Wednesday, February 18, 2009

From that dude who really likes hammonds...

For a few months I'd been hearing on and off on the forums (I make it sound like I actually go to more places than Muff Wigglers, which I don't) about Suit & Tie Guy's modules. Always a positive response. Some with more enthusiasm towards their praise than others, but mainly all positive non-the-less.

Always being the child who wanted to do as the cool kids do of course I had to find out for myself...

Having owned both an Arp 2600 and Odyssey I was hoping for something to remind me of those days, and for that it did not disappoint. I was able to revisit those sounds within a close enough distance to relive that feeling of squirting blippy S&H tantrums at random as well as match its growl decently for my taste. But, as always; individual user experiences may differ.

Trying for an Arp 2600 style S&H w/ spring reverb.

Sweeping the frequency of the cutoff with a little FM from the same oscillator.

The module was confusing to me at first. I wasn't getting sounds I expected it to make right away and I dismissed it as a bad module. (a typical scenario for modular owners. NONE ARE IMUNE!) But after stepping back and actually using my brain I found this module to be very fun. Its not a set and forget unit, oh no. This unit wants voltage and it wants its constantly. The offset makes for wonderful tonal shifts when running outputs from your audio interfaces such as a drum loop or what have you. I spent a good portion on the evening trying out different combinations on source input, knob settings and CV choices.

I would recommend these modules to any euro-rack, frac-rack user, or MOTM user. since they are available in all three formats.

I love the look of his Frac layouts. Being a stickler for asthetics I could go on about his 14HP eurorack module size or the colorful knob selections but these are really petty arguments when it comes down to it. I am not regretful for purchasing these units and look forward to his future releases.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Livewire Vulcan Modulator DIY Expander

Someone once told me, in reference to their skills with a soldering iron: "..I know just enough to be dangerous.."

I liked that, but in my case its far more appropriate to say: "..I know when I see blue smoke I've done a bad, bad thing.."

Luckily in this case, it all worked out just fine. (for now)

Having owned a Vulcan Modulator since they were first up for grabs @ Analogue Haven back in 2006 I've always appreciated it as a great source for discombobulated modulations and quirky effects. Even using it as two very effective LFOs when the CV inputs are not in use and the attenuators are at zero.

Its greatest feature is of course the Max, Min, Sum & Difference outputs that allow for an even greater palette of choice when it comes to a modulation source. But what I didn't like was having to power down the case, unscrew the module, move the jumpers, place the module back in, power on the case again, let the modules warm back up and THEN see what the combination sounded like. (I never had a long enough power cable to do this procedure  without powering down the case)

So I took it upon myself to make a small expansion unit to sit beside the Vulcan Modulator that would allow me to switch the waveform mixes around in real time with just the simple option to select either Sine, Triangle or Square waveforms. I remember seeing expanders on either side of one of the Vulcan's Mike Brown had @ NAMM '07. It took some figuring out as to what form factor, what components, etc. to make it possible but it was by no means a very hard task to determine how to do it. The problem laid in connecting all those individual jumper posts without accidently dropping a touch of solder across two making a permanent connection. (had I not known I did it)

As with the Miniwave Euro Kit I spread the task out over a few days so I would lessen my chances of such a screw up. As luck would have it, when the module was placed back in the case and powered on (on a bus board all by its loansome at first, for safety's sake) it lit up and worked like a charm. 

I can now switch the waveforms in real time and have a little more hands on control with the complexity of the modulations to suit whatever mood I find the patch to be going in. Here's a short demo of it working. (warning: TERRIBLE video quality)

I even planned to do a run of simple but up-to-par 4hp faceplates to create kits for others to do that same. But that can not be &  the reasons for it are understandable.  Hopefully soon Livewire will bring out a much better and feature heavy expansion module in the future, I look forward to seeing such a thing.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I only like bubbles in my champagne...

...but for this particular module, i'll make an exception.

So who is this manufacturer anyway? 

BubbleSound has an interesting philosphy in that they use some NOS components (in the case of the module on the block today, the SeM20 V|S|F; we are experiencing the sound of NOS transistors and opamps) in their product. Boutique guitar pedal manufacturers (fuzz pedals in particular) have a penchant for using NOS germanium or silicon transistors to help obtain that vintage feel. So why not the same concept for modules?

I for one have never personally been too attached to the notion of needing a certain piece of gear to capture the sound i'm looking for. Within reason, any able-minded synthesis should have the capacity to create workable sound from any synth with full parameter control that they might have in front of them. 

With that being said I was impressed with the sound quality of the SeM20. Its character was a softer, more rounded color scheme that some of the more harsh and gnarly filters that seem to frequent the eurorack format world. Yet it broke up with a nice grit in the final stages of the input attenuation and frequency knobs rotation.

Each filter modes output sounded good to my ears for its purpose. When combined with the AFG square wave output, (a module which uses 70's era tracing and component techniques) I was impressed with the outcome. It sounded vintage-eque to my ears at least.

The most unique feature from the other eurorack filters is its Notch Balance knob. Giving you, the user; the ability to shift the notch balance closer to either the LP or HP sides of the spectrum. giving a nice phasing sound you hear near the end of the clip above. I really wish it was voltage controllable though. :(

Now that I've said my positives i'll hash out the few, (but still unavoidable) negatives which may or may not concern most users.

1) Their website states that the filter will self oscillate. Mine came unable to achieve this. It might be as simple as a trim pot adjustment but its still worth noting.

2) Something that doesn't impede its sound in the least; its layout, knobs and faceplate font. This little darling is not winning any beauty pageants, thats for sure.  I would have much rather had all the filter outputs across the bottom of the module in a nice even row while all the knobs would be shifted into two, symmetrical columns. That would leave plenty of room for that really nifty CV input for the Notch Balance. (hint, hint)

So there you have it. In the end I find this filter to be a very worthwhile purchase that can add an older (ie: more distinguished) sheen to your fairly modern filter arsenal.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

You had me at "HELO"

Tiptop Audio's Z3000 to be exact.

Having had the opportunity to utilize not just one, but for a short time, up to four of these newly minted oscillators in my own system; I have to say the Z3000's utilitarian & highly convenient frequency counter was, as with most who first look upon the module, the initial draw and drool factor. Let alone its ability to also show the note & octave state the module is currently outputing with the bonus of an external in to utilize the frequency counter with all your existing oscillators to boot! 

The unit is completely analogue aside from the frequency counter. It is rich and warm with one of the best sine waves I've had the opportunity to use. It's by no means pure & that's most likely the reason for it sounding so good to my own (& the others) ears who've been fortunate enough to test and play with these lovely modules ahead of time.

The other wave forms are very good & for me the pulse especially, with its full sweep pot that dosen't dead end or drop off near the limits of the pot's radius. Would I have liked a dedicated 50/50 duty cycle square wave output too? Of course, but at this price point to feature ratio I am not about to complain!

A nice feature that helps alleviate the need for a multiple is the CV out thru-put on the unit. You can cascade multiple Z3000's or send that CV to another oscillator without the need for a middle man to make the connection. (hush you banana jack users, I know already what your going to say) There is even a jumper on the PCB to allow you to connect it to the Doepfer CV bus, all the while still having the 1v/oct input active for use.

You'll notice another feature that is unique to
 this particular oscillator & that is its HSM input. Hard Sync Modulation allows you to input not just the saw or square waves that have a hard edge but also triangle and sine waves with varying effect from each waveform. You can even input whole tracks and external audio signals from you DAW or other source to distort and rectify the waveform according to the incoming signal. Also worth noting is the fact you can use both inputs at the same time, having frequencies fight it out in a duel to the divisible-death if you will. Nifty stuff. :) 

Below is a simple example of that very thing. Only four modules and three patchcords are in use here. Two Plan B Model-15 oscillators as the sync sources. The sine wave output from the Z3000 is going directly into a VCA set wide open. One M-15 is used for its pulse out going into the Sync input & the other M-15 has its sine out going into the HSM input. The frequencies of the two M-15's are set as the Z3000's frequency is slowly swept up and back down again. Then random frequency changes are applied manually to the individual M-15s as well as the HSM input source being changed from sine to triangle to sawtooth.

The FM is also lovely. It's not as "out there" as the Plan B Model-15 can get but it's a new and very choice color to add to an existing color scheme. If I had the brain power left tonight i'd upload an audio demo but that will have to wait until later, unfortunately.

With that said I can definitely say I would not want to be without this guy from now on. Especially with it's handy frequency counter allowing me to subdivide & multiply frequencies with greater ease to create harmonic overtones as well as adding or subtracting by a set integer for inharmonic overtones both of which come in great handy not only for FM but for rhythmic beating of the tuning when mixed together, etc. etc.

Oh, and this last image is for Surachai: Super Devil Brutal Metal Frequency

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Miniwave, Majorpain

SO... it's been a while, yes?

I would usually preface this with an apology for the lack of posts in the last 30 some odd days but that's not what you're here to see. You want the good stuff.

With that, I give you Miniwaves of Majorpain: One Man's Odyssey Into Making The Unfit-able... Fit.

We start with two PlanB Miniwave faceplate euro kits. They come with a handy, dandy warning letting us gentle folk know that the kits will not allow for the Miniwaves to fit into the confines of the Doepfer portable or monster case systems naturally due to the minwaves inherent depth while only letting them fit between bus board connectors in the more standard G6 cases.

Bullocks, rubbish, nonsense, you don't tell me what to do.

So with those words in mind, I set out to do just that.

I'd like to point out that this was the first module kit I've ever put together from start to finish. My only other experience being with soldering of the wiring of jacks to the PCB of a Blacet Time Machine about four or five years ago that a dear friend of mine built 98% prior to my "work." In other words my skills with the iron were less than satisfactory. But that didn't stop me, for now I had time on my side, patience as my virtue & a metric shit-ton of ignorant bravado.

I laid out a course of action to finish the task at hand without feeling overwhelmed. I spaced out the work in 90 minute chunks over the span of five days, those being Monday through Friday. Although I'm sorry to say Wednesday was thrown out the window not do to my lack of caring, but more for my lack of consciousness. Thursday was the utmost frustrating & feverishly conducive towards me hitting fragile things with heavy, blunt objects. In aforementioned "fourth day" It was time for the point to point soldering of all the faceplate components via wires to the PCB. Thats 43 wires, 86 patch points. Now it wasn't so bad until it came down to the LED & Potentiometer prongs. I've not been as agitated or so easily angled towards rage in any point in my life, I'm pretty sure.

(As a side note, the LEDs are designed to be held in place by only the holes holding them to the PCB. They are purposely angled so they stay seated into the faceplate in that arrangement. Well... not so with how I needed to attach them. Instead I had to buy a hot glue gun and make like I was practicing for my money-shot moment. But I have to admit, it held them in place perfectly.)

And now its done, right?

Not without the proverbial hiccup mind you. (please, READ the instructions thoroughly. Don't skip over the jack solder assignment just because you're looking at the picture and holding your PlanB faceplate in your hand. Nice little tip, the jacks aren't in the same order top to bottom as on the Blacet faceplate. This was entirely my fault and not the fault of anyone else.) I'd like to give a thanks to Gur from Tiptop Audio for having the kindness in his heart to read the schematic for me (did I mention how bad I suck?) and showing my error.

Then there was the problem of how to get the PCB into the case. I knew I had to rest it @ the bottom of the case and while doing so I wanted to install stand offs to lift it from the floor of the unit. FAIL. You can't get the PCB in that position with stand offs installed except by maybe removing the bus board first. (No thank you.) So I chose to insulate any metal in that section of the case that could possibly touch the pcb via electrical tape for now until I devise a proper, long term solution.

Lastly, while installing the PCB you must disconnect the power adapter PlanB provides due again to it not being able to fit in its location otherwise. After it's secure your all done.

So here it is, in all its defiant glory. A Blacet Miniwave humming quite happily inside a Doepfer Monster Case.

Here is a link to all the pictures I took over those 5 days.

Now forge on you rebels and install one (or more) of your own!

I know I will be.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

VC Bit Modifier Expansion Port Update.

I Asked Shawn @  Analogue Haven if there was any information on the possible future expansion for the A-189-1 . 

My friends, the future looks interesting.

Below, in Dieters own words, he explains what could become reality if there is enough interest:

we think about an expansion module for the A-189-1 that would allow  some
additional features, e.g.:

- digital VCA at the audio input (one would not need a separate VCA  at the
audio input for certain bit modifier effects, if you already worked  with the
A-189-1 you should try a VCA controlled by an ADSR at the audio  input, then
you know what I mean !). For this an additional CV input is required
(available at the expansion module)
- voltage control of the mode (e.g. if the rotary switch is in  position 16
the mode can be voltage controlled by an additional CV input  available at
the expansion module)
- digital ring modulator (similar to A-114 but digital with VC  sampling

So far there is no release date for the A-189-1 expansion module.  For now
the A-189-1 users seem to be happy with the available features. But we
wanted to be open for possible additional features. Of course the software
(i.e. the microcontroller) has to be changed too.

So there you have it. I just hope the future owners of this module with be as selfishly unsatisfied as I am & give their vote toward its creation until the expansion module because a reality. ;)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I want to crush you to bits...

And so I shall, in 16 varieties not less.

Well, technically 11 varieties with a few short delays loped in for good measure.... but who's counting?

I'm not qualified to explain this modules settings in a manner befitting its design so I'll let the moving picture below do the talking for the most part. For a proper explination of each setting I recommend Doepfers own A-189-1 page. 

I used a simple sine wave for demonstration purposes so you could actually see what the varied settlings were actually doing to the waveform itself on the scope. Some settings don't sound all that different from the previous or might not sound like much at all. This is mainly due to the source with which i'm feeding it. A static wave with no movement or harmonic content to speak of is not what some of these settings would prefer. Prior to recording this demo I was feeding it Princes' Lets Go Crazy. Trust in the fact that there is more to this unit that what is shown. 

While I was installing the unit I notice there was a nifty little pin connection point that was labeled "Expansion" on the PCB. I'm very curious as to what it is exactly that Dieter has in store for it.

Over all I'm very satisfied with this module. It does quite a bit (totally unintentional pun that i'm too sappy to now remove) for such a small footprint. But I will say this; it is not a Malgorithm replacment. Its hard to explain but with them side by side they are two similar means with slightly different ends. For those of you thinking of letting go of the Malgorithm just because this is now available please keep in mind it is a complimenting addition, not a substitution.