“it’s not the gear,” I said.

With all my recent exploration of “broken” lo-fi delay techniques I started wondering: what’s the reverb equivalent of Bruxa or Tyme Sefari or a Doepfer BBD, or a cassette tape loop?

There honestly isn’t much. “lo-fi reverb” tends to be something of a different nature:

  • spring reverbs
  • the Belton/Accusonics digital “bricks” that are supposed to emulate spring reverb
  • terrible algorithms like Freeverb
  • 80s budget reverbs
  • the Radio Shack Realistic (brand) Electronic Reverb should not count, because it’s very obviously a BBD delay and not a reverb
  • guitar pedals with built-in bitcrushing and/or distortion

Honestly I don’t think those 80s reverbs are that bad, just vaguely “electronic.” And Freeverb doesn’t sound bad in an interesting way.

Anyway, the hunt led me to Djupviks Bunker Archeology, which is based on the Belton brick but with some “attacking itself” feedback shenanigans. It’s paired with a frequency-driven VCA for stuttering/dropouts, which is post-reverb by default but can be patched the other way or used independently (and controlled with CV like a regular VCA). After watching demos and seeing what I could do in software — which was a lot of fun stuff but not quite there — I decided to go ahead and give it a try.

It will displace Peradam (which is kind of neat but I think I favor other forms of distortion more) and Zero-2 (which just hasn’t been getting much use).

Djupviks makes a lot of cool stuff. I’d like to try several of their modules, but especially Box of Angels and Sleeper Awakes. BOA is a triple bandpass filter with VCAs per filter and a noise source, which doesn’t seem like it’s that fancy, but it really sounds beautiful in demos and people who have it seem to love it dearly. I’m in the process of looking for that vibe without buying the actual hardware; we’ll see how that goes. Sleeper Awakes is a dual ISD-chip sampler/looper — very lo-fi, with a pronounce pop as it loops, and full of great vibes. The thing is, it might be kind of a one-trick pony, and I’ve previously replaced W/, Tyme Sefari, Phonogene and jroo Loop so I’m not convinced another sampler/looper would stay in the rack either.

I’ve started my deep dive into Rossum Morpheus. There is a LOT going on with this module — 280 filter “cubes” of wildly varying types and characters. I’m taking general notes, but the bigger project is going through all of the cubes and categorizing them in various ways, making a sort of catalog/chart. So far my schema is this:

  • Type: LP, BP, HP, notch, peaks, comb, vowel, resonator, complex, etc. and combinations thereof. (Sometimes these are pretty subjective choices, but it’s still a general guideline.)
  • Distortion? (For some background, Morpheus has true “cubes” with three dimensions of control, and “.4” filters with two dimensions, where Z controls distortion by default. The cubes can still access distortion from the menu, and the .4s can reassign it to flatten the frequency profile.) YES if distortion is rewarding, NEED if the filter is bland/bad without it, and DISABLE for .4 filters if reassigning the Z behavior is especially useful.
  • Envelope friendly? YES or NO or MAYBE, depending on how the filter sounds in motion. (Unless you really like cheezy laser noises, peakier filters sound best when stable, sequenced, or maybe gently wavering than a wild sweep.)
  • Audio rate? YES if applying some (carefully tuned) audio rate modulation to a parameter is especially cool. It depends on the nature of the filter
  • Resonator? YES if (pre-filtered) white noise or clicks/pings cause it to sing nicely (may require distortion); ONLY if it really only acts as a resonator (or is otherwise awful)

I’ve gone through 186 cubes but I have some categories to backfill because I kept adding new things to my list. Everything after “type” came up when I realized I was writing the same notes about several of them.

I would add a subjective rating category of some sort… but I kept finding that “bad” cubes can shine with specific usages/material. Most likely, the ones I still don’t like, I might in the right context. Likewise, some of my favorite cubes turned out to be not the right tool in other patches.

I got myself a new pair of earbuds, after going for years with the dirt-cheap QY8 from (insert about five different forgettable Chinese brand names here). I chose Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro based on price and reviews. I’ve been wearing them today at work and walking around the office complex on breaks (it’s nice to not have to pause my music when I get up to make coffee or go to the bathroom).

These are slick and modern. No cord between the two sides to make tons of noise every time you move. Little charging case that the earbuds magnetically align themselves with, and the case itself does Qi wireless charging. Sensors to tell when you’re wearing the buds, touch sensors on the back for control, sensors for the buds’ orientation and relative angle to the phone, a feature to automatically check the earbud/rubber tip fit by listening for leaking sound. And active noise cancellation, which is… an experience.

It’s made me aware of how much noise is a part of regular home and office life. Air conditioners and fans especially, but everything from refrigerators to escalators to just general ambient room tone. Zap, gone. It’s almost disorienting, like you’ve been cut off from the world. Like I’m not going to compare it deafness, but that background noise carries (mostly) subtle information about the space you’re in as you move through it, which just gets removed. (Apparently a hearing person in a seriously good anechoic chamber can experience vertigo from this lack of cue, and can also hear their own blood and eyelids.) But I don’t want to say it’s a bad experience — there’s something really calming about being able to listen to chill ambient music (or accidentally oddly chill industrial music) all day at work without interrupting it at all (except for those rare occasions when I need to talk to someone). I even made a phone call and took another one without taking the earbuds out.

There’s a feature to reverse the process and bypass the isolation from the earbuds themselves to hear your surroundings better — optionally enabled when someone is speaking to you or you’re on a phone call, and toggled on at the touch of an earbud — and some options for partially hearing-impaired people too.

As for the sound… for my preferences it’s not as good as the GMP 8.35D headphones I use for music-making, but it’s still quite good. Really comfortable, too. These weren’t particularly expensive earbuds either, it’s just that technology has come that far.

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