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Sono Abitus: Helping you get outta the box (the box being your box of Eurorack)

It’s everyone’s favorite day: yep, you’re right, it’s New Module Announcement Day! We’ve kept this one quiet until now but Sono Abitus is definitely a useful one, and we’re happy it’s in our lineup. Read on to learn a bit about what it is, what you’d use it for, and why we made it. And yes, we know many of you are still eager for details on some of the other things we have mentioned -- Univer Inter, Vice Virga, Virt Iter, alt firmwares for Desmodus… all these things and much more are coming as soon as we can make it happen.

So...What is Sono Abitus?

Sono Abitus was the solution to a problem we kept running into: how do we get audio out of our cases to the equipment we need it to connect to? We couldn’t find an output module that had all the features we needed in a tiny footprint (“If only someone would make this!” we exclaimed), and that’s when we remembered that we’re module designers, so we made our own.

Sono Abitus is a stereo output module. It has left and right Eurorack inputs, with L normalled to R, a headphone output, and left and right balanced TRS outputs. We included separate level controls for the headphones and for the main TRS outputs, so, for instance, you can monitor through headphones and send the main out to a PA, all at the perfect levels.

It’s also pretty much the smallest you can get for a ¼” output module: those jacks don’t fit on a panel smaller than 4 HP, so we designed SA to fit all the features we needed into that footprint.

Output modules generally do one thing: they convert the signals you’ve created in your modular system to a different format of signals. With Sono Abitus, you get two different types of output. There’s the headphone output, which is pretty self-explanatory: you plug your headphones in, and you get sound out of them. The headphones (as well as the main output) have a dedicated volume knob that goes from silent to reeeeeeally really loud. Like seriously loud. Please use caution. If you use your modular system in loud environments and need to monitor with cans, SA can do the job and do it well. Heck, it will do it well in quiet environments, too! Sono Abitus has an all-analog signal path, too, so you’ll get pristine, high-quality sound out of your headphones, too.

A Sono Abitus (a stereo output module) with some cables on a wooden background.
Why do I need balanced outs for my modular?

Learn more:

Sono Abitus

Now, let’s talk about the stereo TRS output pair: what’s that all about? Picture this: you’ve got your modular system all patched up and ready to go, you plug in to your audio interface or into the PA at a performance and… what’s that noise? Where did it come from?? It may have come from the cables, believe it or not! And that’s where the balanced TRS line outputs come in. Balanced signals are useful when you have a long cable run, or you’re using your system in an area with lots of interference. It’s common for electromagnetic interference to be introduced in cable runs, causing unwanted noise. This is all taken care of if you use balanced signals, though! You can read more about how exactly balanced connections eliminate noise (it’s pretty cool, actually, in a nerdy whoa-who-even-thought-of-this kind of way) on the dedicated Wikipedia page.

If you don’t want to read the mumbo-jumbo on exactly how it works, just trust us when we say that in certain situations it can really, really help.

SA is also great for recording: I have a pretty cable long run (about 10 feet of cabling) from my Eurorack system to my audio interface in my studio, and I noticed a serious improvement in the noise floor of my recordings when I started using SA instead of a direct output from my system. Better recording quality, plus volume control AND a dedicated headphone output? That’s pretty great for 4 HP, if I do say so myself.

What can I plug SA into?

It depends.

If you’re asking about the power header, that should only be plugged into Eurorack power.

If you’re talking about the outputs, though, that’s another story.

There are a lot of different places that an SA can fit in and help when you’re connecting your system to other gear. For instance, most pro audio equipment has balanced line inputs, either in the form of ¼” TRS jacks or XLR jacks. Since SA balances your audio output, you can use either ¼” TRS to TRS cables, or ¼” TRS to XLR adapter cables to plug into those line ins in the format they’re expecting. And since you have a volume knob on the output, gainstaging is super easy. Eurorack levels are much, much higher than traditional line-level devices: those generally work at around +4dBu, and Eurorack often outputs +26dBu -- or higher! That means that often, if you patch directly into a mixer, interface, or effect, you may end up clipping (distorting) at the input. SA to the rescue: you can adjust the gain with the master volume knob and hit the sweet spot that your destination device is expecting.

Gainstaging is also incredibly important for any type of effect. Even if your destination can take in a Eurorack-level signal, it may work best at a different volume. Compressors, distortion, you name it - they all have a range that they work best at, and SA lets you dial in your synth’s output to work perfectly with any device down the chain.

And of course, if you need a headphone output, SA can help too. While it only has a ¼” output designed for studio headphones, ¼” to ⅛” adapters are abundant so if you want to monitor your system on earbuds, you can totally do that. I tried it on a pair of $10 earbuds I had lying around and it still sounded surprisingly good.

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Do I need an SA in my system?

Well, no, not necessarily. I often tell people that you don’t need any type of output module if all you’re doing is plugging your modular system into a mixer or audio interface in a studio environment. You can totally plug your modular system directly into one of those and you’re (probably) okay, you just don’t have any volume control on the output of your case. However, if you want a headphone output in your system, you do need some kind of output module, and SA is pretty great. And if you’re dealing with cable runs longer than a few feet, you may notice an improvement in your noise floor if you start using SA and balanced connections -- I certainly did. Need a master volume knob for your patch? SA’s here to save the day. However, I would say you really NEED a module like SA if you’re performing live. It’s much, much easier to find TRS connections in a performance environment like a club, and you’ll likely be dealing with long cable runs and lots and lots of potential interference. High-quality balanced outputs are a must for a situation like that.

SA is available for preorder now

You can preorder your SA now for $166, and they’ll be shipping on Friday, October 16. Say goodbye to interference and interfacing problems and say helloooo to pristine headphone audio and glorious balanced outputs!

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