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modular build

Posted: Sun May 24, 2015 4:50 pm
by ian
Looking for advice on putting piecing together a modular system. Not a rich man so will add bits over time. Suggestions on brands/components/order of components?

Re: modular build

Posted: Tue May 26, 2015 4:34 am
by Stab Frenzy
- Start with something really simple and then add what you think you need as you go.
- There are a lot of good multi-function modules like the Maths and PEG which you can use in many ways which are handy to get starting off.
- Pittsburgh Modular and Doepfer are both good value for money and very good, even though some people think they're not that exciting.

For a basic subtractive voice you need an oscillator, a filter, a VCA and an envelope. If you want to control it from a keyboard then a MIDI interface will be needed too. You'll want to add more mixers, VCAs and modulation sources pretty quickly though, that's when modular gets fun.

Re: modular build

Posted: Tue May 26, 2015 2:55 pm
by Bitexion
The most expensive piece in any modular system is, boring enough, the rack cases w/ power supply and plugs for all the modules. And that is mandatory. You can't just slap together a bunch of VCOs and filters without power. And it needs to be the correct power aswell. Modules are always connected with a ribbon cable to a power supply board in the case.

So if you start with that + a few basic modules, then add to it little by little, you can go a long way.
No need for a 3VCO dual filter monster with a step sequencer right away.

Here's an example
The one with two rows of modules is an RS-15 case, the empty case alone costs £325. I have two of those mostly filled with modules, and mine costs roughly £3000 now and there's still some open space in the bottom row.

These are EU prices since the company is in UK. is another popular euro rack modular manufacturer.

Both offer prebuilt systems at various sizes and price points too.

For USA there's, and probably lots more I don't know about. There are some restrictions on what is allowed to ship overseas so some of those US manufacturers don't ship to Europe and vice versa.

Re: modular build

Posted: Wed May 27, 2015 2:01 am
by Stab Frenzy
Bitexion wrote:The most expensive piece in any modular system is, boring enough, the rack cases w/ power supply and plugs for all the modules.
Well that depends on which case you get, I have quite a few modules that cost more than all my cases except the custom Monorocket I had made for me.

You can very cheaply make a case of your own with an Ikea Rast, a bracket kit from Caselogic and some vector rails, and whatever power supply solution you want. Should cost less than most oscillators.

Re: modular build

Posted: Wed May 27, 2015 3:11 am
by ian
Thanks for the replies,

After looking at the prices of prefab racks I decided to build my own and ordered a few diy synth and basic electronics books last night. I'd like to eventually build some of my own components as well, I have plenty of junky keyboards and pedals to practice on and get up to speed. Still, taking it slow and getting some brand name modules to begin with seems prudent.

I was wondering about doepfer and Pittsburgh brands as they seem affordable, so thanks for the tips. Seems like a good way to go for the basics.

Also looking at the Dave Smith filter (seems great and affordable) and a fancier LFO with tap tempo. I was actually thinking of starting with those two because I could patch my mono synth with them and get started making sounds.

I haven't seen a lot of ARPs or PWM modules ...which I like using a lot... any thoughts on those?

Seems like building my own VCO or EG would be fun! I would like to get an envelope with lot's of movement at some point , however.

Any tips on FM modules?

Thanks again for taking the time to reply! Checking all the links and suggestions, very helpful.

Re: modular build

Posted: Wed May 27, 2015 3:48 am
by ian
Currently out of my price range but this company seems to have some cool stuff

Meant to ask before for any comments on my ideas in the above post.

This seems awesome and a good deal... Thoughts?

Re: modular build

Posted: Wed May 27, 2015 9:27 am
by pflosi
If you plan to run other synths into it, you'll need to amplify the levels up to Eurorack levels in order to get good results.

By "ARP" modules, do you mean arpeggiators? Indeed not too many of those around... But Yarns is definitely one of the cool ones. Plenty of great sequencers though. Oh and "PWM" is actually not a type of module but just modulating the pulsewidth of the square wave of your oscillator :thumbleft: And what exactly do you expect from "FM" modules? That can mean a lot of different things too...

Re: modular build

Posted: Wed May 27, 2015 12:58 pm
by ian
@Pflosi, first off, thanks for your reply.
Yes, I did mean arpeggiators ( not the company). Are they few and far between because they are complicated to craft and therefore expensive?

Bad form with short hand on my part, I do understand what PWM is but I haven't seen any modules that feature pulse width modulation in my searches. As I'm still wrapping my head around modular routing I had assumed that a wave could be run through a PWM unit( or rather, a seperate PWM could be applied to an oscillator) but you are saying that, nope, if found it would be as an added feature to an oscillator? Additionally and as an aside, I know that square wave is the traditional wave modulated by pulse width but I thought I had seen synths that can modulate any wave form via pulse width (?)

Again, sorry for my short hand, I was wondering about modules that generate FM, as in an FM pair or a 4 operator deal. I hadn't seen any off hand and it was a lazy question in retrospect; wondering if anyone had a line on something super awesome rad. ;)

Lastly, and more important than the above feature lust silliness, when you say if I plan to use another synth with my modular set up I'll need to amplify it to eurorack levels, what does that mean in practice?

Thanks again for taking the time to comment and thanks for your patcience.

Re: modular build

Posted: Thu May 28, 2015 1:29 am
by Stab Frenzy
Heaps of oscillators have PWM, look for a modulation input marked PW or similar. You can also patch your own PWM with a sawtooth osc and a comparitor, sending a slow attenuated LFO to the other comparitor input. That's the essence of modular, being able to patch up whatever you want.

Same thing with arpeggiators, they're not super common because it's more fun to patch one up yourself out of various modulation sources and a quantiser. Although if you want vanilla hold down various keys on a midi keyboard type arpeggiation you're better off getting it all in one.

There's a few FM modules but they're more for making nasty noise than DX7 type E Pianos. Go have a look at, you can search modules by function there, might be quicker and more satisfying than asking here and then having to wait for replies. :thumbleft:

Re: modular build

Posted: Thu May 28, 2015 2:18 am
by ian
Thanks for the link, Stab. Yeah, I need to get much deeper into understanding patching, I've done a decent amount but not nearly enough. The door has been opened and I'm left with a serious itch to scratch. I'll save my questions for more concrete concerns for now. However, still curious about what was meant by bringing external synths up to eurorack levels. Levels meaning voltage?

Re: modular build

Posted: Thu May 28, 2015 8:24 am
by pflosi
Regarding the levels, yeah Eurorack is 5V peak to peak which is louder than the line level standard. There are many input modules that will amplify external sources. I have an Intellijel Audio Interface (for line level) and a Pulplogic Entry Point (for mic and instrument levels) which I both really like.

For DX7 type FM modules, there's really not that much; check out the new ALM Akemie's Castle. But you can FM anything basically. Also the pulsewidth of square waves :mrgreen: I actually don't know of any traditional oscs without that input.

Re: modular build

Posted: Fri May 29, 2015 8:51 am
by ian
@Pflosi, the ALM Akemie's Castle is exactly what I meant and it looks SO COOL * nerd voice* HI CHAH! *air karate chop and attempt at a clumsy jump kick* ... Thank you!
Gotcha on the level thing, too.

Found a good site for explaining things I didn 't really get yet... Arpeggios are usually done thru sequencers/quantizers which looks way better than 'vanilla' arpeggiators :o ... Got it...and rad, dudes.

A softsynth I have used had a separate PWM generator which allowed for any wave form to be squiggeled, but I see now there's not a need for that, as Stab pointed out, all that and more can be created via signal routing. I was looking for a shiny box to throw money at... Hahahaha. Thanks.

Alright, on my way, thanks for the hand holding everyone; off to get rich so I can afford some gizmos.

Re: modular build

Posted: Fri May 29, 2015 1:33 pm
by pflosi
My pleasure!

Well, re: "PWM module", you can actually use a comparator and any input source to "synthesize" PWM from any waveform, if you want to. Just modulate its threshold. There are many tricks for waveshaping like this.

As Stabs said, this is modular, you can do anything :thumbleft:

Re: modular build

Posted: Fri May 29, 2015 1:35 pm
by meatballfulton
A cheap solution to the rack/power problem is this:


TipTop Happy Endings $149 in USA

Re: modular build

Posted: Tue Jun 02, 2015 8:58 am
by ian
Thanks for the tiptop suggestion!