ModularGrid Rack

My goals are: 1. modular synthesis education (experimentation and learning), 2. ambient lead and pad sounds / textures, 3. rhythmic melodies, 4. guitar signal processing. Besides self-contained sounds/patterns, I intend to also connect a MIDI keyboard to play modular patches.

The rack above includes only modules I own (or are already in-transit to me). I don't intend to purchase anything else until I have a basic understanding of how these can work together. I expect modules to be swapped out for others as I learn. My futures purchase list (which is entirely hypothetical right now) includes:

EDIT: Adjusted priorities based on input.
0. 2x 2U buff mults
1. Intellijel Morgasmatron
2. MI Ears
3. MI Plaits
4. Intellijel Dual ADSR

Any advice is greatly appreciated!


you didnt want a filter or anything dedicated to audio processing ? i hope youve got stackcables or something; otherwise youlll need mults sooner or later. its not a bad rack but it just kinda feels like all that modulations got nowhere to go

electricity comes from other planets


you didnt want a filter or anything dedicated to audio processing ? i hope youve got stackcables or something; otherwise youlll need mults sooner or later. its not a bad rack but it just kinda feels like all that modulations got nowhere to go
-- moremagic

I absolutely do want filters, but just don't know enough about them to make a decision. Are there any you'd recommend as good overall filter modules? Would Morgasmatron be a good choice?


Hey Canyllyr

I would get a basic multimode filter until you know more of what you really want.
as you seem to like intellijel that Polaris or uvcf filter might be a good choice


Hey Canyllyr

I would get a basic multimode filter until you know more of what you really want.
as you seem to like intellijel that Polaris or uvcf filter might be a good choice
-- pestilent
Thank you for the suggestions! I am not tied to Intellijel specifically.


I absolutely do want filters, but just don't know enough about them to make a decision. Are there any you'd recommend as good overall filter modules? Would Morgasmatron be a good choice?

-- canyllyr

ive played a few. i wasnt a big fan of the intellijel uvcf i had, but all the others have sounded good.
i wasnt fond of the control scheme of the lxd or the z2040, but they were both easy on the ears.
the doepfer lpg has a mean preamp and sick resonance and a little pricetag.
filters are fun modules to play manually so id look for one with a nice layout and cool features.
i remember really wanting voltage control of resonance, and feeling like i miss it when i play a filter without kt, but i cant remember ever using it a whole lot ;_;
a modulars a very personal thing so do some window shopping on youtube , figure out if you want low pass or state variable, 12 dB or 24 dB, &c

electricity comes from other planets


If you have guitar effects pedals/stompboxes, there are modules that allow you to use those in your modular setup as well. I don't play guitar but since one of my builds is a Rackbrute 3U (small footprint), I got the Bastl Hendrikson which will allow me to use external stompbox (plural when I get a Electro-Harmonix Tri Parallel Mixer, which will let me connect up to 3 external pedals).

Hendrikson is discontinued but ALM also makes one called ALM006 - S.B.G...just something to consider since you play guitar and may have some effect pedals...or this would give you another reason to buy one :)

JB


there are a load of these modules - not just the bastl and alm - doepfer, ime, etc etc

some pedals don't need them - moogerfoogers are generally ok with modular levels and my strymon mobius works fine with them - if you need a bit of a boost to get back in to the modular, some vcas (veils, for example) work perfectly well

one thing to note with guitar pedals is they often don't work that well with bass frequencies

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

sound sources < sound modifiers < modulation sources < utilities


ive played a few. i wasnt a big fan of the intellijel uvcf i had, but all the others have sounded good.
i wasnt fond of the control scheme of the lxd or the z2040, but they were both easy on the ears.
the doepfer lpg has a mean preamp and sick resonance and a little pricetag.
filters are fun modules to play manually so id look for one with a nice layout and cool features.
i remember really wanting voltage control of resonance, and feeling like i miss it when i play a filter without kt, but i cant remember ever using it a whole lot ;_;
a modulars a very personal thing so do some window shopping on youtube , figure out if you want low pass or state variable, 12 dB or 24 dB, &c
-- moremagic

Thanks for this input!

If you have guitar effects pedals/stompboxes, there are modules that allow you to use those in your modular setup as well. I don't play guitar but since one of my builds is a Rackbrute 3U (small footprint), I got the Bastl Hendrikson which will allow me to use external stompbox (plural when I get a Electro-Harmonix Tri Parallel Mixer, which will let me connect up to 3 external pedals).
Hendrikson is discontinued but ALM also makes one called ALM006 - S.B.G...just something to consider since you play guitar and may have some effect pedals...or this would give you another reason to buy one :)
-- jb61264

Thanks -- yes, a later purchase is likely to be a floor control or one of the ones you mentioned. I don't want to start too complicate -- so initially just want to focus on the modular stuff by itself.

there are a load of these modules - not just the bastl and alm - doepfer, ime, etc etc
some pedals don't need them - moogerfoogers are generally ok with modular levels and my strymon mobius works fine with them - if you need a bit of a boost to get back in to the modular, some vcas (veils, for example) work perfectly well
one thing to note with guitar pedals is they often don't work that well with bass frequencies
-- JimHowell1970

Thanks! I am planning an Ears for boosting guitar signals into the modular system.


I own a Morgasmatron. It's a bit expensive. But you get two multi-mode filters that can act independently or as one cohesive unit. So you'll get a lot out of it. It's my go-to, bread & butter filter. As you progress, you may add more filters with different characteristics. But those characteristics are nuances if you're just getting into Eurorack or synthesis. In other words, you'll probably need some time to appreciate the differences.

Looking at your choice of sequencer, you might run into some issues. Steppy is great. But it only handles triggers and gates. So you may either want to add a second sequencer like a Noise Engineering Mimetic Digitalis... or replace the Steppy with something else that does both (there are endless possibilities in this category).

If you like the way the Steppy works then the Mimetic is a good choice. But you might have to think really hard, watch some videos, and read some manuals to make sure you like the workflow.


I own a Morgasmatron. It's a bit expensive. But you get two multi-mode filters that can act independently or as one cohesive unit. So you'll get a lot out of it. It's my go-to, bread & butter filter. As you progress, you may add more filters with different characteristics. But those characteristics are nuances if you're just getting into Eurorack or synthesis. In other words, you'll probably need some time to appreciate the differences.

Looking at your choice of sequencer, you might run into some issues. Steppy is great. But it only handles triggers and gates. So you may either want to add a second sequencer like a Noise Engineering Mimetic Digitalis... or replace the Steppy with something else that does both (there are endless possibilities in this category).

If you like the way the Steppy works then the Mimetic is a good choice. But you might have to think really hard, watch some videos, and read some manuals to make sure you like the workflow.

-- Ronin1973

Thanks for the info -- I have been waffling between the Morgasmatron and the Blades. I think getting one dual VCF for 'bread and butter' filtering is a good idea to start with. I can always add specialty filters individually later.

My inexperience is clear with regard to sequencing. I don't know how much Pam's and Steppy will do for me, nor do I know really how they will interact with Maths. I am definitely open to the Digitalis and others (I've also been looking at the Varigates), but think I need to walk before I run there. :)

Happy New Year!


you didnt want a filter or anything dedicated to audio processing ? i hope youve got stackcables or something; otherwise youlll need mults sooner or later. its not a bad rack but it just kinda feels like all that modulations got nowhere to go
-- moremagic

I absolutely do want filters, but just don't know enough about them to make a decision. Are there any you'd recommend as good overall filter modules? Would Morgasmatron be a good choice?

-- canyllyr

Rossum Morpheus Z Plane filter and IME Bionic Lester are super awesome filters that do tons of things. I highly recommend them.
For a basic filter, the Doepfer Wasp is great filter than can self oscillate and get wild or be tamed down. Filters are loads of fun.


Rossum Morpheus Z Plane filter and IME Bionic Lester are super awesome filters that do tons of things. I highly recommend them.
For a basic filter, the Doepfer Wasp is great filter than can self oscillate and get wild or be tamed down. Filters are loads of fun.
-- sacguy71

Thanks -- I appreciate the suggestions!


Morpheus is great. But I would not consider it for educational purposes. For educational purposes, besides a "normal" MMF, I would recommend a fixed filterbank.


Morpheus is great. But I would not consider it for educational purposes. For educational purposes, besides a "normal" MMF, I would recommend a fixed filterbank.
-- M01C

Are there any specific ones you'd recommend?


For a basic filter, the Doepfer Wasp is great filter than can self oscillate and get wild or be tamed down. Filters are loads of fun.
-- sacguy71

For completeness, I need to mention that this is actually not true of the Wasp filter as it is sold by Doepfer, self-oscillation is possible but not without modding the module or using other tricks past simply turning up the resonance...It's actually the only one in my rack that doesn't self-oscillate, but it sure can get wild and filters are sure to be fun as well :-)

--- Voltage control all the things ---


Morpheus is great. But I would not consider it for educational purposes. For educational purposes, besides a "normal" MMF, I would recommend a fixed filterbank.
-- M01C

Are there any specific ones you'd recommend?
-- canyllyr

That really depends on space and budget.

Really like the ADDAC601, but for now maybe overkill.

Smaller and cheaper: Verbos Noise&Filter or the MakeNoise Fxdf combined with a VCA (patch all the individual outs to the ins of the VCA and you can scan the different frequencies)

Pure for education, the Doepfer fixed filter could do the job.

Space and money no issue: Fumana!


Eric Synths Polivoks is a nice filter as well and pretty basic to use and has the ability to use as a low pass or band pass filter.


In the near future, I would get a Arturia keystep pro. Take the drums and note sequencing out of the rack to save space. I would replace steppy with some 1u drum modules.


You've made good choices! I agree with the advice to get a filter. My first was Three Sisters, and it is still the one I use the most, although I also have and recommend the Doepfer A-124 Wasp, Make Noise QPAS, Erica VCF1 and MMF by 2hp. Also, get yourself an LPG--for delicious organic VCF/VCA functions. I love both Optomix and LxD, but there must be many more out there.

Since you are interested in modular synth education, you will benefit greatly from an oscilloscope. You can buy a free-standing oscilloscope that won't suck up HP in your case, but it will clutter your work station. I really like the ZeroScope Oscilloscope which I use all the time, to study audio waves, envelopes, and other CV.

It is brilliant that you have included the Disting Mk-4, which is a Swiss Army Knife (or Leatherman). I use an 8 HP version of Ornament & Crime much more than my three Distings. They provide different functions. Consider getting an O&C with the Hemisphere Suite alternative firmware.

One last addition to your case would be a source of random voltage and S/H. Yes, PNW will put out random CV, but the workflow and responsiveness is not at all the same as with Ultra Random Analog, Richter Wogglebug, or NanoRand v2. I recommend all of those, and URA is my favorite by far.

Then, patch like crazy for six months, and keep notes on what functions you are missing (effects, delay, sequencing). I have the Arturia Keystep, and never use it. Have fun!

p.s. Get a 1U x 6 HP Chaos tile from Nonlinearcircuits. Your 1U module choices are also brilliant.


@toodee - thanks for the additional Wasp info!

@M01C - I've been looking at the Doepfler stuff... good suggestions (is the MN FXDF retired?), though leaning to dual VCF for first filter.

@sacguy71 - I like Erica Synths stuff... the Polivoks looks good, but I think I am looking for a dual VCF unit as the first thing. Not sure this is the best idea, but it's what I'm leaning toward.

@gil909 - I bought the MIDI unit and have been using with my Akai Force (which has CV) and also Arturia MiniLab MkII and OP-1 (which don't). But I think educationally-speaking, I want to learn how to generate entirely within the modular rack itself. I can always fall back on those tools (and sell off whatever sequencers I end up not jelling with).

@Zeta_fxn - thanks for the feedback! I was up late a couple nights ago and ended up impulse-purchasing a Mordax Data. :) It arrived today and I can already see the utility. Being able to visualize signals as well as hear them (when I audible) is extremely helpful as I learn the basics.


Here is an updated current rig (with the sole exception of the Morgasmatron) -- constantly and quickly evolving. :)

ModularGrid Rack

Many thanks to all for your input and advice! Happy New Year!


Couple of suggestions...first up, you might have a look at Adventure Audio's Merge. This is a module specifically designed for working with guitar, etc signals. It's got a send/return path for external FX, plus a proper instrument preamp that feeds into an envelope follower. And that last bit there is how you can use the guitar's amplitude curves to control pretty much anything that you'd feed that signal to...filters, VCAs, all sorts of possibilities. Right now, this is what the Ears is for, but the Merge offers way more flexibility and modulation potential.

Second: you can tighten up the tile row by removing the buffered mult (you really don't need it, as you don't have enough pitch CV destinations to cause voltage sag) and then adding that regained space with the gaps, and maybe by removing the USB jack tile. That would give you 20 more hp in the tile row. And you could even strip out the headphone preamp tile by going with a performance mixer that has a headphone output. Plus, you can get these with some very useful functions, such as Toppobrillo's Stereomix2, which has CV over level (and these would serve as your final audio level VCAs), panning, and each strip's AUX level. It has a mono AUX send with a stereo return, which is perfect for "global" effects such as reverb, etc. Oh, and clickless mutes, plus a CUE function associated with them that'll let you audition a channel separately via the headphones, which can be invaluable if you have a tuning mishap live. That's a far better solution, IMHO!


Speaking of guitars, think of how you are going to get to the right signal levels. If you use an external preamp anyway, a good line level IO should do. Personally, I´d look for something with XLR connectors for balanced signals. That way, studio use or longer cables in a live setup are taken care of. Vermona TAI or ACL Audio Interface come to mind.

For effects, it depends on what you want to achieve. There are modular versions of well established pedal effects like the Strymons. To get more on the crazy modular side of things, Noise Engineering have a very versatile platform with their versio series: You can swap the firmware and change the module into a delay, reverb, distortion etc. The frontplate is labeled according to whether you buy it as reverb, delay, etc. but there are overlays available as well (either for specific firmwares or neutral "1,2,3...").

For every "cool module hp" plan 1-2 hp of "helper modules" such as multiples, mixers (audio and cv), vcas, polarizers, attenuverters etc. I like the Happy Nerding ones for their great build quality and use of dual pots (inner and outer pot, so 2 in the space of one). Probably throw in one or two EQs to adjust signals in between modules.


a really useful type of module if you are a guitar player is an expression pedal interface...

doepfer and addac both do them (iirc they both do a variety - some can cope with on/off pedals too)

the addac one may or may not be diy, can't remember, but there is also the 7 dials cv express, which is DIY, if that interests you

being able to control at least some of the module whilst playing is quite useful...

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

sound sources < sound modifiers < modulation sources < utilities


Speaking of guitars, think of how you are going to get to the right signal levels. If you use an external preamp anyway, a good line level IO should do.
-- AcdNrg

Not so much. See here: http://www.ovnilab.com/articles/linelevel.shtml But the TL;DR there is that instrument-level signals require much more gain than incoming line-level signals. For one thing, they're typically -24 dB down from pro line-level. Also, the impedance on that input will need to be different from a typical line-level's input, and that can cause signal loss, or if the input preamp doesn't have the necessary gain, you'll wind up amplifying a lot of noise along with your desired signal. Also, with an external input, I think it's important to have something that not only amplifies, but which also has an envelope follower, such as the Doepfer A-119. Being able to modulate with the envelope follower is a big key to getting instruments such as guitars to be fully-functional controllers in addition to signal sources. The A-119 also has a comparator to extract gates from signal levels, and this comes in handy for firing off envelopes, LFO resets, etc.


@Lugia - thank you for the suggestions. At this stage I want to experiment with guitar as an input source, but am not sure how much I am going to really want to do that. My primary input is MIDI via external controller at this point. If I end up really getting into guitar synthesis I will definitely check out higher quality preamps. At this time, the 1U buff mult is the only mult on my board, so I am reticent to remove it. I intend to add a 2HP mult to each of the main rows as well, but those are lower priority right now. The 1U row is a utility row for me -- saves taking up 3U space. I might get rid of the Steppy depending on what sequencing route I end up going down. The USB jack tile is very important to me because it allows me to power my MIDI controllers without worrying about yet another brick.

@AcgNrg - good advice and suggestions; as above it will depend on how deep I end up going down the guitar synthesis path.

@JimHowell1970 - yes, I have had the ADDAC floor control utility module on my 'planned' board for a while.

I really appreciate everyone's advice and suggestions! Modular is proving to be fascinating as well as frustrating, and this community is really helpful.