The STS Serge "Creature" Uncaged!

The STS Serge Creature is one of the first available M-class panels. The Creature is currently the smallest self-contained complete Serge synthesizer to date. Though it's tempting to compare it to the Animal, it is not a "mini-Animal", its featureset and usability are quite different - though it's no less useful or fun! It's also much more compact and a fraction of the cost. Though a powerful synthesizer in its own right, it's also an excellent "core" for a more complex system by pairing it with another M-class panel like a Gator or a Sequencer in an M-boat enclosure.

The Creature is intuitive and fun to use - It's easy to get self-generating rhythms and tonal landscapes going as well as total chaos. More "traditional" music is possible but is probably not the Creature's forte - The Animal might be a better choice if you want to play equal-tempered music on the Serge. Even so, I've been able to create some very nice leads and basses that track properly for about three octaves. However, the VC TimeGen Oscillator is not a one-to-one replacement for a PCO. It does, however, track quite a bit better than a DSG when used as an audio oscillator.

The Creature is actually the first STS offering to include the new VC TimeGen Oscillator or TGO for short. The TGO is a joy to work with. The left side of the TGO is designed to be more readily used as an audio oscillator, providing a warm melange for the filter to work with. The right side is like that of a Serge Dual Transient Generator and can be used for many things depending on how it is patched. It can be a Non-linear lowpass filter, Envelope follower, Sub-harmonic generator, Linear portamento, Exponential portamento, Linear AR envelope generator, Exponential AR envelope generator, Linear ASR envelope generator, Exponential ASR envelope generator, Voltage controlled LFO with either triangular or pulse waveforms and lots more. Besides this multi-purpose utility, the right side is no slouch in the audio realm either. In one patch I locked it to the pitch of the left side while modulating its timbre from the top half of the SSG patched to act as a triangle wave LFO - beautiful! Its easy to see why Rex Probe characterizes the left and right function cells of the TGO as female and male voices...rather poetic but very appropriate! The TGO has rock-solid tuning capability and both sides are capable of exponential FM. The wave outputs are as follows:
Left (Osc) cell:
Blue Jack = Reverse Saw Wave with an extremely fast rise
Red Jack = 50% duty-cycle Square Wave with rise/fall individually intoned
Right (TG) cell:
Blue Jack = Triangle Wave with VC Variable-Symmetry from a normal Saw to an Inverted Saw
Red Jack = VC Variable-Width Pulse Wave

An old friend, the Variable Q VCF, a 12db/oct filter with voltage-controllable cutoff and resonance, is as sweet-sounding as ever. Lowpass, Highpass, Bandpass and Notch filter outputs are all available simultaneously. A nice bit of flexibility is the "LO" setting that turns it into a CV processor! The filter itself is also a wonderful source of percussion sounds via the 'Trig' input - hit it with a pulse for dampened sinewaves ranging from bass drum to wood blocks. Recent updates to the filter's circuitry are noticeable as well - Its much easier to get tube-type harmonic warmth just by nudging the gain control. The feedback and overdrive characteristics have also been tweaked to be more musically useful.

The Smooth/Stepped Generator is another familiar multi-flexible component: The "Smooth" section is a VC lag processor that can be patched for portamento, triangle or squarewave LFO, a crude LPF, a simple EG and more. It can also function as a track-and-hold when its 'Hold' input goes high. The "Stepped" section is a Sample-And-Hold, with some unique extras. The rate knob determines how big each step is at the 'Stepped' output. With the 'Cycle' jack patched to the input, this submodule becomes a complex staircase generator! To add to the mayhem, the outs from these two sub-modules are run through a comparator and the result available at the 'CUPL' output.

The X Fader is a nicely compact output module which functions both as a 2-input voltage-controlled mixer and a voltage-controlled output amplifier with a 1/4" jack with enough juice to drive a pair of headphones.

I've been able to go far beyond what I expected from such a small unit - At one point I had a self generating percussion patch that had four major components to the sound, including "bass" and "snare" though it was just based on feedback and modulation...I could set a monsterous rhythmic pulse train but it wasn't something that "wanted" to be controlled and kept veering towards the edge of chaos! This is a good thing! I'm constantly surprised by sheer amount and diversity of sound I'm getting out of this thing! As an example of its flexibility, here's some audio files of a few patches, only the knob positions were altered for the different sounds in each sample:

This & That: Creature patch 1

Rhythmic: Creature patch 2

Drone: Creature patch 3

Kitchen Sink: Creature patch 4

For more info on the Serge Modular, please visit all my dedicated Serge Modular Pages.

Serge Modular systems and panels (including the "Creature") are currently manufactured by Sound Transform Systems in Hartland, Wisconsin. You can reach them at (262) 367-3030.

What you give is what you get.

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