Monday, December 29, 2008

The Serge

I tried really hard to come up with some kind of McCain "the surge is working" joke, but just couldn't. :( So anyway, this is the big Serge post, hopefully it does not disappoint.

As I mentioned in my recent post, over the course of researching the Buchla I started to see things that I did not like in my current system, or put maybe a more accurate way, advantages that I saw in other formats. Let's start with the most simple, and obvious, one. Banana jacks.

Using multiples in 1/4" or 1/8" is annoying as hell. I know it seems trivial, but *every time* I find myself wanting to use a multiple, it requires breaking half a patch down, exchanging cables and then retracing my steps so that I put it back together properly. With banana jacks, it's much more elegant. Need a mult? Just poke a jack in there and that's it. Seems like a small thing, but while it would be nice to have in Euro (really nice to have) it is almost required due to the level of functional density of each Serge module (not panel, but individual module - which is referred to as a "function block" in Serge-land). That brings me to my next advantage of the Serge. Functional density.

In Serge-land, they call this "patch programmability". Depending on how you patch a particular function block, you can achieve different results. The "Smooth / Stepped Generator" (SSG) for example, can not only be a S+H, but also a VC slew limiter, VC LFO (triangle and square), clock, LPF/LPG, lo-fi VCO, zero-crossing detector, and more with any combinations of these (that's right, most of those functions only require one half of the module!). This module is even one-upped by the "Dual Slope Generator" (DSG) which has an unprecedented number of patch programmable functions, yet on the surface, it's just an AD envelope generator. It's this "patch programmability" that really attracts me to the Serge system. The flexibility and range of sounds possible in even a single panel (or even M-odule) is rather astounding. Exhibit A is this fantastic demo from kkonkkrete which surfaced a few weeks ago.

Note that this video features only 2 M-odules, and throughout the video, some portions of the Sequencer A M-odule are not even used. It's quite amazing that the Creature M-odule (the one on the right side) is essentially a fully featured Serge system on it's own! This brings me to my next perceived advantage. Portability.

This is one of the advantages that I found in the Buchla which I think is very apparent here as well. A 3 panel Serge system would more or less be similar in size to a 12ws Buchla case and definitely give it a run for it's money, if not certainly beat it out feature-wise (but this isn't purely about features). My system, as it is now, is almost too large. I haven't even filled the case and I find that on many patches, some modules are just "in the way" and I end up having to work around them. A small detail, but to me it screams "you have to much shit that you don't use", and if I don't use it, it isn't that necessary. Maybe this just one of those "ebb and flow" things, but I like to have an efficient use of space, and when I find myself always turning to the same dozen or so modules, it's hard to fight off the urge to trim the fat, so to speak.

The final advantage is another one taken from my Buchla research and this is the dynamic control/interaction with the instrument. While it's no 222e Kinetic Input, the Serge TKB Touch Keyboard Sequencer is a very dynamic and expressive controller.

The sequencer is not unlike the mythical Milton (or maybe that should be the other way around). There are 4 "rows" of 16 steps. A standard clock steps through each of 16 stages, while a separate vertical clock with step through the 4 rows, allowing for 64 step patterns. Either the combined row output is available, or each row output separately, allowing for control of 4 separate modules for each stage. The direction of the sequencer can also change based on either a manual switch, or a trigger input. There is also a "random stage select" trigger input. When pulsed, it will select a random stage. And, speaking of stage selection, when the keyboard is linked with the sequencer, touching a key touchplate will immediately select that stage. It can be patched so that when pressing the key touchplate, the stage will be held and the sequencer will not advance. There is also key pressure voltage available, for more expression. Basically, it's the perfect combination of a keyboard controller and an analog sequencer.

So, until I've had some one-on-one face time with a Serge system and can make my final decision, I see some Serge in my future. My best assessment at this point would be to start with a Gator and Creature and add a TKB as early as financially possible. After using that system for a while, I'll have a better idea of what else I might need (if anything at all). That's another advantage of the Serge, not only can so much be achieved with only a couple panels, but it's pricey enough that you just don't go off buying more on a whim, something that happens with me constantly with euro. I just lack that willpower I guess.

My dilemma though is that I can't bear to part with a good chunk of my Euro system. Out of the modules that I use in practically every patch, I plan on keeping the following:

Livewire AFG (x2)
Livewire Vulcan Modulator
Livewire Dalek Modulator
Livewire Frequensteiner
Livewire Dual Cyclotron
Plan B M13 LPG
Plan B M14 Voltage Proc
Harvestman Stilton
Harvestman Evin (forthcoming)
Harvestman Tyme Sefari
Doepfer A-132-3

The Plan B M10s and M24 would be in there since those are used in every patch, but they have direct functional equivalents on the Serge. In fact, there's practically the same as the Serge DTG and SSG modules. As time goes on, I would consider loosing the Dual Cyclotron (which will be a hard one) and the Plan B M14 since both could be had in the Serge domain without too much trouble. As I said, I haven't had face time with the Serge VCO and Filters yet, so until I do, I can't imagine giving up the AFG+Frequensteiner sound. Even so, I can't imagine giving it up.

All of this Euro, plus some more, would fit rather nicely in one of the upcoming 9U A-100P portable cases that Doepfer has announced, which is what I would plan on transitioning the euro system into once they are available.

So, I'm not decided 100%, but this definitely feels like the direction that I want to move. Only time will tell.

I've linked to it where appropriate, but the "Ergres - Serge Fans" site has an extensive amount of info on Serge systems, as does Carbon111. They have been extremely helpful in the journey and if you are at all curious, I would suggest checking them out.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Teratoma - released

Sorry I'm lagging on the Serge post, it's coming. This is short though.

Just wanted to say that my first modular album, Teratoma, has been released. Just inside the deadline of the Muff 2008 Artist Challenge. The collections are composed almost entirely of the eurorack modular, except for a few cases where a hand is leant from the MachineDrum and Monomachine, and in one case, a Piano sample patch in Logic.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Long time no post

I'm very sorry for my long absence from the blog here. I'm rather ashamed of it and it's due to little more than lack of time and laziness. Mostly laziness.

What small amount of free time I've had over the last couple months has been devoted to trying to finish up tracks for an upcoming EP/Full length and just general hanging around on the Muff forum. Unfortunately for the blog here, all of my modular-related ramblings and thoughts are getting dumped there and not here.

Time for a change.

To catch you up a bit, in the midst of working on these new tracks, I also got bit by the bug to start performing live again. I've never performed with a synth before, but played a lot of guitar with the bands I've been in over the years. I miss performing for people. So, with that in mind, I started looking at ways to achieve that again. Using a laptop and triggering loops was more or less out of the question. I don't want to look like I'm checking my email in front of everyone, and for the most part it's very uninteresting to the audience, in my opinion anyway. The next step was to work with the SP-404 and come up with different textured loops that I could layer, turning on and off, along with the MachineDrum. I got started with building up loops and it quickly became an aweful, and uninspiring chore. The "sets" that I came up with were not very fun either. The sounds were static and interacting with them was rather...well...uninspiring. At that point my thoughts turned to using a modular live, but clearly the monstercase would be very cumbersome to lug around (although fun to look at, if facing the audience) and of course, had no way to quickly switch patches. And I wanted some dynamic way that I could interact with it, both via some sort of sequencer (which could be handled by the MD + Kenton) as well as some sort of "touch controller".

Enter the Buchla 200e.

First, some history on my exposure to the 200e. It was the first modular system that I looked at when considering buying a modular system. I saw the booth at NAMM and it certainly was the most visually appealing system, and the fact that it folded up *and* had preset recall was like the greatest thing ever. Had the price at the time (and now) not seemed completely out of my range, I would have went for it. The other formats were much more economical.

The 200e satisfied many of the "live performance" criteria I had set for myself.
-High functional density
-Ease of setting up patches (preset recall)
-Performance oriented interface (namely, the 222e touchplate)
-It looks fucking cool (ok, that wasn't a requirement, but it is a bonus)

After much toiling and going back and forth on pros/cons for what seemed like months, much of which went on in an epic thread on the Muff forum, I finally came to the decision that I was not going to invest in a Buchla. The main cons were:

-Sound. It doesn't sound bad, it's just not quite my thing...not for that price
-Price. It's not unobtainable, but it would be a significant investment.
-Having to give up Euro. Most of it anyway...part of the previous con.

There were other small negatives too. Audio and CV are different signal paths, some "quirky" behavior with certain features, not the end-all-be-all in flexibility. All of these were personal opinions though, and many of the reasons for these designs were quite valid - I'm not devaluing the system at all. It's just stuff that I did not particularly like and if I was going to make that kind of financial commitment, I had to like it.

Interestingly enough, I picked up a Monomachine MKII. I had begun to miss the MKI (which I had traded, along with my MD MKI, for an MD mkII) and felt I did not give the little guy a fair shake the first time around. I was right and I'm very much enjoying having the MnM back again.

However, a new "problem" arouse. As part of the research into the 200e, I was constantly comparing my current Euro system with the Buchla, in particular looking at what the Buchla could do and what my Euro could not (well, to be more clear, what it could not do as easily or achieve in a more streamlined manner). But what I took away was what I found to be shortcomings of my system, and to some degree, the Euro format/lineup.

Enter The Serge.

Stay Tuned.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Machinedrum + Kenton Pro-2000 = fucking awesome

I spent about 3 hours last night and 4 hours this afternoon playing with the MachineDrum + Kenton Pro-2000 and it was even better than I had expected!

First, a bit of background on how the setup works.

The Kenton has two (A/B) "main" CV and gate outputs. These are for the usual pitch and gate CV uses; the pitch can be adjusted for 1v/Oct, Hz/Volt, and even 1.2v/Oct. The gates can be configured as standard V-trig or S-trig. And both A and B can be programmed to respond to any one of 16 midi channels (including the same channel). In addition to those CV outputs, there are 6 additional Auxiliary CV outputs, each one of which can be programmed to respond to any MIDI CC message, again on any MIDI channel. Each Auxiliary output can be configured to be bipolar (-5v to +5v) or unipolar (0 to +5v); I didn't actually expect that and it's incredibly useful. It also has two programmable LFOs which can be controlled by any MIDI CC message on any MIDI channel, but I didn't play with those yet.

Now, on the MachineDrum side. The MachineDrum has a "MID" machine, with 16 different "types". Really, they are the same machine, but there's one for each MIDI channel, so if you want to sequence MIDI channel 1, you load "MID 1" on a track. There's nothing stopping you from loading the same channel MID machine on multiple tracks either (although things seem to act a little weird when you do).

The first page of a MID machine has all the basic MIDI parameters. The pitch (as well as two additional pitches, for chords), the length of the note, as well as the note velocity, and pitch bend, mod wheel and aftertouch amounts. All I was using here was the NOTE and sometimes LEN controls (images courtesy of the MachineDrum manual).

The second page is where you find four of the MIDI CC controls. There's two controls for each CC, the first to set which CC message should be used, the second for the actual value. This is really cool because you could set different CC messages and values on each step of the MD sequencer via parameter locks.

The third page has the final two MIDI CC controls as well as a control for Program Change as well as the depth of the MD's track LFO (oh yeah, that can be routed to control any of the parameters of the MID machine too).

So, what I chose to do was simply sequence a few notes (patched from the "A" CV) as well as patch 4-6 of the Auxiliary CV outs to various other controls on the modular, like the filter cutoff, EG timebase, VCAs for LFOs and FM index. I was having a lot of fun, adding a step on the MD's sequencer and manually setting a parameter lock, or just turning one of the knobs in real time, indirectly controlling the modular. It was a blast. The real fun came though when I remembered that you can set parameter locks in realtime record mode; just twist the knobs and your actions are recorded via param locks. With this feature I was now simply tweaking controls while the sequence played and they were automatically recorded. Sequencing filter cutoffs and FM indexes was extremely immediate and intuitive feeling. It was fantastic!

Now, after both long sessions, I sat down to think about what functions that I would be loosing by giving up the A-155, A-154, and A-190 for the Pro-2000 + MD combo.

I wasn't loosing any glide/portamento as that exists on the MD (and I could patch in the dual bissell anyway).
I wasn't loosing any functionality in trigger sequencing. I'm gaining functionality there.
I was loosing some ease of doing "one shot" sequences. It can be done with the MD though, through song mode/linked patterns.
I was gaining an easier way to implement swing to the sequence. Something I had overlooked until now.

There was more, but it all either came out as a tie, or ended up being better with the MD+Pro-2000.
All of it except for using the A-155 as an 8 input/output switch, particularly with the A-154 random and CV addressing capabilities. That couldn't be done with the MD. But, then I remembered the A-152. It gets me that exact function, and more. And it's only $175.

So what I've decided (or at least almost decided, still trying not to rush the decision) is to part with the A-190, 155, 154 and pickup the Pro-2000 and an A-152. :D

Anyone in the market for a 155 + 154 combo? A-190 MIDI-CV?

[UPDATE]: The 155 and 154 are sold. A-190 is still up for sale though (includes the AD5 5v adapter)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sequencer Machine

While it doesn't have a lot to do with this post, I recently traded my MachineDrum MkI and Monomachine MkI for a MachineDrum MkII (plus some cash). This was a fantastic deal as I had been using the Monomachine less and less since I got the modular set back up and the MD was always my favored one of the two. the MDmkII is great, but I'm getting off track...

Lately I've been coming close to filling up the Doepfer Single Monster Case. I know, crazy right? But I was starting to think about starting to save for a Monster Base. But, it's a lot of money, and it means I would eventually spend even more than that filling it up with modules; not only would it be a tough financial purchase, but it would ensure future financial purchases. I know the modular thing "never ends", but at some point I need to try.

So, while weighing the difference between getting the Monster Base and not, I quickly found that there's already existing modules that I want that I do not have enough room for, let alone whatever really cool shit comes out in the next year or so. Not getting a Monster Base and sticking with the Monster Case would mean getting rid of modules. Tough.

So a couple weeks go by and I'm digging into the MachineDrum more than I have in a while, and one of these things was trying out the MIDI machines, which allow step sequencing of MIDI notes as well as up to 6 MIDI CCs per machine (1 machine per track). I played around with sequencing with these MIDI machines and it was surprisingly in fact, I found it easier than sequencing the MnM. For each step, you simply parameter lock a different pitch, and further different note length, pitch bend, mod wheel, etc. In other words, it was actually a great sequencer for melodies as well as CCs (although I only did a little of sequencing CC values, same principles applied though).

This got me thinking...the biggest module in my system is the A-155 sequencer, and that's without the A-154 controller. Plus, one of my most common uses of the 155 was sequencing triggers, something I very recently found more enjoyable to do via the MD rather than the 155. The other thing is that many aspects of the 154 controller could be programmed via the MD, either via Song mode or linking patterns. Sure, not quite as cool as voltage control, but it means that the MD is almost feature comparable to the 155+154 combo, so long as you have a MIDI-CV converter.

The A-190 has been great, but it's only a single MIDI channel, 2 cv, gate, reset and clock output. Meaning that I'd need at least one second channel to match the A-155's two sequence rows. And of course, what would be better would be two independent channels so that each channel could have and independent clock, one moving at 8th notes and one moving at 16th notes for example. That would be a significant benefit over the A-155.

So I started looking at the Kenton Pro-2000 mkII. This thing really would be the ticket. Not only does it have 2 separate "main" CV channels (each can respond to a different MIDI channel) it also has 6 auxiliary CV outputs controlled by assignable MIDI CC values, also can respond to different MIDI channels, or the same channel). This would mean I would have full control via the MachineDrum sequencer. And, each main CV output is switchable between 1v/Oct and 1hz/Volt scales. It has other features too, 2 programmable LFOs as well as portamento, and more, but the above are the real important ones to me. I've come to the conclusion that the MD + Pro-2000 makes a serious bad ass sequencer/modular controller.

So, let's take it down to brass tax:

Monster Base - $1200 - Additional 336HP (unknown additional cost of filling that case up)


Pro-2000 mkII - $600 - Additional 82HP (A-155, A-154, A-190).

I know, doesn't seem to quite add up right? Paying 2x as much would get me 3x the space with the Monster Base, but there's that unknown additional cost of eventually filling that up. And the MD+Pro-2000 seems to add a considerable amount of additional functionality, at least in terms of sequencing. Plus, I'd really like to start saving money again soon. ;)

So, what do you guys think? I know it's never fun to hear someone's not trying to expand their system, but I think this is the best move, both monetarily and functionally.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Me and the A-188-2 part ways

I really wanted to get into the A-188-2 but I just can't. I can't quite figure it out.
I've heard some people make some amazing sounds, crazy feedback, and evolving textures, but I just can't get the hang of it.

If you are looking to pick one up, let me know. Post in the comments or send me an email:
james *dot* cigler *at* gmail *dot* com

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Zorlon Cannon Arrives!

OMG, I love this module!

It's so fun. At first I thought it was going to be kind of kitschy, but the tones that are available are really quite interesting and very unique sounding. It sounds super rad through the Polivoks (who'd a thought, right?!). It's almost not quite enough that you cannot have all 8 different possible tones simultaneously. It's really fun to pick 4 and cycle through them with a sequential switch, clocked from the CLK OUT on the Gates half of the Zorlon.

The psuedo random gates are very fun too; mixing all 4 together with some kind of bi-polar mixer (A-138c) to make a pseudo random pitch sequence for the pitch input of the noise generator is too much fun, and the clock output allows you to clock other modules (like your EGs, or the aforementioned sequential switch) to it.

I know what you're thinking...clips or it never happened...I'll get them soon enough. For now, settle for the pic.

Here's a nice demo patch I made last night, but was too lazy to record (that's why the picture above still has cables patched in). The Zorlon Cannon is of course the main sound source, the 4 outputs (4bit-switch down, 5bit and 9bit-switch up, 17bit-switch down) are going to a Doepfer A-151 Sequential Switch, the output of which goes to a Harvestman Polivoks modulated by a Dual Cyclotron and A-143-1, and finally through have of a Plan B M13 low pass gate, opened by an M10 EG. The Pitch for the Zorlon noise outputs comes from the Zorlon's pseudo random gates, being mixed by a Doepfer A-138c bipolar mixer. The Clock Out on the Zorlon is triggering the M10, whose End Of Cycle output triggers the A-151 sequential switch.

So basically what you are hearing is the pseudo random gates generating the pitch sequence, the various noise outputs being "selected" by the sequential switch, and finally filtered by the Polivoks and made "plucky" by the M13 + M10.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Official Member of the Monster Case Club

This case is too rad! It's the perfect width, perfect height, and
fits just about perfectly on my desk.

Unfortunately, I seem to have run out of screws, so I wasn't able to
mount all my modules, the Malgorithm and A-188-2 BBD being two stand
outs. However, I'm pretty sure the Eurorack screws are just M35
screws, which can easily be obtained from the hardware store.

On thing thing that I'm also short on is patch cables! :D. It's been a
while since I have been able to cook up a large patch, and I had a
pretty good one going here, until I ran out of cables.

The Tyme Sefari is super fun, and a fantastic performance module. It
feels very natural to "play" rather than "patch-up", but that just
might be my personal preference. I may have to move I out of that
corner, but that seems the most logical place for it, towards the end
of the signal path. All that playing with the TS got me thinking
about a Harvestman only performance system again!

The Plan B M17 module is fun too, and actually much more useful for my
kind of patches than I realized. I like to have certain events
trigger other events, so I generally really like modules that have
trigger outs, particularly ones that occur at the end of some stage
(like the M24, M10, A-143-1 and -2). What the M17 basically does is
add trigger outs for other modules that don't have any such feature.
A perfect example would be an EG where you wanted a trigger or gate at
the end of the attack phase. That's easily handled with 1/3 of the
M17. The NOT outputs for gates/triggers is also extremely useful for
trigger other events when the rest of the M17 is not triggering
Very cool with sequencers and EGs, the trigger outs are also awesome
for firing the vactrols on the M13. This really is a fantastic
module, I'm surprised they are not more popular.

I hope to get to more videos soon, but the next two weeks are going to
be pretty busy for me. We shall see.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Doepfer Single Monster Case

Went to Santa Monica yesterday to pickup the case as well as have
lunch with Shawn and <a href="http://">Noisesource</a>.

In addition to the Tyme Sefari and A-134 and A-165 that I ordered,
Shawn easily persuaded me on a used Plan B17 and Malgo that he had,
which you can see pictured.

I also got to hear the Elby Synthacon filter which is absolutely
crazy. It sounds super mean and aggressive.

I can't wait to get this thing home and all the modules racked up.
We're driving back up Monday morning, so expect some pics late Monday

Friday, August 08, 2008

AFG Harmonic Animation inputs

So, I just noticed this, otherwise I would have put this in the video,
but the PWM +/- and PPM +/- input pairs in the AFG are normalled. For
example, if you apply some voltage to PWM- in, it will also apply to
PWM+. Patching PWM+ then breaks the normalization.

Pretty handy and a great feature!
Kudos Mike!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

AFG Demo Video Pt 1.

I elected to only do part of my planned demo for the AFG because, I just don't feel prepared to do it justice yet. I haven't spent as much time with it as I had the other modules before making video demos, and I don't think I could adequately show off what it's capable of.

However, what I did think I could do was to show off what most folks are interested in regarding the AFG, and that was the Anti-Matter mode and Harmonic Animation Saw/Pulse waveforms. I hooked up my $40 ebay scope and got to demoing.

[UPDATE] I forgot about YouTube's (lame) 10 minute video limitation, so I had to split "part 1" into two parts. :P

AFG Waveforms

AFG Harmonic Animation

For those who just can't wait for Pt. 2 here's a patch I worked on last night while watching the trash_audio livecast last night. It's two AFGs, one (triangle wave) FMing the other (alien saw wave) with harmonic animation being modulated by the Vulcan. The pitch is being distributed to the Exponetial inputs of each AFG via the Plan B M23 ASR, which is sampling the Ring Mod output of the Dalek Modulator. The M23 is also distributing to one of the FM inputs of the Freuquensteiner, which is also being modulated slightly by the Dual Cyclotron. The machinedrum is providing the rhythm as well as the clock for M23 ASR (using the MD's GND-IM impulse machine). The random stereo panning is provided courtesy of Ableton Live...which reminded me that I need to pickup an A-134 panning module.

I'm working on this track further for my album. This track is entitled "A Visit To The Shroud".


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

AFGs Arrive!!!


Of course they have to arrive in the morning *before* I have to go to


Ok, so I played around during the day at work - shh, don't tell - and I am absolutely blown away! And, I'm pretty sure I've only just scratched the surface.

As most people have no doubt guessed, the real stand outs of the AFG are the harmonic animation features of the square and saw waves and the Matter / Anti-Matter. You no doubt have guessed what the harmonic animation sounds like (PWM on steroids) but you probably have no idea what the Anti-Matter mode does. Well, it makes it sound fucking awesome, that's what it does!!

Here's the first short demo. This is the animated square output, with the two oscillators of the Dalek in LFO mode and modulating the PWM+ and PWM- parameters (note, this is only half the parameters for harmonic animation). The start of the clip is with no modulation, and slowly I increase the CV amount for PWM- first and then PWM+. I let it get a little crazy and "bottom" out the PWM- cause I think it sounds cool. Then comes a sweep of the Frequensteiner filter. After the sweep, I engage the Anti-Matter mode. BOOM! Another filter sweep, then a quick pop back to Matter mode, and then back to Anti-Matter mode.

In this demo, we're listening to the standard square wave output. First a filter sweep, then engage Anti-Matter, then another sweep, and another quick A/B between Matter mode and Anti-Matter.

Finally here's the PWM output (yes, the PWM is separate from both the Square *AND* the Animated Square !!!). Same deal, starts with no modulation, I increase the modulation, filter sweep, Anti-Matter mode, another filter sweep, A/B Matter and Anti-Matter one more time. The PWM is absolutely sick!

Remember all of these sounds are with *A SINGLE AFG*!

So, on to a less "educational" patch. Here's the Sine outputs of each AFG into each half of the ring mod of the Dalek Modulator. The pitch changes are from the Plan B M23 Analog Shift Register. It's sampling the output of the Dual Cyclotron, clocked by Difference and Square outputs of the Vulcan modulator (I switch halfway through the patch), and each of the 4 outputs are going to the FM inputs of each AFG; one is set to Linear response, and the other Exponential on each AFG. It reminded me of a retro computer. About halfway through the clip, I start playing with Anti-Matter mode. First on the "modulator" AFG, then on the "carrier" AFG, and then finally on both.

And, at last, here's the piest de resistance. I've been into drones lately, so here's a patch I worked on throughout the day.
It's one AFG, using the Animated Saw output. Each half of the Vulcan is modulating the PPM+ and PPM- (I like these on the saw instead of the PWM+/-). The Sub Out of this AFG is set to Saw and plugged into it's own FM input, set to Exponential and adjusted just a tiny bit. This really fattens it up. I must say, I really like the FM'd saw sound on the AFG. I didn't like it at all on the M15, but I really like it here. Finally, the AFG is in Anti-Matter mode.

The "whine" sound in the clip is the Dalek modulator ring mod out, tuned to a harmonic of the first AFG. The "dry" saw part of the drone is just's the second AFG tuned to the same note as the first AFG, using the Saw output. I can't remember now if it was using Anti-Matter mode, but I think it was not.

The Frequensteiner filter is being modulated by the Dual Cyclotron, both the Aux and Main outputs. Throughout the clip, you'll hear me adjust the volume of each of the sounds, the filter cutoff, and the modulation amount of the filter.

Enjoy. Video demo should be ready end of day sunday. i hope.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Substitute Rig

This is what I've been working with the last few days. It's actually
really fun to take away a bunch (in this case, like half) of your
modules and just see how well you can work with just a select few.

In this particular patch, I was getting re-aquainted with using the
Livewire Dual Bissell to smooth out the rising and falling edges of
the square waves coming from the Dalek Modulator. You can really get
some subtle timbre changes with that alone. It's like being able to
low-pass filter only parts of the waveform. Actually, that's not what
it's like, it's what it is!

Another fun thing that I was doing here was driving the sequencer
(clock) with the MachineDrum. One of the MachineDrum machines, GND-
IM, sends a simple impulse, which happens to be plenty hot enough to
function as a trigger for the modular. So I simply sequenced the
pulses in the MachineDrum and the modular locked perfectly to it.
I'll definitely be exploring that functionality more real soon.

Speaking of triggers, I've lately taken to using trigger pulses
instead of EGs to hit the M13 low pass gates. Those vactrols respond
so smoothly, you'd never know an EG wasn't used. In this patch, I'm
using two of the trigger rows from the A-155 sequencer to open each
gate on the M13.

The basics of this patch are two halves of the Dalek, processes
through the Dual Bissell, and then each half goes into each half of
the M13, which are being opened, as I mentioned, by the triggers on
the sequencer, which is being clocked by the machinedrum.

Finally, to add a bit of character, I'm taking the ring mod out of the
Dalek, gating it with a A-132 linear VCA (opened by the M10, being
triggeres by the sequencer) and processing that through the A-188-2,
and mixing it in with the main signal described before.

I'm still having some trouble with the interface, so I'll leave it
patched up until I can record it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I'm BAAA-ACK... the saddle again!

So here's the latest. I'm going to be getting a Single Doepfer Monster Case. Shawn's hooking a brotha up, as always. I'll be picking it up the weekend of August 9th, I'll be down in LA anyway, so I'll just swing by the new AH shop :D.

In the meantime, thanks to the boundless generosity of mr. bdu, I have a loaner 6U Doepfer rack to tide me over until I take delivery of the Monster Case.

Once I got it home, I immediately picked a few modules (Livewire Dalek, Vulcan, and Bissel, Plan B M13 and M10, Doepfer A-155, A-138c, A-132, A-188-2, and Harvestman Polivoks) and started in on a patch.

This was my first time with the A-188-2 and it seemed so well suited to noisy stuff, I went in that direction.

Unfortunately, I seem to be having some issues with my audio interface and can only get a few minutes of recording before it dies. This is the longest clip that I was able to get.

The sound source is the Dalek Ring Mod out, with one row of the sequencer controlling the pitch of one oscillator. That is being filtered by the Polivoks and run into the A-188-2. The Polivoks has a bit of self modulation (BP output patched to CV1) being attenuated by one half of the Vulcan and the A-132 VCA. The other half of the Vulcan is clocking the A-155 sequencer.

The A-188-2 has two outputs, each output has it's own delay tap mixes as well as overall Wet/Dry balance. One output of the A-188-2 (the noiser part of the patch) is going to half of the Plan B M13, being opened by the M10, which is being triggered by one trigger row on the sequencer. The other half of the A-188-2 is going to the other half of the M13 which is being opened directly by one of the trigger rows of the sequencer. The M13 vactrols almost make EGs unnecessary for plucky sounds.

So the intro is that second half of the A-188-2...I'm turning the mix from 100% wet to about 15% wet. Then, I slowly turn the balance on the Plan B M13 so you hear more and more of the noisy signal.

After that, it's just messing with adding triggers on the sequencer rows.

Then it cuts out >:(

I left the patch together, just in case I figure this interface problem out tonight.


PS. Got Twitter? hit me up:

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A hero lost

Not synth related at all...but one of my heros has just died.

RIP George Carlin. You were the greatest.

Modular Cabinet Update - EPIC FAIL!

The title just about says it all.

I should have listened to that voice in my head six months ago that said "whatever you build, it's not going to be 'good enough' and you'll just be disappointed. You'll justify it by reminding yourself constantly that you saved money". That would have been mildly valid had I been able to build the case in short order...but I didn't, it's been six months since I sold my Doepfer A-100P cases. For just $150 a month during that time period would have paid for the difference of the Doepfer Monster Case.

I spent all this morning and majority of the afternoon gathering the up the final materials (of which only 80% was obtained) and started building the case. I even got some nice red oak wood normally used for kitchen cabinets and had the guys at the lumber yard cut it for me, since all I have at home is a shitty old jig saw and oak is hard shit. Oh yeah, and it was $80 of Oak so I didn't want to fuck it up.

I was able to finally find some small corner brackets that I could use for mounting the Vector rails. They would work, but they weren't perfect. A minor issue, but it bugged me.

I searched everywhere for a nice thin, but sturdy piece of wood for the back of the case. Plywood was overkill, and ugly as fuck. Even though I wouldn't see it, it just seemed wrong to screw down this shitty plywood on $80 of sweet Red Oak. Everything else was too thin and flimsy.

After driving around most of Campbell and Saratoga to all the various hardware stores (Ace, OSH, and Home Depot...the trifecta), I finally returned home and got started putting the case together.

Of course, I have no jigs or anything...not even a proper workbench, so the glueing process started to get messy. I thought, "fuck it, I'll just skip the glue...the corner brackets should be fine". Well they weren't, the case was flimsy as fuck. And, despite what looked like an extremely well planed piece of Oak, it wasn't perfect and the corner joints did not align well and there were some slight gaps/overhangs. Again, not a big deal, but it was another one of those "fuck it, it's just cosmetic" things.

At this point, the sturdiness of the thing was starting to bother me. If you would have pushed it a little hard from the side, I'm sure all the screws from the corner brackets would have ripped right out of the Oak. "Well...", I thought, once I get the module rows mounted in, that will reinforce it well. So I brought one row outside to mount in the case.

But, as I was sliding the row in, I found that the inner dimensions of the case were to small...the rails were too big by about 1/8 of an inch.

FUCK! <- I yelled this so loud, I'm pretty sure my whole neighborhood heard me. One guy thought I had drilled my hand or something.

I spent the next half an hour thinking about what would be better/easier... using the spare couple feet of Oak that I had left to replace the one side, making the case slightly too big *or* take the vector rails down to a local metal shop and get 1/8" trimmed off each one.

The latter seemed extra complicated since 1) I didn't know of a local metal shop setup for this and 2) If I fucked that up somehow, then I'd been even more set back. And, of course, it would be more downtime...the modules still wouldn't have a case.

So I opted for the former, which would make the case less sturdy (since the rails wouldn't be butted right up against the wood...the mounting bracket would make up the difference, and it would look sloppy...oh yeah and there would about 1 foot and 1/2 of extra Oak that I would have to cut with my crappy old jig saw.

After measuring twice, I made the best cut I could with the jig saw. It actually took 3 minutes to cut through 10" of 3/4" thick Oak with that fucking saw and I had to actually pause twice to catch my breath and get a grip on the saw handle. After it was done, I re-attached the side and took a step back. It looked like shit! And it wasn't level! FUCK FUCK FUCK!

"You're 90% there", I thought to myself, "just mount the rails and see how it looks". So I did, well one row anyway, which was all I had patience for. The row wasn't perfectly parallel with the front edge of the cabinet and because the mounting brackets were making up the extra space, the whole row could slip around a lot. The case was barely any less wobbly than when the rails were not mounted.

And it looked like absolute shit.

So that's it. I'm fucking done. I'm ordering a Doepfer Monster Case first thing Monday. I'm too pissed off at this point to chalk it up to a learning experience. And, the only thing I learned, if anything, is that I should listen to initial gut instinct.


Now that you've read this horror story...if you are thinking of making your own cabinet, I have parts which I'd love to sell to you ;) No, seriously, the Vector Rails (including nuts and screws for the modules), the +/- 12V/15V 3A power supply, and Doepfer power bus boards are all up for sale. If you are interesting, just send me an email. I'm sure to have calmed down by then, and promise to be as helpful as I can.

james.cigler at gmail dot com

In the meantime, I'm going to hang myself... and try not to fuck it up.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Modular Case - Progress Made!

I decided that I would finally get some shit accomplished this weekend and so far, so good.

I went to the local surplus store and got the right length screws this time. They actually have Torx heads, which looks really cool compared to regular phillips head screws. I didn't go through and remove the screws for the modules that I had racked up already, but I'll do that eventually.

I racked the rest of the modules into the vector rails and stacked them up. Now all I need is to find some 90 degree angle mounting hardware for the rails and some nice looking wood to build the case. I hope to have that wrapped up this weekend too, although, the yard really needs some attention too.

The spaces in the top row are completely arbitrary, although Harvestman Tyme Sefari, Zorlon Cannon and Malgorithm will go up there somewhere, hopefully all in the very near future.

The large open space on the lower left is for the AFGs, which are due to arrive anytime now, since I've got two from the first batch. The 2nd open space, in the lower-middle is for a Plan B M14 Voltage Processor and the Livewire Chaos Computer, whenever that gets released.

All in all, I'm pretty pleased with how it looks. It's actually not as big as I thought it would be in terms of size, both height and depth. It should still be very portable (it's a little smaller than a Doepfer Monster Case).

Off to the hardware store!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I *LOVE* the MonoMachine

What a great way to follow up the previous post, eh?

I'm not sure what took me so long to post about it, but two weeks ago I took delivery of a MnM mkI. It's fantastic. It's just as fun (and creatively challenging) to program as the MachineDrum and the sound is very unique and punchy. I won't say I'm totally wild about the sound yet, but it definitely has some rad qualities. I'd have to say my favorite machine so far is SID (SidStation / C64 emulation) but I have barely dipped into the FM-based machines.

Since I'm still in my "Reason phase"† with it, I can't really talk much to the depth of it's functionality or my connection to it yet.
However, Jyoti Mishra (of whom I have no idea) made a very succinct post that explains my thoughts much more clearly than I could.

Check it out.

† A "Reason phase" is my term for the time period in which you have just recently purchased some piece of gear and the easiest thing for you to make with it is repetitive techno. It's named this because for the first 6 months that I had Reason, all I made was awful, repetitive, techno. :D

Friday, April 25, 2008

I fucking *LOVE* the MachineDrum

I <3 MachineDrum.

Thursday night, after a long frustrating day at work, I came home and I just needed to do something creative...I had to make some music and just relax. Since the modular is still down without a case, I fired up the MachineDrum and dug into making a pattern; something I hadn't done in a while.

I quickly started to remember why I told Surachai that it was my "desert island" piece of gear. If someone came into my studio and said "All this shit has got to can only keep one" it would be the MachineDrum, and I feel this way now more than ever.

Starting off, designing a "kit" is extremely intuitive and the range of "machines" is pretty impressive. My favorites tend to be the E12 (E-Mu SP1200) and the TRX (Roland TR Series) and, of course, the ROM machines (playing stored samples). With all of these machines, you have a serious amount of tonal control; pitch, decay, filter, ring mod, sample start/end, retrigger, delay send, verb send, and more. The more you think about each machine as "tone generators" and less as "drum sounds" the more flexible the MachineDrum becomes in your hands.

Where the MachineDrum really shines though is it's sequencer. From a basic overview, the sequencer is a simple 808/909 style sequencer, with each machine in the kit having it's own track (16 in total). However, where it really takes off is with the sequencer's "Parameter Locks". At any step that is enabled to trigger a sound, you simply hold down the button for that step and tweak any of the parameters for that machine and at that step, those parameters are used. It's like super easy DAW automation; it can even be tweaked in realtime record mode. At any step, if you don't like some parameter locks, just hold down the button for the step again and click in the appropriate param knob and you clear the lock. You can use this to make accents, change filter freq, or even program melodies (have to do by ear, but possible).

It doesn't end there though, each MachineDrum kit has 16 LFOs. By default, each LFO is setup to control it's own track, but simply turing the first parameter knob allows you to assign any LFO to any track and then to any parameter on that track. There are also settings for LFO trigger/reset as well as two separate LFO waveforms with a blend between the two shapes. A couple of the LFO shapes are actually Attack-Decay envelopes, allowing to you use the LFO to program step triggered envelopes.

There's also a great Mute mode (allowing you to mute tracks while play back for performance) a realtime (vs stepped) recording mode, and all sorts of other bells and whistles. All together it makes for a damn fine music box. I feel calling it a drum machine really limits what it's capable of.

Here's the pattern I came up with Thursday night. All MachineDrum...track mutes performed live as I was recording the clip.

I'm now on the hunt for a MonoMachine. After browsing through the MnM manual, I see the same well thought out flexibility as I do with the MachineDrum. Anyone looking to off a MnM SFX-60 MKI, hit me up. Why the MKI...well cause it's gonna be cheaper, but mainly because the MKII is thinner and having it next to my thicker MKI MachineDrum would drive my OCD "fucking crazy". XD

Livewire stuff never shows up on ebay

It doesn't!

I have RSS feeds for all sorts of shit from eBay and accept for a few items at least 8 months ago, no Livewire modules have shown up on eBay. None.

I don't know what that's just a passing observation. (and no the feed is not broken because I always see tons of "livewire cables").

Monday, April 21, 2008

New Plan B lineup - M21c Mini-Milton

Plan B Summer/Fall lineup
Via the Plan B list (and probably Matrixsynth too...I haven't peeked at my feeds this morning.

The new line up is seriously cool, and much more than I expected from the teases on the Plan B list. The Vector Plotter is very cool and finally gives us eurorack folk something on par with the Blacet JAG.

The 4HP ELF ADSR is also an excellent module. Especially since it has a expansion module that adds CV for each stage as well as a re-trigger. All that in 8HP is practically priceless, although, will no doubt be extremely affordable. The ELF LFO is fairly bare bones, but its range is amazing and there's no range switches! It goes from 1 cycle every 30 seconds to 10k. :D It does, however use a switch for waveforms. You can either have simultaneous Saw and Pulse or simultaneous Triangle and Square. The last ELF in the lineup is one that I've had my eye on for a while, the Analog Shift Register (ASR).

The Model 21c Mini-Milton really stole my heart though. Not only is it small (18HP), it's full featured (even has CV Direction and individual Gate outs) it's also designed in that Buchla in-a-circle style. I'm totally sold on that one.

Congrats Peter, on a job well done. Hopefully they will be available soon.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mario Paint Composer

Holy crap! After a shitty day with no results on my overdrive prototype, this made my day:

Mario Paint Composer

I used to have Mario Paint on the Super Nintendo and this was my favorite part of the "game". I used to spend hours sequencing stuff, and back then I had no musical training/experience/anything.

I can't wait to dig into this again!!!

A days worth of nothing

Well I practically spent all of yesterday and part of this morning trying to figure out my prototype overdrive pedal doesn't fucking work. A large part of yesterday was assembly, but then the rest was trying to figure out why everything bled to ground when the input was plugged in...after about 2 hours of checking continuity between everything I realized it was because the tip connector of the jack was touching the LED bezel when a cable was plugged in, bleeding the input signal to the chassis and thus, to ground. After that, true bypass was working, but the actual overdrive circuit was not. At that point I gave up and played Rock Band for the rest of the evening. This morning, taking a look at the circuit I realized I put the transistors in fucking backwards! Since I didn't socket them, this tool about and hour to do and clean up the mess of solder. Just after that, my cheapo multimeter decided to complete stop working. Everything looks right with the circuit, but I can't check it without the multimeter. So now I can only stare at my physically represented failure thus far. My spirit is broken. Time for liquor.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Ebb and Flow

So I know it's been a long time since I posted, so I figured I'd drop in and post something with some real substance and maybe spark a discussion, rather than post my usual "der...I've been busy" excuse post.

This post is titled 'The Ebb and Flow' because that's a syndrome I've always had with music gear. There's always a period where I can't stop thinking of enough new gear that I need. The key word is need. It's like I have some kind of physical need to some new gear otherwise I '"can't achieve some sound/project/song/etc that I want to creatively". This is the core of the oft-reported Gear Acquisition Syndrome (G.A.S.) that so many of us music types have.

Modular synths seem to be the perfect match for this 'Ebb stage'. There's practically limitless options available, and if you decide to go with multiple formats, god help you and your bank account. It's practically never ending.

Invariably, there's some point in which this stage stops for me, and the "Flow" stage begins. I'll start to think "I now have too much gear now and I'm unable to achieve what I want with all these choices draining my workflow". Quickly, the same time and effort spent trying to acquire all this gear in the Ebb stage, is now spent trying to figure out how to trim down to the core of what I need to "get things done".

I'm at the start of the Flow stage now.

I don't know if it's because I haven't had the modular up and running again, but I'm really missing a simple selection of modules in which I have a decently flexible "instrument". That's a part of it too; I feel like I don't have an "instrument" but rather a bunch of tools that I can string together in some way. Fantastic tools yes, but a collection of tools does not make an instrument. It's difficult to master an instrument that is practically infinitely re-configurable.

Another aspect is that what really drives me creatively is limitations. I like to be presented with limitations and the opportunity to work within them to achieve what I want. I find that a satisfying challenge, both purely intellectually as well as musically.

So I know what you're thinking now, "So you're saying you want to sell all your modular stuff that you spent all that time and money acquiring?!?" No. Not quite. What I want is something I can play, something I can perform and enjoy becoming a master of. I don't want to toss aside all the modules I have, but I do want to put together some kind of small, semi-portable, modular "instrument".

Do I regret selling my Doepfer cases. One of them, maybe. Do I regret planning out this large modular case? Taking this long to wrap it up yes, but deciding to make it no.

I guess I don't know completely what I want. I guess I'm just looking to hear your you go through the same Ebb and Flow? Do you feel your modular is a instrument, along the lines of a guitar, or waterphone, or pan flute?

Let's hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Devi Ever Master Control

While I've been *really* slow on getting it finished, this is pretty much exactly what I had been working towards with my two joysticks.

Nice job as usual Devi!!!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I hate April Fools Day.

It's sad too, because I used to love April Fools day. I used to come up with pranks and friends and I would execute them to much rejoice.

But these days, very few "real" pranks are just get weird announcements or stories on the internet.

This ultimately has lead me to just not believe anything I read on the internet today [April 1st].

Take for example this info about Analogue Haven moving to a new store front:

Via Stretta, they [edit: Plan B] also are apparently going to turn focus away from selling individual modules and instead move to full systems.

On top of that, the place (possibly a store) moving into the now apparently vacant AH place is called NoiseBug...who are now the exclusive distributor of Plan B modules. Yes, that's right, AH no longer carries Plan B.

I'm thoroughly confused. Both are very big changes. Both have been announced on April 1st. All I can do based on these facts is assume it's a prank. I just can't trust anything on April 1st.


PS. There's also new teases up from Moog and Elektron. I have reason to believe both are actually real, and not AFD pranks. Then again, who knows.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Make Noise ModDemod

I totally just bought one of these.

Limited edition of 20. Hand painted. Makes weird sound. $126. How can you go wrong?

Friday, March 14, 2008

AFG Pre-Order

I did it! Two AFGs have been Pre-Ordered as of this morning.

What's also cool is that these pre-order units will be a limited edition run on gold and black PCB, hand signed by Mike Brown.
I really hope I've got my case all finished by the time they arrive! I can't wait to fire them up.

Check out the info page for Pre-Ordering or just to check out some audio clips.

[UPDATE]: I got an email from Shawn, I'm #'s 18 and 19! WooHOO!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Korg MS-10 for Nintendo DS

This is so bad ass I can hardly speak...

I have tons of fun with Elektroplankton on my DS...I can only imagine the fun that can be had with this.

Notice how the sequencer can actually accept realtime changes from controls like parameter automation that would be found in any common DAW.

It's Japan only...but I'll be looking to snap it up through some importer once it's released.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Felix on Trash Arcade: Now annoying even more people

I'm extremely pleased to announce that I've been invited to contribute to Trash Arcade.

My first post is already live. Subscribe and enjoy.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Best Fucking Fucker vid yet!

I don't know why I didn't see this one already, but it's awesome.

This is why Eric is my hero.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Devi Ever Dream Mangler (hypedition)

Video demo of the Devi Ever Dream possibly one of a kind, Hypedition!


Devi Ever Bit Mangler

As promised, video demo of the Devi Ever Bit Mangler.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The downtime is killing me's been forever since I updated here. All I have are the usual excuses...

It's busy at work

I'm tired

The modular case still isn't put together

waahh waahh wahhh


The Devi Ever Bit Mangler and Dream Mangler showed up! :D Expect a video this weekend.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

OMG! - Tesla coil guitar amp!

Bad. Ass. !

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Electrical Engineering is Hard

So after a long sit-down with one of my engineer friends at work, I finally had enough understanding to make my first working circuit (an op amp booster w/low cut)! I've been able to play around with it further, as well as incorporate things from other schematics and still have it work, so I'm stoked. It's pretty simple as far as pedals go, but I'm happy to actually have accomplished something now. The hours spent obtaining no result where starting to become very frustrating and VERY un-motivating.

My experience so far with electrical engineering is much harder than my experience with software engineering. It's quite confusing...most of which probably brought on by many incorrect assumptions. In particular, I keep thinking of the flow of the circuit like the flow of an audio signal. Which, in some ways, is very similar if not the same, but it's also in many ways, not the same at all. For example, I was looking at an example schematic of how the TubeScreamer tone control works (I'm not looking to build a tubescreamer...yeck...just looking for academic purposes). The tone control was basically a pot with it's wiper connected to ground through a capacitor...with it's 1 and 3 lugs going from the negative input of an op amp back to the audio input. What I couldn't understand is how this worked as a bi-polar tone control...why does turning it one way roll off highs, and the other way roll off bass...I could only see that it would roll off highs. That is, until I realized that turning the one way caused the audio input signal to flow to ground through that cap too!

I've made up the following mnemonic to help me remember:
"Shit Always Wants To Go To Ground"


I made another trip out to Halted yesterday...god I love that place. They didn't have several of the things I was looking for this time though; particularly nuts to replace those Vector nuts for the rails. Their screw/nut stock ratio is a bit lopsided...many more screws available than nuts. They were a bit short on potentiometers as well... It certainly is *THE* place for resistors, caps, diodes, and transistors though...ICs as well. I'm sure Halted is going to be a weekly visit for a long time to come.

Fun stuff for this weekend is now officially over's time to do the taxes.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Time is going by really really really really slow...

I don't know, we made brownies...and I think we're dead...

"Real" Guitar Hero

Ok, this is fucking rad! It's like Guitar Hero/Rock Band, but with a real guitar, playing *REAL* notes!


I've always been really bad with practicing, this would certainly get me to do it more often.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Eric Says Fuck You

The infamous Eric Barbour of Metasonix has officially moved his personal blog off of myspace onto Blogger.

Go read his rad!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Modular Case: Row 1 Complete

Now that I have screws that fit the Vector Nuts I have been able to assemble one row. Why only one? Well because I seriously fucked up the estimate if how many nuts I would need! Next weekend I'm going back to Halted to see if I can find regular Hex nuts that will work with the Vector rails. The Vector Nuts are most definitely not cost
effective...I've learned that the hard way I suppose.

Well since I'm blocked on working anymore on the case, I've got a good
excuse to work on that guitar pedal prototype. It's not the "Chop Shop" one that I mentioned last time, but rather a more immediately useful one. More details once it's working. :)

PS. I've signed up on VIRB. If any of you also have a VIRB page, hit me up.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Halted Electronics

I went to Halted this morning...holy crap this place is awesome!!! I wish I made the trip (all 20min of it) out there a long time ago. There's walls of resistors, 4 isles of caps, power supplies, scopes, function generators, oh, and tubes!!! :D. Metasonix fans: spot the BN6s in that picture.

I also found 4-40 screws for use with the Vector nuts, I picked up 50 of them for...wait for it...50 cents!!!

I got some extra parts for a guitar pedal idea I'm working on, plus a 3rd-hand tool, nicer wire stripper...walked out of there spending less than $40!

Offcially my new favorite place.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

And now...guitar pedals

As if I haven't started (and not yet finished) enough projects, I've now begun brain storming and sketching out a couple guitar pedal designs. I've got 4 partially worked out so far:

Murder Box - distortion (of what character I'm not yet sure)
Chop Shop - i don't even know what type this might be...the closest thing might be a tremolo
Wicked Switch - a pair of serial true-bypass loops with variable feedback in each
Strangler - a footswtich-able power sag box (to simulate dying battery)

I'm fairly excited about all of these, particularly the Chop Shop, as they are tools that I've wanted from way back when, but until recently, didn't understand were as easily achieved as they are. I know a lot of people get into DIY synth stuff when they get into modulars, but I seem to have gone full bore into guitar pedals.

While these are for my own personal use, I'd definitely be open to making and selling them if there seems to be a demand. I could see the Chop Shop being something people would really like, at least, if it turns out like I think it will. I'll save the details until I get closer to actually soldering the thing up and making sure it will work like I think. I've yet to make anything like it, so there's a high probability it won't work at all! ;D

In other unfinished project news, the Vector rails for the modular case finally arrived yesterday, but I've realized I've order the wrong AC inlet + fuse part which I'll have to exchange. I should come together fairly quickly though...I hope.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

NAMM recap

First off, I noticed my first few posts didn't have the body text for some reason, so I've scraped the text off the emails from my sent folder and updated the following posts:

Wretch Machine
Livewire AFG
Livewire Chaos Computer

NAMM was pretty fun this year, but I felt rushed and didn't get to see as much as I wanted to (or if I did, not for as long as I wanted to)...nor did it seem like I had enough time to talk to everyone I wanted to. Part of it was only being there for 2 days, the other part was getting a late start to the show both of those days (almost 1pm on Saturday and 12 on Sunday). Seems like 5-6 hours would be enough each day, but it's totally not enough.

I'm now just trying to catch up on work and the pile of emails in my inbox...any spare time I have will be either spent working on a pair of mastering projects I need to get done before next week or just trying to figure out how I'm going to be able to afford all the cool new shit this year. Oh yeah, and make the modular case, and finish the joystick controller, and make some BYOC guitar pedals...maybe make some music too ;)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Elektron MonoMachine mkII

I've always had this soft spot for "studio in a box" types of boxes,
especially quality ones and ones that are not marketed as "techno/
groove boxes". I'd really like to pick up a Monomachine, but I think
I'll get most of the modular stuff out of the way first. But, I love
the MachineDrum and this guy is the perfect parter.

Elecktron MachineDrum mkII

I absoultely love my machindrum UW and if you might be on the fence
about getting one, it's better than ever. 64 steps, thinner chassis,
and better powersupply. Best. Drum Machine. Ever.

Moog Mulitpedal

Ok, this thing is RAD!!! Not only I'd it a programable MIDI
expression pedal (meh) it's also a 4 out CV expression pedal; each
output of which can be programmer for a different range or even
direction! Oh yeah, and those settings can be stored as presets! Man
if this thing also had some programmable patch bay (Moog, please
please please make this) this would be the ultimate expression pedal.
This is definitely on my short list.

MXR Silicon Fuzz

Pretty cool fuzz...I much prefer Devi's fuzzes, but for a true fuzz
afficiando this might be one to add to the collection.

MXR Carbon Copy

This is one of MXR's new pedals and it sounds pretty cool. I couldn't
find and spec sheets around, but I would guess from the sound it's
around 400ms. It also has some pretty rad green sparkle paint.

If you are the market for an analog delay, give this one some thought.

Doepfer A-138e Crossfader

They ain't just for DJs kids! Seriously though, this was possibly my
favorite of the new Doepfer modules and one that I will definitley
picking up.

It's actually quite complicated and has different functions based on
what inputs are patched...I'm too lazy to type it all out (by fingers
are starting to cramp too) so just jump over to Analoguehaven or and read about it yourself. Snap.

Doepfer A-137-2 Wave Multiplier

Here's an excessively blurry shot of the new Doepfer Wave Multiplier.
This is essentially the same type of module as the Cyndustries Saw
Annimator. While that comparrison might not be accurate for how they
are desinged (I'm no EE, I have no idea how each gets the job done
under the hood) the audible effect is the same. They both take in a a
wave with some of ramp (Dieter even gave me a demo using a sine wave)
and mix in duplicate waves with phase ofsets...create a fat lush sound.

Where they definitely differ, however, is the Cyndustries one uses
built-in pitch-tracking LFOs to modulate phase while the Doepfer uses
manual controls with CV inputs.

I can see advantages with both approaches. The Cyndustries defintely
is the most stright forward and simple approach, especially if you
want the effect to track though a keyboard's range. But the Doepfer
seems like it would be more flexible since you can use your own LFOs
or any independent modulation sources as well have a greater deal of
timbre control in a static patch (no CV of phased waveforms). The
downside is it would be a little more complited to make it do what the
Cyndustries does in a single module; you're gonna need extrea LFOs/mod

The final difference is price, with the Doepfer being considerably

I was planning on getting the Cyndustries Saw Annimator but with
Deiter's new entry, I just might have a descision on my hands.

Metasonix Fucking Fucker

I finally got around to play the Fucking Fucker on Sunday and boy was
I surprised (although maybe I shouldn't have been). This is an
incredibly versitle guitar amp! The clean channel is fantastic...I
wonder why other amps have never included a phase knob, the variance
of tones available just with this knob alone was surprising. It might
be rediculous, but the clean (I mean, Happy) channel might have been
my favorite. The Reverb totally put over the top.

The Angry channel was also just as versitile, able to get tones
anywhere from a light over drive to an edgy/agreesive blues-y kind of
tone, to brutal crunch, to crazy distortion that reminded me of some
sounds from my TM-7.

I thought for sure that this amp be for those of us who already
understood Eric's modules and their unique sonics, but this amp is
truely for any guitar player. The current $5k price estimate probably
puts it out of the immediate reach of many (me included
ubfortunately), but any guitar player who doesn't scope this out as a
serious option for an amp is a serious idiot.

Consider this my official review. Eric, you win Bad Ass Mo Fo of the
year...get in touch with Samuel L. Jackson for your prize.

PS. I did get to see a pair of "middle-aged tone-questing" looking
dudes scoff at it while I was playing...I gave them a big shit-eating
grin and played the most obnoxious chord I could think of...with a
little bend thrown in for hood measure. That might have been the
highlight of the show.

STG Monkato Filter

I honestly don't full understand how this guy works but it made some
rad sounds! I tweaked it for a few minutes then took this excessively
blurry shot.

UPDATED: From the comments from the Suit and Tie Guy himself:
well it's pretty simple. it's just a plain old four-pole lowpass filter with regeneration. however there's a positive output and a negative output at every pole.

this allows you to use the Mankato as a quadrature oscillator. also, it has an _extremely_ useable frequency range going from subaudio (one cycle every minute or three) into superaudio (eh ... way up there.)

Doepfer A-189-1 Bit Crusher

One of the new Doepfer modules that caught my eye was this voltage
controlled bit crusher. Fairly straightforward CV control of bit
depth and sampling rate as well as a manual "Mode" knob which selects
the various possible audio abusing methods. Having a CV for the Mode
would have put it over the top for me, but this is an awesome no-
nonse, straightforward audio mangler.

BTW, I asked Dieter about the black knobs...they are on the new
modules only so that they are easily locatable as the new models in
his huge double monster size cases...they are not switching to black
knobs for production modules.

The Harvestman Zorlon Canon

The Zorlon Canon has been on my list for a while, buy I was mainly
interested in the random gates, I didn't think I'd be to into the
pitched noise aspect of it.

Well, I was totally wrong, the pitched noise is really cool! I was
having flash backs to some of my favorite video game sound tracks the
entire time. It's actually very musical in a lo-fi way and would make
a great percussion sound source. I can't believe I forgot to do this
since Scott had one in his case, but I was really curious to hear what
it would have sounded like through the Plan B Model 13.

Another aspect of the pitched noise half that I didn't actually think
about until now is that each output works individually and
simultaneously, so you could also mix together the various noise
outputs for an interesting timbre...especially if the mixer could also
phase invert, like the Doepfer A-138c or Plan B Model 14.

The Harvestman Tyme Sefari

As all of you regular readers know, I can't wait for this module. It
is *so* much fun and finally getting a hands-on was fantastic! Scott
has done an awesome job with the panel layout...the module is
definitley one of those ones where you see yourself tweaking a lot in
realtime and the layout makes this really easy, even with cables
plugged in.

The switches are also really nice feeling. The are heavier duty that
the usual switched found on modules and feel like you can be a little
more "enthusiastic" with them during a performance. I'm so in love
with this module.

The Sound Of Thunder expansion module is fantasitc fun too...this is
definite a must have. Getting a wacky loop going and then flipping
those switches brought the biggest smile to my face!

Scott said he's got a few final tweaks to make to it and then its
ready to roll out!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Livewire Chaos Computer

Ok I was pretty much sold on this thing from the first time I saw it last year, but after listening to a few short seconds I am completely smitten.

The Chaos Computer is the perfect blend between random and sequenced. The patterns it creates are random, but they tend to repeat and evolve slowly into different patterns. It's very musical.

The outputs were not what I expected either. The Gate output on each side is the straight clock signal (speed set by frequency knob) whereas the Binary out is a gate signal which occurs depending on the periocity of the shift registers...the random clock basically.

Also, I thought the Uniform/Gaussian outputs meant Stepped and Smoothed, but that's not the case at all. Both outputs are stepped; Uniform and Gaussian refer to the weighting of the voltage levels (or "notes" as Mike put it). So for example, using the Wide output under Uniform would be a large range of possible notes with an even weighting for all notes (meaning each note had the same probability of occuring). Fucking rad! This one is defintely a can't miss module for the eurorack crowd. Oh yeah, and the 8x8 LED matrix is cool as shit to watch in action! :)

Livewire AFG

I can't even begin to explain how huge this thing sounds. I had
anticaped a bug sound, but it's fatter than I had imagined! Just the
PWM alone sounded like two oscillators...with the dedicated Sub Out
(octave down) it's absolutely massive. I practically soiled myself.

Mike says it's just about ready to roll out the door; he estimated
only a couple of weeks...I'm so stoked!

The Wretch Machine

S-1000 was on display in the AH room complete with ribbon controller.
After playing with this kind of config @ AH Bay Area and again here @
NAMM, I'm convinced that this is *the* way to play the Wretch Machine!

I'm an idiot...

Well, you guys might want to kill me, but I left my digicam back
home...I know exactly where too...sitting on the floor charging. :p

I've spent most if this morning in the Analogue Haven room. Lots of
cool stuff coming. I finally got to meet Mike Brown, Scott Jaeger,
and Dieter Doepfer. I talked to Peter for a while as well and he gave
me a sneak peak of his new Model 30 (or maybe its the 23). Either way
it is super rad!!! He said he was going to offcially announce it in
the next day or so, so I won't steal his thunder by letting the cat
out of the bag. Everyone will be really stoked though (and maybe
surprised). I also ran into Devi Ever and Eric up in the AH
was like all my heroes were there in one place. I didn't get a chance
to play "The Fucking Fucker" yet...I have one more meeting today, so I
might not getvto it until tomorrow. Eric did say he's had hundreds of
people by each day so far! I'm stoker he's getting so much interest.

That's it for now, iPhone pics tonight when I have time to write some

Beatiful Anaheim, CA

Thursday, January 17, 2008

NAMM 2008

Just a test post before the show.

NAMM coverage

Well, I'm heading off tomorrow afternoon for Anaheim.

As I said before, I won't have my laptop, so in depth "Hi-Fi" coverage for those of you who've asked me to check stuff out won't be up until I get back on Tuesday.

However, being inspired by Devi's NAMM blog I'm going to email in posts from my iPhone periodically from the show. Lo-Fi coverage. ;)

BTW, anyone else interested in staying on top of the very latest from NAMM, the sonic state RSS feed seems to be a great source. As of course are the regular outlets, like Matrixsynth.

Also, Brandon's pics of the latest from NAMM are always great. He's even more artsy with the shots this year.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

An update before the break

Not much has been going on here...just getting this sorted out before the trip down to NAMM.

I've been playing a lot more guitar lately and my guitar pedal fetish is starting to flouring. I want the new metasonix amp more than anything, but it's price point (though I'm sure well worth it) puts it out of my league for the time being. One day! In the meantime, I plan on building a bunch of BYOC kits as well as making an even more serious effort to obtain a TX-1 and TX-2.

The other reason for my increased guitar playing (other than it being fun and needing to work the rust out of my fingers) is that the modular is currently in shambles. Yes, shambles! I sold both of the Doepfer A-100P cases (thanks guys) but all the parts to put the custom case together have not arrived yet. They are estimated to arrive by next week, so I'll be getting started on that as soon as they arrive. It was actually kinda fun taking the modules out and getting a peek at their circuit boards, which I haven't seen since they were first put in the case. I had forgotten about some of the messages screened on the Livewire boards. :D

I'll also be without my laptop for an undetermined amount of time. I'm dropping it off tomorrow. I'll have my iPhone with me so I may be able to make some spurious posts from the NAMM show floor, but they might be rather brief so it might not be worth it. But I plan on taking plenty of pictures and will have a sizeable post when I return.

In the meantime, to tide you over, I present a composition originally done for a Xmas employee composition which, due to some serious hate from Logic, did not get finished. It's still not finished, but it's in a fairly progressed state and since it's the only real recording I've done in a while, I thought I'd share it. It's largely the MachineDrum and several tracks of the modular. There's a piano part in the break which is from one of Logic's sample sets. UAD Neve 88RS plugs were used to process each track and there's a little UAD Plate 140 and UAD RE-201 for ambience.

Comments welcome.


PS. If anyone gets the reference made by the title, sound off in the comments. You'll win some nerd points. ;)

PPS. The first few seconds are only the sub-bass kick. If you don't hear anything, then yo speakers ain't big enough cuz!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Guitar Hero is officially out of control

Ok first off, this isn't, technically, a music/synth related post. I've tried to stray away from posting random shit I'm interested in and instead stay on task with music/noise related gear, but this one is close enough that I couldn't pass up.

Let me also say that I love playing Guitar Hero. I have GH1 and GH2 on PS2 and it's a blast, particularly when playing with friends (and with beer).

That being said, this Peavey Riff Master Pro System for GH is fucking ridiculous. If you are going to drop that much money on what essentially is a gutted real guitar and real PA system, just buy a fucking guitar and learn to play it. Start a band. Start a cover band if you must. This quite possibly could be one of the lamest things I have ever seen.

What I'm actually more puzzled by (actually *afraid of* might be the better choice) is if there are actually bands that play GH in front of people. And I don't mean like friends get together at a bar and watch others play...I mean there's a real show and venue and everything. Are there girls there? If I saw such a show I think I would throw up...right before I imploded. I don't know wether to be sad for or mad at the target market of this thing.

oh well. back to real life.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

New year's update

Once again, it's been too long since my last update...

Firstly, I hope everyone had a good and relaxing holiday break!

No new modules since the sequencer, money has been slow, but I have got a few more mastering projects coming my way and I did get some money for the holidays but I'm trying not to blow through that so fast. That and, as you'll read, I've got more uses for it. That, and I've learned my lesson about buying stuff before NAMM.

Over the break, I got back into playing guitar more. It started with playing around with the TM-6 as a wah and for about a week I played guitar more than played with the modular. It was involved in a few sounds, using the filters mostly, but I generally was just using the guitar and having a lot of fun. Even not having played (or practiced, which I never did much anyway) I haven't gotten too's certainly a lot easier to come up with riffs/lines on the guitar than the synth/keys for me and that's probably why I had so much fun.

This new attention to the guitar also rekindled my lust for pedals. I've always liked pedals, but was always buying and selling them as they didn't hold my attention very long...the few that did though, I have kept and I feel now, years later, that my ears have improved enough that I'm able to pick and choose pedals better.

Through Pete @ Leisure Cove, I got turned onto Build Your Own Clone and the DIY pedal kits that they offer. BYOC has quite a few kits, one that I am particularly excited about, the "Lazy Sproket", a Boss SG-1 Slow Gear clone. Despite it's simplicity, I really liked that pedal, but it was always way too expensive. It's the pedal that actually got me browsing eBay way back in 99 or thereabouts. I was always hunting for a Slow Gear...and was always outbid on the few that came up. Well now, I can build the thing myself for $74.99. Fuckin-A.

All of their kits are very interesting and very well priced. The other's that particularly interest me are the "250+" DOD 250/MXR Dist+ clone as well as their Digital Delay. The icing on the cake is their forum, which has a very active membership with what seems like hundreds of various mods to the kits. I'm *really* excited about getting into this.

In modular news, I've ordered the majority of the parts for my custom case and they should be arriving very soon. I actually ordered 2 extra of the Vector T-strut mounting rails since it was only a few more bucks to get the price break for 10 of them. So if anyone wants 2 rails, let me know and I'll give you a great deal; I don't think I'll have a use for them. I'm hoping to finish the case quickly and not drag ass like I have with the joystick controller. The fact that having the case finished will allow me to sell my Doepfer A-100P suitcases, therefore having money for modules, will be a big motivator. Which reminds me, I'll have 2 Doepfer A-100P cases available for sale soon too; if you are in the market for one (or both!) let me know.

I'm looking forward to NAMM again this year; I always have a good time, but I have very few work-related meetings lined up this year so I'll pretty much be cruising the show the entire time. I've got a few people to say hi to in person now which will be fun to. If any of you want me to check out anything specific @ NAMM, please leave a note in the comments (or this thread on the Muff Wiggler Forum) and I will make sure to check it out and get as many details as possible.

It's not all rainbow farts and sunshine here though, my MacbookPro has fucked itself up nicely. For the last month or so it's been acting oddly when charging batteries and I actually had to replace one of the batteries as it no longer held a charge for more than 30 minutes or so. Now, it simply refuses to run when the battery is used; it will only work when connected to the AC adapter. The battery is fine too, I've tested it with several colleague's MBPs as well as tried their batteries. The shitty part is that my MBP is out of warranty and I didn't buy the extended applecare. I've bought the extended applecare for every mac I've ever owned and never needed it, and this time, ever so ironically, skipped it with this laptop.
Actually the really sucky part is the fact that the wonderful MagSafe connector comes out so easily by design (to save your laptop from flying across the room should someone trip on the power cable) if I pickup the thing wrong and the plug pulls out, the computer dies...which has happened like 5 times in the last 2 weeks. Bad sectors anyone!? I've yet to back my system up and take it in for repair, so I'm in for an unknown charge in the near future (another reason to not go splurging on modules.

That's it for now. Adios.