Hello people, Im new here and new to this modular world of wonders. I have now designed a system here and was wondering if you could help me by telling me if theres anything important missing and if theres some better options for what I already have selected. This would be the first system I could slowly buildup and make changes as I go along, but I just need something to start with, a plan. My main use would be to make ambient and noise stuff for start.
Hey, Doc! It looks like your post has been left out here with us crickets.
I've been experimenting with eurorack modular for a little over a year now. I have two travel cases and a skiff I use. You can see my setup on my account (current system #1 and current system #2). I am in the process of rearranging my gear and selling off some modules which I hate to part with but they don't fit into my rig anymore. :-( Like Rossum's Evolution filter is a really sweet module but it's out of place for me now. You can check out my planned rig which is Erica Synths Rack v4.4.0 (horizontal arrangement). I also have a Dave Smith Instruments Pro-2 which I'm crazy about. LOVE that keyboard. Very well thought out. And a Nord Lead A1. That last one is a great keyboard synth to learn on. It helped me a lot. The Pro-2 interfaces with eurorack modular very nicely.
If this is your first system, you have quite a mishmash of modules. It looks very much the way I started out a while ago. I had no idea what I was dealing with. However, I quickly learned how expensive modular synths can be! If you're interested in ambient sound and sound shaping to start, then you really only need an oscillator and an output module. This isn't very practical, but it can work. Let's take it a step further. I would add another oscillator or get a dual oscillator module. I see in your "I don't know what I'm doing" rack you have the Batumi and the Deeper A-111 which can work. Alternatives to this are Make Noise DPO, Erica Synths Black VCO and Expander, Mutable Instruments Braids. I highly recommend any of these modules for a sound source. Good quality and keepers.
The reason two oscillators are more fun (in case you don't know) is because you can play around with signal beating where two waves of same or different shape are near each other in frequency or an integer multiple of each others frequency. Very good for ambient.
Basic Signal Flow
By the way, since you are new to all this, the basic signal flow goes like this: (oscillator) -> (optional filter) -> (VCA) -> (optional filter) -> (optional mixer) -> (output).
The simplest pathway is (oscillator) -> (output).
A step up from that is (oscillator) -> (VCA) -> (output).
Modulation can come into any of these paths at any point. You can use an LFO for oscillation or another sound source. In fact, you can do pretty much whatever you want, just try not to put an output into an output. Many better modules are protected against this though.
I see in your rig that you have multiple low frequency oscillator (LFO) sources. You probably have too many. The MATHS module is excellent. But it's complicated. It is not so much how it works but what can be done with it. Exploring the MATHS module to fully understand it is a small job. But very worthwhile. The Make Noise manual has some excellent exercises to try. Even better (from my experience) is find someone that would be willing to walk you though it's operations and teach you how to use it not just how it works.
Voltage Controlled Amplifiers (VCAs) are important if you want to shape the sound by volume. And you will. However, for every VCA you will likely need an envelope generator (EG) or LFO. Typical envelope generators are AD or AR, or ADSR. Let me know if you need clarification on what these are. I see you've selected the Doepfer A-131 and the Intellijel Dual ASDR. These can work for you.
The Pressure Points module is also a good idea. It is a great learning tool and is fun to play around with. It can be used for control voltage (CV) or pitch information (to a sound source). With multiple oscillators you can play three note chords.
Wrapping It Up
If you are interested in ambient sounds and such, then I would forget about most of the modules you have in your rig. No sequencers yet, for example. (That means you would have no need at this point for a clock or clock divider.) Stay with the basic signal chain and learn how things work. It's a steep learning curve and you won't benefit from making it harder on yourself. That's my two cents.
One other thing I would recommend adding because of the joy/fun factor is a reverb and delay module. I have used Erica Synths Blackhole DSP, Make Noise Erbe-verb, Synthesis Technologies E580 mini delay, and the Expert Sleepers Disting. I would recommend the Blackhole and the Erbe-verb most for the money. And I completely forgot to mention the Disting a while back. I recommend looking into the new Disting module by Expert Sleepers. It has delay and reverb functions. It is not any easy module to work right out of the box (Os loves to be cryptic, I think. And he programs in his sleep :-). The new mk 4 disting is more accessible though. And it has many functions that can teach you what other modules you might like to spend $$$ on in the future. For example, clocks and clock dividers and sequencers. And it can convert midi files to CV and play audio and granulate! In fact, the Disting modules are also a small job. :-)
So, my final thoughts, since you asked, are start light, learn, and build up saving your $$$ for better more meaningful modules as you gain experiment and start putting A and B together. $4000+ is a lot to spend if that is what you are thinking. If it were my money, I would want to make it count. Then again you could always purchase a gorgeous acoustic guitar for $36,000. Heck. You could spend that much on a drum set!
I like to share what I learn. It helps me learn more. So, if this has been helpful to you, please...ask questions. I will do my best to point you in the right direction.
Thanks heaps for your interesting reply! It really made me want to think about my rack more in depth, since this one was more of a compiled piece of stuff Ive seen on youtube that seemed interesting to me. Ive so far decided to start with pretty simple set up with Intellijel Atlantis and Metropolis and a MIDI interface ( since I figured I want to get right into playing and sequencing stuff and having possibility to expand as I go along... Ive also looked at other similar options to this like Pittsburgs SV-1 and Moog Mother 32 but this Intellijel stuff seemed the best for me from what Ive seen online.
As for my experience with synthesis so far I only got Korg Volca Keys and I ordered Korg Minilogue not too long ago (still wating for it to arrive), and I do also have Korg Kaossilator Pro... Ive watched countless synth reviews and eurorack module demos to get an idea how it all works and I think I got somewhat basic understanding of it by now, but ofcourse I need to get my hands on some eurorack to really put my mind into it! :)
As I start building my first Eurorack (by the end of this year hopefully) I will be referring to your suggestions and ask more questions as I go along, I will not spend 4000+€ at once like you said I will save up and make meaningful purchases to get the modules I really need (because I really dont got much money going around and this is very expencive hobby : D), this was just the first touch on designing a rack and getting something to refer to when I am deciding what modules to get :)
I'm glad what I wrote helps. My biggest realization is that I wish I had someone to help walk me through many of the modules I have. I could have covered a lot more ground in the past year+. That being said, some things are starting to click. When I started I had no idea what a control voltage is. What is a gate? What is a trigger? What's the difference?
With the Korg products you listed I can see you are already on your way. Those products are like a small doorway you can crawl through and find yourself in this HUGE arena of modular synthesis. The learning curve is steep if you're on your own. That being said, it isn't really complicated. The modules can be complicated and the patches can be complicated. It is like the game of Go: the rules are few and easy but the game can take a lifetime to master.
The desire to connect a keyboard to a modular system is understandable. Now I can see that such a feeling is misguided. Not that I wouldn't do it. (I do.) I kind of misses the point of modular. I suppose it is paradoxical. A keyboard is not the point, but it is the point if you want it to be. So, I am interested to hear what you make of the midi module. There are also so many good synth keyboards on the market and a lot less expensive than putting a modular system together.
That being said you might want to take a screwdriver to the back of those Korg boxes and see what you can jumper to what. Just a though.
QUESTION : what is it that interests you to build a modular system? For me it is the electronics (not my strength), tinkering, the sound scape, and programming an analogue computer in a physical language of patch cables. Then the meta patch becomes the most interesting part!
Here are some basic observations I've made in no particular order. And I don't direct these at you, per se, but at the modular community for reflection. Perhaps someone else will jump in here and repair my understanding or offer a different perspective.
Modular is expensive!
It is highly addictive. Just gotta get that next module.
Everything is a control voltage.
Does your control voltage pass through zero? In other words does it oscillate between, say, -5V and +5V? Or does it travel between 0V and +5V or +10V?
Some people prefer self generating patches. Others prefer sequenced and structured patches. Yet others prefer the expanse of connecting a computer or keyboard to a modular system. I'm interested to explore all of these.
Buy the best you can afford, not the cheapest you can find. You will be happier in the long run. If you don't have much $$$, learn to do more with less. It is amazing what creativity necessity invokes in us.
After you learn how a module works, if it has knobs and buttons, then get in there and start wiggling and pushing. In other words, PLAY the module.
You have to be VERY careful what you watch on YouTube (YT). There are many great videos out there to watch but there are also a lot of assumptions being made that are never addressed or offered for consideration. For example, many reviews of sound modules are run through a reverb (just a bit) to sweeten the sound. This is entertaining, but you're not really hearing the module in question. I do find many videos are good for pulling ideas which I then translate into my own rig experience.
Make Noise has some excellent videos on YT that explain their modules. Consider watching these and figure out how to accomplish similar feats with your own rig. The tutorials on Rene can give some good ideas on using a sequencer for instance.
It looks like you are off to a decent start with the Intellijel modules. I will be interested to hear how useful you mind the MIDI module. I am just starting to figure out how to integrate MIDI with what I'm doing. I tried a year ago and dumped the effort. Too much else to understand first. And MIDI can feel limit(ed/ing) without the proper approach.
Well, Doc, I see you are pricing euros. So, if you are close enough to Latvia to take a trip to Erica Synths, I highly recommend it. And send me pictures. Please! I would love to visit their shop. I live in eastern Tennessee (USA) and Make Noise and Moog are just 2.5 hours from me. Have I visited yet? No. But I'm on my way. :-)
Also, right after my first post to this thread you have started, I rearranged my cases (!). Go figure. So, one of the rigs might have been empty. That has been fixed.
Something else I forgot to mention: check out the Korg SQ-1 sequencer. It's not too expensive and offers a lot. Integrates beautifully with eurorack.
To be honest, when I fisrt became more interested in electronic music and synthesis little over year ago, and I saw these beast of modular synths, I was scared of them and the complexity, but more I watched videos (like demos, tutorials, 'getting started with modular' and anything I could find) of them little by little, the more I was interested in them and the infinite possibilities they offer... also I started to show some interest in making my own simple modules and such (Ive never before been interested in small electronics until now, planning to start with some simple DIY kits and a solder)... Im kinda still looking for the thing I really wanna do in life, one thing is music, that I love much to make and to listen... About the modular synthesis with MIDI, I wouldnt want the MIDI keyboard to be something I completely rely on, but more of a traditional approach maybe(?), Im planning to build up more and seek all the ways I can use the modular synths with, Im interested in the drum things and patches and sounds, self playing and generating soundscapes, and sound design is really close to my heart, like with my Korg Volca I couldnt get my hands off of it in first few days because I was having fun just turning the knobs and exploring everything I can make it sound like but soon I craved for more.... Sorry if Im kinda all over the place with my messages, I try my best to keep it bearable haha
There are many things that really interests me to build a modular system, one big thing is that its unique to me, I want to build my own custom case that I can fill up partly with my own DIY modules and many cool ones from all different companies (I built my first custom PC for myself last december, so if building custom modular synth is anything like that, then I dont want to miss out on it). Other thing is the expandability and customizability, there would never come a point when I could say ''now thats too many I need to stop'' other than in bad financial situation maybe haha. 3rd thing I think is the creativity it offers, I like to think Im creative guy with tons of ideas for different purposes and modular synth would really compliment that creativity, not to say one can not be creative on much more simpler things, like you said 'It is amazing what creativity necessity invokes in us' it is most definitely true! :)
I live in Finland, and Im not much of a traveller kinda dude but Ill try and remember to take pics if I happen to find myself at Erica :)
Ah man I totally forgot to mention one huge reason Im interested in modular aswell, the effects and modulations I could use with something like guitar, I have planned a system that would work more as a effects box for guitar or any sound source for that matter, Ive researched this dimension a bit but havent found anything difinitive so it will just remain as a plan until I know more...
I hear you. I was, likewise, intimidated. My biggest fear was putting voltage into an output and blowing my rig up. It turns out the biggest issue for me is finding the time to deeply learn each and every module and then figure out how to make ‘meta patches’ that do fun and interesting things. I also rushed too much and tried to do too much at first. I needed to learn and absorb knowledge over time.
I have a good intellect but it is a slow intellect. It takes me time to assimilate information, process, and procedure. My brain insists on constantly finding ways to do things better. In any case, as I do absorb information, and once it clicks as it is starting to, things start to take off nicely. I like to think deeply and broadly (more deeply). I’m not interested in quick solutions so much. (I say that now but I change as I get older. So, this is becoming a lie.)
Modular is just so darned exciting. I love sound, too. Rhythmic sounds, drumming, droning, sinusoidal patterns, interweaving melodies and intricate patterns. Sound mandalas. That is exactly what modular is: once a mandala (patch) has been created, it is then destroyed. On to the next one.
DIY Kits and Life
First, I think DIY kits are an excellent idea. Go for it. I have been looking at some DIY kits myself. I really like Erica Synths stuff because I like their quality and the way they think. In fact, I want to point out to you that they have a DIY kit for a complete system Polivoks DIY Module Bundle II. The complete kit including case and powersupply is about 1000 euro. You don’t have to get all the modules, however. You can listen to a sound example of this rig here.
I imagine I’m older than you are. I’ve made it to 50 years now! I can hardly believe it. The point is that I have some experiences to reflect on that have taught me. One of them was building Heath Kits when I was a teenager. Heath Company is no longer around. But there are things such as Arduino and DIY modular kits. Actually, building something like that teaches you so much, even if you get it wrong the first time. If you keep getting it wrong, perhaps you have answered another important question: electronics is not for you! If you do get it right, it just grows from there.
If you are looking for a path in life, have you considered the world of embedded system design? Embedded system programming? Designing and building modular components and modules? Look at Bob Moog, Don Buchla, Tony Rolando (Make Noise), Dave Rossum (Rossum-Electro Music), and more. Certainly, a musician/designer could be an interesting and rewarding life.
Build that custom case!
MIDI, Korg Volca, and How To Spend Money
Still curious how you will find midi works for you. I will keep you posted on what I get out of it down the road as I’m looking to integrate it so some extent. I’m not sure how yet. I’m waiting to see what Erica Synths comes out with as a replacement to their MIDI-CV module (announced). I have also been looking at Mutable-Instruments Yarns.
Regarding the Volca I would ring every bit of use out of it that you can. This leads me to what I want to say about money. I have been down the path quite a few times of spending my hard earned funds in small quantities while never really saving to reach for higher fruit. If you find yourself doing this, I encourage you to stop and save for what is truly worthwhile. Another thing about modular is that if you take good care of your modules, they appear to hold their value well. You can always sell and trade. Hey. Come to think of it: how many places are there near you that buy and sell modules? While you’re thinking about life, perhaps, this is something to do. There are so many paths. Some you will find lead to the same place in strange ways. There is no saying where life will take you and how.
Yikes! Doc. You’re breaking the bank :-) That’s a nice piece of kit you put together though (with lots of redundancy :-) I think it's a little over done. But tell me more about it and what you are thinking...
I would like to point you at the Rossum Morpheus module as an effects processor. I might be all that you need. Or maybe you will want to add some reverb and delay. But that might be about it. Well, you could add bit crushing to the list. And some distortion. But that’s it! Wow. This is already out of hand and I’m sweating just thinking about it. I can feel my trigger finger.
Anyway, if you look at the Morpheus, tell me what you think of the possibilities as an effects module for guitar and keys and anything else to be thrown at it.
Well, I have lost my interest connection. And I still have more to say. Oh, well. I will have to send this later. I have been out of town the past few days, so I haven’t been able to respond. We had a storm come through last night and power was knocked out. As soon as I am able, I will get this online.
Im just generally interested in sound, music and anything thats related from sound design for movies to making different genres of music... as of now I got like 50 different music projects in different genres and styles (not that Im any good at any of them, its more exploration and trying out things rather than attempts to go big on them) and I love many instruments, my first instrument was drums (I played electronic drum kit on highschool bands and finally got my own kit shortly after, also my grandparents have acoustic kit I play there every now and then)and next came along guitar (I wanted guitar for myself some years ago because I wanted to make music but no one of my friends really wanted or could play the music I wanted to make so I thaught myself play what I needed) and last but not least, keyboards and synthesizers (I was introduced to genre called Dungeon Synthetics and I was in love, I got my parents old electric piano and made my first Dungeon Synth songs back in 2012 and since Ive been practising to play keyboard a bit along side other instruments I got... and I finally like 2 years ago I got to know what synthesizers actually were and I was mesmerized by the sonic capabilities) also Im very interested in more exotic instruments but I dont own anything but one flute right now... Im also music collector, I dont got much albums compared to like mad collectors but compared to average guy I think Im doing decent with my collection of CDs
Im pretty interested in making my own modules from scratch aswell but I dont have any experience other than very simple highschool stuff I hardly even remember anymore, and even back then I didnt understand half the stuff I was doing, I just followed the instructions word to word... Thats why I want to start with small DIY kits of modules and guitar effect pedals, so I could get my feet wet on that world and see if it is for me or not. I already have some simple ideas for Modules I want to make but no schemes or anything because I really dont understand them yet... I might even apply for some school or course for small electronics so I would have someone right there to teache me and gain understanding to that world, rather than try teache myself by watching youtube videos and reading some books, but we'll see what I decide on. Ive already watched some videos of ''basics of electronics'' and tutorials for DIY stuff but I really need to do it myself to get the hang of it.
In general Im really bad at saving money because Im very impatient, Im that ''I need everything right now'' kinda guy and I cant help it... : D I try my best tho.
Yes the effects processor, I designed it to have anything I would need as guitar player, and ofcourse its over done hahaha. For start I might get by with some decent multieffect (Like that Morpheus module, Ive seen some demos on it before and it sure as hell seems really capable and crazy! other module ive been looking at is the Ornament & Crime as it seems pretty cool aswell, but I dont think its as much effect processor than it is digital function generator) but on the effects box I got multiple modules of similar effect to have different flavors of the distortion and delay for example, and also so I could use multiple effects at same time, Im not sure how many effects certain digital multieffects allow at same time, also I generally prefer analog hardware over digital.. not that I think digital is bad or anything, Im sure theres always use for it, but now Ive been going by with some free VST plugin effects on my DAW and Im not happy with them... I always prefer hardware over software.
Thanks heaps for chatting, its been very enjoyable to talk about this stuff :)
There is a tutorial/introduction on modular synthesis that you might find helpful. I think it is poorly thought out, but it is a place to start. The link is here.
There is another thread on Muffwiggler about DIY cases. Lots of pictures. Some I want to point out to you are the ones with no rails. The modules are being screwed directly into wood! Hey. It works. Just a thought. The link is here.
Tell me a bit about what you DO know about modular synthesis. For example, do you know what CV is? Do you know the difference between CV and an LFO? Does modulation make sense? Does audio rate modulation make sense? That sort of thing.
Yes I do know about Muffwiggler and manytimes when I google something about sythesizers I find link to this page onto some forum about the stuff Im looking for, I read it from time to time, but havent had time to dig too deep really.
And what do I know about modular synthesis, well lets see haha. CV stands for control voltage and the difference between CV and LFO (low frequency oscillator) is that CV is more of an umbrella term for all voltage that is generated to modulate (or control, hence the name control voltage) some parameter of certain modules, usually via LFO or an EG (envelope generator). So all LFO can be used as CV (and also if the LFO reaches audio rates, it can be used as VCO - voltage controlled oscillator, OR as wicked FM - frequency modulator for different VCO), but not all CV is always an LFO. 2 of the different EGs are AD, ADSR, (there are some other ones too ofcourse but I dont remember all of them from top of my head, Maths module can be used as complex envelope too) from with the AD is more suitable for pecussive sounds, atleast Id think so. The EG usually modulates the VCA volume levels to create different attack, decay, sustain and release times to really shape the sound character from short attack plucky bass sounds to more ambient slow attack strings. LFO can also be controlling the volume levels of VCA to create kinda tremolor effect to the sound. Theres 2 main types of VCAs, linear and exponential, linear is more suitable for CV and exponential is more suitable for audio. I havent yeat talked about Filters (VCF), which is as the name suggests, a filter, its purpose is to let certain range of frequencies through to create either more dark bassy sound or more bright with lots of high end. Theres multiple different kinds of filters such as LP (lowpass), HP (highpass), BP (bandpass), Notch. I dont really know what exactly bandpass and notch do, but I think Bandpass takes the cutoff point and lets everything around that through and notch only lets through whats on the set cutoff point. I also dont know what exactly resonance does to the voice but it can make your filter scream, with or without a sound source (self oscillate, sine wave). Fast LFO modutlating filter cutoff with full or almost full resonance has to be one of my favorite sounds Ive made on any synthesizer so far.
I think I could go on for long time about what I think I know about modular synthesis and synthesis at all, but I think thats enough for today... Also this is what I remember from top off my head so Im not 100% confident its all correct so please correct my mistakes so I will learn! : D
Doc! Sorry for the really long delay. I've wanted to sit down and reread where we were at and these a long posts, man. It sounds to me like you are on the right track. You're developing experience and stuff. That's all you can do. Keep going. If/when you want to put together a modular setup, then say how much you have to spend and take it from there. There are so many ways to go here it's mind numbing.
MATHS is really cool. I recently was playing around with it and used it to get some amazing bass sounds. I really like MATHS and Optomix as a pair. And Function is excellent, too. If MATHS isn't available as an EG, then you will need something like Function. I like them compared to some other EGs I've used because they can be really snappy or very gracefully smooth and drawn out.
You said something a while back about taking courses locally to learn electronics versus watching YT and teaching yourself. If you have the resources and a little help around you, you certainly can teach yourself. But I would recommend taking a course or two instead. It would probably get you where you want to go faster. It would also engage you with other people interested in similar things. You never know what could happen!
Hello again Lexi, Sorry for being gone for so long, Lots of stuff happened recently, travelling etc. And at one point I totally forgot this website even exists haha!
I wanted to tell that since last time, Ive finally got KORG Minilogue and it has been alot of fun and just week ago I discovered software called VCV Rack, if you are not aware, it is software modular synthesizer and its completely free with 3rd parties developing new modules all the time, Ive had a blast with it and if you havent already, I suggest giving it a go too! Now that I have VCV Rack, I dont think I have to buy harware modular synth anytime soon, also because Im saving up for new guitar and microphone at the moment, But definitely someday in upcoming years I have to get some Eurorack going! (maybe if i get employed for few months, I could afford it too)
I havent really moved forward with electronics stuff, because ive been travelling around since like start of september and finally got back home 2 days ago with no further plans except just chilling at home for the rest of the year haha. Ill see after guitar and mic if I start to save up for cheapo soldering iron and some basic components to start some DIY projects with, maybe some guitar pedals for now.
Hey, skwidsoundz, that's really good to hear. And you are welcome! Would love to know what you found helpful and useful.
abs / lexi000
I'm about 6 months into working on my rack, although I have a long experience with using VST's and some hardware - I came into this pretty lost! Your signal flow break down was the most helpful, and also your encouragement to get a MATHS (although I've had quite a few people furiously encourage me ;) ) - was also helpful.
I ended up with a Maths 2 a couple of weeks ago and am loving the functionality it's added to my Rack.
Here it is below if you're interested, and thanks again.