A Modular Polysynth - Mental Exercise

Discussions about anything analog, digital, MIDI, synth technology, techniques, theories and more.
Post Reply
User avatar
StepLogik
Expert Member
Expert Member
Posts: 1492
Joined: Fri Dec 29, 2006 4:16 am
Gear: Gauntlets of Ogre Power, Vorpal Sword, Chain Mail +3, Ring of Invisibility, Staff of the Magi, Boots of Speed
Location: Boston, MA

A Modular Polysynth - Mental Exercise

Post by StepLogik » Tue Jun 03, 2008 8:28 pm

Thinking about the extremely narrow market for analog polysynths, it occurred to me that the best way to be successful to is just be all things to all people. With that in mind, I began an interesting mental exercise for a "modular" polysynth:

1. 61, 76, 88-key chassis, completely empty except for the keyboard and a CPU unit with a keypad, LCD display, and some soft buttons

2. Your choice of controllers on the left of the keyboard: any combination of wheels, joysticks, knobs, buttons, ribbon, etc

3. Your choice of I/O modules on the back: USB, XLR, 1/4", MIDI, firewire, etc

4. Pluggable modules for the front panel. Each module performs a specific function: VCO, Filter, VCA, LFO, Audio Mixer, etc. Each module has a nice front panel with its guts mounted behind (just like a typical modular).

5. Each module is 4 voices. Additional "voice expanders" (which are just a raw PC board minus the control panel) can be "stacked" to the underside of the module to give an additional 4 voices (up to some theoretical max probably limited by space in the instrument).

6. Each module will connect to the main CPU via some type of digital data bus. The module will register its name and all of its controls (knobs, switches, etc). Whenever a control is updated (changed), the CPU will record the value providing patch storage. I would image that the knobs would be encoders and the switches would be illuminated buttons so that the controls are stateless for patch recall.

7. Each module will have its audio connectors on a ribbon cable so modules can be interconnected however the owner wishes.

8. Non-audio modules such as Envelope generators and LFO's can be routed to any panel control via the CPU's data bus. They do not have audio connectors.

9. The final stage's output (usually the VCA) is connected to an internal audio bus that any I/O module can tap in order to provide an audio feed.

10. I/O modules will also register with the CPU via the internal data bus so that their functions can be controlled from the front panel (midi over usb, routing certain voices to certain outputs, etc).

11. Each module will have a unique name in order to distinguish duplicates such as a synth architecture with 2 filters or 2 sets of outputs, etc. Example: "Filter LFO", "VCA LFO", etc

12. The CPU can route/map anything to anything (MIDI CC 56 to Filter Cutoff, Mod wheel #2 to VCA Env Decay)

13. The CPU module provides patch storage and can expose patch data to I/O modules for sysex dumps, computer interfacing, etc.

14. The CPU module exposes the entire system architecture to the I/O modules for advanced remote editing (a computer editor that visually shows your custom module architecture over usb, etc).

What are we missing?

I've already thought of several flaws in this design, what can you guys think of?

Would this even be remotely feasible?

User avatar
hfinn
Expert Member
Expert Member
Posts: 1197
Joined: Fri Dec 10, 2004 3:21 pm
Gear: http://soundcloud.com/heath-finnie
Location: Boston
Contact:

Post by hfinn » Tue Jun 03, 2008 8:48 pm

you could also get a regular modular and something like a Roland 184 keyboard which has four CV and gates creating four voice polyphony...(providing you have at least four osc's)

User avatar
madtheory
Supporting Member!
Supporting Member!
Posts: 5310
Joined: Mon May 01, 2006 12:45 pm
Real name: Tomas Mulcahy
Gear: Wurlitzer Opus 1536, Model F, Morovdis Arpeggiator, Maplin My First EQ, Jeff Wayne Thunderchild rack, Thermostat, Buck Owens' Moog.
Location: Cork, Ireland
Contact:

Post by madtheory » Tue Jun 03, 2008 10:06 pm

YOu seem to be having lots of cool ideas... you must do one! :)

MrFrodo
Senior Member
Senior Member
Posts: 952
Joined: Sun Oct 09, 2005 9:29 pm
Real name: Eric
Location: New York, NY, USA
Contact:

Post by MrFrodo » Tue Jun 03, 2008 10:32 pm

If all the modules would be 4-voice (I'd prefer six-voice, myself), what kind of PC boards would they contain? Would they be like Minimoogs? Or, would they be condensed further in size like the SSM/CEM chips found in the Prophet 5, OBX or their followers?
The greatest thing we ever have is the will to survive.

Rest in peace, Dr. Robert Moog.

http://www.ericbenjamingordon.com
http://cdbaby.com/cd/ebgordon
http://www.myspace.com/ericbenjamingordon

steveman
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 335
Joined: Thu Oct 05, 2006 4:08 pm

Re: A Modular Polysynth - Mental Exercise

Post by steveman » Tue Jun 03, 2008 10:51 pm

StepLogik wrote:Thinking about the extremely narrow market for analog polysynths, it occurred to me that the best way to be successful to is just be all things to all people. With that in mind, I began an interesting mental exercise for a "modular" polysynth:

1. 61, 76, 88-key chassis, completely empty except for the keyboard and a CPU unit with a keypad, LCD display, and some soft buttons

2. Your choice of controllers on the left of the keyboard: any combination of wheels, joysticks, knobs, buttons, ribbon, etc

3. Your choice of I/O modules on the back: USB, XLR, 1/4", MIDI, firewire, etc

4. Pluggable modules for the front panel. Each module performs a specific function: VCO, Filter, VCA, LFO, Audio Mixer, etc. Each module has a nice front panel with its guts mounted behind (just like a typical modular).

5. Each module is 4 voices. Additional "voice expanders" (which are just a raw PC board minus the control panel) can be "stacked" to the underside of the module to give an additional 4 voices (up to some theoretical max probably limited by space in the instrument).

6. Each module will connect to the main CPU via some type of digital data bus. The module will register its name and all of its controls (knobs, switches, etc). Whenever a control is updated (changed), the CPU will record the value providing patch storage. I would image that the knobs would be encoders and the switches would be illuminated buttons so that the controls are stateless for patch recall.

7. Each module will have its audio connectors on a ribbon cable so modules can be interconnected however the owner wishes.

8. Non-audio modules such as Envelope generators and LFO's can be routed to any panel control via the CPU's data bus. They do not have audio connectors.

9. The final stage's output (usually the VCA) is connected to an internal audio bus that any I/O module can tap in order to provide an audio feed.

10. I/O modules will also register with the CPU via the internal data bus so that their functions can be controlled from the front panel (midi over usb, routing certain voices to certain outputs, etc).

11. Each module will have a unique name in order to distinguish duplicates such as a synth architecture with 2 filters or 2 sets of outputs, etc. Example: "Filter LFO", "VCA LFO", etc

12. The CPU can route/map anything to anything (MIDI CC 56 to Filter Cutoff, Mod wheel #2 to VCA Env Decay)

13. The CPU module provides patch storage and can expose patch data to I/O modules for sysex dumps, computer interfacing, etc.

14. The CPU module exposes the entire system architecture to the I/O modules for advanced remote editing (a computer editor that visually shows your custom module architecture over usb, etc).

What are we missing?

I've already thought of several flaws in this design, what can you guys think of?

Would this even be remotely feasible?
This would cost way more than building a polysynth of fixed design. Separate casings for all the parts, connectors on each module, making sure all the parts fit together in the various combinations...
Sounds like a complete nightmare to manufacture.

Maybe great for hardcore synthesists, trouble is it'd have a market of around 100...
For those that want a modular polysynth, I'm sure they could do it themselves. Trying to build (& sell) something that's 'all things to all men' is a recipe for disaster.
If all the modules would be 4-voice (I'd prefer six-voice, myself), what kind of PC boards would they contain? Would they be like Minimoogs? Or, would they be condensed further in size like the SSM/CEM chips found in the Prophet 5, OBX or their followers?
:roll: Jeez, you really have to ask? :roll:

User avatar
nathanscribe
VSE Review Contributor
VSE Review Contributor
Posts: 2889
Joined: Fri Aug 11, 2006 1:03 pm
Location: The right side of the Pennines
Contact:

Post by nathanscribe » Tue Jun 03, 2008 11:36 pm

I'm just going to hire a bunch of whales and train them to sing my pieces. Their sultry tones will be filtered by the salt waves of the sea, and the reverberations of their distance will mellow like no BBD the sonar of their song.

User avatar
soundxplorer
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 280
Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2007 4:48 am
Location: PA

Post by soundxplorer » Wed Jun 04, 2008 2:07 am

I had a similar idea recently while looking at LEGOs in a toy store. The LEGO parts are so specialized today, compared to when I was a kid. You don't just buy square a rectangle bricks anymore, you get parts that look like they will only be useful in the one thing they were designed to go into.

Anyway, I decided that LEGO should get together with MOOG and make a LEGOSYNTH kit. It can be a simple monosynth like the MG-1, but if you bought multiple kits, you could assemble a larger synth with more features. Maybe even make it poly.

Or maybe not.

User avatar
Stab Frenzy
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 9723
Joined: Tue Jun 06, 2006 5:41 pm
Gear: Eurorack, RYTM, Ultranova, many FX
Location: monster island*
Contact:

Re: A Modular Polysynth - Mental Exercise

Post by Stab Frenzy » Wed Jun 04, 2008 3:07 am

StepLogik wrote:Would this even be remotely feasible?
What you've described sound a lot like the Poly Evolvers. No need for the data busses cause there's pretty much a knob per function anyway, and you just buy more PERs and use polychain to increase polyphony.

It also reminded me a lot of the Andromeda, which is like a modular with its routing and has the ribbon strip.

I like the whales idea though, that seems to be the best so far. Would the whales be digitally controlled or directly voltage controlled?

I've heard VCWs tend to drift a fair bit, which can be a problem in strong ocean currents.

Slickie
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 68
Joined: Wed Sep 22, 2004 7:58 pm

Re: A Modular Polysynth - Mental Exercise

Post by Slickie » Wed Jun 04, 2008 10:42 pm

steveman wrote:
Maybe great for hardcore synthesists, trouble is it'd have a market of around 100...
I think you have 1 to many zeros there. :)

User avatar
shaft9000
Supporting Member!
Supporting Member!
Posts: 2042
Joined: Tue Nov 14, 2006 3:13 am
Real name: Dave
Gear: Whips chains waxes oils dildos DMT TNT the LHC, and a black rubber duckie
Band: moneymoneymoney
Location: VanNuys, CA USA
Contact:

Re: A Modular Polysynth - Mental Exercise

Post by shaft9000 » Sun Jun 08, 2008 4:20 pm

StepLogik wrote:
What are we missing?
An investor like Warren Buffett or Rupert Murdoch to suddenly go apeshit over modular synths and get a wild hair up his butt, happen to land on this site and read your concept, and agree that your idea is worth funding.

no problem! :wink:
Stab Frenzy wrote: I've heard VCWs tend to drift a fair bit, which can be a problem in strong ocean currents.
:lol:
2600.solus.modcan a.eurorack.cs60.JP8.Juno6.A6.sunsyn.volcakeys.jd990.tb303.x0xb0x.revolution.
999.m1am1.RY30.svc350.memotron

shaft9000.muffwiggler.com <- singles & mixtape
shaft9000.bandcamp.com <- spacemusic album
youtube.com/shaft9000 <- various synth demos and studies

User avatar
otto
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 1571
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 8:00 pm
Location: Utah

Post by otto » Sun Jun 08, 2008 4:46 pm

A bit off topic but I'm surprised no one makes a modular case with the keyboard/wheel built in. I'm thinking along the lines of something that looks like a Korg PS-3100 with rack spaces to mount your own modules. Then they would obviously need non keyboard cabinets that match and can be stacked/placed on the side for expandibility.
hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again

User avatar
neandrewthal
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 472
Joined: Thu Aug 31, 2006 5:43 am
Location: Ontari-ari-o

Post by neandrewthal » Mon Jun 09, 2008 5:01 am

Image
What happens at fondue stays at fondue!

User avatar
guitarsandsynths
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 520
Joined: Sun Apr 06, 2008 7:05 am
Real name: Angelo Metz
Band: Brazility
Location: Los Angeles
Contact:

Post by guitarsandsynths » Tue Jun 10, 2008 8:27 am

neandrewthal wrote:Image
They really needed a sorcerer to wake them up, didn't they?
Ehe!
Minimoog ModelD Prophet5 Roland Jupiter8 SH7 GR9 CSQ100 TR606 TR707 TR727 Oberheim OB8 ARP2600 KorgVC10 Rhodes73 Wurlitzer 200A ClavinetII DOTCOM PearlDRX1 TamaTS202 Simmons SDS9

Post Reply