Vice Virga Deep Dive
Vice Virga: it’s an 8 HP, 8-input, 8-output sequential/addressable switch, and there’s a whole lot that it can do in your patches. It’s also got a jack to HP ratio of 2.375:1, meaning it’s our most densely-packed module so far! (Will it be forever? The shadow knows.)
But what do all those jacks (and switches and an encoder and some buttons) do? Let’s discuss Vice Virga’s core features, how it works, and how you can use it in your patches.
What is a sequential switch?
A quick overview is in order, as sequential switches are a useful but slightly complicated utility. At their core, sequential switches change where signals go. The simplest sequential switches will have one input and a number of outputs, or one output and a number of inputs, and they’ll change the input to output routing each time they receive a trigger.
To get an idea of what this can be used for, let’s take a look back at synth history: an iconic sequential switch, the Moog 962, was often used to extend two 8-step sequencers into a single 16-step sequence. This was done by patching the outputs of the sequencers to the inputs of the switch, and triggering the switch every 8 steps.
However, some switches have more features: some can be controlled with CV, some have a high number of inputs and outputs, and some have various settings that change how they perform in a patch. And wouldn’t you know it, Vice Virga has all of those features!
Vice Virga: the sequential switch that does it all
Vice Virga has existed, in some form or another, longer than Noise Engineering.
In fact, the first prototype was designed around the time of our first module, the Ataraxic Translatron.
Once the basic VV featureset had been ironed out, we built a prototype. It languished for literally years until we dusted it off and said hey, let’s do something with this! We sent it off to our pal Jon for test. He found a massive design issue, though, and it once again languished while other things just seemed to always take priority.
Eventually we pulled it out, dusted it back off, and said hey, this should be an easy fix! Some hot air later and we had a redesign. And it was, again, awesome, but another small but important issue was found in testing. Parts were added. Parts were removed. Measurements were taken. And then, at long last, we had our final design in early 2020. We were so excited we told people about it a little later that year. Unfortunately, 2020 had other plans for us: we announced Vice Virga with great fanfare, but were unable to actually manufacture it until September of 2021.
We always wanted Vice Virga to be a Noise Engineering take on a classic and versatile utility. Vice Virga has 8 inputs and 8 outputs: that may sound like a lot, but it can be as simple or complex as you need it to be, thanks to its grouping and advancing options.
For example, we can recreate the Moog 962 patch from above using Vice Virga: its Grp setting allows it to be configured as an 8-channel switch, two 4-channel switches, or four 2-channel switches. Patch your two sequencers to the first two inputs, patch a clock to Advance, and you’re good to go!
Of course, we can get even more advanced: for instance, we could use Grp 4 mode to combine all four channels of Mimetic Digitalis and create a 64-step sequence.
Switch it up with triggers or CV
As shown in the previous example, we can change VV’s switch position with triggers. However, it doesn’t stop there. First, the Adv setting changes the direction the switch goes when it receives a trigger at the Advance jack: Fwd moves it from top to bottom, Rev moves it from bottom to top, and Pen moves it from top to bottom the bottom to top. And no matter the direction, if we trigger the Reset jack, it’ll jump back to position 1. Plus, the Adv and Reset buttons give us manual control of switching, for performing or just setting up a patch.
But what if we want VV to reset to a different position? Enter the Offset encoder: turning it advances the switch, and also changes the position that the switch will reset to. Tapping the encoder removes the offset, and resetting will jump to step 1 again. The encoder is also just a fun way to switch manually, and it’s a great way to control VV in more performance-oriented patches.
All these ways of navigating VV mean it can do a lot of different things in your patches. Here’s an example patch that uses Vice Virga as part of a CV sequencer. We can patch a number of DC offsets to its inputs, send it clock and reset signals, and our CV sequence comes out of Out 1. If we change the Adv setting we can switch up what direction our sequence goes, and by turning the Offset encoder we can change what step it resets to, adding a lot of variation with a couple of quick tweaks.
Addressing the switch
Now, we’ve been calling the Vice Virga a sequential/addressable switch: what’s that addressable bit all about? All that means is that the VV can be switched with CV, too. CV behaves the same way as the encoder does: not only will it change the switch position, it will also change where Reset triggers land. Having CV control over switching opens up some new possibilities: for instance, you could control the switch with a controller like Lapsus Os, or you could control the switch position with a CV sequencer.
That’s so random
Sequential switches have traditionally been very utilitarian. Here at Noise Engineering, we love utilities, but we also take every opportunity we can to spice things up. We also have a love for randomization. And that’s why we added randomized switching to VV!
Enter the Beh setting. In the Seq position, you’ve got your standard switching, as we’ve been describing. The 1>1? mode adds a layer of randomization: an input can be randomly routed to a single output each time the switch advances. The 1>x? mode gets completely random: any input can be routed to any number of outputs, or none at all: it completely mixes up your patches.
When implementing the random modes, we wanted to balance outright chaos with a level of control. Each time you trigger or press Advance you’ll get a new randomization. However, the Offset CV input and encoder still perform in the exact same linear fashion. And the Reset button and trigger input will still reset the switch to its initial state: input 1 goes to output 1, input 2 goes to output 2, and so on. That means you can completely randomize things, move them around, then reel them in all with a few taps or a couple of triggers and CV.
So, what can VV be used for?
We’ve talked quite a bit about the mechanics of Vice Virga, but what can we use it for? A whole lot of things, as it turns out! I really like using mine to swap CV sources around to different inputs on my Loquelic Iteritas. We wrote a patchbook showing a bunch of different patch ideas, so take a look if you’re curious about what it can do and want some inspiration. Of course, patcher extraordinaire Patrick O’Brien gave a great video demo of Vice Virga, too:
Vice Virga is available now from retailers everywhere and our webshop, too. Get yours today!