Firstly what does a quantizer do? Well it is a control voltage processor, it takes a voltage applied to its input and outputs a control voltage that only has certain discrete voltage levels. Normally a quantizer will be used between a step sequencer and a VCO to control its pitch. For instance a chromatic quantizer will only output voltages that are in 1/12th of a volt (83.3mV) or semitone steps. A diatonic quantizer will only output voltage steps that represent the notes of a major or minor scale.
I like the A-156 so much I have two of them. So what makes it so special?
For a start it is two separate quantizers; In the last week I have heard two people say that Quantizer 1 is not as useful as Quantizer 2 because Quantizer 2 has major/minor scale and chord switches whereas Quantizer 1 is just chromatic. Tone's Top Tip #1: There is a jumper that can be set so that both quantizers use the switches (update 19th Dec: Check out PatchPierre's modification). This is great because now two VCOs can be controlled to give a two-part harmony or in my case with two quantizers and four VCOs, a four-part harmony. This works even if what you apply to the inputs is random e.g. LFO into one and S/H into the other. You only get pitches that sound good together (unless the switch is in the All position) and also first set up both VCOs to be in tune with no CV input applied. I usually tune my VCOs to D with the quantizers outputs set to 0V. With the switch set to major scale what comes out is all in D major.
|Top Tip #1 Jumper setting|
Tone's Top Tip#3: The Trig Out only fires when it sees a change on the input that causes a new quantization level to be output - so it's a voltage change detector. The A-156 only operates on voltages that are between 0V and +10V so any negative voltage will not produce a trig output. This can be used to great rhythmic advantage. Try triggering the quantizer with one LFO whilst putting another into its CV input. Trig out only happens when there is a trigger in AND there is a positive CV input that is different to the previous CV input that was triggered. I do this with one LFO into both Trig Ins and another LFO into one CV In and a S/H into the other - use the Trig out's to fire ADSRs to control VCFs/VCAs and vary the rates of the LFOs and S/H to get great rhythmic patterns.
Tone's Top Tip#4: Also try triggering both quantizers with a LFO and take X/Y outputs from the A-174 Joystick into the CV ins and use the CV outputs to control two VCOs - play nice two-part harmonies with just the joystick.
Tone's Top Tip #5: Try putting a VCO through the quantizer, it mangles the audio in a similar sort of way as a bit-crusher does. It works well at lower frequencies; you can use the CV out and the Trig out for very nasty audio distortion.
In this picture my two A-156s are in the top left next to the MFB SEQ-02.
Rush out and buy one if you don't have one, better still buy two!