Hi folks,

As I'm getting into modular, I'm struck by an overall question: are there bad modules / brands / clones to avoid?

I've scanned the "most used" and "best reviewed" modules on MG. Also done some Google searches for best / favorite modules; those generally align with the MG rankings. I see a handful of brands bubble to the top of the "best reviewed, most used" modules lists. But as I scan Modular Grid and read posts / racks posted by much more experienced modular synthesists, I see a TON of various modules and brands being used, and quite a lot of clones, which provide some advantage on $, HP or availability.

I'm hoping to avoid "bad" modules -- "bad" might mean: i) unwanted noise ii) lacking important performance precision (e.g. poor pitch tracking, etc.) iii) poor durability / build quality / prone to failure iv) and maybe some other demerits.

So, what would you say to me and other newbies:
-- are there obvious brands to stay away from?
-- are most clones as good as originals?
-- or does a buyer really need to check every module for user ratings and press reviews?

Of course there is "bad" in terms of less-than optimal in $, performance, HP, or for a given use for specific purposes, but I expect I'll need to continue to research / evaluate modules for "strong fit."

I'll appreciate your ideas on this!

Thanks all,

Nicholas


Hi Nicholas. In my experience, it really does come down to personal wants and needs. If something is advertised as "lo-fi," it's probably going to sound and react "lo-fi", and it's up to you to decide whether that is right for your rack. Do as much research as possible to avoid spending money on things that aren't right for YOU.
You can usually get a good idea about the quality and reliability of very specific modules over on the MuffWiggler forum. I don't really think there are inherently good or bad manufacturers or modules. For instance, I like some of the Endorphin.es stuff, but many users have had trouble with noise on some of their 6hp modules. I have had no such trouble with my Milky Way 6hp fx. The Furthrrr Generator by the same manufacturer is outstanding and fairly well regarded. It may be a matter of consistency and firmware on their digital modules.
I do tend to shy away from DIY modules that other individuals have built, probably unjustly. The clones I have gotten from After Later have been great, but I'm not sure I trust DIY from a random individual. That's my personal preference. I know there is a semi-well-known Mutable clone builder (who shall remain nameless) that many have had trouble with. Not so much module quality, but actually receiving their modules from this particular builder. I ordered a Triple Sloths clone from this builder and received the runaround and claims of "lost in the mail" until I opened a dispute. Many others have had the same experience with this builder. I would lean towards supporting the original designer and manufacturer instead of buying too many clones. Of course, space is always an issue so the clone thing is a personal choice.
Overall, the only "bad" modules I've purchased have been the ones that I didn't research fully. They did exactly what they were supposed to do, but that specific sound/interface/function was completely wrong for my setup and workflow.


I’m with Farkas, it’s mostly a matter of finding the right tools for the job. There are differences in quality, but that’s also a matter of personal preference. Take the panel: some builders use sturdy aluminium, others FR4 / plastic. The same counts for the chips, the pots, etc. But most top quality brands are twice as expensive as their alternatives, and pretty HP heavy. I’m afraid you’ll have to do your research for every module. And you’ll probably still have some surprises: not all modules play as well with modules from other brands. Eurorack is a bit of a wild west situation..
And about noise: don’t underestimate the importance of a good power supply! A power conditioner in the studio can also help.


same here

I don't much see the argument for buying clones in order to save money - you're not going to save that much from what I can see - especially in terms of the total cost of the modular (1 or 2%) - maybe a night in the pub or something similar - maybe it means that you have to wait an extra month to get the module - is that such a big deal - 1/2 the time you have to wait because there are none available anyway

I'm not american, but I do see it as similar to going into a restaurant in the US and when paying the bill shaking the waiters hand and thanking them very much for their service - but not leaving a tip - and not accidentally like a european who expects that person to be paid properly and not need the tip - but deliberately and knowingly

BUT that's just my opinion and I bear no ill will to anyone making clones - and I believe that at least some of them have offered money and had it turned down

space is also similar to a large extent - not enough space in the case - get another - you were saving your pennies (piggy bank for next case) when buying modules for the last case weren't you?

ergonomics is another factor - the number one rule of cloning seems too be make it smaller - well imo they are small enough already - the only clone that appears to have done this in any way that maintains the ergonomics is pachinko - and not having seen one in the flesh or played with one - I don't know but to me Marbles seems about the right size for Marbles, etc etc

there are ways to find reliable builders - muffwiggler's Music Tech DIY subforum Stickies

it's not that difficult to learn to solder - especially as there are online workshops - such as the Music Thing Modular Control build that Thonk hosted at the weekend - not perfect if you have to buy tools up front too - but actual events may start up again at some point in the future - I learnt at Dutch Modular Festival 2018 (i think) I bought a 50€ kit and built it there had a quick lesson and checked etc - I've now built about 60 modules - DIY does not save money - it means more modules for the same money, eventually

re: FR4 panels - they're not that bad really not got any big ones but small ones seem fine - and I wouldn't see that as a show stopper - it's actually a decent way of shaving a few quid off the costs - aluminium panels are not cheap!

in terms of quality of components - 99% of the time it will be the exact component as described in the bom or the nearest available (mostly identical) part from a major supplier most of the time - because that's what's in the BOM freely available and almost always selected as the cheapest part that will do the job properly - there are some end of lifed components - but most of these have similarly priced alternatives - the big area where worse quality components are substituted (and this is debatable to some extent) is the move from pots to trimmers - generally pots are bolted to the panel and soldered to the pcb - which massively helps in terms of structural integrity - trimmers can only be soldered and not bolted - but saying that I have a fair few reasonably high end modules that have pots and no bolts - but then there are almost always screws holding the panel to the pcb in order to compensate - but trimmers also often reflects a reduction in size which then makes the modules horrible to use... but it massively reduces the cost - from memory a trimmer is roughly a third of the price of a pot and knob

The only module that I have where I have 'issues' is Maths - neither channel 1 nor channel 4 function outs like being patched to non-buffered inputs (apparently all make noise modules have buffered inputs) - but not a biggie! like the issues with the 6hp endorphin.es modules - it may be power related...


...You can usually get a good idea about the quality and reliability of very specific modules over on the MuffWiggler forum. I don't really think there are inherently good or bad manufacturers or modules.
...
I do tend to shy away from DIY modules that other individuals have built, probably unjustly. The clones I have gotten from After Later have been great, but I'm not sure I trust DIY from a random individual.
-- farkas

Yes to all of this.

I bought a few DIY modules that were faulty, in a non-obvious way. In most such cases I didn't research enough to have a clear idea of what to expect. There are a few respected builders here who deliver premium build quality. such as RTFM. No problem ever. On the other hand I bought a module from Russia that really looks home-made, rough and raw alu front plate with handwriting on it. And it, too, performs flawlessly since the day I got it.
Most problems I had came from a lack of research or bad judgement on my side.
Make sure to have buyer's protection if you are not sure if you trust a seller, DIY or not.


Clones make sense to me...but only from a space standpoint. For example, if you're putting together a build in a 2 x 84 hp cab, it's probably not the best idea to go with a full-sized version...space is at a premium, and you need to maximize functionality over space requirements. But if the build in question is huge, then you can either choose the bigger (and usually original) versions, or stick with the formula above and have more space for...well, more.

Now, as far as QC's concerned...checking the MG Marketplace as well as the "good/bad sellers" threads on the forum is very useful. If you see a builder that appears to be a "problem child", then don't buy their stuff. Keeping an eye on whatever Muff Wiggler's calling itself at present is also very useful, given the concentration of modular users there as well. Between here and there, you should be able to find out about issues, should they exist.

Also, some stuff just LOOKS like refried ass in general. This sometimes indicates that what's behind the panel is substandard...but certainly not always. Noise Reap's stuff, f'rinstance, does have a rough look to it and one might be tempted to give it a pass...but that would be a mistake, since Noise Reap's cooked up some amazingly useful (and sometimes amazingly twisted) circuitry that most anyone can get an excellent result out of. So as far as they're concerned...they're doing something right, so take what they give, ugly panels and all. I wouldn't want them to change ANYTHING. And there's plenty more examples of this out there...

Again, this all gets back to the old "caveat emptor" issue...if you're going to be a customer, be an INFORMED one. Do the research, see what others say and have experienced, THEN proceed.


hey, THANKS everyone, this is just the kind of insight and guidance I was hoping to find!


Clones make sense to me...but only from a space standpoint. For example, if you're putting together a build in a 2 x 84 hp cab, it's probably not the best idea to go with a full-sized version...space is at a premium, and you need to maximize functionality over space requirements. But if the build in question is huge, then you can either choose the bigger (and usually original) versions, or stick with the formula above and have more space for...well, more.

to some extent yes - but let's face it it's better to start with the modules and then find a case based on the modules than the other way round


From my personal experience the only modular brand that has sucked in terms of poor support has been MALEKKO!
Everytime I called/emailed them there was ZERO and I do mean ZERO response. BOO! Not sure why they stink so bad?
Other modular companies that I contacted like Intellijel, Make Noise, WMD, and Noise Engineering always helped me patiently with my questions and support issues. Heck, I even had Scott Jaeger of IME/Harvestman and Rick Burnett of Erogeneous Tones reply to my emails directly. At least my Malekko modules still work. I love my dual Borg filter.


I'm just getting into modular for the first time and have been fishing around in regards to this topic myself. It's kind of pleasant how little negativity there is towards the variety of modular brands out there, probably because many of them are relatively small operations who genuinely love what they're doing/making. I've made a personal decision to avoid Behringer modules, because I've had pretty mediocre experiences with their products, their reputation where craftsmanship is concerned isn't the highest, and their company seems to be ethically pretty sketchy. Their units are dirt cheap for what you get, but I'd rather get that money into the hands of a smaller more dedicated outfit like Instruo or 4MS or Folktek or whatever, where they're not making a billion of the units and seem to really care about what they make.


I'm the same about the b-company

There are no eurorack companies that come anywhere near close in size to them

Doepfer is (iirc) 4 people
Mutable is one

etc etc


+1 on Behri, they’re pretty much the only corporate devil in euroland. Buying from any other brand is a way to support the community :)


+1 on Behri, they’re pretty much the only corporate devil in euroland. Buying from any other brand is a way to support the community :)
-- LYFoulidis

Except for when you can't. I can think of several Uli things that aren't exactly duplicated elsewhere, most notably the 2600 reissue and the CAT. While these are replications of existing devices, in those cases...

2600: Korg screwed up. Massively. The only 1:1 between their 2600s and Uli's is that ONLY the "limited edition" 2600 FS has the 3620 module onboard. Korg's 2600M doesn't have this, ergo I think it's something along the lines of "crippleware" at three times B.'s price.

CAT: You'll probably never even SEE one of these out in the world. The original Octave-Plateau one, that is. ARP sued this and the similar Kitten off the market back in the 1970s, claiming that they were copies of the Odyssey and Axxe respectively. They aren't, though...so in this case, Uli's the only practical game in town.

No, I don't think much of Uli and his behavior. Fact is, I think their brand would be better off if Uli were shunted off to some position where he's just a figurehead and CERTAINLY NOT a public spokesperson for his brand. This doesn't necessarily mean that ALL of Behringer's stuff is crap; I think the brand would be thought of a lot better if he'd simply STFU and let people such as Rob Keeble et al drive the car.