Modular for the visually impaired

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by KSS » Mon May 25, 2020 10:41 pm

That article about the blind synth performer is a must read. He's using Mutable modules -among others with menus and screens- wholly through memorizationd and end results. And he's fully blind. Not just hard-of-seeing, as with some who are legally blind.

It sure opened my eyes -again- to what's possible. Still feel good about my suggestions, but if the synth photo in that article belongs to the performer of that article, we're all over-thinking this.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Tue May 26, 2020 10:24 am

deke wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 8:58 pm
I’ve been thinking about this. Along with having clear layouts you also have to deal with what we all suffer with - what do you want to do? As we all know the choices are endless. Many people start with semi mod and that’s what you are doing with the neutron, but it sounds like you don’t like it. I would listen to that voice in your head and return it. I’ve been looking at other semi mods and many have the same kind of layout. For example the Mother 32 knobs and labels are better laid out, though still small type, but the patch bay is way too cramped. I have had mine for a couple years and still get messed up with the labels. Lots of people complain about Make Noise panels, but you might actually like something like the 0-Coast. Weird fonts, but the various jacks are distributed with various controls in a logical flow. I am thinking you might like the SQ-1’as a sequencer. Simple controls, lights, and very playable. All this is pure conjecture. I think what would be best is hands on with all kinds of things to see if it is both playable and something you like. Any luck finding a local store or club?
That's very kind to think about it so much.

I know what I'd like to do but prolly not easy in a modular. I'd like it to make 'musical' decisions rather than random ones (maybe abnother thread :-)


Did I give the impressions I didn't like the Neutron?

The thing is, I can see the controls but not read the labels. I go the neutron over the Model D because it seemed more 'synthy'. The problem is 0 and will be for anything - that, as I can't see the labels, I'll have to memorise the controls and jacks! I sort of gave up on the Neutron and will likely return it.

But whatever I get, I've have to memorise what the controls and jacls are and I'm not sure I'm up to that.

Hands-on would be great. Not sure how that works in current situation. However, I can't find any local modular shops anyway. If anyone knows of any in the North East (that's North EAST, not just North :-) )of England please let me know, I don't mind travelling though, but would need to rrange transport.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Tue May 26, 2020 10:30 am

KSS wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 10:41 pm
That article about the blind synth performer is a must read. He's using Mutable modules -among others with menus and screens- wholly through memorizationd and end results. And he's fully blind. Not just hard-of-seeing, as with some who are legally blind.

It sure opened my eyes -again- to what's possible. Still feel good about my suggestions, but if the synth photo in that article belongs to the performer of that article, we're all over-thinking this.

He's absolutely amazing!

However, he does have a couple of advantages over people like me :-)

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by deke » Tue May 26, 2020 9:08 pm

iantrader wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 10:24 am
deke wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 8:58 pm
I’ve been thinking about this. Along with having clear layouts you also have to deal with what we all suffer with - what do you want to do? As we all know the choices are endless. Many people start with semi mod and that’s what you are doing with the neutron, but it sounds like you don’t like it. I would listen to that voice in your head and return it. I’ve been looking at other semi mods and many have the same kind of layout. For example the Mother 32 knobs and labels are better laid out, though still small type, but the patch bay is way too cramped. I have had mine for a couple years and still get messed up with the labels. Lots of people complain about Make Noise panels, but you might actually like something like the 0-Coast. Weird fonts, but the various jacks are distributed with various controls in a logical flow. I am thinking you might like the SQ-1’as a sequencer. Simple controls, lights, and very playable. All this is pure conjecture. I think what would be best is hands on with all kinds of things to see if it is both playable and something you like. Any luck finding a local store or club?
That's very kind to think about it so much.

I know what I'd like to do but prolly not easy in a modular. I'd like it to make 'musical' decisions rather than random ones (maybe abnother thread :-)


Did I give the impressions I didn't like the Neutron?

The thing is, I can see the controls but not read the labels. I go the neutron over the Model D because it seemed more 'synthy'. The problem is 0 and will be for anything - that, as I can't see the labels, I'll have to memorise the controls and jacks! I sort of gave up on the Neutron and will likely return it.

But whatever I get, I've have to memorise what the controls and jacls are and I'm not sure I'm up to that.

Hands-on would be great. Not sure how that works in current situation. However, I can't find any local modular shops anyway. If anyone knows of any in the North East (that's North EAST, not just North :-) )of England please let me know, I don't mind travelling though, but would need to rrange transport.
I get it. So maybe modular and even semi modular are not really your thing - music or user interface. I might get crucified here for saying this, but do you have any experience with music software? Unlike hardware, computers, Mac and PC, come standard with lots of assistive tech features built right into the operating system, most for visual impairments. So, any software based synth coupled with a decent keyboard controller give you many options. You can enlarge screens, set type size and font, you can set your own color contrast settings and zoom in and out very easily whenever you need to. There are so many free demos out there you can shop around endlessly until you find something you like. So. The only hardware you would need here is a keyboard controller and plenty of music stores have those on hand to try out (once we can go back to stores). For example, I have some Arturia soft synths. They have many that replicate existing “classic” synths. Some even have virtual patch cables. Even without my Macs visual features, I can enlarge them and manipulate all the knobs and sliders, with my mouse or by assigning them to knobs on my keyboard controller. I love modular, but it simply can’t compete with software for accessibility. A computer can, for the most part, be any synth you want, even a modular. Unlike hardware, you have much more control on how it will appear. I’m thinking the software route is the best bet by far of giving you controls you can see and letting you get in to being musical at a low cost. What do you think?

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by fruitsnake » Tue May 26, 2020 10:19 pm

iantrader wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 10:24 am
deke wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 8:58 pm
I’ve been thinking about this. Along with having clear layouts you also have to deal with what we all suffer with - what do you want to do? As we all know the choices are endless. Many people start with semi mod and that’s what you are doing with the neutron, but it sounds like you don’t like it. I would listen to that voice in your head and return it. I’ve been looking at other semi mods and many have the same kind of layout. For example the Mother 32 knobs and labels are better laid out, though still small type, but the patch bay is way too cramped. I have had mine for a couple years and still get messed up with the labels. Lots of people complain about Make Noise panels, but you might actually like something like the 0-Coast. Weird fonts, but the various jacks are distributed with various controls in a logical flow. I am thinking you might like the SQ-1’as a sequencer. Simple controls, lights, and very playable. All this is pure conjecture. I think what would be best is hands on with all kinds of things to see if it is both playable and something you like. Any luck finding a local store or club?
That's very kind to think about it so much.

I know what I'd like to do but prolly not easy in a modular. I'd like it to make 'musical' decisions rather than random ones (maybe abnother thread :-)


Did I give the impressions I didn't like the Neutron?

The thing is, I can see the controls but not read the labels. I go the neutron over the Model D because it seemed more 'synthy'. The problem is 0 and will be for anything - that, as I can't see the labels, I'll have to memorise the controls and jacks! I sort of gave up on the Neutron and will likely return it.

But whatever I get, I've have to memorise what the controls and jacls are and I'm not sure I'm up to that.

Hands-on would be great. Not sure how that works in current situation. However, I can't find any local modular shops anyway. If anyone knows of any in the North East (that's North EAST, not just North :-) )of England please let me know, I don't mind travelling though, but would need to rrange transport.
I think someone already mentioned this, but the Ciat-Lonbarde instruments, while not euro, seem to fit the bill. They're very hands-on, playable instruments with logical layouts that don't even have labels, just color coding, and they're great for patching up an evolving soundscape that you can interact with in fun ways. Plus, you can interface them with euro pretty easily if you decide to go that route in the future.

There aren't even strict inputs or outputs on a lot of the Ciat stuff; functions will just sort of "interact." Also, you can patch in little conductive bits and do touch-patching (I use banana jack pins). You barely need to look at anything at all.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by obmuc » Tue May 26, 2020 11:03 pm

Arneb wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 3:17 am
In your experience, would Braille replacement panels help or are even the more ergonomic Eurorack panels too small for this?
I imagine it'd be tough to fit braille labeling on most modules unless they have a lot of space between jacks and knobs. Still, might be doable in some case.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Wed May 27, 2020 5:10 am

Well, software really was my thing :-)

The only hardware I have is a SY77 whuich I haven't used for years if anyone's injterested in it :-)

I have Native Instruments' Maschine (not a fan odf this type of controller, tho) and the keyboard (I can play keyboards :-) ) Komplete Ultimate and Arturia V Collection and Cubase Pro 10.


I can zoom in and out of Windiws and the browser with the mouse but none of these music programs respond in this way.

There's also a problem of contrast which affects many people with thsi disability. I really struggle to read the tetxt in many apps which have a dark background and dark tect on top. V Collection is particularly diff. Well, thay all are.

Also been trying VCV Rack.This DOES zoom - hhoray! - but it's still v. diff to read and follow the calbes (I know you can asjust these). Far easier to do what I want in VCV and software but there you go...

I was thinking hands on hardware would be easier and more accissible. But maybe not :-)

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Wed May 27, 2020 5:17 am

obmuc wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 11:03 pm
Arneb wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 3:17 am
In your experience, would Braille replacement panels help or are even the more ergonomic Eurorack panels too small for this?
I imagine it'd be tough to fit braille labeling on most modules unless they have a lot of space between jacks and knobs. Still, might be doable in some case.
I think only 1-2% of blind people read braille. I don't :-) But you're right, braille is quite large and I don't think it would be practical in any case for a modular system.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by KSS » Wed May 27, 2020 5:37 am

deke wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 9:08 pm
I might get crucified here for saying this, but do you have any experience with music software?
------ snip a LOT of *really* good points--------
I’m thinking the software route is the best bet by far of giving you controls you can see and letting you get in to being musical at a low cost. What do you think?
Much as I love the tangible nature of knob per function and the sound of true analog, those are pretty solid points, deke! Digital is only going to get better. Look how many euro modules are already little more than 'analog' interfaces to individual computers. It won't be long before something like VCV rack is identical in output to the modules represented on the screen. OS issues and tactility aside.

Tactility is achieved with a 'universal controller', of which many examples already exist. More and better versions sure to come with time.

No crucifixion. Well said. Solid points. Valid alternative. :tu:

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Wed May 27, 2020 6:57 am

fruitsnake wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 10:19 pm
I think someone already mentioned this, but the Ciat-Lonbarde instruments, while not euro, seem to fit the bill. They're very hands-on, playable instruments with logical layouts that don't even have labels, just color coding, and they're great for patching up an evolving soundscape that you can interact with in fun ways. Plus, you can interface them with euro pretty easily if you decide to go that route in the future.

There aren't even strict inputs or outputs on a lot of the Ciat stuff; functions will just sort of "interact." Also, you can patch in little conductive bits and do touch-patching (I use banana jack pins). You barely need to look at anything at all.

I think someone referred to a Peter B machine. Didn't understand the ref at the time.

Looks interesting :-) If a littlr rexpensive and not immediately available in the UK. Some YT videos, though, so will check 'em out, thanks

After a little research, it seems these are not a first choice for 'musical' based experiements, which is what I'd like to do.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by JM Midnight » Wed May 27, 2020 7:16 am

My longview is fine, but close up, I have problems. Even with a well-illuminated rack and a pair of reading glasses, I can't see some of the print on certain modules (especially BASTL and IME screens). I bought a pair of jeweler's goggles from Wal-Mart for under 20 bucks and that works wonders. Only downside is, I look like a mad scientist in them, but oh well.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Wed May 27, 2020 8:09 am

JM Midnight wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 7:16 am
My longview is fine, but close up, I have problems. Even with a well-illuminated rack and a pair of reading glasses, I can't see some of the print on certain modules (especially BASTL and IME screens). I bought a pair of jeweler's goggles from Wal-Mart for under 20 bucks and that works wonders. Only downside is, I look like a mad scientist in them, but oh well.
I love Mad Scientists! Part of the attraction of modular is surrounding yourself with complicated-looking equipment and cackling insanely to yourslef evey now and again. I'm looking for someone called Igor to help out.

Sounds like your probles is related to your lense, great that you have a solution. Magnifiers help me but my problem is with the macular which corrective lenses can't, er, correct.

Mad Scientists Rule!

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Wed May 27, 2020 3:04 pm

dragulasbruder wrote:
Sun May 24, 2020 4:59 pm
I know this is the Euro forum and everything but maybe trying out a different format or a hardpatched synth that's more geared towards experimental sounds might be more geared towards your needs?

Working off something like a Serge panel might be a little more legible and the static layout would be way easier to memorize. At a more reasonable price point, maybe a semi-modular synth like a Benjolin or one of Peter B's creations (which aren't labelled at all) might be a fun way to get some truly weird synthesis going on without having to deal with the form factor of Eurorack.

Edit: "Musical edge" isn't really the strong suit of the last two (guessing you mean equal-tempered tuning, harmony, etc). There are some cool standalones like Ants! and Kilpatrick Phenol that allow for modular patching on a fixed control outlay and might be better geared towards traditional tonal music.
I have thought about hardware synths but watching one of them play a 'tune' on YT doesn't have a lot of street cred :-)

That aside, they just don't seem to offer the same level of versatility - unless someone can put me right there.

I appreciate your input and some of the stuff you mention looks really interesting but not sure if it would be any better/easier than Euro. Investigation continures...

Yes. my origianl goal was a system that would self generate using 'musical ideas but the more I look into it the less possible this appears to do in modular format.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Wed May 27, 2020 3:28 pm

luketeaford wrote:
Sun May 24, 2020 5:05 pm
Welcome, Ian! I think I would recommend going slowly and using a relatively small subset of modules that don't require screens/modes of any kind. I would personally avoid designs that have a field of undifferentiated jacks like the Neutron or the Mother 32 etc (even though they're cool synths, they're not easy to play without looking)

I could play my Make Noise or Serge systems blindfolded without losing too much because I have multiple copies of the same modules and don't move things around often (huge advantage that I have already memorized the panels). The Serge stuff is aligned to a grid, but none of the modules have an identical layout and they are fairly spacious with sturdy knobs that can be touched without moving easily. For this reason, I would recommend Random Source Serge (probably specifically in the eurorack format). It is impossible to put those modules into a condition that can't be felt. I might add a notch of some kind to the knobs to indicate position.

I think the most difficult thing would be debugging why a patch isn't working which happens occasionally. Some modules have push buttons that set modes and the mode can also be set by patching. It is also fairly difficult for me to figure out the entire patch by feel, so as the patch grows it becomes a little harder to change.

Good luck with your journey!

Thank you!

The Sege stuff look awesome but expensive from where I'm sitting and also probably not the first choise for 'music' based output.

Yes, I think analogue one-control-per-function is the way to gpo.

Do you have visual probs or did you just try working out the cable routing by touch?

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Wed May 27, 2020 3:34 pm

thispoison wrote:
Sun May 24, 2020 5:20 pm
How familiar were you with your 100M?

If it was a set-up you understood well, perhaps the Behringer System 100 might fit your needs?

Different scale of course, but might work?
It wads a long time ago :-)

However, just my (probably unfounded) opinion but I tend to think the Roland sound is a bit thin. may need my ears syringing! :-) I've had a few Roland synths, too.

So not inclined to explore the Behringer or the Roland 500 . There is a nostalgic pull, however, but I hope I can resist :-)

That's just my thoughts. I know a guy with a 500 and he loves it. of course, I haven't heard one in the flesh so my impressions from early synths and the 100M may be off now.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Wed May 27, 2020 3:41 pm

onthebandwagon wrote:
Sun May 24, 2020 5:52 pm
Could you print out an enlarged or augmented version of the front panel of the neutron? Not the most elegant solution but it might be helpful...
IAlas, bigger (at least in my case) does not mean easier to read. Strange but true :-)

I did think about creating a doc (which a vocie would read) which would detail the controls but in the end it comes down to memorising everything, I think.

The Neutron is not the easiest to memorise so amybe I started with a poor choice. I will probably retun it while I contemplate my options.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Wed May 27, 2020 3:43 pm

KSS wrote:
Sun May 24, 2020 6:13 pm
Stevie Wonder made good use of a 2600.
I do believe someone programmed it for him :-)

Am taking your other comments on board, thank you, and looking at option.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by KSS » Wed May 27, 2020 4:11 pm

iantrader wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 3:43 pm
KSS wrote:
Sun May 24, 2020 6:13 pm
Stevie Wonder made good use of a 2600.
I do believe someone programmed it for him :-)

Maybe-Probably-actually Yes. For the TONTO sessions. He was just learning synths -at all- at that point.

But he can -or could- handle a 2600 by himself a short time later. TONTO has a couple 'embedded' 2600's.

I've watched him learn a new synth more than once. And seen him use his 2600.

More to the point is that, as others have said, having a fixed configuration goes a long way into being able to play something "with your eyes closed."

The 2600 is especially amenable to this as its layout is both regular and distinctive. The missing horizontal slider of VCO1 is identifying, as are the 4 jacks of VCO2 compared to the VCOs with only two jacks on either side. The gap in the vertical sliders of the VCF, and the LFO switches of the VCOs.
All these tactile clues -combined with the adequate space between controls- make using a 2600 quite a different prospect than many other synths. I can close my eyes and lay my hand across the several sliders of a 2600 'module' and instantly discern far more than the same attempt on a synth with knobs.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by KSS » Wed May 27, 2020 4:28 pm

iantrader wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 3:04 pm
Yes. my origianl goal was a system that would self generate using 'musical ideas but the more I look into it the less possible this appears to do in modular format.
Had to go back and read your first post, and then skim your replies to see a couple versions of this thought. And I don't understand.

Because there is a whole genre of modular artists who use their synth to make "musical decisions", and to make "musical experiments" and to self-generate using musical ideas. From aleatoric noodles to rigidly structured composition.

Please help me understand what aspects of these you're feeling makes modular unsuitable?

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by keef321 » Wed May 27, 2020 4:58 pm

I blind performer called Darkside has recently done a live set using Erica Synths modules. From my understanding Erica Synths even designed one of their sequencers around some of darksides requirements.

Erica Synths seem like a friendly bunch so perhaps contact them. I think their Black Series modules may work well for you, as they are designed to be hands on, and less menu driven.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by iantrader » Wed May 27, 2020 5:28 pm

KSS wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 4:28 pm
iantrader wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 3:04 pm
Yes. my origianl goal was a system that would self generate using 'musical ideas but the more I look into it the less possible this appears to do in modular format.
Had to go back and read your first post, and then skim your replies to see a couple versions of this thought. And I don't understand.

Because there is a whole genre of modular artists who use their synth to make "musical decisions", and to make "musical experiments" and to self-generate using musical ideas. From aleatoric noodles to rigidly structured composition.

Please help me understand what aspects of these you're feeling makes modular unsuitable?
For example, a system which gave a probability that a certain chord would follow another. Eg, in the key of C, let's say the first chord is a C, then there might be a 60% probability that the next chord would be a G, 60% it might be an F and a 40% chance it might be Am. Let's say it was Am. Then the chances might be 30% Dm, 30% G, 30% F and 10% C. And so on.

Some modules do have a probability function but thats eems to eb whether or not a particular note will be generated, not based on the current chord.

Hope that explains it :-)

In VCV Rack there's a Markov Sequencer which can do that sort of thing. Have I missed something in hardware modules?

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by deke » Wed May 27, 2020 9:18 pm

Wow so many posts. It’s a drag Arturia does not respond to the Windows accessibility features. It SHOULD. I suppose we could threaten to sue them. I’m half joking, but it is often the only thing that will impact change. Few software companies or developers realize that addressing accessibility early is the way to go, and the costs go up exponentially when they have to retrofit for accessibility, and the solutions are rarely ideal.

Modular has a big learning curve. Add the personal “cost” of finding modules you can work with and/or modifying them is, as the programmers like to say, non trivial. You want to get into things as easily as possible and that is completely understandable. Lots of good suggestions here, but only you will be able to decide what works for you. Don’t give up and keep letting us know what works or doesn’t!
Last edited by deke on Wed May 27, 2020 9:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by deke » Wed May 27, 2020 9:26 pm

KSS wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 5:37 am
deke wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 9:08 pm
I might get crucified here for saying this, but do you have any experience with music software?
------ snip a LOT of *really* good points--------
I’m thinking the software route is the best bet by far of giving you controls you can see and letting you get in to being musical at a low cost. What do you think?
Much as I love the tangible nature of knob per function and the sound of true analog, those are pretty solid points, deke! Digital is only going to get better. Look how many euro modules are already little more than 'analog' interfaces to individual computers. It won't be long before something like VCV rack is identical in output to the modules represented on the screen. OS issues and tactility aside.

Tactility is achieved with a 'universal controller', of which many examples already exist. More and better versions sure to come with time.

No crucifixion. Well said. Solid points. Valid alternative. :tu:
Whew! :-) I wasn’t really worried, but you never know. People outside music seem to forget the point of a computer was to make it any other machine you want. It also can be an accessible machine for people with any kind of disability. Years and years ago I worked with people and assistive technology. The computer opened so many opportunities. Work, school, communication, online friends and much more. It would be great if some module makers thought about accessibility, but it won’t be easy. The post about Erica Synths was hopeful. The OP should contact them. I’ve had a few very please t interactions with them and have a Black Wavetable VCO. Not sure how easy that would be to use though...

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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by 3hands » Wed May 27, 2020 9:40 pm

This is amazing! Thanks for sharing!
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Re: Modular for the visually impaired

Post by moremagic » Wed May 27, 2020 10:36 pm

KSS wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 4:11 pm
The 2600 is especially amenable to this as its layout is both regular and distinctive. The missing horizontal slider of VCO1 is identifying, as are the 4 jacks of VCO2 compared to the VCOs with only two jacks on either side. The gap in the vertical sliders of the VCF, and the LFO switches of the VCOs.
All these tactile clues -combined with the adequate space between controls- make using a 2600 quite a different prospect than many other synths. I can close my eyes and lay my hand across the several sliders of a 2600 'module' and instantly discern far more than the same attempt on a synth with knobs.
id disagree here to a degree. euro being made by so many makers allows every module to have a distinct feel.
the real benefit to the 2600 over modular, as i can figure, is the normaling. folowing cables is hard enough when i can look at them! 😅

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