November 19, 2007

My MonoMachine review...

by Chris Randall

Okay, after having this thing for a few days, I think I have a fairly good handle on it. Obviously, there are many "official" reviews available on the Intertubes, from SOS, FM, CM, and even the American magazines if you want to go that route. (Personally, I'd skip 'em, like I have been for the past decade.) Since that is the case, and most of these reviews go in to great detail on the various features of the MonoMachine, I'll just jot down a few quick impressions and we can move along. In no particular order:

1. If there's an opposite to "phatt," when using that tragic term to define some hazy sort of audio quality, then the MonoMachine is it. Can I propose "thynn" as a viable alternative? This box is not "phatt," if that means "warm, analog-sounding juicy goodness." It is very digital sounding. This is most definitely not a bad thing. But if you were gonna buy this to be your main Bass Box, you're gonna be making some thin-ass music down the road.

2. So, assuming you're hip to the little bleeps, boops, and bloinks that the MM is good at, the provided engines are quite capable, and I really appreciate the fact that they can make a pretty good synth voice in five different flavors with just 8 parameters to control it. I haven't found a use (nor will I, most likely) for the voice thing, which I find somewhat silly. But the others are nice. Superwave is coolest, I think, but I'm warming to the FM.

3. It has the same filter as the MachineDrum. I had a hard time warming to this filter topology in the MD, and I'm having the same hard time here. The "BASE" knob, which sort of controls the center frequency, isn't logarithmic, but rather linear. This means that the Good Part is a very narrow band of about 2/5th of the knob's total travel. I like the general idea of their filter, but the execution leaves something to be desired. Quite frankly, I would prefer a normal MMF. But, that said, the filter is part and parcel to the MM's unique sound, and is appropriate to the application at hand, other than the point I mentioned with the scaling, which is a silly oversight IMO, as these guys are on their DSP game otherwise.

I've been an Elektron customer since there was an Elektron. I bought one of the very first SIDstations, and with this latest acquisition I've now owned every product they've made. I'm quite comfortable with the way they do things, and once you realize that they don't really follow industry norms for the way their kit works, and you get in to their vibe a bit, you're gonna be well-served by all their products. If you want something that sounds like a MiniMoog or a 909, you're shit outta luck. The MM and MD sound like, well, an MM and an MD. I'm fairly happy with the purchase, but it will take a while to fit it in to what I do, just like the MD (which sat unused for maybe 6 months before I really got in to it.)



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Nov.19.2007 @ 1:52 PM
regarding the 'phatt'

does it always sound thin? have you experimented going thru your Moogerfooger FX rack?


Nov.19.2007 @ 2:12 PM
Chris Randall
I can easily chunk it up, through many different means. It isn't permanently that way. The Moogerfoogers, well, if you want it to sound like a MonoMachine through a Moogerfooger, that's what they're good for. They don't just Make Things Better by being in the chain.



Nov.19.2007 @ 3:05 PM
you can do great subs on the MM.. not just sinewave things but things w/texture. i've gotten some rather nice analogish basses out of it but only by accident and they tend to reveal themselves as not analog pretty easily once you reach the filters edge or cut off. but it still throws out some really gooey basslines that i probably couldn't get any other way.

i love the drums. may seem like a one trick drummachine but once you get into modulation and the delay you can get some really liquidy drum loops

the FM stuff great. it took me a long time to get cozy w/the monomachine but i've grown to really dig it and am surprised but it all the time.


Nov.19.2007 @ 3:28 PM
Chris Randall
Bah. I have analog synths if I want an analog bass. I see your point, though. In the previously linked video, the bass is actually rather paint-peeling in its intensity; obviously that doesn't make the compression transition, but it was there, and moving air. I used the SID engine for that. (It should also be noted that the SID engine in the MM doesn't sound any fucking thing like a SIDstation. It _reminds_ one of it.)

My only real meaning was that a lot of these little boxes are really just for bass, while they can do other things. The MonoMachine is really just for other things, while it can do bass. One should make that distinction.



Nov.19.2007 @ 3:40 PM
The one thing that I like the most about the MM is the way it makes FM synthesis usable and (I really didn't think I'd actually write this) immediate.

Nov.19.2007 @ 3:47 PM
Thx. I guess the real question I had to ask is, are you able to fit these into a mix with other sources?

All the crazy digital FM ringmod noise I've made with my DS Evolver sounds really interesting and cool, but getting it to fit with other sources is another story.

What I've found myself doing is making pieces that are 100% evolver. Which is a cool exercise, but...


Nov.19.2007 @ 3:50 PM
Chris Randall
That was the reason I dumped the Evolver. It was fun and all by its lonesome, but getting that lil' fucker to sit in a mix was damn-nigh impossible.

To actually answer your question with the experience I have thus far would be lying, so I'll skip that. Don't know yet, as I haven't tried to do a full mix that has MM elements. The MM and the MD are very happy together, sonically, but I don't use the MD very much in my normal workaday routine, so it's hard to see where this is gonna head. Rest assured I'll post about it again, though.



Nov.19.2007 @ 4:52 PM
CR i know what you are saying and i agree more or less. i have analog synths too and use them for the things they are good for (which is sometimes everything) but sometimes that 'wrong' bass sound is the right one.

i've made several songs w/just the monomachine and find that after a bit it's easy to make music w/it and not have everyone who owns a monomahcine say "oh, that's a monomachine". bah.. my coffee is doing the talking for me now.

point being.. i wouldn't use the monomachine to try and emulate something like a 303 or even a basic juicy analog saw wave bass but instead i'd just make a new sound and find what works for the track...

so, yeah.. it's versatile but it's not a moog or a jupiter and won't do that weedy filter thing a 202 will do etc. and i don't think people should bother trying to make it sound that way because i agree w/your sentiment "it's for other things"

sid voice- is totally weird! great gritty mechanical textures and weird leads. easy to be obnoxious with it for sure.


Nov.19.2007 @ 8:59 PM
i think the Monomachine more than any other device taught me the art of sound design, or at least my version of sound design. by default the MnM sounds very digital to me. like you said, that's not a bad thing but it's definitely its tonal starting point, BUT i think the each of the machines really can get quite warm and fuzzy with some careful knobbery.

i absolutely love the SID machine on the MnM btw. i have gotten so many nice leads, bass sounds, and snare/hh's.

there's body underneath it's cool exterior but you gotta whisper sweet nothings to her. she'll warm up

(what a weirdo) ;)


Nov.19.2007 @ 11:09 PM
anyone know of any commercially released tracks/albums that make use of the MnM or MD? The only ones I can think of are parts of "We Are the Night" by the Chemical Brothers, specifically most of Saturate is MnM in action. Apparat's "Walls" album uses the MD to good effect for most of the drums.. one of my fav albums in the last year or so.

Any others?

My MD also sat unused for more than 6 months before I got into it. I would never use it for "standard" electronic drums, because it blows for that. Once you start tweaking knobs and recording in the parameter locks, then add a ctrl track and tweak that.. whoo boy.. complete madness. It definitely wants to do glitch more than anything. All of the knobs are tricky to adjust.. the decay seems to be "normal" between like 62 and 66 and anywhere else is either way too short or way too long.

I find it very tweaky.. you really have to adjust EVERY knob just "so" to get normal sounding drums, which is annoying.


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