My rack: FH-2, Maths, DPO, Forbidden Planet, 106 Chorus, Black Hole DSP2, Quad VCA, OUT V3

Hello people of Modular Grid,

I would like your opinion on my rack plan. Is there anything you would change? Have I missed anything important? What would you do with the 2HP left?

I mainly make synthpop and currently use an Elektron Analog Rytm and a Digitone, plus guitar, bass and vocals. I have been interested in modular for a while and I think this winter will be my jump into it. My main goals are to sequence basslines from the digitone and get fat sounds out of the modular, perhaps same for some leads, and to also delve into more ambient and general craziness that I can use for intros/outros.

Thanks for your help!

L

Edit:After a day of thinking about it, I think I would prefer the Cš-L to the DPO, and that would give me enough space for a Disting mk4 too. Thoughts?

My rack revised: FH-2, Maths, Cs-L, Forbidden Planet, Quad VCA, Disting mk4, 106 Chorus, Black Hole DSP2, Pico out


You're expecting way too much out of a tiny build like this. Yes, it's got a VCO/VCF/VCA chain to it, which makes up a basic voice. But in the process, there's a lot of compromises made in creating these things. Small skiffs like this aren't the sort of thing that can "...get fat sounds out of the modular, perhaps same for some leads, and to also delve into more ambient and general craziness that I can use for intros/outros". There simply is NOT enough there.

If this build is limited on the basis of money, I would suggest just getting a patchable system or two. This system will probably cost about $2.5k once it's cased and powered. At this point, I would like to point out that a Buchla Easel minus the controller comes in at only $500 more...but I'm NOT advocating that (very expensive!) device here. For "fat sounds" (bass, I'm assuming), you could get a Poly-D, leads would point toward something like a Microbrute or Minibrute, and for your weirdness something like a Kilpatrick Phenol...and the amount you'd be spending would be $600 or so LESS (assuming you get a Minibrute 2; a Microbrute instead would shave close to a grand off of this).

If money isn't the determining factor, though, I would strongly suggest that you do two things...

1) Get a copy of VCV Rack. Get used to how modular synthesis works...and DOES NOT work.

2) Scrap this build AFTER spending some time with VCV, then either build a PROPER system that can accomplish your aims, or go back to the option above.

Fact is, there's loads of people that think that a modular synth can "fix their music". Bollocks. If there's a problem with your music, NO PIECE OF EQUIPMENT WILL HELP. That falls more under the rubric of "user error". And there's this other mindset that you have to have a modular to be "serious". Also bollocks. Sure, it'll make for a wild time on Reverb and eBay for those of us who DO "get modular" in a couple of years. But that's not how I'd like to get my bargains. I'd rather see modular synthesizers get used CORRECTLY, which also means building them correctly in the first place, which THEN means that you need to know YOUR MUSIC well enough to determine exactly what sort of modules would go into an expensive bespoke build that you can live with and expand on for a number of years...perhaps a decade or more.

If you're not sure about that last part, if you're NOT ready to know what exact elements will make your music go together, don't do this. Get some time with VCV instead FIRST...since it's free. The rest of this is far from it!


Thanks Lugia, that's really useful feedback.

More than anything else, my constraint is space, which I have just about for the 104HP. I guess I was too optimistic with what I could get away with a modular of that size. Sadly, that means getting multiple devices like you suggest is also out of the question. I might have space for one more synth, definitely not three.

That said, I am not unhappy with my current setup... I love my Rytm and the posibilities for modulation and performance that it has and I'm also very happy with the range of sounds I get out of my Digitone. Also, I'm happy with the music I have released using these two alone. I just have a feeling that going forward, if I want to make things sound different, I have a gap in analog synth sounds, and thought a skiff of modules could sort that.

I guess I will just hold off it until one day I have a dedicated studio space where I can fit a PROPER system as you say.

Again, thanks for the help!


Lugia has solid advice. I started off first with an Elektron Analog 4 and Make Noise 0-coast semi-modular several years ago. Fast forward from 2016 to 2020 today. I downloaded VCV Rack and ordered the book Patch & Tweak and really learned a lot. Then this summer I bought a Doepfer A100 Basic System 1 with room for adding more modules to learn modular in rack and that helped me to further understand how VCOs, VCAs, VCF and envelopes and LFO modulation work together as well as the need for support modules like attenuators, mults and logic modules. This month I ordered a much larger case and more modules. Still learning but quite a journey. One thing to keep in mind: always always get a much larger case! I recommend at least something like a Doepfer 9u powered suitcase or perhaps an MDLR 12u case. These are still portable but have lot of room for the many support modules you will need versus just a bunch of the cool oscillator modules.


Almost a year later and the modular bug has returned. I've figured I can fit a Mantis on my desk, which allows for double the space I was initially counting on. I also followed Lugia's advice and played around with VCV Rack and can't wait to get on with the real deal. Please bear in mind that although I primarily make synth pop, I would also like to dabble with other more experimental genres inspired by Hiro Kone or Caterina Barbieri. This modular will mostly serve the purpose of creating textures and layering samples with synthesis, since I have most of the rhythmic and melodic areas and effects covered between my Analog Rytm, Digitone, and an Erica Synths DB-01 and H9 that I picked up since I last posted.

Here's the rack I would like to end up with:
ModularGrid Rack

I guess the main doubt is whether the Cloud Terrarium is too big a module for a build this size. I do like the sound of it a lot but I'm open to alternatives. I'm also very excited by the 258t coming out. Let me know anything you would change here, but no larger cases please.

And, since I can't splash out £4000 at once, here is what I think I could get started with:

ModularGrid Rack

Thanks again for all the help and advice.

Edit: See below for updated rack


I really don't think you're ready for modular yet. The modules don't make a lot of sense for a useful system. What are you expecting to get out of this that you can't already do in your DAW?


My rule of thumb for small to mid-sized builds is:
-- 30% or less HP is voicing (OSCs, filters, waveshapers, etc.)
-- about 30% is CV (sequencers, envelopes, LFOS)
-- about 30% is utility (VCAs, attenuverters, etc)
-- 10% other (finishing FX, etc)
... I find this reliably gets me a usable mid-sized build. For larger builds, once you have your CV/utilities core, then you can take a freer hand with what else is in/out and still get a usable setup

So a few points of feedback on your "get started" rack above
-- it looks heavy on voicing and light on CV, I think you'll miss having some CV sequencing, and could use more CV envelopes / LFOs. Consider MI Stages, Intellijel Quadrax + Expander, Instro Ochd. Those would help give you more useful CV.
-- its also light on utilities, kind of bare minimum above. Consider things like MI Links and 4MS SISM or Tiptop MISO, though Maths gives you some of that type function. Also, Maths is great, but I'm not sure it makes sense above given how little other CV there is in the system
-- you do have IN and OUT modules, which is good. But these are worth some real homework, e.g. maybe something like ES-8 will be a better longterm fit round trip to the DAW for you? And the OUT merits more attention, depends on what your needs are. Lots of OUT options on the market, I use 4MS ones because they have good headphone and mains outs. This is not to say the options you have are bad, but to highlight that there's a lot of variety available in the marketplace and better to get IN/OUT modules that are a particularly great fit for your setup and uses.
-- regarding sounds sources, there are tons of options in the market. If you're not set on one, I'd say shop around more and consider what will be inspiring for you.

Regarding learning modular, there's lots and lots and lots to learn. My best practical suggestion is review a ton of Lugia's draft racks and posts describing draft racks. That will give a lot of insights on "what and why" for particular design goals.

Hope this helps. Good luck, enjoy!


Can you say more about how the Cloud Terrarium appeals to you and how you might use it? The choices of the Polivoks VCF and Plonk seem curious given you have a DB-01 and an Analog Rytm. Did you consider doing your sample manipulation out of rack, with a 1010music Blackbox or a Digitakt? I also think Maths might be too large for this rack.


@Ronin1973
Thanks, I'm only using the DAW these days to record, mix and master, with composition happening on hardware. That said, I know most things can be done in the DAW, and that's how I used to work, but I feel like I enjoy hardware a lot more. Now, as for the modules not making sense, I've followed the advice and updated the rack.

@nickgreenberg
Thanks so much for all of these tips. I've heavily updated the rack based on them. I think my proportions of voicing, CV, utility and others is much more on point now.
- As much as the Bitbox micro was appealing, I've decided that it's more of a priority to have the VCOs for the voices. I've also dumped the Cloud Terrarium in favor of much simpler (and smaller) Erica wavetable VCO and Joranalogue Fold. It's a compromise but I guess it makes more sense in this build.
- I've added the Quadrax and expander as suggested, as well as Doepfer LFOs. As for sequencing, I'm not sure I have the space for anything bigger than the Ornament and Crime, but I do plan to get some sequencing going from the Digitone through FH-2.
- Also, as well as the Links which was aready there, I've added the Miso and a 3xMIA. Does the Maths make more sense in the current context?
- As for the ES-8, I can see it being really cool for having so much IO, but I'm not really using the DAW that much, and feel like the FH-2 is much more important in order to make the most of Digitone's MIDI sequencer. As for the OUT, do you mean the Listen Four? What are the advantages other than the embedded mixer? It's 8HP more than the Befaco so it would have to be at the expense of maybe the 3xMIA and the Buff.
- Haha I've been doing exactly that, checking out the forum for other starter racks and trying to learn as much as possible.

@plragde
As for the Cloud terrarium, I think it's Hiro Kone's main eurorack voice and I had a look at some videos and it just seems very capable at making unusual waves and creating textures that evolve over time. Let's just say I know the Erica wavetable VCO is a significant downgrade. The reason for the Plonk was to use it more for stringy platey sounds than drums, and to run it through the beads for granular stuff, but I can see there is no space for it. The polyvoks is just a filter I have come to absolutely love through the DB-01 but you're perhaps right that it might be better to get a different sounding filter. Sampling will definitely be done out of this system, if at all, I can see now that it didn't make all that sense. Finally, would you swap the Maths for MI Stages or something else?

Thanks again!

ModularGrid Rack


Maths is wonderful, keep it. Also, I don't normally say this but I think you need more VCAs, at the very least swap out the Qx for a Doepfer Dual VCA in 4HP or swap your MIA for the Happy Nerding VCA in 6HP.


Some more suggestions. Think carefully about the 2hp modules. They may not be as usable as you think. Do you need an ADSR? For me it seems more useful for keyboard-driven sounds. A Cosmotronic Delta-V gives you two AR envelopes and two VCAs in 10hp. You can probably lose the 2hp VCA. As for the Buff, you already have one buffered multiple in Links. You only need buffering for pitch CV, so needing two would imply four VCO-type destinations, and you don't have that many. Stars or stackables can take care of other duplication, 0hp and much lower cost. Instead of Miso, I would suggest Klawis Mixwitch (same hp, more functionality), and instead of the Polivoks VCF, I would suggest Bastl Ikarie or another stereo filter with character. At this point you can just remove Maths, hold the space for future expansion, and see if you miss it. My guess is that you won't.


Our posts crossed and I didn't see your reply, so here is an addendum. For evolving textures in Eurorack, I look to slow modulation sources that can provide CV to FM and wavefolders of VCOs. To complement my Elektron boxes and other out-of-rack gear, I look to analog VCOs with, well, lots of modulation options. I'm not particularly impressed by wavetables, in or out of rack, but this is a personal opinion. My VCOs are Frap Tools Brenso and (just arrived) Joranalogue Generate 3.

I have a DB-01 and love it, so I understand your thinking, but: the DB-01 is a tweak on the Erica Synths Bassline module, and you may have noticed that the output is really hot? If you turn it up to max, it is at Eurorack level. So you can turn the DB-01 envelopes full open, and then feed it pitch, gate, and filter cutoff CV, and take the output straight back into your rack for further processing. Yes, you can't use the DB-01 filter for anything else, but you don't want two of those sounds around, really. Of course, you can just sync clock, use that great DB-01 sequencer, and mix in the sound separately.

Delta-V is my suggestion for replacing Maths. It doesn't have the logic or skew limiter, but you can get those from Disting (one at a time) and see if you need specialized modules for those purposes. I chose Frap Tools Falistri over Maths, but that is more of a boutique choice, and I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to everyone. Each of the two Falistri envelopes does quite well as a VCO that can track V/oct while holding pitch as shape changes (for timbre), unlike Maths. Quadrax can do this also, but with less timbre variation, and more nuisance in dialing in pitch, and it doesn't sound as good.

MI Stages is another matter, and what I am watching in this space is the announced but not yet released Joranalogue Step 8. At this point, slow acquisition may be forced on you, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Just try to get an initial set of modules (50-80 hp at most) that are usable and will not frustrate you.


Hi Larya,

You might want to have a look at this picture:

Alt Text

It's from a previous post:

https://www.modulargrid.net/e/forum/posts/index/9489

The picture might give you some ideas of which modules you might want (or not want) to consider :-) It also might give you an idea how to arrange certain types of modules within a rack.

Good luck with the planning, take it easy with the setup of your new rack and please keep some empty space left for future extensions. Kind regards, Garfield.

For review reports of Eurorack modules, please refer to https://garfieldmodular.net/ for PDF formatted downloads


Ah ah ah... reading all the advice here, it's enough to make you dizzy... and that's normal, everyone is trying to help you, and I myself will bring you another advice (at the end).

Modular is actually 'a long and winding road'... not a motorway.

You have to take your time.
Because anyway, a lot of time will pass before you stabilize a set-up that you will really master and be (at least temporarily) happy with.

Time:

  • The choices constrained by the availability of the modules (especially nowadays...), and maybe time for another (good) choice :)
  • Time spent studying how the modules work (reading manuals, watching videos, reading ou discussing in the forums), finally producing a wonderful track on the basis of what was just a simple test in the beginning.
  • Oops! That sudden discovery (and order) of another great module that has just been released, or that you were totally unaware of, or whose possibilities we did not suspect.
  • The installation, uninstallation and reinstallation of the modules.
  • The revelation of another philosophy of use of the modular in your producing reorienting your first vision.

The modular path is really long and impossible to program completely by advance.
But this is also one of its attractions.

‘A splendid time is guaranteed for all’ (Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite).

So here is my advice (of the day), and of course just an example of what is possible: a 'simple' module like the E352 (the best choice, believe me, I got one :)) means days and days of exploration, learning and pleasure!

So you start with that one, and with all the bare necessities around.
Take time and pleasure. Well, E352 is around 600€ / 700$...
You'll start to learn and love it step by step. Modular is a love story with your instrument too.
And you'll start to know step by step by yourself what you (two) really need else and in the end.

Bonus: the pleasure of receiving a package from time to time with that new module you've been longing for...

When you enter a bakery, do you remember you reason with yourself ;)