ModularGrid Rack

So what I am after, is ambient drones, textures and evolving melodic sequences.
What would you guys remove/add to this? as I am new too eurorack, any feedback is welcome.
I allready have Arturia keystep pro, Røde NT1 mic, Steinberg ur28M.

I would cut back to a minimum viable synth and build up naturally from there, especially if you have already somehow decided on the case - which would be a sound source, a modulation source, a sound modifier, a way to play and a way to listen - maybe add a few utilities - learn how to use those and then work out what you are missing and expand from there

an alternative to that, that I also recommend is to work out what modules you want, the modules you need to support those modules and then add 30% on top for expansion and then find a case to fit - not find the case and then fit the modules in

Whilst your current rack kind of ticks all the boxes it doesn't really do it in a particularly good way

For this size case I think you have too many sound sources and large modules which leaves not enough space to support them - especially as the SWN is quite large, not too mention morphagene, harmonaig and the es9

you also have too much in the way of Pam's, euclidean circles and bloom - Pams can do all of these things - try that first and if youo particularly want a dedicated module for one of those tasks then get one but plan on possibly not wanting Pams at the same time then

plus do you really need both midi and the es9? if you are using a DAW then I would just use the es9 - but you might have a specific use case for the midi - the keystep pro will work with cv won't it?

Yeah, this needs reworking. 100% agreement with Jim's take on this, plus there's some odd deficiencies here...most notably, it seems like filters got the short end of the stick, which is a shame because the SWN plays really nicely with a good, character-filled (and stereo) VCF.

Lots of utilities missing,, when you start looking at the module architectures that are prevalent here, this isn't all that well suited for the drone aspects or textural aspects. Sequencing, yeah, it's got that...but again, the ability to actually generate/sequence melodic parts isn't well implemented, because all of the timing/sequencing modules are robbing space from other functions.

Also, if you really want these large modules, you're simply going to have to go to a bigger case in order to have those AND all of the missing bits and pieces. For that matter, even if you went with smaller modules, you'd still benefit from a larger case. This is definitely where the adage about using "...a bigger case than you think you'll need, because you'll need it bigger in the end anyway" fits aptly.

Thank you guys for the feedback, i really appreciate it. I use Abelton 10 suite and would like to be able to send the modules to different channels, instead of recording into 1 channel for all the audio, that's why i chose the ES9. The only modules i am certain on atm is Morphagene, SWN, Harmonaig, Tapo and FX aid. So i should build around those and then find a case.


A couple more tips for you:

-- what's the focus (e.g. most desired use case) for your Eurorack? The draft above, I see drums, I see complex sequencing, I see sample manipulation, I see multi-voice harmony (Harmonaig), I see a digital wavetable oscillator (SWN, which may not be too much an advantage over software wavetable, depending on the use case). A big, expensive, well designed rack can do several things BUT smaller case, less experience makes it hard to do several things well. Hence I suggest you get more clear what role you most want your Eurorack to play, and focus on that first.

-- there are a couple "no regrets" modules I see in your build: IMO those include Pamela's NW, Stages, Quadra, Ochd, FX Aid XL. Those will give you clocking, a good range of CV, and a small but powerful FX unit. Of course you need something that makes a sound, just pick your preferred sound source. Then MOST of the other units I suggest you put in a "next / later" category after you log a good # of hours on your base rig.

-- I look at SWN and Harmonaig and think "hmm..." as in you may have much better options. I own SWN and it is one of my least favorite modules. I had high hopes for it, BUT just don't love it. It does not navigate arbitrarily in 3 dimensions -- much to my surprise, and confirmed by email with 4ms support; it does navigate in 2 dimensions, but instead of the 3rd dimension being freely controllable, you have to index through all waves end to end. So its not really x/y/z control, it is x/y/all control, if that makes sense. Also the included wavetables with SWN are not stellar for my taste; I would need to make my own wavetables. All told, if you're really interested in SWN, I suggest you download the free wavetable editor software for SWN and play around in that, it will give you a very good idea of the kinds of sounds you can get. SWN is also not cheap. SO there's a ton of other very interesting OSCs you could get instead (or before) such as DPO, Cs-L, FSS OSC2, etc. Harmonaig I've looked at, it is not for me, AND since it drives 4 voices, I can't personally make sense of having it in a small rack.

-- last, I do think it's important to have instruments that are inspiring and deep. If we don't think XYZ instrument is cool, fascinating, beautiful, challenging, etc., we won't come back to it again and again, won't put in hours to learn it. So as you edit what your rack plan is, consider what is the inspiring direction for it to go, do have a couple of those key modules included, and get those enough support modules (utilities etc.) so they can really "shine".

Modular is super deep, relatively expensive, and IMO there's probably no way to get into it without making some mistakes, wasting some $s and time, and going down some rabbit holes. Asking questions on MG, and taking the feedback into consideration, is a great way make the pathway a bit smoother. Jim, Lugia and others here give really helpful pointers. If, after some more thought, you put up a 2nd version rack, I'm sure you'll get some feedback to help assess if your design has improved or not.

Cheers and good luck!

probably solid advice from @nickgreenberg there - I have never played with a SWN, but I had the impression that it could take polyphonic v/oct and so play chords, or is that the xoac odessa? could be getting confused

so I would check that out too if i were you

i also agree with the comment about harmonaig too - unless you have 3 or 4 (or more) v/oct consumers to drive (or you intend to get them in a reasonably short time frame) then you are possibly better off with something else

Jim, you're right, SWN can do multiple voices and would pair decently with Harmonaig from that standpoint.

That said, (and in line with my comments above) I'm personally underwhelmed with SWN vs. alternatives, esp. for a small to mid-size build. Hence, for anyone interested in that specific module, I recommend taking a close look at SWN via its supporting software and manual before committing to it.

IMO in a larger modular rig the SWN may make sense and play well with other modules; in a smaller modular rig, SWN would generally not beat my wavetable software. If I'm way off base about SWN and it is truly "the bees knees," I would love to see some videos of people getting it to smoke! It is a module I wanted to love, but I'm not there yet.

Thanks again guys, this is suepr helpfull. What i want the most out of the rack, is the ability to make slow evolving ambient melodies, drones and textures. Also to step away from VST*s. I want to be more hands on, but no need for it to be stand alone. I will start over with the build, and take all of this feedback into consideration.

One other idea...

If the point here is to have something that works with Ableton, this sounds like a capital reason to build a build that's actually a VST controller. No voicing, just various modulation and CV generation modules which use the ES-9 as the "front door" to CV Tools, from which you can use the various Suite widgets and voodoo to pipe the incoming signals to VSTis and VSTs. This will 100% result in something which can make those plugins do things that...well, they're not exactly meant to do. That way, you get the ease of having your voicing under Ableton, but the trickery that makes the voicing do all the odd flips and leaps is very hands-on, as wanted.

And of course, you can save the voicing and Ableton routings, while letting the analog end of this be the "wild card" instrument. Has potential, I think...

@ Lugia, that's actually a really good idea. and i can also start very small that way, and if i end up wanting more out of the modular later i can simply expand.

it's an interesting concept...

regarding starting very small, I wouldn't personally, at least regarding case

by the time you have an es9 in the rack you have taken quite a lot of space already and when you add some decent modulation sources, some performance controllers and the utilities that you need/want to support all this - you will be around the same as a regular starter case - 84-104hp/6u - possibly with a little room for expansion

small cases are relatively expensive - especially ones with 1u rows - so unless you are smitten by their cuteness, as so many are I would forgo these - also you pay a lot for power and any utilities/functions that are often encouraging you to buy specific modules to get them to work - which there is nothing wrong with but particularly in this case you are not looking to use midi or audio i/o from the case

aim to buy something like a mantis or doepfer lc9

but start with the modules you actually want and need - paying attention to these points and then putting the case around them seems like a much better solution to me - remember you don't have too fill a case in one go!

i have been looking into prices on different cases and atm, i am leaning towards Pittsburgh Modular Structure EP series. The doepfer lc9 also looks very good. I really like how it seems to be stackable.

the 2 I particularly like that you can buy are doepfer lc9 and tiptop mantis

both are mid priced
both are a decent size
both have decent power - good enough for video - so at audio rates very quiet
if you want a more power hungry modules get the mantis
if you want a lot of lower powered modules get the lc9

the pittsburgh modular structure cases are ok but I know nothing about the quality of their power solutions - they are 'reasonably' priced and people like them - they use different sized screws iirc than the usual m3 - iirc they are 40-4(? a us size) and there are no knurlies, if this makes a difference

choose the case around the modules

Okay, ty for all the help again :). The Mantis seems to fit the bill more. The Ic9 is a bit low on power for the modules i want.

the pittsburgh modular structure cases are ok but I know nothing about the quality of their power solutions
-- JimHowell1970

From what I know, they're actually Monorocket designs, and Monorocket was always keen on overspecced Meanwells. Pitt is obviously continuing in that vein. Lots of no-screwing-around design in evidence; for example, check and have a look at the 344...and take note of the THICC bus wiring in use to send DC to the upper distros.

More spendy, to be sure...but they're majorly overbuilt, overspecced on current ratings, and so on. You get what you pay for there.

The structure 344 uses size M3 6mm screws.

Ooookay...I whipped up a "control build" to give something of an example of how a device like this could be configured. You'll notice the absence of sound generation/modification modules...this is PURELY a build for outputting various modulation, clocking, etc signals back to Ableton's VST environment with CV Tools. Also note that the interfacing is NOT part of the build; I was disappointed at the lack of inputs that the Expert Sleepers interfaces offer, so I opted instead to make this something that can work with an outboard A/D. This way, via expansions to that architecture, you can build up whatever you like as far as I/O, and all you'll need is a patchbay to get at the A/D conversion, with all of this being expandable as needs be. However, DO check this list before looking at A/D conversion, because CV Tools requires you to use a DC-coupled interface:
ModularGrid Rack
I still used the Intellijel 7U here, as the tile row offers some useful utility aspects that fit in the context of this build. However, you'll note that I've inverted the cab, bringing the tile row to the front. Also, even though this might seem comprehensive, it's still lacking in a few things; for example, I'd have wanted to also put a matrix mixer in here, but the other devices crowded that out.

The top row gives a pair of Maths with a MISO for crossmodding/mixing each other, plus giving complex composite outputs from them. Then the right half there is a suite of Erogenous Tones devices...the BLIP is a sequential/memory/probably a few other things controller for their massive AR envelope gen bank, the RADAR. Then there are eight mixable VCAs after this, with their VC8.

Bottom row is a little more complicated. Everything from the left to the middle involves logic pulses and timing modifiers: dual pulse delay, CVable pulse divider/multiplier, a dual probabilistic skipper, Ladik's "Gatsby" which is a trig-to-gate generator, a pulse counter (1 to 7, "0" is the original pulse), and the main logic "guts" are ARC's Artificial Neural Network, which is Boolean taken to a "next level". After that are three "CV readers"...a Min/Max for manipulating CV levels, a Derivator for tracking CV movement, then a dual window comparator for picking gates off of modulation signals via CV thresholds. The Qx/Quadrax gives you a rather different take on the RADAR, as these are easily patchable envelope gens that can be cascaded, made to cross-signal other modules, and so on. Then another MISO (useful!) just before a Permutation + Variant random sequencer and a dual sample and hold to deal with random activity.

Tile row has a MIDI interface (the only thing using the 7U cab's external connectors, btw), then a Temps Utile for clocking and messing with clock behavior, a Noise Tools for another S&H, a master (maybe) clock, slew limiter and the like. After that, a QuadrATT provides manual attenuversion and mixing, then Intellijel's version of the Zeroscope because, with a rig like this, you WILL want some visual feedback to see what your patching is causing.

Again, this isn't a "proper synth", but a complex controller designed to make changes and actions that Ableton doesn't like to do nicely...or rather, that computers in general don't like to do nicely. By using CV Tools to link this control signal generating build to your VSTs and other Ableton architecture, you can make that stuff do things that, as mentioned, would likely cause the computer to have fits because smooth, linear curves are something that computers DON'T do well. Sure, they can MAKE them...but when you call on a computer to generate some really complicated behavior of this type while it's ALSO running Ableton itself, you're asking for trouble. This takes that away from the computer (to a sizable extent), which frees it up...and lets Ableton do a few things it's not exactly supposed to.

Well that's interesting... gives me a bunch more modules to look up, lol!

BTW for those following Lugia's recent posts on control rigs (as I am), the new / different modules above vs. his other recent-ish posts (in reply to me and Manbearpig) are: Gatsby, Artificial Neural Network, and Permutation / Variant. Which is to say, the rest of the rig is matching themes previously presented. Maybe that means Lugia has a consistent "core control rig" vision in mind? In any event, IMO this is all helpful, to repeatedly see the types and proportions of modules that appear in these control designs.

@Lugia, thanks (again) for above post and comments. Question: if you're "disappointed at the lack of inputs that the Expert Sleepers interfaces," what would be you're preferred setup for getting control inforation from modular to DAW (and vice versa)? Just "any old" DC-coupled interface, or one from a select set of "stars"?

Cheers folks,


I really appreciate the time you guys have taken to do this. I would be so lost without all this feedback. I m also wondering what outboard would you recommend for this control rig?.

It depends on what you're intending to make the hardware do. If the objective is to pull off as many signals as possible to route back into the DAW, you're going to want inputs galore...something like MOTU's more recent 24Ai, with 24 ins and zero returns could work here if the MIDI interface is being used for clocking and note signaling. But a more practical approach might be their 2408, as it offers 8 ins and (technically) 10 outs, with the ability to add 16 more channels of I/O via ADAT Lightpipe. Just keep in mind that both of those interfaces require the PCI-424 card...but then, that card ALSO has four interface I/Os, meaning that if you went with 2408s, you could wind up with 96 inputs and 40 outputs for fairly cheap. Plus, if you have one that has the PCI-424 card, you can then snarf up cheap 2408s that don't happen to have the card, making them all but useless UNLESS the card's present...ergo, cheaper.

But again, go and check the compatibility list I've linked above. MOTU hardware is only one option.