Back in my youth, I foolishly asked my wife what I should call my band. She suggested ‘Baked Beans’. We laughed, and the band got called something far less memorable. Somehow, I was reminded of this when the Miso Cornflakes arrived in the post.
Cornflakes is a 14HP granular oscillator module from a new Danish company called Miso. Granular synthesis is a complex beast and often results in modules that are difficult to use, resorting to screens, menus, dual functions, etc. Cornflakes, however, takes a one‑knob‑per‑function approach.
The module revolves around a stereo sample buffer just over 40 seconds in length. Audio can be recorded via stereo inputs or loaded from a microSD card. Samples must be 16‑bit/48kHz WAV files (other formats will not load). Despite everything being stereo, samples are stored as two mono files, which means transferring existing files to the module will require some conversion. Samples are stored in four banks of eight, making 32 possible sample locations. You can’t switch samples via CV, it’s a manual procedure, and there is a short gap of silence when loading a new sample.
The granular engine has eight parameters, each with a dedicated front‑panel control. They should make sense to anyone with a passing familiarity with granular synthesis. You can control the grain size, randomisation of size and pitch (combined into a Diffuse control), the playback head’s travel speed (from 0x to 2x real time, but no reverse), and the start and end position. The engine can generate four simultaneous grains (or voices).
Two of the controls deal with the harmonisation of grains. One alters the pitch range, and the other the distribution of the four voices within that range. These two controls can achieve a wide variety of chordal or discordant harmonies, helped by the quantise features, which can quantise either the master pitch, the grain harmonisation, or both to various scales.
Each of the eight front‑panel control has a corresponding CV input. There are also gate inputs for record and playback. A switch allows you to monitor the input even when you’re not recording, which means the module could be used to mix two signals if space is tight.
In use, Cornflakes is adept at generating drones, endless textures and pseudo‑time stretching. The harmonisation features can extend into demonic vocal harmonies, chord clouds and detuning effects. I never quite felt fully in control of the harmonisation. It is hard, for example, to find exact intervals to make specific chords, so a more suck‑it‑and‑see approach is necessary. Anyone keen on microtonal music will also welcome the ability to load custom quantisation scales in Scala format.
I like Cornflakes a lot (no, not the breakfast!). It gives just enough of a granular core engine to be useful without descending into menu‑diving hell. You might miss a few features from more complex granular engines, such as the ability to reverse grain playback or control individual randomisation of pitch, grain size or panning. Four grains also feels like a bare minimum. Eight or 16 would have allowed for more ‘cloud‑like’ sound design. Lastly, the inability to load different samples via CV or the slight pause in audio when doing so might be a deal‑breaker for some. But, Cornflakes sounds fantastic and is still flexible enough to generate a vast palette of sounds. It has a hi‑fi quality and is especially good at doing time‑stretch effects. And in a market where many modules are increasingly complex, its one‑knob‑per‑feature approach is very welcome.