Analogue Zone is live and direct at NAMM, bringing us the latest and greatest at breakneck speed! Here is Day 0 with lots of eurorack news – yes, literally during the show was still being built.
4ms Company came up with the latest and we guess the almost final version of a sampler with enough ease of use, memory and depth – a great and easy to use sampler that is in harmony with their earlier dual modules that you can get crazy with using their ground-breaking clock modules that made them famous… The new Tapographic Delay could be called a good contestant of the Rainmaker with less width. the price will be in the range of the SMR.
Qu-Bit Electronix gives us the the Tone – a quad voltage control 24dB lowpass-bandpass filter – probably designed for the fantastically sounding Chord, and the Chance module, a Swiss Army knife of random signals including random rhythmic patterns. The Contour – a more modern take on the quad ADSR concept (coined in first by Doepfer) – shipping next week! Their Mixology has been updated with send-return, size-increase(!) thank god!) plenty of gain, and so on…
Pittsburgh Modular has updated their Lifeforms series with filters (a vactrolesque filter with unstable mode), adsr, mixers with new routings, oscillators …and and yes.. an in-rack mixer 🙂 Also, they have a new line of cases – with enough power till the next century.
WMD came up with a prototype trigger sequencer (an A-157 on steroids in short) Arpitecht, a beautiful quantizer concept. Also (dj and live) performance oriented tools are a compressor, a filter with stereo width effect have been seen in their rack this year!
Steven Hansleigh from 2hp introduced yet again(!) a few new 2HP modules, including known concepts such as the tiniest Turing Machine, a multiple Clock source module or sample-and-holds which are new in this size. Each user will find at least one cool module to fill up the remaining 2HP space of their racks.
Endorphines were busy with updating their Shuttle Control, and their Grand Terminal is also ready for shipping. The Cockpit which we have seen last year is also an amazing routing and compression mixer tool!
Last year I still had to introduce Erica Synths to people. It has become obsolete this year. No wonder, since the Eastern-European company provides us with excellently built and designed multi-functional modules at great speed with no issues regarding quality! Look, they have just upgraded their fusion series!
A VCO? Actually, we are talking about 3 VCO’s: one wavetable / digital VCO which offers stable basic waveshapes which can morph into each other, and 2 tube-based sub oscillators empowered with a lowpass filter.
The thing I have always liked in the Erica Synths fusion tube modules is that they are not meant to go crazy. They add a decent empowerment to the whole sound of a particular patch. Sub-oscillators would be typically square-waves, here they can be rounded off with internal filtering and waveshaping as well. A pretty “all in one” concept, like a Bateleur VCO. You will not need further adjustments to “get that oscillator right”. If you don’t like the sound or get a little bored with it, an external audio input is also available.
As for the other Delay/Flange Ensemble has not got a dedicated demo yet. We will be waiting for it. Having heard Erica fusion chorus/delay modules live already, I have to say that they do their musical job very decently. Looking forward to test these in the Analogue Zone showroom!
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.
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!
So far “only” three modules have been released in the Mannequins-series (the latest RIP module is a reverse compatible line / modular in-out), however it is already difficult to summarise why these works of art are so wonderful, and this is not only due to the functional richness: Mannequins modules’ new paradigms add multidimensional functionality into your system.
Mangrove – the uncertainly talking oscillator
Apart from modulating its pitch, this oscillator works in spectral dimensions, since multiple events take place simultaneously at the same time: if you turn it up, sooner or later, harmonic content is added with a great tonal delicacy – the harmonics are not limited to overtones, but undertones occure as well, as the VCO’s core retriggers the cycle in delay.
Naturally, both the waveform and the built in filter controls the threshold of these undertones. So forget the good old term pitch for a while, because here you can reach sub- and upper octave harmonics with fun and ease! Apart from linear FM, the oscillator has a built-in FM index as well. Among these paramters, a lot of uncertainties may occur, but all this can be eliminated with a flick of a switch.
Three Sisters – filters born from within each other with alternative parameters
It would not be exaggaration to say that the idea of filters in eurorack seems pretty much exhausted, however, with hard work Mannequins brought novelty into that are as well. Before dwelling into another comprehensive list of functions it is worth mentioning some of the most interesting user reactions.
Many peopl say that Mutant drums really sound good through the Three Sisters. But the most interesting general impression is that one was able to truly relate it to any of the filter families. Users may come up with comparisons to Oberheim- and Korg-type of filters at the same time, however, it these comparisongs are not used as pieces of evidence, but only as a sheer attempt to describe their experiences, with not much success…
In the Three Sistersben a 12 dB bandpass filter is added between a 24 dB high- and lowpass filter pair. In another mode, all three filters act as 12 dB bandpass filters. With these, you may create those humanly impressing vowel-like tones, however they are also lovely to use with drum sounds (don’t forget that certain electronic drum sounds are oscillating bandpass filters after all). If you push the resonance “too far”, a tritone sine chord appears which tracks 1V/ octave.
So far sceptics may say that this filter is after all a simple multimode filter with certain notch possibilities, that can ring nicely as well. Here comes yet another twist then! Resonance paramters are usually in the 0 … + range in most filters, here though it is in the bipolar range. The result of it is multi-dimensional: a) thanks to phase cancellations we can derive a “dry/wet” mix parameter from it b) use the module as a shelving eq!
All three filters are controlled by ONE cutoff knob – so far you might have all this in an A-106-5 or A-106-6 – however, with the help of the Span knob you can achieve wider slopes of the filters – lowpass may cross highpass, and the downmost slopes of bandpass filters can gently touch one another, but if we desire so, every curve can be decreased and separated thanks to “anti-resonance”.
Apart from the fact that these excellently linked parameters can create tonal content, new timbral areas may also appear. This filter has already been compared to a lot of other ones with not much success, and it is both being praised for its more bread-and-butter and complex sides. The Three Sisters deserves a lot of attention.
Cold Mac – Everything can be suddenly changed. Seperately or together with one big knob.
If one did not find the earlier functions that were crossing over into and morphing out of each other, here is Mannequins’ take on the utility module. With this one, parameters can be further processed and abused. This tool, in which you may ifind logic and wavefolding functions, a special envelope following function (following volume level and also realising a “raw” full wave rectified output), and the unmissable VCA/panning functions should be imagined in use together with the oscillator’s and filters outputs, even in cross-modulation. I would not be able to list the utility modules that Cold Mac can replace by itself, not to mention that it exceeds them in other respects… The most interesting parameter could be Survey: in practice, you can control 6 outputs at once,carving out different symmetries of CV signals from the modulated signal.
Synthrotekék régi motorosok a DIY-audio elektronika gyártók világában. Ők egy igazán lelkes és következetes közösség: nagyon kommunikatívak és segítőkészek a felhasználókkal, ennek eredményeképpen nap mint nap inspirálják őket eszközparkjuk bővítésére.
Készségességüket volt szerencsém személyesen is megtapasztalni, amikor 1 évvel ezelőtt a Ring Mod kit-et rendeltem tőlük. A legjobb minőséget a lehető legjobb áron kaphatod meg tőlük, és kiválóan felcímkézett kitjeiket egyáltalán nem nehéz összerakni – de ha el is akadnál, vagy netán változtatnál valamit, mindig segítenek neked. A jól kidolgozott projekt-dokumentációk mellett kimerítő részletességű demó / tutorial videókat töltenek fel Youtube-csatornájukra: ezeknek a videóknak kösznhetően nem csupán termékeikről, de a moduláris szintézisről és jelfeldogozásról általában is rengeteget tanulhatsz.
Kezdjük a sort a klasszikus arcade játékok hangulatát idéző (nálunk szintén kitben is kapható) Atari Punk Console-lal. Ha egy kicsit is kacsingattatok már a diy-szinti világ felé, akkor biztosan hallhattál már erről a világhírű 555-timer chipből megépíthető lo-fi szintiről. A Synhtrotek-változata árát és funkciógazdagságát tekintve kategóriájában verhetetlennek mondható. Az Atari Punk Console-ból CV jelekkel fantasztikus drone- vagy arpeggio-gépet is tudsz varázsolni.
Az utóbbi időben egyre gyakrabban szemezgetek a más gyártóknál (pl. Snazzy FX Wow and Flutter modulnál) felbukkanó, ámde furmányosan körbeépített PT delay chipen alapuló ECHO moduljukkal. DivKid itt is jól bemutatja, hogy miért lehet megannyi zenei környezetben is imádni ezt az egyszerű, de nagyszerű effektet:
A tonális sokszínűség, és a tagadhatatlan “stompbox-priusz” köszön vissza a 308 Distortion modulban, ami a RAT pedál eurorackesített klónja. Kellemes, szikár distortion hangzás, ami szűrhető is! Mindezek mellett sok már korábbi moduljuk is érkezett, less rá bátran a gyártó oldalára!
Többféle dobszintézis egy modulból másképp, még hasznosabban
A Synthrotek legújabb DSM modulját szintén a leleményesség és a perkusszív szintézisben való jártasság hívta életre. A DS-8 dobszintimodul legfrissebb változata jobb hangolhatóságot, állítható attack karakterisztikát, érdekesebb és elkülönítetettebb zajszíneket és mélyebb basszusokat hordoz magában. Ez itt nem a Roland TR-hangzás, ugyanakkor nem is (kizárólag) lo-fi jellegű csipogó pukkanó hangokat állíthatunk elő vele, hanem igazán vastag, nagyon elektronikus ízű dob, snare és hihat robbanások is kijöhetnek belőle (erősítsd, torzítsd és szűrd tovább őket ízlés szerint!) – sőt, a modul akár egy erős hangú monoszintiként is megállja a helyét:
MST – kollaborációs modulok egy élő legendával
Tagadhatatlan tény, hogy a kollaborációs eurorack modulok korát éljük. George Mattson, aki a szintetizátor-világ meghatározó alakja a 70-es évek óta. Többek között az első keytar feltalálójaként vonult be a történelembe, de művei közül a legtöbben a Mattson Mini Modular rendszert ismerhetetitek – George több, mint 40 év szakmai tapasztalatával segítette a Synthrotek-családot: a fúzió eredményeképpen eurorack sorozatuk igazán patinás lett: egyszerű, de nagyszerű, egyedi és nagy gonddal kialakított funkciókkal indult el az MST-rendszer, az árak ugyanakkor szintén elfogadhatók maradtak.
Röviden a palettáról és a modulok apró ékköveiről: többek között itt egy Lowpass filter, ami tiszta sinewave oszcillátorként is használható, van egy 2164 VCA, amiből szuper exponenciális módban némi CV jelforrással nagyon szép pattogó hangok nyerhető ki. Találunk a rendszerben egy 4-csatornás audio/CV mixert is, amit unity gain mixerként vagy erősítőként is használható, van egy az átlagnál jóval sokszínűbben használható s&h és t&h noise modul, egy olyan VC LFO, aminek a szimmetria-paramétere is közvetlenül az előlapon állítható. Szép és egyedi belépő az eurorack világba!
Reméljük sokakat meginspirálnak majd a Synthrotek moduljai és kitjei, illetve minél több hazai modulár-felhasználó házában láthatjuk majd viszont őket!