If your computer and a stompbox had a love child, MOD Duo would be it – a virtual effects environment that can load anything. And now, it does Max/MSP, too.

MOD Devices’ MOD Duo began its life as a Kickstarter campaign. The idea – turn computer software into a robust piece of hardware – wasn’t itself so new. Past dedicated audio computer efforts have come and gone. But it is genuinely possible in this industry to succeed where others have failed, by getting your timing right, and executing better. And the MOD Duo is starting to look like it does just that.

What the MOD Duo gives you is essentially a virtualized pedalboard where you can add effects at will. Set up the effects you want on your computer screen (in a Web browser), and even add new ones by shopping for sounds in a store. But then, get the reliability and physical form factor of hardware, by uploading them to the MOD Duo hardware. You can add additional footswitches and pedals if you want additional control.

Watch how that works:

For end users, it can stop there. But DIYers can go deeper with this as an open box. Under the hood, it’s running LV2 plug-ins, an open, Linux-centered plug-in format. If you’re a developer, you can create your own effects. If you like tinkering with hardware, you can build your own controllers, using an Arduino shield they made especially for the job.

And then, this week, the folks at Cycling ’74 take us on a special tour of integration with Max/MSP. It represents something many software patchers have dreamed of for a long time. In short, you can “export” your patches to the hardware, and run them standalone without your computer.

This says a lot about the future, beyond just the MOD Duo. The technology that allows Max/MSP to support the MOD Duo is gen~ code, a more platform-agnostic, portable core inside Max. This hints at a future when Max runs in all sorts of places – not just mobile, but other hardware, too. And that future was of interest both to Cycling ’74 and the CEO of Ableton, as revealed in our interview with the two of them.

Even broader than that, though, this could be a way of looking at what electronic music looks like after the computer. A lot of people assume that ditching laptops means going backwards. And sure enough, there has been a renewed interest in instruments and interfaces that recall tech from the 70s and 80s. That’s great, but – it doesn’t have to stop there.

The truth is, form factors and physical interactions that worked well on dedicated hardware may start to have more of the openness, flexibility, intelligence, and broad sonic canvas that computers did. It means, basically, it’s not that you’re ditching your computer for a modular, a stompbox, or a keyboard. It’s that those things start to act more like your computer.

Anyway, why wait for that to happen? Here’s one way it can happen now.

Darwin Grosse has a great walk-through of the MOD Duo and how it works, followed by how to get started with

The MOD Duo Ecosystem (an introduction to the MOD Duo)

Content You Need: The MOD Duo Package (into how to work with Max)

An alternative: the very affordable OWL Pedal is similar in function, minus that slick browser interface. It can load Max gen~ code, too:


New Tutorials including Max MSP on the OWL!

Pd users, that works, too – via Heavy (I think on the MOD, as well):

OWL & Heavy – a Pd patch on the OWL

  • Quentin Lamerand

    Looks similar to the OWL pedal

    • Tekknovator

      yea, and it takes the axoloti concept a step further by providing a neat case etc. Looks cool.
      Some trivia: REAPERs JS effect scripting started out as a similar concept called Jesus Sonic…

    • Gianfranco Ceccolini

      Actually they are extremely different.
      The MOD Duo is a proper audio optimized computer platform – with all the functionality expected from one – inside a stompbox-like enclosure. The OWL is a reprogrammable audio processor in a stompbox.
      The OWL is a pedal in your rig. The MOD Duo can be your entire rig, including the laptop (for those who use it live).
      The MOD Duo provides an assembler of pedalboards, where each pedal is a plugin and the musician can freely patch multiple ones.. The OWL supports one-patch-per-time.
      Also, the MOD Duo features a real Operating System inside whereas the Owl, due to it’s DSP chip, runs on firmware. From a developer’s perspective, this makes all the difference. With a full stack OS, if the code runs in your desktop, it will probably run in the Duo when cross-compiled (exceptions of course for code that makes calls to specific CPUs).
      Not only that but also the fact that, as it is a Linux system, the amount of existing – proven, powerful and stable – existing libraries is huge, making the development cycle extremely short.
      A quick look to the MOD Duo plugins library – https://pedalboards.moddevices.com/plugins – reveals the huge variety of plugins. Instead of being an effect-only device, like the OWL, the MOD Duo has an ecosystem of plugins, from effects to virtual instruments, sequencers, loopers and general utilities.
      Nothing against the OWL. I consider it an incredible device. But to say they are the same is quite an understatement.

  • Kyle Werle

    Love my Organelle. I hope Max continues to push towards other platforms.

  • stefan Prosky

    Why no Vj box that takes a Jitter patch?
    with midi and OSC?

    • Dubby Labby

      I think is due heavy gpu demands. Since GEN is code it makes the logical first step but in the future it should be possible what you want 😉

  • Dubby Labby


  • Markus Girrulat

    Interesting… As much as MPC now turns software back into a standalone sampler (with more ease of use and (probably) more stable use than a computer) now also for EFX… i like the concept… lets see if they can really come close to the audio quality of standalone hardware

  • Sip

    This seems to be a riff on the Eventide H9 with better integration

  • Sip

    Seems like a riff on the H9 with better integration for plug-in side.

  • Daniel Arena

    I have one of these already – really interesting and surprisingly powerful little box. it’s not unusual to be able to run 6-8 separate effects at once on it.

    Even without the max msp integration there’s a ton of very cool FX on the platform, too.

  • papernoise

    You can run MOD on a Raspberry PI (with the Pisound interface in this case) as well: https://github.com/BlokasLabs/pisound-docs/wiki/MODEP
    Though nothing beats having a dedicated, integrated hardware with a display… but to play around with it, the Raspberry emulator might be fine.