Mod Squad: Tiptop Audio Trigger Riot

A sequencing module that will extend your creativity
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A sequencing module that will extend your creativity

The pulse relationships that you set with each knob are added together by row and column before appearing at each of the 8 outputs. SOPHISTICATED BEAT sequencing requires a toolset that can manage time scaling on several levels simultaneously. That’s a tall order for a hardware device designed for stage as well as studio, but Tiptop Audio has nailed it with the Trigger Riot ($500 street), a Eurorack module that packs a lot of punch in a 28HP panel.

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Enhancing its trigger and gate sequencing capabilities, the Trigger Riot can divide a clock pulse in a variety of ways, alter and combine the pulse width of gate signals, shift pulses in time at multiple scale levels, and even set the probability distribution of individual events. If you can think like a drummer, this unit will help your synth respond like one.

Enter the Matrix The module is based around 16 rotary encoders and eight trigger/ gate (0-5V) outputs—four positioned vertically and four horizontally—each with a dedicated Mute/Select button. The knobs are arranged in four rows of four pulse settings (one for each knob) that sum to trigger outputs 1-4, and four columns of four pulse settings that sum to trigger outputs A-D.

The module has two playback modes— Matrix and Independent. In Matrix mode, when you create a pulse-division using a knob, it affects the outputs of the corresponding column and row: For example, adjusting the top left knob will alter the pulse pattern in outputs 1 and A. In Independent mode, setting the pulse-division with a knob affects only the output in the column or row you’ve selected. Consequently, Matrix mode exhibits an organic interaction between the horizontal and vertical outputs, whereas in Independent mode, each knob will have a different setting depending on which output is selected. You can store four banks of four presets for each of the modes in non-volatile memory and switch between them in real time.

The lone rotary encoder on the left handles tempo, clock source, and rate, while 15 additional buttons are used for programming and playback functions (start/stop, tap tempo, beat sync, loop functions, reset/clear, and so forth). Having dedicated buttons for the majority of features makes the Trigger Riot particularly well suited to live performance.

You can run the Trigger Riot from the internal clock, an external source, or the Tiptop SyncBus, which is used to synchronize multiple Trigger Riots internally connected by a ribbon cable. Input and output jacks for external clock are provided, as well as jacks that output the module’s reset signal and accept an external signal for reset.

Check Your Pulse You can easily edit the timing of a pulse for each output using an encoder knob in combination with the Mode functions at the top of the module. Divide mode is the clock divider used to create timing differences between the pulse outputs. Pulse Width mode is for altering the gate length of an output in order to create syncopation, particularly as gates are stretched across clock pulses.

Clock Shift moves a trigger in time by complete clock steps (0-15 range), whereas Speed mode is used to further subdivide your pulses—quarter to 64th notes, including dotted and triplet values—by changing the number of clock ticks that a division is based on. Time Shift, which offsets a trigger in smaller amounts (0 to 360 range), is useful for adding swing or moving a pulse slightly ahead or behind the beat.

In Step Mode, you can create a trigger based on a single clock count within a predetermined cycle. To humanize your groove with pseudo-randomized variations, use Probability mode. Although it may sound complicated, these functions allow you to build beats intuitively once you grok the interface; the manual’s excellent quick-start tutorial will have you up and running in minutes.

Although the Trigger Riot works well with modules (particularly Tiptop Audio’s 808 Series percussion), it interfaces easily with external hardware such as the Nord Drum 2. This is one utility module that will extend beyond your Eurorack and impact your entire synth system.