Posts Tagged With: oscillator

New Modules

Today, Sylvia and I received 2 new Modules for the Eurorack Synthesizer we’re creating.

  • A couple of months ago, we purchased the 1st piece… the Case.
  • Our 1st Module was the “Double Helix Oscillator” by Pittsburgh Modular.
  • A few weeks ago, we bought the “qMI 2” a “MIDI-to-Control Voltage converter”. Made by Vermona Modular.

After a lot of research, planning our budget, saving our money and talking it over, last Thursday, Sylvia and I bought 2 new Modules:

Granted, we eat fried potatoes for supper every night and a can of soup for Lunch, when we go to work, but I have no idea how we managed to “save” and “pay for” those items. I’m not really that good at this type of money-juggling. I have enough trouble remembering to deduct each day’s purchases from our Checkbook. “Sylvia” is the financial Wizard in OUR family! I do my best to continually stay tuned-in to her energies and to act-on any suggestions she provides.

As for the timing of this purchase… THAT was also interesting… We bought these from “Detroit Modular” (see links above), which is located in Michigan. We ordered them Thursday morning and the expected delivery was “by Monday”. (It was shipped through the Post Office.) Up until Friday night, their Tracking information showed that our package was still traveling through the various States, on its way to us, here, in North Carolina. When I checked their Tracking information this morning, Saturday, it showed that it was to be delivered “today”!

We used the website “Modular Grid“, in order to learn about some of the Modules available and to create this Synthesizer using their free software.

  • It’s a great website. You can search for Modules by “Manufacturer’s Name”, “Function” (Oscillator, Envelope Generator, etc.) and can see which Modules have been released recently and which are the most popular. You can also build your own “on-screen” Synthesizer. Their software will keep track of how much money the total System will cost AND whether or not the Modules you selected will actually fit inside the Case you used.

​This is a picture of our “Modular Grid” Synthesizer. It shows which Modules we currently have and where I placed them. (Of course, they can always be moved. If needed.)

Although we currently have 4 Modules, we don’t enough Synthesizer elements to make a complete sound.

  • If you’re building your own “Modular” Synthesizer, and don’t know which “types” of Modules to buy, look at the classic “analog” Synths of the past. Two of the easiest ones to use, to follow the signal flow (sound) from start to finish, are the “Mini Moog” and the “ARP 2600”.
  • There are no locked-in-concrete rules with this but “basically”, you start with a sound source, such as an “Oscillator” So you’ll need a “VCO” (Voltage Controlled Oscillator). (“Voltage Controlled” simply means its Pitch can be changed by a frequency which is produced by one of your Modules. Putting a parameter under “Voltage Control” will not only make changes faster than you can “manually” change them, but it also means “random” and / or “very fast patterned” changes can be produced.)
  • Next, the Oscillator’s sound get filtered. So you’ll need a “VCF” (Voltage Controlled Filter”).
  • From there, the sound moves to a “VCA” (Voltage Controlled Amplifier”), then to a Mixer and finally, out to Speakers, a recording system, headphones, etc.
  • Also, because you’ll be using a “Voltage Controlled” Filter and Amplifier, you’ll want a Module which is designed to control them and this would be the “Envelope Generator”. Just as we use our mouth, tongue, breath and Voice Box, to “form” and “speak” words, an Envelope Generator produces Stages of voltages which control the opening and closing of the parameters of the VCF and VCA. (Of course, with Modular Synthesizers, almost any Module can be used to change the parameters of almost any other.)

Right now, Sylvia and I have an Oscillator, Envelope Generator, a “MIDI-to-CV” converter (so we can play notes in this “Analog” Synth using our “Digital” keyboard) and a Multiple.

  • The “Warna II” is a “Multiple”, Mixer and Inverter.

To complete the “building blocks”, we still need a VCA and VCF.

What I can tell about these Modules, especially the new ones is…

In just testing the Envelope Generator, I had to use the Multiple several times. At one point, I used 3 of its sections and 10 of its 15 Patch-Points. More than once, today, I told Sylvia: “It’s a good thing we bought this Multiple.”

It wasn’t just “a multiple”. We did a lot of research, watched a few videos and read several pages of descriptions before deciding on this particular Module. It has:

  • two, 1-in-4-out Multiples,
  • one, 4-in-1-out Mixer,
  • and the two Multiples can be switched, to convert the incoming signal to its opposite polarity.
  • Plus, all of the Inputs on this Module are “DC” coupled. This means it will accept “Audio” sound sources AND “Control Voltages”.

As for the “Envelope Generator”…
I’ve been wanting us to have a “delayed Gate” feature in a Synthesizer for quite a while. We may still purchase a Module which only provides that feature but this A-143-2 Module not only has FOUR Envelope Generators, each can be Triggered (activate) separately from the others or Triggered when any of the others has completed its cycle.

I was able to create a 4-stage, one-after-the-other Envelope today. I was also able to create a looping waveshape. Sort of like a customized LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator).

Anyway, so far, we’re finding that both Modules were well worth the money.

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Double Helix Oscillator

I’ve been wanting to fine-tune the image of the Double Helix Oscillator, that I used in the Patch Chart I created and, today, I finally got around to doing just that. This one is cleaner, more professional looking and contains less clutter… making it easier for everyone to indicate Knob and Switch settings as well as the Patch Cord connections routings.

So the updated Chart for this Pittsburgh Modular module is now in our “Downloads” area and is free to download.

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Double Helix Oscillator – overview

Sylvia and I have only had the “Double Helix Oscillator” for a day and a half and we’re really enjoying it. The build quality in their “Stucture 270” Case is first-rate. The “care of design” that’s behind the Double Helix has infused this Module with more functionality than may appear at first glance. Each time we “just want to try a simple Patch”, “hours” just fly by. For us, that’s the sign of a versatile piece of gear.

On June 21st, I sent an eMail to Pittsburgh Modular, asking if there was a Manual for their “Double Helix Oscillator”. This is their reply:

  • The Double Helix is an excellent analog synth voice module. While we don’t currently have a manual for this item available, I’ll be happy to give you a brief walkthrough of its functionality.
  • The Double Helix contains two full range analog oscillators. They can sweep from subsonic LFO range, up past 20 KHz. The first oscillator has 5 waveform options (including a 1 octave down suboscillator and our signature Blade wave) while the second oscillator as 3 waveforms. They both track 1V/O and have various modulation options available.
  • The module also contains an LFO (with Sine, Square, and Random outputs) and an analog noise source
  • The Contour section is where the Double Helix shines. It contains two sections: Timbre and Dynamics. The Timbre section is an analog wavefolder. Basically, it continuously folds the peaks and valleys of the incoming waveform to add complexity and upper harmonics to the sound.  The Dynamics section is based on our Dynamic Impulse Filter module and allows for organic “plucked” percussive sounds
  • Finally, the CV router at the bottom allows for easy control and experimentation with modulation. You can route several modulation sources to various locations simultaneously, which adds even more complexity to the sound.

Although they don’t “technically” offer a “Manual”, they do provide some very helpful information on the Double Helix product page. Here’s the link:

Because Sylvia and I needed a “paper” version of that information, I pulled-out the content from that web page and reformatted it into standard pages… and I allowed for those pages to be on 3-holed paper. (So they could be placed in a 3-ring Binder.

  • Note: If you print those 4-pages as “double-sided”, the holes in the paper will not interfere with the text or images.

You can download this file from the link below.​

Double Helix Overview (pdf)

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The “Double Helix Oscillator”

Over these last several months, after buying 3 small Synthesizers, Sylvia pointed out that I wouldn’t be satisfied until we got a “Modular”.

  • I thought about it for a while and she’s right. My experience with Synthesizers started in the 70s, when Synthesizers themselves were still evolving. There were only a handful of companies making Synthesizers and “Moog” and “ARP” were the most popular.
  • My first Synth was a very basic Korg. While in High School, I saved-up and bought a “Mini Moog Model D”. About the Time I was getting bored with its limits, I read about a much more flexible, more powerful Synth: the “ARP 2600”. Again, I saved-up some money, sold the Mini Moog and bought a “2600”.
  • In 1972, I took 1 Semester of private Synthesizer lessons from a local college. The Professor in charge of the Music Department told me he went to school with Bob Moog. The Synthesizer in the Electronic Music Lab was a “Studio Moog”, similar to the “Moog System 55”. Here’s the link to that model:
  • My point is, Sylvia’s observation is correct… Since I came up through “old school”, analog, one-function-per-button, Synthesizers, I wouldn’t be happy until we bought a Modular Synth.

So, after doing a lot of research, we decided to jump in. About a month ago, we bought the 1st piece — the “case”. It’s a “Structure 270”, made by Pittsburgh Modular. Here’s the link to its product page:

Last Saturday, Sylvia and I drove to our local Guitar Center store and bought our 1st Module — the “Double Helix Oscillator”, also made by Pittsburgh Modular. Here’s the link to it’s product page:

When we brought it home, I was just going to try out a few simple things and… almost 4-hours went by… Whoosh! Now THAT’S a sign of an interesting piece of music gear.

  • The keyboard on our ARP 2600 doesn’t work right and we don’t have another keyboard that will send “CV” (Control Voltages) out. So we couldn’t play this new Oscillator with a regular keyboard. However, since we have a “BeatStep Pro” (by Arturia), I was able to connect its “Pitch” output to the Double Helix (to change notes) and the BeatStep Pro’s “Gate” output to the ARP 2600’s “Gate Input” (to fire the Envelope Generators / open and close the sound to the speakers).

Knowing that the “Double Helix” doesn’t have any way of Storing Patches (saving its settings), I spent almost 3-hours today creating a Patch Chart for it. I’ve uploaded it to this Blog and you should be able to download it from the link below. So if you own a “Double Helix”, this Chart may be of some help in keeping track of the sounds you create.

  • A contrasting pen color, such as “red”, works best.
  • For “Knob” settings: simply place a line where the “white line” on the real Knob should be turned to.
  • For “Patch Points” (Jacks): just draw a line from any Patch Point to any other. It’s better if you don’t draw those lines over any other Jacks, Knobs or Switches. If you need to indicate that a Patch Point on the Double Helix is connected to another Module, just end the line below the diagram and add some text explaining where the other end should be connected.
  • For “Switches”: since the Double Helix Switches can be moved to 3 positions, I illustrated those positions with 3 small circles for each Switch. Just fill-in the appropriate circle or draw a line through one of them.

Click the link below to download this Chart…

Double Helix Patch Chart

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“Lifeforms Foundation Evo” made by Pittsburgh Modular

For March, Sylvia and I have selected a very powerful Modular Synthesizer, for this month’s “Review” and “Drawing”, on our crowd-funding page.

For details on this very capable, musical tool, visit its product page:

For more information on this crowd-funding project, please visit our Patreon page:

To hear our album, “Perfectionately Yours” for free, visit our BandCamp page:

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