ROLAND SH-01 GAIA
GODDESS OF VIRTUAL ANALOG
THE PITCH Compact and wicked-fun synth named after the ancient Greeks’ version of Mother Nature.
THE BIG DEAL Each of the three “oscillators” is actually a complete synth — think of stacking three massively- upgraded Junos and you get the idea. Up to 64-voice polyphony and five effects at once. Phrase recorder and external audio input.
WE THINK Roland let us play a prototype in early March, and true to its name, it’s a mother. Check out our videos at keyboardmag.com.
$739 list, rolandconnect.com
THE PITCH Makes a realtime duplicate of your recording file, at an adjustably lower level, so you have a backup if your source blows you away with volume.
THE BIG DEAL Dual recording can also capture two sets of inputs at once, e.g., the onboard mics plus a mixer feed at your gig. Variable speed doesn’t affect pitch — great for learning new tunes.
WE THINK So many handheld stereo recorders have hit in the last two years that it’s hard to keep track, but this one’s features make it stand out.
$449 list/approx. $300 street, tascam.com
BLUE MIKEY 2
WE LIKEY MIKEY!
THE PITCH Blue’s stereo iPhone/iPod mic gets an upgrade and a facelift.
THE BIG DEAL Improved sound quality. New 1/8" input for recording line sources. Comes with optimized edition of Audiofile Engineering’s FiRe recording app, plus headphone extension cable for remote monitoring.
WE THINK We loved the one-two punch of the original Mikey with FiRe when we reviewed it in Nov. ’09, so were glad to see the relationship made official.
YOUR FIRST DIGITAL PIANO
THE PITCH Korg breaks a new price floor in home/hobbyist/student digital pianos . . . but doesn’t skimp on sound.
THE BIG DEAL Ten sounds, including two multi-velocity concert grands, two EPs, and a Clav. Dual headphone outs double as line outs. Built-in speakers. New weighted action with three velocity curves. MIDI out. Available in black or white.
WE THINK When basic and uncluttered is what you need, this does it elegantly — and the piano sound is a great deal better than we expected for the price.
$600 list/approx. $500 street; matching wood stand: $125, korg.com
THE PITCH Casio’s first digital stage piano without built-in speakers, intended for stage and studio use.
THE BIG DEAL Sounds, including main piano, are upgraded from already-awesome PX-330 (reviewed Oct. ’09). Tweakable parameters include filter, envelope, LFO, and effects. New DSP effects including two-speed rotary. Splits and layers.
WE THINK You’re gonna see “Casio” from the back of so many keyboard stands that you may actually believe it’s the ’80s. If listening to the PX-3’s modern sounds doesn’t get you back to the present, try fitting into your Cavaricci pants. . . .
Approx. $800 street, casio.com
THE BEAT GOES ON
THE PITCH An open, sample-based, groovebox-like soft synth that puts pad-based drum sequencing and playing of melodic parts side by side.
THE BIG DEAL Handles audio files, REX files, MIDI grooves, and even audio recording for making custom samples. Extensive drag-and-drop implementation.
WE THINK It does for groove-oriented production what EZdrummer did for sequencing linear drum tracks: Sounds great, puts everything right in front of you, and makes it all a lot of fun.
AKAI SYNTHSTATION 25
REAL KEYS FOR YOUR iPHONE
THE PITCH Controller for iPhone/iPod Touch with dock, 25 mini-keys, and RCA line outs.
THE BIG DEAL Plays SynthStation Studio app, which has three virtual analog synths, an MPC-like drum machine, sequencing with file export, and mixing. Doubles as USB MIDI controller for a computer (Mac or PC). Will charge iPhone/iPod when plugged into AC; also runs on batteries or USB power.
WE THINK This is as full-featured as iPhone music production gets.
SynthStation 25 controller: $99; SynthStation Studio app: $9.99 at iTunes App Store, akaipro.com
MANLEY MASSIVE PASSIVE
THE PITCH Manley’s $5,000, mastering-grade, all-passive EQ — as an affordable Powered Plug-In for the UAD-2 platform.
WE THINK If you record, and you’ve ever used, heard, and coveted the real thing, you know you want this. If you haven’t, just trust us. It’s one of the sweetest EQs in the universe, and if anyone can model it digitally, it’s UA.