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Nano Modules VCV Random

Eurorack Module By Robin Vincent
Published July 2024

It’s not often that something gets pulled from the virtual realm of software emulation into the touchy‑feely realm of reality, but that’s exactly what Nano Modules have done with the VCV Random. Nano worked with the Eurorack emulation VCV Rack developers to bring the stock Random module to life as an actual module. In many ways it’s an unremarkable and unassuming module that’s just one of many random voltage generators. But once it’s hardware, it immediately takes on a more focused and deliberate vibe, precisely because it’s now one of only a handful of sources of randomness in my rack.

The layout is beautifully ordered, with four glowing sliders, a row of knobs, 11 patch sockets and one switch. The controls look pretty obvious, and it is refreshingly simple to operate. The basic idea is that it generates random voltages over which you have a bit of control, and that’s about it.

However, the control you do have is so elegant and inviting that you may end up spending far more time here than you thought. It will be of no surprise to learn that the Rate slider controls the speed at which random values are generated. The Probability slider decides how likely a new value should occur on each clock pulse. The Random slider suggests how far the new one should leap from the previous value. And Shape smooths out the journey from one value to another. Each slider is CV controllable externally or by feeding back the values from the Linear output, so it’s completely possible to set this module into a cycle of evolving randomness within ever‑shifting parameters.

At the bottom of the module, you will find four very similar outputs. Each one contains the same random values, but they present them slightly differently. Step is where each new value is leapt to instantly, resulting in a familiar stepped, sampled and held output. Increasing the Shape control adds additional steps between the steps creating something approaching a glissando between values. The Lin jack is a linear output that is the same as stepped when Shape is down but increasingly slews between values as Shape is increased, until it takes a whole clock cycle to reach the next value. Exp shifts between each value with an exponential curve. As Shape is increased, the curve moves towards being linear. And finally, Smth gives a smooth transition between values with the Shape dictating how quickly the transition occurs.

If you view the outputs as traces on an oscilloscope, they ride pretty much on top of each other and I wondered whether all the real estate given over to these individual outputs was really worth the difference. But as I’ve spent time with it, I’ve come to see them as different flavours of change. In the density of a large patch, you can lose the saltiness, but with a little bit of focus the way each output plays with a filter cutoff is completely enchanting.

It’s tempting to try to use all four outputs all at once simply because they are there, but I think I’ve worked out that that’s not really the point. It’s better to find the right flavour for the job in hand. However, if you use one output through a quantiser to run a sequence and another to work the filter cutoff, you end up with something approaching filter key tracking.

There’s more; you can plug an external signal into the sample and hold circuit to give it another source of values. You can push the Rate into noise that sounds coloured and filtered by the other controls. Incoming gates can be converted into triggers or you can use Probability to put some laziness into an incoming clock pulse or to vary the triggering of envelopes and percussion hits.

With VCV Random the taming and shaping of the values is immensely satisfying, whether it’s melodic or modulation.

I’m usually in the habit of letting randomness do its own thing in a patch. But with VCV Random, the taming and shaping of the values is immensely satisfying, whether it’s melodic or modulation. While it is simple, there’s enough flavour here to keep any patch coming back for seconds. In a neat circle of happenstance, the Nano version of the Random module is available for free on VCV Rack.