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.


deastman said...

If you're happy with that workflow, then go for it. Personally, I use the 155/154 combination for so many different purposes, I couldn't imagine doing without it. In fact, I have two 155's, each with their own dedicated 154.

On the other hand, I'm totally happy with the basic Doepfer MIDI/CV. Again, it really depends on your workflow. The most I ever use it for is a single melody line coming from my DAW. However, I often use one or more dedicated audio outs from my MOTU 828mkII to feed sync pulses or rhythmic triggers into the modular.

But more regularly I just use the modular by itself. If you're mainly interested in sequenced triggers, what about the MFB SEQ01? I use one for that purpose all the time.

felix said...

I think I would be happy with that workflow, a friend at work let me borrow his Pro-2000 so I'll find out for sure.

I've used my A-155 and A-154 mainly to sequence triggers, filter cutoff, VCA amount, and melody lines.

The machinedrum has been the ultimate for sequencing triggers though, it's similar to your use of the 828 to feed triggers/pulses from the DAW. I have 4 separate outputs from machinedrum (6 if I don't want to use the machinedrum sounds at all) and any number of 16 tracks to any of those outputs.

After using the MIDI machine and finding that very intuitive (although admittedly not quite as immediate as the A-155) it seemed a natural thing to look at expanding to a more feature rich MID-CV and then it donned on me that I could replace the A-155, A-154, and A-190 and save that space. My thought process was a bit backwards than the way I wrote it in that post.

Either way, I'll know more if it's right or not soon. ;) Thanks for the comments.

acrodot said...

I don't know man...I say go with your instinct. Save some cash. Is it really necessarily to have every freaking module that seems remotely cool? I don't think so.

At some point it just becomes an obsessive psychological thing, really. As long as your system addresses all of your needs, you should be good to go. I've seen your system and can't imagine what else you absolutely NEED that would warrant the monster base.

There is a distinct difference between NEED and WANT though, so you have to ask yourself if you WANT it bad enough to warrant the cost.

At the end of the day, it really comes down to what you want to do. If all you are interested in is tweakery, and building this perpetual system that never really gets completed, then yeah..get the base. Hell, get another Monster while you're at it.

If, however, you are interested in not only saving some cash, but also maybe possible making some actual music with your time, then I would say you know what to do.

Don't get me wrong, I completely understand the value of exploring a modular system, and find that it is an essential aspect of owning such equipment. It is, however, quite natural for people to become so obsessed over building the system that they spend more time tinkering with putting it together than actually using it.

When I tally up the hours I've spent rearranging modules in the Modular Planner and watching yours and other videos, it really makes me feel like something is wrong up there. I guess it's the type of thing that happens to people though. Seems to happen with gear in particular. I try desperately not to do it, but I admit I'm just as bad as the next guy. Perhaps that makes me hypocritical - at least I'm aware of myself though :)

Nothing bugs me more than to see these ridiculously large modulars that reach from the carpet to the ceiling. Not only does it not make sense logistically - I would be willing to bet money that at least a third of those modules rarely if ever see any actual use.