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Voltage Modular 2.0 review at CDM

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Software modular just keeps getting better. Cherry Audio’s Voltage Modular looks like a top contender, with a major (free) 2.0 update and changes to support free and affordable module add-ons.

Where Cherry fits

Just think how rich and accessible the modular world is in software – and Cherry just made it more so. VCV Rack continues to grow as an open platform, with a dizzying array of module choices. Softube Modular is spendy (both in CPU and cost), but features some luxurious exclusive modules and sounds great, thanks to Softube’s pedigree in modelling. And that’s to say nothing about modular tools like Reason, Bitwig Studio, Max for Live, and so on, even if they don’t emulate Eurorack modular as directly. (There was a time when I would have mentioned Reaktor Blocks high on this list – it’s got a free player and the power of Reaktor under the hood. But I think Native Instruments has needlessly crippled that platform by making it too expensive and difficult for developers to create paid modules.)

The bottom line is, even with a budget literally of zero, you can get started with a computer – and build really robust tools from there with or without hardware modular to add to it.

Cherry Audio’s Voltage Modular may be the best rival to VCV Rack. (And because of the nature of modular, there’s no reason you can’t use the two side by side.) It’s got arguably the deepest set of features and workflow conveniences of any software modular and already works as a plug-in (still waiting on that from VCV).

And now Cherry Audio has expanded what it can do – adding features, adding value to what’s included out of the box, and expanding the convenience and cost flexibility of developers making free or paid modules.

Don’t forget – you can start for free

Cherry Audio has made their Voltage Modular Nucleus available free since the start of our pandemic/stay-at-home period. It’s got 22 modules, and enough to learn some of the basics, on both Mac and Windows:

Free Voltage Modular Nucleus

New features

Of all the software modulars, Voltage Modular packs the most software-specific power into a Eurorack-style display. New in 2.0:

Plug unlimited cables into jacks: Yep, this is virtual – you can’t do that with real hardware. Six jacks were multed in the last version; now each jack is like an un-fill-able wormhole. But frankly, in a screen context, that makes more sense – there’s no need to physically separate a multi module if you don’t want to, apart from your own visualization.

Additionally, you can now shift-drag cables so you can re-patch multiple cables connected to a jack, too.

Buses: This also helps keep patches from becoming cluttered, and frankly solves the big limitation of many hardware and software modulars. As Cherry describes it, “Both input and output jacks can be assigned to buses. All output signals on a bus are mixed, with the result available as an input source on all input jacks. This mimics the alternative patching options offered by instruments such as the ARP 2500 and EMS VCS3. “

Variations: Think of this as preset storage or snapshot recall – but for the whole patch, with positions of knobs and switches. But it goes further, in that you can play those and modulate through them with triggers or CV. (Again, Reaktor could have done this, were it not for wonky snapshot implementation. But it’s great to see Voltage get it right.)

Integrated recording: 32-bit audio directly from the IO panel left and right outputs. (That’s great, though I’d really like to have built-in multichannel recording, too, via the same interface!)

Bypass: (for compatible modules) – another feature all software modulars should have. (VCV Rack has a similar disable feature.)

Randomize on modules: This is in VCV Rack currently (right-click on a module) and – yeah, crazy fun.

Auto-align modules: Ah, this helps my messy world.

Patch faster: ctrl/cmd-D to hide/show cables, cmd/ctrl-f to search.

Create custom module categories, use multiple search terms: This solves another growing issue in software – ironically, too much freedom to add too many modules!

So taking them together, this addresses a bunch of key aspects of working in modular software all at once. You get more flexible patching, plus the ability to keep things organized, and then the ability to transform and perform with different settings.

That looks like an ideal way to design and perform.

Feel free to check out the full review over at CDM

Buy Voltage Modular Core 2 + Electro Drums

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