Hi there folks

This is my first post on modulargrid and yes, I am a total noob to modular synths and also all the synths I owned were software synths... up to now. I hope you guys can give me a few tips and tell me if something in this setup will not work. I did a little bit of homework and watched tons of vids to prepare, but still no actual hands on.

So, OK: I plan to buy the Arturia Minibrute 2S. If budget allows for, I will also buy one Arturia 6U case and the first modules. The plan is to use the Oscillator and Gimmicks of the Minibrute for lead / bass and use it as VCA and yes of course the sequencer... nice combination for that price. The finished setup should be something that can produce leads, bass, drums with easy control for modulation.

As you can see, I included the 3U part to the 6U part, in reality this will be 2 cases (Arturia probably)

The rack part will be filled over time. At first I want to buy one of the Basimilus Iteritas Alter, the voltage block and the Varigate 4+. I think this will give me a nice drum section. Next step will be the next BIA or maybe Ataraxic/Belgrad/ADSR... we will see.

So let me know what you think and share a tip or two with me.

Peace

sorid


1) Are you sure that all of the modules you've selected are either in production or are currently available? I'm going to bet that the answer there is 'no'. Also, have you confirmed the depths required? Note that the RackBrute does have internal obstructions in the row that your power supply is located under, and that it's a very good idea to leave about a centimeter for your ribbons and connectors on the bus board.

2) Have you tried to minimize the 'real estate' occupied by your modules? These are fairly small cabs, with only 88 hp per row. If you can find any modules to shrink (and I see a few right off the bat), do so. In builds like this, it's best also to see if you can actually dispense with certain modules altogether, such as mults (use inline ones) or jam as many functions as possible into as small a footprint as you can.

3) Do you really need 15 discrete attenuators? Don't try to convince me that it's a good thing that they can also mix, because you've also got two 4->1 mixers as well besides the Befaco Hex setup. Remember, most modules that're worth a damn have input attenuator/scaling pots...or they should. The Erogenous Tones one is a killer device, given how flexible it can be. As for the rest...uhhhh...kinda scratching my head here...

4) Never put in a big blank panel when working a build out on MG. Doing this also puts the same big blank panel in your head as far as future builds are concerned. When working out a final build version here, work it out 100%...you can always go back and swap things around/in/out later on. This isn't a test. You can do this over and over (and SHOULD) until you've honed down a real, serious, no-foolin' final build. Especially if you're just starting out in hardware in general, to say nothing of modular itself.

5) Finally...do you actually need to do this in this way? Consider: you're transitioning from an 'in the box' synthesis environment where everything pretty much works within the same operational paradigm to perhaps the most complex form of analog synthesis out there. It's sort of like going from driving a Prius to a Ferrari 488 Spider with no sort of transition in between. Also sort of like that in monetary outlay, too. Sure, these things look cool...BUT...they cost, they require some degree of hardware electronics knowledge, it's possible to make mistakes that can cost hundreds of dollars (or worse) in mere milliseconds, and you need to know how analog synthesis signal flowpaths function (and how they function on your specific instrument) like the back of your hand.

My suggestion is this: stop. Step back, take a few deep breaths. Start at a better and more sensible start-point with hardware than this. If you want "something that can produce leads, bass, drums with easy control for modulation," modular might be a good bit more than you're anticipating. I mean...look at your build above. Does that look like it has the sort of "easy control" you're looking for? Especially when you start interconnecting that with a Mini 2S? My guess there is that, no, it doesn't...mainly because, no, it doesn't!

Do yourself and your credit cards a favor for now, and look into some dedicated devices. Certainly among those, include one or two patchables, which are the best way to sort out what modular does, what it's good for, what it's NOT good for, and how you specifically want/need to use it. This is the real way to transition out of a pure software environment, and in the long run, you're apt to get a lot more done over the long term by doing this than if you plunged right into the deep end of the pool straightaway. Doing the latter will likely be an exercise in frustration, and you'll end up more perplexed about the point of modular than before you started.


Well thanks, this was just the answer I needed I guess.

The most important thing you stated for me is 5) Do I really need it to do that way??? The answer is: I don't have a clue. I use a DAW and finished a couple of tracks. My motives for doing electronic music are 1) Understanding the how and why and 2) Jamming (with low quality output expected). My tracks still keep getting better, which is a clear indication that I am not even close to the end of the learning curve. I think I could go on with software for a couple of years and will not get bored. But always when I a jamming with friends or alone (all kind of setups) I think I want to have some real interaction with my instrument. So I decided to buy some hardware. I am still pretty sure I will buy the Minibrute as first instrument. And then yes of course I was a victim for the coolness of the modular idea. Which was the reason I clicked together that rack and wanted to know if it makes sense. So still I don't know if I will go modular, but let's just assume the answer will be yes for the next few lines:

3) The attenuators: I actually asked myself how much I will need them. I thought of using the LFO into the attenuator multiple and then modulate several targets with it. But I think I will cut them down and only use the Erogenous.

1) Availability and depth: OK, thanks for the info. I assumed it would be enough to select "AVAILABLE" on MG. And for the depth I didn't think of the power modules in the Arturia rack.

2) Space of the modules: OK, this is interesting. I actually tried to minimize the space they use. If you still feel motivated can you be more specific which modules I could reduce and still keep the functionality in the upper 6U part, except the mults? I will redo the 3U part entirely.

4) Hey I like adventure time... ;)

For the plan: IF I decide to do something modular my budget is ~ 800 €/year (+300 € more in the first year for a start setup). So the setup will be finished in like 8 years ... that is quite some time. In the beginning I will depend on the Minibrute, but I want to replace it part by part with modules and in the and just use it as an additional voice. I think I will redo the lower 3U part with VAC, Mixer, Sequencer.


ModularGrid Rack
This makes more sense.

First of all, the Minibrute 2 panel (which is lurking on here somewhere) was added so that you can keep its functions in mind as we look at the Rackbrute proper above. Top row is split between your 'voice' and 'drums'. A random CV source at left provides random fluctuating voltages for modulation use. Then a Shifty...this is a four-stage analog shift register/sample and hold which allows psuedo-polyphonic hocketing from a single incoming CV. Each time the module receives a clock pulse, it shifts the held CV to the next register. Then by connecting the registers to separate VCOs (of which there are four next to this, with internal quantizing), you get four-part rotating hocket/arpeggiation-type activity. Two Klavis Twin VCOs are next for four VCOs total. These are very complex oscillators with a lot of internal DSP control, which maximizes function within a tiny space. 4 -> 1 mixer allows you to sum these VCOs with variable levels, then this feeds to Tiptop's new Steiner Synthacon VCF clone. Great filter, lots of sonic possibilities, but still relatively simple and easy to control. Doepfer's new dual EG/VCA combo is last, which gives you an EG/VCA for your pre-VCF signal and one for post.

Drums: Gatestorm gate sequencer is the main pattern control/clock modulator/lots of other programmable things, with its clock incoming (more than likely) from the MB 2S. This generates eight gate patterns. The Delptronics modules to the right are based on the Roland 606 and 808 circuits, and next to that is the expander which allows some extra CV functions over the main drum sounds. A Moffenzeef module provides glitchy/fubar-type percussives, plus a pair of Erica Pico Drums gives you two channels of sampled drums. The drums can be submixed via part of the Levit8 below, and/or individual channels on the stereo mixer.

Bottom row is for modulation sources and mixing. Left side, next to the Power, is a dual lag generator, so that you can add in portamento functions for the voice section above (switchable between up, down, and up/down behaviors) or wherever else simple slew limiting might be useful. Batumi + Poti next; the Poti adds some extra control functionality to the Batumi that can be switched on the fly. Four VCAs after that, which can either function as a mixer or separately, and these can be adjusted for responses anywhere between linear (better for CV control) and exponential (which you more typically use for audio). Four ADSRs are after this. Then the mix section includes the Levit8 from before, a Happy Nerding 6 -> 1 stereo mixer with CV over level control, and then a shrunk-down third party build of the now-unavailable Clouds. This one is by Michigan Synth Works, available directly. A Happy Nerding Isolator at the end gives you a global stereo attenuator, converts synth to line level output, and has dual isolation transformers to help with noise/hum and to add a touch of transformer enharmonics.

All of this fits in the single 6U RackBrute. It costs much less (subtract the MB 2S's $649 from the total), draws less power, has ample internal clearance, and offers more functionality in less space. Now, as for the bass part...what I would suggest is a patchable device of some sort, and there's a few reasons why. First of all, if you want to put things under some level of computer control, it's smarter to have the bass and the MB 2S on two separate MIDI parts. Just makes more musical sense; you don't want everything doing the same exact thing, after all. Secondly, you're going to want to voice that rather differently for maximum 'punch', which also means you want its signal and level control very separate from everything else. Bass being as important as it is, it needs to be treated as its own thing in of itself. Last, you'll want to tweak it and operate it in general differently from the rest of the rig, also because bass is so significant. This means you're probably going to want something with its own internal sequencing or the ability to connect a basic sequencer to it, in addition to having the sound source itself separate, but you will still need to interconnect the clocking. This also means you'll be looking at a small portable stereo mixer to mix the MB 2S, the bass synth, and the stereo out from the RackBrute, plus anything you might add later on (laptop audio, another synth, etc). Very basic little setup, but effective.

As you can see, this is very different from "in the box"...you have to think of things as subunits, which are part of a larger whole, which then come together as a singular instrument, and then those form the whole rig. Inside software, much of the lower level of this process is already decided for you, which is one reason a lot of people jumping directly from solely using software to modular make a lot of critical errors. Now, this above version is A possibility. There are likely others, this one being something I cobbled up on the fly...but it will work very well for your purposes. However, before doing any refinements, study this example, understand how and why it works, then study other examples by experienced synthesists, historical instruments, the underlying concepts in analog synthesis and so on before making changes. And take your time...if you're building a musical instrument, you're building something which you should be using for quite some time. Given that, it should make lots of sense to take the time beforehand to get the most useful long-term result.


Thanks a lot for you effort! I read a bit into the modules you proposed and I think I can understand most of the principles. One question though: Is it necessary to use a VCA pre VCF? The VCA converts the voltages of the VCOs to an audio signal; right? Doesn't the filter also work with raw voltage signals?

For the modules: The Steiner-Parker filter fits nicely into the setup, I think. Actually when I did the first setup I wanted a more “normal” filter than the Belgrad, but couldn't find any on the first try. The Klavis Twin Waves also look super interesting. I can use them ARP like with the shifty, but I also could use them together as a true polyphonic voice and detune them in regards to each other, right?

I also saw the Zadar EG. Would you recommend it in this setup for ADSR? With the Zadar there also would be additional LFO sources. With the Twin Waves also having a LFO functions perhaps the Batumi + Poti as well as the 4x Doepfer ADSR can be replaced? The Doepfer ADSR seem more classic and straight forward (which I like a lot) but with the Zadar perhaps not necessary.


It's not necessary to use a VCA before a filter. However, if you have one that can be placed there, you can then do things such as routing a single VCO through it and then into the VCO mix, and by giving that a longer attack than the post-VCF one, that'll let you add harmonics/VCO density/detunings/etc as a ramp-up as long as the note-on is present. Or even more things; that's just one example. VCAs are the unsung heroes of modular synthesis, really...they allow all sorts of trickery involving controlling audio levels, CV voltages, and the like that wind up upping the complexity of your patch. But it doesn't convert the VCO signal to audio; the VCO outputs audio itself, and the VCA (plus a modulating source) can control that audio level. Also, keep in mind that the six channels of the HN mixer also have VCAs for audio level control

The Synthacon VCF looks simple...but, having owned a real Steiner-Parker Synthacon for many years (traded it for an ARP 2600 quite some time ago), I can tell you that it's anything but, sonically. It's very versatile, does everything from punchy bass to rip-your-ears-off screeches, and pretty much anything in between. There are definite reasons why the Arturia Brutes use them; I put that in in there so that you have some sonic consistency, but with the added potential of two different simultaneous options with the same filter architecture.

The Klavis VCOs are rather deep, functionwise. But I wouldn't toss the Batumi out just because the Klavis oscillators can tune down into subaudio. Batumis can do tricks with their LFO signals (especially with the Poti expander) that lots of other oscillators can't, such as operating in a quadrature mode or in other phase-relational modes on a single frequency. They also have an internal divider mode that has lots of potential for clocking applications. And yes, you can do a lot with the Klavis VCOs + the Shifty, even beyond a 4-stage shift register. For instance, you can switch the Shifty into 2-stage, then have two VCOs per outputted CV for two-part duophony from the same initial incoming CV. And again, that's simply one possibility among numerous ones. Or as you noted, drop all four VCOs on the same pitch for big detuned punchiness. Or three, then have a single one on top as a lead. The list goes on, as you can see.

As for the Zadar...it's nice, but the fact is that, in the early stages of using modular, you're going to want to have modules that require lots of tweak attention and manual manipulation potential. I've always felt that it was more important to reach out and get a handful of parameter control rather than futz around with menus and assignable controls. And you will definitely find uses for the A-140-2 ADSRs (especially given their jumperable custom configuration possibilities) all over the place, even in tandem with the Batumi's LFOs. You could even use the latter to control the time aspects on the former, varying envelope lengths in cyclical fashion. But for the synthesis parts in that build, I went with keeping everything as 'hands-on' as possible, with the only menu-driven device being the Gatestorm sequencer for the percussion sounds, because sequencers need more direct visual feedback to the user than in most other modules, and also because it's very useful to have recall for your sequence loops and you need to see what's being recalled quickly when switching sequences while playing.

Anyway, this is an easier to learn build, as you've kinda noticed. It's possible to get really deep into sound design with this, but all of the controls remain grabable for the most part, making it also more adept for live work in addition to studio. And it's also a build that's more open-ended, allowing for further augmentation in the future with more cabs, devices, etc. Putting it together with the Mini 2S will result in a very potent sequencer-based rig indeed.


Are you sold on getting a RackBrute case? It's nice to have one mounted above your MiniBrute. But if you went with something like the Mantis, you get 208HP rather than 171HP (you sacrifice 5HP for the power supply). If you have the cash, the 7U 108HP Intellijel case is also worthy of consideration as well... you get 208HP of regular space plus 104HP of 1U and a metal lid for your case that will allow you to leave things patched. If you're working live, this will save some considerable time setting up.

I noticed Luigi's build dumps the Noise Engineering stuff. How important are those modules to you?

Even if you get a Zadar, you'll want at least one traditional ADSR unit. Menu diving isn't a lot of fun. You might consider a Tip Top Z4000 as an alternative to the Doepfer. It's only one channel (make it two if you have the space). I believe it's stage of the ADSR can be manipulated by CV, so you can control the length of each stage via CV/sequencer. If you want to make sounds that evolve, you may want ADSRs with this ability.

There are no wrong ways to go about it... only varying levels of disappointment. Start in earnest as you're getting intimate with your modules and learning about their capabilities as well as YOUR capabilities.


First of all I saw that I need to learn much more about the basics of synthesis to delve further into modular builds. So I will play around with the Mini2S and learn with its internal patch bay.

None the less I of course played a little with the setup I posted before and the very useful information of Lugia:

https://cdn.modulargrid.net/img/racks/modulargrid_783304.jpg?1542060111

For the case: A couple of days ago I stumbled over the 7U 208HP Intellijel case and thought this would be perfect. Possibly I will build with that one when I start, but for the beginning I decided to stick with the smaller 176 HP setup, to force myself to only include what I really need.

Since I had the most input about the VCOs, I first discarded the drums entirely. Actually I wanted to build something more on the drums side, but I think to go through a VCO pathway is better for the learning process. With the drums gone I also decided to discard the Minibrute in the setup entirely. I will have it at the time I start my first build, but I thought it is better to build a standalone thingy. With the Minibrute gone I need something for the input. And this was the first real problem. First I considered the Mutable Yarns because of the MIDI I/O and up to 4 CVs/Gates for the 4 voices. But in the demos I saw that changing the patterns on the fly gets a lot into menu delving. Next I took a look at the Rene2. It actually does what I want but it seems I need a clock input for it and of course this should be the Tempi. Together this takes a lot of space and is quite expensive. Next I thought about the Doepfer Dark Time Red. This of course is no Eurorack module but it does everything I want for an OK price with 2 CV and Gate outs + clock. In the end I included the Mutant Brain MIDI in in the setup. It has 4x CV for the Twin Waves and more than enough gate outs. I can play it with a MIDI keyboard or over the DAW. That's not perfect but perhaps someone of you has an idea. I am looking for something with min. 2 channels with 2x CV/Gate out, clock and best 16 steps with accessible (less menu stuff) pitch and gate control for each step.

Next I simpled down the build a little bid. I removed the RND, Dual Lag and Shifty. As core part the 2x2 Twin Waves and the Steiner-Parker VCF stay of course. I replaced the Doepfer 142-2 with the KOMA Dual VCA, because: Distortion and Mixing. With the 4x ADSR (s. later) I think I don't need the Doepfer AD/AR (?). The Twin Waves will now be mixed additionally with with the Levit8 (4>1 or 4>2 into KOMA>1) into the filter. I replaced one Doepfer 140-2 with an intellijel Dual ADSR because I like faders much more than knobs. This ADSR can be used for the voices while the 2 Dopfer ADSR can go to VCF cutoff/resonance and/or effects. Right now I consider 2x TipTop Z4000 for the 2nd Doepfer. In the end I also chose Batumi with Poti over Zadar: more control is better. Last I downgraded the 4x VCA to 2x uVCA and hope this will be enough (?).

For the effects I originally decided for Crush-Delay. Since it doesn't have stereo effects I discarded it for an Erica Pico DSP and the uBurst/Clouds. For the PanMix I was thinking about the Verbos Scan&Pan (better control) but decied for the PanMix in the end because of the more channels (2xPicoDSP,2xuBurst, 1-2x post VCF?). I thought about the HN TriTone for a moment, it could act as a post VCF EQ or an additional simple LP/HP filter (some voices over the Planet the others over TriTone into KOMA VCA +Distortion?). Still not sure about this one...

The price now is kinda affordable, also it would fit in an 6U 2x84HP DIY case for the beginning...


Hi Sorid,

I just read your previous post. Three comments:

Did you ever consider the Expert Sleepers FH2 as your CV to DAW interface? It can output CV, gate, and clock. All outputs are available to be CV, gate, or clock (as well as LFOs and ADSRs). It's also expandable. I have one in my rack and like it. Though once you have your DAW booted, you have to quit your DAW to reconfigure it via the web interface. The onboard interface is a bit of a menu dive. However for the price and HP space, it's hard to beat. I also have a Temps Utile module. It can take a clock input and provide up to six clock outputs from /64 to x64. I believe Pamela's New Workout can provide the same if you're not comfortable with custom built stuff.

Zadar vs. Batumi. I think some features overlap but the Batumi is a quad LFO generator while the Zadar is more of an envelope generator. I own the Batumi with the Poti. I like it, but it's not as great as I thought it would be. I would consider having a traditional LFO as well if you're looking for real-time tweaking of values. It can be a little tricky when changing frequencies (faster/slower). The Zadar is in my wishlist due to the unique envelopes it can generate... but I also have the Intellijel dual ADSR. Having a traditional ADSR or two is also a good idea.

Also, buy a bigger case than you think you'll need. By all means add modules to your case like every HP is sacred. But when it comes time to expand, you'll get more value if you have rack space to spare. Of course, this means more upfront costs. But in my opinion it's worth it.

At some point you'll end up biting the bullet and hoping for the best. You might also want to develop a relationship with a reliable Eurorack dealer and ask for some help/suggestions as well. The good ones treat you like a client rather than a one-n-done customer.


Hi there

I thought I'd give you an update of my thoughts. As before, first I want to plan a 4-voice style rack with it's own sequencer. So here is the setup, as it looks now:

ModularGrid Rack

  1. 1U row: Attenuverter and mults for basic stuff. I know there are inline versions but I want to have at least a few of these in the rack. The audio I/O (jacks / pre-amp) also moved to the 1U section.

  2. 3U row: PAM for clock generation / modulation into Z8000, gates and other purposes. Then a dual lag, 2x Twin Waves, S-P Filter and 4x VCA; mostly unchanged form before. I eventually ditched the KOMA VCA, now I am taking the Doepfer A-132-4 into account, mainly because it's super easy on the HP, but still not super sure of it. uBurst/clouds for effects (I think the only module form my initial setup...). Next a 2xLPG (duh, how could I have missed that) and the HN mixer for stereo out.

  3. 3U row. TipTop Z8000. Its cheaper than Rene2, has 10 CV outs and Matrix control. I saw a few demos and I am almost sold for that one. Mix4 to mix some or all of the 4 VCOs, moved down because no space upstairs. 4x ADSR, two of them with VC over each step, 4xLFO. Last not least: Wogglebug for random CV and gates.

The case: I think in the end it will be the 7U inellijel (2x104 HP, so more space than this setup). But at this time I don't have the monies for it. I will get the Doepfer DIY and 2 extra rails for 7U. Otherwise I won't have the money for the first modules.

So, for those still interested: Am I still missing something? What would you do different?

OK, in the meantime I get really hyped for this. If my boss decides for a bonus this year I will start building in January.

  • Edit: I think for the Z8000 I need a quantizer, which I added instead of the 2x Lag (which will be missed). Also now a Inellijel 4xVCA instead of the Doepfer because they seem little bid more varibale (lin. & exp. and build in attenuators). Removed the TipTop ADSR for the Doepfer ADSR to make that space, they have at least on CV over one Phase (choose via jumpers).


Hi there.

If you're going with the Intellijel 104HP 7U case, it has 1/4" inputs and outputs on the case already. You won't need to add the 1U jack interface that's to the left of the volume control module. The TipTop Z4000 ADSR has CV inputs that can control each stage of the envelope. The Doepfer saves space but you're going to get sick of those jumpers in a heartbeat. The Z4000 is 8HP, so two of them equates to 16HP. The Intellijel dual ADSR is 14HP. I would substitute one of the Intellijel VCA modules for something else that's a little slimmer like the Zlob 6 channel VCA. It's slimmer and gives you six VCAs instead of four. They aren't as flexible as the Intellijel, but you've got that covered with the first Intellijel VCA.

If you can spare even more room, get rid of the uScale and replace it with a micro Ornaments and Crime. It has a quantizer built in, plus a bunch of other features when you're not needing a quantizer.

That Pan Mix by Happy Nerding is an awesome find! I was seriously considering the Roland 6 channel mixer because of the panning... but it also has mutes. But the CV control of panning and volume makes the Pan Mix a bit more attractive. Thanks so much for posting it. You've helped ME out. :)


Hey Ronin1973

Oh wow, the Ornaments and Crime really does a lot of things I want. Also the shift register is back in with it... I am not really into soldering, but I saw Michigan Synthworks build those thingies for you (if you can wait for 21 days...). Looks like the uScale is more easy to use, but O_c does so much more... hmm.

To make space for the O_c I had to do some compromises... less VCA and ADSR. Now I have 6 VCA and 5 ADSR sources, one ADSR is a Tiptop Z4000 and 2 are more simple ones from the Doepfer A-142-2... Clicking on the rack should get you the new setup. Also the Ladik dual lag is back in, which I imagine handy for the Z8000 out into non-pitch CV.

With both the PAM and O_c there seem to be plenty of LFO outs now, nice.

Happy I could help with the HN mixer. It was initially proposed by Lugia. I was between Roland 531, Verbos Scan&Pan and this one...


I bought a uBraids from Michigan Synth Works. Can't complain. I bought an O_C and Temps Utile from a Modular Grids member/maker. They work perfectly as well. Message me and I'll give you the name if you wish.

Read up on all the functionality of the OC... it even has a dual sequencer that can output gates as well as envelopes. So if you get in a pinch, the OC can deliver envelopes or your quantizer or even an extra shift register (but only one set of functions at the same time).

As far as your matrix sequencer, you might want to check out Noise Engineering's Mimetic Digitalis. The functionality is similar (but not the same) as the Tip Top unit. It's only 10HP and about $100 less. Pair that with a second OC and you should have even more options in 18HP rather than 28HP. You can also save the state of the OC and the Mimetic Digitalis, which is a big plus. With that extra 10HP, you have room for another 10HP VCO or 5 2HP units.

I know, so many options...


Well I am thinking about the voltage block instead of the Z8000 a lot. Z8000 really is big... Voltage block is not really a matrix but it has 8 CV outs, build in quantizer, build in clock divider, probalility per setp and a slew limiter... I wouldn't need the O_c... Pam I want to keep I think because of all the nice features.