Well, out with the old year, and in with the new. 2019's here, Winter NAMM's right around the corner, and while this month's hot Eurorack offerings are a tad sparse, much of that is certainly due to manufacturers keeping mum about their new surprises until they hit the floor in Anaheim later in January. But here's a few picks to tide us over until that post-NAMM deluge in a few weeks:
1) Pharmasonic ON IT AGAIN! Back in the last installment of KICK ASS!!!, this Japanese maker dropped a fantastic bombshell when they did a big reissue of many of the much-vaunted Digisound Series 80 modules in Eurorack format. But to do a second line reissue a month later? Wild! And yet, there it sits...Pharmasonic's redux of the key modules from Roland's classic semi-modular, the System 100. Not to be confused with the fully-modular System 100M, the System 100 was more like Roland's take on something like the ARP 2600, which came in a number of “blocks”; the 101 was the main keyboard synth, the 102 was its expander, there was a dedicated mixer (the 103) and sequencer (104) and you even could get a matching monitor pair, the 109. From this, Pharmasonic's given us the System 100's VCO, VCF, VCA, LFO, an ADSR EG, 3-in and 2-out (in parallel) mixer, noise gen, ring mod, sample and hold, and an otherwise-inaccesible pair of inverters that share space with a trio of mults. They're very simple but quite cost and space-efficient, with the majority of the line weighing in at 6 hp, making them great candidates for filling small spaces with an extra bit of functionality. Now I'm wondering what Pharmasonic's going to do in January! Oh, and one more Pharmasonic bit: the Digisound Dual ADSR is also now available: $159, 12 hp.
2) Tesseract Modular 8x8 Buffered Matrix. This has “live performance” written all over it. A set of eight rotary switches that allows for quick resetting of signal paths, the module can also serve as a buffered multiple, but that's only a hint of what this is capable of. Any combination of inputs and outputs is possible...1 to 8, 2 to 4, 4 to 2, and so on. It does limit what you can do with inputs, though, as you can't send several inputs to one output. Even so, for live performers this will be a real blessing, as it's able to change routings on the fly as long as the module's been prepped for the in-set changes. Available in kit or prebuild. Roughly $106, 12 hp.
3) Doepfer A-135-2. Really, what this is is more or less a repackaging of Doepfer's A-135-1. But it's significant nonetheless because while the 135-1 was a not-so-space effective 18 hp, this new iteration gives you the same functionality in only 8 hp, with 5 mm less depth and $56 off the original's price. Very cool! Dieter seems to be looking out for users who need maximum bang in minimum space with this one, which seems to me to be a very logical pick for users who need a handful of linear, DC-coupled VCAs with summing in a tight space. Accordingly, quite a few MG users have already picked up on this module, but it deserves a look from anyone who's planning a space-restrictive skiff build, plus anyone who needs lots of VCAs but doesn't like layout sprawl. $134, more or less.
4) Ladik M-172 mixer. This is pretty much the logical follow-on to Ladik recent 12 hp stereo mixers, but this is kind of the configuration I was hoping we would eventually see. You get four pannable inputs and a stereo input pair with a balance control, all outputting to a 1/4” stereo pair of line-level outs. This is an awesome budget-conscious stereo mixer, with built-in output staging and the potential for using the stereo input to mix in stereo effects. The depth's a bit sizable at 60mm, but if you can swing that, the price is the real convincer: $94 at current exchange rates! That makes it one of the more cost-effective stereo mixers out there, with the plus of not needing a separate output module making it an even cheaper choice.
5) Antimatter Audio v3kt. Now this is super-interesting...a module that allows for quad panning, vector control over either audio or CV signals, internal logic over CVs, and probably a pile more functions that just aren't readily apparent. But looking at the given functions in the listing, I'd have to say that this has super-high “abuse potential” with either a joystick or other modulation signals fed to its various inputs. A lot of people could make use of this: live performers should dig the ability to joystick audio around via this in a quadrophonic space, generative-type users will find loads of uses here for morphing/altering modulation behavior and mixing, and most anyone will appreciate the ability to morph smoothly between four different audio sources in a quad X-Y space. The other thing that's a killer is the space it requires: only 6 hp! This should make it a must-have for anyone who's got a joystick in their builds, as it requires minimal space to blow that joystick's functionality wide-open. $199.
And that's pretty much it for the December 2018 offerings. Like I noted, the real deluge is coming in this first month of 2019, so keep your eyes peeled! Until then, happy new year, all!