Designed in collaboration with SpaceHardware, the Quadnic packs four digital oscillators into an impressively compact 12hp.
The Studio Electronics Boomstar range has grown considerably of late, aided by a few cherry-picked partnerships. Designed in collaboration with SpaceHardware, the Quadnic packs four digital oscillators into an impressively compact 12hp, its finger-friendly design placing all the I/O beneath smoothly plush controls.
No manual is supplied, so you’ll need to visit the Studio Electronics web site to examine all the possible configurations and to download the ‘quick guide’. In a nutshell, oscillators 2 to 4 can serve as slaves to the first or can act as masters that operate independently. In the latter case, there are individual CV inputs and audio outputs, plus a mix output too. However, given there’s but a single set of controls, independent operation can feel slightly awkward — as if you’re menu-surfing but without the comfort of a display.
From the outset you need to be constantly aware of the bright blue LEDs denoting oscillator selection and master status. You also need to know about the startup values for each oscillator: specifically that only oscillator 1’s settings are read from the panel; the rest are zeroed at every power cycle. If preparing for a gig or if you simply like working on complex patches over several days, this behaviour is rather frustrating to say the least.
Naturally, you can make any chord you like by manually tuning each oscillator, but for convenience, slaved oscillators can take advantage of a number of preset chords. The (notch-free) Chord knob sweeps smoothly between major, minor, major sixth, minor seventh and dominant seventh, plus octaves and fifths to finish. Release any oscillator from slave status and the same knob becomes a detune, with an octave available to the first two oscillators, and two octaves for the second.
There are four banks of 16 digital waveforms and since they too are selected by continuous controls, choosing by ear is the order of the day. Turning the tiny Bank knob you realise (for no descriptions or diagrams are provided) that bank 1 begins with pure waveforms before rapidly switching to thinner digital territory. Bank 2 is where the normal waves live — working through sawtooth and various pulses before heading straight back into in buzz-land. Fans of PPG and Prophet VS tones will surely appreciate bank 3’s waveforms, which are also fascinating mod sources if transposed right down. This leaves the final bank, which appears to be a mixed bag but notable for its organ-type and formant waves.
Stacking different waveforms as chords or a monster unison is little short of remarkable, and in most cases, there’s usually something bizarre or malevolent lurking in the lowest ranges. For even more dirt and ‘oomph’, Drive acts as far more than a mere level control; it introduces hard clipping at any point beyond its midway setting.
The Quadnic’s TARDIS-like qualities were already becoming clear, but there’s more — supplied by the central Process Mode selector. This seven-way control, tailored by its amount and bi-polar CV pots, imposes wild and wonderful transformations whose effects vary from waveform to waveform. In the first process, a copy of the oscillator is introduced and progressively detuned by the amount knob. The next also invokes a copy but one that performs amplitude modulation. Phase modulation by a triangle wave follows, resulting in a two-operator flavour of FM; it’s followed by the same process modulated by a more complex wave, which can produce some searing sync impersonations depending on the bank and waveform being processed. Wave Sequencing scans the collection of 64 waveforms at a rate controlled by the Process amount. The final two are both phase distortion algorithms that sound approximately like mild and stronger sync in turn.
While there’s just a single Process CV input, you can specify unique amounts of modulation and level for each oscillator. The greedy might wish that, when the individual oscillator CV inputs weren’t in use, they switched to being individual Process CVs. On the other hand, the Quadnic is probably mind-bending enough already!
This is a superb little module brimming with options and diverse tonality. It’s capable of Swarmatron-like chord swarms or monster unisons and drones, but is equally happy when delivering four independent, complex voices. True, it employs smooth knobs in places where switches or buttons would have worked better, but for me the only real weakness is the ‘oscillator amnesia’ that occurs at each power down. What I wouldn’t have given for a single ‘patch memory’! However, in all other respects, the Quadnic is hard to fault and comes highly recommended.