Modular newbie here. I'm a professional (jazz-)musician and am very interested in electronic music and building a modular synth. The kind of music I want to do with it? Hard to tell (yet) - perhaps something that resembles closely to Nils Frahm. I currently own a Minimoog Model D (reissue), a Nord Stage 3, two Fender Rhodes (stage and suitcase) and a Wurlitzer 200a. For the electronic project I'm planning, the modular system should fulfill the following things:

  • cost below 2000 USD
  • should be portable and a all-in-one-package (with integrated keys, a rack, of course the modules, an Eurorack-mixer and effects like delay and reverb. No external effects or no external mixing console).

What attracts me is the Arturia Minibrute 2 (for bass-sequences) with the Rackbrute 6U, the Moog DFAM for rhythmic sequences, the Strymon Magneto (I have the Strymon Volante on another Board for my Fender Rhodes - fantastic pedal!) and perhaps something ambient-ish like the Clouds. What do I need if I want to mangle the Fender Rhodes and the Minimoog through the Modular Synth and use it with its filters as well with the Magneto? A mixer? Is the Rosie enough for my purposes (if I want to use the Magneto as an end-of-chain-effect/Sum-effect)?
It would look like this (plus the Arturia Minibrute 2):
alt text

Thanks for your input!

First up, unless you intended to spend a total of $750+ on the DFAM, take it out of the cab. Yes, that difference IS an average of the cost of the Eurorack recasing versus keeping it in its already-existing and already-powered case. Convenience is good, yes, but that's some expensive convenience. Also...if you put it back, you could theoretically go to a smaller/more portable Eurorack case for the remaining purposes. And given what Eurorack cases COST...

Next, Clouds. No. Discontinued years ago...so if you have to have the original, your only bet is the used market. A much better choice would be any of the Clouds clone versions built by third parties such as Codex Modulex, Michigan Synth Works, Tall Dog, et al. These also tend to be smaller, have expanded functions (see the Monsoon), or both.

Magneto. Not a bad choice, but it's big, and this build is small. If you go to a smaller Clouds clone, though, this might not be a problem. 4ms's Dual Looping Delay might be a better fit, however, at 20 hp and a few different tricks up its sleeve. Note also that both the Magneto and the DLD have insert points in their feedback paths, which allow you to add [INSERT FUN DEVICE HERE] into the feedback loop to alter subsequent repeats. So you might consider a VCF for this purpose. Even wackier, you could choose a VCF that also has an insert, this time in the resonance path...Doepfer's A-106-1 (a variant of the Korg MS-20 VCF set) comes to mind here. Then you can add another something into ITS insert...maybe a reverb...which screws with how the resonance behavior performs.

You need an input with an envelope follower for the Rhodes input to get the level up to modular levels and to provide amplitude tracking for anything else that might want it; Doepfer's A-119 would be perfect here, as would Sputnik's EF-Preamp (which also allows different input impedances). Then you'll also want modulation sources (another reason to remove the DFAM!) to screw around with the behavior of all of this. Lastly, you might consider some clock modulation modules/Boolean logic to mess with timing behavior between everything that needs a clock, such as the DFAM.

One other point: the reissued Model D has only instrument and line level audio I/O, so this will also have to be boosted/cut in order to get the levels from these up/down. Check Ladik's listings for suitable and cost-effective level conversion preamps.

Thanks for your thoughts! Remember that I would use the Rack together with the Minibrute 2 (which already has LFOs, two Osc's, a sequencer, a clock etc.), so the addition of an additional clock/sequencer wouldn't be THAT important. But this is why the DFAM would be so interesting: It has a sequencer, could act as a drum module/filter module/osc-module. On the used market, the DFAMS are around 400-450 Euros. But are there any alternatives to the DFAM - something that can act as a rhythm-/drum-module?
Thanks for the other tips about the input modules!

Actually, anything that outputs a constant beat can be used as a clock if you have something which can extract that audio and convert it into clock pulses. All you'd need is a very tight bandpass filter (as in 1/10th octave or tighter) and the conversion tool of choice (I use a Truetone Time Bandit myself), and you could lock your DAW (or most anything else) to some ancient 1960s drum machine or even beats on prerecorded audio. Been doing variations on this for years, and it works pretty well.

As for an additional clock or modules to modify clocking, yeah, you DO want those. Let's say, for example, that you want an event to hit every other measure on beat 3. Your track is in 4/4, you can easily get a quarter-note pulse, your sequencer has 16 steps, and your loops are 4 measures. You COULD tie up a sequencer channel to do this, true...but the more efficient solution would be to use something like an EMW Pulse Counter. Send the quarter-note pulses in, send a pulse from steps 1 and 9 to the Reset function, and take your specific trigger pulse out of step 7 for...well, most anything. Or send your clock gates into one side of an AND gate, and then the output of a comparator to the other, and set the comparator so that as long as the note CV coming out of the sequencer is over a certain pitch, the AND gate will pass your pulses on to another sequencer ONLY when the "high state" is present both from the comparator AND clock. Neat way to add a tessitura line on your sequence line AND have the machine do it so you can twiddle with something else.

...and so on....