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London Synthesiser Centre

imageWhen I was a kid, 11 to be precise I met a guy called Steve Howell. I’d just arrived in high school, he was in the sixth form. He was really cool and made amazing music for the school passion plays using synthesizers and reel to reel tape machines. Through paper rounds and pocket money he’d managed to acquire an ARP Axxe, Crumar performer, Wurlitzer EP200 and two Sony TC377 tape machines. He also had a cool sweatshirt with what I thought was some kind of hippy logo with ‘London Synthesiser Centre’ written around it.

imageObviously I had to get one too which I wore every day for at least three years before my mother told me I had to throw it out. Years later I spotted the London Synthesizer Centre logo on top of a temple in Cardiff! I realised then that I had been sporting the ‘Khanda’ – a Sikh symbol, for the previous three years.

 

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This was 1978 / 1979 and was such an exciting time in electronic music and synthesizers.

 

 

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Amrik Singh 1979 ish…

The magazine of the time was International Musician. Every month the London imageSynthesizer Centre (aka Chase musicians) would have a 6-8 page ad full of ARP Odyssey, Axxe, Omni-2, Moog micromoog, multimoogs, Crumars, Yamaha CS 5, 10, 15, 30, 50, 60, 80, Korg MS10,20,50 etc etc  I used to stare at them for hours dreaming of owning some of these American and Japanese classics. These ads were very memorable to me, featuring a Seikh man all dressed in white, holding a sword, Amrik Singh.

imageThe London synthesizer centre expanded rapidly to Manchester and Birmingham.

imageFast forward a few years (approx 28 years to be precise) to last week,  I was strolling through Manchester’s northern quarter and to my amazement I spotted a shop called Chase musicians- still there some 35 years on.

I had to go in of course, where I found no synths unfortunately, but I did find a man Iimage
vaguely recognised from those late 70s adverts, Amrik Singh, standing behind the counter! I had to introduce myself of course and we chatted for a while reminiscing about the good old days of analogue. Amrik said he was from London but eventually settled in  Manchester as he loves the city so much.

 

Simon Jones, May 2016

 

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AQA ElektriX is in the house

OK so here we have a really interesting new entry into Eurorack. AQA ElektriX obviously come at this from a slightly different angle from most and it’s an angle we like very much. Think of a pro sound engineering approach to Euro and you’d be on the right track. Most of their modules are designed with stereo in mind, which appeals to me greatly.

AQA’s slightly strange strap line is “Made and loved in Berlin” and once you experience their gear first hand you’ll understand what they mean. The first impression is the packaging (call me shallow if you like), the modules are wrapped in tissue paper (with boxes of course). The next thing you’ll notice is the beautiful battleship grey/blue of the modules, but also the build quality which is second to none and a world apart from some Eurorack modules of mass manufacture and wobbly knobs.

 

Once you start to look at the inputs, outputs and controls, you really AQA-LONG-LOGOstart to realise the thought that’s gone into these modules. As a pro sound engineer myself, I get the feeling that the designer of these “knows their stuff”.

For instance, the new Dual delay. No dry signal is passed to the output. “What!!??” I said initially, before realising that the way that I use delays / reverbs in a mixing type set up is with axes and ‘wet only’ returns. The dual delay has all sorts of serial / parallel routing possibilities for both audio and cv, with normalising if only inputting one or mono inputs. High and low pass filters are available on both channels, along with possibilities for inputting and outputting external feedback loops. All with comprehensive CV control. I consider this to be probably the most interesting BBD delay out there at the moment, as I really love stereo, and well made euro modules.

Next up, M/S Matrix. Even more interesting perhaps. Firstly what the heck is Mid-side? I sometimes have to use it in TV mixing, when sound recordists deliver sound in M/S from location. On location while recording dialogue, recordists use a hyper cardioid mono mic to “zoom” into the actor. Often they will now add a “figure of 8” mic which will record left / right room or external ambience. When combined with some phase reversal in post-production (or M/S decoding), you can uncover some rather nice stereo. You can alter the width of the stereo by the amount of ‘side’ signal you add the the centre mono signal. With this module you deconstruct a stereo signal and output sum and difference, or combine two mono signals, combine with CV modulation to create some perhaps never before heard of sounds.

Next up is possibly the pinnacle of their module selection, the Dual “State variable filter”. Again, this module has a nod to stereo which I really appreciate. Two independant fully featured filters but with stereo linking capabilities and a common cutoff pot.

The Dual 12 dB State Variable VCF module contains two 12dB state variable multimode VCF´s A and B, which both offer a Lowpass, a Bandpass and a Highpass filtered output of the input signal as well as a Notch-output, simultaneously.

Rounding off AQA’s current modules is the Quadrature LFO

The Quadrature LFO is generating an sine wave and 3 phase-shifted copies of it:
by 90° (cosine), 180° (inverted sine) and 270° (inverted cosine).
The frequency of the LFO can be voltage controlled, the CV input is attenuverted.

All in all, AQA is a really interesting new manufacturer to have entered the Eurorack scene with an individualistic approach to high end audio needs. We are proud to be representing them and look forward to future offerings.

 

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I Love EU – Gruff Rhys ❤️ Modular

By Simon Jones of Cymru Beats

I had a nice email from Super Furry Animals front man Gruff Rhys one day in March. “I’d like to collaborate on an electronic track, but I need to do it fairly quickly, for reasons which will become clear” said Gruff.image

Having enjoyed working with Gruff before, it was an opportunity not to be missed so we met up the very next day. He arrived with a notebook and some castanets. So we set about getting his ideas into Pro Tools. After basic blocking out of the track on my Prophet 6, Gruff stepped up to our vintage Neumann and did four vocal takes. Turns out this was Gruff’s homage to Europe, encouraging us all to vote to remain in the EU.  He’s written a very readable article on the Guardian website about this which is worth checking out..

Atlantis-web
Intellijel Atlantis all in one modular synth voice provided that solid bass to the track

Determined to sneak some modular into the piece, I turned to my Intellijel Atlantis for some quick n easy bass sounds. Gruff said he wanted a “European electronic” feel and we talked about Jarre and Sebastian Tellier, among many others. My vintage Roland CR78 was pressed into service, filled out with some Jomox Modbase 09 Kick drum and Bastl noise square and skis, all sequenced by the Bastl Knit Rider.

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Bastl Knit rider trigger sequencer

I then spent another day or so grappling with the arpeggiator on the Prophet 6 and mixing. The following Monday we popped over to Hafod Mastering, just outside Cardiff to see mastering guru Donal Whelan. He liked what he heard so we spent an hour tweaking before signing off.

Here’s the result, we think it’s rather good.

 

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Doepfer Vintage Black series arriving on 29th March

Doepfer has been to the health spa and had a facial. Yes folks, we’ve got the first of the very nice vintage black face panel modules in stock. Very reasonably priced modules, now they have sexier panels and knobs, maybe they will get the due attention they deserve!? We’ve also got a batch of the new Doepfer vintage style knobs in. Doepfer Black vintage series arriving next week, along with the long awaited A-157 trigger sequencer! https://cymrubeats.com/shop/

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TouellSkouarn

The TouellSkouarn eurorack modules are on their way to us from Brittany in France.

Te Zo Koant / Fet Preamp

 

TouellSkouarn was founded in 2010 in Brittany, France. Stompboxes and Eurorack modules are individually hand-wiredwith high-quality discrete components in Plougastel-Daoulas.

Famous users include

  • Depeche Mode
  • Martin Gore
  • Yann Tiersen
  • Gareth Jones (Depeche Mode, Einstürzende Neubauten, Wire, John Foxx, Erasure…)
  • Celldweller
  • Jake Cavaliere (The Lords of Altamonte, Fuzztones, Cramps)
  • Blawan
  • Elektron.se headquarters
  • Tiny Feet
  • “N”
  • Frédéric Le Junter
  • Dale Cooper Quartet & the Dictaphones
  • Maman Kusters
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Intellijel Metropolis

Playing this morning with the amazing Metropolis from Intellijel. Our brand new stock have the latest updated Intellijel panel graphics.

The Metropolis is a unique and powerful musical sequencer inspired by the Ryk M-185 (a Roland System 100m format sequencer.) but with many additional enhancements and functions.

New panel graphics Cymru Beats Intellijel Metropolis
New panel graphics Cymru Beats Intellijel Metropolis

The Metropolis comprises eight “STAGES”, each with its own assignable gate mode, pulse count and pitch value. Each stage can also have a special slide or skip function activated too. The slide functionality is a constant time portamento very similar to the Roland TB303 (unlike most synths/sequencers that use constant rate portamento) which produces a very musical and interesting result.

if you haven’t played with one of these, drop by the store sometime and give it a shot.

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CB Summer holidays 2015

CB’s summer holidays

We had two short breaks this summer, one in Barcelona and one in Lisbon. Fortunately there’s plenty of modular happening in both cities. In Barcelona, we first headed to Hangar.org a kind of sorts centre which is the home of Befaco. Unfortunately they were all at Tokyo festival of modular so we didn’t get to meet them. Looks like a cool place though.

Knob shop Barcelona
Knob shop Barcelona

Undeterred, we headed North to the leafy suburbs of barrio de Gràcia to hunt down Knobshop, Barcelona’s only modular specialist.

Julio & Simon
Julio & Simon

We found it on a quiet backstreet. It looked closed, but when we tapped lightly on the roller shutter, the door flung open and out popped Julio.

He welcomed us in and we chatted about…..yes, modular. He’s a really nice guy who runs a nice little shop which you should seek out if you’re in the vicinity.

 

Our next summer destination was Lisbon, as my daughter has married a Portuguese guy who’s from there.

ADDAC Lisbon
ADDAC Lisbon

We spent a week there so had plenty of time to visit ADDAC system who are based there.

Their offices are close to the central train station on the 3rd floor of an old Lisbon warehouse. We met the boss and designer Andre Goncalves and of course stuffed our case full of ADDAC modules to bring back. I also discovered an extremely high quality red wine named after me.

Andre & Simon
Andre & Simon
My new favourite red wine
My new favourite red wine