Hey modular grid community,

I've been looking at getting into Modular for a while and have been putting together a basic rack to get me started. Would love to hear your thoughts / opinions on what is right + wrong with the current selection. Although this is shown as a 3u 88HP case please pretend it is 6U. I plan on getting a Rackbrute 6U and I gave myself the limitation of 3U so I only picked what I felt were essential to my needs starting out.

I'm getting a really hefty discount on the Rackbrute 6U so it makes cases like the Tiptop Mantis and others not very good value for my budget.

Screenshot here: https://cdn.modulargrid.net/img/racks/modulargrid_1612919.jpg

Please note the Make Noise Contour module was selected as part of the rack because it was bought for me as a surprise, so it would be a shame not to include it in my first foray into eurorack.


This looks like a collection of fun modules, but your first build suffers from "sexy module syndrome" which is a common mistake. You are missing VCAs and don't have enough utilities to get too far with this. Take a look back through some of the other starter rack threads to get an idea of what is often recommended to overcome these barriers (Links, Kinks, Veils, etc.).


Thanks for the feedback. So is something like this better? ModularGrid Rack


The image hasn't updated yet so I looked at your rack via your profile, and the answer is... maybe.
What are your overall goals for getting into modular? What kind of music are you hoping to make? Do you have any external gear that you will be combining with your rack?


hey farkas,

yeah if you do a hard refresh on your browser it should update. it's probably showing a cached image.

sorry for lack of description. I have the following gear: Elektron Octatrack, Elektron Digitone, Arturia Keystep 37.

I'm interested to get into modular for the following things: making experimental melodic sounds/textures, using it as an FX box for current gear + microphone (longer term goal), and generating unusual rhythms/sequences that would be hard to create in a DAW environment.

I make future downtempo, uk garage, ambient etc. with a lean towards experimental melodic sounds. I'm a huge fan of granular synthesis and resampling of sound. Hopefully this makes sense why I picked the Plaits + Morphagene.

At this point I'm not scoping out audio input for jack + mic but thats an eventual possibility. Given the OT, DT, K37 it may be unnecessary to have a sequencer in eurorack at this point.

edit: i want to add as well I'm not particularly fixated on any equipment apart from the following items: Arturia Rackbrute 6U (again just because of the significant discount I'm going to be getting), Morphagene (because of its processing possibilities), Contour (because I already have it). I'm also interested in Marbles / Bloom as a potential sequencer down the line. I'm also going to pick up Maths at some point.


Any gifted module should be worn proudly like a badge... especially from someone outside of modular synthesis. :)

I'm looking at your set-up and thinking you'll be able to do some useful things. As far as oscillators... this is okay for a start. I'm not criticizing your choices. But recognizing that every initial set-up has limits of budget/space. Kudos for leaving lots of room for expansion.

A multi-mode filter and dedicated LFO wouldn't be a bad idea for this set-up WHEN there's budget for it. The filter should be the type able to self-oscillate (they can be used as simple oscillators in addition to filtering). The LFO should have CV controls allow it to reset, sync, and even modulate frequency. Multiple LFOs on one module would be nice.

The Braids/Plaits line is pretty vanilla in terms of what you can do with them. When expanding your rack, I would add a couple of full analog oscillators to the mix. Be sure they have plenty of points for modulation. I bought an Intellijel Rubicon II. I'm not telling you to get that... but that's the level of complexity I'd go for.

The BIG thing I can tell you to do is to swap out the Expert Sleepers Disting Mk4 for the Disting EX. It's a little bit bigger. But you get a much easier to read display, more features, and it can basically do the job of two D Mk4s. As you're exploring the Disting's features, you'll get some hands on experience in what types of functionality suits your own personal style. From there, you may consider buying dedicated modules for those functions if you use them often enough.


Hey Ronin, thanks for your input. I've switched back and forth between Disting mk4 vs EX just due to the size difference. I'll reconsider the EX.

Whats your argument for analog oscillators? I'm not sure thats the direction I necessarily want to go in & I'm not particularly interested in subtractive synthesis at this time. In terms of having more options for a given voice, I've wondered if picking an MI Rings instead of Plaits might be more fruitful but at the moment Plaits is appealing just due to the number of options you have for a digital voice. I'm open to hearing more of your thoughts though.

I agree with you regarding the modulation sources. I think its why I want to get a MN Maths at some point (maybe even now) because its so useful. But it's a big module and I wanted to keep myself limited as much as possible to 3U if I could.

Also, do either of you know good places to pick up used / 2nd hand modules?


Hey Ronin, thanks for your input. I've switched back and forth between Disting mk4 vs EX just due to the size difference. I'll reconsider the EX.

Whats your argument for analog oscillators? I'm not sure thats the direction I necessarily want to go in & I'm not particularly interested in subtractive synthesis at this time. In terms of having more options for a given voice, I've wondered if picking an MI Rings instead of Plaits might be more fruitful but at the moment Plaits is appealing just due to the number of options you have for a digital voice. I'm open to hearing more of your thoughts though.

I agree with you regarding the modulation sources. I think its why I want to get a MN Maths at some point (maybe even now) because its so useful. But it's a big module and I wanted to keep myself limited as much as possible to 3U if I could.

Also, do either of you know good places to pick up used / 2nd hand modules?
-- andrew0

Complex analog oscillators... the modulation possibilities. An analog oscillator isn't subtractive. They can be used in subtractive set-ups and usually are. But subtractive synthesis means you're removing frequencies to shape your sound... not the source of the sound. Check out some Youtube videos using the Rubicon 2... or the Make Noise DPO. They are analog but can produce a lot more than your simple waveforms. Take note of the modulation possibilities both in and out of an oscillator. Some oscillators can be run at LFO rates... there's also something to be said about audio rate modulation (using the oscillator as a modulation source rather than sound).

A preference for digital oscillators is perfectly fine. But something with more modulation inputs than Plaits. You don't have to ditch Plaits. It's perfectly useful and will continue to serve in larger set-ups. Noise Engineering makes some very nice digital modules. But I'd go with the bigger NE units rather than the 12HP smaller ones... much more modulation inputs...

There isn't a good source for second hand modules. You pay your money and take your chances. Dealers will want more money. But the reputable ones won't sell broken gear or steal your money. Doing business with an individual means taking more risks and paying less. This website has a buy/sell section. You will also find modular synth buy/sell groups on Facebook.


Complex analog oscillators... the modulation possibilities. An analog oscillator isn't subtractive. They can be used in subtractive set-ups and usually are. But subtractive synthesis means you're removing frequencies to shape your sound... not the source of the sound. Check out some Youtube videos using the Rubicon 2... or the Make Noise DPO. They are analog but can produce a lot more than your simple waveforms. Take note of the modulation possibilities both in and out of an oscillator. Some oscillators can be run at LFO rates... there's also something to be said about audio rate modulation (using the oscillator as a modulation source rather than sound).

A preference for digital oscillators is perfectly fine. But something with more modulation inputs than Plaits. You don't have to ditch Plaits. It's perfectly useful and will continue to serve in larger set-ups. Noise Engineering makes some very nice digital modules. But I'd go with the bigger NE units rather than the 12HP smaller ones... much more modulation inputs...

There isn't a good source for second hand modules. You pay your money and take your chances. Dealers will want more money. But the reputable ones won't sell broken gear or steal your money. Doing business with an individual means taking more risks and paying less. This website has a buy/sell section. You will also find modular synth buy/sell groups on Facebook.

-- Ronin1973

Thanks for explaining. I had forgotten about Complex Oscillators and assumed the basic stuff which you basically have to use filters with if you want to get anywhere. I've used Complex Oscillators "in the box" and I do agree they are fascinating. Thank you for recommending Rubicon + DPO. Will check those out.

Thanks for the info on second hand modules. I'll look around and see if anything is going in my area. Fortunately I live in an area which has a modular synth shop nearby so I am planning to pay them a visit and try some of these modules out to see if this set up i'm planning makes sense for my musical needs.


there's a decent sell/trade thread on modwiggler.com too

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


So I've made some changes to the rack. Layout isn't final but anyone reading please let me know your thoughts on my current selection of modules: ModularGrid Rack

I've ditched MN Morphagene (for now) and added Typhoon back in, along with finding room for a Disting EX, and uMIDI. This should for more modulation possibilities as well as allow my Digitone & Octatrack to play along with the Rack and possibly send LFOs over MIDI into the Rack if needed.

@JimHowell thanks for the recommendation! Will check that out.


You probably won't need Scales with the quantizing abilities of the Disting and Bloom. I may be wrong but I think a recent update to Pam's New Workout also has some quantizing capabilities. Maybe someone else could chime in on that.


You probably won't need Scales with the quantizing abilities of the Disting and Bloom. I may be wrong but I think a recent update to Pam's New Workout also has some quantizing capabilities. Maybe someone else could chime in on that.
-- farkas

The Disting can run as a quantizer. The Disting EX can run as virtually two Disting Mk4s... so it can juggle quantizing and still be capable of offering another function.

I own a micro Ornaments and Crime. I like it for quantizing. I think with a Disting EX,an O_C, and the Pam's, you'd be very covered in possibilities.


Hi @andrew0 !

My $0.02 - I've only been doing modular for a little over two years now, it's been great fun and I have several of the modules you have here (Links, Plaits, Tides, Veils and Pam's, plus Clouds (Typhoon)) plus a Disting MK4. I still consider myself a beginner because I just haven't spent the time with the modules I have to learn them enough to do them justice, so take this with a grain of salt.

Links is a good utility module, I've never owned anything but so can't say much about it. I do love the LMNTL splitter "asterisks" you can get from Perfect Circuit but not sure if there's a quality difference (probably). As with all the MI stuff, I'd recommend checking it out on VCV Rack first to see if it really inspires you. For me, Tides has been the one that I've used the most, and partially because I've read the manual over like 10 times, no exaggeration.

I'd definitely recommend checking out the EX over the MK4. MK4 does a ton of things but I rarely use it because I have to RTFM every single time I want to try to use it. I'm planning to trade mine in for an EX eventually as I think it will be more user friendly.

Also, if you're c0ming from MIDI (as I did), something like uMIDI is key. I haven't worked with the MIDI expanders for Pam's or the Disting MK4 but probably worth researching.

Whatever you do, enjoy the process!

Cheers,

-loops


Decided to have a bash at this, then got a surprise when checking the rack values. The Arturia Rackbrute 6U isn't 89 hp wide, it's 88. See the page at Arturia's site here: https://www.arturia.com/products/hardware-synths/rackbrute-6u/overview The copy there states that the cab has 176 hp totalled (including the 5 hp taken up by the P/S), which is 2 x 88. I already had a build completed in the original cab, then had to go back and change several things. Nevertheless, this came out pretty good, I think.

I opted to fill out the cab with a proper build. In the process, you'll find that several modules from the original version are now missing. And much of the trouble stemmed from the module sizes vs. functionality issue that always rears its head in smaller cabs. This is a pretty common problem, inasmuch as users want their builds to do everything imaginable...but they want that in something small, like this. So the automatic response I (and others here) have is to eject modules from these that just don't offer enough functionality for their size; this is what happened to the Contour, in fact, since it makes little sense to occupy 8 hp with just ONE envelope generator when 8 hp = 11% of a row in a Rackbrute. That's a poor use of space. Anyway...
ModularGrid Rack
The top row contains all of the audio, the modulation/control is on the bottom, flow in the top row is left-to-right, with the modulation and control modules feeding their signals from below.

Top row: There are now TWO Plaits. When doing a build, you really need a PAIR of oscillators. For one thing, it's a quick and dirty way to get two voices. But more often, you'll want to use these together for detunings, adding different waveforms, etc. The thing in between them is an Erica PICO ring modulator, which has its own internal sine generator, making it easy to apply ring modulation without resorting to using the other Plaits merely for a carrier. After this is a Zlob Vinucvrsal VCA, which gives you six linear, DC-coupled VCAs that can be broken out separately (which is what the configuration here is potentially set up for, if needed) for panning. And you don't necessarily have to use all six for audio; you can just as easily break out one or two of the VCAs from the module's internal mixbus if you need an extra or two for modulation levels (even though the mod row has two VCAs of its own...always best to have extra VCAs). Post-VCAs, you can see an Omsonic panning module with six inputs, and a stereo pair out. This lets you set up stereo placement for your signals pre-VCF.

The VCF is a stereo state-variable from Olivella that I've been a bit impressed with as of late. It contains an internal stereo "spatializer" as well, which can allow you to CV-control width, which can go from hardpanned L-R, to mono, to an inverse channelization (ie: R-L from an L-R input). After that is another VCA pair, a dual VCA from After Later based on the Veils circuit topology. Then there's your Typhoon, and after that is a very neat output module that also contains a second ganged stereo input...so if you want to shift back and forth between a signal processed via the Typhoon, then to just the VCF's outputs (or anything in between) as desired. It's also got your headphone preamp, plus your ganged stereo output level, and transformer isolation on the 1/4" outs to keep DC out of your system AND to help reduce noise, crud, and ground loops. And as a fringe benefit, you can even hit the transformers a little bit hard and get some nice "big iron" saturation for a touch of warmth.

Bottom row: Went all in on the MIDI interface and put in an Expert Sleepers FH-2, which can handle MIDI via USB from either your DAW or a class-compliant controller...so if you've got a Keystep or such laying around, you can tie it in right there. Then Pam's, Kinks (dropped the Links...the build's too small for mults, so I'd suggest using inline passive "widgets" instead)...and then this weird as hell thing from Clank that is a SIX CHANNEL "Aleatoric Brain". Think the "Turing Machine" sequencer on 'roids, with a wacky joystick interface, and the ability to store and loop various fragments, etc resulting from using it. Best to look this one up to see all of the mayhem it can cause. Disting EX is next, situated near the middle for convenience, then an Eowave Zone B.F. mkii gives you a pair of syncable wavetable LFOs. After that, the amazing 20 hp that is Maths, which is one of those exceptions to the "keep it small" rubric. It's that useful, really. Following Maths, you then have a Frap 321 for tampering with modulation signal behavior in a number of ways, and another After Later dual VCA specifically for modulation control duties. Then for four envelopes, a Xaoc Zadar + the Nin expander.

This isn't too bad. It'll make for a more-than-ample starter modular, plus it also has the ability to work with chance-determined melodic patterns (and a lot of other stuff) via the Clank Chaos. 2 x 104 would've made for a better fit, admittedly, but I think this 2 x 88 came out pretty decent.


You probably won't need Scales with the quantizing abilities of the Disting and Bloom. I may be wrong but I think a recent update to Pam's New Workout also has some quantizing capabilities. Maybe someone else could chime in on that.
-- farkas

The Disting can run as a quantizer. The Disting EX can run as virtually two Disting Mk4s... so it can juggle quantizing and still be capable of offering another function.

I own a micro Ornaments and Crime. I like it for quantizing. I think with a Disting EX,an O_C, and the Pam's, you'd be very covered in possibilities.

-- Ronin1973

Thanks @farkas and @Ronin1973 . Once again I appreciate your input here. I've looked at O_C and considered it. I'll check it out again and see which version of it seems like a good fit for me.

Hi @andrew0 !

...

Whatever you do, enjoy the process!

Cheers,

-loops
-- looprication

hey @looprication thank you for your support & insight. I've checked out the LMNTL splitter and I've been meaning to add some of these to my shopping list so thank you. Also good to hear that I'm on the right track with the uMIDI.

Decided to have a bash at this, then got a surprise when checking the rack values. The Arturia Rackbrute 6U isn't 89 hp wide, it's 88. See the page at Arturia's site here: https://www.arturia.com/products/hardware-synths/rackbrute-6u/overview The copy there states that the cab has 176 hp totalled (including the 5 hp taken up by the P/S), which is 2 x 88. I already had a build completed in the original cab, then had to go back and change several things. Nevertheless, this came out pretty good, I think.
...
This isn't too bad. It'll make for a more-than-ample starter modular, plus it also has the ability to work with chance-determined melodic patterns (and a lot of other stuff) via the Clank Chaos. 2 x 104 would've made for a better fit, admittedly, but I think this 2 x 88 came out pretty decent.
-- Lugia

hey @Lugia

Thanks for taking the time to do this and giving a thorough response. I appreciate that this must have taken you a lot of time to put together as well as going to the effort of explaining each choice and how the parts fit together. That being said a lot of these modules don't seem appropriate for my needs. Based on some of your comments/responses, I'm not sure you read through & understand my goals/aims for the rack. I'm going to go point by point for some of this:

  1. The Rackbrute & its size, yes I know it is small. In terms of HP to price this comes out on top for me right now because of the heavy discount I'm getting it at. If a 104 HP case was more HP to price efficient for me at this time I would be going for it.
  2. I've looked up the HP width of the Rackbrute series several times and they are listed as 88HP width on the Arturia website but users report that they are 89 HP with 88 screwholes.

https://modwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=194865

https://old.reddit.com/r/modular/comments/cqr9pw/mysteriousbonushponrackbrute_3u/

https://www.thomann.de/gb/arturiarackbrute3u.htm
from user Robrecht:

"One more thing: in early announcements from Arturia, the width of the case was advertised as 88hp. It is, in fact, 89hp wide. The threaded strip has only 88 screwholes, but there's room inside the case for 89hp worth of faceplates. Just shift the strip a little to the left or right inside the rail and mount one module with its faceplate extending beyond the strip. "

  1. I already have the Contour Module, I'm not going to leave it out of my first build because its HP inefficient. My limitations at this point are budget, not HP. I'm just getting started.
  2. The Expert Sleepers FH-2. I've actually looked at nearly all of the Expert Sleepers modules and have been trying to figure out how they would integrate with my current equipment. FH-2 seems inappropriate for this build considering I want to sync my Octatrack & Digitone with my Rack.

As for the rest of it... Well like I said I do appreciate the effort you've gone to and it seems fine, but I don't know what else to say at this point. It's not even wrong.


I'd definitely recommend checking out the EX over the MK4. MK4 does a ton of things but I rarely use it because I have to RTFM every single time I want to try to use it. I'm planning to trade mine in for an EX eventually as I think it will be more user friendly.
-loops
-- looprication

Yes. I have all the Mk4 cheat sheets printed out in color. I find myself HATING the interface and never can remember which knob to push, twist, or turn in what order to change some parameter. That EX is just the right price. Also it will respond to MIDI CC inputs if you want more real-time controls. There are quite a few useful videos on Expert Sleepers website/Youtube that show off the EX's functionality and it's superiority to the MK4.

I don't like to remember key presses, numbers, etc... so I end up hating the Mutable stuff... trying to remember what exactly each symbol and LED corresponds to. It takes me right out of my modular mojo to have to look something up. But that's me. Everyone is different in terms of ergonomics and ease-of-use.


OK...well, I don't think there's anything for me to say, aside of this one point:

If a manufacturer gives a specification, there's probably a reason for it. Yes, you probably can jam 89 hp worth of modules into each row of a Rackbrute. You might NOT want to do that, however, and I think I know why Arturia's spec is what it is: heat.

I learned the basics of synthesis on an ARP 2600, way back when. And one thing I'd always found odd back then was all of the air-gap between the synth and its case...at least, at first. But the first time I ever had to calibrate it, everything snapped into place...because analog circuits are VERY susceptible to problems resulting from heat buildup. Interestingly, every iteration of the ARP 2600 that I've used, from rev.2 thru rev.4, and even on Behringer's 2600, has SOME sort of ventilation to keep the circuitry stable.

When you're dealing with power components, these generate quite a bit of heat simply because of what they're being asked to do. And that heat can build up inside the case, causing instabilities (like, say, VCOs that don't stay in tune) that are annoying. But if it were just a case of making a synth work in a wonky manner, I wouldn't sweat it (much). But it's not.

Heat also causes damage over time, especially with electronic components that are generating heat. Those components require some level of ventilation, otherwise the heat buildup within the case...as well as the on/off cycling that takes the synth from room temp to whatever it would be under load and back down again...will take literal years off of the lifespan of the gear. Yeah, 1 hp doesn't sound like much, but if you put that entire 1 hp "in" as a gap along the left end, where the P/S is, this WILL provide quite a bit of ventilation for the supply module. The lower row provides an "inlet" for cool air, and the hot air will simply rise out of the 1 hp slot next to the module. And yes, I know that some people argue that the panels in a modular provide some heat-sink-type behavior...and they do, which is why the lower-temp modules use that to dissipate their heat loads to some degree. But the major heat source is the power components...which also includes heat generated by current flow in the busboards and DC rail wiring, and that has to get out in some other way.

Plus, if your power module pops (which could easily result in a catastrophic failure in some P/S designs...as in modular go "pop!") and Arturia finds that you had 89 hp per row while they specced 88 instead, they could argue that you've voided your warranty, provided this were to happen while the cab was still covered. Those guys know what they're doing...and that's why I pay attention when I'm dealing with any sort of sizable heat source that's part of a musical device.