Archive for modulars

Noise Planet – TipTop Audio Mini System

Playing with my new portable modular by TipTop Audio I started messing with Frequency Modulation…

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Plan B Model 10 – Polyphonic Envelope

Plan B Model 10

The PlanB model 10 is a multifunctional module, not only a simple envelope.
The name “polyphonic envelope” does not describe the functions of this great module, the reason why they called it “polyphonic” is because it can output 4 different type of voltage “envelope” at the same time.
In fact the M10 is way more versatile than an envelope, this is really similar to the Bananalogue VCS module, a multitask voltage controlled cv generator .

The main task is the ENVELOPE.
The envelope consist of an AD env with RISE (0.5 ms-5 min attack)and FALL (0.5 ms – 5 min decay/release) controlled not by gate signals but by Triggers.
The attack and decay time can stretched x8 times their duration with the TIMEBASE control knob (so the complete envelope can last from 0.5 milliseconds to 20 minutes).
You can stretch the time manually just turning the knob or controlling it with the VC TB (voltage control timebase).
The VC TB can act in positive or negative, so it can add or subtract.
Than there is the level of the env, which is bipolar too , so it can act as a positive or inverted envelope.
On the left there are the 5 connectors for the 4 different envelopes generated:

  • EOC
  • EOA
  • RAMP
  • 2x AD (with ad contour switch)

The AD acts as the classic “trig” envelope, with 3 different contour (log, lin, exp).
The RAMP is a ramp with rise time 2x the RISE control time.
The EOA is a sustained square which falls when receive a trig and performs the AD cycle  at the “End Of Attack”.
The EOC acts as the EOA but the AD starts at the End Of Contour.

LFO MODE

The rise-fall cycle can be looped and can also work as an lfo.
Using the rise and fall it can produce various waveform between the tri, square, saw, ramp…
The interesting thing is that the timebase knob can control the time of the lfo, so it a vc lfo, the other thing that can lead to creative results is the fact that the rate of the lfo is not controlled by the timebase only, but it ’s a mix of the rise and fall time.
So the shorter is the R&F the faster will be the lfo rate.

VCO MODE

The third interesting mode is the vco function.
The module has a  triangle-core , so it can sound useful even as a vco.
To get the vco mode  you have to switch into LFO and use fast R&F time and “tune” the oscillator with the timebase function and VC TB to control it with a keyboard cv.
It does not reach very high frequencies but can be used on the low and mid range as an audio modulator or a audio source.

TIPS:
I noticed two useful tips:

  • As the core is a TRI-core the envelope create a sort of clip when, reached the max value,start the fall.
    To avoid the clip it’s useful to use a lowpass filter post the VCA.
  • In LFO mode don’t connect any source to the trig in because the summing of the two sources can damage the module , too high voltage!

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Modular synthesis for dummies!

I’m writing an easy tutorial about modular synthesis , both sw and hw.

You can find it here.

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Buchla 259 Vintage Oscillator

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Korg MS-20 review (Part-1)

Korg MS 20

The Korg MS-20 is one of the most famous vintage synths ever.
It stands up there with the Minimoog, ARP 2600, EMS Synthi, Jupiters, TB-303, etc.
When it was produced , Korg marketed it as a low cost “baby 2600” , it was the semimodular synth for the masses.
The look is somehow  inspired by the big Moog modulars, with the front panel that stads upright the keyboard, that is attached to the body, to be the most compact and portable, all in a typical japanese way.

The synth is divided into two parts : the left side , prepatched with the knobs and the right side , the patchable with the patchbay and external signal processor.

The synth has:

  • 2 VCO (with different waves)
  • VCO MIXER
  • 2 VCF (HPF and LPF 12 dB/oct, both resonant)
  • VCA
  • MODULATION GENERATOR (LFO)
  • 2 ENVELOPES

VCOs
The 2 VCOs have different settings capabilities and different functions.
VCO1 has:

WAVE SELECTOR:

  • TRIANGLE
  • SAW
  • PULSE WAVE (with  manual pw)
  • NOISE

PW KNOB

SCALE (32-16-8-4)

VCO2 has :

WAVE SELECTOR:

  • SAW
  • SQUARE
  • PULSE
  • RINGMOD

PITCH KNOB (fine tuning)

SCALE (16-8-4-2)

The two vcos sounds very warm and fat with a classic japanese sound.
The saw waves are quite “smoothed” and not really ripping (as the classic american saw of moog , sequentials, etc.)
The pulse/square wave is really fat and smooth too.
The smoothness of the oscillators maybe also produced by a particular “cut” of the VCFs and VCA that are not bypassable.

VCFs

The filters are the most carachteristic element of this synth, the trademark of the MS20′ sound is the dual filter with resonance (PEAK).
Both the HPF that the LPF have the same controls, the FREQUENCY CUTOFF and the PEAK (that’s the RESONANCE!).
The slope of the filters is 12dB/oct and though they are resonant they are not self oscillating.
The use of the filters makes this synth anhighly versatile machine, because they are not strightly “multimode”, but can be used in combo to obtain particular combinations mantaining two indipendent peaks of resonance.
A famous use of the HPF is to boost the low frequencies oto saturate the sound.
Thanks to the resonant HPF , turning up the peak  creates a gain of level at the cutoff frequencies  that results in awesome sub basses or highly saturated sounds.
The behaviour of the filter is also particular because when the peaks are up the frequency of the cutoff tends to oscillate producing highly harmonic and saturated timbres.
The MS20 was produced with two different components , the first (older) series has the famous  Korg35 that is considered less “muddy” , while the following series use common components.
Both the HPF that the LPF have a smooth behaviour and a rounded sound with the peaks at minimum, while raising up the peaks leads to the aggressive and distorted side of the synth.

ENVELOPES

Env 1 is a simple Attack -Release with  Delay,useful for modulations and harpached to the VCO pitch modulation.
ENV2 is a HADSR, it works like an ADSR but has a hold for that lovely drones the MS20 is so great at, or to use the synth as a efx/filter processor for external signals.
ENV2 is prepatched to VCA and VCFs modulations.
Both the envs are punchy with fast attack and decay, and work very well for every type of sound, from percussive to ethereal.

MODULATION GENERATOR

MG is how Korg labelled the LFO.
The MG consist of a low frequency oscillator that produces morphable square and saw waves .
The saw can morph from saw to tri to ramp.
The square goes from imp to square to inverted imp.

The two row of knobs under the filter and vcos sections are dedicated to the modulations.
The higher row has the MG as modulation source,and the pitch, and cutoff of the filters as destinations, while the lower row has as source the ENVs, env 1 to pitch and env2 to filters.
Every parameter has its own amount knob.

On the left there are two keyboard controls, PORTAMENTO and tune.

This is a description of the “prepatched” part of the synth, but using the patchbay almost everything can be routed to every target, the flexibility is one of the most important carachteristic of the MS 20, a compact synth , highly versatile and awesome sounding.

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The Korg MS Serie

Korg MS-20 and MS-50

Korg MS-20 and MS-50

At the end of the 70s the japanese synth market became very busy.
The leading brands were Korg , Yamaha and Roland.
While Yamaha’s target was mainly on low budget prepatched monosynths users, Roland and Korg were on the low budget side but with an interest in producing low cost modulars for the masses.
Roland at the age had the SH serie that targeted prepatched synth users while the system 100 was towards low budget modulars/semimodulars and the System700 was a Pro-Studio product.
Korg had a different approach, the MS and PS series were mainly mono and poly semimodulars that could be used as standalone prepatched instruments as complex systems linked together.
The MS serie was composed by the MS10 (the little 1 vco, 1 vcf, 1env basic synth), the MS20 (the 2 VCO bigger brother with many added features), the MS50 (the modular expander, full of the less common modules on synths of that period) and the SQ10 (3 track sequencer).
Even if the components used on MS synths were mainly the same, due to different electronic construction the three models have slight different sounds.
The MS10 is considered by some the more aggressive as filter behaviour (compared to the MS20) and because of the presence of pulse width modulation (absent on the MS20).
The MS20 is the more versatile of the three as can work as a synth (with lots of features), efx processor, and can be controlled even with audio signals!
The MS50 is the only real modular of the serie, it must be patched to produce sounds, and has a vast array of particular features as 2 ringmodulators, the vc lfo, the vco with multiouts, logic modules, the volt-meter, etc…
While the MS10 is a “straight” synth if used standalone, the MS20 is a good soundesign machine but it is a real awesome modular when used in junction with MS50 and the SQ10.
The MS50 can be used to produce linear or exp FM, or to fatten up the sound, with 3 vco, 3 filters 4 env etc this little modular is really awesome!
Compared to the “high end” modulars/semimodulars of the period , like the ARP 2600, EMS Synthi, Moog Systems, the MS serie has a more “noisy”and less harmonic carachter, but while back in that days were mainly considered  low budget modulars, now are considered great sounding machines because the approach at making music (especially electronic music) is really changed.
Every electronic music producer uses or has used an MS in  his career.
In the late 70s and early 80s MS10 and MS20 were widely used by new wave synth pop bands  as O.M.D. , Human League, Depeche Mode.
During the 90s every techno , electronic , producer used one or more than one.
Just to name a few Aphex Twin uses 4 MS20 , Autechre uses MS20 and MS10, Coldcut used extensively the MS20 , Mr.Oizo (MS20) , Portishead (MS20 & MS50),Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers…

Later I’ll analize deeper the MS20 & MS50 combo, stay tuned!

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Analogue Solutions SY02 – Multimode Filter review

Analogue Solutions SY02 Multimode Filter VCA

Analogue Solutions SY02 Multimode Filter VCA

I’m a great fan of the Korg MS-20, as it’s one of my favourite synths ever, so I decided to expand my modular with an MS-20 filter clone.
There are many emulators/clones in eurorack format for the Korg filter, but I focused on three modules:

  • Doepfer X-treme filter
  • Malekko (Wiard) Borg (Buchla-Korg)
  • Analogue Solutions SY02

I like the Borg but it works only as a multimode filter that can out put only one signal, so it’s quite limited.
The Doepfer is interesting but I found the ASOL the more versatile and at the same time interesting  as carachter.
The first thing to say that  THIS IS NOT THE MS-20 FILTER!
In its way it can have common caracteristics and sounds very similar but it’s not the same.

The module has a vertical row of connections for CVand audio INs on the left and the knobs on the right.
There is a an INPUT LEVEL to adjust the gain for the incoming sounds, that useful to saturate or lead the filters to overdrive.
On the left there are 2 AUDIO IN .
Than there is the HIGHPASS Filter section with

  • Cutoff
  • Resonance
  • HPF CV

The HPF CV has 2 CV in the first is attenuated by the knob while the second has no attenuation control.

The LOWPASS Filter section has the same controls:

  • Cutoff
  • Resonance
  • LPF CV

As for the HPF even the LPF filter has 2 cv in and only the first is attenuated by the LPF CV.

There is aslso a VCA section with :

  • Initial Level
  • Volume
  • Audio out (minijack)

The VCA has its 2 CV IN not attenuated.

This module is the FILTER/VCA section usedon the Analogue Solutions VOSTOK too, the construction is solid and the VCA it’s a really good add o this filter.
The filters have a really particular response , tryng to emulate the Korg MS-20 filters/VCA, and the input gain is the key to get smooth sounds  or enter in noise territory.
I’ve patched the synth in a very simple way to understand clearly the behaviour of this module.
I’ve patched only the first vco (from my MFB OSC02) directly into the first audio in of the sy02, used the MFB Dual ADSR to control the vca ancd the LPF.
With a low input level the sound is really mellow and “japanese”, smooth and deep.
As I turn the input level clockwise, the waveform gain in volume and in saturation until “distortion”.
Distorion is like a good overdriven sound , not a clear distortion.
As the filter , with a low input level flows into the filters they react quite smoothly and the resonance has a pleasant harmonic sound but reaches only little aggressive tones.
As the input level grows the filters start to saturate and overdrive the sound, and using ring mod with saw sources it creates a particular clipping , like if it would cut and drive the peaks of the saw waves.
A really interesting trick that every MS-20 user knows is using the HPF as a frequency booster.
In fact the resonance of the HPF can produce a really big amount of sub frequencies  usable to fatten up the sound.
If the HPF is controlled with the tracking of the keyboard  it can create very powerful SUB basses.

Behond the FILTERS  there’s a good (in my opinion) VCA that concurs to give a strong carachter to the module.
The VCA does not ave a superfast response or a extra dynamic behaviour, but it’s very warm and full, really musical!
For me it’s very important for a module to be “musical” because too often a modular synth can do amazing noises but cannot play a bass sound , and that’s quite absurd.
Doepfer modules  (like the A-132-3 DVCA I own) have a cleaner sound and more volume but are less musical (in my opinion but maybe you will like it), and I find this useful for percussive sounds or effects and less pleasant for melodic sounds.

Back to the SY02 , I’m really happy with this module, it has a certain retrò/MS-20 touch, but it also has a carachter of its own.
I really recommend it to everyone looking for a japanese touch in his modular sounds!

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