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Variety: LFOs vs Envelope Generators
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Author Variety: LFOs vs Envelope Generators
spilthyfred
I have some questions for those of you with large eurorack systems (15U or larger).

Do you find yourself with a preference of more LFOs in your system, or do you prefer to have a larger variety of envelope generators? And why do you find you have this preference? Any other forms of modulation you like to have a lot of?

I am curious because I am building a rather large system, and am steadily realizing what I like to use for modulation. I have noticed that I like to have a nice variety of similar functions, and would just like to hear what sort of path others have taken in this regard.

(this is my first post, so apologies if it is not in the right section)
gtrmstr53
It's a bit of a cop-out answer, but I've found I prefer modules that can be both lfos and envelopes depending on how you patch them. In my current setup, I have a Befaco Rampage and 2 Mutable Stages and they've been serving me well for the bread-and-butter sorts of modulations.

The main reason I like things this way is that it gives me a lot of modulation options without having to spend money or rack space on dedicated modules that I'll only use every 2nd or 3rd patch.

The downside that I've noticed with this approach is that these modules aren't always as immediate as more dedicated modules would be. I kind of enjoy this myself, as I feel like I'm learning things along the way and it opens up more possibilities for the modules, but I'd imagine that's not everyone's cup of tea.


On the other hand, I've also been keeping my eye out for a Xaoc Zadar. Although I think it has a cycle mode, I'm planning to use it mostly as an envelope generator that can give me some more complicated modulations than I easily get with my current modules.
hinterlands303
I have more unipolar voltage sources than bipolar - they're more versatile for me as they can be used to open VCAs which is trickier with bipolar sources (you need an offset). Sometimes I think I have too many envelopes but then I'll start making percussion patches and I won't have enough (I use 3 envelopes for a kick drum typically). Still - I like to keep a few LFOs and bipolar random sources around because certain patches require bipolar cv sources. I like using an LFO to polarize and envelope with a DC coupled ring mod for instance. I also like using the NLC Sloth to modulate decay time on Maths/Function.
Randy
I use a combination of EGs (mostly one actually, a PM Foundations State Machine), function generators and LFOs for modulation. I also use sequencers for modulation (again, the PM Foundations Synthola has a built-in slew). Just use a slew generator (if that's what you want) to smooth the waveform.

I tend to use most of my EGs as EGs.
D_Robot
Pierre Schaeffer's diagram Trihedron of Reference (apologies for the quality it was the only one I could find), kind of says it all for me. Once you go beyond the classical view of the characteristics of how you can sculpt sound or notes there basically are no limits.

Therefore, I have a very broad definition of what an envelope generator is, categorising them only as gated, triggrered or cycled (basically, but not exclusively, lfos). Each can be either unipolar or bipolar.

Looking at my system (36u) I actually have a fairly even mix between each type. These vary from lfos (Batumi), AD (Maths), ADSR (A-142), ADHSR+ (Quadigy) and complex (Control Forge). However, you can go beyond that as you can create envelopes with VCOs, slewed and stepped sequencers, random and so on. Or you can feed basic ADs or ADSRs through a mixer and create complex envelopes including mixing in lfos as well. You can include envelope followers, Cold Mac, Ears and A-119 as well as the Fumana which spits out 16 envelopes and an envelope mix. In fact using my various switches, comparators and clocks I can turn almost anything, well maybe not a multiple, into an envelope.

So to answer your question, I might not be the best person to ask... zombie
SynapseCollapse
gtrmstr53 wrote:
It's a bit of a cop-out answer, but I've found I prefer modules that can be both lfos and envelopes depending on how you patch them...


Same here.

I only have a single dedicated LFO (with several waveform outputs - an A-145) and I tend to mult it out all over to affect different modules.

Most of my other CV generating modules I can have act as eg / lfo as or if needed :

Function x2
Contour
Just Friends
Disting (mk2 and mk4)
µO_C
FH-2
luketeaford
I'm in the group of "modules that can be either".

I don't have any dedicated LFOs unless you count what's built into the Mother 32 or the switchable-into-LFO-mode side of the DPO.

I have four maths, two DUSGs, two SSGs, function, contour, voltage multistage, wogglebug, etc. Versatility is the way to go! thumbs up
spilthyfred
luketeaford wrote:
I'm in the group of "modules that can be either".

I don't have any dedicated LFOs unless you count what's built into the Mother 32 or the switchable-into-LFO-mode side of the DPO.

I have four maths, two DUSGs, two SSGs, function, contour, voltage multistage, wogglebug, etc. Versatility is the way to go! thumbs up


Four Maths, holy shit my man! Guinness ftw! That actually sounds fucking amazing. Pardon my french.
starthief
My modulation sources are:

Make Noise Contour
Maths
Stages
Kermit (though sometimes it's a VCO)
Teletype
Filter 8
Bitwig Grid out through ES-3

Generally leaning more toward LFOs these days than envelopes, but the lines between them can be blurry smile
MarcelP
spilthyfred wrote:
I have some questions for those of you with large eurorack systems (15U or larger).

Do you find yourself with a preference of more LFOs in your system, or do you prefer to have a larger variety of envelope generators?


Hadn't thought to count them - just tried and found it isn't so easy. EGs that can cycle are LFOs...A syncable LFO is kind of like an EG? Having "well specified" LFOs or EGs is more important - the flexibility to be what you want them to be (voltage control for starters). And don't forget sufficient mixing (matrix mixers) and VCAs to mix and modulate all the modulation - from whatever source. Oh - and a S&H or two really helps as well.

You could have a lot of fun with Batumi plus Stages plus a Doepfer 138M plus Veils. And adding another 138M and another Veils would make it even more interesting.
luketeaford
spilthyfred wrote:
Four Maths, holy shit my man! Guinness ftw! That actually sounds fucking amazing. Pardon my french.


It is! At Make Noise's 10th anniversary celebration, they had a "system maths" on display: 10 Maths in the shared system case. It is SO MUCH FUN to play that system because you have to constantly look for Maths that aren't utilized and think about how you're affecting the sets of buses/panels (the toggle switches and panel knobs are the only controllers in the system).

It's cool to be able to flex your Maths patching knowledge and how quickly you can sight read a patch-- it is a nerdy instrument, but excellent for demonstrating the fun and versatility of "patch programming".
BaloErets
I don't have a preference for either, but have a HUGE preference for utilities with bias and attenuversion in order to turn bipolar signals into unipolar signals and vice versa.
spilthyfred
BaloErets wrote:
I don't have a preference for either, but have a HUGE preference for utilities with bias and attenuversion in order to turn bipolar signals into unipolar signals and vice versa.


What do you think of the Xaoc Samara II? I have been thinking of getting a couple of these for that very reason.
spilthyfred
gtrmstr53 wrote:
On the other hand, I've also been keeping my eye out for a Xaoc Zadar.


As have I. It looks very flexible.
spilthyfred
D_Robot wrote:
Pierre Schaeffer's diagram Trihedron of Reference


This looks awesome, I definitely will be looking more into this.. applause
peripatitis
Let's say you use an looping AD for an lfo. You will need another module to give you a flexible shape (besides the usual triangle, pulse if it has a gate/trigger out) and a module to bring it into bipolar range. And that every time you want to use it as an lfo! Also some lfo's feature syncing possibilities, clock divisions,v/oct, etc.
So i'd say that although part of the functionality is there or can be derived, one has to question what the gains are.
In a uniform system like Serge, I get it. It is part of the philosophy but everything there is finetuned.
In euro, you have envelopes that output 10v, 8v, 5v and tbh very rarely do you find lfo modules that output all over the place voltages.
So I don't know.
Perhaps if you stay with one manufacturer it might make some sense.
But it is not a direct replacement, the way I see it.
starthief
Honestly, in practice there are few cases where an LFO really needs to be bipolar. Usually you can offset it on the destination module anyway,.
peripatitis
starthief wrote:
Honestly, in practice there are few cases where an LFO really needs to be bipolar. Usually you can offset it on the destination module anyway,.

if the destination module has attenuverters, which is not the norm, and even then the envelope output ranges create an issue.
For me though it is very different aurally to pick a value and modulate only up or go up and down. I wouldn't dismiss it.
pugix
I prefer to have flexible modules. Most of my VCOs have LFO modes. Most of my envelope generators can cycle and have voltage control over rise and fall times. I have no dedicated LFOs in Eurorack and only two dedicated EGs (2hp).

Some modules that can be used as envelope generators, oscillators, or LFOs (as well as other functions):

SSF Mini Slew (I use a pair of these instead of a Maths.)
Random*Source DUSG
Mutable Instruments Stages
Just Friends
Starling Via META

I recently added a second META. One of its nice features is control over the low and high voltage end points. Unipolar, bipolar and anywhere in between are simple and voltage-controllable. It has many different EG shapes and more trigger modes than most envelope generators. (META also has oscillator and drum modes.)
Tumulishroomaroom
I was for a while without a bipolar cv source in my 15u and several times it bugged me that I didn’t have the modulation/control I wanted. I now have a Black Octasource for any kind of LFO duties. It can work either in unipolar or bipolar mode via switch which is quite handy.

I have a full featured EG/modulation hub (Falistri) which outputs 8v and a simpler, fun to use quad EG (Pons Asinorum) for sending modulation around. I like to have LFOs, envelopes and cycling envelopes; none of them really overlap, I use them all in everypatch and I’m glad I have the (my) right module for each job.
spilthyfred
pugix wrote:
I prefer to have flexible modules. Most of my VCOs have LFO modes. Most of my envelope generators can cycle and have voltage control over rise and fall times. I have no dedicated LFOs in Eurorack and only two dedicated EGs (2hp).

Some modules that can be used as envelope generators, oscillators, or LFOs (as well as other functions):

SSF Mini Slew (I use a pair of these instead of a Maths.)
Random*Source DUSG
Mutable Instruments Stages
Just Friends
Starling Via META

I recently added a second META. One of its nice features is control over the low and high voltage end points. Unipolar, bipolar and anywhere in between are simple and voltage-controllable. It has many different EG shapes and more trigger modes than most envelope generators. (META also has oscillator and drum modes.)


I definitely agree that flexible modules tend to be much better. Ultimately, I like to have a nice mix of easy to approach wysiwyg modules, and modules that are flexible enough to to really stretch my imagination.

I have been using my Maths for most of my envelopes - it's absolutely insane to me how flexible it is. I have a Mini Slew as well, and tend to use it just for slew, even though I know it can do much more. I have been trying to find an ADSR that I like (currently using the tiptop z4000). I recently got a MI Stages, and am still trying to wrap my head around it.. for some reason I find it intimidating.

As for dedicated LFOs I currently just have the Batumi, which I love. I am thinking of purchasing the WMD/SSF Modbox next. Another module I am considering is the Quadra, because it seems so quick to program and it does both LFOs and envelopes.

I've looked into the starling via stuff a little bit, but it sorta seems a little confusing and cramped. Maybe I should give them more thought.
pugix
spilthyfred wrote:

... I am thinking of purchasing the WMD/SSF Modbox next. Another module I am considering is the Quadra, because it seems so quick to program and it does both LFOs and envelopes.

I've looked into the starling via stuff a little bit, but it sorta seems a little confusing and cramped. Maybe I should give them more thought.


Modbox looks great for a small to medium size system. I've often considered it, but haven't got one yet.

I have a blog post about the META.

https://pugix.com/synth/starling-via-meta/

For a digital module with a lot of different modes and settings, I find it surprisingly easy to operate. I think it's the unusual, dark brown face plate that makes it look intimidating. The controls all make sense. You just need to wrap your head around how the A-B cross fading works. It's well documented on their site. A and B are inputs that can be DC to audio. The cross fade is controlled by an internal contour generator with a full range of rates and shapes. I do refer to the user manual for details about the various S&H and Trigger modes, and the shapes of all the various banks. But operating it and seeing what the current settings are is quite easy.
starthief
pugix wrote:
I have a blog post about the META.

https://pugix.com/synth/starling-via-meta/

For a digital module with a lot of different modes and settings, I find it surprisingly easy to operate. I think it's the unusual, dark brown face plate that makes it look intimidating.


I've got the Scanner, and agree it's not as difficult as it seems at first.
I think the translation of that concept to the layout is a little weird (the A/B VCAs are on the output rather than the input, so they can't be used to control wavefolding) but I like it enough I haven't even tried the other Via firmware.
spilthyfred
pugix wrote:
I have a blog post about the META.

https://pugix.com/synth/starling-via-meta/


I just read through your blog post and I must say that it really helped me understand the interface. I believe the one I was initially looking at was the Via SYNC, but this article about the META has me much more curious about the whole line. Thank you for this.
Parnelli
An envelope generator and an LFO are entirely different creatures that can be used (at times) for the same job in my opinion. I have both and use both depending upon the application.

For instance simple modulation tasks are handled very nice with an LFO, but depending upon what you are running you may be only utilizing one half of the LFO waveform unless you offset it. An envelope generator on the other hand generally has some CV control over the various aspects of the waveform, whereas many LFOs only give you control over base frequency.

I look at an LFO like it's information, and an envelope the medium to carry the information, not necessarily an LFO. The LFO modulates up and down, over and over in the manner that you set it for. An envelope on the other hand may be used the same or it may be a one shot ordeal to send some CV info to another module, like some FM to an oscillator that is amplitude modulated by the envelope; can't do that with an LFO, but you can with an LFO and a VCA.

So I keep a supply of both at the ready; 2 Maths, 2 Pittsburgh EGs, a SE Shapers, a Z4000 for envelopes, and a Batumi W/Poti, Bubblesound uLFO, SE STE.16, Pittsburgh dual LFO, Doepfer A-147-2, a Tetrapad, for LFOs and of course the versatile Disting Mk4.
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