The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

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diophantine
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The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by diophantine » Fri May 21, 2021 7:59 pm

There's been speculation, confusion, and more speculation on Facebook and elsewhere about what the future holds for the RandomSource 4x4 modules. Hopefully someone here knows more and can let us all know; I know fonik is active here, perhaps he can provide some insight.

I started my Serge system with R*S 4x4 DIY modules in 2015, so it is probably not a stretch to call myself an "early adopter" of the format. I really love the format, and have built 15 4x4 modules and bought 4 XL boats. I have used a subset of my system live, and I really want to "finish" my system! Unfortunately in the past 2 years it appears that things have changed regarding these modules, and I don't know what the future holds.

- What's the future of DIY in the 4x4 format? Personally I really enjoyed this aspect... it made for generally straight-forward DIY (though I have also built early versions of some modules that utilized though-hole CGS PCBs) which not only decreased costs but allowed for personal customization of LED and jack colors, etc. It appears that all recent designs are pre-built only (Dual PCO, Rhythm/VCA, etc.) with older DIY ones no longer available to order.

- Will there ever be any 4x4 utility modules? For years I've been hoping (and asking) for basic stuff like: 2xMixer + 4xVCA, or 2xCVPRO + Peak/Trough + 2xVCA, or 2xASR + NCOM + dual bidirectional router. Ok, that last one isn't so basic, but would be awesome! (Audio, CV, and sequencing utility modules!)

I realize that there have been parts shortages, etc. over the past year, but the changes I've seen started prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, etc. I would just like some honest (and public) information on the future of this format.

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by FatRocky » Fri May 21, 2021 8:22 pm

Why you don't build what you need with CGS boards?

i believe R*S 4x4 format is just recently beginning to catch attention from Serge users ( specially the ones that started with the euro version) and the through hole ones that you have will soon become (if not yet) RARE and very much valued, unless your builds are dodgy. If you are experienced builder you can build your utilities panel with CGS boards and design your own 4x4 based panel for them.
I also had a big 4x4 system ( that now is not that big) and got all my utilities built with CGS in LW panels) and i'm more than happy with it. ;)

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diophantine
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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by diophantine » Fri May 21, 2021 9:07 pm

FatRocky wrote:
Fri May 21, 2021 8:22 pm
...you can build your utilities panel with CGS boards and design your own 4x4 based panel for them.
Because designing and building my own custom 4x4 panels is both expensive and time-consuming? I've already built a bunch of CGS and other stuff, in Serge and other formats.

Plus I felt that it was implied that such utility modules would eventually become available in the 4x4 format.

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by Sinamsis » Fri May 21, 2021 9:17 pm

I recently built my own system out of 4x4 modules. I think I did right before the 4x4 DIY started being phased out. I think the designs are shifting more towards SMD. Many of the "DIY" modules I built were more expensive, and involved soldering only jacks, pots and some ICs for the most part. So I think they've shifted more towards prebuilt modules. I'm ok with that. Regarding more utilities I totally agree. Voice your opinion. My solution has been soldering my own banana to 1/8 inch cables and using eurorack along with it. More mixers, more VCAs would be my preference. I bought the rhythm/dual VCA/whatever for the VCAs mostly haha.

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by levelhead3 » Fri May 21, 2021 9:33 pm

There was a picture on their FB page just today of the actual QUAD SLOPE 4x4 out in the wild. That said it's not really filing in the gaps you've mentioned - and you're not alone in wishing and wondering if they're ever going to become available.

We did get the dual VCA on the trigger sequencer 4x4, and now we've got high density DSG's - so at least it seems like there is still activity within the format (although probably not DIY from the looks of things). For sure covid has had a huge impact, so given the circumstances I'm still appreciative and optimistic. But in general I've also just resigned to myself to the fact that having a 4x4 system is going to be a long-term game.

That said, the LW format is a viable alternative - and far more flexible. Modules or panels as you will, and working with Charlie is a pleasure. I think a combination of the two is a great way to address the current shortcomings in the 4x4 universe unless staying specifically within the 4x4 format is an imperative.

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by pat » Sat May 22, 2021 12:43 am

Unrelated to the diy stuff -

I heard from Noisebug a few weeks ago that they plan on carrying the full line of R*S 4x4 modules at some point. I’ve been buying pre-built 4x4s from patch point. They are a fantastic shop and build the modules to order, but I’m excited to (hopefully) have a dealer in the U.S. and save some dough on exchange rate and shipping.

On a side note, I’m also building a 73-75 homebuilt, and have a LW boat that I’m slowly filling. The LW so far is covering utilities as mentioned above with cgs boards. As much as I like the truly modular nature of the LW format, I feel that the R*S 4x4 form factor is going to become more prominent. At this point, I see myself buying another R*S boat and going that route as I expand.

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by deltaphoenix » Sat May 22, 2021 7:43 am

Over the past year or 18 months, it has been looking like the DIY element of R*S offerings have been on the decline/not part of the R*S business plan. The kits had dwindled, patchpoint was selling pre-built modules and then R*S has had pre-built in stock. Sure, I am interested in an official statement from R*S but don’t think they owe it to us and their actions are speaking.

I too had been hoping for more utilities from R*S by now and I have also filled gaps with CGS and LW. I am hoping for more 3rd party stuff in 4x4 format and I think eventually we’ll see more, DIY and built options. LW did a few 4x4s but Charlie won’t consider doing them anymore. Scrotum Labs has had a few modules released in 4x4 (sadly, I waited too long and missed out- everything Batchas has made has been excellent and great additions to the format he has built in).

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by Mood Organ » Tue May 25, 2021 11:23 pm

diophantine wrote:
Fri May 21, 2021 9:07 pm
Plus I felt that it was implied that such utility modules would eventually become available in the 4x4 format.
I think that's fair to say.
I've been asking about utility modules since the beginning and my recollection is that the response was always along the lines of "it will happen".
Now it's mid-2021.
I guess everyone has their own patching style, but what I see is a crippling shortage of basic utilities like audio & CV mixers, VCAs, active processors, comparators...
I know some of those exist, but the ratio is far too low for how I work.
This problem has kept me out of the format. A few times I tried to plan an RS modular and I always came to the conclusion that it wasn't ready.

On the other hand, I love my STS to death and the CV Proc module is, for me, pivotal.
diophantine wrote:
Fri May 21, 2021 9:07 pm
or 2xASR + NCOM + dual bidirectional router. Ok, that last one isn't so basic, but would be awesome!
That would indeed be awesome.

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by luchog » Wed May 26, 2021 9:21 am

The lack of utility modules is the main reason I've been getting away from R*S (sold all my EuroSerge), and going more STS as the foundation of my system. I'll still pick up some R*S 4x4 stuff (like the DUSG-XL); but for the most part, it just doesn't have the same level of utility as STS or LW yet.

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by listentoaheartbeat » Sat May 29, 2021 7:01 am

It sure seems like R*S is phasing out DIY offerings, and I also remember hearing some talk about it. Going all SMD is understandable from a design perspective, if one takes into account production and supply. Not much of a business case in DIY from that point on.

That being said, I wish this wasn’t the case! R*S hit the sweet spot for me between pre-built and full-on DIY like CGS, and the components used are of higher quality. I cannot afford their pre-built modules, the DIY option opened the door to (Euro) Serge for me. I’d always build two modules and sell one, so I was mainly investing labor and not much money.

I was hoping R*S would honor the "people’s synth" legacy like CGS does, but I don’t blame them for building a viable business either. Ralf and Matthias have clearly invested a lot and if taking these steps helps them build a lasting future for R*S, it will benefit the platform in the long run. And who knows, maybe R*S DIY is just taking a break after all!

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by nordlead » Mon May 31, 2021 4:49 pm

How about this? ;-)
First Aid 4x4.png
Utility modules are high up on the list of upcoming R*S 4x4 modules - suggestions are always welcome!

Re DIY: this is less a strategic question - more of a practical one. For a while now it's been a challenge to cover the demand for complete modules and panels, so we simply do not get enough pcbs and front panels out of production to cover DIY as well. And now with Covid and chip crisis it does not look like the situation will change for the better in the near future - rather the opposite. So for now we mainly try to focus on the modules and hope that the sourcing situation will relax eventually ...
Random*Source: Serge, JHaible & more ... (also on facebook.com/randomsource)

(please contact me through email rather than pm: rc at randomsource . net - thanks!)

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by mfaraday » Mon May 31, 2021 5:25 pm

what is on the right side - 2 long active processors? looks handy! would love to see the 1" quantizer somewhere in the 4x4 format as well :-)

and great to hear the 4x4 format will persist!

very keen as well to see what the variable bandwidth filter gets paired with in 4x4 - maybe an audio mixer and xfader?

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by Pagoda-100 » Mon May 31, 2021 8:40 pm

nordlead wrote:
Mon May 31, 2021 4:49 pm
How about this? ;-)
Yep. That will do just fine.
One please.

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by Sinamsis » Mon May 31, 2021 9:32 pm

nordlead wrote:
Mon May 31, 2021 4:49 pm
How about this? ;-)
First Aid 4x4.png

Utility modules are high up on the list of upcoming R*S 4x4 modules - suggestions are always welcome!

Re DIY: this is less a strategic question - more of a practical one. For a while now it's been a challenge to cover the demand for complete modules and panels, so we simply do not get enough pcbs and front panels out of production to cover DIY as well. And now with Covid and chip crisis it does not look like the situation will change for the better in the near future - rather the opposite. So for now we mainly try to focus on the modules and hope that the sourcing situation will relax eventually ...
Oh boy haha. I'm in trouble.

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by fonik » Tue Jun 01, 2021 2:06 am

mfaraday wrote:
Mon May 31, 2021 5:25 pm
what is on the right side - 2 long active processors?
Correct. These are in fact two Active Pro's with addional features.
With the switch in lower position an inverted version of IN1 is routed to IN2. This way you get a voltage controlled attenuverter (usable as RingMod as well). Each Active Pro now has an attenuverter for the Fade CV and an overall attenuation. A mix of both outputs is available also.
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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by diophantine » Tue Jun 01, 2021 9:31 pm

nordlead wrote:
Mon May 31, 2021 4:49 pm
How about this? ;-)
First Aid 4x4.png
Utility modules are high up on the list of upcoming R*S 4x4 modules - suggestions are always welcome!
Thanks! While it certainly looks interesting, and I like the idea behind it, I will confess that it almost feels a bit too esoteric/specific. I love the "building blocks" of Serge systems, but I kinda feel that the right side of this takes it to a bit of an extreme, where I am not sure if I would find it useful, or if I would use it to its full capabilities 99% of the time (i.e. some jacks/pots/switches would just feel wasted).

RingMod and VC-XFAD are already available on other great 4x4 modules. What is really lacking (to me) is basic VCAs with 3 jacks & a pot. Just fit 4 in two columns. Or, if you want to make it improved, do 3 VCAs in two columns, adding an extra pot for each (so you have initial gain + cv amount) plus a "mix out". That would be awesome paired with the TWS!

I may be in the minority here, but on the top-left processor, I'd rather have 3 inputs + 3 attenuverters, instead of 2+2 plus the two 1v/oct inputs. I felt that when you did that for the Eurorack version it made a lot of sense, but not sure if it is as useful in 4U-land. And it may just be my workflow, but personally I'd rather have different modules (i.e. the processor and the mixer) be their own columns (i.e. 8x1 modules vs 4x2 modules).

But, as I mentioned initially, something like these... audio utilities, CV utilities, and sequencing utilities... would be absolutely awesome!:
- 2xMixer + 4xVCA,
- 2xCVPRO + Peak/Trough + 2xVCA
- 2xASR + NCOM + dual bidirectional router
nordlead wrote:
Mon May 31, 2021 4:49 pm
Re DIY: this is less a strategic question - more of a practical one. For a while now it's been a challenge to cover the demand for complete modules and panels, so we simply do not get enough pcbs and front panels out of production to cover DIY as well. And now with Covid and chip crisis it does not look like the situation will change for the better in the near future - rather the opposite. So for now we mainly try to focus on the modules and hope that the sourcing situation will relax eventually ...
I really appreciate this candid answer, and totally understand the pains with COVID, chip shortages, etc.
Hopefully this does mean that, once things improve, new modules will be available DIY (SMT-soldered boards + panels) and perhaps some existing modules will be available in this fashion.

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by lag progress » Wed Jun 02, 2021 7:18 am

nordlead wrote:
Mon May 31, 2021 4:49 pm
How about this? ;-)
First Aid 4x4.png

Utility modules are high up on the list of upcoming R*S 4x4 modules - suggestions are always welcome!

Re DIY: this is less a strategic question - more of a practical one. For a while now it's been a challenge to cover the demand for complete modules and panels, so we simply do not get enough pcbs and front panels out of production to cover DIY as well. And now with Covid and chip crisis it does not look like the situation will change for the better in the near future - rather the opposite. So for now we mainly try to focus on the modules and hope that the sourcing situation will relax eventually ...
If you bring it on. I would buy it.

but what do you think of an adaptation of Mutable Instruments Blinds?
https://mutable-instruments.net/modules/blinds/
with switches for the normalizations.
there would be still 12 holes left for:
4x simple attenuators
2x simple attenuators + 1x DC coupled VCA with attenuator for the gain or Peak/Trough
2x DC coupled VCA with attenuator for the gain
1x Mixer + 1x VCA or Peak/Trough
.....
diophantine wrote:
Tue Jun 01, 2021 9:31 pm
nordlead wrote:
Mon May 31, 2021 4:49 pm
How about this? ;-)
First Aid 4x4.png
Utility modules are high up on the list of upcoming R*S 4x4 modules - suggestions are always welcome!
Thanks! While it certainly looks interesting, and I like the idea behind it, I will confess that it almost feels a bit too esoteric/specific. I love the "building blocks" of Serge systems, but I kinda feel that the right side of this takes it to a bit of an extreme, where I am not sure if I would find it useful, or if I would use it to its full capabilities 99% of the time (i.e. some jacks/pots/switches would just feel wasted).

RingMod and VC-XFAD are already available on other great 4x4 modules. What is really lacking (to me) is basic VCAs with 3 jacks & a pot. Just fit 4 in two columns. Or, if you want to make it improved, do 3 VCAs in two columns, adding an extra pot for each (so you have initial gain + cv amount) plus a "mix out". That would be awesome paired with the TWS!

I may be in the minority here, but on the top-left processor, I'd rather have 3 inputs + 3 attenuverters, instead of 2+2 plus the two 1v/oct inputs. I felt that when you did that for the Eurorack version it made a lot of sense, but not sure if it is as useful in 4U-land. And it may just be my workflow, but personally I'd rather have different modules (i.e. the processor and the mixer) be their own columns (i.e. 8x1 modules vs 4x2 modules).

But, as I mentioned initially, something like these... audio utilities, CV utilities, and sequencing utilities... would be absolutely awesome!:
- 2xMixer + 4xVCA,
- 2xCVPRO + Peak/Trough + 2xVCA
- 2xASR + NCOM + dual bidirectional router
good points here.
the VCA´s DC-Coupled please. with attenuators on the cv inputs :tu:
wtb: Klangzeit and Wave Processor

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by Lindstrommodular » Wed Jun 02, 2021 9:41 am

While were suggesting dream panels...
A [preamp+envelope follower ]+[resonant EQ]+[new Ring] 4x4 would be dreamy

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by fonik » Wed Jun 02, 2021 1:34 pm

lag progress wrote:
Wed Jun 02, 2021 7:18 am
the VCA´s DC-Coupled please. with attenuators on the cv inputs
Attenuators for the CV input makes 5 elements for on VCA. This is the reason I would prefer an ActivePro like above.
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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by NU » Wed Jun 02, 2021 1:52 pm

Lindstrommodular wrote:
Wed Jun 02, 2021 9:41 am
While were suggesting dream panels...
A [preamp+envelope follower ]+[resonant EQ]+[new Ring] 4x4 would be dreamy
yup

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by Mood Organ » Wed Jun 02, 2021 3:17 pm

I agree that the proposed design is kind of esoteric and not as functionally dense as what I'd suggest, which would be something like:
3-input mixer (CV) + 3-input mixer (audio)
Dual VCA (perhaps one AC-coupled & one DC-coupled)
Active Processor + Comparator

I think the Scaling Processors are incredibly useful for pitch CV (TKB!), but those might go better with a more specialized module... quantizer / ASR or similar.
Last edited by Mood Organ on Wed Jun 02, 2021 3:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by Mood Organ » Wed Jun 02, 2021 3:20 pm

[double post]

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by levelhead3 » Wed Jun 02, 2021 3:48 pm

One question for R*S is how you folks feel in general about developing "recombinations" of existing modules vs only adding missing modules?

For example, should we even be daydreaming about the ring modulator and res EQ in another 4x4 when they're already in existing production modules?

Currently only the stereo mixer and VCFQ are duplicated, whereas older duplicate modules like the slopes/ADSR and dual ADSR appear to have been phased out.

But then again the quad slopes module is forthcoming, so it's hard to determine if there's a specific design direction we should be taking into consideration as we scheme. :mrgreen:

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by Pagoda-100 » Wed Jun 02, 2021 5:08 pm

levelhead3 wrote:
Wed Jun 02, 2021 3:48 pm
One question for R*S is how you folks feel in general about developing "recombinations" of existing modules vs only adding missing modules?

For example, should we even be daydreaming about the ring modulator and res EQ in another 4x4 when they're already in existing production modules?

Currently only the stereo mixer and VCFQ are duplicated, whereas older duplicate modules like the slopes/ADSR and dual ADSR appear to have been phased out.

But then again the quad slopes module is forthcoming, so it's hard to determine if there's a specific design direction we should be taking into consideration as we scheme. :mrgreen:
That is indeed something to think about. I sort of went Hog Wild gathering Serge stuff over the past year and now am at a state of wanting to refine to a setup that has what I want / need. I find I have panels in use for just one or two modules and the rest is not used or is duplicates from other panels. Lots of overlap going on in my current state... Lately I have been looking it more like the STS Funstation type thing.
1. Heavy voice panel
2. CV panel
3. Sequencer panel / logic
4. Soup Kitchen panel
TKB when the mood strikes...
Not saying I wish for the exact same mix, but It is a nice roadmap to look back at.

Also worth thinking about is the M-Class menu. I believe it is what? 13 ish panels? So call that 20 some 4x4s?

I guess with the current state of materials / parts availability, Now might be a good time to spend a good bit of effort looking at what a product line up could look like. I am guessing it would be frustrating to say the least to be trying to actually build the lineup / prototypes.

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Re: The future of R*S 4x4 modules?

Post by markeats » Wed Jun 02, 2021 9:21 pm

Lindstrommodular wrote:
Wed Jun 02, 2021 9:41 am
While were suggesting dream panels...
A [preamp+envelope follower ]+[resonant EQ]+[new Ring] 4x4 would be dreamy
I'd also jump at this! A really fun sounding processing 4x4.

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