Re: More annoying Nord Modular questions

From Mark Pulver
Sent Sat, May 9th 1998, 13:51

Sean Costello (05:16 PM 5/8/98) wrote:

>1) Can the Nord Modular get as chaotic as an analog modular can get?  For
>example, what happens when two modulators cross-modulate each other?  On my
>Octave Cat, this can result in sounds ranging from siren noises to crazy
>freejazz saxophone squeals. Will the Nord Modular go crazy in a nice way
>when lots of feedback is used?  Or will it go crazy in a less nice way (i.e.
>horrible digital clipping)? Or are there limitations to the device that make
>the feedback fit within "acceptable," boring constraints?

It'll clip and squeal, but not purely in an analog sense. It's not ugly
digital though either. For example, when creating a feedback loop, it won't
keep running away up into oblivion, it tends to stop at some point. You
*can* easily do the sax squeals that you're talking about.

Any time that you have distortion, like say, groosly overdriving a filter,
the result is okay, it's not really warm analog, but it's much nicer than
harsh digital. If you're really intending on distorting something, then the
distortion module does a VERY nice job.

>2) Are the modules as versatile as their analog equivalents?  For example,
>can a lowpass filter be used on a control voltage to produce portamento?

You can do the connections, but I don't think it comes out as portamento.

In fact, I can't see my modular gear doing this either... Are you sure that
the effect your seeing isn't caused by some wild design from a Serge
component or somesuch?

>Can you use a multiplier, "VCO," and lowpass filter to create a phase locked

Yes, this will work.

>How many of the modules operate at audio as well as control 

LFOs, sequencers, S&H, X-Fader, Clock Divider, Logic module...

>3) Can the external inputs supply control signals, as well as input to the
>filters? I am not looking to put DC voltage into the audio in; what I would
>like to do is have a filter cutoff modulated by the input signal.  And
>modulate everything else by the input signal, for that matter.


>4) Do the oscillators model drift and jitter?

No, they track hard on.

>If not, has anyone tried
>setting up random functions that might simulate drift and jitter (like
>running noise through a lowpass filter)?

Yes. It works like you'd expect.

>Can you vary the "noise" generator to output within a certain frequency 

The noise generator in the v1.10 release runs from "White" to "Colored" but
it's an arbitrary scale. You can run it through a filter of course to get
tighter results. The v2.0 release of the system (about 6 weeks out) I
believe includes a new noise module.

>5) How versatile are the built-in sequencers?  Can they duplicate the
>behavior of, say, the Serge TKB?

I haven't had hands-on with a TKB, so I pass on this one.

>Can you change the number of steps per sequencer?

Yes, absolutely.

>Can you change the number of steps on the fly, like the Moog
>960, for that Tangerine Dream "Phaedra" effect?

Yes. under knob or MIDI controller control, or from the UI. I think I
remember a little bird telling me that there are developments in seqeuncer
control with the 2.0 rev.

>Can the pitches be assigned to knobs on the Nord Modular panel?

Yes. Also to MIDI Controllers and as a Morph group.

>6) What is the quantization for the control signals?  Is there obvious
>stepping when you turn a knob?

I can't tell you off the top of my head what the bit quantizing is, but
there is no obvious stepping when doign something like manually adjusting
the filter cutoff. Where there are some "issues" are where you have a lot
of signals heading through a mixer and you're trying to level balance say,
6 VCOs. There's a definite dead-spot in the algorithm for the mixer input
up in the first 70% of knob range. ie, a sound source will suddenly just
"pop in" when the knob hits about 3 o'clock, and then you have limited
resolution from 3 to 5.

This seems to be more of an issue with a loaded module like a multi-input
mixer, the other single/double input controls like the frequency inputs on
the VCOs do *not* behave this way.

>7) Most importantly, how does it sound?  I have read that the filters pale
>next to a Moog 904, but how do they compare to a CEM synth like a Rev 3

The "Classic 24db filter" is thinner than a 904, fatter than a P5 rev 3,
fatter than a P5 rev 2. "Filter E" is the Nord Lead filter, "Filter F" (the
Classic) is the Roland 100m.

There is at least one new filter coming in v2.0 of the system.

The sound is ballsy, but not bottom heavy. You can get a big sound, but
it's not over-bottom filled. Pulling off bells and such does *not* create
digital aliasing, and playing up high with clamped filters produces a nice
smooth sound.

>I like the power of the Prophet 5, but the actual sound of the CEM
>filters is a bit lacking, in my book (whereas my most used synth is probably
>my Moog Rogue, simply because I love that filter sound).

The NordM can easily hold it's own against the Rogue. 

>A detailed
>comparison to different 4-pole filters would be nice (Moog, Roland IR3109,
>ARP 4075). 

Remember Sean, there are three variable filters in the system and 3 static.
The comparisions that I'm drawing here are based on looking at the
"Classic" filter which tends to be the fullest/fattest.

  Thinner than the 904A (what isn't?:)
  As full as the Mini, but not as smooth
  Closest probably to the Micro/Multi filter
  Much Fatter than the Orange 2600 (I think this is the 4075?) 
  (the IR3109 is the rev 3 MKS80 right?)
  Fatter than the MKS-70
  Much less "Roland MKS" sounding (I got real sick of the -70 sound)

>How do the oscillators sound on the Nord Modular?  Does bandwidth
>interpolation on the oscillators result in any strange results when doing a
>filter sweep (i.e. is the sound there, or is there something "lacking")?

You can do a nice long sweep and be very happy. I'd fire mine up and cut
you an MPG, but with the site trashed, I have no easy way to get it to you.
I'm away from email for the weekend, but we can work soemthing out on
Monday if you'd like.

>I've tried checking Mark Pulver's Midiwall site, but I simply get a file
>directory. I've read the latest Sound on Sound, but I want to know more.
>Help me Analogkenobi, you're my only hope!

You haven't been paying attention to the MIDIWall status updates that I've
been broadcasting all over the net. :)

The site was hacked last Saturday; everything is gone. My hosting service
is being anything but helpful in putting stuff back. They claim that
backups from up to 5 weeks ago are corrupted by the daemon that took the
site. I think they're lying and simply don't have backups.

They are VERY unresponsive in helping this issue, even to the point of
simply fixing up a permission issue that the hack left behind so that I can
at least put up a 404 /missing page.

It's a mess...

Later on man!

Mark Pulver - Home of the "MIDI 2nd Bedroom Featuring the Modular Closet" - Nord Mod: