Are you an ’80s or ’90s kid? Then you’ll want to hit play on Estuera’s two-part video series about the synthesizers and presets that defined the sounds of two decades. Along the way, he performs excerpts from more than 40 tracks and makes them sound just like the originals, thanks in part to Arturia’s synth emulation tech.
The Vector is one of the niftiest electronic music makers we’ve seen. Its 16-voice hybrid synthesis module can create some badass sounds. Its touchscreen lets you manipulate complex sounds visually, as shown in this in-depth video from Red Means Recording. It’s currently sold out but its makers are working on more.
If you’ve ever attended an EDM concert, you know that most of the performing is done on laptops, synthesizers, and other instruments with buttons and knobs. Norwegian comedy show Kollektivet pokes fun at the experience when a duo of DJs gets a new piece of equipment and doesn’t know what any of its buttons do.
Do you have a place in your heart for the sounds of the 1980s? Sonicware’s portable synthesizer makes FM sounds like many electronic instruments of the era, but can merge multiple sounds into one. It has a built-in 4-track sequencer, effects, filters, and more than 300 preset sounds. Their 8bit Warps synth looks nifty too.
Artist Alona Dudich runs a shop called Crazy Pillows. There, she specializes in handmade pillows that look like classic electronic instruments like the Roland TR-808 and SH-101, along with some playful original designs. She also makes pillows that resemble Technics turntables. They’re great gifts for musicians and DJs.
IK Multimedia’s duo of analog synthesizers offer triple wave-morphing oscillators, 256 presets, a 64-step sequencer, studio-grade effects, and a variety of connections, including USB, MIDI, and CV/Gate, along with audio inputs for filters and FX. Available in a 37-key model with aftertouch, and a mini version with capacitive keys.
Love Hultén has designed and built many wonderful things over the years. His latest creation is a synthesizer that moves 25 sets of mechanical teeth in concert with its keyboard. It’s both disturbing and fantastic at the same time. If the idea seems familiar, that’s because he was inspired by Simone Giertz’s toothy instrument.
Korg packs the awesomely rich and rhythmic sounds of its classic Wavestation synthesizer into a compact 37-note model called Wavestate. Its wave sequencing sound engine generates totally unique tones, and can produce up to 64 stereo polyphony. In-depth demo video here.
“You make the lyrics with your mouth. But you cannot use your vocal cords.” Ever wondered how musicians like Daft Punk make their voices sound like robots? Lorenz Rhode provides a lyrical instruction sheet for creating the electro-funk sounds of talkbox vocals. We think every “how-to” video should have a song.
For some reason, music from 8-bit and 16-bit games seems more memorable than most modern games. It probably has something to do with retro synthesizers drilling the sounds deeper into our brains. If you love retro game music too, hit play and listen up as BearKeys performs on a Roland Jupiter-6 synth. Part two here.
Hadouken! Teenage Engineering has teamed up with Capcom to create two pocket-sized sound makers, the PO-133 Street Fighter, and the PO-128 Mega Man. The Street Fighter model is a micro sampler with a built-in mic, while the Mega Man version is an 8-bit synthesizer. Both include sounds based on the games.
Look Mum No Computer is always building strange and wonderful electronic musical instruments. His latest creation is a massive wall full of oscillator circuits, which, when played together, create an equivalently massive wall of sound. If a symphony played synths instead of strings, it might sound something like this.
Roland’s latest electronic rhythm maker, the TR-6S packs a six-track sequencer into a portable, battery-powered box. What really makes it special is its ability to play sounds from famous drum machines like the 808, 909, 707, 606, along with preset and custom samples, as well as FM-generated tones.
French musician MEZERG kicks out some groovy sounds using one of the silliest musical instruments – a watermelon. He connected slices of the melon – along with cantaloupe and a kiwi – to a Playtron MIDI Controller to create an edible keyboard. His cover of The Doors’ Light My Fire is pretty awesome too, even if it has no fruit.
The Daft Punk track Lose Yourself to Dance has some great robotic vocals that were created with an electronic talkbox effect. StarvingGOGO was able to replicate the sound using a Nintendo Game Boy running LSDj to play the melodies, and a tubeless talkbox gadget called the ElectroSpit ESX-1 he’s wearing around his neck.
The MicroFreak Vocoder Edition, is an an updated version of Arturia’s hybrid analog/digital synthesizer with voice-enhancing capabilities. It includes a 16-band vocoder and a gooseneck electret mic for capturing your voice. Those with a standard MicroFreak can add vocoder ability via a firmware update.
Playtime Engineering presents a (slightly) more grown-up version of its easy-to-use Blipblox synthesizer. The After Dark model has over 300 new pre-loaded melodies, more sound filters, a drum machine, and more. In addition to the built-in speaker, it has a 5-pin MIDI input and a 1/4″ stereo output so you can use it in the studio too.
This unique MIDI controller makes it easier to play by teaching music theory. Simply select one of its 840 pre-loaded scales, and it maps only the applicable notes to its right pads, and chords on its left pads, so you can’t play a bad note. It has 96 velocity sensitive pads with polyphonic aftertouch and RGB backlighting, plus 24 hotkeys.
Musician and blank-starer Seth Everman is an expert at deconstructing songs and figuring out how to replicate them. This time out, he shows us his method for playing The Weeknd’s hit Blinding Lights using his couch, a toilet, and various other things around his house. Naturally, he still needed his keyboard for the ’80s synth bits.
We’re already quite familiar with the evolution of Windows sounds. Now listen to a variety of Windows startup, shutdown, and error sounds played on piano, courtesy of Bored Piano, where you can also check out digital piano covers of familiar game console startup sounds. More on his Japanese language channel.
Musician Doctor Mix once again proves he’s a synthesizer god, with an awesome cover version of Earth, Wind & Fire’s 1979 classic ballad After the Love Has Gone, played entirely on electronic instruments. With a heaping helping of vocoder, it sounds like a bonus track off of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories.
Clearly inspired by the old Atari Video Music, Critter & Guitari’s EYESY creates abstract visuals to go with your sounds. Its dials and buttons let you tweak its images to your heart’s content. It accepts audio via a 1/2″ jack, and outputs its real-time art via HDMI or composite video for a retro look. It can also be controlled via MIDI.
With help from the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago, musician Rob Scallon got to check out how a pipe organ works, and noticed that the one they have is capable of outputting MIDI signals. After a bit of experimenting, he figured out its keyboard and pedals can also be controlled via the digital music protocol.
Music folks, upgrade your digital sound game with this pay-what-you-want bundle of sound packs and synthesizers from Applied Acoustics Systems and Humble. Sounds can be played using the included AAS player, or patched into your favorite digital audio workstation. Spend $20 or more for the full pack. (Expires 4/15/2020)