Saturday, September 27, 2008

Machinedrum + Kenton Pro-2000 = fucking awesome

I spent about 3 hours last night and 4 hours this afternoon playing with the MachineDrum + Kenton Pro-2000 and it was even better than I had expected!

First, a bit of background on how the setup works.

The Kenton has two (A/B) "main" CV and gate outputs. These are for the usual pitch and gate CV uses; the pitch can be adjusted for 1v/Oct, Hz/Volt, and even 1.2v/Oct. The gates can be configured as standard V-trig or S-trig. And both A and B can be programmed to respond to any one of 16 midi channels (including the same channel). In addition to those CV outputs, there are 6 additional Auxiliary CV outputs, each one of which can be programmed to respond to any MIDI CC message, again on any MIDI channel. Each Auxiliary output can be configured to be bipolar (-5v to +5v) or unipolar (0 to +5v); I didn't actually expect that and it's incredibly useful. It also has two programmable LFOs which can be controlled by any MIDI CC message on any MIDI channel, but I didn't play with those yet.

Now, on the MachineDrum side. The MachineDrum has a "MID" machine, with 16 different "types". Really, they are the same machine, but there's one for each MIDI channel, so if you want to sequence MIDI channel 1, you load "MID 1" on a track. There's nothing stopping you from loading the same channel MID machine on multiple tracks either (although things seem to act a little weird when you do).

The first page of a MID machine has all the basic MIDI parameters. The pitch (as well as two additional pitches, for chords), the length of the note, as well as the note velocity, and pitch bend, mod wheel and aftertouch amounts. All I was using here was the NOTE and sometimes LEN controls (images courtesy of the MachineDrum manual).

The second page is where you find four of the MIDI CC controls. There's two controls for each CC, the first to set which CC message should be used, the second for the actual value. This is really cool because you could set different CC messages and values on each step of the MD sequencer via parameter locks.

The third page has the final two MIDI CC controls as well as a control for Program Change as well as the depth of the MD's track LFO (oh yeah, that can be routed to control any of the parameters of the MID machine too).

So, what I chose to do was simply sequence a few notes (patched from the "A" CV) as well as patch 4-6 of the Auxiliary CV outs to various other controls on the modular, like the filter cutoff, EG timebase, VCAs for LFOs and FM index. I was having a lot of fun, adding a step on the MD's sequencer and manually setting a parameter lock, or just turning one of the knobs in real time, indirectly controlling the modular. It was a blast. The real fun came though when I remembered that you can set parameter locks in realtime record mode; just twist the knobs and your actions are recorded via param locks. With this feature I was now simply tweaking controls while the sequence played and they were automatically recorded. Sequencing filter cutoffs and FM indexes was extremely immediate and intuitive feeling. It was fantastic!

Now, after both long sessions, I sat down to think about what functions that I would be loosing by giving up the A-155, A-154, and A-190 for the Pro-2000 + MD combo.

I wasn't loosing any glide/portamento as that exists on the MD (and I could patch in the dual bissell anyway).
I wasn't loosing any functionality in trigger sequencing. I'm gaining functionality there.
I was loosing some ease of doing "one shot" sequences. It can be done with the MD though, through song mode/linked patterns.
I was gaining an easier way to implement swing to the sequence. Something I had overlooked until now.

There was more, but it all either came out as a tie, or ended up being better with the MD+Pro-2000.
All of it except for using the A-155 as an 8 input/output switch, particularly with the A-154 random and CV addressing capabilities. That couldn't be done with the MD. But, then I remembered the A-152. It gets me that exact function, and more. And it's only $175.

So what I've decided (or at least almost decided, still trying not to rush the decision) is to part with the A-190, 155, 154 and pickup the Pro-2000 and an A-152. :D

Anyone in the market for a 155 + 154 combo? A-190 MIDI-CV?

[UPDATE]: The 155 and 154 are sold. A-190 is still up for sale though (includes the AD5 5v adapter)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sequencer Machine

While it doesn't have a lot to do with this post, I recently traded my MachineDrum MkI and Monomachine MkI for a MachineDrum MkII (plus some cash). This was a fantastic deal as I had been using the Monomachine less and less since I got the modular set back up and the MD was always my favored one of the two. the MDmkII is great, but I'm getting off track...

Lately I've been coming close to filling up the Doepfer Single Monster Case. I know, crazy right? But I was starting to think about starting to save for a Monster Base. But, it's a lot of money, and it means I would eventually spend even more than that filling it up with modules; not only would it be a tough financial purchase, but it would ensure future financial purchases. I know the modular thing "never ends", but at some point I need to try.

So, while weighing the difference between getting the Monster Base and not, I quickly found that there's already existing modules that I want that I do not have enough room for, let alone whatever really cool shit comes out in the next year or so. Not getting a Monster Base and sticking with the Monster Case would mean getting rid of modules. Tough.

So a couple weeks go by and I'm digging into the MachineDrum more than I have in a while, and one of these things was trying out the MIDI machines, which allow step sequencing of MIDI notes as well as up to 6 MIDI CCs per machine (1 machine per track). I played around with sequencing with these MIDI machines and it was surprisingly in fact, I found it easier than sequencing the MnM. For each step, you simply parameter lock a different pitch, and further different note length, pitch bend, mod wheel, etc. In other words, it was actually a great sequencer for melodies as well as CCs (although I only did a little of sequencing CC values, same principles applied though).

This got me thinking...the biggest module in my system is the A-155 sequencer, and that's without the A-154 controller. Plus, one of my most common uses of the 155 was sequencing triggers, something I very recently found more enjoyable to do via the MD rather than the 155. The other thing is that many aspects of the 154 controller could be programmed via the MD, either via Song mode or linking patterns. Sure, not quite as cool as voltage control, but it means that the MD is almost feature comparable to the 155+154 combo, so long as you have a MIDI-CV converter.

The A-190 has been great, but it's only a single MIDI channel, 2 cv, gate, reset and clock output. Meaning that I'd need at least one second channel to match the A-155's two sequence rows. And of course, what would be better would be two independent channels so that each channel could have and independent clock, one moving at 8th notes and one moving at 16th notes for example. That would be a significant benefit over the A-155.

So I started looking at the Kenton Pro-2000 mkII. This thing really would be the ticket. Not only does it have 2 separate "main" CV channels (each can respond to a different MIDI channel) it also has 6 auxiliary CV outputs controlled by assignable MIDI CC values, also can respond to different MIDI channels, or the same channel). This would mean I would have full control via the MachineDrum sequencer. And, each main CV output is switchable between 1v/Oct and 1hz/Volt scales. It has other features too, 2 programmable LFOs as well as portamento, and more, but the above are the real important ones to me. I've come to the conclusion that the MD + Pro-2000 makes a serious bad ass sequencer/modular controller.

So, let's take it down to brass tax:

Monster Base - $1200 - Additional 336HP (unknown additional cost of filling that case up)


Pro-2000 mkII - $600 - Additional 82HP (A-155, A-154, A-190).

I know, doesn't seem to quite add up right? Paying 2x as much would get me 3x the space with the Monster Base, but there's that unknown additional cost of eventually filling that up. And the MD+Pro-2000 seems to add a considerable amount of additional functionality, at least in terms of sequencing. Plus, I'd really like to start saving money again soon. ;)

So, what do you guys think? I know it's never fun to hear someone's not trying to expand their system, but I think this is the best move, both monetarily and functionally.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Me and the A-188-2 part ways

I really wanted to get into the A-188-2 but I just can't. I can't quite figure it out.
I've heard some people make some amazing sounds, crazy feedback, and evolving textures, but I just can't get the hang of it.

If you are looking to pick one up, let me know. Post in the comments or send me an email:
james *dot* cigler *at* gmail *dot* com