Do at least make sure you have some way of locking up clocks between Ableton and the modular, though. You'll find that to be extremely useful. Even so, I'd still consider some way to pass more than just a clock to the modular from Live; the fact that M4L is in there (depending on which version you're using) opens up massive possibilities for modular control that will definitely exceed human limitations.


Perhaps I'm missing something here, but perhaps not. Checking the links provided with each module takes me to a website where there's no information on availability, pricing, and so on. The MG listings show prices and claim availability, but the actual company website doesn't seem to indicate...well, much of anything. The module listings there seem to all link to a Github site...while at the same time, some of those same MG listings show those same modules as being available as a prebuilt module or DIY kit.

In short, this is a tad screwy. Perhaps the user who posted these can clarify things?


Stages and Maths would be OK normally, but the Akemie's is going to eat envelopes for breakfast. Remember: Chowning FM is very envelope-intensive...that's how you get your timbral shifts within the duration of an event, by applying multistage envelopes to a lot of the oodles of parameters. If I were you, I'd be looking at a couple of modules that have a lot of envelope generator density, such as Qu-bit's Contour, Doepfer's A-143-2, or a combo of Erogenous Tones' RADAR and Ping. That'd really make the FM pop and jump. Plus, yes, do consider a basic VCF for the Akemie's...the combo of FM + good analog filtering is something you'll really get fond of.

Also, I'd lose the Roland mixer. For one thing, it has its own 1/4" out pair, and your Intellijel cab has that already (plus you also have the Intelljel I/O in the build) and having another pair of outs seems redundant. My take there would be to go smaller, but still stay in stereo. Have a peek at Verbos' Scan & Pan...stereo, four in, VCA level control plus CVable panning, plus some neat capabilities for crossfade/channel scanning that are a bit unusual, all in 14 hp. That also solves your VCA question, given that that mixer can do your exponential audio VCA duties, leaving the Quad VCA free for CVs or other spot applications where a single free VCA is needed.

Hmm...that Basimilus...do you need it? You could jam a couple of Moffenzeef Dial-ups in that space and still have 2 hp left...or, you could reclaim a bit more space and add those plus a Muskrat for three channels of glitch/noise percussives. Or the Dial-ups and maybe a couple of Erica Pico Drums to combine conventional sampled drums with glitched-out ones. So, instead of going with the question of adding a filter for a single percussion source, see if you think that a few of them minus a filter might be more capable. That would require more gate/trig channels than the Metropolis would have, but since you're contemplating the Varigate 8+ already and that one would be more than ample, I'd say go with that instead.

Last, swap the buffered mult for Intellijel's passive one. You're not splitting CVs enough in here to worry about voltage 'sag', so regenerating CVs won't be necessary, and you can save a few bucks that way.


Yupperz...that's how you do it! Just keep in mind that rule of thumb about audio paths, and you'll be able to go totally bonkers with stereo patch creation.


It's not necessary to use a VCA before a filter. However, if you have one that can be placed there, you can then do things such as routing a single VCO through it and then into the VCO mix, and by giving that a longer attack than the post-VCF one, that'll let you add harmonics/VCO density/detunings/etc as a ramp-up as long as the note-on is present. Or even more things; that's just one example. VCAs are the unsung heroes of modular synthesis, really...they allow all sorts of trickery involving controlling audio levels, CV voltages, and the like that wind up upping the complexity of your patch. But it doesn't convert the VCO signal to audio; the VCO outputs audio itself, and the VCA (plus a modulating source) can control that audio level. Also, keep in mind that the six channels of the HN mixer also have VCAs for audio level control

The Synthacon VCF looks simple...but, having owned a real Steiner-Parker Synthacon for many years (traded it for an ARP 2600 quite some time ago), I can tell you that it's anything but, sonically. It's very versatile, does everything from punchy bass to rip-your-ears-off screeches, and pretty much anything in between. There are definite reasons why the Arturia Brutes use them; I put that in in there so that you have some sonic consistency, but with the added potential of two different simultaneous options with the same filter architecture.

The Klavis VCOs are rather deep, functionwise. But I wouldn't toss the Batumi out just because the Klavis oscillators can tune down into subaudio. Batumis can do tricks with their LFO signals (especially with the Poti expander) that lots of other oscillators can't, such as operating in a quadrature mode or in other phase-relational modes on a single frequency. They also have an internal divider mode that has lots of potential for clocking applications. And yes, you can do a lot with the Klavis VCOs + the Shifty, even beyond a 4-stage shift register. For instance, you can switch the Shifty into 2-stage, then have two VCOs per outputted CV for two-part duophony from the same initial incoming CV. And again, that's simply one possibility among numerous ones. Or as you noted, drop all four VCOs on the same pitch for big detuned punchiness. Or three, then have a single one on top as a lead. The list goes on, as you can see.

As for the Zadar...it's nice, but the fact is that, in the early stages of using modular, you're going to want to have modules that require lots of tweak attention and manual manipulation potential. I've always felt that it was more important to reach out and get a handful of parameter control rather than futz around with menus and assignable controls. And you will definitely find uses for the A-140-2 ADSRs (especially given their jumperable custom configuration possibilities) all over the place, even in tandem with the Batumi's LFOs. You could even use the latter to control the time aspects on the former, varying envelope lengths in cyclical fashion. But for the synthesis parts in that build, I went with keeping everything as 'hands-on' as possible, with the only menu-driven device being the Gatestorm sequencer for the percussion sounds, because sequencers need more direct visual feedback to the user than in most other modules, and also because it's very useful to have recall for your sequence loops and you need to see what's being recalled quickly when switching sequences while playing.

Anyway, this is an easier to learn build, as you've kinda noticed. It's possible to get really deep into sound design with this, but all of the controls remain grabable for the most part, making it also more adept for live work in addition to studio. And it's also a build that's more open-ended, allowing for further augmentation in the future with more cabs, devices, etc. Putting it together with the Mini 2S will result in a very potent sequencer-based rig indeed.


Mind you, Mutable actually revised their Braids module as the much newer and more capable Plaits. That should also be an option you might want to consider.


Also, always treat audio signal paths in a modular environment as singular, mono paths. So if you have a stereo signal at any point, everything from its outputs on has to be treated as if you were dealing with TWO mono signals. If you combine these back down again in any way other than through more stereo devices, you will have a mono signal as a result. If you keep that rule of thumb in mind, and don't look at a signal as a "single stereo signal", it becomes a bit clearer as to what's going on. Ronin's example above is quite correct, especially that last part regarding outputting the Erica DSP2 into two filters with ganged/matched modulation (or not ganged/matched, if you want to impart more difference between your left and right channels).


There's a lot wrong, actually. For starters, there are exactly zero modulation sources, unless you count the Metropolis, which I don't. No LFOs, envelopes, function gens of any sort spell total disaster for getting any sort of intricate modulation structures across time. Also, no VCAs is another very bad move...you 100% need those for controlling audio or CV levels via...yep...your modulation sources.

As for generating things, you won't be generating much of anything with this build, unless you're opting for driving filters into self-resonance or just using it as a bank of processors (which, without the above two module types, you're still quite screwed). There are no VCOs here. None. And given that pretty much ANY synthesis audio path runs VCO->VCF->VCA, you seem to have a rather serious problem here.

Stop. Delete this atrocity. And before starting over, study some reference material of which there's a good bit lurking in the forums here on MG, other places such as Muff Wiggler, Synthtopia, Vintage Synth Explorer (which is also an excellent reference source for classic designs which are still important to electronic instrument design to this day and which I strongly recommend anyone starting into modular study in depth), and have a look at the excellent documentary "I Dream of Wires", among many other study needs. Otherwise, what you're proposing with this build could be more easily accomplished by piling several thousand dollars in your backyard grill, dousing it with gas, and setting it all on fire.


ModularGrid Rack
This makes more sense.

First of all, the Minibrute 2 panel (which is lurking on here somewhere) was added so that you can keep its functions in mind as we look at the Rackbrute proper above. Top row is split between your 'voice' and 'drums'. A random CV source at left provides random fluctuating voltages for modulation use. Then a Shifty...this is a four-stage analog shift register/sample and hold which allows psuedo-polyphonic hocketing from a single incoming CV. Each time the module receives a clock pulse, it shifts the held CV to the next register. Then by connecting the registers to separate VCOs (of which there are four next to this, with internal quantizing), you get four-part rotating hocket/arpeggiation-type activity. Two Klavis Twin VCOs are next for four VCOs total. These are very complex oscillators with a lot of internal DSP control, which maximizes function within a tiny space. 4 -> 1 mixer allows you to sum these VCOs with variable levels, then this feeds to Tiptop's new Steiner Synthacon VCF clone. Great filter, lots of sonic possibilities, but still relatively simple and easy to control. Doepfer's new dual EG/VCA combo is last, which gives you an EG/VCA for your pre-VCF signal and one for post.

Drums: Gatestorm gate sequencer is the main pattern control/clock modulator/lots of other programmable things, with its clock incoming (more than likely) from the MB 2S. This generates eight gate patterns. The Delptronics modules to the right are based on the Roland 606 and 808 circuits, and next to that is the expander which allows some extra CV functions over the main drum sounds. A Moffenzeef module provides glitchy/fubar-type percussives, plus a pair of Erica Pico Drums gives you two channels of sampled drums. The drums can be submixed via part of the Levit8 below, and/or individual channels on the stereo mixer.

Bottom row is for modulation sources and mixing. Left side, next to the Power, is a dual lag generator, so that you can add in portamento functions for the voice section above (switchable between up, down, and up/down behaviors) or wherever else simple slew limiting might be useful. Batumi + Poti next; the Poti adds some extra control functionality to the Batumi that can be switched on the fly. Four VCAs after that, which can either function as a mixer or separately, and these can be adjusted for responses anywhere between linear (better for CV control) and exponential (which you more typically use for audio). Four ADSRs are after this. Then the mix section includes the Levit8 from before, a Happy Nerding 6 -> 1 stereo mixer with CV over level control, and then a shrunk-down third party build of the now-unavailable Clouds. This one is by Michigan Synth Works, available directly. A Happy Nerding Isolator at the end gives you a global stereo attenuator, converts synth to line level output, and has dual isolation transformers to help with noise/hum and to add a touch of transformer enharmonics.

All of this fits in the single 6U RackBrute. It costs much less (subtract the MB 2S's $649 from the total), draws less power, has ample internal clearance, and offers more functionality in less space. Now, as for the bass part...what I would suggest is a patchable device of some sort, and there's a few reasons why. First of all, if you want to put things under some level of computer control, it's smarter to have the bass and the MB 2S on two separate MIDI parts. Just makes more musical sense; you don't want everything doing the same exact thing, after all. Secondly, you're going to want to voice that rather differently for maximum 'punch', which also means you want its signal and level control very separate from everything else. Bass being as important as it is, it needs to be treated as its own thing in of itself. Last, you'll want to tweak it and operate it in general differently from the rest of the rig, also because bass is so significant. This means you're probably going to want something with its own internal sequencing or the ability to connect a basic sequencer to it, in addition to having the sound source itself separate, but you will still need to interconnect the clocking. This also means you'll be looking at a small portable stereo mixer to mix the MB 2S, the bass synth, and the stereo out from the RackBrute, plus anything you might add later on (laptop audio, another synth, etc). Very basic little setup, but effective.

As you can see, this is very different from "in the box"...you have to think of things as subunits, which are part of a larger whole, which then come together as a singular instrument, and then those form the whole rig. Inside software, much of the lower level of this process is already decided for you, which is one reason a lot of people jumping directly from solely using software to modular make a lot of critical errors. Now, this above version is A possibility. There are likely others, this one being something I cobbled up on the fly...but it will work very well for your purposes. However, before doing any refinements, study this example, understand how and why it works, then study other examples by experienced synthesists, historical instruments, the underlying concepts in analog synthesis and so on before making changes. And take your time...if you're building a musical instrument, you're building something which you should be using for quite some time. Given that, it should make lots of sense to take the time beforehand to get the most useful long-term result.


1) Are you sure that all of the modules you've selected are either in production or are currently available? I'm going to bet that the answer there is 'no'. Also, have you confirmed the depths required? Note that the RackBrute does have internal obstructions in the row that your power supply is located under, and that it's a very good idea to leave about a centimeter for your ribbons and connectors on the bus board.

2) Have you tried to minimize the 'real estate' occupied by your modules? These are fairly small cabs, with only 88 hp per row. If you can find any modules to shrink (and I see a few right off the bat), do so. In builds like this, it's best also to see if you can actually dispense with certain modules altogether, such as mults (use inline ones) or jam as many functions as possible into as small a footprint as you can.

3) Do you really need 15 discrete attenuators? Don't try to convince me that it's a good thing that they can also mix, because you've also got two 4->1 mixers as well besides the Befaco Hex setup. Remember, most modules that're worth a damn have input attenuator/scaling pots...or they should. The Erogenous Tones one is a killer device, given how flexible it can be. As for the rest...uhhhh...kinda scratching my head here...

4) Never put in a big blank panel when working a build out on MG. Doing this also puts the same big blank panel in your head as far as future builds are concerned. When working out a final build version here, work it out 100%...you can always go back and swap things around/in/out later on. This isn't a test. You can do this over and over (and SHOULD) until you've honed down a real, serious, no-foolin' final build. Especially if you're just starting out in hardware in general, to say nothing of modular itself.

5) Finally...do you actually need to do this in this way? Consider: you're transitioning from an 'in the box' synthesis environment where everything pretty much works within the same operational paradigm to perhaps the most complex form of analog synthesis out there. It's sort of like going from driving a Prius to a Ferrari 488 Spider with no sort of transition in between. Also sort of like that in monetary outlay, too. Sure, these things look cool...BUT...they cost, they require some degree of hardware electronics knowledge, it's possible to make mistakes that can cost hundreds of dollars (or worse) in mere milliseconds, and you need to know how analog synthesis signal flowpaths function (and how they function on your specific instrument) like the back of your hand.

My suggestion is this: stop. Step back, take a few deep breaths. Start at a better and more sensible start-point with hardware than this. If you want "something that can produce leads, bass, drums with easy control for modulation," modular might be a good bit more than you're anticipating. I mean...look at your build above. Does that look like it has the sort of "easy control" you're looking for? Especially when you start interconnecting that with a Mini 2S? My guess there is that, no, it doesn't...mainly because, no, it doesn't!

Do yourself and your credit cards a favor for now, and look into some dedicated devices. Certainly among those, include one or two patchables, which are the best way to sort out what modular does, what it's good for, what it's NOT good for, and how you specifically want/need to use it. This is the real way to transition out of a pure software environment, and in the long run, you're apt to get a lot more done over the long term by doing this than if you plunged right into the deep end of the pool straightaway. Doing the latter will likely be an exercise in frustration, and you'll end up more perplexed about the point of modular than before you started.


OK...I've written a few of these educational essays about why you might want to get into modular, the best ways to do this, what a typical build consists of, and so on. But this time out, I really would like to make some points about why a user should NOT get into modular synthesizers.

Of course, there's some very obvious points off the top, such as not having sufficient capital to sustain a build, not having a basic knowledge of how synthesis works, and the like. But there's actually some value in explaining a lot of these “disqualifiers”, and how you as a prospective user might fit into their various categories and thereby avoid a lot of headache and pointless spending. If you fall into any of the following categories of users, then modular is NOT what you're looking for.

1) “I need lots of presets!” No. You're utterly screwed on this one. While there are certain modules that can store preset states, and there's certainly the example of the Buchla 200e and its storage/recall abilities, the core principle of modular architecture involves making extensive manual patches. So, even if you had full setting recall, getting just one patchcord out of place will render that preset capability pointless to varying degrees. Modular is NOT for the preset crowd that's looking for loads of factory patches, and it's NOT for anyone who has any trepidation about sound design. Modular is for explorers, individualists, people seeking new and different ways of pushing a creative envelope. There will be no piles of presets out there for this, so if you need your hand held where patch creation is concerned or if you're unwilling/incapable of learning the ins and outs of creating them from scratch in whatever architecture your own build gives you to work with, you really shouldn't be thinking about going modular.

2) “I don't know how this works, but lots of cool people have modulars!” ...and you will also notice that those cool people know what they're doing with them, for the most part. True, there are a few electronic musicians with more money than sense who have their twistenknobs und blinkenlichts as stage props, but these people aren't going to be the ones anyone will be listening to in a decade's time...if even a year's. DO NOT get a modular synth and expect that you will be buying a ticket to instant cool. Like anything else in music, no amount of windowdressing will disguise your lack of capability in the long run. This is sort of the inverse of the unprofessional dumbshit behavior of blaming the equipment for your failure of talent, and it will work just as badly as that moronic blameshifting tactic will.

3) “Lots of people are getting into modular!” This is sorta-kinda true...but only sorta-kinda. It might seem as if the whole electronic music world is going bonkers for knobs'n'wires these days. But keep in mind that, back in the mid-1980s, everyone thought that digital synths with only one or two programming interface controls were the shit. The fact that a lot of people are “getting into modular” has more to do with fashion and trends, and not quite so much to do with music. People always gravitate toward what they think is the newer/shinier/faster thing, even if doing so doesn't make a helluva lot of sense in the long run. If modular fits your idea of where you want to go musically, then sure, dive on in. But if you haven't thought that idea out carefully yet, you might want to consider something a lot simpler first, then hit the inherent limitations of that and by doing so, come to comprehend what the user-definability of modular is for.

4) Polyphony. Remember what I said above about “more money than sense”? Modular synthesizers are notoriously NOT polyphonic. This isn't to say that you can't do that, though...because you can. But it's utterly insane. Consider a present-day polysynth, such as the Moog One. So...each voice on that synth has three VCOs, two VCFs, three EGs, a ring modulator, a source mixer, a stereo VCA, and we've not even gotten into the LFOs, the sequencer/arpeggiator, the controller and its layer/split capabilities, and the effects processing, plus MIDI and a whole bunch of other crap I'm forgetting at the moment. $8k ets you sixteen of these voices, plus the aforementioned crap. This comes out to FORTY-EIGHT VCOs and EGs, THIRTY-TWO VCFs, SIXTEEN VCAs and mixers, and so on. If you thought eight grand was spendy, try adding all of the above up on ModularGrid. Now try cramming it into the same space as the Moog One (not happening). Then try and apply a recall/storage system...which, as I noted earlier, you really can't, so each new patch will require retweaking all of those individual modules and changing bushels of patchcables. Utterly...insane. But you CAN DO IT...if you've lost your damn mind already or are looking to do so in the near future, and you also own an investment bank.

5) “I don't know where I want to go with my music, but modular will help me define that!” No...no, it won't. Nor will any other piece of equipment you happen to be able to afford (see #2 above). And in all truth, modular will wind up frustrating you even more as a musician if you don't have a clear vision for your work. It offers near-limitless sonic possibilities, but if you've not developed a sense of direction and the discipline needed to follow that direction, having the ultimate sonic sandbox at your disposal is just going to screw you up. When you look more closely at music and those who make it successfully, you're more apt to see people who work within defined limitations, either by chance or choice. So until and unless you've gotten used to the idea of having musical limits and staying in an artistically-successful comfort zone in those, introducing a limitless device into your environment will probably result in something more disastrous than revelatory.

6) And lastly, “I haven't researched this, but I want/need one.” No. Do the research first. It is what sites like ModularGrid (and many others) exist for. Ask dumb questions, because when we're talking about the possibility of dropping thousands of moneys on hardware over longish periods of time, there are ultimately no dumb questions. And whenever you're contemplating the purchase of gear, whether that's a stompbox or a Steinway, there are two main questions you need to be able to honestly answer of yourself: “Does this purchase make musical sense?” and “Is this the most effective way of accomplishing that musical goal?” If you cannot formulate an answer to BOTH of these questions each time you consider some new device, then DON'T BUY IT. The inability to answer those key questions is the indicator that you've not done your research up to the level of information where you understand the point of your decision. Until you can come up with those two answers, don't even think about whipping out the Magic Plastic.

Basically, it's not a simple decision to dive headlong into the modular synth world. Hopefully the above points will help some of you reading this to get a better idea...for yourself, by doing your homework...of what this sort of equipment and its working paradigm can do, and to avoid making costly mistakes that'll have you kicking yourself for quite some time afterward.


Agreed. OP needs to do more research on what modular synthesis can and cannot do. What the OP wants is in the 'cannot do' column. Even a modular that has preset recall, such as the Buchla 200e system, will still be unable to recall the actual patch if the physical cable arrangement isn't duplicated by the user, by hand. Besides, what they're describing is, basically, a Waldorf Quantum...so why not get one of those? True, it doesn't have the SEXXXAY of knobs and wires all over the place, but does the OP want musical functionality or a stage prop?


KICK ASS!!! October 2018 spoooooky Halloween edition!

Why spooky? No reason. Although, yes, I am whipping this out on Halloween night. Sort of a shorter edition this month as the Eurorack world cools down after the one-two modular punch of Knobcon and SynthFest and the all-in-one that is the AES show. Time to settle in and await the next big explosion of reveals for Winter NAMM in January. But for now...

1) Tiptop Audio MIX7. OK, now this doesn't look all that exciting. But it's got a few tricks to it, and at 3 hp it makes a fantastic choice for filling out one of those odd-number extra spaces. Technically, yes, it's a mixer. But given its basic summing capabilities, it can also act as a logical OR for gates, a trigger integrator, and do arithmetical summing of CVs...and that last one is super-useful for transpositions and the like. Got a sequencer? Sure, they have their own transposers...but let's say you want a couple of transposition operations. Or...let's say you want to easily combine triggers to sum several trigger sequence channels' outputs into a single complex pattern. See? You need one of these! It's one of those not-really-sexy utility devices that you might not be thinking about, but you really need to think about it! $99.

2) Intech/Otto's DIY Protoboard-480. This one's for the DIY hardcore set! Otto's DIY not only has this $3, 8 hp model, but they also do 6 and 12 hp PulpLogic format tiles for $2 and a 16 hp panel for $4. And what exactly is this? Well, it's a prototyping board that's ALSO a Eurorack panel. Breadboard layouts, double-sided plated connection points, preprinted solder pads...pretty smart! The convenience of having precut Eurorack-specific prototyping boards like this is pretty major, as it eliminates trying to fit larger protoboard pieces to the format, plus it gives you some restrictive guidelines to follow to make sure your project fits the form factor. Definitely check the website for more: https://www.intech.studio/shop/protoboard-480

3) 2hp Cat. How many times has this happened to you? You're plugging away at a patch, and you suddenly realize how much better it would sound with CATS! Yes, the fluffy kind. 2hp has you covered! Their new cat synthesis-based VCO gives you voltage control over the primary sonic factors of the average housecat. No, I am not making this up. Seriously, it's there in the frickin' module listings! So, if you don't have the scratch (scratch! ahaha! I kill me!) to pony up $4 grand for Hexinverter's voltage-controlled rubber chicken synthesis module, this may well be the next best thing! Seriously, though, 2hp's video actually shows some damned interesting uses for this with a touch of extra processing and a bit of CV 'misuse'...have a look via the listing. $99.

4) CaviSynth Subway. Those of you who know and love the Roland suboctave VCO architecture are going to want to climb all over this. Inspired by the iconic SH-101 VCO, CaviSynth presents this rather nifty and intelligent rethink of that classic. One and two octave down settings are available, of course...but this VCO takes it down another FIVE. And you're not limited to square/pulse waveforms in your suboctaves, either. Nor are you locked into a matched suboctave, as the module also allows you to detune the sub. Mixing is internal via a CVable crossfader, also allowing you to modulate octave dives/splits. The design on this is seriously right...it has everything those of us remember about the SH-101's VCO's coolness, and tosses in a lot of new and useful control variables on top of that, and doesn't break the bank, either. 8 hp, $135.

Now, if you thought we were done...nope! Let's take a bit of a detour to dip into the TILE selections from the past couple of months. There's some neat developments there...

5) PulpLogic tiles: Split, Clamp, X-Fade. Yep, there's some new PulpLogic stuff out recently. The Split is a 12 hp tile that works as a 1->3 attenuator, and also as a three-way CV source if the input is unpatched. The Clamp is a 6 hp tile that offers hardclip level control over either CVs (range restriction) or audio (waveform clipping/distortion). And the X-Fade is a CV controlled crossfader that can also function as a DC-coupled linear VCA or inverter. This 12 hp tile is based around the reissued version of the venerable CEM3360 VCA chip. $45, $30, and $60 respectively.

6) And one last one: Intellijel Steppy 1U. In just 28 hp across a 1U row, Intellijel has managed to jam in four tracks of up to 64 steps each, with eight internal memories, loads of on-the-fly parameter controls, all designed with live performance control in mind. This is actually a rather complex little device, with more going on than I can get into in one of these little blurbs, so you owe it to yourself to pop over to the 1U tile listings and have a look. It's very much one of those modules that might make you rethink your attitude on tiles. $199.

So...that's it. Like I said, sort of a short haul this month. Probably next month as well, but December into January of next year should see the ramp-up to NAMM and thus a pile of new goodies for me to root through and point out here on ModularGrid for you Eurorack users.


That would depend on what you're trying to do, musically. Right now, you have a fairly 'general purpose' module set. Before going nuts with the Magic Plastic, though, you'd better take some time to sort out where you want to go, musically, and how you think you can best get there. What musical elements do you prefer to work with? What sort of sound are you aiming for? What's your creative 'comfort zone'? Actually, these should've been on your mind when getting the initial setup, along with the question of WHY is it necessary to make use of a modular rig in your work?


Absolutely. Since that VCA module has no input attenuation, it's a good bet that some audio sources are overloading it as not everything in Eurorack is exactly the same as far as peak-to-peak voltages go. Also, given that these are exponential VCAs, there's also a good possibility that deeper swings in CV will also push the VCAs into overdriven ranges since the linear curves of the LFOs are going to be 'misinterpreted' as exponential-type signals. Exponential VCAs really are best controlled with envelopes, and offer a quick and dirty way of using linear EGs to get exponential responses.


Yeah, no link on this one or the other two 'Bizarre' modules that've been posted recently. Damn shame...they look tasty, but without manufacturer/vendor links and/or more info, or worse still, depths and current draws on the first two, it'll be a bit of a stretch to get people jazzed about them (hint, hint!).


Braids, in addition to being discontinued and replaced by Plaits, is only a single signal source. What you need to look for is how many incoming oscillator CVs you see. Braids has only the single 1V/8va CV input, ergo it can only respond to a single incoming pitch value at any time. Contrast this with something like Flame's 4VOX, where you clearly see four separate, distinct VCOs. Now, on those, you DO see two CV inputs...but when you see something like that on something that's clearly a single source, it means that one of the CV inputs is for the 1V/8va pitch control CV, and the other one is actually for incoming modulation signals, such as from an LFO. And even moreso with the 4VOX, you have another CV input that's clearly labelled "PITCH"...so in its case, the 1V/8va signal definitely goes there. But...you could also send that to the CV1 or CV2 inputs and then use the attenuators for each to change the pitch response to something other than the usual 1V/8va, resulting in microtonal intervals.

Perhaps a clearer example would be Studio Electronics' QUADNIC...on that, you clearly see each of the four "1V/O" CV inputs for pitch control of the module's four digital VCOs, and the individual outputs for each one along with a mixed output of all, and a bussed-to-all modulation input. This is the sort of thing you want IF you opt to use quad-type modules which, granted, tend to save a bit over using single discrete modules both in terms of space and money.


Well, yes/no/maybe. 'Quad', in the module database, refers to modules that have four identical (more or less) functions, as a rule. There's a few things that actually are four-channel devices...but not many. Now, as to the yes/no/maybe part...let's say you have a quad VCO, such as Doepfer's latest unit. You could then feed each VCO into each filter on a quad VCF, like Qu-bits, and so on. But that wouldn't quite fit the bill of the reason for having modular, which is to take advantage of the open architecture to construct your own instrumental paths.

Example: with two quad VCOs, then you have two VCOs per voice, which you can deploy as 1-1-1-1 / 1-1-1-1 OR 2-2 / 2-2. More quad filters means more possible timbral combinations. So, yes...quad tends to refer to modules that 'play nice' in a 4-voice polyphonic environment and are convenient for that sort of architecture, but by no means do you have to use them as discrete voice components. It's just handier to patch polyphonically with them.


Sure...there's quite a few modules in different categories that can work for full polyphony use. Search under the 'quad' category and you'll see a large chunk of them there.


Thread: ER 301 USERS

Seems fine to me...the only flaw I see is that you're missing an ADSR-type envelope source or two for one-shot modulation of mod signals, especially via linear VCAs. My inclination would be to lose the A-160 and the buffers, then drop in some Ladik IADSR, DADSR, or AHDSR 4 hp modules to make that happen and to also give you some function 'tweaks' beyond a simple ADSR EG.


Looking at the Metropolis...it doesn't seem to clock multiply, only divide. So, if you're sending it an 8th-note pulse, that's your minimum rhythmic value. In order to get the sequencer to step at 16th-notes, you're going to have to use a clock multiplier to half the time on the 8th-note pulses, or just feed a 16th-note pulse as your master clock and then use clock dividers to obtain lower values where needed.


Either that, or maybe Lurch is giving up the harpsichord and going modular.


Hmmm...this IS weird. The listing is apparently from 4ms themselves, as it has their manufacturer lock on it and shows it as available, but 4ms's site doesn't list it, nor do my usual 'go-to' retailers.

My suggestion: Ladik's A-545 input and A-540 output. 2 hp more, but it splits up your input and output for a bit better cable routing, and has pretty much the same functionality. The Happy Nerding Isolator (also 4 hp) might also be suitable for the output module as well.


KICK ASS!!! for September 2018

...in which I rummage through the latest offerings in the perpetual deluge of Eurorack modules to pick out a few things that you, the reader, might find useful. Let's do this...

1) Patching Panda shuby: These guys again...and this time, they've tossed out a really neat noisemaker for the chiptune/noise crowd. This module reminds me of a controllable, repeatable version of what you'd get with an old Atari 2600 game console when you'd crash it, sometimes resulting in weird screen glitches and various flavors of sonic racket ranging from odd square-wave tone combinations to grinding sheets of noise. Of course, this version is minus the video mayhem, but sonically, it gets you into that pocket. $118-ish, 4 hp.

2) Vinicius Elektrik OverFolder: Who couldn't use a wavefolder? Better still, who couldn't use a wavefolder with loads of CV parameters over the various folding functions? The OverFolder is a five-stage circuit that allows a second wavefold over the initial fold, resulting in some really interesting results that normally would require two entire typical wavefolder modules. And you get CV over that, the initial fold, and the wave symmetry, all allowing lots of CV-driven timbral capability. $179, 6 hp.

3) Tiptop Audio Forbidden Planet: I've always had a real soft spot for the Steiner Synthacon filter. It has all sorts of behavioral quirks that lend themselves to a wide variety of uses, everything from stonkin' fat basses to ear-splintering Merzbow-style screeches, and a wide latitude of choices in between. Nyle did this thing right...and Tiptop does it here for the low, low price of $120. It's the classic architecture...three different inputs, internal gain + resonance...yeah! You ought to be able to find 8 hp to jam one of these babies in...you won't regret it!

4) Majella Audio VVCA: On first glance, pretty simple stuff: two linear, DC-coupled VCAs. Then you notice that second CV input on each one, labelled VEL. Yep...two CVs, one for the usual control signal, but a second for an additional modulator! And you don't have to use a velocity signal, either; any secondary modulation signal is fair game here. Very smart idea, this; those looking for more expressivity in a performance-type modular really need a look-see at this. About $78, 4 hp.

5) VOID Modular M+Mixer: I like that this is a six-input mixer. I also really like the extra inverted output. But I really like the mute system. Yeah...each input has a pushbutton mute control! This is another one for the live performance set, but really, anyone should be able to make use of something like this. It's a really smart, simple and cost-effective (yeah, even with the mutes) idea that pretty much anyone looking for a compact DC-coupled mixer ought to jump on. $80, 8 hp.

6) Konstant Lab PWR Checker: When these guys say that this is “...the most useful 1HP panel”, they aren't lying! Three LEDs monitor your power rails; if these dim, you're undervoltage, and if they go off, you're either beyond 1V under or the rail in question has dropped power altogether. THIS IS USEFUL! If your build has 1 hp free and you have no front-panel power rail indicators, you need this. Period! And at $21, it's a no-brainer of epic proportions!

7) Tokyo Tape Music Center Dual Square Wave Generator Model 144: After Catalyst's reissue of some of the core Buchla 100 modules a while back, I figured that there might be more popping up in this direction. And sure enough, here we are...Tokyo Tape Music Center not only offers the same five 100-series modules as Catalyst, but this one as well, the 144. As opposed to the 158, this is a pure square-wave dual generator, with the usual FM and AM modulation inputs, tandemmable pitch CV and the like. Currently listing as 'out of stock' on their website, I certainly hope there's more of these in the pipeline...as well as more retreads of the classic Buchla 100 on the way! $330, 14 hp.

8) Schlappi Engineering Angle Grinder: Aw sh*t, son...Schlappi's back! And they've got yet another highly quirky and amazingly useful offering, their Angle Grinder, a simultaneous quadrature sine VCO and state-variable VCF. And if that were all there was about it...well, suffice to say, there's way more to this little 18 hp monster. The architecture of this craaaaaazy thing is such that loads of sequenceable waveshaping can be done, timbral modulation mayhem galore, and loads of outright strangeness that seems to redefine the whole notion of what a 'complex VCO' is. Sheer brilliance! And a VCO so complex in of itself that you could get away with _just this_ as an oscillator in a build and nothing more! I can't do this justice in this post; go and see the video, and be mind-boggled. $310.

9) 2 hp Vowel: Whoda thunk it? The minaturization whiz-kids at 2 hp have managed to leave a formant oscillator in the dryer long enough to shrink it down to their preferred size! And this is a nifty little (very little) thing, sporting two different formant algorithms and full CV over pitch, formant index, and overall vowel shaping. Nuts! Lots of 2 hp's devices are more on the basic side, but this is a real twist-and-a-half, and worth checking out. $149.

And that pretty much finishes off this month's installment of things that really caught my attention. Not as saturated as last month's list, but there's still plenty of interesting and build-worthy toys popping up on the radar. Get busy, folks!


Dredging much?


Easy-peasy. Doepfer A-171-2 VCS (half of a Maths, more or less) and Konstant Labs' new power rail monitor 1 hp module. At least, that's what I would do for those sort of musical purposes.


Seemed OK for a basic translation to English, but...OK. Should be more readable now.


Thread: Cinematic 7u

No, actually, this makes a lot of sense, particularly if you retain the Clouds. Selling that would sort of cripple the idea that seems to be going on here.


Flame has a couple of things worth looking at for those purposes...both use manual controllers with internal sequencers to store controller actions. EMW, also, has a couple of devices: a pot-action single channel recorder plus a gesture recorder that uses something akin to Roland's D-Beam controller. If they're still around/available, those might be worth checking out.


OK...I think this might work better. Case is an Erica Aluminum Travel Case, 2 x 104 hp, fully powered, and I checked it against typical ATA carryon restrictions and it fits perfectly. Here we go:
ModularGrid Rack
There are definitely some differences here. First up, I kept the ES-8, but then combined the clocking and logic with an Intellijel Plog. Turing Machine was eliminated in favor of just the Permutation, and the Wogglebug was changed to Make Noise's current version, which saved a few hp. ANA is still in place, but the Maths was changed out in favor of a pair of Doepfer A 171-2 VC Slope gens...which, basically, gives you the same functionality as a Maths, but saves another 4 hp.

Added a pair of Erica PICO EGs, then the oscillators were totally changed in favor of a Mutable Plaits (the revised version of the Braids) and a Doepfer A-111-4 Quad VCO, which gives you your 'drone bank', but also allows for CV control over all four VCOs in various useful ways, as well as submixing down to a single output. Two Erica PICO VCFs were added: a Polivoks state-variable and a regular 4-pole LPF.

Bottom row starts with a Konstant Labs bus indicator in 1 hp. There was a single hp space, and...believe me...having indicator pilots on your bus voltages is very useful, especially in a travel rig that sees a lot of moving around. Drums: kept the Tea Kick and Plonk, but went with a pair of Moffenzeef Dial-Ups...glitch-based percussives...and a 2 hp Pluck, which gives you a Karplus-Strong modeled percussive/plucked-string voice. Added a Bastl ABC to submix drums down to one or two voices as needed. Also, the Tea Kick was switched to a metal plate version; wood's nice in the studio, but you need to keep durability in mind here if this is going to be used on gigs.

Rene mk2 was retained. Then, there's a mono-in, stereo-out digital effects unit, which I chose to tandem up with the same AUX send capabilities on the Qu-bit Mixology. This stereo mixer gives you VCA control over levels, panning, and AUX send levels across four inputs. Last, there's an Erica PICO OUT, which drops your synth level audio down to line level via a stereo 3.5mm TRS jack.

I think this should fit the bill. It interfaces directly with Ableton via either Silent Way (PC or Mac) or Volta (Mac). Everything is very straightforward, very controllable, which you want if you're also working on a live instrument at the same time. As for multiples, get several in-line multiple widgets instead of having them in-panel...this also saves space. And lastly, this was all checked against Perfect Circuit's catalog; even if they don't have something in stock, you can still purchase it while there and PC will ship the module to you when it's in stock.

Good luck!


Yeah, definitely a bad thing, since VCAs are what's used to control amplitude levels. Exponential VCAs tend to be used with audio signals, while linears work well for both audio and CVs, although to process CVs the VCA has to be DC-coupled. AC-coupled VCAs are only for use with audio signals. VCAs are one of the essential parts, basically.

Here's an idea: swap out the A-138 mixer for a Bubblesound VCA4p. This fits in the same space, but it gives you four VCAs, switchable between linear and exponential, with mixing capabilities plus the ability to use the VCAs independently of the mix function. Since you have a minimal amount of audio paths here, you could jumper this to be a two-input mixer on VCAs 3/4 and have VCAs 1/2 set up as independent VCAs for processing CVs. That way, you retain your mixing function AND get VCA control over CV modulation.


I think you've potentially outgrown your cab. This is a decent array of modules, but to do some stranger timing actions, you'll need more space for more modules that can really make that hum. Ronin1973's suggestion is a good one, one I'd suggest tandemming with this: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/joranalogue-audio-design-compare-2 as well as some additional logic, Ladik's probabalistic skipper as well as their gate/trigger delay. The Dual Window Comparator I listed the link to will allow you to extract repeating/semi-repeating gate/trig pulses from modulation curves, such as ones from the Maths and/or Wogglebug (I also assume you have these already, since those are older versions of MakeNoise's current ones), and then you can use those alongside the Euclidean patterns and logic to generate extremely complex gate/trig patterns, potentially non-repeating yet suitably metrical.

Also, if you don't have these modules already, consider changing the MIDI interface to an Expert Sleepers ES-8, which will allow you to run software such as Silent Way or Volta so that you can integrate computer-generated CV/gates using complex software functions from something such as Max, pd, etc along with the analog functions in the modular.

One last module to investigate might be the Mystic Circuits ANA, which is an arithmetical function module that acts on/transforms incoming CVs into new derived functions. Combining this with the Rene and, say, the Wogglebug would result in some interestingly-complex CV behavior.


Looking decent, yep...maybe next, some linear VCAs, so that you can use your modulation sources to control CV-type levels. If you're not averse to DIY, there's this new dual VCA from Majella Audio that not only has the usual in/out/CV points, but also a second 'velocity' CV point which can also be used for any sort of secondary modulation signal, making it possible to easily add an extra amplitude modulation layer to CVs (or audio) in addition to the usual one. Spare attenuverters of some sort would be a good idea as well, so you can scale CVs as well as invert things such as envelopes, etc. In both cases, these would play nicely with the whole rig, not merely the Euro cab itself.


A drum machine, actually. But barring that, it seems like there should be a solution in drum sequencer modules such as Acidlab's Robokop, Twisted Electrons' Crazy8 Beats, or Erica's Drum Sequencer, all of which are specifically designed to function like drum machine sequencers. While I like and use the BSPs for various things, with one exception (triggering an ancient MXR Drum Computer with a blown sequencer section) I tend to use these as step sequencers, particularly in situations where I want multiple monophonic lines in asynchrony.


Thread: Dual System

Yeah...I think that for the space vs function issues it deals with, the Erogenous Tones stuff raises the bar on function density in 3U. A combo of the VC8 + RADAR/BLIP provides pretty much everything you'd want in signal control in 54 hp. That sounds like a lot of space, but considering what gets dealt with, it's a great tradeoff. This can deal with both audio and CV simultaneously, can be made to function in a number of more elaborate envelope sequenced methods and, if you take another 10 hp for the Levit8, mixing for 4 channels each of audio and CV, or individual attenuation for any and/or all of that. Add the extra perks like inverters, offset gens, etc...these seem to wind up in all of my builds and build sketches in recent times for very real reasons!


How could you NOT be happy with the ambient sound with this setup? I mean, hell, it's as ambient as it gets!


Thread: Dual System

Had a look at Erogenous Tones' stuff lately? That might give you a few ideas...


Yeah, the MScale is definitely a must for controlling the M32 with the Eurorack and vice-versa. Next, I think beefing up the modulation capabilities is key here. Doepfer's A-143-1 gives a lot of options for that, plus it comes in very cheaply at 169EUR, which takes us to 229EUR.

Then, I think something that allows you to beef up the M32's sound is going to be critical, namely another VCO. Sticking with Doepfer (best value for function if you're in Europe, I think), the A-110-1 at 117EUR is a decent choice. You don't need anything super-fancy, really, just some different waveforms, sync, and CV mods. So, 346EUR, within your budget frame.

And yeah, Doepfer stuff is just fine. It's rather basic, but when you need basic, it more than fills the bill. Dieter did these things right...so right, that they're what kicked all of this modular craziness back into gear some 20+ years ago!


Lots missing here: modulation sources (envelopes, function gens, LFOs), extra VCOs to thicken up the M32's VCO sound, VCAs (both linear for CV work and exponential for audio), perhaps a reverb (not counting Clouds here, but something like a spring), some expansion to the sequencing as well as more clock modulation/logic to create variation.

I'd strongly suggest that move #1 be the removal of the M32 from the cab, though...put it back in its own skiff, if you have it handy. The build you're doing here is in a cab that's really too small to support 60 hp of it being taken up by that one device. Open that space up for more, then I think a lot of the options I and others have mentioned will happen a lot more smoothly.


You could...if you could get one. While I know Foxtone's scrambling to get Buchla's production back on track after the Aussie fiasco, there's still supply issues with Buchla products that make them tricky to get in some locales. The price is also up: $5k, more or less, with shipping for the traditional Easel with the Model 218 controller and without any extra Easel Cards.


First up, check out Bitwig. I've been hearing a lot of praise for it as something of a 'simpler Ableton', plus it's competitively priced. Also, while Reason seems attractive, I still hear occasional gripes about timing issues from users, although my bet on their problems are that they stem from a computer issue and not necessarily the software. Even so, the tendency makes me a bit jinky of Reason. Bitwig also gives you a more traditional DAW framework, allowing smooth VST integration, which gets into the next part...

Get Silent Way and an Expert Sleepers ES-8. This would then allow you to directly address the modular from within the DAW in CV/gate/trig terms, plus allow four return channels for audio and/or control 'feedback' to the DAW of synth activity. In a small rig with this much architectural complexity, the ES-8 would prove very useful, especially with its ability to reconfigure on the fly via Silent Way + DAW calls.

That's not bad for starters...


OK...makes sense to me. A lot of what I was hearing earlier sounded like the usual "I wanna be X"-type of stuff, which was a bit worrying. Those are the people who buy in massively, then suddenly realize "my god...what have I gotten myself into!?", and that's never a fun position to be in. I like to warn people off of finding themselves in that sort of hyperexpensive quandry, as it does them no good, does the craft of musicmaking no good, and so on. So, yes, I get blunt...but that bluntness has reasons. However, you do seem to know the hole you're digging, and why, so...

So...first four critiques above still apply. Then the next would be: think smaller. 2 x 104 is actually a pretty crampy space, and dropping big hp-count modules in unless they're utterly essential (Maths) isn't the best way to utilize limited space. So, go back to the individual module types and look into how you can get close to the functionality you have but with a smaller footprint in the rack. Or...go bigger. Granted, the Intellijel 7U is a pretty ubiquitous case, but in a similar price range, there ARE others. So...the 7U is $650-ish street, with 208hp in 3U and 104 in Intellijel tiles. But then...here's this case from Erica for the same price, street, but you'd have 378 hp (126 x 9U), fully powered as well with 1.25A on the 12 volt rails per row. Plus, it's expandable, and since you have later expansion in mind, this makes it easy as all you'd need is a second cab, plus the dual-cab cheeks from Erica, to then have a nice angled rig. Yes, you lose your tile row. But when you have far more 3U space, that's not going to matter as you can easily replicate the tile functions in that format and still have room left to go.

Given that you mention later expansion, my choice would clearly be the Erica. Also, it's easier to 'hack'...let's say you want a couple of deep rows in addition to the two 64mm depth cases. Easy enough: just get hold of a woodworker who can make you the appropriate cheeks to mount all your 126hp-width stuff together as a unit. Need more? More woodwork. And woodwork is cheap compared to trying to expand into bigger and bigger racks each time you want to grow. Just grab another Erica 126hp, send the specs to your cabinet guy, get the cheeks back, and bolt away. Theoretically, that could go on for quite some time. Plus: you can stay with bigger footprint modules like you have here AND get the room you need to keep on going. Then, with that space, going with more signal paths becomes a reality, and you get way closer to the sort of complex device you need from your descriptions of usage.

So, my first suggestion at this point: tear it down, start over, go larger and with a modular case concept that you can get from the Erica gear. As for portability, that's simple enough, too: just keep your cabs separate, with separate cheeks, and get cases for each such as the ones you can get custom-built from Thomann for not a hellacious amount of $$$. Takes up more space in the studio, but gives you pretty smashproof cartage options. You'd really need to try hard to fubar an ATA case.


Looking at the actual build (which will show if you go back into the designer, select 'snapshot view', then refresh until the correct version loads), there are some very glaring problems:

1) Do you have a Clouds? If not, and if you can't source a used one, then you'll have to either go with a third-party build, a DIY version, or consider something else.

2) The Doepfer A-138p is great...as long as you have its output module. Otherwise, it's input-only; you shouldn't think that you can backside-connect it to the Intellijel Line Output tile. Best advice here: try something else stereo...and make sure it has outputs.

3) That's an expensive quantizer you've got there, with four channels...and only two VCOs, which really should be paired together in the same voice. Basically, that ADDAC quantizer isn't appropriate for a small build like this; if you had something like 8 or more VCOs to feed, it would be a lot more sensible.

4) You have a lowpass filter and another lowpass filter. Yes, they're different, but not that different. Plus, since you'll obtain a much more interesting and fuller sound by tandemming the VCOs, why not just one filter? And for that matter, why not a multimode so that you can get some different filter topologies to use other than the 1 1/2 that's there now?

5)...ok, just stop. Hold it. Are you sure this is a rabbit hole you want to dive into? Modular is expensive. It's quite complicated. You might think it can solve a lot of musical issues, but if you're running Ableton (which I do, as well) with all of its capabilities, especially due to MAX for Live, and its extendability...do you need this device? Sure, you want it, and you want to sound like these other people (which I think is a really stupid, stupid, STUPID reason for plunking down big buxxx for gear, frankly; learn to sound like YOU do first!), but on something that's as much as a blank slate as a modular synthesizer really is, you probably haven't got a lot of hope of pulling that magical transformation into these other artists' clone off without a metric f**kton of practice and...especially...research beforehand to ascertain the best way to do this (which, again, I think isn't anything approximating a good idea).

From my experience in music, I can tell you that there's a pile of other people who want to do what you want to do here, too. This doesn't mean that you should do the same. That's not creative, nor would it be anything indicative of who YOU are as a musician. You'd just be a clone...among other clones...in a zone awash in clones. Which will, believe me, suck more than you know because the results won't fool anyone.

If you feel that you have exhausted the possibilities of Ableton plus the patchables you have now...well, you're a better man than I, Gunga Din. But my guess is that you haven't. Having worked in electronic music for some 40 years now, I can tell you that there's not a day that goes by that some new wrinkle doesn't pop out of the musical framework for me to mess with, even with devices I've had since the 1980s. So, my advice...ultimately...would be to stop, soberly take a look at your musical situation and development minus the "I want" attachment thing, and really consider what you're doing. First. THEN...and only then...if you think this is what you need to do, again...stop, do research that helps you understand what a good electronic instrument is about, and THEN...and only then, again...start building on MG toward a final build. Expect to fail at this about...oh, eleventy-billion times, but eventually you'll arrive at something you just know is correct. But by doing this this way, you're not simply building a shopping list and/or future debt, you'll be taking assessment of who you are as a musician...and this is infinitely more important than any piece of gear you can buy! Trust me on that.


Worse still, it wouldn't be just that one module. What would happen is that, due to the excess load on the 5V line in that ribbon, it could overheat and catch the ribbon itself on fire. This would then lead to a bunch of cross connections and shorts, leading to circuit damage and more fire. This would, due to the tight quarters inside the cab, catch even MORE things on fire inside of it...module boards, components, ribbon cables, etc. About this point, the amount of smoke coming from any opening would be apparent...but then, given that we're talking about a sequence of events that might take about 15-30 seconds, by the time that smoke's streaming out of the case, everything inside would be pretty royally boned. Plus, if you have no open panel spaces, putting this flaming monstrosity out would be difficult; yanking the power would stop the electrical aspect, but by that point the materials themselves would be on fire.

Some power supplies and/or modules actually do have overamperage cutouts...but not many that I can think of offhand. So, the hard and fast rule is that you have to know your wire gauges inside the ribbons, know your current draws per module, and never exceed the wire's current handling capacity. Doing so gets expensive.


Check this: https://www.powerstream.com/Wire_Size.htm

Now, given that the gauge of individual conductors in a ribbon cable is going to be rather small...28 ga is fairly typical, as can be 26 ga...the given maximum safe amperage (sometimes called 'ampacity') is 1400 mA for 28, 2200 mA for 26. YOU DO NOT WANT TO EXCEED THESE VALUES...because it ain't pretty when you do. We're talking electrical fire here, people! Yeah, even at 5 volts!

So the A-183-9 is limited to a maximum of 1A across its four USB ports for that exact reason. Product liability, basically. Dieter clearly doesn't endorse the idea of flaming gear!


It can be an interesting goal, though. I've done generative-type patches on some not-too-huge systems that involved less internal variation, but which used external processing variations to create all of the complexity. The key thing to remember is that your 'instrument' in electronic music isn't limited to the particular boxes in question, but is in fact made up of everything you've interconnected. Hence the entire 'studio-as-instrument' concept which you first start seeing with the likes of Brian Eno et al. Once the gear starts to get hooked to each other, the lines between where one device stops and another starts get very blurry.

Best way of conceiving of generative systems is the 'orders of control' concept which I'd first encountered in academia. Take a single LFO and patch it to a VCO to use it as a modulation source. That's 'one order'. Then take a second LFO, modulate the first LFO with it, and you get two. But the fun starts at 'two orders', because these can either be linear (like the above example) or they can involve feedback paths, such as sending part of the VCO's signal back to the LFO and making use of it to FM the LFO, which then affects how the VCO behaves, which then etc etc etc. Get on up into third orders and beyond, and this can get really involved and interesting.

Another way to break out of straight-up sequencing is to make use of generative variables in your DAW. Ableton Live, these days, is rife with possibilities invoving algorithmic, random, psuedorandom, arithmetical and even more mojoistic methods of generative structuring. Couple some of this with, say, Silent Way and an ES-8 interface in the modular, and then you can even bring these things directly into play in the synth itself...or since the ES-8 has four return lines, just take that 'feedback loop' concept above to utterly insane heights!


Randomization doesn't equal generative, per se. It's a part of it, to generate variation, but you can't make up a decent generative structure out of pure randomness.

A better idea, and this actually would be generative:

-Take a series of LFOs. Four of these feed modally-set quantizers and cycle through their waveforms at slightly different periods. -Now, feed these four LFOs with differently-timed quadrature LFO signals, so that one of each pair of the first LFOs is offset by 90 degrees phase from the other.
-Next, feed these two quadrature LFOs with a single master LFO at a very low rate of change. Also, one of those feeds should go through a CV-able polarizer, which is being controlled by one of the quadrature LFOs (reverse-feedback control structure, more or less).
-Now, add comparators. These step the quantizers, and also provide trigger/gates for VCAs, VCFs, down the line, in the voice structure. We'll just deal with the control structure here, tho. Each comparator is paralleled to the initial LFO outputs via mults, but each one's trig/gate output affects a different voice than the originating LFO/quantizer pair controls the pitch of.
-Patch each of the quantizer outputs to a VCO in the voice chain, and then keep patching as normal for voicing.

Notice that, while the summed behavior of the output pitches is also, in a sense, random...it's actually not. Instead, what you hear is the result of a rather complex algorithm of voltage curves, smoothed into pitches through the use of quantizing. But given that there are constraints present in the various LFO rates and waveforms, the comparator settings, the quantizer modalities, the VCO tunings that allow each of these a randomness within a range of N actions (N being the factor of constraint created by the settings as well as control inputs), it's technically NOT random. Instead, the result is generative...a constantly-spun pattern of notes in four-voice polyphony, non-repeating, but constrained in such a way that there is a seeming predictability to the result, despite the fact that there is no actual proper 'control' applied. A better way to think of it is to look at it as a 'chaotic' process; not random, but certainly not linear, either.


Actually, the 'full-time producer with a well-equipped studio' part is the most perplexing thing here, given that you're just NOW getting a rather basic analog patchable. I detect hyperbole.

Anyway, the point of modular is this: when you've exhausted the normal potentialities of existing synth architectures, this allows you to toss all of that out the window and start with your own definitions about how to generate and manipulate sound. Even with the plethora of buttons and knobs that a Sub37 has, you're still dealing with a fixed sound generation path. But when there's no fixed path, you're free to define all of that yourself. Now, if you know synthesis methods pretty well, this isn't a problem. But if not...well, there's potentially a BIG problem.

Consider: two different model kits. One, you have step-by-step directions, plastic parts that snap together, a tube of glue, and decals. The other consists of a number of appropriately-sized pieces of wood, a picture of the end-result, and you're expected to have your own tools, paint, and glue/fasteners. Modular is like the second example. You have the parts...but you have to make them into something. Whereas prebuilds give you the parts, the basics, and all you have to do is twist knobs and such. Most anyone can build the former kit. The latter one is for when you've mastered the former variety and know exactly how to turn those basics into something amazing.

Granted, it wasn't always this way, since back when all of this started, the only choice was modular, period. And this is part of the problem, because modular has this 'cachet' from that history that makes it 'sexier'. But it doesn't make it necessary, because these days, for a large percentage of applications, it's not. I use both modular and non-modular synths, myself...some work perfectly for certain tasks, others are perfect for others.

If you want to know 'why modular?', go back and study the history of synthesizers, back into the pre-synth 'classical studio' period first. Know why they were developed in the first place. And then why the first prebuilts came into existence. And how the first polysynths were developed out of those. And so on. And then, why people DIDN'T use them for quite a while...which is also very important. Understand your instrument...which, as a 'full-time producer', is technically the studio but unless you understand its origins, and the origins of key subcomponents, you're not either. Anyone can say that; walk it, instead. Just sayin'.


Marbles is more of a random-function type of device, though...a sample and hold on major 'roids, mainly for working with random variable signals. To get the scalar stepping, you need a quantizer, which is also sort of a sample and hold, but one which outputs very specific scalar CV intervals...or which, in many iterations, can simply rescale incoming CVs without the need for a stepping clock signal to 'fire' a sample-step.

Gotta say, tho...Marbles is a killer random-manipulator module. Anyone doing generative work of any sort can benefit by having one of these in the rack.


CV-able waveshaping, perhaps? Tiptop's Fold is a nice choice, plus it gives you some suboctave dividers to add more low-end to the drone textures. And I have to agree about the multiple attenuverter...it'll come in handy for more than just the E350, too. Happy Nerding's 3X MIA might not be a bad choice, as it can also use its three attenuverter sections as separate 2-1 mixers, and each section can also do offsets, all in 6 hp.