I haven't bought anything yet – just planning & costing it out. The verbos is the module that made me decide to get into modular as I love its sound.

I have an octatrack that I plan on using to sample the modular's weird sounds and sequence them into musical ideas, so this modular doesn't need to have much standalone rhythmic potential at this stage. Also won't be using it live.

My main priorities for this rack are nice deep interesting evolving textural sounds, and some basic bleep bloop sequences.

I've tried to keep costs down for some functions to compensate for the verbos, malekko sequencer and potentially a more expensive delay (three most important parts to the sound I think). The case will most likely be a doepfer LC6 PSU3.

Does this make sense? Are there any redundant modules here? Any utilities etc that I've neglected? Any module recommendations that would better serve my needs? How important is having a dedicated clock?

Thanks very much for helping out


redundancy is not necessarily a bad thing - there are multiple functions that you will want more of than you think - vcas/mixers/attenuators - as they are incredibly useful for both audio and modulation

you need vcas sooner rather than later - I would go for a quad cascading one - veils perhaps

voltage block is already quantized though so you can drop the separate addac quantizer

something else missing is utility modules - these are probably more important than voices (although you need voices) as they will allow you to merge, modify and multiply modulation sources - and therefore make them more interesting

I would recommend - links, kinks and shades as a good starter set - other modules are available that will do the same thing - but for the price and size it's hard to beat these - wmd/ssf toolbox might be a good alternative to some functionality along with other modules to cover the rest - but don't underestimate doepfer for utilities - they are often exceptional value for money

also that roland env gen/lfo is quite big for what it is - maybe batumi and/or zadar would fit better - especially in a 9u case (good case choice btw!)


Thanks heaps Jim, lots of awesome ideas & stuff to look into. another newbie question: as far as links, kinks etc-type cv modulation sources go, does maths not cover me for that? or is it just a case of 'more is more' with modulation sources?

Also how would I typically use more than one mixer & can you recommend a solid (cheap) stereo mixer?

Cheers
Fraser


links/kinks/shades are not cv sources (well there is one in the bottom 1/3rd of kinks)- they modify cv

Maths is a great modulation source especially if you work your way through the illustrated manual a good few times - great intro to patching (and self -patching) modules

if you think : sound sources < sound modifiers < modulation sources < utilities

remembering that a sound source may be 1-n vcos or a complete voice

you'll be on a right track

modulation and utilities are where the 'secret sauce' in modular is hidden not in the cool shiny modules

how would you use more than 1 mixer: sub-mixer for audio -> filter -> vca -> main mixer (to combine with other voices), matrix mixer (can do send/return or modulation mixing etc) - you need more than just a final stage mixer!!!!

I have a rebel technology mix02 and a tesseract modular tex-mix for stereo mixing - both are fine - remember that you will probably need more channels in the future - tex-mix is good a god option as it is expandable!!! - currently mine has 8 mono channels and 4 stereo channels - I expect to add at least 8 more mono and maybe 4 more stereo channels + direct outs for recording - which will have cost about €500 in total - I diy them from full kits - all smd done already!


Agree 100% with Jim.

For modulation, I am having a blast with Acid Rain Technology Maestro it gives you 6 channels of modulation goodness and lets you record and chain patterns of LFOs in various formats. It is great for live performance and really fun to use!

I use kinks/links and WMD/SSF toolbox for a lot of utility functions. Those are great in little HP for a smaller setup.
Mixers- lots of choices based on budget and size. Befaco STMix is really nice and same with Happy Nerding makes on as well.
I use an Intellijel Mixup in my travel case.


Have you considered adding any VCAs? I have the Tangle Quartet, which is affordable, works nicely and doesn't take up too much space. Or the Optomix from Make Noise could be fun. Or Veils from Mutable Instruments. Best of luck, MLC.


Intellijel Quad VCA is super awesome for VCA module. I have no experience with ALM Busy Circuits Tangle Quartet but that looks super duper for VCA as well.


A few comments:

-- Jim's advice "sound sources < sound modifiers < modulation sources < utilities" is very useful. As a rough example, my medium-sized rig is 3 rows of 84HP totaling 252HP. In that I do about 1/3 of the space for voicing (oscillators, filters and waveshapers), 1/3 for CV (sequencing, LFOs and evelopes), 2/9 for utilities (Quad VCA, 4ms SISM, Links, Kinks, Triplatt, plus some additional buffered mults), and 1/9 for some finishing FX and audio out. It doesn't follow Jim's guidelines exactly, but close enough to give a good well-rounded and balanced rig. SO, thinking about proportions of modules can help you get a good, balanced rig.

-- have you considered a significantly bigger case? In your draft build above, I'm seeing a bunch of big-ish modules in a not so big case. If you can leave 20-50% of your case empty with your initial build, that will give you good open space to fill in later as you get a better idea of what you need. BTW if you do that, it is worth getting some blank panels to cover open spots, to avoid loose or dropped items accidentally shorting the power bus and really causing damage.

-- if you do want to stick with that sized case, you may have some better options for function with lesser HP. The large delay unit could be exchanged for a smaller multi-FX unit (many to choose from, incl. FX from Happy Nerding). The Roland unit is good but pretty big. For core CV, I like Stages, Tides and Batumi; Tides you can find clones of in smaller HP. For multiple free-running LFOs, Instruo Ochd is great and a small HP footprint. Maths is a classic, but it is pretty big and you maybe don't need the whole thing; Joranalogue Contour 1 is an option if you want slew but in a smaller package. The Doepfer stereo mixer is good; but what I'm not immediately seeing in your setup is audio out, like one of the 4MS Listen variants. Do consider if you're going into headphones, into your interface + DAW etc., and get an appropriate audio out as needed (btw many mixer modules will have audio outs). All considered, the smaller the case, the more planning and research (probably) needed to get a good result.

-- IMO utilities are somewhat hard to understand at first, at least relative to other modules. But, if you leave room in your case and budget, you can get a good starter set of "no regrets" modules, then make some more adds as you come to understand modular and your specific needs better.

Good luck!


@nickgreenberg - if you include sequencers and mixers as utilities, which I do in this case - then you are probably spot on with my guideline

re audio outputs - depending on where you are in the world they may be completely unnecessary - I live in Europe where we have balanced mains power - so I have never used one - straight out to external mixer/speakers/es8 - always try without first unless you know you need a balanced output (not all outputs are balanced!) - start with nothing, then try attenuators (or vcas) and then finally try an output module.. no point planning to buy something you may not need, unless you do!


Get a much larger case you will need it. Something like the Mantis case is affordable or you can get a Doepfer 9u suitcase.


+1 on bigger cab. Especially if you're insisting on using big honkers like that Verbos Harmonic Oscillator! Otherwise, you're going to have a problem with a single VCO that takes up 32 hp of an 84 hp row.

Or, consider this: are you really looking for a Eurorack solution here? If you dig the sound of that oscillator, fact is, you might ACTUALLY be happier spending the extra money for a small(ish) Buchla system. Yeah, it can get VERY spendy, but if the West Coast methods are really speaking to you, you might as well consider tossing that cash at a long-term solution of THAT sort. This build is up around $2500 already (modules + case) and it's only 2/3rds full. By the time you fill those spaces, you're actually heading into the zone where another few hundred bucks (if that!) can get you a Sound Easel. No lie...see here: https://buchla.com/systems/ And honestly, that sort of move would make LOADS of sense, as the Sound Easel is one of those "best teaching synths" (along with the ARP 2600) and you can learn tons from following how Don intended things to work.


Thanks for the responses everyone – learning a lot.
The point about utilities being the secret sauce of modular is interesting. I guess, like Nick said, its hard to grasp at first because unlike oscillators, samplers, filters, envelopes, LFOs etc, 'utilities' don't really exist in the conventional world of music and are unique to modular (to my limited knowledge).

I'm pretty committed to 2 x 84 HP, just because I don't have a lot of space, and want to keep the arrangement of gear on the desk relatively flexible. Also I don't plan on building a massive collection of modules, I'll probably buy/sell stuff until I have a setup I'm happy with, but who knows... If I do eventually want to go bigger I'll probably just get another 2 x 84. Also I think I want to stick with eurorack because I'm not too interested in building a conventional synth – I like the range of unique stuff in eurorack.

I live in Australia which has unbalanced mains power. How much of a factor is noise? I've read that modules tend to put out a pretty hot signal, but yeah I might just follow Jim's advice and try without, then attenuate, then balance. I'm only running it into either an octatrack or external soundcard.

Re VCAs: what's the difference between a VCA and an envelope/LFO module? also VCA vs attenuator?

Thanks again, this thread is super helpful. Looking forward to placing my first order in a few weeks.

Here's the updated sketch. Trying to create a bit more space, now I can put one piece of cardboard neatly over the whole right side :) I might swap the listen four for PGH outs (handy for octatrack – and I think I'll only be working on one sound at a time with the modular, to begin with anyway). Also added midi in so I can use the octratrack as master clock. ModularGrid Rack


Thanks for the responses everyone – learning a lot.
The point about utilities being the secret sauce of modular is interesting. I guess, like Nick said, its hard to grasp at first because unlike oscillators, samplers, filters, envelopes, LFOs etc, 'utilities' don't really exist in the conventional world of music and are unique to modular (to my limited knowledge).

They are mostly hidden

I'm pretty committed to 2 x 84 HP, just because I don't have a lot of space, and want to keep the arrangement of gear on the desk relatively flexible. Also I don't plan on building a massive collection of modules, I'll probably buy/sell stuff until I have a setup I'm happy with, but who knows... If I do eventually want to go bigger I'll probably just get another 2 x 84. Also I think I want to stick with eurorack because I'm not too interested in building a conventional synth – I like the range of unique stuff in eurorack.

104hp is 10cm wider - depending on the case a mantis may only be 8cm or s wider as it has very thin sides

I live in Australia which has unbalanced mains power. How much of a factor is noise? I've read that modules tend to put out a pretty hot signal, but yeah I might just follow Jim's advice and try without, then attenuate, then balance. I'm only running it into either an octatrack or external soundcard.

good luck!!! - are the inputs balanced or unbalanced on the octatrack and sound card????? if so then you may want a balanced output!

hot doesn't have anything to to with balanced - it just means the peak to peak of the voltage is higher than line level


Re VCAs: what's the difference between a VCA and an envelope/LFO module? also VCA vs attenuator?

a VCA is a voltage controlled amplifier, although most only have unity gain, so are technically attenuators and not amplifiers

you send a signal (audio or cv) through the VCA and control the amount of the signal let through with an envelope or lfo

attenuator is manually controlled - vcas may also be able to be manually controlled


The point about utilities being the secret sauce of modular is interesting. I guess, like Nick said, its hard to grasp at first because unlike oscillators, samplers, filters, envelopes, LFOs etc, 'utilities' don't really exist in the conventional world of music and are unique to modular (to my limited knowledge).

Sure they do! Let's look at an actual instrument...in this case, bass clarinet, as I know those like the back of my hand.

While you won't have a sampler on a wind instrument, everything else actually IS THERE...it's just not apparent. The "oscillator" then becomes the vibrating reed that energizes the air column, "filter" is all sorts of timbral modifications that can be done with fingering, altering embouchure, etc, "envelopes" are controlled by breathflow and tonguing, and "LFOs" are whatever you do to induce vibrato...embouchure movement, changes in breathflow, physically moving the instrument, etc. Plus the "controller" is all of those keys and pads and stuff. But are any of these things "modular", per se? Again...sure. Modern compositions are chock-full of what you'd call "extended techniques"...and one that comes to mind is using a trombone mouthpiece instead of a single-reed mouthpiece on a tenor sax. Sounds pretty "modular" to me!

I live in Australia which has unbalanced mains power. How much of a factor is noise? I've read that modules tend to put out a pretty hot signal, but yeah I might just follow Jim's advice and try without, then attenuate, then balance. I'm only running it into either an octatrack or external soundcard.

With UNbalanced power (which we also have in the USA), yes, isolation becomes important to deal with all sorts of sonic crud, hum, etc. And one other useful point: if you get an output module that has a balanced output via transformers (like Happy Nerding's Isolate), you can overdrive the transformers a bit and get a nice signal warmup. That's great for basslines and percussives, to get them a little more crunchy and in-yer-face.

Re VCAs: what's the difference between a VCA and an envelope/LFO module? also VCA vs attenuator?

A VCA (stands for Voltage Controlled Amplifier) is a circuit that controls gain. You feed a signal in one side, then send a control signal to it, and the original signal is now under the control of that control signal, which can be all sorts of modulation signals. There's two topologies, also...AC-coupled and DC-coupled...and two types.

AC-coupled VCAs are definitely for audio ONLY. These don't have DC coupling, so they can't pass signals below the subsonic range. As a result, AC-coupled VCAs tend to be logarithmic in response so that their dynamic changes fit with what human hearing considers to be changes in "apparent loudness", which we perceive on the logarithmic dB scale.

Then there's DC-coupled VCAs. These can pass DC, which means they can be used to control the amplitude of modulation signals. And since the changes these make are linear, it's possible to use these VCAs to modify modulation levels to make the modulation follow specific scalings, etc which are VERY necessary for oscillators, VCF cutoffs, etc. But also, there is a hazard in having these as your output VCA(s) as the DC they can pass isn't something you can hear...but your monitors will notice, and enough DC fed to a speaker will cause it to pop as well as also potentially causing amplifier damage.

It's also worth noting that VCAs usually don't provide a gain factor higher than 1, meaning that if you send 2.5V into a wide-open VCA, you should get 2.5V out the other side. Some do, however, and these are often useful at the end of the audio path...either as a preamp for the mixer, or to "push" the level after the mixer.

Envelope generators and LFOs are modulation sources. You can feed their outputs through VCAs to control their levels, but they themselves aren't designed to be the control circuit for the level changes. Instead, a VCA needs a modulation source to be fed to its control input so that its gain factor can be changed to anywhere between factors of 0 to 1, imposing those changes on the VCA's thruputted signal.

Attenuators also control amplitude. But attenuators can control CV voltage levels, so if you need to have a device track at 1/2, you'd use an attenuator in the device's control path, and this would allow you to have half-scaling for that device. This can be very useful for manipulating VCF cutoffs so that they can track in proportion to, but not the same as, the main pitch CV. Plus, there are attenuverters...these have their zero-point at the CENTER of the pot, and their full outputs are at either end...but with one end, the signal is inverted. These are great for inverting modulation signals for a number of things; you can cobble together a crossfader, for example, with two VCAs and an attenuverter to provide the negative control signal for one of them.

-- ffsimpson


-- @ffsimpson, on the topic of "understanding utilities," practically, if you spend some time scanning the Doepfer and Ladik modules, and read about anything you don't immediately understand, that will give concrete examples of a TON of various modular functions, including lots of utilities.