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Review: Squarp Instruments Hermod
Jade Wii on Fri, June 22nd | 0 comments
With polymorphic tracks, dynamic MIDI effects, a MIDI / USB / CV interface and extensive sequencing capabilities, Squarp's Hermod really is a modular brain, as Jade Wii found out.

Modular Brain

Eurorack sequencers come in many shapes and sizes, and they are in my opinion what define your workflow when working with a modular synthesizer. The cool thing about Eurorack sequencers is that most of them are non-linear, so I often find myself creating things I wouldn’t dare to on a conventional style sequencer. This is both a blessing and a curse; it’s good because it allows you to explore music in a way you normally wouldn’t, it’s bad because if you don’t have the best musical ear the results can be… unconventional.

So what makes Hermod different from other Eurorack sequencers out there? Right under the name “Hermod” it says Modular Brain, because with 8 CV/gate output pairs this thing could easily be the hub of a giant system. Does this mean that if you only have 3 voices in your case you can’t take advantage of Hermod? Absolutely not, all of its 8 tracks can be configured independently and extensively.

Eurorack Pyramid?

At first glance, one could easily think that this is a modular version of Squarp Instruments’ oh so popular hardware sequencer, the Squarp Pyramid. Although it’s similar in its layout and workflow, they are quite different. The Pyramid’s strengths lie in sequencing many hardware synthesizers and drum machines; Hermod on the other hand was created to work with Eurorack so it’s a bit more limited. If you’re a Pyramid user you might notice this as you try to replicate things you do on your Pyramid, but if you’re not comparing Hermod to the Pyramid it's really light years away from most Eurorack sequencers out there.  

 Tracks

So we know Hermod has 8 tracks, but they don’t all have to be CV/gate pairs. For example, if I select track 1 I can choose how many voices I want this track to have. If I choose one voice, it’ll be a monophonic track, if I choose two voices, I can choose from Unison, or I can add velocity to the second track. If I choose three voices, I can add Velocity and Aftertouch, meaning that Track 1 is a CV/gate pair, but tracks 2 and 3 now belong to track 1 and will give me Velocity and Aftertouch for my first voice. Velocity and Aftertouch are transmitted through the CV output, but the gate remains I gate. I do wish they would have mirrored the settings of the CV tracks to use elsewhere, as CV is a bit more useful than gates in smaller systems, but it’s not a big deal. Apart from Velocity and Aftertouch, you can also choose to have track 1 be polyphonic, for those of you out there still holding on to the dream of a polyphonic Eurorack system.

 Steps

There’s three ways to input notes into Hermod, and they all depend on preference. One way of inputting notes is by using the 8 pads/buttons labeled 1-8 - they represent 8 steps, which is the default. Active steps will light up, while empty steps will be dim. Once you’ve placed your steps or even while you’re placing them, turn the encoder to choose a note and the current note is displayed on the top right corner. Another way to input notes is to live record into Hermod. You can do this using the pads, but it makes more sense to use a MIDI keyboard of some sort. The last way of inputting notes is to hold a pad then select a note on your MIDI keyboard. In this menu we can also edit the Velocity, Aftertouch, and Modulation for other tracks.

Effects

MIDI effects are a thing of beauty, and having a sequencer with so many MIDI effects makes me giddy. Hermod has seven effect slots, so you can have seven MIDI effects playing simultaneously on each track- that’s nuts! From an Arpeggiator to Delay, Chance, Ratchet, Glide, and many others, the possibilities of transforming your sound with note ON and OFF are limitless. Being able to mute and unmute effects while your sequence is running results in spontaneous changes to your live performance, but changes you ultimately have control over because you can plan these ahead of time.

Here is in the Effects menu you will find your Quantize settings, and just like on the Pyramid the Quantize effect is non-destructive, meaning if you choose to remove the effect the original Unquantized sequence will be there.

Sequencer

Song building isn’t something you might be planning on doing on a Eurorack system, I mean - it’s not something hopeful to achieve with non-linear sequencers, at least not long performances. Well that all changes with Hermod. You can save unlimited projects onto the included SD card that’s in the back of the module. Each project holds up to 8 sequences, each sequence holds 8 tracks. So you could basically patch your modular and create a whole performance, save it and move on to making another performance. In sequence mode you can even create “songs”, meaning you can choose in what order your sequences will play within a project. You can also choose the way you want your sequences to transition; Sequential is default, which plays the next sequence after the current sequence reaches its cycle. Jump changes sequences immediately, and Restart plays the sequence from the beginning every time a new sequence is selected.

 X and Y

Ok, so let’s talk about the X and Y buttons. They did a great job color coding this thing. If you hold track and X you will enter voice settings. If you hold track and Y you’ll be in the main settings. If you hold Effects and X it’ll take you to the effect rack, its pretty much the default anyway. If you hold Effects and Y, you enter the Matrix, here you can control effect parameters using CC messages as well as the CV inputs. If you hold Sequence and X you activate Song Mode, which allows you to create a song with your sequence, and if you hold Sequence and Y you select your sequence run mode.

Conclusion

Hermod is a game changer for those wanting to have more control over song structure in their modular, and if you’ve played with a hardware MIDI sequencer you’ll feel right at home. It’s similar to the Pyramid, but it's not the Pyramid in Euro format. If you can get past that, this is a great brain for any system.

Price: $460 / 380 EUR

Pros: Gives Eurorack control over compositional structure. Feature packed. MIDI Effects. Song Mode.

Cons: Linear composition is one of the things people who go with Eurorack try to avoid, as they can get this elsewhere, but for some it might be just what they were looking for.

Web: http://squarp.net/hermod

Learn more about Eurorack and hardware synthesis in the Ask.Audio Academy: https://ask.audio/academy?nleloc=category/audio/topic/eurorackmodular

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