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Percall - Befaco

Percall - Befaco

by Ellison Wolf

Befaco’s Percall is a module designed for percussion duties, and as usual with all Befaco products, it’s sleek, solidly built, and with Befaco’s usual black/white/red color scheme. The controls are laid out in an intuitive and sensible way with a good mix of knobs and sliders and it even comes standard with their colored Bananuts, which look awesome and are handy for quicker identification of inputs, outputs, CV, etc.
Percall has four identical channels, each with a VCA, a dedicated decay envelope, and a volume/mix control. Each channel also has a TRIGGER input, audio IN, DECAY control with CV in [the CV gets added to the decay], an ENVelope output, and an audio OUT. There’s also a STRENGTH input that is shared by all of the envelopes and is normalized to its maximum output at 10V when nothing is patched into it. This is a nice addition as, when patched, helps give the percussive sounds a little extra dynamics. Channels 1+2 and 3+4 also have a CHOKE switch, that when turned on, the triggering of either channel 1 or 3 mutes—or chokes, rather—channel 2 or 4, respectively. I’d never really heard or used the term “choke” before, as I usually think of it doing something like this more as something accomplished with side-chain compression, or ducking, but choking is an accurately termed description, and was something I’d previously never really sought out to do in my modular rig, to my detriment. I use sidechain compression plenty when mixing my non-modular music, but never really gave it much thought for performing live—modular or otherwise. That’s now changed.
CHOKE, while being physically small—it’s just a tiny little switch—is BIG in terms of what it offers. Choking is a technique used on a lot of old drum machines for open/closed hi-hat situations so that an open and closed hat don’t make sound at the same time, potentially crowding/muddying up the sound. This makes obvious musical sense, but it makes even more sense in terms of production, as it gives more sonic space to make things more audible, so that similar frequencies aren’t fighting for attention, getting lost a mix. The benefits of this become really clear when using Percall and patching a kick drum in the first channel [1 or 3] of one of the pairs, and a bass line in the second channel [2 or 4], so that when the kick sounds, the bass is choked and doesn’t hide the kick, muffle it out, or make it less impactful: It gives it the necessary space and overall it really helps to give a polished sound. Again, choking helps instruments/sounds stand out, and keeps things from becoming a big muddy mess and Percall makes this easier than normal to do in the modular world. This alone makes this module a must have if you’re serious about letting your rhythmic tracks being all that they can be. Even if you’re using Percall for something other than for percussion, CHOKE is a really cool thing to mess around with. Patch two sequences in channels 1+2, throw on the CHOKE, and pan them without overlap by breaking the normalizing outs, before throwing them into some effects and then out to a stereo mixer. The CHOKE feature is one thing that makes Percall stand out from the pack, and another big one is the clever way that Befaco has used normalization throughout.

The outputs of channels 1-3 are normalled to channel 4’s output—making that a main output—so if you patch out of channel 3, to add reverb, throw it through a filter, or whatever, it gets removed from channel 4’s main output mix. With the ability to control volume for each channel, this enables a very flexible sub-mixing for whatever duties you’re using Percall for. Another way Befaco has put normalization to good use is at the inputs. The input from channel 1 is normalled to the input of channel 2, and the input of channel 3 to input 4. Doing this means that you can use the same sound source for 1+2 and 3+4, and the importance of this becomes really evident when used in conjunction with the CHOKE for either channels 1+2 or 3+4.
The ENV outs are a really nice feature as well, and self patching from the ENV out of channel 1, which was my kick drum, into an attenuator and on to the CV in of channel 2, my snare, gave the snare a push, some momentous juice right when the kick ended. I initially had CHOKE on in this channel, to give it that space between the two, but turning CHOKE off was just as interesting.
Overall, what I thought was just some four-channel envelope generating percussive VCA module turned out to be a lot more. I wound up mostly using this for kick/bassline CHOKING as well as open closed hi-hat duties, though not in the traditional sense. It’s cool to be able to sculpt the sound of your percussive elements with whatever means you like, whether it’s a sample, a dedicated module, or whatnot, and just as cool, if not cooler to not just further shape the sound, but to sculpt the shape as well. It’s this shape sculpting that I get really excited about, and the reason I recommend Percall highly.
12 HP +12v 80mA -12v 60mA
Price: $299

befaco.org