Midweek Modular: All the fun of the Superbooth fair
Superbooth was huge, fun and full of vigorous patching. Here’s a handful of modular products that stood out for me.
I was only there for Saturday, but I was frantically covering all the news as it emerged from the show over the few days before. There was some innovation, creative explosions, weird modules of difference and the overall sense that modular, particularly Eurorack modular, is in great health.
Tiptop Audio ART
Tiptop Audio had a whole new thing up its sleeve. It revealed a new control signal and a polyphonic cable, which are rolled into what it calls ART.
The basic concept is about making sense of polyphony in Eurorack and improving the interface between all our systems. To do this Tiptop Audio has introduced a new digital control system that has the appearance of control voltage, or more specifically, 1v/oct oscillator control but is actually a digital connection that sends instructions rather than voltage changes. An ART connection can be patched with a regular patch cable but can contain polyphonic note instructions that are interpreted by a digital control board that runs the oscillator.
The result is that you can have a digitally controlled analogue oscillator that stays perfectly in tune. The advantage is that if you use a bunch of ART-enabled analogue oscillators, you can build a discrete polyphonic synthesizer that stays together perfectly. With discrete polyphony, you still have all the regular individual oscillator patching into filters, envelopes and VCAs, which generates a huge amount of spaghetti.
The alternative is to build polyphonic modules and do something clever with the audio to reduce the cable clutter, which is what Tiptop has done. In the ART system you have a polyphonic wavetable oscillator, polyphonic filter, envelope and VCA. To reduce the cabling, Tiptop uses USB-C connectors to create “Polytip” patch cables that can carry multichannel analogue audio. So now, these modules are connected with a single cable.
ART is bold, clever and very interesting while at the same time somehow undermining much of what we love about the messy and limited nature of modular synthesis. Tiptop Audio is opening the format and inviting other manufacturers to get on board. I will be watching with a healthy amount of sceptical fascination.
Make Noise Spectraphon
When Make Noise releases something, everyone cues up to bask in the cool, wondrousness of it all. There’s no doubt that Make Noise does interesting modules, and Spectraphon comes from the same “Hackspace” brain as the Mimeophon, Morphagene and Erbe-Verb.
Spectraphon is a dual spectral oscillator that uses real-time spectral analysis and resynthesis to generate sounds. You can either pull in sounds from other sources to be taken apart and danced about on, or you can generate complex oscillations from stored spectral data. It’s something like splicing together a vocoder and a complex oscillator.
It’s weird, cerebral and capable of unexpected and unfamiliar sounds. Perfect for people who love that Make Noise vibe.
This is Not Rocket Science Bopp & Steve
Try spending time with Bopp & Steve for something strange but thoroughly engaging. It’s an effects module from TiNRS that essentially pulls a reverb apart into its component features and lets you treat each part like an effect on its own.
So, what you send up with is the pre-delay turned into a space delay, that then feeds the diffusing section of cosmic depth, before ending up in the tail section of floating, choppy or granular decay. A pitch element lets you shift the pitch all over the place to create a wash of harmonies and voices. The pitch shifting can be inserted at any point in the signal chain, essentially turning the usual reverberation features inside out.
Bopp & Steve is a lot of fun and has so much to explore.
RYK Modular Night Rider
RYK modules arrive with a unique sense of style. The animated glow of the appropriately named Night Rider is as brilliant as the huge dot matrix display on the Vector Wave. Inside is a four-channel filter bank coupled up to a four-channel modulation sequencer.
Each filter can be a 6 or 12dB bandpass with variable width, a comb filter for Karplus Strong and an All-Pass filter for phasing. They can be pushed to stereo corners, scanned and interpolated with CV and MIDI control. It’s going to need a bit of investigation, but it’s full of stunning possibilities.
Bastl Instruments Basil
Built on the same platform as the excellent Pizza oscillator, Basil gives us a stereo space delay in a very neat and explorable package.
Basil has clean and lo-fi processing, regular echoes and meandering space delays. It can do all the modulation effects like chorus, flanger, vibrato and pitch shifting while pulling it all together through a very fingerable interface. You can even ping it into Karplus Strong territory and play it like an instrument.
Solid stuff from Bastl Instruments.
Befaco FX Boy
Coming out of left field is the slightly mad FX Boy from Befaco. Befaco has taken some kind of effects platform and opened it up to swappable cartridges for different effects. It just so happens that the cartridges are from the Nintendo Gameboy. I’m sure there’s no reason why that’s a good thing other than it looks totally fabulous.
A handful of manufacturers have contributed a cartridge and we’ve got flangers, folders, fuzzes and fudged-up sounds aplenty. And undoubtedly, there will be more to come.
Befaco was also showing the new 7U Eurorack case that can sit on a monitor mounting arm and the fabulous new 1U Molten Motion Meter.
At the other from the Tiptop ART approach to polyphony is the Dreadbox Telepathy. It’s a full synth voice with an LFO, VCO, VCF, VCA and two envelopes packed into just 10HP. That’s quite amazing by itself, but what Dreadbox is doing is stringing a bunch of these together to form a polyphonic system that works within the existing modular framework.
With just four sliders and a couple of buttons you can control every part of the synth and set up complex modulation routings. It leans quite heavily into MIDI to allow you to chain a number of Telepathy modules together and use one front panel to control the whole lot. This makes it very easy to put together a polyphonic array of modules.
Dreadbox has also put together a bundle that includes six Telepathy modules with a Psychosis polyphonic effects module and a case for an interestingly poly-modular setup.
- Dreadbox product page.
- More from Dreadbox.
This is a really simple and visually impressive touch strip from Bela. The Gliss module takes in finger movements and pressure and uses it to generate voltage in your system. But what’s cool about it is that you can record those movements to generate instant LFOs, automation or modulation sequences.
Gliss is brilliantly simple, instantly helpful and a very cool thing to have to hand in your rack.
- Bela website.
There are undoubtedly so many more I could be talking about. So do go and check out our full Superbooth coverage for many more modules and modular that is worth discovering.
- Tiptop Audio unveils ART and two Buchla modules: TipTop Audio
- RYK Night Rider: RYK Modular
- Bela Gliss: Robin Vincent