Modular Mojo, Day 4: The Fast Shuffle

One of the hazards of buying a modular synth is that there are too many options. Sometimes a module does more than you expect. Sometimes, after you’ve bought it, you find out you don’t need it.

I know I’m not alone on this merry-go-round. Today, in an offshoot of a conversation I started on the muffwiggler forum, another individual is thinking about purchasing a Make Noise Rene for the third time, having purchased it twice before and then offloaded it.

I’m planning to keep my Rene. It has an annoying habit of ignoring my finger-taps on the pads, because my fingertips are dry, but other than that it’s a winner. A module that you have to lick your fingers in order to program it — for a digital device, which Rene is, that’s definitely an analog front end.

I returned five modules — a couple of basic mixers, the Steady State Fate Propagate gate/trigger delay, the Doepfer A-148 dual sample-and-hold, and a Pittsburgh Modular dual LFO called a Bender. Instead, I’ve ordered … we’ll get to that.

Mixing seems not to be an issue in my system. I have the 4ms VCA Matrix, which is a quad mixer as well as a quad VCA — very flexible design. And both of my filters have extra inputs, suitable for mixing.

I ordered Propagate before I understood just how powerful the Tiptop Audio Trigger Riot is. The likelihood that I’ll need to mess with triggers and gates after they’ve been generated is rather small.

The Make Noise Wogglebug has a sample-and-hold, among its other peculiar functions, which makes the A-148 redundant. And I have plenty of sources of low-frequency modulation, including the Make Noise Maths and an Intellijel Quadra, so an extra pair of LFOs is not a priority. Also, in testing this morning I couldn’t slow the LFOs in the Bender down nearly as far as I feel an LFO should go — maybe 0.25 Hz, no lower. Assuming my tests were adequate, I’m clearly better off with other modulation sources, some of which will take minutes to run through a single cycle.

The new items I’ve ordered (have to fill up the racks!) are:

Two waveshapers — the Abstract Data Reactive Shaper and the Harvestman Malgorithm II. These are very different. Sonic details remain to be discovered. A dual buffered mult from Intellijel (handy when you need 1V/oct tracking across several oscillators). The Toppobrillo Quantimator, which is essential for playing conventional musical intervals based on analog pots. And the Intellijel Plog logic device.

I had assumed the Make Noise Maths would do logic, but while it has an OR output, it doesn’t do AND or XOR, both of which can be useful if you want to gate an envelope at irregular times from a pair of asynchronous square-wave LFOs.

At some point I’ll probably write an in-depth Keyboard-style review of this system. Keyboard would never buy such a review — way too specialized. Look for it here. But not for a few weeks yet.

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