Hey all, I have a mother 32 and subharmonicon and want to expand with a fully modular system. I currently record into a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 audio interface and record into Logic Pro X. I really like the idea of generative ambient with random triggers, audio manipulation, etc. so my first system will eventually include 4 main modules: Plaits, Arbhar, Marbles, and Beads. I also occasionally do video game covers, so it would be cool to send MIDI from Logic Pro into Plaits like I do with my Moog setup. Here's the case I've come up with so far:

ModularGrid Rack

It's 104HP single row, so I know I'll need to leave room for utilities, VCAs (I threw Veils in there for now), MIDI I/O, etc. I have some questions though:

  1. Everyone says get the biggest case you can afford. Although I like the idea of a low profile 1 row case, it looks like I'm quickly going to fill it up once I add some utility modules to it, and thus probably won't have room to expand. Should I just go bigger, or could I make the 104HP single row work? I did see a 6U, 88HP x2 row case I liked on Etsy, although it only has power and no extra utility: (https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/513149542/)

  2. If I stayed with a smaller case, could a 4U 104HP Intellijel Palette be a good choice? It seems to have a lot of utility built into it (sums, mults, MIDI, 1/4" outputs), and also has the 1U row for more. This seems like it would leave me enough open space for expansion in the 3U row?

  3. I can't afford to buy everything at once, so I'm wondering what modules would be good to get me started? I was thinking maybe Plaits, Marbles, and Beads (Arbhar will likely come later as it is so damn expensive). Would I need any utility to go along with these choices? I've been told that for this setup I might want to add attenuators, stereo mixers or filters? Or maybe an output module if my case doesn't have outputs?

That's about it I guess.... I have a really good idea of what I want to do sound-wise, just sort of stuck on how to actually "start" with something usable. Any advice or feedback would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!


some thoughts:

don't skimp on case or power, especially if you find modules to be expensive - the case protects them and the power gives them life!

1 it's extremely well priced for a 6u/8xhp case to be honest - personally I prefer the find the modules you want and the modules that you need to support them and then find the case to fit them in approach rather than buy a random tiny case and try to cram functionality in by using micro versions of modules etc

the psu looks to be a standard meanwell power supply - great if you are only using low powered modules - but not so good if you want to use something high powered - the fact that the builder states the number of power headers, but no the available power may or may not be a cause for concern - I would at least ask before buying

2 I was looking at cases on musicstore the other day - the intellijel palletes are very expensive - iirc the 62hp is almost the same price as a tiptop mantis... the 104 is 90€ more - and it reduces your choice of other modules - want midi - get the intellijel midi interface because it works with the case, want a mixer - get an intellijel one etc etc etc - now there's nothing wrong with these modules - but it does reduce your choice - and as modular is to some extent about having unlimited freedom of choice - it seems counter-intuitive to limit yourself in this way

if you substitute 1 hp 3 u for 3hp of 1 u (which is probably about right in terms of functionality) you can roughly work out how a 1u row compares to a 3u row in terms of what you can put in it - I mostly build my own cases (this is actually a decent option if you are on a budget and can use a saw, a drill and a screwdriver) and have never contemplated a 1u row - the hardware costs the same as a 3u row - but only get 1/3rd at best the functionality in it - and there are almost no modules in 1u that are not available somehow in 3u

personally I prefer the mantis over either of these cases - but that may just be me, partly because the mantis power supply is clean enough for video (less ripple up to much higher frequencies) whereas by all reports the intellijel supplies are not so quiet - you would have to wait a bit though as they are out of stock everywhere - deliveries appear to be next month, but... - and again it does not have any built in utility - which I personally see as a good thing!

you have to weigh up the price of the included utilities - check you don't have to add 1u modules to use them (and if you do midi and outputs - I'm looking at you, here - decide if you actually need them!!) midi yes if you want to use midi, but outs really depends on where you are as to do you need to have this module - in europe probably not, in US almost definitely, other countries may vary

3 not many people can afford to go out and fill a case with modules on day 1 - and it's not often recommended either - whilst most modules are relatively simple to understand, lots of them all at once is not - and those that do need a bit more time generally fail to get it when purchased in huge batches - so starting with a few modules and learning them in depth before expanding is a great idea

some stackcables might be a good idea - or a few headphone splitter type passive multiples

the often recommended starting set of:

a sound source, a sound modifier, a modulation, a way to play and a way to listen are mostly covered with that combination of modules

modulation is a bit on the light side - but will be fine to start - both the other modules have atttenuators on most if not all their modulation inputs and plaits has an on board lfo

how to play = outs of beads into audio interface via 1/4"->1/8" cables

if it clips buy some cheap passive attenuators - 2hp Trim for example - and try to reduce the level that way - if that still clips then you may need an output module - attenuators are always useful to have anyway

veils is a good choice of vca - quad cascading etc etc

if it was me I would next want a better modulation source (I like Maths as a first modulation source*) and some basic utilities next (links, kinks, shades or similar functionality in different modules - wmd/ssf toolbox for example goes a long way to covering a lot of basic utilities) and then possibly a stereo mixer - before adding any more sound sources or modifiers

  • see the illustrated manual for more information - 32 self-patching ideas - a brilliant primer for modular synthesis in general

  1. If I stayed with a smaller case, could a 4U 104HP Intellijel Palette be a good choice? It seems to have a lot of utility built into it (sums, mults, MIDI, 1/4" outputs), and also has the 1U row for more. This seems like it would leave me enough open space for expansion in the 3U row?

For MIDI and OUTPUT these are expansion jacks, you still need to buy the 1U module.


1 x 104? Nah...look, these little one-row skiffs might look sharp, but unless you're at a point where you need to build mission-specific skiffs, don't do this. You're only going to set yourself up for either a halfassed build that can't do much, or one that can but where the controls have to be tweaked with tweezers because the ergonomics are so tight. Also...

Intellijel 4U x 104 Palette = $399
Tiptop Mantis (6U x 104) = $335

Personally, I don't see the point in spending MORE to get LESS. Start right with a more capable cab.


@JimHowell1970

    "don't skimp on case or power, especially if you find modules to be expensive - the case protects them and the power gives them life!"

This makes a lot of sense, especially when full cases can exceed several thousands of dollars. Thank you for your input.

    "the psu looks to be a standard meanwell power supply - great if you are only using low powered modules - but not so good if you want to use something high powered - the fact that the builder states the number of power headers, but no the available power may or may not be a cause for concern - I would at least ask before buying"

I admit this is where my lack of knowledge comes into play. I had no idea this was something to keep an eye out for - I just assumed "powered case" would be enough to power any combination of modules that fit into the case. Thank you for the advice.

    "personally I prefer the mantis over either of these cases - but that may just be me, partly because the mantis power supply is clean enough for video (less ripple up to much higher frequencies) whereas by all reports the intellijel supplies are not so quiet"

I would probably already own a Mantis case if I wasn't also so picky about aesthetics (even though it's a little bit larger than I'd like)! I like making videos with my synth gear and having a good looking case that appeals to me is part of the whole package. You mention the possibility of video "noise" and some power supplies not being clean enough. Is there a proximity effect to this? i.e. Would I need to be careful about how close my camera gets to my gear if my case happens to have an "unclean" power supply?

I've done a lot more searching around the net and have come across another small but seemingly reputable eurorack case builder from France that mentions a LOT more detail about the cases they make: Modulaire Maritime.
https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/663523749/modulaire-maritime-accra-6u-eurorack

Can you speak to the power supply used in this build? The size is exactly what I'm looking for (I have decided on 6U, 84-88 hp would be more than enough for a long term build) and I really like the aesthetics of it.

    "not many people can afford to go out and fill a case with modules on day 1 - and it's not often recommended either - whilst most modules are relatively simple to understand, lots of them all at once is not - and those that do need a bit more time generally fail to get it when purchased in huge batches - so starting with a few modules and learning them in depth before expanding is a great idea"

Again, another great point made and something I instinctively abide by. I've been working with two Moog semi-modulars for just over a year now and still have more to explore with them. Although it's time to augment that setup with this new modular journey :)

Thank you for all of your recommendations around how to output, modulation, attenuation, etc. Definitely gives me a solid starting point and feeling a little more comfortable with my starting module choices and some ideas on how to support them with more utility.

@defragmenteur
Thank you for the info about the MIDI modules.

@Lugia
Thanks, I appreciate the advice. I've decided to go with a larger case (6U, and 84-88hp) as it will allow more room for expansion and won't be too overwhelming in my studio.


Cool...in fact, have a look here: https://www.facebook.com/casefromlake This maker turned up on here a month-ish ago, and what I see from them is impressive: built-in IEC AC outlets, great and PORTABLE designs, solid builds. That 3 x 104 case for EUR 455 (with power, busboards, all that fun stuff) is a KILLER deal, and offers tons of room for future expansion at a price that kicks the crap out of most other case makers. Check 'em out!


@JimHowell1970
"the psu looks to be a standard meanwell power supply - great if you are only using low powered modules - but not so good if you want to use something high powered - the fact that the builder states the number of power headers, but no the available power may or may not be a cause for concern - I would at least ask before buying"

I admit this is where my lack of knowledge comes into play. I had no idea this was something to keep an eye out for - I just assumed "powered case" would be enough to power any combination of modules that fit into the case. Thank you for the advice.

that's why most cases and power supplies state their available power on each of 3 rails +/-12v and +5v and why at the bottom of your rack on modulargrid there is a sum of the power draw for each of these in the rack and a warning if there are modules that don't have power draw listed (I always allow 10mA/hp on both the +ve and -ve 12v rails for these)

make sure that the power draw of your modules is significantly less than that available from your power supply - allow at least 20-30% to allow for inrush and inaccurate power listings

    "personally I prefer the mantis over either of these cases - but that may just be me, partly because the mantis power supply is clean enough for video (less ripple up to much higher frequencies) whereas by all reports the intellijel supplies are not so quiet"

I would probably already own a Mantis case if I wasn't also so picky about aesthetics (even though it's a little bit larger than I'd like)! I like making videos with my synth gear and having a good looking case that appeals to me is part of the whole package. You mention the possibility of video "noise" and some power supplies not being clean enough. Is there a proximity effect to this? i.e. Would I need to be careful about how close my camera gets to my gear if my case happens to have an "unclean" power supply?

I barely notice my cases when they are full and patched and I quite like the mantis aesthetics anyway - but I understand aversion to aesthetics - I really dislike the rackbrutes for the same reason (and the rack wart)

by I can see video noise I mean from a modular video synthesizer - my modular is both audio and video - not proximity effect from rf interference or whatever on a camera that is close to the modular - analog video is at a much higher frequency than audio and I can see artifacts on the screen when I use my frequency central power supplies to power modules that are in the actual video path (as opposed to modulation sources) but there is no noise at audio frequencies - my befaco and tiptop power supplies are great for both audio and video though

you can see here - https://www.instagram.com/jimhowell1970/

I've done a lot more searching around the net and have come across another small but seemingly reputable eurorack case builder from France that mentions a LOT more detail about the cases they make: Modulaire Maritime.
https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/663523749/modulaire-maritime-accra-6u-eurorack

Can you speak to the power supply used in this build? The size is exactly what I'm looking for (I have decided on 6U, 84-88 hp would be more than enough for a long term build) and I really like the aesthetics of it.

looks ok - power looks ok - but I have no experience of the manufacturer and they don't advertise the manufacturer of the power supply

funnily when I clicked on your link CaseFromLake (as linked by Lugia) were in the banner ads

    "not many people can afford to go out and fill a case with modules on day 1 - and it's not often recommended either - whilst most modules are relatively simple to understand, lots of them all at once is not - and those that do need a bit more time generally fail to get it when purchased in huge batches - so starting with a few modules and learning them in depth before expanding is a great idea"

Again, another great point made and something I instinctively abide by. I've been working with two Moog semi-modulars for just over a year now and still have more to explore with them. Although it's time to augment that setup with this new modular journey :)

Thank you for all of your recommendations around how to output, modulation, attenuation, etc. Definitely gives me a solid starting point and feeling a little more comfortable with my starting module choices and some ideas on how to support them with more utility.

glad to hear it!


some thoughts:

don't skimp on case or power, especially if you find modules to be expensive - the case protects them and the power gives them life!

if it was me I would next want a better modulation source (I like Maths as a first modulation source*) and some basic utilities next (links, kinks, shades or similar functionality in different modules - wmd/ssf toolbox for example goes a long way to covering a lot of basic utilities) and then possibly a stereo mixer - before adding any more sound sources or modifiers

-- JimHowell1970

Hi Jim,
I've looked over your first response as I've made some changes over the past week. Seeing similar builds has led me to make some adjustments. I would love to hear your thoughts on the changes:

ModularGrid Rack

Case: Considering power, size, reliability, etc., and cost, I'm probably going to go with a 6U 84HP Doepfer low cost case. I'll message the Case From Lake owner as well. As much as I want a custom pretty case with polished walnut wood, etc., the LC6 seems to be a steady workhorse and solid choice for a first case. Plus, the extra money in my pocket can go towards some utility modules.

Modulation: I've added Maths and Pam's for some modulation and extra clock sources.

Utility: Following your advice on utility, I've added MI's links, kinks, and shades. I've also seen these utility modules echoed in other posts here and on r/modular for builds that are similar to mine.

Stereo Mixer: Since I'll eventually have Beads and Arbhar, two stereo modules, any recommendation on a stereo mixer? Will I need something that has multiple stereo ins / 2 outs? It's hard to make sense of what would work with my build, or what's overkill for my sound sources. There's so many choices. Beyond that, it looks like I'll still have a little room to spare for additions down the road. Thanks in advance!


case : LC6 is a decent choice - @Lugia will be along soon to tell you the LC9 is better valuee for money (which it is) and so are Mantises... but not by that much - personally I think the LC9 is a little bit underpowered...

Modulation: good start

Utilities: good start

Stereo Mixer: it really depends on you - personally I would want at least 2 stereo channels and 2 mono channels that can be panned - for now I wouldn't worry about it

Purchase Order: sounds like Beads and Arbhar are a way off - I would probably want some form of effect at the start either a filter or a multi-fx: fx aid xl seems to be the best of that bunch at the moment