Pittsburgh Modular has announced their Patch Box line of modular effects pedals (and Game System). Initially aimed at psychedelic and progressive guitarists, this combination of both modular synthesis and the stomp box paradigm will certainly pique the interest of live-performance-oriented electronic musicians. Our Technology Editor got a first-hand demo of the system at this year’s MusikMesse show, and came away quite impressed with the possibilities (as well as Pittsburgh’s mind-boggling Game System sequencer – see below. —Ed).
Pittsburgh Modular’s Patch Box redefines modular synthesis around the venerable stomp box by creating a Eurorack-compatible, performance platform with a patchable, system designed for experimentation. The Patch Box enclosure can house five modules integrated into a heavy-duty steel chassis with unique functionality not found in current Eurorack offerings.
The Patch Box features a true BYPASS and a preamp with high headroom in addition to a pair of fully-buffered outputs. Custom-engineered soft-limiting circuitry built into the preamp adds character without unwanted noise at higher gain settings. The pre also has dual, buffered outputs to allow for complex signal routing, in addition to patching a single modulation or audio source into two destinations via the patchable signal splitter. Also known as a MULTIPLE, the signal splitter has one input and two outputs, allowing any signal to be routed to two destinations.
Dual, assignable expression pedal INPUTS allow the Patch Box to easily integrate third-party expression pedals anywhere into the signal path to allow for realtime foot control of any voltage-controllable parameter or split the signal from the foot controller to control two parameters at once. (Very cool in action —Ed.) Dual, assignable A/B foot switches — SWITCH 1 and SWITCH 2 — expand signal routing options. Perfect for use as on/off switches or to flip between two signals, the foot switches can be patched up to enable/disable individual modules or route audio and control voltages. Try patching a modulation source, such as an LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) or external expression pedal, through the foot switch to enable or disable the modulation while playing. Patch the outputs of two effects into one of the foot switches to bounce between effects. With two independent, patchable foot switches to play with, there are countless options for realtime signal routing. The last stage of the Patch Box signal path is a master OUTPUT level control. Adjust the output signal level to connect with a wide range of devices.
The Patch Box is available either empty case, or packed with a number of preconfigured Pittsburgh Modular, Dwarfcraft Devices, or other compatible Eurorack-format modules. Dubbed Complete or Core systems, the preconfigs can be tailored to just the sound you’re looking for, but thanks to the Eurorack flexibility, modules can be swapped out as you see fit.
Time Box Complete, dubbed by Pittsburgh as “A Modular Exploration of Time and Space,” comes complete with a Patch Box enclosure, Analog Replicator (wide-range analogue delay module), Reverb (voltage-controlled digital reverb module), Lopass Gate (integrated lowpass filter, VCA, and lowpass gate module), LFO2 (dual modulation source module), and Multiple (dual passive signal splitter), plus a 12-pack of patch cables from premier Eurorack modular synthesizer accessory specialist Nazca Audio. Alternatively, Time Box Core comprises Patch Box-housed Analog Replicator and LFO2 modules, plus a six-pack of Nazca Audio patch cables. Jerry Garcia would have soiled his pants had he been around to play through this configuration.
Filter Box Complete addresses the modular filtering and signal-crushing downsampling chain via a Patch Box-housed Filter (multimode state variable filter module), Lopass Gate, Crush (analogue downsampling module), Follow (envelope follower module), LFO2, and Multiple, plus a 12-pack of Nazca Audio patch cables. Filter Box Core offers filter sweeps courtesy of a Patch Box-housed Filter, Follow, and LFO2 modules, plus a six-pack of Nazca Audio patch cables.
Phase Box Complete comes complete with a Patch Box enclosure preconfigured with a Phase Shifter (16-stage analogue phase shifter module), Lopass Gate, LFO2, and Multiple, plus a 12-pack of Nazca Audio patch cables. Phase Box Core features a Patch Box- housed Phase Shifter and LFO2 modules, plus a six-pack of Nazca Audio patch cables.
A collaboration with Eau Claire, WI, USA-based handmade effects pedals and synthesizers specialist Dwarfcraft Devices, Dwarf Box Complete leverages their expertise in sonic destruction by partnering up their Big Distortion Sound Machine (parallel distortion module with two distinctly different fuzz flavors) with Pittsburgh Modular’s Filter, Chain Reactor (quadraphonic, voltage-influenced chaotic waveform generator), and Toolbox (multi-purpose slew, noise, sample & hold, and inverter) modules in a Patch Box enclosure, plus a 12-pack of Nazca Audio patch cables. The Dwarf Box Core, contains Patch Box- housed Big Distortion Sound Machine and LFO2 modules, plus a six-pack of Nazca Audio patch cables.
Game System Module
Not officially announced, but on display was Pittsburgh’s Game System, described as a Probability Gate Sequencer. It’s clear that after ingesting a big bag of mushroomsPsilocybin, founders, Richard Nicol and Michael Johnsen, decided that they needed to infuse retro game concepts into a random, yet beat-synced, sequencer design. The unit consists of five different Games, including “Asteroids,” controlled by a probability joystick, which modifies the parameters in real-time.
The Joysticks gate parameters can also be controlled by your synth’s LFO, so your synth can “play” the sequencer, which is a good thing since the joystick is positioned at the bottom of the unit and it’s full use is encumbered by the patch cables above (we would suggest repositioning the Joystick under the Game display for better functionality —Ed). The results are particularly tweaky – think FutureRetro’s Zillion – and should appeal to the Bloops ‘n’ Bleeps crowd. Release of the Game System is reportedly slated for the summer.
The Patch Box will be available in May 2015 for $349. Time Box Complete will be available in June 2015 for $1,199; Time Box Core will be available in May 2015 for $779. Filter Box Complete will be available in June 2015 for $1,149; Filter Box Core will be available in May 2015 for $739. Phase Box Complete will be available in June 2015 for $1,029; Phase Box Core will be available in May 2015 for $799. Dwarf Box Complete will be available in June 2015 for $1,199; Dwarf Box Core will be available in May 2015 for $689.