Review: Voltage Modular by Cherry Audio
Easy to use and learn for those with a basic knowledge of synthesis
A comprehensive array of modules to construct sounds in almost any genre
The soft synth links directly with the Cherry Audio website for instantaneous updates
The ability to hide/show cables with a simple-to-use slider
The GUI is re-sizable and the modules can be moved with a click of the mouse
Over 300 ready-to-use presetsLow CPU usage
As more developers design modules for Voltage Modular the deeper you’ll have to dig into your pockets to keep up - Welcome to the never-ending world of modular!
Documentation on the use of many of the modules could be more comprehensive.
You don’t need an advanced degree in acoustics to understand the basics of signal flow and how to modulate that signal. Voltage Modular, in a way, has reduced some of the complexities by giving you all the necessary tools to get you going.
Jump to the Videos of Voltage Modular by Cherry Audio
Jump to the Demos of Voltage Modular by Cherry Audio
Review: Voltage Modular by Cherry Audio
Okay, so you’ve just come back from seeing Ian Boddy in concert and you want to, so badly, get immersed in the world of modular synthesis. As much as you want to, the cost of the hardware modules is prohibitive and out of your range. Well, step in Cherry Audio. In late 2018 the small company stepped up to the plate with its Voltage Modular soft synth to much praise and accolades. It offered a rather comprehensive package of modules that could even be comprehended by a novice to the world of synthesis. To make the offer even more attractive, Cherry Audio teamed up with Misfit Audio to include an entire array of electronic drums in the Core Volt package and a generous number of presets from which one could achieve instant gratification. The presets could also be used as a valuable learning tool if one wished to take the time and reverse engineer the patches.
The world of modular synthesis can be extremely fun, addictive, and rewarding; it could also be one that is extremely frustrating, especially if you are a novice. If you look at it patiently and as a learning tool, the rewards will far outdistance the frustrations in the end. You don’t need an advanced degree in acoustics to understand the basics of signal flow and how to modulate that signal. Voltage Modular, in a way, has reduced some of the complexities by giving you all the necessary tools to get you going. If you own other soft synths, you already know that they are broken up into categories: sound generators or oscillators, envelopes, filters, low frequency oscillators (better known as LFOs) and effects. All of these tools (and much more) are included to get you going. So, how do actually make sound with the instrument?
On the top left of the above example you will notice a module called “CV Outs”. Just think of this as an extension of your MIDI keyboard / Controller. The Pitch correlates the key depressed on your keyboard. This signal, typically, gets fed into the Keyboard CV of the oscillator. The Gate can be thought of as “Gate ON” when depressing a key and “Gate OFF” when releasing a key though, depending on the signal path, the release won’t necessarily mean the end of a sound generated. For instance, a reverb or a long release will allow the sound to gradually fade away. Gates are typically associated with Envelopes where ADSR is defined. Trigger can be thought of an instantaneous command that get executes such as drum hit or a signal to stop / start an arpeggiation. Modwheel will allow one to modulate any input with the controller’s modwheel control. Ditto for After Touch and Velocity. In essence, all of these are commands which most are already familiar with.
There are several different oscillators available with Voltage Modular. The basic one, shown in the example above, contains 5 different waveforms: Sawtooth, Reverse Sawtooth, Square, Sine, and Triangle. The Octave Range runs from “LO” to a high of 2’. The frequency knob will allow one to step up / down 7 semitones. There are separate inputs where one can control Frequency Modulation and Pulse Width. Signals from either an LFO or Modwheel, for example, can be used to control the overall amount.
Before I move on, I just want to point out that all of the input / output connectors allot for 8 distinct connections. So, in a basic set-up, you can use the “Pitch” on the CV Out to feed 8 separate oscillators. As one can imagine, the growth potential of this modular is, seemingly, endless.
Here is where things get a little wild and fun. Not only does Cherry Audio supply you with basic, monophonic oscillators, they also give you the ability to produce polyphonic sounds with a Poly Oscillator (great if you are into creating soundscapes and pads) plus a Sampler engine where one can import .wav files. If it sounds complicated, it really isn’t if you can think multi-dimensional. What I really like about the system is that you can organize your sound signals by lanes, in effect, creating a lead in one lane, a drum sequence in another lane, and sampler effects in, yet, another lane. All three of these lanes can be fed into a stereo mixer module and, subsequently, sent to the Master Output listed as Main Out to Host on the top row. This contains is a left and right channel out with a global volume.
One thing you will notice on the Poly Oscillator is that the input comes from the MIDI Out module on the top row. This allows for multiple keys / chords to be passed through to the oscillator. Also, within the Poly, is the ability to control each Octave with a slider, in addition to the overall frequency.
Lastly, there is also a Vintage Oscillator which Cherry Audio describes as an oscillator which generates a much warmer sound than the standard monophonic oscillator.
There are 3 distinct LFO’s in the package: a basic, a mini, and a super. The basic LFO gives the ability to manipulate a sound source with 6 distinct waveforms: Saw, Reverse Saw, Square, Sine, Triangle, and Sample & Hold. The basic explanation of a Sample & Hold is that when it receives an input via a Gate or Trigger, it holds the sample until the next Gate or Trigger is received. The Super LFO lends the ability to set the rate of the signal and, in addition, manipulate the pattern via skewing or rounding; it also lets one set the pulse width of the signal.
I’m sure as your eyes peruse at the filter types pictured above, you’re going to do a double take on the Ladder filter. Yes, this is the filter which, essentially, made a Moog a Moog!! It’s a 4 pole 24db filter that can be used as both a High Pass and a Low Pass Filter. The sound of the filter is completely distinct and, if you are a Moog fan, like I’m sure many of you are, you will make this your “go-to” filter in the sounds you create.
In addition to the standard high pass, low pass and band filters, you also get a notch filter. A notch filter is, in simple terms, the opposite of a band pass filter. It looks like a “V” (whereas a Band Pass Filter looks like a mound) and it attenuates a specific range of frequencies to a low level of amplitude.
With Vintage Module, there are no shortage of effects. I found most of them to be quite sufficient in sculpting the overall sound, especially the delay, chorus and string chorus. With regards to the reverb module, I found myself reaching for a third-party plugin however, there is a low-priced effects bundle from PSP Audio which includes several types of well-crafted reverb modules such as a Spring and a Plate module. I found myself using these in place of the supplied Reverb Module. Substituting, replacing or adding effects modules within Voltage Modular is piece of cake. In many cases, if you are using them as global effects, all that has to be done is to daisy-chain the modules using the input / output connectors.
As mentioned in the beginning of the review, Chery Audio teamed up with Misfit Audio to deliver a set of digital drums with the Core Volt package. Setting up an entire kit along with the enclosed drum sequencer took my just a matter of a couple of minutes. The Drum sequencer provides 8 distinct lanes in which to create patterns. The first set is A – D and the second set is E – H. There are 16 steps per lane and, to create a pattern, all one has to do is to select the button and it will light up. At the end of each lane you “Gate Out” to the input of a particular drum module in which there are several. Once you have gated to a particular drum type, you can run the output into a Mixing module where the volume level of that percussion instrument can be controlled with a slider. The mixer also has send / receive connectors if effects such as delay, or reverb are wished to be added to the sound. You want the sequence to start? Depress the start button on the sequencer; likewise, depress stop, if you wish to stop the sequence. Incredibly simple!!!
So, what does the future hold for Voltage Modular. Well, if the number of developers who have jumped aboard this synth is any indication, that future is bright. Thus far, in addition to PSP, several other developers now offer modules via the Cherry Audio website. Those include Andrew Macauley, Vult, Benard and Insomniac Music. While that is great news for Cherry Audio, it can cause a good problem for musicians…whether to keep up “with the Jones’” and dish out the money to augment the modular or to stand pat. As more third-party developers create patches for the synth, even they will have to carefully consider their audience as they don’t want to limit the purchasing potential of the product. With this in mind, Cherry Audio has updated their product so that one can link to the webstore via the browser such as placing candy at the check-out line of a supermarket to entire parents to give in to their children’s sugar demands. Oh well, such is the conundrum of a modular fanatic!! Me? I’m saving my change so I can jump on those bundle specials!!
Voltage Modular downloads as 650 MB and contains over 300 patches. The synth can be run in a standalone mode or launched from within your DAW. It supports .AU and all .VST formats.
Contributor Raymond D Ricker reviews Voltage Modular by Cherry Audio
“You don’t need an advanced degree in acoustics to understand the basics of signal flow and how to modulate that signal. Voltage Modular, in a way, has reduced some of the complexities by giving you all the necessary tools to get you going.”