I need more VCAs. Or maybe I’d rather have some LPGs. The answer is probably “both” but the options are bewilderingly plentiful. Thoughts?
hah. Yes, both
I have a mix of LPGs, multi VCA modules, and a couple VCA/mix modules. All are very useful.
The LPG is great for percussive sounds because of the filter response and natural decay of the vactrol. Having a couple is really nice… I quite like the MengQi Dual Passive Low Pass Gate, or DPLPG for short.
For regular VCA duties or for managing functions/envelopes I find that often a standard linear VCA is more what I want. I have a couple Zlob VnIcursal units (6 VCA’s each, with sum output).
Meng Qi’s DPLPG is so much bang for the buck, and passive, and small!
Granted, no resonance, so if you want that extra juicy sound, look elsewhere, but I see them as a no-brainer way of filling those odd 2hp spaces with two channels of excellent LPG ability.
The new Intellijel quad VCA looks like the new first and last word in power per hp for a deeply featured VCA. The Mutable Quad VCA was king of this niche I think, but the Intellijel is more featured, offering variable linear to exponential response, CV attenuation (which I miss on the Mutable), same hp, and same-ish price.
My current favourite bang-for-the-hp VCA’s are the ALM Tangle Quartet and the Zlob VnIcursal. Around the same price, ALM gets your 4 with a mix out, Zlob is 6. ALM is good for performance with nice big attenuator knobs.
The Zlob is a little tightly packed, but works great. The current version uses the knobs for offset, but he’s about to release an update that lets you change them to attenuator (my preference).
If you don’t need the linear/exponential options then these are more VCAs/hp than the Intellijel (which is also great).
Other LPGs I have experience with:
Make Noise’s LxD. My favorite, in terms of pure sound. Two channels, small hp footprint, no variable controls, but the sound of that 12db/octave first channel is so sweet, and the non-resonant 6db/octave channel is no slouch either. You can use them in series too. 4hp=good.
The Laurentide passive LPG is another great one. 4hp, unlike the Meng Qi, but with variable levels. Very good. PASSIVE!
The Ryo Aperture is a single channel, very good sounding, and very flexible LPG with the option of heavy resonance–to self-oscillation–and can also function as a straight low pass filter, and normal VCA. Fair amount of real estate for a single channel, but it is more than just an LPG. You can get pretty acidy sounds out of it.
+1 for the LxD. Sounds really fantastic, at least my LxD sounds fantastic. I understand they can sound different depending on vactrol you get. I like that about LPG’s in general, there’s an organic feeling to the vactrol. There should be a LPG with swappable vactrols, kind of like the variety you can get from tube amps.
That’s a cool idea.
Shouldn’t be hard to do really. I could see modding an LxD or something; remount in a larger panel, drill a couple holes, fab up a socket, and start swapping vactrols.
I haven’t done it, but some people even make their own vactrols. I could see having fun with this–purposefully introducing variations in design, just to see what might happen. It could end up being fairly disappointing, but who knows? Components on the edge of failure sometimes do magical things.
Just learned about the Zlob VnIcursal. I can replace my MI Veils with this and free up some HP! Thanks!
Awesome! Just email him if you want the attenuator version (vs the offset knobs), since it’s not officially out yet. I’m waiting for the go-ahead on ordering my attenuator replacement boards.
Is this still available somewhere? I’ve wanted one for a while, but can’t seem to find them.
If you like the LxD you’ll love the Optomix. Imho it beats every LPG except those in my Easel clone. One day (before 2019) I’ll get a second one.
I have a Positronic Transient Gate which is an interesting option. It’s not especially intuitive and requires some thought and careful consideration to use. The slow decay of the vactrols is lovely though. You won’t get snappy envelopes with it.
The Optomix is much more intuative and sounds great on everything… I often find the strike input to click quite a lot though and so rarely use it. Does anyone have any tips on striking it?
I’m using the MengQi DPLPG as well and love it for simplicity. Another that I use often is the Bastl Skis which gives you dual decay envelopes attached to two independent VCAs - DIY and cheap. You can use the envelope generator and VCA independently as well. All in 5hp.
I’m currently debating getting another Skis and Dynamo or a Quattro Figaro. The Bastl modules at 5hp make them a little awkward to deal with singularly - I try to do pairs.
My favorites are Make Noise Optomix, Mutable Streams, and Mutable Blinds. I don’t have a Mutable Veils, but I hear that it’s excellent.
Blinds can act as a four channel mixer with per-channel attenuversion and offset. Yes, you can add offset to a signal. You plug the signal into the CV input instead of the main input. It can act as a ring modulator, as negative CV will phase invert the signal. Veils also acts as a 4-channel mixer and adds the ability to change the response curve of the VCA.
Streams should be way more popular. You can treat either channel like a regular LPG, a regular LPF, or a regular VCA. You can also use it to generate vactrol-like CV responses (the inputs are normalled to an offset, so you can just hit the EXCITE input and get a rubbery decay envelope on the output). Because the vactrol is simulated, you can modify its response. You can also use it as a stereo compressor, envelope follower, frequency tracker, etc. It’s amazingly powerful, and sits right next to my output. My only issue with it is that the outputs aren’t mixed together. You’ll need to pair it with a small mixer if you want it to behave like an Optomix. BTW, the VCA and LPF on it are analog. They’re just controlled by digital envelopes. It sounds great.
Finally, Optomix is just my LPG workhorse. It’s a perfect module. I haven’t updated to the newer model as there’s nothing I dislike about the Optomix.
The LxD and the new Optomix have swappable vactrol daughter boards!!
I’m not the biggest fan of VCAs but I always loved the WMD Digital VCA.
I had an LxD and only liked the sound of the lower half, but eventually it started leaking at higher freqs - so it went, always wondered if the optomix had the same problem.
I also had a Streams to replace the LxD, but never gelled with the sound. Now I’ve got Veils and Peaks tied together, pretty decent combo if I have to use standard VCA/Env for anything.
@saintcloud Sounds like you’re not super stoked on VCAs, EGs, or LPGs. So I wonder how you are managing amplitude?
I’m a hands on mixer, so I’ll either do it with my Mackie or with Frames. Veils has a expo/linear pot so I can chuck gates rather than triggers into it for simple blipping and adjust to taste, Peaks has some snappy envelopes so I’m also pretty fond of using it when I want slow attack stuff. I’m also getting into using the WMD MSCL compressor to do a bit more for amplitude management using the sidechain. Mostly I make ambient stuff, so I like to have my hands on everything as much as possible. Now that I think about it, I’m not a huge fan of LFOs for the same reason (although slow random sources are the best.)
Gotcha. Yeah, I’m looking for some rhythm to go with my drones. Not necessarily percussive rhythm (that too) but just rhythm in general. Sounds like you’re using Frames/Veils/Peaks to manage decay in that situation.
Love my ADDAC 802: it’s 5 individual VCAs in 12HP in the context of a mixer with heaps of functions.