Music Mind Labs put together the ELK MusicOS concept some time ago as a way of running software plug-ins and instruments inside a dedicated hardware device. Despite comprehensive support from software makers very little in terms of product has emerged – until now. To be revealed at Superbooth is a collaboration between Music Minds Labs and Steinberg that brings a hardware desktop synthesizer to life running the Retrologue 2 virtual instrument.
The ELK MusicOS runs on a microprocessor inside the hardware which then interfaces to all the physical controls. ELK has had support for VST Plugins for quite some time and recently also picked up support for Propellerhead Rack Extensions. They were showing a Eurorack module running Rack Extensions at NAMM. But up until now it’s been largely a concept and one that’s badly needed a dramatic example of what it all can mean. Retrologue is exactly what they needed.
Retrologue 2 is a virtual instrument that captures the sound of classic synthesizers. It has 3 oscillators with waveform mixing, a multimode filter, envelopes, 4 LFOs and a modulation matrix. It has a bunch of effects and plenty of polyphony. It’s a very decent virtual synthesizer.
Sticking it inside a piece of dedicated hardware would make for one pretty decent desktop synthesizer.
The hardware, which is a prototype, looks pretty solid and chunky and is immediately tweakable. There’s a lot of stuff missing from the software version most noticeably the modulation matrix and effects. Does this mean that you’ll need a software app into order to access those parameters? Part of the point of all this is to be able to use it without the computer so it would seem strange if some of the functionality was not available when you are dawless. But then this is a prototype and maybe the cost implication of implementing every parameter would be too much.
This is reminiscent of those MIDI controllers that are dedicated to one virtual instrument from Soundforce. But with the ELK MusicOS you’re running it as a standalone device, in hardware. I wonder how adaptable it is? Can you run other VST Instruments and use the same controls – would that work or would it be weird and disconnected?
I’ve been dwelling on the ELK thing for quite some time and still have a lot of unanswered questions. It seems like an idea with enormous potential and hopefully the Retrologue will push the realisation of the concept into a greater reality.