Hey guys and gals... so, im an in-the-box kind of guy for all my synths currently. I have tons and tons of experience using virtual synths and have a fairly specific style that I am after and would certainly love some advice/help in designing something to achieve the sounds im looking for with relative ease in a rack synth.

Ive designed a few racks on here before, many in my list but I am certainly unexperienced with actual physical modular gear.

Ostensibly I am looking for that Boards of Canada type sound, very 70's/80's sounding old VHS warbley atmospheric pads and leads... Sort of like these synths that I use heavily:

Amongst many others in my collection, but I think that comes across sound wise that I am looking to build. Mostly almost a midi controllable pad synth in a lot of ways. I am looking for it to be fairly simple for sure, (not horrendously expensive if I can manage it haha, I know modular gets ridiculously expensive from the couple I have mapped out) yet something that I can achieve a ton of different sounds along those lines.

Id love some help, and build ideas. Thanks a bunch.

Eurorack isn't for you based on what you're describing. I would look for older, retro polysynths and guitar pedals. You're not going to do well creating pads in Eurorack on-the-cheap.

But it is possible is it not? Ive messed around with my buddies rack which is mostly Make Noise modules and ive certainly found it to be capable of some cool sounds... obviously lots of wacky weird stuff like most racks, but I found that it was very interesting at the same time.

Yeah for sure ive got tons and tons of guitar pedals and a few decent hardware synths... I am just very intrigued by perpetually modifying and refining things until ive narrowed in on the ideal canvas of noise.

Nope, Ronin's quite right here. Eurorack isn't the right thing for basic pads and the like. First of all, pads get you into the polyphonic end of the pool, and that's one area where Eurorack (or any other modular system) gets VERY spendy. You would need...

1) at least two VCOs per voice

2) a VCF per voice

3) a VCA per voice

4) a mixer module that can handle this properly

5) a polyphonic MIDI controller and a Eurorack MIDI interface that supports your needed voice count

6) all of the other stuff you'd need in the cab to support this.

Potentially, a few thousand dollars AT BEST for a very simple modular poly. Compare this with something like a Modal Argon 8, which comes in at $750 street and which is a far more capable polysynth than anything you could concoct in Eurorack without spending close to $10k or worse. Unless you have this sort of cash laying around in a collection of laundry hampers and bushel baskets, this isn't your best solution. Oh...and the space for this honker, too. Can't forget that...

A better solution for you, since you're clearly more accustomed to the software environment, would be VCV Rack. In it, you can actually assemble a modular polysynth (IF you have enough speed and processor capability!) and see what I'm talking about here. And ultimately, you're probably best tinkering with this QUITE a bit before pulling the trigger on any hardware; know your problem before trying to solve it!

Is it possible to create a polyphonic synth in Eurorack. Yes. But you're reinventing the wheel in the most expensive manner possible. When you stated "pads" and by listening to your examples... I heard polyphonic sounds. Each voice has its own filter, VCA, and other elements. You'd have to reconstruct that in Eurorack, piece for piece with addition modules to handle things like routing pitch and gate to available oscillators, VCAs (possibly filters) etc.

You can definitely use Eurorack modules as part of an effects chain that you plug your hardware synths into. That's not any major issue between converting line level (hardware synth output) to Eurorack level (a lot hotter than your hardware synth). There are ways to sync your hardware synth to Eurorack and then modulate things in relation to the sequence as well.

My big point is to see if you can get where you want to go out of what you have rather than trying to make it work in Eurorack... which isn't a good fit for what you're wanting to do... as far as I can tell. There are lots of reasons to get into Eurorack. But it's a MONEY PIT... a sweet money pit... but still a money pit.

You could do an FX rack and process one of your hardware/software synths through it. There's lots of really capable effects in eurorack and you can get creative with custom feedback loops and modulation without having to hook up a million different pedals. Like everyone else has said, eurorack is an expensive way to create a polysynth that's probably disadvantaged compared to regular polysynths, but sticking to FX, samples or monophony might scratch your itch for sound design.

Ok guys, that certainly makes sense. I guess I asked the wrong questions then because yeah... I dont think I would want to completelyyyy create a polysynth from the whole way up for sure.

I like the idea of having something to run my hardware stuff into (or even coming out of my comp if need be), basically I guess what I was trying to ask/get some advice on IS and FX rack. Whenever I have fucked around on here doing some designs it seems that is actually more along the lines of what I have researched out a bit, seemingly mostly modulation/effects based modules as opposed to oscillators themselves from the ground up. I definitely dont have a laundry stash of cash kicking around... but I do want to slowly start dipping my feet into the eurowater here \m/

OK... soo... since you guys still know wayyyy more about actual modules that could be good id love to hear some ideas here... most of my guitar work and pedal preferences have always been based around reverb, chorus and delay pedals... ive messed around with Zvex's Lo-Fi Junky module a few times at a buddies, which is sort of the kind of tape/warble type situation i guess im looking for sound design wise in certain ways... And certainly I guess I would be running some samples through this beast. I am looking for something that I can use to make drone-y environments with those IDM sounds basically being the product in certain respects.

EDIT: I guess I should say, a very big thing that im inspired by across all synths and FX is the idea/ability to create sounds from randomness... so I guess thats something to consider as well for what Im thinking. I know there are a lot of wacky Mutable Instruments modules that may kind of help me out there that could be built into this FX rack?

You should look for an Intellijel Atlantis. It's inspired by and sounds like the Roland SH-101, which BOC used extensively for their basslines and melodies.

around 1 min here:

and here:

But for effects, a Mimeophon does nice warm delays and pseudo verb, I'd recommend a Mutable rings to run audio into. I've created some really BOC-esque sounds by running drums into it and modulating the pitch/shape. Mutable's Clouds is no longer made, but I'd say get that or one of the newer clones like a Monsoon for granular processing/pitch shifting/general chaos.

Again, why do this with a modular? You could go nuts on eBay if the objective is effects processing; the same amount that would get you a modular system could ALSO allow you to fully populate a 12U rack with amazing processing gear and a small desktop mixer to control the whole mess, with beer money left over at the end. And while Eurorack modules go for no-joke money, studio-grade processors are getting blown out on the used market for dimes on the dollar.

Modular synths ARE NOT a necessary device. NOT. NECESSARY. They exist these days because 1) there are some of us out here who need them to get into sonic territory that's very uncharted or 2) a sizable contingent of people have become convinced that they ARE necessary...until they get hold of one, and then you lose about 2/3rds+ of that crowd when they discover that a modular is neither a "magic box" nor "easy". Naturally, this'll make for a very interesting used synth market in a decade or so...but I'm pretty sure that wasn't an intended outcome.

A good 75% of prospective modular synth buyers would probably be far better off, more productive, and less frustrated by something other than a modular synth. Trust me on this. I know they look cool and all that, but unless you're VERY certain about both the direction of your music AND your hardware capabilities, you're apt to find yourself in the deep end of the pool very quickly, to say nothing of the smoking hole in your Magic Plastic.

Lugia you sound a little angry hah. And lol, its certainly not about modular 'looking cool' in fact, it would be easy to make the argument that most modular gear suffers from pretty poor user interfaces (the opposite of a good VST/Kontakt instrument)... which is why i'm here asking these question.

But yeah, if basically the only thing all you guys are telling me is that Merzbow type messed up sounds and drones is the kind of stuff that modular does best then yah, ill probably stay in the box because to me, as experimental as I am with music and sound... melody is still key. Maybe ill do this drum rig modular setup ive been planning for years... but even then... I think a teenage engineering device could do more interesting stuff then 5 grand worth of modules. What are most of you guys here trying to do with modular? Or does a lot of it have a lot to due with the addiction of new modules/gear in general? I have that addiction so don't worry, im not judging clearly... I am generally curious though, if everyone here is telling me that pads are generally/practically impossible to do with a synth that is built, then what are the type of sounds you are all chasing?

U-he Bazille for instance, is a very cool digital modular system, and thats definitely capable of some beautiful melodic sound, as well as absolutely gross nonsense that is great to mess with obviously. And there are some even better stuff that can be done with reaktor across the board.

I second all of the module recommendations that Exper suggested above (Atlantis, Rings, Clouds, Mimeophon). Rings even has a hidden setting that has a polyphonic(!) Roland RS09 string/organ chord mode. edit Plaits can also do some pretty chords. I love the BOC sound that you are describing, and if you are looking at modular as a supplement to other (polyphonic) gear, you can achieve some excellent and beautiful results (not just Merzbow-ish sounds, though you can do that too). The Lo-Fi Junky really does seem to be the BOC sound in a box, so you may want to consider that. Error Instruments also has a new module called the Vintagesizer, which is not yet on MG, that does sort of the same warbly thing. I picked up a secondhand Phonogene and a Radio Music for sample manipulation, and I get some trippy BOC-ish sounds that way. The only downside is that I had to invest in some other utility modules to really get the most out of it. Which brings me to my next point...
God forbid we all actually have fun doing this. Yes, modular is expensive. So what? No, modular will never be a substitute for other sound sources. So what? Most importantly it is a fun way to achieve results that you may have never stumbled across otherwise. Sure, I probably could have just picked up an Elektron Analog Keys to achieve a lot of the sounds I like, but I would have been miserable dealing with that interface. Now, I make music that I like all the time. I stopped making music for a long time because I just didn't enjoy using software so much. Now, I am so happy that Eurorack caught on with a wider audience. It really got my imagination running and fostered my creative spirit again.
If you think you would enjoy the interface and experience of modular, GO FOR IT. You can build an instrument that is unique to you. It doesn't have to be some spartan, utilitarian tool if that's not what you want. It can be an instrument that constantly begs you to play and experiment. Just be prepared to do a lot of research if you don't want to waste time and money.

Thanks Farkas for your reply.

I realized Ive had most of the racks ive had up here for years on private. So here are a few of the racks ive designed over the years... I havent touched them in a long time, but at the time I was doing a bunch of research through all you guys and through the many racks designed up on here as well as youtube vids...

Clearly I have not made any of these yet, nor have I gone down the road of starting them basically all in the design phase. Which is entirely why i posed these questions and this thread here. I would still love some more help. I am going to investigate some more about those specific modules you have listed. I know I have included the LoFi module in most of the builds I came up with, having had the guitar pedal for years and years and years now, it has always been a favourite end of chain situation to add that grimy sort of warbley VHS sound that I am chasing overall with everything im talking about. So here are three of the racks that I sort of refined (all still online clearly, I have no idea how these would work IRL) so maybe whomever feels like helping here could give me some ideas about any of these... slash, basically like ive been saying here: I would love to get my feet wet by creating the smallest practical setup for me to get sounds like Im looking for, for the cheapest. Obviously I am going to be making compromises right off the top in order to get there, but I don't think its possible to get everything I would be looking for out of custom building a synth like this without a long time of buying and selling modules. But thats why I am here asking you seasoned guys these questions in general, because I need your help and need to understand the practicality of each module I would be choosing to start building a small rig...

Smaller than all of the rigs I am posting here that I have designed obviously by the way, these are all seemingly big expensive setups that I wouldn't be able to do for a long time, nor do I have any idea if they would be actually practical all together the way i have digitally put them together.

So yeah, continued interest in my cause and this thread would be appreciated.

ModularGrid Rack

If I was trying to do what you want to do, I would probably approach this rack with a lot more modulation sources and VCAs. If you already have a lot of guitar pedals/external effects, you could save money by picking up a decent external interface module like the Bastl Hendrikson or XAOC Sewastopol II, and using your pedals instead of modular effects (but that's not quite as fun). Obviously, we all approach things differently, and you will probably get a bunch of different recommendations than what I quickly came up with based on your example racks and description. As for me... If money was no object and I was going for a chord capable IDM-ish type rack with some random sequencing, glitchiness, sample manipulation, effects, and a bit of analog monosynth flavor, I would probably go in a direction like this. I'm sure I left out something glaringly obvious, but you know what you like and want better than I do.
ModularGrid Rack