Qu‑Bit have been on a progressive Eurorack journey for the last five years or so. Hark back to the much lauded Chord oscillator module, in its MkI form, and the sense of scale was much larger, providing generous spacing across the panel, complete with sizeable pots. One might wonder if their many fans pleaded with them to shrink the form‑factor, to a size which was more forgiving for Eurorack users with limited rack capacity. Let’s face it, most of us are working in a skiff‑based world, and like prime London real‑estate, space is at a premium. Their most recent modules have exhibited size‑shrinkage, while the operational side of their latter modules appears to have increased exponentially, or at least that’s how it feels.
You could easily apply this to Cascade, which is their latest in a line of more bijou modules concealing a mighty amount of functionality. Described by Qu‑Bit as “a ratcheting envelope generator, VCA and sound source”, it packs plenty of functional content into a 10HP panel.
Despite its form, Cascade does not feel terribly cramped. Qu‑Bit module panels are always incredibly clear, with three outputs blocked together at the bottom of the module. Elsewhere, there are six pots, with CV control of each. The only exception to this is the offset pot, which relates to the VCA level, for the purposes of hearing your signal without CV attenuation.
Let’s begin with the first element on parade, which relates to ratcheting. Providing Cascade with a gate trigger will immediately get you off of the blocks, while the associated Repeats pot will create multiple ratchets, evenly distributed between each gate pulse. The note value of the ratchet extends from x1 to x16, taking in every duplet or triplet note value along the way. Part of this ratchet experience relies on the settings provided by the envelope element; as an aside, Cascade can also operate as an AD, ASR or ADSR envelope, but within the realms of ratcheting, the former applies, but with the added capacity to shape the envelope curve via a dedicated pot, from logarithmic, through to linear and exponential. There are also dedicated Attack and Decay pots (also open to CV control) which make light work of prescribing your preferred ratchet. It’s blissfully easy to use, while placing the Repeats and Curves pots under random CV control yields incredibly immediate chaos!
It possibly won’t come as a huge shock to learn that the envelope element of Cascade is linked to the VCA, but it is possible to access each element separately. This is incredibly useful, as it allows the addressing of the VCA for one signal, while the same ratcheting envelope output can be applied to another element in the modular.
Using Cascade in Ratchet mode is a simplistic business, and one that requires little explanation for the more seasoned Eurorack user. Where Cascade goes deeper is via the Mode button, where further functionality is available. This is the point where you might have to keep the manual to hand. The Mode button toggles the accompanying LED’s colour, which will offer all the clues you need regarding selected function. The first two operational modes on the agenda are an Envelope Follower and Compressor, equipped with a virtual side‑chain.
In Envelope Follower mode, the Attack and Decay pots stay relatively true to form, while the curve and repeat pots move to control response sensitivity and threshold detection. There is also a dedicated Invert button, which will flip the envelope in place. Thankfully, these controls are largely mirrored in Compressor mode, which keeps things relatively tidy on the operational front.
Moving along the modes, Cascade offers four different and simultaneous sound sources, which include an 808‑style kick and hi‑hat. If you think about it, this makes perfect sense, as ratcheting is the lifeblood of the trap hi‑hat, and nothing says trap more than sounds modelled after Roland’s much loved rhythm composer classic. Alongside these ubiquitous timbral elements, Cascade can also deliver a very pleasing burst of white noise to the outside world, with the addition of a sine, presumably sharing association with the 808 kick.
What I find particularly appealing about Cascade, although I could easily apply this to all Qu‑Bit modules, is its comparative ease of use. I’m a bit of a ratcheting fan, and was delighted that I could hook Cascade into my signal chain and get ratcheting without having to reach for the manual. Having CV control across the board is expected these days, but the provision of a VCA which can be employed or bypassed at will creates flexibility for exploring the ratchet and envelope capacity elsewhere in your system.
As for the shrinkage, this will be welcome to any skiff‑bound user who will be fighting for row space, but despite it’s 10HP footprint, it does not feel cramped in use. Offering a VCA, envelope and ratchet, without compromise in such a small panel space, is a perfect demonstration of neat and clever design. Add in the additional sound sources, compression and envelope follower, and you’ve got a useful multi‑function module, which does not feel bloated or cumbersome in operation.