Tag Archives: clock

A novel and affordable MIDI to clock design - Erica Synths - Midi to Clock V2 is here

In the beginning it was dark… I was using an MSY2 from Doepfer to sync my QCD with my Electribe MIDI sequencer which is in charge of controlling my Vermona DRM1. Now I could replace it with something monstrous from Erica Synths. The new version of the MIDI to Clock module is out now!
midiclk
Erica Synths – Midi to Clock V2

I used to set the divisions of the MIDI clock with DIP switches on the Doepfer MSY2 which are cost-effective, yet it needs no proof to see that those were not designed for daily use and are obviously less durable. But now the MIDI to Clock deals with that on the front panel with enough immediate divisions at hand. Setting different divisions is no big deal with deeper MIDI-CV interfaces  like Yarns from Mutable or the Shuttle Control from Endoprhines. However this new module has an ultimate winning point: it has both MIDI in and out mode.

What does this mean? You are able to control your MIDI device with clocks coming from anywhere in your modular system (LFO’s, clock modules, stepped random voltage generators, etc.). Forget “setting up and playing”, say hello to “setting up while playing”. Want async or div/mult changes based on your Midi devices or analog clocks (which are more easily bouncing and with a little modulation can have more life which is hard to emulate digitally) at any time with ease? There we have it for a really good price and with great ease: as the module can be switched to “MIDI out mode”! How amazing would it be to send some “analog storms” towards your previously calm and straightforward MIDI-devices?

It is also worth mentioning that the module is very slim (can be housed in skiff cases!), and ivery low current (25mA altogether on the +12V rail).

The built-in Start/Stop function is also available in both modes (It used to be pretty frustrating that with plenty of modules you just had a clock signal which stayed there forever.).
So it is no doubt that it was worth waiting for a gamechanger in live performance and studio routing!

5x4=20 - 4ms is 20 years old! A thank-you with personal highlights

4ms Company might be a maker that all of us should be proud of thanks to their innovative aim. Even if we were not that interested in the “maths” in general, it would bring new life into your sounds’ temporal dimensions. Their latest sound processors are of a different generation, however, I do see the effort of them getting to a novel aim. The company’s recent 20 year anniversary being still around, I thought I would show you my personal highlights from 4ms.  
New dimensions in rhythms and beats

In my opinion, the 4ms Company products that have redefined modular synthesis and have saved it from the lovely but obviously limited linearity of sequencer-based “Berlin school” types of electronic music are still their clock modules…

Let’s recap. Take a clock divider. Give it a master clock, e.g. an LFO. The divider will spit out divisions that were set by the outputs. Like on the A-160-2 Doepfer Clock Divider:

a-160-2-clock-behaviour
The scheme of the A-160-2 clock divider

a-160-2


So far, this is just a very badly designed “snake game” in which the snake cannot be navigated through the wall. What you would really want is to maneuver your snake through the walls, because this way you earn your points rcdmore easily yet with more variety.  Now this is exactly

4ms Shuffling Clock Multiplier

what the Rotating Clock Divider and the Shuffling Clock Multiplier modules do. They rotate the output signals, so each divided clock signal appears on a different output as soon as you add an input signal to the Rotate input. So your kick suddenly starts trilling, your hihats suddenly slow down, claps start to rattle, envelopes go mad, etc. It may sound mathematical and generative, yet it still pleases your senses. You can even fine tune these and get new modes with their expanders (SCM Breakout), (RCD Breakout).

The clock divisions can be rotated on the 4ms RCD
The clock divisions can be rotated on the 4ms RCD

I would never say something stupid that “this had not been done before by anybody”. Obviously, if you patch the Doepfer outputs into an A-151 Quad Sequential Switch, something similar would already be happening. But honestly, how many times would you hear that compared to the relatively linear maybe ratcheting ways of clock dividers in the electronic music of the last 20 years?

Another thing I really like in this aim is addressing and challenging simplicity. Clock signals can be conceptualised in such a narrow way: saying “on and off” + “the time between these” would cover most of it, however with enough humbleness you can in fact reshape even this basic idea. Thanks to these modules, clock signals now – literally – add new dimensions to your rhythmic patterns, changing the topology of your timing in your system. Not to mention, that at audio rates they can function as sub-octave or sub-interval generators as well. Imagine crunchy chords, that can become really lush when you process them with a filter…

qcd_final_frontcfqcd_exp_final_frontdcAfter the RCD and the SCM modules, let me praise the mighty king of clocks, the Quad Clock Distributor – and its expander. The QCD’s 4 independently resettable, CV controllable clock divider/multiplier sub-units powered up with the expansion module  will provide you with enough rhythmic patterns till the end of civilisation. I have had it for 2 years, and I still find it really wonderfully inviting to work on new settings, not to even mention that I have mostly OR combined them… and yes, I wish you would forget anybody’s word being concerned about the width of the QCD expander. I would not even say that its an expander, it must be the end of the module’s story that is trying to tell you. Thanks to the pulse-width modulation, gate and trigger delay possibilities of the clocks and the attenuators, you will get the most delicate swings and accentuations in your music that you were dreaming about. Seriously.  Listen to this.

Or that one.

Maybe even that one. 

Last but not least, I would also love to thank them for the QPLFO and the PEG, which also expanded and colored the concepts of LFO’s and envelopes (slope generators in this case). However, you must have realised which my favourite modules are. And who would not dream about the spaceship-style interface of the VCA Matrix?

Clean power for everyone

Despite being tempted to start criticising for the price ROW POWER (30 and 40) is the way to go.

First of all, no power module gives you enough on the +5V rail except this module. I have seen systems freezing or failing enough times in eurorack cases packed with enough power-hungry modules, but not with the black ROW POWER 40. So here you have an ever-cool (even on its front panel you would hardly feel much of warmth), super slim power supply module with clean sounding and plenty of power! I said it right when I said clean sounding! I definitely felt that even my audio modules sounded more “powerful” (a thing which I hesitated to believe when I was reading up about it at a forum topic). 

Innovative digital audio processors

Don’t get me wrong: I have no bad things to say on the later generation of 4ms products. As concepts they are carving out the new digital realms and powers of eurorack. So I can only say that I still have a lack of enough personal experience with these modules: I have not even tried the Dual Looping Delay, and I am still new to the Spectral Multiband Resonator – it has been installed in one of the racks at the Analogue Zone showroom now, and has already got much use from the team and the guests. But as for audio, it must be a really subjective story. I have always liked different kinds of rhtyhms but I have always been picky – as everyone else – on sound. The SMR has to be used with the right kind of audio input and I would definitely spice it up to get rid of the somewhat recogniseable resonance tones. Think about something like the Trogotronic Tube VCA, the Erica Fusion Tube Mixer or the Kasleder Acid Fuzz, and you are on a really good way to get back to organic tones. Check out Divkid’s video on it – or check it out AGAIN if you already have:

One last thing… I have to say that the generally I have seen this company’s aims towards the customers. 4ms has always been reasonable with pricing, and they even offer some of their projects as kits as much more affordable products. And as I said, they are letting you sorting it out: they are not forcing a fixed musical concept from a certain era – which would be no offence for me, as I am also following a tradition of electronic music – they are saying do whatever sounds, whatever rhythms, at ease. because we have been able to give the space and opportunity for all these. Long live 4ms!
 
4ms Company might be a maker that all of us should be proud of thanks to their innovative aim. Even if we were not that interested in the “maths” in general, it would . Their latest sound processors are of a different generation, however, I do see the effort of them getting to a novel aim. The company’s recent 20 year anniversary being still around, I thought I would show you my personal highlights from 4ms.  
New dimensions in rhythms and beats

In my opinion, the 4ms Company products that have redefined modular synthesis and have saved it from the lovely but obviously limited linearity of sequencer-based “Berlin school” types of electronic music are still their clock modules…

Let’s recap. Take a clock divider. Give it a master clock, e.g. an LFO. The divider will spit out divisions that were set by the outputs. Like on the A-160-2 Doepfer Clock Divider:

a-160-2-clock-behaviour
The scheme of the A-160-2 clock divider

a-160-2

 


So far, this is just a very badly designed “snake game” in which the snake cannot be navigated through the wall. What you would really want is to maneuver your snake through the walls, because this way you earn your points rcdmore easily yet with more variety.  Now this is exactly

4ms Shuffling Clock Multiplier

what the Rotating Clock Divider and the Shuffling Clock Multiplier modules do. They rotate the output signals, so each divided clock signal appears on a different output as soon as you add an input signal to the Rotate input. So your kick suddenly starts trilling, your hihats suddenly slow down, claps start to rattle, envelopes go mad, etc. It may sound mathematical and generative, yet it still pleases your senses. You can even fine tune these and get new modes with their expanders (SCM Breakout), (RCD Breakout).

 

The clock divisions can be rotated on the 4ms RCD
The clock divisions can be rotated on the 4ms RCD

I would never say something stupid that “this had not been done before by anybody”. Obviously, if you patch the Doepfer outputs into an A-151 Quad Sequential Switch, something similar would already be happening. But honestly, how many times would you hear that compared to the relatively linear maybe ratcheting ways of clock dividers in the electronic music of the last 20 years?

Another thing I really like in this aim is addressing and challenging simplicity. Clock signals can be conceptualised in such a narrow way: saying “on and off” + “the time between these” would cover most of it, however with enough humbleness you can in fact reshape even this basic idea. Thanks to these modules, clock signals now – literally – add new dimensions to your rhythmic patterns, changing the topology of your timing in your system. Not to mention, that at audio rates they can function as sub-octave or sub-interval generators as well. Imagine crunchy chords, that can become really lush when you process them with a filter…

qcd_final_frontcf qcd_exp_final_frontdcAfter the RCD and the SCM modules, let me praise the mighty king of clocks, the Quad Clock Distributor – and its expander. The QCD’s 4 independently resettable, CV controllable clock divider/multiplier sub-units powered up with the expansion module  will provide you with enough rhythmic patterns till the end of civilisation. I have had it for 2 years, and I still find it really wonderfully inviting to work on new settings, not to even mention that I have mostly OR combined them… and yes, I wish you would forget anybody’s word being concerned about the width of the QCD expander. I would not even say that its an expander, it must be the end of the module’s story that is trying to tell you. Thanks to the pulse-width modulation, gate and trigger delay possibilities of the clocks and the attenuators, you will get the most delicate swings and accentuations in your music that you were dreaming about. Seriously.  Listen to this.

Or that one.

Maybe even that one. 

Last but not least, I would also love to thank them for the QPLFO and the PEG, which also expanded and colored the concepts of LFO’s and envelopes (slope generators in this case). However, you must have realised which my favourite modules are. And who would not dream about the spaceship-style interface of the VCA Matrix?

Clean power for everyone

Despite being tempted to start criticising for the price ROW POWER (30 and 40) is the way to go.

First of all, no power module gives you enough on the +5V rail except this module. I have seen systems freezing or failing enough times in eurorack cases packed with enough power-hungry modules, but not with the black ROW POWER 40. So here you have an ever-cool (even on its front panel you would hardly feel much of warmth), super slim power supply module with clean sounding and plenty of power! I said it right when I said clean sounding! I definitely felt that even my audio modules sounded more “powerful” (a thing which I hesitated to believe when I was reading up about it at a forum topic). 

Innovative digital audio processors

Don’t get me wrong: I have no bad things to say on the later generation of 4ms products. As concepts they are carving out the new digital realms and powers of eurorack. So I can only say that I still have a lack of enough personal experience with these modules: I have not even tried the Dual Looping Delay, and I am still new to the Spectral Multiband Resonator – it has been installed in one of the racks at the Analogue Zone showroom now, and has already got much use from the team and the guests. But as for audio, it must be a really subjective story. I have always liked different kinds of rhtyhms but I have always been picky – as everyone else – on sound. The SMR has to be used with the right kind of audio input and I would definitely spice it up to get rid of the somewhat recogniseable resonance tones. Think about something like the Trogotronic Tube VCA, the Erica Fusion Tube Mixer or the Kasleder Acid Fuzz, and you are on a really good way to get back to organic tones. Check out Divkid’s video on it – or check it out AGAIN if you already have:

One last thing… I have to say that the generally I have seen this company’s aims towards the customers. 4ms has always been reasonable with pricing, and they even offer some of their projects as kits as much more affordable products. And as I said, they are letting you sorting it out: they are not forcing a fixed musical concept from a certain era – which would be no offence for me, as I am also following a tradition of electronic music – they are saying do whatever sounds, whatever rhythms, at ease, because we have been able to give ourselves the space and opportunity for all these. Long live 4ms!
 

Randomness Will Pay - SSF Ultra Random Analog

Whenever we want randomness we want more of it with even more control. The URA is just unbeatable in that way at the moment if you consider either price or space consumed by the module.
 
A white noise generator is usually created by a flow of accidental collision of electrons resulting in an even distribution of frequencies our ears tend to hear as “mid-range” hiss. In reality, if we were precision audio analysers, we would be able to hear all frequencies, it is our ears’ and sense of hearing that results in this perception.
 

ura-2The Ultra Random Analog features two of these sources which act as the fundation of randomness. Imagine we could take “snapshots” of these randomness by another “on-and-off” signal, which would result in stepped random voltages. The URA has two of these, and on top of that, their result is also routed to a toggle switch which alternates between the outputs. This toggle switch also has a sepearate clock! Not to mention that once we get tired of the noise, we can feed any input signal via the sample inputs. 

 
We aren’t always in need of harsh steps though. So imagine you could add “portamento” to these fluctuations. Then, sometimes we would also like to control the randomness, e.g. to generate only positive voltages with usually a short or long “on” stage, i.e. triggers or gates. Imagine an “exclusive” “positive only” output instead of a random output on a Doepfer A-118, which would also generate ideal length pulses or gates. Even the division of these can be controlled on the front panel.
 
Sometimes as in case of many complex modules, the functions may not be entirely new, but the all-in-one concept indeed justifies the price. You may “have” something along the lines of URA from the following Doepfer modules (one could argue endlessly about different versions e.g. using different LFO’s, I’ll just say it is one of the possible options):
 
ura-doepf
Not only you may end up not having as much fine-tuned randomness as you expect, or even as steady clocks which function well at audio rates as well, but even price and rack space-wise they would cost more.
 
Random signals are often stereotypically related to disturbing and noisy sound-art, however they may turn out to have beautiful series of scales. Bring a quantizer like uScale to the game and modulate the URA’s clock and the oscillator you pitch control with both URA’s outs and the URA’s clock modulation source and you will get into the territory of endless musical randomness. And that was just a mere overview of the basic functions. A whole musical sequence with various parts, envelopes and drums can be built up by this module with pleasant surprises which you will hardly get tired of!

Update your TEMPI now and say goodbye to sync issues

Tempi update: external sync problems solved and features even got better! Do not forget that Make Noise is craving for your feedback as the firmware is being continuously updated, so o not hesitate to hit them up with your wishes!

makenoise-tempi-sideWhen I saw that Make Noise is about to release a clock module I was as excited as anyone could be who are after complex clock sources and modulations, though since it was their first ever touch on a clock module, I had also expected a few bumps in the initial firmware. I was then a bit worried when I was reading about the TEMPI‘s external sync issues. But not anymore. Here is everything you need to know about the new firmware where the external sync issue is solved and also about the new features of other parameters.

“NEW revision TEMPI firmware tempi11 makes External SYNC and RUN/ STOP behaviors even better. Install today, make modular beats!
http://www.makenoisemusic.com/content/patchsheets/tempi11_firmware_update.zip

Everything you need to do the update is included in this download. File, instructions, descriptions, contact info in case you have troubles.TEMPI modules serial number TMP0817 and higher do not require update. TEMPI modules running tempi11 will have an LED sequence on power up where all 6 CHannel LEDs alternate Red/ Blue twice, and PGMB and PGMA LEDs alternate ON/ OFF twice. See video file tempi11powerup.MOV for power up LED Sequence example (included in the download link above).

This firmware tempi11 greatly improves synchronization to external clocks via the TEMPO IN as well as the Run/Stop, Run/Stop ALL and Alt. Run/Stop MOD behaviors. This new TEMPI firmware can be loaded onto your TEMPI using the attached tempi11.wav file. Your settings and Stored STATEs are retained so long as you follow the update procedure correctly.

Check out Analogue Zone’s exclusive video in their Modular Minutes series with the TEMPI module.

Mordax - Data - The Most Complex Eurorack Scope Ever - NAMM '16

Mordax Systems is a new manufacturer who was ready to amaze us with the most complex  eurorack oscilloscope with spectral analysis, voltage monitoring, and even signal generating functions.
mordax-500x500The Mordax – Data is based on a classic concept of a digital bench scope. For us, the coolest feature – apart from the many great functions of it both as a scope (standard scope, voltage monitoring, spectrogram) and as a generator (it is capable of generating clocks or gates, even dividing and mutliplying them) and oscillator waveforms) – is that you don’t lose your signals either because it has buffered thru outputs as well. We bet that future firmware updates will provide us with more lovely functions!

Check out our exclusive video with the manufacturer from NAMM ’16:

No two modules sound alike - In conversation with Michael Beim from Birdkids

Birdkids started out as a music label, but the creative work did not stop here. Interesting to see that music labels nowadays morph into instrument manufacturers: Justin from Abstract Data was telling us a similar story – after all, only ideas matter,  and they should not be limited to one field. Among a lot of things, we were talking to Michael Beim from Birdkids about the development of their analog VCO / synth-voice The Bateleur, which has been seeing more and more popularity thanks to its hands-on and intuitive controls, sounds and possibilities.

Analogue Zone:  What pushed you to realise an oscillator / synth voice and why do you find thru-zero FM so interesting?

Coming from a music production background, my main concern is always:
How does it sound? How does it perform in a real-life scenario be it a studio, performance or gig? Is there real innovation to the concept?
I always thought of the Eurorack concept as a bit of a compromise, yet an agreeable common ground for development.  When the decision came to port our circuit concepts to the Eurorack Format, meaning break it down into constituent parts – the voice would be at the heart of it, obviously. Since we have our special way of doing things at birdkids, we didn’t see the necessity of having a myriad of modules each fulfilling only one single function.

Our R&D process is: start with the things we do very well – then push them to the absolute limit of our abilities, possibilities and understanding, then question everything, learn as much as possible, take a lot of risks, put it out there for scrutiny in the hands of a merciless evaluation team, succeed a little, fail a lot, start all over – nail it. Birdkids would not exist were it not for the artists, engineers, scientists, hard-core users, friends and family surrounding us.

We’d like to see ourselves as our biggest critics, but the reality is – there’s always room for more scrutiny. You always have to factor in even more space for mistakes and give your concept time to grow naturally – give it its own voice!

Let’s take for example the concept of Through-Zero modulation, It might seem absurd that so many manufacturers are “jumping on the bandwagon” – seeing as this concept is essentially something we’ve been subjected to since the heydays of the DX sound. The biggest challenge for us was to see if we can approach the concepts of Through-Zero modulation from an absolutely musical angle in a 100% analog context. It was always meant to be a natural extension of the core’s palate – not a flavor of the month gimmick. It took a while to get it right from our own set of goals and expectations, but it was worth it!

Analogue Zone: You mentioned at the expo that a new VCF was in the works – is there anyhting else being developed?

At any given time we might have about 4-5 different modules in development. It is quite likely that only one will make it into production, It is a very long process, the amount of ideas and influences is almost infinite. One has to have a very strong opinion and position on a certain design for it to filter through the mincer of scrutiny.

Currently we’re finalizing a 100% analog dual VCO/LFO/CLOCK with hard and soft-sync, it is the perfect complementary modulation unit for our System but will go beyond the initial purpose, as a standalone, central Voice without a doubt. Furthermore there will be a complex multiple EG and an exotic VCF. 2016 is shaping up to be our busiest year yet 😉

Analogue Zone:  What is the biggest lesson you have learnt so far as a manufacturer?

Generally in a product line we like to focus on a small number of functional elements and execute them flawlessly and coherently in the long run, there is no set deadline for a product, it’s either all that we ever wanted it to be, or it isn’t released at all. We’re always looking for an organic symbiosis between sound, functionality, intuitive operation and design – but above all – ask ourselves over and over again – does it contribute musically? With that concept in mind from day one we had to learn to be even more patient in daily operation.

Sometimes things do not go as planned, sometimes a set deadline is disrupted by failed deliveries, a manufacturer’s  failure to produce components in time, botched runs of material, discoloration etc. etc. However the biggest lesson – and perhaps one that seems painfully obvious, even banal once you articulate it for the first time:

The product and brand always has a market value, which is transient, the main value though is an intrinsic one. This intrinsic value has to be cherished and nurtured. It can never fail, it is the very modus operandi – the spark that drives us. We’d like to see ourselves, as a permanent start-up, always struggling for more, always young and foolish and idealistic – unique in our approach, unique in our aesthetic values and self-set goals. We will always strive to develop something that is simply impossible to develop in a given context, and break the rules of what is deemed possible or advisable.

Analogue Zone: Where do you think this intrinsic value lies? Your oscillator has truly become an instrument, it gives you a feeling where you don’t feel limited and confined when you are using its interface. Could you just give some details on the process about how you managed to craft it like that?

Thank you very much, it’s very satisfying to have that kind of resonance! We’re very humbled by the amazing response – this encourages us to transcend the boundaries of a given medium! Our approach is purely a musical one, we work by ear. This might seem counter intuitive when talking about circuits, but the actual circuit, as complex as it might be – is just a means to an end.

During development you’ll see us talking in a synaesthetic manner, our vocabulary is that of color, shape&form, association and emotional impact. We’ll refer to a filter as bubbly-sharp, squelchy and silvery, or buttery muted with a shimmering halo around the edges. Same goes for our design choices when it comes to the tactile interface. Our strength lies in the amalgamation of our individual talents. We nurture those talents and give them space to evolve. Even our calibration process is performed by ear when it comes to final waveform output. No two modules sound alike, no two sounds will ever sound the same.

We like to think of listening to our VCO as having the privilege of zooming-in on a point in time and space, it will never recur, constantly shifting, constantly evolving. Everything we do at birdkids, be it development, design or presentation occurs from first principles – we’re looking for a fundamental truth in everything. From initial explosion of ideas around a core-suggestion, throughout extensive development and ferocious elimination process to a zen-like state – that is the birdkids way.

Analogue Zone: How did you like your stay at our booth at Budapest Music Expo and what were your impressions?

Coming from Vienna – Budapest is always like vacation at your older, rougher, artsy Brother’s place! A remarkably beautiful city.

Michael Biem (Birdkids)
Michael Biem (Birdkids)

I love the slightly shadowy quality, the contrast between the old, European Architecture and iron-curtain Era remnants. It’s a fascinating mixture and I always want to explore more, no single visit is enough!

Analogue Zone’s hospitality during our stay were exemplary. The Team made us feel at home from the minute we set foot in the Expo. The dedication and energy these guys exude is second to none. It takes true spirit to build something, especially on grounds that might not seem fertile at first, but Analogue Zone is doing it every day. I wish them the best of luck, success and full support – we’re very eager to return and really looking forward to 2016!

Birdkids Official
Birdkids @ Analogue Zone