The Pedal File – Pittsburgh Modular Patch Box Pt.2, The Module Breakdown

slothHeyyy youuuuu guuuuuuuys!  Are you sick of me yet?  Don’t answer that!  …Allow me torephrase: are you sick of pedals yet?  No, of course not!  I think we can all agree, pedals are the best.  (I know that I myself am questionable.)  So anyways, I’m back with more details on the Pittsburgh Modular Patch Box!

If you didn’t catch Part 1 where I give an overview of the PatchBox, click this link.  If you did, good job.  A gold star for you, and you may read on.  Don’t ask questions, just do what I say.  Geez.

 

So yes, let’s breakdown and discuss the modules offered in the Patch Box FX1:

Analog Replicator

The Analog Replicator is Pittsburgh Modular’s analog engineer Michael Johnsen’s original design, which I must say is formidable and everything an analog delay should be, modular synth or no.  Offering a mishmash of tweaky options and looking like it was reverse-engineered from a Tesla coil control panel, this is perhaps one of the most musical, versatile, earveloping (ear-enveloping), BBD-based analog delays.  (You know, bucket brigade device?  Read this if you’re scratching your head over what the hell a BBD chip is).   Seriously, it sounds awesome.  Listen to it for yourself:

The lush and complex sound of the Analog Replicator is provided not by one BBD chip, but two.  That’s right, PM don’t skimp when it comes to BBD chips.  This generosity grants one access to a variety of delay times and delay-based effects by selecting either one or two BBD chips in combination with the short mode (a delay time range of 10ms – 350ms) and long mode (10ms – 2600ms).  Short mode provides brighter and cleaner repeats (chorus and reverb are available by selecting just the one BBD chip and Short mode), while long mode brings on the dirty repeats.  The longer, the grimier (that’s what she said).

Tweakables

  • TIME Knob – Adjust the delay time.
  • TIME CV IN Knob – CV attenuverter used to attenuate and/or invert the incoming TIME CV signal.  (A dual purpose knob whose purpose I can’t quite discern.  Obviously it affects the CV signal, but I’m not sure how that affects the Time Knob in terms of the sound it produces.  Feel free to school me if you know.)
  • 4,096 / 8,192 Switch – Select between 1 and 2 BBD chips. 8,192 doubles the amount of available delay range.  (Very nice)
  • SHORT / LONG Switch – Select between SHORT and LONG delay ranges. Short range is bright and clean, long range is dark and dirty.
  • FEEDBACK Knob – Sets the number of repeats generated from the delay signal.
  • INVERT POLARITY Switch – In the up position, the switch inverts the Feedback polarity. This setting has an interesting effect with shorter delay times.  (I don’t quite understand exactly how this translates to affecting the sound either, but I’d sure love to dig in and find out!  Perhaps it’s like a phase switch to bring out different feedback frequencies?)
  • FEEDBACK CV IN Knob – CV attenuverter used to attenuate and/or invert the incoming FEEDBACK CV signal.
  • BYPASS SwitchEnable or disable the analog delay effect.
  • SPILLOVER Switch – Enable or disable the analog delay effect. Feedback is allowed to trail off.
  • INPUT DRIVE Knob – Audio signal input level control.  (Delays with this control are cool because who doesn’t like an overdriven analog delay sound?  Nobody, that’s who!)
  • MIX CV IN Knob – CV attenuverter used to attenuate and/or invert the incoming MIX CV signal.
  • OUTPUT MIX Knob – Sets the signal mix sent to the MIX OUT jack.
  • INPUT JACK – Audio signal input.
  • TIME CV Input JackCV input used to modulate TIME (length of delay time).  (This input and the following CV inputs are controlled by their corresponding knobs.)
  • FEEDBACK (FBK) CV Input Jack – CV input used to modulate FEEDBACK amount.
  • MIX CV Input Jack – CV input used to modulate the OUTPUT MIX.
  • DELAY OUT Jack – Delayed signal only output.
  • MIX OUT Jack – Mix of dry and delayed signal output.

There you have it.  One of the finest delays to ever be produced on Earth that can emit almost any delay based effect your dirty little heart could desire.  (It may yet compare to delays made on other planets, but that’s for another post!)  The Analog Replicator calls to mind the food the Lost Boys eat in the classic film Hook – it can be anything you imagine (but you have to use your imagination).  Ru-fi-OH!

www.pittsburghmodular.com/analog-replicator

Filter

Ah filters.  Good for enveloping wah sounds, flangies, phasies, carving tonez, brewing coffee, you name it.  PM defines their filter module, creatively titled ‘Filter’, as a state variable filter (i.e. a filter that can provide all types of filtering – high pass, band pass, and low pass), of which it is an apt example.  Filters can give one a surprising amount of access to a wide range of tones (especially with access to all filtering in the known universe as is the case with the Filter).  While this feature is not uncommon in synth world, it’s pretty damn cool in the guitar world because most guitar pedal filters only offer one or two types of filtering (usually low and/or high pass).

With the Filter module, you can run control voltages to the CV in of each individual filter section, or the variable knob can sweep from one filter to another (or another).  The variable knob can also provide notch filtering for even further precision tone sculpting.  Now that’s a spicy a-filter!

The best feature in my opinion is the ‘Filter – Oscillation’ switch.  Set to Filter, you are gifted with a more ordinary, organic and sweet (as in pleasant) sounding filter.  Set to Oscillate, you will unlock the ability to play the filter if no incoming audio signal is present (a beautiful sine wave is produced), or alternatively you can mangle your incoming signal like Caitlyn Jenner’s face (oh snap!) and produce  tones PM describes as ‘ring mod’-esque or heavy distortion.  (If you’re familiar with the filter section, more specifically the Brute knob of the Arturia MicroBrute, I believe this is a similar idea.)

Demo Video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvHtLlujpz8#action=share

Tweakables

  • Q Pot – Adjusts the resonance (Q) of the filter.
  • FREQ Pot – Adjusts the Frequency of the filter.
  • L-H Pot – Sweeps between lowpass, notch, and highpass filters
  • QCV Pot and Jack  Resonance (Q) control voltage input and attenuverter.
  • FCV Pot and Jack – Frequency control voltage input and attenuverter.
  • 1-Q Switch Switch between Gain to 1 (VCA Mode) and Gain of Q (Standard Mode).  Basically switch between a regular filter reponse to a voltage controlled amplifier where the Frequency knob effects the volume of the signal rather than frequency.
  • F-O Switch – Switch between Filter and Oscillator Modes. (ring-mod and distortion is available by setting to oscillate).
  • LOW Jack – Lowpass Output
  • L-H Jack – Output based off of the L-H Pot
  • HI Jack – Highpass Output


PM points out that their self-described Jekyll & Hyde sound design philosophy is evidenced by this flexibility of the Filter module.  Everyone has a dark side right?  Dark secrets to tell like that one time you put your input into that pedal’s output?  (You dog.)  Well with the Filter module, you don’t have to choose a side.  You can simply straddle the line, kind of like how Courtney Love straddles the line between ‘musician’ and murderer…Oh double snap!  Point being, you can make this thing play nice.  Or not.

Another manufacturer quote to sum it up: ‘The goal was to produce a filter that does not have a single sweet spot. We worked to make every turn of a knob or flip of a switch offer something new and musically engaging.’  I’m engaged.  Extra points all around.

www.pittsburghmodular.com/filter

Crush

If you’ve had the pleasure of using a bit crusher before you may be aware that many existing bit crusher guitar pedals can make cool noises, yet many of them can be too trebly, too digital, and too harsh; you know, when it feels like you’re getting tattooed on your ear drums.  It can be a struggle to use them musically, especially in a band context.  The Crush module alleviates this issue by offering all analog juiciness that will still sound metallic and squashed, but ooze with sonic goo like you just stepped on a robot grub.

This guy is pretty simple, with only a few knobs and a switch.  Most of the controls are pretty standard for a bit crusher, like a sample rate control to select just how degraded your signal should be, and a mix control to be subtle or outrageous.

The really interesting feature of this module is the Interpolate/Step Mode switch.  Step mode offers regular bit crushed sounds, while Interpolate takes the crushed bits and tries to Humpty Dumpty that shit back together, but you know how the rhyme goes…  It doesn’t exactly fit nicely so your tone could be the sonic equivalent of a Picasso portait.  Far out.

Tweakables

  • Sample Rate Control – Sample rate control.
  • Sample Rate CV In Control – Sample Rate CV input jack attenuator.
  • Interpolate/Step Mode Switch – Step mode offers true downsampling. Interpolate mode attempts to smooth the downsampled waveform.
  • Output Mix Control – Controls the signal mix of the Mix Out.
  • Mix CV In Control Mix CV input jack attenuator.
  • SR CV IN CV input modulates the Sample Rate.
  • MIX CV IN CV input modulates the Output Mix.
  • INPUT Waveform Input.
  • CRUSH OUT Processed waveform output.
  • OUTPUT Mixed waveform output.

Such sonic beauty in so simple a package!

www.pittsburghmodular.com/crush

LFO2

The LFO2 module is probably the simplest of the Patch Box FX1 package in terms of operation, but don’t underestimate it’s ability to take your tonez to higher levels of existence.  LFO’s (you know, low frequency oscillator) allow you to impart lots of mood and emotion into your signal, whether it be slow swirling modulation or quicker vibe-like warbles (thinking of chorus/vibe stuff).  Sometimes adding a little bit of LFO movement to a riff can be the bee’s tits.

The LFO2 is the perfect tool for creating a multitude of modulation with two separate LFO’s and plenty of wave shapes.  The first LFO section utilizes a Shape knob to allow access to saw, ramp, and triangle wave forms.  This feature is cool because you can have a fluid sweep between different wave forms, rather than flicking a switch and causing interference (or audible click) to your signal.  Just think of all the different textures, moods, and even frequencies/overtones that could be created depending on how they’re set…

The second LFO section offers access to triangle and square waves to offer even further options for sonic manipulation.  By mixing the 2 LFO’s together, what do you get?  Even MORE sonic options, duh!

I like to imagine LFO 1 is one galaxy and LFO 2 is another.  Tragically enough, these two galaxies are headed right for each other.  The inevitable collision is occurring, but you get to decide just how they collide, mesh, and intersect with each other as if you’re some sort of intelligent space being with the power to do so.  The only thing you can do is try to make beautiful music out of the situation.  Can you handle this responsibility?  (Say yes!)

Tweakables

LFO 1 (top)

  • FREQUENCY Knob – Adjust the frequency of LFO 1.
  • Shape Knob – Modifies the shape of the SHAPE and PULSE outputs.  (Lots of versatility here)
  • SHAPE Jack – Saw / Triangle / Ramp Wave Output
  • RANGE Switch – Switches the frequency range of LFO 1.
  • PULSE – Square / Pulse Wave Output

LFO 2 (bottom)

  • FREQUENCY Knob – Adjust the frequency of LFO 2.
  • TRIANGLE Jack – Triangle Wave Output
  • RANGE Switch – Switches the frequency range of LFO 2.
  • SQUARE Jack – Square Wave Output

www.pittsburghmodular.com/lfo2

You may still be unimpressed by each individual module, but keep in mind kids that since these are modular, you’ve got CV ins/outs to patch together and make sounds ain’t nobody ever heard before.  Remember that by creating patches, you have open access to the circuit itself and can create new pathways within the modules.  If that doesn’t excite you, I suggest you check your pulse.

I hope it has become apparent that PM wants you to have the best of both sonic worlds; to be able to play nicely with their modules, but also to wage intense, epic battles of destructive sound.  They want you to abuse and humiliate their modules and then take them out to a fancy dinner.  I like that idea because you know, being nice is cool and all, but sometimes you gotta just be evil.  The choice ultimately, is yours…

That’s all for now.  Thanks for reading!  As always, feel free to comment and let me know what you’re thinking.  You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here…
Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

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