Zorx Electronics
Tannhäuser Gates - Animal Factory Amplification

Tannhäuser Gates - Animal Factory Amplification

by Jason Czyeryk

Taking a break from their distortion-device-making-operation, Animal Factory Amplification has released Tannhäuser Gates, their performance-y stereo mixer/VCA. This Blade Runner-referenced module contains four channels, each with a Pan control, Tilt EQ, Gain knob, Offset, attenuverting CV input for the VCA, an Audio Out, and a pushbutton Mute switch. For global type of controls, there is a main Volume, a Return volume control, stereo Send/Return, and a Master CV input for controlling all four channel’s VCAs with one CV signal.
Tannhäuser Gates isn’t your normal mixer. For starters, the dual-sided tilt EQ—something I’m a huge fan of—can attenuate either frequency end while boosting the other frequency side simultaneously. It’s really great for bass boosting; not to leave out the treble, that too can be boosted while simultaneously attenuating the low end of your signal. You can really sculpt your sound in various ways with this; by normal attenuation or boosting of a signal’s frequency, by multing a signal and mixing the same multed signal in two separate channels and boosting the highs in one channel and the lows in another, or just by by cleaning up a muddy low end/taming highs on one channel, and not an entire mix.
The built-in VCA on each channel is also very useful, and each channel’s VCA operates individually, with control over the Offset and CV amount, but it gets taken up a notch with the Master CV. That lets you control all four VCAs with only the one CV input. Since the CV attenuverter lets you invert the CV signal, you can flip-flop the incoming Master CV, and if two channels are hard panned left and right, get some nice stereo imaging going on by having one channel’s CV fully CW and the other fully CCW. You can also patch some fast moving audio CV in the Master CV and pan the channels hard and medium on both sides, using the CV attenuverters to get some alternating ring moddy madness. Add in some effects, namely reverb, and the potential for interesting—and sometimes maddening, depending on the CV rate—stereo panning/imaging atmosphere is immense.
Another feature that Tannhäuser Gates has that you don’t find on a lot of Euro mixers is that each channel has its own independent Audio Out, with the signal also going to the main output. I like this as it furthers the ability to get some cool stereo effects by multing one channel and feeding both [or more] to TG and filtering/running it through a VCA/adding effects/etc. to one of the signals, but it also means you can’t run a signal through Tannhäuser Gates and get the benefits of the VCA or EQ without it always going through the main output, and muting a channel also mutes the individual Audio Out, so there’s no way to avoid the main output while still having the Audio Out pass signal.
The two main outputs, the Main Volume and Return volume that comes from the Left/Right Return, are interesting in that they work independently of each other and that the Return Volume isn’t affected at all by the Main Volume, meaning you can turn down the Main all the way to get no sound coming out of the four channels themselves, but the Return volume still lets volume pass from the Send/Return buss. Not only is this cool for effects to mix with the Main volume, but this basically acts as two more inputs separate from the Main mixer—albeit without any controls except the Return volume control that gets fed to the main outputs. What makes this a bit strange is that even with both the Main and Return volumes all the way down, quite a bit of volume/voltage can still creep through both outputs depending on a few settings; i.e., the Offset and Gain. You can mitigate this on the Main volume by muting whatever channels necessary, or making sure that the Offset control is fully off for each channel; but if you do turn the Offset all the way down on any channel, you won’t get any signal going into the Main out at all since you’re closing up the VCA for that channel, no matter what the Gain setting, which means that you actually need the Offset up a little in order to have anything come out of the Main output. I would have liked to see an overall Main volume control that also cuts the Return volume as if you do have a loop or another signal going into the Return inputs there’s no way to cut sound from the whole module at once, to actually obtain full silence from the unit.
Tannhäuser Gates is built with expansion in mind, and on the back of the module you will find headers to chain up to four TGs together, creating a gated mixing community of sorts up to sixteen channels, which would be pretty amazing with all of the onboard VCAs/EQ/and stereo effects routing that would then be available. There are also headers for future expansion modules, which Animal Factory states will expand the functionality of the Tannhäuser Gates subdivision of your modular case, and knowing their idiosyncratic take on things, is an exciting prospect. Also found on the backside are DIP switches for adjusting to different levels of output.
I’ve mentioned a few of the peculiarities with Tannhäuser Gates, and I do have a few more desires for it. First, I wish the EQ trimmers were center detent to make it easier to tell if they’re in the off position or not. I also wish that Channel 1’s input was normalled to Channel 2’s, and ditto for 3 and 4, so if you’re going for some stereo experimentation you only need one input for two channels. Obviously not a big deal, but it’d be nice. I also wish there was CV control over panning for at least a couple of the channels to do some ping-ponging stereo stuff. Lastly, I wish that there was control over each channel’s effect amount instead of just the entire four-channel output, though you can patch two mono effects instead of one stereo, and with some panning get somewhat close to that. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of these addressed in a future expander module, but that’s just a guess.
Tannhäuser Gates is a really fun mixer. As it is, I wouldn’t use it as my main end-of-rig mixer quite yet, and part of that is because I only have one—so only four channels—and I like to have more. Also, I need a headphone out so as not to drive my fellow cohabitants/replicants stir crazy; however, with the expanders on the horizon, and maybe more Tannhäuser Gates in my future, all bets are off. Animal Factory Amplification always has interesting modules and pedals, and Tannhäuser Gates is yet another.

20 HP +12v 146mA -12v 94mA
Price: $375