Let's face it, a single VCA is never enough, which is undoubtedly why quad VCA modules are such a popular design. Pack them in, because you can never have enough. Malekko are here to throw their interpretation into the ring, but not without adding some handy extras first.
The Quad VCA is, of course, four analogue voltage–controlled amplifiers. It adds to Malekko's stable of quad modules including the Quad LFO, Quad Envelope and Quad Gate Delay. The Quad VCA will also link up to Malekko's Varigate 4+ and 8+ sequencer modules for preset saving and recall, which can be very handy in a live performance setup.
Each channel has an input, output and CV input to control the level. They can be used for either CV or audio signals thanks to DC-coupled inputs and outputs. There is also a combined mix output. Input channels 2-4 are normalled to the first channel allowing you to distribute one signal to subsequent channels. Each channel has a dedicated mute button along with an LED to show the mute status. There are also LEDs to show the currently selected channel and the CV input level.
Why would you want to select a channel? Well, offset and attenuverting are both possible via their respective knobs, but as there is only one knob for each function, the module needs to know which channel you want the function to apply to. It's a simple solution which keeps the size of the module, and the subsequent cost sensible. The downside to this solution is that knobs don't always show the values of the current channel, and values can jump when moving from one channel to another with different values. It's a reasonable trade-off, however, and you quickly get used to tapping a select button and tweaking the knobs to make adjustments for any given channel.
Scan mode is an excellent bonus. With four different inputs, the Channel 1 CV blends between the four signals and presents it at the Mix output. The CV offset control also becomes a manual blend control. The opposite is also possible — with one input, the CV input can be used to distribute that signal to the four outputs. This means you can use the module as a many-to-one or one-to-many distributor. I was impressed to see that Mutes still worked whilst in Scan mode, meaning you can exclude certain inputs and outputs.
The Quad VCA will remember current mute, offset and attenuvertor settings for each channel. Thumbs up to that!
One small feature I was particularly pleased to see is that the Quad VCA will remember its exact state after the unit is turned off. Sometimes modules with digital selector switches will forget, with the consequence of changing or even breaking your patch. The Quad VCA will remember current mute, offset and attenuvertor settings for each channel. Thumbs up to that!
The Quad VCA does what it says on the tin. It's a well-made utility module with some extra functions that could potentially replace four or five different modules in your setup. Its design means it can function as more than four VCAs. The normalled inputs mean you can use it as a one-to-many signal distributor, with CV control over each of the four outputs. The manual mute buttons turn this into a handy live signal distribution system. The Mix output turns the Quad VCA into a handy four–channel mixer, and Scan mode gives you all the functions of a bi-directional sequential switch, with smooth crossfading between channels.
Sound-wise, the VCAs are clean and transparent for the most-part, but can be pushed to distort if so desired. In my tests with some drum sounds, I thought the distortion was a little on the harsh side, with signals quickly clipping, rather than warming nicely as one might hope. But distortion is a subjective thing and I've no doubt that it will sound great on some sources. There is certainly plenty of dynamic headroom before distortion begins, so it's not something you'll come across unless you want it.
The Quad VCA represents excellent value for money and is a clever and genuinely useful design. I suspect it would find a role in almost any modular system. For the price, you not only get four VCAs, but a mixer, a sequential switch, crossfader and a signal distributor — all with handy mute switches. Add up the cost of those functions as independent modules and you'll come to a figure many times what the Quad VCA will set you back. It's a great module that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.