.

The MegaCommand also replicates the ‘ctrl all’ trick automatically without having to manually hold the function button while turning knobs, which means you can tweak a parameter while playing at the same time, something that would only be possible natively if you had three arms. This opens up a lot of live playing possibilities and really helps make the Machinedrum feel more like an actual poly synth.

And believe me, it is a poly synth. It’s a 16 voice poly synth in fact, with a uniquely gritty and lo-fi sound engine.

In this video I’m showcasing the FM Bass Drum engine, which is arguably one of the best bass drums on the whole machine, and rivals even the Analog Rytm for raw power and low end. You’d think a bass drum engine would be quite limited sonically, and you’d be wrong. On the Machinedrum it’s capable of melancholic pads, eery soundscapes, aggressive basses, soft mallets, gamelans and sounds that I don’t even know how to describe.”

Moog Subharmonicon Hands-On Demo

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The latest loopop video takes a look at the updated Moog Subharmonicon synthesizer, originally introduced in 2018 as a Moogfest limited edition.

The Subharmonicon uses the same format as the Mother-32 and DFAM, letting you use it as a standalone synthesizer or integrated into a Eurorack modular system. But it’s also the most esoteric of Moog’s Euro-format synths, inspired by music theory and electronic instruments from the 1930’s and 40’s.

Topics covered:

0:00 Intro

0:50 What are Subharmonics

3:20 Overview

5:40 Oscillators

7:30 Quantization

8:15 Tunings

9:40 Assign & Seq Oct

11:05 Filter & VCA

13:30 Sequencer

16:40 Hidden features

17:45 PATCH IDEAS

18:00 EnveLFO

18:45 Sequence anything

19:55 PAIRINGS

20:00 LFO

20:30 Rhythm & bypass

21:30 External sequencer

21:50 Paraphony

23:40 Polyphony

24:15 Transpose seq

26:00 Effects (Hainbach!)

29:40 Pros & cons

Pricing and Availability

The Moog Subharmonicon is available now, with a street price of about $699.

Moog Subharmonicon Synthesizer Now Available

The Moog Subharmonicon – a unique synthesizer that was originally introduced in 2018 as a Moogfest limited edition – is now available as a production instrument.

The Subharmonicon is designed to let users work with subharmonics and polyrhythms. To design the Subharmonicon, Moog drew inspiration from theories on music composition that arose in experimental circles during the 1930s and 1940s.

Subharmonicon is inspired by Joseph Schillinger’s mathematical systems for musical composition and is influenced by two analog innovations from the 1930s and 1940s: the Mixtur-Trautonium, which employed a series of subharmonic oscillators to generate electronic undertones, and the Rhythmicon (developed by Leon Theremin, the inventor of the Theremin), an instrument capable of sounding multiple harmonically related polyrhythm generators simultaneously. Learn more about these historical instruments and how the past continues to inform the future of sound here.

“A long time ago, when I was in college and first met Bob [Moog], the Rhythmicon came up a couple of times,” recalls Steve Dunnington, Senior Hardware Lead at Moog Music. “One of his other students was into Schillinger…and I’ve always been fascinated by patterns that repeat differently each time…and that’s a thing you can explore [with Subharmonicon]. This instrument was inspired by some of the ideas and musical concepts of Schillinger, such as the idea that by taking a set of pitches and superimposing them on a set of rhythms with a different length will generate rotating musical motives.”

The Subharmonicon uses the same format as the Mother-32 and DFAM, letting you use it as a standalone synthesizer or integrated into a Eurorack modular system.

The Subharmonicon features two VCOs, four subharmonic generators, two four-step sequencers, and four rhythm generators. The four sub-oscillators can be divided from the two oscillators’ base frequency down to up to four octaves from the fundamental, to create stacked, harmonically related tones. The two VCOs and four sub-oscillators can be tuned to create up to six note chords.

The sequencer section features two four-step sequencers. The sequencer rate is not only controlled by the tempo knob, but rather the subharmonic divisions. These can be divided by an integer from 1 (no division) to 16 divisions of the master clock. This means it will take 16 clock pulses for the sequencer to move one step. The subharmonic used to clock the sequencer can be selected using buttons. These subdivisions of the master tempo make it possible for the four-step sequencer to perform much more complicated sequences.

The sequencer can be routed via switch to affect the primary VCO pitch or the subharmonic frequency. Onboard quantizers allow you to constrain the sequencer notes to specific scales, such as equal temperament or just intonation.

The Subharmonicon also features a classic Moog low pass filter, which can be used to filter out harmonics at the output stage. Harmonics can be removed using filtering and emphasized using the resonance of a filter, which highlights the harmonics at the cutoff frequency via feedback.

The VCA and VCF have independent envelope shapes with attack and decay stages.

The Subharmonicon is semi-modular and requires no patching in order to make sound, but it also offers 32-point patchbay, letting you open up the Subharmonicon to integrating with external modular or semi-modular gear such. The Subharmonicon also features a MIDI input, so it to be controlled from external MIDI devices.

Features:

  • Two VCOs
  • Four sub-oscillators that can be tuned to subdivisions of master VCO frequencies
  • Two four-step subharmonically clocked sequencers
  • Sequencers can affect VCO pitch or subdivisions
  • 32-point patchbay for rerouting signals and integrating with external modular devices
  • Moog low pass ladder filter
  • Analog VCA
  • MIDI integration
  • Amp and filter two-stage envelopes

Here’s the official intro video, featuring the music of Suzanne Ciani and visuals by Scott Kiernan:

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They also shared several hands-on demos:

Exploring the Pitch Sequencer

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Exploring the Polyrhythmic Sequencer

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Using Subharmonicon with Mother-32 & DFAM

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Audio Demos:

Pricing and Availability

The Moog Subharmonicon is available now, with a street price of about $699.

Live Trautonium Performance

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Sunday Synth Jam: In this video, LudoWic plays the Trautonium, a rare electronic instrument that was originally created by Friedrich Trautwein in the 1920s.

The Trautonium is a simple monophonic synthesizer, but allows for expressive control of volume, pitch and timbre. This allows it to be played with the emotion of traditional instruments, and for it to sound like traditional instruments or something completely electronic.

Theme From Young Frankenstein On Continuumini

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In this video, synthesist Ed Eagan – developer of the Haken Audio EaganMatrix synthesizer – plays the Theme From Young Frankenstein on the ContinuuMini synthesizer.

The Theme for the 1974 film, by composer John Morris, is arranged for violin and orchestra. This arrangement, for piano and ContinuuMini, shows off the instrument’s expressive capabilities.

In his performance, Eagan combines the ContinuuMini with an Expressive E Touché controller. The combination allows for very discrete expressive control of his performance.

Make Noise 0-CTRL Offers Touch-Controlled Desktop Sequencing

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Make Noise today introduced the 0-CTRL, a patchable, clockable controller and step sequencer for voltage controlled synthesizer systems.

Designed to complement the 0-Coast synthesizer, the 0-CTRL is a tabletop device whose inputs and outputs follow Eurorack standards, so it can also be used with a modular system or other cv/gate synthesizers.

Features:

  • Fully analog and patch programmable, with no menus or modes
  • Sequence and Control the Pitch, Strength, and Time of your synthesizer voice, per step
  • Voltage control over Stop and Direction
  • Dynamic Reset, select Reset Step while sequencing
  • Pressure and Touch Gate outputs for human generated events and expression
  • Dynamic Envelope and Gate outputs allow for voice loudness/ strength per note
  • Gate output per step for patch programming sequence behavior and triggering unique events per step
  • Synchronize the 0-CTRL via the Clock In, or clock other machines with the Clock and/ or Gate Outs
  • Sequence your synthesizer and play it by hand simultaneously with Sequence Interrupt
  • Pairs well with the 0-Coast, Tape & Microsound Music Machine, or anything having CV Inputs

Pricing and Availability

The Make Noise 0-CTRL is available now for $399 USD.

Is The Moog Subharmonicon Synthesizer Finally Going To Be Available?

Over the weekend, several images have appeared on a variety of sites that appear to show an updated version of the Moog Subharmonicon.

The Subharmonicon was originally introduced as a limited run synth, only available to Engineering attendees at Moogfest 2018. It follow the popular Mother-32 format, working as a standalone synth or as part of a Eurorack system.

Moog says that the Subharmonicon is inspired by the Trautonium, the Rythmicon, and the Schillinger System. The describe the new synth as ‘a semi-modular harmonic kaleidoscope that divides into itself until everything that is up becomes down’.

No official announcement about a broader release has been made.

The photos, if legit, show a Subharmonicon with an updated layout, along with a black and white panel, matching Moog’s previously released Mother-32 and DFAM synths. Here’s a look at the original panel:

For an example of the rare synth in action, see the loopop Subharmonicon review and demo.

Pricing and Availability

Information on pricing and availability an a general release of the Moog Subharmonicon is to be announced.

Photo: Zachary King (Atlas)

New Russian Vacuum Tube Synthesizer, Apparatus

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Eternal Engine Electronic Music Instruments shared this video demo of the Apparatus – described as “the first Russian duophonic synthesizer based on vacuum and gas-filled radio tubes.”

The audio path of the instrument is based on vacuum and gas-filled radio tubes, using circuitry solutions that Eternal Engine says are “in the spirit of the first half of the 20th century.”

Features:

  • Kenoton rectifier power supply
  • Audio path based entirely on radio tubes
  • Two independent thyratron oscillators with quartz frequency stabilization, which ensures frequency accuracy throughout the entire operating range
  • Voltage-controlled second order vactrol filter with the possibility of self-oscillation and overdrive
  • Voltage-controlled amplifier, based on the traditional schematic of tube opto compressors
  • Triode asymmetric overdrive
  • Velocity-sensitive ADSR envelope generator with two trigger modes
  • MIDI Clock synchronizable low-frequency oscillator with retrigger option and smooth waveform morphing: saw-triangle-reverse saw in triangle mode or pulse width modulation in square wave mode, sample & hold
  • Auto and continuous modes of portamento / legato
  • Monophonic and duophonic mode
  • Powerful headphone amplifier, compatible with low impedance load
  • Analogue VU meter

Audio Demos:


Pricing and Availability

The Eternal Engine is priced at $1,899 USD. See the Apparatus site for details.