This may offend certain modular enthusiasts, but I’m a big believer in restriction aiding creativity. Eurorack designers across the board generally pride themselves on their modules’ endless CV input possibilities — which, granted, is one of the main things we love about modular synthesis — but what happens when a module presents an unapologetic WYSIWYG interface: just a handful of audio inputs, one mix knob and no CV inputs? ALM/Busy Circuits’ latest offering is just that. A globe‑spanning collaboration between the British company and Australian developer WORNG Electronics — who specialise somewhat in stereo imaging — the Jumble Henge is based on WORNG’s 14HP SoundStage Stereo Spectral Mixer.
The premise is simple: an arrangement of inputs form a visual representation of the stereo field, with each input representing a pre‑allocated slot in the stereo image. The lateral position of an input corresponds to its panning, while the vertical position corresponds to its filtering. Patch a source into the top right input and you’ll have a bright sound panned hard right. Patch it into the bottom left input for a low‑passed sound on the left. On first glance it might look like the angular font and graphics of the SoundStage have simply been given the Greyscale treatment, but with the Jumble Henge ALM have added some features and taken some away, compacting the SoundStage’s core functionality into a neat 8HP. I happen to like ALM’s interface style — it’s simple and pure, but the names are still fun to say.
Antithetical to any small‑screen menu‑scrolling, the Jumble Henge is purely visual and upfront without so much as an LED to signal what’s going on under the hood. Consequently it delivers results straight out of the box, and this speed is possibly its biggest asset; a clean and dynamic stereo image can be assembled within moments. With the mix knob at zero it delivers a crisp, simple stereo mix with no noticeable noise floor, even at high gain. Dial up the mix, however, and the Jumble Henge’s various tuned filters come into play: the ‘low’ row is low‑passed down to about 1.5kHz, while the ‘low mid’ row is band‑passed between approximately 50Hz and 2kHz; the ‘high mid’ row is band‑passed from just over 100Hz up to about 7.5kHz and the ‘high’ row receives a high‑pass filter with a resonant peak around 500Hz. The filters sound smooth and the resonances are tasteful — altogether not hugely characterful but certainly fit for purpose.
The mix knob appears to be in the sweet spot around three o’clock. Any higher than this and the filters will potentially start cutting out some details one might rather keep, for example the attack on a kick drum sound. There is something of a volume boost around 12 o’clock, a detail acknowledged but not explained in the manual, but it nevertheless allows for dynamic control over a pleasant spectrum of amplitude and filtering. I can think of plenty of instances where the harshest filtering would be useful, for example mixing multiple samples of the same sound together, or if unwanted low or high end is disrupting a certain sound or sub mix within a patch. It would also be remiss to say that the Jungle Henge works on the assumption that a quality mix is simply a combination of harsh filtering and panning. It’s more accurate to say it throws down the gauntlet to be applied to patches in interesting ways, beyond its most obvious function as a quick and simple stereo mixer.
This is likely the reasoning behind its plentiful 14 inputs. My immediate thought was that the Jumble Henge must be designed for larger systems, with over a dozen separate audio outputs, or for systems with something like ALM’s Squid Salmple with its eight individual outputs, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Sure, at its most basic level the Jumble Henge could essentially become an expander for things like the Squid Salmple, enabling quick and classy sample or drum mixing, but it goes far beyond handling lots of channels of audio. This is particularly true when you start coupling it with modulation sources or output switchers, which I found a lot of fun. While conventional mixers might simply enable the balancing and panning of sounds in relation to each other, the Jumble Henge invites you to play with the stereo image as a creative device: with the mix knob up, I found it rewarding to experiment by moving even just a couple of outputs around its spectrum. Each input pleasantly brought out different colours and textures from the sound source, particularly more complex sounds, and I immediately saw the potential for the Jungle Henge to become a key player in the image and character of a variety of patches.
The combination of input choice and filter mix creates very different responses, and I would not hesitate to use it in partnership with just one or two sound sources to generate some tasty harmonics and distortion within a patch.
Presumably all this contributed to ALM’s decision to allocate the Jumble Henge a modest 8HP real estate on the rack, as well as to include clean external inputs to facilitate chaining, which the SoundStage did not. Use one Jungle Henge alongside a conventional mixer and you have a ready‑to‑go spectral mix bus. Use several, linking the mix output of one into any two of the inputs of another (perhaps via a dual VCA), and you’ve suddenly got some very interesting aux send and summing possibilities. With a couple of stack cables (and a little help on gain) you can feed one or both output channels back into two of the Jumble Henge’s inputs alongside your other sound sources, and achieve anything from warm saturation to filtered stereo distortion chaos.Here I actually found a real hidden gem with this module: feedback patching with it is simply a pleasure. I could dial some lovely grit into any part of the stereo field I wished, which would in turn respond nicely to whatever other audio I was feeding the Jumble Henge. The combination of input choice and filter mix creates very different responses, and I would not hesitate to use it in partnership with just one or two sound sources to generate some tasty harmonics and distortion within a patch.
I have to say, this is one reason I would very much have liked to see a CV input on the mix control, which the SoundStage does have. With more experimental applications like the one above I often found myself modulating the mix dial by hand, which despite being fun left me wishing I could patch CV into it. This would lead to some incredible potential for dynamic multiband filter modulation across a whole mix or sub mix. It already doubles as a selectable static filter (albeit a subtle one); so the capacity to receive an envelope there would be useful, especially considering how immediate the rest of its functionality is.
That said, it was relatively quick to get some nice movement going with the help of ALM’s Pamela’s New! Workout and a Meng Qi dual VCA/LPG, and it’s easy to see a can of worms opened by adding more CV control: CV inputs and attenuators on every input, for example, or adjustable filters, would take away from the blank‑canvas purism of this module, which I like. Maybe that sort of thing will appear on a 24HP Mega Jumble Henge Plus. For now, ALM have produced a compact and versatile workhorse of a module that will bring a plethora of patch mixes to life, large or small.