Merry Christmas YAY!


diary gear music

XioSynth… the perfect portable controller/synth?

Being old and such, the Christmas presents don’t pour in like they used to… thus I easily caved in to an impulse buy temptation and bought myself an early Christmas present, the new(ish) XioSynth 25 from Novation. Tiny (468 x 68 x 190 mm), light (a mere 1.4 kilos!), and with a built-in USB audio interface complete with phantom-powered mic preamp… it seemed like the perfect portable controller/synth for me to cart around while I backpack around the world with my trusty ‘ol Powerbook.

Right out of the box… Build-quality wise it didn’t stand out much with its all-plastic exterior, a keyboard that felt exactly the same as all the other cheapy keys out there, and some buttons that weren’t quite on straight, but I suppose that’s the tradeoff for being incredibly dirt cheap at a price of US $329 (and of course plastic is really light, too). The onboard menu didn’t exactly spell everything out for me, but I did manage to mostly figure out the necessary basics — changing and manipulating patches — without having to resort to the manual. I loved the sounds of many of the default patches, which were also fun and easy enough to tweak… no computer necessary.

As a portable controller/synth, I decided to go with the XioSynth over the MicroKorg — the only contender I considered since my primary concern was as small and light a form factor as possible and I’d already ruled out the Micron due to not liking the interface with its few flimsy knobs — because I felt it really won out in portability and features. As far as the synth quality goes, both produce a variety of sounds that appeal to me just as well and that I can see applying to the same sort of applications. But since I’ll probably often be carting it around to record stuff in conjunction with my Powerbook, it made more sense to go with the XioSynth for the USB connectivity options, circumventing the need to carry a nasty wall wart (I don’t feel comfortable relying batteries for something I could conceivably leave on for hours and hours on a regular basis), USB/MIDI converter cable for controller purposes, and an external audio card (you can record the synth audio output right into your computer just through the USB connection… and there’s always the analog inputs and phantom-powered preamp for anything else). I also prefer the XioSynth’s full size keys just slightly more than the little MicroKorg keys, but not by much since they both have that cheap toy feel resulting in hard-to-control velocity-sensitivity, compounded by lack of aftertouch. But the XioSynth does attempt to compensate somewhat by providing a touchpad, which I suppose could be a cool way to control the sound if I can get used to it.

And the bad… Coming from a classical piano background, the cheap feel to the keys and lack of aftertouch on the XioSynth is most annoying to me. This is made worse by the lack of a standard MIDI in on the unit which would prevent using it as a live synth (i.e. sans laptop and with a nicer more expressive keyboard controller). Does anyone know if a MIDI/USB converter box/cable can give it the MIDI in it desperately needs? I also prefer standard pitch/mod wheels to the XioSynth’s joystick control… though again maybe it’s just something I have to get used to.

Anyway for the lack of nice keys and a MIDI in, I wish I had considered the slightly larger/heavier (88 mm deeper/1.1 kg heavier) X-Station, which has all the standard old MIDI connectivity options and the added bonus of more knobs/buttons (don’t really need/want), faders too (ooh but I like a few faders!), a pressure-sensitive (!) touchpad, and the ability to be used as an analog effects box via the audio inputs (nifty!). Ah well… depending on how often I end up ACTUALLY using my XioSynth, I may trade-up… or maybe something better and just as portable will eventually come along…

In the meantime I suppose I’ll be recording a bunch of crunchy synth-bass driven song ideas with my new toy… whee! Now I really need more hard drive space…

diary www

Illness and the internet

Having been deathly ill with the dreaded sore throat / laryngitis / hacking-cough-preventing-sleep combination, and also having not been hard-core enough to obtain this season’s hottest super toy known affectionately as the “Wii!”, I have had ample time recently to re-discover the wonders of surfing the internet whilst consuming insane amounts of chicken noodle soup.

I am referring mostly to the web comic titled “The Perry Bible Fellowship” located at Surely, you have heard of it! If not, you MUST check it out! It is guaranteed to help you through those miserable dark times of horrible illness.

I also briefly looked for online backup services and ended up sorting through a bunch of “best of” reviews only to find that many of those newfangled Web 2.0 companies no longer exist. It’s cool that everyone’s starting to give everything away for free, but it’s not cool when the free things disappear in a few months…

Anyway I am back home in Hawaii for the holidays, and I made it through the airplane ride here without my ears exploding! HOORAY! Hopefully the warm weather will speed up my recovery time.

diary music

Drum and bass

Today was spent laying down drum and bass tracks for an upcoming recording project, a collaboration with Edria‘s Cyrus Julian. HUGE thanks to Shawn Poh (formerly of Astral) for doing a fantastic job as our “session” drummer! Thanks, Shawn!



I had some thought in my head that seemed very prominent and relevant just an hour ago, but I completely forgot what it was. Oh well. Maybe I’ll remember it soon… argh…

Anyway in lieu of that thought here’s my current one… which is not so interesting and goes something like “It’s cold! Clean socks are so great!”

Yes! FEET! They’re important…