Hi guys,

First post on MG (but plenty of noodling on here for the past year of course!). So what I have to date is:

Mother 32 - for mono motherly duties, as she does. She's in the case right now, but ill be putting her back in her original enclosure soon enough
Ableton + Push 2
ES-3 + ES-6
Buff Mult 1U
Quad VCA
Dixie II+
Rings (definitely getting bored of this quickly...)
Wogglebug 2014
Intellijel Scales

Case is a custom 7U 84HP (Intellijel specced) I made with rails and some wood I found lying about.

My original though process with these first modules was to get building blocks in place, and see what I would want next accordingly, using Ableton's CV tools to tinker with any missing modulation sources.

Now this is what I have in mind with this case.


Let me start with - I LOVE FM. In fact, I'd say most of my learning of synthesis was via FM8 and Ableton's Operator. I also play guitar, evil uke, keys, sing (a lot), write music + lyrics + gibberish, love harmonies (general info yes).

The modules im thinking of adding - as you can see in the rack - are:
1. Akemie's Caste - I looked at Quad Operator, but the dual 1V/oct + chord features + fuzzy Yamaha chip appealed to me far more than the open matrix colder QO. I am still open to considering the QO though - so do let me know your thoughts on that!
2. 2x Buff Mults, though I may ditch these and get some stackables/hubs instead to save space.
3. Steppy 1U - Now that it has per step probability + gates, this looks amazing!
4. Intellijel Zeroscope 1U - Just need a scope
5. Intellijel FSR 1U - Fun
6. Xaoc Zadar - Considering whether to get this or a more traditional dual/quad ADSR...
7. Xaoc Batumi - Again, is this critical here? Of course with an FM synth, I want the maddest possible Mod sources, but I do have the ES-3... On the flip side though, I WANT IT!!
8. Happy Nerding MMM VCF - Ideaaalllyyy I really wanted a stereo filter that was more CV controllable, so that I could create wavering scapes with the resonances teetering on oscillation (juuust barely). However... I ran out of space :P
9. Qu-bit Bloom - This thing looks awesome. Though I can already sense some potential limitations (3-scales?? Might end up using in chromatic mode always, and use my quantizer if needed). Thoughts?
10. Arturia Keystep 37 - Sometimes I just want precise melodies man

So what do you guys think? I'm still new to euro, so I could definitely use your tips to let me know where I'm falling short. To give you and idea of my music, I love drones, scapes, swung/jazzy grooves, weird sounds, melody, vocal motifs, dissonance, grunge, cartoony dramatics, and balancing subtlety and restraint with all out release. I also love sneaky/eerie music. If that makes any sense to you :D

This upgrade is gonna cost me a bunch as it is, though I'm open to building a 104hp 7U case in the future if required - though not right now!

Thanks in advance critters!

Hey mate, your year long research and digital noodling led you to this - GREAT =)
A few thoughts:
FM synthesis and the Castle are an incredible combination. Only the modulation possibility of the four operators is already a mind blow.
Cool as well that you build your own case to start with - for me the case is one of the main investments but while it is required right at the start, it might require completely different things after a while and during your modular development. I for my part started with a 60hp Moog case to compliment my mother32, then moved to a Performance 104HP case, then to a second one then a Make Noise Skiff and finally to Doepfers Monsters. What I want to say is, it took me the hard way but in hindsight I wish I would not have aimed to perfectly fill the case while ever evolving. Great to see your approach here!
If you use the Es3 and linked Ableton CV Tools you have a gazillion source of modulation potential there and you could integrate via ES3 or even think about the ES9...
Mults...I see your point and based on your current idea and set up (quad VCA, LFO, Envelope) it might not be necessary...but then Batumi should stay =) one of my first modules and a stay from day one - so much potential and so many possibilities of usage.
While I am on the quad thing...Zadar...I find myself using it rather as a envelope for Filter modulation than VCA gating...for that I prefer more tweakable and classical AD (for sequencer based triggering) or ADSR (for keyboard based triggering). What I try to say, Zadar is amazing and deep and unique however (for me...) works best in combination with a classical AD/ADSR option...
On the filter side and considering space...maybe Endorphin.es Squawk Dirty...stereo with a VCA!! and a High Pass Filter on board! 8 digital filter emulations. Worth a look...
Regarding the Bloom...soo many alternatives and yet unique and linked to personal preference...have a look into Euclidian Rhythms, Melodicer, Tuesday, Ornament & Crimes or Turing Machines
Complimenting the CV Tools I just say, maybe look into Make Noise Function as a Maths alternative (half the space with both EOR and EOC outputs AND a freeze option!)
When you say does not feel right - what you mean? Maybe an integration of your guitar would do the trick? Like that you would be able to jam out together with the machine... For that you would need an interface given by e.g. Intellijel + 1U Pedal or 1U i/o and maybe think about effects (or you want to do all that in Ableton?

Hey Tobi,

First of course, thanks for the detailed reply, I've definitely taken a few things on board!

Second... I think I've found the golden combo! (have adjusted the grid if you see)

So I dumped the oscilloscope, because for now the system is connected to Ableton, and I have a decent oscilloscope there. Also dumped the pressure pads, and added the buff mults to the 1U rack (only $39 each?!). I already have one 1U buff mult so this makes sense.

I replaced the 2hp mults with 2x 2hp ADSRs which along with maths and Zadar should cover my envelope needs I think.

And finally.... 2x Doepfer A-121-3 !! Analogue, dual-mono or stereo filters with grit, aaandd great cv control too. Check !

Regarding the Bloom, I chose this because I like the idea of writing a "riff" which I can go mad with, and then quickly snap back to. Very useful compositionally. That, along with the Keystep and maybe Ableton, should give full freedom to go totally nuts, and then come back to a motif nicely.

As for MATHS, unfortunately it's very very difficult to sell any module as I'm in India, so I'm stuck with it. Not to say that's a bad thing, it's a super module, but more spending + no returns = :*(

I forgot to mention, I actually have a great interface (Antelope zen tour), which has an insane routing matrix. This means I can route vocals/guitars/other instruments directly into my modular, or take my modular signal and run it through an instrument level fx loop and back in, and monitor all with zero latency. Very cool. Only limited by your imagination!

Heheh yes, the case took me quite some time. Because first I was going to get a 4U skiff from Intellijel. Too small. So I looked at the 7U skiff from them. Not deep enough for the Expert Sleeper modules. So then I did some research, and built this case for $250, power included :P

I like this system too, because it makes expanding very easy, just buy rails, power board, and build with home made materials. Add some latches and rubber feet, (and maybe a stand soon...) and voila!

Totally going against the modular aspect here, but I see you are not averse to other gear so...

My advice is...

If you like FM ... buy an ASM HYDRASYNTH instead ;)

(You can thank me later!)

I am taking commissions for synth builds. UK ONLY for now. DM for details :)

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

My advice is...

If you like FM ... buy an ASM HYDRASYNTH instead ;)
-- Kel_

Just don't talk to anyone FROM ASM, as you stand a chance to wind up dealing with the same jackass I did. Not fun, and it'll put you right off that synth. I had mine on order for three months, paid, at Sweetwater and after that fiasco, I cancelled the order and switched it to an Argon8.

Sorry you had a bad experience, that's nothing like mine - quite the opposite!

I think it's just random, you are very direct, like me, I like that very much, but I also think it gets us in trouble when actually we mean no harm ;)

So... come on... I see MG as a freaky nerdy pacifist super dudeism reverent chill place for chat, people are genuinely weird, strange, helpful and kind - so... we can laugh about these fascist fcks hey? I should send you my sh!t list of total asshole companies and people in the music retail scene - there's a good few of them about haha - total egotistical assholes! but... that's just *my experience - it's a shame, I genuinely wish it wasn't like that... but it is and yet I still guarantee there will be plenty of folk who will have had the exact opposite experience with these exact same people -

    ...see what I mean?

All that is to say it's a shame if you were put off, in over 30 years of messing with synths, I can honestly say this is by far the most incredible machine I ever laid hands on! As a complete package, from the key bed and ribbon controller, through the UI, the truly polyphonic sound engine to the FX and the IO - it just shines on every level!

Mind bogglingly good! 10/10 from me!

I am taking commissions for synth builds. UK ONLY for now. DM for details :)

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

Sorry you had a bad experience, that's nothing like mine - quite the opposite!

I think it's just random, you are very direct, like me, I like that very much, but I also think it gets us in trouble when actually we mean no harm ;)

-- Kel_

Maybe. But at the same time, when I contacted Sweetwater to change the order, my sales engineer actually knew who I was talking about when I mentioned the incident...named him right off the bat without me mentioning it, and when I switched the order to the Argon8, his comment was "well...I can understand why you wouldn't want to put up with them". Another colleague who I've worked with for about 20+ years was totally perplexed by the mess, since he always dealt with Glen Darcey himself and not whoever this rep was/is.

It was a really weird encounter, and like I mentioned, it triggered a great deal of distrust in me, to the point of not wanting their synth anywhere near my studio. Modal's people, on the other hand, were the diametrical opposite...I had questions, they cordially answered them, and even gave me a heads-up on the MPE and a few other implementations in the V.2 firmware. But ultimately, I'm pleased with the Argon8...ESPECIALLY after the V.2 update. Modulatable waveshaping on wavetables? Wild! So it's not necessarily a loss here...having the onboard poly aftertouch and the ribbon would've been nice, true, but like I've mentioned, I can get my poly aftertouch and ribbon controller nut popped on a regular basis with my trusty CS-80. And if something goes wrong with the Argon8, I don't have to cringe at the thought of contacting customer service and getting some pissy jackass...because Modal don't play that. Consequently, Glen might want to do a little personnel research on his reps, because if Sweetwater's had issues...well, that is the LAST damn company a synth manufacturer would ever want to piss off!

Hey guys,

Thanks for the suggestions, but the Hydrasynth just seems like a wavetable + subtractive + linear fm synth. In fact, feature wise, it reminds me a bit of my old access virus, which was a fun rabbit hole, but ultimately a curiosity that didn't last. I see the hydra has a couple of cv ins and outs of course, but I'm not really looking for linear fm. I have some basic 2-voice linear+exp fm capabilities with my dixie and m32 for now. And of course, using the voices on Akemie as additional oscillators (and maths, and Batumi, and my filters) should give me more sources for the same.

So far the only competitor im looking at seriously for the Akemie's is the Quad Op. It looks batnuts. But I'm leaning towards the more musical nature of Akemie's, seeing as though while I love me some drones, noise and wilderness, I do love to snap back to something musical and structured. That's why the dual 1v/oct and chord features sound great to me too.

Any thoughts on these two modules? Or any alternative "operators" based fm? Not really looking for wavetable subtractive, because while it's nice, I prefer (and find far more intuitive) sculpting harmonics with FM over searching through 100+ waveshapes (makes me feel like im searching through presets)

Oh btw, this is the latest iteration of what I've got in mind so far:


I would get neither and go for an Elektron Digitone keys. Then again, I have good experience thus far with my Elektron gear and the workflow is easy now for me. I am exploring the FM model on my new Plaits module. Want a Hertz Donut but need larger rack for that.

I stand 100% behind my assertion that Hydrasynth is absolutely NOT just 'wavetable + subtractive + linear fm synth' @perilousp, yes there is a similarity to a Virus from a quick look, but it is so much more than that it's silly. I love FM8, but Hydra kicks it's ass in many ways. As I say, 30+ years experience here and it tops everything in this domain - quite literally the best FM synth I have ever used, by far, there are more sculpting options than you can shake a stick at, just one example; check out the PW-ASM [Warp] feature - absolutely out of this world and totally unique as far as I know - it sounds exactly what you are looking for to me.

...but sure, ignore me and carry on, it makes no difference and I wish you all the best :)

Yes - @sacguy71, Hertz Donut mkII is also really excellent for FM and beyond - I use this a lot too - truly outstanding character! When I first got the Hydra I thought a lot of The Harvestman and that it might replace those, there is definitely that noisy racket side to the Hydra - the noise options are excellent, as it turns out several months later they are still different enough, I find them extremely complimentary! It's rare to find a desktop synth that can hold it's own against such exceptional stuff like The Harvestman - but it totally does. I would also be interested to hear your experiences with Elektron, I have used all the old machines and know them inside out, but did reach limits with them and actually it was the Elektron machines that first inspired me to get into modular back in the day. I should probably check out their new stuff more. That little Model:Cycles looks like a fun little box, it would be nice to get hands on so I can actually speak about them with confidence and knowledge, trying to ascertain features, playability, sound etc from a manual is always going to fail. I need to do the same with the Argon8 - that seems similar too @Lugia!

I am taking commissions for synth builds. UK ONLY for now. DM for details :)

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