Thread: 3U Lead Rack

This was amusing. I really, really ripped into this one...partly because builds of this size are a total PITA to try and sort out early on. As a result, the kit modules got deleted...but in that process, I punched the capabilities of the original WAY up. Also, there were some lurking ergonomics issues AND a couple of those modules exceeded the "skiff depth rule of thumb" of was way up around 60mm, which for a basic module is sort of...well, not good. Anyway, here's what resulted:
ModularGrid Rack
Four VCOs (with quantizing!), quad 2-stage EG, eight VCAs, Nyle Steiner's rip-yer-head-off PERFECT for leads VCF, mono-to-stereo tap delay/reverb/chorus AND a Happy Nerding FX Aid XL. And the cherry on the cake: step down AND step up I/O on the end so that you have both stereo out AND IN so that you can bring external audio through the VCF/FX while having both channels under VCA control via that Zlob hex VCA. There are bunches of "sneaky functions" in there, too...this took the original idea and hooked it up to a bottle of nitrous while also improving the patching ergonomics.

So, left to right: Polyend MIDI interface and ADDAC dual sample and hold...and then the FUN starts! Quad Doepfer LFO, quad Noise Engineering EG with loopable envelopes so you actually have EIGHT LFOs if you didn't use any of 'em for envelopes. And then the killer...TWO Klavis Twin Waves, and a Joranalogue wavefolder positioned for either Klavis module to use. This all feeds to the Zlob Vnicvrsal VCA which has six "breakable" VCAs plus an internal mixbus. Tiptop's Forbidden Planet is a copy of the Steiner-Parker Synthacon VCF...and take it from a former Synthacon owner, that VCF just looooves to shriek and yowl and get used on leads that can cut right through anything. Fan-damn-tastic VCF. After that, there's a dual VCA from After Later that's based on the Mutable Veils topology, albeit as just a pair which can be used as two stereo VCAs or summed for mono. Frequency Central's Stasis Leak gives you your basic effects, namely a tap delay, stereo reverb, and chorus, then I put an FX Aid XL in so that you can have, say, delay + reverb, or any sort of combo of what these two can do. And at the end, there's a Riders In the Storm CON, which has the stereo level shift down to line from modular...AND an identical pair of up-shifters to go from line TO modular, which allows some interesting possibilities, such as processing an external source, or setting up something akin to the Minimoog's "headphone jack trick" that lets you set up a feedback loop.

And really, that's NOT everything I stuffed in here. There's a lot of hidden things, such as the ability to do some very strange things with the Klavis VCOs such as random signal generation, LFO capabilities, crossmod, etc etc. And while I did shift a lot of functions around, the only ones that are wholly missing now are the ring modulator (use a VCA instead, now that you've got eight!) and the mult (use inline widgets instead...small builds need to be 100% function, and multiple modules are robbing space from that in small builds). Otherwise, everything you had is in there (minus the kit modules), but pumped up on 'roids. Better, I these modules will play really nicely with each other and other additions when you expand the build to 9U.

VCAs. The thing that new builders neglect...until they discover just how much their build SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKS without them!

VCAs have so many uses, it's nuts. But then, you have to remember that the initial idea for modular synthesis partly came from analog COMPUTERS, which are very dependent on voltage relationships with/between op-amps. Since all the analog computer voodoo lies in how you use those, it makes perfect sense that we have a similar circuit in modular synths.

Anything that needs level control for which you don't happen to have several extra arms and hands, that's where VCAs go. Audio and CV/mod levels are the basics, though. You can also use them as amplitude modulators, by feeding an audio signal to both the signal AND CV inputs. Lots of clangers and yowls! A couple of them make up the guts of stereo autopanners. And performance mixers are usually jam-packed with VCAs to control levels, panning, AUX send/returns, and so forth. And if you want to scan/xfade through a VCO's waveforms, a quad VCA + a quadrature LFO are a must. And that list goes on...

I think some of the problem with them lies not just with the "boring factor", but the term "amplifier". People look and think "well...I've GOT an amplifier and it's hooked up to my speakers already, so I don't need all of these amplifiers...right?" Wrong. Whatever the cause of this, it's a HUGE trap and part of the "boring module" issues that people run across...which I've termed "sexy module syndrome". These modules don't come with a plethora of knobs and lights and so forth, so people load up on the "better" modules that DO have all of that...then wonder why their $7k+ box sounds like total ass, give up on modular, and yet another cab gets consigned to the closet. It's not necessary...people just need to do their homework about these instruments BEFORE grabbing the Magic Plastic and burning yet another expensive hole in it.

Yeaaahhh...computers have never been something I'm 100% confident with in music. Yes, things are WAY better than a decade or two ago, and I'm not even going to go into the strides made since things like Dyaxis were the only way to go. At this point, I've gotten past being jinky about them in the studio, but using one live still gives me pause. And HELL yes, there's a huge difference between a "virtual" device and actual hardware...which is one of the things that makes me chuckle when I see people blathering on about the virtues of "DAWless" work; c'mon gang, I was doing that sort of thing as far back as 1979, and you're just NOW telling me how cool it is? Ha!

As for VCV...I look at it both as a useful tool AND a teaching device. However, when a VCV patch starts getting into the turf where you find big Monster Case builds, VCV tends to overtax its host machine. But it IS useful as a sequencing environment, since my experiences with it have taught me that it's the sonic aspects that really suck down the cycles, and I've done a few tests of routing from VCV -> Ableton CV Tools -> MOTU 828 mkii with pretty good results.

I've used MD as my field 2-track of choice for decades now. Very small, inobtrusive, but solid performance. At present, both the portable and the studio MD deck are both Sony units.

But that's not the whole deal there...the big performance kicker with my MD use are these fantastic, tiny omnis that I use as a binaural pair, clipping them to my glasses earpieces so that they have a proper "head" for spatialization. By doing that, you get a recording that PRECISELY gives you the directional cues as you heard them in the field on headphones, and with a little M/S tweaking, you can translate that nicely to normal stereo. are the very model...I got mine in 2005, and the design works so well it's still unchanged 15+ years later! Even if you get a different field recorder, I'd still look into those mics if I were you...

Even so...since we ARE talking about Chupa Chups, maybe some of Salvador Dali's mojo rubbed off on the module? He DID design that label, after all...

Well, it IS quite transparent, which I would expect out of Presonus's better stuff. Plus, I like having the wired remote, because I can drag that around on top of the FIVE and be able to switch monitoring chains super-easily from anywhere on that 54-frame mo'fo.

Extravagant for a smaller setup...maybe. But at the same time, having it "future-proofs" your rig, since you can move to a much wider spectrum of mixers by having the CS+ handle the monitoring "heavy lifting", and that would then let you put together a really smokin' monitor setup that you can keep intact across numerous desk swaps/upgrades.

Thanks Lugia for link, i check subrack and I'll take that into consideration as alternative to wood-box.
-- Glitched0xff

Smart move. If you make sure to get the rack ears, you could then mount the subracks in a suitable road case, which not only makes the rig portable, it also gives it a somewhat smashproof housing to live in. Just remember, typical Eurorack is in 3U multiples, so you're looking at 6U, 9U, 10U (allows a power conditioner on top + 3 x 3U), 12U, or 16U (similar to the 10U but with five 3U subracks). And for futureproofing, having these in an easily-configurable road case means that you can cover up non-used sections of the case with some 3U blanks, then remove these as funding allows for the inevitable Eurocrack M0AR!!!

Yep...I also use a combo of on-desk monitor switching AND an outboard (Presonus Central Station +). This lets me swap from a monitor bus to the actual stereo mixbus (or others) if something seems off, and then the Presonus handles the switching between the Altecs, the KRKs, and the TADs, plus it handles the "B-feed" to the tc Clarity-M. This might seem like overkill, but after 40+ years of playing with these toys, I'm a picky SOB.

Or why even bother with the usual racks? I was doing a bit of poking around on nVent/Schroff's website last night, and you can slap together a bespoke 84 hp rackmountable for next to dirt. Granted, this trick requires a little knowledge of how subrack assemblies are outfitted and assembled, but just look at that as "knowledge gained"...for a big discount, too!

Note that you can go as basic...or you like. 3U or 6U, the ability to add tile rows (with a little ingenuity), bespoke depths, bespoke busboard placement, and so forth. No, not as easy as just snagging something like...hmm...this: ...but at the same time, you should remember that what you're looking at there IS what's at Schroff's site also. But it doesn't cost $530.

Was it actually in the module box, or was it something the retailer threw in? Sweetwater has long had a tradition of enclosing penny candy with their orders, and an order I got from Perfect Circuit back in the days before the plague also had that.

Though I agree that the setup (of what I suggested/wrote) has a high potential for confusion, since there is no risk of damage, then meanwhile using that and then take my time to consider what's the best solution for using which monitor controller shouldn't be a too bad idea?
-- GarfieldModular

Definitely, as long as there's no damage potential. My big concern about "confusion" actually has more to do with workflow than just being perplexed. When you have to add an extra step...also made of more incremental your workflow, you incrementally increase the potential for distraction from the task at hand. Or at least, that seems to happen more often than not. One of the things I picked up around Nashville was that the engineer always needs to be ready with the best yet most minimal "fix" for things, so that mindset's kinda ingrained into MY workflow. YMMV, of course...

+1 on the "don't do it" tip. Even if there's no risk of damage, that's a setup that has a high potential for confusion. But there might be a fix...namely, this:

This thing allows you to have two stereo inputs and two stereo outputs. The latter will be useful if you get a set of "tracking monitors" or "mix checks". But the dual input scheme fits perfectly here, AND it's more than likely that this is what Mackie intended this $70 widget for.

One other "one stop shop" utility that I recommend for certain smaller builds: SSF's Tool-Box. In 6 hp, you get a halfwave rectifier for waveshaping, an adder, a comparator, a diode OR, an inverter, and a 2-1 electronic switch, all for $149. For those building a specific, targeted synth, it might not be quite the thing, but anyone building a multi-purpose modular can get plenty of mileage out of something like that.

Yeah...the "bad" parts with Uli are pretty well known. But the other point is well taken. When you move an instrument's production from a pre-automation process of board-stuffers and solderers on a manual production line to the automated board fabs we have these days, it WILL kick the price down considerably and make that version much easier to obtain. In that aspect, Uli's managed to combine music gear manufacturing with the manufacturing methods we're accustomed to for everyday consumer electronics and nail a "win".

And it's also worth noting that, with the exception of two certain modules (which gets back to "bad Uli"...but I digress), Behringer is limiting its Eurorack output to clone reissues of "unobtainium"...which, actually, is pretty commendable. He does "get" what musicians want and's just that his methods and ethics in giving everyone that which need some (a lot!) of work.

Also, don't neglect the smaller sequencers. A few companies (Xaoc and Ladik come to mind) offer 4-step sequencers...and at first, that might seem really underfeatured. But if you use something like a clock counter (this sort of thing: to step it, you can then sequence your harmonic patterns by using the 4-banger to shift the other sequencer(s) global pitch CV. So, those are just PERFECT for stepping through typical chord changes, especially where you only have 3-4 chords in the track.

Uhhh...doesn't this violate certain laws of physics or something?

OK, normally I would object to Uli lifting designs. But NOT HERE. My sole question is "does this really work?" If it does, B.'s managed to put out something for cheap here that pretty much NO ONE could get into for less than a grand! And sure, there's a couple of digitally-based designs that come in in the $400-ish range, but no analog ones anywhere near there...until this. You could even afford TWO for full stereo operation!

If you're wondering why this is a big deal...this isn't a "pitch shifter". Those are invariably digital devices that take an entire sound and move it up or down in pitch. But this is an ANALOG device that doesn't shift the entire sound, it takes a similar tack to a ring modulator and raises/lowers all sonic content by adding or subtracting the "carrier" frequency from the "source". So if you have a sound on a fundamental frequency of, say, 200 Hz and it's got a pretty typical set of partials at the first few harmonics, frequency shifting raises/lowers the fundamental by...well, let's say 100 Hz here. And then the harmonics ALSO shift by that same 100 Hz.

So? OK...let's look at what's going on here arithmetically:

F = 200 Hz
1st = 400
2nd = 600
3rd = 800
4th = 1 kHz
5th = 1.2
6th = 1.4

That's the normal harmonic arrangement. Now, let's shift that by 100 Hz up...

F = 300 Hz
1st = 500
2nd = 700
3rd = 900
4th = 1.1 kHz
5th = 1.3
6th = 1.5

Math-wise, this doesn't look all that different. But remember: pitch scales in a LOGARITHMIC relationship, as do the harmonics. Here's what's REALLY supposed to happen to a 300 Hz signal:

F = 300 Hz
1st = 600
2nd = 900
3rd = 1.2 kHz
4th = 1.5
5th = 1.8
6th = 2.1

So if you look back at the shifted version, you'll notice that NONE of the harmonics are following their normal overtone relationships. This results in some extraordinarily wild FM-ish clangers, bizarre modulations, and so on. Ring mod, but on a LOT of 'roids, and you can either shift up OR down...not both at the same time like a typical ring mod does. These devices are, accordingly, rather hard to engineer, which is why frequency shifters are normally very spendy things that not everyone's had the pleasure of encountering. But....well, here we are! And if Uli is to be believed (yeah, a stretch, I know), ANYONE can afford one of these now. Truly wild times we're in...

Perhaps indeed a transformer that separates the power from the power supply is the best solution if you have unbalanced power, isn't it?

Yep...that's the only way TO obtain balanced power from unbalanced mains, in fact. As opposed to power supplies, there's no balanced power solution that doesn't involve a huge transformer of some sort.

Do you know by any chance if the power is unbalanced in Canada too?
-- GarfieldModular

It's worth noting, in fact, that part of Canada's grid interconnects with the NE USA's in the east, and there's other interconnections further west along the border. When we had a severe geomagnetic event about 20-ish years back, the multistate power failure that resulted started in Quebec from the storm overloading their transmission lines with inductive currents.

Another nice feature of the Filter-8 is that you can also use it as a quadrature generator. This comes in handy for autopanning functions, phase shift (the Filter-8 also makes a good filter core for phase shifting!), "training" modulation, and the like.

Well, when I was running balanced power in the studio many years ago, the principle that we use here for that is to have a balancing transformer divide the "hot" leg into two legs of half-voltage with inverse phases. The equipment doesn't mind (in nearly all cases...but I know there's a few devices that don't like this) as a rule, and by doing that inversion, you wipe all of the noise that might be lurking on the AC thanks to phase cancellation. Also, the transformer helps to provide a more solid ground because there's no "neutral" for AC to sneak back onto in situations like this.

As for star grounds...they're not exactly THE mains ground line, which is what your codes refer to. Instead, this is more of a "noise ground" helps to kill stray induced garbage that's creeping around rackrails, gear chassis, etc. by creating a "universal ground plane" for the audio so that crud goes right to a single groundpoint that's designed to handle that garbage...this is usually a groundpoint on the mixer, which my Topaz 24 and FIVE both have. Years ago, I also had a Faraday shield under the floor of the studio that also connected to the mixer ground to catch e-smog creeping up from lower floors, and that was a very effective countermeasure at that time.

Worked out a few things...
ModularGrid Rack
OK...first up, the large amount of Blinds modules didn't seem to be all that sensible. The only real place you'd want polarization would be for the modulation section (inverse audio doesn't sound different, but inverted modulation signals are VERY useful), and in that case, I opted for a Frap 321 for the mix/invert/offset/etc functions (does most everything the Samara + Blinds does, and a few other things) there to save hp and then paired that with another 6 hp module, Happy Nerding's 3xVCA, which gives you three linear VCAs for modulation level control. But anyway...

Everything was relocated to groupings to make patching faster and more intuitive. The VCO group, VCFs, supporting modules, and the Beads/Data Bender went on the top row, with a left-to-right signal flow. Middle row is all of your modulation, and as noted, I made some changes there for the modulation processing. I was also able to add the Quadrax's Qx expander and a Zadar + Nin by removing excess Blinds. At the end, you have your fixed-level mixing/splitting (Links) and VCAs for the mixer (ALL of it...hence the Vnicvsal VCA, which gives you a VCA for each mixer input).

The bottom row has the various control functions, to which I added a dual clock delay for some flam/offset behavior out of your clocking, and a Varigate 4+ so that your Voltage Block now has some extra functions, including sixteen memory slots for Voltage Block sequences. And the last change is that little white bit on the left end of the middle, which is a Konstant Labs PWRchekr, which keeps tabs on your DC rail health with visual problem indicators.

Basically, the module choices were pretty spot-on, save for the excess of Blinds and the excess buffered mults. And by tossing the superfluous stuff, I managed to mash in a lot of extra functionality that was missing...such as four more EGs, VCAs for the entire Listen Four ins, and straightening out the modulation modifiers. I wasn't 100% satisfied with how the bottom row laid out, but for now, it's not set up particularly badly.

Multiple sequencers are a kick and a half! My AE has several...three CV sequencers as well as a couple of trigger sequencer devices.

The big key to REALLY making multiple sequencers skip-n-jump is to dive into the world of clock modulators and Boolean logic. By having Boolean logic modules, you can take two gates and combine them in various ways to create different gate signals altogether. Pulse dividers/multipliers allow mathematical clock changes. Trigger sequencers such as Euclideans can add elements of stochastics to this, as can pulse skippers. And pulse delays can shift the overlaps between different gate signals, which then gives the Boolean gates even MORE to gnaw on. There's even a clock gen (from Evaton) that employs logic between two different clock generators to make the clocking more complex, too. And then you can ALSO use modules such as comparators and discriminators to "read" modulation signals and generate gate pulses from them as well. Lastly, pulse integrators (also known as "diode ORs") allow you to "mix" gates to create composite signals from those. And so on...LOTS of "so on", in fact...

Actually, this results from house electrics already. When you have a typical unbalanced AC line, you get a "hot", "neutral" and "ground", and those go back to the main breaker panel. What the noise sounds like is that the modular is trying to ground itself to a different circuit, ground-wise. So what's going on is that the other AC circuit is flowing THROUGH the modular and getting into the audio, probably through it being connected to a mixer, etc that's on a different circuit than it is, which allows the AC into the audio.

This doesn't happen much in Europe, because European (and a lot of other) power systems provide BALANCED power. There's no "neutral", but instead you have two legs at 1/2 of the total mains voltage that are referenced to ground, which gives you the proper 230V for the device in question. But with OUR goofy power (and anywhere else there's unbalanced AC), that "neutral" and the associated ground line can provide a path for groundloops if you don't have either isolation to kill the loop or don't have a proper star ground. Sure, you can have balanced AC in the USA as well...but it's on YOU to put in the balancing toroids (imagine a 40 lb bundt imagine several of them, one per circuit). Very messy, expensive, and labor-intensive., having the already-cased synths in the Eurorack case is a BAD idea. For one thing, it's incredibly wasteful. So, let's look at your case for a second, which is apparently a 4-row Doepfer "Monster".

That case has 672 hp available, and it's already powered. Street price on it at present = $1849. 1849/672=$2.75 (approximately) is the cost per hp for housing something in there.

You have 330 hp of this covered by synths that HAVE cases and HAVE power already. That 330 hp = $907.50. This is how much it costs YOU to house them there. So, break that six ways, and this means you've effectively added just over $150 to the cost of each one of those by doing this.

Yes, I get it...this is for convenience, etc. But there's definitely better ways to do this, such as a triple-tier Moog stand for those alone. By avoiding this, you're also keeping space open for devices that don't have power or cases already...such as the vast majority of Eurorack modules.

I wonder what module one would use to replicate the inherently-defective power circuitry in the Fizmo...?

Seriously, that's why they're rare. Ensoniq did such a lousy job of hardware design that they more or less sabotaged this synth. The power circuitry was VERY prone to failure, and that failure would cascade throughout the entire synth when it happened, basically destroying it.

But duplicating that synth? That'd be a tall order. Ensoniq's "transwave" system was, admittedly, a variant on scanned wavetable synthesis (which Ensoniq was the only other manufacturer to use at that time aside of PPG), and while there are a few modules that use this, you wouldn't get the exact "transwave" sound and feel. 'Fraid solitud's dead-on point about that...

That's a ground loop. Your synth's P/S is trying to ground to a different ground than the equipment the synth is hooked up to, and this then allows AC to get onto the audio lines where the synth is finding an "easier" ground.

There's several possible fixes. The most immediate would be to use this: Transformer isolation with ground-lifts per channel and a useful ganged stereo level.

The BEST, however, is to implement a "star ground". Star grounds are called that because they're an array of wired ground lines that all connect to the same grounding point, usually on the mixing desk. What you'd need is a spool of 16ga stranded and insulated wire. Use that to connect ALL of the chassis, racks, instruments, etc etc in such a way that all of that winds up at your "star point"; in my studio, I have a number of 19" racks, and to connect those I'll simply hook a short bit of wire between each rack until I get to the point where I have to run the wire to the star ground. Time-consuming, but VERY effective. Implement that + the Isolator, and there should be ZERO noise problems after a tad of tweaking.

I wouldn't worry about pairings for the Plonk. 48 hp will NOT be enough space for this to work. Either you'll have to resort to a pile of very slim modules that are no fun to work with long-term, or you'll have to compromise on something essential.

Given the importance of MIDI here, my suggestion would be to get an Intellijel Palette...104 hp, preferably. With that, you can locate the MIDI interface in the cab's tile row (along with a number of useful utilities) and use the cab's USB for connection between it and your DAW, controller, etc. With more space, you can then avoid the super-tight spacings common with "Beauty Case" builds AND you'll get to have proper sections for sound generation, control, and modification.

And of course, there's also THIS: Best modular "explainerizer" ever. In VCV, it's impossible to wreck things. The worst you'll see are "spitty" outputs due to the package overtaxing your CPU and crashes...and those crashes also tend to happen for the same reason. As long as you keep an eye on the CPU load (VCV has the ability to meter each module!), you're golden. But VCV works pretty much like Eurorack...there's even VCV versions of a bunch of the more notable Eurorack modules in there.

Oh...and it's FREE.

Direct audio to the Fireface UCX? Sure, you can do that, but you won't need all those Tethers and Links since the UCX has no D-Sub audio I/O. But since the UCX also has lightpipe I/O, you could later attach an ADAT lightpipe interface that has the DC-coupled I/O that Silent Way/CV Tools/Volta/etc wants to use, and go back to that idea when it's a better fit. In that case, my suggestion would be the ES-8, with four inputs and eight outputs. But right now, you can just tie your audio outs directly into the Fireface UCX although I STRONGLY suggest you have an attenuatable stereo output module so that you can avoid clips due to the level mismatch between synth and pro audio levels. Something like, say, the Happy Nerding Isolator, which has the ganged stereo control and also has transformer isolation to help deal with hum and noise.

OK...I did a bit to set up the general areas you'd want the various modules in. Note that my typical layouts put the audio sources and modifiers up top, modulation across the center, and mixing and effects in the bottom along with control systems. This allows for an "up on left, down on right" signal flow which makes the build much easier to patch and control.
ModularGrid Rack
You'll notice how the existing modules break up into the overall scheme. Also, if you don't already have that MIDI interface, you'll likely have a lot of trouble finding one as Doepfer discontinued it.

Now, one issue I do have is with the cab size. Those 84 hp rows are kinda tight, so it makes choosing just the right modules more important...and one way to choose is by function density. For example: there's a very basic Doepfer ADSR that fits into 8 hp. But if you put in one of their A-140-2 modules instead, you then get TWO envelope generators that work the same way (actually, the A-140-2 EGs also give you CV over time, which the A-140 doesn't have) in the same space. Note that there is a point where you can go too far with this; when you've gotten to a point that it's difficult to play the synth because the controls are all too tightly bunched, that's what "too far" looks like. But if you keep the density to somewhere within reason, you can majorly increase the build's capabilities without the need to go to a bigger cab, AND you'd still get more capabilities.

I like farkas's suggestion, actually. A build of this size could 100% benefit from a comprehensive mixer like that WMD, especially if you pick up the extra fader and mutes modules. It works very well as a final level VCA per channel, plus also, something like that can handle your autopanning, put CV control over your FX send/returns, and give you mutes on every input. Even better, if you add Happy Nerding's OUT, you then get one more parallel stereo input that can be mixed with the mixer's output, and this is a perfect way to slot in one more stereo FX return on your main stereo outs.

Also, take a very critical mindset regarding the modules you currently have, and start considering whether or not they effectively fill their spaces. For example, I see a Make Noise Function in the next-to-lowest row, and that occupies 8 hp and only gives you a single two-stage envelope. If you swapped that for a Doepfer A-140-2, you could fit TWO ADSR generators into the same space...or you could go with their A-142-4, which gives you four independent Schmitt triggers (instant attack, manual control over decay). The Erica stuff isn't particularly "function-dense", so you might consider whether something that provides more functionality would be a good substitute for what's there presently.

Yep, envelopes are a problem suggestion on those, given the build size, would be that you might want to look at Xaoc's awesome Zadar/Nin combo...four envelopes, plenty of control, only 13 hp.

Save your $$$...the only patching thing that will wreck a modular is patching outputs to outputs, as the output stages of a lot of modules aren't diode-protected against reverse voltages. Otherwise, the whole point is to patch everything to everything else while avoiding that one critical misstep, which one typically sees when people confuse multiples with mixers (which they aren't!). The far more important things to remember have to do with POWER...connecting the busboards properly, making sure where modules want the "red stripe" on ribbons, etc. Just proceed VERY carefully if you have to mess with any of that, and you'll be fine.

As for utilities and the like, just slap up a build of the current system and link it to a forum thread. You'll have plenty of experienced people poking at it for $zilch, and while you might get several answers...look at 'em as several IDEAS, implement the one(s) you like, but make sure to keep the other suggestions in the back of your mind in case you need 'em later. The MG Forum is also a super-useful place to get patching tips, etc. So, save the money for...well, more modules, but you'll see how THAT happens once you start using what you've got!

Yep, you go directly to/from the interface. However, there ARE ways to make this work better, and since you've mentioned tile rows, have a look at PulpLogic's Link and Tether tiles. If you use an DC-coupled interface that can handle D-sub I/O, all you'd then do would be to connect the interface to the Tether and there you are. The other nice thing about this sort of setup is that you're purely limited by the amount of D-sub I/O on the interface.

For example, this: Wow...what a hideous URL...anyway, this has three pairs of 8-channel D-subs plus eight more analog I/O channels. So if you wanted the MADNESS of having 32 channels of CV/gate/trig/clock I/O, you could do that with six Tethers and six Links for the first 24, then another 8 would patch directly (preferably through an outboard patchbay...those things make life much easier in a studio). Just BE SURE to get any necessary PCIe cards and such, as these denser interfaces often rely on things like that.

Another question: Which do you think is better? A synth voice module or a bunch of modules to complete a synth voice?
-- baygiooday

Depends partly on what music you're doing and whether you need to work fast (as in live gigging) or not (studio work). If the former, you might benefit from some single-module voices. But if the rig is only going to see studio work, I'd suggest going with the individual module plan. Also, if doing music with complex sonic elements, individual modules give you the flexibility needed for that...such as for immersive ambient. But if you're aiming for a techno/EDM-type direction, it wouldn't be a bad thing to make your "bleep" and "bass" voices be single module voices.

The screws on the side panels are Torx, right? I've never come across these before. Do you know what size screwdriver you need? Just wanna make sure I order the right one.
-- Manbearpignick

The best solution here would be to hit a home improvement store and pick up a set of Torx drivers. Not all that expensive, plus if you run across other Torx-fitted stuff, you're covered.

I'd check with Expert Sleepers on that point, actually. I doubt they'd put lightpipe I/O there without being able to send/return ALL of the channels; remember, this is not exactly a "normal" ADAT lightpipe interface, but something that talks to whatever CV interface app is in use. But if you want the smaller footprint, the ES-3/6 combo would also be a good fit...just remember that it hasn't got the USB interface that allows you to directly connect a MIDI controller to it in addition to the normal I/Os, and it also only handles outputs. However, you can expand that arrangement to a massive 64-outs for both gate/trig and CV.

Even so, the cheapest and easiest solution still appears to be to use an outboard DC-coupled audio interface. I use that, and so do others here.

Yep, they are...just as long as you use the right format. XODES has tried to come up with a "universal" tile faceplate, though...and it really seems to end-run that issue.

As to the OP's question about outputs to the DAW's A/D, my suggestion...if this is just going to be a studio rig, you might actually be better off with an Expert Sleepers interface module right there in the cab. The ES-9 comes to mind, in fact...plenty of user programmability, plus it works as a MIDI interface for any class-compliant controller while also having 8 channels of output from the DAW...and with 14 inputs to send audio directly to the DAW via either USB or ADAT Lightpipe. Oh, and it also gives you a stereo pair of isolated analog outs so that you could connect directly from that to the PA desk if you DID want to use it live.

The other cheapo method for this is to use a software package like ES's Silent Way, Ableton Live's CV Tools, etc...and then, your next move would be to snag a used but "obsolete" I/O interface (I use a MOTU 828FW mkii) and then use it as a substitute for the ES-9. This gives you an easy 8-out/8-in, and all you need to do is to grab a cheap Firewire 400 card to make that work. Truth is, ANY DC-coupled audio interface will work (usually), and if you stick with the interfaces from back in the old "96 kHz is all you get" days that have that, you can make this fly for a couple hundred.

Hey, Garfield, be patient. It’s a good service.
-- MichaelCrowley

Just an aside, but maybe...just should take some mass-comm classes in advertising. Because, clearly, this strategy ain't workin'!

Of course, a lot of that is due to your efforts being analogous to trying to sell hamburgers in a colony of vegans, or something similarly tone-deaf. Look up "targeted marketing" sometime.

I did misstate my goals for the system. The idea was to provide a "standard" instrument arrangement (e.g. bass, drums, lead, arp) in a single system, while still allowing for some wierd-sound exploration. And that's really my goal with modular - sound exploration in a non-DAW environment.
-- jtunes_ia, see, that makes much more sense. So, let's tear into this...

First up, having drums IN the cab is probably not the right way to proceed at present, given that you can get all sorts of much more capable standalone drum machines for far less than the modules needed plus the cost of the space they'll take up. You definitely want a machine that you can lock up to the DAW and modular, so that also gives some indications of how to proceed with interfacing on the modular so that everything "plays nice". This doesn't mean you can't send the machine THRU the modular, however; a good stereo input preamp + envelope following = very wild filter-swept percussives in step with the percussion itself. Or lots of other possible implementations. But this then means you'd have a bit of a different mixer complement, because you'll want a mixer that has enough stereo inputs if you're going to do that.

This is pretty much how it works. Define a need, vet whether or not it'll work, then figure out how to implement it. And once you figure THAT out, vet it again...this time with an eye toward conserving space + money. Do you HAVE TO have that set of modules? Can you do it cheaper? More effectively? Would an outboard device be better-suited to the solution? All of these should be in mind while thrashing out a build.

Now, let's see...basic, with the bass part, you're going to want two of the same VCO. This is super-important, because you want to be able to detune between them so that the sound gets HUGE. Maybe a bit of waveshaping to get the sound more "in yer face", and then a solid 4-pole LPF...the old Moog ladder topology would be perfect.

The arpeggi/harmonic part is also pretty straightforward up to the point where you start considering how you want timing to work. Do you want just straight-up clocking? Do you want to mess with the clock signals? If so, how? Random drops? Some swing? Boolean logic funtime? This is where VCV comes in, because it's far more difficult to explain this sort of thing and much BETTER to just have at the circuitry to sort out what works for you. However, if you pull up the "clock modulator" category here, you can see there's TONS of possible methods (some making more sense than others!) for altering timing behavior. So pretty much any sort of rhythmic trickery applies here; you can even treat certain sequencers (Euclideans!) as "clock modulators" with internal stochastics.

Now, that lead part...this is actually where you'll want to throw in a LOT of different tweakable parameters in the form of modules in the "voice's" signal chain. So, waveshapers are on the table, distorters, oddball filtering, granularization (a very effective method of "accumulating" yet another multi-"voice" layer, btw), delays, phasers, all that cray shiz...BECAUSE this one voice has to be the most variable and most memorable, as it's out front lots of the time. But by having lots of modules in that signal path that you can bring in and out of the chain and constantly adjust, this will make that one voice jump right out there where it belongs. Problem is, though...what sort of aesthetic in general does this aim for? That'll make a big difference in which modules you'll want for that. For example, if you were doing something more, say, 90s Goa Trance-ish, you probably wouldn't want some Schlappi Engineering stuff in there...but if you were taking your lead voice cues from something like Black Dice, then yeah, you definitely want sound manglers like that.

And as for the users disparaging the idea of hanging onto an instrument for 15, 20 or more years...well, lessee what's in here...

Roland JP-6 (bought 1990)
Yamaha CS-80 (bought 1993)
Casio CZ-101 (bought 1992)
Fairchild Reverbertron 659 (bought 1994)
PTI Ecoplate II (bought 1994)

...and so on. And don't even get me started on the lab gear, some of which dates back to the late 1940s! Yeah, I would have some misgivings about holding onto, say, a Roland D-10 for that long (or for ANY amount of, what a lousy synth!)...but none of those devices (among tons of others here) are ones that I would think you can "deplete" very quickly. That's the key...if something is USEFUL, you don't tend to let it go. And by "useful", I mean that you can dig and dig and dig at programming, and STILL not hit the end of the sonic possibilities.

So...proceed slowly, build something HUGE...and then, start paring it back. Take it down to a point at which you know you can't go any "lower" but where you've still got that sonic versatility, and that's where you might consider stopping. Or, just as likely, something in the pare-down jogs an idea loose and you're back to filling holes again, but with a tighter perspective on what goes in them. It's a process...takes time, if done right, and you'll find yourself constantly rescrambling things in the builds on here. But this is the slow but VERY rewarding process of creating a bespoke instrument based on YOUR music. It ain't simple.

Other trick: start going thru the racks on here. You'll find some builds by some pretty significant folks, and given their experience levels, those builds are great "textbooks" on construction, especially since you'll have some knowledge of what music those synthesists create. Just using the "grid" itself is cool and all, but you can get a really good education on how others have approached their music via this hardware by nosing around in the builds.

And another useful thing: do you want this to be in Eurorack? Because you don't have can try builds in other formats such as the 5U Moog format, Buchla 4U, Serge 4U and so on. And all of THOSE bring interesting and different things to the well as their own particular drawbacks, just like Eurorack.

Anyways, apologies for coming off as cranky as I did before...but when I see someone coming down the pike with a pile of money, noisy ambitions, and so on, it's...well, not like I'm trying to swift-kick 'em for no reason. Instead, I (and I'm sure lots of others) would rather not see yet another build with no VCAs, etc that will wind up in a closet for the next couple of decades. Instead of that, everyone here REALLY wants (I would HOPE) for newcomers to modular to do their builds right so that, rather than being turned-off by the complexity, they REALLY WILL be playing parts of that first system some 20 years down the line in what will likely be very expanded systems that started with little 2 x 84 builds. There's no reason why anyone shouldn't want that, to be honest. Might take the verbal equivalent of a good WHACK on the back by a Rinzai Zen Master (not me, mind you...Shin Buddhist here, not Zen) to get there, but as long as we all DO get there, well, hey...

My take on this is that if you want both "cheap" and "reliable" modules that have a good rep, you might want to have a look at Noise Reap's stuff. Ugly and functional appearance, but VERY interesting sonic capabilities. The Paradox, for example, is pretty nuts for only $'s pretty close to West Coast complex oscillator turf and other things that'll cost dearly, with crossmod FM and VCO self-modulation.

Yeah, that's spam alright. Looks like it's time for the MG crew to fire up the filtering...

As for the original question, though...have you thought about something like this: That there is a pair of independent Buchla-style wavefolders, each with its own I/O and CV input. You could go with an EQ or some such, but something like these gives you a lot more latitude in terms of sound alteration/mangling...just a touch for a little ear candy, or go nutz to get something that would've scared Genesis P-Orridge! Even better, if you've got a stereo delay of some sort in there, you can feed some modulation signals to this module, then send the audio results on to the delay and have each repeat have a different timbral color! EQs and such are easy enough, but if you're in an environment where something of this sort can run and play, this seems like the way to go.

Thread: Plans

And Mr. Annoying here makes three! So, yeah...remove that Neutron!

Also, Jim makes a good point...the cab's way too small. When beginning a build here, always start with a case that you know is too big...because the reality of the situation is that the "too big" case is usually just the right size! Oh, and you're NOT trapped in an Intellijel case, might want a peek here: Case From Lake over in Italia, dahling can do alterations to their stock versions seen at that link, and those include tile rows in EITHER you could do an Intellijel format one AND a "standard" one if you felt the need. Stonkin' power specs from 'em, too...they know what they're doing.

My take on this: if you have a problem with critique, maybe you should pick a different line of work. Amusingly, though, this seems to happen every time someone comes along with their idea of what's going to make them a SUPAH-STAAHH and I or someone else points out the deficiencies in their line of thinking. And this has been going on for a long time; I can recall an incident back in the pre-browser days on USENET where someone popped up on one of the groups, bellowing about his brand new MORPHEUS, and how this brand new MORPHEUS was going to be THE THING that was gonna take him right to the top!!!

Yeah, right.

Fact is, this argument that a given device will vault you into stardom is a load of crap. It's the inverse corollory to blaming your equipment for your own musical shortcomings. Both notions are equally false. Your musicianship depends on YOU...not a Magic Box or whatever.

Now, yeah, might BE capable of grabbing the (somewhat cursed) brass ring of getting big in music. But when you start confusing your efforts with your purchases, you're operating in a pretty screwed-up area. And the thing that it leads to (and which I and others have seen repeatedly on MG and loads of other places) is a sense of hubris that causes one to incinerate their lines of credit because they've managed to convince themselves of this sort of nonsense. And, also invariably, when they get THAT CONVINCED, any sort of query turns (in their minds) into some sort of ATTACK!@!!!!!!!$$$!1111

Very dumb. Go back and reread my post. Yeah, it's blunt; I wouldn't have survived the music industry as long as I have without being blunt. But notice the actual INFO there...what WILL you do if styles change? Is this system capable of open-ended sorts of work, or have you built a very expensive MC-303? HAVE you actually worked with any sort of modular equipment, virtual or otherwise? And of course, the meat at the heart of the post was ignored...which was this:

"A much smarter move would be to try and NOT fit the system to the music. Really, it should be the other way around."

No lie. Consider: the VERY-copied and now-goes-for-several-grand TB-303 was introduced in Roland's pre-MIDI days as an automated bass line (which is why it says that on there) for acts like bar bands, people doing demos, etc. It tanked. It was, at the time, the music instrument equivalent of the Atari 2600 "E.T." game. And it took several years for Larry Heard to pop into a Chicago pawn shop or used music gear joint, find one, and then MISUSE it for a little ditty called "Washing Machine". And what happens on that track and ALL of the subsequent acid house tracks in its wake is NOT how you're supposed to use a TB-303. But when you talk to a lot of these acid producers, they invariably say that what they do with the 303 is what seemed to them to be what fit with how the TB-303 worked. This is also why it took many years after acid blew up for Roland to warm up to reissuing AN (albeit not THE) TB-303 in some manner, because they thought people were using their synth "wrong" and still thought it was an abject failure...despite the clear and obvious evidence that they could've fired up a production line for them right then and there in the middle of the 1990s, charged several times what the original list of the TB-303 was for the same, already-developed device, and made out like bandits. What finally DID get them to revisit it, though, was all of the small companies making bank on their attempts to clone this thing.

But getting back to that point: if you've not done the research, not had the experience, and are operating on snap decisions, you're going to get severely burned. And I'm not talking about the synth here, but the music itself. Do you actually know what EDM producers use? Is this effort of yours based in any of their useful experiences? Do you often take a pile of money out in the yard and set it on fire? That last one is pretty much what happens if you ignore the two previous questions.

I would suggest getting over your severe butthurt and then actually discussing what you're trying to do, what the aims are, and so on. Fact is, we aren't gatekeeping people out of modular here...but we ARE trying to gatekeep people from making some really awful decisions and winding up with a generally-unplayable instrument. But if you can't handle blunt but well-meaning advice, well...

Sure it does. If it didn't, you wouldn't see the image that tells that the clip was blocked by the owner.

Precisely the sort of thing I was thinking of, Ronin...not a massive change to the site's scripting that would allow you whatever cab you wanted for your build. I think we can stick with the current case layout models for the Grid itself. This would be more of a "gallery" of cabs with full (authoritative!) specs, with space available probably being the best ranking criteria. That way, you could just use the navigation buttons in the existing scripting like we do with just wouldn't have the ability to pop one up onscreen to build in.

Right now, I see three primary criteria on the case listings:

1) Form factor. Is this a case? A rack housing? If it's a case, is it portable? Does it offer a lid for transport? Does it fold for transportation?
2) Power. Is the case powered? If so, does it use flying busses or fixed busboards? Is the AC supply internal or external. How much current is available? Is the power in "zones" (think Arturia here) or overall?
3) Dimensions. How deep can the modules be? How wide are the rows? What's the total available hp? What external physical dimensions does a case have? If it folds, how big is it for transport?

As far as materials, special latching (like ATA-compliant hardware) and so on...those can be in the case descriptions. Sticking with the above criteria for sorting and sifting through seems to me to be key here.

And also, if you object to Behringer, that's why the FORUMS exist. Don't screw with the database.

I'm not "into" modular (yet), but I have been researching and experimenting here on ModularGrid with rack designs, including this one that I'm calling the "EDMachine".
-- jtunes_ia

Here's a better idea: if you don't have a copy of VCV Rack on your machine, get one. It's free: Next, replicate the above cab as best as possible (there ARE some 1:1 virtual versions of these modules, fyi) in VCV. Then try using it.

So, about the point where you're going to be either very puzzled or very riled up about an hour into this...that's the point where you start realizing that this thing has some SERIOUS flaws. For example, you have no attenuators or submixers in this. That'll be fun.

Here's the real problem: you're trying to work out a build based SOLELY on the descriptions on MG. This is one of those "doomed to failure" sort of exercises. Without some practical, working knowledge of why certain things MUST be in a build, which sort of layouts will work as far as signal flow vs ergonomics, and so on, you're sort of out in a creek without a paddle. Hence the copy of VCV Rack. Trying to do this sort of thing with NO practical knowledge is a sure-fire way to incinerate your Magic Plastic on a box that costs a pile but which winds up in a closet. And speaking of that factor...

Have you considered what to do if EDM tanks? It, like everything else in music, is subject to the whims and vagaries of an easily-amused audience. If someone finds a way to amuse them in a cheaper, more practical way, that's where they'll flock to because the industry likes "cheaper". Audiences are, in general, a fairly fickle "low interest"'ll only find a small percentage of "true believers" among them, ever, and the rest tends to be attracted by ANY source of lights, noises, and thrashing around. So, given that, IS it really practical to spend several grand on a system that's purely focused on a musical style? Given the piles of Roland MC-303s found in pawnshops (when they'd still take 'em!) not long after the rave scene tanked in the late 1990s, I would say that, no, it's not.

A much smarter move would be to try and NOT fit the system to the music. Really, it should be the other way around. Create a suitably open-ended build that you feel confident that you'll be using sometime around 2040, and that will FIT ANY music that comes along between now and then. And no, there's no exaggeration there; system adaptability is why people will STILL slit your throat in some circles over a minty-fresh vintage ARP 2600. It's a synth that was designed c. 1970, but designed RIGHT so that it's just as valid fifty years on. And I've seen ARP 2600s in use in everything from classic 70s funk (Stevie Wonder's "Superstition", with the help of Margouleff and Cecil) to classical (even I did that...we needed a foghorn for a production of Puccini's "Suor Angelica" during my undergrad, and I was happy to oblige...and it sounded PERFECT). THAT sort of build is what you should be aiming toward...not something with a stylistic expiration date.

After all, it's not the machine that makes the music. You do. You define what it does...not the other way around.

Expect more of this, btw...I saw some scuttlebutt on YT about a new oscillator from these guys.

Frankly, I'm 100% down...if you said I could have a free VCO, and you offered me a choice between one of their new ones and a Behringer Brains, I'd take the Behringer. At least Uli's stuff tends to be somewhat (to very, actually) reliable; Cre8's modules aren't winning them any big fans in that aspect, and I'd rather have to swallow my pride and question my own ethics rather than having a smoking hole in a rig and a related smoking hole in my wallet.

Right...IF it's doable. I know already that this would require some tinkering with the various databases, but I think if the mods keep to ONLY commercially-available cases, it shouldn't be too chaotic to add this. Also, what I envision would simply be a "gallery" of sorts where the case specs (power especially!), form factor, etc can be shown alongside an image of the case in question. Definitely NOT calling for being able to USE the cases in builds, as that really WOULD be too much to expect in terms of necessary coding and other headaches.

Lots of problems here...first of all, some of your modules in the build are overlapping really badly, at least in the display view. You need to go back to the build page, call up the "screenshot view" again and hit "refresh" to get the proper image up. Secondly, you can't mix Intellijel format tiles and "standard" format tiles in the same row, as they're not the same size. Third: even if Cwejman was still a working concern (all indications are that it's not), nothing in reality can excuse $600 for a stereo panner/VCA. I don't even care if the solder was custom-made by GOD, nothing justifies that. And lastly, this is a pretty small build, and small builds tend to never work out well if you try and build several subsystems into the same build. In this case, trying to jam drum modules in is something I'd discourage...not because they don't work, but because of the space they require, as well as the space everything else requires, means that the whole build has to be done by underequipping something or another. And you can see some of that here inasmuch as the only sequencer for your drum modules is the Steppy, and all you have for a "voice" source is a single complex oscillator. That there isn't necessarily bad in of itself, but other points are downright strange...such as using a stereo VCF when there's no other stereo modules in the synthesis path.

Since you've got a prebuilt system already, what I would suggest is to replicate that in an MG build first. Then, once that's done, expand the rack further so that you have build space that can incorporate new build activity, and then build into that. By having it AND the sketch system in the same place, you're far more likely to be able to notice how you can expand the Erica effectively. This wouldn't necessarily have to be a public build, either...just one that allows you to see your whole "modular picture" at the same time.

Now, as for the drums...quite honestly, just get a drum machine. For one thing, the expense of Eurorack modules IN GENERAL means that you can get a decent machine for far less than the percussion modules, sequencer, mixer, etc etc that a Eurorack implementation of the same sort of thing would cost. Secondly, they're machines specifically dedicated to beats and rhythm, not a general-purpose device that you have to kludge up a drum machine in. Unless you're willing to throw a lot of $$$ around and seriously mash the space available, you simply cannot build a subsystem (or full standalone system) that can do the same thing. Or a better way to put it might be like this: your Plonk alone costs $349, and a Behringer RD-9 costs...well, $349. And that's $349 with NO extra patchcables, NO panel space robbed, NO extra expense, etc. Yeah, I get it...I don't think much of (and try to think as little as possible about) Uli and his antics, but thus far his clones of synth unobtainium have been pretty spot-on, at least as far as the ones I've encountered. Even so, diving head-first into the expensive stuff sometimes works well, but sometimes it's just a flex that'll come back to haunt your build later on.