I've been using this rack for some time and enjoy using most of the modules together. Although, I don't feel like I'm getting the most out of it. My hope was to create a synth that could work as a complex synth lead which can fill out much of the mix.

Currently it feels pretty linear as to how the patches work together: braids to vca -> effects (warps, filter, verb, clouds, etc), modulation via maths, vca, other mod points. The end result is a fairly straightforward lead synth with some effects added. There isn't much spontaneity added either.


  • Midi / sequencing via ableton into u-midi module
  • Stereo mix out via the Manhattan analogue DTM mixers out to the 1u mixout which is attached to 1/4" outs via the case back into ableton.

I'd really appreciate some feedback on what modules could be added / subtracted or patching ideas which can add more depth and complexity to the sound. Thanks!

Um, with a module like the Morphagene you can do crazy stuff. Start experimenting!

I'd suggest unplugging the MIDI for a while, and purposefully making yourself not do what you've been doing... it could even be a good idea, for a short while, to re-mount your modules in the case in a random order, to intentionally bust up the more typical signal path.

Another suggestion, if you haven't seen them already, is the various "three module challenge" videos on YouTube. There's some great, and truly surprising stuff in there. Here's one I recreated today (without even the DLD, which I don't have... with your set-up, you could have a blast with this as a starting point): You have a different filter, but it should work just fine for the purposes of the exercise.

Your problem is that you have one module that actually generates sound: the Braids. You have two modules that generate control voltages: the uMIDI and the Maths. You have one module that generates both sound and control voltages: the Noise Tools.

You have five modules that process sound from another module: The Warps, Filter, Erbe-Verb, Clouds and Morphagene.

The reason you're not able to create interesting patches is because you don't have the means to create an interesting source sound. You have all this processing horsepower that you're applying TO A SINGLE OSCILLATOR.

Furthermore, you can have your sound follow MIDI, but when it comes to further modulation all you have is the Maths. The Maths is a powerful module, but it's really a "processing" module for CV like all your sound processing modules are for sound. It needs friends to show its true potential.

So you have 26HP open in your rig. I propose you pick up an Intellijel Dixie II+ (8hp) and a Make Noise Contour (8hp) and a Xaoc Batumi. That gets you an additional oscillator, an envelope generator, and four LFOs. This still isn't ideal, but it gets you SIGNIFICANTLY farther ahead than you were before. You have a "standard" oscillator available not just as an audio source, but also as a modulation source. You have an envelope generator for shaping the volume and effect/filter parameters without eating the Maths. You have four LFOs to use all over the place in your system.

I also propose rearranging your rack to have the signal flow generally from left to right, like this (edit: You'll have to click the image to see the rearrangement...the picture doesn't seem to show everything in its place): ModularGrid Rack

Thanks all for the help! This is my first run at a modular system, and I'm still learning the ropes.

I forgot to mention I use an input on the intellijel stuff as another sound source, but that routes into the morphagene for splicing.

@m1srerlurk, if I understand you correctly I really need to get another oscillator, envelope generator, and some more lfos. That can ve patched generate a more interesting sound source. That can be altered heavily by the processing units I already have on board. Right? Makes sense now that I look at it like that.

m1sterlurk's 100% spot on here...this system has an awesome compliment of processors, but very little in the way of sources. While the Braids is a really great oscillator in of itself, having just one single audio generator isn't going to work well unless you're talking about a very minimal system build. Another problem that seems present is that some of these space-heavy processors are a bit redundant, notably the Morphagene and Clouds which are both granular sample/audio manipulator devices. If you were to let one of those go, you'd open up another either 18 or 20 hp (depending on what gets pulled out) and then that would give you more space for a bit more sources. Although, I'll second that vote for the Dixie II+, but put one of those 3-in mixers next to it to use as a handy waveform combiner to stretch out that multi-waveform oscillator's capabilities.

I'm also not a huge fan of Pittsburgh's first-gen stuff, so a different and more capable filter might also be a consideration. Hrmm...gimme a bit, gonna tinker with this...lessee...(exeunt stage left)

REMIX! C'est voila...

ModularGrid Rack

OK...I did some radical surgery on your original here. First up, I reworked the tile row's positioning to work together with the reconfiguration, putting the MIDI on the left above the VCOs. Buffers are next to this. Other buffer went away (redundant) along with the MakeNoise mult (too big, replaced with 2 hps for twice the mults in the same space). Modulation/S&H tile is now above the modulation sources, and the audio I/O is rightmost, again to follow the signal flow pattern with the processors now on lower-right.

VCOs are the Braids and two Dixie II+s which now have the mixers as waveform combiners as well as mixpoints for the Braids' output. This is a pretty critical rework, as it now gives you three signal sources, meaning you can use one for audio frequency modulation on the other two, and still have those two for a more complex audio source.

Audio flows down to a Morgasmatron, which is a very twisted take on the Korg MS-20's filter pair. The Pittsburgh VCF just didn't have the modulation inputs to do some really wild stuff that the Morgasmatron does easily, plus the M'tron is a dual-input VCF with a MIX output, which means you can also use this to mix audio as well, albeit with some strange stuff going on. Warps is next to tamper with the audio, either from the M'tron's MIX output or its individual filter outs, allowing you to further combine those down while processing them at the same time.

The Quad VCA is dead-center in the bottom, which allows you to easily use its VCAs for audio OR CV amplitude control. You can mix two audio signals together on VCAs 3 and 4, but still keep 1 and 2 free for DC-coupled linear work.

Morphagene is gone, as you'll note. As I noted above, it's redundant, and you don't want a lot of the same processing things in a small build like this. Kept the Clouds, which has the Erbeverb as its front end. An idea I had is this: take the mono feed from the Warps (1 + 2), feed that to the Erbeverb's mono in, then use it to generate a stereo field to feed the Clouds with, and the Clouds' output goes direct to the I/O above. So, technically, a big chunk of the middle of the audio chain is where the mixing gets done, in increments, until you hit that last processor pair and tamper with the mixed audio plus create the stereo field signal to go straight to the outs. Also, bringing the inputs in is a bit easier now, since they can come in either in mono to VCA 3 while VCA 4 handles the generated signal path...but that's just one method, and this creates several, now.

Above the processing is modulation: a dual ADSR to better deal with final VCF/VCA envelopes, the Maths for loads of definable modulation, and a Batumi for four fixed-waveform LFOs. Plenty of modulation signals now to feed the various modulation-hungry changes!

Anyway, this is how I'd approach the situation. Yes, it means swapping some things out and doing some radical surgery, but this is a much more capable build, starting with the bones of yours...and it had pretty good bones, just needed some reworking. Another suggestion (which m1sterlurk's on below) is to study experienced synthesists' builds, and glean information from seeing things that those people tend to do in common...because they work. It's also best to do and do and redo and redo and redo again and again here on MG before pulling the fiscal trigger for a system, because you can both study up AND learn how to make, then avoid making, mistakes.

Yes. Pretty much you're able to add another element to your initial sound and also add some movement to your sound, either by modulating the original sound or by modulating the effects you run it through. You'll get much better results than running a single sound through effects with limited modulation.

If I were to give you advice in the past tense (before you built your system), the advice I would give is to have a roughly equal number of audio generators, audio processors and CV generators; and have sufficient mixers, multiples and VCAs for them. As an example, look at the system I'm building:

ModularGrid Rack

I have five sound generators: Three VCOs, a Mysteron (a digital waveguide) and a noise generator.
I have six sound processors: A comb filter, two multi-mode filters, a lowpass gate, a wavefolder and a reverb
I have five CV generators: two envelopes, a Maths, a Batumi, and a DC attenuverter/fixed value generator.
I have three multiples, three four-channel mixers, and a Quad VCA module
I have a Disting, which is a multi-purpose digital module that can fill many of the above roles.
Finally, I have a stereo output module, for a total of 25 modules (26 if you count the power supply).

I should point out that I will be controlling my system with a pair of Korg SQ-1s, which gives me 4 gates and 4 CVs to work with. These are outside the modular system itself, which is why you don't see a MIDI/CV converter.

I don't have a single sound generating module that is as capable as the Braids, but I'm capable of making far more complex sounds because I can mix different oscillators at different pitches and can also cross-modulate the oscillators in various ways. My sound processors are all relatively simple in comparison to yours (which are impressive I must say), but I can get far more movement out of them because I have so many CV generators to control them with. My mixing is somewhat more capable than yours (3 4-channel mixers vs. 2 3-channel mixers).

I'll second the importance of having some other CV sources...take a cue from m1sterlurk and look into snagging an SQ-1. At $100 for a 2x8 sequencer with internal clocking and a few other tricks, it's a quick and cheap way to kick the functionality up even further. You can even use sequencers as multistage envelope generators, user-definable VCOs (if you can clock them at audio frequencies), and a bunch of other interesting things, some of which do require a couple of other modules, but hey...they don't call it EuroCRACK for nothin'!

Thanks for all the advice. Now I gotta go re-work this build, good news is I'll have plenty of sound processors for a future one!