Superbooth 24: Pittsburgh Modular Voltage Lab 2, a west-coast analog Synthesizer

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Superbooth 24: Pittsburgh Modular Voltage Lab 2 Synthesizer merges innovative analog concepts into one new west-coast analog synthesis laboratory.

In 2019, Pittsburgh Modular announced the Voltage Lab at Superbooth as part of a Kickstarter campaign. It was an analog Synthesizer with a touch interface and many innovative features. Unfortunately, only a small number of units were produced. Nowadays, it is sold for high prices on secondhand platforms.

Richard Nicol and Michael Johnsen have spent the last few years researching new concepts in analog synthesis. The Safari modules served as proof-of-concept products, and many of these tools also flowed into the Taiga desktop/keyboard synth. For Superbooth 24, Pittsburgh Modular announces the Voltage Lab 2, the synth many have been waiting for. 

Pittsburgh Modular Voltage Lab 2

Pittsburgh Modular Voltage Lab 2

The Voltage Lab 2 is the successor to the limited edition Voltage Lab 1. Unlike the VL1, the new Voltage Lab 2 will not be limited in quantities, thanks to Cre8audio’s partnership for the production. 

Pittsburgh Module bundles much of its research from the last years in this new flagship west-coast-inspired Synthesizer. Voltage Lab 2 consists of two distinct areas. The sound is created at the top, while the bottom serves as the playing area where sounds are made playable.

A Synthesis Laboratory

The core of Voltage Lab 2 consists of two multi-wave Laboratory oscillators, each packed with unique waveshaping capabilities. Laboratory Oscillator 1 offers a newly developed innovative Center Clipping, allowing you to shape the waveform on the top and bottom.

This is joined by a six-stage Pittsburgh Warped wave folder, another new tool for folding waveforms such as square or pulse waves. For the Laboratory Oscillator 2, Pittsburgh Modular offers a different selection of innovative shapers.

Pulse Symmetry is a new type of pulse wave that adds a step between the top and bottom of the waveform. The resulting wave looks like a set of stairs where the depth of the center step can be adjusted.

There is also pulse width and a newly invented reflection wave folder that folds the waveform’s button back onto the top of the waveform. On top of that, you can work with oscillator effects on both oscillators, including ring mod, FM, bit-crusher, and bi-directional hard sync.

Yes, there is a lot of unusual stuff to explore that is unavailable in other synths. A noise generator is also available. In a mixer, you can then combine the two signals in a classic subtractive manner. 

Pittsburgh Modular Voltage Lab 2

No Filter?! 

Interestingly, there is no filter in the classic sense in Voltage Lab 2. The next step is a pair of multi-purpose raise/fall function generators designed to create classic and complex modulations. It can serve as a voltage-controlled envelope with or without sustain, slew, LFO, clock divider, gate delay, and more.

The new dynamics technology is a big element of the new Pittsburgh Modular Voltage Lab 2. It has two dynamic controllers, which partly take over the task of the missing filter.

They simultaneously manage amplitude and harmonic content and offer a unique, expanded alternative to a filter/VCA combination in one function. Each offers various modes, including VCA, low-pass gate, pluck, and more. The low-pass gate mode can especially achieve organic, warm sounds. 

To refine and add the final touch to your sounds, Pittsburgh Modular added a set of analog time-based effects to it. Florist is a flanger/chorus hybrid with controllable feedback, while the Echoes is a more traditional, darker analog BBD delay. The latter also offers controllable feedback for various sounds.

At the bottom of the first row, you can find an impressive 101-point patch bay with inputs and outputs for all the features. This turns the synth into a “modular” synth that works standalone or in conjunction with Eurorack gear.

It also hides functions like VCAs, attenuators, mixer/splitters, dual-range LFOs, sample & hold and more.

Pittsburgh Modular Voltage Lab 2

Touch Control 

We continue in the second half, which is all about playing. This bottom section hosts a dual-channel 16-note touch controller, an arpeggiator, and an advanced sequencer

The dual-touch controller allows you to play sounds manually in an expressive way with the 16 pads. There are 16 dedicated pitch knobs per channel (red/yellow) and 16 shared CV channel knobs (blue).

You can operate the red and yellow independently, offering two operating modes: keyboard and sequencer.  In keyboard mode, you can assign the pads to a key and scale, including microtonal scales with up to 32 steps per octave.

There is also a built-in arpeggiator and sequencer packed with creative features:

  • global: direction, first step, quantizer, humanize, a Euclidean generator, generative sequencing, fill…
  • per-step envelope length, step conditions, chance, step shift, step length..

In sequence mode, the blue channel is your CV channel and adjusts the gate length, decay envelope, and a quantized CV for the red and yellow channel. The global touch controller inputs include MIDI input, clock input, and clock reset input.

Plus, each channel offers a dedicated chance amount that can be assigned to up to 4 destinations, pitch, trigger, note shift, note roll. Of course, you can also control synth with external MIDI or CV/gate. In case that this was too much information. No problem! I also lost track of the feature set several times. 



Pittsburgh Modular kept it very classic with the I/O in the Voltage Lab 2. In the patch matrix, you have line-level outputs, a headphone socket, and TRS MIDI sockets. A power supply input is on the backside. 

First Impression

The new Pittsburgh Modular Voltage Lab 2 is a huge analog Synthesizer, not just in format but also in feature set. I tried to summarize everything as best as possible, but there are still features that I haven’t included.

Voltage Lab 2 is not a classic Synthesizer. It is an instrument for musicians who want to experiment with sounds and explore new concepts—a sound laboratory for the studio. Friends of West Coast sounds, in particular, will have much fun here.

It’s not a budget synth at all but it offers a lot. If you compare it with Eurorack modules, you get the functionality of at least 10+ modules with the same patch options. I’m very excited about the videos and the sounds that were created.

Pittsburgh Modular Voltage Lab 2 is available now for pre-order for $1999,99/2149€  at deals worldwide. Shipping starts in June 2024.

More information here: Pittsburgh Modular 

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  1. They lowered the angle and added more space between the knobs, addressing the two major weak points of the original VRL. I don’t like the design as much, though.

  2. Looks good to me, sounds fine! Can’t say I’m blown away by the sounds but would need to watch some more sound demo’s. Can’t say there looks anything super special that grabs me by the monkeys than another analog synth.

    • Well, the VCOs are unique, different from each other, and can be modulated so that they sound filtered without the need for a VCF module. The control surface is also different, combining the Serge style with some Elektron-like features. It’s deep, yet highly playable live. For me, this kills any GAS for a Buchla Easel or other step sequencer. I can see using this for ARPs, Leads, and percussive sounds in my setup. Plus, it us fully modular and can integrate fully. It also simply just looks like fun—I could see traveling with just this.

    • For $2k and prominently displaying the shape of the waveforms in the advert, they couldn’t apparently add a screen to the actual synth. Pitts makes the same iteration of the same synth with slight variations and then they have the temerity to suggest that they are somehow pushing the science and sound forward. Nope.

  3. Both lovely and wild sounds coming out of each innovative VCO. The controller is clever—I hope they sell it separately. This unit adds many different things to any existing rack.

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