ModularGrid Rack

After reflecting on the last really amazing advice I was given, especially by Jim H, I have started again to design my first rack that I am going to be taking the plunge on after pay day and really tried to reflect on what I am trying to make. Rhythmic melodies with a harsher digital, heavily modulated and slightly 'dirty' but not over the top distorted vibe. Not looking for drones or ambient type stuff. Want to make digital melodic parts that set a groove and inspire me sit down at my drum kit to play along.

I have a Minibrute 2s to pair with this adding another sequencer, two more lfo's etc etc and also an MPC Live 2 with 8 fully assignable CV outs that each can have their own sequencer track to use as sequenced gates etc

Will this work for what I want or am I missing fundamentally important stuff?

Any advice would be appreciated

I'm a newb as well, and I'm sure other more experienced folks will have good advice, but I'll chime in. I have similar tone goals and I bought the Erica Black VCO 2 and the Make Noise QPAS to go with it (and I also have a Mimeophon which is super fun!). I've been really happy with that VCO/filter combo to get dirty, heavily modulated arps and sequences going. OK it's more traditional analog, but you might like Erica's Black Wavetable VCO. To me Erica's stuff really get's to that gritty place I love.
I combined it with Plaits - it's super versatile and really shines when you modulate the Timbre and Morph.

I'll also add that I have Ripples, and compared to QPAS it is really tame sounding (ymmv). It's a great filter, but it is exactly what they say it is - "a no-fuss, elegant choice". To me it's kinda like a vanilla utility filter and doesn't add a ton of character to the sound. I'm glad Plaits has more than enough character to compensate.

Some quick thoughts:

1) Not being super familiar with either, I'd probably pick Marbles over Bloom, especially since you want something to play along to and it's got some nice rhythmic features built in.
2) I'd maybe add a TM, even 2HP's version, to get a little more repeated random.
3) Filter wise I'd suggest a Serge VCFS or something like a Morgasmatron if you want character and grit.
4) I'd replace the Rosie with an ALM HPO.
5) I'm not sure you need a Stages, a PNW, and a Maestro. I'd pick 2 to start.
6) Dream combo: add an input here and an envelope follower (MI Ears might do the trick) and have part of your drum rig influence the synth, would be super fun.

Thanks for this tumeniKnobs,
I love the sound of the Qpas from what I have heard online but it is double the cost of the Ripples and perhaps more importantly too big a filter for this size of case in my view with space wasted for it being stereo where as this is a setup as a mono synth all the way until the audio path (or the mix of any combination of my four oscillators paths) hit the mimeophon and finally come out in stereo into the XOH.
I already have two analogue oscillators in the minibrute so was looking for a contrast in both of the ones I chose.
I will watch some you tube vids on the black wavetable.
I also looked at rings but thought it was way too ‘pretty’ sounding. Some of the noise engineering oscillators were too dirty for me and the Basimilus sounded a bit more middle ground. I know it is a drum synth but it pitches nicely too and the fold etc sound really cool to my ears to go with some of the brighter sounds from Plaits.
Do you have any great steers on utilities or modulation I am needing. I know I don’t have Maths here and am perhaps light on function generation but both my oscillators sort of make their own envelopes if needed and I have the mu stages and both a traditional ASDR and AD that I can use in the Minibrute 2s.

Thanks troux,
I will have a listen to these filters
I love the idea of the drums influencing the rig.
I could perhaps do this with something like a Roland rt30k on the kickdrum and figure out how to convert that to a euro rack compatible gate signal that I can then patch into stuff like triggering envelopes or an lfo etc

Will using a TM give me a big difference in the results I get over selecting ‘random’ for the lfo on the maestro or raising the branches and mutations on the bloom? Sorry to ask what may be a ‘duh’ question

Ears actually handles turning input into gates I think (I've never used it for this purpose), so definitely check it out.

The nice thing about the TM is that it's repeating randomness. I don't know how the Maestro works but let's say you set your TM sequence length to 4, triggered way slower than your drums, like /64, you then feed the TM into a high impact input on your Bloom or Marbles... voila you have a song structure as the TM adjusts how your sequencer performs, changes it a few more times, and then returns it back to the beginning state, slowly shifting this pattern over time.

Really cool - does the 2hp TM have all the functionality I would use or is there a much more feature rich option by stretching to 4 or 6hp that you would recommend?
I had been thinking about using sample and hold either from stages or the kinks to do something similar and was also thinking about the 4hp DivKid RND step as a future purchase to throw in loads of random randomness into the cv mix. I like the idea of being able to really control the rate of change without needing to use up more channels on the lapsus.

2HP's TM has maybe 90% of what the Thonk one does. Alan by After Later Audio is a 6HP version that does 100% (credit to @ajai for finding this), or if you wanted to expand even more you could get an Ornament and Crime.

I will deffo look at the After Later Alan - thanks for the steer
I have looked at the ornament and crime, it looks amazing but it is just too screen diving menu driven for me and although it is probs great it doesn’t feel fun. This is also why I have steered away from the disting that I read is awesome too.
TBO I feel the same way about Pam’s but having one menu diving module should be just about ok.
I have stayed away from Maths through fear of not being clever enough to get my head around it and would rather go for cheap thrills... well... very expensive but perhaps more immediate thrills 😄
The stages is my ‘learning a bit about how modular synthesis actually works’ module and that seems so much simpler and more visually understandable to me than Maths.
I am a drummer at heart so really don’t get much more advanced than hitting things to see if they make a noise!

using a TM in that way is a good idea - or any random/noise source and a sample and hold or a sequencer - all good ways to automate some kind of song structure with Bloom/Marbles/Turing Machine

for this use case the 2hp TM is perfect - you may want to send that through a quantizer - if so the 2hp tune is a good bet - inexpensive and small - I still have both these modules - even though I have Marbles etc as they are useful to have around

no one has mentioned that you don't need the big addac quantizer with either bloom or marbles - they both have internal quantizers - so i would leave that out if I were you

as for rings, you mentioned it was too pretty sounding - it can get pretty aggressive in 2 OpFM Mode and is also a great audio processor - especially with some feedback patching - which I don't remember seeing in any demos

RND step is just more sample and holds - and you already have a couple available - I'd pass on that module in this size case

I'd look at more ways of combining the modulation that you have - a matrix mixer would be ideal

I'd probably want a more fully featured end of chain mixer too

the other things I would consider adding would be a disting mk4 - fills gaps when needed and great for learning - and an fx aid

This was my thinking regarding the addac:
I love the idea of quantising a sample and hold signal or a complex Lfo chain to make melody parts. The bloom seems to quantise to scale but not to key (I am probs being dumb here and am meant to set the key by tuning the oscillator or something like that with the scale being comparative distances from the root) but the addac can also do cv controlled key transpose so the whole sequence can add a melodic cycle moving through keys that I could trigger using a 24 bar loop on the mpc to move between verse/chorus/middle eight and then round and round etc. I also would have 4 oscillators two in the rack and two in the minibrute to possibly have playing different rhythmic melodies in the same key. I also would really love a third voice eventually too (I know you might be shaking your head at that idea but I really liked the sound of the qu-bit surface as a slightly darker sounding rings type sound for some future module - perhaps for a future case? Then the addac will be really handy too)

I am not tied to the bloom but like the way it works of just turning the 8 knobs to create two looping patterns of relative pitch as a starting point and the whole fractal randomness stuff that goes with it. It also does all of this in only 16hp!.
The more I look into marbles the more it seems just too random and I am much more keen on randomness in pitch and modulation rather than on random gates and core rhythms (Drummer!) provided that these all then get quantised so it is all randomly ‘in key’. I also know that modulation creates rhythms too. This is why basically all the modulation sources I like are often rigidly clocked - that is great to my limited outlook about the maestro for example.

yes you generally tune your oscillators and then the v/oct is added - if you want to change the root note you would use a precision adder or some other modules that has that functionality

Not shaking my head at all - this is all a very personal journey - especially not on module choices or number of voices or cases - there are no bad paths - some are just more expensive than others

you seem to know what you want and have some idea of how to get there - time to grab the case and a few modules and start on your journey - go slowly if you can (learn each module as thoroughly as possible) and don't worry about not sticking to the plan

Thank you Jim,
This gives me the confidence to take the plunge and that this small system could work for achieving the outcomes I am hoping for.
You are right that i need to stay open minded and be willing to change the plan as I go but I always find it a good idea to have a road map too of what i am trying to achieve.
I have not filled my case to the brim with my wish list so there is still a little room for growth if i feel that there are things I would like that I am missing (like a TM).
What would be your recommendations for the matrix mixer and more feature rich end of chain module?
here is my current game plan.

MARCH Rackbrute 6U, Mimeophon, XoH
APRIL Plaits, Bloom
MAY Veils, Stages
JUNE Kinks, Filter?, Links
JULY Pamela's New Workout, Lapsus Os
AUGUST Maestro
SEPT Basimilus Iteritas Alter

Taking on your advice I might look at the u-he CVilization as a matrix mixer and quantizer etc etc to replace the ADDAC?

personally I would try to keep functionality as separate as possible

so if in 6 months you decide you hate the quantizer, or just don't need it, you can swap that and still have the matrix mixer - plus I don't know if you can use CVilization as 2 things at once, which you will probably want with these 2 functions

AISynthesis, doepfer would be the matrix mixers I would recommend most - doepfer for ergonomics and price, AI for size

the only thing I've seen that I would combine would be vcas - but that starts getting quite expensive and big (4msVCAM)

do you already have a mixer? - if so I would try to do without the XOH - I tend to find output modules to be superfluous - unless you absolutely need balanced outputs or headphones - if you only need headphones - get a headphone only module! - otherwise a smallish external mixer (10-12 channels) is probably a better buy than an in rack mixer

I have a mixer but wanted to have a headphone out on the rack to not need to power everything on to just have a play with the synth. I know that envisioning this whole rack as a stereo channel being labeled as 'mod synth' on my console next to 'Lead Vox' or 'Bass G' is already probably flawed thinking in the long run :-)

I could just get a small Mackie mixer or the like and run the mix out from that into the main desk.
Doesn't modular run a bit too hot for a normal line level mixer?

The CVilization seems really cool. Mode one (4x4 matrix mixer) and mode two (4x4 sequential switch) particularly so.
Thank you again for the steer to look at matrix mixers as I would have probably not looked into this functionality as deeply before.
If i find one of these modes invaluable then I could always get a dedicated module for that next. What is super cool about the Cvilization is that in either mode quantisation is an independent and additional function that can then be added to any output individually! And best of all does all this in 10hp!!

Doesn't modular run a bit too hot for a normal line level mixer?

most modern mixers should be ok - attenuators can helpful if it's a bit hot - I used a 10 channel yamaha mixer for ages and had no issues whatsoever...

The CVilization seems really cool. Mode one (4x4 matrix mixer) and mode two (4x4 sequential switch) particularly so.
Thank you again for the steer to look at matrix mixers as I would have probably not looked into this functionality as deeply before.
If i find one of these modes invaluable then I could always get a dedicated module for that next. What is super cool about the Cvilization is that in either mode quantisation is an independent and additional function that can then be added to any output individually! And best of all does all this in 10hp!!

-- andyblondon

I know of at least one person who swears by the CVilization.... I'll have to check it out more! the fact that it does lots of things in 10hp may seem like a good idea to start with, but often turns out to be not so great - often you just end up using them for one thing and getting other modules to do the others - as you always want the multifunction module to do the 1 thing you really like on it - disting is a tape delay emulator for me 99% of the time - I should get a dedicated module - but the only 1 I really like is Magneto - it's on the list but at least 1/2 way down!

The CVilization is the same money and same hp as the ADDAC207 and is simultaneously not only a 4in 4out quantiser but also a Matrix mixer at the same time. I would get it for that alone without any other functionality. I know the 207 has other quantiser features too like CV transpose but all these things are compromises in a small case and for me it is about ending up with something fun to use that ticks as many functionality and 'oh i would like to try that and see what happens!' boxes as possible.

Eg with the Kinks module I would like to try multing a single lfo into all three inputs of the Kinks and taking all the outputs into all the different modulation inputs on the Basimilus to see what happens!!!

The Magneto sounds awesome and really authentic but also super expensive - I see why it is down on your wish list. I used to have a real roland tape space echo. That was such fun to play with!

I had never heard of the CVilization so I checked it out. It looks super powerful, but I cannot stomach all of those hidden button combinations, and remembering what different colored lights signify, and short press vs. long press, etc. I know that I would never use 10% of its potential. That is definitely something to consider when planning your rack.
I'm like Jim. I tend to invest in modules that serve the function I use most in a multi-function module. When I'm recording, I like to be able to reach and just turn a single knob on the fly, not rack my brain to remember the esoteric button combos.

I totally agree. 99% of the time I am going to set the thing to mode one (matrix mixer) which is actually quite intuitive to use having watched the tutorials and just learn the crazy button light show combo to turn on and set the right quantiser on each output for when I am using an lfo or sample&hold to create some random melodic sequence. Job done!

If there was a ≤16hp module or pair of modules that offered that functionality I would probably buy that one or those instead instead for the same money :-)

The AI008 is 10hp for a 4x3 matrix and the A-138M is 20hp for the 4x4 matrix alone (granted being all lovely and actually analogue!)
Then to have the same 4 channels of quantiser I would need something like the ADDAC207 which is another 10hp and cost the same just for that as the CVilization.

I think that like Jim has a disting that for 99% of the time has just a single setting (tape delay) in his rack this will be a similar thing for me with this as a quantising 4x4 matrix mixer and so actually quite easy to use (i hope!)

Please let me know if anyone has a really bad experience with the CVilization - although that might be a discussion for a different forum section?!

I can't recommend using the X-Pan as a proper final mixer. It does what it should, true, but this probably needs more inputs plus some easier methods for panning. Instead, try one of these: You'd need to connect to the XOH via a 3.5mm TRS to a stereo split 3.5mm pair with this, but that's not too much of a problem. You'd have to lose the Links, but it's probably more sensible in a small build like this as you can accomplish much of what it does with inline mults. Then, after the ph modular goes in, you'll have 2 hp left, and for that I'd suggest a 2hp VCA, which gives you two more linear VCAs specifically for modulation control. With everything else in there, that would probably button this up; I don't see anything else that jumps out at me on this build.

Thanks for the steer - I am moving toward Jim’s original suggestion to me of getting a mantis instead of a rack brute so could probably fit both. :-)

Hi there and I am new since last year with similar goals.
Here are my recommendations and tips:

  1. Get at least one Harvestman/IME synth voice module like Piston Honda or Hertz Donut. Thank me later
  2. Filters- I like Harvestman/IME Bionic Lester since it has lots of infinite tone shaping options plus use presets
    as well as lots of filter types from high pass to band pass. Another candidate would be Dual Borg love that filter.

  3. Sequencers- super important I found for melodic options. I have a lot and found something like Eloquencer or Black Sequencer or Vector to be ideal because you can create and save presets for your melodic patches as well as create random, reverse and quantized scales without needing a separate quantizer module.

  4. Utilities/tools- the less fun but crucial modules. You want mults, VCAs, sequential switch, logic all key for crafting unique patches. I like the Mutable Instruments Kinks and Links pair of modules for this in a small setup. Our very own @JimHowell1970 here turned me on to these functional modules and I have zero regrets. Another fun support module that I like is Tool Box from WMD/SSF which adds spice in small rack as it has logic, rectify, compare and switch all in one small HP module! Attenuators are super useful especially when using percussion and melodic patches. I like my WMD 4TTEN module since it has 4 sliders that are super ace for live performance with patches that can let you play your modular controls like an instrument.

  5. Mixers- I started with a small 8 channel external K-mixer and love it but once I got a mixer dedicated for in box eurorack, I was hooked! Nothing beats the flexibility and ability to mix cv and audio in your case. I am a big fan of WMD Performance Mixer and Befaco Hex mixer and been having fun with my XAOC Devices Praga mixer. For a small mixer, I like my Intellijel Mixup and you can chain them together as well for larger mixer.