Pittsburgh Modular Intros Lifeforms SV-1 Blackbox All-In-One Eurorack Modular Synth


Pittsburgh Modular has introduced its new desktop-format, standalone modular synthesizer, the Lifeforms SV-1 Blackbox.

Lifeforms SV-1 Blackbox is equipped with “a full complement of analog tools for sonic experimentation, stuffed” into a portable steel enclosure. The synth has two patchable oscillators and Pittsburgh Modular’s state-variable filter, paired with a set of synthesis components including a dual sub oscillator, dual chained mixers, a four stage envelope generator, sample and hold, noise, low frequency oscillator, voltage controlled amplifier, a feature rich MIDI to CV converter, and a pair of utility signal splitters.

Pittsburgh_Modular_SV1+Blackbox+7+1200The Lifeforms SV-1 Blackbox is pre-patched, and Pittsburgh Modular stresses that “patch cables are not necessary to get started.” However, the synth is outfitted with 53 patch points and 21 knobs:

“By breaking each feature of the synthesizer out with patch cables, a tremendous amount of flexibility and control emerges to patch up any sound your imagination can dream up. All the tried and true analog classics are there at your disposal: sine, sawtooth, triangle and square. In addition, our exclusive and powerful blade wave on Oscillator 1 adds a unique weapon to your sonic arsenal. Deep modulation options award you complex control of nearly every function of the SV-1.”

The Lifeforms SV-1 is designed to be patch-compatible any Eurorack synthesizer, and can also be removed from the Blackbox and inserted into a larger Eurorack enclosure or other format case.

Here’s a video demo of the Blackbox in action:

Lifeforms SV-1 Blackbox joins two other Lifeforms modules which were introduced at this year’s Winter NAMM, the SV-1 Analog Modular Synthesizer & the KB-1 Pressure Sensitive Keyboard Controller.

Integrated Synthesizer Components


The MIDI to CV converter connects MIDI-compatible gear and converts it to control voltage inside the SV-1. Volt per octave and gate outputs allow you to connect to your MIDI keyboard or DAW and take control of the SV-1 your way.

Patch options give you access to glide, CC, and velocity. A digital clock-syncable LFO with triangle and quantized random voltage waveforms provides more modulation options. A clock input allows the user to override the internal or MIDI clock and sync to external CV and gate clock signals. A built-in arpeggiator provides all of the deep arpeggio responses from the MIDI 3, including as played, double triggered, random, and random with random gate.

Oscillator 1 and Oscillator 2

The dual analog oscillator provides the sonic framework for “massive synth sounds or deep exploration of west coast style” frequency modulation. Sine, triangle, saw, and square waves are available to modulate via FM and hard sync. Oscillator 1 also contains [Pittsburgh Modular’s] “unique blade wave.” The shape of the blade wave can be controlled using the width CV input, creating a sweeping or chorusing effect. Oscillator 2 is normalled to the FM of Oscillator 1, providing analog FM bass, “deep percussive hits, searing leads, and thick, warm” analog pads which all come to life from these two modern, organic sounding oscillators.

Both analog oscillators dip well below audio rate, allowing them to function as voltage controllable LFOs.

Modulation and Tools

A wide-range utility LFO with triangle and square wave outputs is ideal for VCA or Filter frequency sweeps. Or, turn it up and release the dynamic FM capabilities of either oscillator. A Tools section provides access to two sub-octave oscillators, derived from Oscillator 1’s core frequency. Analog noise and sample & hold finish out the Tools section — the hold function is initially pre-wired to MIDI clock, and equips you to create perfectly timed, random voltage steps.


This four channel mixer comes pre-wired for fast access to Oscillator 1’s sine, saw, pulse and sub. However, you are just a patch cable away from making your own unique blend of waveforms from the SV-1. The mixer can be split into two independent two channel mixers by patching into the top output.

State Variable Filter

The Pittsburgh Modular Filter offers ‘stunning harmonic character’ with voltage control over the entire frequency range. A provided attenuverter lets you dial in exactly how much CV to feed the frequency input, even inverting the input for dramatic changes in modulation. Separate highpass, lowpass, and bandpass outputs are provided as breakout options, each with their own powerful sonic timbres. Turn up the resonance for an added growl.

Four Stage Envelope Generator

Designed specifically for the Lifeforms SV-1 with a plucky, organic feel, our four-stage analog ADSR allows you to generate envelopes with precise control over each stage. Pre-patched to receive gate signals directly from MIDI, the gate input may be overridden by any available clock, trigger, or square wave source.

Voltage Controlled Amplifier

The amplifier section not only controls the overall level of the output, but is voltage controllable. A clean, responsive VCA, capable of everything from transparent control to mild overdrive contours audio or CV signals. The ADSR is pre-patched to the level CV providing shape to the synthesizer audio.


Two unbuffered audio or CV splitter sections allow you duplicate your signal in creative ways, routing a single audio or CV source to multiple destinations.

Line Level and Headphone Outputs

Stereo headphone amplifier and monophonic line level outputs controlled by a master volume knob.

Pricing and Availability

Pittsburgh Modular’s Lifeforms SV-1 Blackbox desktop analog modular synthesizer has a suggested retail price of $699 US, and begins shipping August 12. More information at Pittsburgh Modular’s website.

20 thoughts on “Pittsburgh Modular Intros Lifeforms SV-1 Blackbox All-In-One Eurorack Modular Synth

  1. ill probably grab this instead of the mother 32. i wasnt sure if i wanted m32 or buying the lifeforms module, and then the tiptop happy end thing but now i can just get this instead!

  2. It is somewhat amusing to see how the next big thing in modular seems to be all-in-one units. I think manufacturers like Pittsburgh and Moog are tapping into the vast market of musicians who don’t have the money, space or inclination to own a massive Wall-O-Modular.

    In a world where it’s common for name brand modules to cost $300 each, it’s nice to see a complete 2 oscillator synth with MIDI for $699.

    Hope Pittsburgh has significant success with this device.

    1. pretty much. i have a microbrute and a erebus. i was tempted on m32, but last month i saw the lifeforms, i thought maybe i could go with that one instead, but its a module, so i’ll have to get a power supply for it [tiptop has that rack thing w/ power, but its $150! fak] and it was too much and all hopes died.

      buying modules separately i would probably end up with a wicked little custom modular, but too much $$ and for me, it would take ages to get the whole thing complete since i couldn’t buy them piece by piece.

      but now i can save $$ until next year and get this – these funky boxes like the m32, 0-coast, or the dark energy and erebus and whatever else, are so funky to mess with and interconnect with other ones.

    2. It’s impossible to ever read “In a world where……” and the subsequent sentence in anything other than a movie trailer voice.

      “In a world where modular is dominated by walls of synth….one man dares to fight back.”

      1. “It was a time of wars.
        It was a time of wars and heroes.
        He was a cop.
        He was a cop on the edge.
        He was a cop on the edge until someone pushed him.

        I love all that stuff.

        Oh yeah, nice synth too.

  3. It seems cool and all.
    But for that money, I’d rather have a mother32, or even more than either of those, a make noise 0-coast

    1. Or even a Doepfer Dark Energy. I think this semi-modular format is brilliant for desktop synths – I’ve got a Mother-32 and a 0-Coast and love them both.

      I wish PM luck with this, though they’ve priced themselves on the higher-end of the market.

  4. This format (semi-modular) really feels like the next big thing in synthesis, what with the Mother-32, 0-coast, and now this just in the last few months. I for one am very excited about all this

    1. Not really the next big thing in synthesis but more the next big thing in synth marketing. Personally I’d take the M32 over this one because of the sequencer and the 0-coast over this one because it is more compact and apt to yield different results than most synths. For me these units are all about portability. I prefer my modular rack because I can mix and match manufacturers and create the system I want.

  5. if u can afford it go full modular. IMO it is way funner when nothing has a signal path and you make it all the way you want it. but i fully get stuff like this as i have had some experience with gateway semi modular.

    1. And if you can afford it, go full modular, non-modular and semi-modular like this. I have a eurorack system, but these are fun little noisemakers, and would be welcome in any kind of analog environment. Playing with units like this is a very particular kind of experience and doesn’t really compare to patching a bigger system. I think even people with a roomful of modules could still get one, even if for the fun of it. Then combine it with other machines like ø-coast or m-32—which all have distinctive sound—and you’re in for a unique-sounding mix!..

  6. I’d take one of these over a M32 any day. Much more attractively and intuitively laid out, and Pitts is one of the few companies whose build quality is on the same level as Moog.

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