Kilpatrick Audio has released a range of MIDI controller modules designed to bring the Eurorack experience to your software modular environment.
Virtue Control Series
Hardware control is always the missing part of the experience in software modular and instruments. While the mouse may be a phenomenally versatile input device it just doesn’t have the feel of real knobs and sliders. That’s where our old friend the MIDI controller comes in. Map some knobs and you’re emulating the experience of using hardware. However, MIDI controllers rarely match up to what we’re seeing on screen and don’t ever reflect the modular nature of software like VCV Rack.
Kilpatrick Audio think they’ve got a better solution with their USB powered Virtue Control Series. It’s a modular approach to a MIDI controller which isn’t a new idea (we’ve seen multiple attempts at modular MIDI controllers) but the implementation as Eurorack modules is very interesting. You could drop them into an existing modular setup and be controlling and integrating software modular from your hardware modular. It’s like the ultimate modular hybrid. Or you can run them in a little Eurorack skiff as a custom MIDI controller for whatever software you’re using.
There are currently 5 modules.
- Twister: 4 knobs in 6HP that can send MIDI CC with LEDs that can respond to MIDI feedback.
- Smasher: 16 buttons in 14HP, each with a MIDI CC number and LEDs for feedback.
- Slider: 4 sliders with 8 buttons and LEDs in 16HP.
- Spinner: 1 endless rotary encoder with 4 buttons for selectable parameters plus a couple of buttons in 8HP
- Hubbie: 4-port USB hub in 8HP to provide power to the other modules.
Once plugged into your computer they are class-compliant MIDI controllers for whatever you want to use them for.
VCV Rack Plugin
VCV Rack gets some special attention. They’ve created virtual versions of the Virtue Control Series within VCV Rack to make it easier to implement and work them into a patch. They also continue to provide control whether the hardware is attached or not.
It’s a great idea and I’ve always believed that a modular approach to MIDI control could be a great thing. While it’s still not exactly reflecting what’s on-screen it does close the gap between software and hardware control. I can see myself using a handful of Twisters alongside a Slider or two as a custom MIDI controller that would suit me.
The biggest roadblock is the price. The Twister is $99, Smasher $179, Slider $169, Spinner $139 and the Hubbie is $99. So for say 8 knobs and 8 faders I’m looking at over $600 and that’s without a case. You can get a lot of MIDI control for that sort of money. However, the Virtue Control Series does offer something a lot more customisable and modular than a regular fixed MIDI controller. Although, I have to say, that the front panel design is rather incoherent. I mean you’re going to be using these modules together and the chaos of lines all over them don’t match up or look good side-by-side. It’s a mess which is a shame in the aesthetically sensitive world of Eurorack.
The Virtue Control Series reminds me of Midilar who was working on something similar in 2019. That’s now developed into a modular controller with actual hardware patching although there are no details on price or availability at this time.