DROID Universal CV processor

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mdoudoroff
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DROID Universal CV processor

Post by mdoudoroff » Sun May 03, 2020 6:47 am

Apparently from the creator of the Sinfonion!

https://www.modulargrid.net/e/other-unknown-droid

The DROID is a very flexible generic CV processor. It has 8 CV inputs and 8 CV outputs, all ranging from -10V to +10V. The DROID can do almost any CV task you can imagine, such as sequencing, melody generation, slew limiting, quantizing, switching, mixing, working on clocks and triggers, creating envelopes and LFO or other fancy voltages, or any combination of these at the same time. While doing this, is very precise both in voltage and in timing.

You tell your DROID what to do by means of a simple text file called “DROID patch”. That file is be named droid.ini and is located on a micro SD card. No special software is required for writing that file. A simple text editor running on Windows, Linux, Mac or any other device will suffice.

The building blocks of a DROID patch are called circuits. Every type of circuit performs some basic task. Just like a Eurorack module each ciruit has inputs and outputs. You can wire these either directly to the eight inputs and out or even connect them internally. Every parameter can be CV controlled. You can attach up to 16 P2B8 controllers, each having two potentiometers and 8 push buttons. These you can assign to any parameter or function you like.

Here are a few examples of what your DROID can be for you. As long as you do not run out of inputs and outputs you can implement as many of these functions at the same time in one DROID. You also can connect them together internally.

Envelope generator
Melody sequencer
Trigger sequencer
Random / Pseudo random melody or trigger generator
Precision adder
Slew limiter
Clock divider and multiplier
Logic gate
CV looper
Sample and hold
Euclidean rhythms generator
Quantizer
Addressable and clockable CV switch
CV mixing and routing matrix
LFO
Bernoulli gate
Mathematical operator
... and many more to come in future software versions
You can use these circuits either directly - just like normal Eurorack modules - or combine them internally in order to implement more complex functions. Then you can assign pots and buttons of your "P2B8"-controllers for switching, tuning and live performing with these. Basically you can transform your Eurorack modular system into your own custom instrument. Or you simply use the DROID as a replacement for several utility modules, because it is very space efficient.

Expanders:

The P2B8 is a controller with two pots and eight buttons - for free assigment. You can attach up to 16 of these to one Master.
The G8 is an expander with 8 additional gate inputs / outputs.
Manufacturer: Der Mann mit der Maschine

https://dermannmitdermaschine.de/downlo ... -05-03.pdf

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Last edited by mdoudoroff on Sun May 03, 2020 6:54 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by mdoudoroff » Sun May 03, 2020 6:48 am

This looks pretty neat. It seems to sit somewhere between a Disting and a Teletype. The manual appears very well written. I wonder if they will make a simulator so you can test and refine your configs with less shuffling of your sd card back and forth?

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by starthief » Sun May 03, 2020 10:03 am

Hmmm... mixed feelings here. There's a lot of cleverness but a few missed tricks.

The individual "circuits" trend toward higher level / higher complexity than Teletype (and in many cases, than Hemisphere Suite or Disting). There's a lot of power there, but there are questions of control.

Teletype's strength (to me) is its interactivity. It's a live-coding environment. Nearly everything I do with it is on the fly, unique to the patch/song I'm working on. It has a flow to it that would be utterly killed by having to move an SD card. (Conversely: for those who do want to save scripts and data, the module holds 32 "scenes" in non-volatile memory, and you can swap for another set of 32 by inserting a USB stick for a few seconds. Compare to one "scene" per SD card on the Droid...)

I feel like Droid is far more dependent on knobs than Teletype -- if you want to adjust something on TT you can just edit your script or type a live command. Or you can assign a fader from a 16n Faderbank... :) On Droid you'd probably want to pre-assign a bunch of CVs instead of using constants. But there are no physical knobs on the device, only two per expander, and no i2c support. That probably means heavily leaning on the switchedpot circuit... how much do people enjoy 1-knob-per-8-functions though? Particularly with no display?

And of course, compared to Disting, it doesn't process audio, and switching functions is much less simple than selecting a new algorithm.


If it had a USB port and a multi-platform editor, it'd be so much easier to iterate on scripts, tweak constants, and quickly upload new scripts without fumbling with a tiny SD card. It'd go a long way toward reducing the dependency on controls that it doesn't have.

And/or, if only Droid could read i2c, I'd be immediately excited. It'd be a fantastic partner to a Teletype and a 16n. Combining its strengths (continuous CV processing, very strong algorithmic sequencing) with Teletype's (more interactivity, more open flexibility in some regards) would be fantastic!

If it did support i2c, I could probably come up with a single script with several different simultaneously useful functions, with parameters assigned to i2c values, and then basically never have to remove the SD card. (Admittedly, I'd need a cheat sheet for the mappings.)

Lacking i2c support, if it had an available 8-knob expander that would probably be immensely helpful. I feel like 2 knobs and 8 buttons is kind of an atypical balance of controls.

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by mdoudoroff » Sun May 03, 2020 10:16 am

I agree the lack of i2c is unfortunate, and a bit surprising since Sinfonion has one (yet to be used). Being able to address this hardware from Teletype would be really interesting. For that matter, it would hypothetically be a way to expand the CV-manipulation capabilities of the Sinfonion.

I‘m not sure that point by point comparison of this module to Teletype (or Disting) is all that useful, except where a particular idea could be borrowed. They have many fundamental differences, and I don’t see them in competition. What I mainly see here (on first blush) is a tool that almost any idiot could “program” to get some precise result, solving a relatively simple problem with minimal effort in a small space. (DROID doesn’t seem to really run programs, anyway. It’s more a very flexible config file-based routing scheme. I guess that’s where the “circuit” terminology comes in.) DROID seems metaphorically almost the opposite of a oscilloscope: rather than finding out what’s going on, you explicitly dictate what goes on. That probably includes helping implement an experimental musical idea—at least at the rudimentary voltage manipulation level—but this is clearly no Teletype.

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by sir stony » Sun May 03, 2020 10:53 am

What the hardware of this module could do is impressive, and I like the compact, colourful design. 8-)
But the way to use this is entirely off from what people like about hardware synths. There may be a couple of geeks (sorry, coders) that will fawn over this, but I'm pretty sure most of us don't embrace the idea of sitting down and typing pages of scripts before that thing will process anything sensible, and every little correction needs another session sitting down and typing more, debugging, adjusting values and all that, while modules like disting or o_c, still being somewhat non-wiggle-happy, at least provide a way to use them without a computer, editor and card reader next to them. If it was provided with a collection of pre-made and tested, useful scripts that can be switched without having to read them from card one at a time, then this might be somewhat more tempting. But as it is now, this is like synthedit for eurorack. And like synthedit was maybe interesting for 1% of VST users, this will probably be around the same for eurorack users.
Probably a highly effective way to kill time during curfew. I'll rather be making some sound instead, thanks. :despair:
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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by starthief » Sun May 03, 2020 11:43 am

mdoudoroff wrote:
Sun May 03, 2020 10:16 am
I‘m not sure that point by point comparison of this module to Teletype (or Disting) is all that useful, except where a particular idea could be borrowed. They have many fundamental differences, and I don’t see them in competition. What I mainly see here (on first blush) is a tool that almost any idiot could “program” to get some precise result, solving a relatively simple problem with minimal effort in a small space.
My point is, I feel like solving some of the same problems on a Teletype, Disting and Droid, would be much more awkward and tedious on the Droid. The more iteration or adjustment is required, the more you're going to be pulling the SD card out of the Droid, plugging it into the USB adapter, plugging the USB adapter into a computer, editing the text file, saving it on the card, unplugging the USB adapter, pulling the SD card out of the adapter, and putting the SD card back into the module.

Or to avoid all the card fumbling, you're going to assign CVs or knobs to more parameters preemptively... which means you either need a lot more knobs or at least one P2B8 expander and use switchedpot to edit multiple parameters with one knob (with no display to help the process). And probably write your own cheat sheets to keep track of it.

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by mdoudoroff » Sun May 03, 2020 11:58 am

Well, let’s see what Mathias comes up with. He designed this thing for reasons.

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by Der Mann mit der Maschine » Tue May 05, 2020 3:58 am

Hey guys,

thanks for starting this thread. I must admit that it's really hard to grasp from the manual how it feels working with the DROID. You mentioned two other multi function modules. Maybe the easiest task is to bring a bit light on the differences:

Disting: DROID is focussed on processing CV, not Audio. It is far more flexible. It is far more inputs and outputs. It can do many things at the same time. It can be extended with controllers.

Teletype: As I understand that module has trigger inputs, not CV inputs. And it has a display and is controlled with a keyboard. And it is split into 8 sub modules that act independently of each other? DROID has 8 highly precise CV inputs and it can be extended by controllers with pots and buttons.. With more different types to come in future.

But what's the most crucial point: The workflow. The DROID is your tool if you want to setup fancy, creative, interesting things in advance. In order to build your own instrument. And when playing music you can control things the way you like. That's also a reason why you do not need as many pots and buttons as you think. You just route those functions to pots and buttons that you acutally use.

I my live set I now use three DROIDs that implement at least 15 different tasks. I makes me make more interesting music. And it saved lots of space.

I'll create some videos in order to give you a feeling what all is about...

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by starthief » Tue May 05, 2020 8:54 am

Der Mann mit der Maschine wrote:
Tue May 05, 2020 3:58 am
Teletype: As I understand that module has trigger inputs, not CV inputs. And it has a display and is controlled with a keyboard. And it is split into 8 sub modules that act independently of each other?
I don't want to go too far on a tangent about Teletype, but it's not "split into 8 sub modules". The 8 main scripts can be run by their trigger/gate inputs, or by timers, a keypress or when called by another script. There's also an Init script and a Metronome script. The scripts share a common set of variables and tracker-style pattern data. It's pretty common to use multiple scripts for more advanced algorithms or timing.

It does have one CV input and a parameter knob onboard. The open-source TXi expander adds 4 more CV inputs and knobs per module. It can also read the faders of the 16n Faderbank over an i2c connection (as well as Monome Grid, Arc and their module line, and send commands/parameters to Just Friends, W/, ER-301, Matrixarchate, and Disting EX).

It's true that Teletype is much more focused on sequencing than anything else. You can set the metronome or a timer fast enough to poll CV inputs or a controller for some uses, but it's not a continuous CV processor.

Der Mann mit der Maschine wrote:
Tue May 05, 2020 3:58 am
I'll create some videos in order to give you a feeling what all is about...
I look forward to it. I might be skeptical that it'll fit the way I want to work, but I'm also intrigued. :)

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by second_breakfast » Mon May 11, 2020 9:52 am

Very excited about this Mathias. Do you have an estimate for when you'll start production?

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by Der Mann mit der Maschine » Mon May 11, 2020 10:02 am

A first small batch of populated PCB already has been ordered. The final assembly will be done in Munich. Due to the Corona situation nobody knows, however, how long all this takes. But maybe from a month or two from now I will be able to ship a first small number of units to beta users. If everything works well, I'll slowly ramp up production and delivery.

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by mvdirty » Mon May 11, 2020 10:22 am

That’s great news, Mathias.

From reading the manual I’m really liking how the module seems to sit in a space between configuration and programming, as the former is too restrictive and the latter simply too involved for most people and situations (for myself included, even as a software developer.) I expect this balance was an explicit design choice of yours.

I’m very much looking forward to being able to order a few units. Hopefully your manufacturing and beta testing processes go smoothly!

I recall you mentioning somewhere the possibility of adding more types of expanders over time. Do you have thoughts yet as to adding more types of circuits over time and/or integrations with other modules?

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by Der Mann mit der Maschine » Tue May 12, 2020 10:43 am

mvdirty wrote:
Mon May 11, 2020 10:22 am
That’s great news, Mathias.

From reading the manual I’m really liking how the module seems to sit in a space between configuration and programming, as the former is too restrictive and the latter simply too involved for most people and situations (for myself included, even as a software developer.) I expect this balance was an explicit design choice of yours.

I’m very much looking forward to being able to order a few units. Hopefully your manufacturing and beta testing processes go smoothly!

I recall you mentioning somewhere the possibility of adding more types of expanders over time. Do you have thoughts yet as to adding more types of circuits over time and/or integrations with other modules?
I'll definitely add more and more circuits -- and also add functionality to existing ones -- as time goes by. The only limit is the flash memory of the underlying MCU. But I'll find a solution here either when that time comes.

The additional controllers depend, of course, on the success of the project. If there is enough demand, creating more different controllers is justified and will probably happen. And it will be fun :hihi: For example controllers with just buttons or just pots or with faders or with large arcade buttons. Or a controller that allows you to "jump over" to another case by means of a patch cable. Or a controller that contains VCAs that could directly be controlled with the DROID master and switch and mix audio. Or one with a display that shows actual values. Many ideas... Those controllers are relatively simple to design, it's just that the starting cost (layout, PCB, etc.) for a new controller type is only justified if at least a certain number will be sold.

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by Mark_Lewis » Tue May 12, 2020 11:18 am

Cool idea but, damn, it’s ugly! Hasn’t stopped me from purchasing useful modules in the past though.

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by foliephonics » Tue May 12, 2020 11:52 am

I think I understand the aim of setting up relatively permanent functions (the 'one-program' sd card restrains flexibility).
Your example of setting up connections between distant racks made perfect sense (a kind of ah-ah moment) and now count me potentially interested.
In the end, I think the price of the module will determine whether it's 'attractive' or not.
In the meantime, it certainly has those blinkenlights !

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by a_b_d » Tue May 12, 2020 3:12 pm

Excited for this and think it looks great -- kudos!

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by StoneAgeOfTheFuture » Wed May 13, 2020 3:45 am

Wow, the versatility outlined in the manual is immense! I can't wait to dive in. It looks amazing.
As I'm learning more about this module, I'm finding that:
  • This will give me things I didn't know I needed/wanted.
  • I will have to gain inspiration and advice from other users to help teach me useful functions I can incorporate into my system with Droid.
  • This will inspire me to learn to start coding in this language.
  • I want to know more about how these separate modules work together. Can/Should I have one Master that stores the functions in the memory, with or without a separate Droid to add functions + P2B8 per voice to play?
I already have an idea for implementation that will simplify my rig while also giving me more versatility and playability by supplementing one of my current patching methods, so that alone is worth it for me. I understand these modules are literally capable of more than I can imagine them doing, so I'm sure I'll come up with more ideas as I learn more about them.
In short - I can't wait to see the videos!

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by mvdirty » Wed May 13, 2020 1:29 pm

Der Mann mit der Maschine wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 10:43 am
I'll definitely add more and more circuits -- and also add functionality to existing ones -- as time goes by. The only limit is the flash memory of the underlying MCU. But I'll find a solution here either when that time comes.

The additional controllers depend, of course, on the success of the project. If there is enough demand, creating more different controllers is justified and will probably happen. And it will be fun :hihi: For example controllers with just buttons or just pots or with faders or with large arcade buttons. Or a controller that allows you to "jump over" to another case by means of a patch cable. Or a controller that contains VCAs that could directly be controlled with the DROID master and switch and mix audio. Or one with a display that shows actual values. Many ideas... Those controllers are relatively simple to design, it's just that the starting cost (layout, PCB, etc.) for a new controller type is only justified if at least a certain number will be sold.
Excellent, Mathias. Thanks for the insight. Hopefully we’ll all be able to help you bring these and more to fruition.

For what it is worth, and I’m obviously making vast assumptions here, based on my individual interpretation of very distant observations, but I also hope that you’ll be able to keep manufacturing under closer control than other recent efforts.

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by mvdirty » Wed May 13, 2020 1:35 pm

StoneAgeOfTheFuture wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 3:45 am
I already have an idea for implementation that will simplify my rig while also giving me more versatility and playability by supplementing one of my current patching methods, so that alone is worth it for me. I understand these modules are literally capable of more than I can imagine them doing, so I'm sure I'll come up with more ideas as I learn more about them.
I too found myself quickly thinking much the same. I’m 100% going to get at least a few of the DROID family and try to use them to “codify,” as it were, certain usages of my existing or desired modules. Not entirely unlike how people often use a Disting to develop a sense of what module they need next, I imagine often using DROID to assume and customize functionality of other modules I already have and most often use in certain ways, as well as to layer up meta-functionality around things I often do spanning modules (especially where those uses stretch my existing ability to control them.)

Not that those will be the only uses, of course, as I’m sure I’ll discover a million others, but those are the ways I imagine I’ll be able to best utilize it, especially in the early days of learning about and working with it.
StoneAgeOfTheFuture wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 3:45 am
In short - I can't wait to see the videos!
Me too!

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by StoneAgeOfTheFuture » Thu May 14, 2020 5:26 am

My setup currently accommodates four voice sections. Two of those sections have two 4 > 1 Switches each; for pitch and gate (four switches total).
I use this setup to choose between playing the sequencer, the Sinfonion arpeggiator, and my ribbon controller for each voice. Since my pitch switch and gate switch are separate, I can mix and match the patterns. See me play it here

I've also been looking at incorporating a Turing machine or Marbles as another option to add to the switches in the future.

After diving into the manual further, it's clear to me that not only can I replicate this setup without patch cables with the Droid, but it also has many additional sequencers, generators, switches, and more built in. It's definitely a module I never thought would exist, but definitely fits my needs and more.

My biggest worry is running into hurdles with the code, since I'm not a developer. I hope we can post helpful snippets and support other users here.

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by Der Mann mit der Maschine » Thu May 14, 2020 5:36 am

StoneAgeOfTheFuture wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 5:26 am
I've also been looking at incorporating a Turing machine or Marbles as another option to add to the switches in the future.

After diving into the manual further, it's clear to me that not only can I replicate this setup without patch cables with the Droid, but it also has many additional sequencers, generators, switches, and more built in. It's definitely a module I never thought would exist, but definitely fits my needs and more.
Yes! You can exactly do that. Let a lot of that stuff happen directly in the DROID. And believe me: the pseudo random number / melody generator of the DROID is much more powerful than Marbles or the Turing machine, for example -- simple because it is not limited to a certain number of jacks, pots or buttons and thus can offer lots more functionality. You then pick out those controls and parameters that you actually want to use and map them to pots and buttons on your DROID controllers.
StoneAgeOfTheFuture wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 5:26 am
My biggest worry is running into hurdles with the code, since I'm not a developer. I hope we can post helpful snippets and support other users here.
Don't be afraid of writing DROID patches. These are no programs. Basically you just assign which "virtual" jacks of the circuits to wire to which real external jacks, or to other internal circuits, or feed them with fixed values. That's all. No programming knowledge needed. And I'm really looking forward to share and discuss everyones DROID patches here ;)

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by damase » Thu May 14, 2020 9:34 am

this would be amazing if it had an app with a friendly UI for setup, and a usb socket to load the script directly from the app.

i can maybe suffice a longer criticism to just say that typing code, even if its considered simple, is a huge hurdle to what seems to otherwise be an incredible platform and idea here. maybe if enough really awesome pre-made user setups surface it would be usable for me, but that also kind of kills the purpose of why you want the module in the first place

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by Clumsy » Thu May 14, 2020 12:07 pm

damase wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 9:34 am
this would be amazing if it had an app with a friendly UI for setup, and a usb socket to load the script directly from the app.
Kind of like the Roland AIRA modules.
i can maybe suffice a longer criticism to just say that typing code, even if its considered simple, is a huge hurdle to what seems to otherwise be an incredible platform and idea here.
Each to their own, I guess. Personally I'd find typing out a text file quicker and more precise than fiddling around with virtual knobs and patch cables.

Maybe the best of both worlds would be if someone were to write a program that supplies a GUI that generates a DROID text file, perhaps combined with a simulator, as mdoudoroff suggested, which at least checks the result for errors.

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by KittenVillage » Thu May 14, 2020 12:27 pm

I think it looks incredible, and I wouldn't mind programming it. I'd love to be able to access the text file directly from my computer (from the back, I've a usb hub in my case for OC Hemisphere's Captain Midi mode.)

I'm curious if there are any plans for pcb/panel diy builds? Hope I'm not rude in asking, it's just that's more my jam.

The manual is indeed quite amazing.


Eurorack is an exercise in delayed desire.

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Re: DROID Universal CV processor

Post by Der Mann mit der Maschine » Thu May 14, 2020 12:57 pm

Clumsy wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 12:07 pm
Maybe the best of both worlds would be if someone were to write a program that supplies a GUI that generates a DROID text file, perhaps combined with a simulator, as mdoudoroff suggested, which at least checks the result for errors.
I indeed had the very same idea! And this shouldn't be too difficult to do, too. It's just that I for myself rather invest my time in creating cool new circuits than in a graphical user interface, which can be very time consuming. But if anyone would like to do this I'd gladly support him or her. Could be a nice open source project.

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