I love modules that add to my sonic vocabulary – especially ones that just invite you to play with them, dialing in new sounds. Two modules that definitely fit that bill are the new AJHSynth Ring SM and Sonic XV Diode Ladder Wave Filter. Thinking “I rarely need a ring mod, and I already have one or more filters I like”? I hear you – but these modules are actually a whole different kettle of fish:
- The Ring SM is three modules in one: a ring modulator, two sub octave dividers (or “sub bass” as AJH calls it), and a five input mixer. But it goes beyond even those labels: The ring modulator is based on a discrete transistor design that has a more organic sound than typical (at the risk of sounding like a wine taster, it’s more woody or throaty), and includes a third “Z” input that injects into the circuit at a different phase than the normal Y input and has a more resonant sound. There’s also a “Double” switch that doubles the frequency of a triangle or sine sent into the X input. The sub bass section creates not the normal square wave, but instead a sine at higher frequencies and a trapezoid (think overdriven sine) at lower frequencies, making it blend in better with harmonically rich master waves. And the mixer is based on the Moog CP-3 design, which is revered for its overdrive characteristics.
- The Sonic XV is also multiple modules in one. The core is a diode ladder filter with a smooth, wet sound on its own; 4-pole (24 dB/octave) low pass plus 1-pole (6dB) outputs are available, as well as a bandpass output. In front of that is one of the most musical wavefolders I’ve heard, with both voltage control of the fold and a wet/dry mix knob. Its secret weapon is a bias offset switch that creates asymmetrical folding, adding even more character (and I don’t mean just hash, but a tonal bass enhancement) to the sound. And, there’s a waveshaper in the resonance feedback loop as well, changing the self-oscillation characteristic from sine-like to an unstable, fuzzy warble.
Below is a quick video I threw together demonstrating the two of them massively fattening the sound of the one-VCO Moog Mother-32 semi-modular voice. I start with the “final” complex sound, break it down by removing first the Ring SM and then the Sonic XV’s contributions in stages, and then build it back up again. I think you’ll find it really transforms that single VCO into a far fatter voice than you might imagine:
- A Sputnik Modular West Coast Random Source provides modulation for the wavefolder depth and filter cutoff. I used the Quantized Random Voltages section to provide “stepped” settings for the wavefolder, triggered to select new values by the gate derived from the arpeggiator. I then used the Fluctuating Random Voltages section to provide a slowly evolving random offset to the filter cutoff.
- The Sputnik’s two outputs were followed by an Erogenous Tones LEVIT8, used as a pair of attenuators and voltage offsets to help dial in the “sweet spot” for the modulation ranges created by the West Coast Random Source. The Sputnik does not have output attenuators, and the AJH modules do not have input attenuators for some of the control voltages,
- One-quarter of an Intellijel Quadra was used in AR (Attack/Release) mode to keep the Mother’s VCA open during notes, so you could better hear what the filter was doing. The Mother-32’s own envelope generator was set to AD (Attack/Decay) mode to “blip” the cutoff of the filter.
If you’re good at following patch cables, red is gate signals, blue is modulation voltages, and yellow is audio:
All of these modules – including the Moog Mother-32 – will be covered in more detail in my upcoming online course/series, Expanding Your Modular Synth Weekly. I was just having so much learning these two new AJH modules that I had to share.