Archive for 4ms

NAMM 2016

Posted in modular synthesizers, synthesizers with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2016 by pyraphonic

For the past five years I have gone to NAMM to take photos and post about (mostly) eurorack modular synthesizers for the relatively small community of users and manufacturers. Though I think this community has grown so much during this short time, and is now getting so much coverage, that perhaps my services are no longer needed and maybe I should retire after this year. We have hit the turning point where there are so many new modules (and manufacturers) that it is difficult to keep up with all of them, so I’m sure I’ve missed some stuff this year. Below are a ton of pics – click on them for hi-res. Enjoy!

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Eurorack’s all grown up and no longer downstairs at NAMM!

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As some of you know, I am a helper elf for Noise Engineering. This year I helped prepare for NAMM at the NE HQ. The Noise Engineering modules are in new shallow aluminum cases from Sub Modular.

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Absurdly, I didn’t take any close-ups of the NE stuff at NAMM, but I’ll update this post with some later. Here’s the Noise Engineering booth. Thank you, Stephen, for the NAMMM badge!

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The Tiptop booth. Always great to catch up with Gur and Tomio. The new cases are looking great, and watch for several new Z-DSP cards coming soon – they sound amazing!

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Make Noise. Got a tour of the new Tempi module…

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and tinkered with the 0-Coast

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Had a great time with the Malekko crew this year. Congrats on the Roland collaborations!

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New cases and modules.

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Rad dudes

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Cool new pedals

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How cool? this cool. Shredworthy even.

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4MS rig featuring a new stereo delay with a huge amount of memory (3 mins, I think?)

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Audio Damage had some cool custom cases and were showing their new drum module.

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I’m pretty sure Chris just told that guy I’m a dork.

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Bastl’s crazy rig. I shot a video that I’ll try to get up here later.

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WMD booth. Great chatting with William and the WMD crew.

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Verbos booth.

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Vermona monosynth and modules.

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Abstract Data’s rig.

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Intellijel had new cases and modules, including the new Rainmaker module.

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The case has an intentionally deep lid for keeping it patched in transit.

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Pittsburg’s new stuff.

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Koma’s rig.

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Industrial Music Electronics (formerly The Harvestman) set up.

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Sputnik had a bunch of new stuff.

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Snazzy’s case and new pedal.

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Endorphin’s rigs.

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Synthrotek

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ZVex entries into euro. I love my Fuzz Factory guitar pedal, so this should be interesting.

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STG

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At the Big City booth I played this insane Schmidt synth and a real Mellotron.

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Moog had a crazy cool set up with a ton of Mother 32s. I can’t help but think the Modular on the Spot gatherings inspired this desertscape arrangement!

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Moog also had some museum pieces set up.

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Obligatory Stevie Wonder pic (on the escalator)

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Oberheim/Dave Smith stuff

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OB-6!

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Two Voice

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The Linnstrument is really fun and playable.

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Three New Pocket Operators from Teenage Engineering.

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There were several new euro manufacturers I was unaware of below, such as Rossom.

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Mordax

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Soulsby

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AOA

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DT

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I think I may have to own one of these someday – Rickenbacker 12 string.

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And to wrap up, some random weird stuff:

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I saw a lot of friends, met some new ones and had a great time. Hope you dug the pics.

Cheers! (that’s Steven from Noise Engineering and Chris from Sub Modular)

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NAMM 2015

Posted in modular synthesizers, sound design, synthesizers with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2015 by pyraphonic

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I started going to NAMM in 2012 a few months after starting my own eurorack modular synthesizer system and I have gone every year since. I mainly go to check out the modular synth gear and hang out with the people making and using them. This year was great with many more modules and many familiar faces.

Here we go…click on the pics for hi-res!

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The eurorack presence at NAMM this year was incredible. There were several different booths in various halls of the convention representing many manufacturers. I used to know immediately what modules were new, or which were prototypes, etc. but not anymore.

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I first went over to check out Noise Engineering because A) Stephen is my friend and colleague and B) I beta test and make suggestions on Noise Engineering modules and C) he had some beer with him.

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Among the new NE modules available soon is the Sinc Iter (purple one on the right in the photo above) which is a 4HP Oscillator with an insane range of 23 octaves (so it makes a great LFO) with variable waveform and built-in quantization. On the left are prototype clock modules.

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Also available soon (above in purple) are the Tonnetz Sequent (a triad based polyphonic pitch sequencer), Mimetic Sequent (a pattern recorder and randomizer with up to 16 steps – I love this thing!), and its expander which outputs random gates related to the sequences.

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Above from the left are the Variatic Sequent (a simple gate sequencer), the Variatic Erumption (a dual burst generator), and the Numeric Repetitor which is a rhythm generator in the vein of the Zularic Repetitor but based on binary arithmetic. I’ll swap in a better photo soon – I didn’t get a clear shot of these.

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Prototype mixers above on the right.

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Dieter Doepfer! I caught him mid-blink here – I swear his eyes didn’t look like that. He showed me some new Doepfer modules below.

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the A-157 Trigger sequencer above.

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Above in the center are the A-110-4 Quadrature Thru Zero VCO, A-147-2 LFO with delay, and A-110-3 Triangle Thru Zero VCO.

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Above is the A-101-6 Opto FET VCF/Phaser.

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Above is the A-153 Ratcheting clock multipler.

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Above is the A-160 Clock/Trigger Divider II

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I also got to catch up with Gur and Tomio showing Tiptop Audio’s wares – above is a prototype of a new case. The angle is adjustable. It looks great!

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Above is the new Circadian Rhythyms module.

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The quantizer is still being tweaked but looks great.

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They also had a couple euro-fied Serge modules in the case.

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Above is the prototype case at a different angle.

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The WMD touch interface is fun! the Poly-key Array.

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Above is one of the WMD/SSF cases.

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Make Noise had the new shared system with all black faceplates (above). I tinkered with this set up for quite a while.

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Above are the new fixed filter and the RxMx. The fixed filter can be normalled to the RxMx so the six bands correspond to the six channels.

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Above is the next Make Noise collaboration with Tom Erbe called the Telharmonic. It is a triad oscillator with controls over the chord and inversion as well as timbre and of course, pitch(es).

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Black Maths!

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The Ctrl Sel above.

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The updated Wogglebug (above) looks great!

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Phonogene in black.

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Another WMD/SSF rig in a slick keyboard case.

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A fully loaded Enclave case.

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New Low-gain modules (above).

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Hexinverter’s case (above).

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A modular module from Black Market (above) that has swappable circuit boards.

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These are the boards (above) that work with their 500 series style units as well as the eurorack unit.

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The Xoac Karl Marx Stadt above.

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The Harvestman himself, looking very dapper this year.

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Qu-bit modules.

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More Qu-bit.

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The Verbos touch keyboard arrived this year. It feels nice and plays well!

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This one (above) was in its own skiff.

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The Koma Quad helmet for demoing their new quad mixer. (Apologies to those I clocked in the head while wearing this.)

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the ProModular MIIIIX and Insert (above).

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SSF ultra-random (above).

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Synthrotek’s rig. Lots of cool kits in here.

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A closer look at the upper Synthrtek case with some Mattson mults along the bottom rows.

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The new Double Andore from The Harvestman (above).

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Chris Randall hamming it up with the Audio Damage rig (above).

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Abstract Data’s rig (above).

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the Koma Komplex Sequencer (above).

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Dann from 4MS showing their goods.

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the LZX rig (above).

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the Vermona rig (above – sorry, blurry shot!)

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Sputnik modular stuff – the patch was all set up, so the shots don’t show the modules all that well!

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The Snazzy rig

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Dan showed me the new Snazzy Tidal Wave which sounded great. A compact voice synth with some performance oriented controls (above).

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Muffwiggler booth rigs!

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Another Muffwiggler booth box.

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Expert Sleepers new stuff (above).

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Circuit Shaman’s rig in a John Noble case (above).

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The Circuit Shaman Dack (above).

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The Circuit Shaman Spectra Mirror (above).

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the Kilpatrick Audio Phenol (above).

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Above is the Tipsy Circuits Emperor, which can run Windows in the modular environment. Pretty insane!

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Frap Tools UNO case folded (above) and unfolded (below). Really nice!

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Pittsburg had their new stained wood cases, which looked really great.

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Studio Electronics modules (above and below).

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More from the Muffwiggler booth.

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The Moon Modular case (above). I met John L. Rice at their booth, whom I’ve interacted with on the forums before but never met in person, which was cool.

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Analogue Haven cases (above and below).

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Mutable Intsruments new stuff (above) – Elements is awesome!

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The new Synthesis Technologies E6209 (above).

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The Big City Music booth (above).

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I believe this is a vibrato/reverb repurposed from an organ from Analog Outfitters (above – from the Big City Music booth).

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New Buchla including the 252e and the standalone 218 touch keyboard.

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Brian Kehew and Robert Robert Margouleff at the Moog booth (above). Brian is a polymath whose many hats include synth expert, audio restorer, half of the synth duo Moog Cookbook as well as being an author (check out Recording the Beatles). Robert, along with Malcolm Cecil, built and played T.O.N.T.O. and co-created those amazing Stevie Wonder records.

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The reissues of the original Moog modulars.

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Diego Stocco tinkering with the Moog modular (above).

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Klaus Shulze poster!

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Moog Voyager (above).

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Suzane Ciani live patching the Moog modular (above).

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Sir David Scott Stone checking out the Korg reissues of the ARP Odyssey!

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Twin Braids jamming in the Roland room upstairs (above).

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Black is the new Orange (above).

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The original Les Paul “Black Beauty” (above).

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Yeah, I still want one of these Rickenbacker 12-strings.

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The insane new Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator series (above)!

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And the day ended with Richard Devine falling in love with the new 4MS Spectral Multiband Resonator! It does sound amazing.

Thanks to Stephen (Noise Engineering) and William (WMD) for the NAMM badge!

NAMM 2014

Posted in modular synthesizers, music, synthesizers with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2014 by pyraphonic

NAMM 2014 is upon us. This post is NAMM through my narrow lens of interest, mainly modular synthesizers,  and is not meant to be comprehensive, so sit back and enjoy the ride without the incredible sonic wall of noise that pervades the convention.

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First stop is the Eurorack modular booth hosted by WMD in Hall E.

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The Harvestman rig.

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This showed up later in the day (a SubCon Vampire in The Harvestman’s case).

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Stephen and the Noise Engineering collection.

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The Ataraxic Translatron in 2 flavors (just different faceplates) and an amazing kick drum module.

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A new oscillator and a new filter. Also a rectifier and divider, which can do far more to a sound than I had imagined.

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A new gate sequencer and a new mixer on the bottom.

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A super unique rhythm generator is in there as well.

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One of the 2 Make Noise systems at NAMM.

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These are the 2 new control modules which add preset-like functionality to modulars. The CTRLSEL-G can be used to control one or more CTRLSEL-Vs to add precision to live performance situations. They communicate via the power bus, or a cable if in different cases.

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The Teleplexer is an unexpected offering. It works like this: you take a cable coming from a CV source and if you touch the tip to one of the plates, the voltage is sent to the corresponding output(s). The plates are set up so the top row of three route the voltages out of outputs one, two or three, respectively. The second row sends the voltages to one and two, or two and three. The third sends to just one and three, and the fourth is to all three. Below, the same scenario is repeated, but negative voltages are sent to those destinations. With multiple cables at play, things can get complicated.

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The Make Noise reverb, which with certain settings, sounded unlike any reverb I’ve heard before. There are no presets and all parameters are brought out to the front panel and can be controlled via CV.

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Mysteron, the mystery module aka the digital wavguide, arrives!

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Rosie – the cue system with an effects loop.

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A couple close-ups of the 1U mult/utility

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The WMD/Steady State Fate set up with new modules Amplitude, Pole-Zero, Spectrum, Ultrafold, VCMiniSlew, and the Quad Attenuator. Also Snazzy FX modules in there including the new Telephone Game module. Sorry, this shot is pretty blurry. Can’t win ’em all.

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The newly announced Verbos Electronics set. Looking great, out of the gate, with the cool Rogan knobs Buchla nod and unique color scheme. These look aesthetically and functionally great. They sound as cool as they look as well.

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Mark showing the very skiffable Voltage Multistage.

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That is a thick circuit board!

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4MS with their new modular modular case/boats which look like a great solution for people who are ever expanding, rearrange their system a lot, or want to be able to detach a portion of their system for live use.

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The QCD expander (on the left), which packs a lot of punch in a small space.

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The Delptronics Thunderbell, a CV-able cowbell.

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I believe it will be offered in both Eurorack as well as mounted in a real cowbell. CV for the pitch and the decay. It sounds great.

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Delptronics General MIDI module prototype.

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STG stuff

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New Hexinverter modules.

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Koma’s set up.

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Moon Modular sequencer.

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Next I went to check out Gur and Tomio at Tiptop in Hall A in the Big City booth. Sean Costello’s Valhalla Reverb card for the Z-DSP sounds amazing. It is my most anticipated modular purchase of 2014.

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An elaborate new sequencer from Tiptop called the Circadian Rhythm.

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Serge Wilson Analog Delay in eurorack.

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A very capable and flexible looking quantizer.

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Eowave modules.

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Another case at the Big City booth.

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Here’s Todd Barton with the Buchla Music Easel reissue.

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They were showing the new preset card that links to the iPad via bluetooth.

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It also looks like they have added (reinstated?) the nuts to the switches.

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The Moog Sub37. Roger O’Donnell (The Cure, Psychedelic Furs, etc.) is the hand model, btw.

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The Moog Theremini. I’m not gonna lie, I want one! I already have a Big Briar theremin with the CV mods done to it, but this thing was fun to play (it has quantizing) and has a great design.

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The Prophet 12 from Dave Smith.

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An Alquier guitar I checked out.

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They ship with a really unique display/stand that hooks on the back via strap locks.

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The Haken Continuum. This isn’t new, but it was the first time I sat and played it. It is really expressive. Mark Smart played Bach’s Air for me using it and it sounded amazing.

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The Pittsburg Modular Phase Shifter.

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Also the new Pittsburg / Studio Electronics collaboration filter set.

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Critter and Guitari eurorack gear.

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If this Roots board sounds as good as it looks…

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These giant wooden cassette coffee tables from Tayble are lovely.

NAMM is exhausting but fun. I hope I just saved you $12 in parking and a day of traffic jams, lines, noise and crowds. Thank you to Stephen from Noise Engineering and William from WMD for the pass!

Modular Modifications

Posted in DIY, modular synthesizers, synthesizers with tags , , on February 2, 2013 by pyraphonic

Today I made a couple modifications to my main modular synthesizer system. I recently sold a module I wasn’t really using so I had some space to fill.

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I have the 4MS Rotating Clock Divider, which I really like, and I decided I wanted to add the breakout expansion which is a panel with six switches that gives you more control options. There is also new software for this unit that you can buy on a chip and swap out in the RCD unit. To buy the wired up unit and upgrade chip as a set it would have cost me $95 plus California tax which would put me over $100. However, I saw on the 4MS site that you can get a kit for $50. But then I saw they also offer just the faceplate for $15 and the upgrade chip for $8 and I would only have to supply the switches and wiring. Shipping is just a couple bucks. I have switches here that I got at a surplus store for 50 cents apiece, as well as ribbon cable and a $1 connector, so I ended up making my expansion unit for under $30 plus about 30 minutes of work.

Here’s the RCD with the new chip swapped in.

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Here is the panel with the switches mounted and the ribbon cable and connector soldered to the switches.

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Next I just had to remove the jumpers and connect the panel. I realized today why jumpers are named as they are. It is because when you remove them they jump out of your hand, onto the ground and run to the nearest shadow.

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So far, so good – time to test it out.

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Success! Time to get clocking.

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The other modular mod today was to address a quirk on the Flame Tame Machine. The Tame Machine is a really elaborate voltage quantizer and beat looper. The quirk is that when the cv input goes above 5 volts the keynote value is affected and starts jumping all over the place. Likewise whenever the keynote input goes above 2 volts the patch value goes nuts. The work-around has been for people to attenuate their voltages before going into those jacks. I often send rows from Pressure Points modules and just try to keep the voltages low, but often accidentally cross into crazytown. I’d really rather not have to use up attenuators for these two inputs. I had thought that perhaps zener diodes of the appropriate value across those jacks would solve this issue but was not too keen on experimenting on a $400 module. Thankfully gimlay & jeannot on the MuffWiggler forum did the guinea pig work and posted their results. Thanks to them both! On to the mod…

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I ended up leaving more of the leads on the diodes than I needed to in case I ever want to remove them in addition to the fact that it was easier to solder that way with my helping hands alligator clamp holding the diodes in place.

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Another success! The Tame Machine has been tamed.

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Two projects without a hitch? I’m going to quit while I’m ahead today and just do some patching tonight.

NAMM 2013

Posted in modular synthesizers, synthesizers with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2013 by pyraphonic

NAMM 2013 is here and despite an uncharacteristically rainy day here in Los Angeles, I headed down to the convention center.

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Of course since this is my blog, this will not be a comprehensive summary of the NAMM convention, but rather just a view through my narrow lens of interest. In other words, I first hightailed it downstairs to Hall E where the dregs of the convention hock their wares. I hung out at the Analogue Haven booth most of the day but did make a couple disoriented loops through the whole convention. Come along, here’s what I saw…

The most surprising offering this year is the revival of the Buchla Music Easel or Electric Music Box as it is alternately known. I have lusted over this piece of ’70s gear for many years.

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At $3995 it’s cheaper than a small Buchla 200e system (such as the Skylab which is about $15K). I’m not sure I can resist this. I sense an ebay purge coming up in my near future to fund a purchase of one of these.

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Meanwhile, the Eurorack modular synthesizer world continues to explode. In an earlier post featuring my briefcase modular I mentioned my friend Stephen who helped me build my custom ribbon controller. He has been prototyping modules and has a couple modules on display at NAMM which will be available at Analogue Haven. His company is Noise Engineering and his first module, the Ataraxic Translatron is amazing. It is an oscillator that uses the same technology that made the Atari 2600 sounds (but is not slaved to the video clock!).

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I’ll post more about this module soon. Here is Stephen showing as much enthusiasm as his programming allows.

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Tiptop Audio had a bunch of new modules on display as well:

Digital Hits which uses CopperLan technology to communicate with the computer

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Trigger Riot which looks like a trigger cousin of the Z8000 sequencer

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and Circadian Rhythm which looks bonkers and awesome

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Make Noise also had their new wares on display:

The RxMx (pronounced “Rix Mix”) is a strangely animated mixer design with a lot of stereo options. Tony is working with Grant Richter on this.

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The MMG, which is like one channel of the QMMG but with more options.

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And development continues on the waveguide oscillator known as “??????” or the “Mystery Module”

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Also on display were flat black Rene sequencers and pressure points. Tony says this is how he originally wanted them to look but there was a mistake in the manufacture of the original runs, which were glossy. I think the flat black looks better.

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4MS was showing some new stuff as well:

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Here’s Dan from 4MS dialing in some alien signals

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Pittsburgh Modular had their new housings on display:

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Snazzy FX had some new goodies – I’m digging the newer faceplates:

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And over at the Moog booth…Bernie Worrell!!

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And the Anniversary Moog Voyager. I thought it was an odd choice to have my friend Stephen’s face printed on the gold faceplate, but hey, what do I know?

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Analog water is warmer

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Stylophone 2013! This is not your grandad’s stylo…this is pretty cool, actually. It comes with a stylus but you can use your fingers as well.

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The union jack model:

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And to wrap up, some odds & ends:

That insane bowed string keyboard that’s been making the rounds on the interwebs

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I was digging this silverburst Hofner bass copy

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A passionate conversation about shift registers (not kidding)

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Hanging out with Tony of Make Noise and Tomio of Tiptop Audio

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Rasta Tele, mon

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Evil Knievel’s clarinet

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And I can’t even tell you how many ukuleles I saw today. More than I thought existed in the universe. And only at NAMM would one witness this spectacle

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Thank you Gur from Tiptop Audio for the pass! See you all next year!

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ps – Special thanks to the woman dressed like Pocahontas who saved me from standing in the 2 hour long line outside and advised me to take my printout to the the Hilton basement to get my badge. They could have made that a little clearer with some sort of signage.

My Modular Synthesizer

Posted in modular synthesizers with tags , , , , , on December 22, 2011 by pyraphonic

In April I started my modular system. There are several formats to choose from but I decided on the Eurorack format as it’s generally cheaper and there are a lot of manufacturers in this format, which means lots of choices.

What I love best about it is that it ends up being a different instrument each time it is patched from scratch and the discoveries seem endless.

Having done a ton of research before going down this road, it didn’t take long to fill my case with modules.

The case I went with (from Tiptop Audio) folds up for portability and is small enough to take along on a flight as your carry-on.

Though I imagine security may have a few questions.