Thursday, July 11, 2013

The metamorphosis of the White Dwarf

The above is the latest iteration of the original white Dwarf hybrid modular synthesizer a couple of months back, just before I sold it.

The contents were:
Synthesis Technology E560 Deflector shield
Synthesis Technology E580 Resampling mini delay
Synthesis Technology E350 Morphing terrarium x 2
SDIY expander for dual E350
Synthesis Technology E340 Cloud generator
Synthesis Technology E355 Morphing LFO
STG Soundlabs Sea Devils filter
STG Soundlabs Post Lawsuit filter
STG Soundlabs .Mix
STG Soundlabs .SHN
Make Noise Maths
Make Noise Wogglebug
Doepfer A-199  Spring reverb
Doepfer A-156 Dual quantizer
Xaoc Devices Moskwa rotosequencer
Plan B M9 Attenuators/mixer x 2
Plan B M10 Polyphonic envelope x 2
Pittsburgh Modular Analog delay
Pittsburgh Modular Dual index
Oakley Sound Systems Classic ring mod

Why did I sell it ? 
Well,  one reason is because I had the feeling I never would manage to finish it, knowing I didn't want to expand it further than 12U of 84hp. My wish was to add some analogue oscillators to complement the digital ones but I didn't find the modules that would fit the picture I had in mind. Some were the wrong hp count, others didn't have the features or the sonic signature I was looking for, or the aesthetics/ergonomics were not suitable...there was always at least one aspect of the modules I was considering that made it a no go ! Still, there were some ineteresting options in the SDIY, but no kits were available at that time and my lack of skills prevented me from designing my own ideal modules.
And, despite all my efforts in trying to make it look coherently, it always remained a Frankensynth...
Another reason, closely related to the first reason explained above, is that I wanted an affordable, hybrid monobrand system that offers both classic, analogue modular synthesis tools, and also more innovative designs, with high functional density, a comfortable and attractive interface and a strong and charismatic sonic identity.
There's, to my knowledge and for the time being, only one brand that offers all  the qualities above : Modcan ... and more particular the B series.

The circle is full, back to my first love...

May I introduce you to White Dwarf V2...

The main cabinet is made of solid European walnut, coated with clear, natural varnish and was cut and assembled in a local wood workshop.
Powering is done with a Meanwell RD3513 switching power supply and two Cyndustries distribution boards. I know linear power supplies are recommended for use in modulars, but the Meanwell are high quality, inexpensive, compact, silent, stable and, why not ! This type of power supply was recommended to me by Rob Hordijk and I've used them to power my Hordijk modules, various MU modules and the Modcan, and this without any problem or inconvenience. They are just perfect!

The actual setup consists of following modules :

01B VCO x 2
16B Dual X-fade
27B Dual mixer
40B Dual multimode filter
07B Noise/S&H/Ring mod
35B Spring reverb
60B Quad envelope
61B Quad LFO
05B Dual LFO
31B Quad VCA
59B Digital delay
39B Frequency shifter
21B VCA / panner

Here's a picture of the 35B with its huge reverb tank :

Overall build quality is impeccable, controls are smooth, precise and well scaled/calibrated.
Plenty of CV inputs with, most of the time, attenuation.
Layout of the controls and the I/O is very ergonomic, clear and intuitive.
Some clever use of switching/stereo jack sockets for some I/O permits extended functionality.
On all levels, Modcan delivers very high quality products for the modular synthesist, both on functional and on sonic levels. Of course, this kind of quality comes at a price... I was lucky enough to find most of my Modcan modules second/third hand. If it wasn't for that, I would have had to sell all of my Hordijk modules too in order for me to buy a Modcan system as small as the one I planned. Second hand means no import taxes or custom duties and no long weeks waiting time for the modules to be built.
The only module I had to order straight from Bruce, till now, is the 35B... it comes very expensive with the extra shipping costs, import taxes, custom duties and VAT, but still, it sounds great so that eases up the pain a little !

The 60B and 61B are momentarily placed in the Nano Mammoth side cab, but I intend to build an extension cabinet, console style, that will be placed underneath the main cabinet and that will provide space for a third tier of 12 spaces. That bottom extension will be slanted, at a slightly tighter angle (probably 45°) than the bottom tier of the main cabinet.
With the 60B and the 61B in the bottom extension, I will still have 8 spaces to fill... a 62B and a second filter (probably a 36B) will take up another 4 spaces. At that point I will see how to use the remaining 4 spaces in the most effective way...

Even though I had splendid times designing, building and playing my original Eurorack White Dwarf, I do not regret selling it as this Modcan is definitely another league... it's more of an upgrade than a swap.  Watching, playing and listening to the White Dwarf V2 is much more pleasurable, even if its Eurorack counterpart did provide more functionality in a more compact form.

Modcan the ultimate modular for me ? Possibly, because there is a serious contender for the Ultimate Zeitdehner Modular award coming up...

Stay tuned !

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