by Brandon Ivers
Soma Laboratory’s Lyra-8 synthesizer is one of the more mysterious pieces of gear in recent years, and a big part of that is due to the utter strangeness of its’
internal effects. Thankfully, for those of us wishing to impart a bit of the Lyra-8 mystery in their modular, Soma has taken the entire effects section of the synth [sans the “hyper LFO”] and put it in a Eurorack module. Dubbed the Lyra-8 FX, you’d be hard pressed to find a delay + distortion combo that had results this unusual.
The build quality was the first thing that struck me with the FX. If you’re occasionally disappointed with the knob quality of certain Eurorack modules, you need not worry here. The chunky Moog-style knobs look and feel great, adding a certain gravitas to endlessly cranking feedback and distortion. The unit itself is also quite heavy and appears to be hand-built, with no SMDs that I could detect. Overall, a big step up in quality from your typical Eurorack module.
The UX of the panel is intuitive, and after a naive glance, you might be thinking “this is just a dual-tap delay with distortion, right?” Not entirely. Many modules in Eurorack have moved away from the one-function per module approach into more “macro” territory, and I’d definitely place the Lyra-8 FX in that latter tradition. For example, if you crank the feedback on most delays, you’ll get a runaway delay trail that usually requires some external modulation to make sound interesting. You’ll get the same thing here, too, but depending on how you gain-stage the input, and how much wet delay you use, you can get all manners of chaotic interactions. My personal favorite: running a loud percussive sound in with a low[er] delay mix, which squashes down the delay trail almost like it’s being sidechain compressed against the input with a long release.
Each delay tap has a time parameter and again, you might think modulating either of these would be straightforward. However, edging both knobs within similar ranges of each other produces anything from comb filtering to chorus to an almost spring reverb-like sound. There are many sweet spots to be found here, and I feel like I was only scratching the surface after a couple weeks of use. Especially after modulating the time parameters externally and/or using self-modulation [accessed via switches], which somehow degrades the sample rate of the delays. Patching in a time-synced LFO or inverted envelope follower with drums was especially fun here.
Part two of the Lyra-8 FX is a grimy distortion circuit that runs post-delay. It’s hard to characterize this distortion compared to a typical pedal because for one, it operates on a full frequency range. Run a kick drum in and you’re not going to get a puny, fuzzy result back– especially if you use the mix knob. It also sounds like it has a pleasantly subtle low-pass filter, and even when you’re pushing it super hard you get tons of harmonics, but not much high frequency harshness or blurriness.
The distortion’s drive parameter can be modulated, typically useful when paired with an envelope follower, however, when you modulate it at audio rate, things can get really weird. Using the delay feedback method I mentioned earlier with the drive modulated by a oscillator can give the distortion the pitched qualities of its modulation source. This is where the effect really starts to sound alive as it ducks the delays against the input and splatters out these feedback-esque distortion shrieks from the modulation. Add some self-patching in here and you don’t even need an input source.
One minor complaint I have with the FX is that it’s purely mono. I couldn’t help but wish I had two of them for stereo duties, although two of them without ganged controls would be a bit unwieldy. Also, if you’re looking for bread and butter type sounds, I would recommend looking somewhere else. The Lyra-8 FX has a particular quality that demands being front and center. This is one of those effects that can very quickly overpower whatever you’re feeding it, albeit in a fascinating way. Consider this in the same realm as the Erbe-Verb, where the effect is really an instrument in itself.
20 HP +12V – 90ma -12V – 20ma