by Ellison Wolf
Look, down in your rack! It's a [re]verb! It's a WAV [recorder]! It's the new Expert Sleepers Super Disting EX plus Alpha!
OK, that was kind of a stretch, but it’s not hard to imagine the new Super Disting EX donning a red cape as it does its thing [or things...there are many things dis ting does!], and this new, updated, bionic version of the ever popular Disting really is pretty, um...super. If you’re not familiar with Expert Sleepers Disting, it’s a compact multi-use Eurorack module that—as of this writing—is comprised of over 100 algorithms and can be used as an oscillator, delay, quantizer, etc. It’s super handy and versatile and in my eyes, the only mark against it was the lack of a better screen. It’s a really good module, one I always thought it was pretty super, but now, Expert Sleepers has unveiled this new version, which is truly super.
Looking like two Disting Mk4s sitting side by side—and it is that [and more] for sure—the new Super Disting is much more than just the sum of its parts, and boasts a ton of new functionality, improvements, and flexibility/usability over its predecessor.
The biggest difference, along with all of the bells, whistles, and algorithms between the Disting Mk4 and the Super Disting, is that the Super Disting can be used in either single mode or dual mode, so effectively it can be one module or two. I’m not going to go over what the Mk4 attributes are here, and how having two of them is pretty awesome, as instead I am going to focus on the single mode and the new algorithms available in that. But before I do that, I’m going to talk about what I find to be the most welcome addition: the screen.
I admit that while I used the Disting Mk4 frequently—in nearly every patch—I used it pretty much only for a few functions—tuner, dual waveshaper, and dual quantizer. Partly because I needed those functions in my rack and didn’t have dedicated modules for them [one of the main advantages of having a Disting], but also because it was easy enough to memorize just three memory slot #s [G5, A8,and H4, respectively]. Needless to say, there was a lot of functionality that went unused because I didn’t have a reference handy, or was too impatient for the screen to scroll on the Mk4 so I’d know what algorithm was where. Whatever the reason, when I first glimpsed the Super Disting, with it’s blue OLED display with actual full words on it, I was pretty damn excited.
The Super Disting’s screen is well lit and when you select something to change, the text enlarges so it’s a little easier to see, and that’s a good thing, because to get the full ussage of this module, you will be spending time selecting, routing, attenuating, and just setting things up exactly how you like them, all via the screen. The Super Disting is not much of a live performance module, so just know that most of the dialing in of everything will be done in a programming type of environment beforehand, and you’ll be golden. Or super, rather.
Now that we’ve got the most noticeable detail out of the way, let’s get into what else the Super Disting is comprised of. It’s got up to a 96kHz sample rate and better RAM than the Mk4 [allowing the Super Disting to extend the length of delays and reverbs] and is fully DC-coupled so that all ins and outs can be either CV or audio signals. The Super Disting also comes with a 32GB microSD card loaded with great samples from Goldbaby, Spitfire Audio, and Adventure Kid, and still has plenty of room for more storage.
Continuing our tour, the inputs are numbered on a white background with the four outputs in white found at the bottom of the module. Like the Disting Mk4 the jack sockets illuminate—red for positive voltage and blue for negative— and the Z/X/Y/A/B labels are printed in orange for differentiation between them and the inputs. There are 4 push button encoders, P, V, L, and R, with P and V being sort of the main global controls.
As stated previously, dual mode is essentially two Mk4s side by side, but single mode is where the Super Disting really flexes its pumped up digital muscles. Five new algorithms are included in this mode; a matrix mixer—with 6 ins and 4 outs, Augustus Loop—a tape inspired delay that also exists as an Expert Sleepers VST and is perfect for micro-managing OCD delay tweakers like myself, SD Multisample, SD Trigger, and a WAV recorder. While I liked both the matrix mixer and Augustus Loop, it’s the last three that I was really intrigued by and am focusing on for this review.
First up is the SD Trigger, which has 6 voices with independent triggers and lets you assign the sample for each output. Let me start off by saying that the samples included in the Super Disting sound really good, and consisted of everything from the Wurlitzer Sideman to hammer dulcimers to vintage drum machines to a pretty decent and usable choir sample. While the manual states that the SD Trigger is mostly for drum use— and I certainly employed it as such—I enjoyed it just as much using it as a rhythmic drone machine with melodic instrument samples. Plugging in the hammer dulcimer and listening to the repetitive multiple hammering was pretty mesmerizing, and same with one of the included piano samples, sounding much like a long lost Philip Glass number.
For the SD Trigger, as well as every part of every algorithm in Super Disting’s deep algorithm catalog, each nuance, parameter, button/knob/CV in, etc., can be controlled, mapped, tweaked, routed, and saved, and this really gives you the opportunity to fine tune all of the details to an extreme degree. With the ever-so-helpful screen, all of this minutiae is easily performed and [mostly] intuitive, so much so that doing so didn’t feel like the chore that it could have been—not an easy feat. This vast customization, along with the ability to assign samples to each of the 6 inputs will probably mean that the SD Trigger will be pulling a lot of duty for me in the future.
Next we have the SD Multisample. Hooking up my Arturia Keystep via MIDI out with the Expert Sleepers MIDI expander [an easy DIY build for those inclined] hooked up to the back of the Super Disting, showed off all of the polyphonic capabilities as the triggering is velocity sensitive with each voice, so there can be actual dynamics in the playing. You don’t have to use a MIDI controller—you can use CV/gates as well—and I got some really cool slow multiple voice swells using just a few LFOs. There is both an arpeggio and chord generator [with of course, many features/options for both] and depending on what you’re sampling, both can get pretty funky as well as being standard, and the hammer dulcimer sounded especially nice chorded. Playing piano through it was pretty satisfying and running through three pairs of CV/gates via the Frap Tools USTA [review issue #3] was a perfect fit for some unconventional multiple piano chording, something you could only hear in the real world on an off night in some ramshackle bar in Atlantic City hosting one of those “Dueling Piano” shows.
A WAV recorder is something I’ve wanted and needed in my setup for a while now, if only for the simplicity of recording cool patches without needing my computer nearby, so I was really hyped to give the Super Disting a workout in this realm. If I’m out and about, performing live, or on vacation with my travel case, it’s totally handy to have this available to lay worthy patches/ideas down, though I wish you could use it to record while simultaneously using it as something else, but that would be more "incredible" than super. The Super Disting’s WAV recorder can record up to 6 channels of audio or CV and save it to the MicroSD card at 48 or 96kHz in 16 or 24 bit depth, and it can also play WAV files recorded previously. The manual states that you probably won’t be able to record six channels simultaneously at 96kHz, though I do wonder that if in a year or so, when even faster SD cards will be available, if this will be a possibility, something that would be nice for those times when recording in 96kHz is beneficial, like when you want to import it into a Pro Tools/Logic/Ableton environment without any degradation. I had no issues with the recording quality and found the Super Disting to be a very flexible and easy to use recorder, with excellent sound quality. Perhaps the most exciting function in this algorithm is its “Auto-Sampler” feature. With this, you can save and sample any synth, patch, tape whirl...any sound whatsoever that can be inputted into it and sample/play it back through the SD Multisample. It took me a few times to get the hang of the auto-sampling, but once I figured it out, it was nothing but smooth sailing. You do have to scroll through the available parameters to turn on Auto-Sampling, and there are other parameters [gate length, loop mode, start/end note] that you will want/need to familiarize yourself with so you can maximize its usage and customize it to suit your desires. I auto-sampled a few simple FM patches and that was really cool to be able to play it back via the Keystep, but I wanted to push it a little to see how weird I could get, so with my Library of Congress tape player I slowed down an old homemade rap tape that me and a few friends made back in the 80s and sampled that, reminding me as to why my rap career was so short. I engaged the chord feature on the SD Multisample and my vintage rap stylings instantly became much more interesting, yet still very much uncommercial. Anyway, the quick and easy combination of sampling, auto-sampling, and playing is really the shining feather in Super Disting’s algorithmic cap.
A couple of things that helped me navigate the Super Disting was to remember to push V to go back to the previous screen no matter where I was. That kept me from doing something I hadn’t intended, like re-calibrating or rebooting it [OK, fine...I accidentally did both], etc. Just remember to push V and you’ll be fine. If you hold down V, you’ll exit the menu completely, like it never happened. Another tip that was really helpful is that when in Dual mode, in any given algorithm, again, holding down V will let you show what each input and knob is controlling, so you don’t need a sheet or impressively vast photographic memory to know what you’re doing or where you are. It’s a lifesaver, for sure.
There’s a reason you see the Disting in so many racks and why the Mk4 has been in the top three most popular modules in Modular Grid, soon, I'm sure, to be replaced by the Super Disting EX. There are just so many useful algorithms, and so many available parameters for said algorithms at your fingertips, that if you can dream it, the Super Disting EX can most likely do it.
8HP +12V 229mA -12V 50mA
Price: $349 / €289.92