The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

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The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by mdoudoroff » Sun Oct 18, 2020 11:54 am

(what follows is an unsolicited op-ed)

Eurorack modular producers fall on a spectrum between design-driven and customer-driven. Design-driven producers mainly pursue their own, opinionated design philosophies and interests, and tend to ship finished products. Customer-driven producers apply their general technological expertise to what they hear from customers, and are sometimes prone to offer open-ended products with final hardware but evolving software, or they otherwise intentionally build in leeway for software tweaks based upon market feedback. Producers like Make Noise and Verbos are more at the design-driven end, while Expert Sleepers, Happy Nerding, or maybe Ladik are perhaps toward the other. A company like Noise Engineering might be somewhere around the middle, at least part of the time. There are probably far more design-driven producers than customer-driven ones, but the latter can attract a lot of attention.

Except for non-shipping prototypes, I’m talking about modules with microcontrollers and updatable firmware. The unthinking presume that—like a personal computer—the sky is the limit with software updates to such modules, so anything goes, because: WHY NOT? The notion that software updates are the default solution to obstacles in a modular synthesizer—rather than creative patching, embracing and exploiting limitations, or even buying another module (or three, and a new case, if necessary)—is what I have begun calling The Disting Effect.

The Disting Effect can get nakedly egregious, such as the feature request on the Five12 forum for the Vector to reproduce Pamela’s New Workout functions on the Vector’s jack expander. Because, WHY NOT? The Vector is, after all, a “work-in-progress” product, and customer feature requests are solicited. Another egregious example (from MW) was a spasm of outrage over the revelation that XAOC’s Odessa doesn’t have easily-updatable firmware so that new features could be added “in the future”.

For one thing, microcontroller-based modules are not all equal. A few—the Disting EX being the purest and most prominent current example—are specifically conceived to be extended through software updates over many years. The open ended-ness of Disting EX is a remarkable thing, but it is uncommon in embedded systems. Indeed, the Disting EX stretches the idea of an embedded system nearly into platform territory. (If these terms are unfamiliar, don’t worry about it and read on.)

In constrast to the Disting EX, most Eurorack modules with microcontrollers are already pretty tapped out, with little available overhead in processing or memory beyond what was allocated for the module’s purpose. Most modules are designed to do specific things, and their physical parts were chosen accordingly, hopefully employing good business acumen. But there are many other potential reasons WHY NOT, and they will vary somewhat depending on where the producer falls along the aforementioned spectrum.

Here’s a subtler example, which I will recycle from a recent discussion on another message board:

A fan of the Make Noise Tempi found themselves wishing they could add their own gate sequence patterns to Tempi, in addition to the 50% duty cycle clocks that Tempi now produces. How nice if you could enter your own pattern of gates and rests, and have that pattern live inside Tempi alongside the clocks, enjoying the same interesting Tempi clocking features?

Sounds great! Indeed, WHY NOT? I don’t represent Make Noise, but I can conjecture more than a few reasons:
  1. Tempi is a clock module, not a gate sequencer. Adding gate sequencer functionality alters, dilutes, and confuses the identity of Tempi as a product.
  2. Tempi is a finished product. It’s done. It does what it was designed to do. Make Noise has moved on to new products.
  3. Various gate sequencers already exist that can be clocked by Tempi, and Make Noise is not interested in adding new functionality that is readily available elsewhere, or “me too”-ing features from others’ modules
  4. A new mode for step entry is proposed, but there’s no physical interface, whatsoever, to support that mode (perhaps a good enough reason on its own)…
  5. … so it would have to be a hidden mode, relying on some obscure button combinations; that has to be documented, and it takes an already dauntingly opaque module and makes it more so, potentially driving away potential customers
  6. … and existing customers would inevitably enter that mode by accident and screw up their performance, and now they’re angry customers
  7. In addition to being a standalone product, Tempi is a component of the Black & Gold Shared System, so all these reservations would also apply in their unique way to that product
  8. Moreover, the idea isn’t actually thought through: how is the new mode entered? How is it exited? How you do clear a sequence or return the channel to regular operation? Indeed, what about reset—how does that work? What about gate length? (After all, there’s only one mod jack which is arguably inadequate for the Tempi’s existing functionality.)
  9. There may actually not be sufficient memory or processing available in the Tempi hardware to add all this stuff once it’s sorted.
  10. As a business proposition, what is the up-side? Will Tempi sales double because of this new feature? Probably not. So it becomes a question of shifting away resources to gratify a minority of customers, while potentially introducing new bugs, adding new confusion about an already-confusing product, handling a spike of customer service problems with people having trouble updating their firmware, and generally encouraging the problematic notion that customers are entitled to endless firmware updates to add unplanned features to modules that happen to have firmware! Doubling sales of Tempi might not be enough to justify the effort.
So, if you think you have an important need from an existing module’s design, or glimpse a valuable creative opportunity that the current product has missed, you might be onto something. However, maybe try to think it through a bit before excitedly running off to engage other people.
  1. What would it actually do, what would it NOT do (Achilles’ heel), and how would it actually work within what’s already there (both hardware and software)—you don’t have to have all the answers, but if you cannot clearly express yourself, you’re just going to waste other people’s and wind up in the weeds
  2. Consider whether the need you’ve identified can already be met through patching other common modules—if so, then your case is tenuous, at best; if the patching workaround would require a dauntingly large number of modules, then your case might be strong
  3. Consider whether the functionality would really benefit the customer base at large, or whether it’s really just a convenience for you—a few module designers may be into adding niche functionality to their products, but the vast majority are clearly not
  4. Related: consider whether the functionality and the changes it implies would make the product stronger and better at its core purpose, or whether it would dilute the product and its identity—you can always try to patch an apple like an orange and work with the results, but don’t make demands that an apple actually become an orange without an exceptionally compelling reason
  5. Consider whether the functionality and the changes it implies would make learning and using the module more challenging: new things to learn and remember, additional steps to navigate, and potential traps (hidden modes to get into by accident and not know how to get out of)—changes have the potential to actually hurt current and future customers more than help them, all product features come with a price of some sort, and it adds up fast
  6. Don’t act entitled—sapping the joy that module producers get from what they do will not get you more of what you want
  7. If you’re a relative neophyte to modular synthesis, recognize that you probably lack the knowledge and perspective to be proposing compelling new product features—focus on learning more patching techniques and exploiting the limitations of your system, rather than seeking software solutions to the first obstacle your id encounters

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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by Sleepfc » Sun Oct 18, 2020 12:37 pm

I love this thread

A lot of people become so demanding with their modules functions. I see it all the time with stuff like PNW. People that don’t know how programming works are asking for nearly impossible requests and then get angry that their visions of the product isn’t up to their expectation. Those kind of people need to get creative and invest in more modules to complete the function they’re after. That is what eurorack is all about right? Experimenting and putting together systems piece by piece right? The disting effect has created too many all-in-one type of people for sure

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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by starthief » Sun Oct 18, 2020 3:05 pm

Agreed with all of this.

Eurorack is a bit unusual because there are so many different manufacturers with different design philosophies and aesthetics, and we Frankenstein them all together to suit our own purposes. I understand why some people prefer single-manufacturer small cases.

Musical instruments are not just tools to create art, but also an art in themselves. The most beloved instruments in synth history were driven by the genius or quirks of their designers, and they have limitations (and occasional frustrations) which are also their strengths. They have focus.

Often, in trying to understand the designers' vision and make the most of it for my own music, I learn from the process and make all kinds of discoveries that I wouldn't have if they had just handed me whatever I asked for. Other times, the relationship just doesn't work out, and I move on (but with respect for what the instrument builder).

...

Overall, I've found that I generally prefer more design-driven, purpose-built, focused modules. I recently replaced my Disting EX with a Mystic Circuits Ana and a Blinds, for instance. I have been avoiding third-party alternate firmware because I feel like it breaks that focus.

Teletype I suppose is an exception of sorts. Its development is community-driven and of course what it actually does is programmed by the user -- but it does have an area of specialization and certainly some design limitations; it focuses on sequencing and sequence-related processing.

FX Aid too, while it certainly has many user-driven aspects, is always an FX unit (as opposed to turning into a clock divider or quantizer or envelope generator) and there's a general consistency between controls and behavior in different algorithms.
Last edited by starthief on Sun Oct 18, 2020 4:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by luketeaford » Sun Oct 18, 2020 3:35 pm

I agree with you (except that Tempi can already be patched as a 5 channel gate sequencer-- I do it all the time and it's awesome).

I am not a manufacturer, but it would probably interest me somewhat to know what people assume MIGHT be possible in a firmware update as a "sky's the limit" sort of thing whether or not that's actually feasible to implement is another concern for the reasons you outline!

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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by scragz » Sun Oct 18, 2020 3:35 pm

starthief wrote:
Sun Oct 18, 2020 3:05 pm
FX Aid too, while it certainly has many user-driven aspects, is always an FX unit (as opposed to turning into a clock divider or quantizer or envelope generator) and there's a general consistency between controls and behavior in different algorithms.
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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by mdoudoroff » Sun Oct 18, 2020 4:02 pm

starthief wrote:Eurorack is a bit unusual because there are so many different manufactures with different design philosophies and aesthetics, and we Frankenstein them all together to suit our own purposes. I understand why some people prefer single-manufacturer small cases.
Some people prefer single-designer (or at least single-designer-dominated) synths—not always small—but that can also lead into ridiculousness of its own. ;)

Size is an interesting topic unto itself. I understand it is Eurorack that paved the way to smaller size, relative-affordability, and a large ecosystem of producers. Eurorack already is the miniaturized modular synthesizer, and a lot of what it has become is due to SMD and sophisticated off-the-shelf microcontrollers. Since small—or even too small—is still not small enough for everyone, Eurorack begat 2hp and Erica Pico, and a significant downward pressure on module size in general, miniaturizing the already-miniaturized. That in turn begat modules, devices, and modular systems that rely on goddamn jumper cables, because even 3.5mm jacks are too big for some. (Any of these things could’ve been done without Eurorack, but Eurorack created the market.)

All this firmware business is also market transformation. Disting really has turned out to be a hugely influential, game-changing product. MI’s open source firmware has been too. (I have a suspicion that the best MI Clouds yet is the one from 1979 for Buchla, and it’s anything but miniaturized.) Hybrid modular with Virtual Rack et al is another transformation. It’s all quite fascinating.
luketeaford wrote:I agree with you (except that Tempi can already be patched as a 5 channel gate sequencer-- I do it all the time and it's awesome).
I get it, and it’s a great way to use Tempi, but clearly not what the example is about.
luketeaford wrote:I am not a manufacturer, but it would probably interest me somewhat to know what people assume MIGHT be possible in a firmware update as a "sky's the limit" sort of thing whether or not that's actually feasible to implement is another concern for the reasons you outline!
It’s a strategy. That seems to be exactly how Jim at Five12 is approaching Vector feature requests. Os seems to soak up all kinds of ideas from customers, some of them materializing in product form, years later. Igorr is on a DSP tear, cranking out algorithm requests and building a formidable library of effects—makes me quite curious where he’s going with that, long term. Tony Rolando or William Mathewson? Probably less interested.

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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by Arneb » Sun Oct 18, 2020 4:13 pm

scragz wrote:
Sun Oct 18, 2020 3:35 pm
starthief wrote:
Sun Oct 18, 2020 3:05 pm
FX Aid too, while it certainly has many user-driven aspects, is always an FX unit (as opposed to turning into a clock divider or quantizer or envelope generator) and there's a general consistency between controls and behavior in different algorithms.
Don't give igor any more ideas.
A clock divider is a subharmonics generator is an effect.

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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by luketeaford » Sun Oct 18, 2020 4:19 pm

mdoudoroff wrote:
Sun Oct 18, 2020 4:02 pm
luketeaford wrote:I agree with you (except that Tempi can already be patched as a 5 channel gate sequencer-- I do it all the time and it's awesome).
I get it, and it’s a great way to use Tempi, but clearly not what the example is about.
luketeaford wrote:I am not a manufacturer, but it would probably interest me somewhat to know what people assume MIGHT be possible in a firmware update as a "sky's the limit" sort of thing whether or not that's actually feasible to implement is another concern for the reasons you outline!
It’s a strategy. That seems to be exactly how Jim at Five12 is approaching Vector feature requests. Os seems to soak up all kinds of ideas from customers, some of them materializing in product form, years later. Igorr is on a DSP tear, cranking out algorithm requests and building a formidable library of effects—makes me quite curious where he’s going with that, long term. Tony Rolando or William Mathewson? Probably less interested.
Oh for sure-- I am merely calling out that there is already a feature that has the necessary user inputs and can be used for other things, so to add a "gate sequencer" mode to that would be unnecessary even if it were possible and wouldn't interfere with the ergonomics.

I also wanted to mention that your design driven distinction is a good one. It makes sense that some manufacturers are geared toward larger, perhaps self-contained systems and therefore the input of only some players/designers is needed.

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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by cptnal » Sun Oct 18, 2020 4:34 pm

A lot of nails hit on the head. I've been shying away from updates and alternate firmwares because of "diluting the core purpose". I want to patch, not memorise button combos and hidden modes. Fine if you want to go that way, but the sense of entitlement in some of the requests grates...
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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by jebusrice » Sun Oct 18, 2020 6:22 pm

I've been on the modular journey for about 6 months. Have found the majority of people to be helpful, interested types that don't judge me for not knowing something that might seem obvious to other more experienced hands. As a new user, I *love* my Disting EX.

I like the swiss army knife approach, it's helped teach me where the gaps are in my case and have led to long investigations and lists of modules to compare, watching videos and reading posts here. I have a shopping list of 13 modules right now where each and every one of those choices have started with me piecing together a patch with the disting as one of the parts.

So I love mine, I'll probably end up owning several. I'm also really sorry to hear of "the disting effect". It seems unfair to Expert Sleepers that their module represents for you the unreasonable expectations of what sounds like a minority of "entitled" people, when distings are clearly the result of the efforts of one man who appears to work his socks off.

At the end of the day, one of the choices available is to install the firmware available. If you feel it's not going to do what you want then you don't have to install it.

Lastly - I've added a couple of suggestions on the disting ex feature request thread. I don't expect anything to happen as a result - I was just "taking part". I'm happy for whatever to happen, there are bound to be better suggestions than mine!

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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by virtualpt » Mon Oct 19, 2020 7:19 am

starthief wrote:
Sun Oct 18, 2020 3:05 pm
Overall, I've found that I generally prefer more design-driven, purpose-built, focused modules. I recently replaced my Disting EX with a Mystic Circuits Ana and a Blinds, for instance.
Agreed. I'm just about to get rid of my Disting EX. I find that the menu diving & having to remember what the controls/IO do doesn't suit my flow, so I end up never using it. I much prefer focussed modules.

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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by Foghorn » Mon Oct 19, 2020 8:27 am

mdoudoroff wrote:
Sun Oct 18, 2020 4:02 pm
-SNIP-

Size is an interesting topic unto itself. I understand it is Eurorack that paved the way to smaller size, relative-affordability, and a large ecosystem of producers. Eurorack already is the miniaturized modular synthesizer, and a lot of what it has become is due to SMD and sophisticated off-the-shelf microcontrollers. Since small—or even too small—is still not small enough for everyone, Eurorack begat 2hp and Erica Pico, and a significant downward pressure on module size in general, miniaturizing the already-miniaturized.
-SNIP-
I recently bought 1 HP blank panels, 43 of them, just to make this sea of tiny modules that I have collected, usable.
Why can't someone make some larger, aftermarket panels for people like me with big fat fingers?
.
mdoudoroff also wrote wrote:
(I have a suspicion that the best MI Clouds yet is the one from 1979 for Buchla, and it’s anything but miniaturized.)
Huh?
.
.

PS, Thanks Synthrotek for the great little blank black panels.....Say that 3 times fast....
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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by Kattefjaes » Mon Oct 19, 2020 8:41 am

virtualpt wrote:
Mon Oct 19, 2020 7:19 am
Agreed. I'm just about to get rid of my Disting EX. I find that the menu diving & having to remember what the controls/IO do doesn't suit my flow, so I end up never using it. I much prefer focussed modules.
Mine is just a sample player- it's smaller than the sample player that I used to have, and offers the ability to map a kit to 1v/oct chromatic layouts, unlike the Rample. That has earned it a spot. That said, for a while, it was playing back samples at 500ish mV ppv and os couldn't figure out why. Randomly reflashing it with a beta firmware (his suggestion!) fixed it, and he wasn't sure why either. I think it has become quite a complex ecosystem to support.

However, only using it for one thing massively reduces instances of menu diving. This is possibly why it's still in the rack. There's a Disting Mk4 too, which is very much an ohshit module, when I need a thing that I don't have. The interface is fiddly, stopping to open a PDF breaks your flow, but it's small enough and useful enough that it's tolerable for what it brings to the table.

I seem to be gravitating to less divey modules where a good option exists. Tiny embedded systems with weeny screens take a lot of the fun out of it for me. Obvious tactile affordances are part of why hardware is more enjoyable and immediate for me and why the rabbit hole is so appealing.
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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by mdoudoroff » Mon Oct 19, 2020 8:55 am

jebusrice wrote:
Sun Oct 18, 2020 6:22 pm
So I love mine, I'll probably end up owning several. I'm also really sorry to hear of "the disting effect". It seems unfair to Expert Sleepers that their module represents for you the unreasonable expectations of what sounds like a minority of "entitled" people, when distings are clearly the result of the efforts of one man who appears to work his socks off.
I have nothing bad to say about Os or any of the Distings, and if you took what I wrote as a criticism of such, then I question whether you read what I wrote. My observations are about firmware updates and unintended consequences in Eurorack culture. What criticisms I present are (I believe) quite obviously directed at forum members such as you and me, not module designers.

jebusrice wrote:
Sun Oct 18, 2020 6:22 pm
Lastly - I've added a couple of suggestions on the disting ex feature request thread. I don't expect anything to happen as a result - I was just "taking part". I'm happy for whatever to happen, there are bound to be better suggestions than mine!
That is probably fine, but when making suggestions, it’s worth making them as good as you can. Making your feature requests as good as possible is what my concluding advice boils down to.

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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by steviet » Mon Oct 19, 2020 8:58 am

This thread was a great read, thanks for that.

Os is an absolute wiz when it comes to updates, support, and responding to user requests. I can see how that would lead people to feel entitled, although I don't agree that they are entitled to updates as such.

If you purchased a product that isn't marketed or designed as a "customer-driven" product, then it's bonkers to me that people say things like "well why don't you just add X feature, it'd be EASY".

For something like the Disting though it gets a little more complicated. How many updates should I expect with my purchase? 3 or 4? None and be happy it has so many features? I'm not sure. Personally, I purchased the module for what it does currently; any updates were icing on the cake. But I can understand someone buying into the "Disting Ecosystem" for the reason that it is updated so often.

Regardless, no one is entitled to anything. Seeing people give Expert Sleepers/Os a hard time really drives me nuts. Politely requesting features is different thing altogether, but some people have very little tact.
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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by Raindeer » Mon Oct 19, 2020 9:50 am

This is a great thread. There is clearly a big distinction between dedicated multipurpose modules and those that were designed for a specific task.

The most intriguing modules have a kind of philosophy behind them, even when they can be used in different ways. Here I’m thinking e.g. Tides or Mimeophon. I can’t imagine anyone expecting significant updates to firmware on these (beyond bug fixing etc) because it would compromise the whole project. The interface is the experience as much as any code and all the functionality stems from one central idea.

Basically ‘Form is Function’.

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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by virtualpt » Mon Oct 19, 2020 9:54 am

Kattefjaes wrote:
Mon Oct 19, 2020 8:41 am
virtualpt wrote:
Mon Oct 19, 2020 7:19 am
Agreed. I'm just about to get rid of my Disting EX. I find that the menu diving & having to remember what the controls/IO do doesn't suit my flow, so I end up never using it. I much prefer focussed modules.
Mine is just a sample player- it's smaller than the sample player that I used to have, and offers the ability to map a kit to 1v/oct chromatic layouts, unlike the Rample. That has earned it a spot. That said, for a while, it was playing back samples at 500ish mV ppv and os couldn't figure out why. Randomly reflashing it with a beta firmware (his suggestion!) fixed it, and he wasn't sure why either. I think it has become quite a complex ecosystem to support.

However, only using it for one thing massively reduces instances of menu diving. This is possibly why it's still in the rack. There's a Disting Mk4 too, which is very much an ohshit module, when I need a thing that I don't have. The interface is fiddly, stopping to open a PDF breaks your flow, but it's small enough and useful enough that it's tolerable for what it brings to the table.

I seem to be gravitating to less divey modules where a good option exists. Tiny embedded systems with weeny screens take a lot of the fun out of it for me. Obvious tactile affordances are part of why hardware is more enjoyable and immediate for me and why the rabbit hole is so appealing.
I prefer my Bitbox Micro as a sampler, much easier & more intuitive to use. I did have a Mk4 at one point, but found that even less appealing. I've yet to come across a problem where I am absolutely missing a module, I either find a workaround or go for something different in the patch ;)

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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by Kattefjaes » Mon Oct 19, 2020 10:08 am

virtualpt wrote:
Mon Oct 19, 2020 9:54 am
I prefer my Bitbox Micro as a sampler, much easier & more intuitive to use. I did have a Mk4 at one point, but found that even less appealing. I've yet to come across a problem where I am absolutely missing a module, I either find a workaround or go for something different in the patch ;)
Yes, I had a very specific set of requirements- most Euro sample players don't manage it, and worse yet, it's not always clear that they don't. I think the Bitbox Micro would be usable as it seems to allow slice selection modulation potentially with 1v/octave, but it came out slightly too late to be part of the initial round of frustration.

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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by glennfin » Mon Oct 19, 2020 10:56 am

It's too bad the Disting EX design (and others) traded physical size for ease of use.(returned mine) A module with the power and abilities that the EX has needs a large screen with an easy to use UI. For me, the extreme menu diving take away from making music and is unacceptable. I know it's not the case with everyone but I have a large system, I don't need a module to be configured in tiny HP and would never trade size for ease of use. (flame suit on)

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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by Kattefjaes » Mon Oct 19, 2020 11:10 am

glennfin wrote:
Mon Oct 19, 2020 10:56 am
It's too bad the Disting EX design (and others) traded physical size for ease of use.(returned mine) A module with the power and abilities that the EX has needs a large screen with an easy to use UI. For me, the extreme menu diving take away from making music and is unacceptable. I know it's not the case with everyone but I have a large system, I don't need a module to be configured in tiny HP and would never trade size for ease of use. (flame suit on)
I agree- I suspect that if I went back to an even smaller system now, I wouldn't return to tiny minaturised modules (especially those which use just wobbly trim pots) either. There's no point packing stuff in so tightly that you no longer use it- that's not a bargain in HP terms at all.

That said, I'd still keep at least one Disting in there, the same way that I keep a Swiss Army knife in a pocket of my day to day backpack. It's not as ideal as the contents of my toolbox, nor the most comfortable, but sometimes the best tool is the one that you have to hand- even if it's just for "in a pinch" use.
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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by cat_abyss » Mon Oct 19, 2020 11:16 am

It always broke my heart when a manufacturer posts about their new firmware update (or even launches their new module, but this doesnt happen as much) and is instantly quoted by someone wanting another feature, or something done differently.

Sometimes, modules seem to be almost co-opted, a small team or person not wanting to say no to suggestions, straying from their vision. I know _i_ would want to help a little too much if people came to me with feature requests.

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Kattefjaes
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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by Kattefjaes » Mon Oct 19, 2020 11:22 am

cat_abyss wrote:
Mon Oct 19, 2020 11:16 am
It always broke my heart when a manufacturer posts about their new firmware update (or even launches their new module, but this doesnt happen as much) and is instantly quoted by someone wanting another feature, or something done differently.
I think Expert Sleepers is almost an exception there- os adds new features at such a pace, just puts them out there and often seems to expect a certain amount of feedback to solidify use cases.. "do you think it could do X?". "Try this firmware". It feels like he actually uses the iterative process for his own ends, to an extent.

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mdoudoroff
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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by mdoudoroff » Mon Oct 19, 2020 11:29 am

While it’s not to my taste, either, the Disting products are what they are by design—and clearly a great many people love them. You can’t argue with success. (Well, you can try, but…)

What really is the alternative? Even if the screen was large, there would still be a lot of UI, and all that HP might be tied up doing some pretty mundane stuff. There’s your computer, with a hybrid setup (which Expert Sleepers also caters to)? The SSP? I suppose the 1010Music product lines are general purpose devices with (relatively) large screens and Toolbox is kinda, sorta, their answer to the Disting or Ornament & Crime, although it seems to be mainly a sequencer.

In the end, I think the main “alternative” to Disting for people like me is to just have a larger system with the dedicated modules I need in it, “old school”.

One thing about some of the Disting EX “dual” programs is they’d make pretty compelling standalone modules.

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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by starthief » Mon Oct 19, 2020 12:15 pm

mdoudoroff wrote:
Mon Oct 19, 2020 11:29 am
One thing about some of the Disting EX “dual” programs is they’d make pretty compelling standalone modules.
I agree, at least from a user perspective. It might not make business sense for Expert Sleepers to have to do more hardware design, support more SKUs etc.

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Re: The Disting Effect and new features for digital modules

Post by ch3oh » Mon Oct 19, 2020 1:44 pm

Design-driven producers are a subject of "The user method" book by Jeff Schwarting — he argues that successful products come, more often than not, from from people who desperately want to satisfy their own needs and existing solutions just wont cut it, if they exist at all. He argues that quality of the insight is much greater if it comes from you as opposed to someone who sey they need something. I think it offers an interesting insight for product designers to help them battle the feature creep. Users are notoriously bad at knowing what they need, an this is okay. What is not okay is for the manufacturer to take this feedback as is, without digging deep into the customer feedback.

Field of hardware manufacturing makes this problem more pronounced and easier to deal with at the same time. There is only so much you can do before UX becomes garbage, before you max out your microcontroller etc. But, at the same time, if you do want to add something, there is again so much you can do, as opposed to regular software development, where there are far fewer constraints. It reminds me of countless threads where Elektron customers were begging for Overbridge support for the Octatrack.

The said book could be beneficial for the consumers too, as it offers a framework to asses (and admire) manufacturers, too.

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