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Retailers sold already out – Some still accepting pre-orders

Beads is a reinvention of Mutable Instruments’ Clouds. the long-time awaited Clouds 2 is here and the name of the eurorack module is Beads. The concept of Beads is the same, live granular processing of an incoming audio signal, and the labels on the panel remain familiar. The similarities of Beads compared to Clouds (1) ends here. The hardware and software have been redesigned from the ground up, with several goals in mind: a crisper and broader sound palette, more control, better playability, and direct access to exciting new features.

Beads In A Nutshell

One way of picturing how Beads operates is to imagine a tape loop, on which incoming audio is continuously recorded.

Every time you request a grain to be played (in reaction to a trigger, a button press, periodically, or randomly), a new replay head positions itself along the tape.

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If this replay head doesn’t move, the audio will be played back at the original pitch and speed, but if it moves closer to, or further away from the record head, the signal will be replayed at a different speed and pitch. This replay head has its own amplitude envelope, and it will leave the tape once the envelope has reached a null amplitude.

Now imagine up to 30 replay heads flying along the tape. Imagine you can stop the incoming audio from being record- ed on the tape so that all these little replay heads can freely move along and gather sounds. And there’s a reverb

Beads does not use tape, but RAM. In this manual we use computer-science terminology and refer to this virtual piece of tape as a recording buffer.

Recording Quality And Audio Input

Recording quality is chosen with the selector button [A].

  • The Cold digital setting most accurately reproduces the sonic character of the late Mutable Instruments Clouds.
  • The Sunny tape setting runs the dry audio signal at a bright and clean 48kHz.
  • The Scorched cassette setting emulates wow and flutter.

Beads operates in mono or stereo depending on whether one, or both, of the audio inputs (1) are patched.

When patch cables are inserted or removed, Beads monitors for five seconds the level of the incoming signal and adjusts the input gain accordingly, from +0dB to +32dB. The input level LED (2) blinks during this adjustment process. The input gain is chosen to leave some headroom, but in case of big level changes, a limiter kicks in.

One can manually restart the gain adjustment process by pressing and holding the audio quality selector button [A] for one second. Holding this button [A] while turning the feedback knob allows manual gain adjustments. The manually-set gain is memorized and applied until a long press on [A] re-enables automatic gain control.

The FREEZE latching button [B] and the corresponding gate input (3) disable the recording of the incoming audio signal in the buffer. Otherwise, Beads records continuously!

If FREEZE remains engaged for more than 10 seconds, the content of the buffer is backed up, and will be restored the next time the module is powered on.

Beads will not switch between stereo and mono operation, or change the recording quality, while FREEZE is engaged.

Dotting The I’s And Crossing The T’s

Beads’ vastly improved specifications allow a higher audio quality, a longer buffer, the use of better interpolation and anti-aliasing algorithms, and key DSP blocks to run at a faster rate. Granular processing can now go to new territories, such as formants, wavetables, hard-sync-like sounds, or crispy noise.

The range of parameters, their response to the turn of a knob or a CV modulation have all been refined, for new possibilities such as reverse playback or percussive envelopes.

Control, Chaos And Character

Control. To trigger or schedule grains, Beads provides new features to divide or randomize an external clock or trigger stream, spray bursts of grains in response to a gate, or get the grain rate to track a V/O CV or the frequency of an external oscillator.

Chaos. Each key parameter of a grain comes with its own attenurandomizer, which allows direct CV control, CV control of the randomization (spread) of this parameter, or internal randomization using some of Marbles’ algorithms.

Character. Beads provides four audio quality settings, which go well beyond buffer sample rate and bit-depth: they affect the clock of the converters, the amplitude limiting and saturation of the signal path, the tone of the reverb, and additional media-emulation effects. From a pristine digital device to a dirty cassette, through a mode reproducing some of Clouds’ characteristics.

Modes

Beads can operate as a delay without the need to switch to a different mode: just ask it to play a never-ending grain. Its DENSITYTIME and SEED controls are repurposed to allow various features such as tap-tempo, beat slicing, time-stretching, or comb-filtering at rates tracking V/O.

Without any audio input, Beads will granularize 8 internal banks of wavetables.

All parameters have a dedicated knob.

Technical and Module Features

Audio acquisition

  • Stereo I/O with automatic level detection.
  • Manual override of the level detection.
  • Automatic mono/stereo switching through patch cable detection.
  • Recording time: 4s (48kHz 16-bit, stereo) to 32s (24kHz µ-law, mono).
  • Four quality modes, with different tone and reverb characters:
    • 48kHz 16-bit
    • 32kHz 12-bit with Clouds emulation
    • 24kHz 12-bit with a hi-fi dry signal path
    • 24kHz µ-law with cassette emulation
  • The FREEZE button and the gate input freezes the content of the recording buffer, allowing you to dive into its sonic details.
  • Auto-saving of the FREEZE buffer.

Granular synthesis

Three grain generation modes:

  • Latched (continuous), with a periodic or randomized rate, tracking V/O.
  • Gated, with bursts of grains triggered by the press of the SEED button or an external gate.
  • Clocked, with randomization or division of an external clock or trigger signal.

Four grain parameters:

  • TIME. Temporal position within the buffer.
  • SIZE. Grain duration from 0.03 to 4 seconds, forward or backward playback.
  • SHAPE. Morphing between four key shapes of the grain envelope: solid rectangular, snappy decay, smooth bell, or reversed.
  • PITCH. With V/O tracking.

Attenurandomizers

Available for each of the four parameters of a grain, sampled each time a grain is started:

  • Direct CV control.
  • CV control of the amount of gaussian randomization.
  • Internal randomization with an independent, uniform or peaky, random source.

Delay

  • Control of both the base delay clock rate (DENSITY), and its multiplication (TIME), with optional random taps.
  • Tap tempo with the SEED button or an external signal.
  • Enveloping of delay repeats, with the SHAPE setting.
  • Pitch shifting of the delayed signal, controlled by PITCH.

Signal flow

  • Feedback path delay: 1 sample.
  • Independent knobs for feedback, dry/wet amount, and reverb amount.
  • CV input assignable to each of these three parameters, or to variable combinations of them.
  • When unpatched, the R output is summed to the L output.
  • Optional generation of a gate signal on the R output.

Specifications

  • All inputs: 100k impedance.
  • Audio codec: 24kHz, 32kHz or 48kHz, 24-bit.
  • 16-bit CV capture.
  • Processing rate: audio-rate for the SEED and FREEZE inputs, 4kHz for the CV inputs.
  • Latency: 0.25ms.
  • CV input range: +/- 8V for grain parameters, +/- 5V for density (with V/O tracking) and assignable CV.
  • Internal processing: 32-bit floating point.
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