You can make music with test equipment – Hainbach explains

Before modulars became a product, some of the first electronic synthesis experiments made use of test equipment – gear intended to make sound, but not necessarily musically. And now that approach is making a comeback.

Hainbach, the Berlin-based experimental artist, has been helping this time-tested approach to sound reach new audiences.

I actually have never seen a complete, satisfying explanation of the relationship of abstract synthesis, as developed by engineers and composers, to test gear. Maybe it’s not even possible to separate the two. But suffice to say, early in the development of synthesis, you could pick up a piece of gear intended for calibration and testing of telecommunications and audio systems, and use it to make noise.

Why the heck would you do that now, given the availability of so many options for synthesis? Well, for one – until folks like Hainbach and me make a bunch of people search the used market – a lot of this gear is simply being scrapped. Since it’s heavy and bulky, it ranges from cheap to “if you get this out of my garage, you can have it” pricing. And the sound quality of a lot of it is also exceptional. Sold to big industry back in a time when slicing prices of this sort of equipment wasn’t essential, a lot of it feels and sounds great. And just like any other sound design or composition exercise that begins with finding something unexpected, the strange wonderfulness of these devices can inspire.

I got a chance to play a few days with the Waveform Research Centre in Rotterdam’s WORM, a strange and wild collection of these orphaned devices lovingly curated by Dennis Verschoor. And I got sounds unlike anything I was used to. It wasn’t just the devices and their lovely dials that made that possible – it was also the unique approach required when the normal envelope generators and such aren’t available. Human creativity does tend to respond well to obstacles.

Whether or not you go that route, it is worth delving into the history and possibilities – and Hainbach’s video is a great start. It might at the very least change how you approach your next Reaktor patch, SuperCollider code, synth preset, or Eurorack rig.

Previously:

Immerse yourself in Rotterdam’s sonic voltages, in the WORM laboratory

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Teenage Engineering has a record label and a pocket modular pop music video

Dear young Buster: why do you look so sad and lonely? Don’t you know that having a yellow Teenage Engineering pocket modular is all the love you need?

Okay, so Buster is in fact Millenial Swedish pop star up and comer Emil Lennstrand, and he is the first face of a record label (really) from the perpetually-open-to-creative-distraction crew of Teenage Engineering. You see, having done cameras for IKEA and marketing campaigns and various synthesizers and … bicycles and lamps and other things … the Teenagers are now getting into a record label.

It’s surprisingly silky-smooth pop from this otherwise fairly hypernerdy and experimental Stockholm shop. But it does predictably feature Teenage Engineering instruments – in this case the pocket operator modular.

They bill the song as “partly produced” by that system 400 (what – the modular isn’t used on the vocals?). But it’s slick stuff, for sure.

The other star of the music video is this – TE’s pocket operator modular series.

So what’s up with the record label? It’s tough to tell from this one track, but here’s what the Teenagers say for themselves:

first teenage engineering started their own band to field test their instruments. now they are taking the next step starting a record label for songs made with teenage engineering products. there are just two rules, it needs to be a good song (easy) and have at least one of teenage engineerings instruments used in the song. the main distribution platform for their releases will be spotify.

Now that’s some serious Swedish loyalty, going Spotify only.

I’m slightly confused, but intrigued. To my mind, the OP-Z remains the best thing recently from Teenage Engineering hands down, but stay tuned for my explanation of why I feel that way.

And there’s more Teenage Engineering stuff to come, including me joining them in Barcelona during SONAR+D this summer – which means a chance to grill them for more information, of course.

https://teenage.engineering/

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A Buchla synth repair turned into an LSD trip, and made the evening news

It seems the legends are true – there really was LSD added to vintage synths. A Bay Area, California Buchla 100 reportedly triggered an acid trip decades later.

The equipment in question is a Buchla Model 100, 1960s vintage – the modular that defined what now some people call the “West Coast synthesis” style. I learned on one of these, too, though don’t recall any particular hallucinations.

The report comes from a local CBS television affiliate in San Francisco, KPIX, and their broadcast operator Eliot Curtis. (Synthtopia beats me to this one, though I’d seen the video last night – karma for when I was writing up Elektron news next to them this month!)

The LSD itself was located inside the machine, looking like crystals, and while we don’t have the specifics of the test, was apparently tested for authenticity. Finger contact with that substance triggered a nine-hour trip.

You may be wondering how this LSD lasted this long. I haven’t been able to find any data on that – which might suggest whether or not this LSD originated at the Buchla’s manufacture or whether someone added it later, or even if the story is true at all (CBS or not). The only study I could find deals with decomposition in urine, not storage of the chemical itself. But the synth should at least have kept the substance away from light and most likely also humidity, reducing its rate of deterioration. (Eliot also seems… well, fairly convinced!)

Whether you believe the LSD here is from the 60s or not, there is a verified association of Don Buchla and LSD and the use of the drug at some events. (That doesn’t mean everyone was tripping – I heard the Joshua Light Show creators explain that they needed to stay sober for their work, and the optical effects were effectively trippy enough!)

From the CBS report:

In 1966, some Buchla modules ended up on an old school bus purchased by LSD advocate Ken Kesey and his followers known as the Merry Pranksters.

During the last of Kesey’s acid tests — LSD-fueled parties — at Winterland on Halloween in 1966, electronic sounds, possibly from the Buchla, appeared to interrupt an interview of Kesey.

Buchla used LSD and was friends with Owsley Stanley, the genius behind the Grateful Dead’s sound system. Stanley, also known as Bear, was a masterful sound engineer and legendary hero of the counterculture. He was also famous for making the purest LSD to ever hit the street and kept such a low profile that not many photos of him exist.

What is in question here seems to be the exact provenance of these modules, which might locate the history of the alleged LSD discovery. Knowing who reads CDM, I imagine our readers may have some idea.

Also, while Synthtopia and others say this means the ‘red panel’ myth was true, that may be a stretch. The story is, the red paint on Buchla’s red panels had LSD in it – so you could, perhaps, lick the panel if you needed a little extra creative flow in the studio. I had also heard this story related when I was researching the Moog recreation of Keith Emerson’s modular – don’t forget, the East Coast was into some strange trips in the 60s and 70s, too. But those stories notwithstanding, it at least sounds like this particular acid had been stashed inside the machine, not in the paint as the legend goes.

Then again, who cares where it was – synths that can make you literally hallucinate are a pretty wild discovery, let alone the possibility that they might do so decades later.

As for the TV report, it’s worth watching just to see their reporter do the open in front of the synth – this is not your normal evening news special interest story, so thank you, Bay Area, you’ve still got it:

Repair Of Iconic ’60s Era Synthesizer Turns Into Long, Strange Trip For Engineer

Having just returned from Russia, let me say on behalf of people repairing Soviet instruments, “ah, lucky Americans, they get actual LSD causing their hallucinations, not old Communist chemicals…” (I’ll try to inhale deeply while I’m in Riga near some Polivoks and can let you know what happens. Seriously, don’t lick any eastern bloc electronics. Or… some of our current stuff, for that matter!)

For more Buchla 100 history, here’s an unboxing by the Library of Congress – though no word on whether this got the US government or this University of Chicago researcher high:

Unboxing the Buchla Model 100 [Library of Congress Blogs]

This song seems … literal now:

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Harder software: Reason Rack Extensions, in actual hardware racks

Once upon a time, Propellerhead ran an ad showing a bunch of hardware synths in a trash bin to make a point. This time, we get the opposite – a KORG Polysix for Reason running back in hardware.

By now, these arguments about analog versus digital, software versus hardware are all surely irrelevant to music making. But recent developments go one step further: they produce an environment in which inventors and developers no longer have to care. The vision is, make your cool effects and synthesis code, then freely choose to run them inside a host (like Reason), inside hardware. or even on the Web.

Propellerhead showed me some of these possibilities of their Rack Extension technology when I visited them this winter and talked to their developers.

You can actually try the Web side of this right now – Europe for Reason runs in a browser. It’s not just a simulation or a demo; it’s the complete Rack Extension. That clearly offers a new take on try-as-you-buy, and allows new possibilities in teaching and documentation – all without threatening the sales model for the software:

https://www.propellerheads.com/europa

A browser may be a strange place to experience the possibility of Rack Extensions running in hardware, but it’s actually the same idea. ELK MusicOS from MINDMusicLabs allows the same tech to run on a Linux-based operating system, on any hardware you want. So if you want self-contained instruments with knobs and faders and buttons – and no distracting screens or awkward keyboards – you can do it.

It’s not so much post-PC as it is more PC than your PC. Computers should be capable of ultra-low latency, reliable operation, even running general purpose systems. The problem is, musicians aren’t the ones calling the shots.

MusicOS can cut latency below 1ms round-trip, runs on single Intel and ARM CPUs, and has official support for VST and Rack Extensions – plus full support for connectivity (USB, WiFi, Bluetooth, 4G mobile data, and MIDI).

What was cool at Superbooth was seeing some recognizable hardware prototypes using the technology. We saw a VST plug-in just before the show from Steinberg; for the Rack Extension side of things, you get a Eurorack module version of KORG’s Polysix, using their own Component Modeling Technology. (So it is a software model, but here with hands-on control and modular connectivity.)

For now, it’s just a prototype. But Rack Extension support, like VST, is officially part of MusicOS. Now it’s just up to hardware makers to take the plunge. Based on interest we saw from CDM readers and heard around the show, there is serious market potential here.

In other words, this could be the sign of things to come. ELK’s tech works i such a way that more or less the same code can target custom hardware as desktop software. And compatible systems on a chip start around ten bucks – meaning this could be an effective platform for a lot of people. (I’m not clear on how much licensing costs; ELK ask interested developers to ‘get in touch’ so it may be negotiated case by case.)

https://www.mindmusiclabs.com/powered-by-elk-eurorack-synth/

https://www.mindmusiclabs.com/

Previously:

Hardware VST? Steinberg Retrologue plug-in gets physical version

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Polyend puts presets in your modular – plus run on a battery, anywhere

Hey, modulars are great. But you can’t call up presets at will, like on a computer. And you can’t head for a day of patching to the shore of your local lake. Or – can you? The folks at Polish maker Polyend are breaking the rules.

I think these are devilishly clever ideas – and there’s certainly some devilishly clever marketing.

Centralized encoders, grids for saving and recall, sequenced presets, an LFO, gesture recording – this unit does a lot.

Presets on a modular

First up: Polyend Preset. Okay, it’s not quite preset storage for your modular – you can’t sample the voltage level of other patch cords, so you’re going to have to remember some of how you patched together a sound. But Polyend have made a matrix of knobs and pads that gives you full nine different outputs. The encoders have variable RGB lighting for UI feedback and for checking values, and that’s paired with Polyend’s signature pads. It all looks ideal for live performance.

Here’s the workflow: you consolidate the parameters you want to control, save, and recall on Polyend’s own module. That gives you a centralized command station for tweaking all the rest of your modular rig. You have 9 CV outs – one of which is also an LFO. And you can restore and recall values. You could use that to save particular sounds as you’re working, or to set up a setlist of patches to play live. Or you could also ‘play’ those different values from the pads, or even sequence them (internally, or driven by external CV).

You choose continuous CV, scaled musical pitches, gate, or on the ninth encoder, LFO. Specs:

9 CV outs
1V/Oct, 0-10V, or gate output
32 onboard musical scales
Phrase automation – record and send out voltage changes – each output has up to 30 seconds recording
Instant preset recall (so you can play the grid, too)
Sequence from external gate / 0-10V

Hey readers – does anyone remember an April Fools joke about a year ago that featured ‘preset storing’ patch cables? It was a funny idea, even if it was obviously a joke. Looked for the video and couldn’t find it. And this is… kinda sorta that.

Okay, summertime, looks like we’ll have some modular in the park. Everything is running off that little power bank you see with the USB cable popping out of it.

Into the woods

Polyed Anywhere is also great stuff – it’s a simple power supply module with a USB input, to which you can connect a 20,000 mAh battery for modular busking, open air synthing, seaside noodling, whatever. (They were using this at the show.)

Future shot some video of these two together:

And a new Poly

Poly 2 is the latest version of their MIDI to CV converter. Trigger 8 voices, use Gate, V/Oct or Hz/V for pitch that works with anything, velocity, CC, and clock – and now it’s also got Smart Thru for daisy chaining, more onboard musical scales, and crucially, MPE compatibility. This isn’t the only game in town – we need some comparison to offerings from Expert Sleepers and Bastl – but it’s certainly one of the more capable.

I’m still most excited about Polyend’s desktop polysynth, though, not modular – stay tuned for that review this week, as Medusa holds up nicely even against the latest polysynths revealed this week.

No updates on the Polyend site as I write this, but check them out:

http://polyend.com

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Andreas Schneider on the significance of synths, just before Superbooth

Look past the modulars and wires: connecting people who make instruments and those who play them is at the heart of all Andreas Schneider’s endeavors. With Superbooth looming, we check in on Herr Schneider and his vision of what electronic instruments are about.

I got a chance to talk to Andreas during this final lead-up to this week’s festival. Superbooth has become trade show-cum-cultural happening, one of those chances to take a community that lives globally and online and make it face to face. Things you can expect:

  • Makers like Doepfer, WMD, Macbeth, Make Noise, Dadamachines, Polyend, and Erica Synths rubbing shoulders with the likes of Moog, Roland, and NI
  • Soldering workshops with Verbos Electronics, DIY kits from makers like Befaco and Birdkids
  • Lecture-concerts from makers (SoundHack’s Tom Erbe, not just modular makers), and artists (Caterina Barbieri, Richard Devine, Mark Ernestus, Mathew Jonson, Johanna Knutson)
  • The legendary boat cruise – now with a set by Daniel Miller, Mute Records founder (among other things)

With that event upcoming, I got to turn to how Schneider got started.

“The idea with Schneidersladen was, from the beginning – my client is not the one who’s buying the stuff, my client is the one who’s making this stuff,” says Andreas. “I met a guy who was not able to show off his drum machine and smile. And then I met another one who was not able to explain his synthesizers in the way that I understand it.”

“And I understood by talking to party people – this is what everybody needs. You have a drum machine, you have a synthesizer, you need a MIDI cable – push start and have fun. And I took this little setup in a suitcase and ran around Europe and visited all the shops and said – hey, look here, what kind of fun is this?”

Andreas and his shop have gotten a reputation around modular synthesis, and Superbooth with them, but Andreas says he never set out to build this empire around modular. “No, modular was happening to me,” he says. “It started with Doepfer, and Doepfer was opening his system to everybody else’s visions and said – build whatever you want. I helped him promoting that to the size where it is.”

I think Andreas is being modest here, in that he has unquestionably been an articulate advocate and salesperson for the format – filtering out the best stuff, managing distribution with often-unreliable tiny makers, and evangelizing a mindful embrace of music making on the instruments. He has been the public face of a project that has both ignited passion for these instruments and helped make people comfortable with them.

But at the same time, he shies away from making the format the message – even as the format has dominated his shop. “Modulars became so big that nearly all my staff in the shop is a modular nerd,” he says. “I think making music is not just modular.”

What he is about, though, is hardware. “It’s that haptical experience – even if it’s a knob to turn or a key to push,” he says. “Mono functional editing – on/off. Down/up. In/out.” He keeps only one computer – an Atari ST (the one PC, incidentally, with built-in MIDI).

It makes sense that Andreas found fertile ground in Berlin’s party-rich landscape:

“In the beginning it had nothing to do with musicians – educated musicians. It was those people who were coming from spinning records and understanding how to make people dance and have a good time.

“And that’s why I never had a keyboard in my shop. It was about the machine and the desktop unit and the concentration on the sound source. You need to listen – and you can’t disturb with your experience on playing a melody.

I had a thought that it could have been better if I wouldn’t have pinned this little niche to the musical instrument people, but perhaps to the furniture people or the DJ people. In the end, it’s decoration for our living rooms – or it could be. Or it could also be seen as something like a slot machine. Why not? And it would have been better. Because now those musicians – those ‘now we now how to make music people’, you have to do it this and that way – they dominate this thing at least by a certain percentage.

Modular will take center stage at Berlin’s FEZ this week. And that means another year in which the world of modular makers has become more crowded.

Andreas says he hopes the added pressure will push back against having too much of the same stuff. “The quality is getting higher,” says Andreas. “The pressure that you need to have good ideas is increasing.” What about rumors of a modular bubble? “I try my best to prevent the burst,” he says, “- by getting new audience to the scene.”

That scene will unquestionably grow this week – some examples of the DIY and workshop elements:

We’ll be reporting from Superbooth.

https://www.superbooth.com

Novation have done a video interview with Andreas out this week, too:

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Ableton release free CV Tools for integrating with analog gear, made in Max

It’s all about voltage these days. Ableton’s new CV Tools are designed for integrating with modular and semi-modular/desktop gear with CV. And they’re built in Max – meaning builders can learn from these tools and build their own.

The basic idea of CV Tools, like any software-CV integration, is to use your computer as an additional source of modulation and control. You route analog signal directly to your audio interface – you’ll need an interface that has DC coupled outputs (more about that separately). But once you do that, you can make your software and hardware rigs work together, and use your computer’s visual interface and open-ended possibilities to do still more stuff with analog gear.

This is coming on the eve of Superbooth, and certainly a lot of the audience will be people with modular racks. But nowadays, hardware with CV I/O is hardly limited to Eurorack – gear from the likes of Moog, Arturia, KORG, and others also makes sense with CV.

CV Tools aren’t the first Max for Live tools for Ableton Live – not by far. Spektro Audio makes the free CV Toolkit Mini, for instance. Its main advantage is a single, integrated interface – and a clever patch bay. There’s a more extensive version available for US$19.99.

Rival DAW Bitwig Studio, for its part, has taken an entirely different approach – you’ll get a software modular engine capable of interlinking with hardware CV wherever you like.

Ableton’s own CV Tools is news, though, in that these modules are powerful, flexible, and polished, and have a very Ableton-esque UI. They also come from a collaboration with Skinnerbox, the live performance-oriented gearheads here in Berlin, so I have no doubt they’ll be useful. (Yep, that’s them in the video.) I think there’s no reason not to grab this and Spektro and go to town.

And since these are built in Max, Max patchers may want to take a look inside – to mod or use as the basis of your own.

What you get:

CV Instrument lets you treat outboard modular/analog gear as if it’s integrated with Live as a plug-in.

Trigger drums and rhythms with CV Triggers.

CV Utility is a signal processing hub inside Live.

CV Instrument, with complements existing Ableton devices for integrating outboard MIDI instruments and effects with your projects in Live

CV Triggers for sequencing drum modules

CV Utility for adding automation curves, add/shift/multiple signals, and other processing tools

CV Clock In and CV Clock Out for clocking Live from outboard analog gear and visa versa

CV In which connects outboard analog signal directly to modulation of parameters inside Live

CV Shaper, CV Envelope Follower, and CV LFO which gives you graphical tools for designing modulation inside Live and using it for CV control of your analog hardware

And there’s more: the Rotating Rhythm Generator, which lets you dial up polyrhythms. This one works with both MIDI and CV, so you can work with either kind of external hardware.

I got to chat with Skinnerbox, and there’s even more here than may be immediately obvious.

For one thing, you get what they tell us is “extremely accurate broad-range” auto calibration of oscillators, filters, and so on. That’s often an issue with analog equipment, especially once you start getting complex or adding polyphony (or creating polyphony by mixing your software instruments with your hardware). Here’s a quick demo:

Clocking they say is “jitter free” and “super high resolution.”

So this means you can make a monster hybrid combining your computer running Ableton Live (and all your software) with hardware, without having to have the clock be all over the place or everything out of tune. (Well, unless that’s what you’re going for!)

If you’re in Berlin, Skinnerbox will play live with the rig this Friday at Superbooth.

They sent us this quick demo of working with the calibration tools, resulting in an accurate ten-octave range (here with oscillator from Endorphin.es).

Watch:

To interface with their gear, they’re using the Expert Sleepers ES8 interface in the modular. You could also use a DC-coupled audio interface, though – MOTU audio interfaces are a popular choice, since they’ve got a huge range of interfaces with DC coupling across various interface configurations.

CV Tools is listed as “coming soon,” but a beta version is available now.

https://www.ableton.com/en/blog/cv-tools-live-coming-soon/

What do you need to use this?

For full CV control of analog gear, you’ll want a DC-coupled audio interface. Most audio interfaces lack that feature – I’m writing an explanation of this in a separate story – but if you do have one with compatible outputs, you’ll be able to take full advantage of the features here, including tuned pitch control. MOTU have probably made more interfaces that work than anyone else. You can also look to a dedicated interface like the Expert Sleepers one Skinnerbox used in the video above.

See MOTU and Expert Sleepers, both of which Skinnerbox have tested:

http://motu.com/products

https://www.expert-sleepers.co.uk/es8.html

MOTU also have a more technical article on testing audio interfaces if you’re handy with a voltmeter, plus specs on range on all their interfaces.

Universal Audio have already written to say they’ll be demoing DC coupling on their audio interfaces at Superbooth with Ableton’s CV Tools, so their stuff works, too. (Double-checking which models they’re using.)

But wait – just because you lack the hardware doesn’t mean you can’t use some of the functionality here with other audio interfaces. Skinnerbox remind us that any audio interface inputs will work with CV In in Pitch mode. Clock in and out will work with any device, too.

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Doepfer, the company that launched Eurorack, adds slim, affordable modules

The company that launched the current modular craze with its Eurorack format continues to be the go-to for inexpensive, bread-and-butter basics. Doepfer’s new Slim Line is compact, capable, and runs 100€ or less – with a complete “miniature synth” voice for just 180€.

There’s no shortage of strange, leftfield modules – and pricey, rarified stuff. But modular simply wouldn’t be able to reach practical musicians if not for modules that are affordable. And you need at least some of those modules to be, in a way, intentionally a bit basic – modules that get interesting once you start to patch them, rather than trying to jump ahead of you by imposing their own ideas.

So, look to Doepfer to continue to be affordable and practical. And now is a good time, as Superbooth – the massive Berlin trade show – is likely to dump some ungodly overwhelming amount of modules on us.

Doepfer deserve some special credit – Eurorack is their format, and we likely wouldn’t be gathering in Berlin this week if not for their legacy. Talking to Andreas Schneider recently – the man behind Schneidersladen and father of the Superbooth – he praised Doepfer for keeping their modules affordable.

The A-100 Slim series are vanilla in every sense – they’re not going to wow you with features or design or any particular character of their own. But they’re practical. It’s very possible you could get started building a system – or completing one – on a tight budget and in tight spaces.

And as slim versions of existing Doepfer modules, they look an ideal way to get started or to cram some of those bread and butter basics into your rack – like, you know, if you went a little too weird and realize you don’t have essential tools. (I bet that’s true of a lot of people.)

Here’s a run-down – product pages are in both German and English, scroll down for English:

A-111-6 Miniature Synthesizer
180EUR
Summer/fall

A complete synth voice – one oscillator with pulse width and different waveforms, one lowpass filter, one amplifier and envelope.

A-118-2 Noise / Random / T&H / S&H
80EUR
Out this week

Noise and random signal in any color.

A-121-3 12dB Multimode Filter
100EUR
Out this week

Multimode filter with 12dB slope and voltage-controlled resonance (same filter as on the Dark Energy II + III)
Lowpass, highpass, bandpass, notch

A-130-2 Dual linear/exponential VCA
80EUR
Out this week

It’s a VCA. And… actually, that’s pretty much it.

A-138i Interrupting Mixer
80EUR
Out this week

It’s an interrupting mixer. You know:

Okay, not that. It’s a four channel mixer with dedicated mute switches (handy) and you can mix in some unique ways – mix audio and control voltage (since this is DC coupled) and multiple hard-wired outs plus separate single outs. Actually I wish desktop mixers did some of this.

A-138n Narrow Mixer
Out this week
50EUR

Also works with both CV and mixing. Dead-simple, dirt cheap.

A-145-4 Quad Low Frequency Oscillator LFO
80EUR
Out this week

Hey, even Doepfer think like I do, as they say this is “not a very “exciting” module, just a bread-and-butter device.” (I need a gluten-free, vegan metaphor… uh, rice crackers and humus?)

But there’s extra modulation sources for you.

A-182-2 Quad Switches
60EUR
Out this week

It switches, but in … quad… you know… when you need more bread with your bread and butter. I’m done here.

More:

http://www.doepfer.de/home_e.htm

I appreciate that Doepfer hasn’t updated their site since the 90s, do their renderings in MS Paint exported to GIF, and pass the savings on to you.

The post Doepfer, the company that launched Eurorack, adds slim, affordable modules appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Doepfer, the company that launched Eurorack, adds slim, affordable modules

The company that launched the current modular craze with its Eurorack format continues to be the go-to for inexpensive, bread-and-butter basics. Doepfer’s new Slim Line is compact, capable, and runs 100€ or less – with a complete “miniature synth” voice for just 180€.

There’s no shortage of strange, leftfield modules – and pricey, rarified stuff. But modular simply wouldn’t be able to reach practical musicians if not for modules that are affordable. And you need at least some of those modules to be, in a way, intentionally a bit basic – modules that get interesting once you start to patch them, rather than trying to jump ahead of you by imposing their own ideas.

So, look to Doepfer to continue to be affordable and practical. And now is a good time, as Superbooth – the massive Berlin trade show – is likely to dump some ungodly overwhelming amount of modules on us.

Doepfer deserve some special credit – Eurorack is their format, and we likely wouldn’t be gathering in Berlin this week if not for their legacy. Talking to Andreas Schneider recently – the man behind Schneidersladen and father of the Superbooth – he praised Doepfer for keeping their modules affordable.

The A-100 Slim series are vanilla in every sense – they’re not going to wow you with features or design or any particular character of their own. But they’re practical. It’s very possible you could get started building a system – or completing one – on a tight budget and in tight spaces.

And as slim versions of existing Doepfer modules, they look an ideal way to get started or to cram some of those bread and butter basics into your rack – like, you know, if you went a little too weird and realize you don’t have essential tools. (I bet that’s true of a lot of people.)

Here’s a run-down – product pages are in both German and English, scroll down for English:

A-111-6 Miniature Synthesizer
180EUR
Summer/fall

A complete synth voice – one oscillator with pulse width and different waveforms, one lowpass filter, one amplifier and envelope.

A-118-2 Noise / Random / T&H / S&H
80EUR
Out this week

Noise and random signal in any color.

A-121-3 12dB Multimode Filter
100EUR
Out this week

Multimode filter with 12dB slope and voltage-controlled resonance (same filter as on the Dark Energy II + III)
Lowpass, highpass, bandpass, notch

A-130-2 Dual linear/exponential VCA
80EUR
Out this week

It’s a VCA. And… actually, that’s pretty much it.

A-138i Interrupting Mixer
80EUR
Out this week

It’s an interrupting mixer. You know:

Okay, not that. It’s a four channel mixer with dedicated mute switches (handy) and you can mix in some unique ways – mix audio and control voltage (since this is DC coupled) and multiple hard-wired outs plus separate single outs. Actually I wish desktop mixers did some of this.

A-138n Narrow Mixer
Out this week
50EUR

Also works with both CV and mixing. Dead-simple, dirt cheap.

A-145-4 Quad Low Frequency Oscillator LFO
80EUR
Out this week

Hey, even Doepfer think like I do, as they say this is “not a very “exciting” module, just a bread-and-butter device.” (I need a gluten-free, vegan metaphor… uh, rice crackers and humus?)

But there’s extra modulation sources for you.

A-182-2 Quad Switches
60EUR
Out this week

It switches, but in … quad… you know… when you need more bread with your bread and butter. I’m done here.

More:

http://www.doepfer.de/home_e.htm

I appreciate that Doepfer hasn’t updated their site since the 90s, do their renderings in MS Paint exported to GIF, and pass the savings on to you.

The post Doepfer, the company that launched Eurorack, adds slim, affordable modules appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

SOMA’s PULSAR-23 semi-modular drum machine sneak peak

SOMA laboratory and enigmatic “romantic” engineer Vlad Kreimer have already delivered the strange and wonderful LYRA “organismic” synths. Next up: a drum machine.

The PULSAR-23 takes on that same “organismic” design philosophy, complete with rich, layered, deep space exploration sounds. With a full 23 independent modules, those powers turn to a drum machine design.

And maybe even “drum machine” doesn’t quite do this justice – you could just as easily imagine this as a percussion-heavy synthesizer. There are four independent loop recorders which trigger events, which you can clock into a single groove or leave to independent timing for more experimental rhythms. You can even set each channel to a sustain, so this is a noise/drone synth, too, not just a dancefloor object.

The PULSAR-23 was first announced last year, but now we get to see it move into its production form factor and – wow, it looks great:

It could be a gorgeous standalone machine, or you could see it as part of a larger modular rig. Full specs:

– 4 drum channels: Bass drum, Bass\Percussion, Snare drum, Cymbals\Hi-Hat
– 4 envelope generators with the unique ability to generate a sustain for the drum channels, turning them into noise\drone synthesizers.
– 4 independent loop recorders with the option for individual clocking. They record triggering events, not audio.
– Clock generator with an array of dividers as a very powerful tool for rhythm synthesis.
– Wide range LFO (0.1 – 5000Hz) with variable waveform.
– Shaos – a unique pseudo-random generator based on shift registers with 4 independent outputs, sample and hold and other cool features.
– FX processor with CV control incl. CV control of the entire DSP’s sample rate.
– Distortion.
– 2 CV-controlled gates.
– 2 CV-controlled VCAs.
– 2 controllable inverters.
– 3 assignable attenuators
– dynamic CV sensors for CV generation etc

Plus there’s MIDI control and sync, in addition to all the CV options. And if you want the really important specs – 52 knobs, 11 switches, 100 inputs and outputs for patching.

There’s also – “live circuit bending” whatever that entails, exactly?

This is the video from June 2018, where the PULSAR-23 was still just a bunch of guts – no pretty red case – but at least gives you an idea of the sound possibilities.

No lie here: SOMA will be way on the top of my list of gear to check out at Superbooth. I think this is poised to be a 2019 highlight.

Previously, we checked this out from SOMA this spring:

SOMA’s Ether is a high-sensitivity ear for your electromagnetic world

The post SOMA’s PULSAR-23 semi-modular drum machine sneak peak appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.