In this installment, I get to share a trio of companies that take a slightly non-standard approach to their modules. Some of the sub-themes that emerged were multiple modules (twin or quad) behind one panel, and taking some interesting approaches to creating rhythms without having to program every trigger by hand.
Qu-Bit had a nice set of new modules with their characteristic clean panels and layouts, as seen up top. One bit of good news is that Mixology ($500; 28hp) is now finished, with a cleaned-up layout compared to the prototype we saw last year. It features four channels with voltage control over level (with up to 6dB of gain), panning, and aux send amount, with pushbuttons for solo and mute. A stereo return is summed into the master output along with the four channel inputs.
In new module news was Contour ($279, available now), a quad two-stage envelope generator with voltage control over attack and decay times, and pushbuttons for looping as well as for linear versus exponential shape (including for the attack; I personally prefer the classic logarithmic attack + exponential decay envelope shape, but since the unit is digital there may be software updates in the future). The envelope stage times can be varied from 5 msec (not quite click-fast) to 20 minutes(!), and there are also modes where one envelope finishing can trigger the next in line. In what is sure to be welcome feature for many, each of these outputs has its own attenuverter with a wide range (up to a 10 volt swing), which makes up for so many modules lacking depth controls on their inputs. Keeping the quad module theme going, there was also Tone ($299; 18hp; due in March): a quad 4-pole filter with low and bandpass outputs and cascading OTA circuitry similar to the classic Roland designs. It can self-resonate with a sine wave output and accurate 1v/oct tracking over 4 octaves.
I’ve been developing a deeper appreciation for random voltage generators lately. Qu-Bit is entering this arena with Chance ($2-300; 14hp; due in April), which combines clockable random functions with more rhythmic features. In addition to smooth and stepped outputs, there is a “wavetable” output that randomly switches between sine, triangle, and sawtooth waveforms. The frequencies of these waves are also randomized, but related to the master clock (which can be internal or external). A “blend” output is a mixture of the three normal outputs, set by a Blend knob as well an external control voltage. As with the Contour, each of these four outputs has its own attenuverter. There is also a “freeze” pushbutton and trigger input, and a “coin toss” pushbutton that adds steps to the internal random functions in addition to the internal or external clock. In addition to the random voltage outputs, there are jacks for random trigger bursts, rhythmic gates, analog white noise, and digital noise. This is a very thorough, well-thought-out module that provides a nice marriage between rhythmic and random elements.
Noise Engineering had a long list of new modules at NAMM, and for very good reason: the two founders Stephen McCaul and Kris Kaiser have decided to switch from part time to working on NE full time. When looking at the photos here, the modules in pre-production have the purple faceplates (including the Xerest Pola, which are submixers put together for their own use); the silver faceplates are either currently shipping or very close.
With that in mind, let’s start with the Cursus Iteritas ($335, shipping February; there’s two in the middle of the system pictured here), which they refer to as a “highly parameterized oscillator.” It’s of the same mindset as their Loquelic Iteritas (or LI, for short: Noise Engineering often refers to their own modules by their initials, rather than pronouncing the entire name) in that it supports a trio of different synthesis algorithms, leaning even closer to the complex harmonic or pitched noise side of the spectrum rather than classic pure waveforms. The three algorithms in CI are Fourier, based on sine waves, Daubechies, based on wavelets; and Walsh, based on the Walsh Transform. In addition to a 1v/oct input and a Pitch knob, you’ll also find a Center, Width, and Tilt knob to guide the harmonics created, as well as Structure, Edge, and Fold controls. I got a chance to play with it a little bit, and in addition to complex pitched applications, it would be great to use as an “indistinct” pitched source, layered with a normal oscillator to give a noisy have to an otherwise strongly pitched sound, or as the start of a complex percussive voice.
Speaking of percussive voices and their Loquelic Iteritas, another new module is the Loquelic Iteritas Percido (no price announced; mid-2017 release; bottom right in the photo here – click it to view a larger version). LIP is an expansion of the LI module to make it a stand-alone voice, with an emphasis on “abstract” drum sounds. This is realized through the addition of an onboard envelope generator that can be routed to pitch as well as its various parameters. The envelope is a simple AD with knobs dedicated to overall shape (fast attack/slow decay to slow attack/long decay), curve (“normal” exponential/log through linear to inverted curves), and time. Pretty much every parameter has CV control, in addition to a Gate input. Although I’ve had issues with one-knob envelope selections on other modules, it felt very natural on LIP, and its sounds would be a good compliment to BI (Basimilus Iteritas, which I am a fan of).
Horologic Solum ($144; available Q1 2017; there’s three of them along the left side in the image above as well as one below) is a 4hp master clock. A nice touch is that a speed range switch doubles or halves the tempo at each successive position. In addition to a normal pulse output, a divide switch sets an additional three outputs to divide by powers of 2 (2/4/8), powers of 4 (4/16/64), or odd numbers (3/5/7). Horologic Uter ($88; same ship date; left side of the middle row plus below) is a 4hp expander for HS that provides additional outputs of with fixed divisions on 2, 4, 8, 12, 24, 64, and 128.
Integra Solum (no price yet; late 2017; upper left in the image above) is a fancier version of HS, offering a dual clock divider with multiple outputs per side and three modes: it can do the normal clock divider thing where each successive output divides the previous clock by 2, or it can use odd divisors as well as generate a sequence of eight outputs. This is a module for those who like to collaborate with their modules to create patterns, rather than explicitly program them by hand (it’s in the same philosophical vein as WMD’s Arpitecht is for notes).
Now that you have all those clock divisions, you need something to drive that creates interesting patterns out of them. Variatric Sequent (lower left of the image above) is a 6hp gate sequencer with a set of four knobs that allow you to set where four different beats occur in an overall pattern; there’s also a fifth downbeat gate. These are summed to overall measure, beat, and trigger outputs. A 4hp expander Variatic Multium (lower left as well) adds individual outputs as well as voltage control over where the beats occur. If you prefer something more direct, Bin Seq (pictured here) is a simple 8-step trigger sequencer with an on/off switch dedicated to each step. No price was mentioned for any of this trio, but they should be available in March.
Like CI, not all of the new modules were percussion-focused. Solo Vero (pictured at right) is a stroboscopic tuner with three inputs (so you don’t need to keep re-patching to tune more than one VCO). Clep Diaz (short for Clepsydra Diazoma) is a “triggered CV generator” – but that does not mean it’s just a sequencer. There are three modes where it can generate a simple envelope, a stepped LFO, and arpeggiations, with algorithmic rather than direct control of the patterns generated guided by a central encoder knob. Neither of these had prices announced at the show, but they should be available mid-2017.
Finally, Mimetic Sequent ($222; available February; pictured left of center in the bottom row of the main picture above) is a 6hp control voltage recorder that can save up to three 64-step patterns. There is a built-in quantizer as well as randomization functions. Mimetic Multium ($111; also February) is a 4hp expander that gives access to all three patterns at once, as well as randomized gates.
Again, these are all previewed in a dedicated playlist on Noise Engineering’s YouTube channel.
German synth, effect, electronic percussion, and Eurorack module manufacturer Vermona showed off a combination of soon-to-be-shipping as well as prototype modules (you can guess which ones are the prototypes in the photo above; the panels and lettering give them away).
One is the twinVCFilter (380 Euro), which they previewed last year. As you can guess from its name, it’s a dual filter, with low pass, high pass, and bandpass outputs. The two sections can be used individually, in parallel, or in serial (one after the other), including voltage control over the mix. The demos I heard made it sound like it would be particularly good for acid-type sounds. In prototype form was a twinVCFilter Extension Module (no price or date yet) that breaks out the low, band, and high pass outputs (on the main module, a switch selects between them) plus offers a notch output. It also contains a pair of attenuverters for the cutoff control voltage inputs to make it easier to control the notch width, the spacing between the two bandpass peaks, et cetera.
New is the uniCYCLE VCO (290 Euro; available second quarter of 2017) with both exponential and linear FM as well as both hard and soft sync. What is unique about it is that in addition to sine, triangle, sawtooth, and double saw (a sawtooth one octave up) outputs, it features both a square wave – which has only odd harmonics, as you may know – and its doppelgänger, a new waveform that features only even harmonics which they call the “even wave.” The double saw and even wave may also be modulated with the PWM input: the even waveform can be modulated from a sine to the even wave to an inverted sine; the double saw modules from a triangle wave to the saw to an inverted triangle. The uniCycle also has a range switch that can also turn it into an LFO.
Also new is the quadraPOL (260 Euro; also available in the second quarter), which they call a “polarizing mixer/ring modulator.” You can treat it as an attenuator that can also invert. There is a control voltage input that turns it into a VCA if you feed it only positive voltages, which is what an envelope normally outputs. But since it can invert a signal, negative voltages on a channel’s VC input – such as what might come from an LFO or VCO – turn it into a four-quadrant multiplier, also known as a ring modulator. There are four of these sections in one module.
There was also a prototype of the two channel randomRhythm (not pictured here; they hope they can release it the third quarter of 2017), that allows you to set the probability that each rhythmic subdivision – quarter notes, eighths, sixteenths, and sixteenth triplets – will contribute to the final rhythm. A few “design study” modules were also included in their racks, including the Transpose add-on for uniCYCLE with fine tuning as well as switchable octaves and semitones – a subject which you know is close to my heart.
In the final installment being written this weekend, I will round out NAMM with a series of “quick shots” of single modules or pieces of news from a variety of companies. Obviously, there was a lot to see this year!