Hi there. I'm totally green to modular synth, finally starting to dip my toes in. I plan on visiting my local modular shop in the cities this weekend (Midwest Modular in Minneapolis dontcha know), but I figured I'd start a thread on here too to get some opinions. So my plan so far is to build a little synth that will:

  1. Allow me to generate some drum and rhythm background sounds that I could have fun with and shape the sound of.
  2. Allow me to practice the basics of synthesis with some of the bare essential elements.

People keep saying to buy a larger case than you need, but it appears to be cost effective to buy a HEK and then just buy a second one later. Am I wrong here? The intellijell cases are substantially more expensive and so is everything else I've found.

It will take me a long time to build this rig, so I'm also trying to decide what the best order to purchase everything in is. My current idea is to get the Domino first, then a mixer, then a sequencer, then a midi gate. This would give me something fun to play with while I slowly build the rest of the rig month after month, or am I wrong here?

The rest of the case so far is just simple basics because for all I know my goals will change as I learn more how modular synths work. I could always sell modules if I decide they're unnecessary, this stuff all seems to hold it's value pretty well, or am I wrong there? Should I be wary of purchasing any particular modules? I also have some DIY modules in there because while I am certainly no expert, I do have plenty of experience soldering amps, cable, guitar parts etc, and my dad is basically an electrical engineer, so I'm also looking forward to doing some of this stuff with him. Anyway, I'm totally open to opinions, just trying to get an idea. Oh and I also already grabbed the domino because it was on sale, maybe jumped the gun there.....


Also I apparently am a moron and can't figure out how to get a screenshot up of my rack, so hopefully that link works.

Welcome to Eurorack. There are definitely a lot of opinions out there.

I will try to take on some your concerns but out of order.

The first thing is system size. In my experience, most people want as small of a system as they can get away with because of the cost. That's a reasonable desire. But then you're trying to fit a handful of modules into a very small space, so not only do you have to really consider the size (in HP) of each and every module... but the functionality of that module in terms of features as well as the ergonomics (small pots are much harder to work with). So you're making putting together a brand new rack exponentially that much harder.

The reason for going with a larger case is simple. You're paying more up-front to save yourself paying more later on. If your system keeps growing you'll need to either add a second case or replace your starting case with a much bigger case and sell your first case. You'll more than likely keep adding modules to your core system as you learn and discover your own tastes in Eurorack.

The Intellijel 7U case is very popular. But if you buy one, you're committing to buying 1U modules in their standard. They make their own 1U modules and 3rd parties like Plum Audio and Shakmat, for example, are starting to jump on the bandwagon. Pulp Logic is the other 1U standard. Please note... that the 1U module formats are NOT compatible with each other. But the bottom line is that 1U modules are not the standard and almost everything in 1U can be found in the same or similar modules in the standard 3U.

As far as building your system overtime. Yes, you can do that. But just know you are buying synthesizer parts. No one part (generally) is an entire synth unless it was built for that purpose (look up "synth-voice"). What comprises a "basic" system is very arguable. But in my opinion, it's two VCOs, a VCF, at least four VCAs, an LFO, two 4:1 mixers, a noise source, and some attenuverters to scale down your control voltages. You will also need a way to PLAY your synth. So you'll need at least one sequencer that makes sense for you and an output module to go from synth to line level. The sequencer... you can go as big or as small as you like depending on needs. If you're going to drive the system via MIDI then you'll need some sort of MIDI to CV interface.

At this point, your head is probably spinning because there are so many choices and so many ways to build a system. Here comes some more boilerplate recommendations that I seem to repeat over and over to people just starting out: buy a synth voice or a Eurorack compatible stand-alone synth. Intellijel, Pittsburgh Modular, and many other companies make complete synths that fit in Eurorack that are patchable. They are great as the core of a new system and will stay useful even if you expand to a monster system. A stand alone system like a Moog Mother 32 or even a Behringer Neutron are great as they don't eat up any rackspace and you can buy a smaller "skiff" rack of additional modules to supplement what you have in the stand-alone system. As your knowledge grows, then get into specialty oscillators, different filters, effects, and modulation. This would be the cheapest way into Eurorack.

The other is to just buy a standalone system preconfigured. Then you're guaranteed to have something useful without having to do all the research first. Roland, Pittsburgh Modular, Doepfer, Make Noise, all have their own turnkey systems. Again, you can always add your own specialty modules once you find an area you want to explore.

DIY is a great way to save money on a module. But once it's built, you still have the same issues to contend with. However, you can offset your costs by building modules for others that don't want to pick up an iron.

And finally, posting your rack. I found your rack. To post a link to it that pops up in your thread, simply visit the rack like you're going to edit it. Then copy and paste the URL into your post. Your URL should look like this but without the spaces:

https: // www.modulargrid.net / e / racks / view / 1067379
And show up like this:
ModularGrid Rack

Thanks so much for replying! Yes that definitely echoes a lot of the stuff I've been reading. My thought with the Domino module was that it would do a lot on its own, and therefore be a fun module to play with while I built up the rig, but perhaps that one is not such a good choice? Would something like Atlantis, or Plaits or something be better for that? Is that kind of in the ballpark of what you are talking about with stand alone modules?

Here's where I left off, but good point about the small pots. Perhaps these little modules will be frustrating to work with:

ModularGrid Rack

Thanks again for taking the time to help. Yes it's a bit overwhelming, but really I can only justify buying one module a month or so, and I'm patient, so I got plenty of time to make a decent plan.

Hmmmm, can't seem to get the current iteration of the rack to show up, maybe because there's empty space now?


Sorry... I was not familiar with the Domino and I thought it was just an oscillator. From what I can tell it IS a synth voice.

We can work with that. So your synth voice is going to need gates to trigger the VCA and will need pitch information via CV plugged into the 1v/OCT jack. That's the basic requirement to get a pitched note from the synth. From the look of it, the only envelope parameter available is the decay time. Other synth voices have more options but also a heftier price.

If you're into DIY electronics, check out the Ornaments & Crime and Temps Utile. You can build the micro versions yourself and save a lot of cash. Between those modules you'll have a TON of functionality in 16HP and won't need the Steppy or the Scales (at first). Throw in a Disting for $200 and betwen those three you have a nice system for modulation, clocks, light sequencing, etc.

Wow, those are some crazy modules! I'm definitely intrigued by all three. I'm looking into the kits and they may be a little advanced for me, but I'm gonna run them by the old man and see what he makes of them. I can solder just fine, but I can't read schematics well. I found a Disting for about 150 so I'm tempted to pull the trigger on that for the value. One thing I'm definitely understanding is that it would be wise for me to start up with a few powerful modules at first so I have something fun to play with while I build the rig. Then I can add simpler things that I can further tweak the sound with. I will say though, I can tell that I enjoy working with simpler things and the limitations that they impose vs super super deep things that I will never wrap my head around.

I'll definitely want to get a mixer early on right? I need a way to send the signal out to headphones or an audio interface as well, so that's gotta be something I get early on too right? I also see that I'll want something that will take MIDI in, but it also looks like I could forego MIDI control and just use modules that gate and trigger CV all within the system, is that right?

I've played around with VCV for a bit now. I created a simple patch, messed with that, that ran that through a sequencer and had an hour fly by while I joyfully noodled with 80s era synth grooves, so I definitely know that modular is for me, lots and lots of fun. Thanks for all of your suggestions so far, I feel like I'm starting to get an idea of how I'll go forward.

When building your own modules, you're not designing anything. You generally can buy the faceplates, circuit boards, and either supply your own parts or can buy a kit that's ready to assemble. The only challenge would be kits that use tiny surface mount components. There's a micro - Eurorack group on Facebook somewhere that has all kinds of builders recommending and helping each other.

Mixers are a good thing. IMHO you need two mixers. One for summing audio and or CV and a larger stereo mixer as your main mixer. There are a TON of options. The caveats are how much space and much money do you want to spend? Pittsburgh's Lifeform's, Blue Lantern's Stereo-Sir-Mix, Happy Nerding's mixer (forget name), Roland's 6 channel mixer, etc. Some include line-level outputs built in, some do not. Some have more aux sends than others, some offer modulation of pan or volume level... others don't. Some have headphone outs... others don't

I bought the Blue Lantern option because I wanted more sends and the price was right. I'm happy with it. But it lacks headphone outputs, CV modulation, or line level outputs. But I didn't want them in my mixer (personal preference).

The MIDI to CV option is always great. You can go as low-end or high-end as your needs require. 2HP makes a small, simple MIDI to CV converter with a USB-C input. I use an Expert Sleepers FH2. Either option is good. It just depends on how deep you want that tie to be between your DAW and your rack.

Please note the most current Disting is the Mk4. Be sure you're buying the "Mark Four." Development of the prior versions has stopped and the Mk4 still receives regular firmware updates. It's not worth it to save a few bucks on a Mk3 IMHO.

Unfortunately my local modular shop turned out to not be open on weekends, but thanks to you I feel like I have a good game plan anyway. Here's my current plan:


I might switch out some of these for good DIY builds I find. My dad and I concluded that the uO_c kit would be a little too complex unless I ordered the kit populated, which kinda starts to defeat the purpose. But I feel confident about the AI synthesis kit, and so anything of a similar level I'll gobble right up. Thanks again for all your help, I'll check back in on modular grid once my rig is coming along, hopefully I'll be making music by then.

A couple of small tweaks to your new rack.
Here's your latest rack.
ModularGrid Rack

Though some modules appear to be missing here.. clicking the pic shows them.

You can get an even SMALLER versions of the uOrnaments & Crime and Temps Utile. They are 8HP... what you have are 14 each. I'd go with those so you save 12HP! The 8HP designs are pretty standard so you can buy them from a maker. I have a guy on the forum that I've used. I can pass that along in private message if you need someone. Take a look at Michigan Synth Works if you want to buy from a retailer.

You have up to 6 gate/trigger sequencers in Temps Utile and up to two CV/Gate sequencers in O&C. You can probably do away with the Steppy unless you're looking to make a lot of changes in real time. I'd wait on the Steppy if you get the Temps Utile first.

Yeah that's a good point, I'll definitely be keeping an eye on the micro versions. When the time comes to pull the trigger on the next module I'll grab one of those unless one of the larger ones gets down to like, $150 or so.

Now I'm doing a lot of searching and making a list of all the DIY kits I'd like to try without SMT. That's the real clincher that would make me just buy something rather than put it together. Playing with VCV more I also realize how racks can fill up so quickly. Why have 1 sequencer when you can have 4! Rather than go sequencer crazy, after the O_c or Temps Utile (I'm leaning towards the former) I'm just gonna use a Korg SQ-1 for a bit to sequence so I can than turn my attention to simple DIY kits of stuff like filters, VCAs, etc.
I probably should mention that down the road, real time tweaking is absolutely a focal point for me as well, once I'm past the point where I can just make some noise that will definitely be a criteria for every module I add.

Also, so far my plan with a case is to start with an HEK, than add a second down the road if necessary. I can construct a wooden enclosure that will hold both rows. Do you think that would work fine, or am I really shooting myself in the foot there having two rows separately powered? If it's really necessary to grab something like those intellijell cases I can, but it seems silly as it might take me a year or more to fill one row on my current plan. Plus it's fun to build stuff :)

You can build your own case. There's nothing wrong with that if you have the skills. When it comes to the power supply, I wouldn't attempt building that myself unless you're experienced with designing and building those. There are tons of power supplies available as well. If you're mounting your power board underneath your modules, be sure to leave plenty of depth in the case as some modules are pretty deep and you'll need enough clearance to seat the module as well as plug it in.

Right, that Happy Ending Kit should have have it's own power supply right? That's one thing I definitely would not try to build myself.

The Happy Ending Kit is a set of rails and the bus with "flying bus boards" (ribbon cables). That gives you a small rack with 10 outlets for 10 modules per kit.

You'll also have to buy their transformer to go from the wall to bus.

Since there's no back to the rack then depth shouldn't be an issue. If you have more than 10 modules, I would read up on how to power more than 10 modules with this (what's safe and what's not).

Be sure to MANUALLY double check your power needs as MG doesn't always have that information for each module. Always leave some headroom in your total amp draw versus what the kit is rated for as your power spikes when you first turn on the rack.

Ohhhhh, I was under the impression that the HEK came with everything I need.

1 x 1000mA Universal power adapter (110-220VAC)

Is that the transformer you're talking about or would I have to buy something in addition to that?

As far as I can tell.. the rack doesn't come with the AC to DC adapter/transformer.
Power supply

I could be wrong. I'd check with whatever seller you buy it new from.

Though, the used prices are nice and come with a wall-wart as far as I can tell.
hfQAAOSwubdd6oOF" target="_blank">https://www.ebay.com/itm/Tiptop-Audio-Happy-Ending-Kit-Black-Eurorack-Modular-Kit-with-Power/153752311346?hash=item23cc5a1632hfQAAOSwubdd6oOF

Right, it is confusing. I'll be sure to double check, although with the current used prices that pretty much evens out anyway I suppose.