Saturday 31 July 2010

Sport Modulator - Staircase to Heaven?

An overview and demo of the Toppobrillo Sport Modulator, a dual lag + hold/ sample + hold CV processor and generator which takes its cues from a classic Serge design.

The Sport Modulator features two identical but related sections, both of which are capable of smooth & stepped functions, low and audio-frequency oscillation and pulse streams. For more information and patch tips, see the product page and the SSG Wizardry section of the Serge Fans site.

Here's a basic run-though to get started:

LFO sine > SM in. SM out > VCO. Manual modulation of slew rate. Then pulse from same LFO to 4ms SCM, x8 out > SM T/H in. Lag + Hold mode first, then S+H. Hi hat provided as timing reference.

Here's the SM processing some white noise:

Bottom section cycles, end out provides T/H trigger for top section. Manual tweaks.

And here it is processing itself:

Both sections cycling, top > bottom S/H in, comparator out > bottom CV in, bottom end out > top CV in, bottom out > VCA.

And lastly, a variation on an Allen Strange S&H patch:

2 VCOs. One receives all notes, the second gets timed 'grabs': the main sequence is 8 notes long. Taking a shorter or uneven division from a clock divider causes the S&H to grab a different note on each pass. After about 40 seconds you can hear the difference between S&H + T&H modes: the latter lets the note stream pass while the gate is high and then holds the last note when it goes low. The second part of the recording, after 1 minute, uses the SCM to generate triggers at a faster rate than the main clock, opening the doors to staircase madness.

I have to admit, I spent the first five minutes staring at the Sport Modulator not knowing what I was supposed to patch where. The SSG tips were a great help, although there are some differences between the two. Firstly, as mentioned, both sections of the SM are capable of both smooth and stepped functions making it more flexible than its ancestor. However, the SM's cycle function is not gate-able so, while the cycle button provides convenience, some patch possibilities may have been sacrificed.

The build quality and layout are great and the circuit does indeed hold for quite a while without noticeable droop. Cross-modulating two cycling sections can generate chaotic repetitive patterns, with the comparator output documenting the two oscillators' struggle. An LED for the comparator output and 'attenuverters' for the CV ins would have been useful, but their absence in no way spoils the fun. Like the Wogglebug, which covers some of the same ground, the Sport Modulator is greater than the sum of its parts and the musical results are unique.

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