Thanks for reading. I have a very specific philosophy for this next rack and could use your best feedback. Some "Elements" are non-negotiable as you will see, but within the rules of the system I still have a ton of room for changes & feedback. Please, give me your very best advice & experience on this one. It is still early in the design.

Here's a link to my current proposed setup (note, active work in progress):
ModularGrid Rack

Project Origin: Like so many of us, Mutable Instruments had a lifechanging impact on me. The Elements module is second only to the Mother-32 in its personal importance. With Mutable's production shutting down, it's time for me to build my Mutable Instruments dream system with Elements as a centerpiece to honor Emilie, modular synthesis, and create a highly-expressive & hands-on musical instrument with a strongly-unified aesthetic & philosophy.

Rack Theme: Saying goodbye to Mutable with a boundaryless all-silver system that deeply embraces the modular ethos, absolutely self-contained when necessary and portable within 7U case for outdoor & field recording at times.

Case: Intellijel 7U Performance Silver

System Philosophy:

1) Embrace of giving up rigid control and embrace of interacting with the system as an ecosystem.
When I sit to play, I do best with a low-planning, high-exploring feel. (Obviously a system this deep rewards advance planning of patches - but I'm shooting for "immediacy" of building new patches in the moment with minimal advance planning)

2) Extremely tactile & visual. As close as possible to "1 knob per function, and 1 function per knob."
Menu diving EXTREMELY frowned-on and must be exceptionally well-justified. A piano or violin doesn't have any menu-diving. We're trying to avoid building a computer here. I want to see (and touch) what I'm doing.

3) As boundaryless as possible in honor to Emilie.
Lack of clear-cut "this module is for THIS and that module is for THAT." A focus on highly-mutable modules that can serve multiple purposes, but ALWAYS without violating Rules 1 and 2. Nothing overloaded or menu-divey, I don't enjoy it at all.

4) Able to interact with the environment.
I use a beautiful Audio-Technica stereo field mic and will occasionally be piping it into the system as a live soundsource.

5) Bonus: Some sort of tactile interface for the performer.
Like Rule 4, but may not fit in the case, and I can live without it.

Color Scheme: All-silver, absolutely non-negotiable lol :)

Type of music: I am absolutely omnivorous in this regard, so I look forward to taking what the system gives me. Intention is to create a beautiful color pallet and a clean, simple easel to apply it across, then see where the day takes me.

Non-negotiable modules:
- Mutable Instruments Elements
- Mutable Instruments Tides
- Mutable Instruments Veils
- Mutable Instruments Stages
- Mutable Instruments Blinds
- Mutable Instruments Frames
- Mutable Instruments Beads
- Mutable Instruments Marbles

Semi-negotiable modules:
- 1U Intellijel Stereo Line In (BUT I need a way to get live stereo field-recordings into the system. Usually I have an external stereo mixer or preamp available, but to keep it all in the system, maybe a stereo pre-amp module instead?)
- 1U Intellijel Headphones (BUT I want a clean & simple way to listen directly on headphones without more hardware)
- Mutable Instruments Ripples (I don't have any particular attachment to it, but obviously it's a compact and well-designed filter that fits the aesthetic)

Here's a link to the basic "Non-Negotiable" modules in a single rack (though again, both of the 1Us are replaceable as long as their functions above are covered by a replacement module):
ModularGrid Rack

Note - all module positions are negotiable, and I'm interested to hear your reasoning about the positions.

Thanks so much for your time.

NICU on YouTube
NICUmusic on Instagram
For my baby daughter Luna who fought very hard to be here


no rings?

looks good though

some utilities would flesh it out nicely... happy nerding 3*MIA perhaps and maybe a second veils... for starters

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

sound sources < sound modifiers < modulation sources < utilities


no rings?

looks good though

some utilities would flesh it out nicely... happy nerding 3*MIA perhaps and maybe a second veils... for starters
-- JimHowell1970

Thanks Jim! As I understand it, the "Resonator" side of the Elements module covers a lot of what Rings can do, so I figured I'd leave out the rings (with space as tight as it is I don't think I need the overlap)

To me it feels like there's a pretty broad range of mixing / attenuverting / VCAs in this system - but I've always worked with semimodular until now, so I may be underestimating the amount of utility needed for fully-modular from-scratch patching...

Definitely please keep the feedback coming. Although I feel I've mostly avoided the classic "nothing but sexy sound source modules" mistake, I still feel like "something" obvious is missing - but hard to put my finger on it.

NICU on YouTube
NICUmusic on Instagram
For my baby daughter Luna who fought very hard to be here


no rings?

looks good though

some utilities would flesh it out nicely... happy nerding 3*MIA perhaps and maybe a second veils... for starters
-- JimHowell1970

Thanks Jim! As I understand it, the "Resonator" side of the Elements module covers a lot of what Rings can do, so I figured I'd leave out the rings (with space as tight as it is I don't think I need the overlap)

iirc there's a ringified elements firmware... but I'm not sure if it has the psuedo-polyphony of rings - I don't have elements, so I'm not sure if you can use it as an effect... I do like my Rings though!

To me it feels like there's a pretty broad range of mixing / attenuverting / VCAs in this system - but I've always worked with semimodular until now, so I may be underestimating the amount of utility needed for fully-modular from-scratch patching...

see my signature for some ideas/hints related to this...

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

sound sources < sound modifiers < modulation sources < utilities


Rings is a classic :) I believe that Elements does not have as much polyphony as Rings - something about 40% of the processor being devoted to the Exciter modeling, so less power for polyphony in the resonator. Don't quote me lol.

So, can you give me any further recommendations about utilities or sound modifiers in my rack?
I do think that the sound sources, modulation sources are definitely covered.

NICU on YouTube
NICUmusic on Instagram
For my baby daughter Luna who fought very hard to be here


You have the Palette top on your 7U rack, but the 7U performance case doesn't have that. I don't know if that's a mistake or you're trying to fix it in another way. If it's a mistake, you'll need to add the multis into the normal 1U or 3U racks.


You have the Palette top on your 7U rack, but the 7U performance case doesn't have that. I don't know if that's a mistake or you're trying to fix it in another way. If it's a mistake, you'll need to add the multis into the normal 1U or 3U racks.
-- Arrandan

Hah! Thanks for bringing that to my attention - it was a total mistake / misunderstanding on my part. You are correct, I need to remove that row on top. Unfortunately that loses a bit of utility - mainly the buffered mults. Luckily, I almost never find myself using buffered mults in my system (just stackables and 1->5 hubs) so I can probably survive without replacing them.

Again thanks for the pointer, if you hadn't brought it to my attention that would have been a seriously unwelcome surprise when the case arrived at my house.

NICU on YouTube
NICUmusic on Instagram
For my baby daughter Luna who fought very hard to be here


Just wanted to update with my current arrangement and ask again for feedback:

ModularGrid Rack

Main changes:
- Changed Erbe-Verb for Desmodus Versio. Similar CV-reverb functions but smaller.
- Worked Plaits in. Didn't feel right leaving it out.

I'm more than happy with:
- Sound Sources (Elements, Tides, Plaits, 1U VCO, External Audio Input, Noise Tools, Ripples, Desmodus Versio)
- Modulation Sources (Tides, Batumi, Stages, 1U VCO, Plaits, and plenty of audio-rate options)
- Primary Sequencing & Quantizing (Marbles, Bard Quartet, Steppy, Stages)

Main concerns:
- Still could use a more experienced eye on the "plumbing." Do I have a good balance of utilities, routing, switches, VCAs, attenuverters, CV control, mixing, etc?
- Do you see obvious blind spots or weaknesses in this setup? "Day-to-day" problems that will be frustrating?
- Is there anything that YOU would really miss having in my proposed system?

NICU on YouTube
NICUmusic on Instagram
For my baby daughter Luna who fought very hard to be here


ModularGrid Rack

Here‘s another Suggestion on my Part.
I really think the layout should be different so I flipped the Case.
Plaits replaces the 1u Osc as the Utility Oscillator for FM and Stuff.
Also Peaks and Kinks should be in there, they Help out so much and are essential to a Mutable Rack if I‘d Build one.
Id drop the Noise tools for Marble Clock and Kinks. Rather get Steppy down there.
One more thing I didn’t understand is the huge Quantizer. Did I miss something? Plaits Quantizes already, Marbles can Quantize for Elements and Tides can follow via PLL. So basic setup should be Golden even without another Quantizer.
Theres still some room in the 1u row to experiment with.
Hope someone has some more Suggestions.
Maybe Delta V would be better than Batumi afterall? But I really wouldn’t want to make that decision.

Best
Chris

Edit: Oh and Tides needs that quad VCA to shine as a VCDO imho so Veils is right beside it.


Thanks Cangore, that's absolutely invaluable feedback. I will certainly be using it, and here are some of my return thoughts if you're interested in reading a short essay (lol).

  • One of your most brilliant points is dead on: Now that Plaits is in, I can take out the 1U Osc. Good point calling them both "utility oscillators", which is my thinking also. But since Plaits is 100x the utility voice that 1U Osc is, and I have plenty of modulation sources (don't particulaly need the 1U Osc in LFO mode either) so that 1U space could be better used. I'm excited about this one!

  • I thought about flipping the case, but two reasons I won't. Aesthetically, it bugs me having everything upside down. But more importantly, in my (current) layout at the end of this post I have the specific design goal of the most hands-on modules around the edges left, bottom, and right of the case.

Then the big "central hub spots" for cables spaghetti like Veils, Batumi, Stages, Links, and the output mixing are in the center/top right. It's like that less-accessible area of the case is just magnetically sucking all the cable spaghetti towards it, which is exactly what I'm going for. Just look at the density of jacks starting from Links all the way to Desmodus, it's glorious!! Hehe.

From experience in how I patch, and the tight areas in my current system where EVERYTHING always ends up getting patched together, this layout should hopefully contain the worst of the dense cable spaghetti up and away from my main control area!! Very excited about the thought I've put into this cable management!

  • With Steppy, I already own the 3U version so that's why it's not in the 1U row. I also would prefer the 1U setup, but it's only a slight difference to me and not worth buying a second Steppy at the moment. My experience using the 3U Steppy is that it's very hard to use when covered with cables, but as long as it's relatively on the outside of the system somewhere, it's easy enough to get to. I'll be using Steppy to set up event programming, clock divisions, triggers etc, but probably not much for live performance.

  • Highly unsure about dropping Noise Tools - feel it brings a lot of simple utility without too much overlap of the other stuff. Then again, Marbles does have a clock, and there's definitely "thematic appeal" to making Marbles the main clock of the system. I think it would need to be replaced cause it brings: 1x slew, 1x track and hold, Simple noise source, 1x simple random source - all things that I can cover with other modules, but it's still a lot in a small 1U package :)

  • Peaks and Kinks. Oh, I wish - I desperately want both. I've been looking for a surprisingly long time without finding either one available to buy. I'll get one of each eventually (I hope!). If done with a clone, it's no problem and would save space - but obviously to fit the theme of this system, it's ideal to use the origianls.

  • Delta-V vs Batumi in this case, I would be SO interested to have someone with experience weigh in with Pros and Cons on this one.

  • Quantizer (Bard Quartet): Good question. To me it seems so small for what it provides ^_^ Why it's in there:

So, I've got a Quantizer fetish and think this is the perfect Quantizer module for this system. Marbles is great but not enough separate channels for some types of patches. I like having a keyboard for programming (not performance in this case, which is why it needs to be accessible at the edge but not necessarily "playable"). Also, having the option for keyboard-programmed, harmonically-unified Quanitization across 4 voices (and even a pseudo CV-controlled "song mode") gives me an enormous amount of traditional tonal control over the system in just 10HP.

Supposedly I'm classically trained in Western music too, so having this small 10hp concession to "traditional harmonic control" feels worth it to me as an alternate way of interacting with the system.

Note - I could be wrong, but my research indicates Plaits does NOT have a quantizer (although Braids did (?) removed because Emilie thought it was overloaded (?) Don't quote me.). So I think you might be mistaken on that front but apologies if not.

For anyone keeping track, here's the current state of the design before incorporating Cangore's feedback:
ModularGrid Rack

Cangore, I'll take your ideas and start working on the next revision to share here when I think I've got something!

NICU on YouTube
NICUmusic on Instagram
For my baby daughter Luna who fought very hard to be here


  • Delta-V vs Batumi in this case, I would be SO interested to have someone with experience weigh in with Pros and Cons on this one.
    -- NICU

I have both of these. There is some overlap, but they're not really comparable. Batumi provides lots of (possibly related) playable LFOs. Delta-V provides envelopes that can loop, slew, VCAs, and attenuators in a small space. It seems to me that Batumi is more useful in your proposed rack.


  • Delta-V vs Batumi in this case, I would be SO interested to have someone with experience weigh in with Pros and Cons on this one.
    -- NICU

I have both of these. There is some overlap, but they're not really comparable. Batumi provides lots of (possibly related) playable LFOs. Delta-V provides envelopes that can loop, slew, VCAs, and attenuators in a small space. It seems to me that Batumi is more useful in your proposed rack.

-- plragde

Thanks for the info from someone who has both, seriously. I'll definitely have the Batumi in the case. Delta-V seems like a TON of useful utility, but the LFOs in Batumi are what I can't live without.

NICU on YouTube
NICUmusic on Instagram
For my baby daughter Luna who fought very hard to be here