Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pressure Points is here!

Our Pressure Points module arrived on Friday and has been seeing regular use since. It is a touchplate controlled voltage selector with four copper trace "pads" and a host of outputs (more on that in a second).

Before going into my small review below, I first want to say that Pressure Points is NOT a quad channel, pressure sensitive gesture controller, as I had originally led myself to believe. If that's something you're looking for, this isn't it.

Yes, it does have four channels with "Pressure" outputs on each, and yes, these outputs behave in much the same their name implies (the "harder you press on the copper traces" (i.e. how much of your finger is covering the trace (i.e. it's not actually pressure sensitive)) the stronger voltage will be at that channel's Pressure output).

BUT you can only "play" one pad at a time. So, if you have Channel 1's Pressure output controlling filter cutoff and Channel 2's controlling pitch, you cannot modulate both simultaneously*. It was a bit of a drag to find this out after ours arrived and I almost tried swapping it out on the forums for a Synthwerks FSR-4.

However, on some good advice, I slept on it and spent most of Saturday getting to know the module. Turns out, as is the case with most Make Noise modules, you have to put in some work before understanding/loving it.

Instead of thinking of Pressure Points as a pressure controller, which it is but isn't, it's better to imagine of it as a playable sequencer. Each pad selects a channel, which is represented by a vertical row of three knobs. Placed next to each other, the three resultant horizontal rows terminate in the Tuned Voltage outputs on the right-hand side. The top row's knobs scale voltage between 0-8v, with the middle and bottom rows offering 0-5.5v. Playing the touchplates, then, allows up to three destinations to be modulated simultaneously by these values.

In this video, Tuned Voltage outputs 1 and 2 are sent to a quantizer, and from there are controlling a Tip Top Z3000 and Bubblesound uLFO. Tuned Voltage output 3 is changing the pitch of the accent drum (a Maths channel at audio rate, sent into a wave multiplier):

I apologize for the sound quality-- the VCOs (after being mixed together) were sent into a Doepfer 134-2 crossfader, the fidelity of which leaves much to be desired-- but you get the general idea. Being able to scale each Tuned Voltage output AND create the sequences at will provides a huge amount of room for control and flexibility.

The best part: Pressure Points, as a system, is entirely modular. Meaning that up to four Pressure Points modules can be chained together, expanding the number of touchplates/voltages options at the Tuned Voltage outputs. Plus, as mentioned in the module's manual, the upcoming Points Expander module will add "traditional" sequencing abilities to the module, though if the NAMM footage was any indication, the quotes around "traditional" will be cartoonishly large.

I still plan on picking up an FSR-4, as I really like the idea of pressure modulation, but will also be adding a second Pressure Points in the near future. 4 pads is good, 8 is much better.


*In this example, the fiter's cutoff would be modulated whenever Channel 1 is selected, and the VCO's pitch would be modulated whenever Channel 2 is selected, but since Channels 1 and 2 cannot be selected together, the Pressure Outs cannot act simultaneously.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Prep work

Not to make this a "photos of our new case" blog, but here's another photo of our new case:

Brought it out to the rehearsal space yesterday to practice for an upcoming show with Family and (hopefully) White Wave. It's easy to forget how much better something can sound through a good amp when you don't own one yourself. Case in point: Twin Reverb (see above). You will be mine. Oh yes, you will be mine.

Show details soon!

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Alert the truancy officer

This new case is making me regularly late for work. Here's a photo of the drone patch I've had up since waking up-- no time for a proper recording this morning...

...that said, now that our synth is portable, I'm hoping to play out with it SOON. Details will be posted here as they happen.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Mission 9 arrives!

Our Mission 9 case from Monorocket arrived today and it's a looker! Three rows of 88HP (you can push it to 90HP, I'm told), a solid 3 amp power supply and covered in beautiful "Fender Smooth Brown" tolex. With a matching lid. I've spent about as much time oogling it as I have playing it.

I've planned out the rest of the system as best I can (though with new modules coming out at their current pace it's more of an educated guess than a plan), and have blocked out spaces in the case for the final pieces.

The rack's rails use sliding nuts, which are not my favorite (I prefer my old Schroff's threaded strip solution), but it's hardly an issue. It just means a few extra minutes in mounting everything, and a little additional head-scratching in leaving accurate spaces for things-to-come. I was lucky: the modules I'm saving for now are the same size as ones I already own, so I could use them for measurements. But if I was saving space for something odd, like a Triple Wavefolder or a UEG, it would be a bit trickier. I'm not faulting Monorocket for this-- simply a matter of preference on my end. On a related note, my case came complete with an abundance of screws, which fit the nuts perfectly. Nothing like having shinny new screws to go with a beautiful new case. A nice touch.

Before ordering, I'd read some concerns on the forums about the shallowness of the Mission cases. I'm happy to report that our Z3000, which has the deepest PCB in our system, sits comfortably in the Mission 9 with a full "thumb's length" of distance between its bottom and the distro board (see below). In total, the Mission 9 has 4" of usable depth, from faceplate to header.

I'd also read about the ultra-bright blue LEDs on their new bus boards. They are, indeed, ultra-bright. I may have to try Felix's old "nail polish" trick on them (fast forward to 2:17 in this video), though they do make the case seem "alive inside" in a way that dimmer LEDs wouldn't.

Steve from Monorocket was great to deal with-- I fully recommend ordering from him, and plan on doing so again when we outgrow today's arrival. Mission 9 cases are the best deal going in the format, and he's moving production away from custom cases into a standard issue-- black tolex, hardware-- in order to meet demand and eliminate the one problem customers have had with his work: availability. Monorocket cases came with high praise, which is completely deserved. Big thanks to Shawn at Analogue Haven for making it happen, too.

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