Control hardware complexity like this with the elegance of a single software plug-in. Photo: Matthew Davidson.

MOTU is now shipping Volta, the software plug-in seen exclusively here on CDM at the beginning of the year. The Mac-only plug-in finally brings together two distant technologies: virtual software instruments and control voltage are together at last. (You can just forget all about that MIDI and digital business in the middle.) With it, everything from Moog guitar pedals to the Rolls of modern synths, the mind-bogglingly pricey Buchla 200e, can be easily controlled with a computer rig.

You know that cheezy Disney movie, with the astronaut in King Arthur’s Court? It’s sort of like that, as the 21st Century meets the 1960s.

Volta isn’t just about having more flexible control, either: calibration, routing, and automation all become possible.

For more details, it’s best to look back at our January interview with Matthew Davidson of MOTU, as he revealed this creation to the world:

Analog, Meet Digital: MOTU Volta Connects the Mac to CV Synths, Effects Graphically

Pricing is now final, as well, at US$249.

More tutorials and details at MOTU:

The key requirement: “An audio interface with DC-coupled outputs, such as any MOTU FireWire, USB2, or PCI audio interface with quarter-inch TRS outputs.” I believe that also includes the RME interfaces. Correction: at this point, I’m unsure which non-MOTU interfaces may work. But if you don’t own one of those interfaces, now’s an excellent excuse to buy a fantastic piece of gear. 

Sadly, Volta require an iLok for authorization. Okay, whoever is out there who would buy something like a 200e or a rack of Doepfers, then pirate this software, you and I need to have a little talk. (I’ve seen stranger things, however.)

I can look on at all of this with a sense of awe and mystery, because I’m staying in the digital realm these days. But you can check out extensive discussion on our previous story of how useful this is, and other ways of creating the effect (albeit less-elegant ones). Apparently Trash Audio already grabbed the domain out of spite, though that means I’m safe from getting sucked into your addiction, analog lovers.

Volta and the Buchla 200e from Matthew Davidson on Vimeo.

  • An iLok dongle can be a justification by itself.
    Buy Volta THEN crack it. No ?

  • StirHouse

    iLok + Mac only = pass.

  • Mike Duffy

    No need for an iLok if you use Max – nice long thread here – – even less if you do it in Pd – all you need is an interface that will pass DC.

  • West

    Most gearlust inducing post of the year, Peter. Thanks ALOT! 😉

  • Cokko

    the other "mind-boggling" thing is the need to buy either a MOTU or RME interface: what if i already have an interface or system (I.E. Apogee Symphony) that works great and i don't want to add to it?
    I know i could create an aggregate device driver while adding a motu, but do i really want to go there?

  • I think RME confirmed that you can't use their interfaces for this purpose. Cokko, the limitations are technical, not brand-related. If you can confirm that your Apogee interface can pass DC voltages and can spare the outputs, then Bob's your uncle. So, send the Volta link to Apogee and ask 'em!

  • Tom

    I was really looking forward to this, but a dongle = no sale to me.

  • Okay, can someone enlighten me as someone who has not so far had to contend with ilok dongles.
    When you already have a synth the size of a wall, isn't a dongle a pretty small chunk of extra hardware to add to the mess? Are the drivers unstable or something? Is this a matter of principle? Personally, I thought volta was going to ship in the form of a dedicated bit of hardware so you wouldn't have to worry about trying to get a standard interface working with these kinds of tasks (I'm sure this lights my ignorance regarding modular stuff, but bare with me please.)

    I know that a popular complaint against dongles is losing them on gig, but you know, I don't think many people are going anywhere with those Doepfers.

  • does it work with edirol interfaces too?

  • ian

    i hate dongles and use PC only, so i am inviting MOTU to reconsider their product.
    on the other hand i think it's a great thing to control your analogue synths via computer, and i need something like air…
    what a pitty.

  • @ABFS: I don't want to reignite the whole dongle debate here. There had been some driver issues in the past, largely to do with lagging support for OS updates, though that situation today is better than it had been. Mostly, I think, people find dongles an annoyance. But yes, in the midst of a giant rig of analog gear, it's likely not a huge deal; I have more of an issue with them when using software you use on the go, as in soft synths on a laptop. The *pro-dongle* argument is that you can move licenses from machine to machine, and assuming your software supports iLok, you only need one iLok for all those licenses. To me, the other thing that's happened, though, is that the online/software authorization systems have gotten better. I'm sure the iLok folks would disagree with me on that, because they're selling a product, but I've found the online authorization to be much less of a hassle than it once was.

    So, interfaces: as Niall says, the big deal here is that Volta needs DC-coupled outputs to do its magic, by virtue of what it does – passing control voltage!

    If anyone knows of other non-MOTU hardware, I'd love to hear it. On the other hand, if you've got enough gear, I can certainly see investing in an interface to use this.

  • Jurgen

    I'm a bit confused about the excitement – just how many of you have a Buchla or a minimoog around? or am I missing that recently there were many devices with a cv gate interface introduced to the market…

  • manuel

    can anyone tell me why would you choose this instead of any cheaper hardware that does almost the same

  • @manuel: Because this isn't a MIDI to CV converter; you actually have all of these facilities built into the plug-in, which is convenient. As I said, take a look — there's more than control there, it can be useful for calibration, etc., too.

    @Jurgen: Well, all the Moog stuff is CV-controlled, so that includes much more affordable items like the Moogerfoogers and such. And yeah, Buchla and Moog modulars are rare, but a lot of people have gotten into newer modulars, not to mention plenty of older gear lying around, pre-MIDI, that may have CV in.

    I think the number of people proportional to the entire population would be quite low, yes, but of all of the people likely to have that gear, a disproportionate number read this site. 😉

  • Is MOTU assuming that those who have spent the money on a nice modular rack didn't add any sort of outside sync abilities?

    Isn't it simply sending CV commands from a MOTU FW/USB interface as opposed to a module within the rack or step sequencer? Granted you can probably come up with endless modulation curves with a MAC/PC, but beyond that whats the difference? A G.U.I.? If you're synced to a DAW's MIDI clock isn't it just as easy to route the (now in sync) audio from your modular system back into your DAW and add the audio damage plug in there?

    Again I'm all for the new, but if you already have a load of modules or step sequencers that are there for sync, pattern sequences and keyboard note commands- is Volta adding a new element or sort of chipping away a few bits of module hardware to accomplish the same task? Equally, say if I'm building a modular system, would it be who of me to strike all the MIDI interface bits and go with a new MOTU FW/USB interface + Volta?

  • Well, look, I think if you watch Matthew's videos you get an *exact* idea of how this would work. And I think originally this came out of his own personal need and ideas (he was the developer), you know, so it wasn't as though MOTU sat down at a conference table and said, where's the money at? I know! Control Voltage!

    It's probably not for everyone, but I would say most great products evolve exactly out of that — out of someone's personal need. There's almost always another way of doing it. But people choose to build things because they like doing things in a certain way.

  • @ Peter Kirn

    I hope my post didn't come off as "nay-saying" as I've been excited about the recent resurgence of CV/Analog gear over the last 5+ years. Seeing this is an awesome addition to the arsenal of modular bits old/new. It makes perfect sense what you replied with, and I suppose I didn't take that into account. Thanks!! 🙂

  • dan kirkhus

    to me, the advantage of using a DAW as the hub for CV is one of control and flexibility. basically, you can do a whole lot more with just one or two pieces of outboard modular gear. and if you're using a host with beat/loop mangling capabilities (such as ableton live) you can make your modular gear do stuff that was previously impossible, or at least difficult and very expensive.

    and then you hit "save" and it's a preset.

    i've been using live clips/simplers/drum racks to send CV for a couple of months (i started experimenting when volta was announced.)

    you don't need to learn max, or buy a mac, or even volta to do some amazing stuff. you just need a dc-coupled output from your daw.

    i posted some quick tutorials on the toob around a month ago:

  • i sure wish this worked on presonus gear. i would have bought it 🙁

  • Erip

    So let me get this right: the DA converters inside my MOTU 828 normally send out waveforms, but they can hold a certain potential for a long time? Won't this break the converter when they have to stay at +3.71 Volts for 10 minutes?

  • Damon

    This amazing magic is beyond me… That MOTU guy is smart.

  • Great job on the blog, it looks great. I am going to bookmark it and will make sure to check back weekly