Hey all,

I’ve been working on building and completing this rack for a bit of time now, and I am getting quite close!

The 2 main uses are :
1- a basic fm/subtractive voice
2- taking audio from Ableton and processing it

There’s definitely a lot of stuff packed into this and not a huge amount of utilities. That’s because the way I work is very deterministic, so I’ll be working on 1 sound at a time, sequencing from Ableton to Shuttle Control. Could definitely use more lfos/envelopes and probably another couple vcas for sure, but I think I could definitely get by with just this for a while.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.


Doesn't seem workable to me. Those utilities that you don't think are necessary are, in fact, VERY necessary. Same goes for the modulation sources and the modules needed to properly control them.

I've done plenty of work over the years with "deterministic" sounds as well...but the difference is that while I might have a certain module or two that I know I want to feed a sound through, I also know that a sound is far more interesting to a listener if it's doing something more than just sitting in the mix like a bump on a log. So, the choice of operating modality for that would be either...

1) Grow a couple of extra hands, then you can work all of that module or two's controls simultaneously. Or...

2) Put the right modules in so that you don't have to have your DNA mutated for those extra hands.

Basically, you've definitely got the idea of what modules to use to alter audio...but the lack of modulation sources, any way of mixing/controlling those, and no way to arrive at any routings other than straight-thru as a result really puts a helluva spike in this build's heart. And that's even if you ARE using it as a processor; I have ZERO idea of how you're getting it to do proper FM without the attendant crossconnection modules between two VCOs or the absence of a proper complex VCO.


Doesn't seem workable to me. Those utilities that you don't think are necessary are, in fact, VERY necessary. Same goes for the modulation sources and the modules needed to properly control them.

I've done plenty of work over the years with "deterministic" sounds as well...but the difference is that while I might have a certain module or two that I know I want to feed a sound through, I also know that a sound is far more interesting to a listener if it's doing something more than just sitting in the mix like a bump on a log. So, the choice of operating modality for that would be either...

-- Lugia

Hey Lugia - I appreciate the feedback. I’m not sure when you saw the rack but I’ve been changing it a bit for exactly those reasons, adding more modulation and movement. I guess what I don’t understand is - what is your definition of a basic fm patch? I’ve heard 2 vco’s, a wave folder, lpg, vcas and envelopes. Lfos there too. Why does this not at least satisfy the basic definition?

And if you could, would love to hear what exactly I’m missing out of this. More vcas? 8 lfos with ochd so the pmw is there for synced lfos and everything else, trying to use the empty space in the top for an envelope solution, I have a ajh contour generator now but considering other options, tirana for super basic sequencing, and orbit 3 for some random. It doesn’t cover every base but I feel it’s covering a lot. I’d love to know what you’d suggest to add/switch around with this.

Thanks, lugia


I keep messing around with it. I think it makes sense to make most/all of the top row mod stuff. Would love suggestions on what could fit in there and satisfy most of my needs


Wailed on this...there was a lot there that was sort of superfluous once the organization process got going. This should make more overall sense, though:
ModularGrid Rack
OK...the top row is your oscillators and filters, plus a Veils after the oscillators for level control of those. Also, the crossover is up there at the upper left, as it makes more sense to use it to slice up the frequency domain of an external signal.

Second row: modulation, save for the Schippmann Compressor at the end. Notice that the waveshaper from the top row is now down here (for tampering with modulation waveforms) and I replaced the top row one with a design based on the Buchla 259's wavefolder.

Third row: This starts with a Konstant Labs PWRchekr, which I often put into builds where you have no DC rail indicators so that you can keep an eye on those. Then the entire external thing was swapped out for a Nonlinear Envelope Follower...this has a mono audio preamp, but it also extracts the incoming envelope for modulation use as well as sends a gate when the input level is high enough, and does all of this in 4 hp. Then the noise...but since the envelope generation situation here was so insufficient that I yanked all of the previous ones and put in a pair of Zadars with Nin expanders, which now brings your envelope total to eight. After those are all of your main effects; I took that down to a Timizoara multiprocessor, Kaminiec delay, and Springray reverb head, then put in a Ladik AUX mixer so that you can sum down the effects to a single stereo AUX return but still have control over the incoming levels. After this, I added a Beads for all sorts of granular mayhem, then the Resonant EQ is down at the end.

Fourth row: Starts with the MIDI interface, then a WMD Tool Box gives you a number of useful utilities in just 6 hp. ANA is next, then since we're screwing around with CV values, I put in a Joranalogue dual window comparator to pick off gate signals from all sorts of incoming signals. After that, I put in a Frequency Central logic module, which together with the previous couple of modules now gives you more potential gate complexity for firing off the triple S&H after it. Then there's your Nutone distorter and Vocoder in the pre-mixer slots. For the main mixer, I dropped in a Toppobrillo Stereomix2 which gives you VCA control over levels, panning, AUX send levels, mutes on all inputs, a CUE send function which can be very useful for checking things on the fly, such as tuning, and a full AUX loop with a mono out and stereo return. The mixer's outs go before the last two modules...I used the River tilting Baxandall EQ as a post-mixer "tone" control and the stereo field adjustment is right after that and before your main outs.

Now THIS seems to be a lot more balanced. The layout is certainly easier to navigate with your primary synth functions all grouped together, as well. My impression is that it's still a little thin on sources, but the rest of the system is now up to snuff, I think, and you've got plenty of possibilities for faking things so that the build can SEEM to have more sources than it actually does.


F> Wailed on this...there was a lot there that was sort of superfluous once the organization process got going. This should make more overall sense, though:

ModularGrid Rack
OK...the top row is your oscillators and filters, plus a Veils after the oscillators for level control of those. Also, the crossover is up there at the upper left, as it makes more sense to use it to slice up the frequency domain of an external signal.

Second row: modulation, save for the Schippmann Compressor at the end. Notice that the waveshaper from the top row is now down here (for tampering with modulation waveforms) and I replaced the top row one with a design based on the Buchla 259's wavefolder.

Third row: This starts with a Konstant Labs PWRchekr, which I often put into builds where you have no DC rail indicators so that you can keep an eye on those. Then the entire external thing was swapped out for a Nonlinear Envelope Follower...this has a mono audio preamp, but it also extracts the incoming envelope for modulation use as well as sends a gate when the input level is high enough, and does all of this in 4 hp. Then the noise...but since the envelope generation situation here was so insufficient that I yanked all of the previous ones and put in a pair of Zadars with Nin expanders, which now brings your envelope total to eight. After those are all of your main effects; I took that down to a Timizoara multiprocessor, Kaminiec delay, and Springray reverb head, then put in a Ladik AUX mixer so that you can sum down the effects to a single stereo AUX return but still have control over the incoming levels. After this, I added a Beads for all sorts of granular mayhem, then the Resonant EQ is down at the end.

Fourth row: Starts with the MIDI interface, then a WMD Tool Box gives you a number of useful utilities in just 6 hp. ANA is next, then since we're screwing around with CV values, I put in a Joranalogue dual window comparator to pick off gate signals from all sorts of incoming signals. After that, I put in a Frequency Central logic module, which together with the previous couple of modules now gives you more potential gate complexity for firing off the triple S&H after it. Then there's your Nutone distorter and Vocoder in the pre-mixer slots. For the main mixer, I dropped in a Toppobrillo Stereomix2 which gives you VCA control over levels, panning, AUX send levels, mutes on all inputs, a CUE send function which can be very useful for checking things on the fly, such as tuning, and a full AUX loop with a mono out and stereo return. The mixer's outs go before the last two modules...I used the River tilting Baxandall EQ as a post-mixer "tone" control and the stereo field adjustment is right after that and before your main outs.

Now THIS seems to be a lot more balanced. The layout is certainly easier to navigate with your primary synth functions all grouped together, as well. My impression is that it's still a little thin on sources, but the rest of the system is now up to snuff, I think, and you've got plenty of possibilities for faking things so that the build can SEEM to have more sources than it actually does.
-- Lugia

Interesting. Going to take a moment to wrap my head around this, but definitely more coherent flow. Goes a little bit against what I was thinking but I like it. Thanks especially with the utilities. Sound sources are definitely on the more minimal side. The whole thing will typically be for designing/mangling one sound at a time, so can use as many/all or as little of the modules available. So I might slim down on the mixer but otherwise makes a lot more sense.

Thanks


Keep in mind, though, that the mixer in there does a lot more than just mixing. It has your end-of-path VCAs for signal level control, an autopanner (and manual panner, natch) on each mono input, allows you to use the CUE bus for tuning and other checks on the fly, has your parallel path via the AUX for FX (also with per-channel AUX VCAs), and it's also your headphone preamp.

In fact, this is how you get more into a build in less room for less money. Whenever you have the ability to use something with a large function set as opposed to something basic but which requires a bunch more modules, always go for the multiple functionality devices.

And one last thing: never assume beforehand what you'll be doing in the future with something as open-ended as a modular synth. Sure, it works as a sound design rig just fine...but what if you find out that the modular opens up some new musical directions you'd not entertained before? YT jam vids, live performance, etc...make sure you've got those bases ALL covered, because you really don't have an idea where the synth will lead you!


Completely agree on the last point and appreciate you saying that. The idea is/has been really a big synth, one big voice, then I record and further mangle on the computer. So that’s how I’m thinking about it for now and use it. But love that you said that because you’re totally right, gotta keep my mind open.


Great advice from Lugia. One piece of advice- get the bigger case but start slowly with only a few modules at a time. That way you can get the right balance of support modules and so forth. I’m using utility modules like WMD SSF Toolbox a lot more in complex patches and they are critical. I use way more modulation now with advanced patching than when I first began. It’s really about cv control I find with modular. I’m using at least 8 LFO per complex patch since many of my modules each have many cv modulation points to tweak.


ModularGrid Rack

Took a little while but this is what I think it’s going to look like after taking Lugia’s suggestions into consideration. It doesn’t have every base covered but I think enough for right now. Expansion is certainly in the cards as I’d like to explore some things I don’t have in here, like logic, more random, in rack sequencing, and more sound sources.

Thanks for the input!