SSF Vortices Mixer Feedback, Make Noise Rene 2 Sequencing, and Mixing with Saturation
Updated: Aug 5, 2021
I've had my eye on the SSF Vortices for a while. It's one of those modules I knew immediately I was going to like. It has a unique interface and routing system unlike any other mixer module I've seen in Eurorack. And it's function per HP can't be beat. But what I didn't realize was how damn good the tape and console emulation was going to sound! The Vortices module sounds great in typical mixing tasks, but begs to be pushed into more saturated sonic territory.
A little bit about why the sound of Vortices has me so excited. Most people who have spent serious time making music and mixing know how useful saturation is. And tape saturation is arguably the most widely used for good reason. A tape machine isn't cheap and takes a lot of time to maintain, so I've relied on plugins for that particular sound.
I've used plenty of tape plugins that I've liked. For example, I use the UAD Studer A800 and Ampex ATR-102 plugins use on most of my mixes for different purposes. I've tried A LOT of tape plugins. But to me none of them sound like the real thing when pushed aggressively on high settings. I've had the same problem with console emulations and compressors/limiter plugins on heavy settings. The classic 1176 with all buttons in sound for example. Plugin makers have reached laudable levels of emulation when doing more typical tasks. But I've still found the vast majority of plugins can't quite create the dynamic frequency response and saturation sound created from real hardware tape machines, consoles, compressors, and saturators pushed to their most extreme limits.
Which leads us to the feedback patch using the Vortices that creates this incredible sound. There's two separate mixer sections in the Vortices: a 3 channel Stereo mixer, and a 4 channel mono mixer. The mono section also contains two pan-able channels and two channels attached to a crossfader that also has its own separate output.
In this case, I'm using the separate stereo mix section out back into a stereo channel to create feedback. I'm pushing the built in console emulating limiter to its... well... limits. And I'm getting an impressive amount of "musical" range. It was very easy to tune the amount of feedback I wanted for every patch I've tried it with so far. The added feedback has a dense and heavy sound that's extremely useable. This is on top of the built-in tape style saturation that occurs when a channel's attenuator is pushed past 12 o'clock. It's the same kind of sound I get when I really push my favorite pro audio gear. From the Inward Connections Brute compressor set to stun, to a Thermionic Culture Vulture in full on fuzz glory.
I could see it being a great tool in the mixing process. At normal saturation levels it would be great for a bass that needs to sit better in a mix. With the feedback approach, it could be a great reactive tool to play with to create more aggressive experimental compositions, or for parallel compression purposes. Of course in my Eurorack it's wonderful with everything going through it with varying degrees of saturation.
Feedback like this is normally one of many spices I use in my musical kitchen when mixing and making music, but this is a dangerously addictive sound! A quick but important note for those who hate manuals, the mono section has a more saturated sound with more high end roll off built in compared to the stereo section. As a result, the feedback has a bit of a different flavor as well.
I also used an Intellijel Planar 2 to manually control the feedback amount, creating a tremolo effect out of the feedback. Further controlled with a few compressors in series, each working lightly to keep everything under control. I'm a big believer in NOT waiting to make sonic decisions for the mix. At this point in my recording journey I trust my ears to do the right thing. I'll use whatever compressors I have available, plus any other effects like EQ, to get the sound I need right from the start. Great musicians should never be afraid to make decisions and stick to them. It worked for Bowie and Visconti!
For sequencing, I finally focused in deeper on the remarkable Make Noise Rene 2 sequencer. I found the first Rene to be a very inspiring tool. Compositionally it immediately took me to places I wouldn't necessarily go. This new Rene had more of a learning curve. Especially with memorizing all the functions around the "3rd plane" of stored sequences. It's power is pretty extraordinary! While I do miss some of the logic functions of the original, the new Rene runs circles on the potential of the old one. I kept it simple with just a few stored sequences. But "playing" the sequences is a blast. I'm sure I'll continue to dive deeper and I'll make an effort to post more approaches as I go.
There are only 3 voices in this patch. First, is a Mannequins voice with Mannequins Just Friends in the "Spill" Sound mode modulating the Run jack, going through a Make Noise RxMx and ADDAC 802 with plenty of modulation moving the various related sound outputs of Just Friends in and out, then into a heavily modulated Whimsical Raps Three Sisters and a Audio Damage Dub Jr. MK2 Delay. The next low voice is a SSF Entity Bass Drum into a Mutable Instruments Rings, modulated with noise and plenty of LFOs. Last is a SSF Entity Percussion module into a SSF/WMD DPLR, with stereo panning modulated by LFO's into Vortices.
For an even more aggressive take on using feedback through the Vortices, check out the video below. Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions, or want to learn more about how to make music with synthesizers or recording.