ModularGrid Rack

Hello everyone,

as the titles says, I am new in the modular world, and after reading the forum for a while, watching hours of reviews in Youtube, etc...I can say I am still a little bit lost, but anyway I tried to create what for me would be a small modular Groove box (if that exists...) on a budget. Currently I own a Dreadbox Typhoon, an Elektron Cycles, few Volcas and a Keystep as main controller.

I would like to know if what I created makes any sense to you, and if not, what should be changed (I am aware that in a small rack like this one, the options for modulation are quite reduced, with two VCOs and couple of drums):

A: the tonal part

  1. Case: The Nifty case, which seems fine having already a Keystep to send midi. About the size, I know the bigger the better, but for now and considering the available space I have in my desk, is enough.

  2. VCO: The dual VCO 112 from Behr, I know the first batch had some issues with tuning, but it seems it has been fixed already. For the price, it is a no brainer for me. I was checking also Dreadbox chromatic VCO but few people were complaining about the sound and tuning.

  3. Filters: The Forbidden Planet , as recommended in many posts and at good price; and to have some extra filter options, the Doepfer Wasp Filter.

  4. VCA: Doepfer Quad VCA, also as a Mixer.

  5. ADSR: Doepfer dual ADSR.

  6. Sequencer: although having already an external sequencer via midi (Elektron Cycles and Keystep), I want to include a sequencer in the rack, to have an standalone unit. After some readings and always considering the budget, I opt for the Variagate 4, to sequence both VCO´s.

B: the drum part.

  1. Plaits, for its versatility in sounds, a swiss knife.
  2. Pico Drums, with two independent voices.
  3. DOT, to sequence Plaits and Pico Drums.

so, makes any sense?

Thanks for your time!!!!

IMHO what you've put together is sort of like a collection of desktop synths in one rack, which is cool but I think won't really let you enjoy everything modular has to offer. I put something together that tries to hit the same key points but that's also got a bit more flexibility and modulation capabilities.

ModularGrid Rack

Here's what I changed:
1) Swapped the Behringer oscillators with a Dixie II+. In a rack this size I'm not sure you can really fit 3 voices easily and the Dixie is a great single voice with integrated sub out and a lot of features. Shrinking this down lets us fit in a
2) Maths instead of the Dual Micro ADSR. One of my favorite modules and lets you do a ton, the illustrated manual covers like 30+ different patches that all do something cool and help you understand the full potential of a modular system
3) Removed the Wasp as similar to #1 I don't think you have room for 2 filters
4) Shrunk Plaits into a Beehive to make some more space
5) Fit in a Cold Mac to open up a bunch of logic and modulation capabilities and to find interesting ways to tie different elements together via its various output CVs, all coordinated by its main big old knob.

Assuming the general plan laid out here resonates, there's a variety of different paths you could take (Rampage over Maths, Miso over Cold Mac, STO over Dixie II+) so don't necessarily grab these exact modules, but give some thought to whether this might be a more open ended instrument that you could learn from while also making cool tunes.

Thanks a lot Troux for your recommendations!! what you put on the table makes sense at all.

NP @camposoriol, good luck!

generally I agree with @troux but there's a few things I'd change:

veils instead of the doepfer vca
compare 2 over cold mac
pams instead of the varigate and the dot

I'd watch out for mixing too - if you can cram a utility mixer in for the drums it might be a good idea

personally I'd go for a bigger case - and maybe fill 1/2 - remember the keystep outputs cv too so not so much need for midi -> cv

I'm not down with trying to cram drum functions into this at all. This is simply TOO SMALL to support all of these subfunctions without having to compromise the build in general. It'd be a nice cab JUST for drums, but if you try and get this build to do what you're aiming for at present, you're going to wind up with a boxful of half-measures.

Again, I put the blame here on YouTube. Yes, people on there build single row skiff builds. No, they're NOT necessarily the right way to go, especially if you're just beginning in modular. For one thing, they're not easy to configure AND get right. Secondly, they force users into either using loads of tiny modules, resulting in an ergonomic nightmare, or they force compromises in the module complement that causes the resulting build to be rather underpowered. I've referred to most of these sort of builds, when they work, as "mission-specific"...the user has a limited range of functions in mind from the start, and that guides the build process. But it's a massive pain to take a serious build with optimal results and then try and shrink this down into 3U x 84 hp. Instead, follow Jim's lead here, and start looking for a much better (and bigger!) cab for your rig...then just repurpose this Cre8 cab for drums. That is, do that if you like spending excessive amounts of money on something that a proper drum machine is capable of for maybe 1/3rd of the cost...frankly, that's what I would do here (and what I, in fact, do).


A few comments:

-- I recommend you view this post which is a very similar topic and comments from a few months back

-- I personally could not justify a modular setup this small or this small budget. Why? IMO a small modular setup will tend to underperform versus VST options a fraction of the price, or standalone options for lower price, such as standalone groove boxes (MPC, Tempest, Analog Rytm MkII, etc.) and/or standalone synths (from Sequential, Moog, etc.). IMO it takes a significant sized modular rig to start to have interesting capabilities beyond what you'd find in a good VST or standalone hardware. I can't yet design a modular rig that interests me (or justifies itself capabilities wise vs. alternatives) for under $5k.

-- keep in mind, modular is probably one of the most expensive (conventional) ways to make synthesized sound / music, and it takes some real iteration, knowledge accumulation and feedback to get a coherent, useful modular rig. Modular can be really awesome, but it takes a real investment of time, and a significant investment of $s compared to other alternatives.

-- SORRY if this is a bummer to hear, and it is only my opinion. But I do recommend you spend some time thinking why modular vs. other alternatives. Then, I'd recommend looking at a considerably bigger case, and carefully consider how much $ and time you might really put towards modular in the next 2-3 years.

-- and btw, the alternatives are still very good. An Analog Rytm or MPC plus a nice hardware synth -- killer!

Just wanted to share some perspective so if you do get into modular, its a good fit for you and it works out well.

Good luck!


Gonna chime in here and say I don't really agree with the view that you've got to spend a significant chunk of change to get value out of a modular setup and I think it's a bad piece of advice we seem to give a lot on this forum. Not everyone needs to have 5k or 20k of Eurorack to enjoy themselves, learn, and have some fun, so the question is: what is your goal? If you'd like to get into modular to become the next EDM superstar then 1-2k is not going to cut it that's for sure, but if you'd like to make some cool sounds and get a more intuitive and more grounded understanding of synthesis with an instrument that has some open ended possibilities, 1 or 2k can go a long way, with the additional (to me huge) plus that it gets you away from your computer. So from my POV, best to encourage people's curiosity and small steps on the journey rather than focusing on an end goal that many aren't even interested in.

My 2 cents for the day!

@troux, that's a fair response. And I would agree, that it doesn't take so much to get "some cool sounds and get a more intuitive and more grounded understanding of synthesis with an instrument that has some open ended possibilities."

And of course @Camposoriol and other folks getting into modular (or considering it) are free to take whatever path seems good.

Cheers all,

Nicholas just have to be very "value conscious" when scouting out modules. Case in point: Noise Reap. Noise Reap's modules are inexpensive and often offer some downright warped takes on how "normal" modules work. Sure, they're kinda ugly (but legible!), but if you crave weird complex VCO behavior, they've got you fixed with something like their Paradox, which is just...not...RIGHT, but in all the "correct" ways for $120. So it IS possible to bring a small build in for $2k-ish, but again, you have to proceed VERY carefully and spend the time necessary to dig through the MG database for the "gold".

5) Fit in a Cold Mac to open up a bunch of logic and modulation capabilities and to find interesting ways to tie different elements together via its various output CVs, all coordinated by its main big old knob.

Could you please write what the main roles Cold Mac will play in this rack? This module is a mystery to me.

It does quite a lot, in the rack I put together above you could, just as a few examples

1) Crossfade between different Dixie waveforms with the LEFT and RIGHT inputs
2) Use the AND and OR sections to generate even more rhythms from the DOT
3) Use AND or OR as wave rectifiers to get different harmonics
4) Use FOLLOW as an envelope follower
5) Use CREASE to introduce discontinuities in an LFO generated in Maths, turning one modulation source into two that are related and in sync but that aren't always moving in the same (or even inverted) directions.