Monthly viewing – May 2021

With so much content on YouTube nowadays, but not enough time to sort out the good from the bad, I thought it would be a good idea to share an occasional channel recommendation. These will all of course be linked to Music Technology in some way and I’ll explain why they resonated with me.

This month it’s AudioPilz, home of the ‘Bad Gear’ reviews which are both comical and brutally honest. They caught my eye as many of the pieces of equipment they review are items I’ve owned myself. And generally, I’m in full agreement at how bad they are.

Here’s my own take on some of the equipment they reviewed…

  • Roland A-01 – Really strange feature set. Could have been a good CV / Gate sequencer had the knobs been used more intuitively.
  • Yamaha SU10 – Poor audio quality, and not in a good way. Also had some weird design choices such as sacrificing the filter when you used a standard or high sample rates and only having a fixed resonance setting – Off/Low/High.
  • Akai MPC500 – Horrible pads that you had to practically smash to get any sound out of them.
  • Yamaha DD-10 – Banging a cardboard box with a wooden spoon sounds more realistic. I did get some great circuit bent sounds out of mine though.
  • Roland D-110 – I owned the Keyboard version, the D-10. It’s definitely ‘of it’s time’ and I think I only ever used it on one song. It does have a happy ending though, in that I donated it along with some other unused gear to Nordoff Robbins.
  • Yamaha DJX IIB – A strange one. It actually had some decent sounds in it, but you had to resort to SysEx commands to get access to them – which I guess the average consumer would never expect to do. Also, for some reason, despite being multi-timbral it couldn’t accept MIDI on Channel 4. I even hosted a website about it at one time, called ‘DJX Zone’.
  • Novation XioSynth – I actually really liked this myself, and it had a great onboard 8-voice synth, similar to the K-Station. It did have some weird design decisions too though, such as doubling as a Stereo USB audio interface, but only having a single Jack input for the left channel and an XLR for the right channel. To record in stereo, you had to get an XLR to Jack adapter which I guess isn’t the end of the world, but still a little strange. And the keyboard action was indeed, shockingly bad.
  • Roland D2 – It’s orange, it sounds reasonable, in a 90’s rave way, but that interface is unusable. Never enjoyed using it.
  • Korg ER-1 – Whilst this was marketed as a drum synth, it only had a limited sound palette and I actually preferred using the EA-1 for drum synthesis. The EA-1 might have only had 2 part polyphony rather than the 4 part the ER-1 had, but the synth engine was much more flexible. You can hear the EA-1 in the intro of my Mary Pastorius remix – Nothing (ScarKord Remix)
  • Redsound Dark Star – Great name, terrible synth. Never got a usable sound out of it.
  • Roland TR-505 – Stock sounds are a bit boring, but it’s ripe for circuit bending and mine sounds all the better for it. You can also replace the Rom chips too for custom kits – must do that one day.

Interestingly, the only item from the above list I still own is the TR-505.