No matter what modular format you use, space is always at a premium. Consequently, modules with a dense feature-to-space ratio are highly prized when they are as efficient as they are slim.
One of the top Eurorack modules in this regard is the Expert Sleepers Disting ($175), which packs 16 individually available functions into a mere 4HP (with the help of a PIC controller and 24-bit converters). Select the algorithm you want with the upper (S) knob and adjust the relevant parameter with the lower (Z) knob. The Z jack, below, accepts a control signal; the signal going into the Z input and the level of the corresponding knob are added together. The module’s X and Y jacks are inputs, and the A and B jacks are outputs. What you get from each output depends on the algorithm you’ve chosen.
All of the jacks are backlit and provide visual feedback by changing color to indicate the voltage state—red for positive, blue for negative. Eight LEDs at the top of the module indicate the selected algorithm (corresponding to a matrix in the manual: Group 1 through 4 on the left, algorithm A through D on the right), as well as voltage offset, quantizer scale, and so forth, depending on the mode.
I was happy to find that Disting includes two VCO modes (one with sine and sawtooth outs and a linear FM input; the other with saw, triangle, and pulse outputs and waveshaping), two LFO modes (one offering through-zero capabilities with waveshaping; the other, a clockable LFO with CV-controlled waveshaping and integer-based multiply/divide functionality), as well as a sample-and-hold with noise and an adjustable slew rate. Right away you have several audio and control options to choose from.
Disting also includes a clockable echo/delay effect (with a delay-only output, a mix output, and a feedback control); a ring modulator/VCA (aka the Four Quadrant Multiplier); a slewrate limiter with linear and exponential options; a pitch and envelope tracker with a slew control for the envelope; a quantizer offering 15 scales/pitch configurations; and the linear-to-exponential converter that can be used to change Hz/V signals (from Korg, Metasonix, and Yamaha synths) to or from V/octave, as well as adjust a signal destined for an FM input from an exponential to linear range. In this mode, the Z control is used for fine-tuning.
Last but not least, Disting provides a dual Waveshaper mode; a gated comparator, which is great for creating rhythmic variety; a full-wave rectifier; and the minimum/maximum (or halfwave rectifier), which accepts two inputs and gives you the minimum at output A, the maximum at output B, a gate signal from Z, and the ability to freeze the level.
I’ve only scratched the surface of what Disting is capable of doing. Yet, with so many options available, the module is surprisingly easy to use. The toughest part is recognizing which algorithm you’ve chosen when viewing the LEDs: I printed out a cheat-sheet to help me remember. I also found that changing the algorithm at random when everything is patched leads to very interesting surprises: If I like where I landed, I check which mode I’m in and make a note of the patch.
If you have programming chops, you can add your own code to Disting’s internal PIC controller and give this feature-rich module additional functionality. However, there are already plenty of useful features in Disting. And at this price, you’ll probably want more than one in your case.