PORTAL from Output lets you navigate granular effect chaos

PORTAL is a new granular synthesis effect plug-in from Output – and it lets you get into some serious mayhem across pitch, time, and synced tempo.

Output’s stuff has generally delivered deep, cutting-edge, futuristic sounds with pretty, easy UIs, and this is no different. You can dial up presets by category (with names like “vocals,” “stretch & smear,” “drums,” and “glitchy”). Then you can use either macro knobs and faders, plus the signature graphical portal X/Y control, or dive into a more detailed editing interface.

Macro effects and X/Y give you the spaceship control panel overview.

And there’s reason to love this particular package: PORTAL is the stuff of science fiction. Whether you’re just dialing up presets or drawing your own modulation and controls, it lets you mangle space and time the way you dreamed – not just at random, but really warping the heck out of your sounds.

I have no idea how I’d make a demo of this, but – I did wind up mangling a kind of boring groove I’d worked on into this alien world. Pick four tracks, add PORTAL to each, and go. Fun times.

And their demo:

For those not in the know: granular synthesis involves chopping up sound into tiny bits – grains – and then producing new continuous sounds by clustering lots of those pieces together as it plays back. The result can be stretching, smearing, re-pitching, and glitching and distorting sounds, warping and mangling time and frequency in the process. It’s the basic basis of a lot of re-pitch and re-time effects, as well as more specialized (and weird) effects.

Start by navigating the presets – seriously, go ahead and scroll through them, as each category has a pretty broad range.

What makes PORTAL special is a deep granular engine – combining wild-sound granular reprocessing with a built-in grain delay – all wrapped into a powerful interface. At the top level, that interface lets you just modify a couple of parameters for some major sonic effects. But dig in deeper, and you get a few key features:

  • Tempo-synced delay effects (meaning you might even just use this as a grain delay)
  • Tuning that ranges between free and tuned intervals
  • Two modulation sources with editable curves and time sync

That may not seem significant right away. But the ability to run time and pitch free (for mangled special effects) or tune it into specific beat-synced effects and tuned intervals means this can be as chaotic or as tied to the project context as you wish.

The modulation interface is also really clever. Click RNDM to generate curves. Use SYNC to adjust modulation curves to tempo. And then use a HUMANIZE option to add bits of randomization. I’d love this particular modulation editor just about anywhere.

Creating new sound designs this way is intuitive, but this is a case where even the most preset-prone will want to explore some of the presets just to find out what’s possible. Granular effects being as wide-ranging as they are, there is a certain fun to just scrolling through effects presets for happy accidents with whatever source material you have.

I think Output sell short the existing granular effects out there, which they describe as “a method that has previously been out of reach and impractical for many musicians.” There are plenty of great grain effects, and from Reaktor to iPad apps, casual musicians have often found ways of getting creative with them.

The editor interface is where the fun really starts, thanks to the ability to sync to pitch interval and tempo, easily see what you’re doing, and generate/edit your own modulation curves.

But I also mean to say, I think Output are underselling how special PORTAL is even among those other grain options. Integrating the grain delay and making modulation and pitch and time controls intuitive and accessible makes this one of the easiest sound design tools for grains I’ve seen yet. It’s especially useful as a grain delay.

Just don’t be shy trying a lot of the presets – some are way more useful or musical than others. And don’t be afraid of that editor interface: mouse over the labels for descriptions or numerical feedback on settings, and give the modulation a go.

Now you’re playing with PORTALS.

Take a tour:

Learn about how those grain controls work:

Dive into modulation:

Check it out. PORTAL is 149 EUR / USD.


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Strymon’s Volante is a new, lush-sounding magnetic echo FX pedal

Strymon have already made a name for themselves in luxe effects hardware and pedals, including classic effects and reverbs like the BigSky. Volante moves into what’s likely to be hit territory – modeling magnetic tape loops and effects.

There are three tools in one here: magnetic delay, spring reverb, and a tape-style looper. It basically takes a bunch of things you’d do in a studio (back when studios did stuff with tape) — and crams that into a little box.

And it sounds great (Matt Piper here shares this music he made):

What’s inside:

Tape delay: four playback heads with feedback, panning, and level for each.

Make tape-style looping: reverse, pause, splice, infinite repeat

Selectable models: drum echo, tape echo, studio reel-to-reel, with different sound characteristics

And still more control: choose low cut, mechanics, and wear, plus an input you can adjust (so crank it for extra tape saturation)

Stereo in and out

Foot friendly: tap tempo and even choose favorite settings with your foot, plus add an expression pedal if you like

MIDI in/out with full MIDI mapping of parameters and program changes


Strymon also promise premium audio fidelity, both on the analog front end and the digital conversion inside. And they build these in the USA.

It’s also a sign of the times: independent hardware is doing increasingly processor-heavy stuff. But just as the computer capacity has expanded, so has hardware – and more realistic emulations of nonlinear analog equipment is the result. This is still DSP-based, not ARM, for those interested – it’s a SHARC DSP – but those chips have grown in capability, too.



US$399, preorder only for now (30-60 days out).

Detailed look:

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Bastl’s Dark Matter module unleashes the joys of feedback

What would a module behave like if it were built entirely around feedback – say, like one of those “zero-input” all-feedback mixer performances? Bastl Instruments teams up again with Peter Edwards to answer that question. The result: Dark Matter.

Dark Matter lets you add feedback to any signal, whether you want to use that as a bit of color, create rhythmic effects, or go completely wild. And since it is designed with the inspiration of zero-input mixer technique in mind, you can also use it as a signal source – a kind of feedback oscillator. Feedback by definition is about signal routing; Dark Matter runs with that idea and create an instrument around patching and shaping feedback in a modular environment.

It’s a new collaboration between Bastl and Peter Edwards, following their softPop instrument (and Peter’s own long-running Casper Electronics).

There are different kinds of overdrive. You can add sub-octave tones and other colors. There’s a built-in 2-band EQ (so highs and lows get separate control) – and that has overdrive, too.

On the rhythmic side, there’s a built-in envelope follower for ducking and gating and the like.

And there’s tons and tons of I/O and CV control, so this really was designed with a modular environment in mind. (That’s important – there are a number of Eurorack modules that seem like desktop tools that sort of got plunked into a modular case without much forethought; this isn’t that.)

But before we talk specs, creator Peter Edwards – himself an experimental musician as well as inventor – has some philosophical and spiritual things to say about feedback. Those are in the manual too, but let me highlight this passage. We’re “going deeper and deeper into the void” – gotta love those Czech winters, right? (Now turn in your hymnals now to “We Sing Praises of the Dark Shadows of Feedback.”)

So here’s what it all comes down to, the resonating soul of the amplifier and the recklessly over amplified external audio signal battling it out in the feedback thunderdome…

This is why I like to think of audio feedback as sort of the negative space around a sound, like a sonic shadow. A dark counterpart.

Feedback is wonderful. It’s the living, breathing, unpredictable, organic side of electrical sound. That’s not even just to say in the analog domain; as long as you steer clear of digital clipping, feedback has powerful potential in digital, too. It’s one of the reasons to use a modular environment in the first place, whether hardware or software. So I hope in addition to looking at Dark Matter, we dig into this topic generally. (I was just playing with feedback loops in VCV Rack, thanks to some tips from Kent Williams aka Chaircrusher.)

Embrace the darkness, and dive into the void of feedback.

Uh… oh yeah, tech specs.

-Input VCA with gain and soft clipping
-2 band equaliser with voltage controlled bass and treble boost/overdrive
-Voltage controlled feedback
-External feedback section for making and fine tuning loops through other modules
-Voltage controlled crossfade between input and feedback signals
-Input tracking envelope follower for adding ducking and gating effects
-10 I/O jacks for adding CV and making crazy loops

– 13 HP
– PTC fuse and diode protected 10-pin power connector
– 24 mm deep
– power consumption +12V: < 75mA; -12V: <75 mA

More details and online ordering available on Bastl’s Website:


265 EUR excl. TAX from Bastl’s own noise.kitchen and select retailers, available now.

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Transmutron Bored Brain mischt, filtert und verhex(el)t 2 Quellen

Transmutron Bored Brain

Unkonventionelles Konzept – das hat er definitiv, denn es ist ein Weltenwanderer zwischen Eurorack, Gitarren, Synths und FX soll er – oder eigentlich „es“ – ein bisschen vermitteln helfen, das Transmutron Bored Brain.

Ein Crossfader sorgt für die nötige Balance zwischen den zwei angeschlossenen Geräten. Man kann Pedale oder Module anschließen, die eigentlich nicht speziell Eurorack sein „müssen“, jedoch passen die Buchsen dazu. Mit Fuß oder Steuerspannung sind alle Vorgänge steuerbar, weshalb die Box je zwei Buchsen an jeder Seite hat (außer vorn). Die beiden Seiten sind faktisch symmetrisch aufgebaut und können ein Signal in zwei Frequenzbereiche aufteilen und zwei Effekte abgleichen.

Tansmutron Bored Brain

Mit dem Crossfader wird natürlich zwischen den Quellen geblendet. Dazu kann neben der Aufteilung auf zwei Frequenzebenen auch wiederum einfach das Signal insgesamt gefiltert werden, darunter auch Notch. Das Kerbfilter arbeitet wie alle anderen Typen auch und gern mit Resonanz. Es sind 12, 24 und sogar 48 dB pro Oktave Filterung möglich. Die Bandbreite lässt sich einschränken. Wie das insgesamt wirkt und klingt, ist im Demovideo mittels mehrerer Effekte und Quellen (Synths, Gitarre, Noises) zu hören. Erst hier wird klar, was und wozu das Gerät sinnvoll ist und dass es sogar eine Zentrale auf einer Bühne sein könnte.

Die Hersteller nennen das Fission, Fusion und Fallout. Der Splitpunkt bewegt ein weit offenes Notchfilter mit Resonanz über beide Signale, bevor sie die Effekte erreichen (das ist übrigens auch der Trick dabei).

Ebenso werden die beiden Pegel justiert und das Filter ist natürlich auch insgesamt steuerbar – inklusive der beiden Bänder, in die das Signal aufgeteilt wird. Das klingt viel komplizierter, als es ist in der Praxis. Außerdem kann der Pegel noch um 10 dB verstärkt werden.

258,85 Euro plus knapp 23 Euro Versand kostet das Gerät. Es soll Ende Oktober ausgeliefert werden.


Mehr Information gibt es bei Reverb zum Boredbrain Transmutron .


Video-Demo, mit einer ganzen Reihe von Quellen:

Tiptop Z-DSP – Steuerbarer Effekt Prozessor mit Sahne

Tiptop Z-DSP

Gerade schießt Herr Tiptop ein neues Bild aus seinem Facebook-Account, nämlich diese Erneuerung des Effekt-Moduls Z-DSP.

Den Z-DSP gibt es schon eine gute Weile. Das Design ist neu und anders, aber auch an der analogen Schaltung wurde gearbeitet. Es geht dabei um Genauigkeit und Rauschen, welches von anderen Modulen kommt und einstrahlen könnte. An dieser Änderung sieht man auch, wie und wo aktuell viel gefeilt wird.

Tiptop Z-DSP – alles wird besser!

Die ersten Gehversuche sind längst Geschichte, die Module sind erwachsen und kriegen deutlich bessere Abschirmung und generell eine besser Schaltung. Man lernt, und daher steigert sich die Qualität insgesamt und die Anforderung an neue Mitbewerber ebenso. Es gibt auch Anpassungen beim Effektanteil und bisher nicht korrekten Pegeln, speziell in der Mittenstellung. Optisch sieht das natürlich auch alles besser aus, ist lesbar und sieht nicht mehr aus wie ein Laborgerät der 90er-Jahre.

Eine neue Produktionsart hat viele Hersteller und Module verändert. Daher kann man das an diesem Modul sehr schön sehen, wie und wo neue Versionen anders sind. Meist sind die bisherigen schlicht ausverkauft, weil man immer eine gewisse Menge einplant und dafür Bauteile und Frontplatten einkauft. Aber die Engine ist trotzdem gleich. Man könnte sagen: Es ist nicht wirklich neu, aber es ist besser.

Für das Modul gibt es eine ganze Anzahl von Cards, auf denen diverse Effekte sind. Das sind nicht gerade wenige.


Eine Webseite für die 2018er-Version des Z-DSP gibt’s inzwischen auch!


Wie so etwas klingen könnte kann man hier hören. Ein simples Video:

Snazzy Effekt Serie – Glitch, Noise, Gitarren-Synthesizer und Modulation

snazzy fx tracer city

Mit der neuen Snazzy FX Serie hat Erica Synths eine Reihe sehr spezielle Effektmaschinen vorgestellt. Sie sind nicht nur für Synthesizer gedacht, sondern auch für Gitarren und wo es eben noch passen könnte.

Die Geräte sind von Dan Snazelle entworfen worden, daher stamm auch der Name der Serie. Er stammt aus New York und macht abstrakte Elektronik und Techno. Die Geräte kosten zwischen 300 und 390 Euro plus Steuer hierzulande, was gut 50€ mehr ausmachen wird. Es gibt aktuell drei Geräte:

Zunächst das Tape Glitch Noise Pedal Wow and Flutter für 300 € (plus Steuer und Versand), das Mini-ark 350 Euro (gleiche Bedingungen), ein Gitarren-Synthesizer – den man aber auch für alles was tonale Geräusche machen kann einsetzen kann. Das dritte Gerät ist Tracer City 390 € (ebenfalls plus Steuern und Versand) ist ein analoges Modulations-Effekt-Pedal.

Alle diese Geräte sind zwar hier mit Gitarren vorgeführt, funktionieren aber auch mit anderen Signalen und machen seltsame Dinge mit dem Signal. Es lässt sich einfach nicht in Worte fassen. Man benötigt etwas Phantasie, sich diese mit eigenen Signalquellen und Instrumenten vorzustellen. Ein wenig Melancholie mit Pads und Strings könnte in die Richtung gehen, wie man sie von skandinavischen Bands kennt…

Der Gitarrensynthesizer erlaubt jede Art von Experiment mit dem zugeführten Signal, die Vorführung ist daher eher „konservativ“. Eigentlich folgt der Synthesizer der Stimmung des Signals, egal ob es gepfiffen, gezupft oder mit Tasten gespielt wird.

Aber Töne sagen mehr als tausend Worte:



Ninja Tune are doing their own multi-delay, and it looks wild

Hey, if running a label to release music seems a daft idea these days, there’s always selling hardware. And Ninja Tune’s new hardware effect looks like it’s got some serious potential.

Gear guru and underground weirdo music impresario Ingmar Koch and his Liquid Sky Berlin / gearporn.berlin blog get the scoop here. But already from the hardware we can tell a few things:

  • The hardware sure looks like Erica Synths’ stuff. (Casing and knobs are a dead ringer for the Acidbox. So whether or not they did the engineering, they may have done the manufacturing and enclosure.
  • It seems to have a big tube. (See also Erica’s love for Polivoks-era, ex-USSR tubes and recreations.)
  • There are multiple delay modes: Stereo Delay, Tape Delay, Ping Pong Delay, and BBD Delay (Bucket Brigade – think classic chip delays)
  • Feedback, delay time, and tap tempo
  • A multimode analog filter (lowpass, bandpass, highpass) with overdrive knob
  • MIDI IN, which suggests you also get MIDI sync (good!)
  • CV in for analog control (and one control I’m unsure of, maybe pulse in – who has better eyesight than I do?)

So, it’s apparently some retro-style chip delay with analog filter and … tube for overdrive? That could get nicely nasty.

Plus if Erica was working on this, having tried their Acidbox line, expect all the right kind of mayhem.

I’ll be eager to get hands on this. The involvement of Ninja Tune suggests our friend Matt Black of Coldcut had some input with this, and he does love his tech.

More – photos of the prototype:

pure gearporn: ninja tune zendelay – hardware news leak [gearporn.berlin]

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