Verbos Bark Filter at NAMM 2017 & Unusual frequency scaling

Already announced before NAMM (but the video below) is from NAMM 2017 here’s the Bark Filter from Verbos Electronics. It’s named the Bark Filter due to the scaling of the frequency bands used which come from the Bark scale. I’m sure (as with every other Verbos module I’ve used) that this will be killer and you can hear it in the Analogue Zone video below but I wanted to delve into the Bark Scale and using non standard spacings for filter banks and EQs.

I first came across an unusual (or rather uncommon) frequency spacing in the Serge Resonant EQ. Without having an original I jumped at the chance to get one in eurorack format from Low-Gain, Clark and Manhattan Analog with the module pictured to the left. It’s frequency aren’t split like a  normal EQ that may have the bands 55Hz, 110Hz, 220Hz, 440Hz, 880Hz and so on. The reason in the case of the Serge EQ is that normal EQs reinforce a musical scale or key. In the numbers listed above those frequencies are all the note A with the frequencies split at octaves all reinforcing the same scale or note. There’s some great blurb for the Serge EQ on the Thonk store page for the DIY kit (not available at the minute) … erm … that page isn’t around anymore and I can’t find it. Which is gutting as it was a good read about the scale. But you do get the idea from the random*source Res EQ module blurb quoted below.

Except for the top and bottom frequency bands, the bands are spaced at an interval of a major seventh. The Resonant Equalizer is designed to produce formant peaks and valleys similar to those in acoustic insstruments.

Until the Verbos module came to life I’d not heard of the Bark scale so doing some digging (god I love the learning that the modular world continues to invite you delve into) and here’s a summary. The Bark Scale was first proposed in 1961 by Eberhard Zwicker (not a Mr. Bark as you may think) however it is named the Bark scale as it was named after Heinrich Barkhausen who proposed the first subjective loudness measurements. Above 500Hz the scale is very similar to a logarithmic curve but below and increasingly becomes more and more linear. The scale has 24 bands that correspond to the 24 critical bands of hearing. The idea of these critical bands was introduced to audiology and psychoacoustics by Harvey Fletcher  invention of the in 1933 before it was refined in 1940. Interestingly Harvey Fletcher is known as the father of stereophonic sound and credited with an early electronic hearing aid and alongside Wilden A. Munson they determined the Fletcher-Munson curves … which is something I imagine some of you have heard of. But back to the critical bands … The critical bands describe the frequency bandwidth of the “auditory filter” created by the cochlea which is an organ within the inner ear. Each of the 24 critical bands has a varying bandwidth but a rounded version (so the quote below to see why these are rounded) of the center frequencies is as follows. 60Hz, 150Hz, 250Hz, 350Hz, 450Hz, 570Hz, 700Hz, 840Hz, 1000Hz, 1170Hz,1370Hz, 1600Hz, 1850Hz, 2150Hz, 2500Hz, 2900Hz, 3400Hz, 4000Hz, 4800Hz, 5800Hz, 7000Hz, 8500Hz, 10500Hz and 13500Hz.

In his letter “Subdivision of the Audible Frequency Range into Critical Bands”, Zwicker states:

“These bands have been directly measured in experiments on the threshold for complex sounds, on masking, on the perception of phase, and most often on the loudness of complex sounds. In all these phenomena, the critical band seems to play an important role. It must be pointed out that the measurements taken so far indicate that the critical bands have a certain width, but that their position on the frequency scale is not fixed; rather, the position can be changed continuously, perhaps by the ear itself.”

Thus the important attribute of the Bark scale is the width of the critical band at any given frequency, not the exact values of the edges or centers of any band.

The Verbos Bark Filter doesn’t work with varying the bandwidth but uses the idea of these rounded/approximated center frequencies to form the 12 band fixed filter that the module is. The filters used here are steep 6th order band pass filters and you get a huge range of control and data out of the module. Bands are split into even and odd where you can take in one signal and split the output into the odd and even bands or you can even use two different inputs into the odd and even bands. There’s an envelope follower per band (awesome for extracted CV data out of dynamic and broad band sources such as a drum kit or even a full patch) and also a CV over each band. You can control the decay of the envelope followers and also shift and tilt the EQ in the same way as you can control the first 8 harmonics on the Verbos Harmonic Oscillator. As I said above every bit of Verbos kit I’ve touched is awesome, super high build quality and amazing sound quality. One trick mentioned by Mark Verbos and also brought up regarding the 4ms SMR (although that’s only 6 bands in total, but a very different module I should add) is that you can do basic vocoding with the module. A vocoder is simply an analysis system for extracting information and a processor for applying that to something else. So using the odd input as analyzers you can then use the envelope follower outputs to control the amplitude through the CV inputs of the even bands. There’s even switching to do this on the module which will save a mound of cable spaghetti. I’m excited to check out the module in person hopefully sometime soon and also to see Mark Verbos again at Superbooth in April. It was great to meet him and chat about ideas and his work in person and even better to get him on the Modular Podcast show to talk about origins and applications of Random which I’ve linked below too.

I should add that quotes are from Wikipedia and are all linked through. Like most my digging involved google, Wikipedia, clicking on and checking sources etc. I hope that inspires some digging and a bit of your own research too. 

Oberheim at NAMM 2017

Sonic State and Tom Oberheim … nice combo for a trade show right there. Head to the video below to check out Nick Batt talking to Tom Oberheim with a little history lesson and walk through of the projects. Features aren’t discussed at length so I’ll dive into those myself below. Above is an image of the first Ring Modulator available aimed at performing musicians in 1970. Tom brought this along to NAMM and there’s also his phase shifter (that I believe went on to be a Maestro product) that was made in 1971. Both of those are now going to be available in adapted form in the eurorack format along his new synth modules.

You can see both the Phase Shifter and the Ring Modulator in the image above and both look to be fully featured, however a little big (hides under chair for my criticism). It’s interesting to see an effect in and out switch rather than a single on off button or switch. I wonder if there’s an advantage to doing it that way, or just something to follow the original designs. You have 3 speed buttons for low, medium or high frequency phase shifting along with an external modulation input, speed CV input and direct out. The direct out I think might be the internal LFO modulation. There’s then the obvious input and output. The Ring Modulator again has the in and out effect switch and low medium and high ranges. There’s knobs for input (input level no doubt), frequency and depth along with small trim knobs for the X and Y. The bottom input section gives us a big hint into how the unit works. There’s an external carrier input which hints at an internal one. That would also make sense for the carrier output and 1v/oct input. So there’s an internal oscillator to be used as a carried which you can also control the pitch of with your usual sources. There’s then a input (for the modulator I imagine) and an output. Both modules are “exactly the same circuit for 1970 and 1971”.

The new synth voice SEM-X is current development of the SEM+ (they didn’t like the name) that Oberheim had showed at a previous NAMM show. In the picture you can see the SEM-X modules and their Patch Panels. Each SEM-X module is going to come with a Patch Panel but you can re arrange these in the layout above for ease of patching. Each SEM-X is an Oberheim voice with two VCOs, a multimode VCF, two envelope generators, one LFO and a small mod section.

According to Tom in the video these products will be available in a few months “probably in May”.

 

10 new intellijel modules at NAMM 2017

UPDATE – I’ve now replaced all the photos with HQ web images direct from Intellijel. Be sure to click on them for full resolution images.

intellijel dropped 10 new modules at NAMM was that more or less than Erica Synths when they announced the PICO range? Anyway, they’ve been busy so let’s get stuck in!

Regarding Intellijel, by far the most exciting module for most will be Plonk (good name, I like!) Which is a new collaboration module from both intellijel and Applied Acoustic Systems A|A|S. If you’ve not heard of Tassman or Chromaphone from A|A|S you’ve probably seen their work in Ableton Live. They developed Analog, Tension, Collision and Electric for the DAW which are all great devices. You didn’t come here for DAW devices though so … Plonk brings in that software technology from A|A|S and that’s in the new module Plonk. It’s a physical modelling module suited to percussive sounds through modal synthesis. With beams, plates, membranes and strings there’s a wide range of objects to excite in various ways. Modal synthesis works with an exciter and a resonator first seen in the eurorack world with Elements from Mutable Instruments. Rather than choosing to build a large module with all the controls on the front Plonk offers macro control and a crisp and clear OLED screen to show / change settings and modulation. As we’ve seen with Rings from Mutable Instruments Plonk offers polyphony in the way of overlapping notes, meaning that as one sound decays you can strike and create another and the original sound won’t cut off. Fast forward to 15:18 in my Rings video to check this polyphonic feature out. Plonk runs at 24bit and 44.1kHz so no concerns with quality.

Next up is the Tetrapad which is a four part custom touch and pressure controller with various modes. The pressure is true ‘force sensing resistor’ pressure and not capacitance based. Meaning you can press the pads/strips harder with any object to get the pressure output. There’s a basic level and pressure mode with gives a value from the vertical position of the pads as well as a pressure output along with various other modes than can create strumming like gestures, 4 different pitch intervals for chord generation and there’s an expander coming that will allow you to sequence between those too. It looks like it will fit in nicely among the likes of Pressure Points and the new Twisted Elektron keyboard controller, likes those two modules Tetrapad will also be able to link with a second module for extended functionality.

Third in line is a new Quad VCA with adjustable response like the uVCA, cascading mixing, normalling between channels (that can be broken), amplification (see the boost switch) and everything you’d want from a bunch of VCAs. There’s a few quad VCAs around now included Mutable Instruments Veils, ALM’s Tangle Quartet, Bubblesounds VCA4p and no doubt a few more. Super handy modules well worth considering for plenty of extra control over your modulation and audio control. It’s third in the series of multiple VCA modules (is there a collective name for a group of multiple VCAs? Like a gaggle of geese for example) from intellijel after the original HexVCA and Linix. Fun fact – I just grabbed a second hand HexVCA (they’re long out of production) and it’s great. I also use the uVCA a lot so I’m sure this will be just as good.

Module four (no particular order I should say) is the Shifty. Which is a sequential switch and shift register where you can either sample the inputs or have them track or sample. You can randomise or ping pong the play through or have outputs cascade across each other for the shift register mode. Shifty looks as if it will bring together multiple modules in a compact unit to control and modulate through multiple voices and or sequences. You’d need sample and holds, a shift register, switch etc to put similar patches together, so it makes this look very immediate. There’s manual buttons for step through and reset and four gate and CV outputs from the one gate and CV input. That makes this a one way system (surely for the processing involved) unlike more basic switches that can go from 4 inputs to 1 output or 1 input to 4 outputs.

The fifth new module is actually a remake of the Springray module. It was previous a voltage driven spring reverb circuit that limited frequency response. So that has been updated to a whole new circuit that is current driven for a better response. There’s also a fully parametric EQ instead of the tilting EQ that was on the previous version. Patching in an LFO to the EQ frequency with a high gain reduction would give a phaser like sound over the spring reverb due to the notch EQ moving frequency – nice! There’s still a limiter circuit which is optical (like opto compression or vactrols) to stop your feedback getting out of hand. I can’t find a picture or get a good cut from videos of the new Springray so you’ll have to compare the video below to the image used here.

The next 5 modules are all 1U tiles and the first is a basic line input with level control. Simple but useful. The picture above in the new clock generator, noise generator, probability based random gate, sample and hold / track and hold and slew generator … that’s a lot crammed in and a mouthful, or finger full as I’m typing. There’s also a buffered mutliple which albeit plain is a good use of the space saving the precious 3U ‘normal’ rows for other duties. There’s also a “high quality” headphone driver that’s stereo in and 1/4″ stereo jack out with level control. Finally there’s a digital reverb that comes from Accutronics which I imagine is a similar digital brick to the one that’s compatible with the Music Thing Modular Spring Reverb module. There’s also new sizes in the case range and a carry bag for the cases. So lots of action in the intellijel camp!

 

 

 

Mordax DATA updates from NAMM 2017

CURVES CURVES CURVES (sing that like Girls Girls Girls by Motley Crew) … Lissajous CURVES CURVES CURVES 🙂 No I’ve not lost my mind, fallen into a glam rock state of trance or decided I need a huge bass drum for my kit a’la Tommy Lee.

I am however excited for the new firmware update in the Mordax Data scope. There’s Lissajous curves which take two inputs to create an X and Y waveform which looks killer on the DATA. It was dying for this mode from the start in my mind, synthesists love curves don’t you know!

The oscillator section now features both clipping and wavefolding. That’s right, an oscilloscope that’s also a dual oscillator that you can modulate, 1v/oct control and also modulate the amplitude with internal DCAs (digital VCAs). It also makes for a killer clock and rhythm generating source. It could already do these things but it’s worth mentioning as I’m not sure everyone has realised. For more on the DATA watch out for my article and tutorial in magazine and video with Future Music Magazine. Check out the video below to Brandon from Mordax walking through the new features with Analogue Zone.

Erica Synths Fusion Box at NAMM 2017

I’ve already posted some things up regarding Erica Synths at NAMM 2017 but here’s a new desktop unit based on the Fusion Tube series modules. It’s a desktop delay unit called the “Fusion Box” which is a standalone version of the Fusion Delay / Flanger Vintage Ensemble module. It’s got a tube/valve (shiny glass thing!), two BBD delay chips, feedback, mix, on board modulation, overdrive, input level, input boost for guitar or line level round the back and stereo output from a mono input. They’ve also made a footswitch for the bypass if you want this on a pedal board. Here’s a video from Sonic State with Girts going through the unit.

For those wanting more here’s the video from Analogue Zone too.

 

Eventide knee deep in Eurorack at NAMM 2017

Click bait stupid title – check, shock and awe at Eventide entering eurorack … erm … not really for me. And to be fair we’re more tip toeing into a swimming pool that knee deep 🙂 but that’s not to say I’m being negative about it.

Ok I’m not surprised as I think a lot of people may be about Eventide entering eurorack. Larger companies entering the market to experiment and test the market with single module releases that port over their technologies into the format seems like an easy exercise for a bigger companies.

We saw Strymon (granted not as large) announce the Generalissimo last year then pull it (they did tell me recently they were making good progress with eurorack though, so we’ll see where that leads). As well as progress on this.

Anyway onto the Eventide delay. The only place I’ve seen this is in a picture from Richard Devine’s Instagram Feed, so hopefully Sonic State and the like will make it over to get some video before the NAMM show ends. If I find anything else out and or see video I’ll go back and update the thread.

Working through the panel with have the audio in and out with level control along with a send and return in and out. There’s then drive control, tap tempo, multiply (tempo divisions and multiplications I imagine) infinite feedback, on and off (not something we see in modular often but something obvious for say guitar pedals), active (not sure how that’s different to on and off) and a kill (again similar to on and active maybe). Knobs are for delay (on a push encoder) with a low pass filter, feedback and mix control. CV is over feedback, mix, delay, LPF (low pass frequency) and delay multiplication. There’s trigger ins for infinite feedback/hold, kill and active as well as a clock input and output.

I’m sure it will sound great and hopefully take to modulation that you can really push to make it well worth while in your case. As I said above I’ll update this if/when we see more information.

Hexinverter Mutant Rimshot & VCNO at NAMM 2017

Stacy at Hexinverter, bright eyed and bushy tailed as always has graced the NAMM show floor with his presence (no hay bails full of screaming rubber chickens and allergic reactions a’la Knobcon this time) and brought along two new modules. The Mutant Rimshot and the VCNO.

God I love the Mutant artwork, it’s done by Hannes from Papernoise who you can find interview with right HERE (click it, go on you know you want to). The arms turn drum sticks in the design reminded me of the Squarepusher x Z Machines and the Aphex Twin and Chris Cunningham Monkey Drummer.

The Mutant Rimshot is the new 8hp (I hope we get more 8hp Mutants too) Rimshot and Clave module that features a switch to move between high and low rimshots or clave based sounds. You have a pitch control and modulation decay with can go to the on board multimode filter with an attenuverter to control the modulation. Filter modes are on a switch for LP, BP and HP and as well as trigger and accent inputs you get CV over the pitch and filter cut off as well as a separate input for the filter. As you can see in the video demo released by Hexinverter you can use other sounds and mix those with the on board percussion. The NAMM show videos again are by Analogue Zone.

Following the Mutant Rim Shot is the VCNO which is a voltage controlled noise oscillator. No-one has said it yet but it looks like an expansion / update of the vcNOIZ module from Hexinverter which was a more basic clocked noise module. The VCNO uses a pseudo random pattern of bits to generate what sounds like white noise at the highest frequency, but turning down the pitch brings in those downsampled lower clock rate noises you’ll be familiar with from explosion sounds in old Atari games. You get a screech output which is more … screechy … and then there’s the main white noise output, a tear output and the sizzle output. The sizzle is more suited to vinyl crackle kind of tones where you get an additional sizzle control as well as pitch. These sort of noise modules are perfect for a range of things within your patching. From making drum sounds, to noise beds through FX right through input for random modules and modulating oscillators and filters. You can get bacon frying sounds modulating a highly resonant filter with a high cut off and noise modulation for example. Modulating an oscillator may seem odd as full signal modulation would just be noisy and not that useful for a lot of applications but if you heavily and I mean heavily attenuate that into a linear FM input you can get some sort of jitter and movement that makes patches feel alive and full of character. Well worth checking out.

 

Make Noise Morphagene at NAMM 2017

The Morphagene is the latest collaboration module between soundhack / Tom Erbe and Make Noise and is “microsound and tape music module that’s designed to capture, regenerate and process sounds from both inside and outside your modular system”. It’s a stereo in/out module and works on the idea of tape reels. Each audio file is called a reel and multiple reels can store on SD cards. Each reel can be up to 87 seconds long, splices can be up to 87 long and it can have up to 99 slices per reel. Additionally you have genes (like the Phonogene) that can be used for small grains for granular processing.

Tony from Make Noise has been introducing the module with Time Lag Accumulator. Time Lag Accumulator literally means Time Delay Memory. This was first used by an unknown engineer on Terry Riley’s 1963 recordings for Music for Poison in Paris. It’s based on using two tape recorders for delay and feedback. Here’s a great quote about it from an interview with Terry Riley

“The accumulation technique had not been done yet. I was working in Mescaline Mix. I wanted this kind of long, repeated loop and I said, ‘can you create something like that?’ He got it by stringing the tape between two tape recorders and feeding the signal from the second machine back to the first to recycle along with the new incoming signals. By varying the intensity of the feedback you were able to form the sound into a single image without any delay. I enjoy the interplay between the two extremes. This is the first time I have been able to do this. It took me a while before I could afford to buy two good tape recorders to run this process in my own studio. “

Enough about the Time Lag Accumulator (go check that out more yourselves) and onto the Morphagene again. It looks like there’s CV over every parameter, it’s coming around March and is in manufacturing now. There’s more details from Walker Farrell (who works with Make Noise, you’ll recognise his voice from their own videos) in the second video posted below. Both videos are from Analogue Zone, who were awesome when I saw them in Budapest over summer.

birdkids new modules at NAMM 2017

birdkids continue to impress with their new module announcements at NAMM. There’s a wide range 6HP analogue VCO which is screaming to be used with the awesome Bateleur modules I covered a while ago (video below). I can just about make out some information from the VCO as neither of the videos I’ve seen so far go into detail but there’s a shape input and a PWM input. It’s always intriguing to see some additional shape control on an analogue oscillator that just takes it that bit further than the obvious sine, triangle, square / pulse and saw wave.

There’s also a studio quality (I’m guessing that means lo noise, high headroom) input and output. The star of the show is a 4 channel sequencer with button keyboard that will see more of ready for Superbooth in April (not many details yet). There’s also a 3hp mixer, quad VCA and more of the birdsnest system with a PCB installed inside the case for moving signals around (again not much information on this at the minute). Check out the videos from Synth Anatomy and Analogue Zone below for a run with Mike from birdkids.

Qu-Bit new modules at NAMM 2017

On all accounts it looks like Qu-Bit Electronix have absolutely smashed it for NAMM. 4 new modules covering envelopes, mixing, random and filtering. I’ll be posting updates about NAMM (I’m not there) with my personal spin on what we’re seeing. So strap in for blog posts a plenty! Click images to zoom in. 

Lets start with Chance the new random module. It has 9 outputs including white and digital noise (no sign of that rate controlled by anything), random gate, random ‘in time’ rhythms, clock out (also takes clock in) and 4 random voltage outputs. Smooth (ramps between values), discrete (stepped), wavetables (random shifts between in time sine, ramp and triangle waves) and the blend out (can shift and random mix the the first 3 cv outs). It’s looking great, and if it’s anything like a big brother to the already awesome nano rand then this will be fantastic! It’s 14hp and also has a freeze knob to control freeze and hold its current state.

Next up we’ve got Tone … now NOT that holy pilgrimage guitarist trek through hundreds of pedals, stringS, cabling and amps combos to find … it’s a new quad filter! This looks very “Mutable” to me in design, not judging just popped out that way, clean, symmetrical, those knobs etc. Anyway, it’s four 24dB per octave low pass and band pass filters with input for audio (duh liiiiiiike obviously!) and frequency CV with attenuator with knobs for CV depth, cut off and resonance and a LP and BP output per channel. It’s a cascade OTA design providing a “warm, buttery character” that looks like it would be great next to samplers / mixers and drums to me. Multiple filters for left and right stereo imagining or mono sub mixes of drums before hitting a final mixer would be a breeze. It’s 18hp for those shaping up space case to squeeze one in.

Third up is Contour which is a quad attack / decay generator with a few tricks up its sleeve. There’s a trigger in and cv inputs for both attack and decay. The output has an attenuverter for inversion and scaling of the output which is a nice addition as plenty of modules don’t have CV input controls. The envelopes can loop and change between linear and exponential as well as link channels. The channel linking is the unique part as you hold the loop control for 3 seconds then click the next channel (these flash and you can pick any, in any order) which will trigger the linked channel at the end of cycle from the first. Pretty cool! It comes in at 20hp and is due to ship at the end of this month. Others ship in coming months.

Finally we’ve got Mixology. We saw this last year with the old design Qu-Bit were using with slightly different features, so it’s good to see its new look and features. It’s a four channel “output/performance” style mixer with panning and a single send as well as solo, mute, output meter and CV over level, pan and send. It certainly fleshes out the new look Qu-Bit range well and is slightly larger than before at 28hp, offering a more ergonomic layout.

The Analogue Zone videos (as with other event coverage) are great so far and here’s one with Andrew from Qu-Bit going through the modules.