Thursday, December 13, 2007

Way Cool Controller

I'm sad that my joystick controller will not be as cool as this, The Thummer:
Via Paul S. on the AH list.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Devils Carrousel

So here is the patch I mentioned last night after getting the Doepfer A-155.

The A-155 has Pre/Post outputs for each sequencer lane. "Pre" is pre-S+H/Glide processing and Post is post-S+H/Glide processing; but if you don't do any S+H/Glide processing, these are essentially a mult. That's how I used it in this case, with the Pre out going to the 1v/Oct in on the Plan B Model 15 and also into one oscillator's CV in on the Livewire Dalek Modulator which was set to a sine wave and put into one of the Freq CV inputs (linear) of the Model 15. The sine wave output of the M15 is then fed into one half of the M13 Dual Timbal Gate set to "Both" with the level all the way up.

The second lane of the A-155 is controlling the other oscillator of the Dalek, set to square wave and fed into the other half of the M13 Dual Timbral Gate, set to "Filter", with the Level all the way down. This gate is being opened by the Plan B Model 10 Poly EG.

The clock for the A-155 is the square wave output of one half of the Livewire Vulcan Modulator. The Difference output of the Vulcan is set for both square waves and it is being used to trigger the M10 which is opening that lower gate on the M13.

From the SUM output (mix) of the M13, the signal is fed into the Livewire FrequenSteiner, which is then modulated slowly by the triangle wave on the other half of the Vulcan as well as the Auxiliary output of the Livewire Dual Cyclotron. This gives an interesting sound because you don't really notice the Cyclotron's effect on the filter frequency when the Vulcan has swept it all the way up, but as it sweeps down, you can hear the Cyclotron's makes that kind of square wave gurgling sound when the filter frequency is in the lower range.

Finally, the volume is controlled by one of the EGs on the Doepfer A-143-2 which is being triggered by the Gate row on the A-155 sequencer. The release time is slow so it's really adding only a slight bit of dynamics to the sound. I'm also controlling the overall volume with one axis of my joystick controller inverted through the Doepfer A-175 Dual Inverter.

The final touch is the Moog delay (MF-104) with the Frostwave Resonator in the feedback loop to give it a bit more band-limited tape-delay like sound.


I Finally Got a Sequencer

As I previously mentioned before, I've been on the lookout for a sequencer, the Doepfer A-155 in particular since the Milton is vaporware for the most part. I actually lost an auction one two weeks ago on ebay, and had been waiting for another to show up.

Then, yesterday, I saw a post to the AH list (I'm just a lurker, not a member) from a guy who was looking to sell one, and he was in Santa Cruz! I went and got it on my lunch break, and pretty much started at it on and off for the rest of the day. I ended up being at work until pretty late so it was about 10pm before I actually got around to plugging it in.

Before hooking it up though, I thought I would give organizing the "portable" system a shot. It wasn't really working out...I couldn't fit all that I wanted into 1 A-100P case...not with the Sequencer. If it was like 12HP or so smaller, then *maybe*. So I'll be starting on a custom case ASAP. With the Sequencer installed, I'm down to 22HP free.

So anyway, everything I said about not wanting a sequencer was simply uneducated bullshit rationalization on my part. I LOVE the sequencer...I think want two now! Just having one row patched to a 2 OSC FM sound was fantastic fun. I played around with it for about 3 hours, trying different clock sources, messing with using one of the trigger rows patched into the sequencer Reset to play with the sequence length in realtime, etc, but I think I've only just broken the surface of using this in patches. The A-154 controller will no doubt be in my future as well, especially if I decide on picking up a second A-155.

I did leave a patch up that I did at the end of the night, I just didn't record it; I'll do that tonight and update the post here with the audio.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Computers Make Me Mad

A disclaimer: I love computers. My day job is testing software. I use computers 18 hours out of every day. They still make me mad.

Case in point, at work they've decided to do this company compilation and give a copy of it to everyone for christmas. Everyone (who wanted to) was supposed to submit at least 1 track. I of course didn't find out about it until the last minute and only had a weekend before the deadline for submission. And by "weekend" I mean Sunday afternoon.

I actually was able to compose the backbone of the track on the MachineDrum Saturday night while "watching" TV. I also had a couple of modular patches in mind, both utilizing one of the joysticks that I've gotten wired up to a pair of patch cables. So I was rather excited because that short window of time on Sunday would simply be for tracking and quick mixdown. Easy peasy japanesy.

So I sit down Sunday afternoon, tweak on the patches for an hour or so and then decide to get down to tracking. I wanted to get each of the 12 tracks/sounds of the machine drum recorded onto it's own stereo track (stereo tracks because the machinedrum sounds had stereo verb and panning and delay on them and I wanted to preserve that). This meant syncing to MIDI big deal right? Well, after about 20 minutes of hooking all that shit up, finding the sync settings on the MD and setting the right stuff up in Logic+AudioMidiSetup I finally got it going. Hit play in Logic...MachineDrum starts playing. Sweet! :D

Add new stereo track-> Solo kick track on MachineDrum -> Record 4 bars -> Stop -> Playback -> WTF!?

The recorded audio was actually being printed earlier than it should off; effectively making each hit fall earlier than the beat in Logic. I know it should not do this so I spend the next 2 hours trying to figure out why it was doing it...I gave up out of frustration after that. No new track, and more stress on the weekend. Fuck.

I still have no idea where the problem lies. I'm keen to blame Logic as that is a favorite pastime, but I don't necessarily know if it is purely at fault. I imagine it's a combination of Logic settings, the midi interface connection (Elektron TM-1) over USB and some good ol' MIDI slop.

The thing that really sucks is I can't let it rest until I figure it out...I know I'll end up in there tonight cursing and yelling and kicking things. Heroes isn't on, I'll have nothing else to do but lock myself away in the nerd cave and get pissed off.


I'm also pissed off in general that this kind of setup doesn't "just work". I know it could be the USB hub, or just midi slop or some other unavoidable thing like that, but IMO, that's unacceptable. If MIDI Clock is supported it should fucking work, rock solid...if it's sloppy, what the fuck is the point, don't even put it on there. Same thing for USB midi interfaces...if you can't make it work reliably connected to a hub with a keyboard, mouse and dongle, don't fucking bother! It's not like I have cheap shit either.... ok, I'm getting off on a rant. :/

Fingers crossed for a happy ending.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Decisions, Decisions

As I mentioned somewhere in the past, I want to build a larger case for my modular but keep one of my A-100P cases as a "portable" system. I'm having a really hard time deciding either a) What exactly would go in this "portable" system or b) just not have a "portable" system and only have one larger case, which wouldn't be that much more less-portable.

The B case is very tempting. The case size I'm thinking of is ~28-32" wide and ~15" tall so it's still pretty portable as far as cases go. It wouldn't necessarily fit in the overhead compartment of a plane like the A-100P, but the likelihood of me traveling by plane and taking a modular with me *anytime* in the near future is pretty small. Plus, when I would take the modular somewhere (friend's studios, AH meetups, etc) I would have everything with me...I wouldn't be saying "if only I had x from my main system with me". The final benefit is that selling both A-100P cases would net more cash than just selling one...which means more money for modules.

The A case is tempting because I like "portable" gear in that kind of form-factor. I've always though the Buchla Music Easel was one of the coolest things ever. I would really enjoy having something like that. The reality is, I don't take stuff from my studio that often, and when I do, it's usually for doing audio processing over at a friend's studio...and typically that means filters, ring mods, etc and not oscillators or other "synth" components. The other crux with the A case is that I can't decide what to actually put in the system since it is a small amount of space and the modules that I really would want to have all the time are fairly large. Examples.

1) Livewire AFG - 28HP
I know it's not out yet, but I know I will want this osc all the time.

2) Livewire Vulcan Modulator - 14HP
After using this so much, I don't think I could substitute a pair of normal LFOs and not miss it. Sub-ing 2 LFOs might actually take up even more space. Add an extra 8HP for the Selector Expansion module when it's released.

3) Livewire Dalek Modulator - 14HP
Not only does it provide the ring mod functionality, but it's my main source for audio rate modulation. I couldn't imagine using the AFG without this. Sub-ing 2 oscs, even without ring mod would take up even more space.

4) Plan B Model 10 Poly EG - 12HP
Again, here's a module I couldn't see not having all the time, I would miss it's functionality if I subed in a standard Doepfer EG, which would only gain me 4HP anyway.

5) Plan B Model 13 Dual Timbral Gate - 12HP This one I might be able to live without all the time, BUT, it could also double as the main VCA (so long as I have some overall output atten somewhere) so that could actually save space.

6) Livewire FrequenSteiner filter - 16HP
This I've thought about over and over. The multi-mode is a basic requirement, the HP sounds really good and I would miss that. Also, self-oscillation is a requirement, so that would put out the Plan B M12 as a possible replacement (which would only save 2HP anyway). It also has a sound that's not too gritty, but not to's rather perfect in the "character" range as far as filters go. It also has two CV ins, each with attenuators. These latter two qualities put it a bit ahead of the Polivoks as a substitute, that and the HP mode, which I would miss.

7) Some kind of mixer/attenuator - 8HP minimum
The Plan B Model 9 would be perfect here as it's both a mixer and attenuator simultaneously. It is 14HP, however. At a minimum, I'd need my Doepfer A-138c, 8HP.

So that brings us to 104HP, which leaves 60HP free. Despite my earlier statements on sequencers I actually do think I want one now and having it in here would be great...or at least, I would imagine I would want it once I got used to having it. That scratches off 50HP right that at a minimum. The other side of having a sequencer is that when I did take this system over to my buddies place for processing/sound design, I know he's gonna want to sync it to MIDI so that would take us into negative space with the MIDI-CV and clock divider. Plus, I didn't even count utility modules like VCAs and mults.

I guess I could go without the sequencer, toss in the Dual Cyclotron (28HP) or the Chaos Computer (28HP) whenever that actually gets released. The Chaos Computer might actually make an ok "sequencer" of sorts. You wouldn't necessarily be able to directly program the sequence, but you could influence it.

The final problem is that while I might have 60HP free, it's not 60HP in a might 10 on top and 50 on bottom or 22/38, or something else. This can also restrict which modules I can actually choose.

I'm starting to loose track of thought now... Having one single case seems to be the simplest, sanest, least complicated way to go...but I've still got a soft spot for that "Portable" system. :/

What do you guys think?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Polivoks Sawtooth Wave

So, I remembered I do have an oscilloscope...of sorts. I have Audiofile Engineering's Spectre, which does have an oscilloscope, but it's limited to what your audio interface can do, and unfortunately my 828mkII is not DC-coupled, so I can only use the software scope for audio rate stuff.

So anyway, that works perfectly for checking out what the waveform looks like when having the Harvestman Polivoks self-oscillate and have it's BP output FM itself.

I mentioned in the Polivoks review that it has a "saw-like sounding hybrid" when doing this...well I wasn't quite IS a sawtooth!

It's a little quiet (amplitude-wise) than say, the Plan B Model 15, but it's a very cool and usable sawtooth wave. I had a lot of fun gating it with the Model 13 Dual Timbral Gate and even layering it with the Model 15, tuning it to harmonic intervals.

This is my first state-variable filter which has simultaneous LP/BP/etc outputs so I'm curious if other filters have a similar response when patched in such a fashion. Sound off in the comments if you know.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Ghost In The ICs

Before sitting down to wrap up another mastering project and start on yet another (when it rains, it pours) I decided to patch up something on the modular for a while, making a specific effort to use the Polivoks.

After messing around with that sound of the Polivoks self-oscillating with the BP out FM'ing itself that I mentioned in the review, I started a patch using it as a regular BP filter and came up with what I called "Ghost In the ICs".

This quite possibly could be my favorite sound I've come up with yet. I think it could have been even more expressive with the joysticks involved, but it's hard at this stage to play them without the alligator clips popping off or having a flaky connection. Here's what the patch consisted of:

The lower register of the sound (the slightly formant like one) is one square wave oscillator from the Dalek Modulator with a little bit of x-modulation. That is being fed into the Harvestman Polivoks which has it's resonance about 3/4 of the way up, getting a slight modulation of it's frequency by the Auxiliary out of the Dual Cuyclotron (both cyclotrons set to "discrete"; square waves), and the Bandpass output going into one half of the Plan B Dual Timbral Gate with the level up @ 10 o'clock. The gate level is opened by the accent out on the first 8th note of a triplet on the Plan B Model 28 Tap Clock.

The upper register of the sound (higher pitched sine wave-ish one) is the sine wave out of the other half of the Dalek Modulator, also with a little bit of x-modulation. That is going directly into the other half of the Plan B Dual Timbral Gate, with the level also @ 10 o'clock and the gate in "Filter" mode. The gate level is closed slightly (not being opened wider) by a Plan B Model 10 Poly Env, with the envelope going negative (~ 11 o'clock on the knob). The Poly Env is being triggered by the triplet gate output on the Model 28 Tap Clock, with the middle 8th note set to Rest.

The mix/sum output of the Dual Timbral Gate is going into the Frequensteiner with it's Resonance set to ~ 10 o'clock and set to LP mode. It's modulated slowly by the Triangle out of one half of the Vulcan Modulator as well as getting an Accent on the first eighth note (so accents on the quater note beat) from the Model 28.

Finally, the Frequensteiner is going into the main VCA (Doepfer A-131) which is being held open via the "clock divider always on trick" and also slightly modulated by the Triangle out of the other half of the Vulcan Modulator.

I added a little UAD RE-201 and UAD Plate 140 in Logic after recording it.