Intellijel modules: design, usability, theory, philosophy, etc

This is interesting. I’m still planning my first system and what I build on Modulargrid always ends up 20-80% Intellijel and 20-50% Mannequins. Echoing others in the thread, I’m drawn to the utilitarian aesthetic (both visually and apparently architecturally/conceptually) and how they seem like neutrals in the palette.

Maybe a bit off-topic but to your point - recently I wonder if I could use a bit more color in the initial setup. Some Mutable Instruments, Meng Qi, and 4MS look interesting, as does the Zorlon Cannon, and then there’s some DIY stuff like Nonlinear Circuits that looks unruly and maybe of limited use, but fun and unique.

My original plan was to make a complex oscillator out of a Dixie II+ and a Rubicon II and an additional voice with a Plonk. I don’t mind a little menu diving. (The other relatively complex module I have is a Scales and I learnt to use it in a couple of dedicated sessions. I’m not using it lately though and it might leave). I have a Dixie II+ and I will still get a Plonk, but I’m going for a Mangrove to try with the Dixie instead.
I guess you need to start somewhere. If by color you mean sound and you like digital oscillators, I like the new Qu-bit Chord v2. Shapeshifter is too big for me, but seems super versitile and worth considering.
A big change I made to my plans is I’m sequencing with Ansible+Grids instead of Metropolis (though I’d still love to try it in the future).

Yep, I just mean anything with character or anything that isn’t too utilitarian. I haven’t looked much at wavetable oscillators aside from Plaits. Polyphony and chords seem useful.

I too am eyeing the Mangrove, which does have a decent amount of character/color on its own. I plan to build my first system around it - it would be the only audio source besides Three Sisters.

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I also have quite a few of their modules…

I really like the OTA filter core they use. I have 2 Dr. Octatures (a mkI and mkII). I like that they put input levels controls on their filters something that I’ve seen other premium filters skip on.

I have a Quarda (with expander), it’s always the first modulation source I go to. I’m secretly hopeful that the Quadrax leads to a flooding of the market of used Quadras as I’d like another.

I’ve also been strongly considering picking up an Atlantis to form the core of a small tabletop system. For a semi-modular voice it does look to have well thought out patching points.

Tetrapad is really a game changer. It can be a pressure points, Polyend Preset/Emblematic Catalyst, LFOs, can do so much and it does it so well, and it’s somehow still very simple to use and intuitive. One of my fav modules for sure, and being able to animate it all with Tete will be sublime.

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We are so excited to shoot and share videos of the Tete. As soon as the Quadrax videos launch, we’ll be diving into Tete/Tetrapad.

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Long time lurker of this forum and I think this is a good thread for my first post because I own two cases (84hp and Palette) of only Intellijel modules. I think there is a great mixture of east/west coast philosophy in the selection of modules; Roland and Korg, Buchla and Serge stuff. I love the aesthetics and the design. I’ve started my system a couple of years ago and I don’t regret my choice.
Nice to finally introduce myself!

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Of course I must ask you to share your modulargrids!!!

What modules do you consider to be Buchla or Serge influenced?

Not op, but I’d say the Quadra is pretty Buchla inspired. But beyond that I’m curious what else.

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(Since I’m a new member I can only post one image; my Palette case is pretty much the Atlantis, Linix and uModII)
I consider the combination of Rubicon,Dixie and uFold are like the Buchla 259 and the Shapeshifter sort of like a 259e. The Quadra is pretty much a Buchla 281.
The Shifty is sort of an analog shift register (like the Serge) and the mixture of Rubicon/Dixie with Planar is reminding me of the Serge NTO (even tough it’s sort of a new module).
This is, of course, very subjective and debatable. I also think that the ideas behind these modules are solid concepts on their own and the Intellijel team is really talented.

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Shifty and Triatt (or now Quadratt or Triplatt)

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What’s your experience been patching Dixie+Rubi+uFold? I guess there are multiple possibilities, but how much do they behave like a complex oscillator? Any comments are appreciated. I didn’t find much around other than it is Indeed a good combo.

Btw, beautiful system!

Reading getting started in owner’s manual for the Buchla easel and the Make Noise DPO were valuable lessons in patching a complex oscillator without normalizations and it gave me insights on the philosophy behind it. For the type of sounds, Todd Barton’s Buchla 200 tutorials, Make Noise Shared System videos were good references.
Animating the oscillators with cross modulation feedback (fm or pwm), slewed random in the folder is a complex sound I can’t get enough of! :slight_smile:
There’s also thru-zero fm, patched as a cv panned stereo moving gong is a type of sound I could listen to for hours.
I would suggest mixer modules especially VCA mixer (I use Linix and/or Planar) and lots of modulation sources (pretty much the rest of my system).

Btw thanks! Reading your post about building your system, be aware that a complex oscillator is not everyone’s favourite sound. It can get very harsh and growly. When I make music with my friend I almost never use those sounds. I use them a lot in more personal abstract stuff.

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You are not going to easily get the low/high harmonics manipulation of the 259 timbre section.

See mritenburg’s post
https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=189207

Moreover besides normalizations, the Verbos CO for example has vactrol slewing of the mod bus.
The FG has other conveniences like cross mod built in to modulator, linear/exponential switch, external mod input, noise mod, etc.

In actual practice you are going to get complex sounds out of Rubicon plus thru zero, of course. So you should get whatever you like the overall sound of.

Personally I like everything (e.g. Verbos CO, FG, Rubicon, DPO) for different reasons!

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Thanks both for your replies. The simple sight of the Rubicon is intimidating. I guess I’ll need to go through a bit of a learning curve. But the few sound demos of the Rubicon I found show some complex sounds I liked. It will be a matter of experimentaron as well. I’ll take it easy. In the meantime I decided to go for a Quadra Expander before there’s no more stock and will see what I manage to do with the Dixie+Mangrove.
For some reason I thought the Quadrax wasn’t a replace for the Quadra and both were gonna be kept in production. But I see they are no longer displayed in Intellijel’s site.

This is interesting! I’d love to hear some audio examples of the audio rate FM.

I think Intellijel really shine at the pragmatic, perhaps less sexy aspects of modular such as case and utility design. Adding the Mixup to my case really simplified what was once a painstaking awkward process of getting a useful mix down, while at the same time providing an unexpectedly fun and expressive layer of interaction with the mutes and quick volume knobs. Quad VCA is densely featured with a design that doesn’t seem to get in the way (In contrast it always took a few minutes to remember exactly how Make Noise’s optomix LPG or 4MS’s VCA matrix worked). I at first balked at spending so much money on a case and a row of 1u utilities but this is the sort of thing that you feel very grateful having done - I love being able to count on a solid line level signal coming out the back of the case and not having power modules cluttering up the rack.

Plonk is the only non-utilityish module I have. I’ve considered selling it multiple times but then I play it again and realize I can’t part with it. It reminds me of plaits in that it has a very immediate top level interface but the range of sounds you can get out of it is pretty immense. I think it’s really well designed for what it’s supposed to be, though sonically it is a bit too clean/plasticy. They have addressed this some with the saturator and bitcrusher additions in a firmware update, but It still sounds best when processed/dirtied up a bit with other modules. I do wish they would allow a 100% dry exciter output option so that I could send that into rings or resonant filters.

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I think my strongest feeling/conclusion about Intellijel is that of the more sub-menu/button combo sorts of module designs, their’s are the most intuitive. So, it’s a good way to dip your toes into that sort of module if you’re interested, but intimidated or hesitant. I try to avoid those generally as the appeal of modular is generally immediacy, and Quadrax may be too much for me for what you get from menu diving. However, the Plonk is about as feature dense as it gets for the timbral complexity you can get in such a minimal amount of hp, so I roll with it as the trade-off for menu diving.

Also, I kind of miss the older designs, I have a Spock and think it’s fantastic. I regularly ponder scouring the internet for a Flip Flop. Dixie I is great…all were more bread and butter what you see it what you get, but they are great! I also love the Shifty and I have each uScale/Scales depending on spatial needs. I’ve never gotten any of the fancier stuff outside of Plonk though.

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Hello! Long time lurker :slight_smile: This is of course an Interesting thread to read and I am happy to answer any questions about our design philosophies, objectives and approaches to creating modules.

We are actually coming up to our official ten year anniversary and so it is quite interesting to look back at how much has changed since we started out. This should be an interesting year for the evolution of intellijel :wink:

Although our designs have evolved quite a bit, I like to think there is one thing we have tried to keep consistent, especially with complex digital designs, and that is for the core functionality to be very apparent and easy to access from the front panel. All of the deeper functions are there to explore once you get more comfortable with the basics (or to be completely ignored).

The Quadrax follows this philosophy pretty closely; Without reading the manual you should be able to easily select different modes (only five to cycle through), trigger the functions and adjust their timing/shape. Then you can play with the link buttons to get a bit deeper on how adjacent envelopes can relate to each other. After that you can explore simple CV mapping (ignore the matrix aspect at first) and press and hold a channel you want to assign CV for and use the default selected CV channel. e.g. Channel 1 defaults to CVA, Channel 2 defaults to CVB etc. This allows you to map one CV source to one channel and then choose 4 different destinations on the right side (rise/fall/shape/level). You could even ignore the attenuator steps and just use external attenuators since it defaults to full level anyhow. Then once you are comfortable with this you can try the mod matrix and built in attenuverter steps (step through levels of attenuation, press and hold to invert to negative). We’ll be posting some workflow and example videos next week. We put a lot of work into making everything logical and consistent with our other modules so that you would not need to keep referring to the manual. It was very important to us that the immediacy of the original Quadra was not lost on the Quadrax.

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Hi Danjel! :slight_smile: I do believe it’s a great design decision to go with buttons to select different functions instead of a whole bunch of switches that would probably take up a lot of space on a module. The Quadrax is definitely on my list because
1.more functionality in less HP and still a “player” mindset (by player I mean a system that’s playable completely, the less menu diving the better BUT it doesn’t matter if I have to select a functionality from a button or a switch as long as the design of it is performance oriented or “player”).
2.the Quadra is an essential part of my system but the features are so great on the Quadrax; Burst,Bi our Uni polar control, CV inputs 5v or 10v options and everything else!

That’s what will guide my choice of modules. I just bought a Steppy 1u yesterday and it seems packed with functionality but still intuitive and VERY “player” :slight_smile:
I’m sure the Quadrax will be a great success! btw thank you for making amazing stuff. I play my instrument every day and I enjoy it so much. I’ll say it again, you and your team are awesome.

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