Archive for January, 2011

Korg Kronos

Posted: January 25, 2011 in Audio
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Korg presented Kronos, an Oasys derived (however more affordable) workstation, that onboards 9 synthesis types :

  • SGX-1 Premium Piano (Acoustic Piano – 100 voices polyphony)
  • EP-1 MDS Electric Piano (Electric Piano – 104 voices)
  • HD-1 High Definition Synthesizer (PCM Virtual Memory Technology – 140 voices)
  • AL-1 Analog Synthesizer (Analog Modeling – 80 voices)
  • CX-3 Tonewheel Organ (Tonewheel Organ Modeling – 200 voices)
  • STR-1 Plucked String (Physical Modeling – 40 voices)
  • MOD-7 Waveshaping VPM Synthesizer (VPM Synthesis – 52 voices)
  • MS-20EX (CMT Analog Modeling – 40 voices)
  • PolysixEX (CMT Analog Modeling – 180 voices)

The VMT technology allows instant access/load of samples from an internal SSD, that contains the following presinstalled extensions (base ROM still includes 314 Mb – 1,505 multisamples and 1388 drum samples) :

  • EXs1 – ROM Expansion
  • EXs2 – Concert Grand Piano
  • EXs3 – Brass & Woodwinds
  • EXs4 – Vintage Keyboards
  • EXs5 – ROM Expansion 2
  • EXs6 – SGX-1 German D Piano
  • EXs7 – SGX-1 Japanese C Piano
  • EXs8 – Rock Ambience Drums
  • EXs9 – Jazz Ambience Drums

Available ram is 1 Gb, and 273 Mb are left when all extensions are loaded.

The SGX-1 module uses EXs6 (German D Piano) and EXs7 (Japanese C Piano) extensions.

The HD1 module is based on 2 oscillators with 8 velocity layers each (each layer uses a multisample – that is a different sample per note – or Wave Sequences). We also find 2 Ambient Drums kits that provide 3 mics positions.

The AL1 module is based on 2 oscillators, a Sub-oscillator and a noise generator, ring modulation and FM !

The MOD-7 module combines 6 oscillators (that can be VPM – Variable Phase Modulation -, waveshaping or ring modulation) and one mono PCM oscillator (4 velocity layers). The PCM multisamples can be used as FM modulators.

Finally the STR-1 module brings strings modeling synthesis : damping, decay, dispersion, nonlinearity, harmonics, dual pickups, etc. The strings exciting model can use 3 simultaneous sources : Pluck, Noise, and PCM.
We can listen to demos here (also a video), and watch a demonstration from Jordan Rudess.

The featured pianos in the demos do not seem as good as recent Roland or Yamaha ones (and closer to M3/M50 one), and many Oasys users think that Korg forgot them (high priced Oasys had been presented as evolutive), and that Kronos extensions could have been provided to Oasys. Moreover most of Kronos sounds are reported as very close to Oasys ones (few new samples material).

It would then be more of a “recycled” / mass market version of the Oasys, that merges in a somewhat complex way all that Korg can provide (like Yamaha’s EX5 and EX7 were, and recent Kurzweil synths), than a revolution (prices also aren’t that cheap, at 2999$, 3499$ and 3799$ respectively for 61, 73 and 88 notes models).

Use of SSD is however new in an hardware synth, the only way for workstations to compete with large computer based samples libraries in terms of size (that in fact isn’t the answer – see Roland’s SuperNatural technology, that merges samples and modeling, or uses modeling only in the V-piano, and that provides better resluts).

Finally, only deep programming of Kronos’s various synthesis (that allow use of PCM samples as modulators and excitors, that reminds Yamaha SY99’s AFM) will unveil (or not) potential for somes kind of new sounds. And as usual, the more an instruments provides editing parameters and/or synthesis, the least we go deep into it.

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Yamaha CP-5 vs Roland FP-7F

Posted: January 23, 2011 in Audio
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CP5’s electric piano sounds better in the demos, however the acoustic piano doesn’t sound as good, and someone stated this in a forum :
The Roland SN AP sound is light years ahead of anything any other DP manufacturer has, including Yamaha Avant Grand. The CP1 CF voice is audibly stretched and looped, and the velocity layers aren’t completely blended. Looping is my main bugbear, and the CF loops are overprocessed IMO so there isn’t much realistic “wobble” going on. The CP1 S6 voice has all of these issues and also has poor timbre matching between the attack and loop samples.

Moreover CP5 keys action does not seem to use 3 velocity sensors (found in V-Piano’s PHA III Ivory Feel and likely in RD-700NX’s PHA III Ivory Feel and FP-7F’s PHA III Ivory Feel-S) , and it is priced more than FP7-F (2259 euros vs 1777 euros). The CP5 also features wooden keys, that don’t seem to provide as good feeling as Roland’s Ivory feel.

As RD-300NX is now listed on some shops (here and there), we now know it will be priced 1699$ (1585 euros) – also see brochure here -, that is 200$ or euros less than FP-7F (1777 euros).

Considering FP-7F’s amplifier section, that may cost close to this price difference (at least 150 euros), and its harmony FX processor (derived from Boss VE-20 Vocal Performer, at least 50 euros), mic input, Onboard Looper, Chord Progression, audio input and sequencer, the FP-7F would have cost around 1500 euros without these features (instead 1777 euros).

So how can the RD-300NX price be so close to FP-7F’s one while providing additional SuperNatural electric piano, Sound Focus and Piano Designer features, 3 live multitimbral parts (and 16 parts multitimbral for GM2 sounds). Here are some likely answers when we are used with Roland’s trimmed down models (JV1010 sounding less good than JV2080, XV5050 sounding less good than XV88, RD-300GX’s piano – derived from previous RD-700SX one – sounding muddier) :

– its keyboard is of Ivory Feel-G keyboard type, that is not PHAIII. It incorporates Roland’s most advanced sensor, escapement mechanism, and Ivory Feel features. The keyboard provides the superior touch and sensitivity of Roland’s flagship keyboards, in a compact and lightweight design.

RD-700NX’s PHA III keyboard with escapement offers maximum comfort, playability, and response. PHA III improves key repetition and perfectly conveys dynamic, velocity-based tonal changes. The escapement mechanism recreates the authentic “click feel” of a grand-piano keyboard, which particularly enhances expression when playing pianissimo.

FP-7F’s PHA III Ivory Feel-S keyboard with escapement provides the same progressive hammer action and escapement as the top-line PHA III, and offers unmatched expression and performance authenticity, capable of transforming the most subtle finger nuances into sound. It also provides incredibly fast key-repetition action. FP-7F’s action is then of same quality as RD-700NX, despite being a bit lighther, and so seems a perfect compromise. In fact it was obviously the best action of all digital pianos, master keyboards and workstations tested in many shops, and exactly what I was expecting/had hoped for. It also provides 100 levels for touch setting, and 10 setting levels for hammer response (not found on RD-300NX).

– From video presentation of RD-300NX, the SuperNatural piano sounded somewhat muddy compared to FP-7F. So converters may be less punchy. However the sound engine is more likely to be less powerful (as was XV5050’s one, that also sounded less good than XV88 when using digital output, and really cold – so more tied to a trimmed down soudn engine, and also perhaps more compressed samples – than its converters).

In RD-300NX video we don’t see Damper Resonance and Cabinet Resonance parameters for example in the editing screen, while there are present on FP-7F. There is to know if these editing parameters found in the RD-300NX correspond to the Piano Designer feature, or not (in that case Piano Designer feature would provides deeper editing parameters, allowing more variations than FP-7F). However there is to consider that RD-300NX only provides one SuperNatural Piano model, Concert (same as the one in FP-7F), while the RD-700NX provides additional Studio and Brillant models.

– RD-300NX electric piano didn’t sound so great (just ok) in the presentation video. In fact is seems (as reported in a forum) that RD-700NX’s Rhodes doesn’t sound/react as expected (more like old 80’s Rhodes than more used 88’s ones). So not having this one in FP-7F wouldn’t be a problem.

– PF-7F provides great organs, that sound as good as RD-700NX’s Virtual Tone Wheel Organ based ones. In fact PF-7F provides a Rotary Speaker Effect for these (and also displays Tone wheel settings for each Organ patch, despite not allowing editing – at least no button found for that), that seems to achieve same (or at least very close) result. RD-300NX does not provide such Tone wheel based organs, nor Rotary Speaker effect. Finally FP-7F’s church organ is really great, some of a mix of Kontakt2’s one and D-50 ones. These sounds are then very likely to be more important than RD-300NX’s SuperNatural electric piano, that may not be so much better than FP-7F ones.

– RD-300NX’s 17,5 kg (compared to FP-7F’s 24 kg) is very welcomed, however there is to know if it can justify overall less good sounding piano and less good keyboard action. It is also 10 cm larger, due to its pitch bend/modulation lever.

Finally RD-300NX isn’t expected until end of March, so the FP-7F may be the best choice. There is still to know whether a FP-4F will be announced (not likely, at least not during this winter NAMM’s first days), however it would have to provide an even more downscaled keyboard and sound engine (besides same lighter amplification as before), and 1000 euros price point to compete with RD-300NX.

UPDATE : the RD-300NX action is finally somewhat deceiving (not really better than with on the previous RD-300GX, and far more less realistic than FP-7F’s action). Moreover buttons look cheap.

The RD-700NX features a slightly heavier touch than the FP-7F, however the later reacts more smoother and realistically, and looks better (ivory soft colour contrary to white on the RD-700NX).

Roland RD-300NX announced

Posted: January 17, 2011 in Audio
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Following the recent FP-7F (best keyboard action and piano sound among all other digital pianos and master keyboards), Roland presented the RD-300NX. Contrary to the FP-7F it includes a SuperNatural electric piano sound, the Sound Focus features, is lighter (17,5 kg), provides a pitch bend controller and is multitimbral.

The keyboard however is of Ivory Feel G technology, that will probably not provide the same precise and responsive action as FP-7F’s Ivory Feel S PHA III one.

MacOSX JDK 7 Port Project

Posted: January 13, 2011 in IT/Dev
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MacOSX port of JDK 7 is now referenced as MacOSX Port Project at OpenJDK site. On the project’s status page (Oracle site), some completed or close to features are listed. They were probably implemented by Apple.

EastWest/QuantumLeap presented Ministry of Rock 2/ (two demos available, 355$ – 295$ until January, 18 for Ministry of Rock 1 users) and Spaces, a convolution reverb that features low CPU usage (probably less than PLAY’s convolution reverb – and we can then use a single effect instance). Audio demos are available and it is priced 299$ (through download or DVD). A demo iLok license (10 days) is provided.

MacOSX 10.6.6 : Mac App Store

Posted: January 8, 2011 in Apple
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Apple provides a MacOSX 10.6.6 update, that brings the Mac App Store. However there isn’t any fix yet for the flickering problem on grays when using some displays with the mac mini (tested with HDMI to DVI, not yet with mini display port to DVI. However mini display port to VGA is ok, except the bad colors rendering).

We can find at the Mac App Store Aperture at 63 euros instead 199 (boxed version).