I’m trying to determine what a overdrive module like trogotronic m277 would offer me in terms of sound.
I have listened to some demos, but I’m curious about your opinions.
I have these modules:
From what I’ve gathered, I can use the following modules, in my case, for overdrive:
And these for distortion:
(I also have Streams (where the LEVEL MOD controls are routed to the amplitude control port of the VCFAs) and Ripples (which has a VCA but “progressively compresses” values above +5V, which I’m not quite sure what it means), but I’m not sure if that’s relevant here. Finally, there is a DRIVE control (although no CV) in the Stereo Dipole filter.)
What is your experience with “dedicated” overdrive modules? In your opinion, how much difference do they make from modules such as the ones I’m mentioning above, in my case?
Thanks a lot!
It means that the response of the VCA is not linear past a CV of 5V. For example a CV of 10V won’t give you twice the gain of a CV of 5V - it’ll barely give an amplitude gain of around 30% compared to what you’d get with a CV of 5V. This doesn’t distort the signal in itself!
As for the other questions, I’m not familiar with the m277! At the exception of Warps, none of the distortion sources you mentioned are particularly pleasant to the ear, and have CV control…
I have owned lots of guitar distortion, overdrive and fuzz pedals and they all offer quite wide differences.
The input signal of a guitar is usually pretty clean with low harmonics. The distortion roughens up the waveform where each pedal offers different harmonics or ‘tones’.
To my mind there is a similar phenomenon in modular synthesis where you take a fairly clean oscillator waveform such as a sine or triangle and pass it through a wavefolder. Each wavefolder will sound quite different, just like the guitar pedals did.
Most distortions, to my knowledge, clip the top or bottom or both, to square off the input signal. If the oscillator signal is already complex (say mixing waveforms) or you are using square or sawtooth waveforms then further distorting the signal does not have the same level of effect.
So to answer your question, yes they will add an effect, but that effect is dependant on the input signal on the one hand or whether you want to push already distorted signals even further on the other hand… sometimes the effect is ‘warming up’ the signal and other times it’s total destruction.
I have a few ‘dedicated’ modules, as mentioned above, they are very context specific and sometimes will result in fuzzy diamonds and others it’ll just be underwhelming.
The Doepfer A136 can be great and flexible but for some reason I just find it much harder to predict/visualise results with. You have separate control over the +ve and -ve parts of the input so you can ‘filter’ out whole chunks.
RYO Optodist is nice and simple, the LED clipping/limiter sounds good and keeps things slightly less speaker breaking. My general thoughts are warm and crunchy. This is probably the most like a regular guitar pedal as all it does is apply a tooooooonnnnnnn of gain to the signal. Depending on the souce, I’ll often reach for this first.
I also have the A189-1 from Doepfer which can get into very broken territory and even with non garbled settings can get a nice clipping of the signal going when the level knob is above about half way.
And of course there’s Warps which can distort things in lots different ways (and under CV control) and has built in VCAs and is generally some special sauce that can make things spiky, spiny or jaggy.
Thanks a lot for your very helpful and interesting replies!
Here’s what I’ve been thinking about using overdrive/distortion/fuzz for so far:
I’m looking to explore Akemie’s Castle pretty exclusively at the moment, by making some tracks using AC as the only sound source.
I’m interested in ambient and electronica, so being able to produce everything from drone-like sounds to percussion sounds, with AC, would be nice. Perhaps this implies that I need an overdrive/distortion/fuzz solution that can be both subtle (for things like drones) and totally destructive (for percussion)?
In order to be able to shape (and “warm up”) the “digital” sounds of AC, my idea so far has been to have various analog modules (such as Ripples, Shelves and Streams).
Any thoughts on modules that could be relevant for this specific scenario would be much appreciated.
Maybe you could look after a XAOC Tallin, a NE Terci Ruina or even a WMD thrshmstr. The Tallin is a dual vca with 3 flavor of gentle overdrive while the Terci can be gentle or harsh but without cv and seems to not please everyone. However, please be aware that I don’t own any of those modules.
And, while quite tedious, you may find some comparison between lot of distortion modules on YouTube https://youtu.be/HV1Ya0Otxnc
There is a least 4 videos from the same guy.
Digital FM synthesis can create incredibly harsh tones in 3 or 4 operator mode with the right settings… so harsh that I’d expect further distortion difficult to obtain.
With the result, using a highpass filter is beneficial for hihat type sounds. A bandpass filter can help with other percussion sounds. It is often useful to mix the FM tones with noise before filtering and then go through a VCA with the right snappy decay envelope.
Another thought regarding integrating the existing distortion options you have in your rack:
Parallel processing: mult the signal you are using and send one copy straight to a mixer, vca mixer or crossfader. The other copy send to a module which will provide distortion. The output of the distortion goes to the second channel of the mixer. You can the mix between the ‘clean’ and distorted channel to taste.
Also, I notice you have kinks. The middle logic section will square-off (clip) the signal at zero and provides an interesting asymmetrical distortion. You can also mix two outputs of the same oscillator which will provide a different distorted tone.
I have a few dedicated overdrive/distortion modules because I often make very aggressive music.
My two favorites at the moment are the Erica Synths Plasma Drive and the WMD Geiger Counter. Both sound very different but are both very useful.
The Plasma Drive I feel is incredibly underrated because of its unique tone and it’s versatility—from adding a bit of grizzle and grit to a dry drum bus all the way to making shredding bass/lead lines. There is nothing that sounds quite like it and I find it very pleasing across all kinds of musical applications.
Since I got Rings I needed a distortion module. Due to the pandemic I had time so I started breadboarding a clone of a rat circuit. My first ever circuit. I liked it so much than I started adding. I ended up with a distortion based on the rat that you can select the type of distortion continuously from gentle drive to fuzz-ish. Plus you can control the dry/wet mix, on top of that you have a VCA that can clip and you have an inverted copy of the processed signal and also an aux in so you can chain the signal on to another effect.
I did this because I found that ears while clipping it doesn’t sound that good.
If you control the amplitude of the signal coming to the distortion and then filtering it, you can have more interesting results.
A distortion tends to square things, so if you square a square wave the result won’t be amazing.