InclusiveTech has hit Kickstarter with a project to produce the CVLight. It’s a little patch socket plug with an embedded LED that responds to control voltage and gives you a visual indication of what CV is doing in your rack.
It’s not a totally new idea but a very useful one. Plug one into any CV output and the LED will reflect the control voltage coming out. Each CVLight contains two colours, either red/blue or red/green, and fades between the two depending on the polarity of the CV. Stick one into the output of a slow LFO and it will fade in and out of both colours following the curve of the signal. Or with something a bit faster you’ll get the corresponding flashing light.
It can be both a handy indication of what’s going on as well as creating visual interest in your rack during live performance.
The downside becomes obvious when you think about it. If you’ve plugged the CVLight into a CV output you can no longer use that CV output for patching. And so the use of mults could well become important. Or perhaps getting some of those TipTop Audio Stackables would be a good solution – in fact, that’s perfect!
The CVLights themselves are about 25mm high which a textured casing and are very grabbable. They certainly look the part.
I am slightly concerned about the level of goal InclusiveTech are trying to achieve with this Kickstarter project. They are asking for $35,000 to get these manufactured. Buying a pair of CVLights costs a very reasonable $8 so they’ll need to sell well over 4000 to reach the goal. Or if everyone goes for the “Pro” pack of 5 pairs at $45 then they’ll need 777 buyers. Both of those are pretty tall orders in such a niche market as Eurorack.
CVLights is a well-executed and neat little product that has 21 days left to reach a lot of people – so tell your friend!
This weeks selection of free plug-ins is all about synths: A semi-modular vintage synth and pattern sequencer, a drum synth and an awesome Roland Jupiter emulation for NI Reaktor. Check out Trans Computer Machine, Bong, and JP-80.
Ceskato Musiktechnologie Trans Computer Maschine
If we’re talking free plug-ins, this beautifully crafted emulation of the ARP 2600 must be included. The Trans Computer Maschine by Ceskato models the look and sound of the legendary analog original. It’s been out for a while and has received rave reviews, so it’s about time that we feature it here. In addition to the synth, the plug-in includes a massive step sequencer, which is why Ceskato calls it “the ultimate modular pattern creator”. Everything is MIDI-controllable and all parameters can be automated in your DAW. The Trans Computer Maschine looks like a great alternative to some much more expensive competitors. It’s quite unbelievable that this thing is actually free, so you might want to consider donating a few bucks in recognition of what the developers have done here. The plug-in is available for Windows in a VST format.
Nope, this isn’t for smoking, though you might end up creating some smokin’ beats with Xoxos Bong. It’s a very flexible drum and percussion synthesizer that offers a total of 41 models and timbres, for a wide variety of electronic drum sounds. According to the makers, it was inspired by a modified Boss DR-110 drum machine. The plug-in has a huge amount of knobs for tweaking, making it an interesting tool for any sound designer. Bong is a VST plug-in for Windows.
This remarkable Reaktor ensemble by developer Trial’N’Error is a Roland Jupiter emulation. It looks like a combination of the JP-8 and JP-6. The GUI reminds me very much of the Roland Boutique JP-08, so there’s something for everybody. The Reaktor synth has now reached version 1.6, and every Reaktor owner needs it. It works on Windows and macOS and requires Native Instruments Reaktor 6 or higher.
It’s Unfiltered Audio so you can count on it being a bit fierce. LION is their first virtual instrument following on from some brutal distortion plug-ins, transmogrifying time machines and other modulation and processing secret weapons. It makes sense that they find themselves developing their own sound sources.
It’s a dual oscillator synthesizer with 26 algorithms covering all the usual waveforms and synthesis including subtractive, additive, FM, noise, supersaw and so on. They then pull in all sorts of elements from their back catalogue including a familiar, patchable and fiercely animated GUI.
LION has 8 different ways of combining the oscillators including algorithms such as Linear and Equal XFade, Min-Max, Ring Mod, Compare, Terrain, Bitter and Ash. Not entirely sure what they do but it could get interesting. Then there are 15 different filter types to get your teeth into. Effects are everywhere, pouring in from their BYOME effects processor into chains or singular sound-shaping tools.
But Unfiltered Audio is all about a ridiculous amount of modulation possibilities and LION has this in abundance. You can pile it on and route all sorts of quirky and creative movement and change from one place to another. The patching with these mini patch wires is sublime and pulls you into experimentation and both happy and devastating accidents. Modulation can be triggered via MIDI with lots of interesting avenues in manipulation and sound management as you play.
It can all be governed and destroyed by the BYOME randomisation engine that will pull new ideas straight out of the air while up-ending your perfectly crafted sound design at the click of a button.
I’m a big fan of Unfiltered Audio plug-ins. They crash into your projects with exciting and creative possibilities and take you to unexpected places. LION looks like it’s in the same vein and manages to do that uncommon thing of bringing something different to the virtual synthesizer.
It’s not available until August so there’s no price as yet and it doesn’t appear in the Installation Manager even though the webpage says there’s a trial available. Of course, if you sign up to the Plugin Alliance’s new subscription service then you’ll get it as soon as it’s available.
Quanalog Instruments’ first entry into the Eurorack market is the remarkably named Boubou. It’s filter based, analogue and split into 5 voices to cover all the basics any drum synth would need.
It’s a big chunky module, as wide as it is tall and covered with an initially bewildering array of knobs. The black and gold colour scheme lends it an air of elegance and as you look a bit a deeper the layout and functionality starts to come into focus.
There are 4 sections with the 5th voice tied up in the dual toms. From left to right you get a Kick, Dual Toms, Snare and then Hi-Hats.
The Kick drum is generated by a self-resonating low pass filter producing a thumping sine wave which is blended with a feedback click for that all-important transient. You have control over the pitch of the sine wave and the tone of the click and the amount of blend. There are three levels of compression, control over Decay and an Overdrive for pushing it into distortion. No other CV inputs other than the trigger which seems a shame.
The Lo and Hi Toms use the same sound engine as the Kick and run as independent channels side-by-side. They are not identical though as they have been tweaked differently to offer a higher and lower range and sonic differences. This time you have CV control over resonance which affects the pitch so you can get stuck in with some modulated variation and messing about. There’s a Retrig level for introducing flam or roll depending on the input gate length.
The Snare is a combination of white noise and a bandpass filter going through a decay VCA. Pitch is defined by the CV controllable resonance and the Decay also has CV control. They’ve done something very interesting in linking the Dual Tom into the Snare to offer further crafting on the body of the sound. If the Lo Tom doesn’t have its trigger connected then it becomes tied to the trigger of the Snare. While the Hi Tom acts as a notch filter. There’s a lot of scope for sound design in this section from beefy body snares to rim shots and hi-hats.
The Hats use a noise source going through a high-pass filter and into a decay VCA. CV control over the Decay lets you create a natural feeling open/closed hi-hat dynamic. There’s an external input that can be mixed in or simply run through the VCA when the Noise level is at zero.
Feeding in audio rather than triggers can transform Boubou into a quirky signal processor. The Kick section makes for a decent wave-folder. The Toms can act as a dual, high and low-frequency notch filter. Putting a VCO into the Hats input pushes the noise into following the root note of the input and produce some ring modulation.
Boom, noise, fizz and more
The result is s comprehensive drum voice for your Eurorack that offers creative processing and alternative sound generation possibilities. I would have liked to see a bit more CV control and maybe a mix output. The look and build quality appear to be excellent and on the whole, Boubou is a stunning entry into Eurorack.
The price is yet to be announced and sound demos should be along very soon.
UVI has brought together two classic 1980s Akai synthesisers into a hybrid virtual instrument that celebrates them both individually as well as in combination. The appropriately named UVX670 absorbs the AX73 and VX600.
The name even sounds like a late 80s synthesizer and the front end is absolutely perfect in giving you a tiny LCD style screen and bugger-all knobs to play with. It even has a virtual Memory Card slot which I’m sure is UVIs expressing their boundless sense of humour. There’s a lot more to play with behind the scenes though.
UVI instruments are sample-based and so the UVX670 started with them getting hold of and restoring a real-life AX73 and VX600. Sampling was done per key and on the AX73 they did both wet and dry versions with the built-in chorus. Both are six-voice analogue polysynths, the VX600 being a pad monster with dual VCOs per-voice and the AX73 being remarkable for leads and basses with a 6 VCO architecture usable in either poly, stacked or unison modes through Curtis 4-pole 24/db resonant lowpass filters.
Akai AX74 and VX600
Each synth has its own voice selection, volume, pan, filters, amplitude and filter envelopes, pitch, portamento, stereo modes, modulation targets, and arpeggiators. The two synth signals are summed through a high-quality effect chain employing 3-band EQ, drive, Thorus, multi-mode ensemble, Phasor, delay and Sparkverb. All of this is available for tweaking and crafting on further pages of the interface.
When you think of 1980s analogue synths these are probably not the machines that spring to mind and that makes this a nicely unique collection of sounds. And if you check out some of the sound demos it all sounds fabulously on-trend.
Doepfer was showing a range of new slimline modules at Superbooth this year. Of the eight on show seven are now available leaving only the A-111-6 Mini Synth Voice to come.
This new range is great. They are simple but comprehensive, small in HP but big on functionality. You can build a modular system with them into a lunchbox case without too much trouble. All the basics are covered but with just enough Doepfer innovation to keep things interesting.
A118-2 Noise Random S&H: Two colours of noise, Blue and Red, with a rate and level controllable random voltage output which also runs the sample & hold or Track & hold output. €80.
A121-3 VCF: -12dB multimode filter with low, high, band and notch options all available simultaneously in only 4HP. Manual and CV control over resonance and cutoff and you can push it into self-oscillation. €100.
A130-2 VCA: 2 channel VCA with linear and exponential responses. €80.
A138i Interrupting Mixer: 4 channel mixer with mutes for each input. It has single outputs and a mix output and can handle audio or CV. This one if woefully wide at 6HP! €80.
A138n Narrow Mixer: That’s more like it, back to 4HP with the Narrow Mixer. 4 inputs, level knobs and two mix outputs. €50.
A145-4 LFO: This is 4 LFOs in 4HP square wave or triangle. €80.
A182-2 Quad Switch: A passive and useful utility module that contains 4 changeover switches. Each channel can switch between two signals. €60.
Looking forward to the mini synth voice. All it really needs now is some kind of little sequencer and maybe an output module and you’ve got an entire system.
Folktek is a slightly mysterious artistic collaboration who erratically produce extraordinary instruments and Eurorack modules that are works of art. They seem to pop up from time to time with something amazing and then fade away leaving you feeling like they may never surface again. But this time they are about to return with a whole lineup of modules the likes of which we’ve never seen before designed by artist Arius Blaze.
There are 6 new instruments in the range and they are not quite ready to go but they have just posted the details on the website. And this is the thing; they all look stunningly complex and intense and yet often have simple and normal functions.
It’s an envelope, an AR envelope that’s re-triggerable and there’s two of them. It’s a bit like the Rise and Fall of the Make Noise Maths but realised in this black and gold of mysterious things. It has touch plates to select clock speeds with multiples and divisions and can be trigger by both the clock and the trigger input so you can retrigger at any point in the cycle, not just on the release which is what you have with Maths and other envelopes. It has an end-of-cycle output and an inverted envelope output. You can also feed it an audio signal for synchronisation. This is essentially all I ever use Maths for in a smaller and more beautiful space.
It’s a multi-mode filter but not in terms of filter type but rather in different configurations of a low pass filter. It uses those lovely hexagonal touch plates to switch modes. There’s Normal, Noise CV Integration on the cutoff, Square Wave Replication at the input, Extreme Resonance Overdrive and All Modes Combined. That’s going to be nuts! The gain control hits 100% at 12 o’clock and everything to the right of that is to crush the incoming signal and turn everything to distortion.
There’s a vactrol on the output which acts (when plugged) as a voltage controlled gate adding further character and becomes a VCA when the filter is pushed into self-oscillation.
It’s a great name for a filter. It says that this will form part of a Kickstarter campaign for the Anthesis X, Y and Z complete systems.
A duophonic synth voice with two detunable analogue oscillators that can work together or independently. The waveforms of both can be faded between the usual shapes on a single control and there are FM and sync inputs. There’s also a sine wave sub-oscillator and a noise source with its own bandpass filter. There’s a three waveform LFO and four envelopes for modulation. There are all sorts of controls and switches over triggering, looping, direction, shapes and everything is pretty much CV controllable. They say it’s a “deep, rich development of sound with enormous possibility.”
It’s an extraordinary-looking thing and will also form part of the forthcoming Kickstarter campaign. Note the lack of filter – that’s where the Sift comes in.
It’s kind of a hybrid oscillator that uses the two oscillators section from the Anthesis, can be used together or independently. The oscillators are musically paired which sounds interesting. It has the sub-oscillator, FM and Sync but not the noise circuit. At the end is a vactrol so you can use Voices without an additional VCA if you wish.
This looks like a version of the Anthesis that’s a bit simpler, calmer and easier to understand. They say that this will also be part of a Kickstarter campaign for a “Voices” system.
It’s a mixer and 4 channel VCA. Its special power is to let you fade between all the signals on a single control – that’s the “fusion” part. Or it just mixes like a regular mixer with knob controls over each channel. If you send it a sequence it can jump between incoming signals like a triggerable 4-track.
And finally, we have a reverb and delay module. It uses seven pt2399 delays to create hugely complex patterns and systems of chaos. They can be reconfigured in a number of ways to move from regular delays to something strange and bonkers. They added a harmonic distortion to create a dirty pitch-shifted version of the original. They’ve also stuck a vactrol at the input, which is a stroke of genius, to gate the incoming signal before it hits the delays.
It looks like all these modules are part of a large Kickstarter campaign that’s scheduled for the summer. Exactly how they all fit together is not known at this point, neither is the pricing. But probably most importantly we don’t know how these sound – yet. According to Instagram, which is the best place to keep up with Folktek happenings, it’s not quite ready yet but it could all happen at any time. Once it launches we’ll bring you all the news.
I would love some Folktek in my rack, in fact, I’d love a whole rack of Folktek. Maybe this will be the right time for that.
Earlier in the year, Teenage Engineering seemed to find itself in all sorts of trouble. After the amazing reveal of their Pocket Operator Modular series things seem to go a bit sideways and they ended up cancelling a load of orders. Well, good news for patient TE fans the uncertainty is over and the whole range is now back in stock. And, as if to celebrate, TE has released a stunning advert official music video which features the 170 and Swedish artist Esther.
Pocket Operator Modular
The Pocket Operator Modular family consists of the yellow 400 complete modular kit with 16 modules and 3 oscillators for £469 – although this is listed as “sold out” and was the one that has had the least amount of trouble. The red 170 comes with 9 modules and includes a single oscillator and a membrane keyboard and sequencer and goes for £315 and appears to be available. The burgundy 16 is a standalone tunable keyboard and sequencer and is available for £155. For some reason, this time around, the pricing doesn’t seem too bad.
Pocket Operator Modular boxes
It is undoubtedly helped by the sumptuous sound and visuals of the official music video for “Kvällsgäst” by Esther. It’s a beautiful combination of colours, person, technology and a slightly intoxicating tune that keeps you totally captivated.
Let’s hope that TE will be able to cope with the weight of orders and continue to make interesting products, smooth videos and great music.
E-Instruments has released a collection of deeply sampled electric piano sounds for Steinberg’s HALion and HALion Sonic instruments. Vibrant Electric Pianos could be all the pianos you’ll ever need.
Vibrant Electric Pianos
Drawing on the usual four classic electric pianos this is a suite of 40 presets constructed from 24GBs of samples with a simple, colourful interface for that little bit of tweaking we all like to do. But essentially it’s all there ready to play.
The instruments in question are the Rhodes Stage Mark I, Rhodes Suitcase, Wurlitzer 200A and Hohner Clavinet D6. There’s something about these instruments that’s somehow authentically timeless. We come back to them time and again and with small variations they seem to be able to fit into all kinds of music.
The “Stage” is based upon a 1976 model recorded through high-end preamps and converters. The “Suitcase” is from a fully restored 1973 model capturing the combination of keyboard, amplifier and speakers. The “Wurli” is undated but took weeks of specialist restoration. The “Clav” is a restored 1974 model recorded through tube preamps.
For the interface, they’ve gone for strikingly unfussy and beautiful with a “Character” control being the main shaping tool to take the sound from mellow to dramatic plus a bit of envelope and treble/bass EQ. Another page for effects offers 4 slots to load any of the 18 included effects.
It’s a lovely suite of classic instruments that are going to be a winner every time.
Vibrant Electric Pianos is available for a short time for $99 for MacOS and Windows with the minimum of HALion Sonic SE 3.
Crusher-X from Accsone expands again and this time it’s going to smash you over the head with Grain Controlled Oscillators (GCOs), modulation arpeggiators, envelope following granular modulations and a sample loading DCO. Do we understand any of this yet? Probably not but it sounds like fun!
It’s a granular synthesizer that leads the way in complex and creative sound design and synthesis. It sets about the task of granularly processing live audio and doing horribly interesting things with it. Version 8 introduces a whole new sound source in the shape of these Grain Controller Oscillators which create a life for themselves within each grain. They explain it as follows:
think of hundreds of individual Oscillators or Sample-players that enjoy their crazy life “inside” each grain. With the new GCO Grain Modulation you can “color”, “enrich”, “destroy”, “overlay” or “nibble” live drones with any sonic or tuned audio layer you can dream of, as well as can make them appear or disappear depending on the GCO Mix Modulation.
Got that? Good! It’s all about sounds smashing into audio, oscillators messing about with grains in order to frequency modulate, ring modulate and bounce off each other.
Accsone Crusher-X 8
Part of the expanded modulation section brings in an arpeggiator. It’s fully integrated with the microtonal scaling and can be employed to mess with the pitch of the GCOs, or the speed of modulation or the filter cut. Another addition is “offset modulation” which means you can now control and modulate the time between the point where grains are created and when their processes execute. This can all be further controlled by binding the Grain Modulators to Envelope Followers so that they dance depending on the input of the live signal.
And then, almost as an afterthought, they’ve taken the DCO and turned it into a sample player for your own samples or waveform designs. They’ve gifted it with looping and pitch and have thrown it into the mix.
This thing has always been nuts and it continues to sprout whole areas of madness that you wouldn’t have thought necessary. Crusher-X 8 is a complex sound design environment that rewards intense scrutiny with mind-bending sonic possibilities. Check out the disturbing video below to see if you want to embrace your granular future.
Crusher-X 8 is available for MacOS and Windows for €259 or €89 for the upgrade.