I've been building this out for about a year now, but recently I've been looking to cut out the redundancies and give myself more flexibility. With the DPO, the STO, the E-352, and the Mysteron, I essentially have four oscillators and it can feel like overkill sometimes. To be clear, I have everything here minus the Batumi and the Dynamix, which I plan on getting in the next month or two.

In addition to this I have a Mother-32, which I use with the Rene 1 for minimalist tones, syncopated rhythms, and three- or four-voice drones.

I'm considering getting a sound modeler like the Plonk just for some variation, and I've found the Echophon does S&H well enough for my purposes, though I'm not against getting a Morphagene or a Nebulae v. 2.

Any thoughts?


Hi. I'm also fairly new to modular, about 2 years or so. I think it depends on what you're trying to do. This seems like a cool rack for sound design and ambient. If you're trying to do more rhythmic stuff I might recommend some more utility modules. Maybe try a disting and see which utilities you find the most useful. Multiples are great. VCAs that aren't Low Pass Gates seem like they'd also be a welcome addition. Random might be a nice touch. Inexperienced as I am, I'd say you're at the point where you should look less to sound sources or even effects, and more towards modulation, utility, and getting the most out of what you already have. It's incredible how much the smallest pieces can change everything.

Well, problem #1 here seems to be that there's a lot of big footprints in a smaller-sized case. The Batumi addition is a better direction to go in, where you can have a lot of function in a much smaller hp count. As for this being "too heavy" on sources...hm...yes and no. Having plenty of VCOs is a good thing, however you make it fit. But having too many "showpiece" sources...not so much so. In this case, you've got three: the DPO, Cloud Terrarium, and Mysteron. The only "basic" VCO present is the STO...and this neglects the ability to have basic, boring, utilitarian VCOs as effective audio-frequency modulators, either as FM sources for other oscillators or as mixable audio sources to add to other oscillator signals with a bit of detuning and/or waveform difference to beef up basic sounds. This is something you might want to reconsider, perhaps losing the Mysteron in favor of a few very basic VCOs for those purposes.

Dynamix...no. You have a pair of proper vactrol LPGs in the Optomix already. What's needed are...yep...boring, dull, sleepy VCAs. Again, this goes toward sonic complexity. Dropping something like a Doepfer A-135-2 quad VCA into the Dynamix's space would then give you four DC-coupled linear VCAs which can then be used to process CVs, LFO and other modulation signals, as well as mixing these if desired. Yes, VCAs are boring. But they're also bread-and-butter devices when it comes to being able to create complex control paths.

Another glaring omission...and also boring stuff but necessary: mixers. I don't see any...and that's a crippling issue. You can't make really good use of all of those audio sources unless you also have the ability to mix some of them together. That last thing I suggest above, combining the STO output with some other source's...you actually don't have a good way to do that right now. Like VCAs, mixers are boring but 100% essential. You need ways to combine audio and CV/mod sources; the whole point of "synthesis" is to reach a sonic result by combining signals to create very complex and changing spectra. The DPO can do this...but that's the only thing here that can, and by leaving mixing out just for audio alone, you've hamstrung this build.

Some of your other module purchase ideas suggest the real problem, actually. There's always the temptation to go for the big-name, super-sexy modules...but if you do that, you're going to wind up totally screwed. Some of them are nice to have, but if you neglect the sleepy-looking parts like mixers, VCAs, envelope gens (only one in this...that's not going to cut it!) and on and on, you'll have a sexy-looking box that works like crap as a synth. Couple that with the space limits in your existing cab, and it doesn't surprise me at all that you've realized you're lacking flexibility. But to get that flexibility...big and sexy is not the answer. Spend some time looking at dull, boring things...consider how they might fit with your other modules, and which modules it might seem that can be removed in order to optimize the capabilties of the remaining ones. Those boring scut-worky modules are actually the key modules that make the pile of modules into a workable instrument...and without them, yep, you've got something expensive and lacking.

Great read here, again, Lugia.

I pondered similar questions as I just recently jumped into modular. Even though I did my research, still a few things I’d do different. It just uncurled to me how big the DPO really is. Also, many cool modules are now available as micro-units (clouds, marbles, braids, plaits...). So, gotta swap them at some point. I didn’t go for a particularly small cab, but it’s quickly apparent how critical function density really is. I love XAOC in that regard is awesome with the 10 HP Batumi and Zadar.
And, yeah, mixers. I quickly learned that you’re going to want those for CV and audio separately. So one bottle neck for me is that I rely on a single triple bipolar.
Also, do you plan to integrate your system with other gear? MIDI and/or audio I/O seem to be missing (need for a dedicated audio I/O was something I hadn’t considered).

One other point is that if you're going to want all of those sound sources to track evenly on a single CV, you are definitely looking at adding a buffered mult in order to avoid CV voltage droop from trying to connect too many exponential converters to the same CV out. Going smaller means you've got room for one...even if it's just 2-3 hp, in a cab that small, space can get pretty dear pretty fast. As for passive mults...nah. If you're going smaller, like this, lay in a supply of in-line mult widgets instead. Jam as much function as you can get into the panel space; by using widgets, you get more functional space potential.

Thank you, everyone, for your input. It seems pretty clear that I'm lacking VCAs!

Lugia: I neglected to include my 2hp Mix module in the rack, probably because I was so focused on sound sources. My mistake. Thank you for how thorough you went, and especially for explaining the logic behind it--it became very clear for me after reading your note. I see what you're saying about big, sexy modules: I definitely allowed myself to get carried away with the Cloud Terrarium, for instance. I'm actually more inclined to get rid of that module over the Mysteron, since I use the latter for timbral modulation and randomness, and I think it has a good "ugly" sound, but honestly they tend to be among the lesser-loved. You're right in that I feel like I'm hitting a wall. Thanks for the suggestion on the Doepfer. I've been looking at more of their modules after getting the spring reverb, which is gorgeous and relatively cheap. As for the utility modules, what about a Cold Mac? As for the mults: I currently use a few Intellijel non-magnetic hubs, and haven't noticed any kind of a signal drop-off. Either way, I've been planning on getting a 7U Make Noise case, which I believe would solve that issue in the future though--right?

Liquid_air: Yeah, I've downsized quite a bit. I had a few MI modules, but I just didn't get along with them, and wasn't interested in the micro version. As for your questions, I'm not sure I understand what you mean. I do use the MIDI in on the Mother-32 with a keyboard, but I'm not sure about your other question without an example.

Sudaunt: I've thought about getting a wogglebug or a Turing Machine, and I'm certainly not against having either. I'm not really too familiar with the Disting, but it looks like it does a little bit of everything. I'll certainly try it out. Thanks!

Yep...if you're more inclined toward "nasty", sound-wise, the Mysteron's the one to keep, to be sure. But there's another killer VCO you'll need to look at: cheap, small, and capable of some really crazed self-mod jazz, and that's Noise Reap's uBermuda. Just recommended them on another build for similar timbral reasons, in fact. A couple of those cost about the same as a typical big-name VCO, and for secondary audio sources (or even up front!), they're a bargain on $$ and hp. Cold Mac? Yeah, that actually makes some sense, but if you want some craziness to pair with it, ADDAC just dropped a very inexpensive device that might pair with it really well as a performance control: the 306 VC Transitions. Check that out. Combining the two of those would set up a very intricate CV morph capability that you can use to affect quite a bit, given what the Cold Mac's designed to do. And yes, the MakeNoise 7U case with the CV Bus is a truly nifty thing...that 1U row solves quite a bit of problems!

Nasty sound... I’ve been playing around with Noise Engineering Ataraxic Iteritas and it nicely fits the bill. They also have a gnarlier version the Manis Iteritas. Nifty 10 HP modules. Could add a ModDemix for even more nastiness.

Thanks for the suggestions. I'll play around with them where I can. I've always found the Noise Engineering modules confusing, but that's entirely just based on looking at pictures of them online. It looks like Noise Reap's Bermuda is out of production, unless I'm missing something, so I'll wait to try that one. That ADDAC looks very cool, though.

The Bermuda VCO is not currently available direct from NoiseReap, but they sometimes come up for sale on Reverb. I have a Noise Reap Mino, which is very similar but with no self-mod feature, except it has 4 simultaneous wave types so a good utility VCO to have. The sine wave is nice and clean, and it has a pretty nice sawtooth that's not all that different from my Moog Mother 32.

Yeah, with Noise Reap being a small operation like it is, some things will go in and out of production. Best thing I can suggest is to try and source used ones or check to see if they might go back into production again in the future...which is always possible.