Hey there,

Im looking into building this over the next few months
ModularGrid Rack

Its small and full but after a fair amount of research and tinkering I think it does everything I'm looking for
which is

  • Reasonably flexible single voice synth
  • can be expanded with guitar pedals which i currently own alot of
  • can run a guitar through for some exploration (using a external pre amp first to get to line level)
  • can be sequenced by opz, keystep and daw

I guess im just posting here because I presume alot of you are far more experienced and might catch something dumb or have some suggestions on how to improve.. one of the areas I'm fairly flexible is on the chronoblob as id like to get maybe some reverb in here too but I want a lot of control over delay

Should probably point out im not past going larger with this setup
ModularGrid Rack

money not really an issue, just happy to limit myself a little to keep it small.


bigger is almost always better - at least in the long run - I would recommend 6u instead of 4.5u or whatever these intellijel cases are...

1u looks inviting - but the amount of functionality you can get into the row compared with 3u is very limited - and there is very little that is available only in 1u - that's not available in 3u and takes up a lot less hp - and the advantages of the built in parts are not really that great compared with the price difference imo

I'd recommend a tiptop mantis - better power supply and cheaper than the intellijel 4u/104hp - and the 'built in functionality' of the intellijel can be added in not many hp - as and when you actually need it

if you want to use a guitar with eurorack modules I'd suggest that you get a dedicated input device that at least has envelope follower and comparator included = or get a disting mk4 or ex - as they have an algorithm that has both envelope and pitch following

an expression pedal interface module is also really handy - so you can control the modular with your foot whilst your hands are occupied playing the guitar

fx aid is a really useful module that adds a lot of variety in effects (and other areas) - the xl has both better ergonomics and more modulation inputs

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

sound sources < sound modifiers < modulation sources < utilities


definitely agree bigger case the Mantis Tiptop one or the Intellijel 7u no smaller. I use smaller cases but have much larger modular system to draw from as needed.


Thanks for the responses so far,
I guess I could go with the 7u or I think erica synths has a similar 6u case, I like the affordability of the mantis - I know it sounds silly but space and size are concerns for me along with having a flat (parallel bottom/sides)

I guess I'm also trying to understand why I would want to go bigger if my goal is to have a reasonably simple single voiced synth with effects - even in the 104 4u case I could add more utility and another oscillator and that would be nice but its kind of surpassing what I want to achieve.. not doubting you guys know and have experience with this, just failing to see where the line is/what I'm missing to hit my needs - or is the bigger case thing just a room to grow into thing because people are never happy with what they have?

an expression pedal interface is actually a good call, remember seeing a red one whilst looking at this, in terms of the env. & pitch followers.. I think I would try do that with a midi pickup rather than tracking - i had looked at the mutable inst. ears and disting mk4 - although the disting mk4 seems like a great module to have regardless so i might add it to the list anyway, that way it probably wont go to waste if I don't like the tracking.

Anyway thanks for replying hope I don't come off as ignorant about the case size


why I would want to go bigger if my goal is to have a reasonably simple single voiced synth with effects
-- keefo

If you just want that, you can get a fixed-architecture synth for a few hundred dollars, and have fun with it. Part of the point of modular is to be able to modulate in flexible ways. Count up the number of modulation inputs you have among Plaits, Forbidden Planet, Chronoblob2, and Afterneath. Now count up the ways you have to generate independent or even linked modulation. Maths can do a lot, but not nearly enough. The Mantis gives you room to expand. You don't have to use it right away, or ever, but chances are that you will want to.


Get a quadratt for your 1u and you can make copies of your cv / audio from Maths using the mults on the skiff if you are set on getting one.

You will make lovely sounds with what you picked because Plaits has so many diverse sound sources. Really excited for you. In place of Maths, I would get Pams new workout and a couple of pip slope mk2.

You may find this series interesting if you haven't watched already :)


why I would want to go bigger if my goal is to have a reasonably simple single voiced synth with effects
-- keefo

Now count up the ways you have to generate independent or even linked modulation. Maths can do a lot, but not nearly enough.

-- plragde

OK I can get onboard with that - makes total sense - more utility and modulation sources will allow more manipulation of the system - i think with greenfly's suggestion of the quadratt, adding another VCO and also bringing in some more modulation sources from the likes of pam's new workout could bring out more from what's already there,

Haven't thought out the new additions fully but something like this
ModularGrid Rack
will give me a lot more control over the basic system and fx

Thanks for feeding back.. I think I'm content with the 104 4u case for this - and know where I'm starting from and roughly where I'm building to - maybe some slight alterations along the way - I'm ok with the limit being there size wise.. if I do for some reason want to expand the scope of what I'm doing I can pull it up to another case whilst keeping this one somewhat free to pull out when needed

Also thanks for the vid recommendation greenfly - ive been watching a lot of videos over the past few weeks, will have a look at these now!


Personally, I think Maths is too large for a case this size, though that's clearly a minority view. Consider the Cosmotronic Delta-V, cheaper and half the size. It can't do everything that Maths can, but it can do some things that Maths can't, and that gets you 10hp to fill as you see fit. Pam's is really useful!


Ill look into cosmotronic delta-V, im not as familiar with it - ill watch some videos and see - maths just seems really cool when you start patching it into itself using all the channels, have watched a bunch of videos on it and at first had no idea why people rave about it and then started to understand how many possibilities it leads to.

Pam's does seem quite useful, i'd kind of written it off as a sequencer but it seems its much more than that - also need to look into it a bit more.


You can do a lot with Maths. You can do a lot with other DUSG-inspired modules as well. Some of the things you can do with modules are "Yes, that's clever, but it ties the whole module up and doesn't let me use it for more fundamental things".

Pam's is not a sequencer, as far as I'm concerned. It provides clock division and multiplication, synchronized LFOs of various shapes, Euclidean rhythms, some basic logic, clocked random CV that can be quantized (so random notes in a musical scale, but not a fixed sequence unless you dive in and use the LOOP function to repeat a random chunk – you can't write your own), and smooth random CV. It is not the most tweakable in the moment, but the menus are not too deep, and for set-and-forget it is terrific.


Yeah I think I'd just seen people using it for clock divisions and trigs and thought thats all it did - looking into a bit more it seems way more powerful

"Yes, that's clever, but it ties the whole module up and doesn't let me use it for more fundamental things".

Can see how that's an issue alright, thinking the mults and attenuverter would help free this up a little but probably counter intuitive to patch like that in the moment


Nah. It actually works far easier than you'd think. What the Maths is is sort of weird...it has more in common with my still-needing-to-be-restored Systron-Donner 3300 analog computer project. It can output all sorts of modulation curves...even asymmetrical ones. It can output an inverted version at the same time. And you can constantly futz around with it, warping and bending the modulation BY HAND as if the module was some mutant modulation controller/source...because that's pretty much what it IS. Yeah, it's 20 hp...but that 20 in "normal" modules could probably blow up to twice that size if you tried to replicate Maths with discrete modules.

Working on this as a Mantis build...

[Later] Oh, hawt daaamn...OK, this is where I took it:
ModularGrid Rack
As I noted, this build is in a Tiptop Mantis.

Top: This is your "voice" path. It starts with a proper input for the guitar that ALSO has the necessary level comparator and envelope follower from which you can send amplitude-controlled modulation. Disting next, then TWO Plaits (two oscillators can sound VERY thick) along with Happy Nerding's FM Aid, which allows the pair of Plaits to work together as a rather twisted FM source with thru-zero modulation. Veils is your VCA set, then the Forbidden Planet (I've used a Synthacon...and it howls and screeches beautifully, a potentially very cutting "lead" filter) AND a Rossum Evolution for many more filter topologies. Then next, a Ladik AUX mixer/distro. It's used to bring the effects in as a parallel mix, as opposed to using wet/dry controls for FX/mix balance. But there's a little secret here, in that the Chronoblob2 has an insert in the feedback path...so you can feed the delay directly, but break out an insert to feed through the FX Aid XL and then back...and things will get STRANGE. Last is a Happy Nerding Isolator, a stereo out with transformer isolation which lets you hit the module a bit harder, and you get back some nice transformer warm-up. But MUCH more importantly, the use of the guitar opens the build up to external noise, particularly if the output isn't isolated. Ergo, this.

Bottom: Modulation and clocking. For the MIDI, I went a lot further and put in an Expert Sleepers FH-1, which is a class-compliant MIDI over USB interface that can also work as a plug-n-go interface for a USB-MIDI controller such as the Keystep. All channels are also MIDI configurable. Footpedal interface next, then a little but potent Doepfer module that has your noise source, random voltage source, and either sample and hold or track and hold. But as for the Pam's...it sounds more like what's needed here is a Temps Utile, which is what I put in. Check the specs, and you'll see why. After that main clock gen, I've added some timing FSU fun...with a dual pulse delay, a dual pulse skipper, and a Tesseract CVable Boolean logic module for messing around with the extant clock patterns, making even MORE pattern possibilities. Then the last of those modules there output gates on up, down, steady, or moving CVs, and a comparator allows you to compare two voltages and derive even MORE gates with which to feed the Boolean gates. Note, also, that the T_u contains some random sequential tricks that can ALSO benefit from these timing manglers.

After that, a 4ms Pingable Quad LFO...and yes, the "ping" functions can set your LFO times. These also have a range from 1 kHz down to a bonkers 71 minutes in waveform length. This is useful for both regular LFO duties AND as a slow-mo source for generative work. Then, yep, Maths. And it now has clock pulses to chew on, which can trigger up even MORE interesting modulation/control funtimes. After that, a Frap 321 is there to mix/mangle/invert/etc your modulation curves, and a dual VCA based on the Veils topology is next to that so that you can control modulation levels via CV. Then your main EG set is the Quadrax, with the Qx so if you want to "cascade" the four envelope gens (in whatever order you like) to behave as one huge and VERY complex device, it's an easy patch. Clock it up at audio rates and see where THAT leads!

This is why most of us don't endorse "beauty case" builds. You simply cannot build THIS in THAT. And "THIS" is a very comprehensive 2 x 104 rig that you'll have to work very hard at to exhaust the patching possibilities. It'll be an asset to you for many years, and expand nicely into a bigger configuration later on...IF you think you need to!


ModularGrid Rack

Hi

I would do something like this. Lugia will definitely give you a better more complete version but I can only really talk about the modules I have so I'm pretty confident this would work.

Pams - use this for clock, triggers, envelopes, lfo's etc (divkid has a wicked video on it)

Varigate 4 + - you have a great deal of flexibility including randomisation with this sequencer, you can use it in multiple configurations and it has quantization built in.

Beehive - smaller version of plaits

Jove filter - I pair my plaits with this. It makes plaits sound expensive.

2hp mix - this is for mixing your oscillator waveforms

wasp - take the mixed waveforms and use a wasp filter on them.

pip slopes and vca are for your end of chain - use the pip slopes in your filter and your vca. Look into what EOS does and that will open up a new world for you too

mix everything in the befaco st mix in the first two channels

you can return the delay and reverb into 2nd two channels of the st mix then take the l + r of the st mix into your 1 u out . this way you can use the delay and reverb on your oscillator and on the plaits clone together.

Also I would take a lot of modulation from pams and pipe all that into quadratt and then take the mix out into various modulation inputs. You will get a lot of variation in your sound this way by mixing cv sources

hope this helps.


wow, thanks both so much for putting all that effort in!

A lot for me to take in and absorb here so ill come back later today and spend some time when I have more to go through it in detail and get my head around some of the unfamiliar modules

Thanks again, super helpful!


OK I've had a look through both builds and I think you have all convinced me to to go for the mantis case, ill probably use the mantis build above as a guide.. I wont be able to build it all at once probably a few modules at a time - and I might vary modules from it a bit - but keep the intention behind it - like maybe instead of a second plaits go for another vco to FM with - but I think a second vco is probably further down the line of acquisitions anyway.

Thanks again for all the help.

Question for any EU people in here, where are the best places to buy modules from? I've been looking at Thomann purely because as a guitarist in Ireland its always made the most sense for pedals etc. but if there are online shops that better serve modular id be keen to take a look.


I'm not an EU person (yet) and this is not an EU shop (though it once was), but I've had good service and selection from Elevator Sound in the UK (if the special relationship between the UK and Ireland has any effect here, which it may not).


Uk still the fastest for shopping online in Ireland, but we get charged import duties etc now since brexit that we wouldnt get from non UK, its not super straightforward though as I think if the product is made in the UK then its not charged - and im not sure what constitutes made in the UK, like assembled versus manucfactured etc..

But yeah sometimes easier to order from mainland Europe even if its slower


Actually have one question Lugia about the output and groundloops if you see this

Id kind of like a headphones out which the isolator doesnt have - but am aware of ground loops and how much pain they can be from decades ago when I used to power my guitar pedals off of a daisy chain also blew a sensitive connection one time on a camera, I have isolated outputs now - but i guess my perspective is very guitar based - but long story short I understand the need for the isolator/groundlift.. wondering if there is similar solution with either a headphone out - or a module that can ground lift and patch into an output module like the befaco one with a headphone and stereo 6.3 outs - ive had a look but cant seem to find any info on any other modules that do a ground lift - any suggestions?


OK I've had a look through both builds and I think you have all convinced me to to go for the mantis case, ill probably use the mantis build above as a guide.. I wont be able to build it all at once probably a few modules at a time - and I might vary modules from it a bit - but keep the intention behind it - like maybe instead of a second plaits go for another vco to FM with - but I think a second vco is probably further down the line of acquisitions anyway.

Thanks again for all the help.

Question for any EU people in here, where are the best places to buy modules from? I've been looking at Thomann purely because as a guitarist in Ireland its always made the most sense for pedals etc. but if there are online shops that better serve modular id be keen to take a look.
-- keefo

Not in the EU anymore - but have had good dealings with (in the past) Musicstore, Thomann, MidiAmsterdam, Exploding Shed (DIY, mainly), Modular Square, Raw Voltage and Patch Point

to some extent you do have to hunt around a bit - some stores stock a particular brand and others don't, or are out of stock, or dearer etc etc

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

sound sources < sound modifiers < modulation sources < utilities


Id kind of like a headphones out which the isolator doesnt have - but am aware of ground loops and how much pain they can be from decades ago when I used to power my guitar pedals off of a daisy chain also blew a sensitive connection one time on a camera, I have isolated outputs now - but i guess my perspective is very guitar based - but long story short I understand the need for the isolator/groundlift.. wondering if there is similar solution with either a headphone out - or a module that can ground lift and patch into an output module like the befaco one with a headphone and stereo 6.3 outs - ive had a look but cant seem to find any info on any other modules that do a ground lift - any suggestions?
-- keefo

If you can find another 2 hp on that row, you can swap out the Isolator with HN's OUT. It's exactly what you're describing...balanced outs, headphone preamp, stereo metering, and TWO stereo input pairs so that you can use the second pair to fly in effects, etc via that control. It also has a really nice dual-ganged-pot for the main master input, so that if you notice any stereo imbalances, you can correct it there.


Ok thanks, ill check that out - I think for now if I was going to sacrifice anything for the extra 2hp it would be the midi interface - especially at the early stages of the build I can get by with the keysteps cv & gate and even program sequences through Ableton into that - long term I think I can probably get by with something a little simpler. will probably a take a bit of tetris to get both rows figured out - but i think im a fair time away from that - just bought the case and plaits though so I'm on my way :)


For EU shops:

  • SchneidersLaden is my favorite go-to place, great advice, honest pricing and they stock things that are not available anywhere else
  • I've had good experiences with synthesizer.gr, good prices and fast delivery, they also have stock for some otherwise hard-to-get modules
  • Thomann and MusicStore never really disappointed me but their offering is more limited for Eurorack
  • When I need DIY stuff, I get it from Exploding Shed
  • Had a terrible experience with Modular Square in Paris, would never buy from them again even with your money

I would not buy from the UK as someone living in the EU, it gets really messy with customs and usually ends up costing more...

--- Voltage control all the things ---


Yeah its just easier to avoid UK, amazon have a weird system that makes ordering from there ok for ireland but only with amazon warehoused stuff, but other shops ive bought from since brexit have been a pot luck as to whether i got screwed with paying way more - had found schneidersladen - seemed like a good collection, good to hear something positive about them to confirm - id been looking on thomann as I said and felt there where some pretty popular modules/brands they didnt stock, like alm etc


I forgot to add schneidersladen to my list above - they are great too

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

sound sources < sound modifiers < modulation sources < utilities


I forgot to add schneidersladen to my list above - they are great too
-- JimHowell1970

Too true! Schneidersladen is still one of the great modular nexuses...and they carry loads of brands. Probably one of the best, and definitely on par with shops like Noisebug and Perfect Circuit over here.


Tweaked your build a little bit,

ModularGrid Rack

I dont think I've ruined it, just tweaked, but let me know if you think I've killed some potential here.

I'm still not decided on pam's versus temp utile, but I'm kind of leaning more towards pam's because more outs and can output waves not just trigs.. the only real benefit I can see of temps utile is the sequencing but it seems fiddly and ill be sequencing externally - but let me know if im wrong there.


It seems to me you want to include effects internal and external but you are eliminating send and return
functionality. It's ok to use and effect per voice but it might be more efficient to use them in an aux configuration.


the strymon aa.1 is a send and return or am I completely misunderstanding what you meant?


Darn it now I need a larger case for 3 rows to fit more modulation like the 4ms quad Lfo sorry just making observation on my part as I’m working on a similar build.


the strymon aa.1 is a send and return or am I completely misunderstanding what you meant?
-- keefo

the aa.1 is a pedal interface - it does send from the modular to effects pedals and return from effects pedals to modular

@greenfly means send and return from your mixer to the aa.1 and any other in-rack effects, such as the fx-aid

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

sound sources < sound modifiers < modulation sources < utilities


Ah ok that makes sense - did not compute earlier, I could look into beefing up the mixer and removing/replacing the the fx aid xl for hp space - happy enough to sacrifice that for better integration of other effects including the effects pedals.