Mod Squad: Intellijel Atlantis

Although the whole point of having a modularsystem is that you can build a personalizedsynth, sometimes it makes sense to add anentire voice to your setup under one panel—aVCO, VCF, envelope, and VCA, with normaledconnections—so you can play it without usingpatch cables: a semi-modular module, if youwill.
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A complete synth voice that is more than the sum of its parts

Two oscillators, a resonant multimode filter, a cycling envelope generator, and loads of I/O make the Intellijel Atlantis a musically powerful synth voice for any Eurorack system. Although the whole point of having a modular system is that you can build a personalized synth, sometimes it makes sense to add an entire voice to your setup under one panel—a VCO, VCF, envelope, and VCA, with normaled connections—so you can play it without using patch cables: a semi-modular module, if you will. When designed well, a single-voice module can add substantial timbral power in a small space and for a reasonable cost compared to buying each element individually. That’s exactly what Intellijel offers with the Atlantis ($699).

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Inspired by the sound and layout of the Roland SH-101, a popular monosynth released in ’82, the Atlantis drops the keyboard, arpeggiator, and sequencer but retains important aspects of the signal path and user interface to create a versatile instrument with a wealth of patchable modulation points. Based around a triangle-core oscillator, the main VCO offers sawtooth and pulse waveforms, noise (switchable between pink and white), a suboscillator (1 and 2 octaves below), and a sinewave that shares the external input, all of which you can mix to taste. The VCO can be switched between six octaves, with hard sync and linear FM capabilities when combined with the modulation oscillator.

The modulation source, also a triangle-core oscillator, has four waveshapes, noise, and sample-and-hold, and it can be used as an LFO or VCO. To get a 2-oscillator synth, patch the mod source running at audio rate into the external input. You can control the oscillators independently with their discrete CV inputs.

In addition to the main output of mixed signals, there are individual audio outputs for each waveform of the VCO and modulator, as well as noise and a sample-and-hold voltage. Check out the heterodyning artifacts you get from the modulation oscillator’s direct outputs when you are in VCO mode with the Rate control near the top: This is perfect for creating unstable interactions between the two oscillator sections or other modules in your system.

Like the SH-101, the multimode filter on the Atlantis is a cascaded 4-pole filter that provides a stable sine tone when resonating, which can track over several octaves when using the CV input or the modulation bus for control. Whether in 2-pole or 4-pole mode, this is a powerful, yet sweet-sounding filter. To further intensify the output, Intellijel added a boost switch to the VCF and two levels of Drive at the VCA. Together these elements are capable of creating a wide range of timbres that cover leads, basses, and bubbly ambient sounds.

The 4-stage envelope can be cycled, or triggered onboard in either Gate or Envelope mode. When cycling, the ADSR sliders determine the speed: I found myself using this section as a quasi-sequencer when controlling the module from an external voltage source. One immediate benefit of having sliders is that they make it easier to control several parameters at once. As a result, the Atlantis will be a very attractive module for musicians who like to perform their patches.

With so many features and such a big sound, the Atlantis would be a perfect starter module for someone breaking into modular synthesis for the first time, while the variety of patch points makes it a suitable companion piece in any system. At 40HP wide, there is plenty of room left over for other modules in the typical rack, and the circuit boards are shallow enough that the Atlantis will fit into a skiff or other horizontal case.

Whether you want a synth for recording, playing live, or both, it’ll be hard to find another fully analog module that sounds this good and provides as much functionality in such a small space.