Sept 2022

Molten Music Monthly September 2022

Molten Music Monthly

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent all week trying not to put the heating on. But then I don’t need to when I have such lovely glowy modular things to keep me warm. But anyway, what do we have coming up this month?

For the video version, please head over to my YouTube channel. Also, I have affiliate accounts with ThomannPerfect CircuitSweetwater, Reverb and Clockface Modular, so if you go to buy something via my links, I get a little kickback – it doesn’t matter what the product is, and it’s always appreciated.

Yamaha upgrades the ModX by adding a plus sign on the end.
Instruo knocks out a stereo oscillator and a West Coast function generator.
Sovage engineering says that if it sounds normal, then something isn’t working.
Soundfreak pulls the Putney into Buchla.
Modal has a crack at Eurorack.
Winterbloom has an adorably small power supply.
Flight of Harmony will starve your modular to destruction.
Modbap has a holy good percussion module.
Native Instruments ushers in Komplete 14.
Therevox pulls an oscillator out of the past.
Korg goes all in on the Drumlogue.
In Tech will unlock your MIDI control.
MiMu will have you handling jellyfish.
Margarit Laniakea goes Cosmic.
Moog resurrects the Model 10.
Befaco puts a pony down on a VCO.
Noise Engineering converts more modules into plugins.
After Later Audio lets you roll your own complex oscillator.
SynthFest is coming but be prepared for Synth East.
And Qu-Bit wants to examine the generated topology of feedback networks through sonar dispersion.


But first, Detournetable. It’s like a Eurorack record player. It’s a record player, a turntable that’s been “detoured” I suppose through some form of control voltage and maybe a modelled plastic hand and incorporated into some awesome extension of modular. Ideas and concepts that flows through the rotational spin of the vinyl, through the generative vibrations of needle, that results in the carrying of ideas and of emotions through control voltage into your music.

This is a thing, an object, an installation if you like created by Victoria Shen, a sound artist and instrument maker who was inspired by the Make Noise Morphagene and its ability to Loop and Sample and manage microsamples. Somehow that took her down the road of pulling a turntable into Eurorack. We’re not just sitting a turntable next to some modular, we’re building a turntable into the modular. It takes a lot of space in all sorts of weird directions but the result is incredibly striking to the point that I felt I just had to reach out and ask if Victoria is going to make them available, because people are going to want them? This is going to be a desirable thing, we’re all going to want to be sticking bits of vinyl and great big handy fingers with with the nails into our Eurorack. She said she doesn’t really have any plans in making it into an instrument but she will possibly custom-made things and people keep throwing large lumps of cash at her.

But it’s a fabulous thing. It’s CV controllable in terms of speed and direction and then the audio can be sucked in through your modular. I guess like taking the idea of a Radio Music module or a radio receiver that you often see in Eurorack for just for generating sound. It’s something that you can latch into or lock into and use within your modular and this is doing a similar idea and allowing you to bring different sounds from different places. Randomly possibly? At least I’ve got no intention in how I would use this into my modular.

Fascinating. She’s also really fascinated, and so am I now after hearing about them, by Audible Audubon cards. Never heard of that? No I haven’t either but it’s a remarkable thing that I think was basically invented in order to give people a way of hearing and identifying bird song. Why is that interesting? Well it’s a little thing, built in the God knows when, and is a sort of handheld record player. But the records themselves are held on cards. The card has a bird on the front and its song is recorded or engraved on a disc that’s on the back of that card. The record player turns around in the box and you put the card on the box and you read the front and it turns around and it plays the recording of the bird song. Genius! Just amazing and she would very much like to resurrect that technology somehow in order to produce music in that form, which I think is just extraordinary.

So there you go something weird and wonderful to kick us off with this month.

Yamaha MODX+

So, back into what some people would call “proper synthesizers”, big fat workstation, Yamaha things that have multiple engines, and multiple sorts of synthesis inside all wrapped up in a big workstation machine. You don’t need a DAW as you can just make all of your music on this with every sort of sound you can imagine within the one interface. The MODX it’s not their Flagship, that’s the Montage, so I think the MODX is the more user-friendly, cut-down sort of cheerful version, that still gives you all of the welly of every sort of sound and every sort of synthesis, but in a more compact form. But what’s important is that they’ve just issued this major upgrade which completely revolutionizes the entire line of MODX into the MODX Plus!

What you get for your “plus” is that you get a bit more polyphony up to128 notes and a bit more memory inside for samples. That is about it, that’s your lot and that’s considered a major upgrade enough to warrant an entire new change to the name. So that’s very exciting thank you Yamaha.

There were rumors that is going to include the engine from the AN-1X that almost classic now virtual analog synthesizer from back in 90s or early 2000s but no, it wasn’t to be. So here we are the Yamaha MODX+ it’s a little bit better than the one before.

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Instruō cruïnn and cnōc

Instruō were at Divkids Modular Meets up in Leeds over the summer and they had a couple of new modules. It’s always exciting when they have something new partly because they are extraordinary and these modules are going to be awesome, and also because I get the opportunity to try to really murder the name of something. So the first one is called cruïnn, it’s a stereo oscillator and it uses something called Through-Zero Phase Modulation to add interesting animated textures. Essentially I think what that means is that your standard sine wave and then you take another one and you put it out of phase and then they shift and they wobble against each other which is rather nice. You get these interesting interesting tones and what’s fascinating about the cruïnn in is that they’ve actually provided a little expansion module which gives you every access to the sine wave output in all of its phases. How is that useful? I’m not entirely sure.

The thing I find with Instruō modules is that is that my modular level and know-how is rocking about down here and Instruō are up here somewhere, they are in another plane of existence and they do fascinating and interesting things with their modules that I can’t even pretend to describe let alone master or become an authority on. I just like to sit back and look at it and go wow that’s just amazing I’d love to have a case of that to hang on my wall somewhere where it would never be used, but it would look absolutely gorgeous and just be dripping with that potentially fantastic sound.

So what this is all about ultimately is not actually sine waves, having looked at it again, it’s actually saw tooth, it’s about sawtooths running in parallel together to the point where I’d almost say Super-Saw and I think that’s essentially it. So what Instruō have attempted to capture here is that Roland Super-Saw sound where we have these saws rubbing against each other in that deliciously gooey and moving phase modulated fashion. You see I do know what I’m talking about when I get me facts right in the first place.

The other one is cnōc and it’s a dual function generator. So two functions, West Coast function style, which kind of means it’s a bit of an envelope, but no we don’t call it an envelope, we call it a function because that’s far more Californian man. So it’s kind of a rise and a fall and AR or ASR as it has a bit of sustain potentially in there as well. Two nice sliders on the front, good simple, just a sort of module I would understand. The envelope can also become an LFO or it could also be a delayed gate signal, a slew generator, a portamento, things like that which is quite interesting. It always makes me scratch my head as to why it can be these things but apparently it can, which is great! I guess you’re just using a rising voltage to change pitch as opposed to change level and then you know that’s that’s slew, portamento or Glide, that kind of thing.

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Sovage Engineering

Sovage engineering has released a whole raft of new modules designed just to do generally nasty things. They’re motto, apparently, is that if it’s sounding nice and normal, then it’s probably not working right. So their intention is just to mess, to mangle, to warp, to destroy, to crash, which sounds like fun.

They are good-looking modules. They look a lot like the Look Mum No Computer ones with a kind of a vintage black and then these old style silver knobs on the front. It’s not like a vintage Moog vibe it’s more of a vintage television set vibe, and that really appeals to me.

The first model is Le Coursier which is an envelope which mimics the pick of a guitar. It’s a dual envelope, you’ve got kind of the initial transient, and then you’ve got something after that, and you’re sculpting both of those things within this module – fascinating. Next is the Le Déchu and this is an analog polymorphing voltage control oscillator and low frequency oscillator. So it modulates, it generates, and it crashes back into itself through various portals. Apparently, it does terrible things to wave shaping. It takes that idea of a complex oscillator and then just squeezes the live out of it until it’s no longer there. The result is something interesting with a lot of character and potentially musical in the right hands.

Next is the Ambianceurs, which is a voltage-controlled LFO. Then you have a L’Écorheur, which is some kind of distortion. It has a unique character as it filters the heck out of things in a distorted broken kind of way. And then you have the Faille Temporelle, which is a Time warping Distortion – just take a jump to the left! And it combines itself with Lo-Fi tape Echo to create this extreme clipping distortion delay thing where there are no rules.


I found this particularly interesting. This is Soundfreak, which is essentially sound artist and synth engineer Alina Kalancea, and what she’s done is taken the VCS3, the Putney, the original EMS synthesizer and pulled the parts out and rebirthed them into the Buchla format. She’s retained the look which is quite stunning. There’s something about the look of those precision knobs, the colored tops on them and the the front panel background. There’s something about all of that that’s so emotive and so somehow hooks into us and stamps an immediately iconic vibe on to this particular synthesizer.

She’s split it into three different sections. You’ve got the triple oscillator running by itself, so all three oscillators running in a single super wide, I mean this is Buchla so, you know, the real estate doesn’t matter; we’re not worried about how wide or big or expensive something is, because this is one of those other levels of modular – and it is just stunning. In the VCS3 what you tend to have is two oscillators that you use for the sound generation and the third oscillator that you tend to use as an LFO. But it doesn’t have to be, you can all be making noises if you want which makes it a very fat sounding, very detunable and musical oscillator.

The next section is a dual filter oscillator because the filter can also self-oscillate and therefore becomes another oscillator in its own right. And this is a little bit of a departure from the original because they’ve added a band pass in there which you can push into the self-oscillation. And lastly, there’s the envelope shape and noise generator.

The whole set essentially allows you to put that fabulous Putney EMS sound within your modular system. It’s an extraordinary project it looks fantastic; I don’t imagine it’s anything that I’d ever own, but it’s just a thing of beauty.

Modal Electronics Filton

Modal has talked about doing Eurorack for a long time, and they’ve put around ideas like filters before, but now finally we have one. This is a dual analogue ladder transistor filter. So a Moog style filter I suppose that’s been pulled out of their 002 flagship synthesizer. What you get is a pair of beautifully mirrored filters within the one quite striking module. It’s gonna stick like a sore thumb in your modular. It looks very much like a Waldorf-type module, it has those very clean lines those very contrasting colours.

The special thing it likes to do is to morph through the various modes of the filter, like on the Cobalt 8 and perhaps in their other synthesizers when you can change through filter types. This, of course, is dual so it can be stereo, and you can control it all from one side and link the two together. Or you can use it completely independently.

One slightly odd decision is that they’ve decided to float it on Kickstarter. I mean this is not necessarily unusual for Modal they’ve done that with the smaller Craft synths and other bits and pieces as well so it’s not a new thing for them. But the goal is £50,000 which is a lot of filters they’re gonna have to sell and currently with a couple of days to go they’re only halfway there. I’m not quite sure what happens if they don’t reach the goal. Does that mean they won’t produce it or they’ll do something else? I don’t know; that’s the risk with the whole Kickstarter thing, it might not necessarily work out for you, and 50 Grand to me just seemed a little bit on the ambitious side. And the other side of Kickstarter is that it bypasses your boutique shops and your modular shops which is a shame because really they could do with all the business.

Winterbloom Micronova

Winterbloom has been struggling a bit with old chip shortage but they do have a new little thing for us. It’s a very mini Eurorack power supply. It’s perfect if you’re making a little lunchbox modular or a small form modular. It’s very tiny and can fit up to the back of the case and push through a little DC jack for powering. It only has two actual ports on the board itself although of course you can add a flying bus cable in order to power a few more things from it. It has 18 watts of power in there so it can power plenty of modules and you can also daisy chain them to other cases so that you can use the one wall wart power supply to power a number of Micronova power supplies.

Winterbloom also supplied it as a bundle with an extra bus board with a few more ports on it for more powering but also a front panel switch which is interesting. When I saw this originally, I thought the Micronova was the module, but no it’s actually a busboard in the back giving you a proper power supply going in the back of your case which is much tidier. But then you have this option of this very small slim front panel switch that will give you a light to show you that it’s on and a switch and an ability to plug the power in that way. So you don’t necessarily have to have it sticking out the back. Anyway, it’s a good size, has good power, is nicely made, nice and affordable.

Flight of Harmony Famine

Now I’m not sure who Flight of Harmony think they are, but they sound like a nice bunch of people and then you look at their modules and you realize they’re just out to kill you. That’s all they want, they want blood and they want the destruction of you and your system, perhaps in an enormous fireball explosion or gently and menacingly over time. Their latest heinous module is called famine which is nice and cheery. What does famine do? It slowly starves your system of power. So you plug your power supply into it and then you power the rest of your modules from it and it slowly starts to strangle the flow of electrons so that all of your modules start to behave badly or wrongly or strangely. If you’ve ever had a system where your power supply isn’t quite fulfilling its full potential then you may notice that modules behave strangely, they do funny things, strange things, and unpredictable things, and this is a model designed to evoke that, to do it on purpose.

Now, please understand that it’s experimental, it could break things particularly if you’ve got digital modules which require a certain amount of power. They are corruptable and if you don’t give them enough volts, you don’t give them enough of what they need, it can cause serious damage. So use it with care, or in other words don’t use it at all! But if that’s the sort of thing you like; if you like the idea of putting together a system which you could set playing and then you like the idea of it being slowly destroyed or strangled and being fascinated by that sort of behavior then this is definitely for you.

Modbap Trinity

Now, this looks awesome. It was the one startling thing to come out of Knobcon the other week. This is the Trinity Modbap. Modbap has given us the Osiris wavetable oscillator and the arcade-smashing Performer, but this is a three-channel digital percussion synth. You have a choice of four algorithmic sound engines which you can allocate to any one of the three channels or all of them I suppose. The algorithms are called a Block which is like the 808 909 style sounds, Heap which is all about partials and additive synthesis, Neon which is about that lovely clanginess of FM, and Arcade which is quirky and zappy and bangy and classy.

You can use these four algorithms to build yourself a little three-piece kit for any kind of sound of any combination of those sounds and then just go to town on the modulation. There are all sorts of parameters to play with, there’s a nice fat character knob right in the middle which is going to go from sort of leading man to Femme Fatale or through to a devastating uh Hobbit, you know – that kind of character change, that arc I think. And they also do clever things with triggering and mixing where you can like trigger them all at the same time on a particular accent or emphasis and then you can mix how they are being presented out of the outputs. Very interesting. I hope to have one of those in as part of my continuing and evidently infinite search for percussive sounds.

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Native Instruments Komplete 14

I thought I’d be really interested in Komplete 14, but I really can’t seem to drum up any enthusiasm. Why is that? I mean it used to be my everything; I’ve got old hard drives of older Komplete versions knocking around the place. It is without a doubt one of the biggest, most comprehensive and extraordinary collections of software instruments and effects on the planet. It’s amazing, it’s extraordinary. But I seem to have lost my enthusiasm for it.

One of the strange things that Native Instruments do is that they allow you to upgrade from any version for pretty much the same price. At least this has been my experience in the past it may have changed, I think now there’s a subscription model and other sorts of ways of doing it, but historically you pay the same price to upgrade from version 8 to version 9 as you do from version four to version 9 and so on. So you tend to find that if you keep up with your upgrades and upgrade every time you seem to be paying an awful lot of money every single time. Whereas you could skip a couple of version upgrades and then upgrade for the same price later on, which seems to be much more efficient way of doing it. The changes from version to version are, well they’re not insignificant but they tend to be focused on the sound content which is not necessarily the thing you want. You want a brand new exciting extraordinary synthesizer instrument every single time and that’s not always the case.

At the moment I have no clue what’s new; I haven’t even looked at it. I’m going to look at it quick now and then I’ll fill you in…. so what it’s saying is that I’ll be getting Playbox which has randomization and cool generation and interesting generative things, I’ll get a whole bunch of strings and bass guitars and electric guitars, I’ll get Drake’s keyboards apparently, a whole bunch of expansions and just tons and tons of sounds. In terms of synthesizers we get BX Oberhausen which is a take I think on the Oberheim synthesizer from Brainworks and that’s about it in synthesizers. On the sample side we get the new Kontact 7 which is great. Kontact is an extraordinary sampler instrument, I use it a lot, and I’ve got quite a lot of Kontact library that I’ve acquired over the years. It’s become a very familiar place and every time they do something interesting with Kontact to improve that user interface, because that user interface is a bit gnarly, it’s always been gnarly, kind of hard work and like oh my goodness can’t it just be easier, but thankfully with most of the libraries you get for Kontact you just use their own GUI. But anything they can do to improve the browsing on that as I can never find anything that I’m after and so that is always very positive.

So anyway rather than just ramble on about random things Native Instruments Komplete 14 is an awesome collection of extraordinary sounds, extraordinary libraries, and if you are a computer-based musician then it is something which is worth your time getting at some point. It’s going to be worth 500 quid to put that down in order to to get it and then you probably don’t need to upgrade it for another five years because there’s loads in there so much stuff in there that you’re never going to get to the end of it. You get all the important stuff like Reaktor like the Super 8 which I’ve always really liked, Massive X, those sorts of things are huge and worth the entry price on their own. So there you go I did find interest in the end.

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Therevox Ondes VCO

Something else that came out from Knobcon was the Therevox Ondes VCO. It’s inspired by the Ondes Martinet and Therevox specializes in recreating or producing modern versions of the Ondes Martinet. It’s an early electronic instrument made by some bloke called Martinet and he had some interesting ideas about electronics and how all those sorts of things worked and the Ondes Martinet was an extraordinary early synthesizer. It was all to do with valves and radio electronics and general sound design weirdness, but what Therevox do is they take those ideas and those valves and tubes and convert them into solid-state electronics. They have produced some beautiful-looking instruments which sound like nothing else. They have their own unique flavour and character, and with the Ondes VCO, they’ve pulled the oscillator out and made it into a Eurorack module.

The oscillator works a bit like an organ. You have different sorts of ranges that you can switch into it, and it has wave shaping and the mixing of waveforms in interesting ways. There’s something about the switches and the way things are labelled which gives the impression of different organ sections, but really what’s going on is that the waveforms are being shaped differently. You have these switches in order to create a different character that comes out of the triangle core. You also get three outputs, and on the original machine, I believe those were routed through different diffusers, which I think is something like a filter. So there were different destinations in order to sculpt things differently. Fascinating stuff!

I don’t really know what I’m talking about but it beautiful thing, it’s very very nicely made; I love the very muted colours. I mean there’s a choice of colour as long as it’s just this slightly off-white grey, but there are four different tones of that. If you look at the instruments, they make it just fits perfectly with that. It has no business being in the trashiness of Eurorack really, but hey, these are exciting times where we have access to such beauty and wonder within our brash and bold nuttiness.

Korg Drumlogue

Next up is the Korg Drumlogue fitting in with a Minilogue, Prologue and other logues as well. It’s an 11-voice hybrid digital analogue drum machine. It’s a drum machine we’ve known about for a long time; it was softly revealed at many NAMMs ago and we’ve been waiting, but now it’s finally here.

So what’s cool about it? Well, it looks dark and mysterious; that’s always a good starting point. I think the basic idea is you’ve got four analogue channels to do your kick, your snare, your hi-hats, that kind of thing, in a traditional analogue style. You’ve got knobs for each of those, and then you’ve got a digital channel which is essentially seven digital channels; six sample channels and one crazy SDK expansion “logue” one which can take any of those weird additional custom oscillators and bits and pieces that you can also plug into the Minilogue XD, Prologue or the NTS-1. That gives it the potential to have all sorts of interesting Community built sounds in giving it a whole added dimension that you’re not going to find on any other drum machine.

You’ve got 16 steps laid down in front of you, step-sequencing and editing, that kind of thing, a nice little screen that’s very bright. Lots of interesting stuff going on in there that can give you a better overview of what going on rather than having to go through pages across your 16 steps. It comes with 128 drum kits you’ve got Reverb and Delay on the master effects side. The word on the street is that it’s very very good, could be up where with the TR-8S apparently. There’s some really great stuff out there at the moment like the Perkons from Erica, the Pulsar 23 from Soma Labs but then you’ve got the Roland TR-8s which has every drum machine within itself, and now we have the Drumlogue which is interestingly hybrid with the possibility of expansion. So we are spoiled for choice in terms of drum machines.

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Intech Knot

Here’s a cool little one, the Intech Knot. The Knot is a little mini MIDI host controller. So, if you have a MIDI controller keyboard that only has a USB out, you can plug it into this and then route MIDI out to your desktop synths without having to have your computer on. It’s a very useful little tool that can just sit there and pretend to be a computer or a host for your USB MIDI controllers and let you farm that out in a bit more of a hardware style.

It’s all on annoying TRS jacks, however, it has an A/B switch so it will do everything, you just switch it until it finally works and you don’t have to worry about which adapter you plugged in. Thank goodness for that! In fact you can just minijack it all over the place rather than even having to go to MIDI cables.

It’s a very useful box for about 89 quid and should be out by Christmas.

MiMu Jellyfish

MiMu are the people with the MIDI controlling gloves, working with Imogen Heap, manipulating sound and synthesis and interesting things. They’ve just released a granular software synth called the Jellyfish. The idea is that you take a jellyfish and you scrub audio with it. Jellyfish is kind of a granular thing but in a bit more of a spongy soft squidgy kind of way. You can create drones and textures and all sorts of flimmy flammy flibbly blobbly bits. It looks beautiful, reminiscent of things like the Abyss but then granular does tend to give you a waveform and some stuff beautifully going around it, and this is very much like that.

I haven’t really looked at it in any detail, but it does look like a lovely thing and the sounds coming out of it are amazing. So really, I just wanted to draw your attention to it so that if this is your sort of thing then go and check it out, because it’s intriguing and enveloping and soft and sort of squidgy, and potentially stingy.

Margarit Laniakea

The Laniakea is, apparently, a supercluster, and that idea of immensity and epic cosmic proportions is what’s been pulled into this rather nice oscillator to give it this enormity of texture. They’ve pulled in a number of different sound generators and in reality that translates to wavetables, a resonator and additive synthesis. So you’re using your wavetables to create different forms of waveform which you can then duplicate and add together or pump it through a resonator to create a kind of struck string sound. But it doesn’t end there, they’ve also got wave-folding which can bring added textures, they’re snuck in a low pass filter, and also an overdrive. All of that is sort of macro controlled by the big shiny knob in the middle, that’s also backlit beautifully to further enhance this idea of universal cosmic waves and vibes.

It has a lot of interesting functions like orbits and space; they’ve really embraced this idea of a space-themed voltage control oscillator. In the very short demo video where a guy in his truck goes and gets in a spaceship it sounds pretty interesting, very different, not something that you’d usually associate necessarily with modular or Eurorack. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on there but then the idea of wavetable is to bring some very different tones. But in this you’ve also got that struckness that strikingness, as well as larger pulsating moving additives and different harmonics. Hmm, interesting, worth exploring I think.

Moog Model 10

Moog has brought back the Model 10. What’s the Model 10? It’s a cabinet modular using Moog’s big format 5U modular modules, which they’ve used in their modular forever. You’re never quite sure if it’s something that they still make or don’t make, or used to make, or don’t make any more, because these things seem to crop up from time to time. In fact a few years ago I’m pretty sure they reintroduced the Model 10 for an extraordinary price but in very limited numbers. It appears that they’ve decided to do it again but in a larger, more generally available sense.

They’ve upgraded it so it now works on a non-us power supply which is nice. It’s nice that they were thinking perhaps a little bit more outside their own borders for the rest of us, which is good particularly if you just spend ten thousand pounds on such a device you’d just like a UK plug on the end. So they’ve done that and another few little tweaks and bits and pieces but ultimately what you get it’s the precursor to the Model 15 which seems to be their most iconic three-cabinet jobby. This is a single cabinet. You’ve got a couple of oscillators, filters, all the usual synthesizer stuff, the filter Bank, some other bits of stuff. Get a few patch cables and bish bash bosh you’ve got a nice sound. You might need something to play it with so you can also buy a companion cabinet that’s got a couple of those really huge sequencers inside.

The Model 10 was about £10 grand when I wrote it down a week ago, but now it’s about twelve thousand pounds since the mini-budget so that’s nice isn’t it? We could measure our economy on how unlikely it is that you’ll ever afford a Moog Model 10.

It’s awesome that Moog keep bringing this stuff back up again and that there’s a market for it and people are hungry to buy into this fabulously interesting technology it’s also interesting that in response Behringer went “oh why don’t you buy our System 35 for £2.50 for €3 or something from Thomann and you too can have the completely authentic Moog experience”. I mean they’re not wrong; their Moog copies are great, they sound great, they’re very well done, they’re not going to fall apart, and they’re extremely cheap. You can buy an entire System 55 which is so much more than you ever get with the Model 10 for a fraction of the price. But I don’t think that’s the point with the Model 10. You’re not just buying a bit of modular, you’re not just buying a synthesizer for the sound, you’re buying into an instrument, you’re buying into an idea and a concept and a lifestyle and a choice and a level of artistry and wiring that has something less tangible about it than cost and value. You’re not buying a Moog Model 10 because you want that particular bass sound, I don’t think that’s it, I think you’re more likely to use any other synthesizer. What you’re buying into is the idea of having this thing of beauty sitting on your sideboard or sitting on your desk or in your studio that you can look at you can touch and feel and enjoy the sound of. You absolutely will get some fabulous sounds out of it but will you get £12 grands worth of sound out of it compared to, I don’t know, a TB-303? No probably not, but it won’t matter because the perception that you have through using such an instrument is that it is absolutely worth its weight in gold.

I find it fascinating trying to articulate the difference between these things because they’re you know in some kind of cold, stark light of trying to A/B the sound of one to the other. I think that’s a pointless pursuit because it’s not about that; it’s about something else, it’s about some other connection, and if you have no connection to the idea of a Moog cabinet modular then that’s fine, that’s completely fine. But you have to understand that for some people there will be an enormous connection, an emotional release or a transference, a transaction between human and machine that I don’t think you can value. But that’s art you know, that’s just art.

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Befaco Pony VCO

Befaco had a Modular Day in Barcelona at the weekend where they brought together all sorts of Spanish and wider European makers, along with which is pretty cool. They do a lot of work together through the DIY of Eurorack modules. But anyway Befaco were able to release a brand new module called the Pony VCO. It’s an oscillator with built-in wavefolding. It’s only 4HP, so it’s going to fit in a very compact system and has an interesting tuning ability, octave switch and then this slider up and down for timbre, which is essentially the wave folder.

The wave folding works on the sine wave, triangle, and sawtooth and then for the square wave it becomes a pulse width modulation slider. It’s great, it’s got a lot of features in a single small very nice sounding VCO.

I’ve done a full review video where I go into all the details of what’s good and what’s slightly weird about it so go and watch that, and then go and buy yourself one because it’s pretty nice.

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Noise Engineering Bundle 2

Noise Engineering has a new bundle of plugins. They like to suck the soul out of their digital modules and then rebirth them into software plugins and instruments, and they’ve done it again. They’ve got three new things for your attention, three weird things with which you can make weird sounds in your DAW. There’s nothing quite like the Noise Engineering plugins, and they don’t sound like anything else because they come from a modular mindset. They just work very differently, very much into modulation, very much into changing and developing sound and weirdness right from the get-go.

Anyway, the first one is the Manus Iteritas, and it’s a sawtooth-based synthesizer with three modes. You’ve got Metal which turns into a three-operator phase shifting something or other; you’ve got Skin which is duplicating into six oscillators making it an additive partial playground; and then you’ve got a Liquid which adds in a pitch envelope to the additive one. Suffice to say a whole range of different tones in different ways, and you can flick between different synthesis modes while you’re crafting your sound with all sorts of other bits of modulation and stuff going in and out of it. They call it a shape-shifting synthesizer and I think that’s probably an apt description.

The next one is Loquelic Vereor and this is a complex oscillator. It uses your good old-fashioned analogue type waveforms in order to crash into each other to route FM modulation into another oscillator to produce complex textures. But this specializes in using three different forms of synthesis it uses VOSIM Phase Modulation and then Summation Synthesis. What are those things? I’m not really sure entirely. One of those is to do with vocal simulations, I think phase modulation we’re more familiar with you’ve got two oscillators and running in different phases that then wobble against each other, and then for summation I mean it sounds a bit like additive we’re going to add some things together make a sum or something. Oh I don’t know I think you might just have to go and find out for yourself.

And finally, you have Imitor which is a delay effect with 32 taps, which is a lot.

Now sadly this is not a freeware bundle as one of their other bundles has this is a payware one and it’s about $119 but there’s nothing that sounds like this sort of stuff, so if you’re looking for experimental and different sounding sounds within your DAW, within your software studio then these are definitely worth looking at.

After Later Audio modules

After later audio has a bunch of new modules the first one is a clever idea because complex oscillators tend to be big fat chunky things where you’ve got pair oscillators which you then route into each other to do crazy zany FM clangy type things. They melt my brain a little bit I have to say because I’m just kind of a fan of an oscillator sounding a bit like an oscillator; I enjoy those sounds, I enjoy analogue waveforms just gently pulsing and modulating into each other, that’s kind of my sort of thing. But that’s not everybody’s thing. Some people really like the complexity of getting two things and bashing them together really hard till they break and that’s generally what you do with a complex oscillator. But with this one from After Later Audio they’ve decided to break the whole thing apart.

So rather than giving you this complicated thing that you’re going to have to try to navigate, they’re going to give you an oscillator and then another one and then the routing and strange bits between them that we’d normally find in a complex oscillator module. They provide them as individual modules so you can essentially build up your own complex oscillator with the bits that you want to use and you understand, or multiple bits of a single function that you think would make that more interesting. It’s an interesting idea. You can just buy all four parts and there’s your complex oscillator or you can mix and match. So it’s kind of going to be the module for someone who knows what they’re doing, knows what your choices are about, so that’s a challenge in the first place. But it’s a really interesting idea of breaking that down to give you more versatility and more choice over what you’re doing, because honestly, those complex oscillators are completely baffling.

The other thing they’ve done is they’ve reproduced three classic Mutable Instruments modules which is great because they are in danger of fading from our lives entirely. They have the Cumulus which of course is the classic Clouds, they have a Resonator which is Rings and Dice which is a take on Marbles. They look great! They’ve taken the colouring of the knobs from Mutable Instruments and then put them on their own style front panels. I think they look very well put together and would be a good way of getting hold of Mutable Instruments modules now that they have left that world behind.

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Synthfest and Synth East

SynthFest is just around the corner, the 8th of October in Sheffield at the Octagon and it’s awesome. It’s the biggest synthesizer show in the UK. Lots of people are going to be there, lots of manufacturers, lots of wonderful things to see, lots of wonderful things to play with. It’s for the full day on the Saturday. There will be some seminars also going on with interesting people talking about interesting things no doubt, but for me, all the interesting stuff happens on the shop floor where you have people like Modal and Moog and Arturia, Analogue Solutions, AJH, Erica, and Thonk and Dreadbox who knows who else – there’s a list on the website. But generally speaking, there will be a whole load of different stuff that you’ll be able to play on and try out and talk to people, talk to manufacturers and experience all of this stuff which we won’t be able to afford for much longer. So that’s nice. It’s run by Sound On Sound magazine, they’re the big sponsors of it, and it’s a great well-run professional large day.

I plan to be there, I’ve already booked a hotel the night before, and I’m bringing two of my kids along which is really exciting. I hope they have a nice time. I suspect that they will do for some of it, but then I imagine they will tire and get a bit bored later on, but hey you know you’ve got to try these things out you’ve got to experiment with it. I’ll be very happy to talk to anybody who wants to talk to me so please feel free to approach me. I can be socially awkward and embarrassed and won’t know what to say all the time, but I’ll do my best, I really will try hard, and I’ll smile, and we’ll laugh and share a joke even if nobody said anything that was funny, we’ll just pretend that we did and then move on with our life.

Now I would like to officially announce that there will be, next year, a new event in Norwich, my hometown, and it will be the only show that’s ever happened in East Anglia. It’s called Synth East, it’s on the 4th of March next year, and it’s sponsored by myself, Molten Modular along with Electronic Sound magazine and the Norwich Arts Centre which is where it will be. What it’s going to consist of? Who knows? At this stage, it could be anything but the idea is that it’s a day of synthesizers, modular, performances, perhaps panels and talks, demonstrations, stuff to do, DIY, buy a t-shirt, it’s going to be all sorts of things. So we’re in the planning stage, and hopefully, by Christmas, we should have everything more or less planned out. It’s super exciting to be involved in putting together something like this, so do let me know what sort of thing you would like to see. What is it that Synthfest perhaps doesn’t offer? What is it that’s that you would like to see in perhaps a slightly smaller, more intimate, more community-led event? I can’t quite get over how excited I am about it, it’s going to be awesome!

So I’ll talk more about this, and we can discuss this at the live stream this week.

Qu-Bit Nautilus

And finally, this just came out today, which is the Qu-Bit Electronics Nautilus. Nautilus is the name of the submarine in 20,000 leagues under the sea with Captain Nemo, but that’s probably not important. This is essentially a stereo delay, but it’s not any stereo delay because this is Qu-Bit and they do things differently, weirdly differently, creatively, beautifully, differently, and I love it. I have a number of their modules each of them is fascinating and awesome some of which I immediately resonate with and do fantastic things with, other ones I cannot penetrate the interface. But there’s never a dull moment with the Qu-Bit Electronics module.

This one apparently is something to do with realising topographical movements within solar dispersions and putting in feedback networks of delays that are spatially interesting. Sounds like we’re back to our jellyfish again. This is delays through sonar pings that then disperse through space and then feedback differently. It has eight different delay lines, each of which is capable of holding about 20 seconds of audio, which is ridiculous! So it’s almost a sampler thing, but it’s of course pulling these things in different directions, distorting, and regenerating, and then reversing, and then coming back. It has an interesting mix output that I don’t quite understand which seems to be something to do with CV generation. What that’s doing in a delay module I don’t know. But anyway it does still have the stereo input and stereo output so at least we have that and a feedback knob; those things are familiar within delay. But everything else is a strange undersea world of fascinating layers. And that front panel is gorgeous; something lovely going on there.

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Coming soon

So that’s it; I hope that was useful and interesting. Coming up in terms of videos from me probably the next thing I’m on to is this fabulous Vector Wave from RYK; that’s probably what I’m into next. I’ve had a lot of stuff I’ve had to clear off my desk, but I’ve got through it in these last couple of weeks which I’m very pleased about, and now I can start moving into things I’m really really interested in. So I’m going to hopefully spend some time with that this week, also the Qu-Bit Aurora which is a weird spectral Reverb. I’m going to spend some time with the ASQ1 sequencer, you might have seen that in some of my videos recently. It’s funny how the ASQ1 just pulls you into this melodic mode which is nothing like any other sequencer in Eurorack. You just come up with these tunes from nowhere; they’re not intentional they’re just you know bash bash bash hold bash hold space tie space gap bash bash and it just comes out. I love it, but it’s completely different; it doesn’t fit particularly with anything else.

The other thing I’ve got is a lot of interesting DIY and lots of bits and pieces which I haven’t yet dug into I’ve also got the MIDICake ARP and the MIDITrac to dig into and lots and lots of stuff that I could be looking at. I also have lots of other fascinating ideas for videos that are just pouring out of me if I can ever get the time to put them together. Anyway, see you at SynthFest!

I have affiliate accounts with ThomannPerfect CircuitSweetwater, Reverb and Clockface Modular, so if you go to buy something via my links, I get a little kickback – it doesn’t matter what the product is, and it’s always appreciated