Peaks and Warps


Pictured are three modules from Mutable Instruments.


Peaks is a multi-function digital module that’s relatively easy to understand.

Peaks provides 4 different functions in a small 8-HP package. Their common point? They are all about generating an audio or CV signal in response to a trigger, and are all focused on rhythmic works.

Peaks is a dual-channel module – making it very useful for duophonic patches or for controlling/synthesizing the kick/snare rhythmic backbone of a patch.

It is a manually controlled dual envelope generator and LFO.  My favorite feature is the LFO, because of the variety of wave shapes: wave folded sine, variable slope triangle, PWM square, stepped triangle and sampled/interpolated noise.

Here’s a demo recording of a Peaks LFO in sampled/interpolated noise mode controlling the frequency of the Sprott filter.


Peaks also has a drum and hi hat synthesizer.  Now I can make beats!


Shades is a simple, very nicely designed multi-mixer, that reminds me of the Oakley Multi-Mix.  Mutable Instruments open-sources their hardware and software!  You can download the Shades schematic, which I did.  The cascading scheme is different from the Oakley, in that the top section cascades to the second, and second to third, instead of all mixing to the third.  My favorite feature is the unipolar/bipolar switch, that I always wished the Oakley had.


Warps is the modulator I selected to be one of the main components of my Wave Mangling System.  It has many nice features.

Warps blends and combines two audio signals through a variety of cross-modulation algorithms. Most of these sonic transformations make the distinction between a carrier signal and a modulator signal: the former will be filtered or modulated to acquire some of the characteristics of the latter. Warps also includes a digital audio-rate oscillator which can replace the external carrier signal.

It’s easier to understand by looking at the block diagram.  Essentially, Warps modulates two audio signals together, using a selection of algorithms: cross-fade, cross-folding, digital model of analog diode ring-modulation, digital ring-modulation, bit-wise XOR modulation, octaver/comparator, 20-band vocoder.

An internal VCO can replace the first input and can be independently accessed.

The input levels of both signals have a VCA.  Within each algorithm there is variable ‘timbre’.  The algorithms fade from one to another!  Algorithm and timbre selection are voltage-controllable.  I made some notes while checking it out:

  • At high levels of input on the second input, a clean distortion can be obtained.
  • When cross-folding, varying the input level — in addition to the timbre – is useful.
  • Warps suffers from a lack on input attenuation on the CV inputs.

Here’s demo of cross-folding between two external oscillators:

And a demo of cross-folding, using one external oscillator plus the internal VCO:



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