Friday, February 13, 2015

Ladik Modules Review + Demo (Youtube Video): K-010 Utility CV Keyboard, K-011 Trigger to Keyboard and S-030 4Ch Clockworks4

Modular synthesis, especially the Eurorack format, has seen a great revival in the recent years. Frequently new companies enter the market trying to participate in the Eurorack gold rush. One of these relatively new outfits is Ladik (, a one-man company from the Czech Republic. I first learned about him while browsing for analog drum synths on eBay a while ago when he was offering his Synare 3 drum synth clone. Meanwhile Ladik has been busy developing literally dozens of Eurorack modules sporting everything from oscillators, modulators, filters, clock and MIDI utilities and many more useful CV processing tools. A very prolific developer indeed. 
Now since Ladik mentioned in his eBay auctions that he could make custom modules on request I got the idea to suggest creating a tool that would be damn useful but has been strangely absent in the Eurorack world:

A mini CV/Gate keyboard for the Eurorack. Sometimes I just want to play a little melody or transpose a sequence or program my old Roland CSQ-600 CV/Gate sequencer. A small 8HP module with one octave of keys and CV and gate outputs would be such a practical tool for that. Why hasn't anybody come up with this idea before? I approached Ladik with my idea early in 2015 and from then on had a very inspiring Email conversation with him. He agreed to develop the keyboard module and even came up with an idea for an extension module allowing to remote-control all keys of the CV keyboard. So yesterday, only 5 weeks after I voiced my idea, I received a package from the Czech Republic containing the Ladik K-010 CV Utility Keyboard, Ladik K-011 Trigger to Keyboard Extension and Ladik S-030 4ch Clockworks4 clock divider module. That was quick!

Ladik K-010 CV Keyboard
Ladik K-010 CV Keyboard

Let me give you a tour of the K-010 CV Keyboard module. We have one octave range of keys from C to C. When you press a key, the corresponding CV is output at the CV out jack. Additionally, a gate signal is present at the Gate Out jack as long as you press the key. When you release the key, the gate turns off but the CV is still present at the CV output. Each note key has its own LED which lights up fully when pressed. When the key is released the LED becomes half-lit. This way you can still tell which key was pressed last and likewise which CV you are still outputting. Very practical! A pair of octave up / down switches allows for a range of 5 octaves. The octave LEDs give you visual feedback about which octave you are in. LED off means: You are in the center octave. Octave up LED half lit means: One octave up. LED fully lit: Two octaves up. Same with octave down respectively. Now since I didn't want the octave switch to transpose my CV immediately upon button press, I requested a mode where the octave change becomes active only after you press the next key. So Ladik implemented this option for me and it works like a charm! You can even skip several octaves before pressing the next note key and it still works like it should. Nice! Alternatively you can have the octave buttons act immediately when you press them. Another mode is called "Octave Temp" and means that when pressing the octave key the transposition takes place immediately AND when releasing the octave key it instantly jumps back to the middle octave. In this mode however you only have 3 octaves at your disposal. 
Furthermore you can select high or low note priority which determines which key takes precedence if more than one key is pressed simultaneously.
There are 2 trimpots on the K-010 allowing you to set the V/oct scaling and offset of the module. It took me about 1 minute to calibrate my K-010 to my liking. Piece of cake!

Ladik S-030 4Ch Clockworks4, Ladik K-010 CV Keyboard and Ladik K-011 Trigger to Keyboard Eurorack modules

Now for the K-011 Trigger to Keyboard extension module. This is basically a remote control for all the buttons on the K-010, even the octave up / down keys! It is connected to the K-010 via two ribbon cables and draws its power from the K-010 as well. You can mount both modules in whatever order you like, the ribbon cables are long enough both ways. It accepts trigger or gate signals, activating the corresponding notes (CV and gate) on the K-010 CV Keyboard module as long as the trigger / gate input is high.
Now what do we get out of this combo? Well, first of all we have a freakin' mini CV keyboard in our Eurorack which is absolutely amazing! Second, we can use the K-011 extension to sequence the keyboard on "note level" via trigger signals, divided clocks, random gates or whatever you choose to throw at it. The results you are getting can be very musical and possibly ever-evolving and never repeating if you please. 
As you can see (and hear) in my demo video, you can get really creative and come up with very simple but charming little melodies. Possibilities are endless!

Ladik S-030 4Ch Clockworks4

The Ladik S-030 4Ch Clockworks4 is a 4 channel clock divider with adjustable division ratio and trigger length per channel. We have have two pairs of channels. Each pair is clocked by a common input. Both inputs are normalled so you only have to connect one clock signal if you want all 4 channels to receive the same clock. Alternatively you can feed both pairs of channels with individual clock signals. You can even feed the output of one channel to the input of another channel to receive even greater division ratios. Speaking of division ratios: Each channel has 2 knobs. The first knob selects the ratio you wish the incoming clock signal to be divided by. Available factors are 1 to 12. You can tweak the division knob on the fly, changing the division ratio as you go. This of course makes it tricky to "hit the spot" when trying to align your divided signal with the original signal the way you want. But on the upside this gives you complete freedom over where "in time" your divided trigger signal is. The second knob adjusts the length of the resulting trigger signal. That's very handy since you now have complete control over the "pulse widht" of the resulting trigger or gate signal. This is especially useful when you are working with ADSR envelope generators since these want a longer trigger in order to reach their sustain stage.
Now what if you set the channel's trigger length parameter to a length greater than the incoming clock intervals? Well, in that case all incoming triggers are skipped until the end of your channel's trigger has been reached. This way you can use the trigger length parameter as an additional clock divider if you like.
The S-030 Clockworks4 is an extremely useful, feature-packed tool that I am sure will be essential for my clocking duties in the future. Build quality is great by the way. Knobs are firm and smooth, jacks are firm enough and easy to operate. And I really like the design which is utilitarian but very pretty.

It is a strange thing that Ladik, given his wide range of over 60 (!!!) cleverly designed and useful modules, has not achieved more popularity. I hope that anyone interested in modular synthesis reads this review, watches this demo and goes about discovering the colorful world of Ladik Eurorack modules!

1 comment:

  1. niceMODULes, nice review! I´m agree with your opinión about ladik and not having more influence.