Friends,

So I've been at this modular synthesis business for about two years now and have been loving every bit of it. Over this time, I've slowly put together a rack that I am happy with, one that I think is versatile for my musical interests: 80s synth/techno and ambient generative. Recently, I've decided to pursue the ambient generative route a bit more and am looking to add some modules to reflect this.

Here is what my rack is looking like now:

ModularGrid Rack

There are some DIY modules that take up some of the empty space: a Dual VCA, a Quad mixer, the 123ADC designed by Sam Battle of Look Mum No Computer, a Lowpass filter and a simple sine/triangle wave oscillator. I also have an Arturia Keystep that I use as a sequencer from time to time.

Three things I wanted to address about my rack:

1) VCAs. The more the merrier right? My DIY Dual VCA is doing well, but I often find myself needing more control, both over audio signals and CV. Modules that I've been considering for this are Intellijel Quad VCA and Mutable Instruments Blinds.

2) Random CV modulation. This is a big one for me. I've been on a quest to create quasi-random CV and LFOs for my ambient generative patches. I've been able to get away with it a bit using Tides and some CV mixing. I love randomly modulating the voices I use! From my research so far, I hear Mutable Instruments Marbles is great for this.

3) Voices. To me, it seems that I don't have enough voices in this rack. I mostly find myself using Pluck, uPlaits and Rings, but is there another voice that sounds great ambient-wise, especially when passed through Clouds?

Any suggestions, comments or criticisms on my rack would be greatly appreciated. Like I said, I've decided to go the more ambient generative route, but am torn as to what I need to add next. Space isn't an issue nor power supply, as I'm making a larger custom case.

-Uncle Peter


Intellijel Quad VCA is great. I’m happy with it.
For random voltage take a look at Mutable Instruments Marbles and Make Noise Wogglebug. Both are fantastic but different approaches to generating randomness. Wogglebug can do some Buchla Richter type random voltage or work like an additional oscillator or random noise generator. Marbles has the ability to do Turing machine randomness which is fun. I have and like them both.


Also, instead of the Intellijel Quad VCA, I'd recommend the current iteration of Mutable's Veils. That frees up 2 hp, which might sound miniscule, but sometimes an extra 2 hp somewhere means you can fit another module into the cab somewhere else. And given that this is a rather small cab, you're going to need enough space (within reason...you don't want to build a "cactus" of tiny knobs and plugs that's not easily controllable) to get a better complement of utilities in there.


Three things I wanted to address about my rack:

1) VCAs. The more the merrier right? My DIY Dual VCA is doing well, but I often find myself needing more control, both over audio signals and CV. Modules that I've been considering for this are Intellijel Quad VCA and Mutable Instruments Blinds.

Veils over Intellijel quad - veils has more gain (upto +20dB) and sliders + as @Lugia mentioned it;s smaller - which is sometimes a good thing - in this case it is

Blinds is bi-polar - which is useful - but makes it difficult to 0 - so if you want silence from your vcas then not so good

2) Random CV modulation. This is a big one for me. I've been on a quest to create quasi-random CV and LFOs for my ambient generative patches. I've been able to get away with it a bit using Tides and some CV mixing. I love randomly modulating the voices I use! From my research so far, I hear Mutable Instruments Marbles is great for this.

Marbles is like a triple TM with extras - really useful - also has gates and a fully random channel - I really like mine - used in every patch - might want to dump the tm and tune (I've got them too - and these would be the first 2 modules to sell if I decided I needed to)

3) Voices. To me, it seems that I don't have enough voices in this rack. I mostly find myself using Pluck, uPlaits and Rings, but is there another voice that sounds great ambient-wise, especially when passed through Clouds?

in this size case I think 3 voices is more than enough - as there is not enough space left over for the important things in modular

I try to think (very loosely):

sound sources < sound modifiers < modulation sources < utilities

as this way you can get more variety for your money and hp

a single sound source can be processed by multiple sound modifiers etc NB a sound source can be multiple vcos etc hence loosely

things I would think about:

you probably need a bigger case (or maybe just another one) - I use 8 cases the smallest of which is 6u/72hp - most of which are diy - I really like the befaco excalibus for power - it's very quiet and doesn't take up racks space (and there's a diy kit version - which is easy but tedious)

fx aid xl - a great little multi-fx module - loads of algorithms for you to choose from - I particularly like the lofi one (stereo zvex lofi junkie) and a lot of reverbs and delays - I'd probably get a couple

long envelopes: xaoc zadar can do some seriously long and complex envelopes

mixing - you look like you need a stereo mixer (rings, plaits and clouds are all stereo (or dual mono) modules - some stereo spread may be good

a filter might be a good diea!

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


Thank you for the detailed replies everyone.

I now believe I have a clear path of what I need to take my rack in the direction I want to go.

I think the next module I will go with is Veils after more research. The updated version is really neat!

Although the fx aid xl that Jim mentioned is very very tempting. I've instantly fallen in love with it after seeing a few demos. Is there that much of a difference between the fx aid xl versus the fx aid, aside from the extra CV to control the settings?

I'll be DIYing a few things too, like my case, the aim now is 12U/104HP that I'll slowly be filling over the next few years or so. Could also get away with a DIY stereo mixer, hopefully that's not too bad.

Thanks again!


1) VCAs. The more the merrier right? My DIY Dual VCA is doing well, but I often find myself needing more control, both over audio signals and CV. Modules that I've been considering for this are Intellijel Quad VCA and Mutable Instruments Blinds.

Veils is an excellent option. I own the Intellijel quad VCA and it is fantastic.

2) Random CV modulation. This is a big one for me. I've been on a quest to create quasi-random CV and LFOs for my ambient generative patches. I've been able to get away with it a bit using Tides and some CV mixing. I love randomly modulating the voices I use! From my research so far, I hear Mutable Instruments Marbles is great for this.

I have marbles which is great for this. But I'm also thinking that you have stages, which (if you update to the qiemem firmware) gives you a 4th stage-type, which is Random CV. Worth looking into and could shift your focus away from a random module and more towards supplementing your EGs. Just a thought.


Thank you for the detailed replies everyone.

I now believe I have a clear path of what I need to take my rack in the direction I want to go.

I think the next module I will go with is Veils after more research. The updated version is really neat!

Although the fx aid xl that Jim mentioned is very very tempting. I've instantly fallen in love with it after seeing a few demos. Is there that much of a difference between the fx aid xl versus the fx aid, aside from the extra CV to control the settings?

I'll be DIYing a few things too, like my case, the aim now is 12U/104HP that I'll slowly be filling over the next few years or so. Could also get away with a DIY stereo mixer, hopefully that's not too bad.

Thanks again!
-- unclepeter

No problem - good you found some use for our ramblings!

fx aid: xl is bigger - so better ergonomics (because the knobs have more space) as well as the added advantage of extra modulation inputs

for a DIY stereo mixer I'd consider the tesseract tex-mix - you can expand it with as many mono and stereo channels as you want (4 at a time) and the smd is already done for you so just panel furniture and headers to solder!

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


Marbles is an extraordinary module. I can't think of an equivalent, it is like no other. I often work in this way of randomization. Marbles is a sun king.
To complete, some modules to consider for a small rack: Rnd Step, Ochd; one can also think of Nano Rand, Quantum Rainbow, and some Doepfer modules including the A-118-2.


Thanks again for the replies!

After some amazing Black Friday sales from my local Moog store, I've picked up both Veils and the FX Aid XL. I couldn't resist after seeing how versatile the FX is. Am looking forward to incorporating these modules into my patches and learning the ins and outs of them.

More importantly, the timeline forward has also been set and I'm really looking forward to the rack developments of the future!


Marbles is great and I use it in many patches. Another fun modulation source could be Acid Rain Technologies Maestro with six programmable channels of modulation can shape and save LFOs so cool! Filters- I love my Wasp and another cool filter you might consider is Rossum Morpheus Z Plane with tons of options. Bigger case a must.