Make Noise modules: design, usability, theory, philosophy, etc


#1

Since they seem to invoke such varied reactions, let’s discuss Make Noise modules and devices.

when I first got into modular, Maths still had lightning bolts and intimidated me, but having actually used a current-gen model I’m planning to add it to my own setup. I tend to get along with their designs personally, and here are my initial thoughts on the MN modules I own or have owned:

  • Function: my first modulation source. No longer have it, but liked it enough that I plan to get a Maths. I think I’ll miss the HANG input a bit, though.
  • Morphagene: got it sort of on a whim since I love sampling/manipulation. It does have a personality that comes through as sounding “like a Morphagene” in certain settings, but I find I can easily avoid those or embrace them if I want. Sometimes I forget what each parameter refers to if I haven’t played it for awhile, but it comes back quickly and is, for me, always fun and almost always musical, even when I forget what I’m doing or let someone else mess with it.
  • LxD: my first/only low pass gate, but it does everything I expected it to and is nice and small! sometimes I wish I had the versatility of an Optomix, though.

what have you used? what’d you vibe with, or not?

we can change the topic name if it is too similar to the MI one, but I tend to like standardization :stuck_out_tongue:


#3

I have maths. Its great. But I think I’ll be getting a grayscale panel for it. (My 2p on this subject).

I like what MN is doing on their YT channel a lot. But the interface design on the modules leaves me cold, and confused.


#4

The early Make Noise panel style really turned me off - the nearly impossible-to-read text labels, in particular.

The company also liked to indulge in a bit of, shall we say, creative marketing speak. Sort of like the alpha version of what Whimsical Raps does now. Deliberate obfuscation is not my thing.

Then I got a Maths with a Greyscale panel, and had to admit the genus of it (and of Serge, whence the underlying idea came from).

They’ve gotten much better about educating the user and de-bullshittifying the marketing since those days. Although, my irritation with them flamed up again recently, when I went to hear Tony from MN give a talk billed as being about the Morphagene, and at the end of a rambling 1.5 hours he really had not talked about it at all. I did wonder if he has a bit of contempt for his customers.

But I still have and use that Maths w/ Greyscale, so I don’t suppose it really matters.


#5

I would just like to say in Make Noise’s defense that I think the amount of resources they pour into the educational content on their YouTube channel is amazing and totally unparalleled in the modular world. While the obtuseness of their design language is subjective, having concise video demonstrations showing lots of interesting techniques to try with their modules adds immense value to their offerings.


Mutable Instruments modules: design, usability, theory, philosophy, etc
#6

I kinda see what you mean here about a handful of the older modules but also think that the incredibly playable, deeply musical UI of morphagene (and the huge amount of programming/design effort they put into it) contradicts this sentiment.

edit: also re: “attitude”, having met pretty much everyone that works there, I can say assuredly that they really are wonderful people from top to bottom.


#7

Make Noise designs used to look crazy to me, but now that I have used a number of them, I find that they make sense to me more quickly than many sterile designs (though I have no problem with simple designs, either). I was noodling on a huge modular in a shop recently and found myself patching almost entirely with MN modules, which for whatever reason seemed to come more naturally to me than most of the rest when just trying to get some cool sounds going quickly. what used to look zigzaggy and weird now feels ‘organic,’ for lack of a better descriptor, having watched some of the vids and actually put my hands on them.

second the musical UI comment on Morphagene - that thing might be most naturally musical device I have, odd as that might sound.


#8

Fully agree here; I mostly was speaking to my feelings about my perception of ‘attitude’ as a parallel to @nutritionalzero’s feelings towards Mutable. They do really great work in education about synthesis and the history of synthesis. Also I really want a Morphogene! And maybe an Optomix. And an STO. And…

Sorry, not really intending to share bad vibes about MN. I was just intending to empathize with the Mutable sentiment, as in, I am familiar with feeling that way.

(Edit: also seeing this discussion continued while I had meetings. Really, I’m cool w/ MN! Just, sometimes I have the negative feels. Which are mine and I own them.)


Mutable Instruments modules: design, usability, theory, philosophy, etc
#9

Would love a MN thread- have experienced most of their modules, sold some, some I can’t see ever selling, and very interested and somewhat surprised to hear people having such negative impressions of their design philosophy, I frankly love it…but I’ll wait to expound on that until such thread is made.


#10

Really sorry, not meaning to spread bad feelings about MN. Was more commenting on, well, see elsewhere. It is good to hear that from someone with first-hand experience.

I’ma hush now.


#11

(mod edit: dropped in a few of the MN-specific posts from the MI thread, where this topic originated. affected folks, please feel free to edit your posts to reflect this change, if you want!)


#12

He probably loves talking about what interests him, less of a tutorial, I’m guessing. Not sure why he’d have contempt. This sort sentiment seems to be floating around in parts of this forum and I find it sad. :confused:


Mutable Instruments modules: design, usability, theory, philosophy, etc
#13

MN stuff has always resonated with me, even from their very first modemod module (I had #5 I think).

Aesthetically and creatively, I’ve always liked the use of glyphs/shapes/etc instead of numbers or tick marks or anything like that. Honestly I don’t need to know exactly what/how a control does what it does, and certainly not on the panel itself. My OCD is so strong that I will actually line knobs up with tick marks rather than use my ears when they’re present - so I actually tend to avoid panels with tick marks (dumb, but I’m at least aware of it).

Functionally, I like that there’s not a ton of duplication. In things like DPO, or Maths (or Function vs Maths) there’s subtle differences and it forces you to make a choice - if I need a sawtooth then I need to use the A vco and maybe I have to use the B vco for it’s sine wave instead of Final out and those forced choices lead me down a different path than if I just had every option on all things.

I find the control layout very comfortable - there’s always enough space between knobs and jacks, and I also REALLY love that different sized knobs are used for different purposes. In other words, smaller knobs for attenuators, medium size for main controls, and sometimes an extra large knob for an important control. This makes it much easier to find controls quickly, imo.

I also find inspiration in things that have interesting quirks or additional uses when you really dig below the surface. Wether it’s things like using an DC offset to the input of an Optomix and using Strike to create a percussion envelope/or sound, or using Maths for an envelope follower with EOR/EOC being a transient detector.


#14

i’ve had more, but currently i’ve got a v1 optomix and an mmg. always thought the mmg was a great sounding filter, with the drive, resonance and continuous mode controls yielding lots of great sounds. plus with the slow impending doom coming for vactrols that i keep hearing about, i’ll probably never part with it.

i’d love to someday make my own version of the shared system featuring telharmonic or mysteron, a couple sto’s and rxmx :slight_smile:


#15

MN modules I currently use: Maths, Optomix (x2), Morphagene, Erbe-verb, Contour, Mult, DPO, FxDf

and modules that I’ve owned but sold, or still own but don’t use: STO, Function, LxD, Telharmonic, Dynamix

(if anyone is interested in my perspective or experience with any of these that I don’t mention below, I’m happy to divulge!)

When I first started with modular, like a lot of people, I found the MN designs quite annoying and confusing for being-cool’s sake. Now, I love their design, aesthetically and functionally, for much the same reason I love @Galapagoose’s designs with the Mannequins modules. As I’ve grown as a modular person, I’ve come to appreciate being somewhat confused or having my approach shifted or made unpredictable. I don’t want to sit down at my system and see the same two or three vanilla patches. I want to experiment, discover, listen, react. These things are more fun when they’re a little weird- still very musical, but not so…obvious as to how you get there. A lot of MN’s designs lend themselves quite well to this. Even still, after knowing exactly what every individual inch of Maths “does,” it STILL feels like this weird little magic thing that can spark a discovery if you’re willing to think a little outside the box. And that aside, I’ve yet to find a module whose envelopes I like more than Maths.

Furthermore, the MN modules seem to sit well with the idea of a modular “instrument,” and this is clearly intentional given the Shared System. Most of them are spaced out well for performance and the user interface is immediate, no menus, etc, and they’ve fit nicely within the ecosystem of the singular instrument I feel I’ve created.

In terms of unique sounds or functions, there are many. Firstly is their predilection for vactrols, which, c’mon, how can you not love vactrols? :grin: There’s just nothing quite like that sound, and their vactrol-based designs have always sounded great to me, while being simple and affordable. DPO is another big one in terms of unique sound - and just a lovely design, it’s a shame people are put off by its size and impression that it’s some overly-noisy or obtuse beast. It can sound just as mellow and beautiful as anything else, while having a uniquely plucky west-coast sound, thanks to vactrols and a very fun wave-folding implementation.

Erbe-Verb I bought one day kind of on a whim while hunting for a reverb I liked. Never expected that it would become “the reverb” in my system, but it hasn’t left the system yet. Very underrated module in my opinion and I’m not sure why so many people don’t think it sounds good as a straight-up reverb, because it really does if you dial it in right - to my ears beats Valhalla or any of the other VST reverbs for me any day of the week. Unlike a lot of other reverbs, I find that it very nicely makes the sound source feel like it is truly within the space of the reverb, as opposed to just the sound of reverb sort of piled on top of it. And when you don’t want to use it like that, it’s an insanely powerful sound-design tool if you’re into that kind of thing.


#16

i think make noise has been keeping alive a lot of really important concepts from the 60s and 70s west coast synth scenes… and they encourage u to stay weird! :alien:

i also think tony’s designs and the quality of the modules is the absolute highest in the market… never really had a make noise module that i didn’t like or think was really exciting and excellent sounding.


#17

From what I’ve read/watched in interviews with Tony Rolando, I think he’s not really down on “regular music” as he’s been characterized here – but maybe I missed something. I take it more as supportive of the avant-garde and unusual, set against a lot of critics who say “modular all sounds the same” and “modular just makes expensive fart noises.” In one interview he said something about “painting with broad strokes” and abandoning perfectionism, which really aligned with what I like about modular, and fits with their more West Coast influence.

I’m not too fond of the lightning bolt aesthetic and don’t love their panel fonts. I have the old school ModDemix and almost kind of want to replace the panel with a Grayscale. But overall, I do like their gear and don’t find it too difficult to learn and understand.

0-Coast was very educational and influential to me relatively early in my modular journey, but I sold it after a year – only after picking up Contour, Function and Dynamix. I then traded away Dynamix once I fell hard for Natural Gate and the Pittsburgh Lifeforms DIF. Mysteron was in my rack for a while and fun to play with, but I felt its palette wasn’t quite where I wanted to be. Wogglebug too; I figured it out with the help of a Jones O’Tool+ but found I was really underusing it, while Marbles was more my speed.

I came close to grabbing an Erbe-Verb a couple of times. I might still do it in the future if I decide against getting the Clouds successor.


#18

I started with an 0-Coast, now I have larger system that is probably 50% make noise modules. I love them all and find them incredibly intuitive and “easy” to play, and surprising in ways that I find inspiring. To echo @stripes’s comment, their designs have definitely helped/encouraged me avoid certain patterns I could never seem to get away from in other environments, which (for me) translates to staying weird in my own way. And though I don’t personally know Tony or anyone associated with Make Noise, I don’t detect any kind of disdain for any type of music making…the stuff they’ve put out on their own label is diverse and interesting and good, to my ears.


#19

Absolutely agree. Make Noise’s videos and manuals were essential to me when I was beginning to learn and understand deeper concepts of synthesis. I don’t know if I would have choosen to go modular without them. I use the topography of the Black and Gold Shared System and their patch examples as a constant reference point while building my own system.

Right now I have Maths, Tempi, Rene, and an Optomix in my system. I used to have a DPO, Mysteron, and Telharmonic as well. I’ve found all of these designs to be inspiring and educational, even if it’s they ultimately lead me to use a non Make Noise module in their place. I respect their influence greatly.


#20

I’ve always found the Make Noise modules easy to understand. But now you mention it, that’s probably due to the youtube videos.


#21

I’ve got a Erbe-verb, Maths, and Contour in my current system with a Rene on the way.

As I’ve gained more experience with modular my preferences have moved towards modules that have more obscure user interfaces. These interfaces force me to learn about each module via the manuals, videos, and experimentation. This helps to break out of repetitive voice patching or simple synthesis. Make Noise has these elements and also provides great sounding and playable modules.

I also echo @n-so about the sound of the Erbe-verb. Great sounding reverb with plenty of character. This one module isn’t leaving my system for the foreseeable future.