The VCMC is a Voltage Controlled MIDI Controller. It takes all your Eurorack–based manipulations and maps them to the parameters of any MIDI device. More commonly, the flow of control data is from your DAW or MIDI controller into your modular setup. You may be using Ableton Live's CV Tools or Bitwig Studio's Polygrid to generate sequences and modulations that you then route to your Eurorack via a DC-coupled audio interface, or you may be taking the easy road and plugging in a MIDI keyboard or your sequencer via a MIDI-to-CV converter. The VCMC takes the flow in the opposite direction. It can take your LFOs, your envelopes, your bursts and rhythms, your analogue sequences and hands-on workflow directly into your DAW, your MIDI synthesizer or your software synth. The VCMC very quickly becomes the missing piece of the modular puzzle, and one that you didn't know you needed.
On the front panel you have eight sliders, eight gate inputs, eight buttons and 10 CV inputs. There's an old–school 5-pin DIN MIDI output and a USB B connector for connecting USB MIDI to a computer. A little screen gives a marvellous visual representation of what's going on and provides access to the menus and configuration that you control with a single, clickable data encoder. The buttons are hardwired to the Gate inputs, providing a manual trigger, and they light up when a Gate is received. All the sliders and the inputs can each be assigned their own MIDI function, or you can configure some helpful combinations.
The VCMC very quickly becomes the missing piece of the modular puzzle, and one that you didn't know you needed.
Set the eight sliders to MIDI CC numbers and you can MIDI Learn them into your computer and control various parameters on your software synth or faders in your DAW. But any MIDI controller can do that. Where the VCMC gets interesting is when you populate the CV inputs with modulation signals and combine them with the sliders. With your Eurorack LFOs and envelopes controlling your software synth, you can set the sliders up to attenuate the modulation or offset it to ensure it's modulating the right range. These combinations are nicely represented in the display, with the animated CV modulation attached to the slider display.
The nature of modular is that things tend to be always on. So, once you've patched in some modulation from an LFO you'll struggle to MIDI Learn any other sliders, because your previous patch is still kicking out MIDI. It pays to have a bit of a plan beforehand and do all your learning and controller allocation before you start patching in the modulations. I usually prefer to build up layers of modulation in modular by making choices as I go, so this factor really pushed against my workflow. I wonder if it's possible to enable a 'Solo' function to temporarily mute out the other channels while you activate MIDI Learn on the next control? Otherwise you either have to know the CC numbers so you can specify them directly or pull out all your cables.
The CV and Gate inputs can work together to produce MIDI notes so that you can bring in some 1V/oct Eurorack sequencing. I found that running two or three sequencers into the VCMC could produce some wonderfully interesting strings when fed into Kontakt Orchestral libraries. But pushing repetitive analogue sequencing into any of the more regular instruments or synths tends to produce some unique and unexpected results.
What makes the VCMC brilliant is that it brings my modular workflow into my other gear.
The eight channels of gates also make for a great drum machine portal to a potentially huge source of drum sounds. Allocate each gate a MIDI note number and you can play all those drum kits you have stored away on your computer. You can also use the buttons to trigger drums or samples or even clips and scenes in Ableton Live.
The potential and versatility become apparent once you start playing with it. And you don't have to do one thing. You could have a single channel of sequencing and three modulations going to one synth, a four-channel drum machine going somewhere else and, with some clever MIDI routing in software, you could have another four CV inputs running a MIDI–controlled video or light show.
But what makes the VCMC brilliant is that it brings my modular workflow into my other gear. I'm not having to return to keyboard-based paradigms to bring a software Rhodes into my modular: I can do it intuitively through modules and hands-on manipulation. Or I can do both. I can use one Gate input as a clock and I can sequence in-sync on my computer. You do need to concentrate, focus and experiment to get things working in the way you want them to. But it's so good to be able to include anything from little synth boxes to a huge palette of software sounds in my modular meanderings.