Which NE oscillator is right for you?
Answer: all of them
This is a question we get asked quite a bit. If, for some reason, you’ve decided that buying the entire lineup of oscillators in one go isn’t what you want to do, which one should you get first? This blog post will go over the features, sounds, and some suggested uses of each Noise Engineering oscillator to give you some guidance when choosing exactly which module you want to sonically annihilate your patches with.
Quick clarification #1
Cursus Iteritas Percido. It’s coming soon. Real soon. And we’ll update this post to include it when we have an announced date for it.
Quick clarification #2
Noise Engineering oscillators fall into two extremely broad categories: plain oscillators and standalone voices. Voice modules function the same as an oscillator (they generate sound) but they also have envelopes and VCAs built in so they can function as a complete “voice” by themselves.
So, now that that’s out of the way, let’s start with the classic oscillators.
The classic. Ataraxic Translatron is what started it all. Similar in sound to the tones found in classic arcade machines and home game consoles, it’s quite a lot of fun for glitchy, chip-inspired melodies and basslines. Works well in pairs, and as a sync source for other oscillators. Here’s a demo from our YouTube channel.
If you want something out of a single oscillator, Sinc Iter can do it for you. With 23 octaves of range, you can go from deep in LFO range straight up to waking up all the dogs in the neighborhood with the twist of the pitch knob. Three modes are present: noise, for, well, generation of any variety of noise (and slewed random in LFO range); plain, for standard waveforms morphing through all the standard shapes waveforms and into wavefolded sines; and super the same as plain but with 6 oscillators under gentle phase modulation for chorused, moving tones.
Sinc Iter is a fantastic utility as well as a sounds source and at only 4hp is bound to find a place in any system. Here’s one of many demos from the lovely Patrick OBrien.
To quote Surgeon: I could kill someone with this thing.
There’s nothing quite like it (well, except its big sister, the Loquelic Iteritas Percido, but that’s for later). Taking the concept of a complex oscillator to a whole new level, LI brings three classic synthesis algorithms into the pool of contemporary eurorack-based synthesis with a gigantic splash. Is that enough hype-inducing buzzwording? We think not. But seriously, this one is crazy.
Fantastic for wobbling basses (think classic drum ‘n’ bass), drones, noise, and sonic experimentation. You’ll really never reach the limits of what it can do. We’re still hearing new stuff out of it, even after all these years. Here’s a fun demo from our friends at Perfect Circuit.
Cursus Iteritas is a slightly milder (but still beefy) sort-of-wavetable-based oscillator that’s great for the slightly gentler side of synthesis. LI too untamed for you? Check out the CI. While still capable of taking out a ceiling tile or two (yes, I’m speaking from experience, and we accept no responsibility if you do the same), CI excels at the more melodic and harmonic. I’ve also found it to be great for organic and acoustic sound design with some modulation and careful patching. Here’s a more in-depth video all about it.
The new sibling to the classic AT, Ataraxic Iteritas takes the LFSR-based oscillator and adds two new synthesis algorithms and a host of new parameters for a whole new range of sonic possibilities. Make no mistake, AI isn’t just a glitchy source of blips (although it can do that, and very nicely, I might add). We definitely think it’s our most aggressive oscillator, and the range of sounds it can produce surprised all of us. My favorite use for it is in the subsonic range: it excels at creating unearthly textures in the sort-of-noisy, sort-of-melodic range of synthesis. However, there are quite a few demos flying around of it doing more melodic duties (like this, for instance) and to be honest, there’s not really anything it can’t do. I also like it for arpeggios. Those are important too, right?
Find your voice
Now that we’ve gone through the standard oscillators, let’s look at the voice modules. Remember, the only difference here is that these have internal envelopes and VCAs to control their output dynamics (and internal parameters). These can be an excellent choice when first starting out, as few (or no) other modules are needed to control these in a patch.
If you’ve heard of Noise Engineering, you’ve probably heard of Basimilus Iteritas Alter. Designed to be a universal drum module, it will basically make any remotely percussive sound you can think of, as well as basses, plucky melodies that sort of sound like something you’d get from a lowpass gate, lasers (and who doesn’t love lasers), it’s kind of endless. Demos of the BIA abound, but here’s a great explainer from our pals at Rubadub. It’s a fantastic starter module as well, you’ll get a huge variety of sounds out of it and it can easily be used to make a sample library just by recording it into your computer. I’ve used it to create entire drum loops (kick, hats, snares) with some minimal modulation, and some people have made some kind of ridiculous music just using it by itself (thanks Baseck). Our very own evil code genius Stephen once played an entire set just using 11 BIA’s (and we’d love it if you did the same). Everybody needs a 303? More like everybody needs a BIA. Or two. Or eleven.
It’s aggressive. It’s untamed. It tastes like paper. It saves pangolins. It does it all. Personally, I doubt you’ve ever heard anything like Manis Iteritas. Taking the core concept of BIA and making it more ridiculous by just using saw waves, MI is really, really, crazy and instantly recognizable. It’s kind of hard to describe past that. Normal synth sounds are achievable (and, in some weird ways, this is the closest NE oscillator to a standard synth voice with the inclusion of a low pass filter), and it can do some percussion like the BIA (claps, really rough cymbals and hats, that sort of thing), but it’s really designed for out-of-control insanity (thanks again Baseck). The internal envelope can also be disabled removed from the output VCA for awesome droning action. Packs quite a bit of low end as well.
I always gush about this one so I’ll try to take it down a notch. Loquelic Iteritas Percido basically takes LI and adds an incredibly flexible envelope, a ton of VCAs, a ton of attenuverters, a ton of CV inputs, and some extra insanity and puts it all together in what is kind of the most ridiculous module of all time (I’m not biased at all, I swear). At its core, it uses the same synthesis algorithms as LI, but it now has independent sync inputs for each oscillator, even more CV, and, as previously mentioned, it’s excessively awesome internal modulation system. I’ve used this for everything from noise, more noise, most of the recent basslines I’ve written (it kills for electro), acid, kick drums (it can do clean stuff too, routing the envelope to a sin oscillator’s pitch with a tiny bit of wavefolding packs some serious punch), more lasers… Once you get used to the architecture it’s a pretty simple synth voice, believe it or not, but it has an incredible depth to it. Similar to the MI, it also has a freerunning mode for drones and the like, so it can create the same sounds as a plain LI if you’re into that kind of thing. Here’s a bunch of it making cool noises.
A big sidenote: the Magnus line
Do three rack units of height just not do it for you? 1/8th” jacks too tiny? Want an even larger, even more imposing wall of synth? Check out the Magnus line of 5u/Moog format modules! Currently, the Manis Iteritas Magnus and Basimilus Iteritas Magnus are holding strong as our first two modules in this more imposing format. They have the same sound as their smaller cousins in Eurorack, so it’s just a matter of format preference.
let’s hear them all
But why take our word for it? Here’s an awesome jam from NE friend Patrick O’Brien using all the current NE oscillators. Whoa!
We have a lot of oscillators. We don’t think you’ll be disappointed with any of them. Also, we have more coming because we are industrious folks who like to Engineer Noise. There’s quite a lot of factors to take into account, so we hope this will help a bit with at least some general ideas about them. If you’re still confused, we encourage you to check out our youtube channel where you’ll find demos galore, and read through the manuals to get a better idea of what’s going on behind the panel.