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DSM03 Early Impressions

chysn

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DSM03 Early Impressions
« on: October 26, 2016, 05:34:41 PM »
My DSM03 arrived today. After picking it up from UPS, I had to wait a few hours to install it, because work. But... no work tomorrow, because DSM03!

The DSM03 is a challenging module. Its controls are non-orthogonal; they all act in different ways, depending on how the other controls are set. Modulation might do nothing, or it might produce extreme effects, and it's going to take a little while to find the sweet spots. The sweets spots that I have found are awesome, and hint at fascinating sounds that can be achieved through study and practice: Artificial echoes, transient blips, organic plucked or struck surfaces. Lots of wonderful motion is possible.

My impression so far is that it's mostly a sound shaper. It does have the ability to produce sound with a trigger input passing a bit of noise through an internal VCA, controlled with an Attack/Decay EG. The untuned noise goes into the tuned signal path, and the result is theoretically tuned sound. Realistically, this is of pretty limited use. The cutoff frequency of the internal filter significantly affects intonation, so the volt-per-octave is totally out of whack when the filter is fully-open. If I tune one note to an oscillator, the DSM03's pitch is audibly out of tune a minor third (!) from the starting point, and about a semitone off at one octave. So, pretty bad. The volt-per-octave behaves itself when the filter is half-closed (if you very carefully tune it); unfortunately, the most interesting plucked sounds come from a fully- or close-to-open filter, and the half-closed filter really isn't that interesting. It also takes filter modulation pretty much off the table if you want to stay in tune. In short, the DSM03 isn't going to be adequate for Karplus-Strong synthesis, unless one has the ambition to sample it.

I put in a support email to DSI to see if there's a calibration procedure ("Manual online at www.davesmithinstruments.com" says the sticker on the box, but... not yet). I'd like nothing more than to find out that she can be tuned up in a useful way. But for now, I plan to explore the "sound mangling" aspect of the module.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2016, 06:30:40 PM by chysn »
DSI: DSM03; previously: Mopho Keyboard, Desktop Mopho, Evolver, DSM01
Hardware: Eurorack, Moog Little Phatty w/ CV Outs, Arturia MicroBrute, KMI QuNexus
Software: macOS, Ableton, MuseScore
Modular Grid: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/354385
GitHub: https://github.com/chysn

Re: DSM03 Early Impressions
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2016, 04:58:10 AM »
Yeah it sounds like DSM03 needs a little care possibly by its developers. Wonder if the software can be upgraded by the customer or if that process requires a factory visit? Wonder if DSI plans to make updates if there are problems with its current design. After all this is the first module design featuring new software and not just using ingredients from existing synthesizer designs. Look forward to see how your experience with the product evolves!

And congratulations with your new module! :)
« Last Edit: October 27, 2016, 04:59:55 AM by dslsynth »
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Re: DSM03 Early Impressions
« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2016, 05:12:22 AM »
Couldn't you feed a pitch controlled oscillator signal into the tuning input?
Ableton Live 9 Suite & Push 2 (macOS) | Arturia BeatStep Pro | DSI Pro 2 | KMI QuNexus | Korg Volca Beats | Moog MF-104M Analog Delay | Moog Minitaur | Moog Model 15 App | Moog Sub 37 Tribute Edition | Sequential Prophet-6

chysn

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Re: DSM03 Early Impressions
« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2016, 06:03:53 AM »
Couldn't you feed a pitch controlled oscillator signal into the tuning input?

If the input expects 1v/oct (roughly) CV, then an audio signal will just function as audio-rate modulation. It didn't really do anything of note with the DSM03, but now I'm curious about how my analog oscillators will respond to that kind of thing....

Two minutes later... The answer (using two analog oscillators) is that it sounds almost like a ring modulator sweep. It's potentially a useful patch. Like a Dalek blowing its nose. It's basically exponential FM.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2016, 06:08:59 AM by chysn »
DSI: DSM03; previously: Mopho Keyboard, Desktop Mopho, Evolver, DSM01
Hardware: Eurorack, Moog Little Phatty w/ CV Outs, Arturia MicroBrute, KMI QuNexus
Software: macOS, Ableton, MuseScore
Modular Grid: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/354385
GitHub: https://github.com/chysn

Re: DSM03 Early Impressions
« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2016, 07:23:47 AM »
Couldn't you feed a pitch controlled oscillator signal into the tuning input?

If the input expects 1v/oct (roughly) CV, then an audio signal will just function as audio-rate modulation. It didn't really do anything of note with the DSM03, but now I'm curious about how my analog oscillators will respond to that kind of thing....

Two minutes later... The answer (using two analog oscillators) is that it sounds almost like a ring modulator sweep.

I see. So the tuning input basically requires a note scaling signal.

It's potentially a useful patch. Like a Dalek blowing its nose. It's basically exponential FM.

Haha, that makes for a great signature line.
Ableton Live 9 Suite & Push 2 (macOS) | Arturia BeatStep Pro | DSI Pro 2 | KMI QuNexus | Korg Volca Beats | Moog MF-104M Analog Delay | Moog Minitaur | Moog Model 15 App | Moog Sub 37 Tribute Edition | Sequential Prophet-6

chysn

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Re: DSM03 Early Impressions
« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2016, 05:25:42 AM »
I see. So the tuning input basically requires a note scaling signal.

"Requires" is often a funny word in eurorack because control and audio are in about the same voltage range, and modulation with audio is common. My understanding is that Buchla separates CV from audio, and even enforces that separation with different cables, so that flexibility is not a philosophy of modular synthesis in general.

But, yeah, the DSM03 seems to actually require a DC voltage for its tuning CV; modulation with audio does not do anything.

I'm a bit conflicted about the DSM03. Without tuning, it's basically a short CV-controllable delay. It sounds nice, but I haven't been able to do what I really wanted to do with it.
DSI: DSM03; previously: Mopho Keyboard, Desktop Mopho, Evolver, DSM01
Hardware: Eurorack, Moog Little Phatty w/ CV Outs, Arturia MicroBrute, KMI QuNexus
Software: macOS, Ableton, MuseScore
Modular Grid: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/354385
GitHub: https://github.com/chysn

Re: DSM03 Early Impressions
« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2016, 06:17:33 AM »
"Requires" is often a funny word in eurorack because control and audio are in about the same voltage range, and modulation with audio is common. My understanding is that Buchla separates CV from audio, and even enforces that separation with different cables, so that flexibility is not a philosophy of modular synthesis in general.

An interesting note. Accordingly, I'd be a Buchla guy, because that system seems to be the most natural for me.
Ableton Live 9 Suite & Push 2 (macOS) | Arturia BeatStep Pro | DSI Pro 2 | KMI QuNexus | Korg Volca Beats | Moog MF-104M Analog Delay | Moog Minitaur | Moog Model 15 App | Moog Sub 37 Tribute Edition | Sequential Prophet-6

chysn

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Re: DSM03 Early Impressions
« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2016, 07:33:51 AM »
"Requires" is often a funny word in eurorack because control and audio are in about the same voltage range, and modulation with audio is common. My understanding is that Buchla separates CV from audio, and even enforces that separation with different cables, so that flexibility is not a philosophy of modular synthesis in general.

An interesting note. Accordingly, I'd be a Buchla guy, because that system seems to be the most natural for me.

Whenever I think about becoming a Buchla guy, which I've thought about quite a bit, for various reasons*, I start looking at Buchla stuff and remember that I can't afford to be a Buchla guy. Eurorack offers a lot of ways to try some of those techniques (like complex waveforms, wave folding, low pass gates, function generators) without breaking the bank.

* For one thing, look at the colors!

DSI: DSM03; previously: Mopho Keyboard, Desktop Mopho, Evolver, DSM01
Hardware: Eurorack, Moog Little Phatty w/ CV Outs, Arturia MicroBrute, KMI QuNexus
Software: macOS, Ableton, MuseScore
Modular Grid: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/354385
GitHub: https://github.com/chysn

Re: DSM03 Early Impressions
« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2016, 07:43:56 AM »
Whenever I think about becoming a Buchla guy, which I've thought about quite a bit, for various reasons*, I start looking at Buchla stuff and remember that I can't afford to be a Buchla guy. Eurorack offers a lot of ways to try some of those techniques (like complex waveforms, wave folding, low pass gates, function generators) without breaking the bank.

* For one thing, look at the colors!



I was half-joking of course, since the only Buchla that could fall into my range would be a Music Easel (as in: slightly realistic "saving up for" goals). As I don't expect to become a millionaire anytime soon, any Buchla system will remain out of reach for me. I do like the character (and colors!) of those instruments a lot though.
Ableton Live 9 Suite & Push 2 (macOS) | Arturia BeatStep Pro | DSI Pro 2 | KMI QuNexus | Korg Volca Beats | Moog MF-104M Analog Delay | Moog Minitaur | Moog Model 15 App | Moog Sub 37 Tribute Edition | Sequential Prophet-6

Re: DSM03 Early Impressions
« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2016, 09:09:13 AM »
I did nearly get an Easel, I was on the waiting list at a dealers in the UK but when the time came and one became available I balked at the price.

So I guess I'm not a Buchla guy either!

chysn

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Re: DSM03 Early Impressions
« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2016, 10:01:42 AM »
So, here's my response from DSI:

Quote from: DSI Support
I'm glad you like the sound of your Feedback Module! The DSM03 Feedback Module’s tuned feedback delay has a 9-octave range, most noticeable when it oscillates. The tuned feedback loop will track reasonably well at 1V/octave over a 3-4 octave range via CV. Because the lowpass filter is in the feedback path, it is important to adjust the filter settings for best results. In other words, the filter settings will affect tracking accuracy – 12 o’clock is a good starting point. When an audio signal is passed through the input, the feedback tends to lock to frequencies of the input signal. So, a pitched audio input will result in closer feedback tracking while non-pitched audio will give less predictable results.

So that means (to me) have tracking, or have a sound I like, but not both. That's pretty depressing.
DSI: DSM03; previously: Mopho Keyboard, Desktop Mopho, Evolver, DSM01
Hardware: Eurorack, Moog Little Phatty w/ CV Outs, Arturia MicroBrute, KMI QuNexus
Software: macOS, Ableton, MuseScore
Modular Grid: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/354385
GitHub: https://github.com/chysn

Re: DSM03 Early Impressions
« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2016, 11:02:30 AM »
Does the filter setting effect the tuning in a linear manner?

If so could you use and offset/attenuator to bring the tuning CV into line?

Re: DSM03 Early Impressions
« Reply #12 on: October 28, 2016, 12:30:16 PM »
https://www.voltagecontrollab.com/2016/07/05/karplus-strong-mutable-warps/

Interesting remarks regarding clocked delays and pitch tracking (i.e., fuggedaboutit if you expect 1V/oct tracking, though it appears that Mutable uses a sine wave as the "seed")....
« Last Edit: October 28, 2016, 12:33:34 PM by DavidDever »
Sequential / DSI / Pioneer stuff: Prophet-12 desktop, Pro-2, AS-1, Prophet-600 Gligli, Prophet 2000

chysn

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Re: DSM03 Early Impressions
« Reply #13 on: October 28, 2016, 01:53:59 PM »
Certainly things to consider, with respect to tuning. Mr. The Dog, changing the taper of the CV is a fascinating idea. Since the intonation goes flat, attenuation might not work, but if I get ambitious in the future, it's worth trying.

DavidD, playing it with an unquantized sequencer (as mentioned in the article) seems promising, if there's a passage that I want to grit my teeth about being in tune.

In the meantime, I'm accidentally getting sounds from this thing that I'm simply not willing to part with. So it's staying where it is. Actually, I need to move it from my "sound source" section to my "sound shaper" section, but after that, it's staying where it is.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2016, 02:35:41 PM by chysn »
DSI: DSM03; previously: Mopho Keyboard, Desktop Mopho, Evolver, DSM01
Hardware: Eurorack, Moog Little Phatty w/ CV Outs, Arturia MicroBrute, KMI QuNexus
Software: macOS, Ableton, MuseScore
Modular Grid: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/354385
GitHub: https://github.com/chysn

Re: DSM03 Early Impressions
« Reply #14 on: October 28, 2016, 03:40:30 PM »
Now that you know the limitations of the DSM03 module can you see other modules out there that could help you realize your Karplus Strong synthesis vision? How about Mutable Instruments Rings? I remember a video from Superbooth16 that showed off another such module.

Wonder what the lack of proper tracking actually results from? Is it a general limitation in the Karplus Strong synthesis method or a result of specific implementation choices by DSI?
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Re: DSM03 Early Impressions
« Reply #15 on: October 28, 2016, 04:20:39 PM »
I remember a video from Superbooth16 that showed off another such module.

Here it is: The Audio Damage Proton: http://www.audiodamage.com/hardware/product.php?pid=ADM17
Ableton Live 9 Suite & Push 2 (macOS) | Arturia BeatStep Pro | DSI Pro 2 | KMI QuNexus | Korg Volca Beats | Moog MF-104M Analog Delay | Moog Minitaur | Moog Model 15 App | Moog Sub 37 Tribute Edition | Sequential Prophet-6

chysn

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Re: DSM03 Early Impressions
« Reply #16 on: October 28, 2016, 06:36:52 PM »
Now that you know the limitations of the DSM03 module can you see other modules out there that could help you realize your Karplus Strong synthesis vision?

For somebody who really must do K-S synthesis, there's the Audio Damage Proton.

As you go along with building a modular system, the vision changes. My vision hasn't changed radically, as it still involves putting together a modular instrument that evokes the Evolver. The DSM03 and the Curtis filter, together, do this really well. As I was playing around with the DSM03, I hit that sound in a lot of different ways. It was like an old friend. If I sent back the DSM03, I'd lose a sound that I already gave up once.

Aside from that, the DSM03 fills in some gaps. I was considering getting a reverb module down the road (Pittsburgh Verbtronic). The DSM03 does that sort of artificial-space reverb nicely, and I no longer need to consider the Verbtronic. Crank down the time value, and you have a nice delay, with the ability to generate woody, alive-sounding percussion with an LFO.

When I thought about how often I'd actually do K-S synthesis versus how good the DSM03 is at everything else, it became a really clear decision.

I hope to have some demos over the weekend. The barrier is that I'm no good at YouTube yet, so I feel a bit out of my comfort zone.

Meanwhile, if you have four minutes, and want to hear the sort of thing that sends me into Salieri-like fits of exuberance at the thing existing and despair at my own inadequacy, put on some headphones, turn off the lights, and listen to this from the 11:09 mark:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xzDLbjUrrY&t=11m9s
DSI: DSM03; previously: Mopho Keyboard, Desktop Mopho, Evolver, DSM01
Hardware: Eurorack, Moog Little Phatty w/ CV Outs, Arturia MicroBrute, KMI QuNexus
Software: macOS, Ableton, MuseScore
Modular Grid: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/354385
GitHub: https://github.com/chysn

Re: DSM03 Early Impressions
« Reply #17 on: October 28, 2016, 10:20:03 PM »
Certainly things to consider, with respect to tuning. Mr. The Dog, changing the taper of the CV is a fascinating idea. Since the intonation goes flat, attenuation might not work, but if I get ambitious in the future, it's worth trying.

Ah Ok, then an amplifier/scaler would maybe help.

chysn

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Re: DSM03 Early Impressions
« Reply #18 on: October 29, 2016, 06:34:57 AM »
Certainly things to consider, with respect to tuning. Mr. The Dog, changing the taper of the CV is a fascinating idea. Since the intonation goes flat, attenuation might not work, but if I get ambitious in the future, it's worth trying.

Ah Ok, then an amplifier/scaler would maybe help.

My system is relatively small (144HP), so I'll have to work with what I have. I wrote a chromatic quantizer for Mutable Instruments Peaks. Since the Cortex M3 doesn't do floating-point arithmetic, I just built a lookup table for 12th-root-of-2-to-the-nth. I could use a voltage generator, a meter, and a tuner to find in-tune voltages and modify my chromatic lookup table accordingly. When I get into a particularly neckbeardy mode, I may do that.
DSI: DSM03; previously: Mopho Keyboard, Desktop Mopho, Evolver, DSM01
Hardware: Eurorack, Moog Little Phatty w/ CV Outs, Arturia MicroBrute, KMI QuNexus
Software: macOS, Ableton, MuseScore
Modular Grid: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/354385
GitHub: https://github.com/chysn

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Re: DSM03 Early Impressions
« Reply #19 on: November 02, 2016, 02:55:22 PM »
FWIW, I've never confirmed in person that a delay module tracks perfectly at 1V/Oct. I've played with a few in person, and the demonstrations always fall a little short of demonstrating good KS-- even the more expensive and larger (HP-wise) modules. I've heard reports that a lot of models are capable of it though... the DLD, the Rainmaker, the older 128 stage Deopfer BBD's, the Echophon, etc. So far I haven't been able to confirm any of them for good 1V/Oct.

I hope to get the time to check out the Feedback module in person soon... Hopefully I'll be able to test it against all of the above. I was set on the Rainmaker when it came out, but it is a bit too large for my preferences. The DLD is probably my favorite as it has a ton of potential for live performance. Again though, I really like simpler modules-- I'm attracted to Doepfer for that reason. Of course my 2048 stage BBD has delays that are much too long for trackable KS. The Feedback module seems like the perfect solution-- If I'd had more time last week I would've ordered it without testing it!

Anyways, if I can, I'll test one out soon and see if I have different results than what has already been posted.