Manipulator is a strange-looking retro-futuristic voltage control mind flip of a module featuring a pair of joysticks and a panel of push-button gates.
Everything about the design grates with my inner desire for balance and beauty. It’s like my brain is still trying to process this slab of disjointed technology. I first saw it a few days ago and I must have blanked it out, certain that it was just some mad photoshopped idea. But no, this thing is real. And so is Shane Williams, the man behind X1L3, who is big into noise, nature, synths and weird stuff. Well, he nailed it with this one.
So what does it do? Manipulator is a live performance control module. You can use it for triggering and gating stuff, generating voltage and macro controlling lots of parameters. This extraordinarily rendered video will give you the gist of things.
The joy of sticks
The two thumb-style joysticks output voltage across two axis. You can calibrate them to be bipolar or monopolar and you can set the voltage range on the knobs to the right. Each joystick can also be push-clicked giving you an X, Y and Push output. One cool feature is the ability to switch them from self-centring to a more free-flowing latch-in-place when released.
Typically you would patch a joystick into the cutoff and resonance of a filter but that’s only one possibility. Teaming up controls is really handy in a live situation. So combining LFO rate and depth or Reverb tail and wet/dry mix. But there’s no reason why they have to be related, you could do all sorts of crazy things.
The panel of 12 alarmingly red buttons act has Gate controls for anything that would benefit from it. It could be drum triggers, it could be mute buttons or the full opening of something. You could use it for swapping channels, activating VCAs or switching logic gates.
Currently, the Gate buttons are all momentary, so you hold it in to open the gate and release to close. Shane says that there is scope for a latching gate expander at a later date, which makes a lot of sense to me.
The weirdest thing about the look of Manipulator is the activity indicator that’s set off-centre, in amongst the patch sockets. It’s a really useful array of LEDs that shows you the current status of all the controls; joystick and buttons.
Manipulator is a super-useful module for £250. It has endless possibilities and you could build a whole live set around it. It might look a bit bizarre but it’s got it where it counts. Check out the video below to see Manipulator working its magic in a full set of harsh noise.
- X1L3 Manipulator: X1L3