ModularGrid Rack

Hi there,

I am into modular synthesis for a while and really enjoy the possibilities for sound design, doing ambient stuff as well as technoid tracks. The modular is joining my classic synth portfolio and was at first a kind of supplement. More and more I use it standalone for jamming.

The modular case is build by MDLR with 9u/114 hp featuring a Doepfer PSU-3 with 60 power headers ( Started originally with Pittsburgh‘s SV-1 I have build up the rack with this larger MDLR case (Roland with 84hp first) and a couple more modules came in during the last months (Noise Engineering Basimilus Alter, TipTop One, Circadian Circles). On the sequencer side a Beatstep Pro is joining the system.

So now I am looking to compliment the built with some more decent modules like a small performance mixer (e.g. Xaoc Praga), a second FX, a capable filter as an alternative to the classic SV-1‘s lowpass filter (e.g. Xaoc Belgrad because of it‘s dedicated sound and capabilities, look and feel) - maybe a low pass gate like Make Noise Optomix in addition, another envelope, a WMD MSCL for sound polish at the end of the mix and for some duckin effects, dropping the Rosie because of the planned mixer for exchange with a simple output module with smaller footprint and last but not least a friend to the Maths (e.g. Xaoc Batumi) for some more modulation.

As said, jamming technoid stuff with this thing and sometimes some generative ambient sounds is the goal for this system. So this means some monotonic, slightly envolving beats (bass drum, snare, hats, on-top percs), bass line, 1-2 melody/seq lines, deep house chords with a lot of filtering and reverb on those chords (telharmonic for this). Would be awesome, if you have any advice or comments on the actual system and the planned direction of development? What are you missing, how would you arrange the modules?

Thx for your help in advance and greetings from Germany


Whooo...this is not bad at all! Your prospective choices are pretty spot-on, actually. As for the reverb on your chord parts, though...I'd be more inclined to do that outside of the modular via an FX send/return on your primary mixer to have better control/blend over that signal. Otherwise, you run a risk of getting the modular's output signal a bit too muddy and cluttered. However, what I would suggest is to process the chord parts in the modular with a phase shifter to get a nice, potentially spatialized sense of timbral motion. As for the filtering on that, you might consider some sort of resonator...maybe aim for that classic Korg PS-series sort of multiband depth. Both of those together would be really wild...very much in that classic Basic Channel sort of sonic zone, given the dubby/spacy sweeping you'd get.

Another VCF to consider might be DINsync's SARA's also a state-variable, but it has a very odd architecture that the manufacturer refers to as 'dual opposed-core', which should be in that dual-peak style of the Praga but might actually be stranger in character. Plus it has two big purple knobs...which would look very visually intriguing for live gigging.

Arrangement definitely needs work, tho...hang on a few minutes...ok, maybe a bit longer since MG's acting up, but...
ModularGrid Rack

Went ahead and, as suggested, fleshed it on out. You'll note a few modules missing from the original, notably the Tallinn and Peaks, which were replaced with the Optomix and a bit of the RADAR. That last thing is a killer...eight looping AD/ASR generators with a separate controller module, the BLIP. I'd say that satisfies all envelope generation needs for this build! I located it centrally to make it convenient to the entire build at the same time.

Batumi (and Poti) added, along with the Belgrad (too little space for the SARA VCF, but the Belgrad fit just fine), along with a Delptronics LDB-2 for analog 606/808-ish drums, then a six-in stereo Ladik mixer, with the Morphagene in 'post' position followed by the Erica Output. Sequencer/clocking area was reordered to straighten out the step-down flow of the clock from the Metropolis thru to the Erica Seq and sequential switch (now in position to switch clock outputs from the Euclidean). All voicing to the top row, where the MTE 4 is set to work as a unity-gain muting mixer for a channel of the Veils. Also, the DSP is post-Optomix to make it convenient for tinkering with the output(s) from that. Didn't cram in a phaser, but there should be enough in there for extreme sonic damage purposes.

Think that'll work?

Hi Lugia,

thank you very much for your effort to give advice on my expansion plans. I appreciate your experience and know-how - awesome!!

Due to space economical reasons in my project studio I don't use a mixer. I hooked up my non-modular synths and FX via balanced patchbays so I could run every synth through the FX/outboard gear I like and than to the audio/ADAT interface (everything in my studio is balanced cabled so I like to have a balanced master output for my modular system, too). Rosie's TRS output ist linked via one of the patchbays to a pair of channels of my audio interface. The system works stand alone (without PC) for jamming, too. Therefore I like the idea to have a small performance mixer in the modular rack helping me quickly dial in loudness, muting and panning when I am jamming electronic and technoid stuff (those basic functions have to be CV controlled for the more ambient and generative tracks on-top of manually mixing). Because of that secnario the Xaoc Praga has been in my mind for a while.

The idea of phase shifting the Telharmonic sounds promising, thanks for that (I have a Vermona analog phaser PH-16 in my 19" rack, so maybe I can utilize this or of cause the super-duper Xaoc Kamienic - but no rack space for this). Concerning the filter there are so many good alternatives, but as you said cause of rack space in combination with what I have and planning to achieve the Xaoc Belgrad should be a super option. Beside its special sound (could be used as a more classy liquid filter, too) I love the Xaoc look & feel and the overall outstanding build quality of their modules. I will put that filter definitely into the rack, I have ordered one today at Schneidersladen in Berlin (coming in at April/May as a new batch of Xaoc Devices is on build hopefully - yeah).

I like your suggestion with the Delphtronics LDB-2 (didn't know the module until yet). Because of the limited size of my modular system I thought a lot about putting dedicated drum modules in it or going with a external drum machine instead. So I think it is a good idea to keep the drums on the small side here and utilize my Elektron Analog Rytm more often besides the modular. To keep things more simple I like the idea to do some basic drum works within the modular via Pico Drums, Tiptop One or sometimes Peaks or Braids and for more crazy stuff Basimilus Iteritas Alter (utilizing the latter for basslines and technoid building blocks instead of percs, too).

One of my main questions still is, how many envelopes will I need. I have a classic envelope on the SV-1. It could need a second ADSR for separate filter and VCA modulation. The Telharmonic needs sometimes an ADSR envelope, too (not only vactrol kind of VCAF filtering like with the Optomix). With Peaks I have two independent envelopes in different style, the Disting could deliver, too (will sell the MK3 though, replacing it with the MK4 - much better user experience with that new small digit display). To ensure another swiss knife function a second Disting could be nuts. Maybe I leave it for a while as is and see what I need in upcoming patching situations. Hm...

As I speek "Optomix" - as I like to keep the Tallin (cause i bought it recently and it sounds amazing as an VCA for audio) - should I plan with the Optomix or should I better drop it for something else? I guess I need a good sounding lowpass gate in my system, maybe using the Make Noise LxD instead of the Optomix and fill up the remaining space with one more envelope generator?

Last but not least thank you very much for your arrangement tips, Lugia. That is what I am struggling with sometimes, luckily with this rack of a manageable size it will somehow work together. Nevertheless I will follow your structure from left to right and bundling functions.

After considering your suggestions in sum I have put the rack like this - of cause not a final building plan. Any more suggestions or comments on that are highly welcome!! :-)

ModularGrid Rack

It's getting closer, to be instinct, though, would be to drop the second Disting (fun tho that might be) in favor of a second Synthrotek ADSR (good pick), and then still trying to jam a couple more AR-types in. Remember, if you're using the Praga as the performance mixer, that also has exponential VCAs for its audio and you can feed envelopes to those to do your final dynamic shaping. Having one more ADSR would help the Praga really shine in that way, and then you can use the extra AR/ASRs to do the envelope response, linear VCA mixer response, and also for a bit of extra modulation sources. Maybe dropping the O'Tool would free up a bit more for that, as this rig seems to me to be a bit envelope-hungry.'s getting there!

Top Lugia, thank's alot - I will free some space for the envelopes. Because I am a sound designing nerd I have to keep the O'tools oscilloscope.

Option A: If I drop the Synthrotek ADSR and one Disting the 8hp could be filled with four envelope generators by 2hp (2x AD/AR module and 2x ADSR module). The rack would look like this:
ModularGrid Rack

Option B: If I drop the WMD MSCL and the Ladik Output module for the suggested Pico Out, and furthermore dropping the Pico Logic, Synthrotek ADSR and Optomix (LxD instead as my low pass gate) that together would free up space for...

...the very new Mutable Instruments Stages - should be a super flexible envelope generator with one huge six step envelope or for example DADSR, AD and ADSR, 2x ASR, 3x AR or AD etc. Alternatively the Stages LFO function could be dialed in. Envelope curves can be shaped and time/level CV manipulated. I think that could help me out with my envelope problem in this rack (Peaks could be dedicated to the Praga in expert mode with 2x ADSR). The Stages just shows up the right time... yeah! The last 2hp could be filled with the Pluck to have some Karplus-Strong sounds (no Rings or Plaits on board).

So the rest of my rack will be developed like this (still not sure about final arrangement of the modules - so I configured two arrangement options). What do you finally think?

Arrangement option 1:
ModularGrid Rack

Arrangement option 2:
ModularGrid Rack

Looking at the Stages specs right now...I think that may well be your best option for multiple envelopes. I think several 2 hp ADSRs might be a good idea, however, simply for the VCA contours over the Praga to get your final dynamic shaping prior to the output chain. Looking at the second build above, I see six VCAs outside of the Praga...using the Stages as a one-shot (or some multiple EG configuration) should be able to feed most or all of those properly, leaving only the Praga's channel VCAs.

You need 8 hp. If you were to drop the Erica Voice and Mod, and one Disting, that would give 10. So, four ADSRs, then replace the Mod with either an AD or another ADSR so you actually get that function back...that might button this thing up!

Thank you very much, Lugia - I will go for more envelopes for sure.