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.

Friday, 30 July 2010

PotD - Brains Releasequence

Today's Patch of the Day showcases some of the features that make the combination of Brains, Pressure Points and Maths such a flexible & tactile sequencing package.

Here are the patch details:

Cycling Maths Ch1 acts as clock. EOR > Brains CLK.
Linear, R = 0, Fall = 14:30
Envelope controls VCA depth + VCO FM Index.

Maths Ch4 slews Press CV from PP buss (use input, not trigger).
R + F ca. 15:00, exponential.
Slewed CV > VCA (dynamics), Brains 'Run' + Maths Ch2.
Set Ch2 to ca. 22:00 (-ve) and patch to Ch1 Fall VC

Patch PP rows 1-3 > sequential switch. PP row 1 gate > A-152 clock.
Digital out 4 > reset, common I/O > quantiser > VCO.

And here's what's happening:

Although Maths is cycling and providing Brains with a clock, the sequence is blocked from running until the press CV exceeds 1V. On release of the touch plate, the Press CV fades out, allowing the sequence to continue running until it again falls below 1V. An inverted mult of the press CV, which is fed to Ch1's Fall VC via Ch2, controls the speed of the clock. The harder you press, the faster the clock. As the press CV fades, the clock slows. Try different rise and fall times for both channels 1 + 4 and the amount of fall VC from Ch2 to taste. You could, for example, have the sequence get faster as the volume fades. The remaining connections (Ch4 EOC > Brains reset, PP rows 1-3 > multiplexer etc.) are non-essential, but nice.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Make Noise Brains

If you didn't spot Brains lurking under my DIY desktop rack in Monday's post, here's another glimpse:

Brains provides sequencing power to Make Noise's Pressure Points, offering some of the functionality of the classic Serge TKB. For a full description, see the product page and make sure you read the manual! I'd never have thought that such a small and seemingly simple clocker could open up so many possibilities. Nice work work, Tony - Brains, Pressure Points & Maths make a cracking team!

Here's a quick example using the stepped out of a Wogglebug to change the direction of a four-note (i.e. one row) sequence. When the random voltage is above 1V, the sequence runs forward. When it's below, it runs backwards. At about 23 seconds, the /6 output of a 4ms RCD steps a sequential switch to add rows 2 & 3 to the chain, creating a 12-note sequence.


Brains comes with all the necessary cables to connect the unit to two Pressure Points as well as chain the touchplates and is available now from Schneidersbuero. I'll be taking a closer look at the possibilities offered by Brains later in the week. In the meantime, if you have Pressure Points, do yourself a favour and get this module. It's … a no-brainer.

Monday, 26 July 2010

A Simple Case of Brawn over Brains

Got a spare 3U rack that you'd like to use on your desktop to house performance modules like Pressure Points and Choices?

Unscrew these:

Take them to your local Schlosser and get him to fashion them like this with his Schlagschere:

Screw them back in place and enjoy!

Thanks to Max Kruppa in Kreuzberg for their time and effort.

Release: Best of Patch of the Day

I've just released The Best of Patch of the Day Vol. 1, which is available from my bandcamp page for three Euros.

<a href="">prebloom by Navs</a>

The EP contains some patches from the past plus one new recording. Prebloom is a live performance featuring a Cwejman RES-4 & CTG-VC, Toppobrillo TWF, Doepfer A-143-1, Plan B Model 15 & Harvestman Hertz Donut VCOs, Makenoise Pressure Points and f(h) Choices joystick. I'll leave you to figure out the patch configuration from my previous examples!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

4ms Shuffling Clock Multiplier & Expander

Some patch ideas featuring the 4ms Shuffling Clock Multiplier and Breakout box.

For an overview of the concept and functions of the SCM, see this post.

This first example makes use of the SCM's tap function. Given two gates, it will 'remember' the tempo until it receives new marching orders. The most obvious clock source is an LFO, but this feature means you could also feed it with a gate signal from your keyboard:


2 VCOs, left gated by keyboard, right by manually-clocked SCM. The shorter the intervals between played notes, the faster the trills.

Here's a variation on the above using a tail-chasing Wogglebug to generate gate and pitch information. I used the x1 output of the SCM to trigger Maths and fed its envelope to the level VC of a Cwejman CTG-VC to fade out the echos. This works better in the slower sections i.e. the beginning of the clip. An option would have been to VC Maths' fall time with the pitch CV e.g. higher notes = faster echos = faster fade. If you don't have a Cwejman envelope, you could use a second VCA to add similar dynamic control of your your envelope.


Because the SCM 'reads' the interval between two pulses, large timing changes from fast to slow will display an amount of lag as the SCM catches up with the new tempo. This is possibly the only failing of the module but, given the difficulties in implementing clock multiplication (the SCM can't 'predict' the new tempo before it has happened!), two taps are more than acceptable and this lag can also have its musical uses as a 'ghost' beat.

LFO as clock, speed manually changed.

The most obvious use for the SCM is as a drum trigger/ sequencer driver, but this last recording is an example of the SCM in an auxiliary role, helping to time the changes of a quantizer to generate sync'd glissando.

Main VCO left, clock reference right. At six seconds a slewed sequence is patched to the VCO. At about 18 seconds the sequence is re-patched to an A-156 quantizer. The quantizer responds to changes in voltage, so the steps are not in sync with the main clock. Patching an output from the SCM to the A-156's trigger input (27 seconds) resolves this and, with some rotation and slip, allows for swung or odd time glissando.

The SCM and breakout box have undergone some changes since I tested the prototype. The main differences are the addition of a x1 output, or mult of the clock source, and the loss of some of the 'straight' gate streams. I found the former to be useful on the RCD and, because the SCM generates pulses even without an input, it can function as a main clock source in a patch. The lack of some of the 'un-swung' outputs means you'll have to rotate the SCM if you want to make use of the phasing effects I demonstrated in my original post. The Breakout box has also undergone some changes, now offering a global x4 multiplier and mute function. As I previously noted, if you have an SCM, you really need the expander. Not only does it offer access to the swing & skip parameters, but it brings the SCM to life as a playable instrument. The breakout box should be available soon, so plan for one in your rack!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

DIY Quad Slew

Got a spare A-180 multiple and need a simple slew to round off jaggy gates and S&H signals? Then get out your soldering iron and follow this simple schematic from the Doepfer DIY page.

As you can hear, it's great for removing the clicks you get when feeding a VCA with abruptly changing signals:

(before and after)

Filters also benefit from 'softer' control. I built this as a companion to my Plan B M23 ASR, but you could also feed the quad slew with the outputs of a clock divider like the 4ms RCD and take these outputs directly to your VCA. A cheap and small alternative to tying-up four envelopes!

I used a 4k7 resistor and 1uF capacitor, but you could try other values for a more or less rounded result.

Thanks to fonitronik for the suggested values and help!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Cwejman RES-4 Demo

Recordings of the quintessential Cwejman module, the Quad VC Resonator.

Download the album for €1 or more to access the audio examples.

For an overview of what the module does, read this Sound On Sound review and for some practical tips on how you might use the RES-4, read this chapter of the classic Synth Secrets series. If the formant techniques described by Gordon Reid sound too much like hard work, you could, of course, just patch a sawtooth into the RES-4, twist the knobs and see what happens.

Listen to the 'Oriental' and 'Formant' examples. The recordings not only show off the sort of vocal effects the RES-4 is capable of, but also the stereo spread caused by the phase cancellations and additions of the four filters when mixing the BP and Notch outputs. 'Voice' and 'Breathing' are similar, using higher Q settings for some resonant phasing. As you can hear, the RES-4 can be used for frequency-dependent panning.

Unlike the MMF-1, the RES-4 needs an input to start oscillating or ringing. A little white noise or short trigger impulse from Maths' EOR does the trick nicely. Listen to the 'Ping' and 'Shiftregister' examples. For me, this is the quad resonator's trademark sound. I know it drives some people nuts, but I love it. Higher Q settings will yield longer rings, using Pressure Points or an analogue shift register allows you to play four-note chords or complex cascades.

Feeding the result into a wavefolder can add bite or bring out steel string-like qualities. Tuning the resonant frequencies and adjusting the gain levels gets you into physical modeling territory. Listen to the 'TWFolded' and 'Logdrums' examples.

'Spacejam' show-cases some of all of the above. It's a single pass, live recording featuring just one VCO, the RES-4 and maybe a touch too much EHX SMMH delay. When the oscillator is slow and the Q high enough, the filter is pinged. At audio rates, the effect is similar to the first couple of recordings.

One last feature that should be mentioned is the amount of voltage control this module offers: frequency and volume on master or individual level, bandwidth per filter. As stretta expertly shows, this allows dynamic and precise settings, although so far, I've been happy enough making manual changes.

I ignored the RES-4 for many years, in part due to its price, but in the time that I've had it has become a firm favourite. The build quality is top notch and the sonic results unique. For more RES-4 examples, listen to the 'dampf', 'nutong' & 'eszieht' tracks from my Synthetic Nature EP or run this search.