DOC and QEG - Rides in the Storm
by Ian Rapp
If you're looking at the Eurorack company, Rides in the Storm, and feel a bit of déjà vu, there’s good reason. Uwe George and Dr. Nikolai Dichev, the two operators behind RiTS also toil in the sands of IO Instruments, and both companies have a very similar aesthetic. As a matter of fact, even though the color schemes of the two companies modules differ, both offer sturdy build qualities and similar knobs and buttons, with a very similar artistic style overall. I’m not sure why the need for two modular companies, or what the name “Rides in the Storm” refers to—if anything—but perusing the respective websites [two companies, two websites] IO Instruments only offers Eurorack modules, whereas Rides in the Storm displays a larger gamut of products from sound samples, to a record label, to, of course, modules.
The two modules I was sent for review, DOC [a VCO], and QEG [a quad envelope generator] grew on me the more I used them, with their gray color scheme ingratiating itself the more time I spent with them.
The first module I checked out, DOC is billed as a “High End Discrete VCO”, according to the paper manual that was included, and usually when the term “high-end” is used, I think of Gucci, Chanel, Maserati, and the like. To me high-end equals price more than top-line quality, but the prices for RiTS modules—in modular terms of course—are not outrageous, which leads me to believe that the touting of the VCO is due to its quality. Well…let’s see!
To be fair, there’s really nothing striking about DOC in terms of what it does or what it offers. It’s an oscillator that can be used at audio rate or with the push of a button switched into use as an LFO. It has three waveform outputs; pulse, triangle, and ramp, and CV modulation inputs for exponential FM, Linear FM, and PWM. There’s also a 1V/Oct input and a reset input, coarse and fine controls to dial in frequencies, a manual pulse width control and a PWM amount control. Really, pretty standard stuff.
DOC does sound pretty good, and it also tracks well and overall I’ve enjoyed using it, but there are no surprises here, it’s a pretty normal VCO. Like I said, the build quality is quite good, and I like the options available on DOC; no fluff for sure, but as a nice basic VCO, it fits the bill well. Really, the thing that stands out most to me about DOC is the fact that it uses a 16 pin power cable and not because it uses +5V, it’s used to transmit bussed signals from your rig into DOC, if that’s the way you roll. There are jumpers on the back to switch between using your rigs bus and/or the internal CV and reset, respectively, but I very rarely come across somebody’s system that actually uses the bussed CV/gate pathways that Eurorack is capable of. I myself don’t use it, and don’t have a lot of modules that do, but maybe that will change. I definitely like the idea of a few less cables hanging around.
As for the second module, let me just say first, that QEG, their a quad loopable ADSR, is robust. I don’t know if they feed it protein powder smoothies for breakfast or if it’s on some other sort of bulking up regimen, but the thing has got some heft, it’s beefy. It’s also pretty large, coming in at 20HP, but for that size, it’s got a lot of functionality in there and I’m always down with some looping ADSRs, especially if you’ve got four of them, which is what we have here. In essence, QEG has four channels that are exactly the same, and has sixteen trigger outputs. Sixteen. That’s a lot. Of triggering.
So let’s look at Channel 1, and then just cut/paste the functionalities for the following three channels.
First off, it’s got controls for Attack [from 0.2/0.4ms - 2.5/4.5s], Decay [0.6/2ms - 7/24s], Sustain, and Release [0.6/2ms - 7/24s] as well as a Trig/Gate input to get things started [normalled into each channel’s Trig/Gate] with a Slow/Fast input. If you’re the touchy-feely type, there’s a momentary manual gate pushbutton that also has a Slow/Fast option with a pushbutton to select between the two as opposed to the CV’able input for the Trig/Gate in. There are latching pushbuttons to select Loop on/off, and 1Shot on/off, Reset/Legato for Loop mode, and one for triggering the end of the release stage to begin the attack, essentially cutting out the sustain stage. There are two outputs below each channel; one with the normal envelope, and one inverted. All of these controls, inputs, and pushbuttons are arranged nicely in a vertical row, and while they’re pretty dense, I like the layout pretty well. The shaping controls are easy to reach, the ins and outs are out of the way, and the buttons, while a little cramped, are reachable. Then again, I have medium sized hands.
Channel 2? See Channel 1’s description.
Channel 3? See Channel 1’s description.
Channel 4? Same thing.
On the right side of the module, is a bunch of jacks, and we all love jacks, right? Especially when they’re used to control, modulate, or start/stop something, and that’s exactly what we’ve got here. Sixteen glorious trigger outputs, four for each channel. There’s a Beginning of Gate output, an End of Attack output, and End of Release output, and End of Sustain output. At the bottom of the module are a + and - Mix out that sums channels 1-4’s outputs.
The trigger outputs are great. You can go ballistic with them getting all sorts of funky rhythms, use them to trigger sequences at strange spots in a pattern or melody, and use them to trigger into QEG itself, by patching out of a trigger output of one channel into the Trig/Gate input of another. A pinged filter at the end of the attack stage, a kick drum at the end of the sustain stage…the world is your oyster when it comes to the possibilities here.
Using QEG was great, and it covers a lot of bases, though I have to admit that I wasn’t too thrilled with the pushbuttons. They work totally fine, but it’s hard to see—even in good lighting—if one of the buttons situated between the knobs [they’re all between the knobs!] is pushed in or popped out. Sometimes I wouldn’t know if I was in Fast or Slow trigger mode, or if the 1Shot and Loop buttons were both pressed in at the same time, and I’d have to do “The Pushbutton Shuffle”, pressing the buttons on and off—or off and on—until I knew where I stood. Light up pushbuttons would be helpful here, but I digress, you can’t have everything, and in the case of QEG you do get an awful lot.
When I was wrapping up my testing of the RiTS modules, it dawned on me that the artwork on the faceplates looks like angled block letters, and indeed, that seems to be the case. I believe that if you have enough RiTS modules [maybe you need all of them?], and orient them in a certain manner, the faceplates will spell out “Rides in the Storm.” If only I knew what the significance of the name was…
6 HP +12v 60mA -12v 50mA
20 HP +12v 120mA -12v 100mA