Get with the pro­gram­mers

The CTO of the com­pany be­hind Volt­age Mod­u­lar tells the tale of their amaz­ing open-ended en­vi­ron­ment

Computer Music - - News - Dan Gold­stein

Where did the idea for Volt­age Mod­u­lar come from?

DG “In 2004, I had the idea of build­ing a soft­ware mod­u­lar syn­the­siser that lets peo­ple add as many mod­ules, ca­bles, and cab­i­nets as their CPU could han­dle, in any con­fig­u­ra­tion they could dream up. I built a pro­to­type, and it worked great, but I felt there was some­thing miss­ing. A few years ago, I re­alised that the best part of mod­ern mod­u­lar syn­the­sis is the abil­ity to mix and match mod­ules from dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers to cre­ate your own per­son­alised sys­tem. The ideal soft­ware mod­u­lar couldn’t just come from my ideas and tastes – it had to be an open plat­form that any pro­gram­mer could de­velop mod­ules for.”

What sets Volt­age Mod­u­lar apart?

DG “Cherry Au­dio’s team has decades of ex­pe­ri­ence build­ing soft­ware with a fan­tas­tic work­flow and an in­tu­itive in­ter­face. We put a great deal of ef­fort into mak­ing mod­u­lar syn­the­sis on a com­puter screen just as fun as mod­u­lar syn­the­sis with hard­ware. Work­ing with Volt­age Mod­u­lar is fast, easy, and in­tu­itive. We’re all vin­tage syn­the­siser en­thu­si­asts, col­lec­tors, and techs, and we know what makes a syn­the­siser sound truly great. Sec­ond, the Volt­age Mo­d­ule De­signer is a truly re­mark­able tool. Mod­ules can be pro­grammed in a mat­ter of min­utes, and pro­gram­mers can fo­cus on craft­ing phe­nom­e­nal DSP al­go­rithms in­stead of wast­ing hours try­ing to learn some ar­chaic API. All mo­d­ule code is writ­ten in Java, and all mod­ules are au­to­mat­i­cally cross­plat­form. Volt­age Mod­u­lar con­verts the Java byte­code into ma­chine lan­guage on your com­puter, so it runs light­ning-fast. Build­ing a mo­d­ule is as sim­ple as lay­ing out your con­trols, adding back­ground art, and writ­ing sim­ple code to tie it all to­gether. Ev­ery con­trol is fully skinnable, and there are vir­tu­ally no lim­its to what a mo­d­ule can do.”

“We know what makes a syn­the­siser sound truly great”

PSP Au­dioware are mak­ing mod­ules for Volt­age Mod­u­lar. Are any more big names in­volved? DG “There are a lot of great new mod­ules com­ing soon to Volt­age Mod­u­lar, both from third par­ties and from Cherry Au­dio. Our third-party de­vel­op­ers are con­stantly build­ing new mod­ules, and we have quite a few of our own in the works as well. That’s about all I can say at this point…”

What’s your favourite Volt­age Mod­u­lar mo­d­ule, and why? DG “We have a mo­d­ule called For­mula. It con­tains three in­puts (X, Y, and Z) and an out­put. You can write just about any for­mula and it sends the real-time re­sult to the out­put jack. The wave­shap­ing and dis­tor­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties are as­ton­ish­ing, and the re­sults from typ­ing in ran­dom for­mu­las can be sur­pris­ing. It shows how pow­er­ful the Volt­age Mod­u­lar sys­tem is. The idea was thrown out in pass­ing dur­ing a con­ver­sa­tion about mod­ules. Within two hours, we’d built a fully work­ing pro­to­type.”

What does the fu­ture hold for Cherry Au­dio? DG “We’re only be­gin­ning to see what Volt­age Mod­u­lar is ca­pa­ble of. We have third-party de­vel­op­ers build­ing suites of awe­some-sound­ing fil­ters. We’re work­ing on mod­ules that model the sound of clas­sic vin­tage syn­the­siser fil­ters and os­cil­la­tors, and the re­sults are re­ally thrilling. As for Cherry Au­dio, we’re think­ing big – the sky’s the limit.”

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