Hey everybody,

I have several compositions for multiple acoustic instruments that I am trying to breath new life into and I think eurorack could be a really cool way to accomplish this. The way they are composed midi data for the pieces already exists so I just need a machine to feed it through. I am super open to any tips and suggestions regarding the layout, alternate modules/substitutions, and what I could put to fill in that last bit of space (14 hp on the top row and 10 hp on the bottom row). I would like to possibly add some drum modules but am also open to other ideas especially if I missed something essential (this is my first rack so it's possible). Thanks for the input, I appreciate it!

ModularGrid Rack

Hi LilP,

Welcome to modular and let's not spoil time and let me straight get to the points ;-)

That 4ms module, nice one for sure, but at 26 HP, that is more than 15% of your rack space, that's more than one seventh of your entire space, so seven of these kind of modules and your rack is full mate! Then we didn't talk about the finance yet, this module hits the 500 bucks marker line, yet another thing to consider: "Should I really start with a rack and with a module like that?" Up to you of course, but if I were you, I would reconsider it.

Your rack is (far) too small, if you would ask me, see my above explanation of the 15+% usage of just one module... and you should keep some space reserved for future needs.

Another large module is the Maths module, I know it's a great module, everyone can recommend it to you, including myself, but at 20 HP size (12%) you should ask yourself the question: "Do I need this module, or am I going to use it for EG functionally only in the beginning?" If you indeed only going to use it for its EG capabilities, then you might want to consider just a dual or quad EG module, much smaller, and most likely cheaper than the Maths too. Unless of course you are very sure of your Maths usage that you will full utilise it, but with a relatively small rack like this one that's going to be a serious challenge.

So, 27% gone of the space with just these two modules ;-) That's already more than a quarter of the total rack space... hence you need more rack space (even without these two modules).

And I can continue this story but I guess you get my point by now ;-) I am not saying those modules are bad, no not at all, they are good in their ways but to start with and then in such small rack, as already mentioned, you might want to reconsider some of those larger modules.

So my advice is to reduce a bit on the "fancy" (or complex) modules and start with a bit easier ones, smaller ones, basic ones and cheaper ones, that might save yourself a few surprises.

Going completely back to the basics, how familiar are you with synthesizers? Are VCOs, EGs, VCFs, VCAs, LFOs and that kind of "phrases" known to you? If not, you might want to go one step backwards and consider a Behringer Neutron for example to start with. It's a cheap semi-modular way to get started and gives you a first kind of taste to modular if you are really want to go into modular. If not, then everything fine, sell the Neutron and you haven't lost much. If yes, then you are ready for it because by then you will know it :-)

Don't get me wrong here, if you are sure about yourself and modular, then go for it I don't want you to think that modular sucks (it doesn't), but it might need a bit more investigation, checking, tons of reading and clarifying things, get to understand each of those basic modular concepts, once done that, go ahead and welcome to modular.

Before that though, be careful, read & check and plan carefully. Modular can be (extremely) expensive and if it's not your thing after all, then some serious bucks went down the drain and that would be pity beside the fact of disappointment.

By the way, regarding your rack, look into filters, a mixer and an audio (input/) output interface on top of what I already recommend to check.

Anyway, feel free to ask around and welcome to modulargrid, kind regards, Garfield Modular.

Hi Garfield Modular,

Thanks for taking the time to write out your thoughts on the rack! As far as space is concerned, I am actually using a large 19" studio rack I had laying around from a much older project. If I put more rails in, it will easily fit two additional 3U rows and and a 1U row, and if I end up going really big I have another 8U studio rack I could put rails in, but of course with the price to fill all that I could almost buy a house instead. Jokes aside I do have plenty of room to grow for the time being so I am not too worried about how much space each module takes up, although those points are still valid since I neglected to mention the extra room I have in the original post.

Because of the enormous price of a full system (especially one with polyphonic capabilities) I am trying to assemble this rack in phases and this is more of my acquire slowly over the next several months plan. Although I am familiar with standard hardwired synthesizers and the terms associated with them, I figure this will also give me the opportunity to experience and learn each module and patching more slowly.

You mentioned looking into filters, a mixer, and an audio in/out. Do you have any recommendations on specific modules I might want to look at? I was originally going to put a 1U row in with the Intelljel 1U I/O module but after learning about the two separate 1u formats I have decided to wait and learn more of whats available in each before I commit to one or the other.

Thanks again for the input and the welcoming into the community, I am very excited to see where modular takes me!

Hi LilP,

You are welcome. Okay good to know that you don't have a (HP) space issue, then of course you can ignore all my comments regarding HP-space :-)

I am quite happy with my Doepfer mixer modules A-138p and A-138o. The A-138o is for the output and the A-138p provides you a four-channel mixer that's chain-able, and that's the part of it that I like most that you can just add another A-138p module if you need after a while more than 4 channels, you can add just another A-138p (no extra A-138o needed by the way) and you got 8 channels instead of 4 channels, etcetera. If I could effort it, I would have gone directly for the A-135-4A/B/C but it's possible to mix-up the A-135-4A/B/C with the A-138p, so you could start with the A-138p and in the future add an A-135-4A/B/C set to it.

Another mixer that might be interesting is the WMD - Performance Mixer, then you get straight away 8 channels and another 2 stereo channels can be added with the Channels Expand module.

Filters is really difficult and might be very personal as well depending on your personal taste. The filter I am most happy with is the Doepfer A-124 VCF-5 WASP filter and recently I rediscovered my Waldorf - VCF1 filter, if you get to know it, that one is pretty nice too, it's on offer at some dealers in Europe. Also the Doepfer A-106-5 SEM filter has its charms. I got an Erica Synths - Black Polivoks VCF as well but it somehow disappoints me, I usually like Erica Synths products but their filters can't convince me so far. And, bit of a cliché but last and not least... I have to admit that my current setup is a bit weak on filters (other than the above mentioned ones), I just can't find more/nice filters that make me totally happy. I have a bit the same with VCAs, can't find the perfect one, other than the Waldorf - DVCA1, that's by the way a fantastic dual VCA. I just ordered a second one because, though it's big in HP-space, it's seriously nice and good to use. No other VCA really had convinced me so far. The Erica Synths - Black VCA is quite okay as well but not as good as the DVCA1.

I am quite happy with my Intellijel - Audio I/O module, it's my main audio input/output interface module, the Befaco - Out v3 is not too bad either and has as a pro a headphones output. If you like XLR ins and outs then you should consider the ACL - Audio Interface that's a pretty good one too I think.

As some members mention here in this Forum: There is no real bad or real good, it's at the end totally up to you what you like and what you prefer to use. If you have an opportunity to test modules at a local dealer then you should use that opportunity, like that I could rule out some modules of which I really thought I would love them but at the end they were pretty disappointing.

I strongly would recommend to start slowly with a few modules only, build up experience with those. You not only gain experience with those modules but you already get a clearer focus for yourself where you like to look at more closely and from there you decide then to take a few more modules, again build up more experience, etcetera.

Have fun with it and enjoy modular, it's great! :-) Kind regards, Garfield.

Edit: Removed typos.

I feel the polyphonic discussion is a little misguided, Modular synths are monophonic, if you want a polyphonic synth I use other instruments for that which are polyphonic. What is so spectacular about a modular synth are the harmonically rich and sometimes larger than life soundscapes you can obtain with a well constructed modular voice. Those types of sounds are not well suited to use in chords, you will simply need to strip down those sounds and make them more narrow, so now the whole polyphonic idea looks quite a bit different.

Think of a modular as a string quartet where you have different voices, each with its own distinct signal path and each playing a different role in your composition.

The 4ms 6 oscillator wave table module is an impressive piece of gear, it's pretty and it comes with a nice software that allows you to edit and morph between wave tables. For the price of it you could buy 4 different oscillators, take each of them through different signal paths and come out with a more rich orchestral overall picture, each voice obtaining clarity and definition, Check out Doepher, Dreadbox and other companys that make quality modules, the Behringer Neutron mentioned above is a very good semimodular synth, there you already have two voices and you can patch in and out of it in many different ways, for a wavetable synth check out Waldorf, I think you can get 3 of them for the price of the 4ms module. But you need to do your homework, nobody can tell you what to buy. Pretty much all the modules on Modulargrid are presented on youtube and going through that material is highly educational.

You need filters and/or low pass gates, a blend of the two is good, you need envelopes, you need vca's, a mixer that takes both cv and audio signals and with an output which is audio level, effects. Maths is good in that it has different functions, it's a slew limiter, a mixer and an attenuator. It can do a number of things, again a semimodular like the Neutron, although it is more of a east cost synth while Maths is a take on an old Buchla module, will serve you better in the beginning. But you need to study, there is a ton of material out there. Final word, if you want 4 or even 6 voices that sound the same, get yourself a nice polyphonic synth, a modular is a wall of often very distinct and different sounding signal paths.

Final word, if you want 4 or even 6 voices that sound the same, get yourself a nice polyphonic synth, a modular is a wall of often very distinct and different sounding signal paths.
-- GunnarWaage


Take a look a HydraSynth - very modular in it's philosophy with it's delightful and very comprehensive patch matrix and 8 voices, 3 osc per voice, plus mods, various flavours of noise, 5 LFO, 5 Envelopes... very digital and excels at glass/FM/etc., and while it is definitely not - it can sound very dirty and analogue and squelchy too, oh and built in effects that sound great... and true polyphonic aftertouch - per note!

Modules for sale:

Mannequins W/
MI Elements
Intellijel μVCA II
Endorphines Grand Terminal

You can find my modular synth album here https://kel-audio.bandcamp.com - enjoy!

Take a look a HydraSynth...

Or not. I had a really icky and unpleasant experience with one of Ashun's N.Am reps, put me right off that synth. I went with a Modal Argon8 instead...rather similar, with an extra oscillator per voice, plus the company is a LOT easier to work and communicate with. And the Argon8 is cheaper. You do lose that polyaftertouch + ribbon controller...but given that I've got a CS-80, I ain't hurtin' for a workout with those.

Hi GunnarWaage,

I am not sure if I can follow you, perhaps you can define polyphonic so we talk about the same thing? :-)

I always thought that modular can be either monophonic or polyphonic, totally up to the user?

Thank you very much in advance and kind regards, Garfield Modular.

Hi GunnarWaage,

I am not sure if I can follow you, perhaps you can define polyphonic so we talk about the same thing? :-)

I always thought that modular can be either monophonic or polyphonic, totally up to the user?

Thank you very much in advance and kind regards, Garfield Modular.
-- GarfieldModular

It can of course, you can do what ever you like, however a modular synth is of little use if you are only going to try and emulate a polyphonic synth with it. So for new guys who are met with this polyphonic discussion they tend to get sidetracked.

Doepher is marketing quad vco's, quad envelopes (although fun when chained, rather than used as 4 envelopes), and polyphonic controllers which I think are of limited use for modular artists. I'm not going to explain Polyphony for you since you seem like a guy who doesn't need the explanation. However in the context of Eurorack I just think there is a polyphonic snob going on.

I have the ACL Sinfonion which is a quantizer and controller for oscillators, a chord machine. However using it on many identical oscillators or a module with many, is something I would probably not do. Those are simply my own views on the matter, I use a Novation Peak and a Roland hybrid synth for my polyphonic stuff and I think I can safely say that's what most people do.

Hi GunnarWaage,

Ah okay, understand what you are saying, fair enough indeed.

Ha, ha, I might be one of those few people, stupid enough (that's rather a remark to myself than to other people) to try to do some polyphonic stuff with their modular (indeed I am using the Sinfonion for that as well) but of course you are right to say that most of it will be indeed monophonic.

Thanks a lot for your point of view and kind regards, Garfield.

Garfield, I think we agree on this pretty much, I think you are right in that LilP should start more basic, if he wants a chord machine later on there are a few good ones. Study filters and when you find a filter you like, chances are Doepher is selling a clone of it for 80 euros. What I like about his rack is Plaits, I think he could have fun with that one. He seems to be going more west coast so additive may be his thing. Hysteria from Dreadbox is actually a very good oscillator, goes for a 100, has a quantizer, is additive in part, perfect for sync and stays in tune.

And so back to the polyphonic question and on a budget, Dreadbox has a very nice line which is not expensive https://www.dreadbox-fx.com/chromatic-modules/

Hi GunnarWaage,

I have spent a fair amount of time studying peoples opinions on polyphony in eurorack and definitely understand where you are coming from. It seems as though many people possibly even the majority believe that eurorack shines as a monophonic format. That being said what I am think is significantly more complex than just chords and is much closer to fully contrapuntal lines with a drone or ostinato in the background. To me eurorack appears especially well suited for this because having separate voices that have significantly different textures can be achieved by running each voice through different filters, envelopes, effects, etc. Think like an orchestra with a string section, a brass section, and a woodwind section. This simply cannot be easily achieved simultaneously on most polyphonic synthesizers (or at least not with the level of control I wish to have).

All of that being said, I realize that having a variety of different oscillators, more filters, and many other modules would be needed to fully realized this goal, but the layout I posted is my rough idea for a starting point that I can expand on as I learn the format better and have time to save up money for additional modules.

Beyond all of that, many of the artists that I have been listening to who primarily or prominently use eurorack seem to have polyphonic setups (or at least that is what I hear but can’t see if they are 100% in the rack or not from Spotify). Artists that come to mind are AnnAnnie, Lightbath, and Ben Jordan. I am thinking more classically than these artists at the moment but may try to grow into their styles more later on. More importantly however, I think it is noteworthy that these artists have reached a relative amount of success and acclaim with eurorack, so I’m not sure if any form of polyphony should be disregarded or even discouraged, although it is fair to warn of a significant increase in monetary investment in what is already a very expensive format.

I do understand where you are coming from and agree that eurorack can be an awesome format for monophony, but also believe that it’s polyphonic capabilities have yet to be fully explored. Thanks again for your opinions and input, it has definitely been good for thought, and I’ll be checking out some of the modules and equipment you suggested for sure!

LilP, Well you seem have your head in a good place. I am using two Arturia Beatsteps Pro which gives me 4 64 step sequences, there is a polyphonic tool from a different perspective. I'm happy to hear that you have similar thoughts on polyphony in Eurorack as I do. One incredible instrument you might like is a new module from Humble Audio



This one is impressive. Its actually 4 oscillators that can be used as separate voices which sound amazing. But this is actually a Linear Through Zero FM Complex Oscillator. There are reviews on it already

You might be interested in this one.