First Time in 8 Years: Novachord 346, Now 82, Reawakens!…

1938 Novachord #346

A few days ago, and with some intrepidation, I decided to have a go firing up Novachord 346 for the first time in what turns out to be 8 years having partially restored her back in 2008/9.

To my great relief, this now 82 year old quarter ton 163 tube beast came out of slumber with all 12 of her master oscillators in action and pretty much in the same order she was in last time!…

After some initial tests I made this recording consisting of one overdub of a plucked sustain over some sustained pads whilst occasionally moving some of her formant resonator controls. The recording was made directly from the line output of the pre-amplifier into delay and reverb but with no form of added modulation processing such as chorus or flanger.

It still truly astounds me that an all electronic instrument originally on the drawing board in the mid 1930s can sound like this.. and even moreso over 80 years after she left the factory!!

We are so used to hearing muffled scratchy recordings from the 1930s – but that is not to say its what it sounded like on the day of the recording – the HF the NC produces is amazing for its era.

Composition & Recording Copyright D.A.Wilson, Hideaway Studio, 2020.

Hideaway Studio Proudly Presents: MICRO-5K

Micro-5K GUI

Welcome to the 1980s: A Major New Era in Affordable Digital Technologies….

MICRO-5K is in some ways a celebration of a new era in which two increasingly affordable technologies came together to form something quite special – namely computer controlled digital synthesis…

The early 1980s were a time where most professional computers and electronic instruments were well out of the financial reach of the man on the street, or indeed of most educational institutions, and yet some very clever individuals managed to find a way to deliver sometimes surprisingly usable systems with affordable price tags…

In the UK two companies famously went on to dominate the race to produce affordable home and educational computing systems namely Sinclair Research and Acorn Computers. The head to head battle to gain market dominance for home computer supremacy in the 1980s was dramatised in the 2009 film Micro Men (BBC Four) documenting the sometimes intense rivalry between Sir Clive Sinclair (played by Alexander Armstrong) and Chris Curry (Martin Freeman).

The BBC Micro eventually won out as being the educational computer of choice in the UK with over 1.5 million sold into schools, colleges and university research labs. Both the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and the BBC Micro spawned what became a whole generation of home computer “bedroom coders” who went on to form the very foundation of the modern computer game industry. The UK’s contribution to what is now one of the biggest industries in the world cannot be underestimated.

What also cannot be ignored is that one of the BBC Micro’s key designers was Sophie Wilson, the very same legendary genius who co-designed the ARM Processor (originally standing for Acorn RISC Machine), which went on from its humble yet ground breaking roots in the 1987 32-bit Acorn Archimedes desktop computer to eventually finding its way into almost every mobile phone on the planet!

The BBC Micro was unusually well endowed with expansion ports and turned out to be the perfect host for a plethora of add-on peripherals. This included Hybrid Technology Ltd’s Music 500 system which was initially branded as an Acorn product but eventually became the Hybrid Music 5000 system following a major update to the software supporting the synth module.

Enter MUSIC 5000…

In a market largely dominated by analog synthesizers the MUSIC 5000 was in many ways not just affordable but actually rather ahead of its time. Originally designed by Chris Jordan it was somewhat close to being an inexpensive variant of Hal Alles’ proposed “Digital High Speed Oscillator System”. Detailed by Alles in 1979 in a paper called “An Inexpensive Digital Sound Synthesizer”, it originally formed the basis of the huge Bell Labs “Alles Machine”, the eye-wateringly expensive 1979 Crumar G.D.S. and the Digital Keyboards Synergy. All of these systems used a bank of wave-tables which were played back using the digital “phase-accumulation” method.

Beeb Closeup

Having accurate high-speed phase control over the wave-tables allowed mathematical operations to be applied between pairs of oscillators in hardware in real-time. In the case of the MUSIC 5000 this permitted amplitude, phase and ring-modulation and osc-sync, all in the digital domain. Up to 8 stereo channels with 24-bit frequency control accuracy clocked at 47KHz could be utilised in a single sound or a number of different sounds played concurrently (multi-timbral). This was pretty impressive for an affordable digital music synthesizer module which was first released in 1983. Even more impressive is that the whole thing was implemented in a handful of stock logic and RAM chips!

Unlike its more expensive 16-bit counterparts the MUSIC 5000 produced its output at 8-bit resolution but it used companding u-Law converters which sounded more like 12-bit audio thanks to their improved low signal level accuracy. Obviously by today’s standards the MUSIC 5000 is very much outdated and pretty primitive but, like so many early offerings, it has a unique character all of its own.

All Controlled by a Computer Language called AMPLE?

Unusually the MUSIC 5000 low-level control method was more akin to something found in a research lab ie. all of its synthesis and music production functions were programmed at the command line in a language called AMPLE. Although there were later front ends offering basic user interfaces to make things a little more friendly, the programming language still interfaced with the hardware itself.

No MIDI Input?

Nope.. not originally – the user had to hand code his music compositions into the computer. Later a keyboard was produced… and very much later I designed a custom MIDI interface which was put to great use to produce this library!

Equipment Used:

All sample material captured from a 1986 Hybrid Technology Ltd MUSIC 5000 synth module controlled by a 1983 Acorn BBC Micro Model B running the AMPLE music programming language. Sample capture in 24-bit audio using an RME Fireface fed via a 1969 Fairchild model 662 germanium pre-amp and model 664 transformer-coupled passive-EQ. MIDI control offered by Hideaway Studio’s M5KMIDI a custom MUSIC 5000 MIDI interface for the BBC Micro.

System Requirements:

This library requires the full version of Kontakt 4.2.4 or higher.
Approximately 700MB of free hard disk space is required.

Download Contents:

595 24-bit Samples
100 Example Instruments
24 Example Layered-Multis
User Manual
Audio Demo

More Details & Purchase via Kontakt Hub

Credits:

D.A.Wilson MUSIC5000 Install/Overhaul,Sound Design,Sample Set&Instruments.
Stephen Howell (Hollow Sun, RIP) Original Quad Layering Engine Concept.
Mario Krušelj Synth Engine Script.
Anders Hedström (Flavours of Lime) GUI Design & Graphics.
Simon Power (MEON) for very kindly helping with the alpha testing.

Acorn Owl Spectragram (in RX)c
A very big thank you to Mark Haysman at RetroClinic for supplying the MUSIC 5000 synth module and helping me to upgrade the Acorn BBC Micro with a Gotek HxC floppy emulator.

HS-4KL-A022 08/04/20

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Hideaway Studio Proudly Presents: The String Collection II…

The String Collection GUI

As with all of my Kontakt instruments, the ethos behind them is not so much an attempt to capture and recreate the past but an opportunity to present the original source material as textures, elements and building blocks in order to create something new. At the same time, hopefully some of the original beauty and character of these rare and vintage instruments and equipment will shine through.

A long time in the making, I have been wanting to release for some time now a sequel to one of my most popular Kontakt instruments to date which has been a personal favourite of mine since the beginning. As I’m sure many are aware, I have always had a bit of a soft spot for evocative cinematic synth strings, and especially pseudo realistic string ensembles. It has been very exciting for me that some of these string ensembles and textures have found their way into a number of major music productions around the world.

My original String Collection was largely based on early string synths such as the ARP Omni and the Eminent 310U. I wanted to add several new offerings from several other families of synthesizer. The reasoning behind this was an attempt to broaden the sonic territory in what has proven to be a remarkably effective and easy to use layering engine. Some extra elements from my beloved 1938 Novachord #346 have been introduced including a very “warts & all” string timbre straight from the beast. Such elements may sound a little too antique to some in isolation but can form a remarkable secret element when layered with others in the layering engine. It is hard to believe this quarter ton 163 tube monster is 80 years old this year!

Around 30 instruments were captured and I’ve tried to draw upon a number of basic synthesis methods including divide down/formant, classic subtractive, DCO, digital FM and additive as well as capturing some tube synth textures from three vintage synths. Synths included the DK Synergy and ultra rare Mulogix Slave-32, Rhodes Chroma, Octave Cat Voyetra-Eight, Farfisa Syntorchestra, ProphetVS, Elka Synthex, Oberheim OB-X and Matrix 1000, Korg PS-3100. Tube synths included the Hammond Novachord, a Jennings Univox J6 and a heavily modified Cordovox CG-1.

I have also tried to introduce a number of unique processing methods to add tonal colour, character and movement to various sounds. This included a rather bizarre idea I had to play raw material through a speaker and record it using an old carbon granule GPO telephone mic. This imparted a wonderful crunchy antique character which when layered with the original source produced a rather beautiful effect. Other methods involved recording on and off of rather worn ¼” tape on a wonderful 1969 Revox G36 tube reel to reel. An original 1969 Dolby A-301 (the world’s first Dolby dynamic noise reduction system) and a DBX II 128 compander along with a gorgeous Binson tube Pre-Mixer were also used to good effect. A number of triple ensembles were used to process single string timbres from various synths into something much more akin to the original Solina strings. This included the often overlooked Korg SDD-3300 triple modulated delay and retasking the triple BBD chorus ensemble in the little Böhm Dynamic 12/24 as well as the wonderful “Orbitone” generator in the Eminent 310U. Truly uniquely, I used the latter to process some of the string timbres from the Novachord to produce some very special ensembles!

A number of layers and blends were brought together to form the basic 36 instruments loaded into the layering engine to form String Collection II.

Equipment Used:

Novachord #346 is now 80 years old & has proven to be a truly unique sonic ingredient!

Sources:

1938 Novachord #346, Eminent 310U, Minimoog T2798E, ORLA DSE-24,
Böhm Dynamic 4×9, Oberheim OB-X, Jennings Univox J6 tube monosynth,
Studio Electronics Omega 8,Sequential Prophet 600, Sequential Prophet VS,
Octave Cat Voyetra Eight, Sequential Six-Trak, Rhodes Chroma, Korg PE-1000,
Korg PS-3100, Waldorf microWave I, Yamaha TX802, Yamaha TX81Z,
Custom Cordovox CG-1 tube polysynth, Oberheim Matrix 1000, DK Synergy II+,
Mulogix Slave 32, Evolution EVS-1, Roland D-110, Roland JX-8P, Roland JUNO-106,
Roland VP-330, Roland alpha-Juno II, Elka Synthex, Farfisa Syntorchestra,
Crumar Performer, Crumar Bit One…

Processing:

Passive formant resonator circuit, GPO Carbon Microphone, Revox G36 tube half-track,
1969 Dolby A-301, DBX II 128 Compander, Binson tube Pre-Mixer, Korg SSD-3300…

System Requirements:

This library requires the full version of Kontakt 4.2.4 or higher.
Approximately 1.2GB of free hard disk space is required.

Download Contents:

786 24-bit Samples
64 Example Instruments
User Manual
Audio Demo

* INTRODUCTORY OFFER EXCLUSIVELY VIA KONTAKT HUB *

Till the end of December The String Collection II will come with Collection I for free:

More Details & Purchase via Kontakt Hub

Credits:

D.A.Wilson (Hideaway Studio) Sound Design, Sample Capture, Patches & Demo.
Mario Krušelj Synth Engine Script.
Anders Hedström (Flavours of Lime) GUI Design & Graphics.
Huge thanks to _BT for his enthusiastic support during alpha testing.

HS-4KL-A021 07/12/18     HideawayStudioLogo

Celebrating Our 5th Year!…

5-Year CelebIts hard to believe its 5 years almost to the day that Hideaway Studio officially opened its doors and its a proud moment.  Over the past 5 years I have captured tens of thousands of raw samples from hundreds of hours of recordings resulting in 23 releases for NI Kontakt.  Tens of thousands of copies have been sold and I have been blown away by the kind response from so many customers and clients. I have also been extremely excited that my libraries have been immortalised in everything from major film scores and commercial albums to TV scores and computer games around the world.

Its also remarkable that over that period I have had over 350 pieces of cherished vintage studio kit in for TLC in The Lab much of which requiring major overhaul and including several major restorations.  Several of these amazing beasts have provided the raw sample material for my libraries!

Rest assured there is indeed more in the pipeline and my passion for trying to present some of the magic captured from these wonderful old beasts for the modern world to enjoy is something that never fades…

Thank you to all of you for your kind support over the years – it is hugely appreciated and helps to keep me going.

D.A.Wilson, Hideaway Studio.HideawayStudioLogo

Hideaway Studio Proudly Presents: Polivox

The Crimson Chameleon!..

HS Polivoks Front Panel

The Polivoks (Rus.: Поливокс) was designed by Vladimir Kuzmin with input on the aesthetics from his wife Olimpiada who was apparently inspired by Soviet military radios of the time. In production between 1982 and 1990 the Polivoks was manufactured at the Formanta Radio Factory in Kachkanar, Russian SFSR. With a retail price upon release of 920 rubles around 100,000 Polivoks were manufactured – peaking at a production rate of up to 1,000 units a month! Despite this, the Polivoks is not all that commonly seen an instrument outside of Russia.

Although intending to appear and sound similar to the Minimoog it has been said that Vladimir never had access to the instrument or indeed any technical information. On examining the schematics, I’d have to agree and go so far as to say the Polivoks is a very different beast indeed on a technical footing. Some have said the instrument was a poor man’s Minimoog but I truly think this is disingenuous to say the least as it sports some interesting unique features such as looping envelopes, a particularly efficiently implemented duophonic note assigner, and a quite remarkable and unique filter design.

In fact, whilst producing the original patches for this library I have been particularly taken by the filter on this unique instrument which is like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Sporting both Low Pass and Band Pass modes it can be quite an untamed beast at times but with care also capable of producing some really quite beautiful timbres.

It may be full of bizarre old Russian transistors the size of small flying saucers, plastic that feels like it was made from recycled Christmas cracker toys and easily winning the most horrific key-action ever made contest.. I truly adore this wonderful old analog chameleon of an instrument!

Polivoks 02 FX

As always with all of my Kontakt Libraries the raw sample material has been captured faithfully and directly from the instrument (including in this case a few samples taken via a gorgeous 1968 Bruel & Kjaer type 2107 all- tube swept band pass lab filter). The Solo Synth Engine retains the sonic character of the instrument and yet help to present it in a new light permitting a wide range of tonal colours, textures and landscapes to be explored. With this in mind I have included many example patches in the library which I think will help to show the full potential of the Polivox library.

…oh and look out for the secret button!!  :-]

System Requirements:

This library requires the full version of Kontakt 4.2.4 or higher.
Approximately 685MB of free hard disk space is required.

Download Contents:

845 24-bit Samples
64 Example Instruments
66 Example Layered-Multis
User Manual
Audio Demo

More Details & Purchase via Kontakt Hub

Credits:

D.A.Wilson (Hideaway Studio) Sound Design,Sample Capture,Example Patches & Demo.
Mario Krušelj Synth Engine Script.
Boris Chuprin Cyrillic GUI Translations.
Anders Hedström (Flavours of Lime) GUI Design & Graphics.

HideawayStudioLogo

HS-4KL-A020 04/12/17

Hideaway Studio Proudly Presents: Chromatix

Chromatix (logo) smallChromatix is a celebration of yet another successful resurrection of an old classic saved from the grave…

This time it was a gorgeous 1983 Rhodes Chroma!

After a very deep clean inside and out followed by a visual inspection it was quickly realised the original rather large and somewhat grizzly linear PSU had burnt out and was showing signs of several past repairs. News got round that a new cooler running switched mode PSU retrofit had been made available and was duly installed. Having returned power to the beast it quickly transpired that at least two voice cards had serious issues and were failing the dreaded auto-tune. This rapidly became a can of worms when it became apparent that almost all of the considerable number of analog multiplexors within the beast were practically dying in front of my eyes due to age and after the shock of being pressed back into action for the first time in several years. Following removal and replacement of some 40 or so unsocketed ICs much of the instrument returned to life leaving a final stubborn voice card really determined not to play ball. On discovery of a number of leaky transistor arrays and tired charge pump oscillators the final voice card eventually succumb to my continued harassment only to have a third voice card fail during soak testing!

After two weeks of intense toil this 16 VCO beast returneth to life… and what a beast!

Chroma_Closeup

Having sifted through and loaded up over 1000 patches during soak testing over 5.5 Hours of raw audio was captured directly from the instrument.

ARP’s Last Gasp…

ARP Instruments, the hugely influential name behind a string of famous instruments such as the ARP2500, ARP2600, Odyssey, Avatar, Omni, Quadra and Axxe, was in its prime during the 70s but by the early 80s the tables had turned for the worse and the company was losing money hand over fist thanks to a series of unfortunate business decisions, excessive cost of sales figures and overheads.

Work had started on the Chroma in the autumn of 1979. After two years of intense development interspersed by the project being temporarily shelved on a number of occasions things were looking decidedly shaky at ARP on the financial front. This was no fault of the R&D team behind this technically challenging design but due to increasing resistance from management who had their own battles to fight.

Philip Dodds was left to head a company dying before his eyes and several months of development were lost to company politics. The situation became dire and he was eventually left with little option but to close down the R&D department. Despite the ongoing stress of the situation he succeeded in selling on the IP rights to the Chroma design to CBS Musical Instruments and in the process was hired to oversee its production. If it wasn’t for this last gasp for survival the Chroma would surely never have existed.

The Chroma was an advanced digitally managed 16 VCO analog synthesizer released after the initial success of the Sequential Prophet-5. Both instruments offered patch memory with the Chroma sporting a bank of 50 user programmable patches. It was one of the first analog synths to offer multi-timbral operation, voice layering and keyboard splitting with velocity sensitivity. The voice architecture was unusually flexible whereby the firmware could route signals through two low pass filters, in parallel or series, or switch the VCA before or after the filters. Through a bespoke digital interface (Chroma pre-dated MIDI) it was even possible to edit voices in a program on the Apple II computer.

CBS released the Chroma in 1981 with a list price of $5295 and proved to be pretty successful with estimates of around 1400 units eventually sold.

56 Unique Instruments Presented in The Layering Engine…

Chromatix features a deceptively powerful layering engine which allows the user to create new sounds and textures with ease by selecting up to four out of a bank of 56 partial voices to be layered. Each layer has its own fine and course tuning, ADSR envelope, panning, velocity sensitivity, LFO and tone controls. This permits anything from huge pads to complex evolving sounds. Many of the demo instrument patches included are good pointers as to how some of these effects are achieved.

Chromatix GUI_release_vs

Above of each of the four voice panels there is an orange LCD display showing the selected voice. By clicking on each of the displays a pull down menu appears allowing one of 56 voice partials to be selected. With a potentially vast number of layered permutations at hand two different banks of 28 partials are available the first set assigned to channels 1 & 3 and the second bank of 28 partials assigned to channels 2 & 4.

Chromatix GUI_Partial_PulldownNaturally the example instruments packed with the library can be used as is but where the fun starts is having a go dialing in your own sounds using the intuitive layering engine. All of your creations can be saved as .nki instruments simply by using the save as function by clicking on the files icon in the main Kontakt control pane.

The layering engine consists of four identical programming panels and an effects section. This release is the first to use a recently updated version of the layering engine which has recently been revised to include separate velocity sensitivity controls for each layer.

The TONE control is a deceptively powerful feature. In the fully downward position the signal is unaffected. As the control is moved upwards a continuously evolving complex EQ curve is applied. With some experimentation this feature can be used for embellishing formants within each voice partial and helping to sit each of the layers together in the mix.

System Requirements:

This library requires the full version of Kontakt 4.2.4 or higher.
Approximately 1.35GB of free hard disk space is required.

Download Contents:

1030 24-bit Samples
56 Partials/Voices presented in 4 Channel Layering Engine
75 Example Instruments
User Manual
Audio Demo

More Details & Purchase via Kontakt Hub

Credits:

D.A.Wilson (Hideaway Studio) Rhodes Chroma Restoration & Sound Design, Sample Capture, Example Patches & Demo. Stephen Howell (Hollow Sun, RIP) Original Layering Engine ConceptMario Krušelj Synth Engine Script,GUI Design & Graphics  Anders Hedström (Flavours of Lime) GUI Graphic Design.

HS-4KL-A019 30/06/15HideawayStudioLogo