Parallax & Vertex - WORNG Electronics

Parallax & Vertex - WORNG Electronics

by Ellison Wolf

Australia-based WORNG Electronics has a unique take on sound, specifically stereo signals, and what you can do with it/them in modular territory. The release a few years ago of Soundstage, their mixer/spatializer seemed to kickstart the current popularity of the end-of-chain EQ/compressor/side-chain-y types of modules that seem to be hitting the market recently, and Parallax, their stereo VCF—and its companion stereo VCA Vertex, are another couple of modules that further explore this sonic territory.
WORNG’s previous modules [the aforementioned Soundstage and Vector Space] have a look to them that is sort of 3D science class chalkboard sketch with hieroglyphs and all caps scribble, and while Vertex and Parallax continue on with some of that, they have added eye candy and a more refined and elegant look. Both have a black matte panel and angular—but not quite angry looking—hand scribed gold text, which is easily legible. The two modules also have bowtie shaped PCB see-through windows with red and gold LEDs [only red on the Vertex] that give a visual indication of the strength of the signal for each of the stereo sides for various parameters; red for frequency and gold for resonance in Parallax, and red for signal strength in Vertex. The knobs on both are standard pointer knobs, pretty much black throughout, though the RES section on Parallax has gray topped knobs. The controls on Parallax are abit askew, the important part of the word being “skew,” as that is a main feature on both modules. There is plenty of space to get your fingers in there and get to work, and work is what these modules do, as overall, while they might have a slightly random playfulness visually, they’re straight up business in terms of how they function and what they can do.
If we take a look at both of these going from the typical left to right—VCF before VCA—in terms of usual signal flow found on most synths [we’re looking at you Synthacon!] Parallax is a stereo filter that looks seemingly uncomplicated, and in terms of operation and function, it is. Everything is front and center with no menus or anything needed to commit to memory. The filter circuit is based off of the Sequential Circuits Pro 1 4-pole lowpass filter that used the Curtis CEM3320 chip, but Parallax goes on to have two separate stereo outputs with a L and R out for each -24dB/oct and -12dB/oct. It has two inputs, L and R, where the L is normalled to the R so that one mono input can be split into stereo outs, pretty handy for getting stereo signals going in a modular rig. There is a FREQuency knob with two modulation inputs—FM1 and FM2—both having attenuation controls, and the text around the knobs for the CV attenuation indicate whether or not the CV is for unipolar or bipolar operation. One arrow under the knob means the attenuation is unipolar, two arrows above the knob means the attenuation is bi-polar. This applies to both modules.
On Parallax FM1 is a unipolar while FM2 is bipolar and this is so that any type of modulation—LFO, envelope, audio rate, etc.—can be used and handled easily.
In the middle of the module is F.Skew, a frequency skew control with a CV in for that with bipolar attenuation on the incoming CV. This is really interesting because if you have a mono signal patched in, but have stereo outs and panned hard left/right, with F.Skew in the center position it’s neutral, effectively in the off position, but when turned either right or left it lowers the frequency cutoff on one side while simultaneously raising it in the other, similar in fashion to a tilt EQ. With the ability to modulate this it opens up a world of interesting and unique sonic possibilities in a way that would take a lot more modules to do so. Add more modulation via the FM1 and FM2 and you can get some really trippy movement and sound changes happening. Mostly I threw envelopes into FM1 and LFOs into FM2, but I also messed around with throwing audio rate shapes into each with some really cool outcomes. There wasn’t quite as much bouncing around as with slower rates patched in, as I got more stable-ish complex oscillator type of sound destruction by doing that.
On the right side of Parallax is where the RESonance controls lie. On most filters you’d have resonance with maybe a CV in for that, and that’s all, but here you’ve also got R.Skew, a resonance skew to shift/shape the resonance in the stereo field. The R.Skew acts in a similar way to F.Skew, lowering the res on one side while raising it on the other, and it almost feels like every time you shift the knob that one side is stealing from the other, and strangely in that way a balance of sorts is maintained, like some kind of biospheric frequency or resonance shift where nothing is ever lost or created. But where did it come from in the first place? It had to be created somewhere right? Aaah, the questions that haunt my nights.
At its most basic, Parallax is a really smooth and great sounding filter, and with the four outputs, you can really do some creative outputting. If you add some sort of CV or sequential switch module, you can get really trippy in so many ways. I patched the four outputs into the four inputs of U-he’s CVilization [review in Waveform #6] in the Sequential Switch mode and even without modulating the Freq or Res on Parallax it got pretty crazy switching between the different outputs going from side to side. You can do this with a mono input on Parallax as well for more of a stereo pan effect, and skipping steps here and there can add some cool rhythmic variation. Speaking of rhythms, Parallax can self-oscillate with both the -12dB and -24dB outputs [though it doesn’t track at 1v/o], and it pinging it is super fun. I was able to get some snappy water droplet sounds, some Buchla-ish bongo type tones, and your odd crazy hard-to-define whines as well. Doing this with the CVilization created some really interesting and amazing rhythms, and was extremely fun and satisfying. I don’t know what it is about pinging a filter, but it hits a sweet spot for me.
When self-oscillating you can use the freq skew to get two different but complementary tones from each output that change in inverted ways: increasing the F.Skew via the knob or with CV makes the pitch on one output go higher while the other simultaneously goes lower and vice versa. There’s a sweet spot around the middle where both the left and right frequencies are the same, but even just the smallest shift in F.Skew...A good way to check this out is to put a slow moving sine wave LFO into the F.Skew CV in and listen to the changes. It’s like the left and right sides are stealing frequencies from the other and I’m not sure I’ve come across anything in Eurorack that does this sort of thing, it’s quite unique. Self-patching on Parallax yielded equally cool and unique results. Putting it in self-oscillation mode and patching any of the outputs back to the inputs and CV inputs got some pretty harsh sounds that when manipulated via the knobs brought out the hidden dark side of Parallax, and patching random CV into FM2 and RES on top of that got me even further into that realm.
The controls on Parallax can be a bit touchy, and there were times when I thought I blew out my eardrums, or a module, or fried a cable or something from all of the sonic destruction, losing sound on one side of the stereo field [finally one side stole it all!], only to find that the F.Skew or the R.Skew was slightly more to one side than the other, thereby eliminating audible frequencies altogether on the left or right side, and the slightest adjustment to any of the parameters can be the difference between having some stereophonic fun and losing sound completely out of one [or both] sides.
The interplay between the frequency and resonance can be interesting and almost impossible to understate. It can be a thin line between massive success and epic failure and one way this happens is by overdriving the filter at the input, which lessens the impact that the resonance has on the overall sound. The opposite is also true in that if you lower the input going into the filter, the resonance is more pronounced. Sometimes it’s these little movements, going from 1:00 to 2:00, these seemingly innocuous nuances, that can make huge impacts and get you the sound you want or leave you scratching your head, and it’s only with your familiarity with Parallax that you might notice these important subtleties.
You really can’t talk about Parallax without bringing up Vertex, WORNG’S stereo VCA. The filter might steal the show—it is larger and does light up more, but these two modules go hand in hand like Baskin and Robbins, peanut butter and….eh, you get it.
Vertex has a GAIN input with a CV in for modulation and that has unipolar attenuation. There is also a Skew function with CV in and bipolar modulation for that. L and R ins and outs, and a red light up bowtie shape on the PCB for visual representation of the strength of signal and that’s it. It’s pretty simple in terms of what you get to play with on the surface, but below lurks four analog VCAs in which the input signals flow through and this gives you the ability to CV both the Gain of the input signal and the Skew. As on the Parallax, when one side is decreasing in amplitude the other is increasing, and vice versa, which can give the panning effect. Also like Parallax, you can run a mono signal and get a stereo signal out, or you can run a stereo signal.
With a mono input the Skew becomes a panning VCA, so throwing CV modulation into the Skew CV in gives you panning modulation. Patching in a stereo signal with different input signals and the Vertex attenuates each side, and with some modulation in the Skew CV in you can do really cool things, like patching different sequences on each channel—or the same sequence with different waveforms—and alternating back and forth between the two. It brings out cool results both rhythmically and melodically and since Vertex is DC coupled you can do this with CV as well and alternate modulation for a source like the FM CV in on Parallax.
The design of Vertex is such that at full gain it’s at unity output, so there’s no saturation or distortion coming out of the unit and you can’t drive it like with some other VCAs, but therein lies one of its hidden tricks. If you turn the Gain CV fully CW and it clips the envelope, it doesn’t distort and instead flattens the peak for as long as it crosses its threshold, and adds what is essentially a hold stage to your envelope, turning an AD envelope into an AHD. If you have a mono signal in, you can basically get two different shapes from one wave out of it by clipping one side and not the other. You can have some really interesting interplay doing this and having it move around the stereo field. If you throw in audio rate CV into the Skew CV in you can get some cool AM synthesis happening.
Patching between the two modules obviously yields a ton of great sonic and spatial possibilites. Using the -12dB outputs and patching them into Vertex’s Gain CV in and the Skew CV in gave some really cool distorted effects, and further warped the stereo field.
These are great modules. Really fun, with a ton of possibilities. There’s so much exploring between the two, and Parallax is perhaps as unique a filter—in its way—that I’ve come across. Most of this is due to WORNG’s obvious obsession with all things stereo and spatial; EQ separation, sound movement, and manipulation of the stereo field. They must never take their headphones off, always longing for sonic separation and changes in the aural spectrum, and kudos for them for being like this; it’s this sort of obsession that we all benefit from.

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