Author Archive for synthvibrations

Good vibrations !

I packed my bag, as I’m leaving for the summer holidays, and I decided to take with me my Monomachine and the Casio SK5 , just to play around…
I cannot live without playing my machines…
I’ll be back next week, have a nice summer in the sun!!

Enjoy the Good Vibrations!!

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Analogue Solutions SY02 – Multimode Filter review

Analogue Solutions SY02 Multimode Filter VCA

Analogue Solutions SY02 Multimode Filter VCA

I’m a great fan of the Korg MS-20, as it’s one of my favourite synths ever, so I decided to expand my modular with an MS-20 filter clone.
There are many emulators/clones in eurorack format for the Korg filter, but I focused on three modules:

  • Doepfer X-treme filter
  • Malekko (Wiard) Borg (Buchla-Korg)
  • Analogue Solutions SY02

I like the Borg but it works only as a multimode filter that can out put only one signal, so it’s quite limited.
The Doepfer is interesting but I found the ASOL the more versatile and at the same time interesting  as carachter.
The first thing to say that  THIS IS NOT THE MS-20 FILTER!
In its way it can have common caracteristics and sounds very similar but it’s not the same.

The module has a vertical row of connections for CVand audio INs on the left and the knobs on the right.
There is a an INPUT LEVEL to adjust the gain for the incoming sounds, that useful to saturate or lead the filters to overdrive.
On the left there are 2 AUDIO IN .
Than there is the HIGHPASS Filter section with

  • Cutoff
  • Resonance
  • HPF CV

The HPF CV has 2 CV in the first is attenuated by the knob while the second has no attenuation control.

The LOWPASS Filter section has the same controls:

  • Cutoff
  • Resonance
  • LPF CV

As for the HPF even the LPF filter has 2 cv in and only the first is attenuated by the LPF CV.

There is aslso a VCA section with :

  • Initial Level
  • Volume
  • Audio out (minijack)

The VCA has its 2 CV IN not attenuated.

This module is the FILTER/VCA section usedon the Analogue Solutions VOSTOK too, the construction is solid and the VCA it’s a really good add o this filter.
The filters have a really particular response , tryng to emulate the Korg MS-20 filters/VCA, and the input gain is the key to get smooth sounds  or enter in noise territory.
I’ve patched the synth in a very simple way to understand clearly the behaviour of this module.
I’ve patched only the first vco (from my MFB OSC02) directly into the first audio in of the sy02, used the MFB Dual ADSR to control the vca ancd the LPF.
With a low input level the sound is really mellow and “japanese”, smooth and deep.
As I turn the input level clockwise, the waveform gain in volume and in saturation until “distortion”.
Distorion is like a good overdriven sound , not a clear distortion.
As the filter , with a low input level flows into the filters they react quite smoothly and the resonance has a pleasant harmonic sound but reaches only little aggressive tones.
As the input level grows the filters start to saturate and overdrive the sound, and using ring mod with saw sources it creates a particular clipping , like if it would cut and drive the peaks of the saw waves.
A really interesting trick that every MS-20 user knows is using the HPF as a frequency booster.
In fact the resonance of the HPF can produce a really big amount of sub frequencies  usable to fatten up the sound.
If the HPF is controlled with the tracking of the keyboard  it can create very powerful SUB basses.

Behond the FILTERS  there’s a good (in my opinion) VCA that concurs to give a strong carachter to the module.
The VCA does not ave a superfast response or a extra dynamic behaviour, but it’s very warm and full, really musical!
For me it’s very important for a module to be “musical” because too often a modular synth can do amazing noises but cannot play a bass sound , and that’s quite absurd.
Doepfer modules  (like the A-132-3 DVCA I own) have a cleaner sound and more volume but are less musical (in my opinion but maybe you will like it), and I find this useful for percussive sounds or effects and less pleasant for melodic sounds.

Back to the SY02 , I’m really happy with this module, it has a certain retrò/MS-20 touch, but it also has a carachter of its own.
I really recommend it to everyone looking for a japanese touch in his modular sounds!

Yamaha VSS-30 (8bit sampler) review

Yamaha VSS 30 - 8bit sampler

Yamaha VSS 30 - 8bit sampler

Cheap is not always bad, and toy keyboards are not always and only toys.
This is the case of the Yamaha VSS30, a toy keyboard from the late 80’s, that’s today a widely used musical intrument for experimental musicians and not a child/school keyboard.

The reasons why the vss3o is so appreciated for particular musical genres are its sound and the manipulating capabilities.
The engine of the keyboard is an 8bit sampler with synthesis capabilities, that can sample and resample layering sounds.

All the edit is done with buttons on the front panel without any menu , and the variations are realtime effective.
There is :

  • ADSR Envelope fore the volume of the sound
  • Loop function
  • U-turn (plays the sample fwd and rew)
  • Reverse (to reverse the sample)
  • ECHO (is a”envelope effect”, like a long decay-release)
  • Fuzz
  • Frequency Modulation
  • Amplitude Modulation
  • Vibrato

There are 12 preset sounds that can be manipulated with efx (adsr, echo, fuzz, fm, am , vibrato):

  • Piano
  • Harpsicord
  • Banjo
  • Vibes
  • Marimba
  • sample
  • Crystal
  • Strings
  • Jazz organ
  • Brass
  • Clarinet
  • Galaxy

The preset sounds are samples of DX7 presets , I presume, from the sound that is quite synthetic and not natural.
But the more gorgeous power is in the capability of mangling the sample with the efx/synthesis.
Every effect is editable with the data entry buttons.

So as the adsr can shape the loop and u-turn can create some really particular loop textures if used as pads, and the FM and AM can go from low tremolo/articulated low pitchmodulation , to fast tremolo and vibratos/FM sounds.
The overwrite function layer the sample in memory with incoming audio material creating a new sample.

All in all this is a little but awesome LO-FI experimental machine, as it’s the only toy keyboard that can do all these things without modding (as the VSS200, a larger version of the VSS30).
The sound is warm, “pixelated”, lo-fi, and every sample sounds really different from the source.
It’s perfect for IDM, experimental music, but also for pop or mainstream as many professionals use it in their recordings like Sigur Ros, Portishead, Trent Reznor, Autechre, Bjork.

Eurorack vs Roland System-100 audio demos (part2)



Yesterday I tested the MFB VCO and the MFB Dual ADSR with my Roland System100 mod 102, during the test I did some demo recordings.
The demos are quite long and in every demo I used the same “sequence” and tweaked the knobs to let you hear the behaviour of the system.
As the melody is quite redundant  I hope you don’t get annoyed and focalize your attenction on the sounds.

  • VCO MFB with Roland filter
    The MFB VCO (only one vco) passes trhu the Roland System100  filter.
    First I use a saw wave then a square without any modulation and play with the filter to show as the the two modules interact.
  • VCO MFB with System100 and MFB Dual ADSR
    The MFB VCO pass thru the Roland filter and the MFB env modulates the Roland filter cutoff.
    It starsts with a saw wave , than at 1’30 I switch to the PWM and continue playing with the filter and with the MFB env.
    At 4’50 I turn the Roland VCO volume up…
  • VCO PWM (Roland System100 vs MFB)
    Here’s a comparison between the two vco passing thru the Roland System100.
    They both produce the PWM with a similar rate, the MFB sounds a bit harder, it may need an attenuator for PW mod…
    The first is the Roland and the second is the MFB

When you listen to the sound keep the volume at a fixed level, don’t turn up the volume when some sounds seem more quiet because there are some resonance peaks that can DAMAGE your speakers and your EARS!

Eurorack modular vs Roland System100 Mod-102 (Part 1)

Roland System100 Mod-102

Roland System100 Mod-102

As I described some days ago , I’m building a little modular in eurorack format to have a little versatile synth to make modular sounds easy, and to expand my system of vintage semimodular synths:

  • Roland System100 MOD-102
  • Korg MS-20
  • Korg MS-50
  • Korg PS-3100

The Korgs work well altogether as they use the same korg “standars” as 1/4″ plugs, hz/volt , etc.
The system is well balanced and is very versatile , there are no tuning problems and connections between one module and the other has no need of attenuators and result open to every use.

Eurorack and Roland System 100 patched togheter

Eurorack and Roland System 100 patched togheter

The Roland System 100 is quite different, it uses 3,5mm plugs, 1volt/oct and is quite difficult to make it interact with the Korgs even because the sound of the Roland is “stronger”.
After analizing different solutions (the first was to buy the other parts : mod 101 the keyboard, the sequencer and the mixer, while the second was to buy a System100m…) I decided to buy an eurorack to have a synth easier to control with computers and midi devices , more stability and however the freedom to build a synth choosing every part.
The result is, as I described, a synth with basic elements that are quite different from the “new analog” I own (DSI Evolver desktop and Studio Electronics ATC1 and SE1), but quite versaatile for a wide range of sound including FM modulations.

The first thing I tried is the interfacing between the Eurorack and the Roland and I was surprised they interact very well .
The Midi-CV interface works very well with the System100 too (I use a Kenton Pro 2000 for it, usually..).



The first thing I tried was to compare the Roland VCO with the MFB VCOs and I was quite surprised.
The Roland is really thick on the lower frequencies, and the square waves are awesome , but the MFB is really good too and they have a similar sound in many ways.
The MFB is less deep , especially when you hear in A->B comparison , and a little darker on the highest frequencies, but does a really a well job fattening the System100 sound without sounding different.

Roland System100 filter section

Roland System100 filter section

What makes the BIG difference is the Roland Filter.
Using only the MFB VCO in the roland path , with the roland VCO with zero volume, the result is amazing.
The VCO sound smooth and rich, really fat on the lower range and really harmonic and “creamy” in the higher register.
The big difference is evident in the lead sounds, they sound smooth with big carachter and warm sound without being harsh or disturbing but always rich of mid and high harmonics.
As the resonance grows the sound became quite acid (the typical roland filter carachter) but with growing harmonics, and a massive warm sound.

Then I tried to use the MFB dual ADSR to compare the behaviour of the two type of env and even here the different is evident.The Roland one is FAST and SNAPPY but always “rounded”, more musical, and gives the synth the classic Roland touch.
The MFB ENV is really fast, maybe faster than the Roland, but also more angular, with the attacks at zero makes a “ping” sound at the trig of the note.
Maybe the voltage that this env produce is higher and should be attenuated to get more musical results, even if  the different behaviour is really interesting to get different result.
The first thing done was a sequenced upright bass that sounded really awesome.

Eurorack and Roland System100 patched togheter

Eurorack and Roland System100 patched togheter

I did the same sound using only the eurorack and the sound was similar but more enarmonic, the reason is without any doubt the different between the two filters.

Acidlab Bassline – everybody needs the acid box!

Acidlab Bassline

Acidlab Bassline

This little alluminium box, absolutely handcrafted, comes from Germany as a clone of the famous TB-303.
Acidlab is Klaus Süßmuth, a tech head  famous for his 303 modding, ith the Bassline he creates from zero a TB-clone with some variations…
let’s see the differences!

The incredible sound of the TB-303 is created by particular elements:

  • The FILTER has no normalization , so as the resonance goes up , as the filter start to growl in that acid way…
  • The GLIDE is programmable (and it creates a slide like the legato does but with fixed time)
  • The ACCENT is a really “playable” part of the synth as it creates a “tenuto”on the selected note and and the decay get disabled for that step, and get the filter to open and the rises up the Volume.
  • The Sequencer programming is not so easy as it seems and often leads to strange ipnotic sequences.

The Acidlab Bassline has an identical structure for the synth, with the same knobs and functions, while the sequencer is not the same as on the 303.
The knobs are really good and act smooth , they invite you to twist the sound!

The sequencer works in a different way, first it has a 8-12 selector to choose if you want a 16th note pattern or a 12th.
You cannot chhose the lenght (step ) of the pattern, for example 9 steps.

The programming is really particular because here there’s no minikeyboard, a knob switch is used to choose the note, you hit play and the bassline lets you hear the note selected, then you select accent and/or glide and /or 1octave upand than press next to go to the following step.
With this method you can get, with a bit or a lot of “randomness”, really interesting sequences without having the situation too much undercontrol.
Another difference from the 303 is that the sequencer does not change pattern at the end of the loop, but jumps immediately in the selected pattern.
This can be a creative tool to mix several pattern togheter making more complex melodies, but it’s not possible to compose a chain of pattern in song mode or something realtime like a chain of pattern.
Another interesting add is that the sequencer can drive external analog synths with cv-gate outs and can be syncronized to older machines with din sync and to a daw or midi sequencer thru midi, always with a perfect timing.

Analizing the “sound” of the Acidlab , the knobs are the same as the 303 but this machine has a kind more aggressive carachter.
It sound quite mellow when the resonance is absent, and with the filter closed can do amazing subs, while as we turn up the resonance it became acid more and more aggressive but when the reso overflow the 75% it starts sounding more industrial than the classic TB.
To change the behaviour of the resonance there is a trim pot on the rear to adjust the response , to be similar to the orginal or to have more reso.

The machine can really sound close to the original but has even its own carachter and that’s the reason why I like it!
The strange sequencer is really interesting and when you ‘ve got deep into the way it works it will be an “exclusive” creative tool.


Roland MC-202 MicroComposer

Roland MC-202

Roland MC-202

It all started with the Roland TB-303, the first cheap alternative to the bassplayer for the pub guitar player…
After the 303 Roland decided to create a more versatile and not limited only to basslines, a micro composer!
The MC-202 is like to instruments in a little plastic box.
The synth is derived from the Roland SH-101 and the sequencer is like a little MC-4 but only with 2 track (against the 4 of the MC-4) , its name could be MC-2… that’s why MC-202!
The synth itself its quite simple but really versatile for the task of making arpeggios, basslines, sequencered blips and blops, and sequenced leads.
There is a single VCO with SUB that can produce a saw and a pulse (with modulation)and the SUB (a square wave 1 or 2 ocyave lower or a pulse 2 octv lower).
The three wave are mixed by the MIXER section , than filtered and after the the filter we have the VCA (amplification) and the ENV.
The FILTER section has Cutoff, Resonance, Env (env amount) , Mod (LFO amount) , KYBD (keyboard tracking).
The filter is a 24dB with resonance with the classic analog roland carachter and sound, it can act quite rounded and smooth and get acid when you turn up the resonance.
With the reso at max  the filter prduce a SINE wave that can be played by the keyboard using the KYBD at max.
The VCA is quite simple and has only a switch, ENVor GATE.
With the Env is switched the env shape the sound and the accent controls the volume, while when switched to gate the synth plays only when the key  is pressed and loose the accent on volume, but ois useful for sequenced sounds when you want the ENV to control the filter only.
The ENV is a simple adsr that acts really snappy and with a fast attack, really great for bass and percussive timbres.
The LFO is quite simple, has only triangle wave with delay, to let the vibrato grows after a while.
The sound of the machine is a cross between a TB-303 and an SH-101, maybe the MC-202 can get more aggressive /acid than the 101 while the 101 has a just a little more sub on the bass end when used to generate sub basses, but the sound is more or less the same.
Maybe the only differences are made by trimpots regulations and not by any difference in electronic design.

The other part of the machine is the SEQUENCER.
The seq is different from the 303, is not a pattern style but a linear sequencer (just like the MC-4).
This difference let the MC-202 creates longer and more complex sequences , as it has a deeper editing on note durations, gates etc, while it mantains the ACCENT (for FILTER and AMP, and it can be choosen individually, so 2 accent!) and the GLIDE (here named PORTAMENTO) with its time knob (on the 303 the time is fixed).
Making a sequence on the MC-202 is harder than on the 303 if you want to get exactly what you have in mind.
Vince Clarke (former member of Depeche mode, Yazoo and Erasure and famous user of old Roland sequencers as MC-8, MC4 and MC-202) is described as one of more trained user as he could compose all the song without hearing the music, just pressing the buttons and than pressed play and BaaaM! the song was perfect!!
Indeed the programming of the sequencer is not the easiest, and it takes time to get into it, but it can create really great results , difficult to get with other gear.
The fact that there is a little LCD display on such a cheap old intrument means something…
I forgot to say that the sequencer has 2 identical tracks with CV-GATE outs to play external analog synths and a DIN SYNC IN and 2 DYN  SYNC OUTs and tape in and out to be syncronized to other machines or tape recorders or DAW.
A classic touch of the 80’s is that the MC has no memory for the sequencer so you have to save and load your seqnces with the TAPE DUMP (you can use a cassette recorder or you can record the data sound directly into your computer to have a far more practical collection of sequences to load..)

The MC-202 has been used mainly by all the electronic producers of the last 25 years, even if it’s not as famous or hyped as the 303.
From Aphex Twin to Autechre, Human League, Sabres of Paradise, 808 STATE, KID606 etc…
This is a great machine, and its sequencer is really a part of the strong carachter of the MC but there is also a software that can generate the data sound to load into your MC to program the sequence on your computer and than load it into the MC to get the best of both worlds.

Here is the link :


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