Tag Archives: synthesizer

Roland D2 (Vintage) Review

I saw this box for sale cheap a few months ago and snapped it up. I had been looking for some kind of master clock sequencer, actually to replace my Mobius CV sequencer. Nothing wrong with that, except its only 1 voice, and take up 3 U. Would have like a Sequentix Circlon.. but.. way out of my price range Im afraid!

The Roland D2 came out over 10 years ago, and almost immediately died. I suspect because of it biggest flaw.
Its orange… ORANGE I TELL YA! What were they thinking?
It being a low end Roland, they have gone with an annoying segment display, and therefore you have to get used to the fact that h is 4 and s is 5 etc.. and everything is shortened to 3 letters so ntr means metronome, and Ocr is Octave Range.

But.. the good side… its sounds great! masses of patches (256 user) and many many sounds, haven’t counted but maybe 1024?
Most (ok all) of the pre made patterns are horrible, as this is definitely meant as a dance oriented machine, and (again, being Roland) you must scroll thru them to get to the user editable patches… so you end up hearing the 1st, horrible patch many time.. YIKES!
Plus it has a Pre conceieved but useful External Midi config. In that the 7 tracks all send out midi on midi channels 1-7, and the rhythm track send out on channel 10 (as per the GM standard) Per track you can use sound from the internal G2 voice, the External sound module or both! The only stupid thing is that in order to program a part on an external sound module, you wil hear the internal sound, too WHILE you play. On playback, if you have the internal sound muted only the external will sound. This if obviously a bug.

Programming is a tad funky, they expect you to input notes by using the “D-field”, which is their attempt at a kaos pad type controller. Its not however, no feel at all and very unresponsive, often doesn’t trigger at all. However you can plug in a midi keyboard and suddenly it all becomes easy.

You have 2 ways, Real time and Step Time.
Realtime works for me, as you can play in from your external keyboard and delete by pressing the erase combo when you want to remove mistakes. Its fine.. There is quantise that you can apply on the way in, forcing your playing to 8th 16 32s etc.. or apply afterwards… Careful though.. NO UNDO!!!
The problem with this method is that its impossible to edit one note, say you hit a G instead of an F. Only way I have found is to delete that one note and try to drop it in again.
Step recording however, is a right old palaver, but probably no worse than most drum-machines. You know, you scan to the beat you want to add, press a button to audition the note you will add, change it till its correct and hit enter… more to new location for next note. Slow, but precise. The good thing is that all notes are shown on the LED display, so you can go back and edit them after they have been edited. No such luck with the notes you added via Real Time mode… no way to see them buggers.
So its strange that the 2 input methods are not really mix and match…

However, its in performance that this thing has so many amazing options. Things Ive never even thought of, and have NEVER seen on other sequencers, hardware OR software.
On the D2 you can: Drop the track to half speed or up to double speed. Instantly, you can drop the pitch of all instruments an octave, or up an octave, you can play it backwards.. Did you hear that? You can instantly mute all parts apart from the bass drum and bass instrument, You can use the D field to remove notes from a track, Just randomly… You can perform improv snare rolls, with kinda good control, and apply 3 levels of effects. Delay, Reverb and a multi effect (that is mostly distortion and modulation effects, but also has a cool reverse reverb and some ok filters.. These effects can be tweaked live,

There are some other things that I haven’t really gotten to the bottom of yet, more DJ style things, particularly the so called and DJ named “MEGAMIX” function.. Cant see myself using this, but still. Its where you can grab a track from other patterns and try them on the current pattern. I guess if you have lots of variations, you can switch between them. But I haven’t tried this yet.

I am using it to send clock to my analog sequencers (the Doepfer and the Mobius) Im using to sequence my ancient Proteus Orchestral and and my Korg MS2000. My parts on the upcoming Electricity Album are all being done from this.
Incidentally… We have a special PRE-ORDER offer on the new Album.
The album is going to be called PLANT, and as such we have an album on Bandcamp called SEED: This is Pre-mixes and experiments or the Plant album, and Purchase of this album will entitle you to the Plant Album absolutely free, when it is released on CD. (A vinyl version is also in the pipeline, but maybe subjected to a different deal for now)
Head over and get it from https://electricityplant.bandcamp.com/

Korg Monotribe Review

Just a quickie review of the wonderful Korg Monotribe that has been in my hands for a month now.
I got rid of the heavyweight Korg Electribe ESX six months ago, and have been missing SOME kind of drum-machine. Where the Electribe was a STUFFED FULL of features, FX, loads of samples, sounds and lots of tweaking possibilities, I found it slow to use, annoying with menus and some serious irritating lack of functionality (having to stop to enter certain menus, sample start points being impossible to tweak..)the Monotribe is the opposite. Its fun iand intuative from the moment you turn it on.

Firstly the sounds, the drum section is just hi hat bass drum and snare, as it should be in an analog kit the snare is VERY SIMILAR to the hi hat, and the bass drum is punchy and cool.

The Synth is fantastic, with the ms20 filter and various LFO shapes (including the slightly hidden S+H that came in the version 2.0 update) Its sounds totally fantastic! The Q peaks as it should with no distortion as you go into oscillation, the square wave is my favorite, but with the saw you can really WANG it out with a dubsteppy wobble.

TANK.. Metal.. hear me? METAL!!!!

Cool hidden features:
The flux thing is interesting, turning the keyboard into a continuous slide, for theremin effects.
The fact that there are “in between notes” resulting in a double resolution effectively 16 steps.
Audio in to the filter.
A nifty shortcut to half speed the whole machine. (nice when you are sending clock to it from a looper and don’t know what speed the drums will come out)
And the killer… ALL sounds can have beats removed… not just muted, but SKIPPED, so you can start a track with totally poly rhythmic mayhem, making no sense.. but then add back in the beats you are skipping, till suddenly it all gels. fantastic. Plus being able to make really long sequences, by skipping ONE beat, on the synth, it effectively only comes BACK INTO sync with the drums once every 4 bars, which gives a really cool and lazy feel.
Rolls.. not VERY realistic, but can be cool, but tends to be good by accident, so an UNDO feature here would have been nice, as you have potential to fuck up your cool groove.
Gate time on the synth can be adjusted by a weird key combo and sliding on the keyboard.

Programming is real simple, just add in notes on the grid. plus they can be “played” on the keyboard.

Slight Gripes:

Whereas the Electribe have MASSES of programs where you could save stuff (but almost never did) The Monotribe is NOT meant to be a “programming tool” its a live tool. BUT I would have liked a way to save (you can save ONE rhythm, that it wil start-up with) not many, maybe 16 or 32 spaces… but something.
No Midi, was fine for me, cos I have a midi to trigger box that I dug out. Plus there are some add-ons available that are highly recommended. I MAY get that later.
No separate outputs for the drums and synth. COME ON.. thsi ones basic.. HAVE to be able to process the drums and synth separately!!! Luckily there is a simple circuit bend I may attempt. Just to take outs from the volume pots of the two sections. YOu gotta have delay on the synth (maybe distortion too for the techno thing).
But my MAIN gripe is… THE 9VOLT ADAPTOR MUST BE A KORG ONE!!!! Doesnt come supplied, BUT even though it takes completely regular 9v DC. They have a socket on the back that is not the standard Boss style Center negative. So I ordered an adaptor from Diago, I thin Center Positive, but that didnt fit either. Nowhere in Norwat can I just BUY a korg PSU. There is absolutely NO NEED to have a special PSU, so why they do that I HAVE NO IDEA. On the upside, the thing goes to sleep after 15 mins on inactivity and I have only changed the batteries once, so they last quite well.