Open Mic: What’s The Best New Electronic Music Technology Of 2013?


2013 was a great year for music technology. The year brought multiple new analog synthesizers, several major DAW releases, new software synths, lots of interesting new MIDI controllers and tons of inexpensive electronic music apps.

The analog renaissance is going full speed. ‘Crowdsourced’ project development of electronic music gear hit its stride. And musicians are releasing great new electronic music.

What’s your pick for the best new electronic music technology of the year? Was there anything that you think will really inspire people to make new sounds and new music?

63 thoughts on “Open Mic: What’s The Best New Electronic Music Technology Of 2013?

  1. Korg’s Little bit is quite a nice new technology IMO in both the modular aspect and the open sourced design. I hope to see a lot of individuals and companies starting to develop modules for this platform, as it makes it easy to create interesting patch and is also a great invitation to expermiment!

    1. I’m going to sound like I’m nit-picking but its actually Little Bits and not Korg’s Little Bits. Little Bits has been doing stuff way before Korg’s got involved into one of their project.

      I would really love to see other music companies making modules for Little Bits.

      1. Yeah, but I’d say the best music technology event of the year has been KORGs turn around in looking at more entry level products and the analog electronic music products with more potential for non-dance music application. Combined with previous years mini kaossilators, monotrons and monotribes. It’s a collection of fun, creative entry level stuff!

  2. For me, Ableton’s Push controller was the stand out release of 2013 and alongside the updates to Live, it made the most inspiring, innovative and well-integrated DAW all the more so while adding an immediacy that rivals any hardware setup that I’ve ever used. I’ve been at this since the late-90’s and with Push I am having more fun than ever.

  3. Cyclone Bass bott 303 clone,It is a great simple analogue and v v good 303 clone.
    Strymon big sky rerverb, stunning reverb.
    Akai mpx 8. Great little akai sample player. (sounds as good as my mpc 2500.)
    It has been a stunning year for music gear .

  4. I would say the KORG MS-20 mini. Not because it’s so much innovative, but it’s a real symbol of the analog renaissance. It allows musicians like me to rediscover something of a legend. Here’s hoping its success kicks other companies into gear “cough..Rola..cough” into rebirthing their classic hardware for a new generation.

  5. Even though I do not own any of them. i will say that the Volca’s (as Depeche mode will say ” Music for the masses”). they are cheap well sounded but must important of all, they provide to anybody the access to produce “hands-on” electronic music (even if you dont care that they have analog circuitry)

  6. The VO-96 acoustic guitar synth looks incredible. I don’t play guitar but in terms of electronic instrumentation this has to be one of the greatest innovations of the year. Other companies have evolved with their pricing or form factor but in terms of actual instrumentation and the possibility to create new music I think the VO-96 is revolutionary.

    A special mention from me would also go to Cycling 74’s MIRA app. The simplicity of connection and the ability to create custom interfaces on the fly is something new. While Lemur and other apps already existed the network connection and the creation of interfaces is cumbersome, with MIRA it is very simple. Of course it is not perfect but I think it shows the way forward. Devices need to be simple to connect. The next phase for electronic music is large scale public networked collaboration and there needs to be technologies like this to make that possible.

    My $0.02…

    Happy New Year synthtopia.

    1. I second that VO-96– truly new.

      This year saw some cheaper/smaller analogs (cheaper & smaller being the new bit). And some graceful merging of old with new (more CV connectivity with the cheaper stuff).

      Hang on, I gotta take my drum pants out of the dryer…

  7. I’m also going to vote for the Littlebits Korg Synth Kit. It’s an amazing introduction to synthesis, modular, sequencing, and sonic experimentation, that is cheap and portable. Great for kids of all ages, and even some non-kids. Honorable mention to the Volcas and the Microbrute for bringing hands-on analog to the masses. It’s been the best year for electronic music makers on a budget.

  8. There isn’t a “best,” because the field has been covering so much at both the high and low ends. A lot of it is about packaging, because the sound-MAKING tech has hit a very high point of refinement. For a relative few hundred dollars, you can build a workable analog beastie or buy a software orchestra. For Sheer Cleverness, the Volcas deserve a ‘best’ ribbon, but even there, the competition is too broad and worthy to put any one item above all others.

    My vote for “best” goes to anyone who offers a refinement or expansion that has serious practical applications rather than just being cosmetic. IMO, Logic Pro X and Dave Smith’s Prophet-12 pass those hurdles, on opposite ends. There is nothing “**NEW!!**” in either of them, but damned if I could even *imagine* a way to make either one better. Both seem complete and transparent to the creative process, which is the ultimate compliment. “Best” is whatever leads you down the best roads to your goals without also leading to insanity, bankruptcy, divorce and/or death.

  9. I’d say all the new analog synths. MS-20mini, Bass station II, Micro and MiniBrute….new analog synths with modern technology and USB connectivity.

  10. We’ll. ableton PUSH has really been inspiring for me. Also, the PXT scripts that were made by Native-knot roll really make it 100x better. Also for me the whole iPad revolution is really amazing! The quality and quantity of powerful apps for literally pennies on the dollar of what I would have payed for hard-ware is staggering. I’m really feeling ipad music production. Also the connect midi+ with audio pass thru to connect audio sources(ipad computer).
    It is truly a great time to be a musician.

  11. I’m gonna go with the Korg Volcas, since getting one actually inspired me to get the rest of my synths out of the boxes they’ve been in since my recent move and start making music again. Also, because it’s nice to have a synth I can throw in my bag and play with in the waiting room at the doctor’s.

  12. The answer is clearly Bass Station II. It beats the hell out of the Volca and the Microbrute and Minibrute for that matter. It does every sound from Moog to TB-303 and has internal distortion, overdrive, sequencer, sub bass generator, noise, oscillator sync. If it ever goes polyphonic, watch out because it will be incredible.

    BTW I have Volca Beats and Volca Bass. They both have fatal flaws that keep me from enjoying them. The Beats lacks rim tap and cowbell but does have claves and agogo, in otherwords has the useless sounds and leaves out the essential. The Volca Bass has no accent and a very slow reacting envelope and delayed tweaking. And they don’t come with any power supply! You must use batteries.

    1. I also have a Bass Station II and and amazed at how deep it is. Capable of so many sounds and a joy to play. Seems quite sturdy as well. I have a Volca Bass on order, so I’m still optimistic that it will be fun.

    2. I agree. i chose the Bass Station on a whim and couldn’t be happier with my choice. This thing is amazing! The absolutel most fun I’ve ever had with a synth! It truly does it all in the mono department. I wasn’t expecting it to be THIS awesome! A poly version would kill it! and I’d buy it instantly!!!

  13. Eh, for me it’s got to be Logic Pro X….not that there was anything especially new in it but that was definitely “gear of the year” for me.

    1. sorry but Logic Pro X should not be considered. if I did not have to teach music tech with it – I would stop using Logic all together and just use Ableton Live 9 and Pro Tools 11. Both of thees DAWs had much more useful updates in 2013.

      i would like to vote for ICONNECT MIDI2+ – but as i cannot even buy it in the UK, i can’t.

  14. Korg Volcas. All of them.
    Korg Volca Sampler
    Korg Volca Midi-Seq
    Korg Volca Gate & Korg Volca CV-Seq
    Korg Volca Voice (human voice simulation)
    Korg Volca Percussion

    -no more need. never.

    1. But that arcane interface! If Waldorf will make their promise true and produce a Pulse 2 with keys and lots of knobs, for instance like the Studiologic Sledge, then they will get lots of success.

  15. Honorable mention for NDVR’s Note (even though it never got off the ground) and McPherson’s Touch Keys for finally breaking some new ground with controller keyboards. So many new controllers come out every year– but they are all pretty much the same. Those brought something quite real (not just poly AT) to the table.

    Oh, and TEControl added MIDI to their USB breath controller. There’s been quite some buzz about that.

    I wonder when that Raspberry Pi synth (piana?) will get finished?

  16. I picked up the sub phatty, volca bass, ms-20 mini, and updated Live. None of it is new tech, really, but I think the last question to this post regarding inspiration is the most important, albeit the most personal. I love everything I’ve added to my studio, but the p12 is hands down the most inspirational and most interesting addition for me. I find it interesting how polarizing the instrument is amongst us synth nerds, and no other instrument invokes any sort of contemplation as to the direction of synthesis as the P12 from a personal standpoint. I love it, but every time I use it, I do find myself thinking about what makes a synth popular. It has the best workflow of any of the 25+ synths I own hands down, and am continually surprised at the unique sounds I can coax out of that thing. As complex as it is, I haven’t had any need to consult the manual, because so much thought was put into the interface. I do hope the interface is studied and emulated by others.

    1. actually, i’d have to tie the p12 with the iConnectMidi 2+, as it really is new tech and changed the way I work just as significantly.

  17. For me the release of FabFilter Pro-MB was a game-changer. My workflow has been incorporating more and more ios audio (I’ve already adapted ios midi into almost every track). That’s because the audio quality coming out of my ipad is getting more usable. Still, I’ve been having serious issues with muddy mixes in Ableton, and I’ve been trying to correct this with multiband dynamics. It works a charrm… As long as you do it right lol. But for a technically inept musician like me, it can be a real fucking chore getting it right!

    Pro-MB came out this year and what a dream! It’s practically idiot-proof, and so much easier than any other MB plugin I’ve tried. Simple and brilliant

    1. Absolutely agree, loved it immensely for what it was and then all of a sudden it gave me everything I could ask for! They really nailed it not only with a great product but the only analog synth I’ve seen with such update possibilities. It truly is the best of analog and digital.

  18. It’s funny how everyone is listing the volcas and the microbrute. You know what, you get what you pay for. The Volcas are full of flaws as is the microbrute. Take the microbrute and put on just the triangle wave by itself for example. Now slowly turn the filter cutoff knob. It sounds horrible. That Steiner-Parker filter that they boast about has all kinds of weird resonances that make it sound all steppy when you slowly turn the free cutoff. Yep, you get what you pay for

    1. I suppose I’ll have to look elsewhere for the hardware with which to record my conceptual magnum opus, an album consisting entirely of a triangle wave played by itself whilst slowly turning the filter cutoff knob

      1. lol………….That’s the thing w/ hard-ware. It’s the flaws that give these instruments character and make them great! Where would we be if everyone dismissed the TB-303 for sounding cheap and un-realistic?

        Embrace the flaws!

    2. “You get what you pay for ” ….is that news? However the logic of that is that you always have to spend big to buy instruments with which to make great music …now that’s simply not true …so yes you get what you pay for …but what you do with it can be extraordinary …remember its the music not the box ! Happy new year

  19. Sonic State. They were really on top of new gear reviews this year. If you ever need advice on what to buy, just watch Nick Batt do a review. I bought the Bass Station II and I’m loving it.

  20. most innovative in 2013 imho is the way iOS music technology is going (this even got me into electronic music again) – for three reasons:

    1 – it’s incredibly cheap, so a lot of people can join in and interact (in 1979, i paid for my minimoog a month’s salary, in 1984 for my OB-Xa even two…).

    2 – iOS (or tablet technology in general) will push the whole thing further by developping creative approaches, more ergonomic user interfaces and completely new ways of getting things done. little apps like node beat or figure point into a most interesting direction, and i love playing on the animoog keyboard using different scales and poly AT.

    3 – portability gives the chance to make music wherever whenever.

  21. Well, it’s undoubtedly been a great year for Korg.

    Here in the UK, we’re yet to see the Korg/Little Bits, though it looks to be a great idea.

    The Korg Volcas are fantastic, especially at the price they are, and the MS20 Mini is great for people too young to have had the chance to play the originals.

    Looking forward to the Moog Minifooger Delay.

    Also looking forward to the Mixtape Alpha.

  22. I don´t know about the “technology” part.. but my best buy of 2013 was the MFB Tanzbär! Almost too packed with features (due to it´s relative small size), it has a steep learning curve but imo much more easy to learn than an Elektron machine.. and it sounds GREAT

  23. Elektron analog four was a technical step forward for what is possible when merging x0x sequencing with DAW-style automation, and really pushed the limits of what a great UI should be. I’m almost happy so many people don’t realize what this thing does… makes me look better 😛

    Also… although not as innovative… The NI Maschine 2 update was great. NI listened to their user base, and released a product that makes maschine even more useful and fun.

    Last… the Intellijel/Cylonix shapeshifter, and Intellijel Dubmix. Words can’t describe…

  24. i think its time for a resurgence of the “groovebox” style machine.. and im talking about the high-capacity format, as in a workstation

    yammy, roland and korg need to get back on that

    its been building for a while, and now there are tons of new techniques and technologies to pull in for that kind of machine

    so ok corps.. DO IT NOW!

  25. Korg MS20 Mini, Korg Volcas, Novation Bass Station 2, Arturia MicroBrute. These “little” instruments put previously-expensive analog synthesis within the realm of possibility for everyone. This is an exciting time to be a synthesist!

  26. I agree with pretty much everything posted so far, great entry level innovations from Arturia, Korg, Littlebits etc. you do get what you pay for in build quality and Development. The rebirth of Analog gear is fantastic, there are some great new hybrid technologies as well such as the King Korg combining VA, classy PCM and a performance based board to get you out of the studio and rocking out live. Plus great advances in IOS apps from retro synths through to new ways of playing and making music. My vote for best goes to the Waldorf Nave app, for a truly well thought out synth that brings something old something new and an innovative GUI. My second Vote goes to “In App Audio” for beginning what in years to come will be accepted as a standard feature. The rise of a truly portable music making platform in IOS brings another aspect to music in pure convenience and lots of fun. I wouldn’t trade hardware for software on any day, but software still has a rightful place in the modern music making world.

  27. My vote would be the Sub Patty from Moog. It has top notch midi implementation, a beautiful filter, wondrous bass and varying types of delicious overdrive. All with a simple layout, hidden bells and whistles and some patch memory. Those reasons and the price just might make it Moon’s most popular synth ever.

    I love the ms 20 mini, Waldorf pulse 2 and the mini/micro brutes. All of that still leaves a lot of great stuff and manufacturers unmentioned.

  28. My vote would be the Sub Patty from Moog. It has top notch midi implementation, a beautiful filter, wondrous bass and varying types of delicious overdrive. All with a simple layout, hidden bells and whistles and some patch memory. Those reasons and the price just might make it Moon’s most popular synth ever.

    I love the ms 20 mini, Waldorf pulse 2 and the mini (and micro) brutes. All of that still leaves a lot of great stuff and manufacturers unmentioned.

  29. Volca bass is pretty amazing. Not perfect of course. The inability to mix oscillator levels is a handicap, but in terms of fun and playability, mixed with a very nice sound quality, with a very low price, it wins my vote. There is also something to be said about its portability!

  30. The Analog renaissance – by far the best development in synthesisers since…analog synthesisers. The so called ‘software revolution’ failed to grasp the imagination of musicians because it ended up turning music into software programming (well not quite, but heading in that direction). I’ve used quite a few VSTs in my time, and there is no joy or fun or creativity there. But with the return of analog hardware synths, you have real ability to create and shape sounds, and then directly apply that to music creation. I would encourage all major instrument makers to fully embrace analog synths and bring back the great instruments of the 1970s.

  31. Mutable Instruments Ambika !
    And all the other products of Mutable Instruments. Great products and open source, open hardware…
    For sure, 2013 was a Arduino synth year ! And this is amazing to me.

    Littlebits are very nice things to discover/understand, but still toys.

  32. BEST ANALOG SYNTH – MOPHO X4. Even though Dave Smith said the Prophet 12 is his best synth (and i’m not arguing), the Mopho X4 is by far THE best new analog. Save up more $ to get this, instead of Micro/Mini Brute or Bass Station 2.

    BEST IOS SYNTH – NAVE. Can’t believe the quality and intensity of some of the sounds

    BEST IOS APPLICATIONS – RTP MIDI/MIDI STUDIO. The first time i experienced wireless MIDI. Kind of wish all MIDI could be this way, i get so annoyed with more and more cables.

    BEST CONTROLLER – QUNEO. Keith’s ipad sized controller seems much more interesting than Push. ( I finally bought an APC 40 this year, just after Push came out. I did the comparisons, and the APC wins over anything else, especially if you download the free script by Hans Petrov!)

    BEST DRUM MACHINE – VOLCA BEATS. It’s very good, and the step sequencer is alot of fun too.
    (don’t think much of the other Volca’s. I’m just waiting for Roland to remake the 303, surely it’s gonna happen…)

  33. This would have been a good sign, as we we had not anticipated to find a lot fine gold within the stone.
    His fee was 110 guineas, and that in the hotelkeeper was 30 guineas.

    Juni, als Bombenanschläge in Kathmandu und anderen Städten Nepals
    acht Tote und 22 Verletzte forderten.

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