Hi everyone

I’m new to modular and about to take the plunge.

I wondered if anyone could give me some feedback on my plan so far. I’ve done a bit of reading into theory and have played around a bit, but feel like there’s still a lot I’m not grasping. So I'd really appreciate any input.

I have quite a bit of modular-compatible hardware - Mother 32, Vermona Mono Lancet, MF-103, 3 x minifoogers, Vermona Retroverb, the Dreadbox Taff2. I also have the Korg SQ-1. I have the Nord Drum and would love to sequence that but understand there may be problems with sequencing by CV. I also have various non-CV-compatible synths and drum machines, which I’m looking to sync and sequence / play alongside. But I want to make the modular the heart of my setup.

The main things I’m hoping for are to sequence and explore repetitive / shifting polyrhythms (including melodic sequencing), the ability to rhythmically modulate my effects pedals (and any modular effects I buy in the future), and to some extent to explore droning and unusual texture.

ModularGrid Rack

I figure I already have two oscillator sources in the Mono Lancet and Mother 32, so for now that isn’t a priority, although I might look to a nice digital voice quite quickly. For patchable LFOs I have the Taff2, the MF-103, and the Mother. And for patchable filters I'll have the Mother 32 and Vermona again. In my head the SQ-1 would be the clock source, but I’m not certain if that will work.

Does my rack make sense, and will it function for what I’m after? Is there anything obvious that I’m missing that would be great for my aims? Anything I should be thinking about and looking at again?

One thing I’m wondering in particular is whether I need a sequencer in there, and how much that would open things up for me. I was looking at the Pittsburgh Sequencer but that only sequences in even steps. Ideally I’d get the A-155 and 154, but I think that may need to wait in terms of cash and space.

Any feedback very much appreciated.

Thanks so much


For starters, you might want to up the size of the build. There's a lot you want to do here, and that'll take more space than this single-row cab. This sounds like you need it to be both a synth and something of a processing nexus for external devices to modify their behavior. If you've not got the cab yet, seriously consider upping the size by another row.

Thank you so much for taking a look, and for your reply.

I've been thinking about the rack size for sure. The thing is that I have an opportunity on a great value second hand 104hp case locally, and having looked at case prices it seems I might not end up paying more if I expanded later into a second case, rather than buying a larger one right now.

There may be a problem with that approach that I haven't clocked though, e.g. If I immediately need more modules than 104hp in order to do anything like what I want. Although if that was the situation it might call the viability of the whole thing into question given cost

You're 100% right that I'm thinking of it as a nexus rather than a standalone synth

I shouldn't think it would invalidate the idea if a larger case is called for, though. Larger case = more possibilities. Plus, case prices have been on a positive downward trend as of the past year-plus. The keys to look for are space, beefy power capacity, and price. For example, Erica has a 6U x 126hp cab with serious power (2.5A on each 12V rail, optional 5V!) for only EUR 300 right now, direct from their site.

A processing "nexus" would be a significantly different sort of build than one normally sees on here, though. You'll want to concentrate less on audio generation and more on modification and modulation sources. This isn't to say that you'll want NO oscillators, but you can stick to a few fairly simple ones for AF modulation purposes. So, that saves a little bit there.

The thing that'll need space here is sequencing, timing manipulation (logic, skippers, Euclideans, comparators, divider/multipliers, etc), and modulation that's more of a "free-run" variety, such as a Batumi + Poti or a Maths (better yet, both). The Lancet expander needs to fit, as well. The Stages is a very good choice for envelopes, but putting in something really over the top for linked envelope generation would be worth your time, too...have a look at Erogenous Tones' RADAR + BLIP. They also have a very useful VCA bank/mixer in their VC8; that should deal with ALL of the VCA needs you'll have here, really.

Then for sonic modifiers, consider some of the more "interesting" filters like Xaoc's Belgrad or Intellijel's Morgasmatron, things that give you a lot of leeway on internal architecture. A Clouds clone would be useful in this, or a Make Noise Mimeophon or Morphagene. Note that a lot of what I'm pointing out are larger modules; if you use these, this also saves money in the long run by jamming multiple functions into a large space. For example, all of the Erogenous Tones modules above are about $1000 put together...but that $1000 covers 54 hp of space. Now, if you tried to do this with smaller modules, it would get more expensive and still come out covering a sizable amount of panel space, and you'd probably wind up with less linked functionality.

Last, effects...one choice might be Intellijel's Rainmaker, which bills itself as a "delay" but which really is a far more complex affair, especially when you start plying it with modulation sources. Also, definitely get some CVable waveshaping; Tiptop's got a very good one for cheap. Jam in a stereo VCA mixer like Qu-bit's Mixology, and there you are.

So, yeah...you'll spend money. That's the nature of modular synthesis...it ain't cheap. But if you "go big" with multiple function modules, the money can get spent on some very complex architecture.