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WIGGLING 'LITE' IN GUEST MODE

The sound of 5U
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> 5U Format Modules Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6  Next [all]
Author The sound of 5U
doctorvague
OK, I have thought about this a long time. Since this is a 5U area I feel like it's relatively safe to post this, meaning I *may* not get skewered, flamed and crispy-roasted.

Here was my system in '08:






Not an enormous system but obviously plenty enough to do some damage. There was a lot to like about this system, especially the Doepfer sequencers, dividers, VC switches all packed into a relatively small space and the Cwejman S1Mk2 is a great design IMO as far as function/space ratio. I had a lot of fun with that system and it was quite versatile. I am not dissing this stuff at all and I still miss a few of those pieces. Here's a vid if you're interested:
Nice Hat, Lady

Then I traded my friend Guido for a 22 space dotcom portable cab as I'd always wanted to hear/own that stuff and Guido highly recommended dotcom to me from the start of my modular building. Sorry for the Photoshop crap, this is the only photo I have handy:



Keep in mind of what you're seeing there are 3 multiples, power module, a MIDI module and only one SVFilter- so really a pretty dinky system. I was immediately sold on the sound of it though as soon as I turned it on. It had a buttery warmth especially in the low end, not quite Minimoog warmth, but it had a sound I just never could get out of any of my other stuff. Maybe I just had the wrong Euro and Frac stuff for my musical taste. I had the MOTM Frac ladder filter at one point and didn't care for it at all. I did have both systems side by side for a while so had plenty of opportunity to compare and inter-patch and always had the same conclusion. The Euro-Frac-Cwejman stuff always just sounded a tad 'thin' by comparison (and I'm not saying that's necessarily bad, depending on what you like).

My question is NOT which is better... my question is what makes this stuff sound the way it does? I first thought it was the size but you can easily see that dotcom modules have relatively small PCB's and wiring and use standard components like TL074's that everyone uses. So why does it sound different? Is it just that the circuit designs are more 'Moog-like'? Is it the oscillators? The VCA's and mixers? I'm no EE but there doesn't appear to be anything exotic about these designs looking at the PCB's.

I only have one MOTM module- a 440 filter (until Paul sends me the 480 I'm waiting patiently on) so I can't really comment in that direction except to say that what I have heard out of others' systems seems to have some of that beefiness too, where I don't tend to hear that sort of sound out of Euro clips I hear. But that's just a casual observation and not some big pronouncement about it. The MOTM 440 does have a big bold sound though as just about anyone who owns one will attest!

I'm really curious about this and would like to examine it from a more technical viewpoint than 'political'. But if you think I'm just full of shit or biased then I suppose that's valid too. Your thoughts?
kidtesla
doctorvague wrote:

I'm really curious about this and would like to examine it from a more technical viewpoint than 'political'. But if you think I'm just full of shit or biased then I suppose that's valid too. Your thoughts?

I definitely hear what you're hearing...and agree. I'd like to know the 'answer(s)' as well. At first,I thought maybe it was the 12v/15v difference paradigm. But after speaking with someone who makes some of the fattest/warmest gear(which runs at 12v),and if I understood him correctly...I don't know. seriously, i just don't get it
russma
I don't know the answer, I've always thought that it had something to do with more carefully chosen circuit values and components, but I'm not an engineer.

To my ears, most 5U systems sound richer, beefier, pure-er, airy-er, than euro or even Frac. Euro systems I've heard all sound nasally and thin to me. I had a good Frac rig, and it sounded better than Euro to me, but not as good as 5U.
russma
That said, I wouldn't turn away from that Cwejman Sk-1 if someone gave me one.

Guinness ftw!
parasitk
Thing is... we're talking about the manufacturers, not necessarily the format.

A Blacet VCO behind a MOTM panel is still a Blacet VCO. Maybe it changes when you go from 15v to 12v (I certainly don't know – I'm not claiming it does), but being 2 extra U tall is not making the difference!

I've always kind of thought a lot of Euro stuff sounds nasally and thin too – there are exceptions of course. And those exceptions tend to come from the same manufacturers, you know?
cornutt
I know this much: one of Roger Arrick's original goals for the Dotcom line was to replicate, as much as was practical, the general sound and user experience of the Moog modulars, while using modern components. On the other hand, Paul Schreiber chose to go in a different direction with the MOTM line; he was less interested in creating a particular sound, and more interested in applying the best of current-day electrical engineering to the modular concept. Hence, while Roger often goes back to the Moog as a touch point, Paul tries not to reference specific vintage gear (although he doesn't seem averse to mining old schematics for new applications). It's an interesting contrast in design approaches.
paults
As a general observation:

a) the Euro market is designed for price *first*. So, when you do this, you compromise the audio because you are "hung up" about taking out every nickel (ie Doepfer).

b) most EUro users are younger, with less interest in becoming the next Wendy Carlos/Keith Emerson. The average age of MOTM users is nearly 50. We are the ones with the ELP and Yes posters in the dorm room.

c) People of our age group played LPs on big boomy speakers with huge-assed Pioneer receivers. The 23yr old Euro-kid thinks all music is over compressed iPod shit with 11 cent earbuds cranked to 10% THD. They then suffer high-frequency hearing loss, so they naturally think over-treble recordings "sound good" because their HF hearing is shot above 12KHz.

d) there are specific things in the audio electrical design to make things "sound better" (cue Mike Peake). Some people automatically think older stuff always sounds better, even though at one time the old stuff *WAS THE NEW STUFF* (cue Mike Peake again). So, in order to "sound good" you need to have a good feel for a top-down, system-level approach. I see this......lacking........ in many instances.

e) Personally, I don't *care* what a MOTM costs the end user. I care what it *sounds like* to the end user. Any you get what you pay for seriously, i just don't get it

Here is just one specific example. In the MOTM-190 dual VCA/RM, we use active current sources to bias the OTAs. Everone else uses a 1 cent resistor. We use the active current sources (3 off them) because the performance is vastly improved, it reduces CV feedthrough and is power-supply independent. Yes, we could have used 3 resistors like everyone else, but we are *not* everyone else, we want to be the best. Rockin' Banana!
parasitk
paults wrote:

b) most EUro users are younger, with less interest in becoming the next Wedny Carlos/Keith Emerson. The average age of MOTM users is nearly 50. We are the ones with the ELP and Yes posters in the dorm room.

c) People of our age group played LPs on big boomy speakers with huge-assed Pioneer receivers. The 23yr old Euro-kid thinks all music is over compressed iPod shit with 11 cent earbuds cranked to 10% THD. THey then suffer high-frequency hearing loss, so they naturally think over-treble recordings "sound good" because their HF hearing is shot above 12KHz.


WTF is up with all the user generalizations at this forum lately? It's getting very tiring.
paults
paults wrote:
As a general observation:

a) the Euro market is designed for price *first*. So, when you do this, you compromise the audio because you are "hung up" about taking out every nickel (ie Doepfer).

b) most Euro users are younger, with less interest in becoming the next Wendy Carlos/Keith Emerson. The average age of MOTM users is nearly 50. We are the ones with the ELP and Yes posters in the dorm room.

c) People of our age group played LPs on big boomy speakers with huge-assed Pioneer receivers. The 23yr old Euro-kid thinks all music is over compressed iPod shit with 11 cent earbuds cranked to 10% THD. They then suffer high-frequency hearing loss, so they naturally think over-treble recordings "sound good" because their HF hearing is shot above 12KHz.

d) there are specific things in the audio electrical design to make things "sound better" (cue Mike Peake). Some people automatically think older stuff always sounds better, even though at one time the old stuff *WAS THE NEW STUFF* (cue Mike Peake again). So, in order to "sound good" you need to have a good feel for a top-down, system-level approach. I see this......lacking........ in many instances.

e) Personally, I don't *care* what a MOTM costs the end user. I care what it *sounds like* to the end user. Any you get what you pay for seriously, i just don't get it

Here is just one specific example. In the MOTM-190 dual VCA/RM, we use active current sources to bias the OTAs. Everone else uses a 1 cent resistor. We use the active current sources (3 off them) because the performance is vastly improved, it reduces CV feedthrough and is power-supply independent. Yes, we could have used 3 resistors like everyone else, but we are *not* everyone else, we what to be the best. Rockin' Banana!
paults
It not a generalization. If you don't believe me, ask. I have data for MOTM customers going back 12 years.

And yes, the stock Apple earbuds cost Apple 11 cents. I know people sad banana
parasitk
paults wrote:
The 23yr old Euro-kid thinks all music is over compressed iPod shit with 11 cent earbuds cranked to 10% THD. They then suffer high-frequency hearing loss, so they naturally think over-treble recordings "sound good" because their HF hearing is shot above 12KHz.


...is not a generalization, got it. Thanks.
emdot_ambient
parasitk wrote:
Thing is... we're talking about the manufacturers, not necessarily the format.

Exactly. I've heard samples of the Macbeth Euro modules and they destroy the myth that size matters. I really think it's a matter of design paradigms. Doepfer's got a lot of interesting modules, but pretty much everything I've heard of their modules, it tends to be thinner and edgier. Not a value judgement, just an observation (and one that might be wrong).

The other thing is...not having actually owned the gear...a lot of what I've heard are people tinkering around on their synths making strange noises and recording them or crappy video camera audo. So some of my opinion might come from 1) inexperienced users who couldn't program a preset to save their lives, or 2) audio quality that isn't representative of reality.

That being said, I've been surprised with the blah nature of audio samples at some manufacturers. Macbeth and MOTM audio samples tend to be very appealing...Analogue Systems not so much.
paults
In some cases, a module sounding "bright" can be traced to:

a) lower valued DC blocking caps
b) using lower priced op amps that have some crossover distortion (ie LM324s/LM348s)
c) using specific op amps that are a bit "trebley": NJR4558s for example used in the MOTM-420 because that's what the MS-20 used (and it's a bit 'brittle' sounding). The old NE5532s are mid-range peaky ("the British EQ" sound, al la Neve uses them all over the place).
d) using cheap-assed outboard mixers and sound cards to record the $8,000 synth (a la Behringer mixers to a SoundBlaster).
Henfield
The sound is not due to the voltage, the vintage Moog modulars ran on some funky voltages like +12V / - 6V.

I am firmly convinced that it is the circuits themselves, as I heard the JH Living VCOs done up in Frac at the recent AHMW meetup, and they were fatter than Dotcom or MOTM systems that I played with.

I do not know if Euro or Frac manufacturers have used the same starting point that Dotcom, MOTM, Moslab, etc. have used in the design of their circuits.

After saying all this, we all know that it is the 1/4" jacks and the Large Knobs!!! (Lol)
paults
Correct, not due to the voltage per se. However:

a) how noisy is the voltage?
b) does the voltage change over time, temperature, AC voltage variations or load (add additional modules)?
c) tying a bias resistor to +15V is a LOT different than tying a current source to +15V.
russma
paults wrote:
.... The average age of MOTM users is nearly 50. We are the ones with the ELP and Yes posters in the dorm room.....People of our age group played LPs on big boomy speakers with huge-assed Pioneer receivers....


Ha! Guilty as charged.

w00t
pristak
All I have to add right now is that one of the first MOTM modules I got was a used VCA. The same patch on a euro synth sounded much bigger through the MOTM VCA than it did on the various doepfer VCA's that I had.

Thus began the switch from euro to 5U.
mosaiclive
Having just gotten into 5U I'm not speaking with much experience, but I can say that I noticed the difference in sound quality/beefiness compared tp my Euro rig from the moment I plugged the Dotcom stuff in. I also have an M5 and find that and now my Dotcom system both just have some just richness and character that it's hard not to created great sounding patches. WIth my Euro rig I would sort of 'struggle' to get anything really thick and rich to use in a mix- mostly I just use it for background effects, noises, etc.

As far as where exactly the difference comes from, though, that is something I'd like to know. Between my Voyager, M5, and, now, 5U system they each have 'the sound' to me. Even a simple patch (ie; 2 OSC, Filter, EG, VCA) just sounds great to my ears. It's easy to look at the size difference between Euro/Frac and 5U and blame that for the difference but I'm not sure it's that simple.

-Chris
parasitk
mosaiclive wrote:
It's easy to look at the size difference between Euro/Frac and 5U and blame that for the difference but I'm not sure it's that simple.


Look at your DotCom PCBs and compare to the average Blacet PCB...

Again, we're talking manufacturers here people. Choice of components vs. cost. That much I agree with Paul about.
neandrewthal
The extra 2U of metal resonates deeper. Duh.
doctorvague
OK, I guess I stand guilty of equating 5U with certain manufacturers and the sound of their specific systems. So maybe the 5U manufacturers "in general" have tended to follow the format from its foundation (Moog) and leaned more in the direction of that sound.

I obviously didn't think the literal height of the panels was a factor though - give me that much credit!

Paul - please build my 480 and send it to me.
ach_gott
I'm going to take a guess and say that a big factor is that the major 5U manufacturers have a background in EE* as opposed to starting with schematics and learning from there. Your approach to basic problems is going to be more pragmatic when you can identify the fundamental parts, propose five different solutions and select the best one based on the fundamentals.

On top of that, the designers of most the MOTM filters, Old Crow and JH, are also inveterate musicians. JH can talk at length about why he made this or that decision on the circuit.

*An EE is an older gentleman who likes bands that write songs about D&D modules and thinks that what Bach was really missing was a transistor ladder filter. hihi

Quote:
WTF is up with all the user generalizations at this forum lately? It's getting very tiring.


Wait, who? Guinness ftw!
sunsinger
I'm not an Electronics Tech, but it seems to me that the smaller formats don't allow for very high quality components or circuitry designs because of space limitations.

Take for instance the jacks & pots that Paul use on the MOTM modules and compare that experience to the mini jack or pot thing. They are cheap and don't connect particularly well to me. The knob experience on Eruo format too. They seem like they are very cheap pots.

Take a look at the back of a Modcan Super Delay sometime. The electronics seem very high quality to me. Stunning in fact. The MOTM Modules too, they look like they were constructed by NASA engineers. Very "Mil-spec"

I may be talking out of my ass

I know however that there are some possible exceptions, like Cynthia's Zeroscillator. I can't imagine how she packs what I've seen in the back of the 5U module into the Euro. There may be other manufacturers who are as good, that I've not had experience with, but I think my guesses may have some merit.
neandrewthal
Paul uses fancy pots, but I'm pretty sure Dotcom, Modcan and Cynthia use the same ones as a lot of euro guys.
bwhittington
pristak wrote:
All I have to add right now is that one of the first MOTM modules I got was a used VCA. The same patch on a euro synth sounded much bigger through the MOTM VCA than it did on the various doepfer VCA's that I had.


No kidding? I had no idea a VCA would make that big of a difference. It makes sense, but it hadn't crossed my mind.

Cheers,
Brian
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