Pioneer Tribute Modules Preferred to Eurorack Size

April 14, 2014 in Exclusively Analogue, The Aviator, The Pioneer

We recently had the pleasure of delivering a Pioneer “Tribute” system to the studio of Steve Everitt, an accomplished professional composer and musician. Steve has been a regular contributor to ‘Eat Static’ – an eclectic electronic band headed by Merv Pepler. Taking along another Pioneer “Tribute” system and combining it with Steve’s Aviator meant there was a total of 5 complete Exclusively Analogue synth lines.

Tony commented – “Whilst I have the technical ability to produce the equipment, I sadly lack the musical talent to be able to produce anything remotely appealing. In contrast Steve has talent by the bucket load, which was proven within the first 30 minutes of my being there when he added a sound from his new Pioneer system into a beautiful piano led piece he was working on. The piece already had Steve’s Aviator in the mix and the end result was a magical combination of traditional instruments; Steinway piano, orchestral strings and various electronic ‘textures’ to produce the final result.”

The rest of the day was spent experimenting with the two modular systems and creating a variety of interesting sounds which, even in fairly simple sequences, sounded good. Seeing and hearing the equipment being used by a professional was a very rewarding experience.

Two Pioneer Tribute modulars in action - Exclusively Analogue

Merv Pepler joined later in the day, primarily so he could see the two Tribute systems together. Merv was very familiar with the Aviator, having recorded Steve’s on a number of albums in the past and as a result is considering, like Steve, stepping into the modular world. Merv was definitely impressed with the Tribute system and it is likely that he will have the very last system as well as one of the last Aviators. Interestingly, both Steve and Merv have been considering adding some of the more popular ‘Eurorack’ size modules to their collection however both seemed to prefer the larger format of the Emu design.

The advantage of the Eurorack equipment is that you can cram a lot into a small space which is ideally suited to the ‘bedroom musicians’. Lots of people spend time on modulars creating new and interesting sounds and Steve made the comment that he was concerned he would spend too much time ‘wiggling’ and not making music. With Steve and Merv I know that any analogue equipment they have will be used to create music which is, after all, what any musical instrument is for – not solely as a piece of furniture.

Two Emu Modulars In Use – The Analogue Monster

February 18, 2014 in Exclusively Analogue, The Pioneer

At the end of 2013 Tony decided to build a special 24″ by 24″ “Square” Pioneer ‘Tribute’ system similar to the original Emu modular that he had in 1994. The modules have been built into a Maple wood cabinet and have been set up as two complete synthesizer lines including 5 VCOs, 3 different Voltage Controlled Filters, 2 Dual Transient Generators, 2 Voltage Controlled Amplifiers plus a few other useful modules. The picture below shows two modular systems together.

2 EMU Tribute Modulars - Exclusively Analogue

The two systems provide 4 separate analogue synth lines controlled by various Kenton MIDI/CV convertors. Using the MIDI files of some well-known pieces of music Tony had the basis to experiment with different sounds. As an example, he used 1 line for the bass, 2 lines as sequences and the final line as a lead with an added drum track from a MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro, running Logic Pro, was also able to control everything via a MIDI interface.

So what sort of sounds can be created with 2 Emu Modulars? Well just about any classic analogue sound because both systems have Universal Active Filters and MultiMode filters to compliment the usual 24dB Low Pass Filter meaning the more interesting High Pass Filter ‘buzzy’ sounds are available. Tony is a fan of a slow sweeping HPF with resonance as an effect if you can get the slow sweep to work in time with the music. Another nice effect is having the filter frequency shift in time with the music to create a rhythmic pattern similar to adding an accent on certain notes, say every 4th note in a 1/16th note sequence. He’s done this previously using analogue sequencers but in this latest set up I used the aux outputs from the Kenton interfaces to provide the additional voltage to change the Filter cutoff.

The original plan was that the new “Square” system would be sold and it has therefore been advertised on eBay. However, like every one of the Tribute systems built so far, this one has been ‘lovingly’ hand crafted to a very high standard and as a result is one of a kind. If you are interested in purchasing this system for your studio or setup please get in touch.

A Range Switch and Pot Pourri Module for The Chemical Brothers

July 23, 2013 in EA Modules, Exclusively Analogue

Recently we had an order from a guy called Tom Rowlands who was after a Range Switch and Pot Pourri to fit into his Emu Modular system. At first glance it was another name at the bottom of an email we received. Tom put in a request and asked if we would go to his studio to fit the modules and it was only after a bit of digging that we realised who Tom actually was – one half of the very successfull Chemical Brothers. If you are not sure who they are you might like to look on YouTube at a video of the “Horsepower’ track by the Chemical Brothers.

Tom has a very enviable collection of analogue synthesizers in his studio, enough to keep any ‘electro-musician’ occupied for ages creating interesting sounds. His Emu modular system was one of the late versions with the improved large VCOs allowing Hard Sync and Linear FM but interestingly the modules were not organised in a ‘classic’ manner and there was no pre-patching at all. After discussing the options with Tom some modules were moved around and the new Range Switch and Pot Pourri added. Tom liked the added functionality the Range switch gave to the VCOs and he agreed that the normal arrangement of having a single turn pot for the Course (10 octave) frequency control on the Emu was not ideal. On the EA VCOs we’ve fitted a 10 turn high quality pot for the Course frequency control which makes life easier. Having the instant, and accurate, octave shifting that the Range switch gives makes life even easier.

The Pot Pourri, with the two LFOs, Noise source, Sample & Hold, and 2 Inverters was fitted between Tom’s two Dual Transient Generator modules so that the inverters were readily available to invert the DTG outputs for use on things like the Universal Active Filter. An inverted envelope is really good on High Pass or Band Pass filters especially if they are resonating slightly. Quite a few synthesizers don’t offer the option to invert the envelope but it was one of the first things that was included in the design of the Aviator.

After a quick look at Tom’s Emu we identified a few things that needed repairing and we’ve also suggested a bit of re-organising of the modules as well as the addition of the pre-patching. If this work goes ahead, and we hope it does, it would be great to think that the Emu system we’ve worked on might feature on the next Chemical Brothers album.

Emu Modular Rebuild

May 8, 2013 in Exclusively Analogue, The Pioneer

We’ve recently completed a rebuild of an original Emu Modular for a customer in Germany. The rebuild involved supplying a new large cabinet, power supply and some of the Exclusively Analogue Pioneer Tribute modules. The picture included below shows the completed system and if you look carefully you might be able to pick out the new modules. Apart from adding the large VCO, 2 Low Pass Filters, Universal Active Filter, Dual Transient Generator, Lag Processor, Noise Source and a Ring Modulator this system also received two of the VCO Range Switch modules and one of the new Pot Pourri modules.

Exclusively Analogue - Emu Modular Rebuild

This is the comment from the customer;

“The modules Tony built sound spot on identical to the old originals and the craftsmanship is second to none. I am very happy”

New Modules Available – VCO Range Switch, Pot Pourri, Ring Modulator & Lag Processor

May 3, 2013 in EA Modules, Exclusively Analogue

Following interest in the UAF and conversations about what other modules we’re building this post looks at what’s currently available to order and what’s coming shortly.

  • The Universal Active Filter is a faithful reproduction of the Emu module and although some alternative components have been used to replace the original, impossible to get, dual transistors this change has not affected the sound at all. I have done extensive side by side testing to confirm this and spent a lot of time matching the transistor characteristics.
  • The VCO Range Switch module is a useful addition to a system since it allows instant octave shifting of any 1Volt/octave VCO. 3 individual VCOs can be controlled by this unit and although designed for the Emu system it can be fitted to any modular provided there is a suitable Power Supply.
  • The Pot Pourri module is my take on the Emu Pot Pourri module and includes 2 Low Frequency Oscillators, 2 Analogue Inverters, a basic Noise Source, and a Sample and Hold (S&H). I find having the two LFOs in a system really useful and by having the addition of a S&H, which uses the Noise and LFO2 as the source and clock, adds a lot to any modular. A particularly ‘pleasing’ effect can be achieved by using the Gate signal to clock the S&H which is then fed to the Filter Frequency control. The result is random shifts of the filter frequency, especially good with a high resonance setting, that happen in sync with the notes being played.

We’ll shortly be releasing Lag Processor and Ring Modulator modules and will make sure there’s a post on the site when those are ready to order.

  • The 2340 Voltage Controlled Lag Processor performs a rate-limiting function on its input; it introduces a linear or exponential slide in the output voltage if the input voltage changes faster than a certain rate. Typically it is used to process control voltages—for example, it can give voltage controlled portamento when its input is a keyboard control voltage and it can turn a gate into a voltage controlled attack/release transient generator. One feature I like is that you can set it to only give glide on an increasing keyboard voltage but not a decreasing voltage or vice versa which is subtly different from the normal ‘always glide’ on most synths.
  • The 2430 Ring Modulator is a balanced modulator for electronic music. The module has two inputs, modulation and carrier, which are identical for high signal levels. The output is the algebraic product of the input voltages: Vout = Vmod x Vcar Ă· 5 when the input attenuators are fully clockwise and the coupling switches are in the DC position. AC coupling will level-shift the corresponding input so it effectively centers around zero volts. This can have a striking effect on the output signal, due to the inherent non-linearity of balanced modulation.

Project Merlin Confirmed And Why Knob Size Matters

April 20, 2013 in Exclusively Analogue, Project Merlin

Depending on where you come from, and your particular interests, the word ‘knob’ can refer to a number of things including things not really suitable for this website dedicated to Analogue Synthesizers!

I’ve just had the pleasure of visiting someone in Germany who really enjoys analogue synths and he has an enviable collection of modulars, including an Emu which is why I was there. Looking around the room my eyes always focused on the big old modulars like the Moogs and then at the newer, smaller and compressed modulars. Whilst I can appreciate that small knobs and small format modulars work for a lot of people, (it saves building an extension to your house or flat just to hold the modular!), for me ‘Big is Beautiful’. In particular the large format of the Emu modular is a favourite which is why I’ve spent a vast amount of time and effort to recreate this classic.

Once I had completed the rebuild into a new 4 tier cabinet with new power supply and some additional Pioneer Tribute modules I surveyed the result of my labours and knew why I liked the Emu so much. To then plug it in and hear the results was even better, more so when the big smile appeared on the owner’s face. It seems I’m not alone in liking ‘BIG KNOBS’ because I heard that there is a group of analogue synth enthusiasts in Germany who hold regular ‘Happy Knobbing’ events where tweaking ‘knobs’ of various sizes on analogue modulars and synths is their ‘thing’.

There is a good reason for all this talk about ‘knobs’. I’ve started work on my next synth, (I’ve called it “Project Merlin” for now since it will hopefully produce ‘magical’ sounds), which for want of a better description will be a cut down Aviator with a new unique filter and some interesting modulation options. I have to decide on the format both in terms of the overall size and also the size of the human interface part, the ‘knobs’.

I’ve used the Emu style large knobs on the ‘Last of the Few’ Aviators and that seems to work very well against the black front panel. The original silver Aviators had slightly smaller coloured knobs which also worked at the time but I have to say that the overall look of these last few Aviators is better, in my opinion.

I’d like your help in determining which route to go down; choice for you is a small compact synth with small knobs or something a little larger, about 2/3 the height of the Aviator, with BIG knobs. Your opinions would be appreciated!