Volca Modular - I got one (review / compare with Easel).

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Volca Modular - I got one (review / compare with Easel).

Post by wsy » Fri Feb 15, 2019 11:44 pm

Okay... I had enough bucks to rub together so I sprang for a Volca Modular (my second
Volca; I also have a Volca FM which I love).

Disclosure: I also have an Easel-K, so I will end up comparing even if I didn't want to.

TL; DR: price-performance ratio: GET ONE! THEY ARE DA BOMB!

The question: Can Two Benjamins Ever Compare to Five DeWitt Clintons?

First unboxing (serial number 000105), put in the batteries.... and nothing. yuck. Bad unit?
No, I hear something. Turn the knobs, okay, hear a weak tinny crappy little sound.

Engage sequencer. Ahhh, that's a little better; the LPGs don't open AT ALL without
something kicking them a little; the knob doesn't have that level of control
authority. But it's really got no body. Sure, it's got the same functional modules
as an Easel (pretty much, not exactly, but pretty much), but the sound ain't there.
Well, whaddya expect, an Easel for $200?

So I plug and I play and... bleah. Disappointment. Turn it off, get a snack, play some
Team Fortress 2. Oh, it's late. Play on headphones.

Headphones? Worth a try.

HOLY MOTHER OF BUDDHA! The little downward-facing speaker on the Volca was
keeping all the good stuff in; through even $20 headphones this thing ROCKS.

Okay, now I can get my groove on. And what a groove it is. Glorious.

Everything works now, at least sorta as expected.

Similarities between the Volca Modular and an Easel:
  • Pretty much the same block content- a complex osc, two loopable EGs, two LPGs, and a kinda-crappy waveguide-style reverb.

    Normalized audio path.
Differences between the Volca Modular and an Easel:
  • Volca also normalizes the CV path as well as the audio path. But you can cross
    over between audio and CV (Easel uses Buchla style bananas for CV and tini-jax
    for the audio)

    Volca has a 1-256 step sequencer with skipstep and pendulum vs. Easel with 3/4/5 steps

    Volca has a bunch of scales, well chosen.

    Easel has 4 independent S/Hed random values. Volca has one S/H and one smoothed.

    Volca has one "utility" - A + B * C, A - B * C . You can use it to make a constant voltage.

    Easel (well, the 208 Sound Generator) has full control authority on the sliders and on
    CV. Volca doesn't; you can't change pitch or open the LPGs without patching or using the KB.

    Easel has pressure sensing KB. Volca doesn't.

    Volca has one waveform for each osc in the complex osc- a foldable triangle. Sounds
    great though, has great modulation and even the modulation osc folds well.

    Volca can't decouple KB tracking on either osc. :-( Modulation osc is ratio-set from
    carrier osc.

    Easel is 1.2 volts/octave, 12 volt span. Volca is 0.5 volts/octave, 3.3 volt span.

    Volca uses these tiny pin connectors. Fortunately, Adafruit and SparkFun sell them
    for like $7 / 40 so they're not hard to come by if you lose them.
BUT (and I can't emphasize this enough)

The. Volca. Sounds. Great.

How great? "Remember to breathe!" great. That's how great.

Is it an Easel Killer - despite the "west coast"-ness of the function block complement, no.
The Easel is a musical _instrument_, meant to be played easily in real time; the Volca is
a more deliberate device (maybe if you're good enough you could play it realtime but
the knobs are somewhat fiddly- which is expected when you have 1/15th the size
and 1/100th the weight).

Is it "West Coast" - DEFINITELY. It rewards morphing of sound from one timbre and
beat to an entirely different timbre and beat in real time.

Is it "like an Easel" - yes, in the same way as Wendys hamburgers are like McDonalds
hamburgers; two different implementations of the same basic concepts.

Remember, if you audition/buy one... just ignore the crappo little speaker and use
headphones. Well worth the $200.

- Bill
"Life is short. But we can always buy longer patch cords" - Savage

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Post by Fallen_lassen » Sat Feb 16, 2019 4:27 am

Sounds like a yes!

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Post by starthief » Sat Feb 16, 2019 8:30 am

That's (mostly) what I want to hear :tu:

Too bad the knob ranges can't really open the LPG or control pitch, but that can be worked around.

I kind of expect some enterprising third party to come up with a companion device for it. More Euro-to-Volca converters, MIDI in, some more utility stuff, etc.
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Post by wsy » Sun Feb 17, 2019 6:06 pm

More info:

1) if you jack in a standard Eurorack audio signal on CV IN, it can be used. F'rinstance,
a Loquelic Iteratas.

2) The arpeggiator doesnt go slow enough to gate the first EG when it's turned to
slower settings. Nor does the second EG. Only way to usefully use the slow
rise settings is via manual keyboard or from CV IN. Also, since EOC on the first
EG is gate-like, you can't easily set the first EG to self-cycle.

3) The sound generator is not "like" an Easel. Scoping shows the Volca Modular's SGU is ALWAYS
two (pretty clean) foldable triangle waves; modulator always FMs the carrier, modulator is ratio slewed
(NOT integer locked, it's variable) to the carrier pitch. For comparison, an Easel's modulator is
pretty close to what it shows on the front panel (square, tri, and saw) but the carrier
waveform always has these glitches to add extra terror, er, timbre. T I M B R E. :-) and
only barely resemble sines, saws, and triangles.

4) Knobs instead of sliders means some ways of playing the Easel are not possible,
like the "wrist twist" pulling the DC level of an LPG up/down while pulling another
slider down/up.

5) It's tiny. The "Euro Pinch" is how you have to diddle the pots.

6) I wish it had a couple of gain knobs, or even just level LEDs at a few spots in
the signal chain. It's easy to get yourself lost.

But it does play reasonably well with Eurorack; I can confirm that personally.

For $200, it's worth it.

- Bill
"Life is short. But we can always buy longer patch cords" - Savage

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Post by rec.Koner » Tue Feb 19, 2019 5:53 am

why use built-in speaker when you can line out into in your mixer/speakers? :hmm: or you only play it "on the go"?

p.s.
would love to hear recordings from you :party:
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Post by zaphod betamax » Tue Feb 19, 2019 9:22 am

Any way to test the CV pitch tracking of the Volca Modular for me
when played with an external CV keyboard?


Copy/ Paste from manual

CV–IN jack
This jack allows you to connect two external control voltage
sources to the volca modular. The left channel (tip) of the input is
clipped to +/-5V and scaled down to +/-3.3V, whereas the right
channel (ring) of the input expects a 1V/octave signal (0–+6V) and
converts it to the volca modular’s internal pitch offset voltage control
signal. Connecting a 3.5mm mono patch cable to this jack will result in
the same signal being applied to the CV and Pitch Offset inputs.




Thanks

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Post by Branko » Tue Feb 19, 2019 9:36 am

I love mine. I'm learning a lot. All it does is make me want to get into and understand Buchla though. Yikes, I'm broke as it is.

Here's a bullshit recording I did last night, nothing special. Used too much reverb.

http://tiny.cc/fgld3y

two tracks of Volca Modular with some added reverb.

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Post by hermbot » Tue Feb 19, 2019 4:29 pm

In theory, my eurorack case does all of the Volca Modular and more. But I still feel compelled to get the VM. Same story for the 0-coast, which would be redundant with my rig. I still kinda want one.

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Post by DeanG » Wed Feb 20, 2019 10:01 am

Branko- thanks for posting your recording. Sounds like my favorite kind of BS. I am expecting delivery of mine this week as well as a microgranny. I may have to get a second Volca Modular. Yours is the sound demo I've been waiting for.
I am my own source of uncertainty.

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Post by Branko » Wed Feb 20, 2019 10:07 am

Haha thanks! I gotta get more serious with it but I was really surprised by the sounds I got out of it.

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Post by PLNB » Wed Feb 20, 2019 10:24 am

DeanG wrote:Branko- thanks for posting your recording. Sounds like my favorite kind of BS. .
X2 love that stuff!! :yay:

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Post by takeout » Wed Feb 20, 2019 12:03 pm

I've recently purchases one as well, as my first foray into physical modular (I can only afford VCV rack right now ;)). It's a lot of fun to mess around with, but without an existing Eurorack system or other MIDI system to handle clock syncing, the lack of midi in on the modular really ruins it for me—can't sync with Ableton. It's definitely fun to play with, and if I had a better system to integrate with it, I'd enjoy it more, but for now it stays firmly in the "desk toy" camp for me.

Btw...if anyone wants to trade for a Volca FM/Keys...let me know ;)

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Post by fac » Wed Feb 20, 2019 12:28 pm

Branko wrote: Here's a bullshit recording I did last night, nothing special. Used too much reverb.

http://tiny.cc/fgld3y

two tracks of Volca Modular with some added reverb.
If that's the "bullshit" recording, I can't wait to hear the serious one. Good work! You probably sold me on the little Volchla.

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Post by boxxgrooved » Wed Feb 20, 2019 11:10 pm

takeout wrote:, but without an existing Eurorack system or other MIDI system to handle clock syncing, the lack of midi in on the modular really ruins it for me—can't sync with Ableton
If you record the sync out pulse into ableton you will be able to sync the VM to it. Or you can generate your own sync signal using a vst or something.

You will have to use one channel solely for the sync signal, so if you only have stereo sound card you will have to hard pan the sync signal to one channel which means you will only be abke to record the VM in mono on tbe other channel. Better than nothing

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Post by Xmit » Thu Feb 21, 2019 9:42 am

I love mine. I'm learning a lot. All it does is make me want to get into and understand Buchla though. Yikes, I'm broke as it is.

Here's a bullshit recording I did last night, nothing special. Used too much reverb.

http://tiny.cc/fgld3y

two tracks of Volca Modular with some added reverb.
holy shit Branko :deadbanana:

I've not heard a VM demo like this so far - awesome. There's no way I'd be able to make one sound like that, as I have no idea about West Coast synthesis at all... but your recording makes it highly tempting just to grab one... damn.

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Post by Branko » Thu Feb 21, 2019 11:40 am

Thanks all! I found that doing the 'Modulator as 2nd VCO' patch and 2nd function generator as LFO really added a lot of awesome timbres to it. Then just throwing as much modulation as I could to the function generators and the sound source. The thing can drone like crazy, too. Using the Woggle output into the LFO modulated it with every key pressed, which makes it really fun to play manually. I say grab it! I'm already thinking of getting a 2nd one, so I can do stuff that sounds like the above without overdubbing.


EDIT:

Here's another single track recording I did tonight. I'm really surprised by how low this thing can go. Again, nothing special I'm just trying to see what kind of sounds I can squeeze outta this it. Bit of a dirtier sound on this one.

https://soundcloud.com/branko-vranic/vo ... mo/s-fxak1
Last edited by Branko on Fri Feb 22, 2019 1:33 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Volca Modular - I got one (review / compare with Easel).

Post by Rex Coil 7 » Fri Feb 22, 2019 1:06 am

wsy wrote:Okay... I had enough bucks to rub together so I sprang for a Volca Modular ....

TL; DR: price-performance ratio: GET ONE! THEY ARE DA BOMB!
wsy wrote:HOLY MOTHER OF BUDDHA! ... this thing ROCKS.
wsy wrote: ... BUT (and I can't emphasize this enough)

The. Volca. Sounds. Great.
wsy wrote:How great? "Remember to breathe!" great. That's how great.
wsy wrote: ... Is it "West Coast" - DEFINITELY. ...

wsy wrote:Is it "like an Easel" - yes, ...

wsy wrote:Remember, ... Well worth the $200.

- Bill
wsy wrote:More info: I can confirm that personally.

For $200, it's worth it.

- Bill
Ambiguous review at best.

Since you've been so vague, questions remain .....



Is it worth the $200.00 asked for it?



Does it sound good, Bill?






:lol:
:mrgreen:
:hihi:

:yay:
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Post by boxxgrooved » Fri Feb 22, 2019 4:48 am

Well now, that last demo by Branko has just shifted my stance on the VM by approximately 180deg. Korg have done it again. They seem to have a knack of making some of their gear into pieces of candy I can't resist.

Yeah the VM is small, yeah its tone is not exactly Buchla, but hell, where else can you get a west coast experimental synth for 200 bux that you can play with on the plane or train :deadbanana:

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Post by Orwell » Fri Feb 22, 2019 6:43 pm

Demoed one the other day - ordered one right away.

I really liked that the vm patch pin cables reminded me of the ems synthi.

Fantastic little box. A mini easel with plocking- low end gold. Thanks korg.

Look forward to ordering another one and patching them up together.
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Post by Rex Coil 7 » Sat Feb 23, 2019 3:37 am

hermbot wrote:In theory, my eurorack case does all of the Volca Modular and more. But I still feel compelled to get the VM...
I totally know what you are saying here.

I utterly and completely have no need for one of these. It would be ridiculously redundant. Like you, my own system can cover everything this little plastic thing can do, and far FAR more. But there's this odd attraction I feel towards it. Major league first world lust suffering. Like a hip hop star (male) wearing knee length real fur coat with diamond encrusted teeth and ten pound braided gold chain hangin' on the neck and $400 sneakers.

A guilty excess. :tu:

I keep trying to appeal to myself to buy it ... "buy the damned thing already will ya! keep it for a few months, then sell it if I feel the need, take the 40% loss and call it ~rent~"

:roll:




I'm listening to the "Bull pucky" recording as I type .... and that's not helping!!!!!




Ugh ... drop the $3 Benjamins? .... NO! ... don't do it! ... you have enough crap!! ..... buy it .. buy it! .. you know you want it! .... buy it already!!!!




I'm now at the halfway point through the BS recording .... holy shit that thing sounds just so fine! ... I must resist ... RESIST!






... buy it! ... you cannot resist ... you know you are weak ... obey me ... BUY IT!
:flamey:

EDIT: I just went to look at it in my watch list on eBay .. and I'm reminded that it isn't $300.00 ... it's only $200 bucks!!! Oh shit ... I don't think I can hold back ... it only two hunnerd bucks!!!!!!!!

SPENZ TEH MUNNAYS!!!

DO IT NOW!!


NOW I SAY!!!



:help: :doh:
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Post by dthorn » Sat Feb 23, 2019 12:43 pm

Lovely fun box, but I can't overstate how inconvenient it is that it doesn't come with a 9V DC adapter. I thought I'd be able to find one pretty easily, but none of the shops I went in today had any in stock.

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Post by kroffe » Sat Feb 23, 2019 12:45 pm

Realized today that I can patch an external audio signal in through the CV in jack on the Volca Modular. Its reverb sound great on DR-110 drums! :)

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Post by DeanG » Sat Feb 23, 2019 5:07 pm

Well I got mine and a new microgranny delivered yesterday 2/22. I wanted a sampler and audio processor and it appears that these two will be great for that. Having a blast with the VM...quite the little experimental box!

My take on it is , if Buchla's is an Easel, this Volca is an Etch-aSketch :hyper:
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Post by wsy » Sat Feb 23, 2019 5:14 pm

DeanG wrote:Well I got mine and a new microgranny delivered yesterday 2/22. I wanted a sampler and audio processor and it appears that these two will be great for that. Having a blast with the VM...quite the little experimental box!

My take on it is , if Buchla's is an Easel, this Volca is an Etch-aSketch :hyper:
Image
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Post by Rex Coil 7 » Sat Feb 23, 2019 5:54 pm

DeanG wrote:Well I got mine and a new microgranny delivered yesterday 2/22. I wanted a sampler and audio processor and it appears that these two will be great for that. Having a blast with the VM...quite the little experimental box!

My take on it is , if Buchla's is an Easel, this Volca is an Etch-aSketch :hyper:
Well put, indeed so.....
wsy wrote: Image
.....And this reply by Member *wsy was excellently played off of what Member *DeanG pointed out.

Even the "Etch-A-Sketch of Buchla-esque synth modules" can be used to create wonders at the hands of someone willing to put in the time (a few skills wouldn't hurt either).

:tu:
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