ModularGrid Rack

I'm coming to a close on my modular journey. My sole intention was to create a (relatively) unique instrument that I could "finish" and learn and master, would provide ample sound design opportunities, generative capabilities, fill out some additional synthesis "needs" (such as an additional analog sound source and wavetable synthesis), and could integrate/sync well with my larger DAW'd and DAW-less setup (using Live as a clock/CV source in the former, and the Squarp Pyramid in the latter). Of course, all of this is with the understanding that time may change the needs/wants from my setup, but ultimately I don't think I'll ever want more than a 280 hp system.

So here it is: 4+ sound sources, 2 multi-mode filters, a few env gens, 6 vca's, some sound shapers/effects, and a fair amount of utility modules. I've got plenty of power headroom: (1A left on the +12v rail(s), about 350mA left on -12v [out of 1A], and I'm barely touching the 5v [of which there is an unnecessarily large 1A as well]).

I have a pair of catwalk LPGs, and 3-1x3 passive mults which are not visible for obvious reasons.

The only modules I have yet to purchase in this build:
ALA Tilt
Hexinverter Mutant Brain
2hp ADSR
Clank Chaos
Doepfer A-11-3v (currently have a 2hp VCO playing this role, but intend to upgrade eventually)

[Somehow I left these last two out when I originally posted. Significant for their hp relative to the ones listed above]
Befaco Chopping Kinky
Patching Panda MoonPhase

The only things missing from this build that I really wanted to get in there are a stereo mixer (leaning towards Hyrlo), and a scope (leaning towards O'tool, more for space than anything). However I feel the stereo mixer is a bit unneeded in this, especially since I can use the BitBox as a "mixer" of sorts. And I could of course purchase a standalone scope if I really need it that badly.

The first things I would consider replacing in here are the Cre8 modules only because their size:function ratio. Although the stubborn part of me doesn't want to push them out of the modular because, well, I feel they deserve to be honored for allowing me to get the journey rolling... stupid. I know.

Anyways, any thoughts? Questions? Ideas? Criticisms? Odd-pairings? Overlap?


thoughts:

I didn't think I'd ever want more than 144hp - until I did... took about 6 months to get to that point and now I have about 1200hp - but saying that I may have stopped at 208hp if I'd bought a bigger case to start with (mantises were not available at the time)

odd-pairings are probably a good idea and overlap is no bad thing

if you want to stay at this point - stop coming to modulargrid, don't go to any other modular forums, don't go to any shops either online of in real life - don't communicate with other modular synthesists - these are all sources of gas

I'd want a lot more utilities - they make everything else go both further and different - probably another 100hp or so of them for that many voices - balanced rack = 30% utilties, 20% modulation sources - other 50% = sequencers, filters and vcos


if you want to stay at this point - stop coming to modulargrid, don't go to any other modular forums, don't go to any shops either online of in real life - don't communicate with other modular synthesists - these are all sources of gas

-- JimHowell1970

LOLLLLLL I had the same thought Jim


I didn't think I'd ever want more than 144hp - until I did... took about 6 months to get to that point and now I have about 1200hp - but saying that I may have stopped at 208hp if I'd bought a bigger case to start with (mantises were not available at the time)

As a 40 year old who didn't upgrade live 8 until this year, still works with mostly digital synths from the early 00s, and rarely if ever sells/trades/upgrades gear... I really don't feel I have an issue. I'm not interested in collecting and I've learned that shiny new lights are only shiny for a week. With that said, there are bound to be moments of GAS in my future, but only minimally modular GAS. Famous last words... I know.

odd-pairings are probably a good idea and overlap is no bad thing

Good tip.

if you want to stay at this point - stop coming to modulargrid, don't go to any other modular forums, don't go to any shops either online of in real life - don't communicate with other modular synthesists - these are all sources of gas

Lol. That's sorta the idea yeah. I am not a community guy, per se. Wonderful community. But wouldn't want to be a part of any club that would have me. Plus, staring at a forum/blogs/videos is just not what I do, really. I prefer to spend my time in front of a computer either at work, or making music.

I'd want a lot more utilities - they make everything else go both further and different - probably another 100hp or so of them for that many voices - balanced rack = 30% utilties, 20% modulation sources - other 50% = sequencers, filters and vcos

Thanks that's a good equation to go by. I still have a NiftyCase hanging around, so I may try my hand at building some utilities once I'm done with my current projects and see how well they jive with the system then consider what they could replace in the main case. But my intention is to stay with this case and only ever add-by-subtracting-first, to allude back to your first point.

Thanks for taking the time to provide feedback. Greatly appreciated!


I'd want a lot more utilities
-- JimHowell1970

WRT this point, any kinds of utilities you see missing from this that you personally couldn't live without? Not assuming that your needs will meet mine, please keep in mind. I just haven't found much need for any others that can be replaced with something 0hp/outboard. With the one exception being a precision adder... which I reluctantly took out of this build.


I'd want a lot more utilities
-- JimHowell1970

WRT this point, any kinds of utilities you see missing from this that you personally couldn't live without?

-- merzky_shoom

Sorry for eavesdropping. The utilities that I've especially fallen in love with are switches; the Doepfer A-150 and A-151 in particular. I'm always thinking "boy, what I could do with one or two more of these." So I'm planning on getting another one or two more.

I see you've got a couple switches in there already. Do you blow your hair back the way they do mine?


I see you've got a couple switches in there already. Do you blow your hair back the way they do mine?
-- wrecksmoondee

Oh jeez I love the Erica switch, especially for the price they were offloading them at. Had underutilized it as a complex modulation "source" for the first few months with it, as I was enamored with creating melodies from every audio signal I could push through it. But yeah I often find myself starting patches with "What could I do with the switch now?"

The manual switches have performed the job I got them for, but I haven't run into too many problems for them to solve for me just yet. I've also got a couple of complex modules that I'm still trying to get under my fingers and into my workflow, so time will tell.

What would you say is your most recent "favorite" use for your switches?


I'd want a lot more utilities
-- JimHowell1970

WRT this point, any kinds of utilities you see missing from this that you personally couldn't live without? Not assuming that your needs will meet mine, please keep in mind. I just haven't found much need for any others that can be replaced with something 0hp/outboard. With the one exception being a precision adder... which I reluctantly took out of this build.

-- merzky_shoom

It's not so much that you are missing huge amounts of functionality - the utilities you have I would all want I would just want more of them - especially vcas (modulate the modulation of the modulation not just audio!) and mixers (I'd want at least one matrix mixer, probably 2, for mixing modulation sources and feedback patching, and possibly some more small sub-mixers)

I'd probably also want to add rectifiers and logic modules and another sample and hold (so maybe a kinks)

I think you'd miss out on a lot by staying away from the community completely - there's absolutely no need to post if you don't want to - if only for things like the "today my small discovery was..." thread on muffs

tbh I'm not that interested in new modules - I scan them and maybe read the details of 1 in 10 and "watch" (skip through for interesting bits at least) a video of 1 in 30 - but in terms of gas it can be dangerous - I "watched" Robin Vincent filling a new case last night on youtube and now I want a deckard's voice as well as a magneto!

I'd be inclined to keep the nifty case so you have somewhere to expand into, just in case!


I see you've got a couple switches in there already. Do you blow your hair back the way they do mine?
-- wrecksmoondee

What would you say is your most recent "favorite" use for your switches?
-- merzky_shoom

I guess I love them for "generative" surprises. I love how I can load them like a revolver with different sound bullets and have them fire off and do their thing. Sometimes I'll have a suitably primed filter doing double-duty: taking (A) a percussive element and (B) a "tonal" element. So the switch will be loaded with (A) a trigger and, say, (B) a mixed pair of VCOs making a simple chord; these will alternatively be sent into the filter. If I have another switch handy, the CV-in of the filter can take alternatively an envelope and a random voltange or an LFO and an audio-rate VCO. The basic idea is alternating elements. I suppose one might use a crossfader in a similar way. In any case, I've found switches to be the utility that leads to me sitting back and listening to this strange instrument with a big grin on my face.

*EDIT: I should add that what counts as "enjoyable" and "musical" for me, and thus what makes me grin, is perhaps quite idiosyncratic, so, as they say, "YMMV".


OK...I had a dive into this. One immediate thing that came up regarded the Doepfer 4 hp VCO...too deep. It's 65mm deep, and the back row in a B. 2 x 140hp rack is 62mm at its deepest. But I opted to go nuts here and show some possible other alterations...
ModularGrid Rack
While the basic sonic architecture stayed the same, a lot of things got altered, especially to support generative work.

Top row: Starts now with a CaviSynth Bufflide...3-out buffered mult with an additional slew limiter for portamento. You really only need this for the first "voice" here; the other two oscillators can be driven by single CV lines, although you could just as well use the buffered mult for all oscillators by splitting the CV needed for the two initial VCOs. Kept the Braids clone, added an Instruo Ts-L for maximum timbral manipulation, then fed these to a Bastl Waver, a waveshaping mixer. No VCF here; I opted for something more akin to a West Coast-ish approach to sound generation here for maximum "punch", especially on bass. VCA control is present on the Waver. The 4ms SWN now is followed by the Chopping Kinky, which lets you apply waveshaping to that poly-VCO, then this feeds the Moon Phase VCF. The Blackbox now feeds the Vult VCF. Then after that, there's your stereo mixer...a Bubblesound HexVCA's individual outs feed to a Happy Nerding PanMix, and this gives you VCA level over the signal as well as CV panning on all six channels. A 2 x 4 / 1 x 8 multiple closes the row out, as it seems like that might be handy here.

Bottom row: Mutant Brain, Disting, Pachinko, and the RCD modules. Then I swapped the Blue Lantern logic for Tesseract's VC Logics, which is a dual Boolean gate with CV over the gate function...this should be VERY useful for generative-based timing behavior changes. A Circuit Abbey TripFire then gives you a comparator to pick gates off of modulation signals, plus a pulse delay. Next is Stages, then the 4 hp switch, and at that point I went OFF on the modulation section. This got changed to a Maths, a Tiptop MISO for modulation manipulation, Happy Nerding's 3x VCA for your linear VCAs, a NANO Quart for two-stage envelopes and LFOs, then a Zadar + expander for the four-stage envelopes. The Clank Chaos is after this, more toward the end to make it convenient as a manual controller. Then the Erica DSP got swapped out for a Xaoc Timizoara for effects (much more powerful). Lastly, the very end has a 1 hp Konstant Labs PWRchekr...and given that this is in a Behringer cab, keeping tabs on your DC rails will probably be quite useful, indeed as the Behringer P/S in this is still something of an untested factor out in the field.

Changes: this now has EIGHT or thereabouts envelope gens, plus a Maths. Has a proper stereo mixer with VCAs for the inputs and CV panning. Module order has been clarified. 11-ish VCAs on board. Better logic capabilities. More potent FX processor. And there's a pile of incremental changes as well. The result is a definite power-up from the original, and even got rid of the Cre8 stuff as you'd noted in one post...which is fine, because tbh, I don't think much of their build quality. The only other major deletion was the Erica switch, but between functions on the Chaos and the retained 4-in switch, you shouldn't feel any real loss in control capabilities in generative work. The downside is that you apparently have many of the original modules already, and the overall cost did increase by $700 and change...but from my own experience with generative work, this should be a lot smoother to operate, has some sonic capability improvements, and has a cleaner signal flow, all of which you want for that sort of thing. It might not be as useful an exercise since quite a bit of this was determined in hardware already...but I think there's enough improvement here that you might want to consider some of the alterations.


I'd watch out for power with this (see other thread re 'electrical concern') - those go cases are a bit under-powered in my opinion and there may well be inrush issues with so many digital modules (at least 12 of the modules in this rack are digital at a quick glance)

I'd strongly suggest creating an abstraction of this case with 1 row per +ve rail power section - go to the bottom of the sheet view and you will see power consumption per row - or in this case per section of the +ve rail

this will enable you to see the distribution of power better - leave at least 30% free on each of the zones and each of the other power rails (especially the -ve)

if there are still inrush problems then either adding a rack wart psu or experimenting with inrush delays are going to be the answer - wmd make one


Yeah, it's a bit of a problem...but according to Perfect Circuit's specs, the 2 x 140 has 3A on the +12V rail and 1A on the -12 and +5V rails. But this only seems to be an issue on the -12V rail, since the build I specced was 887 mA on that. Everything else is within tolerances. Plus, the only ones on that -12V rail that do concern me (Braids clone, SWN, Zadar, Timizoara) don't appear to have significant -12V draws in of themselves, or they don't draw from that at all (BitBox). The big thing to watch, IMHO, would be dealing with B.'s "zone" configuration, as that master output gets split up sort of like how the Arturia Rackbrutes deal with the same issue.

EDIT: Saw this in another post of Jim's: https://www.perfectcircuit.com/wmd-soft-start.html A handful of these on your worst start-up draw culprits should smooth out that -12V rail at startup.


ModularGrid Rack

@Lugia @JimHowell1970 Thanks for all the opinions/input. This is where I am today with it. (Preview is inaccurate)

Still around 2/3rds of the +12v, shaved a few off the -12v rail. Depth is doable, 2 free power connectors on the board, and some inclusions/alternatives to your suggestions that I thought most prudent.

Thoughts? Either of you have any experience with the Droid module?


No problem

looks ok - I suspect it will change as you start buying modules anyway - buy what you are missing when you are patching - keep a copy of this to compare with the actual filled rack when you get there

no personal experience with the droid - I do know there is a long thread on muffs that Mathias (der man mit der maschine) posts in - support seems good


Looks solid to me...about the only changes I'd make at this point would be to suggest using something a tad more complex than the Erica CV processor. Frap's 321 fits the space, and offers CV/mod scrambling that's on par with the Tiptop MISO along with the functions that the Erica module has. And also, going with a Happy Nerding OUT instead of the 4ms Listen I/O would allow you to fly in another stereo pair over the top of the rest of the mix...very useful for an extra FX return for something global, like reverb.

Other than that, though...yeah, build it. It's ready.


@Lugia 321 is a good idea. I'm having difficulty finding any Happy Nerding OUTs, any other alternatives with 2 stereo ins you might recommend? I do like the idea of having 1/4" outputs rather than needing to convert with a 1/8" splitter or 2 1/8" to 1/4" cables.


@Lugia 321 is a good idea. I'm having difficulty finding any Happy Nerding OUTs...
-- merzky_shoom

Try Analogue Haven. Their site currently lists this as "in stock". https://www.analoguehaven.com/happynerding/out/