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Starthief's Eurorack adventure, 2016-???
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Eurorack Modules Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3 ... , 18, 19, 20  Next [all]
Author Starthief's Eurorack adventure, 2016-???
starthief
And a bit pricey too, but then it's also a trigger recorder which is kind of cool.

I mostly feel like the arcade button thing is playing on my 80s nostalgia, but it's working...

Paradise MIDI makes some cool custom controllers with arcade buttons and knobs or sliders. All USB MIDI so far, but maybe she'd be willing to add individual gate outputs on 3.5mm jacks. Though for what I do, a little USB latency isn't going to hurt.
starthief
Knobcon Day Three!

I went back into the exhibition hall, didn't try out anything else but did buy the Starling Via Scanner. nanners I'm pretty fascinated by all the possibilities and spent a while talking to the people from Starling at the booth.

Then I mostlly killed time until Dr. John Chowning's workshop on the discovery of FM synthesis. Which is what this post will really be about. smile

Last night at the keynote speech he told some stories about what happened once he'd made the discovery -- the meetings with various organ manufacturers and then Yamaha, who saw the promise in it despite the available technology not really being ready for it yet.

In today's workshop though, he spoke more about the research that led up to it, and some of the implications.

"Discovering FM" wasn't just a matter of plugging an oscillator into another oscillator and turning knobs -- this was all done on 1960s computers. Non real-time. Too little memory for sampling to be practical (or even buffering, at first). DACs were rare, specialized equipment.

He was mainly researching spatialization, Doppler shift, the psychoacoustics of how we perceive distance and how we perceive different voices. Vibrato is a big tell for the latter, so he was playing with that, decided to try some more extreme values, and voila.

He emphasized that this was a discovery, not an invention -- and most of the math came afterward, as "a gift from nature." He also pointed out he didn't really do any work on the DX7, but it was a large team of Yamaha engineers who had to solve lots of technical problems that might seem like a breeze with today's tech. So he didn't go into the specific implementation Yamaha used, or FM vs. phase modulation, etc.

He showed several implications of FM synthesis, mostly via spectrum analysis. Bessel functions describe the sideband amplitude and phase, and those sidebands are reflected around both 0Hz and the Nyquist frequency (*) -- and those reflections flip the phase, so if the ratio is harmonic there can be cancellation and emphasis of some sidebands.

(Something that Yamaha loved about FM is that to do band-limiting, all you have to do is reduce the modulation index so none of the sidebands get reflected. At the time, digital filters were pretty horrible, so they considered this one reason why FM was superior to sampling.)

One of the cool things he showed was using FM to model formants in ways not commonly used in synths (except maybe the Yamaha FS1R).

His work didn't include some of the concerns we have as modular musicians -- expo vs. linear, thru-zero or not, DC offsets, etc. -- it was purely digital. So there's still a lot more to explore.

But now I'm inspired to look at a spectral display while trying different FM and PM timbres. I often watch waveform displays and sometimes the XY Lissajous on O'Tool+, but I admit I've never really used spectrum analysis unless I'm trying to target EQ or filters.
cackland
I'm keen to hear more about the Scanner module. It would be nice if the guys at Starling put out an in-depth overview of each of the different firmware module options.
starthief
I'll write up something about Scanner once I've had the chance to try it out.

Fundamentally it's like a Piston Honda without an oscillator, or a 2D Megawave or Geiger Counter. But, if I understand it correctly (and I'm not certain of that)

- on the X and Y axes independently, you choose a function (smooth tanh, bouncing ball, staircases, a vibrating string model, etc.)

- you choose a mapping mode that combines the two functions onto the 2D surface (add, multiply, difference, or "lighten" which I think is the greater of the two).

- there's also a gate output based on a logic operation of the X and Y functions at the current coordinate, also chosen by the map

- there's a Z input which... I think rotates the X and Y functions relative to each other??? I'm not entirely clear on this.

This is probably one I'm going to have to try out with a scope and simple examples to get a good grasp on.
cackland
starthief wrote:
I'll write up something about Scanner once I've had the chance to try it out.

Fundamentally it's like a Piston Honda without an oscillator, or a 2D Megawave or Geiger Counter. But, if I understand it correctly (and I'm not certain of that)

- on the X and Y axes independently, you choose a function (smooth tanh, bouncing ball, staircases, a vibrating string model, etc.)

- you choose a mapping mode that combines the two functions onto the 2D surface (add, multiply, difference, or "lighten" which I think is the greater of the two).

- there's also a gate output based on a logic operation of the X and Y functions at the current coordinate, also chosen by the map

- there's a Z input which... I think rotates the X and Y functions relative to each other??? I'm not entirely clear on this.

This is probably one I'm going to have to try out with a scope and simple examples to get a good grasp on.


Interesting. Look forward to reading your discoveries smile
starthief
This evening I had to take a couple of hours to rearrange my rack, and since I also got Mimeophon at the same time I've been jumping back and forth between them.

First impression of Mimeophon is that it is freaking awesome as a delay, and astonishing as a sound source. I have no regrets at all about letting go of every other Euro delay I've previously owned. This was definitely the right one for me to have.


Fully understanding Scanner is probably going to wait until I get my replacement power cable so I can fire up my O'Tool+ again.

But using it as a waveshaper isn't hard. One of the basis functions, if you feed the X (or Y) input a sine, works very much like Plaits' waveshaping model. Some of the others are more digital and wavetable-sounding. (I mean, it is a wavetable...)

Of course modulating the other inputs at slow or audio rates gives a wide variety of different results, some subtle and some extreme. That also goes for self-patching, especially from the logic outputs. The Z input though seems to be lowpass filtered at some low value, so it's strictly CV rather than audio.

The A and B inputs are for analog bipolar VCAs controlled by the digital signal. This means you can use them as a pair of parallel output VCAs (and use them to opposite phases if you like), for AM/RM, or use them to crossfade between A and B using the digital signal. Cool.

But since these are output VCAs, if you want to use Scanner for any sort of dynamic waveshaping, you'll need to use a separate VCA on the input. Which is a little weird. At first I thought maybe the Multiply mapping and the right Y basis function might let me get around that, but nope, not really.

Anyway, for audio waveshaping it does sound pretty great -- a lot cleaner than Geiger Counter and with a ton of possibilities. I'm just scratching the surface so far though smile
starthief
Without trying to write a whole manual for Scanner as a CV modulation thingy:

In general, more gain on the X and Y inputs = more folding = faster rate of change of the output. Unipolar and bipolar inputs are both good.

Each output has its own 2D surface. The "simple" one is unaffected by the basis functions (and Z), but combines X and Y according to the mapping operator (add, multiply, difference or "lighten").

The "AxB" output is the main one. Its surface is created by the X and Y basis functions, which are each transformed by the Z parameter (the effect of which varies with the function, usually changing curvature or differentiation/integration), and the mapping operator.

...but there's more: the surface value is used to crossfade between the A and B inputs. There are parallel bipolar analog VCAs mixed together, controlled by the digital signal. For the simplest results just set A to -5V and B to +5V with the knobs, but you could set one to 0 and use the other for level CV, or actually crossfade, or self-patch, or whatever.

There's a red/green LED to show the level and polarity of the AxB output, which helps if you don't use a scope. Because results are going to vary a lot, depending on the surface and which parts you're traversing.

The "logic" outputs are 1-bit maps. The mapping operator selects OR, AND, XOR or a comparator... and so if you're modulating only one axis while the other stays fixed, the gate outputs might be "stuck" high or low. That was confusing at first.

Honestly, I feel like always having a scope handy is going to be really helpful for this module.

...

Something worth keeping in mind if you want to use this with an envelope: the general contour of the output is unlikely to match the contour of the input. E.g. if you have an instant attack, linear decay envelope and feed it to the X input: you're essentially using that as longitude on a map. The actual value is going to depend on the terrain of the map, the offset and scale of the longitude, and the latitude.

So something you could do would be to mult the envelope to A or B as well as X, to encourage a similar downward trend as the envelope decays. Or you could very carefully set the X offset, scale, Y, Z, basis functions and map mode to find a place that happens to have that downward contour... Mr. Green
smrl
Jason from Starling here smile

Seems like you're understanding it all really well, happy to see that. A few points that might help:

The "Z" input in Via land is the 1v/oct input, it's more precise (doesn't much matter in this case) but we can't digitize it as quickly. So it's a wavetable morph parameter for both X and Y wavetables simultaneously. When you select an X or Y shape, you're selecting a wavetable bank for that axis, and Z smoothly morphs through them. Generally, CCW/negative CV corresponds to a simpler waveshape so you can think of it as a density/complexity control. Though in reality the wavefolding can contribute more to the sound than the wavetables, so if you're interested in using more of the wavetable shaping keep your X/Y attenuators down!

You're definitely right about wanting to pair an INPUT VCA with the scan signals, that can be super helpful, and our analog core topology links those VCAs strictly to the AXB out (though someone could probably rethink the purpose of the Z input and control the scan levels digitally if one was so inclined) but what you mentioned about multing the envelopes to A and B is right on - if you want a shaped envelope you just stick the envelope into A and/or B while you scan to impose that envelope on the ouptut!
starthief
smrl wrote:
The "Z" input in Via land is the 1v/oct input, it's more precise (doesn't much matter in this case) but we can't digitize it as quickly. So it's a wavetable morph parameter for both X and Y wavetables simultaneously. When you select an X or Y shape, you're selecting a wavetable bank for that axis, and Z smoothly morphs through them.


Makes sense.

smrl wrote:
You're definitely right about wanting to pair an INPUT VCA with the scan signals, that can be super helpful...


It was my excuse to finally pick up the Cold Mac I've been wanting Mr. Green
starthief
Fun with lightpipe!

I've got the ES-3 and ES-6 hooked up and am shuttling stuff between Euro and Bitwig, for great ̶j̶u̶s̶t̶i̶c̶e giggles.

First patch of the night was Mimeophon -> Supercell -> Bitwig (peak limiter, TB EQ 4 and Decimort) fed back to Mimeophon, with Marbles sequencing pitch.

Right now I've got a generative patch going where some of it's Euro, some is Bitwig. The clock is using Bitwig's "Device Phase" through a couple of modules that skew it, and the effect on Mimeophon of a clock that keeps shifting between tempos is quite nice smile
starthief
The Euro/Bitwig mind meld is working out really well for me grin

Since I'm not using Maschine and have plenty of inputs now, I set up my Microbrute again. I'm not finding it as inspiring as I once did though, so I'm thinking about alternatives that might suit me better.

- something droney/feedbacky
- $500 or less price range, preferably
- not too redundant with what I have
- not too big -- something that fits on a laptop stand.

E.g. a Behringer Neutron could be a good choice in a lot of ways, but I'm not sure it really brings anything to the table other than redundancy. Unless it's totally joyful and inspiring as an instrument, anyway. Ditto for the Erica Pico System 3, 0-Coast, Microvolt, Minibrute 2, etc.

A Lorre-Mill Double Knot seems like fun, but while I know it can do drones and textures, I'm told it has a tendency to lean naturally toward percussive pingy stuff. I'd rather not fight the main attraction/inclination of an instrument.

I kind of like the idea of an 80s Yamaha FM synth module for noisy digital drones -- but I'm also confident I could get there with software and it's not like a TX81Z is a great hands-on instrument anyway. lol

There's always that Lyra-8... hmm.
hinterlands303
starthief wrote:


There's always that Lyra-8... hmm.


I love the lyra for drones and also for strange warbly melodies. I use one in my live set up to create transitions and improvise within more structured tracks. BUT you aren't going to find one for $500 unless you get really lucky.
starthief
Yeah, it's a bit more. Prices vary a lot though, and at the lower side I can probably justify the stretch... I just have to commit to it.


[EDIT] I did it. Found one used, did the math, bought it. SlayerBadger!
thetwlo
Dreadbox Antiphon?
https://www.dreadbox-fx.com/product/antiphon-diy-kit/

Loving this beast!
starthief
thetwlo wrote:
Dreadbox Antiphon?
https://www.dreadbox-fx.com/product/antiphon-diy-kit/

Loving this beast!


It could be fun, but to me it feels like they missed the mark.

- It seems backwards to me that the tuning controls are sliders and the level controls are pots.

- I'd rather have VCAs per channel instead of pitch CV inputs. If it did, it would have met a need I had previously.

- If it's intended for FM -- which is almost implied by the pitch CV inputs per channel -- it's not actually mentioned anywhere, and it should have attenuators on the CV inputs. If paired with a matrix mixer I suppose it could be a decent FM drone synth.

- Filters built in to a sine oscillator bank seems like an odd choice to me. If there was waveshaping, or it was more obviously meant for FM it might make some sense I guess...?

- Does the external input go through the filter, or just the reverb? If the latter that seems like a wasted opportunity...

- No feedback path with a spring reverb is kind of sad. Again it calls for a matrix mixer to be able to patch it.
autopoiesis
missing your dpo at all now that you're onto the HD mk3 as your fm workhorse? I think about swapping mine for the new donut but probably would be better to keep the dpo and trade my piston honda mk3 for the other orange, which would be more deliberately controllable and less of a wavetable scanning serendipity situation. dpo has such a pleasing tone to it that I think I'd really miss
starthief
autopoiesis wrote:
missing your dpo at all now that you're onto the HD mk3 as your fm workhorse?


Honestly, no. I never got into DPO as much as other options.

I still sometimes wonder whether I'd be better off with HD mk2 instead of mk3, but then I keep finding cool stuff with the mk3. Mr. Green
deftinwulf
What a great thread. It makes for a fascinating read going from beginning to end for someone bored at work over the past few days. applause

I really appreciate the way you break down your thoughts on modules and point out things with an eye for detail that I would never have noticed - such as the interface on the HD Mk3 having 6 different kinds of knobs giving it the effect of a website with too many fonts - great analogy!

You also helped me put the Qu-Bit Prism, a module I was GASing pretty hard for, in perspective. There was a lot I didn't realize about it, and I now have a better idea that perhaps it's not what I'm looking for after all. Thank you.

I look forward to the Continuing Adventures of Starthief. nanners
hinterlands303
So with everything that's gone in and out of your rack you've still got the a-196? What keeps you coming back to that module? It's always seemed like a dark horse.
starthief
hinterlands303 wrote:
So with everything that's gone in and out of your rack you've still got the a-196? What keeps you coming back to that module? It's always seemed like a dark horse.


I guess I just like PLLs smile I would say "it does things nothing else will", but I've made somewhat successful PLL patches using Cold Mac as a phase comparator, and also using Maths.

I like being able to force an oscillator that wouldn't otherwise track 1V/OCT to do so. I also like the somewhat wrong character of a VCO that's trying to track but is having trouble.

A PLL strikes me as a sort of organic thing that can't be duplicated in software, which is why I got into modular in the first place.
hinterlands303
starthief wrote:


I guess I just like PLLs smile


Did you try out the PLL mode in Tides before you got rid of it? Wondering how it compares the a-196. Tides is one of those modules that I've bought and sold several times but I'm interested in trying the new version. I feel like the 4 outputs in PLL mode could be pretty wild.

I've managed to patch up a PLL a few times and I liked the sound but it took quite a bit of patching to get it right (and it eats up quite a few modules) so it's not something I do often.
starthief
hinterlands303 wrote:
Did you try out the PLL mode in Tides before you got rid of it? Wondering how it compares the a-196.


Yeah. It's a lot cleaner and more reliable than analog PLLs, following along quite well with just the slightest bit of slew. It was kind of fun to give it more difficult signals and see how well it could follow.

Kermit also has a PLL mode, probably meant for tap LFO duties. It's much worse than Tides, wobbling all over while trying to lock in at LFO rate, and often locking onto the wrong frequency entirely at audio rate. I kind of like it for that actually grin

hinterlands303 wrote:
Tides is one of those modules that I've bought and sold several times but I'm interested in trying the new version. I feel like the 4 outputs in PLL mode could be pretty wild.


I had fun with the new one for a while. I kind of wish I'd kept it once I started playing with harmonic oscillators a bit in the ER-301. I still think a Just Friends might be a better choice for me since I've got a Teletype anyway and the two work very well together, but I just don't need another oscillator or modulation source to be honest.

hinterlands303 wrote:
I've managed to patch up a PLL a few times and I liked the sound but it took quite a bit of patching to get it right (and it eats up quite a few modules) so it's not something I do often.


I find the range of relative stability tends to be a little better with the A-196 than with PLL patches I've tried, and if something isn't working maybe one of the other modes or ranges will. It's still very dependent on the input signal though.
cg_funk
starthief wrote:
I still think a Just Friends might be a better choice for me since I've got a Teletype anyway and the two work very well together, but I just don't need another oscillator or modulation source to be honest.


I really really love my Just Friends. It has a strange combination of basic but overlapping features that interact in fun and different ways.. it's hard to really characterize it as merely an oscillator or modulation source. It actually doesn't really do either of those things nearly as well as a dedicated module would. What it does is it can morph quickly between a bunch of different possible things and send out 7 simultaneous outputs that are always related in interesting ways.

Kinda like Filter8 or Maths can be basically anything in your rack, JF is also a little like that too.. especially if you have the ability to link it up to Teletype.

Seriously, the Just Friends has been a module that just keeps on giving. I keep digging deeper and learning new cool things to do with it.
starthief
I have another album in the can -- I felt really inspired after Knobcon, changing from Maschine to Bitwig & Expert Sleepers, and getting a few new modules and some perspective. The usual bits about gear usage:

E352, Kermit and Mimeophon were in 7 of 10 tracks.

No surprises there, but I wanted to mention I really love Mimeophon. With high repeats and a short (or micro) delay time and some halo, it overdrives a bit and gives some nice faux-vintage vibe. That inspired further processing in the same vein, adding some distance, mystery and fragility to sounds.

Rings, Scanner and Supercell were in 6 tracks.

I love Mimeophon as a resonator, but I'm still going to keep both Rings -- I used both in 3 tracks.

For me, Scanner is one of those modules where you just plug stuff in and get something out -- it's not really random or chaotic and it is actually deterministic except for noise, but it serves a similar role in disrupting a simpler signal or adding harmonics to audio. Or a wavefolder. Or both.

Supercell is super versatile, and the ease of switching algorithms invites more diverse use. I used Clouds twice, pitch/timestretch once, Spectral Madness once, Parasite delay once, and Resonestor once.

Stages in at least 4 tracks; Hertz Donut mk3 in 4.

Stages is very much my "reliable backup modulator/sequencer," but I tend to go to it first for slow LFOs. (I have the "slower LFOs + easy easter egg switch" firmware.)

The more I use HD mk3, the less I worry about whether I should have gone for another HD mk2 instead. I still don't use the preset features though, and I still wish it would remember my preferred settings on startup.

I used Maths more as a VCO than a modulator this time.

You don't need V/OCT tracking with an unquantized sequencer, or a PLL... or if you're using it as the stick to rub on the washboard of Scanner to resonate the washtub of Rings. hihi

What was missing?

Oddly, I don't think I used Contour at all this time. hmmm..... I like it though...

No Dynamo. I might let it go a second time, as it's easier to set up compression/limiting/envelope followers in Bitwig -- but first I must find an odd-HP replacement to go into the row with the Hertz Donut hihi

Only a little filter action happening; I tended to go for severe EQ in software instead. I should remind myself of the joys of filter FM, using Filter8 as a phaser, running envelopes through resonant filters, and other such goodies.

The matrix mixer got less use than normal since I did some of that routing inside Bitwig Grid.

Tensor was idle, and Dark World only appeared once.

Reface CS and Microbrute each in two tracks.

I have an Elektron Analog Drive basically welded to that Reface, and it does wonders. I can imagine replacing the Reface if I happen to encounter something more compelling yet just as simple, but the AD will stay.

The Microbrute did okay with external modulation, but I replaced it with a Lyra-8 and have zero regrets. I have negative five thousand regrets actually since the Lyra is freaking awesome.

Scant software synths

LuSH-101, Bitwig FM4, and my sketchy half-finished bytebeats-based plugin each appeared in one track.

I also used a harmonic oscillator that I built in Bitwig Grid as well -- but it was modulated by E352, and pretended so hard to be a Euro module that I've got to give it some credit. I do love that Bitwig/Expert Sleepers integration.

I also used a handful of field recordings at low levels here and there, and exactly one note from NI Una Corda (really making the most of that Komplete license Dead Banana)

Lots of software FX

Extensive use of Valhalla reverbs and delays as usual, and Audiothing Fog Convolver.

Arturia "3 Delays You'll Actually Use" is a technically correct name, but for me the ranking is solidly Eternity > Tape > Brigade.

XLN Audio's RC-20 Retro Color was all over the album. It isn't a perfect retro-izer plugin, but it's flexible. Aside from making parts distant and watery, it can also beef them up with its distortion and EQ.

I also brought out Melda MCharacter for the first time, despite having it for a while. I found it can remove some harshness from overdriven parts, which was helpful given how I pushed the Mimeophon. It can also strip away fundamentals, and do some weirder things.

With the ES-3 and ES-6, I feel like I have the opportunity to use VST effects in a more modular way than I have been. For instance, making MCharacter or Bad Tape or Elitist the first thing a VCO goes through in a patch.

What next?

I'm going to be recording a lot of Lyra-8 jams. Eventually, I will release the best of them as an album.

Unfortunately I've found that trying to feed Lyra's output through Euro effects and back into the Aux input just gives uncontrolled hum, and feeding into the Voice CV input isn't much different from using the onboard Total FB switch. But some filtering, extra reverb and delay, etc. are all welcome additions, and I'll be playing with that quite a bit in the next several weeks.
starthief
I'm still figuring out the Lyra-8 in some ways -- developing playing technique, finding the knob ranges where it's just chaotic enough but still mostly controllable, working out the effects that complement it, figuring out the tricks to modulating it, etc. It's working out really well for me overall.

I find that a taste of that kind of performance control makes me want more -- for the Lyra but also for Euro and for FX. So I've been looking into touch/pressure controllers quite a bit over the last few days.

I think what I'm going to do is pick up an Expressive E Touché. Probably the SE version since it's so much cheaper, and I'll have Bitwig/ES-3 do the conversion to CV when necessary.

I also ordered the Adventure Audio Skin -- sort of like Landscape Allflesh but in a 2HP module. The layout doesn't seem ideal, with patch cables between the touch plates, but it's dirt cheap and seems worth playing with.

I might also wind up with a Meng Qi Hand. It seems like a more fun modulation source than the LS-1 Lightstrip, but I don't think it has the precision to substitute for the Touché.
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