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Beads a Reinvention of Mutable Instruments’ Clouds – or Clouds 2

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beads by Mutable Instruments

Mutable Instruments’  Beads is a reinvention of Mutable Instruments’ Clouds. the long-time awaited Clouds 2 is here and the name of the eurorack module is Beads. The concept of Beads is the same, live granular processing of an incoming audio signal, and the labels on the panel remain familiar.

The new Beads compare favorably to Clouds in several respects. The hardware has been redesigned to offer a crisper and broader sound palette, while the software has been updated to provide more control and better playability.

Beads a Reinvention of Mutable Instruments’ Clouds

In addition, the new Beads offer direct access to exciting new features, such as the ability to load custom sounds and use the built-in sequencer. While the similarities between the two devices are noteworthy, the new Beads are clearly the superior choice for anyone looking for the best possible performance.

The similarities of Beads compared to Clouds ends here. The hardware and software have been redesigned from the ground up, with several goals in mind: a crisper and broader sound palette, more control, better playability, and direct access to exciting new features.

Mutable Instruments Clouds vs Beads

If you have the question Mutable Instruments Clouds vs Beads as a pressing issue we cover this topic later.

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Beads a Reinvention of Mutable Instruments Clouds or Clouds 2
Beads a Reinvention of Mutable Instruments’ Clouds - or Clouds 2 55

Beads In A Nutshell

One way of picturing how Beads operates is to imagine a tape loop that continuously records incoming audio.

Every time you request a grain to be played (in reaction to a trigger, a button press, periodically, or randomly), a new replay head positions itself along with the tape.

Beads In A Nutshell Tape
Beads a Reinvention of Mutable Instruments’ Clouds - or Clouds 2 56

If this replay head doesn’t move, the audio will be played back at the original pitch and speed, but if it moves closer to, or further away from the recording head, the signal will be replayed at a different speed and pitch.

This replay head has its own amplitude envelope, and it will leave the tape once the envelope has reached a null amplitude.

Imagine the tape and up to 30 replay heads flying along with it. Imagine you’re able to prevent the incoming audio from being recorded on the tape so that all these tiny replay heads can continue their journey and pick up noises. And there’s a reverb

Beads do not use tape, but RAM. Beads use computer-science terminology and refer to this virtual piece of tape as a recording buffer.

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Beads vs Clouds

Wonder about Clouds vs Beads? You’ve heard about the Clouds module, but you’re not sure if it’s worth the investment. It seems like a lot of modules to learn and you’re not sure how it will fit into your workflow.

Beads vs Clouds: With Beads, Mutable Instruments has reinvented their Clouds module to be easier to use and with a wide sound palette. Unlike the original Clouds module, Beads features a new design with more

Control over sound parameters and direct access to exciting new features like the reverb.

If you’re looking for a versatile eurorack module that can easily add granular effects to your tracks or live sets, then Beads is a perfect choice. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced producer, Beads is intuitive and easy to use, so it’s ideal for anyone looking to add more depth and texture to their sounds.

With its wide range of effects and sound manipulation capabilities, Beads is sure to become a staple in your studio or live setup. I would select Beads if I would be wondering which module “mutable clouds vs beads” I would purchase next.

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Recording Quality And Audio Input

Recording quality is chosen with the selector button [A].

Recording Quality And Audio Input quality table
Beads a Reinvention of Mutable Instruments’ Clouds - or Clouds 2 57
  • The Cold digital setting most accurately reproduces the sonic character of the late Mutable Instruments Clouds.
  • The Sunny tape setting runs the dry audio signal at a bright and clean 48kHz.
  • The Scorched cassette setting emulates wow and flutter.

Beads operate in mono or stereo depending on whether one, or both, of the audio inputs (1) are patched.

When patch cables are inserted or removed, Beads monitors for five seconds the level of the incoming signal and adjusts the input gain accordingly, from +0dB to +32dB. The input level LED (2) blinks during this adjustment process. The input gain is chosen to leave some headroom, but in case of big level changes, a limiter kicks in.

One can manually restart the gain adjustment process by pressing and holding the audio quality selector button [A] for one second.

Holding this button [A] while turning the feedback knob allows manual gain adjustments. The manually-set gain is memorized and applied until a long press on [A] re-enables automatic gain control.

The FREEZE latching button [B] and the corresponding gate input (3) disable the recording of the incoming audio signal in the buffer. Otherwise, Beads records continuously!

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If FREEZE remains engaged for more than 10 seconds, the content of the buffer is backed up, and will be restored the next time the module is powered on.

Beads will not switch between stereo and mono operation, or change the recording quality, while FREEZE is engaged.

Dotting The I’s And Crossing The T’s

Beads’ vastly improved specifications allow a higher audio quality, a longer buffer, the use of better interpolation and anti-aliasing algorithms, and key DSP blocks to run at a faster rate.

Granular processing can now go to new territories, such as formants, wavetables, hard-sync-like sounds, or crispy noise.

The range of parameters, their response to the turn of a knob or a CV modulation has all been refined, for new possibilities such as reverse playback or percussive envelopes.

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Control, Chaos And Character

Control. To trigger or schedule grains, Beads provide new features to divide or randomize an external clock or trigger stream, spray bursts of grains in response to a gate, or get the grain rate to track a V/O CV or the frequency of an external oscillator.

Chaos. Each key parameter of grain comes with its own attenurandomizer, which allows direct CV control, CV control of the randomization (spread) of this parameter, or internal randomization using some of the Marbles’ algorithms.

Character. Beads provide four audio quality settings, which go well beyond buffer sample rate and bit-depth: they affect the clock of the converters, the amplitude limiting and saturation of the signal path, the tone of the reverb, and additional media-emulation effects.

The new Beads compare favorably to Clouds in several respects. The hardware has been redesigned to offer a crisper and broader sound palette, while the software has been updated to provide more control and better playability.

In addition, the new Beads offer direct access to exciting new features, such as the ability to load custom sounds and use the built-in sequencer. While the similarities between the two devices are noteworthy, the new Beads are clearly the superior choice for anyone looking for the best possible performance.

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From a pristine digital device to a dirty cassette, through a mode reproducing some of Clouds’ characteristics.

Modes

Beads can operate as a delay without the need to switch to a different mode: just ask it to play a never-ending grain. Its DENSITYTIME, and SEED controls are repurposed to allow various features such as tap-tempo, beat slicing, time-stretching, or comb-filtering at rates tracking V/O.

Without any audio input, Beads will granularize 8 internal banks of wavetables.

All parameters have a dedicated knob.

Technical and Module Features

Audio acquisition

  • Stereo I/O with automatic level detection.
  • Manual override of the level detection.
  • Automatic mono/stereo switching through patch cable detection.
  • Recording time: 4s (48kHz 16-bit, stereo) to 32s (24kHz µ-law, mono).
  • Four quality modes, with different tone and reverb characters:
    • 48kHz 16-bit
    • 32kHz 12-bit with Clouds emulation
    • 24kHz 12-bit with a hi-fi dry signal path
    • 24kHz µ-law with cassette emulation
  • The FREEZE button and the gate input freezes the content of the recording buffer, allowing you to dive into its sonic details.
  • Auto-saving of the FREEZE buffer.

Granular synthesis

Three grain generation modes:

  • Latched (continuous), with a periodic or randomized rate, tracking V/O.
  • Gated, with bursts of grains triggered by the press of the SEED button or an external gate.
  • Clocked, with randomization or division of an external clock or trigger signal.

Four grain parameters:

  • TIME. Temporal position within the buffer.
  • SIZE. Grain duration from 0.03 to 4 seconds, forward or backward playback.
  • SHAPE. Morphing between four key shapes of the grain envelope: solid rectangular, snappy decay, smooth bell, or reversed.
  • PITCH. With V/O tracking.

Attenurandomizers

Available for each of the four parameters of a grain, sampled each time a grain is started:

  • Direct CV control.
  • CV control of the amount of gaussian randomization.
  • Internal randomization with an independent, uniform or peaky, random source.

Delay

  • Control of both the base delay clock rate (DENSITY), and its multiplication (TIME), with optional random taps.
  • Tap tempo with the SEED button or an external signal.
  • Enveloping of delay repeats, with the SHAPE setting.
  • Pitch shifting of the delayed signal, controlled by PITCH.

Signal flow

  • Feedback path delay: 1 sample.
  • Independent knobs for feedback, dry/wet amount, and reverb amount.
  • CV input assignable to each of these three parameters, or to variable combinations of them.
  • When unpatched, the R output is summed to the L output.
  • Optional generation of a gate signal on the R output.

Specifications

  • All inputs: 100k impedance.
  • Audio codec: 24kHz, 32kHz or 48kHz, 24-bit.
  • 16-bit CV capture.
  • Processing rate: audio-rate for the SEED and FREEZE inputs, 4kHz for the CV inputs.
  • Latency: 0.25ms.
  • CV input range: +/- 8V for grain parameters, +/- 5V for density (with V/O tracking) and assignable CV.
  • Internal processing: 32-bit floating point.

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Expert Guides

Mutable Instruments Marbles

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Mutable Instruments Marbles

Marbles is one of the most appreciated modules in Eurorack. But since Mutable Instruments is going to retire as a business, there may be a time where the original Marbles will no longer be available. It’s been great fun to create this video. It started with an Elements jam, but forgot about a few features. I noticed that the Marbles manual on the web is missing a lot of information that used to be there. This video combines some background information, the hidden modes and some patches I hope you’ll find entertaining. Have fun and don’t lose your marbles – ever!

https://youtu.be/0mLJLDmoZHA

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Virtual Instrument Library

Rhythm by Code | Monome Teletype, Shapeshifter, Plaits x 3, Beads

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Rhythm by Code

The third episode in my Teletype series. This time, I will create a simple rhythm machine with a bit of Grids-like density control on the hat. Easy to learn, lots of fun!

Here’s the code with some explanations.

Intitialization Script I
PARAM.SCALE 0 100
M 2000

In plain English:
Set the parameter knob scale to a range between 0 and 100
Set the metronome to 2 seconds (2000 msec)

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Metronome Script M
This script executes every 2 seconds

CV 2 V RRND 1 8
CV 3 V RRND 1 8
CV 4 V RRND 1 8

So the metronome generates three random values between integer values between 1 and 8, kind of like octaves. They’re used for dramatic modulation of timbre and the modulation is not related to any clock.

SCRIPT 1
Script 1 is triggered by any clock, but expects 16th notes. So for every trigger, the following code gets executed:

EVERY 4: TR.PULSE 1
EVERY 8: TR.PULSE 2
DEL RRND 20 35: TR.PULSE 3
PROB PARAM: TR.PULSE 4
PROB PARAM: CV 1 V RRND 1 5
EVERY 13: TR.PULSE 1

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For every fourth trigger, fire a pulse to trigger 1 – the kick
For every eighth trigger, fire a pulse to trigger 2 – the snare
So these two lines are clock dividers creating a four on the floor.
Wait a few milliseconds. The number of milliseconds is random between 20 and 35. Then, fire trigger 3 – the ‘human’ hat.
The parameter knob can be read with the PARAM keyword. We’ll use it to set a probability between 0 and 100 for firing off Trigger 4.
We’ll use the same probability to send CV to CV output 1, a voltage of 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 volt (integer values).
Every 13th trigger we’ll fire another kick, creating polyrhythmic variations in the kick pattern.

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eurorack

New Mutable Instruments Beads Firmware

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Beads Firmware – Release Candidate

Coming soon, but already available on the Mutable Forum.

Mutable Instruments Beads

The first thing you’ll notice about Beads is the sleek new design. The hardware has been redesigned from the ground up for a more polished look and feel. The next thing you’ll notice is the improved sound quality. The software has been upgraded for a crisper and broader sound palette.

You’ll also notice more control over your sound, thanks to the new software interface. And finally, you’ll appreciate the direct access to exciting new features, such as the live granular processing of an incoming audio signal. Whether you’re a fan of Mutable Instruments’ Clouds or not, you’ll be blown away by Beads. Try it today!

Beads – firmware update, release candidate

Audio Quality

  • A CPU overload issue causing crackles on the left channel in 48kHz/stereo mode with some specific combinations of SIZE and DENSITY has been fixed, through several code optimizations having no negative impact on the module’s functionality.
  • When recording restarts after FREEZE is disabled, the duration of the crossfade between the tail of the buffer and the incoming audio has been increased, thus reducing vastly the risk of clicks.
  • When the module operates as a delay, a smooth transition zone has been added between each of the multiplication factors selected by the TIME setting. This prevents the glitches that occurred when TIME was modulated and the play-head abruptly jumped from one position to another.
  • When the module operates as an externally clocked delay, and when the clock rate changes (abruptly, or because of swing or jitter), a crossfade is applied between the old and new delay time, eliminating clicks.
  • When the module plays slices (delay mode + FREEZE enabled), it waits for the completion of the currently playing slice before sampling the TIME parameter and deciding which slice to play next. Again, this prevents clicks when TIME is modulated.
  • The modulation of the secondary delay tap (DENSITY past 12 o’clock, free-running) has been tamed to avoid noticeable warbling or pitch-shifting effects.
  • A fade-out and fade-in is applied during the transition between granular and delay mode.
  • The algorithm responsible for preventively fading out grains to make room for new ones behaves more cautiously. This reduces, by a negligible amount, the overall thickness of the grain cloud (since at a given time, several grains will enter their release stage earlier than scheduled), but reduces the risk of grains being abruptly cut when “grain-stealing” occurs.
  • The power consumption of the module exhibits less bursty patterns, eliminating the whine observed with some PSUs.
  • Linear interpolation is applied to the frequency parameter when generating the dry (continuous) signal in granular wavetable mode.
  • The filters used for band-limited wavetable synthesis have been improved, eliminating the amplitude drop observed for the highest notes.

Controls

  • The response curve of the attenurandomizers has been slightly adjusted, with a smaller virtual notch at 12 o’clock, and a more progressive transition between small and extreme values. Graphing Calculator 98
  • The response curve of the SIZE control has been adjusted. The deadband in the backward/forward transition zone at 10:30 is smaller, the reclaimed space giving access to even shorter grains.
  • The interaction between the PITCH knob and its attenurandomizer has been adjusted. In particular, when the attenurandomizer is fully CW or CCW without any CV in, the main knob still provides an additional transposition control.
  • When turned CCW, the reverb amount knob no longer eliminates the wet signal, but instead, stops sending any signal to the reverb. This allows the tail of the reverb to fade out more gracefully when the knob is turned towards its minimum position.
  • The root note of the wavetable oscillator has been transposed down by one octave.
  • The software low-pass filter on the PITCH CV input has been disabled, to shorten its response time. On the hardware side, the 8x averaging performed by the MCU provides enough denoising anyway.
  • When the grains are externally triggered and the DENSITY knob is repurposed as a probability control (from 12 o’clock to fully CW), a quadratic response is used for the probability value. It makes it easier to get sparse grains, even with a fast clock.
  • Less hysteresis is applied on CVs controlling quantized parameters (such as the selected wavetable, or the selected slice). Sequencing these parameters yields more predictable results, since the risk of sending a voltage in the transition zone is reduced.
  • The range of the feedback control has been increased by 30%.

New features

  • Four FM wavetables have been added, with modulator:carrier ratios of 1:2, 1/2:1, 3:1, and 8:1.
  • Assign + FREEZE now enables or disables the auto-saving of the buffer. The current setting is indicated for a short amount of time by the brightness of the FREEZE button (bright = on, dark = off).
  • The visual indication that the frozen buffer is being backed up (fast blinking of the FREEZE button) has been made more subtle: instead, the FREEZE button is only dimmed while this process takes place.
  • When the module operates in the delay zone (SIZE turned fully CW), the SIZE attenurandomizer is repurposed as a delay bandwidth control, from dark to full to thin. This parameter can also be further modulated by the SIZE CV input.
  • The audio quality LED fades out every time the recording head crosses over the last point at which FREEZE has been disabled. This gives a visual representation of how much material fits in the buffer.
  • The audio quality LED temporarily changes color when the input gain is being manually adjusted.
  • When the input gain is manually set, the flavor of the clipping applied to the input signal, when it saturates, varies according to the quality setting. The two digital modes incur no distortion when the signal is within limits, but past that threshold, hard-clipping is applied. The two tape modes apply soft-clipping, which may gently add harmonics to the signal even when it is within limits.

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