Recently while reorganising a studio cupboard I came across an old Korg MS20 USB controller. This reduced sized facsimile of the original MS20 synth was intended as a hardware controller for the MS20 soft synth plug-in that was part of the Korg Legacy Collection, back in 2004. But in one of those classic Eureka moments I wondered if there was a chance it would work with the new Korg iMS20 iPad app. And it does, perfectly. While this may not be news to some it was a revelation to me.
Actually the reason this remote possibility (ha!) even popped into my head was by way of a similar occurrence a few weeks earlier, when I found out my new Roland V-Synth XT (while in retro D-50 mode) could be controlled by the original 25 year old Roland PG-1000 controller - but I digress.
So how does it work? Of course you'll need the Korg iMS20 app (v1.1 or higher) running on an iPad with the Camera Connection Kit - which includes the requisite USB adaptor. To be honest initially it wasn't exactly plug n' play and it took me a few attempts to to get the iPad to recognise the MS20. The reason for this is that iPad wont let you use any external MIDI hardware that draws more than a minuscule amount of power but the MS20 controller needs quite a bit of USB juice. Unfortunately the MS20 doesn't include an external PSU socket so you'll need to use a powered USB hub as a bridge between the two. I'm not entirely sure why but it seems not all powered hubs are equal to the iPad (or the MS20) and it wasn't until I tried my third hub (a small Belkin unit) that the iPad recognised the controller. Actually there's a free App called MIDI Monitor that can be useful in these situations.
Once you have it connected and communicating there are a few things to note: Using physical patch cables on the MS20 hardware is mirrored on the iMS20 App, which very cool. Another major benefit of using the MS20 controller is that it functions regardless of which mode the iMS20 App is in - Synth, Drums, Song or Mixer. This means you can tweak synth sounds while editing drums, patterns or changing mixer levels and without having to continually return to the Synth page, as you have to without the controller. Also you can use other MIDI controllers while the MS20 is attached to the iPad. Which means, I would imagine, that you could map other MIDI controller functions to any iMS20 parameters not controlled by the MS20… such as mixer levels, mutes, sequencer controls etc. I don't know what the iMS20 MIDI CC numbers are (I did a Google search but found nothing) but some trial and error should result in figuring them out.
Finally make sure the MS20 controller is switched on (the large Volume control on the right is also an on/off switch) before you launch iMS20. If you accidentally turn off the MS20 while it's connected to the iPad it can confuse the App and make it unresponsive.
Please don't ask me where to get an MS20 controller from, they went out of production about 5 years ago.
The Tutti Box is the first in a series of CCCL scratch-built, self contained, experimental sound generators.
I built this unit specifically for Cosey Fanni Tutti (hence the name) to perform with at the upcoming Throbbing Gristle shows (details at throbbing-gristle.com).
Tutti Box consists of five oscillators. Three of these VCOs are connected in a feedback loop with the output of each affecting the frequency of the next, with a master oscillator modulating the first VCO in the chain. The master oscillator can also be modulated by an 8 step sequencer. The step sequencer cannot be programmed but has various preset patterns - forward, reverse, follow, random etc. The sequencer has a speed control; from zero (no steps) to audio range (in effect it becomes as a sixth oscillator). The fifth VCO is connected to the joystick controller, with the X and Y axis varying the frequency and volume. The joystick oscillator can also modulated by a small touch sensitive steel coil next to the joystick.
The oscillator bank feeds into two circuit-bent effects units. The first is a multi effect with switchable and variable delay, chorus, phaser, flanger and pitch. This feeds into a digital reverb which has various modes: halls, rooms, springs. The effects chain has a separate feedback loop for introducing distortion and extreme feedback.
The lid of the Tutti Box includes a small but powerful 'performer facing' amp & speaker and an 'audience facing' 6" plasma display. The display uses a mixture of Neon, Argon, Krypton, Xenon and Nitrogen to produce blue lightning strands triggered by the sounds generated.
Tutti Box is powered by standard 9v power supply and includes a standard jack socket for connecting to a PA system.
These are some of my new TipTop Eurorack synth modules.
I wasn't planning on adding these to my fledgling CCCL modular system... just yet. My original plan was to use my current funds to buy a new MacPro (to replace our old & failing G5). However, Apple still haven't released their new MacPro models and I found the temptation to get these to strong to resist. Now I just need to start saving for that new MacPro again…
The next modules to be included in the system will be of the self-built DIY variety - and a couple more TipTop modules... coz they're fantastic!