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Step 8 - Joranalogue

Step 8 - Joranalogue

by Jason Czyeryk

Joranalogue’s Step 8 has been kicking around on the scene in proto form for a bit and it’s good to see it finally released into the wild. At first glance, you’d be forgiven if you thought it was an 8-step sequencer with its light up LED faders looking similar to IME’s Stillson Hammer, and while Step 8 can be a 1-8 step sequencer, as is usually the case for Joranalogue’s line of modules, it’s much more than that.
The core of Step 8 is an analogue 1-to-8 signal switch that goes through eight track or sample and hold stages. Step 8 has eight ANALOGUE OUTPUTS—one for each step—each with an attenuating LED slider. Each step also has a GATE OUT. There are two other outputs: STEP, which outputs a short trigger every time a new step event occurs, and SCAN. SCAN is sort of considered the main output as it outputs the currently active stage, compared to each step’s ANALOGUE OUT.
There are a multitude of ways to shape Step 8’s operation via its inputs. There’s a signal IN, which sends +5V when nothing is patched in, and there are also inputs to control/modulate STEP, PAUSE, RESET, REVERSE, and STAGE. Most of these are pretty self explanatory, but the STAGE input is interesting in that each of the eight steps are divided equally by +5 volts, so that by doing some minor calculation you find that accessing a particular step is a multiplier of 0.625V [5V/eight steps = 0.625V], meaning that if you want to sequence or get to step one via the STAGE input, you would inject 0.625V into it, and if you wanted to get to step five, you would need 3.125V [5 x 0.625V]. Using random voltage for the STAGE input and you get a random sequencer. Conversely, you could use another module/s [offset with VCAs, or a CV sequencer] to access specific stages. It would be an interesting process, though I couldn’t think of a good “real world” rationale for doing so, but I’m sure some tedious and highly detail-oriented patchers would find reasons I haven’t thought of.
Along with CVing the steps, moving through the steps in sequence can of course also be done via the STEP input, or by pressing the button in the upper right corner. With all of the input controls and the ability to mute a step by positioning its slider all the way down, there are endless pattern variations to be had, whether it’s to use Step 8 as a melodic controller or a modulation source. Or both at the same time. Like most traditional sequencers that have gate outputs you can do all sorts of cool melodic/rhythmic variations, and I found that patching out of some ANALOGUE OUTS while doing so, and into various effects brought out cool pseudo-random highlights in a patch where [especially when going through the steps randomly] a ping of delay or reverb would pop out in surprising places, keeping the patch moving. You can do this with the STEP out too, to different effect. Actually STEP out is the triggering sibling of the SCAN out, and using both gives you a multitude of options for accents and modulation sources.
Finishing the controls on Step 8, the top of the module houses three toggle switches: CYCLE/SHIFT, SOLO/ALL, and TRACK/SMP. CYCLE/SHIFT functions as the mode selector in STEP 8 and switches [literally!] between cycling through the steps as you would in a traditional step-sequencer or a sequential switch, where the input signal [or +5V if nothing is patched in] is moved to each successive output stage where it can be attenuated, or shifting all of the voltages to the right or left [if reversed] as a group, like a shift register. The SOLO/ALL switch selects if all of the analogue outputs will be active [ALL], or just the selected output [SOLO], with the LEDs on the sliders giving visual indication of that as well. Being able to toggle between these two settings is cool for a number of reasons, like when in SOLO mode and for various spatial percussive needs, or accenting or pinging something only on certain steps. You can always mix a few of the outputs together for multiple pings or accents on one CV input, like a filter ping or something, and this is a cool way to get really interesting timing/rhythmic accents and be able to tweak the level of the accent/ping.
The last switch is the TRACK/SMP toggle which selects how each stage behaves in relation to the input voltage. TRACK follows the input throughout the duration of each stage, and SMP samples the input with w 50 μs sampling rate.
You can get some really interesting behavior on Step 8. For instance, when I was patching a square wave into the REV using six steps [by patching step 7’s GATE output into the RESET] you can get six steps moving forward, but the two skipped steps [7,8] will play when the sequence goes in reverse. You can do this, of course, in order—that is, to say, sequentially—by patching CV into the STEP input, or you can do this randomly, with the skipped steps as something like mystery guest steps or hidden steps, by controlling the steps via CV into the STAGE input. Patching the SCAN output into a 1V/oct input on a VCO and you can create your own bespoke 1-8 stage S&H melody, constantly changed by tweaking the sliders and the step movement. Do this at a faster pace and it’s something more akin to waveshaping, albeit with stepped behavior. You can also do all sorts of really cool rhythmic things as well by patching clock into the IN and the STEP and messing around with their rates along with the position of the sliders. I did this with Bastl Pizza’s main output patched into the IN on Step 8 and turned Step 8 into a bassline generator, patching and unpatching to alter the step length at my whim. It was different than just a typical sequence because between steps the voltage would revert to the base [not bass!] tone being generated by Pizza and this gave it a really catchy bassline, but it did involve some extensive patching, using a square wave on the 1V/oct input on Pizza, coming from Pamela’s New Workout with various tweaks to the level, clocking, skip percentage, etc. I also had to mult the clock to going into STEP on Step 8 to also use for a trigger in—in this case in Schlappi Engineering’s Boundary—using the envelope output on that module to control the WORNG Vertex VCAs CV IN so that I didn’t have clicks or pops going from step to step. Still, it made for a very cool, hands-on performance bassline controller with the ability to mute steps at will and change the volume at each step via the sliders. It was really interesting when I patched random voltage into the STAGE input of Step 8 along with having a clock at the STEP input. The STAGE CV was a division of the clock so it would randomly change up the order of the bassline, giving it some much needed variation, and the frequency of this was controllable as well.
The Step 8 manual has a handful of patch ideas to turn Step 8 into a clock divider, voltage mapper, etc., and it highlights where a lot of fun to be had with this module is in trying to come up with novel ways to use it, or to turn it into something it’s not exactly made for. Step 8 is an interesting turn from Joranalogue. While most manufacturer’s step-sequencers are flagship modules, Step 8 isn’t quite that. Instead, it’s a supremely clever and fun utility module that fools you a bit and shows that you can’t judge a module by its faceplate.

16 HP +12v 110mA -12v 45mA
Price: $350