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

Wait, what about Birds?



Not sure if this has been posted here before, but I was curious about how the patterns in Grids were developed and I found a comment from Emilie which links to two of her research papers which served as the basis for the drum maps:

Really cool stuff!


I did a ‘black and gold’ front panel for my v1 Ripples (one of the first modules I bought :heart:).

I wanted a simple black panel to match my Instruo and Make Noise modules so went for the DIY route.

Ordered from OSH park so I got 3.

I only need 1 so if anyone wants a panel just PM me and I’ll get it posted out for you (FOC) :+1:


lookin’ for some more info on rings’ 2-op fm mode :frog: - - I found some descriptions of the knob functions, but I’m curious if it can be used as a plain 'ol oscillator or if it’s more of a full voice with a fixed envelope mapped to the trigger input or the audio in stuff


STRUCTURE controls the frequency ratio.

BRIGHTNESS adjusts the FM index.

DAMPING controls the FM index and amplitude decay.

POSITION Feedback path (no feedback at 12 o’clock)

IN goes into an envelope follower changing FM index and output amplitude.


Its the latter, as with other rings modes, audio input, triggers to the strum input or quick cv value changes in the v/oct input if strum is not patched will retrigger the envelope or create a new voice if in a poly mode. i love rings in this mode, i think having the pseudo polyphonic voicing and decay envelopes is great for fm you can easily dial in everything from some electric piano like sounds to classic 2 op fm basses and clanging fm noises.


If you set Damping fully CW (sorry, originally said CCW) it continues to oscillate and doesn’t need triggering.

Also if you set Brightness to zero, you get two sines out of the two outputs that both track the V/OCT input but can be offset by the ratio. Useful for AM, ringmod, just stacking the sines or whatever :slight_smile:


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I have a little question to the community. Call it a little – likely unscientific – user research.

During the course of the last 10 years we’ve worked on a fairly large number of Mutable Instruments modules. Many of them use icons/symbols in place of text. Most notably Warps and Plaits, but others as well.

My question to you is: what is your experience with Mutable modules, specifically in conjunction with the icons?
I’m making this a Poll, but feel free to add additional details in the comments!

  • I like the icons, they look nice and are easy to remember
  • I find the icons ok, sometimes I have to check the manual to remember what they mean
  • I can’t remember all the icons, but then, I just listen to the sound anyway
  • I don’t like the icons, I just can’t remember what they mean
  • I buy and sell so many modules… how am I supposed to learn whart all those icons mean?
  • I generally prefer text

0 voters


I own a Plaits and a Beads. I like the icons on them (edit: and find them useful as prompts to functionality when I’ve used the associated control for a while) but do have to refer to the manual for Plaits occasionally to remind myself which synthesis model is which, though I have found that I’ve started to remember which LED + row is for my favourite models now more than referring to the icons (e.g. red one three from the bottom is the kick drum). Given my eyes are getting on for half a century I do have to put the old eyeglasses on now and then to make the icons bigger, but I think that’s more to do with the size restrictions of a Eurorack front panel than my vision. But I do like the icons. I also love the number font as well!

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My experience with the icons is: they are cool but they are way too small to be functional.


it took me forever to sort out the voice glyphs on Plaits. I had a prototype, so i don’t know if the glyphs are clearer on the mass produced panel. I basically referred to the manual (which was plain text at the time) until i had it memorized. I found it hard to see the glyphs due to the proximity of the LEDs and the relative smallness of the glyphs. I know that green/3 is FM, green/6 is wavetable, etc.

on other modules: Marbles, Stages, Tides (both mk’s), the green/yellow/red LEDs are my main point of reference “in the moment.” When I’ve been learning all of these, the glyphs are helpful.

I love the glyphs, they are beautiful and often illustrate a basic function (or change in function) in a signature way for Mutable.


I definitely can’t remember the actual scientific name of all the icons but I like them. I often think things like “let me go to the x on warps to make things fizzy” or “the bell curve on plaits would sound good here”.


I find them very handy just because they are a simple label for the lights to communicate something that would be pretty lengthy in text, like “output the same thing on all channels” or “inverse output on left and right channels” etc. When I’m using the modules a lot I don’t tend to need them but if I forget, the icons are usually enough of a hint that I don’t need to refer to a manual. Also they are part of the overall friendly and warm vibe.

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I found the icons appealing and helpful while learning about modular. Marbles T modes stick out to me. That was the 1st module I played with in vcv and after that I was hooked. Other good examples are the linear/random lines for Beads’ density knob and the colored bars for the quality modes, the arrows on Links, and the Plaits models. Ones that I’ve had to return to the manual to remember are Marbles X modes, the peaky/uniform sides of Beads attenurandomizers, and Tides 2 output modes.

For the most part though they’re simple reminders for complicated ideas that look pretty and stick.
I would get a print of a bunch of MI icons!

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My eyesight isn’t great, and to me the icons tend to just be spots of color. I usually find small text easier to decipher than icons just from context, but on Marbles for instance, I have to bring my face pretty close to the module to see the +2, +5, +/-5 on the range button. (But green, yellow, red makes sense for increasing levels, so generally these things don’t matter. Tides modes are the only one that frequently confused me.)

On Plaits, I usually thought of the modes as green 2, red 5 etc. I think it’s a real challenge to come up with 16 distinct icons that mean things as abstract as “granular formant oscillator,” and for the most part the icons are good, but with my case/desk/layout I literally can’t put my face close enough to really see them without kicking my chair out of the way.

I know some people like to complain about Make Noise panels, and I’ve had a few specific nitpicks about clock ins/outs… but one thing I really like about their panels is the text is relatively huge, I can always read it even in poor light. The opposite are Xaoc modules, which have a clean industrial aesthetic but the text is teeeeensy. I love both brands’ gear, though :slight_smile:


Thanks everybody for sharing your experience about the icons! Yes I am aware that some are pretty small. That is in part due to Eurorack being generally small, and due to some modules having quite a bit of stuff going on on the panel. I think there’s some room for improvement and that’s why I am asking you for your feedback. So it’s really valuable! Thanks again!

That is a great sum up for what we have always intended the icons to be, indeed!
As all instruments, there is things you learn through use and practice. But it’s helpful with such complex instruments to have something that helps your memory. From that point of view you could say that we are somewhere between Ciat Lombarde (no explicit labelling whatsoever!) and verbally labelling everything.

Again, that’s definitely the intended thing here. and yes

Would not make sense on a panel, besides there not being space for it.

IIRC we did change a few… but I’m not 100% sure. You can see the final version here:

Some are pretty obvious to me (but then… I designed those!) Like the kick drum model has a picture of a kick drum, the chord mode has 3 notes in a chord, etc.
Others are almost “evocative” more than descriptive. But again, PLaits definitely is of those modules that pushes this to the extreme, with all those different modes.

That is a frequent topic of discussion, and back&forth. It’s a difficult balance. Bigger type is of course generally better, and at the same time, these tiny panels get super busy and cluttered so quickly.

You mean the output modes? Or the AD/LFO/AR button?


most of them are very obvious, or at least relate to the voice in a relevant way. Over time some of them have stuck in my head, but LED position was quicker to learn when uh learning. I cant quite see them clearly in indirect lighting, and they can get washed out by the LEDs.

Both honestly; I would press one of the buttons, then check the behavior to see what mode in it was in without really building up an association between the color and the mode.

With the AD/LFO/AR button I think I might have expected it to be AD/AR/LFO – it seems like an arbitrary order, but I guess because AR seems more similar to AD. The switch on Just Friends is coincidentally in that order and it feels “right” to me.

The icon design on Tides is completely logical, I think it was just the size making them hard for me to see which prevented it from making total sense.

I can totally relate to that. I actually rarely look at the icons myself with plaits, It was good at the beginning, but now I just know where the modes are that I like most and do the rest by ear, since I know what they are supposed to sound like. For those I use more rarely I do refer to the icons though.

I honestly can’t remember why LFO is in the middle. But there was a reasoning behind it.

Minimum size is definitely something I need nudge up a bit. In retrospect the fact that the icons are drawin in negative inside a circle doesn’t help either. It lowers the contrast and makes the actual symbol even smaller. Of course this is one of those things that largely defined the Mutable Style on all modules since Rings.

Actually if anybody has a Chronoblob 2, I would be interested to know how those icons compare to the ones on Mutable Modules.


Are many folk here running multiple plaits together (hardware or software)? Which models tend to play nicely together in terms of timbre and pitch?

I’ve got this generative thing running in Max that can select models and parameters as weighted random on each note… it’s pretty wild at the moment and I’m trying to tame it a bit!