Monday, August 24, 2015

Five Modules That Did Not Work For Me...

Often, modular users are a bragging lot - they spend a lot of time talking up the wonderful purchase they made last week, while selling off all of the previous week's bragging tools. But we have a unique opportunity as modular users: we get to add or subtract components of our instrument without actually having to completely change instruments. This gives us great opportunity.

Alas, I'm going to do something that few do: I'm going to list some modules that I didn't enjoy using. Some of these are from companies that I greatly respect. Some of these are world-class modules of their type. But I'm in the great position of being able to be very picky, and these didn't pass my personal tests. I'm going to try to talk about 'why' as well as 'what', but as you will see, there is a fair amount of voodoo in the discussion.

So let's go!

#1: Qu-Bit Nano Rand

One of the cooler 4HP devices out there, the Nano Rand suffer from two issues that I couldn't handle.

First, as with other Qu-Bit items, the lighting is outright obnoxious. In this case, an extremely bright RGB LED is pointed up at a clear knob; the result is that the knob blinks at the clock rate, and is colored to determine the mode you are in. You can defeat the light by using an opaque knob, but then you can't easily tell your mode. Or you can move the light, but then different colors have different levels of illumination. I know some people love the super-blinky modular system (the number of YouTube videos of this verifies my thoughts), but I can't stand something that distracts me from my work.

The second problem - and one that will always grind my gears - is the loose/wobbly knob. About as bad as the original Buchla 200e knob-wobble, this reeks of "I'm gonna fall apart during your most important gig."

#2: Tiptop Audio Z4000 VC-EG

Man, I wanted to like this one. Easy on the HP, and voltage controlled throughout. But turning the knobs was so stiff that it literally hurt my hand, and the ranges were such that I couldn't get to the point of 'feeling' the settings. Thus, it slowed down my patch-creation by about 100% - which is a big problem during live performance patch creation.

I'm also not a big fan of super-tiny interface elements, and both the Attack Slope switch and the Deviator knobs were pointlessly small. I know it was necessary to keep the HP down, but the result was pretty unusable for me.

#3: Circuit Abbey Tripfire

I file this under the "Just Doesn't Work For Me" category. The comparitor works fine, I guess, although I had stability problems any time I tried using it. But the gate delay was just bogus - the mode switchy thing is unknowable, and the lack of 'memory' for the gate delay means that, unless you were working with incredibly slow gates, you just weren't going to get a usable output.

I've had a love-hate relationship with CA devices since I started my Euro system building. So many of them seem to be perfect for my needs when I look at 'em. And so often they just don't help me when I buy them. Whenever you see me selling a CA module, you know that I tricked myself into buying one again.

#4: The Harvestman Tyme Sefari and Sound of Thunder

I've had both v1 and v2, and - kind of unique to my experience in the modular world - I've never, ever gotten a single good sound out of these. I suspect that The Harvestman's response would be "That's 'cuz you are a fookin' idiot!", and he might be right. But somehow I just consistently make poor choices about settings and trigger, and never end up with anything that is worth hitting a record button.

This is a case where some people find a module to be the Center Of The Universe for them, but it doesn't work for me. So we'll label this as an 'idiosyncratic mismatch' and move along...

#5: Make Noise MMG Filter

I might just blow up the Internets by suggesting that something Make Noise makes isn't The Best Thing Ever, but I have to go there. I'm a die hard Maths addict, and use the OptoMix on every patch. But my attempts to make something good happen with the MMG have always gone awry.

I find this filter to lack character in a way that made me actively avoid it during performance. In fact, this is kind of an interesting dynamic: the things that I find myself attracted to during performance is the true test of my need to keep that module. I go through great efforts to learn modules before I gig with them, so inevitably there is an alignment between what I want to hear when I'm performing, and how much I like a module. And avoiding a module during performance is an equally powerful story.

So there you go - a MN module I don't like...

So there you go - a few notes on things that didn't work for me. You'll note that (with maybe the exception of the CA module...) I don't suggest that they don't work - they just didn't work for me. That's an important distinction to understand, and is a useful way to consider your module build - and to determine when a module might not be right for you.

See you over at MuffWiggler's Buy-Sell-Trade forum!



  1. saving me coin here mate, saving me coin!!

  2. Aw, dude. Taking advantage of an old man...

    A pity, that.

  3. Love this post... wish I saw more of them, but as you said in the original paragraph, its not as fun as bragging.