Friday, January 6, 2012

On Hard Mod Wild Semi Modular

On Hard Mod is a guy in Mexico City dedicated to circuit-bending. Recently, he decided to design a full analog synthesizer, which he calls the Wild. I just happened to receive one of the first units yesterday.

The Wild is a semi-modular noise/drone synthesizer with 3 VCO's, 4 LFO's, one resonant lowpass filter, one 8-step pseudo-sequencer, a 3-channel mixer, and one attenuator (he calls it VCA, although the gain cannot be voltage-controlled). All this for the unbelievable price of around $350 USD (plus shipping). Of course, for this price I didn't expect any bells and whistles - in fact, the Wild is described and demonstrated mostly as a noise/drone machine.

Here are some pictures taken while unpacking the unit and making a first patch:

These are my first impressions:


  • The Wild was nicely packed in a ton of bubblewrap (although the box itself is made of thin cardboard).
  • It is a bit smaller than I thought (about 64 cm wide), which is good since I didn't know where I was going to put it.
  • The oscillators and filter are capable of tons of bass. 
  • Resonance on the filter is crazy (but one must be careful with the speakers/ears).
  • The filter can be easily and nicely overdriven. Basically, the filter makes this thing worth it.
  • I tried to sync the sequencer and LFOs on the Wild with an external clock (from my dotcom modular), and it just worked as expected. This is a big plus for me.
  • The power switch key is a nice touch.

Cons (which, given the price, shouldn't stop anyone from buying it):

  • This is, IMO, the main issue: The Wild just doesn't get wild enough. You have all these modulators: four LFO's and a sequencer, but the depth of the modulations is very mild. An LFO applied to a VCO barely produces a vibrato, especially if you use the triangle LFO waveform. Similarly, the sequencer only produces small changes in pitch. Moreover, you cannot apply simultaneously the sequencer and some LFO to the same VCO, so everything becomes quite predictable (unless, of course, you tweak the knobs).
  • The oscillators have a very low amplitude. I had to turn up the preamps on my mixer to hear them. Maybe this is the reason the modulation depths are very mild, given that the modulators themselves have very low amplitudes. If this is the case, using an external amplifier may solve most of these issues.
  • I don't really see the need for three pitch controls for each VCO. Coarse and fine tuning knobs would have been more than enough, and for this kind of instrument (where you don't expect precise tuning), even one coarse knob would be enough. Also, the pitch of the VCO's doesn't seem to go very high (although that's not a big deal).
The veredict is this: although the modulation depth issue does limit the tonal range, I am still happy with my purchase - mainly because I do have the tools to increase the amplitude of modulators externally (although I don't know how much voltage the Wild can take), and the fact that it easily syncs to the rest of my gear makes it more interesting. 

The next step is trying to pre-amplify the modulators and run the Wild output through some effects. This will be my weekend project.

1 comment:

  1. Very useful review shadowFac. Thank you so much. This and your nice mp3 demo (where the power of this Wild little beast is fully demonstrated) are a total turn on for me. I am sold already. Especially the price and the size are very attractive; I liked the sound very much; this is a very particular little beast, ideal for experimental stuff. Good luck!
    Regards, m127