What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

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bayrumblues
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What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by bayrumblues » Thu Jun 18, 2020 6:28 am

I borrowed a "Tube VCA" from a friend to see if I like it before possibly buying one.

The tube looks like some little glued on decoration, and as far as I can tell there is nothing "tube-like" about the VCA. And the power requirements are LOWER than my Intellijel 1u dual VCA module.

I guess my question is, is this line of products just for suckers? Am I missing something? The VCA sounds good, but the seemingly fake tube is just confusing/ slightly aggravating. Any experience with the other modules in the line? Are they the same deal?

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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by synonymist » Thu Jun 18, 2020 7:04 am

bayrumblues wrote:
Thu Jun 18, 2020 6:28 am
I borrowed a "Tube VCA" from a friend to see if I like it before possibly buying one.

The tube looks like some little glued on decoration, and as far as I can tell there is nothing "tube-like" about the VCA. And the power requirements are LOWER than my Intellijel 1u dual VCA module.

I guess my question is, is this line of products just for suckers? Am I missing something? The VCA sounds good, but the seemingly fake tube is just confusing/ slightly aggravating. Any experience with the other modules in the line? Are they the same deal?
Hello. Do you know much about vacuum tubes? I collect vintage tubes.

What is "seemingly fake" about the tubes in that module? Likely they are modern production, but even then their specs would be similar to those of vintage production, whose datasheets can be used to gauge the modern ones.

You don't say it, but your inference is that since the module is drawing so little power, it cannot possibly be giving real voltage to the tubes' plates or heaters. Something like that. True?

Although Erica Synths refers to these tubes as "miniature", in fact they are subminiature. Many subminiature tube types use nearly one tenth the power of the 12 volt receiving types that are most well-known today:

Wikipedia: List of vacuum tubes: 1.25 volt filament subminiature tubes

"All have 1.25 volt DC filaments and directly heated cathodes. Some specify which end of the filament is to be powered by the positive side of the filament power supply (usually a battery)."

Although I don't know which particular types Erica Synths uses in its Fusion VCA module, I accept that since they are subminiature types they could be properly powered by the module.

Subjectively, if you happen to not like the sound of subminiature tubes in audio applications, that's your prerogative. But know that designers have been using them for years with success. Effectrode pedals come to mind. There are others.

Erica Synths are neither fools nor charlatans. They know and love what they are doing, and they have a solid track record of bringing excellent eurorack modules to market. By that measure their Fusion series is no exception.

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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by bayrumblues » Thu Jun 18, 2020 7:22 am

I most certainly do NOT know much about tubes.

And yeah, I assumed since the tube was so small, and had a yellow LED next to it to give the illusion of glowing, and the incredibly low power draw that the tube was decorative.

No offence intended. Reading back my post certainly sounds a bit too harsh!

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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by synonymist » Thu Jun 18, 2020 7:37 am

bayrumblues wrote:
Thu Jun 18, 2020 7:22 am
I most certainly do NOT know much about tubes.

And yeah, I assumed since the tube was so small, and had a yellow LED next to it to give the illusion of glowing, and the incredibly low power draw that the tube was decorative.

No offence intended. Reading back my post certainly sounds a bit too harsh!
Okay, cool. :)

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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by bayrumblues » Thu Jun 18, 2020 7:43 am

Would you say there is a big difference in sound/ behavior between these very low voltage tubes vs. high voltage tubes? Just curious on your take.

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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by synonymist » Thu Jun 18, 2020 8:40 am

bayrumblues wrote:
Thu Jun 18, 2020 7:43 am
Would you say there is a big difference in sound/ behavior between these very low voltage tubes vs. high voltage tubes? Just curious on your take.
My guess is that there is a noticeable, characteristic difference. That is, if in a given audio circuit a given preamp tube slot could accept either tube type, an A/B comparison of the same program played through both setups would reveal that difference.

Although I don't have personal experience with subminiature tubes in audio (maybe a little, but see? I can't even recall what, if so), I can report on a similar comparison of power tube types in a situation just like what I described above:

6V6GT (a 6 volt octal tube) used in a circuit designed for that type has a characteristic sound and behavior. If, with a properly designed pinout adaptor, you replace a 6V6GT with a 6AQ5 / EL90 (a 6 volt miniature tube) you can hear and feel the characteristic difference between the two types used in that application. Generalizing, relative to each other they sound and feel as they look. Big, warm, slow vs. tight, midrange-y, quick.

Speaking of that particular type substitution, that's a great way to try uncommon tube varieties (make, model, variant) in common circuits. In other words, if you ever wondered how a Brimar 6AQ5 would sound powering a blackface Fender Champ, now you can find out.

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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by vizor81 » Thu Jun 18, 2020 8:47 am

Wait, there is a yellow LED to make the tube look like it is glowing?

Edit:
Can someone recommend „Fusion“ demos starting with a clean simple sound which is then gradually wetted by the tube?
So far, most demos are already very overloaded/noisy and it is difficult to grasp the character of the individual modules. Or is that craziness its only domain? ...I‘m not judging...

As a well-known synth enthusiast recently said (while assembling his monster-eurorack): it is more difficult to get a module behave calm and clean, while it is easier to make it go wild... (I‘m paraphrasing).

Such demos become more important nowadays since it is not anymore possible to just walk into your nearest modular shop and give it a try.

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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by blaythe.steuer » Thu Jun 18, 2020 9:11 am

yeaaaah it’s weird to me that they use an LED to make the tubes look like they’re glowing

but also i’m not so sure a tube needs to be glowing to be doing stuff if they’re subminiature. i do know my 6505 tube amp need to be glowing for it to sound badass though haha

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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by NoLegs » Thu Jun 18, 2020 10:30 am

It’s just a visual aesthetic thing. Personally I enjoy it. You can also swap the LED’s out for different colors.

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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by NoLegs » Thu Jun 18, 2020 10:34 am

vizor81 wrote:
Thu Jun 18, 2020 8:47 am
Wait, there is a yellow LED to make the tube look like it is glowing?

Edit:
Can someone recommend „Fusion“ demos starting with a clean simple sound which is then gradually wetted by the tube?
So far, most demos are already very overloaded/noisy and it is difficult to grasp the character of the individual modules. Or is that craziness its only domain? ...I‘m not judging...

As a well-known synth enthusiast recently said (while assembling his monster-eurorack): it is more difficult to get a module behave calm and clean, while it is easier to make it go wild... (I‘m paraphrasing).

Such demos become more important nowadays since it is not anymore possible to just walk into your nearest modular shop and give it a try.
Here’s one I did awhile back. I’m using a Noise Eng Sinc Iter into the audio input of the Fusion VCO1 to replace the onboard digital oscillator and show the VCO1 tracking an external signal with both tube suboscillators. I don’t have any of the “newer” (i.e. released in the last year or so) Fusion modules in this video. It goes from a clean signal with some reverb to cranking each of the Fusion modules from 0% to 100% and different combinations. I believe I had the Fusion VCO1, VCA2, VCF2, Mixer 3, Ring Mod v2 and Fusion Delay/Flanger/Vintage Ensemble.

[bbvideo] [/bbvideo]

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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by vizor81 » Thu Jun 18, 2020 6:24 pm

NoLegs wrote:
Thu Jun 18, 2020 10:34 am
Here’s one I did awhile back.
Thanks and well done!

Impressive youtube content btw.

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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by dksynth » Thu Jun 18, 2020 6:30 pm

lighting up low power tubes with LEDs is relatvely common, or at least I have seen it done a couple times. (Electribes?)

people expect tubes to glow.
people like glowy tubes.
people like tube sound.
people ESPECIALLY like tube sound plus glowy tubes.

also

glowy tubes help people think that the sound is the tubes.

:)

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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by NoLegs » Fri Jun 19, 2020 9:32 am

vizor81 wrote:
Thu Jun 18, 2020 6:24 pm
NoLegs wrote:
Thu Jun 18, 2020 10:34 am
Here’s one I did awhile back.
Thanks and well done!

Impressive youtube content btw.
Thank you!

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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by apestate » Sat Jun 20, 2020 6:24 pm

The deal is, I really want to try them. Especially the flanger or the one with the lightning inside.
Too bad I find them too big/feature inefficient for that price...
One day perhaps...

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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by metasonix » Sat Jun 20, 2020 6:39 pm

If you like, I will tell you (again) about the subminiature pentodes Erica Synths and L-1 uses in their VCA modules.

They are NOT used in Metasonix products because they are very low gain and of limited value. Yes the heaters draw very little current, the tubes were made for use in portable battery-powered radios; but there is a cost.

And btw I've got a box of about 400 1J24B pentodes that were contemplated for used in a product--if someone wants to buy them all, make me a (sane and reasonable) offer.

Oops--radiomuseum.org crashed again. Here is the link anyway.
https://www.radiomuseum.org/tubes/tube_1j24b.html

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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by transistorresistor » Sat Jun 20, 2020 9:36 pm

No knock on Erica or anyone else, but generally for any manufacturer that is using low voltage tubes for audio I would generally comment: this topic is a black hole and Im remiss to open my mouth but my background is in tube design and putting tubes in modular for the most part is closer to a branding choice than it is farther away from it. For guys that are after "tube sound" whatever you imagine that to be, it would be much better achieved in modular with a properly biased FET circuit. The amplifier in *any* audio circuit is *everything* and if you cant have a totally optimized circuit why bother. I know people will bite my head off because its an unpopular opinion and everyone loves a vacuum tube but if these submini tubes were great for audio they'd be used everywhere and they just arent. You dont even see submini pentodes used as triodes which is my first step in trying to make a lame tube sound less lame. I would much rather tune and optimize a FET circuit and design it the way I want it to sound than be stuck w the limitations of what a low voltage tube often brings to the table because I wanted something glowing in my module. Yes, Im sure you can make them sound ok and for sure they are nonlinear as hell which is a huge attraction however you could do the same just better using FETs and vactrols. It would also very likely be easier to bias a JFET to get that "tube sponginess" than using a low voltage tube that might inherently sound stiff or dull or any other variance of the sound you dont want, the right device is pretty critical. I run a small pro audio design firm and I can tell you without hesitation that if we elected to put a tube into any 12v circuit wo a multiplier circuit as a constraint, it would be entirely from a marketing motivation, the audio would fall where it fell and we'd work backwards trying to make it sound cool to taste. Thats not usually the approach you want to take with audio circuits. Anyway, to speak generally its mostly marketing but I wont argue to convince you. You can for sure use these things for cool stuff but the r&d would surprise you.

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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by NoLegs » Sat Jun 20, 2020 10:25 pm

Personally, I don't buy the fusion modules (or any module) solely for the look (be it tubes or some other knick knack). I first and foremost evaluate based off of sound (if it's something in the audio signal chain and not a CV module), then secondly off of its feature set/size/price, and lastly I look at aesthetics and design.

The Erica Fusion modules I purchased solely based off of the audio demo's I listened to. The aesthetics are fun and I enjoy looking at them, but held virtually zero influence over my purchase decision. I haven't been disappointed with any of them and don't regret purchasing and they've lasted in my case longer than most modules I've purchased (barring if and when a new version came out and I replaced the old version).

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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by blaythe.steuer » Sat Jun 20, 2020 11:16 pm

What would you guys say is the archetype of module most affected by a tube in it? VCA is my guess but I could see it really affecting a filter

to be honest i don’t really know what tubes ACTUALLY do in a circuit besides make my 6505 sound badass lmao


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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by transistorresistor » Sun Jun 21, 2020 1:56 am

a true tube based oscillator most probably is driving a transformer to make that sound. just some food for thought.

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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by apestate » Sun Jun 21, 2020 3:52 am

transistorresistor wrote:
Sat Jun 20, 2020 9:36 pm
For guys that are after "tube sound" whatever you imagine that to be, it would be much better achieved in modular with a properly biased FET circuit. .
Any modules with FET circuits you recommend checking out?

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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by transistorresistor » Sun Jun 21, 2020 4:30 am

apestate wrote:
Sun Jun 21, 2020 3:52 am
transistorresistor wrote:
Sat Jun 20, 2020 9:36 pm
For guys that are after "tube sound" whatever you imagine that to be, it would be much better achieved in modular with a properly biased FET circuit. .
Any modules with FET circuits you recommend checking out?
no sorry, Ive been around this stuff professionally my whole life but have only recently owned a modular synth in the last few months, my background overlaps designing and manufacturing all the building blocks that comprise a recording console as well as guitar amps, hifi and microphones. Odds are fair that you probably might have some modules that use FETs, certainly Doepfer designs w them and Buchla as well, first minimoog oscillator used FETs and they are present in a Synthi for sure in the filter but its a very common type of transistor or at least was. To be clear, FETs dont sound like tube amplifiers by nature, if anything, some of the fastest, stiffest sounding discrete opamps utilize JFETS. The point is that the way that a typical vacuum tube circuit was designed in the early 60's, you can use a very similar type of design when using FETs, so if your goal was to have a "tube sounding" circuit, again, whatever that means, using 12v and with the concerns of current draw on a third party power supply, i would personally much rather bias up a crude FET amp to feel spongey like a tube circuit can as opposed to use whatever surplus sub mini pentode I could find 10,000 of to sort through to find 500 that are good enough for production to create a product that has a limited production span because of availability of the tube and then build the whole thing around a tube that probably isnt all that great and try to shoe horn a design around it so it sounds half cool just so I can have a tube product. for sure you can design something cool w tubes but for the format we are discussing it makes so much more sense to do it solid state and there are plenty of ways to skin a cat. Most FET circuits are exactly the opposite of what Im describing, but if I was tasked to design a "tube like" VCA for modular I would not bother w a low voltage tube and start out w a fet or mosfet design.

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Re: What's the deal with these Erica's Synth "Fusion" Modules?

Post by nios » Sun Jun 21, 2020 4:40 am

The mini pentode ones they use in that VCA actually are real low-power tubes, they have different characteristics from what you'd expect. As for the LEDs, yeah it's a little funky but I think the pentodes just won't glow normally, and neither will the double triodes they otherwise seem to use under normal conditions - so it's just to make them look cooler if you wanted. I guess putting a couple-cents LED in there isn't really doing any harm, as they do highlight how unusually aesthetic those tubes are in that they fit inside modules instead of awkwardly sticking a couple inches out.

This line of modules has evolved a bit over the past few years - the original offerings were more like something you'd have expected of this kind of thing in that they required a separate power supply for the tube heater. Later on they managed to integrate powering the tube into the module's power so you no longer needed the heater, making them a bit more of gashogs but still not super high; the original fusion VCO with two tubes requires about 400mA total (200 +/-).

Finally, there seems to be some brand new modules using doubles of those little pentodes (a new filter and a ring mod), which can be heard here, . Considering that VCO is 3340 based it definitely is being augmented by tube-ness through this system, but still I'd really like to hear all these individually, especially any pentode vs twin triode comparisons.

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