Stylophone Gen X-1: First Impressions

Yesterday, a small box entered my home. It is the Stylophone Gen X-1. Apparently, this is an upgraded version of the original stylophone David Bowie plays in the Space Oddity video clip. As many of you know, I have a soft spot in my heart for small noisy machines, and this one promises to be much more than that, so for 60 euros, I went forward and brought the thing.

The first thing you notice when taking the stylophone out of the box is that it it light, but not so light that it feels like a toy. The box is solid and doesn’t appear to bend easily. The knobs on the front panel are very similar to the ones you find on the Volcas and the Monotrons: they to wobble a  little bit, but are perfectly usable. On the left side you also have the ON/OFF switch and three toggle buttons labeled “X”, “-1” and “-2”. Continue reading Stylophone Gen X-1: First Impressions

VCV Rack Virtual Modular Synth for Linux

This week all the attention has gone to the new VCV Rack. This is a virtual Modular synthesizer, which is free and open source, and (best of all) runs on Linux. I really had to check this one out!

This video was made without much musical intention, and I tried to use only the modules that come bundled with the program,  before installing any additional modules (more on that later). There was not much of a big musical intention behind this video other than to see how this synth sounds, how stable it is and how easy it is to create something from scratch. Continue reading VCV Rack Virtual Modular Synth for Linux

Ashton SF50CH Chours Pedal: Review & Impressions

Two things I must confess before starting this review. For once, I’m not a particular fan of chorus pedals. Not because I dislike the chorus effect (well… it is not among my favourites either), but because I find myself spending more and more time playing with reverbs and delays. These latter effects just seem more pleasing for me when sculpting sound and making music. Another confession I need to make is that I was quite reluctant about buying this pedal from a friend.

That being said, my friend convinced me on taking the pedal home earlier this year. A few weeks later, one of my gear suppliers was having a sale with a lot of pedals at 10, 15 or 20 euro. So I now I have quite a few chorus pedals. Indeed, the Behringer UC200 I reviewed last month came from that lot. As you may have read it, I was not impressed with the UC200, but the Ashton SF50CH is a whole different matter.

The first thing to notice about this pedal is that it is a solid (and heavy) metal case. It is smaller than my Berhinger pedals, yet it carries a substantial amount of weight (specially when compared against the X200 series). It is a mono pedal, with only one input and one output, so you won’t have those autopanning and stereo-widening effects you can do on other chorus pedals. Continue reading Ashton SF50CH Chours Pedal: Review & Impressions

How to have swing on the Volca FM

When I brought the Volca FM, I complained about it not having a swing function (either by a dedicated knob or a combination such as FUNC+TEMPO). If you happen to own a Volca Sample or a Volca Kick, however, there is a neat trick you can use, albeit at the expense of loosing the capability to sync these newer volcas to your old ones.

Well, recently I’ve been preparing a comeback to the Korg Volca Sample Tutorial Series, and learned that the Volca Sample can switch between two sync modes: the traditional volca sync (one pulse every two steps, or 2PPQ) and a newer one pulse per step of the sequencer (4PPQ). This latter mode is capable of carrying swing to other synced units.

Now, to have swing over sync, you do need both machines to be in 4PPQ mode, and this is done by accessing the Global Menu and setting option 8 to ON. Unfortunately, this option is only available on the newer volcas (FM, Sample and Kick), which means that by using it, you’ll loose the ability to sync the newer volcas properly to the older ones.

Hopefully, Korg will someday get around to do a firmware upgrade, so that we can have swing over sync on all volcas.

Behringer Ultra Chorus UC200: Is it worth it?

There are some pedals, like the EM600, that take a lot of time for me to review because of how great they are. Then there are pedals like this one: the Behringer UC200. This is a very cheap pedal (usually less that $20 – $25 on Amazon). Because it it so cheap, i feel compiled to lower the bar and see what this pedal can offer on such a low budget. As usual, a demonstration of this pedal is provided on my YouTube channel.

As the code name implies, the UC200 is a pedal from Behringer’s early 200 series. This alone should summarize the build quality. Although I found no issues with the jacks and the knobs being decent, there is a low budget plastic feel to the pedal that improved as the series evolved. There is a single mono input, and a stereo output (two mono 6.35mm TS sockets). So at least we know the pedal will provide us with some widening of the stereo field. Continue reading Behringer Ultra Chorus UC200: Is it worth it?

Behringer Echo Machine EM600

This one took me almost a year to experiment with and review. This is probably not the best thing to say if you want to attract manufacturers to invite you to review their, products, but I’ll say it nonetheless: this pedal almost broke me, but in a good way. Not only it sounds good, it is also fully featured, making this probably the best delay pedal in its price range (less than €100).

This little green stomp box offers 3 switchable types of delay line with adjustable modifiers, 11 delay modes, as well as the traditional REPEAT and TIME knobs for controlling the number of repeats and the time between them. The time can also be sync’ed to a TAP TEMPO, and 3 subdivisions are available by default. There is also the customary TAILS switch which allows the effect to keep going even if you choose to bypass the newer notes. The pedal works in stereo, with some modes adding an extra panning to enhance the effect. Continue reading Behringer Echo Machine EM600