I'm currently planning my first modular system, and I'd love to have some advice. I've included two VCO's – a simple one: Electrosmith 3340 and a more complex one – but still intuitive –: Xaoc Devices Odessa. As I'm very interested in sound sculpting and filtering, I've chosen a multimode filter such as the Joranalogue Filter 8. Then, the basics: envelope generator, LFO's, and VCA's. And a small Intellijel oscilloscope basically to visualise the frequency values as well as a stereo mixer.

ModularGrid Rack

LFO: Doepfer A-145-4
VCO: Electrosmith 3340 VCO
VCO: Xaoc Devices Odessa + Xaoc Devices Hel expander
Filter: Joranalogue Audio Design Filter 8
ADSR: Doepfer A-140
VCA: Doepfer A-130-2
Utilities: Intellijel Zeroscope 1U and Intellijel Stereo Mixer 1U

So, my question is:

– I'm planning on getting a Intellijel Designs Palette 62 4U case (https://intellijel.com/shop/cases/4u/4u-palette-eurorack-case/).
Is there any compatibility issue with any of these modules that I should be careful about? How can I check that?

– What should I be careful about in terms of voltage? This is what I got so far: 348 mA +12V / 285 mA -12V / 0 mA +5V

If you have any comments or advice about the overall system it'd be greatly appreciated.


case - imo poor choice for a starter case - as are all 'beauty cases'

good examples of starter cases are doepfer lc9 or tiptop mantis

why? because they are the best value for money cases out there and have been proven over years of service - they are not so small that they will be filled immediately and they are not so big that they cannot be moved, reasonably easily

beauty cases are great as extensions to larger cases - control skiff, sequencer skiff etc - but most experienced modular synthesists will point you towards a bigger case (at least to start with) so that you can find the modules that you want and the modules that you need to support them and leave space to expand (preferably 20-30%)

saying that you should not have any compatibility issues with modules that are not too deep (check this - especially the doepfer modules - 45mm and 50mm), power looks ok - are there enough power headers? (you can get flying extensions from intellijel if not)

in terms of power you should always leave at least 25-30% headroom (to account for inaccuracies and onrush needs) on all rails - otherwise you will get unexpected results - anything from lights flashing weirdly and then switching off to burning out power supply and/or module components

quite frankly the odessa/hel combination on it's own is too big for this size case - as are to a large extent multiple voices - it's difficult to fit 2 vcos and the support modules for them in such a small case not counting the size of odessa/hel

how are you intending to play this synth? iirc to take full advantage of the polyphony of odessa you really want 4 v/oct signals just for that one module - but no sequencing or midi-> cv converter in the case - iirc there is part of one included in the case, b ut yoou still need to buy a module to use it and iirc it only has 2 sets of v/oct gate outputs - so can only play 2 notes at once

you almost definitely will want way more in the way of vcas - 2 vcas is not really enough for a single mono voice of a vco and filter - especially once you start using vcas for more interesting purposes - modulating modulation and controlling volume not just note shape, compression, cross-fading and auto panning (to name a few uses for them) - with essential supporting modules such as polarizers and offsets which you have neither of

I would advise you to start again with a bigger case and work out what modules you want and what you actually need to support them and get that verified by people here as a workable synth - this will probably work out less expensive in the long run

when you do this it is a good idea to also specify what sort of music you want to make and what your budget is (not only the starter budget, but ongoing monthly/yearly)

and I speak from experience I started with a 72hp 6u case - I ran out of space within 6 months and case number 2 had to be bought, roughly 5 years on from that I have 6 cases with a total of roughly 1500hp - looking back if I'd bought case 2 first I may never have gone past it's 208hp (a mantis)

Utility modules are the inexpensive, dull polish that makes the expensive, shiny modules actually shine!!!

As Jim mentions - its a pretty small space for a full on system, and it will certainly lack quite a bit of control of which makes modular worth the plunge to begin with.

Another good starter case might be the ALM DIY cases, as they start at 3u 84hp, and 6u 84hp - this is a little more room to get a few more necessities into the case to make your first full case patches worthwhile/exciting to come back and learn with. Decent price if you are okay with the small amount of building it requires.

My first case was 84hp and had a similar module compliment (Make Noise Telharmonic oscillator + Maths + MMG + Optomix) - within the first month or so I had another 7u performance case on order, as well as another 84hp of Roland system 500. A small amount of modules can certainly breed creativity, but it can also be a real nuisance when you can't achieve the sound in your head simply cause you lack needed utilities you don't have room for. I would constantly patch simple ambient drones that sounded cool, but ultimately a lot of money for the result. This is something you will learn over the course of messing with your first modules - you currently have the idea of creating a relatively complex synth voice, but the choice of modules will inevitable end up not providing much in that small case/setup without significant external control / constant hands on modulations. You may find after some initial experimentation that you want a completely different system, which is fine, but hard to achieve if you stick within a certain size constraint, and something you will never know without taking the initial plunge to start. There are always newer/smaller/more feature packed modules at any time that do what you want but better.

As for starter modules as an option - I would suggest the Dreadbox Chroma series, as bang for the buck they have a lot of good functionality and features for small systems.

The Intellijel Palette style cases are pretty shallow (I own both the 62hp and 104hp) - so I find keeping a pack of m3 standoffs can be helpful to raise the module up a bit to remove pressure on the power connector (won't sit flush with the other modules however).

Switches/VCAs/attenuators & attenuverters are your best friend for modular, as they allow you to patch/setup a modulation depth - and then turn it on/off as needed at any given moment (some are CV controlled to which is great - Acidlab Switchblad or ADDAC VC Rotator for example).

In the end - modular sequencing/utilities is really where eurorack starts to shine in my opinion - all my smaller cases have been relegated to control or mixing skiffs for larger systems I own.

In the end - modular sequencing/utilities is really where eurorack starts to shine in my opinion

absolutely sequencing, modulation and how you combine, modify (via utilities) and use these to control the synth are often more important and interesting than which modules you are using to create the sounds and/or modify them

Utility modules are the inexpensive, dull polish that makes the expensive, shiny modules actually shine!!!

Add me to the "DON'T" column where these mini cabs are concerned. They exist for very specific types of builds...say, if you want to add a modular modulation setup to an existing synth with the proper I/O. But they 100% SUUUUUUUCK for building a proper modular synth. Since you only have at most about 60 hp to play with, you can either build

1) a really disappointing modular with a lot of the necessary control functions missing, or

2) a really disappointing modular that DOES have all of the necessary control functions, but unless you've got fingers that are the diameter of chopsticks, you're going to have a VERY bad time controlling/adjusting things.

I know that there's a Certain Synth Retailer that does a lot of these minicab builds for YouTube demos. And sure, they tout 'em up real good. But in case you've not noticed, look again...by the time the demo clip is done, after some 10-20 minutes, they've exhausted the possibilities for those builds. And with a well-implemented modular system, that should either NEVER happen, or you'll be old, grey and wrinkly by the time it does.

I would strongly suggest deleting this build, for starters. Instead of trying again immediately, though, get a copy of VCV Rack if you don't have one. Explore that, and you'll eventually start to notice that getting really incredible results hinges on matters of scale and not having one or two specific modules in a "beauty case". Give VCV a real thrashing, get a much better idea of what's needed and WHY, and THEN come back to trying builds here once you're armed with a much clearer vision of what needs to be in them, and therefore, what sort of build size you're REALLY needing. It'll help you avoid some very expensive mistakes! https://vcvrack.com/

great advice there, as usual, @Lugia

Utility modules are the inexpensive, dull polish that makes the expensive, shiny modules actually shine!!!