this is likely to be a controversial rack as i have a VERY different perspective on synthesis than MOST modular people, maybe because i come at this from a percussionist perspective.

this thought experiment, as i've been trying to learn more about modular synths to improve on my decades old basic understanding of hardwired synth modules & signal chains and have been planning what for me is the "ultimate synth" which would be about tonal variety, textures, controlling both notes AND modulation myself as much as possible with a DAW sequencer, and mangling audio or doing sound design from scratch. it's also, wherever possible, simplified to "1 module, 1 function" which makes things easier to understand than ugly ugly god is it ever ugly maths everyone demands be in everyone else's rack.

i KNOW that perspective is controversial as i just hate both the looks and the multifunctional complexity of that module and in reading the plight of an actual rack owner who's kind of on the same page as me, i got really angry that everyone refused to help him until he caved in and bought a maths he didn't want to appease everyone. if you're "that type", STOP reading right here because i won't argue about it or EVER budge from my contempt for that FUGLY complicated abomination. it IS possible to build a synth without maths... this is a FACT. there... THAT argument should be nipped in the bud, except for hard headed trolls who are incapable of listening.

to get the rest of "my issues" out of the way,

  • i DESPISE sequencers and especially self modulating patches. they're annoying, non-musical, and you can't dance to them. i'd rather sequence my own 2,000ppqn sloppy loosely timed (read funky) beats than ever sound like kraftewerk or techno. i'd rather perform or draw my own modulations too. for me, a modular isn't something to experiment with and make complicated patches just because one can, but is a flexible synthesizer where you can swap VCOs & VCAs for more tonal variety and in particular, choose crazy sounding modules like shapeshifter (oh... it's SOOO complicated! LOL) and morpheus. that, and duophinic style, you can stack sounds on top of each other and get a lot of complexity out of fairly simple signal chains.

  • i DESPISE filter sweeps & resonance. i'm soooo sick of 303 filter sweeping techno i could puke! LOL i like filters for the awesome (mostly static) textures they can add to a tone... chunky, juicy, rubbery, vocal, & maybe a little bit of grunge. but sequenced 130bpm "melodies" & knob twisting? MAKE IT STOP! MAKE IT STOP!!!

  • not a big fan of LFO effects (except maybe at near audio rates where they add texture) or pads & drones either. i would lean towards percussive sounds, even in melodies, and again, prefer to do my own modulation wherever possible

  • random CV effects get on my nerves... even WORSE than sequencers

  • i DO like dubstep bass wobble, when it's the bouncy variety anyways, if not the bright digital sound of supposed bass notes. i prefer modulation at the note level where sounds boing, whoop, "scratch" & wobble etc. and would rather modulate pitch than a filter. i'd love to learn about modules that are handy for non ADSR/LFO/random modulation, especially if you can trigger it

  • as a beatboxer/percussionist, i imagine i'd REALLY use envelope following a lot. it's a really underrated effect R2D2 notwithstanding

  • when it comes to effects, i'd rather use outboard for more flexibility

with that out of the way, this is my "best guess" as to what to fill a rack with. at least as far as VCAs & VCFs go, all of those modules (except the doepfer moog i was tired of trying to find a "better" 8hp module for) were very carefully chosen for the different sounds each make eg. i love the classy juicy sound of the SEM filter and how it DOESN'T resonate like crazy if i ever did want to do some filter sweeping (most likely on single notes than bars). i tried avoiding complicated modules that do too many things, like maths, hence all of the doepfer utilities, or redundancy where modules do the same things in different combinations.

i like knobs better than jacks.

ModularGrid Rack

some of the doubts i have about the rack include:

  • too many buffered mults or utility mixers? my research seems to indicate "you can never have too many"

  • is an extra triatt (attenuator, attenuverter, mixer, CV mod) overkill in a system based on simpler patches?

  • is the dixie II+ really necessary? i know it's very popular and that there's SUPPOSED to be something special about triangle core oscillators, but i didn't hear anything inspiring in the demo(s) i watched.

  • are dual ring mods & sample & holds overkill when doepfer makes a 1 each module?

  • would a smaller & simpler "2hp gap filler" random noise generator be adequate instead of the 8hp doepfer space hog?

  • is the A-120 (moog ladder filter) "one trick pony?" really necessary with so many other great filters?

  • would it be better to have two doepfer mixers, or maybe a larger stereo one?

  • is the intellijel VCA really needed with the 3 others? (for "clean sounds"?)

  • does the MIDI expander help?

  • does the erica synths black VCO expander really offer enough flexibility to justify using it, or would something else fill a need better?

  • is there something that could add more synth tone or fill a hole in the system better than the spring reverb, like maybe a dedicated pre-amp for processing audio? as streams is supposed to be a stereo processor & envelope follower, i was considering that as my audio in

it took a lot of learning to sort through issues like learning function generator is just another way to say LFO/ADSR and not some unique module you "absolutely gotta have". as i'm not really into LFO effects, i eventually ditched batumi & its expander as well as the quad clock distributor & before that, erica's wogglebug, & ultra-random analogue for redundancies and really like the sound of pamela's workout for clock & LFO modulation as it's compact, seems more flexible than batumi/QCD and best of all, is programmable, though i still expect i'd do most of my clocking through MIDI.

OK if anyone has any opinions on modules that are redundant, can be replaced by something better sounding or performing (without adding hard to understand complexity), or some essential function i'm overlooking (i'm pretty sure i at least have EVERY ARP 2600 module covered and then some) i'd appreciate the input, but can't guarantee not to argue with you about it.

maths? DON'T START! i just really have it in for that module (& its graphics) and having seen it FORCED on someone else only makes me hate it more

in general conversation about modules, someone mentioned how important logic is, but i really can't see any need for it, like quantizers, as that seems more like a complicated patch/sequencer thing where i should be able to get most of my pitch & modulation from a DAW sequencer and never be bothered with a pointless random voltage generator which does nothing for tone or melody for that matter as far as i'm concerned.

try to think of this more as a "flexible 1980s punk/funk synthesizer" or an ARP with attitude as i call it than the "techno modulars" everyone else has.

thank you for your time & patience if you've done nothing more than read this far dealing with some uppity noob who doesn't respect "your modular culture" more often than not. HOPEFULLY people here have enough LOGIC (pun intended) not to take insults against their favorite modules and techniques PERSONALLY. you are not your rack or the style of music you love! i know i sometimes come off as gruff & offensive because i have an ACTUAL logic based personality where insulting anything other than a person, directly, is both fair game & nothing to get worked up about, but people... irrational, emotional, impossible to understand because they're "so random" (pun intended) people still do.

here... i LOVE early art of noise... say ANYTHING you want about them, or sampling... it's FINE. i have a life, and AON is just a subset of that so PLEASE stop steaming over how much i hate filter sweeps! LOL they aren't your RELIGION or your momma. they are things that people can talk about that have NOTHING to do with you... unless you're easily ruffled which isn't my fault, or as i like to say... they make prozac for that.

i had to learn humor as a social skill in dealing with irrationals. hopefully more people laughed than screamed at their monitor here.


ModularGrid Rack

i dropped some of the mults, the dual ring mod, the doepfer moog filter, the black VCO expander and swapped the big erica filter to make room for the smaller polivoks, move the wasp filter & mixer down to the black row, add a stero panner and swap in the AJH synth diode filter and mixer with ring mod as it's supposed to be one of "the best" sounding ring mods even if it's a space hog, but it adds mixing flexibility.

i try to use the best sounding modules. i know the bubblesound SEM 20 is more popular than the studio electronics SEM, but i didn't hear it make any better tone than the SE which takes less space up. i might drop the sample & hold to make room for the bubblesound after hearing a demo that turned me off to S&H. i THOUGHT it's how joe walsh got that twangy juice harp sound in the bridge of life's been good, but the online demo made S&H sound like an annoying variation of annoying random voltage. metallic twang? cool! non-melodic tonal babbling? not!