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.