Mutable Instruments Frames: Quadrature [BEAST] Mode

Frames is a monster of a module. At 18hp its far from tiny, and just look at that knob! It does big things too. More than a few times I’ve heard it referred to as a macro modulator. That description fits in more ways than one. Frames primary function is keyframing and tweening. Keyframes are moments in time (or points on the knob) in which you designate both their location and the specifics of the settings in the frame. Tweening is done automatically as Frames creates a smooth shift in the space between the frames. It’s great fun and incredibly versatile.

Frames also has some hidden modes that you can access using secret handshakes. To get to quadrature mode all you need to do is turn the big Frame knob all the way counter-clockwise and hit the Delete button ten times.

[Here’s Elements, all modulation is being fed through Frames in Quadrature Mode]

Now that we’re in quadrature mode, Olivier recommends engaging the 10v offset switch which turns Frames into a *unipolar quad LFO. This is great. But it’s hardly scratching the surface. The great thing about Frames is that it is a quad VCA. It’s still a VCA in quadrature mode. But now, each channel’s VCA is automated by its respective LFO. Frames gives us some really great control over the run of those LFOs:

The four channel knobs at the top let you set it up to your liking. Here’s what each channel does.

  • Channel 1 selects the LFOs waveform from a wavetable.
  • Channel 2 selects the difference between wavetables for each LFO. At 12:00 they are all reading from the same table.
  • Channel 3 CCW creates a difference in frequency between channels, CW creates a difference in phase them.
  • Channel 4 Is phase bleed between channels, with no bleed at 12:00.
  • The big Frame knob is the LFO rate.

This is an especially powerful mode in a small system, like my 84hp MI rig. I only have so many modulation sources available. Quadrature mode allows me to route my modulation through Frames and each channels LFO modulates the amplitude of those sources. You can get anything from smooth and gentle to wild modulation of your voltage sources. And even though you don’t have precise, per-channel control of the LFOs, the global controls are plentiful and immediate.

I particularly enjoy running very slow LFOs from Tides through this. It provides ever changing voltages, different through each cycle. It’s also a lot of fun with the envelopes from Streams. Depending on how open the LFO on Frames is, you get anything from powerful punches to blips and thuds. By occasional tweaks of any of the four knobs you can change things up. I enjoy tweaking knobs three and four (rate/phase difference and bleed). I’m more particular about knobs one and two and am less apt to fiddle about with them mid patch. And don’t forget, you can still engage the +10v switch and use a channel or two (or all of them) as a straight unipolar LFO. I am apt to run at least one LFO straight from Frames if it fits the needs of the moment.

Frames is monster under normal circumstances, but Quadrature mode turns it into a whole other beast, modulating it’s own VCA’s and spitting out CVs. The four parameter knobs are easy to remember. Channels one and two are a little less intuitive. A well chosen oscillation speed helps you to quickly sort out what each channel is doing (not too fast, not too slow, and just watch the leds). Channels three and four are perfect for tweaking, changing things up a little mid patch, but without the “guess the wavetable” issues.

Frames is such a powerhouse that it’s worth 18hp. That size means it’s a very ergonomic module. Remember, there are a good number of knobs and buttons, and a LOT of ins and outs on this thing. Not only is it worth 18hp, I believe it has more than earned its place in my 84hp rack, even if it represents more than 20% of the available space. So, if you dare, go ahead, unleash the beast!


*Unipolar: means single direction voltage. Most LFOs output both positive and negative voltage. When you engage the 10v offset on Frames it outputs a single-direction, positive voltage from 0-10V or 0-5V (depending on how you have the jumper set on the back of the module.)


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Honorable Mentions
Mutable Instruments Frames
Frames Manual