And…..Done. Final Blog Post

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It’s hard to believe I’ve been running my blog for 6 years now, even more difficult to believe that I’ve done 282 posts in that time period.  But, as they say, all good things must come to an end, and I’ve decided that now is a good time for me to step away from the blog and focus on other avenues for sharing my views on creativity and audio production.

It’s been really enjoyable talking to everyone and sharing your views on how you approach all the struggles and joys of writing music.  I can’t thank everyone enough for all the insightful comments, indepth replies, and most especially for all the donations you’ve made to help make all this possible.

As a way of saying thanks one final time, I’ve collected all of the best blog posts into one document, which you can download here:

BEST BITS OF THE BLOG (Zip File)

The zip file contains both PDF and epub versions of the document so you can view it on any of your devices.  I’ve made a few changes here in there in the text to update my recommendations on gear, and make it easier to read all of the posts front to back.

Thanks again everyone!
Tarekith

Novation Circuit Review

My newest bit of kit came last week, the Novation Circuit.  I sat down and did a video review, and a quick walkthrough of the features and sounds you can expect from it.  There’s also an overview of the new editor for the synths from the folks at Isotonik Studios.  The synth in Circuit is deep!

Sit back, enjoy, and post here if you have any questions not covered in the review!

https://youtu.be/hZfyL9-hoOA

Later!
Tarekith

Not A Push 2 Review

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I thought long and hard about doing a proper review of Push 2, either written or video. But given how many other reviews there are out there, and how busy I am with other things (more on that below), I decided it wasn’t worth the time to do something too detailed. I did want to take the time to give my general impression, and talk about how Push 2 has come at the right time for me however.

Like a lot of people, I was really happy to see Ableton release the first Push. It had character, it was different, and it was really well made. After only a few weeks of use, I knew that I’d probably use it anytime I fired up Live.

Unfortunately, I also found it a little cumbersome to use, it was hard to always find what I was looking for when I had an idea. As a result, Push didn’t really drive me to use Live more, in fact for a long time I probably used it less. It happens when you’ve used a tool for over a decade I guess. No matter how good it is, sometimes you just want to use something different for awhile. This is largely what I did, exploring other DAWs, hardware workflows, and other controller/software combos like the Maschine Studio. It’s good to check out the alternatives sometimes, learn some new workflow ideas and just expand your horizons a bit I guess.

Then came Push 2.

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The seas parted, angels blared their horns, and unicorns shot rainbows from their asses. Not really. But it did make using Live properly FUN again, in ways I never expected.

Part of my reason for not really bonding with Push 1, was that I mostly work with audio and not MIDI when I write. And really, audio support on Push 1 and earlier versions of Live just wasn’t there. A simple numeric display of your clip and loop length, but that’s about it. Now that we can not only see our audio files on Push 2’s display, but also drop them into a revised Simpler for further mangling…. well, now we’re talking! At last, I can finally mangle audio, and in ways more fluid than what I had settled on with Maschine Studio too.

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The other big change that I find most helpful, is how Ableton re-ordered all the device parameters, and used subtle graphics here and there too. It gives each device a bit more uniqueness when you control it from the hardware, and makes finding what you want to adjust MUCH easier I find. Where as the Push 1 workflow felt kind of clunky to me, on Push 2 I can get my ideas down very fast I find. Not only that, it’s fun to use too.

One of the big take-away I got from Ableton’s Loop event, was just how much they really do think of this as an instrument. Something you can spend the time learning to play, perform your ideas, and capture them easily to expand on later. It’s not a DAW controller. Once you stop expecting it to be one and get comfortable using the mouse for the things it excels at, you end up with a very powerful and fluid workflow. It helps that the instrument side of Push 2 also received attention, the pads are much more consistent in sensitivity, feel, and color. The new buttons and lighting just make it ten times easier to find your way around while playing your ideas.

The timing of this release couldn’t be better for me either. I’ve been struggling with writers block for a few months now, so I could feel my creative energy building. Then the Loop conference happened last week, and suddenly I had a ton of inspiration and ideas. Take all those things and put a little bit of “my wife is away on a business trip for two weeks” and suddenly I have a lot of time and a lot of ideas on my hands. 🙂

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So, rather than just noodle about, I decided to really push myself (no pun intended) to record an albums worth of material in two weeks. The goal is to release 74 minutes of new music before the end of the year, so I want to dive in and force myself to write as much as I can these first two weeks. Knowing Ableton Live and having a controller that finally resonates with me it helping to no end I’m finding. It’s day 3 and I already have 5 songs written, arranged, and mixed. Like I said, there’s a fast work flow with this set up. 🙂

So, as you can see, I’m a big fan of the new Push, I think Ableton really hit the mark with this one. The first one had a lot of great ideas and really paved the way, but this one has the refinements that were needed to make it not only easier to use, but more fun as well. If you use Live and Push a lot, I think it’s definitely worth the price to upgrade (and please donate your old one too). Even if you don’t upgrade, it’s nice to know that Ableton are supporting the Push 1 as much as possible, they clearly see this as a long term instrument, and not something to be obsoleted.

Good thing too, I think I’m going to be using mine for awhile to come.

More on the new album later!

(Ok, I lied and did a video review too)

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

Push 2 Comparison Photos

I’m getting a lot of questions about P1 versus P2 hardware, so I wanted to make a post to point people to.  Sorry about the bad lighting in all the pics, it’s really dark outside today and I don’t own any bright lights for the studio 🙂

Here’s a size comparison, with P1 on the left and P2 on the right:

And here they are side by side, again with P1 on the left, P2 on the right.

Here’s a before and after of Push 2 with the PSU and without:

I’ll update this post as I get requests for different pictures.  Thanks!

Tarekith

Ableton Loop Review

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I love it when something comes along and the timing just couldn’t be any better. For the last few months I’ve been in a bit of a creative rut, which as followers of my blog know is really not all that uncommon for me. Still, when I was invited to Ableton’s Loop conference this past weekend, an event designed to foster creativity, I have to admit part of me breathed a huge sigh of relief. Perhaps this was something that could kick start my ideas again. As this was an event with very limited attendance, I thought I’d give a brief overview of the weekend for those that couldn’t be there themselves. If you haven’t heard of this event yet, here’s all the details:

https://loop.ableton.com

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Loop was held at Radialsystem V in the heart of Berlin, a large venue with main auditorium for the main presentations, a huge room set up with all sorts of electronic music gear for people to play with, and multiple smaller workshops on the four floors above. While it was obviously an event hosted by Ableton, they made it clear that it was not an event supposed to be ABOUT Ableton. There were many other manufacturers there with gear for people to try, some of the more common ones like Roland and Elektron, a large selection of modular errr…. modules, as well as some more esoteric and experimental bits of gear. It was a nice way to check out things you might not have gotten any hands on time with in-between the talks and workshops.

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I won’t go over all of the workshops and presentations, as I only made it to a few of them due to spending so much time talking to other musicians, producers, and developers through out Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Not to mention quite a few people I’ve known “virtually” for years who work at Ableton, it was a good chance to put a face to the names at last.

There were a few highlights I can talk about from the presentations I did manage to see however.

Friday Robert Henke gave a keynote about the power of failure to drive success. Despite being sick as a dog, he did an excellent job setting the tone for the weekend, and have one of the best quotes I heard all weekend when he said “Success points to your past, failure points to your future”. Meaning, it’s nice to have success, but if you’re only ever chasing that, it leads you to keep repeating the same things over and over. Risking failure forces you to expand your ideas and try new things, or work improve on those things you know you can’t achieve yet. A simple statement, but powerful.

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On Saturday there was panel discussion about creating new instruments and ways to play music with Gerhard Behles (Ableton), Carla Scaletti (Symbolic Sound/Kyma), Stephan Schmitt (NI Founder), and Roger Linn. Good insight into the thought processes about how they designed the equipment they’re most known for. I thought it was nice that they all answered honestly about what they consider their biggest failures so far. For Stephan it was the fact that Guitar Rig never caught on as a stage tool for guitarists, Gerhard said he regretted the way Grooves was implemented in Live, and Carla said she is always making mistakes in order to learn and improve from them.

Roger Linn won the discussion though when he said “Remember in the 80’s when music got sterile, lost it’s human feel, alienated musicians around the world, and made people discount electronic music for decades to come? Yeah, that was my fault”. He was referring to inventing quantization, but it still got a good laugh from everyone in the crowd.

The highlight of Saturday for me were the two panels that Young Guru was a part of. I admit, while I had heard of him and knew he was a well-known engineer in the hop hop world, I didn’t realize just HOW famous he was, nor the sheer number of classic albums he had a direct hand in. Despite this, he was so down to earth and eager to share his views on all things related to music, not just in the panels, but while walking around and talking to people before and after too. And better yet, did so in a very inspiring way. I think a lot of people were really impressed with what he had to share, I know I was. Most of the events at Loop were recorded, when Ableton eventually posts them online,I highly recommend watching the Young Guru ones.

Sunday started off with a bang, literally. The panel was about acoustic drummers and how they adapt to working with electronic music. It featured Katharina Ernst, Kiran Gandhi, and Zach Danziger, each with their own drum kits on stage. Aside from being a LOUD way to wake up on a Sunday morning, they were all such different drummers that there was a huge range of knowledge and technique they shared about all things rhythm. They closed it out with all three of them jamming at once too, by far the loudest event of the weekend by amazing to listen to.

Of course Sunday was also about the big Push 2 and Live 9.5 announcement as well, and really was a great way to wrap up the conference. The Ableton presenters did a great job of showing off the new features, and when gerhard said they would be offering a 30% discount if you traded in your Push 1 and they would then donate those to schools, the place erupted with a standing ovation. The music industry really needs more initiatives like this.

You can view the video of the Push 2, Live 9.5, and Link announcement here: https://vimeo.com/144372872.

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After the conference was over each day, there was a music event that was free for everyone to attend each night. While all the music performed wasn’t always the stuff I’d listen to normally, I think it was all well chosen to show the more experimental side of of electronic music. Really cutting edge stuff, sometimes ambient modular noodlings married to visuals, other times harsh and thunderous bass tones in a pitch black room synced to steam cannons. I think these were recorded as well, so rather than try to describe such esoteric music with words, I’ll wait and let you see/hear for yourself when these come out.

More than anything though, I think what I liked about Loop was that it got people from a lot of different backgrounds into the same room, and gave them a chance to share ideas and find new collaborators for their own projects. It also was interesting to see the same themes come up over and over, both in the official presentations, and just talking to people outside in-between the workshops. Things like:

– Making music is not always fun, especially if you’re a professional. There’s times you just need to plow through and get it done even if it sucks at the time. It IS work after all, you can’t just wait for the fun moments all the time.

– Limitations are good, both in terms of the gear you use and time constraints.

– If you want to get good at writing songs, you need to actually finish as many as you can and release them to the world. Wrap up, move on, and curate any feedback you get to improve things the next time around. Team Supreme’s weekly beat-making contests were a great example. Write a one minute long beat in 30 minutes once a week and post it online. Brilliant.

– If you’re having problems writing music with the gear available today, it’s not the gear, it’s you. Young Guru’s quote on how a craftsman doesn’t blame his tools, and that everything you use can achieve professional results with the right mindset.

– Working with other people always leads to better results than working alone. Maybe a bit controversial for me personally, but it’s something I heard repeated again and again.

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Despite three days of late nights and early mornings, I came away from Loop reinvigorated like I had hoped. It was a chance to see how other people work, not just with the same tools I have, but how they struggle and overcome the same barriers to making music. A reminder that as artists we all go through the same problems, and that sometimes you just need to stop whining and get on with things to push through them.

I was very excited to hear Gerhard hint at Loop 2016 at the end of the weekend, I for one really hope I can make it back again. Thanks to everyone at Ableton for putting on such an incredible weekend, this was definitely one of the most enjoyable music-related weekends I’ve ever had. It’s left me really excited to get back to my own music-making, as soon as I can kick this cold anyway 🙂

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

Hacking The New Electribe

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Recently a user on the Korg forums was able to hack the OS for the new electribe and electribe sampler.  This effectively lets you load the OS from either unit onto the other one, giving you all of the functionality of each.  Well, almost all.  We’ll go into that in a minute.

First, here’s a thread from the Korg Forums where you can read a little more about this, and how it’s done:

http://www.korgforums.com/forum/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=99902

Feeling a bit adventurous I figured “why not?”, and gave it a go fairly soon after it was announced.  I’m happy to say that it worked fine for me, and now I have the ability to switch between the two OS’s right from the unit itself whenever I want.  It really is like having both units at once, with the caveat that it appears the electribe’s PCM data, and the sampler’s stock samples are both stored onboard the units themselves.

This means that when turning the electribe into the sampler version, you only get the 16 basic OSCs until you load your own samples.  Not a big deal though, as it is a sampler after all and most people probably don’t want the stock samples anyway.  Also, just like with the stock electribe sampler, you only get 1 basic filter model for the highpass, low pass, and band-pass filter types.

I should point out that if you have the grey electribe and use the sampler or import samples from the card, there’s an error where some of the user samples get listed again as factory samples.  If instead you use one of the electribe sample managers to load up your samples (I highly recommend this one: http://www.appification.de/ElectribeSampleManager/ ), then this doesn’t happen however.  The sample managers make loading samples into the electribe SOOO much easier anyway, I think it’s a must for any electribe sampler, hacked or original.previewHowever, if you own the black sampler version and you want to load it with the grey electribe OS, things are a little less rosy.  Primarily, because you don’t have access to any of the PCM data from the grey electribe, you only can use the very basic 16 analog-modeled OSCs.  This severely limits your sound pallette.  You get all the functionality of the grey electribe, but a tiny fraction of it’s sounds, and no way to load more.

As you can see, the hack definitely seems to benefit the owners of the grey electribe as a result, which has some sampler owners a bit peeved to say the least.  🙁

I spent the last couple of days prepping samples to use in sampler OS version loaded onto my grey electribe, and so far everything has been working fine.  It’s definitely nice to have my own sounds to play with in the electribe, though at the same time you only get 24.7MB of memory and that does feel a little stingy. By the time I get a decent selection of drums, synths, and other samples in that much space, they’re all real small snippets of audio anyway.  Also, the all of the samples take a couple minutes to load each time you power on the sampler version, which I find kind of takes away from the spontaneous aspect of the electribes.

In some ways it just makes the regular synth electribe more appealing for me, though I’m struggling to say why at this point.  No need to prep samples?  Quicker to grab when I have ideas I want to capture?  Not sure.

I need to experiment with putting longer samples in there and not using it for all the sounds in a song. Just to see what I can do to mangle single samples and longer loops.  And I will admit, I like being able to use stereo samples as well, it definitely makes my electribe songs a bit more spacious now.  It’s a cheat to get more reverb in my tracks without giving up the master effect for it.  🙂

All in all it’s pretty fun to see how this all came together, and to suddenly have both electribes available in one box.  It’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, Korg does next.  Do they release a super feature rich OS update to tempt people, even if it breaks the hack?  Or do they find a way to embrace the concept and make it official, along with being able to load the samples and PCM data correctly from each unit?

It’ll be interesting to watch, and if nothing else, it’s certainly made owning an electribe right now sound like a great idea 🙂

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

Electribe2 Tips & Tricks Video

A quick video showing some tips and tricks for the Korg electribe2. Some of these are briefly (or poorly) mentioned in the manual, and some were discovered by other users on the Korg forums or electribe Facebook group. I’m not claiming to have created these all, just demonstrating them so others can learn some new techniques for studio and live use.

Enjoy!
Tarekith

Electribe Video Review

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Finally got a chance to record my video review and walkthrough of the new electribe, hope some people find this useful!

http://youtu.be/KF9DK2eQOdw

Hopefully over the coming weeks I can do a few more indepth videos on different aspects of the electribe.  This should give people a decent overview of how it works and what it can do sound-wise.

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

Electribe 5 Days In

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Well, it’s been a busy week getting everything prepped for the big move still, but I’ve been trying to get as much time on the Electribe as possible. Overall it’s been a super fun experience, and I’m really starting to feel like the new Electribe could be my new main instrument for some time to come. Given all the gear I’ve been through this year trying to find “the one”, that’s a great feeling.

Now that I’ve had more time to get deeper into the synthesis options, I’m getting more and more confident that there’s a lot of sound design capabilities. The Mod section in particular really adds a lot of animation to your sounds, especially when you start adding in motion sequencing too. One of the few downsides of the Mod section is that a lot of the BPM synced LFO are also key sync so the cycle starts with each note on. Not a huge deal since there’s unsynced LFOs that can run freely, and happily the rate on these goes super low for really long evolving sounds.

One of the few frustrations I’ve been having is with editing my sequences after I’ve recorded something. The Electribe has a Step Editor for this exact task, which allows you to change a note’s pitch, velocity, or the gate time (note length). Unfortunately it seems that because you can’t have a note longer than one step, really long chords and the like are recorded as tied notes. This makes it hard to see which step has the actual note trigger, and which ones are tied. I still need to dive into this a little more, but for now it’s just been easier to delete the part and just record it again. More to come on this.

I’m still exploring the basics of Pattern creation at the moment, so I haven’t had a chance to do much from a live performance standpoint. I’ve been experimenting a little with how to do transitions from one pattern to the next, mainly using master effect delays. If you set a really long decay time for the delays (and use the same delay for both patterns), you can do a decent bit of blending to smooth out the transitions. Unfortunately the Hold button on the Touch Pad doesn’t seem to work when you switch patterns, so you need to keep your finger on the trackpad to keep the delay effect on and at the same level. Still, better than nothing and at least it’s s starting point.

In happier news, it was recently discovered that you can connect an iPad or iPhone to the Electribe via the camera connection kit, and the Electribe will show up on the iPad and a MIDI source and destination. This means you can sequence your iPad apps from the Electribe, or use an iOS MIDI app to enter notes on the Electribe instead of the Trigger Pad. ThumbJam and Genome users should be happy with this!

Especially when you realize you can then route the audio from the iPad into the Electribe, either directly through untouched, or to be effected by the Electribe effects. Since each part on the Electribe can host its own Audio Input OSC, that means in theory you could have 16 different effects processing the audio input signal in parallel, all at once. Sweet. I starting to think the Electribe and my iPad running Gadget could be a pretty awesome live combo!

I’m still trying to get a video review and some audio examples done asap, so hopefully I’ll have some more info soon. Stay tuned!

Tarekith

Korg electribe First Thoughts

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At long last, it’s arrived.

In some respects it feels like it’s been forever that I’ve been waiting, having pre-ordered my electribe back in September when it was first announced.  On the other hand, in some ways it’s been almost ten years for this moment, when Korg would finally release a successor to the EMX.  Not that I didn’t like the EMX, it’s insanely deep if you spend the time with it, both for performance and composing.  But for some reason it just never had that specific sound I was looking for.  I always wanted to see Korg take it one step further, give us just a little more creative control and depth of features.

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of grooveboxes, it’s by far my preferred way to make electronic music.  I’ve owned most of the major ones, and gotten pretty good at knowing them inside and out over the years.  Recently I decided to take a break from hardware live sets to focus on other musical endeavors, so I’ve been without a groovebox for almost two years.

The big question on my mind, is will the new electribe fill that role for me?  Does it have an interface that sucks you in and makes you lose track of time without realizing it?  Will the sounds match my tastes today, and can I actually perform those live in a way that lets me express myself in a way I enjoy?

I’ll be doing a more in-depth review in the coming days, but for now I wanted to note my first thoughts after only a couple hours playing with it.  Just the things that first struck me about it as I learned my way around.  So, let’s get started.

I was happy when I first picked it up after unboxing to learn that it’s definitely as solid as most people have been saying.  It’s got some weight to it, though it’s not overly heavy at all.  A bit lighter than I expected in fact.  No flex in this thing at all though, it’s definitely a metal body and feels like it.  I don’t see any issues taking this thing live.

The knobs are pretty good overall, nothing spectacular, but they feel solid enough for live use and after a bit of use are loosening up without feeling wobbly at all.  The trigger pads are nothing special either, but again they feel more than up to the task.  They definitely aren’t as responsive as say Maschine in comparison, but I had no issues with double-triggering or not being able to enter different velocities while playing.

The touchpad is probably the cheapest feeling part on the unit, you can feel a sort of bumpy, textured surface underneath.  It’s not as smooth as it looks.  It works well enough in use for most things, but it was a bit tricky so far to accurate play scales with it, for instance.  In time perhaps.  Anyway, not a deal breaker by any means, as most touchpads are pretty cheap feeling to me.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t even listen to the factory patterns at all.  The first thing I did was initialize the first pattern, go through the menus setting all my preferred defaults, and then save it over all the 250 factory pattern slots.  Sorry James, I gotta start mine from scratch 🙂

I did start to have a bit of a panic doing this though, as I realized just how many menus there are, and how often I would have to be using them to write music on the electribe.  Luckily, I tried holding Shift while going through the menu pages, and this jumps you from one edit menu category to the next.  IE, you can skip from global settings, pattern settings, part edit, etc.  That helped a lot.

I later remembered that by holding shift and pressing a trigger pad, I could also access shortcuts to different menu pages.  This works MUCH better, all the major functions have their own shortcut, and the ones that don’t are now only a button press or two away in most cases.  Really speeds up any menu operations, so I’m a lot less worried about this.  It’s brilliant in fact.

This sort of thing applies in a lot of places on the electribe, for instance holding shift and turning the OSC select knob skips you between the different drum types, then different samples, finally the raw OSC types.  Same with the effects, you can hold shift and skip through the distortion category, the delays category, etc.  This type of thing really speeds up the work flow a lot, so I’m happy to see they didn’t just do it in a couple places, but machine-wide.

The sounds and the unit itself sound really good, no disappointments there.  I haven’t had time to really dive into the synth editing as much as I want yet, but the drum sounds are uniformly up to date and useable, and the PCM samples have a lot of potential too.  Some cheese as well, but I think with some clever editing we’re going to see more use ou of these than people would expect.  The raw OSCs have a lot of tweakability thanks to the OSC edit knob, which sometimes drastically alters the sound of the OSC beyond what you’d expect.  Overall there’s a lot more room for sound design than on any other electribe to date I feel.

I did have a few issues with clipping internally causing some clicking noises, but once I adjusted the volumes of my parts down a bit it cleaned right up.  Headroom is apparently pretty important given the complex processing going on.  Keep it a tiny bit quieter than you might expect, and it all works and sounds amazing.

I’ve already read the manual a few times (it’s only 16 pages) so it wasn’t too hard for me to find my way around and start making my own patterns.  The first one sucked, total preset cheese sounding, even I cringed 🙂  The second one was much better though, and had exactly the sort of depth of sound I wanted in a modern groovebox.   Good low end, nice bright mids, and effects are really clean and blend well with each other.

Big sigh of relief!

Basic editing operations all worked as expected and were simply to find via the shortcuts mentioned above.  It’ll take some time to become second nature, but already I feel pretty quick on the unit.  There’s a lot of depth here, and I think Korg did a really good job of making it easy to get to.   It’s still early, but so far I’m still really excited at what I’m going to be able to create with the electribe.

So, what about the not so good things?

As mentioned, headroom is important if you want to keep things click free.  Not really a huge deal, you just can’t get crazy with your levels internally.  I did have one weird lock up too, some notes got stuck and the display always showed the same menu screen no  matter what I did.  A power cycle fixed it, but still a little worrying.

You can save your patterns while they play and you are editing them, but occasionally it seems to throw the timing out.  You get a slight skip in the pattern playback.  Not something you probably want to do live, even though it only happens about 3 in 10 times.

A lot of people are worried about the whole pattern change glitch issue, but for me it wasn’t really something I noticed.  Yes it would be awesome if reverb, delay, and amp release tails carried over to smooth transitions, but that’s just not how this box works.  So far it’s really only with the part delays that I find it’s that noticeable, and I’m sure I can think of a workaround once I get a bit time with the box.  Maybe not ideal, but not something that really is a huge turnoff for me either.

Other than that so far it’s been a mostly positive experience, hell it’s been downright fun to be honest.   I’ll post some more thoughts and a video review in a few days, hopefully I can cram as much time as possible on the electribe so it doesn’t take too long.

If you have any questions, just let me know and I’ll address them if I can.  I don’t plan on using this as a MIDI sequencer, so anything related to that side of things will probably be the last area I dive into though.

Stay tuned!
Tarekith