Erica Synths — Pico Drive

by Ian rapp

Erica Synths Pico Drive

When it comes to drive vs. distortion, I must be a drive man. I mean, who doesn’t want to be driven? Cars are driven. Successful people are driven. When you hit a golf ball real good [so I’ve heard], you drive it. Drive is a positive attribute, while, in comparison, distortion, [though much loved] is sometimes seen as a negative. Actually, a lot of times. Distorting the truth. Distortion in the car radio. Distorted faces. So yeah, drive. That’s the beans.

Well, Erica Synths is adding to the pile of positives with their new Drive, one of the latest in their compact and affordable PICO module series. Drive is a combination wavefolder and overdrive module. At 3HP, I think it’s the perfect size for this effect as I usually only want to push—I mean, drive—one, maybe two, sounds at a time in this way in any given patch. It has never seemed like a distortion/fuzz/drive module should be bigger than a guitar pedal of the same design or take up more space than a complex oscillator, as some distortion modules that are out there seem to suggest.

So what we’ve got going with Drive starting from the top of the module are pot controls for Drive, Gain, and Gain CV, and then inputs for the Gain CV and Drive CV, respectively. Then we’ve got our IN and OUT, and finally all the way at the bottom is the little Erica Synths alien synth character guy. That’s all.

Drive is pretty self explanatory; it drives the input signal. The Gain adds gain to the signal [no way?!], but needs some Drive in order to affect the signal in which to add gain to [makes sense, right?], and after the Gain knob passes the 9 o’clock mark your waveform starts folding back into itself, adding harmonics, complexity, and overtones. There’s an internal limiter built into Drive so that when the output reaches a certain unspecified level there’s no nasty clipping, and this is pretty handy because clipping sucks, and without it you’d have to be riding the input and/or output signal to tame the volume/gain as the harmonics get added to the signal. Who has time [or hands] for that? Not me, and not the Erica Synths alien mascot dude; he doesn’t even have hands. He must have had a big part in the R&D for this module.

You can modulate the Gain via its CV in, be it by an LFO, ADSR, VCO, or WHTVR, and ditto for the Drive via its CV in. You can throw a lot into Drive to modulate it, and it can hang well. I found this module especially cool for basslines and drums of all sorts, distorting the pajeesum out of them, and really, when I think of Erica Synths, I first think of their little alien guy, and THEN I think of drums and bass. Maybe it’s the black motif, or maybe it’s because they just put out that cool new bass synth, and have killer drum modules of all sorts, but no matter the reason I always think of sexy-dirty-late-night low end when I think of Erica Synths. I don’t think I’m wrong here, and I don’t think I’m alone.

One thing about Drive is that you can start off as simple as can be—it’s possible to turn a regular ol’ sine wave at the input into a gnarly, toothy beast—or feed it a more complex wave, and either way you’ve got a beast with a lot of um...incisors. Possible disaster, but with the limiter acting as braces [to continue this dental analogy] it’s all under control. No crazy high orthodontic bill, either.

In short, Drive is, well...driven, and is on its way to a successful Drive career. It’s a cool little module that does what it says and is a compact and affordable way to add drive to your sound. Momma Synth Alien character must be so proud.

- Ian Rapp

Price: $115

3HP 29mA @ +12V, 29mA @ -12V