So, uh, I got a Strega! A birthday present from my wife and myself, I suppose? She gave me a gift card worth half, I randomly sold some stuff I had laying around for $250 and hey, Detroit Modular (not sponsored but totally up for it if they’re interested) had an open box model for $509 which happened to be the (essentially) exact amount I had! So here we are, and of course I am going to feature the new kid in the patch of the week!
If you aren’t familiar, and I know some of y’all are not (those that are skim until you see the sentence “Okay, intro over.”), the Strega is a semimodular monosynth and/or effects processor. Semimodular because all its guts are prewired but you can patch it to change, add to or replace some parts of it. Monosynth voice because it’s got an oscillator, a waveshaper, a filter and a VCA. You can send it volt/octave and play a little melody and change the sound by wiggling the waveshaper and filter knobs, just like any other monosynth (yes, there are differences; we’re getting there). And an effects processor because it’s got a beefy preamp that can drive signals a bit and, most importantly of all perhaps, a pt2399 delay.
Now if you are familiar with that particular beast you are already nodding in agreement and having an idea of what is up (or you’ve checked out because it’s Not For You, Thanks). If not… well, it’s a cheap-ass digital delay chip made for home karaoke machines. No I am not kidding, and yes, it’s about the quality you are imagining. And that’s the appeal — it’s a gritty, lofi monster with few or no built in restraints, so you can clock the chip waaay beyond what the designers intended and you get swathes of chunky noise and weird signal slop. It’s pretty amazing.
What’s interesting about the Strega, what’s different than most synths (maybe all?) is that instead of routing the signal oscillator -> filter/VCA -> delay as one would typically do, it’s oscillator -> delay -> filter. (Make Noise apparently calls this an “echo synth” and that makes sense given this setup!) The external input can be mixed with the oscillator and sent through the same chain, and the oscillator is shaped by some kind of waveshaper (is it a wavefolder? I’ve heard that, but others have just said waveshaper, and since a wavefolder is a kind of waveshaper, I am sticking with the more generic term) that allows you to add complex harmonics.
For modulation you get a single function generator, that they call the agitator — a unipolar LFO that gives you control over the waveshape and speed, from very slow to audio rate — that is normalled to the filter. There’s also a semirandom modulation source hardwired to the activation (aka VCA), derived from the filter/delay circuit, and some kind of modulator based on the subharmonics of the oscillator. (I think. Perhaps?) This is all controlled by the knobs themselves and by a series of touchplates that allow you access to these modulators and a variety of destinations including delay time, filter cutoff, and pitch. Plus, of course, input jacks for most of these things, and output jacks for a triangle waves, harmonics from the oscillator, an envelope follower for the audio input, and more.
Okay, intro over.
Woo, that was a lot of introduction and I apologize if I overdid it. And before we get to the patch itself, let me say I patched between half a dozen and ten different patches before settling on this one. This thing has a lot of possibilities, and I didn’t want to get lost in the weeds, especially since I knew there’d be a bit of an intro. So I settled on a pretty simple patch.
This patch uses mostly the internal routings, The only patch cable I used for the Strega itself is that little blue one up there that goes between the agitator (remember, that’s what they call the function generator) and the attenuated delay time input. The agitator itself is running very near top speed, well into its audio rate range. It’s also still feeding the filter; I didn’t break the connection between the two. Both of those attenuators are turned down to about 20-25%, so both the time and filter are getting an audio rate modulation. And somehow, the result, is this noisy yet pleasant (until you poke it) wash of (mostly) gentle notes and tones.
I’ll put a bit more in the video, but hopefully you get the idea.
The 0-CTRL sends gates from its dynamic gate output, and pitch from it’s top control row (typically dedicated to pitch, as it is here, but not always). Beyond that, I use it to play the patch, switching between pitches and smaller parts of the sequence as it plays, as well as tweaking the time via the Speed knob, the attenuator for the Time row, and the knobs of the Time row themselves. I also added/dropped notes with the middle row (strength) at times and messed with the pitches a bit (live that is the trickiest, since they are unquantized pitches — I tuned the sequence by ear, so it may be a bit weird). This offers a lot of control with just a few knobs.
Settings wise, you can see in the photo where they are set (if you’re visually impaired, I know this is bullshit; if you have a suggestion how to make this more useful, please let me know). I wiggled them while playing it, though — the Strega encourages that I’d say, and I am inclined to it anyway. That’s where’ they ended up in any case!
This patch also benefits from using the touchplate modulation, but it’s not essential to the patch — just another way to add a little variety as the sequence plays. Here’s a video with some more examples, and me explaining this same stuff in slightly different ways!