I find ring modulation as a concept pretty fascinating. Where else can you take two things, multiply them together, and simultaneously get the sum and the difference—two related but very different products? I suppose you could try it on other things, like if you wanted to get all etymological and adapt the faculties of ring modulation to use with words, we could take the words “hot dogs” and “hamburgers” and create hotburgers and hamdogs. Or would it be hothamburgerdogs and oatbmrdorge? I dunno. Anyway, back to musical applications of ring modulation, I was recently given a bit of time to spend with Berlin-based IO Instrument’s Pasiphae, their experimental ring modulator module. Pasiphae has a distinctive look with its colored knobs and micro-dotted black and blue [mostly] text-free faceplate. IO has chosen to forgo words and instead utilize symbols for navigation, which I have mixed feelings about. The module feels good in hand with a nice weighty heft and solid build quality. Considering that IO’s modules are designed with the cost conscious in mind, this makes the quality even more impressive, and I’ve seen much less stout builds in much more expensive modules, so I’ve got to hand it to IO for figuring out how to keep their prices reasonable and quality high. It’s a testament to their dedication to both as well as to the availability of reasonably priced, quality parts and overall good design.
Pasiphae is pretty no frills and there’s nothing superfluous here. As a matter of fact, IO Instrument’s entire product line has an uncluttered and simply laid out flow to them, with plenty of space for maneuvering around their landscape. They’ve got an instantly recognizable aesthetic, even from afar, and that too is a testament to the well thought out nature of their modules.
For features, Pasiphae has two AC coupled inputs [X and Y], DC coupled CV inputs with offset for both channels, a mute button with CV ins for each side, and LED indicators to let you know when mute is engaged. Rounding out the features, Pasiphae has both a positive and negative output with an overload indicator LED residing at the bottom of the module.
Like any normal ring modulator, Pasiphae can run the gamut from metallic shrills, to robot voices, to bizarro tremolos, but the ability to control so many of the parameters [without sensory overload], along with such a very playable layout, makes Pasiphae shine. The manual boasts of “low distortion, low noise, and high headroom”, and indeed, the sound quality is good, though you’d be hard pressed to define a bad ring mod sound, as so often [intentionally or not] a ring mod’s “bad” sounds quite “good.” It’s easy to get lost testing a module like this since it’s so quick to swap out different inputs and CV and just adjust the input amount, dramatically changing the timbre of either/both outputs. That’s what I’ve spent most of my time doing with Pasiphae, experimenting. Running a simple 4-step sequence through the X input and using the Metasonix RK6 [review this issue] as my second sound source in Y, with a square wave LFO in the Y Mute CV in, while also running that same sequence through the RK6 [which tracks in a unique fashion] yielded some pretty cool rhythmic instances. Pasiphae is pretty interesting, as it doesn’t look like there is much there, but I found it to be extremely usable.
Well built, colorful, intuitive, inexpensive and really a lot of fun to experiment with; Pasiphae is on point. If you’re looking to add some ring mod to your sound, it's definitely worth a look.