Ruina Versio Deep Dive
Ruina Versio: it’s the stereo distortion you’ve always dreamed of, if you dream of things like stereo distortion. And we do. Which is why we made RV!
RV is arguably one of the most complex distortions in Eurorack, and like any new Versio firmware, it deserves some exploration. In this post, we’ll take a look at each of its controls, listen to a whole bunch of examples of what it can do, and talk a bit about its design.
Ruina: a never-ending series
Back in 2019, we had an event called Distortion of the Month, where we released a distortion every month for part of the year (five, in total!). You might think that, after releasing so much distortion, we’d have run through all of our distortion ideas. You’d be wrong: we really like distortion, and ideas are never the problem here at NE HQ. All the modules we released in the Distortion of the Month series were analog and mono, and we got a lot of questions about doing a stereo distortion. We promised it was in the works. It was. And in fact, that stereo distortion still is. Ruina Versio is its own beast that came out of a completely different digression.
We’ve mentioned that we had a lot of things planned for the Versio platform, and distortion was definitely on our mind. A couple of months ago, Stephen started nerding out on a distortion firmware, and presented it to the team. As with most things, there was a LOT of back and forth, and then there was much rejoicing and the firmware was refined into what you see today. The biggest point of contention was the Smoosh button -- Smoosh adds 128dB of gain to the input signal, so while the output level stays the same, the sound gets WAY more distorted. It originally started out boosting the input by only 30dB. This just wasn’t enough, so I convinced Stephen we needed MORE GAIN. At one point in development there was actually a firmware that added over 300dB of gain when Smoosh was pressed (the rest of the team just sat back and watched Markus and Stephen argue this one out on Slack), but after lots of tweaking we found that we got the best results from the current 128dB. (Yes, gain numbers are the types of things we argue about for days here at Noise Engineering.)
After a while, we stopped fighting over/discussing the nitty-gritty and just started sending recordings back and forth as we played with RV. When this happens, it’s usually a sign that a firmware is done and we’ve made something cool. We sent it off to a few of our friends, and they all thought it was cool, too, so we made a panel and declared it ready to roll.
If you have a Versio, you can try out Ruina NOW by going to the NE Portal and flashing it onto your module. And if you like it, you can order a nicely paneled version from the shop or your favorite retailer, too! Just watch out for that evil eye.
For now, let’s talk a bit more about what it can do.
Blend is the dry/wet control for Ruina (and most of the other Versio firmwares), changing the balance between the original, unprocessed signal (dry) and the distorted signal (wet). On any effect the dry/wet balance is important, but on Ruina it’s a key feature: Ruina can distort things a LOT, so having some dry signal is really important to keep things sounding how you want. Or, just crank it all the way up and let things really drive!
Of course, it can also be CV’d. Take a listen to this clip, where we’re slowly modulating the dry/wet mix to create tension in a patch.
Finally, the famed NE Infinifold (is it really famed? We like to tell ourselves it is, at least. If you’ve ever wanted to use the fold on the BIA or other NE oscillators to process anything in your rack, BEHOLD.) breaks free! This thing can get REALLY gnarly: it’s got a lot more distortion power than a traditional wavefolder. And in a certain routing mode (yes, you can reroute the whole module’s signal path just by flipping a switch) it appears in the signal chain twice, just in case one round of folding wasn’t enough.
Let’s give this Fold thing a listen:Center and Drive
These two sort of work together: Drive is a multiband drive algorithm, inspired by our Seca Ruina module, but with 4 bands instead of 3. The Drive knob morphs between which band is emphasized (lowest loudest to the left, highest loudest to the right) and Center changes the width and frequency of the center band. Modulating Center can give some pretty drastic changes, almost acting like a filter on its own.
Phase shifts the phase of the input signal around to give you some artificial stereo effects, even if your input signal is mono. It also can sound like a phaser with the right settings and modulation, and it can even add some pitch warble and distortion in its own right if you move it fast enough. While it may seem like a simple parameter, there’s a lot to be done with it…
This is another one that takes inspiration from the Distortion of the Month series: it’s a similar effect to the Pura Ruina, being a multistage full-wave rectifier. These sorts of distortions can create effects that sort of sound like they’re pitched up an octave, hence the name.
UND/X/OVR and OFF/ON/TRK
The switches on RV control the internal signal routing, and the notch filter respectively. Let’s start at the top: UND/X/OVR changes the routing of the input signal through the different distortion units on RV. UND is probably the mildest, and OVR is the most extreme, with X somewhere in the middle. OVR mode actually has two separate points where signals are wavefolded.
OFF/ON/TRK gives you a notch filter: in OFF mode, it’s, um, off. Give yourself a point if you guessed that! ON mode turns it… on. More specifically, it’s a fixed-frequency notch set to 1kHz. I always ask for cuts at 1kHz because that’s a “traditional” sound design technique when making reeses and that sort of sound.
TRK mode makes the notch variable, with its frequency controlled by Center.
That’s right, you can finally get your very own DOOM knob on a Eurorack module! Trust us, it lives up to its name. It’s kind of like a demented overdrive, drunken suboctave generator, and overtone creator all in one knob. This is one that’s definitely better heard than talked about…
Lastly we have Smoosh. Press for INSTANT GAIN: 128dB of it, to be precise. The great thing is it can be externally triggered, too, so you can sequence your Smoosh-ing! Smoosh? Smoosh.
Get your Ruina on today
Now that we’ve heard what RV can really do, try it out today! If you have a Versio, head to the Customer Portal to try it out in your patches. If you need some evil eye in your life, you can order RV today from our webshop or your favorite retailer.