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Going Modular: Saving money/buying built rig.

Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2015 5:44 pm
by kmasters68
Hi folks! New here cause I'm primarily a guitarist. I'm getting pretty strung out on keyboards. Last year I bought a Rhodes and began a refurb and self study of keys. Since then I have gotten totally obsessed with vintage piano technology. I bought a Roland FA-08 that I love for digital stuff. So now I'm ready to start the analog journey (even though I don't necessarily feel like I'm lacking in tone ability). I just want the experience. So with that said, I know me. I'm going to get too deep into this stuff. Knowing this, I'm concerned about the super expensive learning curve we all experience in finding tone/trying out new stuff. For example, it would be hard for me to buy a guitar effects pedal that was a waste of money cause I know what they do and what I need. BUT I have spent lots of money and hours learning this stuff.

So I'm looking at racks and modules. I seems to me that buying another persons system saves quite a lot of money. Since I pretty much know I'm going to go full monty, should I consider buying a system and the modifying it if necessary or is the experience of building/learning a step that is critical to the process? Not sure I asked that exactly right... Phrased another way: (very subjective I know) Will building the rack be more rewarding in regard to learning and offset cost of being the first builder or is it smarter to just go the distance and invest up front?

We've all bought stuff that we sold right away for a loss. I guess thats one thing what I'm wanting to avoid. The other thing I want to avoid is hop scotching up the quality ladder. I'd rather just pony uno for the real deal and avoid the expensive learning curve.

That said: There are lots of full systems for sale that are close to actual cost. If I'm going to go that route I may as well build it myself. I'm wanting to look at stuff in the $800-$1500 range. I'm a total newb, so any thoughts on the matter would be appreciated.

Re: Going Modular: Saving money/buying built rig.

Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2015 6:17 pm
by kmasters68
And as a follow up question, if building has its tangible rewards, whats the first step?

I did search the site. Saw these suggestions:

Are these products a good place to start? One better than the others? Something else entirely?


Post Edit: Just found Muff Wigglers! ;)

Re: Going Modular: Saving money/buying built rig.

Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2015 9:26 pm
by tomorrowstops
Quality is way more subjective in the synth world than the guitar world. They say building a modular is half the fun, so buying somebody else's creation would take away from the experience. With modular its generally better to start small and fully understand each module, figuring out what you want the synth to produce and adding modules along the way. I wouldn't suggest, say spending $8k on a 66-space dotcom system as your entrance to modular synths.

Re: Going Modular: Saving money/buying built rig.

Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2015 9:28 pm
by tomorrowstops
And no, theres no way to avoid spending money experimenting. You need to experience what you don't like as much as what you do like.

Re: Going Modular: Saving money/buying built rig.

Posted: Mon Dec 14, 2015 2:04 am
by Stab Frenzy
If money is a concern to you then don't even start in the modular world. It will easily use up 2-3 times what you originally bargain for.

That said, there is a very active second-hand market in eurorack modules which you could utilise. I would strongly recommend starting with a very basic system (1 osc, 1 filter, 1 VCA, 1 env/lfo) and adding to it a module at a time to learn to use what you have as you go instead of trying to start with a complete system, you'll learn the idiosyncrasies of each module that way and be able to utilise them to their full potential.

Re: Going Modular: Saving money/buying built rig.

Posted: Mon Dec 14, 2015 3:16 pm
by meatballfulton
The advantage of buying a mfr's "starter" system is it works out of the box without requiring you to research modules extensively. Just choosing a VCO and a VCF can drive you crazy, there are so many options today.

It's often the little things that are missing in the starter systems. Is there a ring modulator, is there a sample and hold, is there a slew limiter for portamento, does the MIDI interface support velocity and aftertouch, are there enough mixers and multiples for routing signals?

When you buy a used system from someone else, they may have assembled a set of modules that aren't what you want or need. Then you are immediately selling some modules off to buy others. I've done that and would recommend it only if you get a really good price. It's common for sellers to ask 70% of the new price on used modules. If you can get it for 50% or less, that's a bargain.

As mentioned above, don't get into modular if you're on a tight budget. I started out with a $500 investment but when I got out of modular, my last system was worth $4000 :shock:


That was more than I had ever spent on any musical instrument and unlike my basses it wasn't earning me any money :? so I sold it.

Re: Going Modular: Saving money/buying built rig.

Posted: Tue Dec 15, 2015 2:47 pm
by kmasters68
Thanks guys this is really good advice! ;)