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Sound Advice: the NE advice column, volume 1

Welcome to a new series here on the blog! A few weeks back, we posted on social media asking you to email in your questions for our new advice column. And you did! So here’s the column. If you want to ask a question for our next column, send us an email.

Limiters are a very common tool for producing music in a DAW, but in the Eurorack world, I'm not really seeing them being used. I spent countless hours looking for a proper limiter module with no luck. Why are we not getting more limiter love?

That’s a great question! And one we’ve asked ourselves, too. There are only a few limiters in Eurorack, and once we found one we liked we got a bunch of it (in total there are six WMD MSCLs scattered around the NE systems). Limiters are extremely useful tools for dynamic shaping and as a mixing tool. You may notice, though, that it’s not just limiters that are missing from the Eurorack ecosystem: most types of mixing utilities are few and far between. (The NE team can attest to how incredibly excited Markus was that someone finally made a tilt EQ module after 25 years.) Other types of compressors, EQs, soft saturation, and all the other tools that you’d want to achieve a nice mix are few and far between.

We can speculate on the reasons for this all day long, but have no fear: it’s something we’ve thought about, too, and we’re looking at what we want to do about it.

I got into Noise Engineering with the Mimetic Digitalis. I still love it and use it in every patch. Do you plan on making any even more powerful complex sequencers?

In short, yes! We have LOTS of ideas for new modules. This is both a blessing and a curse, as it means that we always have things to work on, but we can’t work on ALL THE THINGS. I can’t give away any details about future modules, but we’re actively working on... things that will probably interest you. No promises on when they’ll come out or what they’ll actually do, though… which leads us to a related question:

Why won’t you give details about modules in progress?

Great question! We do… sort of… sometimes. But only late in the development stage. We’ve found over time that we can get overly eager to make something that seems really fantastic on paper but in practice is really not something we believe in as a product. We may even build things out and prototype them a couple of times before we give up and say there’s nothing here, or we can’t make a concept work as we want it to. We have several modules in the NE graveyard. Other times, we’ll have ideas that morph pretty dramatically -- so if we talked about it too soon, the final product wouldn’t really resemble the thing we touted early on. The Kith Ruina is a good example of this -- we had a very different module (Kith Kharact) that we cannibalized to make the KR. We hoped it would be cool but the initial idea was not. Even the aforementioned Mimetic Digitalis evolved dramatically over the many incarnations before we put it into the world. So now we show things only when we’re pretty sure they are reasonably close to feature complete. Of course the number of things we have in the pipeline (and definitely 2020) have shaped how those things end up being released.

Why don't we see much of Tonnetz Sequent in people's racks and patches?

I think the next question basically answers this question, funnily enough (and weren’t we surprised to get TWO Tonnetz questions!). Tonnetz is a somewhat nerdy module that takes a bit of work to really understand deeply. There were only a few hundred ever made, so not that many are out there. I suspect the manual made it seem a bit more daunting to use than it is, though another side of this is that TS is meant for polyphonic patches, and a lot of people tend to not work with polyphony in Eurorack. I think that’s changed over the past few years, and polyphony has become way more popular in the modular world, but when TS was discontinued, modular tended toward monophonic patching.

I recently got a Tonnetz Sequent and even though I really like it, it's quite hard to wrap my brain around it completely (limited musical knowledge doesn't really help). Any hints, tips, patch ideas or anything you want to share about this module?
Tonnetz Sequent is a fun one that takes a lot of experimentation and practice to get to know. TS was designed to generate triads so, of course, with three voices you can play the triads as chords. But another fun way to use TS is with three voices that don’t trigger at the same time. This will produce three harmonically related pitches giving you a sort of deconstructed chord. TS can also be pretty fun for just sequencing a single voice!

Are the three seashells on some older NE faceplates a reference to the film Demolition Man? I live in what will become San Angeles (once San Diego and Los Angeles merge into one city) and I'm afraid Rob Schneider will see my simple synth setup and laugh at me, exclaiming "Ha! He doesn't know how to patch the three seashells!"

No, but that’s way cooler than what they actually are, so… Can we change our answer to yes?

Also, the hamburger on the LIP is definitely not meant to be a hamburger.

What is your favorite pasta shape?

Excellent question! Fun fact: Kris and Stephen own a book dedicated entirely to all the different shapes of pasta. NE doesn’t mess around when it comes to food.

Stephen: Bucatini, with Cavatapi and Orecchiette as close second and third place finalists.

Kris: BUCATINI IS THE ONE TRUE PASTA.

Markus: Farfalle! And also Spaghetti should be BANNED.

Ankoor: Rotini.

What made you decide to tie the Desmodus Versio in with bats?

Good question! There were a few reasons: first, we thought it was funny, because reverbs emulate echoes and bats use echolocation and… you get the idea. Second, it was a great opportunity to start another charity tie-in, this time with Bat Conservation International! We love bats because they’re cute, they’re extremely important to our ecosystem, and they’re the reason we have tequila. Conservation is important to us as a company (and as humans, too; Kris was a conservation biologist before joining NE) so it was the perfect partnership. You can learn more about bats and the role they play in our ecosystems at batcon.org. Funfact: Desmodus is the genus (part of the scientific name) for the vampire bat).

We hope you enjoyed this first edition of the NE advice column! Don’t forget to send in your questions for the next edition, coming sometime in the near future.

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