I started roughly a year ago with my modular journey with a rather static setup in a 15U 84TE Doepfer Case Combination. However, I quickly realized that I definetely want to go in the Live Performance direction in an actually a bit smaller more compact case (so that I can carry it around)
The music that I intend to make (or make so far with my bigger case) can be described as very fast, hypnotic and slightly groovy techno. I have no plan to start ambient or anything similar with that case in order to optimize the modul-choices. The plan is to do everything (mixing, sequencing, drums, voices) in the rack and only optimize the mastering process outside, if necessary.
This is what I came up with (10U 104TE)
Any feedback would be much appreciated, especially in regard to module choice and workability and any ideas for optimization.
Hi Bertus95. Just a few initial thoughts as I'm looking over your rack.
First, when you say that you want to go in a live performance direction, how do you envision yourself interacting and performing with this rack. There are some expression-type modules available that may encourage a more interactive experience and performance. Joysticks, trigger combining crossfaders, mute modules, SoundMachines LS1, and things like that.
Second, it looks like you have chosen several of the largest modules available in such a small case. Do you really need to dedicate 20hp to a bass drum when you already have Basimilus Iteritas Alter. Would the WMD Crater serve a similar purpose in a smaller footprint? You have chosen Odessa but not the Hel expander. Any particular reason for this? Would the 4ms Ensemble Oscillator work just as well in 8 less hp? Is the Morgasmatron the best choice for your only filter at 20hp? Do you need two FX Aid XLs and the Desmodus?
These are all great modules, don't get me wrong. But you have a very small footprint that you are more than likely going to want to fill with more utilities/logic/envelopes/VCAs/attenuverters/etc.
Again, these are just my initial thoughts if I were going to build a rack for your purpose.
Have fun and good luck!
thanks for the feedback. Since I own some of the modules already I have worked with them in the past. A joystick would be indeed a nice addition. However, I do not mind turning knobs around and actually like it, coming from a DJ background :)
The bassdrum is indeed a good point of discussion. From what I read and heard, the Jomox excels in sound and versatility. This was kind of the reasoning for choosing it. The idea for BIA would be less to create a Bassdrum sound but rather to create metallic textures and crackling.
Since the Black Sequencer is not able to produce polyphony I did exclude the Hel Expander. I have the Hel-Expander and use it together with a Nerdseq in my current rack, but Nerdseq is too inemmidiate for a live environment, at least from my point of view. The idea for chords was to use the TipTop One and for Drones the Desmodus. However, I prefer the sound of the odessa over the 4ms ensemble osc. Found it much richer.
I like the Morgasmatron for its versatility, especially since its two-in-one. However, there would be indeed more space-saving options. Any specific suggestions?
Regarding the FX AID XL - yes, I could get rid of one. I thought of adding VCAs to the 1u line. There I also have attenuverters. Quadrax should be enough Envelopes, together with the LFOs from the sequencers. Or would you add more?
Since I do not own the sequencers yet, I am very unsure about them. In general, I really like the design and immediacy of them. However, they take alot of space. I am also unsure about the Taiko. In general, I like it, but not sure if needed as an additional drum voice beside the others. And it takes a lot of space.
Maybe as a question: What would be modules that you would add? Especially from a utility perspective?
Update: Spent more time on the WMD Crater and maybe that is actually a good alternative. Thanks for the hint!
@dssiah Especially in regard to missing modules. Farkas feedback was already very helpful. That's the type I am looking for.
My experience so far in building a live techno setup is that without proper modulation (particularly modulation of the modulation) it's proving to be super hard to keep the music from getting stale. I feel like I don't have enough hands to twiddle knobs quickly enough to keep things sufficiently interesting to play a 30-60 minute set, or to transition from one musical space to another sufficiently different space.
I think it's absolutely true that with practice this will get easier for myself, but I'm definitely looking into how to jam more modulation into my own case (which is requiring sacrifices; smaller drum setup, fewer voices, etc). As I look over this proposed case I can't help but feel it would be mighty difficult to keep the music interesting without more (playable) modulation.
I really like Acid Rain Technology's Maestro, but honestly others here will have better suggestions for playable modulation that can itself be modulated.
Thanks a lot for the feedback so far. That was very helpful. I reworked the rack a bit and integrated some of the feedback.
I removed the Jomox Bassdrum and switched to the WMD Crater - thanks @farkas for the tip.
I added a Erica Synths Joystick 2. It seems that it is very versatile and can also record which I imagine might lead to fun modulation
I removed one FX Aid XL and replaced it by a ALM O/A/x2 and a 2hp Trim to add more Attenuverters.
I removed the Intellijel 1u VCA and added two Mosaic 1u Dual VCA
Looking forward to your feedback. What is still missing from a utility perspective? Thanks @CardiacTasty for the feedback regarding the modulation of modulation. Do you think modulating the Ochd is enough? The Acid Rain Maestro takes a lot of space and I am still unsure of keeping the Taiko. Also though of somehow switching in an Industrial Music Electronics KERMIT for more modulation and functions.
I've found the MylarMelodies video series about building a live performance rack valuable as a resource in my own journey. I stumbled upon his videos about a year ago and found some solutions to the exact problems I was having in building a similar setup. The key is to keep things moving forward and avoid a stagnant groove. Just a few inexpensive utilities and modulation tools can really help with that. Here's a video about sample and hold that helped me achieve what I was trying to do. His videos on switched multiples and VCAs were helpful too. I shared a longer one on CardiacTasty's post a week or so ago that covered the broader philosophy and design of a live techno rack. Helpful stuff.
Have fun and good luck.
Thanks @farkas !
I basically watched most of his videos before coming up with the first version. While I agree that I needed a bit more modulation and utility, it’s interesting that he also does most modulation by hand and does not have too much utility. Of course he has quantizers, precision adders and so on and over all uses a more elaborate sequencer setup than I would do. But the Black Sequencer does a lot of this in-house. He also does not have a lot of attenuverters or similar.
Interestingly enough, he mentions the system Surgeon uses, which is even simpler. Both Surgeon and Blawan do not have a lot of modulation or too many utilities besides their sequencer lines and both very small live racks.
Or did I miss something? I find this discussion super helpful because it makes me rethink my approach. Also thought of switching to 12u/94hp but actually want to have a rather small system with the approach of less is more. I know that this is more difficult but otherwise it would be boring.
I think Surgeon's sound comes down to Surgeon's brain... which I don't have. Haha. Same with Richie Hawtin. Those guys can make incredible music with incredibly minimal setups. I have to supplement my dull-witted brain with extra knobs and utilities.
Everyone will do this differently. I don't take any of the advice given as gospel, so I try something and if it doesn't work for me, I search for what will help me solve the problem and move on to that. My rack, and MylarMelodies' rack, and Surgeon's rack are wrong for YOU. So, at some point you just have to dive in and try your ideas. Don't expect them to work every time. You may find at some point that a Behringer 303 and 909 is all you really need to make amazing live techno, and modular just gets in the way. Or you may find that you don't need VCAs or LFOs for your approach. Only one way to find out! :)
Haha, that is indeed true. Did not want to make any attempt to compare myself to the skills of Surgeon. However, I still find his approach very interesting and kind of a goal state. But yes, you are right. In the end, I have to try it. Anyway, thanks a lot for all the feedback and time.
Loving the VCA and attenuverter additions, that ALM O/A/x2 should in-particular be useful. One suggestion I might add is to move the ochd up to where it's modulators and attenuaters will be, should make patching much easier. While you're at it, you might move the WMD Performance Mixer expansion up one row and bring the joystick down one, basically swap them (might have to move that mult up too, but that's good because it also likes being with the other modules it will mult).
The joystick is particularly playable, so it would make sense to put it closer at hand. The other consideration I've found is that WMD expansion module cables aren't as long as you'd expect; pretty much they're long enough to put the expansions right next to the master device, but not much longer.
I'd lose the Akemie's Taiko personally; you've already got four of the base drum elements (kick, snare, hi-hat, and clap), what you could use instead of the Taiko if you were going to add something is something fun like claves, marakas, or (dare I even suggest) more cowbell.
I'd replace it with a matrix mixer. Matrix mixers are great because you don't have to repatch to send a modulation source to some input; with that joystick, I think you'd find you like being able to send it to something like a filter cutoff, then reroute to send it to something on one of your primary voices. The other thing matrix mixers are really good at is combining modulation. Take an LFO, add an envelope (triggered from your drum sequencer), and you've got a really interesting waveform that's particularly playable. If you're thinking you'd like to instead keep more than four drum elements, instead of a matrix mixer I'd suggest a sampler. Some sampler would likely be more useful than the Taiko, maybe Squarp Instrument's Rample or Erica Synth's Drum Sample. You could even net a vocal sample or two this way, which is fun.
Also, having a filter for every voice is proving to be so very very tasty. Filtering down a voice is the simplest way I've found to keep that voice interesting while simultaneously giving your audience's ears a temporary break. Might consider adding a tiny filter like WMD's C4RBN for your drums, but you do already have the Morgasmatron so dunno.
I like the matrix mixer idea for stretching modulation sources even further. On the other hand, I would probably keep the Taiko as a melodic percussive voice. Mult a trigger to that and fade in/out from your drum voices to the FM sounds. That's how I would use it anyway.
Posting again while it's on mind, I would just straight up lose the extra channel expansion for the Performance Mixer. The mixer already has 12 mono ins and 2 stereo, which if I'm seeing straight more than covers your voice count. That would put you that much closer to something like the AI008 Eurorack Matrix Mixer or whatever else you'd like to add.
Also if you're going to have a mult in your case it might be wise to make sure it's a buffered mult for pitch cv. It's really easy to buy cables that already mult for you, personally I don't see much point in having a passive mult in a tiny case (unless you want to send one modulation to 3 other sources, that's harder with cables).
Looking good! I checked out the rack itself because, like you say, the picture didn't update (which I think is because you created a new rack rather than modifying the old). For some reason it just feels better, dunno why.
EDIT: Ope, you fixed it, great.
You might reorganize that 1u row to move the attenuators closer to the other attenuverters, but I like it either way. Also, if you get the PM DB25 you might look into buying a longer cable on WMD's site. It might work as it stands though. Great work either way.
Oh, holy crap...what all did I do to this build? Well...lessee...
First up, I reset the cases. Since it was clear that the desired cabs were Intellijel format on the one tile row, I simply opted to put an Intellijel 7U up top, then a Palette 104 down below. Not only did this make the build a bit easier, it added a SECOND tile row, plus the Palette utility 1/2U row. Once those were chosen, I could then eliminate the 1/4" I/O tile since the Intellijel cabs have 1/4" jacks (four, actually). The extra row also allowed me to put a pair of the mono send/return modules on the lower tile row, above the WMD mixer...which means you can use some rather complex outboard processing in stereo if you like. Plus you get some extra buffered mults and a couple of precision adders on that 1/2U row on the Palette.
Then I really dug in and tried to shrink some things. First of those were the sequencers...which although the new ones fit into a smaller space, they actually have MORE in the way of features than the Ericas. For example, there's a Rene/Tempi combo on the bottom (flat, so that it'll work better as a mixing/controller row) cab that not only gives you loads of clock modulation, you get six channels of clocking AND the Tempi still connects directly to the Rene, keeping all six of those clock outs free. And the Rene can also double as a manual controller, too. The drum sequencer got switched to WMD's very potent Metron, with sixteen output channels and a whole lot of other tricks behind its little aluminum panel. And THAT move then allowed me to revamp the entire drum section, with solid kick, snare, and hats...and also Delptronics' electro pairing for another several analog percussives (with CV!) AND a 4-channel sampler/sample playback module that also takes SDs to swap out the audio files. But let's go into this thing row by row...
TOP TILE ROW: This thing's got some new CV trickery, so first up is a buffered mult because that just might be useful in this, with the several VCOs and what-not. Next is Intellijel's Noise Tools tile, which has a potential master clock, sample and hold, and slewing. QuadrATT and the VCAs are next, then there's that first Pedal I/O so that you can add a basic mono effect such as flanging, etc.
FIRST ROW: Konstant Labs PWRchekr, because while you can "see" the DC rails in the Palette via its indicators, the 7U doesn't have that amenity in clear view. But now it does. Four LFOs and four EGs next, via the excellent Xaoc Batumi and Zadar, which both have their expanders here. Then the Hel expander gives you more CV ins for the Odessa, making it also quite useful as a chordal pad source. After the Odessa, there's some real fun from LA 67 with two VCOs that offer variable waveforms under CV, using a circuit like that found on the RSF Kobol VCOs. A Veils clone deals with level control/mixing for the VCOs as desired, and note also that you can "break" the mixbus on there so that if you wanted two VCAs for the Odessa and one each for the LA 67 VCOs, that's as easy as plugging in some patchcords. Then the Morgasmatron (good pick!) and the FX Aid XL. This row is basically the "voice" row, with a potential of up to...get this!...SIX separate voices (4 CV ins for the Odessa via the Hel, one each for the LA 67s).
SECOND ROW: This is mainly drums. The Disting is first up, then the Metron. Two Frequency Central modules handle the kick and snare (with some useful CV ins), then the Tiptop 909 hats...and then there's the Delptronics modules. The left one is the "voices" and the right has various CV ins for controlling the circuits in the left. All of these point back toward the fine electro sound of the early Roland stuff...CR-78, TR-606 and 808...that sort of thing. Then, not satisfied with just one sample playback module...now there's FOUR via Squarp's Rample. The drum submixer is by Paratek, giving eight ins with stereo panning over all channels. Then next, there's WMD's stereo take on a resonant EQ, with morphing capabilities...perfect for timbral tampering with the percussion! At the end, another Frequency Central module offers mono-to-stereo capabilities with chorus, tap delay, and reverb.
LOWER TILE ROW: That first thing is derived from Mutable's Peaks, but with some extra potential modulation mayhem. Another QuadrATT next, then another FX unit...this one's the Intellijel tile with some similar capabilities to the FC Stasis Leak in the second 3U row, but this also lets you time the delay from your clock. And then the pair of Pedal I/Os which connect directly to the Palette's 1/4" jacks.
THIRD ROW: Nope, no joystick! But...see that silver and blue thing with the D-sub? That's the module for Monde's RIBBON CONTROLLER! Yeah, baybee...put a big ol' long 9-pin D-sub on that and wade out onto the floor while sending the modular lots of possible craziness. It worked for Keith Emerson, after all. Then there's the Tempi/Rene combo, which you can use all sorts of ways. You can kill the clock and use the Rene as a 16-plate controller, or clock it and get one quantized and one unquantized channel, also with a pair of gate/trig channels. And you can have that AND interfere with it while it runs, too. This is quite different from the earlier Erica sequencer in that you have many more control possibilities with the Rene. After that, I put in the WMD's mute expander (now you have touch-mutes on ALL of those channels) to get some more mileage out of the Performance Mixer. And at the end are your D-sub send/returns.
Now, you could theoretically toss the buffered mult tile (and that 2 hp blank next to it) and replace it with a 10 hp tile of some sort, since the Palette's utility bar has three of those in addition to your adders (from which you can derive some of those extra CVs the Odessa wants with a little DC offset magic). I sort of left that open. But as for the rest of this, it's LIKE your version...but pumped up on lots of 'roids!
As for portability, what I'd suggest is to get over to your local outdoor sports big box and look into some deeper, cube-foamed ATA-type gun cases, sort of like the expensive SKB keyboard ones without as much of that expense. Futz around with the foam, and you should be able to fit BOTH cabs, power bricks, a few pedals, and some patchcables into that one case. You could even get one that's carry-on sized and much of this will STILL fit, although that might necessitate putting the pedals in a separate gigbag. Either way, this should travel very well in something like that...even if you're traveling out of the country and schlepping everything yourself.
I will have a look at it and think what I want to incorporate. Nevertheless, this gives me tons of ideas. While I kind of desparately want the X0X Drum-Sequencer (I know it has a lot of disadvantages), the Rene/Tempi combo looks interesting. Also the split up into two cases, is actually a great move and will probably be the way to go for me. Thanks for that! Will give an update later once I had enough time to go through everything in detail.
For live performance... less is MORE.
The more connections, the more things to go wrong. K.I.S.S.
You have plenty of percussion modules... then you'll need to mix them with a submixer or all your main mixers channels will be clogged up with them.
For percussion, I would go with a sample playback module that allows for muting of individual tracks within the module. Unless you're focused on bending percussion samples, I would just simplify things by using sample playback. You can always record your own percussion before your live set.
Modules like Braids and Plaits are also popular in live set-ups because they offer a wide range of sounds that can be accessed and tweaked very quickly.
Also, an output module might be tasty... especially one with a pair of built in isolation transformers. You DO NOT want someone messing up and sending gear melting voltage back down your rig's audio path and frying your modules.
I wonder, are there external output modules that have built in isolation? It's hard to justify putting something like this into a small rack when most of the time spent will be practicing in a safe environment. I'll look and report back, feel free to suggest things in the mean time.
EDIT: They're proving difficult to find. If someone was committed to avoid putting an output module in their main case, I suppose they could bring along a tiny separate case with an isolated output module and maybe a few other utilities.
Thanks @Ronin1973 for the feedback. The output comment is very helpful and I incorportated the feedback. However, I disagree with the drums, especially since in my planned setup (which will differ to what Lugia suggested) I actually do not have too many drum voices. Also a submixer is not necessary here, since I have the Quadratts and the WMD which has enough inputs. I have Plaits at home, and while it has a very versatile sound you hear that it is Plaits which I do not like too much. Also, for Drums, if I want only samples, I do not need to go into modular. But I think its just a different perspective and I agree that you have a very valid point.
Don't forget the Intellijel - Audio I/O module, with 10 HP it's still compact though very useful as an audio interface module, it can handle inputs and outputs (both stereo) simultaneously. Then there is Befaco Out v3, very small module, only output (or only input if I am not mistaken). Oh yes and the Bastl Instruments - Ciao! module. Though the Intellijel one might be the best fit from these three.
I haven't mentioned XLR modules since you were asking for compact modules.
Good luck with finding a good audio interface module and kind regards, Garfield.
@Ronin1973 Do you have any output modules you would suggest that have a pair of built in isolation transformers?
EDIT: I see three at the moment that seem to qualify and also have a small profile:
- Happy Nerding's Isolater
- Joranalogue Audio Design's Transmit 2
- WMD's Pro Output
A couple of others that work nicely AND which have parallel stereo mixing capability (great for FX returns) would be Bastl's Ciao! (5 hp) and Happy Nerding's awesome OUT (6 hp). Both of these have some interesting routing capabilities that allow you to do a few more things there than just level step-down and isolation, and both also give you an extra headphone pre.
EDIT: They're proving difficult to find. If someone was committed to avoid putting an output module in their main case, I suppose they could bring along a tiny separate case with an isolated output module and maybe a few other utilities.
Directly from Sweetwater's listing for this:
"Note: The Morley Hum Eliminator isn’t intended for use with mic- and instrument-level signals or powered speaker lines."
So, no, it won't work unless you stepped the levels down to line-level before hitting it. Given that, I'd say just go with a stereo balanced-out module in the cab, because a stereo attenuator module would take up about the same space.
I have actually the Befaco Out v3 but could not find anything about it being isolated. But maybe the reason is also that I am not very well read when it comes such things. Would be great if someone could confirm. Because that would save me another 2hp vs. the WMD Pro Output.
Again big thanks to everyone for all the great content and feedback.
Well, how about the Happy Nerding Isolator? 4 hp, plus it DOES have transformer isolation and a ganged stereo level control. As for the Befaco, I even looked over the PCB diagrams and saw nothing resembling a transformer on them. If you go with the Isolator, you won't have a headphone jack there...but at the same time, the WMD mixer does, plus that same headphone output is where you'd be able to check things (like tuning!) on a CUE bus via the CUE/MIX crossfader. Using a headphone pre on a different module, like an output, won't give you that functionality.