NOOB questions re: EARS

I am not a musician but I have thought for years that I already know how to use my voice, and that perhaps I could do something combining that and found sound / field recordings, and then feed this into synths and FX filters etc.

The end product might be something like the old Firesign Theater, or mere noodling, or it could be more like “This American Life” on NPR / public radio but kind of shuffled like a deck of cards. ( By the way, if collaborating on something like this sounds like fun, I’m in the NW suburbs of the Chicago IL area . )

I wondered how I would best accomplish the task of field recording and home recording and getting it assembled and available for long term playback. ( We can get into those issues as a tangent perhaps, later. )

The reason I came to the forum today was because someone on the facebook page for MI referred me here, after giving me some advice.

I had been asking about how I might intelligently feed sounds captured by the EARS device into some of the MI eurorack modules to further distort them and play with them. The Facebook helper told me that a possible option of using Braids was maybe not a good idea as it was not designed to modify voices or anything, but simply to produce its own noise. ( The helper acknowledged that I could, however, use Braids to trigger my Arturia MiniBrute, since I had asked about whether the two could be “plugged together”. ( I had read, for example, that Korg and Moog are incompatible and I didn’t want to buy stuff only to find it doesn’t work together. )

“Braiids” had come to my attention because I put the key word “formants” into Google and linked it to MI, having already learned about Clouds and Elements from seeing them used with EARS on YouTube. I asked about “Formants” because I thought it might be fun to alter my voice. There is a module by Synthrotek called “Roboto” that mixed Speak and Spell circuit bending effects with input. And Braids DOES ( I saw ) offer effects llke a computer “speaking” gibberish that I liked. But my MI helper said that Braids would not alter whatever came from EARS.

I had asked a question re: power requirements and other things to be aware of and got some info on that also, and the difference between line level sound and microphonic sound.

Current equipment I have found for the project is a Frostwave “Resonator”, a Binson Echorec ( it was PF that got me going way back when :wink: ) , the Arturia Mini-Brute, a looping device, a condenser microphone and stand, a Korg MR -2000 ( whose connection software isn’t keeping pace with my Apple’s evolving OS ) and an M-Audio NRV-10 mixer, which was recommended as a way to interact on the fly with Ableton Live but also be a basic mixer, too.

I saw some neat stuff done with clock diviider tech, forcing a fairly tame drum beat into a real crazy rhythm, that was hilarious. There is, of course, a MI module called "Grids, which does offer a basic clock. Many drumbeats in the synth world sound tinny to me, like something from a cheap video game, but ( of course ) some people want them for precisely that reason. I haven’t got a drum beat thingy yet, but it would be nice if it actually sounded like a drum. Someone advised me that I should get a sampler vs. a “drum machine” if that’s what I wanted. It seemed like having some kind of way to do an “urban beats” background would be desirable at some point.

Yes, yes, I know I’ve covered a LOT of ground, and you may not have time to address ALL of this, even if you COULD explain them all to a noob like me, but maybe some of the, heh, elements of it anyway, eh ?

There is only one person working at Mutable Instruments, so you’ll get something similar from me, who is also the “facebook helper” (me).

The Mutable Instruments modules suitable for processing audio sources are conveniently listed in

Among them, Warps would be most promising for voice, in particular because it has vocoder and ring-modulator functions, which are good for voice. So Ears+Warps could be a starting point. Filters or EQs would be of limited use for voice (which is already a rather harmonically poor signal). Rings for voice might not be interested, but it could be create for processing field recordings. You could also consider a second-hand Clouds.

I did not say that you could use Braids to trigger the Minibrute, but the other way round. Braids is a sound source. It generates tones, if necessary under the control of another module or keyboard that dictates which note to play (and the Minibrute can do that).

Korg and Moog were incompatible in the 70s and 80s. Nowadays, all gear that is not a 1:1 recreation of oldies, follows the same V/O and V-trig standards and can be interfaced together.

Braids is a discontinued module, so you’d rather look at Plaits. Both do vowel synthesis, but it’s just synthesis: making a vocal-like sound from scratch. It’s not about processing voice at all!

Modular is attractive, but you shouldn’t discard the possibility of using guitar pedals or standalone FX devices (EHX Vox Box, Roland VT-4).


The VT-4 is an excellent recommendation as something to get started with.

Thanks guys.

I will look at Youtube vids with Warps. The ones currently showing on YT for interaction with EARS are Elements and Clouds. I came close to getting a used Elements the other day for $259.00 plus shipping, but slept through the auction ( I like to come in and snipe a win at the last minutes and unfortunately Ebay cut off my auto-snipe a while ago. )

The “spectral madness” ( of parasites option only ? ) seemed really cool, but I wasn’t sure who could be trusted to build a Cloud clone, ( which is the only way to get Parasites ? ) correctly, since there will be no warranty help with one of those. Actual MI-made used Clouds are now getting into the $400-500.00 price range if not more. Plus I see threads saying there will be another version of Clouds coming out ( soon ? ) and so that makes me hesitate. But they also say that Version 2 will be a more focused Clouds, so that it may lack many options of the original, which could very likely mean that Spectral Madness will be missing.

Although I certainly do want to do things with MY voice, i am open to creating a voice from scratch. also. ( I’m also fascinated with those voice changer devices that supposedly can allow you as a man to sound like a woman on the telephone, and vice versa. )

I’m also hoping to “mix” ( the word “mix” here is spoken by a Noob, remember ) effects from one module with another, versus merely “trigger” their separate issuance. I seemingly see this ( ? ) quite frequently on YouTube with people plugging one module into another . )

Loved the Steve Reich “Come Out” and “Its Gonna Rain” recordings and apparently there is now an APP for “doing Reich” out now - but its an APP for the iPhone, which I currently kack. The Morphagene is supposed to allow one to shuffle recordings, and even play them backwards ( yay ! ) but the length of what is allowed to be thus played with is very short. Wonder if MI has anything along those lines planned ?

Does one need cords of a different sort, or some sort of intermediary to go from the Arturia to a Eurorack module ? I’m guessing there is a need for such. ??

Thanks again for your time.

The one YT Warp video looks great !

Will look for VT-4 now.

Just saw a vid for the Arturia Drum Brute, too, which looked good.

Ears does two things: 1/ amplify external audio sources ; 2/ capture tapping and scratching sounds with its built-in contact microphone. 1 is so boring and commonplace that no one bothers demonstrating it. 2 is kind of unique, and that’s what people tend to demo. Scratching and tapping sounds are good as excitation signals for physical modelling. That’s why you’re seeing all these videos involving Rings or Elements.

You won’t find a youtube videos for any possible combination of modules, so you have to learn to imagine how different modules could interact together.

Try watching a Warps video and imagine: how would this sound on my voice? I’m sure some Warps videos are demonstrating how it affects vocal samples already!

The spectral madness mode is from the stock firmware.

Parasites also runs on factory-made modules.

I doubt so.

That’s a good prediction.

You can chain effect modules: the second effect is applied on top of the first effect.

You can run both effects in parallel into a mixer or crossfader modules, to smoothly go from one effect to another.

I’m not sure you’re using the right word here. What you seem to describe here is the use of a sequencer to change the amount of two effect units - so first you hear one, then the other.

Up to 2 min 54s, that’s quite long to me!

That’s quite unlikely. Other brands are already doing it very well.

No, it’s just a standard 3.5mm mono cable for sending the CV signals from the Minibrute to the Eurorack system.

Unless you’re talking about sending audio from the Minibrute to the Eurorack system? Then you’ll probably need a module (like Ears) to amplify the signal from the Minibrute up to Eurorack levels. But it’s still a 3.5mm mono cable that’ll serve for the connection!

Once again, thank you for taking the time to answer me.

I’m confused by “Parasites”. Is it something that was created by someone other than MI ? If not, then perhaps it is what you meant by “stock firmware”, but perhaps nevertheless “hidden” from initial visibility. Another way of asking the question - what I’m getting at - do I need to get Parasites to get Spectral madness ? You indicated that I could get it on stock firmware. I’ve seen people on the web offering to add / “flash” Parasites to a unit of Clouds they were selling, if someone desired it.

If I used a regular microphone, versus a piezo contact microphone, to speak my voice into a unit, would I even require the EARS to get there? Or would something less expensive translate my voice up to acceptable levels for Eurorack synth modules to work with ? Or would my voice go in withOUT any translation needed, IF it was a regular mike vs. a piezo contact mike ?

On You Tube, the man putting the sounds of a bowed cymbal into Ears was asked by a viewer what piezo contact he was using and he did not reply. I took that question to mean that the viewer asking it believed ( perhaps correctly so ? ) that a SECOND piezo contact was required ( not in EARS ) to get the bowed cymbals sound to the EARS contact mike. is that so ? If so, any recommendations for which contact piezo mikes are optimum for …say, cymbals ? I’ve spoken to a few mfg.'s of piezo contact microphones, prior to discovering you as a resource, attempting to figure out which piezo mike would be best for this kind of thing, but I am too small of a fish to get much detailed response. There are some cheap piezo contact mikes that can be acquired for $7.00 to $20.00 on the net, coming from China, I suppose. Then there are ones optimized for stringed instruments, like Barcus Berry that go for hundreds. Any advice on that, as well ? ( it might be entertaining to have a specialty piezo anyway, depending…what say ye ? :wink: )


Yes. But it can be installed on normal, factory-made modules.

The normal firmware includes the spectral madness mode.

Absolutely, you still need to amplify the signal from the microphone and bring it to modular levels.

Yes, in that case it was probably an external piezo connected to Ears.

No idea, sorry!

But if you’re going to distort and transform the hell of this original signal, fidelity doesn’t matter :slight_smile:

Is Parasites considered stock foirmware ? I still don’t know.

No. Stock firmware is developed by Mutable Instruments and comes pre-installed on their modules.

Stock firmware = the normal firmware installed by default on factory-made units.
Parasites = an alternative firmware that can be installed on all units.

I often find when I am using Ears primarily as a comparator to extract gates, that I need to run the input pretty ‘hot’, so that the red led overload light is on alot.

My question is: will this likely damage Ears or is it just indicating the introduction of distortion on the input signal?

I routinely use Ears as an overdrive/distortion by turning the gain all the way up when feeding it modular level signals and it doesn’t even flinch. Veils can manifest lots of gain too, especially if you “cascade” from one channel to the next. The new Ripples looks like it it had some input gain as well!

This applies to all Mutable Instruments products: you can’t damage them by sending signals to them or patching them. I know loud signals are called “hot”, but they are just a signal like any other.


Other funky use of EARS:
When turning the gain 80% and pressing (not scratching) the surface, the ENV out output a DC voltage that react to pressure, can be used for controling VCA or filters …
It work just as a sensitive touch surface (pressure point, TKB, microfreak, …)

I don’t own an Ears (yet)
I’ve got a few questions about it.

Would it be possible to use with it?
From what I understand, then I could only select “Slow” and “Fast” for attack and release and “1v” and “2v” for threshold using 3 switches.
“Medium” and “4v” aren’t configurable through these switches. Is this a correct assumption?

By the way. The jumpersettings (A&R) on the Ears page do not correspond with those in the quick start.pdf
What are the correct settings?

How fast or slow is the envelope?

The Divkid YouTube demonstrates the attack and release times.

The knob setting fine tunes the gate out, so I find this easy ty work around.

I’m no expert, but I think you need a 3 way switch expander like those for Xaoc Batumi.

Ok, will watch the video and pay extra attention to the A&R-times. Thanks!

A three way switch would be nice. But I’m not sure if that is possible without having to modify the module.

Because two settings are jumperless, I don’t think it’s possible to make a connection for those settings. Maybe I’m wrong about that.

The website doesn’t mention if these are 2 positions (ON-ON) switches, or 3 positions (ON-off-ON) switches. In the former case, you’ll only get two settings, but in the latter you’ll get the 3 options since in the middle position, the switch won’t make any contact and it’ll be equivalent to not have any jumper in place.

Good catch! The online manual is correct. I’ll have the quickstart manual fixed!

Here are the time constants (the time it takes for the envelope to reach 63% of its goal). Multiply by 3 to get the time taken to reach 95%.


  • fast: 10ms
  • medium: 80ms
  • slow: 430ms


  • fast: 2ms
  • medium: 16ms
  • slow: 100ms

Thanks! The first part I understand now.

Had to read about times for three times. As far as I understand, the envelope must then be exponential. Correct?