Mod Squad: Dave Smith Instruments DSM02 Character Module

14HP Eurorack Processor
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Hot on the heels of its outstanding DSM01 Curtis Filter Module (see our review in the January issue and at, Dave Smith Instruments has released the DSM02 Character Module ($259), a 14HP Eurorack processor based on the digital effects section in the Prophet 12 and Pro 2 synthesizers.

The DSM02 has a pair of inputs and outputs that share five effects—Hack (bit reduction), Decimate (sample-rate reduction), Girth (“low-frequency harmonic enhancement”), Air (“high-frequency harmonic enhancement”), and Drive (ranging from gentle overdrive to full-on saturation). Each effect has its own level control and CV input (0-10V). The dual inputs give you the option of processing a stereo signal or separate mono sources.

In addition to the Eurorack 12V power, the DSM02 requires 5V power, which it can source from your cabinet’s power supply or from the module itself by setting a jumper on the circuit board; no need to add a 5V adapter to your system.

The results you get from the various effects (especially Hack and Decimate) depend on the input signal, particularly its spectral content. I found these differences to be useful when I had two completely different signals going into the module; in one case, adding a little Hack would impart obvious changes to one input, but not the other, and vice versa.

Girth and Air beef up the low end and add presence on top, respectively. They work so well it’s hard not to crank them both up for that smile-curve effect. And adding Drive to a sequence can really fatten it nicely.

But while it’s fun to push these effects to the extreme, CV modulation can be used to wring new sounds from a patch. Setting my oscillator to its highest frequency range, I used a looping envelope to slowly sweep the Decimate CV input, with its knob set to about 9:30. The result was a string of discrete pitches rising and falling in time with my EG’s attack and decay settings. Turning up Hack a tiny bit imparted a timbre reminiscent of ring modulation. Adding a slowing looping envelope into Hack’s CV input resulted in an interesting string of tones. Turning up the other effects in both cases emphasized various partials.

Sometimes, as I slowly added an effect or fed it a CV, unusual counter rhythms would pop out. The trick is to make small adjustments and listen for unexpected results.

Things got interesting when I used the sequential outputs of my Doepfer A-143-1 Complex Envelope Generator/LFO. After getting the rising and falling waves of pitches by sending an EG into Decimate’s CV jack, I patched the subsequent EG output to control Hack. Because it was slightly offset in time from the first EG, a furry counter-rhythm resulted.

You can also use the CV inputs to impart rhythmic variety to sustained tones. Running a square-wave drone through the DSM02 and using the A-143-1 again, I patched separate EGs into the Girth and Air CV inputs to create a repeating rhythm by alternating low- and high-frequency spectral changes. Later, I sent a pulse-wave LFO into the Drive’s CV input to rhythmically add harmonic content to sine and triangle-wave drones.

While not as immediately flashy as some effects modules, the DSM02 Character Module provides subtle-to-extreme processing that can bring out characteristics you didn’t know existed in a source signal. But the real excitement is in exploiting the CV capabilities, especially with signals sequenced across the inputs—yum!