Hey people,

this is my first rack. Getting started with modular synths. Loving it (and terrified).
Deliberately keeping the modules relatively simple. I prefer to get the hang of analog vc-control down first before diving into complex, digital modules.

So far, what I think I'd like to change about this set up is:
- adding VC-controlled LFO's
- adding other filters

I would appreciate any advice on how to (economically ;) improve this system. What are your thoughts on the modules I have in here and which ones would you swap out first? If you had to add one or two, which ones would you choose?

Re sounds: I love ambient soundscapes, drone-type and minimal sounds. I don't like rave / chaos / 4-4 house.


I’m pretty new at this myself but you’ve got a few discontinued modules there and others that will be equally hard to source including the Thomas Henry LFO and the buffered mult - both of which are quite large and there are plenty of slimmer options.I’d definitely invest in a larger more versatile sequencer with the extra space, I’ve got a 2hp pluck which is fantastic at the size and price for karplus strong sounds which might be a really useful voice for the kind of music you want to make and also a 2hp arp- also good but the two mini pots are, how shall I say- overstretched for the functionality and control required so I think the seq would be a bit frustrating to use, a good unit if you desperately need a another basic sequencer and are really struggling for space but probably not a first choice primary sequencer.

Thanks for the tips!

That's not a proper power supply, btw. That power inlet was discontinued by Doepfer a loooooong time ago. Also, in a build of this size, you need to do two important things.

1) see how much of the functionality can be shrunk down by using multifunction modules. For example, you have four LFOs in a total of 32 hp. This isn't a very efficient use of panel space. If you were to use, say, two Xaoc Batumis and a 4ms QPLFO, that also comes out to 32 hp...but gives you 12 LFOs to work with. Now, that many LFOs might not work for you, but it indicates that you could easily jam all four LFOs into a mere ten or twelve hp instead and open up room for more possibilities (like more VCAs, for example).

2) collect your module functions. Put all the VCOs in one area, all the LFOs, EGs, etc. This makes a build way easier to navigate, especially for live performance work. Right now, this build is pretty hodge-podged, and while that might make sense in a studio setting, if you ever perform live with this system as it currently stands, you won't have a lot of fun.

The other thing is something that Dom78 touches on: discontinued modules. I see four in this build right off the bat. Always keep an eye out for status markers here on MG that indicate a module is discontinued. But even with that, also check to see if a manufacturer has a "mk 2" version of something, such as that Intellijel waveshaper; there's been a second version of that on the market for about five years, and when manufacturers issue these newer versions you can generally assume that the original isn't being manufactured anymore. It's quite rare to see a "mk 1" and "mk 2" of a module on sale simultaneously. Now, not everything in MG is properly marked...while this site is considered the 'standard reference' for synthesizer modules, its user-driven aspect doesn't always mean that the precise correct info gets on here, and if no one corrects errors when they turn up, things stay like that. So when you arrive at a build that seems to work for you, checking the module availability with vendor websites is a must.
As to why the 'obsolete' modules are on here...well, that again goes back to MG being that 'standard reference'. The idea is to have the 'obsolete' modules as well because someone might have them in their rig or have found some in the used market, and they'd like to see how they might fit in their own system build.

One other thing I would suggest doing: start with a rack that you think is "too big". If you have 2 x 84 hp, try 104 hp or 126 hp out for starters. It's easy enough to scale back, and MG is the perfect place to sandbox ideas until you have something that feels like it would work as a real device. Plus, don't aim for the perfect build on the first try...or the tenth...or 100th. Just create, and watch for areas in a build that have a good 'feel' to them, then make a note of that and repeat what worked in the next iteration. By honing down your eventual physical build in this way, you will save a lot of time, money, headaches, and even learn quite a bit in the process.

Move the Power supply switch to the side or on the back of the case and free up that space .I put mine on the side no problems at all.
Nothing wrong with obsolete modules can be found cheaply.
I build my case out of just second hand modules.

Thanks for all the (extensive, wow!) replies. In the meantime, I got a few new modules and updated to another rack (9U 114HP). I've told myself to restrain myself to start filling up both, so I will be using the 3U only for now. ;)

Batumi being added.

About discontinued modules: Should I avoid these in my system?

Depends. If the discontinued devices are from a major maker, such as Mutable Instruments, Intellijel, etc, there's not likely to be any worries, plus these may in fact be easy and cheap finds on the used market (in some cases). But when it comes to smaller boutique makers, it's likely best to stick to ones whose output has been ongoing over the long term in case technical issues arise. Also, if the device in question was a kit build, be very cautious unless the build was done by a builder with extensive experience. My Digisound 80, for example, was a kit build...but it had been restored and cased/powered by the legendary Kevin Lightner (RIP), one of the greatest synth techs ever. So even though it was a kit build, Kevin had gone over all of the functions and corrected any faults that might have been present because...well, that's what he did. He was a picky guy in that way.

Again, as with anything used, it's a caveat emptor kinda joint. When first getting a "new" used module, check all of the functions, controls for noise, dropouts, jumpy control behavior (all of which tend to indicate dirty controls, etc), and make sure the patchpoints are snug and electrically solid. If you have an oscilloscope (definitely a tool serious modularistas ought to have on hand!), examine LFO and VCO waveforms for spectral purity and proper waveshapes. Also, VCFs can be checked similarly by bringing them into self-resonance and examining the output for a good, clean sine wave. Mixers and VCAs can be checked by sending known pure waveforms through them and looking for distortion components, and waveshaper functions can be checked against their settings by observing how they manipulate a simple waveform. Dirty pots and switches can usually be sorted out with some of Caig Labs' wonder-drug, DeOxit, and badly-performing jacks can either be spritzed with that same magic formula, or you can obtain a jack burnisher to scrub crud off of contacts.

Second hand modules was the way to go for me .
I just stuck to “factory built” modules from larger manufacturers ie doepfer ect.
Only been bitten once in 32 modules with worn sockets and it wasn’t a hard fix .