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.


Friday, November 30, 2007

Polivoks Filter Arrives

This is actually a couple days late, but I haven't had the time/energy to get around to writing up a post. Yes a video demo is planned, but technically the Plan B M15 is in line before it so for now, don't hold your breath. I also want to try and wrap up the joystick controller before moving on to more demo videos. If I don't finish a project within a week or so of starting it, I have a habit of abandoning it. So here is the initial [text] review:

It sounds awesome! It's not as dirty as I thought it would be based on the description at Analogue Haven. I was expecting something different by the "self-oscillates with a dirty pulse" line. It sounds very similar to my SSM A-105 Doepfer LP filter, but a little edgier. The bandpass output is also pretty edgy, especially at high resonances. Overloading the filter (by using both inputs and turning them up all the way) sounds really cool too; a little more mean sounding that the Frequensteiner can be.

The bipolar attenuator for the one frequency CV input is a really nice touch. I wish the second input had one as well; it has no attenuator.

I did some FM of the filter while it was self-oscillating (no input) and I was very pleased. The Frequensteiner tends to saturate a bit when doing the same thing but the Polivoks stays nice and biting. I will enjoy using this as an extra sine wave source; something that I find the frequensteiner doesn't do as well. When you are really FM'ing the heck of it, it sounds really gritty and dirty, almost like noise (as in white, not "hiss")...very cool. One of my favorite sounds I have discovered so far is to listen to the LP out while the Polivoks is self-oscillating (no audio input) and patch the BP output into the non-attenuated freq CV in. The result is this saw-like sounding hybrid. I wish I had a scope so I could see what it looks like, but it sounds very interesting.

The one downside I have experienced is a personal one. The knobs, while very smooth and easy to turn, are a bit "wobbly". If anyone has a Dual Cyclotron, it's similar to the 3 selector pots which have a slight wobble to them. I've begun to get used to it, but it was a bit disappointing at first. I've noticed that no complaints have come from anyone on the harvestman list or back to Analogue Haven about this on the Polivoks or the Malgorithm so I think I'm being a bit overly anal; something that is not a rare occurrence. ;) I'm sure once I have a few more Harvestman modules in my collection, it won't stand out as much. It of course has no impact on the sound, just my OCD.

All in all, it's an awesome filter and definitely needs to be in your collection, especially if you like having many different filter flavors.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Modulars = crack (aka the Sawtooth Animator post)

Ok, so I now fully understand the modular addiction. I knew before that it was one of those "black hole" hobbies that will always have some new thing to buy or entail some never ending quest to have "the ultimate" setup. That's all well and good...but when you start rationalizing dipping into savings or not buying certainly family members christmas presents, that's an addiction my friends.
I should know better too...I have an addictive personality. I don't gamble, cause I know that would get me into trouble...I quit smoking several years back, which is still difficult to fend off urges, and I'm very careful about not drinking outside of social/recreational means. I guess I always rationalized "gear" as not being an addiction.

Then again, maybe I'm being over dramatic. It's just that there are all of sudden more things that I want than I can afford...and I have money, but it's the "don't touch this except for emergencies and save until you are old" money. And of course, I'm trying to rationalize new modules that I want as "emergencies".

The Cyndustries Sawtooth Animator is the newest item to the WANT BAD list. This comes in right after the Livewire AFG...I have wet dreams of what the two sound like together. Previously, this was only available in the Cyndustries usual Modcan A format and I had seriously contemplated starting a small satellite system in that format simply so I could have the Sawtooth Animator. Well, now it's coming to Eurorack and Frac formats!!! Muff and Matrix have already got the jump on it. You must check out the audio demos here.

Aside from making me extremely excited, it also makes me a tad bit depressed that I'll either have to wait to have it, or be poor for a while. Back-alley sexual favors for modules is most definitely out of the question.

Joystick Proto - very early

So this weekend I finally dragged my ass down to Radio Shack and picked up a few necessary parts (protoboard, alligator clips, voltage regulator, etc) to start working on my little joystick controller.

Because I'm an idiot, it took me about 2 hours to do what should have taken about 5 minutes. I didn't fully understand the whole two hemispheres of the protoboard and this caused me to burn up 2 LEDs (2 *overpriced* LEDs I might add) as well as not get the voltage regulator working. Once I finally understood that, I succeeded in almost burning up one of the axis pots of the joystick. See, I didn't (don't, actually) understand the whole "shit's gotta be goin back to ground" principle and I have ~5V just sitting there in the joystick's pot. :P

Anyway, by the end of the sitting, I had a working prototype which is what you see in the picture above. And I did had a few hours of fun hooking it up with the modular and I'm really excited about getting it done. In addition to the one joystick pictured, they'll be a second joystick (without it's retention springs removed) and a handful of trigger/gate buttons. This weekend I hope to find a nice enclosure and start soldering stuff together. Of course, I'll document the rest of the process as much as I can.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Sunday, November 18, 2007


So I'm the processes of trying to narrow down what modules that I will keep in a single Doepfer A100P suitcase as a "portable" system; the rest will go into a custom case which I am about to start working on.

I started this decision processed basing the results purely on space, but pretty soon that became too difficult and I figured it would be best to just start taking notes on what modules I use most when making patches. One of the more interesting patches I happened on was this one, which I named, ZombieThunder. It sounded like thunder and something I would have heard in a zombie movie soundtrack.

Of course, I took notes on what modules I used, but I didn't on exactly how they were patched...I'm describing it from memory here....

Plan B Model 15 sine is main sound source
Dalek Modulator sine wave was FM'ing the Plan B Model 15
Dalek Modulator other sine wave was FM'ing the FrequenSteiner (LP mode)
Plan B Model 24 stepped voltage (smoothed through Livewire Dual Bissell) was controlling pitch of Model 15
Plan B Model 24 smooth voltage was controlling the 2nd sine wave freq on the Dalek (the one FM'ing the filter).
Livewire Vulcan Max out was also modulating the Filter (although much more slowly).
Plan B Model 10 in LFO mode was opening up the main VCA.


Livewire Dalek Modulator Demo

This is a demo I have been looking forward too for a while. The Dalek is one of my fav modules because it is so useful, not only as a tone source, but as a modulation source; the latter I use the most frequently.

I tried to showcase it "on it's own" as much as possible since all the other video demos I have done so far have feature the Dalek in some shape or form. So without further's the Livewire Dalek Modulator.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Trash Audio Studio Tour

After being sick last weekend and busy all week (and saturday with a mastering project) I finally got around to making a video tour for my upcoming Workspace and Environment interview on Trash_Audio. It was Surachai's idea to make a video and it came out better than I expected.

Rather than narrate this one, I thought I'd give you all a break from my voice and instead write a quick piece as the sound track. And, it made sense to use the stuff being shown in the video.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Wishlist

I don't think I've posted a "wishlist" yet. I know I've mentioned modules that were "in the pipe" for purchase, but that isn't quite the same here' goes:

1) Livewire Audio Frequency Generator (AFG! it here yet?! Is it here?!)
2) Plan B Model 9 Mixer/Atten. <- this is a rad module...simple and effective and multipurpose. And cheap!
3) The Harvestman 1973 Tyme Sefari <- I've been excited about this one for a while, but now that it's getting farther along, I can't wait. I might be more anxious to get this than the AFG.
4) Livewire Chaos Computer <- who knows when this thing will ship...but when it does, I want it.
5) Plan B Model 14 Voltage Processor <- So much more than just a mixer, this thing is a full on voltage tweaker; a must have if you have many modulation sources.
6) The Harvestman 1986 Zorlon Canon <- Another Harvestman that I'm getting more excited about as it nears shipping. The pitched noise sounds like it will be very cool, but I'm fantasizing about using the various gates to drive the Chaos Computer
7) Plan B Model 21 Milton Grande <- An evasive beast like the Chaos Computer, but this is the only sequencer that I've seen that really makes me want to get a sequencer. Once it's released and cash is plentiful, it will be mine.

I'll list the filters separate because I like having several different filters to choose from, but I don't want more filters as bad as some of the above modules. Maybe that's a good testament to how pleased I am with the Livewire Frequensteiner. ;)
1) Plan B Model 11 Evil Twin <- I love bandpass filters, but I tend to like to get filters which have more than one mode. Based on the sound demos though, this bad boy is the exception.
2) The Harvestman 1982 Polivoks VCF <- A fresh off the assembly line release and it's a brilliant idea; and it's a dead-on reproduction, even using Russian ICs and not US counterparts. It was also developed with the help of the Polivok's original designer. Based on what I've heard of the Polivoks, this thing is mean as hell. It also has simultaneous Lowpass and Bandpass outputs. Actually...this guy will probably bump the Model 11 out of the number one demos will be final judge.
3) Cwejman DMF-2 <- If my thirst for filters isn't quenched by both the Harvestman and the Model 11 (and the Metasonix TM-6 and the Frostwave Resonator) then I will have to pick this guy up. I've been told that the Cwejman's don't have the character that I usually go for in a filter, but a "matched" stereo set would be a little too much to pass up...I love stereo filtering.

Well, that's the list. For now anyway. I only hope the bank account can survive it all.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Livewire Dual Bissell Generator Demo

As promised, it's a two for one weekend ;) Here is the video demo of the Livewire Dual Bissell Generator. A simple module, but one of my favorite "tweaking" ones.


Plan B Model 10 Demo

Man, I was really off my game today. Tripping over my own words and loosing my train of thought mid sentence. Thank god for video editing. I almost thought of keeping a gag reel, but it takes up so much HDD space.

With that said, I proudly present the Plan B Model 10 video demo.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Controller Quest

So in the process of mulling over this idea of making a custom Eurorack case, I finally decided that I do want to keep one of the Doepfer suitcases with a select few modules as a "performance" system; everything else would go into the custom made case. Hell, I might not even make the custom case and just get that Plan B case that was announced a while back...either way, I'm keeping one Doepfer suitcase as the "performance" system.

So that got me thinking about a controller for it. I don't want to have to use the Doepfer A-190 MIDI to CV converter as that will take up valuable space. I'd also like to have a unique (and better) controller than a shitty little MIDI controller. It's also a perfect opportunity for me to build something myself.

So my first thought was something with a joystick. I had wanted to get one of the Doepfer A-174 Joystick modules, but it always seemed like it would be taking up valuable space. Well, it turns out you can get the bare joysticks from Doepfer, and rigging them up as 0-5v+ attenuators seems relatively simple. Apparently they also come spring loaded (so the stick is always in the center). You can easily tear the springs out and make them free floating as well. Ripping the springs out is irreversible, however, so I thought of getting two joysticks, ripping the springs out of one, and adding a couple of buttons for triggers. Maybe lay it out similar to an old arcade game; I could probably even find the same style buttons. Perfect, this is simple, unique, and in theory, easy for me to put together. got me to thinking that, at some point, I will undoubtedly need to play something at standard pitches. So I revamped my design...keep the two joysticks, add a 2 octave keyboard, and maybe keep the trigger buttons if necessary (I could always use a keyboard key to trigger). Probably even add mults, and possibly even VCAs directly on the controller rather than take up more of that valuable space in the suitcase.

Well, I can't really find a definitive schematic or anything for taking a regular keyboard (like a fatar replacement, or even ripping the one out of my cheapo m-audio oxygen 8) and converting that to CV.

Does anyone have any leads on making your own CV keyboard? I spent a while googling around, and aside from this item on musicfromouterspace (which might not even be the right thing) I can't find anything.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


The comments (mainly Zerosum's) on the last Thingamagoop post got me thinking about demoing one application of the Thingamagoop. I was initially thinking of video ideas, but as I was playing around I got to jamming with it and it was too fun not to capture.

There is some modular processing applied:
The Thingamagoop (Ghost of Robot TB1X model, although that doesn't really matter) was plugged into the Doepfer A-119 Envelope Follower into the Ext. In of the Dalek Modulator. Ring Out of the Dalek into the Frequensteiner in bandpass mode, through the Doepfer VCA and then finally into the Moog MF-104 delay. There's some slight slow modulation of the Frequensteiner by the Vulcan Modulator and a touch of filter FM from the Plan B Model 15, the amount of which is being randomly controlled by the Dual Cyclotron.

Where the trick comes in is that I have the Threshold on the Envelope Follower set so that when I have my finger over the Thingamagoop's nose (blocking it's photocell), there is no gate output (and therefore no output from the Thingamagoop+modular). So I'm able to mute the sound just by putting my finger over the photocell.

Now, the modular processing imparts only a little bit of character; 90% of what you hear is the Thingamagoop and me flipping it's switches and playing with the LFO speed. It's pretty much impossible to pick out exactly when the FM of the Frequensteiner happens and the Ring Modulation is not that aggressive. I could have easily just run the Thingamagoop into the delay, but the modular added a nice character.

The left most switch on the Thingamagoop selects the "gate mode". Up is a square wave gate, controlled by the LFO speed. Down is no gate at all. It's pretty easy to hear when I switch back and forth. The right most switch is the pitch range. Down is low range, and up is high. You can hear me switch this a few times, in particular there are a few times where I simultaneously switch the gating off and the pitch to the high range...moving your finger over the photocell in this configuration leads to some really cool modulated tibres (which you'll hear). Adjusting the proximity of the "LEDicle" to the photocell of course also changes the pitch and the amount of modulation; I'm moving that back in forth in front of the photocell as well.
I'm able to do this all with the Thingamagoop cradled in both left thumb over the photocell, right hand fingers moving the LEDicle and switches and my right palm, and sometimes fingers, moving the LFO knob.

All in all, it's really fun to perform and improve with like this! :D

A simple Machinedrum pattern was used for some rhythm (no modular involvement there).

Enjoy, and please comment.

Latest poll...the winner is...

The Plan B Model 10 Poly EG!

Unfortunately, because I have family visiting this weekend, I won't have time to make a video.

However, because the Livewire Dual Bissell was leading the poll in the beginning and finished in a close second, I will do two videos next weekend! One of the Model 10 and one of the Dual Bissell.

So look forward to those for next weekend.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Ghost of Robot TB1X

I already had one Thingamagoop, but when I saw the special Halloween editions, I couldn't help myself.

Not only do I now have a special edition Thingamagoop, but I now have a different sounding one. Yes, they sound different and compliment each other quite nicely. I've had a lot of fun so far making each one self modulate the other.

I'll probably draw the line at 2...unless more special editions come along. I'm a bit of a sucker for special editions.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Plan B Model 15 Arrives

The Model 15 Arrives!!! My first oscillator that can track 1v/Oct. Color me ecstatic.

First off, let me say how bad ass Analogue Haven is. Shawn and Chuck and everyone there are the most incredible and nicest guys. I have always had a warm fuzzy feeling inside after giving them money; and it wasn't just because that meant gear was coming my way. If you are not currently giving them money, you should be. Shawn, you are the man!

Ok, so I've only played with it for a few hours last night, so the following is early impressions.

PWM. I see what people are griping about now. The "usable" pulse width range on the knob is pretty small. It's like from 10 - 2 o'clock on the knob, any further on the knob and the sound cuts out, presumably from the pulse being so small. HOWEVER, I completely see why Peter kept this feature. The sound that it makes as the pulse goes from really thin to kate moss thin sounds REALLY cool! It reminds me a bit of some of the sounds that Metasonix modules can make with the right knob settings. I think this feature of the Model 15 is very cool and really makes it stand out of the crowd. It's not your standard PWM, and I really like that. Personally, it would be nicer if it was spread out on the range of the knob a little more, like say 8 - 4 oclock. I don't mind the "dead" spots, just wish they were smaller.

Sync. I particularly like this Sync sound. I know people have complained it's not hard sync, but it has a unique character that is a nice timbral alternative. I have similar feeling towards it as I do the unique PWM; it's not the "standard" sound, but I like it. If you need the "standard" sound, get another VCO and now you have double the possibilities. Or for those who need to have a module that does everything; the Model 15A Expander sounds like it will clear up people's grips with PWM and Sync.

Waveforms. Holy waveshaping batman, these waveforms sound awesome! Granted, I don't have a lot of experience with the various available modular format oscillators, but I have played a lot of both analog and digital synths and I must say that this has the coolest sounding triangle wave I've ever heard. Normally, I hate triangle waves. To me they always sounded overly dull, almost as if something was not working correctly. It was like the inbred cousin of the sine and saw waves. In fact, I only listened to the triangle wave in this case because I accidentally plugged it in when I wanted to hear the sawtooth! Lucky me! Maybe the reason it has such a nice triangle is because it's the core waveform for the VCO. I don't know for sure, I just know I like it!
The sine wave is also incredible. It's very clean and loud, with the slightest touch of character. The sawtooth is still my favorite though. It's very "woody" and "organic" sounding. It pairs up perfectly with the Model 13 low pass gates for beautiful pluck sounds.

Bipolar Attenuators. I love bipolar attenuators. Love them. The only gripe I have about them is that very few modules (none actually to my knowledge) have knobs with detents at 0. This makes it very hard to actually have full attenuation (aka "0"), it's always a little positive or a little negative. This is especially true on the Model 15's Freq CV inputs because they are so sensitive. It's pretty difficult to actually have a CV patched in and have the knob set to 0; not without extremely gentle tweaking. You're not going to be able to turn it up during a performance and get it back to where it was very easily. This isn't really a problem with the Model 15 itself per se, more of a general problem with bipolar attenuators with non-detented knobs. And furthermore, maybe it's just me who gets a little bugged by this.

Morph Output. Man this is cool! I really dig the Sine - Saw morph, it's like another flavor of a PWM sound, but more unique sounding. Blending this output with the sawtooth outputs leads to some cool timbres; likewise doing Sine - Square and combining that with the square wave out. Audio rate modulation enhances this. Use of an envelop makes for a very cool "evolving sound".

Overall, this gets a glowing review from me. 2 thumbs up, if I had a third hand, I have that thumb up too. :D

I do plan on making a video demo, however, I want to spend more time with the module so that I really know it well before doing the demo. I'll also see about getting a loaner 15A Expander so that can be included in the demo since I bet a lot of people are going to want to see that as well.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hardware Hacking

I've always been interested in electronics and how they work, but whenever I would decide to actually try and learn about schematics or whatever, the particular information source was always too "clinical" or assumed that I knew more basic fundamentals than did. Long story short, I always walked away going "ahhh, fuck it".

Since getting interested in modular synthesis I've been able to understand some of the more abstract fundamentals and concepts to general electronics. Also, through the brain-picking of colleagues I've been able to have a general idea of what resisters did, what capacitors did, etc. I still wasn't able to actually look at a schematic and understand what it was.

So I had been looking for ultimate beginners books that went about teaching through application; ie. making something, not just explaining everything like a spec sheet.
At AH Bay Area, I won a copy of the "Best of Analog Dialog" book which was a compilation of various application examples using Analog Devices ICs. I thought I finally had exactly what I was looking for... But, my heart sank when I started to dive into it and once again was saying to myself, "ahhh, fuck it".

Fast forward to the most recent TapeOp (no. 61 Sept/Oct 2007) and an interview with Nicolas Collins. Nicolas Collins is an "electronic musician" and teacher at The School of the Art Institute in Chicago. His book, Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking, is essentially based on his course of creating, modifying, and otherwise "abusing" electronic devices in order to make sound. Basically, it's like old school circuit bending (it's not exclusive to electronic toys) with a healthy dose of circuit design.

I must say, this book is absolutely brilliant. It's not written like a typical course book (in fact I wouldn't have known it was based on course material had I not actually read the intro) and it does not delve into great deal about general electronics or "engineering", it just gets right into actually making something.

Some fantastic examples are wiring up tape heads from cassette recorders or answering machines and swiping them over credit cards. Or making a piezo microphone and dipping it in "Plasti-Dip" (a plastic normally used to coat hand tools) so that it is water proof and usable to record under water, or even the sound of water freezing / ice melting!

By far my favorite part (thus far, I haven't even gotten half way through) was using a cheap CMOS inverter chip to create several square wave oscillators. He didn't actually explain schematics until you had a working circuit on a breadboard (with actual photos). I can now actually say that I understand many aspects of schematics now thanks to this. The way he will show you a modification to the circuit (swapping a resister for a potentiometer) with a real picture and then with the schematic representation made prefect sense and allowed me to better understand what the schematic meant. A picture is worth a thousand words, after all.

So anyway, long post short, go by this book. It's awesome. I already have several ideas for cool little instruments that I want to make, AND thanks to this book I feel like I can actually make them. Thank you Nicolas Collins!!!

Now I might actually understand what that Analog Dialog book is talking about after all. :D

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Recent pictures of the modular

It's hard to believe, but I haven't actually taken a picture of the modules all racked up before! :/

So here it is, in all it's glory. You'll no doubt notice these somewhat strategically placed holes. From top to bottom, left to right, they will be filled as follows:

Livewire Chaos Computer (not yet released)
Livewire Vulcan Expansion selector thingy (not yet released)
Plan B Model 14 Voltage Processor
Livewire Audio Frequency Generator (aka 'AFG', not yet released)
Plan B Model 15 Complex VCO (ordered and in transit)

Pretty different than the original "mock up" images from way back when. I hadn't even really planned a 2nd case at that point and now I'm already debating how I'm going to handle further expansion. Muff was right, it truly never ends.

Oh, coincidentally, this shot is of the patch I posted about last night; DalekInvasion. Kinda hard to see cause the shot was taken with my phone, but might help if any of you were having a hard time visualizing what I was explaining.

Monday, October 08, 2007


This track is more interesting as far as the patch goes than it actually sounds, but I wanted to share anyway...

The main sound source is one square wave oscillator from the Dalek Modulator. It's pitch modulation comes from two sources:

The first is the "stepped" output of the Model 24 Heisenberg, which is paced by one square wave LFO from the Vulcan Modulator, and fed through one half of a Livewire Dual Bissell Generator (slew limiter).

The second source is the other square wave oscillator from the Dalek Modulator, set in Low range and run through the other half of the Dual Bissell Generator. The rate of this oscillator is modulated by the other square wave LFO from the Vulcan Modulator.

Both of these sources are then fed into a Doepfer A-150 Dual Voltage Controlled Switch (only using one of the switches). The switch is controlled by the Model 28 Tap Clock. Every time the quarter note gate is output, it causes the A-150 switch to change from using the first modulation source to using the second. So what you are hearing is the two modulation sources "trading off" every quarter note.

Beyond that, the "main output" of the Dual Cyclotron is modulating the filter cutoff. The Dual Cyclotron has become my favorite filter modulation source. There's something very organic and chaotic about it's modulation and that leads to some very cool timbres when used to modulate a filter (sparingly of course).

Finally, the output of the modular is going into a Moog MF-104 Analog Delay, with the Moog MF-102 Ring Modulator patched into the feedback loop. If you listen carefully, you can hear the delay repeats slowly get more "spacey" sounding. In some cases, it sounds like is almost slowly starting to play in reverse.


Clock divider "always on" trick

So I thought of also adding a category covering "tips and tricks" as I find them. Hopefully you all find them useful. Obviously some will be specific to certain modules, but hopefully some, like this one, will work probably work for any brand of similar functioning module.

I found that with the Doepfer A-160 Clock Divider, when it's powered on without a trigger source, several of the outputs will be "on", sending out a positive gate signal.

When I'm working on patches, a lot of time I want the main amp VCA to be open all the time until I get a patch to where I want it. Until recently, I would patch the output of the filter directly to the mixer, but this was usually more effort since the volume of the signal from the filter might be too loud, or I would have to re-patch a few things when it came time to use the VCA (and then re-adjust gain levels).

Now that I've discovered that the Clock Divider will output a constant "on" for several outputs, I just patch one of those directly to the gate input on the envelope controlling the main amp VCA. Then, once it's time to "play" the patch, I can just un-patch the cable from the Clock Divider into the Gate output from the keyboard and I'm ready to roll.


The new look...and polls!

As you may have noticed, I took the time yesterday to update to the newer post-google Blogger templates. I mainly wanted to do this to try out adds (I'm not selling out or anything, I'm just curious on how much, if any, money that might bring in), but also mainly to add a Poll.

The first poll is in regards to the next demo video, it's on the right-hand side of the main page. Please vote so I can get a general idea of what you guys want to see next in terms of modules.

Thanks everyone!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Vulcan Modulator Demo

I feel like a right ass for not posting in so long. Work has been a bit busy and beyond that I've just been too lazy for my own good.

In effort to make amends, I bring you the Livewire Vulcan Modulator demo.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Busy weekend, no synth fun

This weekend (and week actually) has been usually busy and I unfortunately do not have time to work on a new video. In fact I still haven't unpacked my rig since AH Bay Area last weekend :(

I did get around to playing with the Boss DS-1 that I won in the raffle; I forgot how cool those are. I guess I've become a bit jaded, not expecting a $40 pedal to be that good.

Speaking of AH Bay Area, the idea of putting together some kind of touch controller for the modular has constantly been on my mind since then. Ive wanted a Haken Continuum for a few years now but as I invest more and more money into modules, the price of a Continuum becomes harder and harder to swallow. That being said, I'd love to have some kind of Buchla-like touch controller. The best idea I've thought of is a 2 octave arrangement of short ribbon controllers arranged like keys of a standard kwyboard. That way you have some control fo up/down as well as pitch and trigger. Maybe even add a long ribbon along the bottom for a third control source; could be utilized by your thumb while your fingers are on the ribbon "keys".

What do you guys think?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Analogue Haven Bay Area 2007

AH BA was fucking awesome! I had *a lot* of fun and even managed to walk away with two raffle prizes; Best Of Analog Dialog magazine and a Boss DS-1 distortion (something I was planning on buying).

I also got to meet and talk to some really cool people. Eric from Metasonix was there, as was Paul Schreiber from MOTM. Dave Smith even showed up with a Prophet '08 which sounded sick and thick as hell. If anyone is in the market for a analog poly-synth, look no further than the Prophet '08! Zerosum also made the trip out and it was really cool to meet and hang out with him in real life. We need to do that again bro!

I was really pleased with the attention that my rig received; people generally thought it was pretty cool and a nice choice of modules. There were some *amazing* rigs there though. A huge Wiard system, Robert Rich's MOTM system, and Brandon Daniel's big Eurorack rig. There was also a big dot com system, I forgot that guys same (sorry to whoever you are). I was setup next to Chris Muir and his 200e rig; that was sweet!

All in all it was an awesome, awesome time; kudos to Gino and Brandon, and whoever else helped to organize the get together. Cheers guys, I can't wait until next year!

PS. I completely forgot to make use of the camera phone that was in my pocket the whole time, but there were a few folks there with still and video cameras, so I'm sure you'll be seeing coverage on Flickr + youTube soon.

From the AH list: Pictures from AHBA 2007.

There's a couple shots of me and my system on Page 2; just look for the Metasonix boxes ;)

Monday, September 03, 2007

Model 28 Video Demo

It's Labor Day, I have the day off, and nothing really to that demo!

This time it's the Plan B Model 28 Programmable Tap Clock, per request. I tried to make it somewhat brief, but I still can't seem to make it under the 5 min mark.


Addendum from Peter @ Plan B (via comments on Matrixsynth):

Regarding the separate START/STOP inputs:
Doing it with two inputs instead of one is a flashback from my Buchla days. My feeling it's better this way as you can if you wish use separate signals to start and stop the counting. This way you could for instance use a keyboard trigger to start it, which would also be used to start a sequencer and reset that seq to stage 1. Then you could use the gate output of let's say stage eight of that sequencer to stop the M28. This way you can get repeated eight beat phrases from the 28 which would begin on the depression of a keyboard. It would be much harder to do that with a single start/stop input.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Sad news

I just read about the passing of Daniel Hansson, co-founder of Elektron and designer of the SidStation, MachineDrum, and MonoMachine. He apparently died as a result of a car accident. He was only 33.

It's very odd, I was just thinking about making a post about my MachineDrum, which is an incredible piece of gear and one of my favorite items, prior to reading this.

My condolences go out to everyone @ Elektron and of course, Daniel's family.

I think a session with the MachineDrum tonight is required in memorial.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dual Cyclotron Video Demo

The camera will still all setup this morning, so I thought I'd churn out a quick demo for the Dual Cyclotron.

Turned out to be not so quick; it's slightly longer than the Model 24 demo.

There is a correction necessary. During the video I mention that we're listing to the sine wave output of the Dalek was actually the square wave. :p


Saturday, August 25, 2007


This patch came from a few tweaks to the final patch I did in the Model 24 video demo.

The Model 24 Stepped output is modulating the frequency of the Dalek Modulator's carrier oscillator. It turns out there is some cross-talk between the Carrier and Modulator oscillators if one of them is in High freq mode and the other is in Low; that's what's causing the vibrato that you hear. This vibrato frequency from the Modulator is being modulated in turn by the Dual Cyclotron.

The output of the Dalek is going through the Frequensteiner, which is being modulated by the MIN output of the Vulcan Modulator, making little filter sweeps.

The main VCA is being opened by a Model 10 EG, which is being triggered by the eight note output of the Model 28 Tap Clock. The Time-Base of the Attack and Decay is being modulated by the Smooth output of the Model 24. The End-of-Cycle trigger output of the Model 10 is triggering the next random voltage value on the Model 24.

What I find particularly cool about this patch is that a lot of it's characteristics are due to "quirky" behavior of a few of the modules. Specifically, the cross-talk between the two oscillators in the Dalek (causing the vibrato) as well as the fact that the Model 10 does not re-trigger until the Attack and Decay cycles have finished. It's because of this that the Model 10 is not being re-triggered on every eighth note pulse that comes out of the Model 28 Tap Clock. This, combined with the modulated Time-Based of the Attack and Decay, makes it sound very natural, almost as if someone were singing; holding some notes longer than others.



Model 24 Heisenberg Generator Demo

I finally got around to making another video demo...hopefully it won't be as long until the next one.


[update] I had to re-upload the video...the first video didn't have any audio...because I'm retarded and had it off in the export settings.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


This is a patch I did last night while using the Plan B Model 24 in a traditional S+H configuration. The sample voltage was coming from the Dual Cyclotron and the clock was from the 8th note output of the Model 28 Tap Clock; this S+H voltage is controlling the pitch of the carrier on the Dalek Modulator (the modulator is a slower smoothed square that tremolo effect). The 1/4 note output of the Model 28 is opening the master amplitude VCA, so in effect what you hear is two changes in pitch each time the VCA opens.

I think the Model 10 EG was used to sweep the filter too...I can't remember now that I took the patch apart :p


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Model 28 problem

When I got my Model 28, I noticed that the Select input didn't seem to be working correctly. At the time I figured the voltage I was putting into it wasn't the scale that it wanted and reminded myself to check it out later (I was trying to have fun after all, not debug stuff).

Well, it turns out there is something wrong with it. Peter posted to the yahoo group notifying us that the first 15 units shipped with a mis-programmed microprocessor which handles the switching of pulses based on the voltage in the Select input.

Basically those of us with these Model 28s have to send back the microprocessor for re-programming. Not a huge deal I guess. Hopefully I'll be able to still use the other functions of the Model 28 without it...but I'm kinda doubting that.

Click the link above to see the post on the Yahoo group.

Monday, August 06, 2007


I just wanted to post a correction on what I said about the Doepfer A-105 SSM LP filter in my last post. It doesn't use a Curtis (CEM) chip, but rather the SSM2044 (you would have thought that obvious huh?).

Anyway, it was used in the early Prophets as well as in the Mono/Poly (one of my faves), it's just not a Curtis chip. I had thought the Sequential stuff had always used the CEM chips, but that apparently wasn't until later.

If you click the product link above, you'll get the full rundown.

In other, yet related, news, I believe this is my new favorite filter, at least for LP. I certainly like it's character for traditional LP sounds more than the FrequenSteiner. I'm going to reserve final judgment until I have some saw waves to run through them both, but so far the SSM wins for LP sounds (the FrequenSteiner still has some of the meanest BP and HP sounds I've heard).

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

New modules and "The Sword"

Many delays in my posts due to a sequence of things:
1) HP Deathly Hallows released
2) My Birthday (26 now)
3) Family in town to visit

Of course, right there between 2 and 3 I got the final "big" shipment of Modules from Analogue Haven. I say "big" because it was more than 1 or 2 modules (8 to be exact) and will likely be the last shipment of such a quantity. I still have a couple more modules to purchase, so it's not the last of the orders...just the last of the "big" ones.

This order brought the Plan B Model 28 Tap Clock (fucking outstanding!), Plan B Model 10 Poly Env (super cool and a great alternative to regular EGs), Livewire Dalek Modulator (super sweet, and my first real oscillators, even if they don't track 1v/Oct), as well as some general Doepfer modules (A-138c Mixer, A-150 Voltage Control Switch, and A-160 Clock Divider). The final module, which I was overly surprised about was the Doepfer A-105 SSM LP Filter. This is basically a Curtis-based filter that is supposed to sound like the Prophet, Mono/Poly, anything that used a Curtis filter. I've never really experienced a Curtis filter before, so I didn't know exactly what it sounded like (it's always hard to tell how much a filter influences the character of a particular synth when it's built in), but it is really great sounding! The top end is nice and bitey without being harsh or gritty. It's a perfect complement to the FrequenSteiner! I'm really glad now that I decided to add a second filter, especially this one.

The Dalek Modulator is also very cool and I have really been enjoying having a real oscillator to play with. Gone are times of having to use the FrequenSteiner self-oscillate just to get an audio tone. The timbres that can come out of the Dalek are quite interesting and beyond what I expected, even with my experience with the Moog MF-102 ring mod. They certainly do each have their own sound. The fact that the ring mod section can be used independently of the oscillators is also very cool.

I know I'm incredibly behind on the video demos and I will get working on some very soon, but in the mean time, enjoy the following audio demo.

In this patch, the main "lead" sound is actually my guitar through an Effector-13 Soda Meiser with a fairly conservative setting being run through the Doepfer A-105 SSM LP filter which has it's cutoff frequency modulated by the Smooth output of the Plan B Heisenberg Generator. The signal is then run into a VCA being opened by an ADSR triggered at a 1/4 note (thanks to the Doepfer Clock divider and MIDI clock from MachineDrum)

Also running into that VCA (it has two audio inputs, each with atten) is the second audio source which is the Dalek Modulator Ring output. The Carrier is tuned to "E" and is not being modulated. The Modulator, however, is being fully modulated by a CV signal from the Livewire Dual Cycltron which is being attenuated through a VCA by the "Difference" output on the Vulcan Modulator. This is what is causing that rhythmic "shift" in timbre in the background.

The output of the modular+guitar then feeds into the Moog MF-104 analog delay with the Frostwave Resonator in the delay's feedback loop. This just gives the delay a more "tape" sound because each repeat gets a little more filtered and band-limited sounding. I was going to modulate this and get some dub-feedback stuff in there, but I got lazy.

The drums (and MIDI clock for the modular) are from the MachineDrum. Some of those sounds might be preset ones and others ones I programmed, but it's just a simple pattern. I really like the kick sound, it has a lot of attack so it's easy to hear on small speakers, but there is a lot of bass down on the bottom.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

VCAs fucking rule!

Pretty self explanatory I guess, but months ago, when I was asking my friend Brandon about modulars. and just general advice on what kinds of modules to check out, he said "you'll want several VCAs". At the time I thought, "ok well I'll get an exponential one for the audio and a linear one for CV and that's all I need." For whatever reason, I didn't remember using VCAs very much at all when I had the Nord G2 and I think that lead to my bias. Well I'm certainly glad that I accidentally ordered an extra linear VCA (actually dual linear VCA) because I can't get enough of them. It's becoming that every time I pause to think "ok how can I get ..." I can do it with a VCA somehow. And of course, anytime you wish you had a 3rd, 4th, etc hand to tweak some knob...all you need is a VCA. Fucking rad.

modulars are cool


Monday, July 16, 2007

what the frac!?

So I'm not even finished with my 2 case euro-rack modular and I already have seen some frac-rack format modules that "I absolutely must have".

Of course, once the euro-rack is finished, that might turn out to be a gross exaggeration, but as of right now that's where it stands. The modules also do not have a direct euro-rack equivalent, so that makes them all the more covet-worthy. Luckily I have not found more than 1 "frac rack" of modules that I would like, so I wouldn't be sinking a bunch of money into it like I have with the euro-rack. That's at least comforting as well as the fact that the rack/PSU for the frac format is *much* cheaper than it's euro-rack equivalent (although to be honest, looks more bulky and "janky" than the Doepfer cases).

The module that caught my eye the most was the Blacet Miniwave. Thanks to zerosum's many demos, it's the one that I'd happily buy the frac format case just to have this module. It's essentially a wave-rom lookup module but can achieve many things because of this. Quantizer, Oscillator, Fuzz, Wacky-ass-control-voltage-source, etc. There's also additional ROMs that can be purchases and each wave form is CV selectable in the bank. The only thing that comes close to this on euro that I know of is the Doepfer A-112 Wavetable Sampler/OSC and it doesn't seem anywhere near as versatile.

Secondly, the Blacet Binary Zone is a voltage pattern generator. It also has on-board lag processing and accepts internal clock. It makes some rad sounding control voltages and the only way that I can explain is it is to have you check out that product page and listen to the demos. I might be able to cook up something similar with several of my planned euro modules, but why not have one module that serves the same purpose. I love tempo-accurate random stuff so this is basically right up my alley.

The third module is the Wiard Noise Ring. This module is essentially a random voltage generator (ie sample + hold), however, it has logic to govern the frequency of drastic changes and how drastic the change is. Think of it as a more musical sample+hold. I think this would be a very interesting complement to my Plan B Model 24 (Heisenberg) as I consider it a very "musical" sample+hold.

There are also other interesting offerings particularly the Borg and Boogie filters from Wiard. These look cool and would certainly fill out the extra spaces of a frac chassis, but I'm most interested in the main three that I listed. I'm not one of those guys who needs every kind of variation of filter or oscillator, but I don't think I can pass up the unique functionality of the MiniWave, Binary Zone, and the Noise Ring. I also *REALLY* like the Wiard Woggle Bug, but that is not made in the frac format. As much as I want one, I can't justify investing in a 3rd format just for that...sure there are other rad 300 modules, but I'll just be carried away to the poor house; albeit with a fine soundtrack ;)

Either way, it's a long way out...both in time and money.

Monday, July 02, 2007

ah, sweet edification

I've been spending spare minutes with these new modules every chance I get and two in particular had me stumped on their internal operation. It's funny that I would discover the mystery of these two on the same day, both by accident.

The Plan B Heisenberg Generator and the Livewire Dual Cyclotron have been the proverbial enigma for me; the Dual Cyclotron particularly more than the Heisenberg. The Heisenberg I actually had pretty well figured out except for the relationship between the two "halves"; particularly the "Chaos" knob on the smoothed output half. The Dual Cyclotron I had basically no solid idea on...I mean, I kinda did, I could obviously hear how things changed, but I had no idea specifically what the various knobs actually did. Just turing knobs blindly is fun, but eventually you want to know what you're certainly makes recalling a cool sound a lot easier.

As I said, the Hesienberg wasn't that much of a mystery. The various knobs all have specific names which are very descriptive of their function. Mean, Deviation, CV control of these, etc. However, what I was confused about was the Chaos control, which, based on it's location, solely effected the Smooth (slew limited) random output half. What seemed very odd was that with Chaos set to 0, the Smooth output voltage did not seem to change at all; with the Chaos up high (2 o'clock +) the output voltage would be very erratic, "Chaos" even. ;)

Still, I couldn't tell exactly what it was doing. It seemed like Chaos controlled additional modulation of the sample and hold already clocked by the "Meter" knob at the bottom of the module, but then again, sometimes changing the "Meter" knob did not seem to alter the Smoothed output. Until today, I just chalked this behavior up to an "endearing quirkiness" of the module. While showing the product page to a colleague at work, I noticed a link to a block diagram of the module and how it integrates its Atmel 2051 Micro Controller. Of the 20 or so times I had studied this page before I bought the module, I never noticed this. It clearly indicates that the "Chaos" knob is the control for the LFO/Clock controlling the sample and hold for the Smooth output. It's basically the "Meter" knob's equivalent on the Smooth output half. Simple. :P

The Dual Cyclotron, however, was much more elusive. It has virtually no documentation, er, actually no documentation. The creative description of the module as a design taken from the Roswell spaceship crash wreckage is cute and adds some general character to the coolness of the thing, but it's far from helpful on indicating how the hell it does the cool shit it does.

As far as I got to figuring thing out was that there are 3 separate oscillators, two identical ones (presumably the "cyclotrons" and a 3rd oscillator which seemed to be the primary voltage output source. All 3 had "Symmetry" controls, just like the Vulcan Modulator, so I figured they did the same as on the Vulcan which is shift the positive peak of the waveform to either side of the center Y axis (like a pulse width, but for any waveform). It sounded like it did that too. The two cyclotrons each had speed range controls (selectable knob for "Stretched, Normal, and Compressed") and the main oscillator had a switch for LF (low freq) and AF (audio freq). Everything else I only had a vague idea on, and as I found out today, almost the completely wrong idea.

No less than 10 minutes after discovering the block diagram for the Heisenberg, I'm in the bathroom and notice an old copy of Electronic Musician which had a feature on analog modular synths by Gino Robair (June 2006). I had read this article before, but it was certainly more interesting than the dozen other articles in the magazines I have read multiple times in the bathroom. Low and behold, what do I find but a perfect and simple description of what each control on the Dual Cyclotron does!

It's a lot of info, and I understand the module a lot more now, so I want to save it for the video demo. Now I'm confident it's gonna be a good one. :D

Thursday, June 28, 2007


This is how behind I am on updates; the FrequenSteiner actually showed up last Wednesday.

It's an AWESOME filter! The sound is very edgy and has a lot of presence to it. The bandpass and hipass filters in particular can have that nice rip-your-face-off tone to them. The lowpass is very meaty sounding; not moog-like. I can't quite explain the difference exactly, but I think this is going to sound absolutely bad ass with some PWM going into it. The input control doesn't drive as much as I thought it would, but then again, it might be the source signal I'm using. The Moog MF-102 is still dealing duties as the oscillator. I've incorporated the TM-1 after it to give some harmonics to the signal.

Speaking of the oscillator, I've decided to change my mind on getting 2 of the Livewire OSCs. I'm going to get one of the Plan B model 15s (as was my original intention before I learned about the Livewire) as well as the Livewire OSC whenever that gets released. This way I can have a oscillator sooner than later, and I have the two different tonal possibilities between the Livewire and PlanB.

In addition to being behind here, I'm still behind on video demos of all the new modules. I'd like to wait until I pickup the oscilloscope as I feel that will make the demos a lot better, particularly when showing off the min/max/sum/difference capabilities of the Vulcan Modulator as well as what goes on with Dual Cyclotron...something still don't understand myself.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

So, about that sequencer...

Ok, so I'll assume you're sitting down (as that is the position 99% of people are in when using the computer), but if you are that 1%, sit down. K, ready? ...

I don't want a sequencer.

Alright, now that the shock has hopefully worn off, I will explain. There are good reasons of course:

1) I've never really liked using a sequencer. Beginning with my first experiences with Reason (and it's pattern sequencer), then again with Reaktor and the Nord G2, I've always had, what I felt to be, poor results with the amount of time I've spent tweaking with them; in the end, I just wasn't pleased with the results I got from using a sequencer. The one exception might be the sequencer on the ARP 2600 (plug-in version; I've never had the pleasure of playing a real one). I did rather like the sound of it controlling the filter cutoff and having it start/stop on key press.

2) I don't like programming melody/lead/bass/etc lines with sequencers. While there are several small reasons for this, it all comes down to my preference to not use them for such a task. I would rather play the lick manually; I could certainly use the practice. This means I would simply be using the sequencer as a modulation source for something else (filter, PWM, etc). A bit overkill for the cost (and space used) of a sequencer. Especially when I have already have quite a few, and more complex, modulation sources. Plus, you can only do that kind of patch so many times before you get completely sick of it

3) I am more interested in controlling when an "event" occurs rather than what that event is (voltage). Yes sequencers do both of course, however, most of the features of sequencers are aimed at control of the "what" and not so much of the "when". For example, there are no modular sequencers that I found (especially for my chosen eurorack format) that have the ability to have different tempo/step divisions of sequencer's 'lines'. Take the Plan B Milton (the one I had my eyes on); it has 4 individual 'lines', however, there is no way to have one line clock at a quarter note, another at a 16th note, and another at 8th note triplets. This is probably my biggest gripe with get what I want out of one, would really require buying several.

4) The sequencer I want, the aforementioned Plan B Milton, is not available (despite info on the Plan B site saying it will be ready for sale by June 2006). This is probably the most trivial, although certainly most practical, of my reasons. The sequencer that I really want isn't even available, and there's no telling when it might be.

5) Space. This was included in part of #2, but it bears repeating. The eurorack cases are expensive and I have already filled up 2 of them. I want this system to be simple and portable since I plan to perform with it and want the most versatility in as small of a package as possible. The sequencer comes close to taking up half of one case...actually more like a 1/3 of one case...and that's space that I most definitely could use.

So, in summary:

I don't really like using sequencers, or at least, based on past experience, I don't care for them as much as most do. I also would only be using it for modulation since I do not like programming melodies with it. This reduces the amount that it would be used regularly, and it takes up a lot of space relative to other modules. Most importantly, however, it does not accomplish what I really want. As I discussed in number 3, I am really much more concerned about rhythmic placement of events (and my flexibility in this placement) than I am about what those events actually are. A sequencer would not necessarily give me this freedom since I basically get one single rhythmic pattern. Maybe if #3 did not exist, this might be a whole different situation altogether.

I do have a solution though. The Plan B model 28 Programmable Tap Clock is the exact module that I'm looking for, and is why I have been so excited about the module since it's announcement. This gives me exactly what I want; the ability to have simultaneous independent timing of events. One top of that, it even has the ability to have separate voltage control for accents and when they occur. This, combined with my current modulation sources (and VCAs), will give me that rhythmic sonic control that I'm looking for. Plus, the fact that this, combined with not getting a sequencer, will save so much space that I have room for other modules, which I passed on much earlier in my planning. I would even have space for a second model 28; I'm still contemplating that one though.

All in all, I'm very pleased with my decision. It's not like I would never get a sequencer, one day when the Milton (or some other one that take my fancy more) is released then I might, but for now, I'm not interested. :)

Begin with the comments!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

My favorite thing about modulars

My favorite thing about playing with modular synths, wether they are analog or virtual (Reaktor, Nord G2, etc), is when you are sitting there with a patch and you think...

"I wish I could do..."

And then moments later realize...

"Whoa, wait, I CAN do that!"

What a joyous feeling.

As much as I love the Voyager, I hadn't had those moments very often since it had become my main (and really only) synth. Now that the modular is shaping up, I've very glad it's back.

.:end sappiness:.

What I do need though, is an oscilloscope. Just patching into a sine wave tone to try and hear exactly what the voltage waveform looks like isn't cutting it anymore. I don't think I'll be able to figure out exactly what the Dual Cyclotron is doing without one. I'll be hunting eBay the next few weeks for a good deal. Thankfully, it looks like their are plenty.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


Like I said, I couldn't resist the AH 2 year anniversary sale. Unfortunately, there were some items out of stock by the time I placed my order (Plan B Poly Envs, Livewire FrequenSteiner, Doepfer 138c Mixer) but I got everything else. Not pictured is the second Doepfer A-100P case which I also picked up (their last one in stock apparently). I'll get youTube demos up as soon as I can, but probably won't start on them until next weekend at the earliest. I'm still getting used to all of them and have to catch up @ work after being away on vacation.

I will say that I am immediately impressed by the Livewire Vulcan Modulator, Dual Cyclotron, and the Dual Bissel Generator. The Dual Bissel Generator in particular with it's linear/exponential adjustments is very interesting. I haven't even started to mess with the various jumpers on the Vulcan...

I'm already fiending for an oscillator.

Oh yeah, and the blue LEDs on the Vulcan and Dual Cyclotron are way too bright. It really does hurt your eyes when you look at them like I have heard people mention. I'm going to try and see if my wife has some kind of translucent nail polish or something I can smear over it to diffuse the brightness. The scotch tape approach is too ghetto for me.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Of Marriage and Modules

I got married on Saturday!! :D

Easily one of (if not *the*) happiest days of my life. The second happiest would no doubt be the day after when my new wife said it would be ok to use some of our wedding gift money to order some modules and take advantage of the Analogue Haven 2 year anniversary sale!

So, I pretty much bought everything left on my list that was currently available to purchase (Livewire osc, Plan B Milton + Model 28 not available yet...and the Frequensteiner was out of stock).

Livewire Dual Bissell Generator
Livewire Vulcan Modulator
Livewire Dual Cyclotron
Plan B Heisenberg Generator
Plan B Polyphonic Envelope - x2
Doepfer A-100P Portable Case (2nd case)
Doepfer A-119 Envelope Follower
Doepfer A-131 VCA
Doepfer A-151 Quad Seq. Switch
Doepfer A-175 Dual Voltage Inverter
Doepfer A-177 Ext. Foot Controller
Doepfer A-180 Multiples - x2
Doepfer A-181 Multiples 2
Doepfer A-183c Polarizing Mixer


The Voyager will be going up for sale though. The money for the modules is more like a loan for the time being...apparently we eventually *need* furniture ;)

PS. I updated the Today's wild patch post with the audio sample, embedded from Twango. Big thanks to Matrix for pointing me to Twango.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sad news...

No new modules this month :(

I ended up spending a little more money this month (and part of last) and don't have the spare cash to order this month's round of modules.

I did, however, pickup a UA 2-610 which I am very stoked on. This was the main reason for the $$$ shortage.

I plan on picking up again in June. I'll be going on vacation and when I come back, orders will be placed.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Voyager setting sail?

I'm seriously considering selling my Voyager once I come closer to wrapping up what I've planned for the modular synth.

It's not that I don't like the Voyager anymore, that's very much not the case, but it is a 'players' instrument and I am most certainly not a 'player', at least in the keyboard sense.

Also, while it is quite capable as far as sound design goes (and incredibly easy to use), it will pale in this aspect compared to what the modular will be capable of. Part of the reason I even started to build the modular was because I was getting frustrated by limitations that the Voyager has. I know that a lot of extra stuff can be done within the Voyager's software...but to be completely honest, I don't want to pay that much for a killer analog synth and have to dick around with software (especially when the settings are patch specific).

I'm torn though, because it feels so great (keyboard action, knobs, switches, wheels, etc) and it sounds so great.

But it's not very portable (it's heavy and a bit awkward in footprint), and I wouldn't really feel that comfortable gigging with it...I would literally cry if that beautiful wood got a serious ding in it.

And of course, it does cost a pretty penny or that I would happily use toward the modular.

...all in all, I'm still torn...looking for your opinions...thanks.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Plan B Model 28 Programmable Clock

From the Plan B site [and Matrixsynth]:
Shipping in early June, 2007, the Plan B Model 28 Programmable Tap Clock is the second computer-based product in the Plan B line and addresses the need for an accurate tap input-based timing clock for analog synthesizers. Along with the quarter note base duration, the M28 provides separate eighth note tuplet and eighth note triplet outputs and a single SERIAL OUTPUT which allows the user to construct polyrythmic combinations of the three note values, determined by a voltage level present at the SELECT input. For more information and complete functional description click here

This thing is SO cool. Not only is exactly like something I was looking for (or hoping to achieve with the MIDI-CV clock and Plan B sequencer), but it also fills out the last 12HP that I hadn't decided on for the second case.

I'm so stoked on this unit, I can't wait...even though I won't actually be getting it until the first case is done :(

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Today's wild patch

Too cool to not snap a photo of.

[Updated]:Here's the audio sample, embedded via Twango. Big thanks to Matrix for pointing me to Twango.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

New model 15 from Plan B

News from Plan B:
The Plan B Model 15 Rev.2 will begin shipping on May 6, 2007. The circuit is identical to previous releases with the addition of a new connector to support the 15A Expander. This is the only circuit change. To facilitate this the PCB had to be redesigned and while we were at it we reconfigured that assembly to mount parallel to the faceplate, taking the overall depth of the module from 4.25 inches to just over 1 inch thick. click for photo.

The new 15A Expander adds functionality to the M15 and a direct result of customer requests. It connects to the Rev.2 VCO via a dedicated I/O connector located on the back of the PCB. It can however be retrofitted to any Model 15's regardless of revision, although earlier releases (rev 1 - 1.6) will require point-to point connections. the 15A is only 4 HP wide and adds a PWM attenuation pot, a Soft/Hard Sync crossfade pot (which amplifies the M15 sync function up to x4 it's previous intensity), 3 three way transposition switch (configured octave up/none/octave down) and two additional 1V/oct VC inputs. The 15A will begin shipping at the end of May 2007 with a retail price of $70.

While this 'fixes' the two things I wasn't thrilled about with the Model 15 (the lack of octave switch never bothered me at all, in fact, I'd prefer it not be there), I think I'm still sold on 2 Livewire oscs. With the new Model 15 + 15A expander, that's 22HP, only 6HP less than the Livewire osc, so I'm not really saving that much space by sacrificing functionality of the Livewire (animated saw/pulse, dedicated sub osc out, independent square and pulse outs, dedicated sync source out, etc).

PS. Looks like it was also covered here on Matrixsynth.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

the lineup changes again

ok, this is getting ridiculous now...I cannot make up my mind on some of these modules.

Today, however, after playing my Moog MF-102 ring mod with the newly arrived QuadADSR, I've decided to withdraw the Livewire Dalek Modulator (ring mod) and replace it with the Vulcan Modulator. The fact that the Moog has a CV controllable Mix amount is a big plus in my book.

On a side note...I have never used an envelope to modulate a ring mod carrier's pitch before! It's very very cool. A very easy way to create a more unique sounding electro drum or just give a cool/gritty (when carrier is a lower frequency) dynamic shift to the sound.

A brief example of this is at the end of my demo video from the last post. I forgot how new gear can bring a new angle to how one uses their current gear. I guess that applies exponentially to modular gear :D I'm really stoked on this modular system coming together.

Speaking of which, next modules on the order block are as follows:
-Livewire Vulcan Modulator
-Doepfer A-119 Envelope Follower
-Doepfer A-131 Exponential VCA

ETA, sometime after the 15th.

QuadADSR and Dual Timbral Gate demo

My first video demo of the first two modules.


Friday, April 27, 2007

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Doepfer A-143-2 and Plan B Model 13

The first two modules have arrived from Analogue Haven!

The Doepfer A-143-2 is a "QuadADSR"; 4 independent standard ADSR envelopes that are switchable for 3 different time ranges (low, medium, high). They are special, however, because each ADSR also has pulse/trigger outputs which fire at the end of stages of the envelope; end of attack, decay, and release. These can be used to trigger another envelope (or any event) or to re-trigger itself, creating an LFO. The Gate (trigger) inputs of each envelope are normalled to each other, so it only requires a single gate signal on one of the envelopes to trigger them all.

The Plan B Dual Timbral Gate is a dual low-pass gate which has independent gates which can be switchable between amplitude gates (like a linear VCA), low-pass filter, or both. There is also a separate SUM output and balance control for the two gates. In this way, it also acts as a 2 channel mixer. This is apparently an improvement off of the original Buchla low-pass gates so I'm very excited to try it out.

I had a long day at work, so I'm not going to get to playing around with these until tomorrow. I do plan to make some video demos showing off the two new modules this weekend though.

One final note...I didn't realize the modules didn't come with screws for the case (most likely the new cases ship with screws) so I can't screw them in yet. No big deal, more stuff for the list ;D