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Some Interesting problems with some modules
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Author Some Interesting problems with some modules
Bowman
Ok I'm having some weird things going on that I need the collective mind of Muffs to help me with.

The first I think is just a limitation of the quantizer modules. I own the Q171 quantizer and the Q172 quantizer aid. I also have the Moon quantizer. I set up a sequence with the Q119 sequencer or the MFOS sequencer from FSFX. I mention that as neither sequencer has internal quantizing, as I believe my Moon 569 has. So I'm sequencing away and I'm changing the voltage controls for pitch changes on the fly. Most of the time this works out fine, but sometimes the voltage is such that the quantizer cannot determine a proper pitch, and this produces a distorted sound, ruining the recording. A slight tweak (higher or lower) produces a normal tone again. I'm assuming this is normal as both quantizers do this. If I want to change the pitches while the sequencers are running should I stick to the 569, or am I doing something else wrong?

The second example I believe is a malfunction of the Dotcom Q174 Midi interface. I'll send a copy of this note to Roger and see what he thinks too. So a MIDI clock from my DAW drives the Gate Out on the module, which I use to clock my sequencer modules. Everything works great. Then a few days ago, I notice a sequence in my DAW and the sequence from my modular are drifting in and out of phase, every two bars or so. The gate light on the Q174 is (seemingly) blinking in time with the DAW. I unplug the MIDI cable from the Q174 and I notice the gate light is still on.......gates are still being sent, but with no MIDI input. Now is something wrong, or did my pulling the MIDI cable out not give the Q174 a clock off signal? In either case, any idea why my DAW clock and the Gate out signal of the Q174 were going out of phase?

Boy that was wordy! I hope some of you stayed awake reading the whole post and can give me some advice. Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.
kcd06
Have you checked the calibration on your Q174? Its on page 8 of the manual. Also, I would check that the power connectors are properly seated, and that there is no ground fault twixt the DAW and the modular.

As for the issues with the Q171, I am wondering if the output from the sequencer(s) is weird? If the CV output is ramping for whatever reason it could give an unintended double pitch effect. Also, check the calibration of the module, which is oddly enough also on page 8 of its manual.

Last, is your modular's power supply at its maximum load? If your system is pulling too much at once, localized power shortfalls could cause weirdness. These are also modules getting +5v from the dedicated digital line, and if there is something wrong with your digital supply it could cause those circuits to loose their marbles.
Dave Peck
The quantizer behavior is normal - it is caused when you have inadvertently set the incoming voltage level very very close to the threshold between two adjacent quantize steps, like exactly half way between "F" and "F sharp" so the quantizer cannot clearly determine which pitch to adjust it to. Don't know about the midi clock thing, sorry.
JohnLRice
Bowman wrote:
The first I think is just a limitation of the quantizer modules. I own the Q171 quantizer and the Q172 quantizer aid. I also have the Moon quantizer. I set up a sequence with the Q119 sequencer or the MFOS sequencer from FSFX. I mention that as neither sequencer has internal quantizing, as I believe my Moon 569 has. So I'm sequencing away and I'm changing the voltage controls for pitch changes on the fly. Most of the time this works out fine, but sometimes the voltage is such that the quantizer cannot determine a proper pitch, and this produces a distorted sound, ruining the recording. A slight tweak (higher or lower) produces a normal tone again. I'm assuming this is normal as both quantizers do this. If I want to change the pitches while the sequencers are running should I stick to the 569, or am I doing something else wrong?
I think this is pretty normal. I've had varying degrees of success with quantizers, sometimes they are mostly unusable and sometimes perfectly magical but usually it's somewhere in-between. hihi

When you consider what they are trying to do, it seems that it would take a powerful computer running at extremely fast speeds with some artificially intelligent adaptive software for one to work flawlessly in all situations.

One thing you can try is to use a trigger or gate delay to delay the quantizer from firing right way? I can't remember if I've tried this but it might help in certain situations?

Bowman wrote:
The second example I believe is a malfunction of the Dotcom Q174 Midi interface. I'll send a copy of this note to Roger and see what he thinks too. So a MIDI clock from my DAW drives the Gate Out on the module, which I use to clock my sequencer modules. Everything works great. Then a few days ago, I notice a sequence in my DAW and the sequence from my modular are drifting in and out of phase, every two bars or so. The gate light on the Q174 is (seemingly) blinking in time with the DAW. I unplug the MIDI cable from the Q174 and I notice the gate light is still on.......gates are still being sent, but with no MIDI input. Now is something wrong, or did my pulling the MIDI cable out not give the Q174 a clock off signal? In either case, any idea why my DAW clock and the Gate out signal of the Q174 were going out of phase?
I don't have a Q174 and i don't run my modular from a DAW but what are the details on the "drift"? Is the sequencer module always getting behind or is it getting ahead somehow? Does it get further and further out of sync or does it go in and out of sync? Is it out of phase in whole clock steps or some fractional drift? One thing you might try is a module like the Q125 to process the clock to either amplify, attenuate and/or offset because if your clock signal is too weak, strong or not polarized in a way that your sequencer is expecting you may get some odd behavior. Or maybe your computer DAW is delaying it's MIDI output or dropping clocks etc due to other processes going on?

As far as the LED staying on when you pull the MIDI cable while things are running this is pretty typical.
kindredlost
I don't own the Q174 Midi module so I can't help there, but the Q171 and Q172 will exhibit some wild outputs if (as Dave said) if the voltage is at that break over point between detectable voltages, or the cable connection is poor. This is an example of the weakness of the heavier 1/4" cables and plugs in large format setups. I don't see this as much in the 3.5mm 3U systems. When I hear these flawed outputs I usually try to adjust the connection a bit and they sometimes get better.

I know this may sound self-defeating and in your case not helpful but if things continue to be jumpy you can get a tuner, write down the note steps as they play. Then send the voltage directly to the VCO, tune the sequencer steps closer to the target pitch and the quantizer might have less trouble.

Of course if you are wiggling the knobs then all that is not going to be helpful. I sometimes watch the tick marks on the knob of the sequencer, and if the note holds steady between the fourth and sixth tick mark then remember to set the knob at the fifth tick mark. Again, not exactly easy to accomplish but hey, if it were easy then everyone would be doing it right?

Also make certain the glide is off or down all the way on the Q119 output.

I rarely use the gate input on the Q171 and Q172 Quantizers. Most of the time I depend on the quantizer to just adjust the pitch according to the change in voltage from a step sequencer or wherever. You could just use the gate output of the sequencer directly to the EG instead. Forcing the gate timing on the quantizer to fire before or even after it has already detected a voltage change might have something to do with instability.
Bowman
Thanks guys for the quick responses. This is much appreciated.

I have also already heard from Roger (within an hour!). As for the quantizer issues, it seems this is the nature of the beast, exactly as Roger, Dave and John thought. The voltage I dialed in is most likely between the notes, or in between a twelfth of a volt. The quantizer can't tell if I want a C or a C# so it tries to play both. I must say this happened with both the Moon and Dotcom modules. John hits the nail on the head with, "... mostly unusable and sometimes perfectly magical....". Sounds like most of my modular experience. hihi

As for the issues with the Q174 converter, I (somewhat sheepishly) can't seem to duplicate the lagging. Roger reminded me that the Q174 doesn't respond to MIDI clock. I was sending it MIDI notes actually. Sorry for the confusion. And like I thought, once I yanked the MIDI cable out, the unit didn't receive the MIDI off command and therefore stayed on. As for the lagging, it may have been with the DAW. Maybe a MIDI loop double triggering the Q174? Who knows? DAW issues are another huge source of anguish.

Thanks to kcd06, as I will look at the calibration of the Q174 if the issue shows up again.

Thanks again.
kindredlost
JohnLRice wrote:
When you consider what they are trying to do, it seems that it would take a powerful computer running at extremely fast speeds with some artificially intelligent adaptive software for one to work flawlessly in all situations.


This does bring up an interesting notion. How does the Moon 569 do quantization?
Since I don't own one cry does the knob have indents for each step?
Is there an internal quantization going on just like an external quantizer module? If so, then what is the difference here? Possibly this is an advantage of having an internal voltage path instead of a cable connection between isolated modules?
Bowman
kindredlost wrote:
I sometimes watch the tick marks on the knob of the sequencer, and if the note holds steady between the fourth and sixth tick mark then remember to set the knob at the fifth tick mark. Again, not exactly easy to accomplish but hey, if it were easy then everyone would be doing it right?


I'm thinking of putting little pencil marks on the faceplate that can be easily removed. How dorky is that?

Quote:
I rarely use the gate input on the Q171 and Q172 Quantizers. Most of the time I depend on the quantizer to just adjust the pitch according to the change in voltage from a step sequencer or wherever. You could just use the gate output of the sequencer directly to the EG instead. Forcing the gate timing on the quantizer to fire before or even after it has already detected a voltage change might have something to do with instability.


Excellent idea. I'll try that. I never used to use gates with my quantizer, but then I read here that one should do that. I'm not sure what this gets me. The quantizer doesn't actually quantize the timing of the gates, does it?
Bowman
kindredlost wrote:

Since I don't own one cry does the knob have indents for each step?


No they do not. Just normal knobs.

Quote:
Is there an internal quantization going on just like an external quantizer module? If so, then what is the difference here?


No idea, the sparse documentation only says the control voltage outputs are quantized.
kindredlost
Bowman wrote:
The quantizer doesn't actually quantize the timing of the gates, does it?


The gate input is there in case you wish to use the quantizer in the traditional S&H fashion except the voltage is quantized appropriately for tuned note pitches to your VCO.

This was another reason I suggested turning off the glide on the Q119 sequencer. If you do have some glide AND a gate signal then it could cause some erratic voltage stepping at the time you need it to be stable.

If you do NOT have a gate input and use a dynamic voltage from something like an LFO or EG then the glide will cause a glissando effect which is different from a smooth portamento.

Using an LFO into the Q171 or Q172 with no gate can make it sound like a stroke across a harp or a strumming effect. To control this better, run the LFO voltage through a signal processor or mixer first before going to the quantizer to control the range and spread of the glissando. The gate output from the quantizer stage can be run into the EG to create a pluck envelope in time with the voltage changes of the quantizer. Add some delay and instantly you have a wonderful background glissando!

If you need to have a glide or portamento between notes then use a slew generator between the quantizer and the VCO.
JohnLRice
Bowman wrote:
kindredlost wrote:

Since I don't own one cry does the knob have indents for each step?


No they do not. Just normal knobs.

Quote:
Is there an internal quantization going on just like an external quantizer module? If so, then what is the difference here?


No idea, the sparse documentation only says the control voltage outputs are quantized.
Yes. Just the 2v and 5v ranges are quantized, the 10v range is not.

I'm not sure of the technology used in the 569's quantizer circuitry. It works fairly well but can get a little maddening. Like I can set up a sequence and get all the steps to lock in correctly but then if I transpose the sequence up a few steps one or more steps might be on the "boarder" and need adjustment and then once retweaked and I transpose back down one or two steps might be on the boarder again! angry very frustrating I've sometimes had to change my note choices to ones that worked with all the transpositions I wanted to use . . .and sometimes the peice was better for it Mr. Green but often I'm like meh sad banana you kids get off my lawn

And then just try to use the quantized out into another quantizer . . . Dead Banana
jkjelec
Funny I was just fighting this same pitch quantization and transposition problem with my system. I use bananas and the Sequencer I am using to drive the quantizer is in a different cabinet. The cabinets are well grounded together. I was hoping that creating a local, tighter ground connection running in parallel with the pitch CV signal might help. But based on your problems and the responses, it sounds like although it might get better, it will never be perfect.
JohnLRice
jkjelec wrote:
Funny I was just fighting this same pitch quantization and transposition problem with my system. I use bananas and the Sequencer I am using to drive the quantizer is in a different cabinet. The cabinets are well grounded together. I was hoping that creating a local, tighter ground connection running in parallel the pitch signal might help. But based on your problems and the responses, it sounds like although it might get better, it will never be perfect.
Well . . .sometimes it can be perfect but . . .when it is OMG don't touch anything and record it before you turn it off!! lol

When you say your system is well grounded, do you mean the chassis of your racks are connected to a good Earth ground, or are the zero volt rails of your power supplies connected to each other with a low resistance cable or buss bars? Or both?

Anyways, which quantizers and sequencers are you working with? spinning
MindMachine
Good read and great knowledge from the community. I am looking at buying a Q171 soon. Looks like a good feature set for the size.

Happy New Year - need to Champagne soon here!!!
kindredlost
JohnLRice wrote:
Well . . .sometimes it can be perfect but . . .when it is OMG don't touch anything and record it before you turn it off!! lol




MindMachine wrote:
Good read and great knowledge from the community. I am looking at buying a Q171 soon. Looks like a good feature set for the size.


The Q171 is pretty nice, but the ability to tailor the scale to an exact set of notes is rather narrow. Don't get me wrong, I love the Q171 enough that I have a couple of them, but you should be aware of it's limitations.

You have Major, Minor, Augmented and Diminished only. No way to adjust beyond those four scale modes except for the Root+5th and Triad mode switches. The majority of the time that is fine but there are times when a note would be better left out or included to provide some intrigue. Also, all three stages are the same. For example, there is no way to select a Major in one of the three stages with a Minor from another stage. You will need another Q171 or better yet, the Q172 Aid module.

If used with a step sequencer then you can adjust each step as needed but if you use it with any other dynamic voltage source such as an LFO, noise source or EG then it is going to produce all the relevant pitches in that mode unless you use the triad or root+5th mode switches.

The Quantizer Aid Q172 has that covered very well with the programmable scale function as well as allowing for the whole semitone octave mode and quarter tone mode. I recommend that add-on to open up the full spectrum of quantization control. With the programmable sets you can add only the note voltages you wish and even build mixed modes or micro-tuned intervals outside the 12 tone equal tuning realm by including the pitch bend data MIDI transmits.

The Moon Modular quantizer is more of a standard type of pitch selection from the 12t ET world. You have straight forward push button selection of the notes you decide to include. Very visual, but no ability to do micro-tuning or quarter tone as far as I can see.

Each quantizer has it's strength I guess. It's a matter of what you need to accomplish.
cornutt
Hmm. Interesting. A few thoughts. As far as the dithering, one thing I can see that would cause that problem would be if you had a pot on your sequencer that was a bit gravelly. Might be interesting to set up the sequencer to run very slow, and then spend some time on each individual step twiddling the knob and noting if there are any points in the knob's travel that make the quantizer behave badly.

In theory, it seem like it would be an easy thing to implement a bit of hysteresis in the quantizer software. There must be something I'm overlooking as to why everyone hasn't already done that. I can see the possibility that, to do it well, you need a 20-bit ADC converting the incoming voltage. Those don't exactly grow on trees. I could also see some difficulty with adding voltages to shift the key that the sequencer is playing it: if you went up and then back down again, when you come back some of your steps might not be playing the same note as originally, because when it came back down it didn't cross the hysteresis boundary going in the other direction. The best implementation would probably let you adjust the amount of hystereis. Hmm. Might be an interesting experiment for Csound.
Bowman
kindredlost wrote:
The Quantizer Aid Q172 has that covered very well with the programmable scale function ........


Yes, I would also recommend the Q172 Quantizer aid module.

Quote:
The Moon Modular quantizer is more of a standard type of pitch selection from the 12t ET world. You have straight forward push button selection of the notes you decide to include. Very visual, but no ability to do micro-tuning or quarter tone as far as I can see.

Each quantizer has it's strength I guess. It's a matter of what you need to accomplish.


I think you mean mean the Moon 565D Quantizer Controller. It has the programmable buttons laid out as a keyboard. I find this very easy to use and intuitive, and use it a lot. Then there is the 567 Universal Programmer which allows you to store your controller patterns. I have yet to use mine. However, it won't help with the microtonal stuff. Of course, if you want real microtonal music you don't need a quantizer after all. lol
jkjelec
Thanks JLR, and not to hijack the OP's thread! Maybe this sort of talk is useful for general quantizer stability issues.

I am using a banana-ized Modcan 54B sequencer and a Modcan 55A quantizer. Each cabinet of 3 has a Cyndustries Major Power Supply. These PSUs each have banana jack Zero Volt GNDs on them. These banana jack 0V GNDs are each separately connected using ~6 foot Pomona banana cables to a banana GND on my Power Strip (connected to Earth GND in the strip). I *think* that the Zero volts is also connected to the AC Mains Earth Gnd Pin within each of the Cyndustries PSUs...I'll need to confirm that.

The 55A quantizer is amazing. I love to use a Modcan joystick to control the transpose and scale CV's in real time.

I've never had any issue with audio hum or DC/control voltages going between cabinets (unlike within a friend's Eurorack system's various cabinets). It's just these fine-tuned quantizer voltages. One thing I'll look into is just mounting the sequencer and quantizer in the same cabinet.
JohnLRice
jkjelec wrote:
I am using a banana-ized Modcan 54B sequencer and a Modcan 55A quantizer. Each cabinet of 3 has a Cyndustries Major Power Supply. These PSUs each have banana jack Zero Volt GNDs on them. These banana jack 0V GNDs are each separately connected using ~6 foot Pomona banana cables to a banana GND on my Power Strip (connected to Earth GND in the strip). I *think* that the Zero volts is also connected to the AC Mains Earth Gnd Pin within each of the Cyndustries PSUs...I'll need to confirm that.

The 55A quantizer is amazing. I love to use a Modcan joystick to control the transpose and scale CV's in real time.

I've never had any issue with audio hum or DC/control voltages going between cabinets (unlike within a friend's Eurorack system's various cabinets). It's just these fine-tuned quantizer voltages. One thing I'll look into is just mounting the sequencer and quantizer in the same cabinet.
Sounds like your power is setup perfectly fine! thumbs up I doubt putting the sequencer and quantizer in the same cabinet will make a difference for you but trying it to know for sure might be helpful in eliminating possibilities.

I have noticed that the outputs of the 55B seems to be very sensitive? hmmm..... I thought that maybe the jacks were worn out on one of mine since I was having intermittent issues that were caused/alleviated by moving the plug around, plus the tip contact looked either tarnished or the chrome had come off so I replaced the jacks with new ones but the problem remained. seriously, i just don't get it
kindredlost
Bowman wrote:
I think you mean mean the Moon 565D Quantizer Controller. It has the programmable buttons laid out as a keyboard. I find this very easy to use and intuitive, and use it a lot. Then there is the 567 Universal Programmer which allows you to store your controller patterns. I have yet to use mine...


I'm not as familiar with Moon modules as I should be. I just remember the first generation of those quantizers and am foggy on the details. Thanks for the clarification. Mr. Green

Bowman wrote:
...However, it won't help with the microtonal stuff. Of course, if you want real microtonal music you don't need a quantizer after all. lol


hihi

Warning - micro-tuning rant ahead...

I do tend to agree to a point if speaking of ATONAL stuff, but I would consider alternate tuning or micro-tuning to be a much more rigid endeavor. It's something I've touched a toe into but am woefully under-skilled at, to be exact.

I suppose a step sequencer like the Q119 or Q960 might be an analog quantizer but the problem is that the quantization is infinitely fine or broad. Each step is set or "quantized" but to what? The task of limiting the voltages to the 1V/oct or 0.0833... volts per half step (a.k.a. 12t/ET) is what most consider a typical quantizer module function to be useful for in conjunction with the step sequencer. Even that is a digital table function in some cases, so why not have that control in other ratios and tables for alternate or non-western tunings?

Xenharmonics is a whole world in itself and a big part of music, especially electronic music. Electronic music is actually the BEST format for alternate or micro-tonal work. The pure waveforms of a sine or triangle lend themselves to building relations between intervals that end up sounding more dissonant with rich harmonic waveforms due to the inherent detuning in something like a string or brass sound. Wendy Carlos' "Beauty in the Beast" is a prime example of using both pure and rich sounds in the realm of alternate tunings. So are the traditional eastern music tunings. Reaching beyond western themes in tuning can be a fun and rewarding exercise but hard on the ear unless the timbre is considered.

If you have a really good tuner or frequency counter then you could tune things to get what you need in the way of scales and intonations, but most of the interesting micro tonal scales and intonations are expressed in interval relations, ratios and fractions. Some are frequency related but it is all difficult to dial in perfectly without help from the digital realm. It is maddening to dial in each voltage to a frequency using a tuner on the modular. I've done it a few times and you will spend quite a bit of time only to have it all drift horribly within a few hours, and the tracking errors in most analog VCO's add another level of problems as you reach up and down in octaves.

For instance, a more common just intonation or pythagorean tuning would require a bit more precision than just the ear (in my case). There are hundreds and maybe thousands of scales and tunings that could be wrought with a voltage controlled system but bringing them to heel is quite laborious (to understate the task).

Quite a few of the early polysynths included alternate tunings with the advent of the digital technology in the late 70's and on. Some were not far removed from stretch tuning in principal but usually built on lookup tables like most of the software based tuning programs which followed when personal computers and DAWs were within reach. Most were capitalizing on the digital waveforms in machines like the DX7, Roland JV series and Waldorf wavetable boxes. Analog VCO's were notorious for their lovely instability which becomes more problematic for accurate tuning schemes. This of course being the problem with the modular too.

I've been using software programs (like Scala, LMSO and Max Magic Microtuner) along with midi pitch bend through the midi to cv modules to accomplish some of my ratty attempts over the years. The midi pitch bend function is how you can load in limited micro-tonal "scales" into the Q172 as well. Doing it without a proper quantizer is very hit & miss and even with one like the Q172 it is limited to octave based scales. Non-octave scales are completely out of reach with that quantizer module.

Some of the interfaces like the Expert Sleepers stuff are employing digital feedback to your analog VCO's to keep things nice and tight. Tubbutec has a ┬ÁTune module in Eurorack format just to do this type of thing. Maybe FSFX will bring the magic of retrofit to the 5U world for this module. Well, at least I can dream anyway. razz

I just got through spending my Christmas gift money on one of those ┬ÁTune modules. It is a quantizer and midi to cv (as well as cv to midi) module - on steroids. It contains an SD card for tons of scales and tuning schemes from Scala. You can also build and save your own custom tunings. The initial module is only two channel but there is an expander in the works to allow up to eight channels of cv and gate control. The real journey will be in making certain the analog VCO's are up to snuff as far as tracking.

The point is that what you could do with a tuner and ear you can do better with a quantizer and the proper digital table of voltages in a quantizer. It is another aspect of quantizing which has been a little neglected or under-formed, especially in the modular world until recently.

I've gone on way too long - sorry folks. Happy New Year! w00t
kindredlost
JohnLRice wrote:
I have noticed that the outputs of the 55B seems to be very sensitive? hmmm..... I thought that maybe the jacks were worn out on one of mine since I was having intermittent issues that were caused/alleviated by moving the plug around, plus the tip contact looked either tarnished or the chrome had come off so I replaced the jacks with new ones but the problem remained. seriously, i just don't get it


I'm of the opinion it is the nature of the heavy cables in 1/4" form. The wire is heavy as is the plug. I have less trouble with the molded cheap and thin wired cables. I love the dotcom cables but they are monster jack eaters.

Could just be me though seriously, i just don't get it
JohnLRice
kindredlost wrote:
JohnLRice wrote:
I have noticed that the outputs of the 55B seems to be very sensitive? hmmm..... I thought that maybe the jacks were worn out on one of mine since I was having intermittent issues that were caused/alleviated by moving the plug around, plus the tip contact looked either tarnished or the chrome had come off so I replaced the jacks with new ones but the problem remained. seriously, i just don't get it


I'm of the opinion it is the nature of the heavy cables in 1/4" form. The wire is heavy as is the plug. I have less trouble with the molded cheap and thin wired cables. I love the dotcom cables but they are monster jack eaters.

Could just be me though seriously, i just don't get it
haha, I think the exact opposite, I've always had more trouble with 1/8" (3.5mm as the young kids call it Mr. Green ). Hug
kindredlost
It's interesting that Roger Arrick has started making a more compact and light weight cable. If I already didn't have $4k worth of cables laying around I might bite.

Those 6.35mm large format cables are beginning to get expensive for us old kids.
cornutt
As for the MIDI interface and the clocking problem: I wonder if you've got some kind of MIDI choke problem. Most MIDI clock converters have a "flywheel" function that keeps them free running in case a MIDI Clock message is missed, which is why you can unplug the MIDI cable and the clock output keeps going. (If you left it unplugged for a while, it might stop eventually, depending on how it was programmed.) If MIDI choke problems are causing some MIDI Clock messages to be late, it can really mess with the "flywheel" code, as it tries to chase what looks like a wildly varying tempo. Try muting all of your MIDI tracks in your DAW except for the one that is playing along with the analog sequencer, and see if that makes any difference.
Bowman
kindredlost wrote:
It's interesting that Roger Arrick has started making a more compact and light weight cable.


I think the new cables allow them to remain plugged in when the Thoughtbox 22++ is folded up.

Maybe Guinness ftw!
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