CatSynth Pic: Zelda the Grey British Blue

Zelda the Grey British Blue

Meet Zelda the Grey British Blue, who approves of the studio updates that include painted 1U panels, a microKORG, Roland rhythm box, and intriguing little DIY synth in an Altoids box, and more. From skaterdays on Instagram.

NAMM 2017: Behringer DeepMind 12

Our somewhat drawn-out coverage of NAMM 2017 comes down to two final articles. We would be remiss if one of them did not include the Behringer DeepMind 12.

Perhaps no product was more anticipated and controversial among synthesizer players and enthusiasts this year than the DeepMind 12. A lot of this has to do with Behringer’s history and reputation in some parts of the industry, as well as the intense hype and frequent teasers last year. But as an instrument, the DM12 stands on its own. It has rather impressive specs including two DCOs, VCA, VCF and multiple LFOs and envelopes for each of its 12 voices. It connects to a PC or tablet to control all onboard parameters – something we at CatSynth think is a nice touch. And it has a professional-looking industrial design, with an attractive front panel and wooden-looking sides.

In terms of sound and playing, it felt like an “ordinary” analog poly synth and reminded me a bit of a Juno or the popular Korg Minilogue. It doesn’t have the distinctive or super-intense sound of a Moog synth or a classic Prophet or Oberheim, which seem to pack more punch sonically into fewer oscillators. The DM12 seems to sound it’s best doing stacked voices rather than at 12-voice polyphony, but this might be my bias for intense timbral-rich sounds. So if one already has an analog synth from one of those legendary makers, the DM12 probably won’t hold as much personal appeal. But it does seem like a convincing choice as a “first” analog polyphonic synth and something to bring to gigs, especially if one needs a variety of classic synth pads and 80s-esque sounds in one’s music. It also is a little less intimidating to program than some other poly synths. And of course the $999 USD price tag is much less than a high-end mono synth or most analog poly synths. Those who were excited about the Minilogue and similar instruments will probably want to check this out as well.

Battle of the iPad Docks at NAMM. Behringer iStudio and Alesis iO Dock

iPad docks seem to be a theme this year at NAMM. Basically, these are high-end iPad shells that provide audio and MIDI I/O functionality. Consider the iStudio from Behringer.

The iPad fits into the dock and serves both as the computer and screen. The dock provides several controls one would find in a small portable studio and then a host of standards I/O ports on the back, including XLR, 1/4″ audio, video and MIDI.

But no sooner had I encountered the Behringer model than I came across a very similar one from Alesis:

Here, the Alesis iO Dock is controlling the Korg iMS-20 iPad Synth. Like the Behringer, it has XLR, MIDI, unbalanced audio and video. They even both have footswitch inputs.

So which one is better? It’s not really something I can say. They seem more focused on people who want to use their iPad as a workstation rather than as a live instrument the way I do, which requires being able to move it freely (and switch to portrait mode) and lift it show to the audience. But now that several companies are coming out with docks, maybe we will see more variations.