off kilter

In some ways the After Later Alan (and expanders) aren’t quite as good as the idealized version of Turing Machine in VCV Rack. Namely, the white noise generator has some issues:

  • Lower level than the knob range on Chance. The effective range of the knob is only about 10 o’clock to 2 o’clock. To be fair, someone tested their MTM Turing Machine mk2 and the range is still only about 9 to 3 on that one.
  • Audible “thunk” sound on the output when flipping the Write switch.
  • Noise level increases by a small amount when the Length bit is high. It’s a small change but enough to hear the difference and to skew the results. The higher noise level makes it more likely to invert the bit, so it favors writing 0 over 1. When Chance is set somewhat low, this gives it a tendency to empty out all of the bits — and sometimes it stays that way for dozens of clock steps. It doesn’t do the opposite and get “stuck” with all bits high. If Chance is closer to 50% the effect is not really noticeable since it all falls within the bell curve. Increasing chance to higher amounts makes it gravitate to an “N bits off, N bits on” cycle.

Having sussed out its behavior, I can work with it. If I want more even distribution, or even deterministic behavior, I can use CV to switch the chance.

But honestly, I’m pretty disappointed with After Later’s quality control and attention to detail, particularly after they admitted that Tilt has design flaws that weren’t caught until after they started selling them. These issues with Alan were not hard to spot, and I thought something was weird about it in the first hour of using mine.

That “variant” industrial beat worked out for me after all and it’ll be on the album. I may also use more drums in the future generally. I had a brief moment of regret about selling my Elektron Model:Cycles — but I think the approach I took with this one works well for me. Each drum part can be individually synthesized (with a combination of hardware and software) and includes its own FX chain, and all of that can be freely modulated. Each part can be sequenced in MIDI and/or Bitwig Grid/Eurorack with various logic applied using manual controls… it’s a good setup.

I also had a really nice patch with the HSO, combined with some pitch shifting and saturation in Beads. I’m just really pleased with how smoothly this album has been going so far (even if I wound up not working on it this weekend).