Ring (and/or Balanced) Modulation for the masses



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Re: Ring (and/or Balanced) Modulation for the masses

Postby Eivind August » Mon May 06, 2019 3:21 pm

jondom22 wrote:Ring Mod Shootout post:

I'd been using my EHX Ring Thing for the last 6 or so years, but was in the market for a new ring mod once I purchased an EHX Pitch Fork for my pitch shifting duties (wanted 3 part harmonies, and being able to quickly choose a pitch beyond the Ring Things presets that weren't being used for other duties). I picked up a Randy's Revenge and an Alexander Syntax Error, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. I wrote the pros and cons mainly on the ring mod sounds, with some additional feedback on other factors and sounds its capable of producing:

Randy's Revenge:
Pros: Probably the best sounding of the bunch as far as harmonic content. The bell tones are gorgeous and lush. The square wave has incredible bite. The osc frequency range is huge as is the mix knob's blend range. Sounds best clean or with light to medium overdrive in front. I find the most useful frequency range for guitar to be between 11 -2 'o clock using the Hi switch.

Cons: Bassier frequencies (the eq of the sound, not the oscillator position) can sometimes take away from its ability to cut. Each frequency setting tends to have a sweet spot where you can play on the neck before things sound phase cancelled and thin or you mainly here the dry signal. Takes away some of the transients when playing (especially in sine mode), which is why you tend to need to add a bit more dry signal to the mix than I'd personally favor. Get's a bit muddy and squashed with fuzz and high gain dirt in front (which is a prob for germanium fuzz users). Different wave/frequency settings force you to adjust the mix and volume settings to keep volume and consistent and being able to have your playing cut through.

Favorite settings:
Clean Gamelan Bell: Sine, Hi, Freq (12-1:30), volume (1:30), mix (fully cw), LPF (fully CW)
Slightly Dirty: Sine, Hi, freq (1:30), vol (1:30), mix (2:30), LPF (fully cw).
Grimey Bite: Square, Hi, freq (12-2), vol (12:30-1), mix (1:30), LPF (3-fully CW)
Sample/Bit Crush: Square, Hi, Freq (3), vol (12:30-1), mix (12), LPF (3-fully cw)

Other Cool sounds:
- Tremelo is the best of the bunch. Can do a very gorgeous sine wave that rivals a vintage fender optical unit but with more depth, to a completely wet mix square wave for synth-esque on and off pulsating rhythms.
- setting the frequency to the point around it turning from tremelo to ring mod sounds can produce this very awesome natural distortion. Just watch your levels as it can get loud.

Room for improvement:
- Pedal orientation vertical with jacks on top that way and footswitch in the bottom middle. If you use it in its standard horizontal position, the footswitch can be too close to other pedals for some people, and takes up more board space. If you use it vertically, the jacks are then on the side and the hi/lo + si/sq toggles are dangerously close to your foot.
- Single Sideband would be awesome
- Low cut eq knob would be fantastic for taking out some low end that won't be heard in a mix other than solo guitar.
- expression updates: would be cool if it controlled mix. It would be great to set high and low points for things like frequency knob (so I could rock it between lets say 10-2).
- Presets would be sick, but assuming that's not do-able on a pedal like this.

EHX Ring Thing:
Pros: It generally sounds excellent, and some settings can sound almost identical to the Randy's Revenge. Using Upper Band settings gives you a somewhat can really help for cutting the low end and giving you a signal that cuts through the mix. Sounds very good clean or with light-medium od in front, and excellent with fuzz in front (prob due to the inherent eq filtering of using upper sideband settings). Bell tones, grimey bitey sounds, and lofi bit/sample crushing sounds can easily be had and recalled with 9 presets. Volume is generally balanced within 1-2db between settings which makes it easier to dial in a sound that works within a live context. Also seems the best of the bunch with not sounding phase cancelled when flying up and down the neck so you have a bit more freedom to play around on the same settings.

Cons: Size is very large with side jacks adding to it. Wave shape changes are more subtle compared Randy's. Slight digital/metallic bite to it. Less usable sweep to filter and mix knobs. No output volume knob. Less Range in ring mod than randy,

Favorite Settings:
Grimey Bite: Mode (Upper Band), Coarse (10:30), Fine (12), Filter (fully cw), Wave (square), blend (1)
Sample/Bit Reduction: Mode (Ring Mod), Coarse (Fully CW), Fine (12), Filter (1:30), Wave (square), blend (1)
Bells: Mode (Ring Mod), Coarse (12), Fine (12), Filter (2), Wave (sine), blend (1)

Other Cool Sounds it makes:
- Pitch shifter is fantastic, but you'll need to tune by ear and save as presets for best use. 2 part harmonies make it take a backseat to the pitch fork.
- Decent trem and chorus sounds can do the job if those are once in a while sounds for you.
- Really funky LFO-ish type sounds in pitch mode with the rate knob below 2, When you pull the rate knob up more, you can get a kinda robot-ish pitch shift blended in, while putting the rate fully cw give you the standard pitch shifting capabilities.

Room for Improvement:
- If they could make the enclosure just a little smaller (like the Frequency Analyzer but with top jacks), it would be the perfect blend of sounds, preset capability, and live use context for cutting in a mix.
- Let the expression pedal be used for any knob with heel/toe configuration (like the EHX Attack Decay)
- Tap tempo (for LFO-ish/trem/Vibrato stuff)
- I guess if they just made it midi-capable instead, that would prob enable it to fit in a smaller enclosure (no need for on-board presets) while also giving you more control over expression pedal and rate settings with tap.

Alexander Syntax Error:
Pros: Ring mod sound is pretty solid, though not my favorite of the bunch. The ability to save the output level knob as part of a preset is very welcome. MIDI capable, and full capability to morph between two completely different (or just slightly different settings) with an expression pedal controlling any knob functions is the best use of expression among these 3 pedals. Blending in sample rate reduction gives you another flavor of sounds with a more grimey or lofi feel that make it the coolest for noisey shit. Code knob has cool S&H sequence. Sounds good clean and with light-medium od and ok with fuzz. Has a bit more attack/presence than the Randy's on sine mode, and I think can cut just a bit better with fuzz than Randy's when set up right (I think Randy's really needs as much of an open sound before it for it's best performance).

Cons: Osc frequency range is the most limited. You don't have a choice of oscillator wave shape. Mix/blend range is similar to the EHX. The ring mod sound has an inherent sublte bite to it so you can't get as nice bell tones out of it (though reducing the eq can help a bit). Doesn't take out as much of the attack as the Randy's, but the bassier frequencies (not the osc freq) can mask the presence/attack a bit like the Randy's. Yet like the Randy's you have to be a little more cognizant about where you're playing on the neck depending on the osc frequency setting to avoid hitting notes that can sound a bit phase cancelled. EQ knob ("bonus" parameter) is a kinda a lpf similar to the Ring Thing (whereas the Randy's seems to have the most range). Sample and Hold rate (code) is pretty limited, and without tap tempo doesn't let you sync it to whatever song your playing on the fly (so prob best as a one-off effect every here and there).

Other Cool Sounds:
- Straight Sample Rate reduction sounds awesome. Use the cube mode with low resonance, high cutoff frequency, mix around 12, and add in the cubic distortion (code knob) to taste. Can do some cool alright filter sweeps, but more fun to use expression/ramp for morphing between clean and grimey as fuck sounds.
- Freq mode is kinda hard to describe, but if you wanna make weird bubbly or pitched repeats and oscillation you can make some really interesting stuff.
- Stretch mode is hard to get a grasp of because the knobs react so differently as you adjust each one. It does some cool time/pitch shifted repeats a la Montreal Assembly Count to 5/Red Panda Particle and other glitchy pedals, as well as some reverse delay (and even regular delay sounds). The only knock on this mode is that the buffer cutoff can cause some annoying pops/clicks depending on how you have it set.

Favorite Settings:
Slightly Biting: Sample (Off), Code (Off), Mix (12-2), Tweak (1:30), Bonus aka EQ (fully cw)
Bells: Sample (Off), Code (Off), Mix (fully cw), Tweak (12), Bonus (12)
Dirty: Sample (12), Code (off), Mix (2), Tweak (1:30), Bonus (fully cw)
Grimey noise ring mod: Sample (12-2), Code (off), Mix (2-fully cw), Weak (9-11:30), Bonus (fully cw)...this also sounds dope with fuzz in front

Room for Improvement:
- More range to osc frequency
- More range to sample and hold rate + tap tempo control would be fantastic.
- A v2 version with alt functions so you can control LFO shape/depth/rate for ring mode so you can do more than just sample/hold modulation.
- low freq shelving eq would be helpful as it would on the Randy's.

Overall conclusions (rated in order of best to...least best haha):


Best pure ring mod tones:
Randy, Ring Thing, Syntax

Best response over the length of the neck:
Ring Thing, Syntax, Randy

Size/Form Factor:
Syntax, Randy, Ring Thing

Attack/Presence/Cut in a mix:
Ring Thing, Syntax, Randy

Osc Frequency range:
Randy, Ring Thing, Syntax

Mix blend usable range:
Randy, Syntax, Ring Thing

Best Tremelo Sound:
Randy, Ring Thing, Syntax

Most unique/interesting sounds available on whole pedal and versatility:
Syntax, RIng Thing, Randy.

Live use potential:
Syntax, Ring Thing, Randy.

I haven't decided which one I'm going to add to my PT Jr. (my NYC subway friendly...and only board), but right now I'm leaning towards the Syntax Error. My reasons are form factor/size, ring mod cuts through 2nd best within the main area osc freq range I use it, versatility of unique sounds to the pedal, midi capabilty gives most presets and ability to change between 2 different sounds with 1 stomp on a midi controller the most ideal for live use, expression control over all knob parameters is most ideal for morphing. Either way, they're all excellent pedals capable of great ring mod sounds and plenty more by builders who I have incredible respect for and will continue to support.


Yeah, that's an excellent write up, thanks! Sometimes I do miss having a ring mod around. :erm:
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Re: Ring (and/or Balanced) Modulation for the masses

Postby Chankgeez » Mon May 06, 2019 8:40 pm

BetterOffShred wrote:It's on their website, apparently there was noise issues when switched off, and or extra noisy carrier etc.


I can't really hear any oscillator bleed when the pedal is off. I suppose if you've got a super gainy amp, it may be a problem. :idk:

The pedal at some settings is noisy when it's engaged & I'm not playing. That's sometimes sorta just the nature of these types of pedals though. :animal:
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Re: Ring (and/or Balanced) Modulation for the masses

Postby BetterOffShred » Mon May 06, 2019 9:05 pm

Yeah, gating efficiencies for the carrier vary widely from my experiences. Gonkulator is pretty noisy, but it's just noisy in general so who cares.. the passive diode ring variety can be pretty quiet from my limited play time with them
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Re: Ring (and/or Balanced) Modulation for the masses

Postby Chankgeez » Mon May 06, 2019 9:21 pm

Sometimes if I want more gating, I turn on a Green Ringer after a ring mod. :D Sometimes that just adds more noise though. :lol:
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Re: Ring (and/or Balanced) Modulation for the masses

Postby BetterOffShred » Mon May 06, 2019 10:27 pm

I've used the mxr noise gate to silence carrier bleed. I think another way to do it would be to use an envelope follower lighting a LED and then use an LDR as the mixing resistor back to the actual Y2 multiplicator in - in a fairly standard design. Then you could set maximum mix with the pot and the dynamics could dictate how much carrier signal heads to your 4Q.. maybe I'll breadboard that some time.
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Re: Ring (and/or Balanced) Modulation for the masses

Postby lordgalvar » Mon May 06, 2019 10:37 pm

BetterOffShred wrote:I've used the mxr noise gate to silence carrier bleed. I think another way to do it would be to use an envelope follower lighting a LED and then use an LDR as the mixing resistor back to the actual Y2 multiplicator in - in a fairly standard design. Then you could set maximum mix with the pot and the dynamics could dictate how much carrier signal heads to your 4Q.. maybe I'll breadboard that some time.


Parasit has a build with a VCA, osc, and a Carlin ring mod. https://www.parasitstudio.se/stripboard ... in-ringmod


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8K_A9aXMm_g

The LED/LDR setup does work well though. Used that to gate a peizo from feedbacking.

Make a low pass gate in place of the VCA to make it kind of env filter the carrier (or less so in VCA mode). Add a basic envelope follower and slew limiter to smooth it out on a guitar signal.
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Re: Ring (and/or Balanced) Modulation for the masses

Postby BetterOffShred » Mon May 06, 2019 11:04 pm

Yeah I've built that one. It's pretty good, and easy to add stuff to. That being said with a bipolar power supply, an Ad633 and one tl072 you can have pretty good ring mod.

I use leds/LDR's a lot haha. Always a good sound and response.
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Re: Ring (and/or Balanced) Modulation for the masses

Postby oscillofuzz » Thu May 09, 2019 3:40 pm

On another note, and I'm not sure if it's been posted here yet, but John McLaughlin really rips while using a ring mod on this track:

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Re: Ring (and/or Balanced) Modulation for the masses

Postby Chankgeez » Thu May 09, 2019 8:25 pm

:whoa: I'm gettin' déjà vu of the first page of this thread. :lol: :hug:

lordgalvar posted that same Carlin video & there was some Mahavishnu as well. :!!!: :snax:
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Re: Ring (and/or Balanced) Modulation for the masses

Postby Dandolin » Thu May 09, 2019 8:39 pm

:lol: :hug:

:love:
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Re: Ring (and/or Balanced) Modulation for the masses

Postby lordgalvar » Thu May 09, 2019 10:29 pm

I didn't even know I posted on the first page haha. I've looked at that page dozens of times but I guess I ignore myself.

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Re: Ring (and/or Balanced) Modulation for the masses

Postby oscillofuzz » Fri May 10, 2019 3:01 am

well shit; I knew I should've double checked if that exact song had been posted before in a thread about ring mods :facepalm: I was just too lazy yesterday...

guess I'll have to supplement with a live version of that track which features a longer ring mod solo than the studio take:

but no ominous thunderous ring mod intro on this take unfortunately
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Re: Ring (and/or Balanced) Modulation for the masses

Postby Chankgeez » Fri May 10, 2019 9:40 am

:lol: Welcome to Ring Mod 101, folks. :hug:



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djpJd5RmQxk
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Re: Ring (and/or Balanced) Modulation for the masses

Postby sylnau » Fri May 10, 2019 10:11 am

Anybody tried the Side FX Bug Elektrik?
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Re: Ring (and/or Balanced) Modulation for the masses

Postby Chankgeez » Sat May 11, 2019 11:49 am

You should try one, Syl! :poke:

Not really even remotely a ring mod, but sounds fun:



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehY0c8dfXv8
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