A reinvention of Clouds…
Well, that was unexpected. I looked at your post title and thought “Beads? Is that one of the obscure old Mutable modules?” I guess there’s going to be a lot of excitement around this.
I wonder how long till we get it in VCV?
It’s usually about 6 months. I don’t know if it’ll be in the Audible preview or not.
Edit to say that I’m not sure if the preview still even exists? Like, there’s a Ripples V2 and Blades as well that haven’t been added, so I don’t really know what’s what.
They are analogue modules and thus more is involved (which has been crowdfunded of late) in porting them.
Yes, at least 6 months, since Emilie needs her modules to stay close source for a while so she can make some profit on them before some copies (and emulations) land
Yesssss!!! The mythical “Clouds2” is here! Here’s the announcement, from:
"A couple of things I have fixed in Beads, because I thought they were an ugly mess in Clouds (and their micro or macro clones).
Input gain stage
When designing Clouds’ IN GAIN circuit, finding a stereo potentiometer that was reliable, compatible in feel with the single-track potentiometers used everywhere else, and had the expected 10mm PCB-to-panel distance turned out to be impossible. Some improvements in reliability were achieved by hand-soldering the part (with its share of support questions - “My Clouds looks like it has been repaired already!”), but all in all, I must have serviced several hundreds of units for scratchy gain pots, listening to Austra’s “Olympia”. And will continue doing so. “She saw the futuuure, and it was daaaark”.
Beads uses converters with a good enough SNR to allow line-to-modular amplification in software. Software gain is good: making it a set-and-forget setting, or allowing automatic gain control, removes clutter from the panel.
Converters, converters, converters
What can I say? The parts used in Clouds and Beads are just not in the same league. Big fangirl of Burr-brown/TI’s PCM line here And maybe I’m a snob, but I no longer want to say “Greetings codec! Now let’s go through those thirty registers” through I2C to get basic stuff done.
From mono to stereo to mono
I remained firm in my decision to use the MCU’s internal RAM instead of an external RAM IC, since fast RAM access is essential to allow a large number of simultaneous grains.
Beads has 6x the RAM size of Clouds, but very often it will be 12x by automatically switching to mono recording whenever only one input is patched. Remembering to switch between mono and stereo mode was such a pain, and now a thing of the past with Beads.
(as an aside, active detection of patch cable insertion is still my favorite “discovery” I’ve brought to Eurorack).
And a little detail: normalized R to L output is the second part of this equation
If you really want to just patch one jack to an audio input, and a pair of stereo outputs, now you can do it! I won’t be all whiney and cursed-artisty, and you won’t complain about it on muffwiggler. Do it really. Built-in randomization of grain parameters is there to ensure you won’t infuriate the spirit of Xenakis. With some nice Marble-ish work in software to get the right kind of distributions (and certainly not the same white noise source lazily fed to all the CV inputs… this thing was called ‘Clouds’, not ‘Contrails’…)!
And if you like using external CVs, you get both a direct and distribution spread control.
Sub-sample, alias-free, and tuned triggering
Very nice formant-ish or wavetable synthesis sounds can be obtained when the grains are triggered at an audio rate (and even better if this rate can track V/O).
Clouds’ grain triggering was locked to a stiff 1kHz grid, with a DENSITY input not tracking V/O. Beads’ SEED (and FREEZE too!) input is processed at audio rate, its DENSITY input is calibrated for V/O tracking, and the internal grain generation allows sub-sample triggering for accurately reproducing pitched notes without aliasing (with sub-sample access of the recording buffer, and anti-aliased envelopes).
Buffer size, quality, media emulation
Clouds used software down-/up-sampling to achieve its low-quality mode. Beads can do it either in hardware – by simply slowing down the converters – or in software, allowing the dry signal to be processed at the highest quality.
Using Clouds’ low-fi mode as some warbly tape emulation was an interesting emerging application. I took note and nudged things further in that direction in Beads! It’s not just a bit-depth and sample rate setting, it’s a whole sound character – influencing gain staging, feedback control, and reverb color.
Smarter delay stuff
It’s no longer an entirely different mode! It can track V/O! It can go as low as a few samples! And the feedback path no longer incurs a full block (32 samples on Clouds) of delay - it’s exactly one sample long, allowing accurately tuned comb-filtering.
Clouds lacked possibilities for rhythmic applications. Proof: a beat-repeater firmware was developed for it to fill this gap! Beads provides both division and randomization of an external grain triggering clock, and the delay features can be tempo-synced (including access to tempo-synced slices from the buffer).
Manually playing with FREEZE was fun. Manually triggering bursts of grains with a dedicated pushbutton (or from the GATE output of a keyboard) is a new interesting performance gesture!
Grain size decoupling
Clouds’ DENSITY and SIZE settings were coupled - DENSITY acted more like an overlap control really. Reducing or increasing the grain size without altering the density was not possible. I feel that decoupling these settings communicates more clearly what the module does.
Reversed envelopes, reversed playback
Parasites provided both, though the implementation of the latter wasn’t the most user-friendly.
Multi-purpose BLEND knob
Vade retro satanas.
Oh god that thing was huge (and don’t tell me about the µVersions - none of them look pretty or playable).
Coherence with recent modules
Beads introduces new things in terms of design language (white and RGB LEDs instead of red-yellow-green), but besides that, it looks better next to all my favorites."
Can also be used as a stand-alone VCO here’s Scanner demonstrating:
I think I’ll just link to my Beads playlist here, as I’m collecting the videos:
So is this the last one? I thought I read she had had enough and was moving to the countryside or something?
Beads is indeed the very LAST Mutable Instruments eurorack module.
gotta like that!
I remember her saying 4 more at some point, and yeah if we count the recent remakes, then this is the last…
Yup, unfortunately. No more modules from Mutable Instruments
It sounds fantastic in that HIFI mode, completely transparent.
Yeah, she confirmed that on Twitter, last one But manufacturing and support continues, at least for a couple of years.
Oh! You got it? Bastard… We want tasty samples you know!!
I picked up on Tues AM on Muffs that it was coming on Weds but then I saw the early release (due to the leak) and got my order in immediately with my dealer before they sold out a couple of hours later.
It is a wonderful device - I’ve got an even sillier grin on my face than when I first played with Morphagene and Lubadh. The attenurandomisers are a genius move and sure to be repeated by many manufacturers. They turn it into a stand alone ambient generator when combined with the amazing choice of wavetables (as others have said, Beads in wavetable mode will become the new Rings into Clouds). I spent hours yesterday just exploring them, and another couple this morning - I’m going to start patching stuff into it later today. The quality settings are great - pristine audio, which Clouds was not, through to hissy wowy flutteriness at the other end of the range. The reverb is gorgeous too.
There will surely be samples … in due course I know somebody else has got one on the way who will certainly provide many more
Agreed! And also regular LFO action when unpatched and turned clockwise, right? This is the kind of genius Mutable stuff that makes those modules deep and special, and such a treasure trove.
I know. It struck me yesterday that in some sense it’s a semi-modular instrument, you could play it just with a keyboard, or some other pitch generator. It’s the wavetable mode from Plaits, right?
Yeah, from the early videos the audio quality sounds fantastic and the reverb sounds gorgeous.
I did think @Omri_Cohen might want to pick one up seing like he has built this big granular station and seems to be hooked on it