Random Sequencing: Marbles vs. Permutation

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Franktree
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Random Sequencing: Marbles vs. Permutation

Post by Franktree » Thu Jan 16, 2020 12:31 am

I'm trying to decide between a Mutable Instrument Marbles and a Grayscale Permutation (I'm thinking I'd probably go for the 12hp version). I already have a Marbles, which I really like. And it would therefore seem obvious that it would make more sense to get a Permutation, as a different variation on the Turing Machine vibe, rather than a second Marbles. But I'm also lacking much random modulation in my setup, beyond Marbles. And the nice thing about Marbles is I can use it for either smooth or stepped random, in addition to as a random sequencer in the TM vein. Is it dumb to get 2? The thing that seems really cool about Permutation (or the TM with pulses expander) is all the different gates you can patch into that fall distinctly within the rhythm of the sequence. Sometimes I feel like the thing with Marbles is that the rhythm can get quickly too crazy for my tastes, if I'm just trying to put together a musical sequence. It doesn't seem like I'd have that problem with a Permutation. But maybe I'm just not deft enough with Marbles yet.

So, where do you think Permutation outshines Marbles? Where do you think Marbles outshines Permutation?

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megarat
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Re: Random Sequencing: Marbles vs. Permutation

Post by megarat » Thu Jan 16, 2020 12:57 am

I don't have a Permutation, but I have a Turing Machine with all the expanders, and I also have a Marbles. I didn't bond with the Marbles, so it's back in a box and I plan to sell it someday, but I think the expanded TM is great. Here are my thoughts on both modules.

(The pros and cons listed below are not the result of an exhaustive analysis, just what come immediately to mind.)

-- Marbles pros: has a built-in quantizer with a wealth of built-in scales; has a built-in sample-and-hold; has a built-in clock; can sample external voltages.

-- Marbles cons: many of the settings are obscured or hidden by the interface (e.g., the scale used by the quantizer); while the interface offers some excellent control over the randomness being generated (e.g., controlling the skew of the probability distribution), I felt that it wasn't as useful to me, and it didn't give me the kind of control that I wanted.

-- TM/Permutation pros: smaller; only add on the expanders (or for Permutation, get the size) that you want; the randomness engine is simple, but you have full control over it, and with the expanders, it is trivial to express that randomness musically. I'm a big fan of this simplicity, and the control is what won me over vs. the Marbles.

-- TM/Permutation cons: no built-in quantizer or sample-and-hold; needs an external clock; as mentioned above, the randomness engine is quite simple, and may be too simple for some (e.g., a common complaint is that the TM's main engine has a bias to generate descending patterns, hence the Volts expander).

I'm a big fan of random, and the more the merrier. If you already have a good working relationship with your Marbles, then you probably won't go wrong with getting another one. That said, if I were in your shoes, I would get the Permutation, just to have something with a different character. I would also consider getting the Variant expander; that extra source of randomness would be worth it, and it would only add up to a total of 18hp (assuming you get the 12hp Permutation, which seems like the sweet spot to me), which is the same size a second Marbles.

EDIT: the recommendation for the Permutation assumes that you have a samples-and-hold and a quantizer elsewhere in your rack. Or perhaps you can route it through the Marbles using the Spread CV input?
Last edited by megarat on Thu Jan 16, 2020 10:42 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Franktree
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Re: Random Sequencing: Marbles vs. Permutation

Post by Franktree » Thu Jan 16, 2020 1:14 am

megarat wrote:
Thu Jan 16, 2020 12:57 am
-- Marbles pros: has a built-in quantizer with a wealth of built-in scales; has a built-in sample-and-hold; has a built-in clock with tap tempo; can sample external voltages.

-- Marbles cons: many of the settings are obscured or hidden by the interface (e.g., the scale used by the quantizer); while the interface offers some excellent control over the randomness being generated (e.g., controlling the skew of the probability distribution), I felt that it wasn't as useful to me, and it didn't give me the kind of control that I wanted.

-- TM/Permutation pros: smaller; only add on the expanders (or for Permutation, get the size) that you want; the randomness engine is simple, but you have full control over it, and with the expanders, it is trivial to express that randomness musically. I'm a big fan of this simplicity, and the control is what won me over vs. the Marbles.

-- TM/Permutation cons: no built-in quantizer or sample-and-hold; needs an external clock; as mentioned above, the randomness engine is quite simple, and may be too simple for some (e.g., a common complaint is that the TM's main engine has a bias to generate descending patterns, hence the Volts expander).
Great points and a very helpful comparison. I think I would really enjoy the simplicity of Permutation as well, and I don't so much care about the quantizer on Marbles because I typically quantize through the Sinfonion anyway, and I definitely don't care about the internal clock. I do care about the sample and hold though, and the ease with which the CV can be attenuated and offset.

On the expanded TM, do you find yourself using the gate outputs a lot, and in your experience, was it easier to use the gate outputs in a musical way than it was with Marbles?

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Re: Random Sequencing: Marbles vs. Permutation

Post by megarat » Thu Jan 16, 2020 2:52 am

Franktree wrote:
Thu Jan 16, 2020 1:14 am
On the expanded TM, do you find yourself using the gate outputs a lot, and in your experience, was it easier to use the gate outputs in a musical way than it was with Marbles?
I use the trigger outputs with the Pulses expander all the time. My preferred scenario is to patch the output of the Volts expander into a sample-and-hold, and then into a quantizer, which then is patched into the 1V/oct input of an oscillator. I then trigger the sample-and-hold with one of the outputs from the Pulses. The Pulses expander is nice in that it has a couple of outputs with a logical AND applied (1+2, 2+4, 4+7, 1+2+4+7), while the trigger outs on the Permutation appear to be just the raw outputs. But if you have a logic module handy, that would open those doors for you, with more flexibility.

To expand on this, I have an Intellijel OR married to my TM, for when I want to increase the frequency of generating a trigger (as opposed to the built-in ANDs, which decreases the frequency of generating a trigger), and I keep a Doepfer A-166 and a few other utilities nearby for anything more complicated/nuanced. For example, I can patch the two random outputs (being the main out on the TM and the out on the Volts) into a comparator, to create an entirely different random rhythm.

I do find that the gates on the TM are easier to use and control than those with Marbles, but I don't think I can say that they're any more musical, if that makes sense. One of my prime annoyances with Marbles is that two of the three X outputs only produce a new voltage whenever the corresponding t output changes, as kind of a built-in sample-and-hold, triggered by t. I found that requirement hobbling, largely because I never really figured out how to get the t section to do exactly what I wanted, and I greatly preferred to control the sample-and-hold process myself. The Pulses trigger outputs are extremely straightforward, and if you want, you can ignore them and use something else altogether.

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Franktree
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Re: Random Sequencing: Marbles vs. Permutation

Post by Franktree » Thu Jan 23, 2020 7:30 pm

Just to follow up here. I ended up buying a Permutation with Variant expander, and admittedly, I've only had it a few days, but I'm really impressed with it so far. I assume this is the case for the Turing machine generally, and not just the Permutation, but the thing is so musical. It just seems that every sequence that comes out of it (once quantized) is really melodic. Marbles is awesome for lots of reasons, but I don't feel like it gives me such gorgeous melodies quite so easily and so regularly the way Permutation has. Maybe I've just been lucky with happening to grab great sequences the few times I've used it? I don't know. But so far, I'm very happy to have decided to go this way.

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Re: Random Sequencing: Marbles vs. Permutation

Post by megarat » Thu Jan 23, 2020 7:47 pm

Franktree wrote:
Thu Jan 23, 2020 7:30 pm
Just to follow up here. I ended up buying a Permutation with Variant expander, and admittedly, I've only had it a few days, but I'm really impressed with it so far. I assume this is the case for the Turing machine generally, and not just the Permutation, but the thing is so musical. It just seems that every sequence that comes out of it (once quantized) is really melodic. Marbles is awesome for lots of reasons, but I don't feel like it gives me such gorgeous melodies quite so easily and so regularly the way Permutation has. Maybe I've just been lucky with happening to grab great sequences the few times I've used it? I don't know. But so far, I'm very happy to have decided to go this way.
That's been my exact experience as well. I'm glad it's worked out for you thus far.

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Re: Random Sequencing: Marbles vs. Permutation

Post by presidentofvice » Wed Feb 12, 2020 1:14 am

megarat wrote:
Thu Jan 23, 2020 7:47 pm
Franktree wrote:
Thu Jan 23, 2020 7:30 pm
Just to follow up here. I ended up buying a Permutation with Variant expander, and admittedly, I've only had it a few days, but I'm really impressed with it so far. I assume this is the case for the Turing machine generally, and not just the Permutation, but the thing is so musical. It just seems that every sequence that comes out of it (once quantized) is really melodic. Marbles is awesome for lots of reasons, but I don't feel like it gives me such gorgeous melodies quite so easily and so regularly the way Permutation has. Maybe I've just been lucky with happening to grab great sequences the few times I've used it? I don't know. But so far, I'm very happy to have decided to go this way.
That's been my exact experience as well. I'm glad it's worked out for you thus far.
Mine as well. I replaced an expanded Turing Machine with Marbles when it came out. I hung with it for a year and a half. It was cool and I used it quite a bit, but I just wasn't getting what I wanted out of it. I had a hard time getting anything useful out of the t section. I mostly ended up just using the x section to modulate stuff with stepped voltages, which felt like a disservice to the module, really.

Recently replaced Marbles with the 12hp Permutation and Variant expander. Man, it's a great take on the Turing Machine. Just super immediate. Paired with logic and a quantizer, there is so much you can do with it. I found I really missed the having the visual feedback of the bits, when I was using Marbles. Just a super quick way to see what a pattern is doing. So easy to thin it out or make it denser.

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Re: Random Sequencing: Marbles vs. Permutation

Post by miles_macquarrie » Wed Feb 12, 2020 1:42 pm

I've got a third contender for those reading along.

I've had a Marbles and currently have a permutation. Both are quite good. My favorite random sequencing module, however is.....

Mimetic Sequent with the Expander from Noise Engineering. 10 hp total, with 3 cv channels and 4 gate channels. It can record cv as well and has a reset input! Love this module!
F/S Joranalogue Filter 8

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