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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Blogger Navs said...

Nice one, Pete - love the new case too. 9U is a great size.

I was a bit non-plussed by PP at first too, but I now find it indispensable, using it less as a 'crippled, 4-note keyboard' and more as a programmer. This is great for setting up options within patches. Also, my press CV epiphany came when I patched the signal through a slew limiter like Maths. For press-based volume changes, try an exponential VCA.

On the topic of VCAs, yes that Doepfer Xfader is no Cwejman, but the sound is perfectly acceptable if you watch your audio input levels and, even more importantly, your CV levels. A dual passive attenuator like the A-183-1 is a great patch pal.


4:30 AM  
Blogger Pete Shambler said...

Thanks Navs!

The only attenuators I've got at the moment are Channels 2 and 3 of Maths, though I have a couple of Fonik's Attenuverting Mixers stuffed and soldered (just have to get faceplates made), and one of them will be filling that gap in the top row.

I'm not 100% sure I'm patching the 134-2 correctly for stereo panning (it's one of Doepfer's manual-free modules), which might account for some of the distortion. What I'm doing is multing the input and sending it to the 1A and 2B inputs, with the control voltage only going to CV 1. Does that sound about right? Should I be sending an inverted mirror of the voltage to CV 2? I'll try dialing back the signal and CV levels tonight as well and seeing if that helps.

I'll definitely be running PP through a lag as well. Excellent tip!

8:37 AM  
Blogger Navs said...

Great idea, I never thought of doing that!

Although there's no manual, most of what you need to know is here:

I got your panning patch to work by sending the audio to both 1B & 2A and the CV to 1 and tapping the two outputs. Sounded OK to me, although there was a slight imbalance between the two outs. This is easily compensated for at your amp or you could tweak the trimmers. Not done this myself, 'tho.

I wonder if the difference is also down to the jumper settings? I have mine set for one asymmetrical, the other symmetrical (factory?).

11:31 AM  

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