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At this year’s NAMM show I had the opportunity to try my hand at the CRAFTsynth digital mono synth from the fine folks at Modal Electronics. You’ve probably seen it, it’s the $99 synth kit that can be assembled in under 10 minutes IKEA-style. But until I got my hands on one at the show I hadn’t really experienced how awesome it truly sounds.

It’s 2 oscillators per voice can be adjusted with a “spread” knob and detuned for an impressively fat sound. The LFO has 4 waveforms assignable to 6 different destinations (including Pulse Width Modulation!). The feature set for this scrappy little synth is truly astounding at the price point.

Notes are played with 5 conductive pads in what would be the key bed of the synth and you can select which pentatonic scale is played, but I found myself wanting the freedom to play more notes (and in more keys than C). Lo and behold the Modal CRAFTsynth is also equipped to accept MIDI over USB! Excellent! That’s one step closer to being able to play the synth with a MIDI keyboard controller. Now all I need is a MIDI host and a MIDI keyboard. Luckily I have access to our Keith McMillen Instruments K-Board and an iPad that is running a DAW to send the MIDI information through, let’s get it all hooked up!


The CRAFTsynth and the K-Board are both plugged into a powered USB hub, which is plugged into the iPad using the USB-to-Lightening Camera Connection Kit. The powered USB hub is necessary to be able to plug both the synth and keyboard into the iPad.

I’ve got the iPad running the Cubasis DAW (I like Cubasis, but you could really use just about any DAW that will pass MIDI thru). Here’s a screenshot of the settings:


Another nice aspect to the CRAFTsynth MIDI implementation is that nearly every parameter is available to be mapped to a CC value. This is particularly exciting when combined with the K-Board’s pressure and tilt sensitivity. In the above video example I have mapped the K-Board pressure sensor to CC34, which is modulating the filter cutoff frequency. For a full list of MIDI mappings you can check out the CRAFTsynth user manual, the possibilities are amazing!

We’re really excited about the stuff they are doing over at Modal and hope to continue to work with them in the near future. Stay tuned for more!