Desmodus Versio: To the batverb!
It’s here! It’s ridiculous! It’s reverberant! It has shiny lights! What else can it do? Read/watch/listen on to find out more about what DV is capable of and a bit about the story behind it in this patented* Multisensory Immersive Modular Experience**! And if you haven’t ordered your Desmodus Versio already, go do that. Now. Go on. We’ll wait.
*Not actually patented.
**It’s a blog post with videos.
DV: Get your ‘verb on
Desmodus Versio is a 10 HP skiff-friendly stereo-in, stereo-out reverb. However, this ain’t your mama’s reverb (although we’re sure she has a very nice reverb): we’ve been calling it a synthetic tail generator because it doesn’t emulate, for instance, a hall, or a room, or any other real-life space. It does its own thing, and it does it very well, in our opinion! This post will give you some ideas for patches so that when your DV arrives, you’ll have lots to try out. (If you haven’t ordered one, go get one here. Or go your own way.)
DV is also our latest conservation tie-in: a portion of the proceeds of every DV sold go to Bat Conservation International! You can learn all about why bats are so important to the world (and see a bunch of adorable pictures of bats, too) at their website, batcon.org.
But that’s not all! DV is a DSP platform: when yours arrives, it’ll be a reverb, but we’ll be releasing new firmwares for it that’ll allow you to turn it into a completely different module! Don’t want to bother with firmwares? Don’t worry, you can buy a pre-flashed module with its own dedicated panel down the line. Or you can write your own firmware: In a couple of months, we’ll release support for you to develop your own algorithms, if you’re into that sort of thing. Details to follow.
But how does it work?
There’s a knob on Desmodus Versio called Blend. It controls the dry/wet balance of the original sound versus the reverb sound. If you’re not familiar with dry/wet controls: turn it to the left and you have more of your original sound. Turn it to the right and you have more of the processed reverb sound. It’s an important, yet simple, control: in most patches, I set it to 12 o’clock or a little higher: this gives a good amount of my original sound, but gives the reverb enough space to really shine. But maybe you want a LOT of verb? Crank it up and you’ll hear that tail really shine. Note that if you turn this knob alllll the way down, you’ll ONLY hear your original sound (and the other controls will have no effect!). This makes it a really interesting CV destination, as you can fade reverbs in and out with external CV!
Desmodus Versio’s Many Modes
DV has three reverb modes, and the top switch labeled LIM/DST/SHM controls what mode you’re in. It has a pretty big effect on our sound because it changes how our reverb is processed.
The first mode, LIM uses a limiter to make a clean reverb and keep signals as nice and pretty as possible.
DST takes the LIM algorithm and adds a tiny distortion to it, just enough to add an edge to the sound and make it a little bit more aggressive, especially with longer tails.
Finally, SHM adds a +1 octave pitch-shifting shimmer in the reverb tank that transposes sound over time to create brighter signals and create a “shimmering” effect. It can sound beautiful with the right settings, but it can also sound very, very scary with the other kind of right settings.
In this clip, we’ll start with a LIM patch, then move to a more aggressive DST patch, and finally end with a SHM patch that starts out pretty and moves into spooky.
Size and Dense
These two parameters change some of the bigger characteristics of your reverb: Size controls pre-delay time and the spacing between the delay lines.
Dense controls how reverby things sound: to the left, DV acts like a delay. To the right, the delay lines are smeared into beautiful reverberant goodness. In between, you get some really unique effects that are, well, somewhere in between. In this clip, we show that transition from reverb to delay, and show how different Size values change the tone of our reverb:
What about those other modes?
Underneath that first switch we talked about is another switch, labeled BND/LRP/JMP. This one controls how the delay lines that make up the reverb react when their times and properties are changed. BND stands for blend: it does its best to make any changes as smooth as possible. If you modulate the reverb size, you get blended, smooth tonal changes of your sounds. LRP stands for interpolate (we didn’t have a lot of space): this one makes those changes a little more obvious, as it allows the reverb times to be changed more quickly. JMP stands for jump: when you modulate the size, you’ll hear it A LOT. And it can be pretty cool, I have to say.
You’ll hear the differences between these modes most clearly when you modulate the Size and Dense parameters. In this clip, we’ll run CV sequences into Size and Dense’s CV inputs, starting in BND mode and moving through LRP and JMP:
Tone is a simple one: it’s a DJ-style filter in the reverb’s feedback loop. To the right, you have a highpass filter. To the left, you have a lowpass filter. And while this may sound like a very basic parameter, it has a HUGE effect on your sound. I like the results I get when I shave the low end out of anything in SHM mode [I’m way more case-by-case with no general rule and just love to find the sweet spot with this filter - Kris], but find your favorite. It’s also useful to have a really dark reverb sometimes, especially if your input sound is already very bright: that’s where that lowpass filter comes in. It’s another tool in your arsenal! This parameter is especially noticeable with higher Regen amounts, as it really shapes the tail of the reverb nicely. Take a listen to how much it can change up our sound:
Regen, according to Chief Noisemaker Stephen, is “the most complicated knob in Noise Engineering history.” It controls the amount of feedback, and thus the length of your reverb. However, it’s not a standard feedback control: from its minimum position to 12 o’clock, you go from 0%-100% feedback. Yes, you read that right: at 12 o’clock, you’ve already hit 100% feedback. What’s the rest of the knob do? Past that point, DV creates higher and higher feedback amounts, giving us more and more aggressive infinite regeneration. [For amusement, we turn the knob up and walk away for a few hours just to see if it will keep going. It does. The NE House has sounded kind of scary for the past month. I never said we’re not dorks. - Kris] And once you turn the knob past 3 o’clock, the reverb signal is ducked by anything at the audio input. This allows you to create sidechain-ducking effects just by turning a knob. In this clip, we’ll start out with some short verbs, then move into longer verbs (but not Kris-and-Stephen-walking-away-for-hours long), then move on to basic infinite verbs, THEN play with some ducking. Phew. That’s a lot. Roll the clip!
Index and Speed:
Static reverb can be fun, but not always: sometimes we gotta get things moving to make it interesting. And that’s what the Speed and Index controls are for! Speed controls the, um, speed of the internal LFO (if you guessed what that one did already, give yourself a gold star). Index controls how much the delay lines are modulated. But you actually have TWO modulation options built into the Index control: when you turn it to the right, all delay lines are modulated by a sine wave. When you turn it to the left, they’re modulated by smooth random signals. You can think of Index as a bipolar attenuator, setting the level of the LFO controlled by the Speed parameter. Let’s say we want some slow, sinusoidal modulation: set Speed to 9 o’clock and index to around 2 o’clock. What if you want some fast, random modulation? Set Speed to 3 o’clock and turn Index all the way down. Here’s an example of how these parameters work and sound:
Let’s make some music
Now that we know the basic controls of DV, let’s try out some more musical patches. This first patch is a more energetic techno-y thing that uses DV to create a background layer for our kick. Since we’re using maximum regen, our kick automatically ducks the reverb, creating some some nice dynamics:
What’s that, you say? You want something more relaxing?? BAM. RELAXING AMBIENT. Here, we’re using SHM mode to create some beautiful pitch-shifted reverberations over a generative polyphonic pluck patch. You can almost hear the succulents growing in the background.
How did we get here? Or, it’s about time.
Reverb. Yeah, it’s been on the to-do for a long time. Stephen had some crazy ideas fermenting and fomenting in his head for years (many of which you see here) but the main problem we always had was processing power. We couldn’t find a processor that we thought was capable of what we needed, had the memory we would require, and would not be cost prohibitive. We didn’t want to make a reverb that no one could afford. So effects remained a pipe dream for us for a long time.
In 2019, a line of processors became available that we were extremely excited about. We immediately began work on a platform we could use as a basis for all effects that would meet all our needs (internally, we called it George - see the board below). Electrosmith’s parallel development of the Daisy platform presented us with an opportunity: cut our development costs, work with them on their product, and also buy into the scale that they would have, making it less expensive all around -- making the final product less expensive for our customers. Stephen started porting some of the code he’d been writing over the years and we were pretty happy with the result. He performed at Modular on the Spot LA in the summer of 2019 with a prototype taped to the side of his case as a test (who needs a panel when you’ve got duct tape?) and it sounded pretty wonderful. We knew we had finally found a winner: we dropped development of George, and pursued the Daisy Seed.
After this real-world test, the path to release was straightforward and simple -- or so we thought. The world learned about DV at NAMM 2020: we gave hundreds of demos to many an appreciative ear, and got some great feedback. At that time, we thought we’d have DV available in a month or two. The world, however, had different plans, and soon after NAMM, the global pandemic turned everything upside down. Needless to say, we were delayed a bit (and rightfully so; lives are more important than modules, no matter HOW cool they sound). Luckily, we all were able to shift to working from home and development continued, albeit more slowly than we’d hoped.
The move to the Seed allows us all sorts of options that we have not had prior to this release. DV marks our first module where we will be able to have alternate firmwares (look for these in late 2020 or early 2021). And because the seed itself is open source, we’ll be able to provide the necessary bits to allow you to use DV as your own development playground. (Look for open-source support around the same time as the alt firmwares).
George, the platform that never was.
At Noise Engineering, we believe in giving back. If you likea the pangolin, we have a module for that too. But for the reverb, we wanted to do another conservation campaign. And we chose bats for a lot of reasons.
First, the most obvious one is that many species (but not all!) communicate with echolocation: they emit an ultrasonic call and then listen for the reflection when it bounces back (or…*cough* reverberates) to their ears. By doing this, they get an acoustic image of the environment. They hunt like this -- even when both they and their prey (typically insects) are on the move. Imagine how complicated that is and their tiny little brains are doing it. That’s cool.
The second reason we chose bats is that they are in danger. Habitat loss is a big problem: as the human population expands, bats have fewer places to live. The other big one is a fungus spreading across the US. Pseudogymnoascus destructans, or Pd (and you thought our module names were hard to say!), has killed 90-100% of bats in some places.
Finally, bats are really important to the health of ecosystems. They act as pollinators (did you know bats are the pollinator for agaves? Yep, without bats, there would be no mezcal or tequila, just to name one crop!). They are also huge pest controllers. Most bats feast primarily on insects and a single bat can eat over a thousand insects per hour (including mosquitos and lots of critters that infest crops). This helps reduce the amount of pesticides farmers need to use on crops, and also probably means a lot fewer mosquito bites.
Bat Conservation International works all over the world to protect bats, through landscape protection, interventions for endangered species, and research, and outreach. We are proud to partner with them to protect bats.
Desmodus Versio is available now
Like what you hear? Go get your Desmodus Versio today! They’re shipping now, and they’re a lot of fun. Plus, conservation. Buy a module, save the world.