The M185 was first seen in 2009 in the Roland 100m format and went on to inspire designs such as the Intellijel Metropolis. It’s now back as a new Eurorack module with some very cool extra functions.
It’s a multi-step-per-stage sequential CV controller and sequencer which contains all the functionality of the original but with some upgraded features. RYK developed the original M185 Roland format module in the pursuit of more complex modular melodies rather than the constantly repeating 8 notes of most modular sequencers at the time. It was then licensed to Intellijel in 2012 and became the popular Metropolis. Since then there have been software versions, unauthorized “open-source” projects and other possibilities but it’s awesome to see the original designer coming back to make something that maintains the core functionality while taking it further.
The idea is very simple. You have 8 “stages” that can act as 8 notes in a sequence but can also be much more than that. Each stage has an individual Gate mode and Pulse Count which dictates how and when the notes are played. The Pulse is to do with timing rather than note repeats (although it does this too) so with it set to 4 it will sound the note on the first count but only continue to the next note after it’s completed 4 counts. This quickly generates very different and varied pattern lengths, pauses and possibilities.
The Gate affects how the notes are sounded. A Hold mode will open the gate for the whole pulse count, another mode plays the one note, another repeats the notes and another plays nothing. These are the original 4 modes found in the Metropolis. In the M185 we have 4 new modes which include Gates going high on every second, third or fourth pulse and programmable probability.
Each stage has a programmable slide or portamento function which adds a nicely TB-303 sound to the sequence. Although this only works on channel 1 – oh yes, there are two channels in this thing with channel 2 coming out in a combined CV/Gate socket via a TRS cable (channel 1 has a regular CV and Gate output). They supply a TRS-to-two mono cable adapter which seems slightly odd but I’m going with it.
Another new feature is the A/B split mode for two separate sequences with 1-8 sequence repeats per section. It also has an AB parallel split mode for two separate and simultaneous sequences. We also get MIDI In and Out which is intriguing along with programmable velocity. Quantised scales is another addition and so are the lights and, apparently, a hidden video game.
This has got me really interested as I’ve long admired the Metropolis although resisted the size and the menu system. The M185 has hidden the menu system away and so appears to be simpler and more intuitive. It also looks completely fabulous.
The fully assembled version will cost you £475 which is a bit cheaper than the Intellijel but better still there’s a kit version for only £265 which might be finding its way to my workbench soon.
There’s not much available in terms of video demos or reviews beyond the quick prototype demo below. Check out the excellent walkthrough of the Metropolis by Mylar Melodies for a great explanation of the history and concepts. I’m looking forward to learning more about it.
- Ryk Modular website.