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Elektron Monomachine Sequencer

The Sequencer is one of the most interesting parts of the Monomachine as it can control anything on the machine.
The sequencer works as a realtime or step (Roland TR-like) mode , and it can be switched record on or off with the sequencer running.
That’s ideal for live performance!

Programming notes is easy, if a midi keyboard is connected it can record from midi in , but it can be programmed standalone using the step sequencer buttons as they act as keys.

After notes programming the most useful things is the PARAMETER LOCKS programming.
A parameter lock is a motion sequence of a parameter.
It can be done on a single step (using step programming) or it can be recorded realtime turnig the knobs while the sequencer is running in realtime recording.
This function enables to modify extremely every nuance of the sound in a very easy way , and It’an effective strenght of the Elektron philosophy.

Applied to to a digipro machine , for example, it can create programmed wavesequences…

Applied to an envelope can morph the shape of a sound, from percussive to sustained…

Applied to a efx can for example vary the delay time and feedback…

Every thing in the machine can be controlled by the sequencer and the intensive use of parameter locks can create sound sequences really complex and even really difficult to recreate with another instrument.

BOSS DR-110 review

Boss DR 110

This little cute box is a fully analog drumachine with a graphic sequencer.
The unit is really tiny and portable and offers six sounds plus accent.
The sounds are:

  • Accent
  • Bass drum
  • Snare drum
  • Open hihat
  • Closed hihat
  • Cymbal
  • Hand clap

There are four knobs :

  • Tempo (fast-slow)
  • Balance
  • Accent
  • Volume

The tempo is controlled by the knob but the machine does not display the value of the BPM.
The balance act as a mix between the drum & snare and hats & cymbal.
Accent controls the “accented”sound , in fact it does not only affect the volume of the percussion accented but also the timbre.
Volume is the Master Volume.

The sounds are the classic analog drum sounds of Roland CR/TR series.

The kick is really similar to the one of the TR808  and of the CR8000 ,  fat and punchy, much deeper and full compared to the TR-606.
The snare is really snappy and can be a cross between a TR808 and a TR606.
Hats and cymbal resembles the TR606, while the clap is a classic tr808 one.

Programming is similar to the CR series with the pause/trig style , but is far easier than on CR78 or CR8000 because here we have a disply with the programming grid!
The display is really similar to the one on the TR707 or  TR727 , all the elements are displayed and is like programming on cubase or any other software sequencer.
The START acts as  TRIG and the STOP as PAUSE.
The Accent acts also as TRIG OUT INST.

The downside of this machine is the absence of a clock in , but many modifications are available to install a sync in or even midify the machine.

All in all an awesome little beast that comes really cheap!

Acidlab Bassline – everybody needs the acid box!

Acidlab Bassline

Acidlab Bassline

This little alluminium box, absolutely handcrafted, comes from Germany as a clone of the famous TB-303.
Acidlab is Klaus Süßmuth, a tech head  famous for his 303 modding, ith the Bassline he creates from zero a TB-clone with some variations…
let’s see the differences!

The incredible sound of the TB-303 is created by particular elements:

  • The FILTER has no normalization , so as the resonance goes up , as the filter start to growl in that acid way…
  • The GLIDE is programmable (and it creates a slide like the legato does but with fixed time)
  • The ACCENT is a really “playable” part of the synth as it creates a “tenuto”on the selected note and and the decay get disabled for that step, and get the filter to open and the rises up the Volume.
  • The Sequencer programming is not so easy as it seems and often leads to strange ipnotic sequences.

The Acidlab Bassline has an identical structure for the synth, with the same knobs and functions, while the sequencer is not the same as on the 303.
The knobs are really good and act smooth , they invite you to twist the sound!

The sequencer works in a different way, first it has a 8-12 selector to choose if you want a 16th note pattern or a 12th.
You cannot chhose the lenght (step ) of the pattern, for example 9 steps.

The programming is really particular because here there’s no minikeyboard, a knob switch is used to choose the note, you hit play and the bassline lets you hear the note selected, then you select accent and/or glide and /or 1octave upand than press next to go to the following step.
With this method you can get, with a bit or a lot of “randomness”, really interesting sequences without having the situation too much undercontrol.
Another difference from the 303 is that the sequencer does not change pattern at the end of the loop, but jumps immediately in the selected pattern.
This can be a creative tool to mix several pattern togheter making more complex melodies, but it’s not possible to compose a chain of pattern in song mode or something realtime like a chain of pattern.
Another interesting add is that the sequencer can drive external analog synths with cv-gate outs and can be syncronized to older machines with din sync and to a daw or midi sequencer thru midi, always with a perfect timing.

Analizing the “sound” of the Acidlab , the knobs are the same as the 303 but this machine has a kind more aggressive carachter.
It sound quite mellow when the resonance is absent, and with the filter closed can do amazing subs, while as we turn up the resonance it became acid more and more aggressive but when the reso overflow the 75% it starts sounding more industrial than the classic TB.
To change the behaviour of the resonance there is a trim pot on the rear to adjust the response , to be similar to the orginal or to have more reso.

The machine can really sound close to the original but has even its own carachter and that’s the reason why I like it!
The strange sequencer is really interesting and when you ‘ve got deep into the way it works it will be an “exclusive” creative tool.


Roland MC-202 MicroComposer

Roland MC-202

Roland MC-202

It all started with the Roland TB-303, the first cheap alternative to the bassplayer for the pub guitar player…
After the 303 Roland decided to create a more versatile and not limited only to basslines, a micro composer!
The MC-202 is like to instruments in a little plastic box.
The synth is derived from the Roland SH-101 and the sequencer is like a little MC-4 but only with 2 track (against the 4 of the MC-4) , its name could be MC-2… that’s why MC-202!
The synth itself its quite simple but really versatile for the task of making arpeggios, basslines, sequencered blips and blops, and sequenced leads.
There is a single VCO with SUB that can produce a saw and a pulse (with modulation)and the SUB (a square wave 1 or 2 ocyave lower or a pulse 2 octv lower).
The three wave are mixed by the MIXER section , than filtered and after the the filter we have the VCA (amplification) and the ENV.
The FILTER section has Cutoff, Resonance, Env (env amount) , Mod (LFO amount) , KYBD (keyboard tracking).
The filter is a 24dB with resonance with the classic analog roland carachter and sound, it can act quite rounded and smooth and get acid when you turn up the resonance.
With the reso at max  the filter prduce a SINE wave that can be played by the keyboard using the KYBD at max.
The VCA is quite simple and has only a switch, ENVor GATE.
With the Env is switched the env shape the sound and the accent controls the volume, while when switched to gate the synth plays only when the key  is pressed and loose the accent on volume, but ois useful for sequenced sounds when you want the ENV to control the filter only.
The ENV is a simple adsr that acts really snappy and with a fast attack, really great for bass and percussive timbres.
The LFO is quite simple, has only triangle wave with delay, to let the vibrato grows after a while.
The sound of the machine is a cross between a TB-303 and an SH-101, maybe the MC-202 can get more aggressive /acid than the 101 while the 101 has a just a little more sub on the bass end when used to generate sub basses, but the sound is more or less the same.
Maybe the only differences are made by trimpots regulations and not by any difference in electronic design.

The other part of the machine is the SEQUENCER.
The seq is different from the 303, is not a pattern style but a linear sequencer (just like the MC-4).
This difference let the MC-202 creates longer and more complex sequences , as it has a deeper editing on note durations, gates etc, while it mantains the ACCENT (for FILTER and AMP, and it can be choosen individually, so 2 accent!) and the GLIDE (here named PORTAMENTO) with its time knob (on the 303 the time is fixed).
Making a sequence on the MC-202 is harder than on the 303 if you want to get exactly what you have in mind.
Vince Clarke (former member of Depeche mode, Yazoo and Erasure and famous user of old Roland sequencers as MC-8, MC4 and MC-202) is described as one of more trained user as he could compose all the song without hearing the music, just pressing the buttons and than pressed play and BaaaM! the song was perfect!!
Indeed the programming of the sequencer is not the easiest, and it takes time to get into it, but it can create really great results , difficult to get with other gear.
The fact that there is a little LCD display on such a cheap old intrument means something…
I forgot to say that the sequencer has 2 identical tracks with CV-GATE outs to play external analog synths and a DIN SYNC IN and 2 DYN  SYNC OUTs and tape in and out to be syncronized to other machines or tape recorders or DAW.
A classic touch of the 80’s is that the MC has no memory for the sequencer so you have to save and load your seqnces with the TAPE DUMP (you can use a cassette recorder or you can record the data sound directly into your computer to have a far more practical collection of sequences to load..)

The MC-202 has been used mainly by all the electronic producers of the last 25 years, even if it’s not as famous or hyped as the 303.
From Aphex Twin to Autechre, Human League, Sabres of Paradise, 808 STATE, KID606 etc…
This is a great machine, and its sequencer is really a part of the strong carachter of the MC but there is also a software that can generate the data sound to load into your MC to program the sequence on your computer and than load it into the MC to get the best of both worlds.

Here is the link :


MFB Dual ADSR review

MFB Berlin started with simples and cheap drum machines and the Synth-lite, a DCO based Moog Prodigy clone.
With the Eurorack explosion MFB started producing modules derived from their synths and drums.

The latest creations are the semimodular synth Kraftzwerkg and his brother Schlagzwerg, a semimodular drumcomputer.
MFB built this two semimodular using the modules they produce in eurorack.


First this module is not a classic ADSR but an AHDSR, in fact after the attack there is a HOLD!
The HOLD is really useful for “sequencer sounds”, you can turn every knob to 1 and just use the hold to control the duration of the sound.



It can be useful also for a smoother change between the attack and the decay curves to get a rounded tones.
The Dual Env is an EXPONENTIAL ENVELOPE, but has a switch wich let you decide if one of the two can act in LINEAR mode.
When the env act in linear mode even the hold changes its behaviour shaping the sound in a more “angular” way.

An interesting add tipical of MFB modules is the buss control, so you don’t have to connect the midi-to-cv interface to send the gate signals to the gate in socket in the envelope module, it uses the buss connection, and I find it really useful.
An other useful thing is that every env has 2 cv out, so if the patch is not too complex you don’t need a multiply module.

There’s no switch to choose a fast or slow behaviour as in the Doepfer Envelope, but the Dual env is really snappy and has a really fast attack time.

For synthetizing percussions and especially Kick drums this env is top!
It can get rounded kicks but also hard edge sounds.
Using the HOLD can lead to interesting results programming drum sounds.
With the hold we can create a “slightly compressed” kick with a fast decay, so the sound get fatter and the peak is less accentuated.

Programming bass sound it can result both smooth or percussive.
Using the linear mode for the filter env the result is a percussive “angular” bass , while using both exp the sound plays smoother.

All in all this module is quite cheap (98 euros in EU) , works really well and has its own carachter.
For me is  a really good buy!

MFB Synth Berlin

Elektron Monomachine review

The Monomachine is what I call THE unortodox synth concept in an alluminium box.

Elektron MonoMachine SFX60

Elektron MonoMachine SFX60

Everybody interested in innovative music machines  knows the philosophy of the Elektrons, an easy and intuitive approach to manipulation/creation of sounds and sequencing, multi synthesis to have a extremely versatile palette of sound at your fingertips, a really good support from tutorials to fresh new O.S. often released to get more power from your machine.

The Monomachhine is  structured as six digital monosynth with efx, arpeggiator and a 64 step sequencer track.
Every “monosynth” can be a synth , a efx processor or an audio in track (to process external signals).
So this box can generate, process and manipulate audio material all together in a really easy way.
Let’s get deeper into the machine…


Every track can use one of the machine:

  • GND (gnd/sine/noise generator)
  • SuperWave (kind of virtual analog machine)
  • DigiWave (wavetable synthesis and a drum machine 12bit sample based)
  • FM+ (kind of Frequency Modulation synthesis)
  • SID (emulation of the C64 synth chip used even in the Elektron Sidstation)
  • VO (vocal synth)
  • EFX (a processing machine for internal or external sounds)

You can build a kit with a different machine on every track , so you can have a very versatile  sonic palette of sound .
Every machine can do different things and even the oddest one (as the VO) can be really useful and amazing , when you use them with  creativity.
The thing to keep in mind with the Mono is that it’s not a standard synth, it’s a Monomomachine!
Machines , usually, have only ONE oscillator, and this can be considered a great limitation, but it isn’t so.
If you want the machine to make detuned trance leads  you have only to choose the Superwave SAW machine and turn up the unison and work with the detune and you will get a “supersaw” sound in few seconds…
If you’re searching for bells, the EFM machines are the best, choose the parallel and play with the knobs, you ‘ll get a bell sound as soon as you turn those knobs.

Considering the “Generator” part of the synth (oscillators machines) the MonoMachine is really versatile and easy but even a synth of its own kind, as for the other parts as filters, envelopes and modulations…

The filter section is composed by a really particular filter that act as a multimode.
You have:

  • Base freq
  • Width
  • Highpass Q
  • Lowpass Q
  • Base env amount (bofs)
  • Width env amount (wofs)
  • Attack
  • Decay

In use I can say that it can cut the low freq turning up the base freq(highpass),  cut the high freq turning down the width (lowpass), or can be a band pass using the base to chose the”freq” and the width choosing the  “band”.
All in all is a very versatile filter that sound “elektron”, not a moog o roland replica/emulation, but it’s really rounded and acid, when you turn up the Qs, but it can even select the frequencies in a clinical way just to shape a minimal sound.
The filter does not have an auto normalization/headroom, this can give it that carachter, if you want a clean resonance you ha to turn down the “volume” or “distortion”(headroom) in the AMP page.

The AMP page is where we have the amp and volume settings and the particular AHDR env.
The reason this particular env was chosen by Elektron is because the Monomachine was born as a sequencer based machine so, the holod can take advantage of the sequencer way of thinking.
Apart from HOLD the other things are quite standard, as volume, pan, portamento.
The only parameter that really shape the armonics of the sound is the DISTORTION, that is the headroom.
A higher distortion doesn’t “grunge” the sound or add noisy harmonics, but saturate the signal making higher harmonics less evident getting a darker sound.

The EFX page is one of my favorite in the MonoMachine, they are not the classic delay /reverb, but Sample Rate Reduction, a parametric EQ and a delay.
As everything can be automatized with the “parameter locks” (this is the name in elektrons  for the MOTION SEQ in the Korgs) you can have awesome results using parameter locks on SRR or delay parameters…

Last but not least  the LFOs.
Lfos  are the key to the monomachine together with the parameter locks, because there are 3 of them and everyone can modulate every parameter of the synth  generator.
Imagine a modulated delay with a oscillating SRR… amazing!

to be continued…
stay tuned!

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