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The Virtual and Real Analogue Project
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 7:20 am    Post subject: The Virtual and Real Analogue Project
Subject description: Article by Per Wikström
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The Virtual and Real Analogue Project

By Per Wikström

Is it possible to unite the virtual analogue modular with the real thing?
I tried it out and the short answer is: Yes!
To get a longer answer, keep reading…


Per Wikstorm's Synthesizer Workshop
I did a lot of modular patching in the early 80ies, mainly on Buchla and Roland 100 systems, with old school tape loops and 4-channel tape recorders. I quit the whole thing after some years, but started again in the late 90ies with the virtual alternative: The Clavia Nord Modular. When the Clavia G2 virtual modular hit the market some years ago I started an intense period of patching.

I consider myself a semi pro in the music area. I have produced a lot of music for a series of scientific documentaries for Swedish Television. My musical interest goes from soundscapes and noodles to electronica jazz and dance music. But it has in common that I use a lot of monophonic voices I a rhythmic texture, rather than chord progressions and complex melodic and harmonic structures.

But using the G2, with Korg Electribe as rhythmical backup, I missed something. The creation and modification of gates and control voltages is great in the Clavia G2 but the filter didn’t have that magnificent “omph” or sharp self-oscillation. I also felt that the digital emulations of VCO´s lacked personality and bite. And with some experience, it was too easy to predict what different modules did to each other.

Concerning complex gate and CV structures, the Clavia system is unlimited, and a magnificent tool. But sonicly, I felt I was hitting the ceiling. Maybe a more talented patcher then I would pass that barrier, but I didn’t.

So I decided to try to combine the Clavia G2 with a real analogue to get a combined virtual/real modular. It was a fun, but expensive trip to boutique electronic devices.

The Clavia G2 has a lot of midi in and out modules. The Doepfer MCV 24 midi-CV converter seemed to be the right tool. It can deliver 12 channels of CV and gate signals, or 24 channels of CV to use at any purpose.

Per's Doepfer Modular Synthesizer
And to choose Doepfer for the modular was a simple choice. Vintage modulars are rare, and all the other contemporary modular synths are more expensive, or DIY kit for a more experienced synth builder than me. There are competitors, like Blacet and Analogue Solutions. But AS was a bit higher priced, and had fever (but more versatile) modules for sale. Blacet has no agent in Sweden, and also has a limited number of modules.

The first thing was to plan the system. I don’t know how many sketches I made, and all seemed to suffer from compromises.

One good thing with the Clavia G2 is the high number of modules available. In complex patches and performances (several patches that are connected internally), it is possible to use maybe 30 or more of VCOs, and dozens of S/Hs filters and so on. But as I didn’t has unlimited funding, I had to reduce my demand.

My first plan was simple: One 3 HU rack of VCOs, one for VCFs, one rack for VCAs and one for Envelope Generators and LFOs. Besides that, I ordered a 6 HU rack with CV-processing modules. After have used the system for some time, I bought some more modules, and ended up with a fairly big system. It´s main components are:8 VCOs, 8 different VCFs, 9 VCAs and 10 Envelope Generators. Together it is just over 70 modules, including some from Analogue Systems that I bought second hand. It is now about the size of 4 x 6 HU racks and 1 x 3 HU rack.

From the beginning, it was things that I underestimated: The need for full quality VCAs (the Doepfer has “low cost vcas” that are best for CV processing) and multiple jacks, as well as the never ending need for more cables. But after completing with some more VCAs, multiples and VCOs, I think it is pretty balanced now. Or, at least, it has to be, my synth funding are reaching its limit.

I have put a lot of money in this project, but lesser than people spend on a motorcycle or a boat. But to me, it is worth it. I hope I will use it and be happy with it for the rest of my life. Software gets outdated, but real hardware just get old. And the Doepfer modules have that sonic power and organic life I wanted, and it surprises me all the time. To use the sequencers, random generators and note scaling modules of the G2 is an intuitive and quick way of creating musical structures that can be realized in the Doepfer. Combining patching on the computer screen and in real life on the same time was also easier then I thought. In fact, it is as intuitive as working with the G2 or the real analogue itself.

The same midi out that feed the 12 channels of CV and gate in the Doepfer MCV24 interface can also control other gear. So I use my older Clavia Nord Modular and Micro Modular as six extra VCOs, as well as an old sampler and a Roland XV 2020 sound module. The possibilities of sound creation become very big.

I could have built the system simply on sound modules, just to get the true analogue sound, but wanted to have some analogue CV processing in the modular also. I had the feeling that it would limit the creativity to use the Clavia G2 for all CV processing. And as and old Buchla fan I could not resist the Doepfer A-149, a clone of the Buchla “Source of Uncertainty”, a module a use a lot.

Of the total rack space, about 40 percent is for creating or processing of CV and gate signals. For making a cheaper system, I could have avoided those modules. But I use them frequently, especially for patterns and rhythmic structures. and don’t want to be without them.

I also have some low budget solutions. I have three different reverb springs that I connect to the Spring Reverb module, and gives totally different sound. One is the original, the second is a long Accutronics spring, “The Hammond-reverb” and one is a folded single spring I picked from an old Traynor mixer. And I frequently use an ordinary radio as source for noise or random sounds.

There are modules that I don’t really use at all. For example A-192, the CV-MIDI converter was a part of my concept, to send sound as well as MIDI/CV in both directions between the virtual and real analogue. But the need has been limited. Of course, it can be fun to use Theremin antennas or a joystick to create hands on midi signals, but it make no real use of it. I had found that module for sale now and then, so I guess I am not the only one that have overestimated the need of that module

Another surprise was the high volume of a filter in feedback. The Doepfer filters are unpredictable in a nice way, but in the same time, they can distort many inputs. To import the analogue sounds into the Clavia G2 is not always easy. The 5 V peak to peak that are an internal level in the Doepfer is too wild for the G2. The levels can be attenuated, but that eats valuable mixers or VCAs.

There are other things that are different in the real world. In virtual patches, I am used to have a flow of CV from a sequencer or random source, and use several S/H to pick up CVs at different timing from that source. A disappointment was that it doesn’t work on the Doepfer. There is a loss in voltage currency in the S/H, and the VCO get out of tune. The solution was to put more of the CV processing in the Clavia machine, but it shows how some of the patching process of the G2 not can be converted to the Doepfer universe.

But the main reason to be happy is the mighty filters, VCOs and sound processors of the Doepfer. They can create really fat sounds that are unmistakable analogue, and has life and power. Among my favourite modules are the A-107 Multitype Morphing Filter, the A-101-2 Vactrol Lowpass Filter and the A-101-3 Modular 12 stage Vactrol Phaser.

Patching in G2 and the Doepfer is equal in some aspects. The time consumption for example, it takes me normally one day or two long evenings to create a patch, no matter if it is virtual analogue, real analogue or a mix of booth.

When used together, the G2 sounds like the weak little brother of a bold warrior, the sonic difference become obvious. But they can do different things in the overall soundscape, and the fatness of the Doepfer makes it impossible to add unlimited number of voices of the same strength. So the relative weakness of the G2 doesn´t has to be a disadvantage, and it is sharp enough do bite through the analogue mist.

I normally use the Doepfer for lead, rhythmic parts and for FX. For the bass, I use the Doepfer, or and old analogue Roland SH 09. Sometimes use the G2 as a sketch book: I make the melodic structure, and use a simple vco/envelope just to get it right. Then I change it to a midi out module, and form the sound it the real analogue.

The G2 is mainly a CV and gate generator, and the emulated CVs are stable and reliable. I also do FM and PM sound on the G2, and some polyphonic chord structures, and use it as a FX unit with delay, chorus and such things.

To me, a G2 or rack version, G2 Engine, is the perfect partner to any analogue modular. With the versatile MCV24 it can be the brain to the muscles of real analogue modular. It can also be used for supporting patches, like virtual VCO banks or patches to simplify tuning of the Doepfer.

To get the same possibilities of voices and audio treatment in hardware that the virtual world of G2 offers is extremely expensive. Happily, the fatness of the Doepfer fills the soundscape pretty well. I have no need for more voices than the seven to eleven ( or something like that, depending on configuration) that I get right now. Around four or five different voices from the Doepfer is about the limit in the kind of music I make, otherwise the analogue sounds flood the whole sound spectra.

It is true, that a special sound or a complex structure in real analogue is very hard to recreate. I fact, when fully patched, it is hard to even know what sounds come from each VCA… But to me the patching process now is more like an event. The patching in the G2 can be preserved, but the rest is more like realizing the project. When finished, I record it, and then the moment is over.

Not as reliable and stable as the virtual modular, but a great fun. The only real downside of the real analogue business is the fact that there always some more modules to long for. It is make it a habit, and I am already looking at the stuff from Metasonix: Real vacuum tube synth modules that can make exotic noise…


The Rat Studio Modular System:


    VCO Bank

    5 x A-110 VCO
    2 x A-111 H-VCO
    1 x A- 117 Digital Noise/808Sounds
    1 x A-118 Noise/Random
    1 x RS 95 VCO
    1 x A-112 Sampler
    1 x A-114 Ring Modulator
    1 x A-138 Mixer

    VCF Bank

    1 x A-101-2 Low Pass Gate
    1 x A-107 Morphing Filter
    1 x A-108 VC-LPF slopes 6/12/18/24 dB
    1 x A-127 VC Resonance Filter
    1 x A-121 Mulimode Filter
    1 x A-124 Wasp Filter
    1 x RS 110 Multimode filter

    VCA Bank

    4 x A-131 VCA
    2 x A-132 Dual Low Cost VCA
    1 x A-135 VC Mixer
    1 x A 144 Morph Controller
    1 x A-180 Multiple
    1 x RS 100 VCA
    1 x A-138 Mixer

    ENV Bank

    1 x A-143-1 Complex Envelope Generator
    1 x A-143-2 Quad Envelope Generator
    1 x A-142 VC Decay/Gate
    1 x RS 60 VC Envelope
    1 x A-143-3 Quad LFO
    1 x A-147 VC LFO
    1 x RS 80 VC LFO
    1 x A-119 Extern in/Envelope follower

    Treatment Bank

    1 x A-136 Distortion/Waveshaper
    1 x A-196 Phase Locked Loop
    1 x A-101-3 Modular 12 stage Vactrol Phaser
    1 x A-126 VC Frequency Shifter
    1 x A-199 Spring Reverb
    1 x A-138 Mixer
    1 x A-163 VC Frequency Divider
    1 x RS 210 Fixed Filter Module
    1 x A-115 Audio Divider

    CV Bank


    2 x A-178 Theremine CV Source
    3 x A-180 Multiple
    2 x A-148 Dual S/H
    1 x A-174 Joy Stick
    1 x A-175 Dual Voltage Inverter
    1 x A-172 Maximum/Minimum Selector
    1 x A-170 Dual Slew Limiter
    1 x A-166 Dual Logic Module
    1 x A-162 Dual Trigger Delay
    1 x A-160 Clock Divider
    1 x A-161 Clock Sequencer
    1 x A-156 Dual Quantizer
    1 x A-155 Analogue/Trigger Sequencer
    1 x A-150 Dual VC Switch
    1 x A-151 Quad Sequential Switch
    1 x A-149-1 Stored Random Voltages
    1 x A-149-2 Digital Random Voltage
    1 x A-138 Polarizing Mixer
    1 x MAQ 16/3 Sequencer

    Interface

    1 x Doepfer MCV24 MIDI/CV
    1 x A-192 CV/MIDI

Additional Equipment: I also use Korg ESX-1 Rhythm Sampler, Philip Reese Midi Merger, Clavia G2, Clavia Nord Modular, Clavia Micro Modular, Roland SH-09, Roland XV-2020, EMU E-64, and some other hardware gear as mixers, reverbs and delays.


[Editor's note: Per provided a few audio samples produced on this rig and some example patches which are attached.]


Sample Rai3.mp3
 Description:
Sample audio file, Rai3

Copyright 2005 by Per Wikström

Download
 Filename:  Sample Rai3.mp3
 Filesize:  841.96 KB
 Downloaded:  1240 Time(s)


SAmple Dopf dream.mp3
 Description:
Sample audio file Doepfer Dream

Copyright 2005 by Per Wikström

Download
 Filename:  SAmple Dopf dream.mp3
 Filesize:  752.93 KB
 Downloaded:  1155 Time(s)


Submarine song3.mp3
 Description:
Submarine Song

Copyright 2005 by Per Wikström

Download
 Filename:  Submarine song3.mp3
 Filesize:  2.07 MB
 Downloaded:  1148 Time(s)


D fast dance3.mp3
 Description:
D Fast Dance

Copyright 2005 by Per Wikström

Download
 Filename:  D fast dance3.mp3
 Filesize:  2.09 MB
 Downloaded:  1108 Time(s)


Last edited by mosc on Fri Dec 16, 2005 8:18 am; edited 4 times in total
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 7:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Here are some example patches provided by Per...


Dopf osc bank1.pch
 Description:

Download
 Filename:  Dopf osc bank1.pch
 Filesize:  1.97 KB
 Downloaded:  505 Time(s)


D DARK STAR.prf2
 Description:

Download
 Filename:  D DARK STAR.prf2
 Filesize:  15.51 KB
 Downloaded:  1486 Time(s)


Doepfer tuning.pch2
 Description:

Download
 Filename:  Doepfer tuning.pch2
 Filesize:  1.65 KB
 Downloaded:  1349 Time(s)


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Mohoyoho



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 8:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Very interesting. Excuse my ignorance, but how does he get the G2 to produce CV and gates? Does he output via the G2 audio outs?
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 9:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Mohoyoho wrote:
Very interesting. Excuse my ignorance, but how does he get the G2 to produce CV and gates? Does he output via the G2 audio outs?


1 x Doepfer MCV24 MIDI/CV ?
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 10:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Mohoyoho wrote:
Very interesting. Excuse my ignorance, but how does he get the G2 to produce CV and gates? Does he output via the G2 audio outs?



"The Clavia G2 has a lot of midi in and out modules. The Doepfer MCV 24 midi-CV converter seemed to be the right tool. It can deliver 12 channels of CV and gate signals, or 24 channels of CV to use at any purpose"

He implies he is generating CV & Gate directly from the G2, but (unfortunately) that's not possible. In the next sentence he mentions the Midi-CV converter.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 1:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

That makes sense. Thanks.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Thanks Per, a very nice article..

I too am thinking of going tube through the G2's ... I use a real compressor/limiter before any uncertain analogue inputs (like mic, or guitar) ...

I wish I had a real modular too, I do miss it sometimes. that doepfer setup is nice, and the red patch cords add some nordness to the pictures ...

but since I don't have it (a h/w modular), it's not too bad to be only with the G2's modular world, where everything can talk to everything and can control everything in every way ... the g2's go in (sometimes) sonically suprising directions, for me ... like today ... you get a tone/character out of it you did not expect ... and you can recall it at any time ... instantly!

/Dasz
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2005 3:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hey Per,

Don't get me wrong ... I am not trying to steer people away from an analog modular ... i do seriously miss the Emu modular with its military spec parts,and amazing oscs and filters ... it worked brilliantly ...

But if one had to chose the G2 or a real modular, I would say the G2 or NM1 ... the NM1 really evolved me from a modular perspective. without an NM1 or G2, I would not be as comfy with modular synthesis, but maybe this is just the training I had on the NM1 ...

the thing in the Emu for me, was always the lack of modules, and not being able to reproduce a patch some time later ... the NM approach solved both of these and allowed me to grow and always go back ...

I really like your module setup ... the many oscs and filters are a great idea ... I would say and ideal solution ... being good at something (oscs and filter) which the G2 is not ideal ... analogue always wins ...

but in my case, the sonic character does vary greatly from patch to patch, so I am able to keep my gear-lust-ies to a minimum ... yeah I'm wishing I had a AS or Doepfer system (one day, but 1st a 3rd G2) ...
/Dasz

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 3:34 am    Post subject: Analogue and Real... Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Thank you all for the comments on this artichle, I am glad it did meet some interest.
Limiters are of course a nice piece of equipment, and I have thought of that possibility. But this setup gives up to 10 monophonic voices, so there has to be several of them. The problem of overloading the inputs also shows up in the mixer. But most of my limited fundings had gone into modules. Hopefully, I will be able to get some more equipment, when I have paid of the Metasonix modules I have ordered.
The most boring war of all time is the analogue-digital argue. I really do love the G2, it is a great instrument in many aspects. And for all logical reasons, this "G2 meets German semiconductor"-project is a fools idea. It is expensive, it is bulky, it has no memory, it is unpredictable, and it can take forever to get that nice sound back again.
But I love patching it, knowing that there are real electrons running through the wires.
Per
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 4:04 am    Post subject: Re: Analogue and Real... Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Per wrote:
real electrons running through the wires.

Very Happy do electrons sound better than digits Question Wink
great article btw Exclamation

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 4:41 am    Post subject: Re: Analogue and Real... Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

seraph wrote:
Per wrote:
real electrons running through the wires.

Very Happy do electrons sound better than digits Question Wink
great article btw Exclamation

I wonder what's running through dsp's Confused

Wink
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 4:59 am    Post subject: Re: Analogue and Real... Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Fozzie wrote:
I wonder what's running through dsp's Confused





These guys of course: rendeer rendeer rendeer rendeer

Who else?

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 5:48 am    Post subject: Re: Analogue and Real... Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elektro80 wrote:

These guys of course: rendeer rendeer rendeer rendeer

Who else?

Stein don't be so technical Cool

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 8:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

whats running between those modules? pointers, pointers to functions!
/Dasz
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2007 3:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Thanks for the great article, Per. You answered all my questions without my even having to ask! I look forward to meeting you at Euro E-M.conference.

RR

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 02, 2007 11:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

per, i'm gonna do this, too.

have designs on a little a-100 basic system + midi/cv

i don't know exactly how the work is going to flow, so i'm starting pretty small. but i can't wait to get some analog in there. exciting:)

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 03, 2007 5:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Thanks for all the comments on this issue. I am now into adding the variation mode of the G2 into the patching. It can be used as a sort of memory, turning on and off different modular voices. The G2 is a great machine when it comes to interacting with other gear. And the Doepfer MCV24 is a good companion. There are times when a ghost appears in the midi cables, but it is very rare, and I do´nt really know who to blame.
I add a mp3 I have done lately with my gear.
Per
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 03, 2007 10:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

per,

how much are you finding yourself using the doepfer lfo/envelope units?

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 3:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I do not use the MCV24 software or G2 LFO/envelopes at all, as I have enough of it in the hardware modular. Another reason is that they are hidden in the menu system, and menu systems are boring.
What I use a lot is the Random trig/Random CV/Note scaling modules of the G2. I normally make all my patches in a pentatonic a minor (cdeag). Then there are no risk of bad sounding intervals, as e + f when using the random generators.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 11:41 pm    Post subject: Re: Analogue and Real... Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

seraph wrote:
Per wrote:
real electrons running through the wires.

Very Happy do electrons sound better than digits Question Wink


Yes they do, and there is no sample delay in feedback paths ...

Now, after many years, that i have both analog and digital in my studio, I think a hybrid approach to modular synthesis is a better choice than having only digital synths ....

Digital is amazing for having all the available power and complexity to create a complex oscillation or modulation source , but fusing it with true analog mixing and filtering fills in ever so nicely ....

Just sayin',
Dasz

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lambshain



Joined: Dec 04, 2011
Posts: 14
Location: germany

PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2011 10:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

excellent post! really inspiring.

i had similar thoughts but in inverse matter.

i got my modularsystem (analogue) first, to finally end with a g2 engine,

and the combi of both is great. i love the sharing of patches, storability of

the g2, but would not like to miss my analogue modular system or all my old

guitar effect pedals... Smile
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Infrablue



Joined: Dec 29, 2011
Posts: 123
Location: Utah

PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2012 3:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Killer project, Per! Enjoyed the tracks!

I have been getting set up to have my G2 communicate with my Alesis Andromeda. There are a limited amount of midi inputs for modulation with the Andromeda but enough that it's worth doing.

Again it is just being sure both do the job they are best at. Anything sliding around or oscillating needs to be the real analog, but patching data through midi from the G2 is worthwhile for behind the scenes changes... like modulation amounts and speeds of actual analog LFO's etc.

A friend of mine and I were talking the other day about the ultimate project like this but it would be so expensive... something like a huge Doepfer system with all connections going to a physical patch bay that could be re routed, again still physically by a computer processor. Each knob of every module would also need to be servo controlled. So every path and pot would need to be physically movable by software.

Something like this could even store patches and be patched from a computer screen but building the hardware interface and programming the software would just be quite costly.

Maybe it would be cheaper to develop a quantum computer with physical world resolution to flawlessly emulate voltage sonically.

I love the work you are doing... best thing I have seen of merging the two worlds. Great stuff!
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SugarRatz



Joined: Aug 30, 2011
Posts: 59
Location: Brooklyn

PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2012 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

interesting stuff
awesome job man!

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