Zorx Electronics
COSMOS - Black Noise Modular

COSMOS - Black Noise Modular

by Ellison Wolf

Like the cosmos around us, Black Noise Modular’s Cosmos is something to stare at and wonder, to enjoy its beauty and ponder. It’s very good for asking existential questions of: Why are you here? What can you do? What is happiness? This Cosmos probably doesn’t have all the answers you (fine…me) are looking for, but is pretty vast and you can use it to do a lot. According to Black Noise Modular Cosmos can be used as/for: “a VCO, LFO, Ring Mod, Polarizer, “VCA”, “LPG”, Phase Lock Loop, Cross-Modulation, Minimum, Maximum, Logic Gates, Waveshaper, Complex gate generator, Fuzz, Distortion, Gate extractor, Trig extractor, Gate generator, Voltage generator, Trig Generator, comparator, window comparator, complex comparator, Half-Rectifier, Full-Rectifier, Inverter, Buffered Multiples, Mixer, Difference, Compressor, Sidechain, compressor, VC Clipper, VC Switch, Clock doubler, Envelope follower, and more.”
“And more?” How much more could there possibly be? Black Noise Modular goes on to state that Cosmos has “an intuitive interface” and “is also very easy to use” with “no menu and button combo problems.” An elegant black and gold symmetrically laid out affair, it is void of any surface protrusions that rise above 3mm. Knobs? None. Switches? Nope. Buttons? Dream on. Honestly, I’m not sure there’s anything about Cosmos’ interface that’s intuitive, though I admit that with the “easy to use” part they’re at least technically correct. Inserting/unpatching cables and touching the touch points isn’t difficult. And they are correct about the lack of a menu and button combos as well, but still, without the 44-page manual to get started and use for reference, there’s no doubt you’d be as lost in the Cosmos (and cosmos) as I was (Carl Sagan voice here) in the beginning. Also stated in the manual, is that you need to use the supplied Eurorack cable that comes with Cosmos for it to work as the orientation is particular to it and other cables won’t work. Who knows why this is, but it’s just one of the many mysteries of the Cosmos! As it is, Cosmos is so beautiful I’m not sure there is anything in this or any other galaxy that would, or could, have deterred me from venturing into its world and giving it a solid go. While mysterious and at times vexing, with all of this potential, plus having the manual on hand to help decipher Cosmos, means we’re all good, right?
Actually, yes, we are good. If you can’t tell by now, I’m having a bit of fun with Cosmos and Black Noise Modular’s statements, and sure, while Cosmos looks and is quite cryptic, it’s also quite thoughtfully and beautifully laid out, divided in half vertically with logic functions (OR, AND, and XOR) at the top “hemisphere” (their term) of the module, and those same logic functions with their phase inversed (NAND, NOR, and XNOR) on the bottom hemisphere. There are two inputs, X and Y (unlabeled, of course), in the middle of the module, which can handle any type of Eurorack input, along with buffered and inverse outputs for each channel and SUM, DIFF, and TZ Clipper outputs on opposing hemispheres as well.
The manual is very well done and quite handy as it lays out most of Cosmos’ functionality in simple illustrations and explanations with each page clearly describing a particular use or function as well as patch examples. Going through the various pages of the manual is an interesting exercise in a myriad of ways; a lot of the functions that Cosmos offers up—wave rectification, buffered mult, etc.—are things that I would/will probably never use it for as I have more appropriate modules in my system to tackle these, and even though it’s impressive how much Cosmos can do, a lot of the functionality relies on other modules (VCOs, slews, etc.) to fill out the needs, just like most other utility modules. I really wanted to know what I could do with Cosmos that I couldn’t easily do with other modules. I don’t need it to be a trackable VCO, a window comparator or a buffered mult, but a distorted VCA? I’m listening. A unique rhythm generator? Keep talking.
Running the gate out of my Vector sequencer into the X input of Cosmos and patching any of either hemispheres various logic outputs into the trigger inputs on the Modbap Trinity drum module’s three channels was instant rhythmic gold, what with the AND, NAND, and other logic outputs to emit varying gates. Trying out numerous combinations of the outputs yielded all sorts of different and interesting rhythms, with the ease of random patching and unpatching being the way that I auditioned the variations. The combination of Cosmos and Trinity was inspiring, with Cosmos’ ability to produce on-tempo off rhythms and Trinity’s ability to randomize sounds/character for each of its channels, there were a lot of sound and rhythm combinations on offer. Patching another gate into the Y input furthered this rhythmic cornucopia, and unpatching it and messing with the Y touch point on Cosmos altered the output quite a bit, to the point where if I pressed hard enough there was no output at all—everything stopped moving. It made me wonder if there was a spot in the cosmos that could have the same effect; a pause button for all life. Could be helpful. Variations in pressure on the touch point with no input patched to either channel and I was triggering Cosmos with my touch—I was in control of the Cosmos. I tried really hard to get a consistent rhythm going in this way, to try and replicate the steely rhythm from Vector’s gate output by hand, but I got a totally different flavor instead, both in terms of tempo (or lack thereof) and sound. No surprise here, and I don’t know why I thought that a wishfully rhythmic touch by my fat uncoordinated thumb would be equal to the consistent voltage level and timing of a well-tuned sequencer, but I held out hope, unsuccessfully of course, that I had a magic touch. While this method might not be great for the backbone of a dance track, one area where it really shined was triggering numerous events at once; reverse of a sequence, an extra heavy kick, a drone going through a VCA being triggered by a slowly decaying envelope. The possibilities are endless, and with this sort of grandiose drama available with what I would term “efficient patching” courtesy of Cosmos, it actually did feel like I was controlling a lot, if not the actual cosmos.
Using Cosmos for audio purposes was really worthwhile to explore as well. With both inputs patched and running the same but slightly detuned sequence from a couple of VCOs (WORNG’s ACRONYM and NSI’s Triphase) I achieved all sorts of ring-moddy and distorted blissfulness. Using two outputs panned hard left and right, and adding delay/reverb, I got some nice stereo spreading happening, especially with two different types of logic outputs—like one OR and one AND (or their inverted counterparts)—from either hemisphere.
Having only one input signal patched into Cosmos was interesting. In the outputs where you didn’t need both inputs patched for comparison or combination, you would get a different flavor of whatever you had at the input. At the outputs that needed both inputs (AND/NAND), you’d get nothing—as expected—however, if you used the touch point you could get some pretty distorted signals coming through, and the pad acted as a very rudimentary distorted VCA.
It gets really intriguing when you patch in non-symmetrical waveshapes to trigger the outputs, especially in regards to percussion. I found that if my input was on the slow side, the lurching of say, a sharktooth-ish-shaped wave, was too spread out (due to the slow tempo) to use for more beat oriented stuff, but if I ran a faster signal for the input, the erratic beat was interesting, if not exhausting, depending on the tempo. This all depends on what you’re using as your triggering input, and if you go for a random shape—well that’s on you—and if you’re using two inputs together at high speeds, then let the chaos of the Cosmos ensue.
Cosmos is a very cool module. I found a lot of useful and fun situations for it, and anything that can open my patches (and mind) up to new sounds or rhythms, or just do something in a different way, is always a win. It’s a visually attractive module, and I do like the tactile element here, though it’s worth noting (here’s my caveat), and a bit of a shame, that the touch points are taken out of play once you patch an input into the corresponding channel (X or Y) as it’d be quite fun to be able to mangle the sound a bit with both inputs in use.
And while you might need to make something of a map legend to find your way around if you forgo the manual, it’s worth the effort. Perhaps someone will see their way to release a glow in the dark laminated celestial map of Cosmos, like the one I’ve had for years that I use for star gazing.

Price: $394