It’s all about the vacuum
Erica Synths have reputation for interesting and, some might say, hardcore eurorack modules. They have a following in many genres but the techno arena seems to be their forte, probably because many of the modules and systems offer quite hard hitting tones, due to the use (in their Fusion systems at least) of vacuum tubes to generate overdrive and grit.
If you play guitar you are probably pretty familiar with valves/tubes already but for those of you who are new to them, they are an older technology used in many different electronic devices which have been superseded in most cases by modern, stable and longer lasting alternatives (known as solid state). This is a good thing in most scenarios but for audio buffs there is a massive following for the warmth and organic grit found in tube circuits. The orange glow of a tube also looks cool and the Fusion System 2 has that, although the light is from leds to replicate the look.
And that is what Fusion System 2 is all about. Most of the modules in the 104hp skiff have tubes in them, visible through openings in the panels. Moving across the system you’ll find a number of the control knobs are for adding levels of overdrive, from the two VCOs to the Ring Mod/VCA and the Delay/Flanger unit. In each case the drive can go from mild hairy grit, through to saturated growl, with loads of aggression. What’s nice about the tube circuitry is that it retains warmth, with none of the brittle digital fizz that can be particularly unpleasant to the ear.
The system ships in a nice solid skiff, available with or without a lid and the end cheeks, once screwed on tip the fascia a little so it works when standing or sitting in front of it. What I appreciate (before we get to the sounds) is that the psu has a good long cable, something others should pay attention to as it really makes a difference.
A bundle of assorted lengths of patch cables in red, white and black is also included, meaning you can get started with what comes in the box.
What is it good for?
Well at first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is purely a drone machine and, while it does excel at that, it’s a little unfair, as the Fusion is capable of quite a wide palette of sounds.
The VCOs do the aggressive, dirt laden thing really well but they can be tamed into quite soft sweet territory too. With a little slow modulation and liberal use of the filter cutoff you can coax complex tones that don’t have the bite you get with more extreme settings.
This follows through for most of the system, which is really quite verstile. That said I think it’s fair to say that this rig will appeal to the musician with a penchant for distopian sounding dronescapes, NIN style thumpers and the grit laden bass tones that are this thing’s forte. The build, the look and the most easy to come by sounds all cater to this and that’s not bad thing, as so much of modular (eurorack especially) is about the higher end chirps, beeps and generative patching.
The VCF has a pretty cool trick up it’s sleeve, in that it can record incoming cv data, so you can repeat modulation, something that you don’t often see and would mean using a couple of other modules to achieve otherwise. This is a properly useful addition and also pretty fun.
Sticking with the filter, this is quite an aggressive 24db/o which sounds a little polivoks-like in flavour to me. I don’t know if this uses similar circuitry but it wouldn’t surprise me, being Erica Synths.
For me I think the star of the show is the Modulator; a source of multiple modulations and one which can aid in the generative music, as the sample and hold and noise features are well implemented. Sample and hold is one of my favourite methods for generating randomness, so finding such a neat method of using it here is great.
Outputs are plentiful and there are dual envelope generators, with pulsing LEDs to indicate the stage of the cycle.
The VCA/Waveshaper/Ringmodulator is an interesting module. It combines these three mod sources in one which is a good idea, as they would often be patched together anyway. What I particularly like is that it encourages you to use the VCA as an actual mod source, where it can often be left to mixing duties only. When used in this system it feels right to use it to shape the tone and some subtle, complex, sounds can be found with minimal tweaking.
Delay lay lay ay y
The last module in the skiff is the Delay/Flanger/Vintage Ensemble and it’s that last part that really earns it’s place here. The delay and flanging elements are there but are subtle. They sound good but you wont find any mad long tailed repeats, wooshing jet fighter flanges or similar here. What you do get is added flavour in abundance. The name says it all really. What you can generate is a lush, thick ensemble, reminiscent of late 70s rolands. When you combine this with the rest of the Fusion system you end up with a lovely organic richness.
Should you buy it?
Yes, if you want to create warm tones, with a natural sounding grit and drive. If, however, you prefer the crystaline clarity of the digital realm then this might not be the system for you.
At the end of the day the Fusion system will appeal to Erica Synths fans and those who like dirt by the bucket load. Add some of the modulation and tonal enhancements on offer and you have a truly impressive sounding set of modules, either as a standalone system or to add to an existing rig.
Scroll down to see and hear it in action…