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Instruō Cnōc & Cruïnn

Eurorack Modules
Published April 2023

Instruō Cnōc & Cruïnn

What is there not to like about Glaswegian developer Instruō? The company all but encapsulate everything I love about Eurorack. Their hand‑built modules are visually beautiful, with signature gold lettering on a black faceplate and generously sized black and white knobs; their modules’ names are replete with cultural heritage, each a Scottish Gaelic word pertaining to their function (indeed the name ‘Instruō’ loosely means ‘to teach’); they have a keen preoccupation with education and support, producing extensive video content and patch notes; and on top of all of this they’ve gone and made pretty much all their modules available in VCV for free. And did I mention the modules themselves tend to perform rather brilliantly, too?

Enough eulogising; let’s look at two of the company’s newest offerings: Cnōc and Cruïnn. Will they live up to the Instruō standard?

First up is Cnōc, a compact two‑stage function generator that promises utility and creativity in equal measure. Cnōc, if you’re interested, means ‘a natural elevation or raised landscape,’ apparently: poetic, as well as presumably the closest Scottish Gaelic can get to describing a function generator Eurorack module.

The panel presents two LED‑tipped sliders for the envelope attack and release, alongside CV inputs for each and a trigger input alongside a manual trigger button. Switches enable editing of the envelope shape and response, as well as cycling, while CV outputs are present for unipolar or bipolar voltage (brilliantly handy) alongside a gate and end‑of‑cycle output.

It’s an impressive amount of functionality packed into a very small space, but never quite strays into feeling cramped. This is partly because a good half of the Cnōc’s overall real estate is devoted to its two LED sliders, meaning that even when zooming out to view a patch it’s immediately visible what the Cnōc is doing; a welcome design decision, since I often find myself having to lean in and peer behind patch cables with modules of its ilk. On the subject of the LEDs, they’re impeccably responsive, and while they don’t fade in or out to represent slower attack or release times (instead they just flash on or off), this is clearly the result of an engineering limitation that I’m sure Jason Lim would be able to eloquently explain, and is compensated for by a third, more dynamic LED at the top of the panel.

In any case, the function and ultimately the sound is the important thing; in these departments the Cnōc is hard to fault. Using it as a cycling envelope generator with an oscillator via a VCA, for example, It can be super smooth or tight and snappy. It’s a joy to push it into audio‑rate territory and back again; applying CV to modulate the envelope attack or release time across this range it responded in a way I can only describe as razor sharp, ratcheting and stuttering back and forth beautifully. It can also act as a slew limiter, of course, or a delayed gate — certainly more is possible than I have column space for. All things considered, the Cnōc is simply a lovely little module.

Instruō Cnōc & CruïnnNext, Cruïnn. Translation: ‘well developed in all aspects, complete and balanced’. It sure is. A ‘super‑super‑super‑super‑super’ saw‑wave oscillator (that’s five supers), it’s based around a single sawtooth oscillator core that makes use of through‑zero phase modulation to create anything from buzzing, abrasive drones to lush saw choruses in glorious stereo. Or beyond stereo, if you wish, courtesy of an included 4HP expansion module offering individual outputs for all six of its bipolar, phase‑shiftable sawtooth waves.

On the module proper, the Cruïnn’s right output presents waves 1, 2 and 3, while 4, 5 and 6 come out of the left output. A third ‘Sigma’ (Σ) output sums everything to mono. All conventionally useful functions are present, correct and very nicely laid out: there’s a volt‑per‑octave input with tuning control (coarse and fine), FM input with attenuator (exponential or linear) and also a nifty LFO toggle switch, which essentially lowers the frequency range of all the Cruïnn’s waveforms to transform it into the most functionally equipped sawtooth LFO you could ever ask for. With all the expander’s individual outputs working together, it’s a modulation powerhouse!

The top half of the panel is where things become a little more unique. There’s an included VCA circuit with level and attenuator knobs, which at its highest settings also implements a soft‑clipping circuit for some subtle saturation, but it’s the phase modulation section that really constitutes the essence of the Cruïnn.

Orbiting the stationary sawtooth wave 1 are five triangle‑wave LFOs; working symmetrically across three different frequency bands to phase‑shift the other five sawtooth waveforms — represented by some very pretty pulsating LEDs. There are knobs and CV inputs with attenuators for both rate and depth, ranging from subtle, lush chorus‑like movement to a swarm of angry synthesized bees. At the highest rate settings some of the modulation would touch audio rate, almost taking one into chord territory. At the bassier end of the spectrum things lose their definition a bit (these are sawtooth waves after all) but from the low‑midrange upwards it’s sonically glorious. Lovely stuff.

Like I asked: what is there not to like about Instruō? Not much. And these two are both excellent examples of that fact. Well designed and sensible on the one hand and forward‑thinking on the other, both Cnōc and Cruïnn promise to bring something new to your system with their own distinct brands of Instruō ingenuity. At £239 and £399 respectively they’re definitely on the pricey side of things, it must be said, but considering the scope of what’s on offer here (in the Cruïnn’s case, it’s something like three modules in one) I think they’re priced highly reasonably. Sàr‑mhath!

Cnōc £239, Cruïnn £399.

Cnōc $249, Cruïnn $409.