Well its January 2010 so you know what that means? Its NAMM time again, so the flood of new product offerings and announcements is underway. Looks like Doepfer has several new products, some of which look quite promising. Remember of course, that none of these are shipping, and the designs of some of these modules are still in flux, and could end up being very different, if and when they do get released.
Voltage Controlled DIY Effects A-187-1
Some analog only purists may take issue with a digital effects module, but if you wanted something beyond a spring reverb in your rig, this may be the ticket. This module almost seems like Doepfer’s answer to the TipTop Z-DSP module. I figure most people with a modular are going to end up recording it somewhere eventually, and most likely will end up adding DAW or hardware based external effects to the sounds anyway, so the advantage this gives you is the ability to route your control voltages to it to control one of the selected effect’s parameters. It will have 16 selectable effects with 4 parameters each that can be controlled via knob or control voltages from a modulation source. Imagine a sample & hold modulation source sending random voltages to the reverb time parameter clocked to an analog sequencer with a repeating theme, creating a result that would be much more difficult to automate via a software DAW than by using a tool like this. The fact that 4 parameters could be controlled simultaneously from 4 different modulation sources probably has some of you creating patches in your head already. Other effects include, but are not limited to: reverb, delay, flange, distortion & pitch shift. A complete list of effects and control parameters per effect can be found here.
Quad VCLFO/VCO A-143-4
Doepfer seems to like these economical quad “whatever” modules, and there are definitely advantages to this approach. You can get more functionality in a smaller footprint, and add more routing permutations quickly to your rig. It has 4 sections that can be either VCOs or LFOs. On the page on Doepfer’s site there are two potential versions: either with the low/high toggle switches and LEDs or without. Hopefully they’ll go with the former design since the switch would make it easier and more clear when you go between LFO and VCO functionality. There are two CV inputs for each voice and each voice can be either a triangle or square wave pulse. This unfortunately is a little limiting, since most VCOs are going to offer saw and sine waves in addition to these, but if you find yourself using primarily these two waveforms, it may still work out for you. Each voice has its own dedicated output, but you also have a Sum section to give you an option to use this module as a mixer if you lack an external 4-channel mixer module or want to control all 4 voices the same way. By controlling them each separately, you could build some interesting morphing drone sounds.
Quad VCA A-132-4
The Quad VCA is a similar concept to the A-143-4. The Doepfer page also says this module will have jumpers on the back for changing which VCAs are sent to the bottom sum output section. It also seems like this was designed to go with the quad VCLFO/VCO module to create a complete 4-voice setup for potential polyphonic uses or big stacked sounds.
16×8 Miniature Trigger Sequencer A-157-1
New sequencer modules are always welcome, and this one is a trigger-only sequencer, so the obvious application would be drum pattern sequencing… so pairing with some analog percussion modules like those made by Analogue Solutions could give you TR-808 or TR-909 step programming capability. Obviously you could do more than just that. The prototype pictured is an 8×8, meaning 8 parts of 8 steps each. However, the final version is supposed to be an 8×16, for 8 parts, with 16 steps each, giving you a full 4/4 bar of music if you are working in 16th notes. Lots of moving flashing LEDs may also impress your friends who have no idea what you are doing with your cryptic looking patchable beast. The clock section has: clock, start, stop and reset inputs for triggering from external modules for more aleatory experimentation. Date of delivery is tentatively set for Summer 2010 with price TBA.
New Version of the Touch Sensor Keyboard A-100TKB
Not having any experience with touch plate control surfaces personally, there is not much I can say about this. Though called a “keyboard”, it has a “non-keyboard layout” and this unit is one of many already scrapped prototypes, not a finalized design and has no documentation as to what control voltages it will output besides pitch. So we’ll have to wait and see what details emerge as it develops.
Dark Time Sequencer
The Dark Time sequencer is a fully featured 16 step analog sequencer with MIDI & USB designed as a companion unit to the already well received Doepfer Dark Energy synth and its Eurorack format module equivalent, the A-111-5 which is now shipping, though not considered an official NAMM release since it was announced much earlier. Hopefully Doepfer will follow suit with this unit and offer a Eurorack equivalent at a later date since the current standard sequencer from them, the A-155 is only an 8-step unit. “Different modes are available: 16 steps, 2 x 8 steps and different repetition modes”, “It is equipped with an internal clock oscillator but can be synced to Midi clock as well” and “Features like transpose, direction (forward/backward/random), quantize on/off and ranges switches are planned.” Obviously you can use it with gear other than a Dark Energy or Eurorack modular as long as the Volt/Octave of the analog gear being used is compatible.
and now for something completely different…
The Doepfer DIY Synth Board
Maybe I should have used the Steve Jobs tagline “one more thing…” implying the “surprise” bombshell announcement instead of the Monty Python quote… but either way, this indeed did take a lot of synthesists by surprise and it is a pleasant one. To be fair, Doepfer has had many individual DIY parts available for a long time, but never as far as I know, a complete DIY synthesizer. The picture they are releasing is a little misleading on the surface, in that it may imply to some that “DIY Synthesizer Kit” is an all inclusive one, and your synth will end up looking exactly like the picture, but this is not the case. What it actually is, is a PC Board that hosts the electronics for a VCO, VCF, VCA, LFO, Slew Limiter and Inverter, so you get all the synthesizer components needed for a fully functional unit. What it does NOT include are controls, switches, sockets and case. They are presuming that experienced electronics DIYers will know what they want to do, and have the skills and electronic parts sources to finish it themselves, in the way they see fit. The advantage here is that you are free to choose your favorite knobs, (Moog knobs from Mouser anyone?) or your favorite patch panel plug type, be it 3.5mm, 1/4″ or banana plugs. You can also package it up in any kind of enclosure you envision, depending on your goals of how you wish to use it. In any instance, this should eventually produce some interesting variants from the user community, so there should be lots to look forward to here.
So if you have or plan to buy any Doepfer or Eurorack gear, do any of these new announcements play into your future purchase plans and why?
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- Doepfer Intros DIY Synth Kit At 2010 Winter NAMM Show (synthtopia.com)
- Calibrate your expectations (stretta.blogspot.com)
- The Doepfer A-100TKB Touch Sensor Keyboard (synthtopia.com)
- NAMM 2010 – Doepfer Intros A-187-1 Voltage Controlled DSP Effects Module (synthtopia.com)
- Doepfer Dark Time Step Sequencer Sneak Preview (synthtopia.com)
- Modern touch plate controllers (stretta.blogspot.com)
- NAMM 2010 – The Doepfer A-157 8×16 Step Trigger Sequencer (synthtopia.com)
- NAMM 2010 – Doepfer Intros 1-143-4 Quad Voltage Controlled LFO/VCO (synthtopia.com)
- Doepfer Intros A-111-5 Mini Synthesizer Voice, Dark Energy For Your Modular Synthesizer (synthtopia.com)