Hey guys,

I'm becoming more and more interested in modular synthesizers and spending a lot of my time trying setups on this site at the moment. I want to build a system focused on sound design so I mainly look at complex oscillators and function generators that you don't find in the traditionnal desktop synth world. The problem is that I will not be able to buy every module at once, and morover, I read everywhere that the best way to do things is to go step by step, so I'm wondering what would be the best way to proceed. Here are three options I'm condisering and I would love to have your input!

Quick precision, I'm interested in this since I've read that Blawan had designed most of the sounds on his last album/EPs with a few modules. My intention is to have a nice sound design station with randomnes, unusual modulations, happy accidents and techno in mind.

First, buying small modules over time:
ModularGrid Rack
With this setup, I would start with a very basic synth voice (something like STO, Pip Slope, Ripples, Shades and 2hp VCA) and add small modules with time. This would be super simple at the beginning and become more complex with each module I hope.

Second, starting with a 0-coast
ModularGrid Rack
With this setup, I start with a 0-coast, which would be the initial budget, and then add modules depending on what I need. This seems cool because the 0-coast looks like and already complex synth with a lot of exotic possibilities. And it would also be the cheapest option :)

Third, big modules:
ModularGrid Rack
This seems like the most interesting setup from a sound design point of view, but it seems like a "buy everything at once" system as everything seems important for it to work properly (except the sequencer)

What do you think? What would be the most intelligent choice? In what order would you buy modules? Are there missing ones? Or useless ones?

(I have not decided on the specific modules yet, like which oscillators/function generators/filters, the question is more focused on the best method to build a system and what kind of modules I want to place in it, but if you have recommendations on modules I should change or consider instead, please say! :) )

Thanks a lot!


The problem that you're encountering is that there's no cheap way to cover all of your bases. Choosing one or two oscillators means leaving other possibilities on the shelf. Not good or bad... just different possibilities.

There is no one answer. But there is some advice to be refrained over and over.

  1. Buy a case that's bigger than what you think you will need. Most Eurorack set-ups grow over time. Not having the space for that super-awesome 24HP module you're really itching to get means having to buy additional case hardware for the privilege. Future proof your set-up for at least 1 year.

  2. Filters, LFOs, attenuverters, output modules, and other utilities are often overlooked in most fantasy builds. You want at least one multimode filter, at least one LFO, two envelope generators, four VCAs, and an output module to go with a one or two oscillator set-up.

  3. Don't overlook synth-voices and stand-alone synths that are Eurorack compatible. At the bottom of the pile you'll find Behringer's Neutron. But many other synth manufacturers offer their stand-alone synths and synth voices. If you're just getting into modular synth they may be a much more affordable solution that come with the basics. Besides the Neutron, check out Moog's Mother-32, Grandmother, Pittsburgh Modular's synths, as well as many, many other manufacturers.

  4. Play in the virtual world for free. VCV Rack is a FREE modular synth environment. If you're literally learning the ins and outs of the modular synth world, it's a great way to learn more about different module types. It's not a substitute for modular. But a lot of what you will learn will carry over.


I'm sorry but it feels a bit cheap to get the default answer to this, my question was specific about which strategy you would chose to build your first system over time and all I got was "beginners - read this" answers that I know and are almost all taken into account in the setups in my post:

  1. I'm only interested in one row because I don't have the room nor the budget for more but any of those I suggested will already be a real a significant step up from what I currently have
  2. All of the modules you talk about are in all the systems I included, and there is still room...
  3. That's precisely why I built a system around the 0-coast...
  4. I did, and bought Reaktor too, but the interface is just not for me

I looked around a lot for answers to my question and found no answer, otherwise I wouldn't have posted it.
And I know there is not one right answer to this, but I wanted to have opinions from people who've been through that already.

So I'll rewrite the question more concisely:
What's the best strategy when you start out?
*Start small with a few small modules and build a more complex system from there?
*Start big to get more complex and interesting modules from the beginning?
*Start with a pre-build synth voice and add modules to it?


First of all, the best starting strategy immediately proceeds from the understanding that MODULAR IS EXPENSIVE. That's not even rule #1...it's more like a basic law of physics. A primary setup is going to cost a significant amount of money...period. Even going with the less expensive makers is going to cost a chunk, since they don't make everything you'll need and since you'll want a sturdy and properly-powered case to stuff everything in.

Also, instead of feeling butthurt about Ronin's advice above, I'd suggest going back and reading it again. It might BE a "default answer"...but that's because you're already falling into default traps. Points #1 and #2 are actually extremely important and not merely flip replies. That advice is 100% spot-on and you ignore/deprecate it at your own peril. Or peril to your credit rating, because you'll wind up spending a lot to get very little in return.

Lastly, if the focus here is sound design, you might consider two other options:

1) Get a vintage modular/patchable. Something like an ARP 2600 is expensive, true, but you'll wind up learning a lot more out of something that had researched design principles behind it, plus an undeniable sound quality. And if not that, a more recent patchable based on older paradigms (such as a Buchla Sound Easel, or Kilpatrick's Phenol, which is based on Serge concepts) would make just as much sense and probably be easier to maintain.

2) Consider whether you actually need a modular synth in the first place. Frankly...and this might sound heretical on MG...you may find more use in a large, modern polysynth like a Moog One or Waldorf Quantum as far as sound design is concerned than you'd get out of a modular system that's built without proper research, funding, and system discipline. Or stay in software; have you explored the possibilities of something such as Iris2, PPG Ultimate, etc in tandem with a good library of other processing plugins?

In either of the above cases, you'll potentially wind up spending pretty much the same amount of money as a properly-scaled modular system. But they're more likely to yield an immediate result. Modular isn't about immediate results; it's more of a long-term process between the user and the instrument, and if you want those immediate results, you'd probably be better off not frustrating yourself with modular.


I'm sorry but it feels a bit cheap to get the default answer to this, my question was specific about which strategy you would chose to build your first system over time and all I got was "beginners - read this" answers that I know and are almost all taken into account in the setups in my post:

Don't be sorry. You're the one that will be shelling out thousands of dollars... good or bad.

  1. I'm only interested in one row because I don't have the room nor the budget for more but any of those I suggested will already be a real a significant step up from what I currently have

If the racks above are all that you can afford now then I'd wait and save a bit more money.

  1. All of the modules you talk about are in all the systems I included, and there is still room...

Show me the LFOs, traditional ADSR envelopes, attenuverters,etc... especially across all three examples. You have a sliver of HP left in each example... nowhere near enough to expand your systems once you realize the deficits in each.

I looked around a lot for answers to my question and found no answer, otherwise I wouldn't have posted it.

Ever think that your question can't be reasonably answered in a definitive way?

And I know there is not one right answer to this, but I wanted to have opinions from people who've been through that already.

I have been through it and advised several others. I'm not at the Lugia level. But I've spent 30 years around synthesizers, recording studios and DAWs... for a living.

So I'll rewrite the question more concisely:
What's the best strategy when you start out?
*Start small with a few small modules and build a more complex system from there?
*Start big to get more complex and interesting modules from the beginning?
*Start with a pre-build synth voice and add modules to it?

There is no best. There's only best for you. First and foremost what's your budget range? $3000US is a good start. $2000US is okay. And $1000US will get you in the door... but isn't really worth it for what you'll get out of it.

We're all friendly here and the advice is free and valuable. People will go to great lengths to design and redesign set-ups for you. No one is being flippant or dismissive of you. But I wouldn't call anyone's advice "cheap" and expect them or others to want to help you. However, if I felt insulted I just wouldn't reply. Let's make something.


Sorry guys, especially Ronin1973, I took some stuff in the wrong way and I should not have, my answer was dumb so I apologize. And thanks for your reply.

I built the systems in the original post by trying to follow a general template I found in most semi modular synths and pre made systems by various manufacturers I could found online. Stuff like 0-coast, mother 32, templates by reverb.com, perfect circuit 54hp and east/west coast series. That's why I had the feeling I had most of the modules I needed for them to work, or covered those that weren't there somehow, but obviously I missed some.

Also, I really want to focus on exploring a limited number of modules instead of allowing myself future expansions, if that makes sense. That's why I feel like only going for 3u of carefully picked modules would work better for me than buying a big case right away. I really like the idea of working within creative restrictions instead of allowing myself to buy more if I want to. It would also allow me to focus on the music while still having a very powerful tool to make cool sounds and experiment.

Moreover, 3u would fit on my desk, 6u would not, so in a way, I would use it much more if I keep it on the smaller side. I really believe that a few oscillators/modulators can already bring many exotic functionnalities compared to what I can do at the moment with what i have.

Anyway, sorry and thanks again. I think I'm gonna go for a 0-coast or a mother 32 (and maybe an SQ-1) for the moment and see if I need to build from there.


No hard feelings.

The Mother 32 and the 0-Coast are popular. A synth voice sounds right for you. Basically, a complete synth that's stand-alone (own power supply) or a Eurorack synth voice that only needs to be dropped in a case and powered to get a full sound from.

The Intellijel Atlantis, Dreadbox series, etc. are good examples. You can search in modules by type and select "synth voice." Be sure to research... especially using Youtube. There might be something that's more your style than M32 or 0-C. Most synth voices have normalized patching so you don't have to patch to make a sound. Of course things get interesting when you have access to a multitude of patch points.

If you're going one 3U, then yes... still go big. If you can accommodate 4U, the Intellijel 4U series gives you up to 104HP in full sized modules and the 1U of 104HP for any specialty modules that you would like. The cost is approximately $350 for that case.

Use your synth voice for a while and then you can carefully curate additional modules to go with it. The VCV Rack allows you to experiment with many, many different types of modules... so you can figure out what really stimulates your creativity and decide how you'd like to expand your limited space/budget.

I find a lot of DivKid videos very useful in module exploration... even self-patching. In my experience, you can plan your heart out but eventually you have to just buy something and hope for the best. But it's a journey. Don't be afraid to make mistakes.