black ops

I got my RYK Algo, and yes, it is another 4-op FM module introduced to me by Mylar Melodies which is utterly fantastic.

There are some odd design choices:

  • The output jack is TRS (like a stereo headphone jack, 3 contacts rather than 2). VERY few Eurorack modules use that. A splitter to provide separate L and R outputs is provided, but it’s inelegant.

    (I have a personal solution for this involving a right-angle TRS extension cable, a ventilation panel, a splitter hidden inside the case, and the two currently unused jacks on my Mazzatron Mult & Passthru, as soon as that extension cable arrives.)
  • There is no master coarse tuning knob. There are frequency knobs for the four operators, there’s an octave button, and a fine tuning knob with +/- 2 semitone range. Also, this may be a technical issue, but my (external) FM input only accepts positive voltages (the manual says -5V to +5V) so this can’t be used to easily transpose everything.

    This sort of thing bothered me on Loquelic Iteritas, because I felt like it was difficult to retune the module while preserving exactly the right ratio. Here, it seems to generally be fine so far. But I’ve just been testing the module and not trying to fit it into other parts yet. If the FM thing is fixed that should be fine.
  • I’m being picky about the knobs, as usual: it’s hard to see the pointer direction because they’re small, not super bright white dots on black knobs on a black panel, with high-contrast LEDs glaring at you. Thonk Tall Trimmer Toppers and “Pantherkill” knobs from Love My Switches will fix that.
  • Also, the knobs follow the same diagonal orientation as their layout — so the center of the knob range isn’t “noon” but 45 degrees right. That takes some getting used to.

    The bigger knobs are T18 so you can reset them if you like, and trimmer toppers fix the rest.
  • The Algo (and more rarely, Octave) buttons are used for various shift functions — free and fixed tuning options, operator panning, warp and fold styles. This can be a little awkward especially if you’re trying to do it one-handed. OTOH, everything in the interface is easy to remember with no cheat sheet required.

The sound is devastating. Gorgeous or monstrous, your choice. The sine waves and FM are a clean, blank slate. The combination of the offered algorithms (with parallel modulators feeding a carrier, and/or common modulator(s) feeding multiple carriers), combined with the ability to quantized-tune, free-tune or fixed-tune the operator ratios, opens a lot of doors. Stereo panning of carriers sounds fantastic, but of course as with most modular “stereo” you can treat it as separate signals for individual processing, or combine them with ring modulation etc. The warp and fold on their own are nothing particularly special, but can provide some extra zing or solidity to the sound at times. (Warp really doesn’t have a similar character to FM feedback and it’s not as much like Shapeshifter’s Tilt as I expected, but still.)

As it turns out, algorithm 5 isn’t a super close imitation of Shapeshifter’s Harmo3/2Tone6, but I kind of don’t care because Algo is just all-around better at the whole growly, textured business.

Algo and Akemie’s Castle complement each other well; despite the commonality of “4-operator FM controlled via knobs and CV with no menu diving,” they have different capabilities and occupy different sonic territory. One’s spicy and the other umami, perhaps.

I’ve rearranged the case — it’s no longer grouped by manufacturer, but by function. Here’s a color-coded zone map:

Red = oscillator, green = filter, yellow = VCA, blue = modulator, purple = FX, brown = controller, and gray = utilities…. at least, generally. Modules have a lot of functional overlap of course — Kermit is often used as a modulator, Blades sometimes as an oscillator, somehow I didn’t count DAPF as a filter, and I don’t know how to categorize Drezno. Also it amuses me that Ana is already purple and is somewhere between a utility and an effect.

(Also, in my pod is still Univer Inter, Auza Wave Packets, Just Friends, and Sweet Sixteen. So utility, modulation/oscillator, modulation/oscillator, and controller.)

Speaking of Drezno though, although the whole order of modules has changed, I’m going to go ahead and finish writing it up first. I’ve gotten partway through my study on it. Mostly I have audio uses covered, with one more idea to write up and create a sound example for. There’s still gate extraction, a bunch of CV uses, and generative feedback patching to write up! And I expect there are uses for Drezno I still haven’t dreamed of. And all of the rest of the Liebniz system, which I don’t have, some of which are even more abstract and non-prescriptive.

I feel like I should do a full study of Algo later, after I’ve had some time to live with it. So probably after Drezno, if I don’t launch into another album project (which I might), it’d be Zorlon Cannon. Another favorite of mine that can be used for audio, CV, and gates in many different ways…