Tag Archives: dasyrac

Patch of the day – Happy little polymeters

Time for a new patch! This one is all about skippy electronic space bubbles.

 

The melody is a conversation between orderly euclidean rhythms (courtesy of my shiny new 2hp Euclid) and the chaotic randomised voltages from the ever-dependable Music Thing Modular Turing Machine. The random note pitches come out of the Turing Machine, and the basic shuffle rhythm comes from the Euclid, but the Turing Machine’s Pulses expander also throws in an extra pip from time to time which adds splashes of interest. Lovely.

The reverse delay is some sort of magic achieved by the Synthesis Technology E560 Deflector Shield patched into the feedback line of the Befaco Crush Delay. There’s this one knob on the Deflector Shield I normally leave at zero, and here it’s at five-ish. I don’t know what it’s doing exactly but it sounds quite nice.

Add slatherings of spring reverb to taste.

Modules 5 and 16 – WORNG Electronics 3x3x3 Passive Mult

  • What kind of thing is it? A passive multiple. A mult lets you send whatever signal is travelling down a cable to multiple different destinations. Using a passive mult, the signal weakens the more places you send it to but for on-off signals like triggers and clocks, that doesn’t matter so much.
  • How is it useful? You can send one signal up to six new places, three signals out to two new places each, and with two signals you can send one to four other places and one to two other places. Here are some pictures with captions.

The 3x3x3’s input jacks all have a gold ring around them. Here it is fully connected. Yellow’s signal is going out to the pinks; green’s signal is going out to the whites and blue’s signal is going out to the reds.

Now we only have two inputs. Yellow’s signal still goes out through the pinks. Green’s signal goes out through the whites, and since there’s nothing plugged in under the whites it goes out through the reds too.

Yellow’s signal is still going out through the pinks, but since nothing is plugged in under pink, the white cables also carry yellow’s signal. The blue cable’s signal is carried down the red cables.

With no other input voltages, the yellow cable’s voltage (at the top) is being sent out to pink, yellow and red all at once.

  • How does it work? By joining switching audio jacks together on a circuitboard. Seriously, that’s all there is to it. They don’t come much simpler.
  • Does it work well? Definitely. This was the first module I ever got two of, even.
  • Are you still using it? I’ve replaced one of these with some Befaco six-way mults which live in the cable spaghetti. The other one is still racked up for now until I get some more six-way mults.
  • It’s a kit – how easy was it to build? It’s inexpensive to buy, safe and simple to build as an early DIY project and very useful – an ideal first DIY Eurorack module, I think! The only build problem I had was attaching the panel upside-down but that was easily rectified. 🙂
  • Surprises/disappointments? It works even better de-racked and living in cable-space!

The white cable is carrying a repeating falling voltage used to make a kick drum. Sent through the mult, the pink leads use the same signal to make the oscillator go PEW and also reset its sync to avoid clcks on some triggers and not on others because of interactions between the oscillator’s phase and the amplifier’s envelope. Without the mult, I’d need two separate envelope generators. Bargain!

  • Who made it (and where)? WORNG Electronics (Australia)
  • Stats: 3HP, passive (no power requirements)

Modulargrid.

The DASYRAC approach

Eurorack is very easy to blow the bank on. Not for nothing do people call it Euro-crack. There are hundreds of different modules which do all kinds of different things and it’s very easy to run around like a kid in a candy shop buying anything with pretty blinky lights that makes a vaguely cool sound.

I knew this going in and I wanted to be smarter.

It helps to focus on achieving a particular goal. In my case, I wanted a voltage controlled, chaos-infused mad science lab – something that has minimal overlap with the tech already on my computer. I came up with the following guidelines to help me stay the course.

Analogue signal path wherever possible

Why? I’ve got loads of digital sounds on my computer already. No need to add even more! Analogue gear behaves in more interesting unpredictable ways than digital when pushed and digitisation can add nasty artefacts.

But… pure analogue circuitry can be annoyingly unstable, imprecise and generally fiddly, even when it’s well-behaved and recently built. Re-patching a sound perfectly is nigh-on impossible.

And so I’ve got sample playback (Radio Music and Disting Mk 4), digital delays (Chronoblob, Crush Delay – the Crush is very lo-fi though) and a digital processor (Clouds). The Disting has a nice high sample rate which helps things.

Digital timing for precision, analogue handling for fidelity

Why? DASYRAC needs to be able to hold a tempo for multitrack recording, and digital clocking is steadier. Analogue is generally still better for audio-rate modulation – the sample rate of digital can easily misinterpret or distort rapid signal changes that analogue circuitry deals with perfectly capably.

Surface controls only, preferably with CV

Why? Automation is cool, menu diving without a mouse sucks and multi-functional knobs are too much effort to remember.

But… menus can hide complexity & reduce the module size, leaving room for more modules.

And so… I have the Tuesday procedural sequencer Tuesday, the multifunction Disting mk 4, the clock manipulator Little Nerd, and the texture synthesiser Clouds whose clunky UI so annoyed its inventor that he discontinued it. All of these CPU-based modules require some menu-diving and/or have modes and other stuff. As long as they’re useful and limited in number, they’re fine.

Decoupled from the PC and MIDI-based control

Why? I’ve looked at a screen to make music for 25 years and I’m utterly bored with it. Also being able to separate gate from pitch is awesome. You can’t really do that with MIDI unless the individual instrument lets you. It’s absolutely possible to inject MIDI and computer-controlled CV into Eurorack – I just don’t want to.

And yet… recording and mix is all digital because using analogue recording media as well is pointlessly limiting when it comes time to compile something.

Ephemerality over reproducibility (no presets!)

Why? I am tired of preset surfing and I’m not on anyone’s clock.

But… patching manually is slower, even when you know exactly what you want. Either I record that cool sound or lose it forever, and disk space is ultimately still finite.

And so… Tuesday has hard-coded scale presets, Disting mk 4 has some presets in there too, and Little Nerd can be preset but I don’t use it like that.

Keep single module spend less than A$250 where possible and don’t spend more than A$500 on a single instrument

Why? Eurorack is cumulatively expensive enough as is, let alone high-end Eurorack. Second hand modules are fine too.

But.. in keeping my module selection low cost, I miss out on some very shiny stuff. Really shiny.

And so… The Tuesday, the Make Noise 0-Coast and Korg ARP Odyssey were all north of half a grand. Clouds, Chronoblob, Fluctuations Magnetiques and Deflector Shield were all more than $250 each. None of the DIY modules have been more than $250, though some have come pretty close. 🙂

DIY if it’s feasible, cheaper and equal quality

Why? It’s cheaper – the cost of assembly is a big chunk of the sticker price! It’s doable if not always simple. I get to learn about electronics. Also, soldering on my back patio is a lovely way to pass the time.

But… DIY needs equipment and if a DIY module breaks, I have to fix it myself.

The one time I bailed was.. Clouds! It’s possible to get DIY kits because Clouds is open-source hardware, but it involves a lot of surface mount component soldering. I do not like surface mount component soldering.

Modular components over contained black boxes

Why? Black boxes with no control points are just less fun. If something is part of a system, I prefer it to allow that system to alter what it does instead of just doing its job.. because you never know what you might get it to do. If there’s just an in and an out, well, it had better do something pretty awesome…

But.. black boxes mean less of your system is tied up and you can do more cool stuff at once. It’s a trade-off.

And so.. The Little Nerd doesn’t accept anything except for a clock, but it does cool enough stuff with that clock that it’s OK. The 106 Chorus only has an in and an out but it sounds fab. And the Ladik Waveform Animator.. well.. it’s 4HP of black box yumminess.

Multi-function over single function

Why? A versatile module means you can do more with your system. I’ve noticed that the analogue modules tend to be more versatile in what they can be used for while the digital modules seem to be designed with a specific purpose in mind. A function generator like the Befaco Rampage can do so many things that it beggars belief, which is why it and its better known cousin Maths are in nearly every Eurorack setup there is.

But.. a really versatile module has more chance of being used early in a patch, which means choosing which of its many tricks it will perform for you. The Disting mk 4 has almost 70 different modes, for instance, but I only have one of them so I can only have it do one of those seventy things at once. Maybe I should get another one…

And yet… I don’t mind the odd one-trick pony like the Feedback 106 Chorus or the Ladik Waveform Animator in my rack because they do their job so nicely.

Unpredictable/chaos-guided systems over explicit/periodic instructions

Why? It’s more interesting to build a patch which shape chaos in interesting ways than building up intentional order from nothing. It’s also way quicker to carve away the notes you don’t want with a quantiser than program in the exact sequence of notes you do want. Just saying.

But.. building a nice chaos-taming patch requires more experimentation than plugging notes into a sequencer.

Monophonic over polyphonic

Why? Polyphony means doing more than one thing at once, and that cost more money than just having one thing going at once then multitracking it. Also, years of listening to chiptunes has taught me pretty much every trick in the book when it comes to getting bang for buck out of a single oscillator. And there’s always the option of smearing arpeggios into a drone with a bit of delay or spring reverb.

But.. it makes performing complicated things live much harder. Not that I do live stuff on my rack. It also means a lot more patching.

And so… multitracking isn’t the only answer to this. I can also use samples from DASYRAC itself courtesy of the Radio Music or the Disting Mk 4, both of which have sample playback.

DASYRAC in short!

DASYRAC and DASYsideRAC in situ watched over by one of the many residents.

DASYRAC (Digital/Audio System Yielding Retro Auditory Coolness) is my voltage-controlled audio mad science lab, containing sixty or so Eurorack synthesiser modules. I started putting it together in early 2017 partly as a 40th birthday present to myself and partly as a practical introduction to electronics. Once I figured out what I wanted from a modular synthesiser setup and how to solder, there was very little to stop me. 🙂

Eurowhat?

Eurorack is a Eurorack modules have a standardised height of 3U – that’s  133.5mm to the rest of us. The widths of the modules is measured in horizontal pitch (HP for short). 1HP is equal to 5.08mm. My smallest module is all of 2HP and my widest one is 22HP.

DASYRAC is housed in a 9U (= three rail) 104HP Synthrotek Cheeks Of Steel open rack, a 104HP Tiptop Z-Ears + Z-Rails rack and an 84HP Tiptop Happy Ending kit rack for a total of 500HP. The modules are powered by one Tiptop uZeus power supply and two 4ms Row Power 30 supplies. The modules connect into shrouded IDC power connectors at the back; the Row Power 30s are daisychained to run off a single 90W laptop power supply, and the uZeus runs off a 2A power pack.

There’s a list of modules on this site or you can see how those modules are set up on Modulargrid: DASYRAC main rack, DASYRAC side rack.

External instruments

Most of these instruments talk to DASYRAC using voltage control.

  • Korg ARP Odyssey synthesiser (23 January)
  • Korg SQ-1 sequencer (24 February)
  • Arturia Beatstep Pro uber-sequencer (3 March)
  • Arturia Keystep keyboard/sequencer (7 March)
  • Arturia Drumbrute drum machine (28 November)

Beepboops take over!

It’s been 5 to 11 November 2017 and it’s been an extremely synthesiser-centric week!

Beepity boop boops

Sunday was showing a friend around my modular synth to show her Eurorack in the flesh and get her pumped for her upcoming electronic engineering degree. That seems to have set the tone for the whole week.

On Monday evening, I got my parcel of DIY kits from Thonk and soldered together a Horstronic Arcade Button…

The Horstronic Arcade Button is not just a #diy #eurorack button, though it definitely is that too.

A post shared by S J Bennett (@quollism) on

…then on Tuesday evening I soldered together two RYO modules, the VC Sequencer and the TrigXpander…

Most of a #diy #eurorack RYO VC Sequencer… panel comes next!

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…then on Wednesday evening, I spent time testing out said modules which I had no time left for on Tuesday, resulting in this strangely pleasant noise..

 

On Thursday evening I spent putting together a particularly big order to Thonk, and on Friday evening I was testing out sample playback on the Disting Mk 4 and creating lovely crunchy triplet beats.

 

And finally today (Saturday) I started mindmapping an overview of analogue vs digital voltage control sequencers to see if it’s worth following up. There’s a surprising amount to talk about for little circuits that just eat pips and spit out voltages.

What’s behind the dots? Wouldn’t you like to know…

So that’s pretty much been my week, which leads neatly into..

The last of the weeklies

After 3 1/2 years of weekly blogs (since May 2014 when I started “A moment in the sun”), I’m going back to a less frequent posting schedule again. Without a consistently active production to talk about, touching base every single week has begun to feel strange and perfunctory. There’ll be posts here in the future, but only when I have something worth saying. 🙂

It’s goodbye then to “see you next week” – so see you ’round! 🙂