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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

tangible waves AE modular - a modular synthesizer for everyone

Full details via the Kickstarter campaign:

"A true analog modular synthesizer - small in size, small in price, big in sound

For sure, you want to know first "how does this thing sound?", so here are some Demo-Videos that give you a first impression (the first one together with a Groovebox):

AE modular Demo MIDI Sync with Novation CIRCUIT

Published on Nov 9, 2016 tangible waves

How did it all started?

It started with the idea to build a Lunetta style synth (a synth based on digital logic chips (mis)using them for creating sound, a creation of Stanley Lunetta, therefore the name). For me it is also appealing to have the devices very compact (the KORG Volca series gave me lots of inspiration here), so I defined a small module format (about 10 x 2.5 cm). I liked the concept of abusing electronic parts, which gave the project it's name (AE: abused electronics).

Over the time I felt the wish to add this or that 'conventional' module, like Filter, Envelope, VCA, and one by one I ended up building a "standard" modular synthesizer!

What's special?

Compared to the usual Eurorack Modular Synths, we have some differences here, mainly to get a small form factor and cutting the price:

Modules are not Eurorack compatible

The Oscillators module is not working in 1V/octave standard (due to the roots in the Lunetta approach); but a 1V/octave VCO will be added soon to the modules palette

Patching is done via simple patch-wires and small pin-sockets (not minijack-cables as in the eurorack-world); this cuts the cost drastically and also saves a lot of space on the module. Another advantage: Module outputs are mostly dual or triple, which makes "Multiples" modules obsolete

Generally, AE modular follows the "not-so-perfect" approach; circuits are sometimes simplified and show their own character in some points - it's intentionally a contrast to the high-polished stuff we get from digital synths / DAWs / plugins. But always the usage as an artistic tool is considered!

The design style is also a little special: The frontpanels are not (expensively) printed, but rubber-stamped; I like this somehow "unperfect" look - I hope you too! (Don't worry: a special, durable color is used.)

What's not different is, that you get a real modular synthesizer: The selection and arrangement of the modules is absolutely free! You can add new modules later (simply remove 2 screws, plug in the module, fix the screws again) or rearrange them according to your needs.

What do you get?

In this Kickstarter project, two different preinstalled module racks are offered:

with one row of modules
double size with two rows and some more modules (for contained modules see the pledge description)

In the package is also

A power supply
please note which kind of plug you need (EU, UK, US)
A bunch of patch wires
MIDI breakout cable
A user guide / short introduction
The modules in detail:

MASTER, I/O: The master module with power supply, Input/output jacks (1/8" mono minijack) for audio and control voltages and MIDI-Input (via a breakout cable). MIDI works either omni or on channel 1. MIDI Clock/Start/Stop are provided via the bus to the modules; same with CV/Gate for Notes and one Controller.

2OSC: 2 Oscillators with Squarewave, Triangle and Sync outputs, Sync and CV input

NOISE: A noise generator (white noise, digitally based with variable frequency)

FILTER: A filter with lowpass/bandpass/highpass output, adjustable frequency and resonance (Wasp type)

ENV: An AD type envelope (Attack/Decay) with switchable Sustain and two time ranges

2VCA: A dual voltage-controlled amplifier for controlling signal levels or modulating control voltages

LFO: modulation oscillator with squarewave (adjustable pulsewidth), triangle or falling sawtooth output, two time ranges

2S&H: A dual Sample&Hold module, for creating random or stepped control voltages

2ATT/CV: For attenuating control voltages or as voltage source

MIXER4-4: A mixer for signals or control voltages with four adjustable inputs and additional four "full-level" inputs.

DELAY: A delay with a lo-fi, analog character

LOGIC: Combines two inputs by different logic rules (AND, NAND, XOR); for rhythmic patterns and also interesting for audio signals (gives ringmodulator-like sounds)

STEP10: A trigger sequencer with up to 10 steps, for creating gate patterns

The future of AE modular:

If you know a little bit about modular synthesizers, you will see that we have the basic modules in the box; but the fun get's much bigger with additional other modules. If this project succeeds, there will be a lot of other modules available that are planned or already under development like:

VCO with 1V/octave characteristic

Oscillator banks (for sound clusters, drones...)

Sampler (play samples from a microSD-card, eventually with granulation)

Algorithmic Drone soundsource

16-Step Note Sequencer

Beat Divider (for processing MIDI Clock into usable trigger clocks (1/4, 1/8, 1/16... dotted, triplet...)

other filter types



more complex modulation sources


Thanks a lot to:

MakerLab Murnau / J.-U. Bittlinger (the availabilty of the Lab pushed the development a lot!)

Luna Sonnemann for the wonderful photos

Roman Feldmeier and Marco Asam for their support in the video session and giving me ideas.

Furthermore thanks to Marco for getting the word out and helping me to find distribution, as well giving me the ability to present an Alpha version at the Bavaria Ableton Usergroup. The Feedback helped and gave me a lot of motivation.

my wife Sabine for her strong support of my ideas

...and finally YOU for your interest and (hopefully) your support!"

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