The MOD Duo X is the new product that's coming out of MOD HQ this Fall and is a completely different beast meant to work for a whole new crowd. This is a blogpost about whence it came, what it has and can do, and perhaps a glimpse into what makes MOD unique.
You know what's great about being in the music technology industry?
Making new music technology.
Everything we do, all the hustles and hassles of creating a business out of an idea (that the digital revolution still has a lot to offer musicians), the daily grind of keeping that business afloat and making our users happy, the hours spent coding or strategizing the best way to market our product and our brand, all of this serves one purpose: making cool gear that we've longed to use and believe will improve the music-making playground.
Oh, and some practical information first: on June 13th 2018, pre-orders have opened for a limited edition run of the Duo X, which will be shipped late September. The product will then be made officially available through international distribution and retail partners in late Q4 2018 or early Q1 2019. The feature set of both Duo X versions will be identical. You can pre-order a MOD Duo X on our website.
What we learned from the MOD Duo
The MOD Duo X is ultimately the embodiment of everything we learned from the MOD Duo users' feedback and it represents the next step in the neverending quest for the most versatile audio processing companion, now for the electronic music environment. It has made us push limits once more and develop features that weren't just requests but actual needs.
This year we're celebrating the MOD Duo's second year anniversary and, in these two years, we've delivered six major software releases that brought new features and expanded the MOD ecosystem a little bit each time. Some of these had been on our minds from the beginning but many came from users providing feedback.
Indeed, listening to our users is something that is fundamental to MOD Devices' development as a company. We read, reply and reflect on every bit of communication that comes our way, whether via email, our social media channels or through our forum (there's a lot being requested there, so if you have any ideas or suggestions, feel free to pitch in). The evolving nature of our products is what fuels our community interactions and vice versa.
Making a new product was an opportunity to put into practice everything we learned from the comments on the MOD Duo and expand the MOD family with a sibling unit to our first device. The Duo still has a long life ahead and both devices will continue to improve with the knowledge gained from the expanded community.
It's true that the MOD Duo was initially designed to become the most complete and multi-purpose multi-effects unit for guitar players. Gianfranco, the MODfather, was a guitarist on a quest for the ultimate digital stompbox, the user interface was designed to beautifully reproduce the feels and quirks of pedalboard assembly (without the mess and complications of its physical counterpart), and most of the plugins looked like MXR pedals. The device was meant to be taken to the stage and stomped upon by people whose hands were busy playing an instrument.
It didn't take long for the extreme versatility and potential of the MOD Duo to be noticed by all sorts of creative musicians looking for a portable device that could contain all their effects and provide some exotic sonic possibilities in a more practical way. The MOD community became more eclectic as the message of a standalone factotum piece of gear spread. The Duo was being used by bassists, keys players, Stick players and acoustic instruments such as reeds, horns or strings. This was an evolutionary path we had foreseen but didn't expect would become such an important part of our user base.
The promise of a computer-free live setup also caught the attention of electronic musicians, who were interested in having a standalone audio processing unit on stage. However, the MOD Duo's lack of controls on the device meant it required external controllers to function in live setups and its MIDI generators and utilities, though quite powerful, had rather non-intuitive interfaces. More and more, people reached out to us to express their willingness to use the Duo mounted on a rack or with a more hands-on approach in a live DJ set (check out DJ Undo's live set at Sónar 2018 and you can catch the Duo on the top left corner of his setup).
And that's where the MOD Duo X started taking shape in our minds. While the Duo is meant to be a floor unit, the Duo X is a desktop device and therefore was designed to meet the needs of studio work, electronic music production and performance, as well as DJing. It was a whole new beast and in order to accomplish this, there were some requirements: more power, more controls and more features.
The MOD Duo X
We keep saying that possibilities with our devices are endless and that the MOD interface allows you to do anything you want in terms of signal routing and parameter mapping, but there's a caveat to that sentence: if you give musicians freedom, they will do their darndest to push it to its creative limits.
Of course, the MOD Duo's 1GHz processor quickly became a bottleneck for people looking to build huge setups within the device, or wanting to use some of the more CPU-hungry plugins like big synths, heavy amp simulations or the much-loved pitch shifters. That's why being able to enhance the CPU was something we built in the design of the Duo (and a hardware upgrade will be proposed to current MOD Duo users around the time that the Duo X will start shipping). That's also why one of the first things we defined when conceiving the Duo X was that it would pack a bigger punch under the hood.
The MOD Duo X has a buffed-up Quad-core ARM Cortex-A53, 1.5GHz processor, pushing the limits of creative power even further. Also, with each iteration, our technical team keeps improving the audio board and its firmware to enhance the signal-to-noise ratio, meaning that every new device is the best MOD device we've ever made.
Basically, for the Duo X, we have:
- doubled the core count (dual to quad core),
- increased clock speed (1GHz to 1.5GHz)
- doubled bit count ( 32 bit processor to 64 bit processor)
- a newer architecture ( Cortex A7 to Cortex A53)
- an OpenCL enabled GPU (which will potentially absorb some plugin load)
This represents around 300% to 400% extra CPU power when compared to the current Duo.
The need for more controls
With only two footswitches and two multipliable encoders, the MOD Duo could already house entire setups in a very compact box. We wanted to keep this portable quality and yet provide as many knobs to tweak and buttons to push in the same dimensions.
The Duo X doesn't have the Duo's U-handle since it won't be stomped on and instead has eight additional assignable knobs. The footswitches were replaced by four silicon push-buttons. The total amount of actuators increased, from four to fourteen, fitting in the same real estate.
But we knew this wouldn't be enough, so we added three extra push-buttons between the two top encoders. The central one will be a colour-lit "page" button, allowing multiple addressings to be made on the same knobs. This means you can assign all the controls of the device, then change the page (and colour of the button) and assign them all again, multiple times. The other push-buttons next to the page button are used for the instant recall function (more on that later).
A control voltage input has been on our roadmap for a long time. We even had the colour for the cables on the interface figured out (they're orange by the way).
We added another input to the device, which made Gianfranco quite happy because it instantly made the device more symmetrical. We also decided to make the input and output commutable, maintaining the headphone monitor output and introducing a much-requested expression pedal input. It's what I'd call a double whammy (sorry, couldn't resist).
This is a very interesting door we're opening to one of the fastest-growing and most creative communities today. It is also surely going to take the MOD universe to uncharted territory on the electronic music playground.
Perfect symmetry: On the same surface size as the MOD Duo, we fit knobs a-plenty and push buttons with a pagination system with instant recall and alternation so that no one lacks controls. And let's not forget the CV input that commutes to an expression pedal input, and CV output that commutes to a headphone output.
Requested and required features
The MOD Duo X is the playground for many new features that will be added to the MOD platform from now on.
Since it was designed mostly with electronic musicians in mind, there were a few mandatory features that we had to develop for the Duo X (some of which had already been requested by our community and were bumped up on the roadmap).
MIDI Slave Sync mode
This means that the Duo X can be synced upstream and downstream with other devices, which is indispensable when using a bunch of time-based gear and effects. It also paves the way for future features that require global sync.
Release 1.5 introduced Global Tempo features to the system, allowing the Duo to act as a Master Sync device. Obviously, Slave Sync mode was bound to arrive and what best occasion for it than the Duo X?
This feature allows the input and output levels of the MOD Duo X to be adjusted together. This way, the input preamps and output volumes can be defined simultaneously, which benefits electronic setups but also musicians that use stereo instruments. Users can still decide whether they want to control the levels linked or independently.
Instant recall and alternation
With the two buttons on each side of the page button, we've added an instant recall and alternation function on the Duo X. Users will be able to tweak the parameters on their plugin setups and save snapshots of the configurations onto the two buttons while playing. This will allow them to continue changing parameters and eventually return to their saved settings by pushing the instant recall buttons. Since there are two of them, this adds an interesting alternation feature, by which users can move back and forth between two snapshots.
More on the way
And in the near future will come an assignment manager, MIDI-over-Bluetooth capabilities, a sampler, and more. We're sure that, as users start fiddling with the Duo X, we will get a lot of feature requests too.
The connections on the back are the same as on the MOD Duo, which means it's a great MIDI companion and can be enhanced with our Control Chain peripherals
There are many exciting things still to come with new plugins, new features and new devices popping up in the next months. So, stay tuned here, follow us on social media or come join the discussion on our forum. Keep telling us what you would like to see in the next evolutionary step of our devices: you can shape the future of music technology with us!