What is it?
There’s a time for most modular synth users when the mixer module gets to feel like it’s not quite enough, or the need for more than one mixer becomes all too apparent, so that you can get your music into the computer in a way which allows for recording.
A mixer is one possible option but falls short in many ways, most obviously for multitrack recording, where the mix is non-destructive. Or where you want to shape the sound further but not globally.
This is where Expert Sleepers come in, with the ES-9 module, which can be a game changer for many, and fills more than one role.
Physically it is fairly unassuming, with a simple set of I/Os on the front panel, along with a single volume pot for the headphone out. What you will find is an assortment of jacks; eight 3.5mm outputs and 14 3.5mm inputs, a pair of TRS jacks perfect for sending to a PA or external monitoring, as well as a pair of SPDIF ports.
On top of this, you can add expanders for MIDI connectivity or a further set of I/O, via the ES-5. The last port is a USB-C port that allows hookup to your Mac or PC.
It packs a lot of I/O ports onto the front panel but for those with particularly shallow skiffs, keep in mind that it’s chunkier round the back, at 50mm, as dictated by so much connectivity.
Performance and verdict
We see this as a one-stop shop for using Eurorack with Logic (other DAWs are available) and have set up a preset template for recording my modular, which has transformed the way we interact and record.
The ES-9 is an audio interface at heart, offering a huge array of channels for getting audio into Logic, where I can balance, shape, remix and add effects to tracks globally or locally, spending on what I patch into the ES-9. Not only does it suit this purpose perfectly but eight of the ports are DC-coupled, meaning you have a connection for CV as well. Ableton and VCV rack users rejoice!
There is something quite special about so easily being able to send audio into your modular, without the need to bounce samples, fiddle with memory cards – and that’s assuming you even have a sample player.
None of this would be that useful if the fidelity wasn’t there, so it’s good to 24bit sample depth and up to 96khz bit rate, making for audio that sounds true to the source. Having USB-C means lag is also a non-issue.
On top of all this functionality, it is possible to use the ES-9 as a mixer and stereo output, so you can take your case live or to a different studio and still get audio into a different setup, via the TRS outs.
Considering its 16hp rack space and simple layout, the ES-9 provides a whole lot of top quality interfacing. The robust module clears physical and mental clutter, allowing you to interact with your music the way you want to. It’s easy to work with, driverless, works well live and in the studio and makes little compromise with sound quality. It may make no bleeps and bloops but is still worthy of a place in any rack.
MusicRadar verdict: The ES-9 offers that indispensable bridge to the digital domain with a heck of a lot of I/O.
- ZPanel width: 16HP
- Module depth (including power cable): 50mm
- Current draw: 451mA on the +12V rail, 133mA on the -12V rail (at 96kHz)
- USB socket: Type C
- Driver suport: class-compliant USB 2.0 (no driver required for macOS and iOS -Windows drivers provided for Windows 7, 8 & 10)
- Channel count: 16 in, 16 out
- Supported sample rates: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz
- Audio sample depth: 24 bit
- Analogue outputs: 8x 3.5mm TS jacks, DC-coupled, Maximum output voltage approximately ±10V 2x 1/4" TRS balanced jacks, AC-coupled (main outs) 1x 1/4" TRS stereo jack, DC-coupled (headphones)
- Analogue inputs: 14x 3.5mm TS jacks, DC-coupled, Input voltage range approximately ±10V
- Digital I/O: 1x S/PDIF input (TOSlink), 1x S/PDIF output (TOSlink)
- MIDI I/O: 1 input, 1 output (on breakout)
- Expansion headers: 1 for ES-5, 1 for MIDI breakout
- Panel controls: headphone volume
- Internal mixer: 8x8 crosspoint mixer (can be used with no USB connection for standalone operation)
- CONTACT: Expert Sleepers