Introducing: MIDI, CV, and USB I/O

We're pleased to announce the release of our new synth modules!

March 31, 2015

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Since the launch of the Synth Kit in November 2013, many users requested the addition of modules that would allow the Synth Kit to be connected to the rest of the equipment in their music studios. The design and engineering teams at littleBits and Korg agreed that adding this kind of functionality would unlock additional power from an already rich musical experience and set out on creating these new modules.

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The areas of focus for these new modules were the connection between MIDI instruments/controllers, computers, and analog synthesizers to the Synth Kit. The newly released MIDI, CV, and USB I/O modules provide this connectivity in an intuitive way. In typical littleBits fashion, we distilled the functionality down to their essences.

For those familiar with music technology, these modules and their functionality should be self-evident. For those new to the field, we hope that these modules can provide further education and bring users deeper into the world of music technology.

Here is a brief look at these new modules:

Midi: $39.95

CV: $34.95

USB I/O: $34.95

Synth Pro Pack: $139.95

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The MIDI module allows you to control the Synth Kit from MIDI-enabled hardware instruments and computer software (Ableton Live, Pro Tools, etc). Additionally, it will allow you to create your own MIDI controller with littleBits modules by converting littleBits control voltages to MIDI messages.

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The USB I/O module allows you send and receive digital audio and control voltages to and from a computer. When using in conjunction with a DAW, you can record your Synth Kit directly into a computer without the need of an external audio interface. You can also send audio from a computer into the littleBits system to manipulate it, for example with the filter and delay modules.

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The module is DC coupled which means that in addition to sending and receiving signals like music, it can also send and receive control voltages. This allows you to use software programs like Max, PD, and CV Toolkit. In these programs you can create “virtual” littleBits modules like sequencers, low frequency oscillators, and much more. 

CV stands for “control voltage” and is a widely used term in the realm of analog synthesizers. A control voltage is a variable voltage signal that is used to control module behaviors ranging from the pitch of oscillators to the cutoff setting of filters and more.

The CV module can be used for both CV and Gate/Trigger type signals used in analog synthesizers. The module is suitable for interfacing with modular analog synths, analog keyboards, as well as sequencer synths like the Korg Volca series.

 

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With these modules, we relied more than ever on Korg’s expertise in the field of music technology. Having years of experience creating MIDI, USB, and analog gear, these modules are rooted in their amazing technology portfolio and provide a great way to connect your Korg or other instruments to the Synth Kit. These modules can breathe new life into the instruments musicians already have and be a bridge between digital and analog.

Having a partner like Korg also means that Synth Kit users don’t have to look far to find great instruments to connect to. Whether it’s using the Taktile via the MIDI module, controlling your MS-20mini or syncing your Volcas with the CV module, or just recording everything on the go using the USB I/O module, there are really endless combinations to explore.

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left to right: Korg Taktile, Korg MS-20mini, Korg Volca Keys, Beats, and Bass.

We’ve also reached out to other great partners in music technology:

Cycling ‘74, with their incredibly versatile Max/MSP software, have connected to the littleBits system to Max to allow for computer-to-hardware control not previously possible with littleBits. By connecting the USB I/O module to Max, new control interfaces like algorithmic sequencers, LFOs, quantizers and more can be invented to take your music making to the next level. The new MIDI module as well as the much loved Arduino module can also be connected to Max to bring hardware control to your software. Check out some of these videos to get a sense of what’s possible.

Darwin Grosse, a teacher, musician, Max programmer, and Cycling ‘74 artist said,  “With the introduction of the interface Bits, a whole new world is opened up to me. I worked with my Visual Programming students to try coming up with new hardware/software hybrid systems; they developed video system interfaces, an Ableton Live auto-mixer and an on-screen ‘string’ that would excite a littleBits synth. In just one afternoon, the students developed a ridiculous set of projects with two Synth Kits and one Deluxe Kit.”

Make Noise Music, whose modular synthesizer systems are highly prized, have utilized the new CV module to incorporate modules from the Synth Kit into their modular synth patches. Adding additional voices to your modular has never been easier and using incredible modules like the René to control your Synth Kit is a snap! 

Spektro Audio is making connecting software to hardware incredibly easy through their CV Toolkit software. CV toolkit, built in Cycling ‘74’s Max, is a standalone application with pre-built modules like sequencers, envelopes, slew generators, and much more. It even has a built-in tuning/calibration function to make tuning the littleBits oscillators even easier. For those who want software control of their Synth Kit without having to program, CV Toolkit is a great choice. Take a look at these tutorial videos to see how to get started.

We’re really excited to see and hear what people do with these new modules. We’ve already heard some great things from our community and know that this is just the start.

Peter Speer, an interdisciplinary artist based in Chicago, IL, tested the new littleBits synth modules. “The new batch of synthesizer modules from littleBits and Korg open the floodgates for cross-platform experimentation and invite users to prototype complex ideas in seconds,” Speer said.

Patch ideas with the new littleBits Synth modules from Peter Speer on Vimeo.

Lysandre Follet, a designer interested and motivated in reshaping and redefining the boundaries of technology and art helped by a blend of analog and digital tools, was able to test out the new synth modules.

Check out his feedback below:

In addition to the new modules available today, we’ve also posted a new Korg created submission to the bitLab. The LFO module will let users create slow moving modulations and is one of the modules that has been highly requested since the launch of the Synth Kit. Check it out here and vote for it in the bitLab if you want it to be one of the next modules we make.

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We hope we’ve inspired you to get creative with these new modules!

Now go out there and #MakeMusic.

Regards,

Paul Rothman

Director of R&D