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Edit: Chris Randall from Audio Damage posted more info in reference to the Distress and Mix functions below!

Audio Damage has been churning out modules this summer. Their latest module (which will be released in about a month) is Neuron, a unique Drum Synth module suggesting an exciting departure from the collection of effects modules that Audio Damage has come to be known for in the past few years. Neuron appears to be aiming for a slot next to the Basimilus Iteritas from Noise Engineering or Dinky’s Taiko from ALM, to create a wider palette of synthetic drum sounds.

Like some other existing modules, Neuron is a Frequency Modulation-based drum voice. As with other drum modules of this sort, there are common functions built in to the module to tweak it towards percussion-friendly sounds. These drum synths are all essentially complex oscillators, each model using a different internal routing scheme to shape the sound. Each device includes Tuning controls (with some variations), simple Envelopes, Oscillator to Noise mix controls, and of course, Trigger inputs.


Neuron diverges from these other drum modules in the way that it handles the Frequency Modulation of the Oscillator. While other drum synths often use banks of Oscillators or Wavetables (collections of short cycles of different wave shapes) to generate percussive, complex signals, Neuron uses a single Sine wave as the modulator of a sample of a 909 kick drum. The result is an amalgamation of that classic, punchy 909 kick, with a lot of room for manipulation over the Modulator using the “Mod Rate” and “Mod Depth” controls. The Oscillator also fades to Noise using the “Noise Mix” knob to get snappier, higher frequency percussion sounds. Finally, the “Distress” knob seems to add some nice warmth and distortion to the sound as we can hear in the Instagram video example above.

Chris Randall from Audio Damage commented about the following audio demo on MuffWiggler…

I tried to get a variety of different patterns going, along with using both the accent and choke inputs. This should give you a good idea of what a single Neuron can do under heavy modulation.

Added: Randall also had this to say about the operation of the “Distress” and “Mix” functions…

And now, a note about the DISTRESS and MIX controls, since it was asked elsewhere. The DISTRESS control is actually a pair of distortion effects. The first half of the knob’s travel rolls in the first effect (which is exponential distortion). At 12 o’clock, that is 100%. After 12 o’clock, it rolls off the exponential distortion, and rolls in a cubic sigmoid distortion. So at full clockwise, the cubic sigmoid is 100% and the exponential is 0%. There is a lot of interplay in the knob travel, and it can result in some interesting shit. (You can hear it sweep its whole range in the very beginning of the above sample.

The MIX knob functions purely as a mix control. At full anti-clockwise, it is the FM synth, and at full clockwise, it is white noise. BUT! At 12 o’clock, a high-pass filter is added at 5Hz. At full clockwise, the unit is 100% noise, and the HPF is at 10K. The reason we did this: for traditional x0x snares where you need more tone than noise, there is no filtering (from full anti-clockwise to 12 o’clock.) For hi-hat and cymbal sounds, where you want more noise than tone, there is filtering. There are, of course, some sweet spots for specific types of drums, but on the whole, there’s a lot of interesting sounds living in there.

One final note about the topology and how it relates to the DISTRESS and MIX knobs. The noise is mixed in _after_ the exponential distortion, but _before_ the cubic sigmoid distortion. So, you can basically choose to distort the noise or not, depending on your needs.

What drum modules are you using in your rack? Let us know in the comments?

Wondering how to make drum sounds with all of those modules you already own? Check out our Sound Design 101 course!!

Audio Damage Neuron Drum Synth

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