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Modular Technique & What's New?

External Instruments By William Stokes
Published April 2024

Modular generic image

The relationship between live external instruments and modular systems has always been a somewhat awkward one, but it’s nonetheless a hugely worthwhile avenue to explore, and you may just open up a side of your system you never knew was there. Signals from microphones or DI’d electric guitars will need boosting to the appropriate level. Modules like the recently reviewed Cosmotronic Cosmix Pro mixer and Intellijel’s Audio I/O can handily boost incoming audio by 18dB and 20dB respectively, for instance.

For a little more character, I highly recommend Future Soundsystems’ fantastic Throbbing Gristle collab, the TG5 Gristleizer preamp, which has a three‑band EQ, variable gain with Boost switch and a Bite control for achieving tone comparable to many conventional guitar amps. Next it’s a case of selecting (and even grouping) modules to process your audio. Boldly modulated filters and VCAs are a natural choice, while modules like the Nautilus delay, Aurora reverb and Mojave granuliser from Qu‑Bit Electronix can catapult your signal into cosmic territory. Beyond audio, it’s key to harvest a CV signal from your instrument: another string to the the TG5’s bow is that it also supplies a gate and trigger output, so strumming a guitar or yelling (ahem, singing) into a microphone can trigger envelopes, start and stop sequences and more. Play on!

What’s New

Winterbloom have recently unveiled the Neptune, a resonant diode ladder filter designed in collaboration with Carson Walls of Decapod Devices, which delivers what they call “delightfully strange behaviour” with a feedback‑modulated distortion circuit named ‘Salt’.

Expert Sleepers have released another addition to their line of all‑analogue modules: a compact and flexible multi‑LFO module named Otterly.

On the other side of the world, meanwhile, brand new Australian developers Cycle Instruments have unveiled their inaugural module. Tetrachords is a four‑track polyphonic CV and MIDI note sequencer that promises brains, beauty and brawn with opulent amounts of connectivity and control, alongside a novel scale‑based system for generating notes.

Finally, German developers ST Modular have taken their Pedal Pal effects pedal interface module into stereo land with the Pedal Pal Stereo, a rather gorgeous effects loop with expression CV control, tone control and even a phase alignment button.