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In-depth Feature:  CreamWare Luna II
Utter Lunacy - The Luna II PCI Card
Rob G writes: .

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The Elektra Modular Synthesiser
Also provided with our review system was a license for the Elektra Modular 2 Synthesiser. This is a powerful software modular synthesiser that utilises the DSP’s available on the Luna II board to provide a powerful modular synthesis engine.

Elektra comes as a module for use within the Luna II environment. As with most modules, various controls in the synthesiser can be assigned to MIDI controllers, allowing automation from control surfaces or sequencers. A synthesiser is created by adding modular components to the Modular2 control surface. A wide variety of modules are available including oscillators, envelope generators, LFO’s, Modifiers (for altering pitch, volume etc. using LFO’s or Envelope Generators), Gates, Effects, “Analog” sequencers, MIDI converters (for driving the entire setup from MIDI) and many more.

The various components within a modular synthesiser are connected using patch wires, as can be seen in Figure 3.

Different coloured leads represent different signal types – audio, MIDI, gate, control and sync signals. These can be selectively filtered – hiding them from the display – so that the window becomes more manageable. This is particularly useful once a patch is set up, as it allows reasonable access to the controls needed to tweak the sound.

The entire setup can be monophonic or polyphonic. Additionally, the setup of modules and patch wires can be saved as a patch, and the settings of every control within a patch can be saved as a preset associated with that patch. A variety of pre-defined patches are provided, each of which is accompanied by a variety of presets.
Fig 3

The entire module works well, and can be patched within the Luna II environment as can any other module – MIDI and audio inputs can be fed into the module (depending on the modular components used) and audio and MIDI outputs can be routed to other modules from the modular synthesiser. Sound quality is good – the various components work exceedingly well individually often providing flexibility rarely available on the kind of modular components for analog modular synthesisers. Given sufficient DSP resources, multiple Elektra modules may be used within a single environment. In practice though, this will require using more than one Luna II card, as DSP resources fast start running out.

In fact, this is where the drawback of the architecture first starts to rear its ugly head. Adding an Elektra patch to a Luna II project eats DSP resources fast. With optional modules such as this it fast becomes possible to overload the DSP’s, meaning that further hardware expansion becomes necessary – either an extra Luna II card or one of the other CreamWare DSP-based offerings. One drawback here is that you may find yourself locked into a CreamWare-based upgrade path – extra modules require more power that can only be obtained by purchasing more CreamWare hardware.

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