New X-Bay System Combines Modular Analog Patching With Digital Recall

Netherlands-based Anatal Electronics has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund production of a new system, X-Bay, that promises to combine the benefits of analog patching and synthesis with the flexibility of digital control.

X-Bay is, at its heart, a digitally-controlled analog patching system. It adds analog cards, called ‘X-Mods’, based on classic synth designs. This means that you can create modular analog synth patches that combine a Jupiter oscillator, an Oberheim filter, a Korg envelope, etc, and then save and recall them.

Here’s what the developer has to say about the system:

“We have worked for many years on an extendable analog patching matrix that works with chips and software.

Upon that patch matrix, we build a modular synthesizer, with real analog sound that can be controlled with chips and software instead of cables. All analog settings and patch configurations can be saved and restored.

It can be seen as a real analog Nord Modular; an extendable, polyphonic Arturia MatrixBrute; or a modular Omega infinity, with up to 256×256 modulation matrix size.”

You also have the option of using the X-Bay to automate patching of your existing modular gear and other audio devices.

Features:

  • ‘Vintage analog sound’ based on classic synth chips
  • Completely modular with cable-less analog patch matrix.
  • Patch cable-less with analog switching chips and software, full digital control.
  • 100% analog signal path and true zero latency.
  • Option to function partly or fully as cable-less patchbay for all external devices too.
  • Option to cable-less patch and control other 3th party modular synths too.
  • Total analog recall, switch between cable-less wiring configurations instantly. Option to work with downloadable presets too.
  • Extendable cable-less patch matrix with switching cards, can grow to your needs and desires.
  • Extendable sound with vintage module cards.
  • Compact and robust 19″ enclosure. with optional custom front plate.
  • Affordable automated analog audio matrix compared to existing solutions.

Here’s the official overview of the X-Bay system:

The initial batch of X-Mods include a VCO, VCF, ADSR and VCA, which are ready for production. The company is also working with independent developers on the following modules:

  • Jupiter 8 discrete VCO,VCF,ADSR and VCA.
  • Advanced multimode version of the Jupiter 8 VCF, offering much more functionality.
  • BBD analog delay chip board
  • Oberheim SEM discrete VCO,VCF,ADSR and VCA.
  • Minimoog discrete VCO and VCF.
  • Digilog digital reverb.
  • Drum voices from 909,808 DMX and Linndrum.
  • Vocoders
  • Equalizers
  • Compressor
  • Dedicated surface controller.
  • Keyboard version with keyboard wide touchscreen that can project vintage synthesizers so that the vintage X-Mods can be controlled as intuitive as could be.
  • Dynamic analog dedicated pot controller.

Here’s an example of creating a patch with 64×64 analog audio matrix:

Making Analog Sound More Powerful & More Affordable

One of Anatal Electronics key goals for the X-bay system is to make classic analog modular sound more affordable and powerful.

Their approach is to use high-quality analog circuity, but to use digital switches for making the patch connections. This makes some of the most expensive parts of synthesizers – the panel and physical controls – optional.

Patching can be done using software editors. For users that want physical controls, the system opens up the possibility of having analog hardware controls that you can repatch on the fly.

Pricing and Availability

Production of the X-Bay system is being funded via a Kickstarter campaign. It’s a modular system, with a 32×32 patch matrix starting at €499 and modules ranging from €69 to €179. See the campaign site for details. 

22 thoughts on “New X-Bay System Combines Modular Analog Patching With Digital Recall

  1. This seems like a really brilliant idea.

    Their Kickstarter could really use two things, though:

    1) a basic ‘starter kit’ option that would make it easy to figure out how to get started; and
    2) a video that demonstrates making some great sounds with the starter kit.

    Companies like KOMA & SynthTech have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for modular projects, so it’s definitely possible. And this seems like an even bigger idea.

    I’m really interested in backing this – but I want to see it in action first.

  2. Finally, it was just a matter of time someone would do this. The only question is how the well the analog signals are kept stable under varying environmental conditions, well modules hopefully the modules are not limited to analog circuitry only
    19″ ! THE RACK IS BACK ! 🙂
    Please make this ATX compatible.

      1. Yes, we already agreed that X-mods, as we call the modules for the X-Bay system should be open to anybody. Documents to outline the designers rules are written as we speak. When the kick starter is successful, we will publish these design rules and start supporting designers. Even when a designer has a shabby prototype but it is a good idea we can format it into a successful X-mod module. The X-mod store will sell X-mod modules which were reviewed to be according the design demands. Also, we won’t stop anybody to make modules for the X-Bay modules and sell them on there own. The ideal situation is to create a free wheeling community that can contribute to the creative possibilities of the X-Bay system.

        The signal noise/processor I’m designing now for X-bay is partly analogue (noise, random voltages) and partly digital (quantizer/voltage processor) with a MCU – most likely a Arduino Nano. The code will be open source and published for anybody to change it and upgrade the code to whatever own needs and share it with the community to gain unforgettable fame .

  3. Stability of the modules is as good as the original vintage design or better. An oscillator (VCO) build around a CEM3340 chip is extremely stable. Vintage modules feature the original sound and sometimes also feature their original ‘instability’.
    The digital domain also will be covered. Actually, we also want to cover any useful module design by supporting other designers to adapt to the X-bay standards.

  4. Ha! My comments from Muffs made th Kickstarter page! Their Kickstarter is kind of confusing. I wonder how this thing works with some of the more digital modules that are out there.

    1. In general digital based modules are no problem. Crosstalk between analogue and digital modules is our main concern. This is not yet fully explored. Design rules for the modules are demanding that inputs should be connected to a low impedance output source. This should eliminate crosstalk. It might happen that in some occasions a module feels more happy in a specific slot than by randomly chosen. It is true that it is a challenge to make proper module designs for the X-Bay project.

  5. interesting use of DDR ram sockets, just wondering if there will be a lock down bar across top so the boards are more secure.
    Another item that has this is a version of raspberry pi

      1. Your design concept reminds me of Grass Valley Group video servers , except theirs was all digital. (pretty much all commercial television station use them) . They were customized board layout design and could have signal flow setup changed by a click of the button

  6. This would be nice to have a touch screen interface so it would work similar to touchflesh. Then you get the benefit of patch recall and the spatial layout. The matrix UI works great in general, but it can get unwieldy when it grows.

    Also, the kickstarter is veeeery, very confusing.

  7. @kevin: Mr. X, the designer of the X-Bay matrix system, already is busy to make touch screen interfaces. The idea to create any synth or whatever system on one or several cascaded touch screens as a realistic picture and fully controllable by touch is definitely an exciting development.

    I agree that the kick starter is confusing in outlining what kind of pledge covers the wishes that may be for a prospect. The product is in its essence simple but because of all the possibilities and various X-mod modules looks complicated.

    To start, you need an X-Bay matrix (32/61/128/256), an enclosure and power supply. Then it depends on what you want with the system and fill it in with certain X-mods to achieve this.
    I requested to add a pledge for a complete monophonic synth with a lot of possibilities based on a MiniMoog set up but with a lot more to it. But, X-bay is not only a synth in a box application. X-bay is in its essence an analogue matrix. What you do with it is up to you in relation to the available modules and/or the ones you let design or design yourself. You want to create a CV mixer, synth, drum machine, vocoder, an indoor system to feed your many pet animals. It all is possible. X-Bay sets a configuration by presets of the attached modules – either in de 19″box or attached externally. The software steers the matrix with setting and CV’s or bit oriented values which you in detail can define.

    1. Quick comments:
      – Wondering if it wouldn’t make more sense to use a combination of PCIe 3.0 for the digital connections, and a separate connector per card for analog signals – This would provide better mechanical stability for cards which will inevitably be taller, and avoiding crosstalk via physical separation. Also, it opens the possibility of using a standard PCI backplane for connectors
      – Regarding the Kickstarter, it is the kiss of death to offer a product that can vaguely “do anything.” Personal computers did not kick off until there was a key application people could latch onto, which was Visicalc, which solved a tangible problem. Your framework is a _platform_, but people need a _product_ at a specific _price point_ to determine its value to them.

      If you’re going to have a Jupiter-8 clone card, market it first as a “Jupiter-8 in a box” with options for 1, 2, 4, or 8+ voice cards at appropriate price points, and build an iPad controller app for it. The value of this is immediately understood.

      You can then build different products based on your platform – switchers, different kinds of synths, hobbyist DIY kits and developer kits – later on.

      1. In hindsight we should have offered cable-less true zero latency patchbays without AD/DA conversions only to start with. Without the overhead for the modules so that it would be significantly more affordable and compact. Revolutionary enough already and well in demand as it seems. Less worries for everybody on both sides.
        The module card concept can come later in another box connected with a multi cable between boxes.

  8. This seems like a great idea, that is only hampered by a massively confusing KS campaign. The camera-audio on that intro video doesn’t inspire confidence that the people making this know what the expectations are for audio quality in the professional world… And for that price it doesn’t really instill confidence that the quality is any better than the average 5U or euro system…

    I just want to make sure I have the concept correct… this requires a PC/Mac, connected at all times, for operation, right? I’m not so sure any of my clients would want to use this live if this is the case. In other words, can I plug a monitor, mouse, and screen into the back and off I go, or does this need to be tethered to a computer to actually change parameters?

    The other aspect is interface, again I don’t really hear people so concerned that the interface is “exactly” like their vintage synth, they’re more concerned with audio quality, and I think this product would be better served with a break out of physical buttons and knobs of some type, rather with touch screens and vintage-looking on-screen interfaces. Why use 20 different filter layouts when one will cover 80% of the filters out there, for example.

    Also, this card-type system looks to be a little weak in how they’re secured. Is this going to be like a CS-80, or other card-based synths, where the cards will get unseated and break if the unit is handled roughly?

    This product is definitely aimed at someone like me, who frequently has to keep patches up for days or weeks for a project, or those who do a lot of hard-touring with a live modular. But if you need a computer to control it, and set up all these presets, then what would be the advantage to this vs. Abelton Live, or a DAW based setup, besides analog fetishism?

  9. Y’know, I’ve had a similar idea tossed around in my head too. Other than the obvious issue of ECM interference, I thought the logical next step for modular synthesizers was similar to a server.

    Clearly capital and public acceptance of the format was the barrier on my end, but I hope such a design pulls through for you guys! Although analog potentiometers offer infinitely more smooth control than digital values, the concept of being able to store the entire state of a modular system in a file was always something I had dreamed of.

    Good luck on the campaign!

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