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ALM/Busy Circuits Pamela’s Pro Workout

If the name Pamela’s Workout is unfamiliar to you, you must either be new to Eurorack (welcome), or have such niche taste in modules as to purposefully avoid any recommendation of them at all. One of the most popular Eurorack modules anywhere, ALM/Busy Circuits’ Pamela’s Workout smashed into the modular world a decade ago, setting the gold standard for clock division and rhythmic trigger generation in the process. The follow‑up, Pamela’s New Workout, set that gold standard all over again, and the proof is in the pudding: it’s currently the second most ubiquitous module in Eurorack according to the website Modular Grid, and ranked eighth in its list of the top modules of all time. Now comes a third iteration, Pamela’s Pro Workout: a module that manages to celebrate all the functionality of its predecessors while simultaneously making them look comparatively feeble.

ALM/Busy Circuits Pamela’s Pro Workout.Since Pamela’s Pro Workout builds upon such a firm foundation, it’s hard to appreciate it, let alone review it, without at least a cursory look back at the Pamela family tree. Laudably, throughout this series there is next to no backtracking in design, model to model, as is often seen in similar series. The core features of previous Workouts remain true in the Pro, with new features and functions simply, joyously, slathered on top.

With the original Pamela’s Workout, Matthew Allum’s company hadn’t just produced an efficient digital clocking solution with their very first module. Suddenly, Pam’s — as it affectionately came to be known — could be found at the very heart of systems everywhere. Eight beautifully editable clocked trigger outputs of rhythmic goodness were on the bill, along with a four‑digit, seven‑segment display. Far more than simply a clock division and multiplication module, triplets, pulse‑width editing, random skipping and much more were all achievable with ease.

“Pamela’s Workout grew out of a need to flexibly synchronise various clocked modules and external devices,” reads the introduction to the original’s manual, “but do so in a flexible and feature‑full manner as to also enable more creative and playful rhythmic usage.” It’s that very maxim that defines the Pamela’s Workout dynasty, blurring the line between utility and creativity; the primary takeaway from this review if you’re considering buying one, at the end of the day.

Pamela’s New Workout then pushed all of its predecessor’s functionality to the next level, retaining the core principle of editable clock divisors but adding a multitude of new tools. Most conspicuously, instead of simple pulses it offered waveform selection, meaning it could suddenly be used as a clocked modulation source or cycling envelope generator, complete with editable cycle width, level and offset. On top of this, it expanded on the original’s rhythmic capabilities considerably, offering programmable Euclidean rhythms, beat‑based looping and more. Twin CV inputs could be assigned to control any of the output parameters, allowing for integration with a wider system or clever self‑patching, with all of this complexity saveable to any one of 200 banks. Most conspicuously, Pamela’s New Workout now offered a detailed LED screen, making navigation far easier than on the original.

Once again, the most obvious defining characteristic on Pamela’s Pro Workout is its display, which is around twice the size of that of its predecessor. Crisp and full‑colour, all the Pro’s parameters are now presented in a spacious and clear environment, unlike the occasionally cramped display of the New. It’s even possible to customise the UI colour scheme. Beyond simply making things easier, ALM/Busy Circuits have made sure to use the screen to the maximum of its ability, including things like an oscilloscope with adjustable resolution to visually track the movement of any output. It also makes things like Euclidean step programming far easier, visualising the number of steps and subsequent triggers instead of prompting the occasional quick mental maths. There’s enough space here to prompt imaginings of even more ambitious uses for the screen: a dashboard‑style display for each output, perhaps, with a scaled down oscilloscope, time division and modulation all displayed together. For now, though, it’s a case of more or less one piece of information at a time — big, bright and sharp.

It may share the 8HP form factor of the original Pamela’s Workout, but the power of the Pro means it may as well be 10 times that size.

Across the board, Pam Pro exponentially improves and adds to the functionality of the Workout series. It has a faster CPU with dual‑core processing, outputting at a 12‑bit resolution compared with the New’s 10. While the New could go from clock divisors of 512 to multiplications of 48, the Pro can go from a staggering /16384 all the way to x192. There are now many more waveforms to choose from, including trapezoid, hump and a choice of exponential or logarithmic envelopes. The Run and Clk inputs can now be repurposed to make a total of four CV inputs. There’s slewing, loop ‘nap’ and ‘wake’, and cross‑modulation between any outputs. It also offers wave inversion and two different types of ratcheting pulse waves — both examples of things you could achieve with the New in various ways, but here presented on a platter to make things quicker, easier and ultimately more fun.

The later firmware updates that pushed Pamela’s New Workout further are of course present in the first instance with Pam Pro, only significantly rebooted. One major example of this is the quantise function, introduced relatively late on in the New’s tenure to allow any waveform to be quantised to one of a host of scales: this could amount to anything from a random stepped voltage jumping around a major scale to a saw wave cascading through a pentatonic scale, like an 8‑bit games console. Once again, this function is given a significant boost on the Pro, which not only uses its screen to visualise the notes as they would appear on a chromatic keyboard but allows for user‑preset scales by cycling through an on‑screen keyboard with the encoder and selecting the desired notes. The smooth random wave that appeared in a later firmware update on the New is present and correct, here displayed in all its ‘Mario hills’ glory. I must say, before Pamela’s New Workout I hadn’t heard the phrase ‘Mario hills’ used to describe a waveform before, and very much hope it’s an ALM‑coined phrase. In any case, you may consider it formally inducted into the accepted Eurorack lexicon from here on out.

It may share the 8HP form factor of the original Pamela’s Workout, but the power of the Pro means it may as well be 10 times that size. It’s now so far beyond the realm of triggers and clock divisions as to encroach across the border into other territories entirely, no least that of sequencer and digitally controlled oscillator. Where can the series possibly go from here? Right now, it seems, almost anywhere. Perhaps into the molecular multiverse inhabited by the likes of Expert Sleepers’ Disting. Here on Earth, though, one thing is certain: when it comes to clocking, modulating and a whole lot more, Pamela’s reign is far from over.