Hi, I'm new to modular and would love any comments on my rack setup here. Would be great to know the first 3-5 modules you would suggest to get going. Thanks in advance.

Had a look, tore it apart, rebuilt it. Here we go...
ModularGrid Rack
LOTS of changes. For one thing, the original had a bad case of "sexy module syndrome" (ie: too many "feature" modules, and not hardly enough "helper" modules to use with those), so I did some major rebalancing of the module types. Also, it was possible to condense some functions down to ONE module, such as using the Hermod (yep...added a sequencer!) as a MIDI interface.

TOP: PWRchekr is the little sliver at left. Then instead of your complex VCO choice, I went with the OG...the Buchla 258, and since Tiptop'll have these for only $200 when they drop in a few weeks (presumably), why not TWO? Well, why not indeed...so there IS two, along with plenty of trickery to make them do lots of Buchla-ish mojo. After that is the first of two quad VCAs, which also sums things down to one or two outputs, depending on what you're up to. After that is a Modbap wavetable VCO with some lo-fi settings, and the ability to blow samples into a microSD card, plus some weird modulation schemes such as phase mod (best known from the Casio CZ-series), a suboscillator, and lots of other tricks. And it's smaller than the Shapeshifter. Then the Joranalogue Generate3 gives you a complex TZFM-able VCO. Then another quad VCA...same deal as before. But the thing after it isn't exactly a mixer; rather, it's an omsonic Panning expander, a fixed-level mixer with stereo panning to stereoize your voicing...mainly because after that point, the audio signal path is stereo out to the main mixer. And right on cue, the first of the three stereo VCFs...Dave Rossum's Linneaus, which is a killer stereo VCF with TZFM capabilities.

MIDDLE: A Doepfer Quadrature LFO is first here; this will be useful for when you want separate LFO outs from the same LFO, but with each out at a 90 degree phase rotation so that you can have multiple sweeping LFOs with different phase relationships (like with the quad VCAs, or quadraturing modulation for the Linnaeus's TZFM scheme). Then four more LFOs with the expander in the Batumi, and after that, Maths. This gets followed by a dual VCA (same topology as the Veils VCAs) and a Frap 321; these are for tampering with modulation behavior, combining mod signals, and so on. Next, Quadrax and the Qx, which lets you do some interesting chained behavior with the four EGs. All your other envelopes are in the Zadar, with its Nin expander. Then an alternate stereo filter, good for some strange timbral behavior (would pair nicely with Beads!) that's also from Dave Rossum and the E-Mu Morpheus. Then the SCLPL is down at the end, which makes it easier to drop into the mixer out as a global filter...and it's ALSO a good pairing with the Beads.

BOTTOM: Hermod...this functions as a MIDI interface AND an eight-channel sequencer, so...yeah, it's got a sequencer now with some serious power. Then "effects", which includes the Beads, plus an Alright Devices Chronoblob2 (stereo delay with an insert point in the feedback path, so it's all set for some serious timbral delay mayhem), and a Happy Nerding FX Aid XL for reverb, flange, etc etc. Then for a mixer, I specced a WMD Performance Mixer because you'll need ample inputs for your sources while, at the same time, having a good AUX send/return setup, a CUE bus, muting, and on and on. Yes, it's big, and it's expensive...but it's a mixer that you can grow into, instead of having to put one mixer in one cab, another in the next, and so forth. This makes it easier to plan expansions. Then down at the end, Happy Nerding again with their OUT module, with transformer balancing, 1/4" TRS outs plus a second headphone preamp (the other's on the WMD mixer, that's the one that can be switched into CUE mode to check various issues on the fly, such as tuning, setting VCF cutoffs, etc). But this also has a second parallel stereo input, so that if you wanted, you could fly in yet another stereo signal from a voice or an FX module.

You'll notice that in a number of cases in here, I made swaps that consolidated several functions. I also got rid of most of the HUGE modules in deference to getting more panel space for modules that were QUITE necessary (all of the VCAs I've added, for example). Other modules got "shrunk" (the Batumi is a good example: 4 LFOs with complex interaction capabilities jammed into a mere 13 hp), and a few just got tossed altogether (for example, the mult...on something this size, you're much better off using inline mults or stackcables). But overall, your primary functions are still intact and, in fact, rather enhanced now that you've got the right supporting modules. Plus the layout makes far more sense by grouping primary functions so that everything moves around the front panel in a pretty good "left-up, right-down" formation for patching clarity. And even with all of the changes, the new/different modules, all that...it still came out only $800 more than your incomplete original, but now the whole cab is full, with lots of possibilities there.

WOW Lugia, thanks so much for taking the time here, AMAZING, and extremely helpful. Thanks for writing so much info on your reasoning. I'm going to look into these to get a handle on them more in depth. Thanks again for your time :)

I like a lot of Lugia's changes, but I might suggest a few tweaks:

Morpheus is a great filter, but it is pretty fiddly to use. Maybe go with a SuperCritical Neutron Flux instead? It's also a stereo filter - well, unless you use it in 8 pole configuration, and it can do some amazing stuff. It also sounds fantastic - one of the best filters I've ever heard. As a b0nus, it would save 6HP.

I'm not sure you need the DCA half-veils in there, especially with two FULL veils! That would save another 4HP, leaving 10 total free for something else.

How about a Joranalogue Orbit for that? You don't seem to have a lot noise/random options in here at the moment...

Thank you for your input. I've been modifying the rack and implementing some of Lugia's suggestions. I'll look into the modules you suggest now, interesting stuff. Thanks again :)

I'm not sure you need the DCA half-veils in there, especially with two FULL veils! That would save another 4HP, leaving 10 total free for something else.
-- Cormallen

It fits, though. Given that the topology of those VCAs has that variable curve, it's best to have dedicated VCAs for the modulation as those will need to be used in linear mode (or something weird), while audio requires an exponential VCA so that the level changes conform with the psychoacoustics of how we perceive loudness.

Sure, but veils can do both linear and exponential.

Sure, but veils can do both linear and exponential.
-- Cormallen

And a whole lot of response curves in between. This is one thing I like about using the 1/2-Veils clones...if you want to mess with the way the VCA is handling modulation levels, it's just a tweak away. Plus you'd be surprised at how quickly you'll go through a Veils-worth's of VCAs for just audio duties alone.

Aha, the plot thickens...

I've also been looking into the Erica Synths Wavetable VCO and Black Polivocs VCF. Quite lovely to my ears.

Any thoughts/tips about a good step sequencer? Knob twiddling not menu diving. What do you guys know/feel about the new Doepfer A-157-1 trigger sequencer? Not much online at the moment.

Think of it in terms of signal flow.
Sound sources: DPO is a complex oscillator and not cheap, but great value. You have independent waveform outs and V/Oct, you can stack the two Osc. and more importantly (in the long term more interesting) you can modulate one with the other and cross modulate. You should also have a noise source as well.
Filter: Mono or stereo, style to your personal taste, low pass only or multi-mode? I probably wouldn’t pick the Rossum filters to start, although they are both great. For mono, I love the Synthesis Technology A440 (low pass) and I have the the Bastl Ikarie which is a high/ low pass with a drive circuit to add filth/ saturation. There are tons of really good filters, it really is a matter of taste…
Envelope: WMD has the Javelin which is a full ADSR in 6hp with a built in VCA. It also has an envelope out. Xaoc Zadar is awesome because you can dial up all sorts of envelopes so quickly, with some being quite complex.
VCA: Veils is great, very useful and compact. Intellijel has the Quad VCA.
Modulation: Xaoc Batumi is a great quad LFO, I highly recommend it. You can’t argue against having Maths but I personally don’t have one. Quadrax is ultimately more flexible than Batumi and is what I would probably choose. Mutable Instruments Stages is great as it can be a multi-stage, one-shot or looping envelope, or even a CV sequencer. You can chain them as well.
FX: I would go with the Morphagene as a delay because it has so many sweet spots, is easy to work, and has what is essentially a reverb built in. FX Aid is a great bang-for-the-buck multi-FX and flexible. The Erbe Verb is not a conventional reverb but rather a thing unto itself. Not my first choice to start.
Utility: Pamela’s New Workout should be in the first round of modules you buy with 8 separate clicks/ modulation sources. Mults, buffered multi, adders, sum/ diff., logic modules, attenuators ( 2hp modules are great, but can be a bit crowded and tight). Also random + sample & hold…
Sequencer: Intellijel Steppy is compact and great to start with, but will only do triggers, not CV. Do some research and use your system for a bit before you settle on a sequencer as each one has it’s own workflow and strengths.
Overall, I would start simple and make your larger investments later when you know what you want and you have the skill and experience to take advantage of more complex (and expensive) modules. (Verbos modules in combination have tons of (often narrow) sweet spots which are not always easy to find and they are expensive, not great to start out with) . Good luck!

Bopodog, very very helpful as well. Thanks for taking the time to go through those things, I'm learning a ton. I have updated my rack since the original post (I dont know if you guys can see that). I really also just don't want to look at any screens or doing any scrolling or menu diving as I do it enough on my day job. So I took out a couple of large items and added some other things based on what I'm reading here. Thanks again.