Sonic Lab: Makenoise 0-Coast Review

Desktop semi-modular with a bit of East/West action      12/07/16
    MP4 20:37 mins    

Buying Choices

The Makenoise 0-Coast is quite a unique instrument, with the schools of synthesis - East (Moog subtractive) and West (Buchla - complex oscillator, harmonic modulation) occupying their respective areas, Makenoise - who make some unusual and generally West Coast centric modules and modular systems, in the 0-Coast have released something that aims to span the divide, or indeed be some of both schools.

It's a compact desktop synthesizer, with a normalised ( pre-patched) signal path, which means you can plug in a MIDI cable (3.5mm adapter supplied) and make noise. However, with plenty of patching points and a well thought out structure, it is possible to go off-piste extremely quickly. Before you ask, it doesn't look like it's possible to mount this in Eurorack, it requires a 15v power supply which fits to the side.

At it's heart is the Oscillator, loosely based on the Make Noise DPO, which is a more complex dual VCO. The 0-Coast it generates Triangle and Square waves which are merged into the the Overtone and Multiply circuits. Makenoise calls this the Uncommon Timbral Animation, and it essentially creates complex harmonic variations based on wavefolding wave shaping.

Modulation sources are the Controur - which is an A(Onset) Sustain, Decay with control over the curves from Logarithmic to Exponential  - this is hard wired to the Dynamics section which is a unique transistor Low pass Gate - more in, the brighter it gets , so it's a kind of filter, but not as we know it (Jim).

An additional modulator, the Slope can be thought of as an additional envelope (attack, decay) again with variable slope. It can also be put in cycle mode and can go right up into audio rates and indeed can be used as a second oscillator with Ramp up, Ramp Down, Triangle and Square (using the EOC output).

In practice, this is normalised to the Multiply parameter. But can be patched to a number of destinations.

The basic sound of the oscillator is pretty fullsome and can generate to extremely satisfying low end, and can reach into LFO territory with the use of the dedicated attenuverter which provides a number of useful functions, summing mixer, attenuverter and voltage generator (when nothing is plugged into the inputs). Harmonically rich tones are pretty easy to locate with a bit of patching. That's the thing about the 0-Coast, it does encourage you to get stuck into some fairly complex modular patching quite quickly, worth investing in a few more than the four cables that come with it, you will soon run out. You can also access the raw Tri and Square waves by patching them directly into the source mixer which is another modulatable two input mixer, the second input being fixed to the wave folder output.

The 0-Coast can be played via MIDI input - indeed there are some useful additional functions hidden beneath the pages control, which require a rather bewildering combination of PGM A and PGM B button presses. I'm not a fan, but if you persevere, you'll be able to route two MIDI channel inputs to both the internal CV/Gate bus and an additional CV/Gate output. Indeed these additional outputs can be configured to be a dedicated LFO output (Tri->CV, SQ-> Gate). There's also a simple arpeggiator, which creates sequences based on order of notes played and can be set to latch on/off.

Clock it - another useful feature is the built in clock generator, with tap tempo - or clock input from MIDI or external  input, you can use this to create a timed pulse and control the speed of the random voltage generator.

It's an interesting instrument, capable of many tones you won't find on your average subtractive synth, it's also compatible with many Eurotack of other CV V/Octave synths. It excels at audio rate modulation, harmonically rich tones and sync-like sounds. It also has a huge amount of patching possibilities, but it does make you think, you will need to spend time to understand how it works and what it is capable of. A nice bit of design is the use of LED indicators on several sections, it's easy to see what is going on.

Downsides for me, are the complex paging system for accessing the hidden MIDI parameters, and the lack of centre dent on the attenuverter pots, it's quite hard to hit the 0 spot.

But if you dont have any modular stuff, or perhaps want to make a start by patching this into other CV enabled gear then the 0-Coast has a lot to offer, just don't expect it to sound like a 303.

Price is £450 (though this may well change soon due to the $/£ exchange rate) or $499 in the US. Numbers have been limited, though we're told there is a larger shipment expected soon.


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