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ALM Busy Circuits System Coupe review

ALM’s first complete system is packed with new modules and proven classics

  • £1899
ALM Busy Circuits System Coupe
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

A fantastic starter system or addition to a full rig, it offers excellent build and sound, as well as a huge array of options and versatility.

Pros

  • Excellent build quality.
  • Sounds are excellent and versatile.
  • Great for beat creation and melodic content.
  • Small case houses a lot of musical power.

Cons

  • Single VCO may limit some.

What is it?

Their first venture into complete modular systems, ALM’s System Coupe caters to a wide variety of uses and does it with verve, style and fun. 

The first thing you might notice, if you’re aware of ALM’s other products is the change in livery, which here is a special edition finish. The 84hp skiff houses a custom power supply (that takes a laptop-style plug) and 11 modules all in a grey scheme with pink and blue knobs.

Unlike systems from other developers, which can have a narrow focus, the Coupe can be a powerful tool for anybody. If you want a portable yet powerful groovebox this does it. Pamela’s New Workout is a fantastic module, being both a masterclock and mod source. 

On groovebox duties the standard eight channels of CV output would be good but factor in its euclidean options for more or less repeatable beats, or modulation of anything with CV control, and its power shines. The obvious example is to use PNW to trigger drum sounds on the Squid Salmple, which takes me to the beating heart of the system.

ALM Busy Circuits System Coupe

(Image credit: Future)

Squid is a stunning sampler. It can playback and record not just audio but CV too, making it a repeatable mod source. Recordings are saved to a front-mounted USB stick, making it an endless source, as you simply swap out memory as you need.

The Coupe ships with hundreds of royalty-free samples, our favourites being the LinnDrum bank, although they are all usable. A handy feature is the multiple outputs, for paired channels and a summed mix output.

These two modules alone are great so you can see the power on offer when you throw in the Quaid Megaslope, a five-stage complex envelope generator, LFO and step sequencer. We particularly like the vertical sliders that sit above rotary controls for timing and slope, that makes it really easy to shape your sound, or define the amount and distance of the slew and can even be CV controlled (bring in Pam!).

Performance and verdict

So what standard sound sources are on offer? At first glance, it might look lacking in this area with just one VCO but that would underestimate the MCO, that has 12 waveshapes that you can morph between. 

These range from noise, through organ-like tones, typical waves like sine and more complex options. Plug Quaid into the volts per octave and/or the pulse width CV in and you have a decent VCO. On top of that are the three outputs; a main, a 1-octave sub and a PWM output, that can all be patched concurrently, for extra thickness or separate modulating.

The obvious next choice in the signal path would be the MCF, currently only available in the Coupe. It’s a lovely sounding filter, with a smooth resonance that can be driven into self-oscillation, giving you a second sound source (sine only but it sounds good). Like other Coupe modules, the MCF outputs concurrent signals, being low pass, high pass and bandpass. Not bad from such a small module, that also offers CV control for resonance and cutoff.

Some people will want to use the Coupe standalone while others will want to hook it up to a larger Eurorack rig or control it via MIDI. The Coupe caters to both of these with the first module in the skiff, the mmMidi and it’s expansion module the mmT. These take an incoming MIDI signal using the 3.5mm to DIN adapter (which keeps the module small) and convert it to CV. The mmT quantises this data so you have an intuitive set of pitched outputs.

Also consider...

Erica Synths Fusion System II

(Image credit: Future)

Erica Synths Fusion System II
With bags of personality and sonic opportunity on offer, Erica Fusion will deliver endless experimentation and, most importantly, fun.

Make Noise System Cartesian
A fantastic starting point for exploration into the world of modular synthesis.

Moog Mother-32
Fortified with a sequencer, MIDI connectivity, and a set of robust knobs and industrial toggle switches, Moog's latest instrument visually reeks of intrigue - particularly when it's racked with two other Mother-32 units to give users a taste of the ol' Keith Emerson vibe.

Now for some of the less headline-grabbing modules. You can never have too many VCAs, for mixing audio or acting as a third hand to take on modulation duties. 

In the Tangle Quartet’s case, it becomes four third hands, each with CV control, individual outputs and a summed output. Another new module is Milton, a small utility that acts as a preamp for incoming line signals, making it easy to sample or modulate anything you care to throw at it.

Last up, the HPO, a mono and stereo headphone out, is a simple little module that provides a clean audio output that can drive your cans or head into an interface for recording at levels less hot and troublesome than standard Eurorack.

MusicRadar verdict: A fantastic starter system or addition to a full rig, it offers excellent build and sound, as well as a huge array of options and versatility.

The web says

"The System Coupe is an excellently compiled system, and should be hugely tempting to anyone looking to buy a single system for the first time or to upgrade from another more simplistic unit, such as the Moog Mother-32. The Coupe is tremendously capable, providing a broad palette of sounds, control and modulation possibilities."
MusicTech

Hands-on demos

The Oysterhouse Boys

Perfect Circuit

ALM

Specifications

  • TYPE: Complete modular system
  • KEY FEATURES: Custom powered 84hp skiff, Curated collection of modules, Covers IO, sequencing, sampling and more, Special edition graphics
  • CONTACT: ALM/Busy Circuits