ModularGrid Rack
Hey everyone! So recently, I have finally dipped my toes into the modular waters & bought myself a Mantis case, Plaits & a Maths. Before getting into starting my case, I had already been planning for about 2-3 years, doing an insane amount of research, playing around on VCV rack & making hundreds of revisions to so many case sketches. Recently, I think I’ve finally managed to solidify (or at least put together something cohesive) my rack plan! My goal is to make an instrument that is geared towards sound design with lots of modulation, some controllable random, & some rhythmic capabilities. As you can see, there are no dedicated sequencers in the rack. However, outside of the rack I have 3 sequencers already. I am currently using one of the Elektron Analog 4’s CV channels to sequence Plaits, with the 3 other CV channels free for any other duties once I start getting more modules. I also have a Machinedrum & a Digitakt (so I’m covered on drums) which I will use for sequencing duties as well via a cv.ocd box. As for a full featured stereo mixer, I am looking to add a desktop mixer, as I never do any type of panning or actual mixing until everything is recorded into the DAW. The Levit8 is there as a way of giving everything its own I/O within the rack so that I can then route them externally but it’s also a plus that it can be used to attenuate/polarize signals & has submixes available. I am not totally married to anything in this plan except for the Shapeshifter (I have compared it to the E352 & the wavetables are too smooth for my taste), Filter 8 & PNW (the expander is an optional thought but I can always just sync it via a pulse from one of the Machinedrum’s various outputs). I am having trouble with the next steps as to which modules I should look to add with Plaits & Maths. Are there enough VCA’s? Is anything redundant? I would like to hear your thoughts, feedback, & different angles of approaching things! Sorry for such a long post but I wanted to give everyone a thorough background & insight into my plans & what I have going on currently! Thank you, I can’t wait to discuss!

PS. I know there is only a uBurst in the rack as far as effects go, but I have a 3U 104HP rack planned solely for effects! I would just like to tackle the meat & potatoes first!


This looks pretty darn good to me with all of the external gear you mentioned. Ochd might be a fun addition, but you don't really need it here.
Have fun and good luck!


Ah thanks! It’s good to hear I seem to be on track then! I’ve been contemplating adding an ochd but on the other hand, I don’t want to go overboard on the LFO’s. Hmm


Yeah, you don't really need the Ochd. I was just patching away on mine here, and it's just so easy to use every single output to get some movement. I feel like I'm cheating. Haha.
Looks like this rack will be a fun addition to your existing gear. The Filter 8 looks awesome.


Yeah the ochd seems great for adding instant movement to any patch but I’m too finicky with my LFO rates & shapes haha. Although for ambient stuff it seems almost a no brainer to snag up an ochd for endless moving pads & soundscapes! The Filter 8 was the last piece of the puzzle. I think the hardest part of all this was finding the right filter


Looks pretty solid to me. You may want to add a sequential switch and FX module for taste.


Thank you! Yes, I have to look more into sequential switches! I’ve been researching them a bit these last days but I still haven’t been able to wrap my head around how they work just yet


You are welcome and welcome to the dark side. Be careful- modular and eurorack is an even deeper rabbit hole than traditional synths as modules are very addicting! I am sure that both Jim and Lugia have suggestions as well. I need to get a switch and more support modules as well for my setups.


Hahaha yes, I am aware of the rabbit hole. That’s why it’s taken me about 2-3 years to plan & start a rack! It was overwhelming at the beginning with all the research & the endless universe of modules that are available! I’ve been reading the forums here a lot lately as well, getting lots of valuable information! I await Jim & Lugia’s thoughts. I know those 2 are held in high regard & they always have plenty of constructive feedback to give


ok... snared me in... was on way to the modular...

drop the mutable knock offs
cara because you have a lot of sequencing already - if you want more random sequencing and gates once this case is full - get another case and a real Mutable Marbles
uBurst because clouds2 or whatever Emilie is going to call it is coming soon

if you are using vcv rack a lot why not an expert sleepers es8 or 9 so you can directly interface that both for cv and audio (both ways) - especially early in the journey I can see a lot of use for this

do you really need the triple buffered mult with so much external sequencing? i doubt it - links would be better as then you get 2 utility mixers and a single buff mult - also kinks - just buy it!!

I'm not convinced you have enough vcas... nah really the opposite(I count 15 including plaits and optomix - you almost need another row for the envelope generators) and you may not need the attenuators for the external mixer - spend a bit of time searching and find one that suits your needs - ie can handle modular levels without needing an attenuator they exist - I use an old yamaha (MG10?) - which happily works with modular levels - more in rack mixing would be good though - both sub mixing (audio before filter for example) and modulation - I always like a matrix mixer

you say you will use a daw - but not how you are getting from modular to daw - if you do not have an audio interface make sure to get an external mixer that has multitrack usb connectivity - or direct outs - and make sure you get more channels than you think you need - or at least the ability to expand somehow

for your next module(s) I would get an fx aid, a quad cascading vca (veils is great) and kinks and then the external mixer and a way to interface with vcv rack

after that get the modules you think you want - the shapeshifter, the filter8 and the PNW (if you think feel you need it given all the external sequencing and drums - might be better of with a batumi or a zadar or something else - but you will know when you get there) and then work out what you are missing

buy stackcables or headphone splitters

only get new modules when you feel you are very very comfortable with the ones you already have - how they work individually and together

but before all that google the "maths illustrated manual" and work your way as much through that as you can without more modules - I think one or 2 patches need another module but I might be wrong - and if you've done that already - do it again!!!


Hey Jim! Thank you for your input on this!
I added Cara into the rack as a last minute attempt to save space BUT originally, I planned (& will ultimately end up with) to have the actual Marbles in there! I hate how cramped the panel on Cara is. I really love the possibilities of random & probabilistic gates/triggers & voltages that Marbles provides & I would use it, for example, to trigger an Optomix or one of the Doepfer ADSR’s! I’m actually so far VERY 50/50 on Clouds or any of its variations. Something about me likes it & wants to LOVE it, but I just can’t fully commit. As for VCV Rack, in all honesty, I haven’t used it for quite some time now — a few months since I last opened it up. As for the buffered mult, I totally agree. It was another thing I was thinking about ditching & since I probably won’t be doubling up on 1 pitch sequence to 2 different oscillators, it can definitely get the boot. Will definitely look into Links/Kinks & all their functions! I have read many posts on here recently & you’ve recommended this combo time & time again, so it must be for a good reason! As for VCA’s, do you think there could be such thing as TOO MANY in this situation? Also, what do you say about Levit8? I like the ability that it can do more than attenuate & it also provides the possibility to create sub mixes before sending out to an external mixer. And as for tracking equipment that I have now into the DAW, I have a Scarlett 8i6 BUT all of its inputs are taken up by the 3 Elektrons so I am running Plaits to an external input on the Analog 4 which allows me to records my experiments & noodles for the moment! PNW is a module I have been watching very closely with googly eyes since its release & I really love how each of its 8 outputs can be freely assignable & I love that it has LFO’s & Euclidean options. I will definitely look more into Batumi & have a look at Zadar as well! They are both modules I have come across many times in my search, but for some reason, I never gave them much thought beyond a glance. I sincerely appreciate your feedback! It cleared up some things I was flip flopping back & forth about!

Edit: Also, which matrix mixers would you recommend having a look at? I know Doepfer has one which seems to be popular. Matrix mixers are something I still have to wrap my head around as well but there’s plenty of time for that!


Hey Jim! Thank you for your input on this!

NP

I added Cara into the rack as a last minute attempt to save space BUT originally, I planned (& will ultimately end up with) to have the actual Marbles in there! I hate how cramped the panel on Cara is. I really love the possibilities of random & probabilistic gates/triggers & voltages that Marbles provides & I would use it, for example, to trigger an Optomix or one of the Doepfer ADSR’s!

I use mine every patch - often these days through a sinfonion and branches (for hihat slip/open/close)

I’m actually so far VERY 50/50 on Clouds or any of its variations. Something about me likes it & wants to LOVE it, but I just can’t fully commit.

I know what you mean - I use mine a lot (mostly as a delay though) but right now I would wait to buy anything like this until after hearing clouds2

As for VCV Rack, in all honesty, I haven’t used it for quite some time now — a few months since I last opened it up.

I'm not a big fan either to be honest - maybe once or twice this year on flights in January - I think it's a great introduction though

As for the buffered mult, I totally agree. It was another thing I was thinking about ditching & since I probably won’t be doubling up on 1 pitch sequence to 2 different oscillators, it can definitely get the boot. Will definitely look into Links/Kinks & all their functions! I have read many posts on here recently & you’ve recommended this combo time & time again, so it must be for a good reason!

yeah but that is something that you may well want to do in the future - 2 vcos -> filter
which is why I recommend replacing it with links which has a buffered mult - just not 3

As for VCA’s, do you think there could be such thing as TOO MANY in this situation?
yes - 15 is too many, definitely not too many in some modular synths but it is in 6u - I'd be happy with a quad cascading vca (veils) and a dual lpg in 6u tbh

I just counted and I have 15 vcas including lpgs and vcas built into other modules like filters or vcos in about 24u - I need more vcas! well yes and no - I keep looking at the wmd performance mixer - and that has a load built in - which would free up the 6 standalone vcas nicely - which would be enough and would add voltage controlled panning - but it's expensive, a power hog and big - which all means I need another case and envelope generators for the vcas

Also, what do you say about Levit8? I like the ability that it can do more than attenuate & it also provides the possibility to create sub mixes before sending out to an external mixer.

but to what point? you probably won't need all that many channels of attenuation (some yes 8 probably not) and you won't need to sub mix before an external mixer if you buy the right external mixer!! which if you are going to buy one it makes sense to do!! if you already had a mixer and needed attenuators for each channel and/or wanted to just record stereo tracks then maybe

if you want sub-mixes before hitting a filter - great get something small - if you want some vc panning get a small module for that - if you want to mix some modulation (do this it is great) get a matrix mixer - but you are just taking up space that could be used for other things and negating the point of getting an external mixer

And as for tracking equipment that I have now into the DAW, I have a Scarlett 8i6 BUT all of its inputs are taken up by the 3 Elektrons so I am running Plaits to an external input on the Analog 4 which allows me to records my experiments & noodles for the moment!

I hate making multiple passes to record multitracks of the same piece on modular - so I would consider upgrading this (or extending with adat, if possible) - maybe with a mixer with proper usb multitrack capabilities and enough channels for everything you have now plus however many voices there are in this rack plus 1/2 as much again - so at least 12 channels, but 16-24 if at all possible, in total (for the

PNW is a module I have been watching very closely with googly eyes since its release & I really love how each of its 8 outputs can be freely assignable & I love that it has LFO’s & Euclidean options. I will definitely look more into Batumi & have a look at Zadar as well! They are both modules I have come across many times in my search, but for some reason, I never gave them much thought beyond a glance. I sincerely appreciate your feedback! It cleared up some things I was flip flopping back & forth about!

Yeah I have none of these modules - they are all very popular - and all have their pros and cons - and I think I want them all - and at the same time I want none of them - more vcas means more envelope generators and these 3 are kind of the top contenders - but then I might just go for a selection of diy envelopes - or a mix

Edit: Also, which matrix mixers would you recommend having a look at? I know Doepfer has one which seems to be popular. Matrix mixers are something I still have to wrap my head around as well but there’s plenty of time for that!
-- cameliamusic

AI Synthesis, doepfer (big), nonlinearcircuits - there aren't really that many to look at - not sure about the instruo one though - if I was even considering it I would also have to consider the 4ms vcamatrix - which is even bigger and more expensive - but I think I would like it more than the pin matrix - I'd loose the pins for starters!!!

they are pretty simple really - and really useful for feedback patching - self modulating modulation!!!


Lots to take away from this! I've already started to make adjustments after reading your previous response & a lot of it makes so much sense. I had a further look into Links/Kinks & now I see how valuable they can be & even better they fit so many utilities into a small amount of HP! I already scrapped Levit8 & the VC8 - as I had a feeling the amount of VCAs I had planned for this case was overkill & having a mixer with submix capabilities within a rack when I planned to buy an external mixer was quite redundant. In turn, I may add a 2hp mix for how nifty & convenient it is. Then, I was led to the realization that an ES-9 can indeed be incorporated into the rack like you had suggested & since it has SPDIF I/O, I can link it up to my Scarlett & BOOM, everything can be recorded into the DAW without the need for an external mixer! And instead of getting a cv.ocd to do my sequencing via MIDI, I added a Mutant Brain since plenty of space was freed up. The Disting got scrapped, as I now don't really know what I would use it for + I don't really want to deal with that tiny screen & its 1 million algorithms. I feel I still have plenty of research to do, but your feedback & suggestions really have cleared a lot of things up & I definitely feel more confident about the end results!


I like using VCVRacks to try new modules before spending cash on them as well as learning how different setups work. It is definitely motivating me to get the real physical versions of Plaits+Rings as they sound so lovely and many great options for dark and ambient plucky tones.


Lots to take away from this! I've already started to make adjustments after reading your previous response & a lot of it makes so much sense. I had a further look into Links/Kinks & now I see how valuable they can be & even better they fit so many utilities into a small amount of HP! I already scrapped Levit8 & the VC8 - as I had a feeling the amount of VCAs I had planned for this case was overkill & having a mixer with submix capabilities within a rack when I planned to buy an external mixer was quite redundant. In turn, I may add a 2hp mix for how nifty & convenient it is.

I would look at Happy Nerding for a small mixer - much more ergonomic than the 2hp ones!!!

Then, I was led to the realization that an ES-9 can indeed be incorporated into the rack like you had suggested & since it has SPDIF I/O, I can link it up to my Scarlett & BOOM, everything can be recorded into the DAW without the need for an external mixer! And instead of getting a cv.ocd to do my sequencing via MIDI, I added a Mutant Brain since plenty of space was freed up. The Disting got scrapped, as I now don't really know what I would use it for + I don't really want to deal with that tiny screen & its 1 million algorithms. I feel I still have plenty of research to do, but your feedback & suggestions really have cleared a lot of things up & I definitely feel more confident about the end results!
-- cameliamusic

I would read the ES9 manual thoroughly before committing based on SPDIF - I think it will be very (limited 2 channels) - although it can also be set up as a mixer - depending on the daw (and plugins) you are using you can also use it to send v/oct and modulation to the rack - and potentially not need a midi->cv module (which will potentially have higher latency)

Disting - I would get an EX - the whole point is you don't know what to use it for - so you'll have it when you need it - if you spend a short time setting up favourites.txt it's much easier to work with - menu is not deep - it's really useful for working out which modules you need

I would stop doing research (at least temporarily) - just buy a case and a few modules - a sound source, a sound modifier, a modulation source, a way to play and a way to listen - plus a few utilities (quad vca, links, kinks, something like shades maybe) and start patching - learn that inside out and then add a module and repeat


Well, the reason I have the Mutant Brain in there is because I’m looking to get away from doing my sequencing from the laptop & keep everything in a nice network between the machines! I will definitely read the ES-9 manual before making a concrete decision but so far from what I’ve read, it seems to be a great solution for both audio & cv routing to & from the rack! I’ll also take a further look at the EX! Thanks again for all your help!


the ES9 is an excellent tool for just that cv (including pitch) and audio to and from rack and computer - Silent Way or CV Tools work well once set up I believe

personally I mostly use it (actually an ES8 in my case) for audio - including a clock out from Logic


Both Disting EX and Ornament and Crime are swiss army knife modules of modular! Either is worth checking out.


Hi Cameliamusic,

Welcome to modular! I don't think I have seen it yet, so generally I would like you to advise not to buy everything at once. Start with a few main modules, gain some experience with them and then slowly by a few more, build up some more experience with them, and keep repeating till you either reached your target plan or till your bank account is zero ;-)

Many members have provided you already with some excellent comments, so there is not much to add other than the above remark.

Good luck, have fun with modular and kind regards, Garfield Modular.

Edit: Removed typo.


Both Disting EX and Ornament and Crime are swiss army knife modules of modular! Either is worth checking out.
-- sacguy71

Yes! I’ve had my eye on the OC as well, but seeing that it’s more geared toward sequencing, I think the Disting EX seems like a more logical choice given the amount of sequencing options I have available at the moment!


Hi Cameliamusic,

Welcome to modular! I don't think I have seen it yet, so generally I would like you to advise not to buy everything at once. Start with a few main modules, gain some experience with them and then slowly by a few more, build up some more experience with them, and keep repeating till you either reached your target plan or till your bank account is zero ;-)

Many members have provided you already with some excellent comments, so there is not much to add other than the above remark.

Good luck, have fun with modular and kind regards, Garfield Modular.

Edit: Removed typo.
-- GarfieldModular

Hehehe, so far I only have 2 modules in my rack but I plan to learn them as well as I can before moving onto the next one! I don’t want to get overzealous & then end up learning 5 modules at the same time. I’m looking forward to the long & wonderful journey ahead! Thank you for your input, Garfield!