Replacing Erica Synth's Black Wavetable VCO for drones

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Which VCO should I put in my rack to make drones ?

Piston Honda Mk III.
17
38%
Hertz Donut Mk III
3
7%
Ataraxic Iteritas
2
4%
Ataraxic Iteritas
2
4%
VOID Modular Gravitational Waves
5
11%
Qu-Bit Scanned
2
4%
Keep the Black Wavetable VCO
14
31%
 
Total votes: 45

2Disk
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Replacing Erica Synth's Black Wavetable VCO for drones

Post by 2Disk » Mon Nov 25, 2019 8:57 am

Good day everyone !

I already posted a similar question on MG forums today but I figured I'd try here as well.

The module I'm thinking of replacing, as explained in the title, is the Erica Synth Black Wavetable VCO. My use for it is quite simple: I feed CV modulation (I should really try audio rate mod here, I keep forgetting) to the Wave CV in and send the OUT to a big reverb, the 2hp Verb with max Time and almost 100% wet (sometimes through a filter first but more often than not it's unnecessary), bam, I have a decent drone I use as bed for the rest of my techno-ish music. So far so good...

What grinds my gears is the limited modulation destinations I have on this thing, and the apparent uniformity I get as a result. Even letting more dry signal through, most of my drones sound very similar and a bit too "behaved" for my taste. In other words, I think the Black Wavetable VCO is not crazy enough for me, and I need harsher sounding stuff, especially if it's drenched in reverb afterwards. I found that some modulation applied to bitcrush on the Black Wavetable VCO can bring some life to my patches, I just don't like too much how the bitcrush sounds. I don't use the internal VCA at all and the FM is just ok, nothing to write home about IMO. YMMV of course, it's just my personal taste.

The only limitation I have for now is space, the module has to be in the 8HP->24HP range, preferably 20HP maximum. I have done some research of course, and came up with the following challengers:

- Industrial Music Electronics Piston Honda Mk III. The n°1 challenger up, basically another Wavetable VCO but I feel I would have a wider sound palette and better modulation destinations for sonic variety/evlution on it. I'm loving what I hear in the demos.
- Industrial Music Electronics Hertz Donut Mk III. I love FM, and this VCO seems capable of outputting some pretty weird stuff, not sure how relevant it is for the use case I have defined though.
- Noise Engineering Ataraxic Iteritas. Sounds harsh enough, wondering about variety of sound on this one but the width is ideal and the BIA in my rack is making look at other Noise Engineering stuff with respect.
- VOID Modular Gravitational Waves. Not enough demos online, but it came recommended on MG as "the cheappest complex VCO out there" and a complex VCO sounds like something that could be useful for what I have in mind.
- Qu-Bit Scanned. From the demos online, I'd say this is a bit too "constrained" to a certain sound palette which I'm trying to avoid as much as possible but I see it recommended a lot, so idk.

What are your opinions on the above ? Does anybody have experience with those ? Or maybe other modules I've missed and should really look into ? I often have no possibility to test the modules in person so bonus points for demos.
Other suggestions I'm interested in include those telling me to keep the Black Wavetable VCO and use it differently (e.g. using a different reverb that you know of) of course, I am in no rush to switch the module out ;)

Current rack where the Black Wavetable VCO is and where I'd like something else maybe:
https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/1023524

Thanks in advance for your time and knowledge !!
Cheers,
D.

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Re: Replacing Erica Synth's Black Wavetable VCO for drones

Post by synonymist » Mon Nov 25, 2019 10:40 am

2Disk wrote:Good day everyone !

I already posted a similar question on MG forums today but I figured I'd try here as well.

The module I'm thinking of replacing, as explained in the title, is the Erica Synth Black Wavetable VCO. My use for it is quite simple: I feed CV modulation (I should really try audio rate mod here, I keep forgetting) to the Wave CV in and send the OUT to a big reverb, the 2hp Verb with max Time and almost 100% wet (sometimes through a filter first but more often than not it's unnecessary), bam, I have a decent drone I use as bed for the rest of my techno-ish music. So far so good...

What grinds my gears is the limited modulation destinations I have on this thing, and the apparent uniformity I get as a result. Even letting more dry signal through, most of my drones sound very similar and a bit too "behaved" for my taste. In other words, I think the Black Wavetable VCO is not crazy enough for me, and I need harsher sounding stuff, especially if it's drenched in reverb afterwards. I found that some modulation applied to bitcrush on the Black Wavetable VCO can bring some life to my patches, I just don't like too much how the bitcrush sounds. I don't use the internal VCA at all and the FM is just ok, nothing to write home about IMO. YMMV of course, it's just my personal taste.

The only limitation I have for now is space, the module has to be in the 8HP->24HP range, preferably 20HP maximum. I have done some research of course, and came up with the following challengers:

- Industrial Music Electronics Piston Honda Mk III. The n°1 challenger up, basically another Wavetable VCO but I feel I would have a wider sound palette and better modulation destinations for sonic variety/evlution on it. I'm loving what I hear in the demos.
- Industrial Music Electronics Hertz Donut Mk III. I love FM, and this VCO seems capable of outputting some pretty weird stuff, not sure how relevant it is for the use case I have defined though.
- Noise Engineering Ataraxic Iteritas. Sounds harsh enough, wondering about variety of sound on this one but the width is ideal and the BIA in my rack is making look at other Noise Engineering stuff with respect.
- VOID Modular Gravitational Waves. Not enough demos online, but it came recommended on MG as "the cheappest complex VCO out there" and a complex VCO sounds like something that could be useful for what I have in mind.
- Qu-Bit Scanned. From the demos online, I'd say this is a bit too "constrained" to a certain sound palette which I'm trying to avoid as much as possible but I see it recommended a lot, so idk.

What are your opinions on the above ? Does anybody have experience with those ? Or maybe other modules I've missed and should really look into ? I often have no possibility to test the modules in person so bonus points for demos.
Other suggestions I'm interested in include those telling me to keep the Black Wavetable VCO and use it differently (e.g. using a different reverb that you know of) of course, I am in no rush to switch the module out ;)

Current rack where the Black Wavetable VCO is and where I'd like something else maybe:
https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/1023524

Thanks in advance for your time and knowledge !!
Cheers,
D.
Hello D. If I read your description right, you have two main concerns:

1. the limited modulation destinations I have on this thing, and the apparent uniformity I get as a result.

2. the Black Wavetable VCO is not crazy enough for me, and I need harsher sounding stuff

About 1: You "feed CV modulation... to the Wave CV in". But do you also modulate the CV in for bank surfing? If not, then you are missing out on a lot of the dynamics and variety that this module offers.

About 2: Did you consider adding the Expansion ROM 3? You can audition its wavetables here.

Since I own both Black Wavetable VCO (BWV) with Expansion ROM 3 and Piston Honda MkIII (PH3), I can comment a bit on comparison of the two in use.

Yes, the BWV is on the mellow, sinewy, and warm side of things. That is a large part of its appeal, given both its digital nature and the originally analog-centric Erica Black ecosystem. Also it is pretty straightforward and quite tactile in use; again consistent with the Erica Black way.

The PH3 is a much more faceted thing. In fact it basically qualifies as being a complex oscillator, though some consider it to be dual oscillator instead. Either way, its many CV options, thru-zero FM including waveshaping of external audio, various audio parameters, and presets architecture with morphing all distinguish PH3 as another order of instrument. But wait, there's more! You could theoretically configure a PH3 to sound like a BWV by loading the right waveforms in it. Yes, PH3's wavetables are extensible; so the module both has a distinct voice and has a changeable voice.

In summary I find BWV to be a beautiful, nummy module with some edge, while PH3 is a wildly flexible and powerful platform for sound design and generation; edgy by default, PH3 can be made to sound dulcet and gentle.

Lastly, although I have yet to hear your music, my sense is that you should review your method of applying reverb to create drones. I think this would have much more to do with how you do it rather than which particular reverb unit you use. Audio spatial processing in practice is a deep topic, beyond the scope of this post. But I encourage you to investigate it seriously, since it will serve you in many applications, not only in making drones.

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Re: Replacing Erica Synth's Black Wavetable VCO for drones

Post by half.cto » Mon Nov 25, 2019 12:56 pm

synonymist wrote: ... my sense is that you should review your method of applying reverb to create drones. I think this would have much more to do with how you do it rather than which particular reverb unit you use. Audio spatial processing in practice is a deep topic, beyond the scope of this post. But I encourage you to investigate it seriously, since it will serve you in many applications, not only in making drones.
Recently I found out that I can make rich evolving drones just from STO, by processing same signal in different ways. Same drone on 4 tracks of Octatrack with different effects that are modulated. So I guess it might worth to think about how you process your Black Wavetable VCO

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Post by Parnelli » Mon Nov 25, 2019 1:01 pm

Why not a Rubicon? I use one for drones and you can modulate the hell outta it!

It's the Space in my Space Truckin'

It's the Warp in my time travel

It's the Scream in my feedback

And you can modulate it through all three with CV.

I sync mine to either a Pittsburgh Waveforms or a Dixie 2+ and it rocks!

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Post by EATyourGUITAR » Mon Nov 25, 2019 1:22 pm

you forgot the e352. but considering how you use the wavetable VCO into a reverb %100 wet for drones, I would actually suggest anything from noise engineering as a top priority. probably this.

https://www.noiseengineering.us/shop/loquelic-iteritas
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Post by brandonlogic » Mon Nov 25, 2019 1:32 pm

E352 is great for drones with it’s cloud feature. Especially with lots of reverb.
I am also surprised it’s not on your list.

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Post by 2Disk » Mon Nov 25, 2019 4:10 pm

Thanks a lot for your answers and everyone who voted ! :cloud:

synonymist, I have tried bank surfing as well, I should have mentioned it, but probably not enough, I'll give it another go. That would mean forgetting FM though. I guess I could give the expansion ROM a try, although I'm a little afraid that just new wavetables wouldn't solve my original issue. Maybe sending the sound of the YT demo into my reverb... :hmm:
I totally agree that I should learn more about how to apply reverb for my drones (and everything else really), I experiment with modulating the wet/dry or the character when using the reverb on my Disting but I will gladly admit I have no idea what I'm doing. I just had a hard time finding learning material on the subject so far, anything you can recommend ?
From what I read from you though, it sounds like the PH3 would be a more versatile option for me, your argument about it being "a wildly flexible and powerful platform for sound design and generation" really appeals to me.

Using the Octatrack for drones is also cool and an idea I have considered, my setup is actually a 7U + OT so I could sacrifice a few tracks for that but it would mean rearrange the 1U section to add another I/O, possible with a couple of modules from Intellijel and I happen to have free 1U space. I was considering getting the 1U O&C an dthe Dual VCA 1U though. And sacrificing tracks on the OT is always difficult :confused:

The Rubicon and the E352 are too large for my rack unfortunately, but Noise Engineering is definitely on my radar too. EATyourGUITAR, why do you suggest the LI instead of the AI ? I don't know either very well.

I'll go patch some more drones and think about all this :tu:

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Post by gringostar » Mon Nov 25, 2019 5:18 pm

Use more mixers.

Injecting some other sound sources to mix with your wavetable primary source at semi-regular intervals (so VCA/Mixer combo) can really bring new life to things in your system. Replacing your wavetable (or any of your 4 oscillators in your system) with an A-135-1/Frames/Mutamix/530/Planar/Confundo Funkitus /Maze would probably be a better investment than simply swapping out an oscillator.

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Post by PompeiiRuler » Mon Nov 25, 2019 5:18 pm

4ms SWN is my go to now for drones, and I've tried a fair few.

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Post by Nightly Closures » Tue Nov 26, 2019 9:07 pm

The PH mk3 replaced the Erica BWV for me and I haven’t looked back. Even before you get to preset morphing, it has so much more going on. I think you should stick to your gut and pick one up. It’s amazing for drone and non drone applications.

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Post by SavageMessiah » Tue Nov 26, 2019 11:56 pm

Something I've found to add a lot of options for drones is to run your oscillator through a filter with multiple outputs and then use some of those outputs for feedback patching. For instance, run one output back into the input with your oscillator using a mixer and then run another output through a VCA and then back into the filter's FM (or an input on the oscillator). Now you have a ton of stuff to tweak and modify though it will take some fiddling to keep the feedback loops from going absolutely apeshit.

For straight oscillator options, besides what you and others have mentioned, Shapeshifter is great for this sort of thing. Depending on how you set it up you can have up to 6 CV parameters (shape for both oscillators, mod B, fold amount, FM amount, FM ratio). It also uses wavetables but it's morphing on its own isn't that great - it's better to think of it as a complex oscillator that happens to use wavetables.

I should probably add that I had a black wavetable too and PHmk3 basically obsoleted it. The one thing I miss is the vocal bank but I found a vocal synth bank on waveedit.

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Post by 2Disk » Wed Nov 27, 2019 8:00 am

Indeed, I need to experiment with a more complex signal path introducing filters or distortion, I need to figure out how to get that going in my setup. A VCA/Mixer combo as suggested by gringostar would sound like a near necessity at this point, something else I'd have to make space for.

Looking at the votes and discussions I've had, it's a very close call between keeping the Erica VCO or replacing it. I'll probably first try to experiment with patching what I have differently, I don't want to rush any decision even though
with the patches I am making lately, I feel like I'm getting closer to deciding to replace the VCO.
I am to replace the module, it sure looks like the PH3 is the biggest contender. From what I understand, just a more versatile and open ended version of what I have. Final fight would probably be PH3 vs Loquelic Iteritas though, great demos and a lot less HP which is better to have space to add another filter, a mixer or a distortion to my setup...

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Post by synonymist » Wed Nov 27, 2019 10:02 am

2Disk wrote:Final fight would probably be PH3 vs Loquelic Iteritas
In my experience of them, PH3 and LI are very different instruments. PH3 is expansive, LI compact; this is true of their size, feature set, and relation to the outside world. Each is distinctive and powerful. But don't be fooled by LI's size: it is a formidable oscillator. Formidable, I said. :)

As to the comparison of LI to AI, in my opinion it isn't a fair fight. AI is a good and characterful module; but much of its sonic range is narrow in focus compared to LI's one big and flexible sweet spot.

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Post by 2Disk » Wed Nov 27, 2019 10:19 am

Yeah, I also see them as 2 very different takes on the VCO function. Expansive VS compact...
I wish I had a local dealer where I could take my rack and try those out for myself. I'm certain they would both provide buckets of fun, at this point it would be asking which one would allow me to squeeze a few more drops of juice compared to the other one and if the extra 7HP on the PH3 is worth it compared to LI...

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Post by vytis » Wed Nov 27, 2019 10:23 am

For me Erica Synths Black Wavetable VCO is the most ergonomic wavetable VCO. It may not have too many options, menus, but that is its strongest point. It invites experimentation and has a very straightforward interface.

I disagree that it has too few modulation options. 3 CV ins give plenty of options. Pitch, wavetable and either pitch, VCA, bank etc.

Try sending its main out and sub out through different paths - one through a wavefolder, another one through a filter, or both through different filters and try modulating those with different CV sources. You can build living sequences in no time.

Switch sub octave manually as you play.

Try modulating pitch with audio rate CV and wavetable with slow LFO.

I have kept mine despite trying out many other options.

Check out these demos on my Instagram:



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Post by synonymist » Wed Nov 27, 2019 11:53 am

vytis wrote:Switch sub octave manually as you play.
Hello. Thank you for reminding me! The Black Wavetable VCO's transistor sub, particularly, is beautiful-sounding; one of my favorites. I guess I didn't think of it here because the main question was about wavetable oscillators.

By the way, may I ask which artist made your user pic? It is awesome. I imagine both characters, the girl and the cat, having suckers and tentacles in the front; barely a face as we understand it; though that's hidden from us in that view. Subtly subversive and provocative. :)

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Post by 2Disk » Wed Nov 27, 2019 12:10 pm

Thanks for the perspective centered around keeping the BWV :razz:
vytis wrote:Try modulating pitch with audio rate CV and wavetable with slow LFO./
Why the heck didn't I think of that ? :doh: This will be the first thing I'll try during tonight's experiments !
vytis wrote:Switch sub octave manually as you play./
Another great idea. I'll try to focus on the sound of the sub only for a while to try and get a feel for how to treat it.

Maybe I should really be looking at my signal paths before considering changes to sound sources...

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Post by vytis » Wed Nov 27, 2019 1:23 pm

2Disk wrote:I'll try to focus on the sound of the sub only for a while to try and get a feel for how to treat it.
For fat sounds you should try combining both outputs. I've read somewhere that the sub is detuned by a few cents to give it a thicker character. Very powerful, very clever design. And no menus!

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Post by EATyourGUITAR » Fri Nov 29, 2019 7:34 pm

Noise engineering LI has some wild sounds that are immediately available on the knobs. The sound quality with noise engineering is the blessing and the curse. If they were more high quality, they would be useless. So considering you want the full range of drone sounds, and you will cover up the sloppyness with reverb, it seems like the perfect fit, good price, small package. A lot of these sounds are hard to get with an e352 because you would need to run it through a bit crusher first. PH3 you can adjust in the settings to be more like the PH1 more like noise engineering. A pain to go menu diving IMO.
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Post by SavageMessiah » Fri Nov 29, 2019 7:50 pm

vytis wrote:
2Disk wrote:I'll try to focus on the sound of the sub only for a while to try and get a feel for how to treat it.
For fat sounds you should try combining both outputs. I've read somewhere that the sub is detuned by a few cents to give it a thicker character. Very powerful, very clever design. And no menus!
I'm not sure if switching CV destination by long pressing the bank switch button and then pressing to switch between 4 completely unlabeled lights is better than a menu lol.

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Post by vytis » Sat Nov 30, 2019 8:27 am

SavageMessiah wrote:
vytis wrote: For fat sounds you should try combining both outputs. I've read somewhere that the sub is detuned by a few cents to give it a thicker character. Very powerful, very clever design. And no menus!
I'm not sure if switching CV destination by long pressing the bank switch button and then pressing to switch between 4 completely unlabeled lights is better than a menu lol.
Fair enough. But there are only 4 options and you hardly ever switch between them. I just set and forget. YMMV
I do, however like the number displays on original Piston Honda Mk I and Malekko Megawave.
But Black Wavetable is closest to the uncluttered analog VCO experience. Less choice works for me :)

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Post by Crashlander42 » Sat Nov 30, 2019 1:35 pm

I can make some demos of the Gravitational waves if there's anything you're curious about. I should probably do a good demo for that one day.

The E352 is super awesome as well but I probably shouldn't vote against myself.

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