KICK ASS!!! for August 2018.

Well, the summer's winding down, and that means Knobcon's soon to happen. So, yep, there's some neat stuff popping up on the MG radar, along with an uptick in general in new offerings. Without further ado, let's plunge right into the the niftiness...

1) VoicAs MixVert8r and 2^4^8. Right out of the gate, this company impresses. The MixVert8r is a bit of a different take on the mixer/polarizer, offering switchable reponses (unipolar or bipolar) per input, which allows you to mix both normal and selectively-inverted signals to a single...and also attentuated...output. DC coupling allows for a great deal of flexibility here, making this suitable for pretty much any mix-to-1 application you can think of. The big win, though, is the price: $100 is a cheap ticket for this sort of flexibility. And VoicAs' 2^4^8 is a great one-stop take on a VCA module, offering six inputs, two of which feed a stereo pair for panning, etc, and no mixing so these individual VCAs can be slotted into anywhere they're needed. This is pretty smart, actually, as a good system can never have too many VCAs for either audio or CV uses, and VoicAs's module here offers up a nice pile of 'em in just 12 hp for $200.

2) ReBach Catch STV. $38 or so gets you this: a trigger inverter, which can interchange negative (or S-trig) triggers to positive, or vice-versa. Now, for me and a lot of other people, that 'vice-versa' part is important, as there are a goodly number of vintage and modern (the Korg MS-20 being both!) synths out there that require a negative trigger pulse, and if you want to lock them up rhythmically to the rest of your sync in the modular...well, that can get messy. But this solves that issue, and does so for a stoopid-cheap price! Also, if you have an old Moog 960-type sequencer or a Korg SQ-10, this is your fix for using those as the 'primary' clock to drive the rest of your timing. Very smart, useful, and space-efficient at only 4 hp.

3) Metasonix RK6 Resonant Lowpass Filter. Eric Barbour is a weird dude. His modules speak for him. In this case, he's re-envisioning what a resonant LPF and/or LPG (yes, it does that too) might act like if it had been concocted in the days before Don or Bob set the solid-state standard for these circuits...and created something that floats in a strange zone between the test gear complements of the 'classic' studios and the voltage control era that began in the mid-1960s. Using transformer coupling (always a very euphonic plus) and a 17JK8 dual triode, this isn't intended to sound like a 'typical' LPF...but something closer to the old-school electronic music sound, rife with neat nonlinearities. But fear not! It runs on no more than 200 mA (at startup) on the +12V rail, which means that it can play nicely with lots of the typical Eurorack power setups. Smart design, strange idea, neat module worth checking out! $299.

4) Funkstill Filter Threek 13700. While we're talking filters, this is a strangely-implemented pile of 'em. It says it's a “3-pole VC-Morphing Filter”...but that's really an undersell of what this concoction's about. With a very dense control-set, plus its morphing capabilities, it also can serve as a waveshaping-type device and, if the morphing is done at audio rates while the filter is resonating, it turns into this psycho-grade source of morphing timbral OH HELL NO-type abuse! The manufacturer's website has a video that should explain what I'm talking about there most adequately. At $358, it's not cheap...but in a small rig that only has space for a single and wildly-versatile VCF, this wuld be a primo choice, especially since it not only does the above, but offers multiple response-curve outputs, too.

5) Mystic Circuits ANA. This refers to itself as a 'logic' module, but that's not exactly right as logic tends to refer to on/off trigger/gate operations in the modular synth world. Instead, what the ANA is is an arithmetical operator. Think about things such as the discontinued Buchla 257, and you're more in the ballpark of what's going on behind this panel. The ANA takes in CVs, and crossmodulates these according to specific arithmetical functions, along with a few normal logic functions via a three-step comparator. It's a very deep module, capable of ring modulation in several manners, waveshaping, controllably altering CV behaviors, and so on. For those into the various flavors of generative music, you need to look at this thing. And for everyone else...well, it's got a zillion uses, when you start considering what it does in only 6 hp. $180.

6) Flamingo Break3. 3 hp, $28, and really simple...but one of those things you wish you had when you need it. Three 'break' switches that go inline in a patch. Looks kinda...well, meh, right? Nonoooo...there are all sorts of reasons you might want to have an inline 'cut', ranging from switching VCOs back and forth from controlled to drone states, muting CVs, muting audio, altering how other modules behave on the fly...the list goes on, especially for the live performance set. Just because it's simple doesn't mean it can't KICK ASS!!!

7) Noise Reap Audio Mixer. An inexpensive 3-in DC-coupled mixer...with a surprise! What's that, you ask? Well, it's that fourth input, marked AUX, which can be jumpered over to a line-level input for a quick and easy audio input at a fixed level. For those putting together small builds where you'll want an audio-in, but you just don't want to allocate the precious space needed for a dedicated line-in module and you also don't need something like an envelope follower...well, you DO need mixers, and this happens to have that neat “Easter egg” built right in. Smart! $64...also, smart money!

8) Erica Synths LINK. Another “how can something this simple KICK ASS?” type thing...and yet, it does, while offering something dirt-simple that you know you need. Five 3.5mm inputs, five 1/4” outputs, and in between, a passive attenuator per line at a fixed level to evenly drop synth-level signals down to line-level. For those wanting to use a small external mixer to mix down their modular signals instead of a modular final mixer....this is the exact, precise thing you've been looking for. Loads of people can make use of this to drop their synth audio down to line so they can mix several different voice chains on a more finger-friendly mixing surface. It strikes me as something that would appeal especially to the live performance crowd again, plus makes a good way to avoid the larger space a modular performance mixer requires in a small skiff-type rig. And at $62, plus the lesser price of an outboard desktop mixer, how can you go wrong?

9) Motovilo zLFO. Complex LFOs...with their onboard LFO-modulating-LFO architecture...tend to be pricey and large. Add to that the ability to make that second LFO a morphable wavetable oscillator, and then you're really talking ca$h. Not so much here, though...think of something sort of like half of a Cyclebox jammed into 8 hp for only $190. This thing screams abuse potential. Plus, it can be patched all sorts of other ways externally in addition to its internal architecture. It looks small, but the fact is that this is a prime power-user's perfect little modulation source.

10) Error Instruments RAW DATA!. Ever screw around with an Atari 2600 game system, deliberately crashing it in various ways to get a panoply of screechy, grindy, gnarly chip-glitch fun, but had no real way to control that? Error Instruments has your solution. The RAW DATA! is 6 hp of digital lo-bit racket and trouble...still not 100% in control, but workable enough for your power electronics and industrial purposes. Check their video...if you do NOISE, you need one! $88.

11) Klavis Logica XT. We talked about logic modules earlier, and while this is more in the traditional Boolean-type operator mode, it offers a few surprises, a weightable coin-toss algorithm, gate multiplication, sample-and-hold, and user-storable settings. Again, this is one of those “you need to see it”-things, as it does enough that I can't fit all of its goodness in one of these short blurbs. Anyone doing a lot of timing-specific work needs to look into what this might do for you, especially (again) those contemplating smaller builds but who need rhythmic/sequential complexity. 5 hp, $139.

12) Analog Sound Devices Valvetron. Two tube devices this month...but this one is rather different from Metasonix's. Instead of test-gear strangeness, this is a more straight-up LPF...but drenched in ACIEEEED!!! Incorporating the very cool Soviet-era 1Ж24Б microtube plus an overdrive circuit, the main thrust of this is squelchy, yowley, naaaaasty acid tastiness. Plus, with three mixable inputs, it's super-convenient as a VCO mixer, to boot. If Frank Zappa's guitar wants to kill your mama, this VCF wants to burn the house down afterward! 7 hp, $170, and yes, it's Euro-current friendly at a mere 50 mA on the +12 rail.

13) Feedback STATIC and HI-FUSION VCF. First of all, the neglected HPF...which it shouldn't be. After all, if you want to patch up band-pass or band-reject configurations, you've got to have one. Plus, it's a secret key in a lot of synths for their particular sound (think Roland Jupiter-8 or the venerable Yamaha CS-80/60). If you like to do a lot of subtractive work on your sound, there's not been a lot of dedicated high-pass filters to choose from, so a new one like this is a welcome addition to the fold. 10 hp, $101. And not only that from Feedback, but they've also given us a comprehensive noise source with a lot of potential source behaviors and colors, plus the only “TROUT” jack I know of in synthesizers, period! The price for all of this flexibility is super-stoopid, too: $78, and at 10 hp this could become a new “go-to” noise source for lots of different users out there.

So...if this is any indication of what we'll be seeing all shiny-new at Knobcon, that's going to be a neat event, since the Eurorack denizens are cooking up some nifty contraptions for everyone to check out. For now, check these out here on MG. Until next month...