The Freque II ($1,400) is the flagship of the DACS (Digital Audio and Computer Systems) line of ring modulators. It includes wonderful enhancements made to the original Freque (reviewed in the November 1999 issue) that raise the profile of the processor while retaining the original's sonic signature.
A Sea of Controls
Like its predecessor, Freque II combines two ring modulators, which are essentially two of DACS's ColOSCil single-channel ring modulators. The Freque II includes two built-in oscillators, CV inputs for external control, internal frequency modulation, and a frequency shifter. In addition, Freque II keeps the wild color scheme of the first-generation device but with front-panel labeling that is easier to read.
Gain controls are now available for each of the four audio inputs. The controls range from -6 dB to +12 dB. DACS also added separate controls for output level — an item that was on my wish list — that allow you to mix the modulated signal and the music at the inputs. As before, you can visually gauge input levels by observing the input LEDs on the far left of the front panel. If the LED is green, you've hit -40 dB; if it's yellow, you're around +2 dB.
The original Freque's plastic chassis has been replaced with sturdy brushed metal, and balanced TRS jacks come standard. There is a CV input and oscillator output for each ring-modulator module as well as independent carrier (labeled Mod) and program (labeled Mus) inputs for each channel. The outputs are labeled FS Up and FS Down.
Freque II features Weight and Edge controls that boost or cut the audio signal at 80 Hz and 8 kHz, respectively, at the Mus inputs before processing occurs. It has two built-in sine-wave oscillators that, when activated with the front-panel buttons, will bypass signals present at the Mod input. Each oscillator comes with controls for fine and coarse tuning as well as a four-position Range switch. The four ranges are 0.1 to 28.5 Hz, 5 to 153 Hz, 30 to 1.3 kHz, and 111 Hz to 16.5 kHz. The wide range of pitches provides useful LFO frequencies for tremolo effects at the low end and crisp high-end definition in the upper ranges.
Pressing the Osc 2 to RM 1 button disconnects Oscillator 1 and routes Oscillator 2 to the Mod 1 input, converting the Freque II into a 2-channel, dual-mono processor controlled by a single channel's knobs. By the Osc 2 switch is the FM Depth switch and its associated knob. When FM Depth is engaged, Oscillator 1 is routed to the CV input of Oscillator 2, and the knob controls the amount of modulation. As you turn the knob clockwise, the increase in sidebands adds grittiness to the sound; counterclockwise settings yield phasing effects.
The final front-panel button is Freque, which engages the frequency shifter and deactivates the Osc 2 to RM 1 switch. The Freque setting requires that Oscillators 1 and 2 be active and that both outputs be in use. Freque shifts frequencies by a fixed number of cycles per second upward at the FS Up output and downward at FS Down output. The degree of modulation is determined by Oscillator 2, which can be controlled manually or externally with a CV. I used the Freque feature to give wonderfully subtle treatments to string sounds.
It's About Process
I processed a number of instruments with the Freque II, including analog synths, electric guitar, bass, and drum loops. While editing arrangements for a hip-hop project, I dropped the Freque II into the mix for quick, dissonant metallic effects.
I also spun orchestral records slowly backward by hand, sending the signal first through Freque II and then through a spring reverb. That created a weird, crackly, deep-space vibe that I couldn't achieve any other way. I highly recommend using a MIDI-to-CV converter to control both oscillators from your sequencer to get more predictable results.
Freque II is truly a sound designer's dream. It'll chew up program material like nothing else out there. In a world filled with plug-ins that do everything, the Freque II is a processor that few, if any, plug-ins can emulate. In my opinion, it's worth every penny.