So I am recently diving into the whole modular synth world and man, its cool! But also quite overwhelming.
I hope I can get some advice from you so that I don't throw away my money onto some fantasy that cannot work out.

Let me give you some background so that you better understand where I would like to go with this. I am a guitarist, play in a band and love atmospheric stuff with delay/reverb pedals and also hard riffs with a fuzz. Before you think I am looking for something where I can plug my guitar in, thats not the case. I want to have my own additional instrument with which I can create music, maybe in a band setting, maybe just by myself, but it should be something with which I could perform live. A few month back I bought my first desktop synth (Behringer Crave) and a Digitakt (love it and it would definitely be my drummachine).

When you look at the rack I put together it looks a lot like the one from Ricky Tinez in one of his videos. Thing is, I love these Noise Engineering modules already! So what do I want? Like I said, it should be able to perform live or in a jam. Second, I want something that can be hard (strong bass, a bit 303 style) but also sometimes melodic, with some melancholic atmosphere. I also was thinking about the size and I understand that 4U 62 HP is rather small and I know you will tell me to go bigger, but keep in mind that I want to be able to bring this thing around. And I am a minimalist personality-wise ;)

As a side note, before I started looking into modular synths I almost bought the Erica Synth Bassline because damn that thing has a great sound. If I could have something in this direction with a bit more weird stuff going on when I want to I think I found my dream instrument.

Anyways, your help and advice is so much appreciated!!

That is the current setup and I am happy to throw things out or replace them with something crucial that is missing. The order is not really fixed here and is an issue I approach once I have the core moduls I need in it.
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Get the DB-01!


Welcome and I just built a mobile techno focused system with drums, bass and so forth in a 4u Intellijel Palette case. So far it works great. Here is what I put together to help you as a guideline:

ModularGrid Rack

First, some advice.

Ditch the larger Desmodus Versio and get the smaller Happy Nerding FX Aid unless you plan on a larger case. Also get rid of the Clep Diaz, Mimetic Digitalis, Horologic Solum, and 2HP LFO. Get a Pamela New Workout instead as it takes up less space, has 8 triggers and greatest clock in eurorack and good euclidian sequencer plus logic and random options for modular and great for drums.

Get a decent quad VCA and thank me later as well. I know that you like Noise Engineering but their modules tend to be on the larger side and not idea for a small case. I also recommend a larger mobile case like Intellijel 7u case that is still portable or a Tiptop Mantis case.


I don't endorse this for the usual reasons: not every "influencer" on eBay is what I would call "authoritative", and just because they can build a dedicated rig in something the size of a Kleenex box does NOT mean that YOU can...or even moreso, SHOULD.

When Dieter Doepfer came out with the "beauty cases", he named them that for a reason. They're cute and all, but they don't have enough space to come up with a proper build...even a limited proper build in a lot of situations. What they're best at is to be used for "mission-specific" purposes, especially if you're pulling modules for that "mission" from a much larger system. They're LOUSY at being housing/power for full-on modular builds, though.

Secondly, I think I can run even odds on whether your first low-lighting gig with this build causes you to throw that thing against a club wall. The NE circuitry is good stuff...but the PANELS look like someone hurled up a stomachful of India ink and then poked at it with a dental pick to do the lettering. As of late, they ARE doing more sensible panels...but these earlier ones just look like hammered dogshit. Just try lowering the light in the room to typical venue levels, then try and patch/program that build above. You will go immediately berserk! Ain't kiddin'!

sacguy71 and I agree: get a bigger case for starters. And both of us would definitely suggest the Tiptop Mantis, which is quite portable (Tiptop even sells a dedicated gigbag for it!). And another good reason for this is:

Intellijel Palette 62 = 62 hp 3U, 62 hp 1U, powered (1200mA on the 12s, 500 mA on the 5) = $299

Tiptop Mantis = 208 hp total (2 x 104hp), powered (3000mA +12V, 1100 mA -12V, 300mA 5V) = $335

Also, not only does the Mantis make a lot more sense, Tiptop has a case coupler for the Mantis line...meaning that when it's time, you can slap a second Mantis onto the first one. Put the upper one almost straight-up, and the lower on its angled "feet", and you get excellent ergonomics. With a cab like that, you can keep extending the synth's module complement pretty painlessly. Use the Palette 62, and you're sort of stuck in that regard.

One other point about a bigger case...bigger case is friendlier to bigger modules, and if you intend to play this AND your axe at the same time, bigger is better. You sure as hell don't want to be twiddling tiny controls while playing...you want your major controls (VCF cutoff and resonance especially, as well as your main mixer) to have BIG knobs, stuff you can just reach out and GRAB without worrying if that's the VCF cutoff or something you'd not want to change. Better still, with a bigger cab you could add a CV faderbank for "immediate" controls without worrying about what you'd just grabbed in amongst all of those cables and knobs.

Also...who's to say that you WON'T want to plug the guitar into the synth? Eventually, that curiosity WILL hit you...and if there's no room for a proper input preamp + envelope follower (see the Doepfer A-119...probably the most popular of these), this ain't gonna happen. Again, this is part of the YT influencer problem...they aren't YOU, they don't have any idea of what YOU want to create, they have no idea of where YOU might want to go next, they're just faces on a screen that don't interact and which often have a (stated or, annoyingly, NOT stated) vested interest with the thing they're shoving in the camera. Create YOUR instrument...not copy someone else's...and it will do what YOU want. And for help, there's this joint right here, cuz we're about the farthest thing from "noninteractive" as it gets!


Thank you so much for your comments! I love this community already! I think while you get lost in your research about modules etc it is good to have a reality check, which you definetely gave me! Also one has to be careful that GAS is not hitting, but I already learned my lessons buying and selling guitar pedals and have now just a handful which do the job.

First of all, modular synth are in my (very limited) opinion the place to live your creativity to the fullest (given enough space and money). Having that said, I would like to start out with something where I spend my 1500 - 2000 Euro/$ and have a system I can begin with exploring. You all make a good point about getting a bigger case and maybe Lugia is right that I shouldn't just copy what some person on YT does (well I liked the sound, but it might be that I will go some other way eventually). Also I get your point about the shiny LEDs on the NE stuff, I totally see that to be very annoying.

Also thank you sacguy71 for sharing your intellijel setup, looks interesting and I will get some inspiration. Might be as well that I just end up getting the DB-01 combined with my Digitakt. No, I think want to go Modular and explore this space!

Do you have any suggestions for must haves (modular-wise) in a setup that kinda has a DB-01 (303) character but also leaves room for some more weird and melodic stuff? I know thats very broad, but at this point I just wanna get some directions to do more research before I come up with a second version of my initial idea and eventually do my first buys. Great thing about modular is the possibility for endless expansion!


I had a DB-01 and Digitakt before I started buying modules. Honestly, I think you should get the DB-01 and work with it, then see what you are still missing and want from modular. It will be expensive to build up modules that come close to what the DB-01 offers, and the DB-01 has three CV inputs (in addition to clock in/out and MIDI in/out) and a hot output, so it can be easily hooked up to a rack in future. Erica Synths does have a Bassline module (I suspect it shares much circuitry with the DB-01) but it lacks noise, synced LFO, and most importantly the seriously playable sequencer that really puts it into 303 territory. I know this is a modular forum and I should be talking up Eurorack, but sometimes the alternative is better.


I know this is a modular forum and I should be talking up Eurorack, but sometimes the alternative is better.
-- plragde

Too true! This is the big reason why most of the users here don't try and build a drum section in a modular. Not only is that confusing, it gets VERY expensive very quickly, and you probably lose some of the functionality that's built into a good drum machine.

Decades ago, when TB-303s were screaming upward in price, a number of people tried to recapture the TB-303s lightning in a bottle. And largely, that never worked...mainly because none of these took the time to dissect how the 303 achieves its trademark sound. But users back then did, and here's what we found...

First of all, a big part of the 303 sound comes from the sequencer, and how it treats events such as the "glide", by having a gradual up or down slide until you hit around +/- 50 cents, then it quickly snaps up to the next pitch. It's a very WEIRD slew implementation, not at all symmetrical, and was part of why the TB-303 initially "failed". It just didn't sound good on bass like a bass guitar etc, which is how Roland was marketing it.

Next, the filter. It's weird. It's a 3-pole lowpass...18 dB, where we're used to 2-pole and 4-pole ones. Attempting to replicate the 303 sound with those VCFs, though, won't sound right...because the 303 doesn't sound "right" when used as Roland suggested. They never intended for the yowling ACIEEED sound to define the device...and when it was new, that sound wouldn't emerge for another 5-6 years, eventually coming to the fore with Larry Heard's first acid house tracks.

Third, the oscillator. Use dirt-simple waveforms...square or sawtooth. Anything more spectrally elaborate just doesn't sound correct. It was a big point of the "Devilfish" mods that you could set up a second oscillator, but it still kept these waveforms because it was recognized that changing those would take things away from that sound "zone" that the 303 resides in.

And lastly, Roland themselves. When the TB-303 failed spectacularly and what's estimated at THOUSANDS of units were landfilled, they adopted this inflexible policy that they would never, EVER reissue it. Even when used units were up above $2k. Instead, what we eventually got was:

The MC-303, which was more like a "techno home organ".
The TB-3, which...well, simply wasn't a 303 in the normal sense.
The "boutique" TB-03. Guys, using the same VA architecture with a different interface ultimately equals more or less the same soulless sound.

Then there's a LOT of clones of the 303, with some (Erica's Bassline, the Cyclone Analogic TT-303) getting damn close and others (Uli's first 303 attempt, pretty much ANY effort by Roland) that just didn't nail that sound. Disturbingly, though, B.'s redux of the TD-3 which incorporates many of the Devilfish mods...really DOES sound like a Devilfish-modded TB-303. The build quality makes me nervous there, though, as B. is going with a similarly cheap build method like how Roland made the original.

And then, there's another which doesn't SOUND like a TB-303 because the synth engine is algorithmic FM, and that would be the Sonicware Liven XFM. To me, this one seems like the actual win, as the sequencer behaves "properly" and yet you've got a totally different and potentially FAR MORE capable engine with the FM generation method. And amusingly, it's the second cheapest 303-alike (B's TD-3 is the winner there because...uh, B.'s cheaper build method is...well, it is what it is).


I had a DB-01 and Digitakt before I started buying modules. Honestly, I think you should get the DB-01 and work with it, then see what you are still missing and want from modular. It will be expensive to build up modules that come close to what the DB-01 offers, and the DB-01 has three CV inputs (in addition to clock in/out and MIDI in/out) and a hot output, so it can be easily hooked up to a rack in future. Erica Synths does have a Bassline module (I suspect it shares much circuitry with the DB-01) but it lacks noise, synced LFO, and most importantly the seriously playable sequencer that really puts it into 303 territory. I know this is a modular forum and I should be talking up Eurorack, but sometimes the alternative is better.
-- plragde

Speaking money-wise and maybe also how fast I can get something going, it would be the better option at this point. Interesting to read that you had the same setup before moving on. So I am really considering it, but will first continue my research. I am quite hooked on the idea to start a modular system because I want to explore it and to create my own instrument. However, I realise that this is far from being done and I think that finding the sound you want can take years of experimenting, trial and error, and so on. I also saw the Bassline module and even though it is not the same as the db-01, it might be a good start in a setup.

@Lugia: Your comment is much appreciated. There is a lot of densely compressed information in there! I think at this point I have to re-evaluate my options and maybe start out with VCV-Rack, play around, see what I can get done in there and understand the process of building a modular synth in more depth. Then I might come back here with my second shot on a system. If I end up buying the db-01 I will post that here ;)


Interesting to read that you had the same setup before moving on.
-- kvnlxm

I haven't moved on! I still have the DB-01 and Digitakt and use them, alone, with each other, and with my modular. The coupling can be as loose as sharing just clock, or I can send CV/MIDI information among them. But I have mostly not tried to do anything in the rack that I could reasonably approximate (or, in the case of the DB-01, exceed) outside it.


Thanks again for your responses! I thought about the db-01 and put more thought into the direction I want to go. I think I was a bit misguided that I want/need to have a similar sound in my rack. I don't. I want something more experimental with a clear focus on harder beats/synth. This is why I want to go with the Noise Engineering BIA (Although I am not totally clear this is the NE voice I wanna go with, maybe I will end up with the Cursus Iteritas Percido or even add the Erica Synth Bassline Module). I also choose a bigger case and I am not totally fixed on this design yet, but this also comes down to the cost of such a case.

I added the Pamela New Workout as I like the module after researching it. It seems quite deep so that I will have to learn a lot while using it (Goes basically for every module here). Also, I added a Quad VCA, here the MI Veils. Moreover, I still keep the Desmodus Versio as I like the fact that you can change firmware and transform it into a different module. This seems quite usable!

I added the MUM M8 Filter but would like your thoughts about this. I also had my eyes on MI Ripples and others.

Finally, I like what Mimetic Digitalis can do so I kept it in this setup. Since I have the Pamelas New Workout in there as well I wanted to ask if you think it can replace the Intellijel Steppy? I like the straightforward way to control a sequence with steppy and based on the intellijel case you can easily multiply its clock to trigger for example Mimetic Digitalis.

I hope that I can evolve this setup into something I can use in a live setting to play harder beats (not necessary fast) with some drone atmosphere (need to maybe add a second NE voice or MI Elements). On the other hand, I want to be able to play on my guitar some hard fuzz riffs while having a nice hard beat sequence running on this beauty. Would be also cool within my band as additional instrument. If you think there is something missing to achieve this goal further suggestions are very much welcome.

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What do you envision your rack doing, beat-wise, that you can't already do with your Digitakt? Keep in mind that if you're playing guitar, you're not really going to be playing either the Digitakt or your modular.


Absolutely! And to clarify this a bit more, I don't need to play them simultaneously. I want to learn Modular Synth and to some weird, cool sounding stuff with it as a new way for creative expression. And if I have something where I think a hard riff would fit, I would let the rack do its thing and play a over it.

But to come back to what I want soundwise from a rack I think harder techno-ish beats with filled with some madness, weird accents or sometimes unpredictable patterns. Again, thats why I like the NE soundscape and my music background is more in the harder genres of rock. But then again, I don't want to follow a pattern or genre but want to explore my own creativity and what I can come up with. This first rack will be the starting point, there are for sure changes along the journey but I want it to be as goood as possible now so that I can start learning, exploring and eventually finding the music I want to make with it. Hope that makes sense


Okay. You'll have to think carefully about a drone voice, and if you want it to be tonal, Mimetic will need a quantizer. I don't think there's anything terribly wrong with what you have so far.


Cool! Drone can come into this setup later. Good point about the quantizer, I have the Intellijel Scales in mind. Any utilities I am forgetting here?


You might want something to do mixing.