This sound is for the underground.

September 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

A 40 minute excursion into the underground with old-school ethic and new-school technology. One for the warehouse moments.

Track List (Respect is Due)

Nalepa – Seattle Flight
Cowboy Rhythmbox – Shake
Meat Beat Manifesto – Radio Babylon
D.H.S. – House of God (D.H.S. 20 Year Remix)
XXXY    – Werk
Bandshell – Rise Em
Tom Budden – Rock Tonight
Hot City – You & Me 4 Eva
Mike Huckaby – The Upstairs Lounge
Sascha Dive – Underground Railroad (Willie Graff & Tuccillo remix)
New York Transit Authority – Off The Traxx
Mosca – Eva Mendez
Pattern Select – Tale of the Tape
Tempted – Fack Tanto
Drums of Death – Tear The Box Apart
Teeth – Percolator Meme
Huxley – Let It Go
WAX – WAX 30003 A
AFTRPRTY – Smoke Machine

Novation MiniNova

September 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

Champion synth manufacturers Novation have recently announced a new synthesizer called MiniNova that takes their UltraNova synth’s sound engine and packages it in a smaller unit, aimed at electronic music producers who are looking for depth in a compact form.

Novation Strikes Back

2012 has been quite a solid year for synthesizers. With companies such as Moog, Arturia, Casio, and Dave Smith Instruments releasing new synths this year, it’s been a great time for hardware enthusiasts. Not to be outdone by the competition, esteemed synth manufacturers Novation have stepped into the ring with a new piece of gear called MiniNova that takes the best elements of their UltraNova synth and packages them into a smaller package with some new features. The result is a product that has obviously taken some visual cues (such as mini keys, a vocoder mic and wood panels) from Korg’s incredibly popular MicroKorg line, but with a sound and feature set that is uniquely Novation. As much as the synth looks like the MicroKorg, remember that Novation is the company who brought us the ubiquitous Bass Station in 1993, a pint-sized VA synth that completely changed the game with its portable size and deep sounds.

Novation MiniNova

The Novation MiniNova is a analog modeling synthesizer based on the sound engine found in the company’s flagship UltraNova synth. It features three oscillators, up to five effects, two filters, six envelopes, three LFOs, and 36 different wavetables. The instrument comes loaded with 256 factory patches and has room for an additional 128 user patches, all of which are found via the large “genre select” knob and a scroll wheel to cruise through the individual patches. A parameter matrix on the right side of the synth offers 24 variables for tweaking that can be accessed by four knobs and a switch at the far right. In the midst of this matrix is also a dedicated filter cutoff knob for instant access. The MiniNova has two quarter-inch outputs,  stereo headphones output, MIDI in/out, and XLR and jack inputs for routing sounds through the vocoder and on-board effects. Power can be supplied via USB or a through the included 9V DC power supply.

Novation Vocaltune

One new feature that Novation has introduced with the MiniNova is Vocaltune, an  effect that can tune your voice to the note being played on the synth in real-time. The synth also comes with an expressive new vocoder engine which can be fed by either the included gooseneck mic or the external input. Other performance features include a robust arpeggiator and the new Animate buttons which “let you apply up to eight deeply expressive modulations, with a hold button that latches any or all of the animations,” as Novation explain on their site. The Novation MiniNova drops in October 2012 with a suggested retail price of $629  and an expected $400 street price.

(Originally published on

Jesse Dean Designs: Custom Pro-Audio MODs – Maschine, MPC, Traktor, Technics, Pioneer +

September 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

“I call it functioning art. I look at a piece of gear and try to figure out what I can do to make it more ergonomic and pleasing to the eye. Most designs are inspired by the artist that contracts the modification.”

Jesse Dean Designs

Jesse Dean Graves is an artist, turntable technician and industrial designer who specializes in the customization of music gear such as Technics 1200s, Pioneer CDJs, Native Instruments’ Maschine, and just about anything else you want to bring him. He’s worked with heavyweights such as DJ Q-Bert, DJ Muggs (Soul Assassins), DJ Q-Ball (Bloodhound Gang), Chris Kilmore (Incubus), and DJ Scratch (EPMD). But you wouldn’t guess any of that by meeting him; his humble demeanor and obsession with deconstructing electronics and crafting new objects overshadows the impressive portfolio of work that you can find on his website and YouTube channel.

“Since I was a kid, I always ripped things apart to see how they worked,” he explains during a visit to his Lancaster, CA studio/workshop where there was  a buzz of creation happening. His assistant Brandon was working at a workbench of Maschine mods (one of his most popular products) while Jesse explained what sorts of customizations he does. “What I do mostly is Direct Image. That means, what you see…colors, textures, and feel. I do some mods to electronics too, depends on the gear,” he explains. “97% of the time I can find a way to do it. Turntables, microphones, keyboards, rack gear, guitar cabs, guitars, MPCs, Maschines, mixers, speakers, and much more.”

Some of Jesse’s recent projects include making the finish on a set of turntables look like a guitar, creating a custom skateboard for Pioneer, and installing Novation Dicer modules in a Technics turntable. Many of these projects seem to be inspired by the discovery and manipulation of new materials, as he explains: “I watch a lot of progress in different industries. Automotive performance, aerospace, and of course electronic automation. I try to use these technologies and materials in my designs. There are so many people studying and creating new materials and processes, I try to utilize this progress in the manufacturing of my designs.”

Technics 1200 Customizations

One of Jesse’s recent projects was a set of turntables created for Chris Kilmore of Incubus (see above video) that features wood paneling and the first modification to incorporate a pair of Novation Dicer units into the turntable chassis. Modifying 1200s was his first love and specialty, and he’s customized a number of them for aesthetic reasons as well as improved performance. “I love Technics turntables,” Jesse tells me when asked about how he found the path to customizing them. “I built a set of turntables for fun. They were a busted pair of 1200MK2s I had laying around. I stripped them down, powder coated the chassis, changed the LEDs, and engineered out a straight tone arm. They were pretty cool. I showed them to a friend, he asked if I could do something to his 1200s—it all started going from there.”

On the technical side, Jesse shows me a few modifications that aim to enhance the Technics 1200s’ functionality, including a straight, carbon-fiber tonearm. “Carbon fiber dose not transmit sound waves like metal alloys,” he explains. “Plus straight tonearms have a direct back pressure. Unlike the s-arm it pushes straight back. The s-arm pushes out when the record is pushed back. So I incorporated the two together to make a awesome performing scratch tone arm.”

Another mod he’s created is a new tonearm PCB board for Technics turntables. “I enhanced the original design to fit today’s wants and needs. For instance I made the zip tie mount more rugged so the board no longer breaks in this weak spot. And I built in internal grounding.” In addition to modifications, Jesse stresses the importance of maintenance. “Tuning is also very important and the right setup is critical. Tuning tables helped me come up and engineer products for better performance, such as different materials tonearms are made of and weighting for tracking on a record.”

NI Maschine Modifications

One of Jesse’s most popular products (and more affordable ones as well) are his wood panels, graphic overlays, and metal knobs for Native Instruments’ Maschine and X1 MIDI controllers. While these are somewhat simple modifications compared to some of the custom work that Jesse does, the upgraded knobs and wood panels do bring a touch of class to the devices. He also offers a wood stand that will combine the X1 and Maschine together in one stand, at the same height. The wood trim kit for Maschine costs $49.99, Maschine covers cost $15.99, and the Maschine knob kit is $34.99.

Lego CDJ 2000

One project that has gotten a lot of attention in the media (and tipped this author to his work) is Jesse’s Lego CDJ2000. As a final question during our visit, I had to ask how this came about. “I was at a event at ASTRO AVL in Glendale for a Pioneer DJ demo,” he explains. “After the show I asked the rep, how do I get hold of Pioneer parts to mod? He asked me what I wanted to do with them. I told him how I make custom turntables and other gear. By surprise he had seen my work before and asked me if I wanted to participate in the Pioneer DJ Art Mix? Wow what a honor…how I got the idea with the Legos was, I wondered what a 5-year-old DJ would rock out on. I loved and still love Legos. When the CDJ2000 came in the mail I geeked out like a 5-year-old!”
For more information on Jesse Dean Designs you can visit his website. Knobs, wood panels, and overlays for Maschine, the X1 (and other performance controllers) may be purchased through Tempo Records.
(Originally published on

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