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


By the way, for what it’s worth, I really like Clouds and don’t find the menus confusing at all, it’s a great design and I use it a lot. I wouldn’t take the criticism too harshly :wink:

Just to jump in since I made a broad UX comment about Clouds in the middle of this great exchange – my chief complaint is exactly what pichenettes said:

Clouds because some of the useful things you would want the module to do right now is in alternate modes or two presses on the BLEND function selection button away.

This can be rather annoying in a performance context when one wants to to bring up or down the mix on various effects independently from each other. The rest of the UX is fairly easy to work with once you’ve familiarized yourself with it. Grayscale will be producing an alt hardware version called Supercell that addresses this issue, but I’m more interested to wait and see what comes next out of MI. :slight_smile:


The one and only issue that I have with mutable modules (which otherwise I love very dearly) is that it can be hard to tell what mode things are in due to having color blindness. It would be so wonderful if there was some sort of alternative mode that used flashing patterns or else, if the led color choices for modes were more distinct.


Getting to this was a huge level up moment in my life. I’m happy to see people whose work I admire also having that moment!


I like the new direction! One quick question though: why did you quit using coloured knobs? Not sure if this has been asked/answered before so sorry in advance if it has.


Initially, the plan was to use color to group related controls. For example, in Braids: white = frequency, turquoise = timbre, fuchsia = color. Grids: white = coordinates, turquoise = fill, fuchsia = clock speed. Edges: white = frequency, turquoise = amplitude.

This didn’t work well on more recent modules, which have small attenuverters (and thus no need to color two knobs with the same color to group them together), and more than 3 dimensions of control or more than 3 families of parameters.


As someone who as done a lot of programming and is just getting into developing modules. I’ve got to say that you should be proud of this, it is simply amazing. It feels like magic and it’s one of the major things that keeps my jaw dropping when using MI modules. It’s the kind of user experience that keeps me from being frustrated and allows for me to be constantly pulling new ideas out of the modules instead of head scratching.

Also I love rings, it’s a fantastic balance of the UI, depth and thinking about things as modules instead of tiny multi dimensional computers. I just went back and re-watched divkid’s video on rings after reading this thread and walked away with about 10 new ideas for it. There is SO much more there than a CV into v/oct.

Mostly I just wanted to say I’m in for the new direction and I really appreciate what you are doing!


I hate this joke. Rings into Clouds is awesome.
Nobody makes jokes about guitar into tape delay pedal, or 303 into distortion, though they’re also recognizable sounds you could hear mllion times


Makes sense. Thanks for clearing that up.

I like the all white knob panels a lot. I think it unconsciously tell me that each knob is equally useful and meant to be played with at all times, whereas the coloured knobs somehow put restrictions on my immediate interaction with the module.


Agree entirely. Whilst HP are a limited resource in small racks… doing so manages to miss the point that physical UIs are things that are designed. MI have a clear standard around how big a ‘finger’ is and their knobs are always very grabbable; they’re exploring using trimmers in smaller spaces which I think, largely, works (esp on Rings and Plaits), but that spacing is so deliberate, and to see it just tossed out in the face of ‘what somebody can cram in with EAGLE’ is a bit sad. Even µBraids - which is about the only of them I’ve liked the approach to - is pretty hard to grok the hierarchy or relation of the tiny trimmers.

It also speaks to a need to cram MOAR MODUALS into a rack, rather than making a choice and sticking to it. In recent designs, I think MI are really exploring some sweet-spots of layout and functionality: Plaits is a lovely use of space, but Marbles really takes that 18HP to lay out its stall.


for what it’s worth, they’re just Rogan knobs. Would probably be difficult to get the specific colors Mutable uses I guess, but you could theoretically buy a bunch of white ones and then move the colored knobs where you’d like!


yeah, my guess is they’re custom order, for which Rogan would want too big an order to buy individually :confused:


It’s sad indeed. Especially when you see people asking for μPlaits on the day of the announcement. I guess some folks have their priorities messed up.

Also not a big fan of the Mutable alt panels. The Grayscale ones in particular. imho their panels are a big step down from the OG Mutable panels. The font choice is pretty terrible too and seems like an afterthought.

Sorry in advance to have potentially offended anyone who likes/has the Grayscale panels.


Or whatever floats your boat. Some people might simply enjoy the micro versions


yeah i loved the colored knobs too and would def buy a grab bag of them. the less monochromatic my setup, the better!


always remember: a vocal minority is a minority. There are many people who are quiet, or not on particular forums, or whatever, and happy. I increasingly tell myself this when I’m grumpy with the behaviour of others.


That’s definitely true. I’m gonna leave it at this. :ok_hand:


I thought about switching the knobs on my Shades to also be all white – but then I figured, I’ll keep the red one in place to remind me I have that channel set to 10V while the others are 5V. :slight_smile:

Those soft-touch Rogan knobs are definitely my favorite. They look good, feel good, are easy to see at a glance (except for Make Noise’s dark blue ones) and easy to swap.


If OP hasn’t checked it out, VCV Rack is free software that includes most of the Mutable modules under different but similar names in the Audible Instruments plug-in (also free). Not quite the same as having something in front of you, but you can at least get an idea of how they function and if you’d like them.


I always replace all make noise dark blue knobs, ha. Aside from those, love M.N.!


added Erbse on the list (Branches alt firmware)