Radio Music Adds Pitch Control & Wave Files

Radio Music from Music Thing Modular is one of the more popular DIY projects in Eurorack, for it’s fairly simple build and extremely useful functionality. A new update has added some long awaited features including wave file support, a 1 volt per octave tuning option and more…

It’s been a good year for Radio Music owners. A few months ago, the new Chord Organ alternate firmware was announced by Tom Whitwell, developer of this and other modules under the brand Music Thing Modular. Now, a new beta firmware for the Radio Music has been released with a number of new and exciting features that make this device even more of a bargain, perhaps even a force to be reckoned with.

One of the most obvious and outstanding feature upgrades is support for standard wave audio files. Until now, replacing the samples on the module was a cumbersome process, involving persnickety naming conventions and rarely used RAW audio files. This meant loading files into Audacity or a similar sample editor to convert them one at a time, or using a shaky batch conversion process.

Now you have access to virtually any wave file, including all of those sample libraries that have been taking up disk drive space, or those fresh field recordings you made on the way to your modular gig… Or our student created open source sample library, the Voltage Control Lab Sound Study!

Another massive upgrade in this latest firmware version, the Start knob (which has traditionally been used to control the start position of the current sample) can be repurposed to instead control the pitch of the sample. Similar to other sample players in Eurorack, Radio Music can now perform 1 volt per octave pitch tracking on the samples with nearly a 2 octave range above and below the original tuning of the file.

There are even more added features in this beta, including better handling of audio rate triggering (up to a certain rate) among other fixes. Moreover, two very useful websites have been created to help navigate the modes for both Radio Music and Chord Organ. Polyfather.com offers a centralized location to download the most current firmware, as well as edit and then download the critical settings files that the module needs.

What will be the next adventure for Radio Music? If you dream up some wild use, the module is open source so you can re-imagine it yourself!

What modules would you like to see us discuss in the future? Let us know in the comments!

MSG Expansion Chips for Moffenzeef Muskrat

A couple of weeks ago, Ross Fish from Moffenzeef Modular sent us the new Muskrat module, a dirty percussion voice based on his MSG experimental sound box. This week, we tested the MSG expansion chips, 5 additional firmware versions that can be swapped out of the Muskrat to dramatically alter it’s functionality.

The Muskrat is already an amazing synth, but the MSG expansion chips each provide a new view into the potential of this module. The additional chips contain different firmware code, adding to the existing wavetable and phase distortion techniques on the original chip with frequency modulation, amplitude modulation, phase modulation, wavetable synthesis with amplitude modulation and granular synth.

The F chip performs frequency modulation using two internal oscillators, a carrier and a modulator. The scratch control modulates the FM index or the amplitude of the modulator, while dig controls the rate of the modulator with the switch at the bottom toggling between LFO and audio rate modulation. The carrier pitch is controlled by the chew knob, which acts as the main pitch knob for every mode. The bang input envelope follower and the tail and envelope range switch act the same in every mode as well, triggering and attenuating the voice. The A or amplitude modulation chip works in a similar way, with the scratch knob acting as a detune function for the modulator voice. This chips can generate some really nice atonal results.

The phase modulation chip, indicated by the P on the chip is a bit different. The Muskrat switch swaps between a grungy triangle wave and a squished sawtooth wave, while the scratch knob acts as a bit shifter generating some gritty high end frequencies. The dig knob controls rough phase shifting which tends to sound like octave transposition, or different intervals when bit shifted.

The wavetable with AM mode is very similar to the original firmware, but slightly less aggressive. Instead of wavetable phase distortion and folding, the wavetable is amplitude modulated, with the rate of modulation controllable via the scratch knob. The Muskrat switch toggles between LFO and audio rate modulation.

The granular chip, marked with a G, is wild. The module chooses from a collection of short samples selected by the dig knob, looping the sample with control over loop length (aka grain size) via the scratch knob. The bottom switch reverses the grain. This one can create some really glitchy, vocal style tones. Some real magic here.

These chips, originally intended for the MSG pocket synth, can expand this single, unique module into 5 additional modules. The real trouble is picking which one is your favorite…

What modules would you like to see us cover in future videos? Tell us in the comments!

Kammerl Firmware Beat Repeat for Mutable Clouds

Mutable Instruments Clouds is the second most popular module in Eurorack, according to ModularGrid.net. Now a new alternative firmware from Justin Kammerl has captivated veteran users and beat manglers alike.

You’ve probably seen the posts… Clouds is one of the most talked about modules in Eurorack. A granular synthesis and sampling powerhouse, Clouds is equally known for it’s reverb (a critical part of granular synthesis). A popular alternative firmware called Parasites has attracted many more users to the device by adding an Erbeverb-like mode and a physical modelling resonator mode.

The Kammerl firmware popped up on the radar a few months ago when Richard Devine posted about a new Beat Repeat mode that his friend had created, demonstrating the functionality in his special way. The firmware was recently updated with yet another mode, Spectral Clouds, which replaces the Spectral Madness mode from the original firmware with an ambience-generating ocean of filtered frequencies.

The Beat Repeat mode is a ported version of a VST plugin Kammerl created for slicing and chopping audio loops, operating the same way as the plugin. An audio source is fed to the input, while a clock (ideally synced to the tempo of the audio) is routed to trigger the slicing. Each slice can be looped, detuned and mangled, according to the panel settings. A map of how the controls and blend options differ can be found by clicking the image below.

Loading the firmware onto your Clouds is easy,  and the instructions for performing the installation can be found in the original Clouds manual on the Mutable Instruments website. The process is the same for whichever firmware you use, including reinstalling the original if you ever wish to return to it.

How are you mangling and destroying your loops? Tell us about it in the comments!

Muskrat Drum Synth From Moffenzeef

One of our first visitors to the early, unfinished Voltage Control Lab space here in LA (which we announced yesterday) was Ross Fish of Moffenzeef Modular, who stopped by and showed us his new module, the Muskrat. Here, we take a look at some of the functions of this unique 8 bit module.

We’ve looked at a couple of Moffenzeef modules before, including the GMO and the Deviant, each of which have their own specialties. The Muskrat is no different. An 8 bit wavetable drum synth voice, the device has all of the functions you might expect of a drum module. The Bang input can be used to trigger and gate the internal envelope, the decay stage controlled by the Tail knob and related length switch.

The Scratch knob and CV input can be used dial in phase distortion and modulation of the 23 wavetables, which can be selected using the Dig control. Pitch can be modulated using the Chew function, though it does not adhere to tradition (a common trait with Moffenzeef modules) as the pitch does not follow the 1 volt per octave standard. The Muskrat switch at the bottom of the module can be used to grind up the timbre of the 8 bit wavetable, creating even glitchier results.

From the Muskrat quick start guide…

When Muskrat switch is engaged, a randøm number is fed intø the phase accumulatør at the internal cløck rate øf the Muskrat. As yøu mess with the cøntrøls, the chip has a hard time keeping up and starts tø glitch øut. In møst scenariøs this will cause the mødule tø søund like pitched, digital nøise.
The Bang input is no simple trigger in, offering some fun and interesting modulation possibilities. The input is actually based on an envelope follower circuit, meaning it will follow the rising and falling voltage of incoming signals (or audio!!!) and shape the internal envelope accordingly. When using a short trigger, we can get nice short, rhythmic plips and ploops, hihats, shakers and more. Using gates, we can get longer, dirty synth-like tones.
If we route a square wave oscillator to the Bang input, the envelope will be triggered at the frequency to which the oscillator is tuned, syncing the drum module to the oscillator pitch, turning it into an oscillator itself. Especially with the Tail set very short, this can be really nice. Another possibility is to route a loop to the Bang input, so that the envelope follows the rhythm and shape of that loop. This will work particularly well with drum loops.
How are you creating interesting drum sounds and rhythms in your system? Tell us about it in the comments!
More info on our upcoming opening of our new space in LA!

New Space In LA for Voltage Control Lab

We’ve been working on a secret project for the last two months, and it’s finally time to let the cat(s) out of the bag…

You may have noticed we have been a bit less active for the past two months or so… or maybe you didn’t notice. Well, we’ve been preparing a new space in Los Angeles where we will soon be offering courses, workshops, synth meets, hang outs, and a whole lot more. Located in the historic Mid-City area of LA (we’re rebranding it Mod-City, obviously), our new space is easily accessible from almost any of the surrounding areas via car, train, bus or bike.

We have been working like crazy to prepare the space for the summer, planning a number of workshops with LA area modular makers and artists. We will be welcoming Stephen from Noise Engineering, Eli from Mystic Circuits (who is going to do a presentation on physics for the musician), Kero from Detroit Underground, Citizen (who makes the amazing portable lunchbox synth cases) and much, much more.

We have had a great deal of help getting here. First our students, who have been so supportive of VCL, without whom none of this would matter. A huge thank you to our subscribers, followers, viewers and readers. Manny from A Case of Modular has been helping us with some of the projects in the space, and has been invaluable. Leslie Ghazarian has been a huge support as well, aiding in our organizational dilemmas and so much more. Our co-creative director Viktor Carrillo has been a constant help, and makes sure coats of paint are properly applied.

So many people have helped us get Voltage Control Lab to where we are, and we can’t wait to continue what we’ve started in this next phase. We will have a TON more news, an event schedule and more synth cats ASAP. And remember, #patchsmarter!

#whatthisis #secret #modularsynth

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