Looking for some more experienced opinions on my first draft of my future first modular system. A little bit about what I do and what I'm hoping to get out of this system:

-I am a professional producer/engineer/musician and this would mostly be used on clients' music but I still want it to be populated with modules I enjoy. Also, I would probably be the one doing most of the synthesis or helping guide clients through the system so it should reflect my tastes etc.

-I have a few nice standalone synths (Moog LPII, Deckard's Dream MKII, vintage Microwave I, Elektron Analog Rytm MKII) and a lot of virtual synths but this would be my first foray into the world of modular. I'm looking for a mix of stuff that is not possible/easy with my current synths and also just different flavors of the classic sounds already at my disposal.

-Looking for both percussive and melodic patch capabilities but mostly the latter.

-Mostly interested in retro-ey musical applications (early Brian Eno, Pink Floyd, Moroder, Wendy Carlos, early Depeche Mode, Stevie Wonder etc) but would also like to dip my toe in more modern stuff like generative sequences.

-This would really only be for recording projects so easy integration into Pro Tools sessions is a must and live performance-specific stuff is not important to me.

-I have a lot of guitar pedals, plugins, and some rack units for FX so I'm not too concerned about having much in the way of effect modules in the system.

All that being said I'm wondering what redundancies and glaring omissions you might see. At first I was thinking I would build a system around the Mother 32 but I wavered and came out with this instead. But maybe I should reconsider? I'd love to get the cost down a bit (as things stand this isn't unimaginable for me if I think I'll use it a lot, but it's a little steep, though of course I don't need to buy everything all at once). Also, I'm fairly handy with a soldering iron and could maybe build DIY versions of some of the simpler modules.

Feel like I've rambled a lot, sorry. Would love some input on my first draft of my first modular system! Thanks!!!

ModularGrid Rack


It problem have.

Go back to your build page, reload it a few times, then go into "view" and select "Screenshot". If the screenshot looks right, then edit the post by removing the page's URL, reposting, then re-editing it with the current page's URL (yes, even if it's the same). Otherwise, the Forum keeps the old screenshot version in place.


It problem have.

Go back to your build page, reload it a few times, then go into "view" and select "Screenshot". If the screenshot looks right, then edit the post by removing the page's URL, reposting, then re-editing it with the current page's URL (yes, even if it's the same). Otherwise, the Forum keeps the old screenshot version in place.
-- Lugia

Thanks for your help! I tried that a few times to no avail and ended up just making a copy.


@FragileIdiot,

Good luck with this. I'm a modular newbie (so not a lot of direct advice to give on modular) but a longtime musician. I'll be interested to see where you land with this inquiry and build, as I'm in a somewhat similar position.

I am curious, what are you hoping to get from modular that you can't from software & standalone hardware?

Hearing about your "retro" focus, I would think you could be very well served with some non-modular options such as:
-- Roland software, Roland emulations, Roland hardware (like Jupiter Xm). IMO this stuff sounds great and is a joy to use. If I worked in retro like you do, I would definitely have an "Ultimate" Roland Cloud subscription
-- Sequential's current lineup: Dave Smith is still making beautiful instruments that mix the classic vibe (and presets) with modern capabilities. Any of those analogue boards could give you a real boost in great retro sound
-- less completely retro but very awesome is Native Instruments Komplete + their Komplete controllers. The hands-on integration for these is now very strong, and the NI library is so vast. I love the browsing and sound manipulation that can be done here without a mouse now. IMO this is also a great value, compared to equivalent spend on hardware / modular.
-- the Arturia software suite is also great for retro. The sheer # of retro instruments and presets is huge. The "modular" VSTs in that suite could give you a lot of the retro modular sounds, if that's what you're after.

I assume you know about most if not all of those above already. BUT, hearing your situation and objectives, I thought I would mention these as possible alternatives for you; to me they really stand out as potentially useful for your situation.

Having recently entered the modular domain, I can say: i) it is expensive ii) its very deep in terms of variety of modules, module designs, etc. iii) there's a vast amount of learning to be able to buy or run a decent rig iv) it does beat software and standalone synths for some uses, but not all. I AM enjoying modular learning and sounds a lot, and it also helps me understand and me appreciate my VSTs and hardware drum machines even more!

Best wishes,

Nicholas


@FragileIdiot,

Good luck with this. I'm a modular newbie (so not a lot of direct advice to give on modular) but a longtime musician. I'll be interested to see where you land with this inquiry and build, as I'm in a somewhat similar position.

I am curious, what are you hoping to get from modular that you can't from software & standalone hardware?

Hearing about your "retro" focus, I would think you could be very well served with some non-modular options such as:
-- Roland software, Roland emulations, Roland hardware (like Jupiter Xm). IMO this stuff sounds great and is a joy to use. If I worked in retro like you do, I would definitely have an "Ultimate" Roland Cloud subscription
-- Sequential's current lineup: Dave Smith is still making beautiful instruments that mix the classic vibe (and presets) with modern capabilities. Any of those analogue boards could give you a real boost in great retro sound
-- less completely retro but very awesome is Native Instruments Komplete + their Komplete controllers. The hands-on integration for these is now very strong, and the NI library is so vast. I love the browsing and sound manipulation that can be done here without a mouse now. IMO this is also a great value, compared to equivalent spend on hardware / modular.
-- the Arturia software suite is also great for retro. The sheer # of retro instruments and presets is huge. The "modular" VSTs in that suite could give you a lot of the retro modular sounds, if that's what you're after.

I assume you know about most if not all of those above already. BUT, hearing your situation and objectives, I thought I would mention these as possible alternatives for you; to me they really stand out as potentially useful for your situation.

Having recently entered the modular domain, I can say: i) it is expensive ii) its very deep in terms of variety of modules, module designs, etc. iii) there's a vast amount of learning to be able to buy or run a decent rig iv) it does beat software and standalone synths for some uses, but not all. I AM enjoying modular learning and sounds a lot, and it also helps me understand and me appreciate my VSTs and hardware drum machines even more!

Best wishes,

Nicholas
-- nickgreenberg

Cheers, Nicholas, thanks for your reply!

I think, like any god fearing young man, I need modular synthesis to keep me off the streets.

Yeah, I have the Arturia bundle and I use it a lot. Also have a bunch of UVI stuff and other odds and ends in terms of plugins. I think they sound great and there’s little if anything that I strictly can not achieve with the tools that I own currently. But I would posit that a lot of what producers invest in is more experiential than functional (from a vintage German microphone in the live room to an expensive single origin coffee in the kitchen).

Also, I do find virtual modular stuff pretty hard to program on (ex Arturia’s 2600 and Moog system plugins, even the ZOIA which it’s taking me a long time to bond with for this very reason). I reckon that if I logged some time on a hardware modular system and that type of programming migrated more into the “second nature” part of my brain then I would be less annoyed/confused by virtual modular stuff.

I also just like having multiple flavors of things if something isn’t sitting quite right in a mix or is feeling obtuse in a session. My Deckard’s Dream can do most of things my Little Phatty can do but the one does not quite make the other obsolete. It’s a luxury to get to amass gear in this way, of course, but that’s part of what someone’s paying me for when they hire me.

So I guess the main thing that I’m after is the tactile creative experience of working on a system like this (not the least of which reasons being that a lot of my favorite records were made on early synthesis systems). And I like more modern stuff too but I don’t really work professionally on any EDM projects which seems like a distinct camp in the modular community. Also I dig the significantly increased probability that I will accidentally make something interesting I wouldn’t have come up with otherwise.

Admittedly it is more than a little indulgent to sink this much money into the idea that I just want to vibe out over some synth modules haha. But here we are. Ideally I would pair this down to something a little bit cheaper, but maybe this is a good future goal and I need to just build it up a little at a time.

For what it’s worth I got on my current modular kick after randomly hearing some demos of the Plaits and thinking it sounded extraordinary and I wasn’t certain I had anything in my arsenal that would do exactly what it does. I kind of always knew I’d go down this road some day but I was waiting for something to push me over the edge.


I hear you! I'm also stepping into modular because:
-- my VSTs sound great, but it is hard (or at least not very fun) to try to get really dynamic and evolving sounds out of them
-- I do want to do stuff with my hands, not always a mouse
-- the modular VSTs are a crazy pain in the a$$ to work with IMO. Yes their powerful and sound good, but the combination of needing to mouse everything, the latency / lag, being only able to touch one control at a time, etc. etc. etc. Some time cursing at my "preferred" VST modular is what convinced me to get into analog modular! Maybe I'm just not patient enough with these.
-- I do think analog modular can do some compelling things VSTs and non-modular hardware can't

As such, I'm trying to focus my modular builds / experience on what can't be achieved well in other formats, or isn't fun in other formats. IMO that includes:
-- complex oscillators esp. those with audio rate modulation. Instruo Cs-L, Make Noise DPO, Steady State Fate ZPO, Rossum Trident, Future Sound Systems OSC2... those and a few others I think are super interesting, and to my knowledge, have no great VST alternative.
-- complex filters and waveshapers: Make Noiose QPAS, SSF Stereo Dipole, Rossum Linnaus, Intellijel Bifold, etc. IMO unique analog filters and waveshapers, that can be modulated deeply (and/or at audio rate), this is super interesting and another domain of sound design not well handled in formats outside of analog modular
-- complex control signals and "generative" audio. A search for "generative" on this forum yields a lot of interesting posts. To my knowledge, the generative work you can do in analog modular is beyond what's presently possible (or easy / fun) to do in other formats.
-- experimentation: I got a super disgusting (great) sound out of a resonant filter driven to distortion "struck" by a short envelope. Sonic and technical experimentation, I really dig, and modular is a great playground to do that
-- happy accidents: a modular system has all kinds of surprises and non-linearities in it. My Sylenth1 (which I love) will always sound the same with the same patch; my modular system, I could hardly get to sound exactly the same twice to save my life.

My basic idea is to try to build a rack that fits my tastes and excels at what modular is good at (hopefully avoiding creating an expensive and cumbersome unit that can be outperformed by general VSTs)

So that's a little of what brings me to modular, and a few (module) ideas that may be interesting to you. Relatedly, I can suggest you check out this thread by Farkas: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/forum/posts/index/9756

Last, I should point you to VCVrack; if you don't already know it, this is the "Eurorack simulator" software, which carries emulations of most modules. It looks like they will have a VST version coming out, but presently it is a standalone. My understanding is this is widely used to trial modules, rigs, and patches.

Good luck!


Well, I had a bash at this...probably good, too, as there were some discontinued and/or wrong versions of modules in the original build. Plus, there was a LOT missing...attenuverters, modulation utilities, and so on. Plus, in this sort of case, you've GOT to minimize space while maximizing function. Now, it might SEEM like a bunch of your modules are missing here, but what I've done is to replace everything that could be "shrunk" with their smaller counterparts in a number of cases. Plus, the AS modules were deep...as in, REAL deep, to the point that I had some concerns about the depth on them. In others, I just reworked things altogether, such as the drum modules (gone...and you'll see why in a bit). Anyway, the result I got was:
ModularGrid Rack
OK...so, what's going on here? Let's have a look...

Top row: Single Plaits: gone. Replacement: TWO Plaits clones. Two VCOs is always better...you can detune them for a huge, fat sound, or you can split 'em out as individual voice sources, or you can use one to FM the other, and so on. Added a wavefolder for even crazier timbral tampering under CV control. Quad VCA: also gone. Replacement: Codex Modulex's clone of the Mutable Veils, basically the same thing minus 4 hp. Then the VCFs...I tossed the earlier ones, and went with one very different one and one not so different one. The "very" is G-Storm's clone of the famous and wonderful Roland JP-6 filter, while the "not so" is the version of Happy Nerding's SVF which has the other modulation/control inputs, as opposed to the one that was there. Same core, better tricks. Also, the G-Storm filter has its own 2-in mixer, so if you want to bypass the VCAs altogether, you can send both Plaits clones directly. Elements got shrunk by a whole bunch, again thanks to Codex Modulex. And THIS allowed the next two modules...one is a stereo mixer, as you can see...and the OTHER is Squarp's Rample, a four-channel sampler/looper. Now, remember that thing about the drums? This not only fixes that (if you use it for drum samples), but gives you the ability to submix the entire sampling module and send it to...well, we'll get to that...

Middle row: Konstant Labs PWRchekr, because it's good to be able to keep an eye on your DC rail performance. Then Ladik's little gated slew limiter, for portamento and such. After that, I added one of Doepfer's useful utility modules, with this one having noise and random sources, and a sample and hold that can be switched to track-and-hold. Kept one Disting, and it's next...then the Tides got shrunk. Right after that, you'll find a 2hp attenuverter...very useful for inverting Tides outputs if desired. Maths is next (the right version), then a Frap 321 lets you mix, mangle, alter, and screw with in general your modulation sources. A 3xVCA is next so that you'll have some DC-coupled linear VCAs for modulation level control. Then FOUR envelope gens are hiding in the Zadar (which has its Nin expander here as well). And the last thing is more for the mixer below...or you can use it with the stereo mix from the Rample...a Make Noise Mimeophon stereo delay with loads of timbral options.

Bottom row: the original MIDI interface was just too clunky, so I chucked it in favor of an Expert Sleepers FH-2. This is not merely a MIDI-in interface, but also a class-compliant keyboard (via USB) interface, which will let you connect any keyboard that outputs MIDI over USB directly to the synth. MUCH more potent! Eloquencer's next...then next to it is another FX module, in this case a Purrtronics spring reverb emulator, which is a mono-in, stereo-out device, and you need that sort of I/O for the mixer. And that mixer is a Toppobrillo Stereomix2...which gives you VCAs on each input, plus CV over panning and AUX sends. You also have silent mutes, a CUE bus...and importantly, a mono AUX send and stereo AUX return. Then that last module is a Happy Nerding OUT...offering your main headphone preamp (the Stereomix2 has one as well, but you might find that one more useful for the CUE function) and a little surprise: TWO stereo inputs, one of which has its own input level (pre-fader...yep, you also have a ganged stereo level control) so that you can fly a stereo signal over the rest of the mix. Remember that thing about the Rample's submixer? That's one good use for the second stereo input. Another might be to split your AUX send, send one to the reverb, and the other to the Mimeophon, then you can mix the Mimeophon back in via the extra stereo in.

So...what happened? Basically, I made things smaller while pushing to INCREASE the functionality. Also, you'll notice that everything's been reordered so that you have cohesive function "groups", which function together as opposed to just a collection of modules. I added some very necessary utilities, also...and so on, until this was the result. And the fun part is that it's only a couple of hundred bucks (if that) more than the original once I put the Eloquencer back into it. This should be far more functional than the original, plus it offers some interesting NEW functions that you might not have thought of, like the JP-6 filter clone or the 4-channel sampler, some effects, full CV control over your main mixer, etc etc etc. Very beefed up.


Hiya, sorry to have been rude. I got busy with a bunch of stuff and was not checking in on this. I really appreciate you taking the time to make such a thorough proposal for a redux. I definitely see what you mean about me having under-utilized the space. I was planning on leaning quite heavily into the Disting modules for some of the things you've suggested (like wave folding and sampling, for example, since I generally don't use samplers that much and I already own a few of them). Do you find the Disting to be kind of anti-climactic when you start to use it for loads of different things?

Also, having midi capability (as opposed to usb-midi) is important for me to incorporate it into my current studio setup, so maybe I need to check out a third midi to cv module that is smaller than the Polyend but different from the one you've suggested.

I also wanted to ask about your experience with the shrunk-down Mutable clones. I haven't had time to look too closely at them but it seems like they might be more of a hassle to program than the name-brand ones (shrinking the face means hiding features?). Curious to know what your experiences have been.

Thanks!


I was planning on leaning quite heavily into the Disting modules for some of the things you've suggested (like wave folding and sampling, for example, since I generally don't use samplers that much and I already own a few of them). Do you find the Disting to be kind of anti-climactic when you start to use it for loads of different things?

Well, it's a bit of a problematic module. On the one hand, it DOES jam a lot of functions into a 4 hp space. But at the same time, it jams a lot of functions into a 4 hp space.

I'll explain...the Disting is intended as something of a "Swiss Army Knife", in that it can handle many different functions under a very basic control. And that control is where the problems start to creep in. Modules such as the Disting involve quite a bit of "menu diving"...and that with a rather minimal menu, to boot! It's a great fit if you need several different modules but simply DO NOT have the space for them. But when you start to rely on the Disting for specific functions, then things get a bit nebulous as to whether it's the right solution or not.

For example, let's say you're stuck on using the Disting's vocoder function. All well and good there; you're NOT going to find a vocoder that fits into 4 hp besides the Disting. But if the function in question is, say, the dual waveshaper...not so much, because there are more directly-playable waveshapers in that general size and price range that render the Disting version inferior. Take the Joranalogue Fold 6...also 4 hp, same sort of CV I/O arrangement overall...but with the Fold 6, you get a dedicated control for the wavefolding, waveshape, and waveform symmetry each. The Disting gives you only ONE control, and you have to menu around to get it onto the next function. If the idea behind modular synthesis is to make things MORE open-ended and MORE intuitive, the Disting is a bit of a fail on those fronts, even though it can be VERY useful for functions that you'll never cram into its 4 hp space and/or whose modules cost way more than the Disting. A tradeoff, basically.

Also, having midi capability (as opposed to usb-midi) is important for me to incorporate it into my current studio setup, so maybe I need to check out a third midi to cv module that is smaller than the Polyend but different from the one you've suggested.

Sure...you might have a look at Hexinverter's Mutant Brain, then. SYSEX-addressable, user configurable with 4 CV outs and 12 trigger/gate/clock outs, fits in 8 hp. This has a lot of flexibility, being user-definable in a similar manner to the FH-2, but you still get a 5-pin MIDI in.

I also wanted to ask about your experience with the shrunk-down Mutable clones. I haven't had time to look too closely at them but it seems like they might be more of a hassle to program than the name-brand ones (shrinking the face means hiding features?). Curious to know what your experiences have been.

It's worth remembering that these clones are different build variants on the open-source originals. As such, they have the original functions...but some "clones" take this to a higher level, such as the "Monsoon" variants on the original "Clouds" module. There's very much a school of thought that says you should get the original versions...but at the same time, if a build is really space-limited, the clones make sense inasmuch as you can get the same functionality into a tighter space, which then allows MORE functionality to get into the build. Even Mutable themselves have picked up on this, given the reconfiguration of their popular Veils module down from 12 to 10 hp, while adding slider controls for level and a DC offset for unipolar response (very useful with pulse waves to use them as clock pulses, or to keep a modulation signal out of negative voltages).


Many people say that the Mutable clones have compromised ergonomics. I can't speak about the others, but I have a Pique (aka uPeaks) and it is very usable at 4hp -- it's actually half the size of the original Peaks! Another one of those very useful modules that does many things, sits next to my Disting.

My experience of the Disting is that it tends to get used mostly for one thing, and then you buy a new module that does that thing and the Disting becomes something else. When I first got it I mostly used it as a quantiser; then a combination of new firmware for Pam and getting a new sequencer meant I didn't need a quantiser so much. Now the Disting mostly plays samples and I'm looking for a sample playback module...

p.s Veils 2020 is great! Hard to imagine any improvements to this module.


@the-erc the only Veils 2020 improvement I can imagine is being able to buy it 🤣🤣🤣


Eeeeeech.... didn't realise it was so scarce! Well there is always :
https://github.com/pichenettes/eurorack/tree/master/veils/hardware_design