The Expert Sleepers ES-3 Mk3 is a Eurorack module that connects to your audio interface over ADAT Lightpipe so you can send CVs to your modular from your DAW.
When you’re ready to fully integrate your modular with your DAW, check out what Expert Sleepers (expert-sleepers.co.uk) has to offer. No matter which module format you use, you can start with Silent Way (Mac/Win: $59), a suite of 19 plug-ins available in AU, VST, and AAX. A trial version is available online.
As you might expect, Silent Way has controller plug-ins, such as LFO, Step LFO, Quantizer, and DC that send a variety of host-synchronizable signals (CV, gate, trigger) to your instrument. However, the suite also includes plug-ins that track the pitch and envelope of audio input, that accept CVs and translate the input to MIDI or OSC messages, and that interface with specific hardware devices, such as the company’s own modules and the Madrona Labs Soundplane controller. Expert Sleepers has even released a version of its Voice Controller plug-in as a Rack Extension for Propellerhead Reason.
Silent Way requires a hardware audio interface based on one of these options: an interface with DC-coupled audio outputs (such as those from MOTU with TRS jacks; a full list of compatible interfaces is online); an interface with ADAT Lightpipe or S/PDIF I/O and the Expert Sleepers ES-3 ($325) or ES-4 ($295) module, respectively; or an audio interface with AC-balanced outputs combined with Silent Way’s AC Encoder plug-in (and TRS-to-TS cables) or the company’s 8-channel ES-1 module ($195 with a DB25 sub input or $215 with eight 1/4-inch inputs).
You will get the best performance using the ES-3 Mk3, a new Eurorack module that accepts eight signals from software running on your DAW (Silent Way, Max, Reaktor, etc.) when connected to your interface’s ADAT Lightpipe port. The ES-3 converts these signals into DC-coupled ±10V analog signals, which you connect to your modular using standard 3.5mm patch cables. (It can also output audio!) The 24-bit, 8-channel output has a sampling rate of 44.1 or 48kHz. If you choose 88.2 or 96kHz at your DAW, your outputs are reduced to four, until you use the Silent Way SMUX plug-in to restore the output count to eight. If your audio interface has S/PDIF I/O, the ES-4 will give you five CVs.
For gates and clock pulses, Expert Sleepers offers the ES-5 ($150) expansion module, which connects to the ES-3 circuit board with a ribbon cable to give you eight 5V gate signals (or 12V signals if you change an internal jumper). The ES-5 can be connected to the 8-channel EXS- 8GT Gate Expander ($125) as well. The ES-5 uses the Silent Way ES-5 controller plug-in or the Max/MSP external available on the Expert Sleepers website. If you want to send MIDI or DIN sync from the ES-5, Expert Sleepers offers 3.5mm-to-DIN-connector cables.
The Voice Controller plug-in within Silent Way.
Naturally, you will also want to send CVs to your DAW: The ES-6 ($175) accepts six analog inputs on 3.5mm jacks and sends them out the Lightpipe port to your DAW. The ES-6 can handle two additional analog inputs when you supplement it with the ES-7 ($120) expansion module. (To use the ES-6, you will need an ES-3, which supplies clock signals via a circuit board connection using a supplied ribbon connector.)
The Eurorack panels are drilled with oval mounting holes so that modules will fit into both Doepfer- and Analogue Systems-style racks. If your modular isn’t a Eurorack but you still want to use Expert Sleepers’ modules, I suggest you invest in a small, inexpensive case and power supply, such as the ones available from Tiptop Audio and Doepfer. The amount of control provided by the Expert Sleepers system is worth it.