This interview is from Issue #1 of DivKid’s Month Of Modular back from October 2015. Interesting to read it back a year on.
Hi Benjamin, so we’ve been working together on promoting RYO products with my videos since RYO’s first module the Optodist. How did that module come about? Why use vactrols in it and LED based limiting?
It was a bit surprising to see how few options for distortion there was in Eurorack at the time, let alone with voltage control. We wanted to do something that was unusual even for guitar distortion pedals and would work well for synth sounds. After several experiments with different ideas for distortion designs and both OTA and vactrol based voltage control, we settled for a vactrol and TL072 based design because we really liked the way it sounded and it was indeed a bit different to what had been previously explored in this field.
It did the job for overdrive and distortion well but it also had this smudgy smooth character to it that we hadn’t heard much in other distortion designs. The vactrols response to control voltages sounded really good with the overall distortion character of the module. The idea of the limiter was to tame the output a bit but we also found that using LEDs sounded really nice, and worked fittingly together with the name Optodist.
We chose to have the limiter switchable and an input level attenuator to add as much range and usability as we could, from a gentle VCA with minimal distortion or a smooth overdrive and all the way to full crank. We find that it always add something pleasant to the sound at practically any setting.
Tell us a bit about RYO in general, who’s involved, where are you based, when did you start the company?
My interest in synths and music production much originated from softwares such as Reason and vst plugins, I bought my first hardware synth as late as 2009, a Korg MS2000R, and after that I was pretty much hooked by the fun and directness of hardware synths and not too long after I had gathered up a little synth setup. Andreas has had a background in programming and some hobby electronics and shortly after we got together he started to find an interest in music equipment as well.
We got started with modular around the autumn of 2011 when we bought a Doepfer eurorack case and a couple of modules, the whole concept of modular synthesis was quite new to us so it was an initially baffling process to get the grips of this machine, so shortly thereafter we started hanging out on music forums and IRC chatrooms such as Muffwiggler and 99musik here in Sweden. Via the Muffwiggler chat we got acquainted with hobby electronics interested Tom who have a long history with using modular and other synths as a musician and over time the ideas and plans for a company started to grow.
The company was officially launched in the Spring of 2013, here in Gothenburg, Sweden. Andreas is the main driving force of the company keeping the administration in check as well as building instructions, research, circuit and PCB designs, building/kitting modules and more. My work involves most of the front panel designs and building/kitting modules. Tom is involved in doing research, circuit designs and support. None of us are working full time with RYO yet.
I really like your VC Seq module in 10HP it’s a nice compact module that’s just the right size to jam on for me. People may have seen the second video I created using two of the sequencers and expanders together, can you tell us anymore about further expansion for chaining modules?
Thanks! Yeah the VC Sequencer has quite a journey of redesigns and revisions. It started out as the idea of something really simple but fun and interesting as a concept, basically only 8 steps and the voltage controlled mode. Soon after development of that had begun we looked into the idea of having a more classic clock mode also to make it a bit more versatile and usable in more traditional sequencing applications.
This implementation was very close to see release until we stopped at the last minute more or less, and reckoned it would be a very cool thing to have trigger/gate outputs together with the VC mode. It was a feature that we reckoned we would later regret if we didn’t add, and so came the channel expansion header into existence! Around the same time we thought that as we’d already jumped in with one expansion header, why not allow them the possibility to chain together too?
The 16 step expansion is one of the projects we are currently working on, I don’t have too many details about it so far buy we what we can say for sure it will do a 16 step sequence (of course) with clock or voltage addressing but the by far most interesting thing about it will be the both clockable and voltage addressable X/Y snake/cartesian mode, using one input to control the horizontal rows and another for the vertical, as far as we know, no other hardware sequencer allows this with both clock as well as voltage addressing, so we hope it will open up some new doors for peoples musical inspiration! 🙂 One other certain thing is that it will allow you to run the voltage control both free running like on the VC Sequencer as well as syncing with the clock input via a built in S&H.
So I’ve already probed for sequencer expansion news, what else do you have coming up? Anything you can tell us in detail or tease us with?
Except the 16 step expander we are at full throttle on a vactrol vcf/vca with the classic vcf/lpg/vca modes. Tom is finalizing it as we speak. We also have a couple more small simple but very handy set of modules that’s been finished on the desk for a while.The first one is a 4hp 5-step sequencer (basically half a Baby10) with a switch for 3, 4 or 5 step operation, clock and reset inputs and as a bonus for the homebrewer, pads on the pcb for 5 gate outputs and a sequencer hold input for those who want to make their own expansion. More of these compact “building block” type of things are just about finished as well and we just need to decide a release order.
We want to complete a full voice in 2016. Exactly what order and technology they will be based on is for the future to tell. We have almost settled for the ARM platform for some future digital modules. Oh, and some sweet percussion!