Erica Synths NAMM 2017 announcements

 

If you like Erica Synths and haven’t seen, click HERE to check out an interview with them. Also click images for details.

Erica must work non stop working up their ranges of systems, re working and re designing classics and constantly keepings things flying forward. There’s often multiple releases together (PICO was 13 modules at once I think … crazy!). So it’s no surprise they’re releasing and announcing a slew of modules and updates at NAMM 2017.

First up is the re designed Polivoks DIY line up. With many innovations and improvements on the original soviet Polivoks designs.

There’s also the previously announced Fusion system which uses tubes/valves/glowing glass things (call them what you will!) in the signal path. While I haven’t played on the full system the previous version one Fusion modules and the new Vintage Delay Ensemble is killer.

There’s also a new filter core with a new chip designed and manfactured for Erica Synths by RPAR Alfa. It’s a 12 octave, exponential tracking, resonance modulating, multimode VCF which is similar to a CEM3320 with improved characteristics. Nice to see them pushing technologies, looking at the specs on the image I’m starting to picture one hell of a filter on the cards when they get the module sorted.

There’s also the new Black Octasource (with new video below), version 2 stereo mixer and PFL Expander (my video below), MIDI to clock (or clock to MIDI) and a new XFADE module.

 

(via Audio News Room and Matrix Synth)

Doepfer Press Release for NAMM 2017

 Hold up … just wanted to start by saying I’ve just seen these images over on Matrix Synth and I wanted to share them here too with my own babble.

Doepfer have released their press release for the 2017 NAMM show and it’s full of goodies into a new programmable octal programmable switch, new small low cost case (single row or 48HP), CV input module and quad envelope follower to go with the performance mixer, more black “vintage” series A-100 modules and a new Trapezoid oscillator. I’m looking forward to seeing some coverage of these from NAMM in the next few days.

What are some of your favourite Doepfer modules? Get in touch and let me know, A-189-1 Bit Modifier is high on my list.

Click the images for details! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview – BASTL Instruments

This interview is from issue 15 of DivKid’s Month Of Modular from December 2016.

Hey Václav, good to be speaking you and asking some questions for the magazine. First can you tell us about about your own background?

We started the company together with Ondřej and we played in a band together but also went to art school together. So basically the background is art and music. The good thing about art school was that I had a lot of time to learn how to do electronics and programing and from doing video-synthesizers and mechanical installations I shifted to making synthesizer, because I really needed to focus my energy towards music.

What made you start designing modules and launch the company BASTL?

At first we started a project called Standuino (est. 2011) which was focused on the local history of DIY movement in contrast with the global trends that came with the maker movement. The name itself connected the Arduino (prototyping platform) and a name of our hero Standa Filip – a local guy that was making synths, drum machines, theremins and electric guitars since late 70s. With the Standuino project we have been doing workshops, art exhibitions and concerts all around Europe, but at the workshops we were building synths anyway. So at first the idea was to make workshops and art but then we came to the point: “Hey! we are actually making synths and people want to buy them?!” we decided to start from scratch and make a real company – Bastl Instruments.

Eurorack was actually the format of choice for my diploma project in which i wanted to translate physical events into simple language (control voltage obviously) with sensors, and than i wanted to influence the physical environment with the same language – motor controllers. I build a rack with bunch of modules to demonstrate that you can use modular environment to reconfigure physical ecosystems. And of course some of the modules were making sound as well.

Your line of modules has grown quickly. Was building full systems a goal at the start?

Well I always wanted to create complete musical instrument/environment for myself. It took a long time between I started to turn circuits into modules and the time when we were ready with the panels, knobs, graphics, manuals and everything else. So it piled up and then we released 10 modules at once and it appeared to work as a complete system already. Also the motivation behind making the modules in the first place was that I had a lot of friends here in Czech republic that wanted to build that stuff also, but couldn’t afford to buy it. And we all needed all the basic modules, like mixers etc.

We can’t have an interview without me asking about the wooden panels, what made you choose wooden panels?

So the story is that we have a CNC machine in the house that we use for several other projects and when we were prototyping the panels we used it just to check that all the holes are in the right place so we could order some metal panels. But the moment we saw how it looked and how it behaved it was decided! But than it also took some time to figure out the right printing method and the type of varnish we need to use so it stabilizes the color and makes it really durable.

You have even made custom knobs for the modules, are the aesthetics of your systems something you make a priority?

Well I guess our art background makes that aesthetic stuff automatically 🙂 so we focus more on the instruments themselves and that seems to be the priority. Luckily we have awesome friends that do all our graphics – the Anymade Studio and they really push the look of our stuff and make our brand something special. They also enjoy working with us because we are not normal clients and they can afford to make more extreme jokes in more progressive designs.

I think BASTL deserve an award for the most creative and fun stands at shows. Where did the idea to do something so different come from?

Haha thanks ! Well if you look at my diploma project it must become obvious https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUeHUuyPa84

Basically it is art installation that I finished my art school with. From this point to our show stands there is very direct link. We tried it the first time and it simply worked. I also really enjoy making these installations. At Superbooth for instance we showed the Hendrikson module that interfaces with the guitar and guitar pedals, but we didn’t want people play guitar at our booth so I made the robotic self playing guitar that you could sequence with a modular. That was fun!

As well as providing modules to interface with external devices (instruments, motors etc) you’ve released the bitRanger and Kastle. Which are both stand alone devices. Will we see more stand alone devices in the future?

I need to mention Peter Edwards a.k.a. Casper Electronics at this point. He is a circuit bending legend and really innovative thinking instruments designer that happened to move to Brno to work with us on synths and instruments. The bitRanger is his design that we released and the Kastle is my design that is obviously inspired by the bitRanger. We have always been doing standalone instruments and to be honest it is much easier from the design perspective to make a module than to make a tabletop thing (that is why it takes so long sometimes). Now especially with the bitRanger and the Kastle we wanted to address the situation of starting modular user (so you don’t need so many modules and expenses when starting to have something fun to play), but also somebody who doesn’t have more space in the rack (so you get an external device to enhance it).

Personally I like the wooden panels, they look and feel great but it’s hard to escape people asking for aluminium panels. Will you offer those in the future?

Yes we will ! It took us really long time because all our production is local or in house (pcbs,assembly, panels) so we were trying to find somebody local, too. That turned out to be impossible so we started to look further and found a company in Germany.

With them we managed to develop a technique how to do the printing and post processing so it becomes very durable and also looks amazing so we are really happy with the result. So hopefully we have the panels very soon.

Finally anything else you would like to tell us or promote? Any new module teasers?

Well we always talk about the community around Bastl Instruments. We are mostly musicians and all the guys working with us have build a modular for very little money. And we all play these instruments, we organize monthly concerts and also we try to make internal weekly workshops on synthesis, music, electronics and related topics. There is a real music scene forming around Bastl now which is really exciting.

With products – there is very anticipated effects processor called Thyme getting finished so we can hopefully soon start the production. It also took much longer than anticipated but is really worth it. Sounds and feels truly great! When it comes to modules… yes there will be some new modules next year. There is still a lot of modules that I desire that don’t exist so i need to make them exist!

Thanks to Václav for chatting to us and checking BASTL here – http://www.bastl-instruments.com/

Nuclear Powered Random CV!

David Cramer over on Nervous Squirrel has created a nuclear powered module … nice, dangerous, exciting or scary … it’s certainly sure to pique people’s interest. The module works by looking at the “ticks” coming from a Geiger Counter holding the uranium and uses Ken Stone’s joystick schematic which is adapted to work these voltages into a random CV signal. You can adjust the range, offset and glide of the signal and you also get a trigger every time the Geiger Counter is activated.

Check out the site for more information.http://www.nervoussquirrel.com/modular

You may remember I covered the Nervous Squirrel Ring Modulator (based on the classic BBC 1963 ‘Dalek’ design) a good couple of years back.

(FYI I saw this on FACTMag and Synthtopia)

Module Of The Month – December 2016

The Ring SM from AJH Synth is the Ring Mod for people who don’t like Ring Mods and also a powerhouse for those that do. The 5 channel mixer with Subs is worth it alone but the ring modulator features and X Y and Z control (a first three way ring mod possible?), there’s frequency doubling and great clipping/saturation on the mixer when you want it. Check out some patches with the module below and take my word for it you should go out and buy one.

DivKid’s Month Of Modular Issue #15

Here’s the December issue of DivKid’s Month Of Modular packed full of modular goodies like a sweet shop of knobs and holes to stick your cables in … erm, yeah sorry about that mind wonders sometimes … This issue’s interview is with BASTL Instruments and there’s news from Rossum Electro-Music, CV Freqs and AJH Synth. The module of the month was also a kind offering from the gods, or Allan at AJH – however you want to look at it.

MAGAZINE – https://joom.ag/PhWW PDF – http://bit.ly/DivKidMag15

 

Interview – Abstract Data

This interview is from the November issue of DivKid’s Month Of Modular. Find that magazine issue HERE.

Hey Justin, thanks for answering questions and chatting to us. To start with can you tell us what your background is? Be that music related, engineering etc.

My background is pretty mixed. I was born in London but I ‘grew up’ (still growing up really…) in Sydney – London has been home again for nearly 20 years now but my accent often sounds like I just arrived. I got into music seriously through late 80’s Punk and Hardcore but by the 90’s I was making and playing Techno, House and Breaks. Over the years I’ve played in bands as a guitarist, DJ’d, produced, remixed and run record labels. My engineering and electronic design background is mainly self-taught – I started repairing bits of my own music hardware and studio gear to keep it running and at some point, I started thinking about building something for myself.

How did Abstract Data come about? You were making desktop units before modules if I remember correctly.

Yes, I started building one-off, self-contained, desktop designs around 2008. Basically, small sequenced, mono synths with some basic CV control over stuff like PWM. It’s interesting for me to see the current crop of smaller sequenced synth designs that companies like Korg and Roland are doing now – I do wonder if I would have started on this path if those designs had existed back then.

My first ‘commercial’ builds were the Hex Series – a set of three, complimentary synth/effects boxes that covered signal generation, filtering/morphing and modulation.

I started doing my own designs for two main reasons. I was doing a lot of music and audio writing and production for television and advertising companies. This work was all ‘in the box’ – everything was done in a DAW and while I really enjoyed and appreciated the power and flexibility that gave me – especially for all the last minute or short-deadline changes that work requires – increasingly, I felt more and more like I was spending my entire day just sitting at a computer and less like I was doing anything really creative. Increasingly, the computer became much less interesting to me as a creative tool. That hasn’t really changed for me since then if I’m honest.

The other was that I really started missing playing a physical instrument – be it a guitar or percussion or a synth and I started thinking about buying a decent, fully-featured analogue synth. This was before the current crop of smaller, cheaper builds and back then – you were either buying a modern, monster-synth or you were trying to track down one of the few really good modern analogue synths that existed or you were buying one of the old-school legendary synths like an SH-101 – but also paying the ridiculous prices that those builds often go for.

From there, since I’d been tinkering with more of my own gear anyway – I started looking into building my own designs.

You had a great core set of modules early on with the ADE-10 Reactive Shaper, ADE-20 Multi-Mode Filter and ADE-30 Wave Boss. What inspired these as the first modules?

I got into Eurorack kind of by accident. I bought a couple of modules to set up a bench test rig for the desktop builds I was designing – I figured it would be a good way to get a decent sine wave and a power supply without buying expensive lab gear. From there – I was hooked very quickly. About the same time I was offered a good deal on a large – but very badly treated – Doepfer rig out of a studio that was down-sizing. I repaired the ones I could, sold some on and suddenly I’d gone from having 3 or 4 modules to approaching 9U of Eurocrack.

The first Abstract Data modules covered a lot of different bases for me. The ADE-10 was more experimental – it definitely didn’t take the safe, clean, linear approach that many Euro designers take now – there were great sweet spots but you had to find them and you could also fall off the edge with it. I like that element in sound creation.

The ADE-20 was my first attempt at doing a serious discrete analogue design. That’s ‘proper’ electronics as far as I’m concerned. I’m no purist, I have no problem with digital – but for sound generation – analogue is where it’s at for me. It wasn’t perfect but I learnt a lot from that design and I’m really looking forward to some of the designs that build on the core circuits that were developed during that stage.

Your modules are densely packed and full of features yet easy to use. Do you always set out to cover a wide range within the type of module that it is? Take the ADE-31 Logic Boss for example. It’s a comprehensive logic module with multiple channels and multiple logic types. Personally do you prefer that over say breaking anything into separate modules?

I think there’s an important balance between giving the customer something fully-featured, something that is absolutely usable in any situation – be it noodling around in the studio or doing some sort of live performance but also something that is genuinely interesting – something they can experiment with, something that doesn’t give up every feature in the first session. Getting that balance right is one of the great challenges of Euro design.

I like modules that pack a lot in, I don’t like modules where the functionality is hidden or obscured and I don’t like modules that bring absolutely nothing new to the game. I guess I try and aim somewhere between those three points.

It’s fair to say you made a big splash with the ADE-32 Octocontroller. Were you aiming to make something that would really ignite a small system? Or was it making a swiss army knife module that filled any sort of “I wish I had more modulation” type thoughts users may have?

Yeah, obviously I’m very proud of the Octocontroller, it’s become Abstract Data’s flagship module and it’s great to see that new people are still discovering it and experienced users are still finding new things to do with it.

The ADE-32 design came out of trying to solve a problem that I was having with my own rig in that, if you’re doing music that relies on clocked and quantised sequences – like most forms of dance music for example and you’re running a rig that is stand-alone i.e. you’re not slaving it to a DAW – then getting multiple, synced modulations going is actually really challenging. That seemed like a glaring hole in my early Eurorack experience – so I set out to fill it.

It ended up being a lot more than just a bunch of synced LFOs but I found that once we’d sorted the navigation method – which gives you access to all the key features right on the front panel – then we could squeeze in some bonus features like looping CV and arpeggios.

The upcoming waveshaping VCO, envelope generator and VCA flesh out the Abstract Data system into a full and comprehensive voice. Was an all Abstract Data rig always a goal?

That idea evolved over the first couple of years of designing modules but it is the long-term plan to have a complete Abstract Data signal path.

We have VCO, VCF, VCA, VC-AHDSR and a number of modulation and utility designs in development and the current Abstract Data demo rig has prototypes of all those modules running.

So where do you see Abstract Data going next? FX, sequencing, drums maybe? Any particular avenues you’d like do explore?

As far as new modules go – there’s currently a half dozen new designs working through prototyping – so that’s the next couple of years work sorted right there. The priority right now is to have a complete Abstract Data system that handles sound creation and modulation.

I am still committed to ADE-32 development, there’s some ideas for future firmware upgrades that I really want to explore and I am seriously looking at expander development.

There’s currently no plans for sequencing or percussion – but there are some digital synthesis and sound generation that I’d like to explore. There’s also loads going outside of product development, I’m looking to move out of the spare room and into dedicated work space and I’m also looking to bring some people into the team. Small steps – but all things that will hopefully keep Abstract Data growing.

Slightly off topic but you play guitar (as do I) so I wanted to ask if you see guitar and Abstract Data crossing paths at any point? Pedals maybe, or even just playing the guitar through or alongside modular.

Yes, I’ve played guitar on and off for years and I’ve been playing seriously again the last few years.

As far as using the guitar with my modular, in all honesty – I see them as two totally different music projects. The music I do with my modular leans heavily towards Techno and the stuff I play on the guitar, these days, leans heavily towards slow, soul and gospel-influenced Blues. There’s a few key styles of music that I’ve been into for most of my life – but they’ve always been part of their own thing.

As far as doing some non-modular, guitar-oriented designs – then yes, that’s definitely something I’d like to pursue.

Thanks to Justin for talking to us. Check out his site www.abstractdata.biz and watch out for updates on his Twitter and Facebook.

Module Of The Month – November 2016

Oh Chaos Divider how I love thee so … Weird I know, but it is kind of weird to really like something as simple as a clock divider. However, the Chaos Divider not only is pimped up to the next level with the gorgeous looking Nixie Tube numerical display it’s also functional awesome too! That’s why it was my module of the month in DivKid’s Month Of Modular in November 2016. Check out the jam video and overview videos below to check it out.

If you’ve got a strange love for an inanimate object feel free to comment below 😉 

DivKid’s Month Of Modular Issue #14

Here’s the November 2016 magazine issue 14 of DivKid’s Month Of Modular. There’s a relatively new company as module of the month, news from BugBrand, Erica Synths, Malekko and random*source and the interview from this issue was with Justin from Abstract Data.

MAGAZINE – https://joom.ag/tqVQ – PDF – http://bit.ly/DivKidMag14

Interview – Erica Synths

This interview was from issue #13 of DivKid’s Month Of Modular back in October 2016.

In this interview I talk to Girts from Erica Synths about how the company started, how they managed to create such a strong and large product line and where he sees the company heading in the future.

So Girts, tell us how did you get into synths and electronics prior to modular. Do you have a background in similar things?

I grew up in a small village and for some reason from early childhood I had a drive for inventing things, doing something that others don’t do, and so on. Ignoring the fact that I didn’t have any reasonable tools, advice, references or examples from others in my teenage years I built velomobile, a delta plane (which luckily didn’t fly), electrical grass trimer,
emulated space shuttle Challenger disaster with 80cm high model of it, turned accordion into aqualung, considered applying to military school in Moscow, performed crazy stunts on a bike, that I would never do today, and other totally crazy stuff.

When I was in 7th grade in primary school, I “borrowed” from school library a book about some DIY electronics and I totally fell for it. Back then Latvia was a part of Soviet Union, and we were basically isolated from information around the rest of the world, but I subscribed to both DIY monthly magazines available in USSR. In the secondary school I already have developed some synths and stompboxes. In beginning of 90s I moved to Riga, capital city of Latvia, studied physics and become a physics teacher. Then my skills of building stompboxes advanced to the level that I could sell them. But when Latvia gained independence, market opened, and western-produced electronics become available and I put DIY electronics hobby aside.

Some 7 years ago I decided to make an electronics DIY constructor for
my son. It basically was a modular constructor consisting of small boxes,
each hosting some component (LED, potentiometer, for example), that
were interconnected via patch cables to make electronic circuits. When I
had some 20 different boxes developed, I searched the internet for schematics of “something that makes sound”, and come across Music From Outer Space… In next three-four years I built virtually all DIY projects in all possible formats (my monster rack had both +-12V and +-15V rails) that were available online. But the eurorack boom hadn’t begun, yet.

The company started with models of the Soviet Polivoks synths. What was the connection to that sound?

It was more to do with the availability of original components. I just decided to make rack-mount Polivoks clone with a midi implementation. I found schematics and PCB drawings online, redrew PCBs, etched them at home, and actually made the synth. But before that I built the Polivoks VCF DIY kit, I ordered somewhere, and it was developed around western analogues of programmable opamps that were used in the original Polivoks. And it didn’t sound nearly as good, as my VCF. So, I decided to make my first DIY kit to offer it on Muffwiggler. And honestly, I do not give a f**k about that soviet heritage. That was pure nightmare.

You started with and since have made plenty of DIY kits, PCBs & panels available. Is the DIY something you will focus on in the future too?
Honestly, with launch of first modules from Black series focus has shifted to factory built eurorack modules. But, as I feel nostalgic about DIY, we definitely will continue offering DIY kits and will develop some more in future.

How did you manage to create such a wide range of modules so quickly? And not just cheap modules that people only keep for a while. You’ve a large range of very strong modules, Polivoks, Black Series, Fusion Series how did it all happen?

Like many eurorack companies, Erica Synths started in my bedroom (literary), where I had soldering station, did all packaging for sending first orders, etc. And I wasn’t a community of engineers and musicians – I was running one of largest advertising agencies in Latvia. But then, I still wonder, how it happened, I accidentally met genius people who are engineers and musicians, and now they are in Erica Synths team: Janis is engineer for most of our digital stuff, Kodek makes demos, plays gigs on Erica Synths gear, tests prototypes both from musical and functional perspective, Anastasija is my ex-student (I teach marketing in a university), she takes care about marketing and logistics, Ralfs tests every single module that comes from the factory and does cases assembly. And in similar way few outsourced engineers appeared. Eduards aka D-tech, genius engineer and self-taught composer and blues piano player, used to work in huge company that develops high-tech communication devices, but, as he works almost exclusively during night-time and music is his true passion, he’s more happy to work for Erica Synths and I’m happy, I met him.

On the other hand, we have like 5-6 electronics assembly companies of different size here, few PCB producers (I can get prototype PCBs in 3 days), companies that can make front panels, and a friend of mine owns a silkscreen company. All those are small-medium companies and therefore I can keep production processes effective and short. And within last year their doubts “who a hell buys all this crazy shit?” have been leveraged, and they kind of admire Erica Synths for what we do together.

During soviet times Riga Musical Instruments Factory (RMIF) was the largest musical instruments producer in Soviet Union, so I want to make Riga great again! In terms on synth reputation, of course.

Do you have any connections to tube amps or bits of tube driven vintage gear? I’m wondering what led you to develop the Fusion series.

In my early DIY experience back in 80-ties I made some tube stuff, but that doesn’t count. The inspiration for Fusion series and early designs came from Aivars Kreivics, DIYer, engineer, self-taught musician and sound engineer. He was a mastermind behind monster drum machine RMIF ES25 that was being developed in Riga. Only single prototype was built in 1991 before factory gone bankrupt. Check it out here: www.ruskeys.net/eng/base/rmifes25.php He was 65, when I met him performing live in festival Night of Wonders, organized by Kodek in his small hometown, on his creation – one of kind synth HIDRA built solely on vacuum tubes (https://soundcloud.com/senators-1/sets/hidra). We become good friends, and developed first versions of Fusion modules. Unfortunately, Aivars passed away this January. R.I.P.

With Fusion V2 we have way more experience both in design and production, and D-tech has taken over schematics part of the project. V2 brings Fusion series to brand new level! I hope to release the missing links in the series Fusion VCF and Fusion VCA in next 2-3 months.

Recently you’ve developed a DSP platform with the Black Hole DSP injecting digital FX into your line up of modules. Are you working with DSP developers on new digital projects and FX too?

The Black Hole DSP is developed around well-known SPN1001 chip, which is found in many DSP modules. But we didn’t want to have native effects on the chip, therefore we collaborated with Gary Worsham developer of Spin CAD software dedicated to SPN1001 programming (http://holycityaudio.com/spincad-designer-2/ ). He did several major
adjustments in the software, and Kodek spent 3 months in row to develop effects so, that they sound really great. The success of the module confirms that. We’ll have expansion chip with 8 more effects out by the end of the year.

One of the standout series of modules has been the PICO range of 3HP modules. Not just for their small size but also the sound and functionality. Were you dreaming of filling small gaps in people’s systems or dreaming of a small portable system when work on those began?

Pico Series was, kind of, accidental sidestep! Janis was pissed off working on Graphic VCO firmware early this year, and said out loud something like: “I wish I could do something small!” And same day we came up with concepts for 16 Pico modules. We were so excited about these ideas, that we put aside Graphic VCO and focussed on Pico. It didn’t only take a lot of engineering, but also – a lot of creativity to develop user interfaces so that modules are really playable and do the work of regular sized modules. We did lot of revisions and prototypes before we were happy about the result both musically and functionally. And I would never ever again launch 16 modules simultaneously! 😀 Just imagine all production routines with 16 modules! Production files, front panels, designs, manuals, packaging, logistics!

But I’m really happy about the result! I can proudly say that we have developed the world’s smallest self-containing (no external interfaces needed) eurorack modular system that really works! You can play serious one-hour gig only on 42HP system.

Will we see more PICO modules soon? And do you think there’s anything you can’t fit in 3HP?

Yes, the second run of Pico modules is arriving from the factory these days, and then our Pico series will be complete. We’ll launch pre-assembled Pico System mid-November. We’ll have 6 more Pico modules: Pico DSP (8 effects stereo FX processor), Pico STRINGS (string sounds VCO), Pico Logic (2×8 logic algorithms), Pico SEQS (voltage controlled
4-channel sequential switch), ALOGIC (“analogue logic” signal processor – takes two incoming signals and derives sum, difference of them, as well as max and min curves) and MASK (advanced S&H module, based on Mask Value principles).

The only limitation for 3HP is physical space of the faceplate. J It would be hard to imagine 8 channel performance mixer in 3HP!

Finally, what’s next for Erica Synths? Anything you can tell us about?

As Pico series are temporarily complete, we shift our focus back to Graphic modules, and I hope to have Graphic VCO ready before Christmas! Also we have Fusion VCF and VCA on the way. And couple of very distinct VCFs. To date we have only Polivoks VCF in our line, therefore we want to fill that gap.

To end on I’d like to say a huge thanks to Girts for all his support of my work and for taking the time to answer my questions.