by ellison wolf
For those who think that Joranalogue’s highly revered Filter 8 is the bee’s knees, you’ll be happy to know that Generate 3, their new through-zero multiphonic signal generator is, well...some other very important part of a bee’s anatomy. Wings? Thumbs? Those are both important. Anyway, there are a few reasons why this module is so excellent, but it helps first to understand this basic tenet: That just as any recipe can be broken down into individual ingredients, so too can any sound be broken down this way, as each sound has a fundamental [the base pitch of a frequency], and a combination of odd and even harmonics of varying amounts. Among many other things it does, and does extremely well, Generate 3 demonstrates this waveform creation, as it has all of the elements—ingredients, rather—at your disposal and allows you to create both simple and complex waveforms—essentially from scratch—to help you see [if you patch into an oscilloscope—highly recommended] and hear this.
Generate 3, with its university lab-type aesthetic harkens back to the early days of synthesis, but make no mistake, this all analog triangle-core VCO is very much a modern tool. It has linear through-zero FM which gives you excellent 1/VOct tracking as well as exponential through-zero FM, and can be switched between use as an LFO or audio rate oscillator with both fine and coarse tuning controls. There is a øFM [through-zero frequency modulation] attenuverter and and a CV input in order to modulate that, and when something is patched into the CV in, the øFM attenuverter goes from adding/subtracting voltage for the øFM, to attenuating the incoming signal. An AC switch works in tandem with the øFM CV in to filter out DC for more stable tracking, and a BIAS switch adds +5V offset to so you can switch between through-zero and non-linear FM. This is interesting to those who don’t have a full grasp of what through-zero FM is.
Through-zero frequency modulation means that the voltage range for Generate 3 can go from positive to negative [and vice versa], hence the ability to go “through the zero”, causing the oscillator to run backwards, flipping the soundwave, and mirroring its positive [or negative, depending] self. What happens, for example, is that a ramp can be turned from a positive—with a sloped rise and a vertical fall—to a negative—with a vertical rise and a sloped fall. Modulating this with a sine wave LFO patched into the EVEN input, to morph between positive and negative realms—going through the zero—and watching it on an oscilloscope reminds me of a certain disco dance move from the 70s where you’d point to the sky, back to the floor, and then back to the sky again. It’s one of the only dance moves I excel at, and non-coincidentally, a very easy move to perform and master. If you add the +5V via the BIAS switch, you get rid of the negative voltage and pushing everything into 0 and above—no more negative voltage, hence no more going through-zero, hence no more through-zero modulation—as now you’ve got non-linear FM. If there’s nothing in the øFM modulation input, the BIAS switch effectively raises the pitch by one octave by doubling the frequency, a nice feature.
There is both a hard sync [RESET] and a soft sync [FLIP] for sync’ing to external oscillators, as well as an input with attenuverter for phase modulation [PHASE]. Phase modulation on Generate 3 is really cool, because, again, this can go through the zero and into negative land with a total phase span of 900º [-450º to +450º]. Phase modulation is what a lot of digital synths in the 80s such as the Yamaha DX7 used, and it can create some really cool metallic timbres and otherworldly sounds. To round out the controls, and perhaps most importantly, there are the aforementioned ingredients for shaping soundwaves; the individual outputs for FUND [fundamental; a sine wave of the frequency], EVEN [saw wave], ODD, CORE [which outputs the triangle output of the frequency], and FULL [for the overall waveform]. FUND, ODD, EVEN also have attenuverters to adjust the through-zero AM [amplitude modulation], and CV ins to modulate them. Just like the other controls, when there is an input in a CV in, the attenuverters are used to attenuate the incoming CV signal.
One of the things I like best about Generate 3 is the ability to start off completely basic, with the FUND, ODD, and EVEN knobs at their mid-point, with nary a sound, and getting complex, all while controlling and understanding exactly what and why something is happening. By utilizing the FUND, EVEN, and ODD harmonic attenuverters, you can add and subtract these three elements to form a limitless amount of waveforms; both standard and unnamable. Modulating them brings about all sorts of changes from minor timbre nuances to complete sonic nonsense, and having these separate outputs is great for comparing and contrasting how, say, the EVEN harmonics are affecting the overall waveform, or watching modulation take hold. Again, I can’t recommend enough using an oscilloscope to see what’s happening as you explore this module; the educational and entertainment benefits are immense here.
There’s all sorts of experimenting to be had with Generate 3, and experiment I did. Patching the FULL output into the RESET to hard sync it with itself I got some high pitched glissando in random spots of a sequence. You can do similar things with the CORE output, and CORE, with its triangle output works well to sync to a modulating oscillator for better pitch tracking. Ring modulating Generate 3 is a lot of fun, and by patching a sequence into the 1/VOct and having that same sequence going into a modulating VCO’s 1/VOct [Blue Lantern’s TPS Slim VCO in this instance], and having that output a triangle wave into the FUND CV in of Generate 3, I was able to get everything from tremolo-ish glassy bells to [by tuning Generate 3 higher] more enigmatic ring mods that were multiphonic—a low bass line and a matching melody—all with just the FUND output. By mixing [via a mult] the sequence and a divided down sine wave LFO that was also controlling the clock into my sequencer [Frap Tool’s USTA] and going into the 1/VOct input of Generate 3, I was able to have both modulate it at the same time, getting a melodic sequence and a slight sweep of the COARSE tuning simultaneously, thereby using the LFO to add and subtract the bassline [to hear this, go to www.waveformmagazine.com/issue3], which was way cool. There are many other ways to do this, but most involve needing two separate outputs, one for the melody, and one for the bass. This felt like a pretty good trick that I hope to remember for the next time I perform live.
I really could go on and on here. There are so many incredible modulation possibilities, and Generate 3 sounds so good it’s hard for me not to gush. I love the PHASE modulation, the ability to self patch to get even crazier FM type sounds, the ability to modulate the FUND, ODD, and EVEN amounts...there’s just so much. I think the most impressive aspect of this module is just exactly what’s available to alter, what Joranalogue chose to include that you can tweak. I’m starting to feel like this is a company with innately great taste, and much trust given by Joranalogue to whomever uses this module. It was if Generate 3 was saying to me, “You don’t need me to build the waveforms for you. You can do it. I believe in you.”
The end of a review is normally when you voice gripes, concerns, flaws, etc., and I do have one. That being that I only have one of these, and there’s no dual Generate 3 [Generate 6?]. I’d love to see what could be done with two of these in my rack. Really, this is a near-perfect [is anything really perfect?] and rewarding module, and I can’t recommend it enough. Generate 3 isn’t the bee’s knees, wings, or thumbs—it’s the whole damn bee. Bzzzzzzzz.
12 HP +12V: 130mA -12V: 115mA