Dave Smith DSM02 Character Module Review

Dave Smith DSM02 Don’t you just love it when you ask for something and it happens, exactly as you wished it would? Well that’s exactly what happened with the DSM02 Character Module from Dave Smith. “We” (the royal we) asked DSI to take the much loved Character effects from the PRO2 and Prophet 12 and put into a eurorack module…..tuh-dah it happened – and the result is something quite beautiful, destructive and sonically versatile.

The Character Characteristics

This 14HP module houses a powerful digital effects processor, DSM02 provides the five high quality algorithms from the Pro2 and Prophet 12 synthesizers - they are; Girth, Air, Decimate, Hack and Drive. These effects are some of the key building blocks that make the P12 and Pro2 sound so good.
There's a hell of a lot of tonal scope in this module. There's a hell of a lot of tonal scope in this module.
Now you can get these superb effects with modular connectivity and CV capabilities. In keeping with the DSM01 filters colour scheme, DSI have produced a stylish black faceplate with soft touch knobs, encrusted with audio I/O and CV connectivity. Dual mono audio inputs and outputs provide flexible routing and integration. 5 CV inputs allow hands of modulation control of each of the effects, though only a single dial for each effect, they can, when blended together create some very interesting effects and timbres. The knobs feel rock solid and the module itself has a reassuring weighty feel.

In practice

The DSM02 is a really simple way to inject some flavour and instant versatility into your signal path and doesn’t require much work for the reward. We decided to test exactly what we could get out of it. To test the Character module we decided to pair it up with our favourite mono modular the Intellijel Atlantis, and a new go in our system; the Doepfer A-143-4 quad LFO / VCO. The Intellijel should give us smooth analogue waveforms that will work well with processing and the A-143-9 can provide a wide variety of modulation signals that vary from LFO to VCO rates, so we should get some interesting results. Our initial test was simple, run a simple, open square wave into the character and began to tweak the front panel controls to see what kind of scope we’ve got. Let's talk about each of the effects and what they offer independently; Girth - this is a particular useful tool for fattening up thinner oscillators and sound sources, essentially it's a low end frequency enhancer which adds substantial beef and body, it sounds absolutely incredible when working with a PWM pulse wave and under subtle modulation control. You get these big swooshing, pulsating moving timbres that really add an extra dimension and diversity to your patch. Air - the antithesis of girth, a high end frequency enhancer which found little use at first as its effects are quite subtle. But then we started using it as a mix tool for separating out harmonics in a muddier sound, there it shines and I can totally see it making an impact in a more production based system. Not one for modulation control in my opinion, but it's a very useful mix tool. Decimate - probably the sound from this module, not only does the name fill me with pleasure; but the sound and effect it has is simply delightful. It's a really over harsh bit crusher, that down samples incoming audio. It can add subtle grit or can effortlessly move into downright filth. This particular section produces some very interesting results when externally modulated, we used a sum signal from the A-143-4, a very slow square from LFO 1 and a sum of a triangle wave modulating the rate of another square. This combo provided some of the most interesting bit crushed sounds I've in modular; odd time measures combined with evolving LFO rates. Totally awesome.
The soft touch knobs from the Prophet 12 feel very positive and nice to tweak. The soft touch knobs from the Prophet 12 feel very positive and nice to tweak.
Hack - Another downsampling tool, this is way more experimental than Decimate. It really ins't for those who are looking for smooth at all. It's gritty, nasty and really pleasing. Another effect that melded well with obscure modulation rates. We clocked the rate of hack at the same rate as the resonance control on the DSM01 filter, so when the resonance opened up the hack kicked in at the same time. Very nice. Rich, punchy distorted tones with movement and an interesting timbre. Drive - this is the kind of tool no modular should be without. A simple linear overdrive, with a sweet, saturated tone that oozes class. This is another tool in the DSM02 that I found to be more of a sound shaping / mix tool; one that melds particular well with percussion and kick drums in particular....especially modulating the rate at 8ths and playing in 16th note patterns...every other one becomes grimy and distorted. This effect can be further accented with slow rates into the DSM. All in all, there's a hell of a lot of sound design capabilites in the DSM02. The fact that the parameters are modulatable is an absolute bonus. If you're into tweaking and like getting odd sounds from simple sources, then this is your bag. If you have a smaller system and space is at a premium and you've got to have some colouration tools, get this module, it is really versatile, sounds great and adds tonal variety that you can't get in anything else. For more information, click online, visit us in store or call us today. By Tom Lewis