If I wanted to ease into the modular synth world...

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tranzfuse
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If I wanted to ease into the modular synth world...

Post by tranzfuse » Mon Aug 23, 2010 6:06 pm

Would Doepfer's Dark Energy be a good way to start? I know it is not a rackmount module per se, but for a beginner it seems safe and allows me to get a sense of a world that seems to be a very deep rabbit hole. Plus, it could be incorporated into an actual modular environment down the road.

Since I've gotten into production (transitioned from DJing) I have only used software/softsynths, with the exception of midi controllers as an interface. I have always wanted to have a nice first piece of analog hardware to bring into the mix. Dark Energy seems like a good fit.

I watched a video of Expert Sleepers demoing their Silent Way plugin a while back and that introduced me to the modular world, and I've begun scouring the forums and reading up ever since.

It seems that the Dark Energy synth is a gateway drug :)

Thoughts?
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The Leveller
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Re: If I wanted to ease into the modular synth world...

Post by The Leveller » Mon Aug 23, 2010 7:27 pm

I think if you are tempted to take the plunge then...take the plunge. The dark energy won't satiate your thirst!

Also, check out this very fine chaps blog and get bitten!

http://navsmodularlab.blogspot.com/

leisuremuffin
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Re: If I wanted to ease into the modular synth world...

Post by leisuremuffin » Tue Aug 24, 2010 2:50 am

gah, thanks for reminding me how i want to spend more money on stuff.


anyway, the dark energy thing looks like a pretty cool and useful multi purpose module, but i don't think you should go that way and here's why:

From a perspective of effective learning, it makes more sense to have discrete modules for each function. If you've already learned on soft synth instruments, you're probably already familiar with how to program something like the dark energy. Everything you need to get a sound is already right there start to finish except for the pitch and trigger information. you provide that with a keyboard or your sequencer output. I think that where modular synths start to get interesting is when you get away from that thinking of playing a keyboard style synth. Having no built in signal flow or architecture from the start is a really amazing blank canvas. you aren't locked into keyboard----> osc ----> filter ----> amp with the obvious spots for LFOs and ENVs to control. it opens up how you look at designing synth sounds. And when you get discrete modules, you typically are getting modules with more points of control and signal in and out that allow you top explore this thinking more fully. I believe the kind of thinking that you develop working this way is remarkably useful in every aspect of being an electronic musician, engineer, sound designer, whatever.


of course you could easily learn all of the same kind of thinking, and achieve equally interesting results with software based modular synths or programming languages. But I think using the hardware stuff is about 3000Xs more fun.



.lm.
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leisuremuffin
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Re: If I wanted to ease into the modular synth world...

Post by leisuremuffin » Tue Aug 24, 2010 3:05 am

but i didn't really answer your question. so i'll try:

I don't know how to ease in, i still haven't done it myself!! I had the incredible luck and privilege to learn on other institutions and peoples full systems. first i weaseled my way into the sarah lawrence college electronic music lab with a pretty extensive moog III, buchla 100, elecro-comp 101 and some other stuff. And then by befriending another musician with some great stuff including a buchla 200 system and a weird old possible bootleg vcs3. I fell in love with those instruments but i still don't own any of my own. I'd really love to, but every major outlay of cash i've made seems to be on an expensive ass computer every 3 or 4 years. it's really tough. to buy the full system i really want would cost well over 10k usd. so i guess i'm going to just force myself to buy a euro rack power frame, toss some modules in there and buy a new one whenever i have the cash. it may be frustrating, but i don't see how else to do it right.



.lm.
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necho
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Re: If I wanted to ease into the modular synth world...

Post by necho » Tue Aug 24, 2010 8:29 am

this is fun:

http://www.stefanbreitenfeld.com/modula ... mf=doepfer

makes me want to get another credit card.
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8O
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Re: If I wanted to ease into the modular synth world...

Post by 8O » Tue Aug 24, 2010 8:40 am

I like your idea - I think it's a good way to ease yourself into it. With the Dark Energy you've got some nice patching options right from the start... and can also go the Doepfer route to expand further in baby steps...

Image

Plus it helps that even without patching to anything else, the Dark Energy sounds pretty good...
Image

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Re: If I wanted to ease into the modular synth world...

Post by necho » Tue Aug 24, 2010 8:55 am

There's a modular rack unit version of the Dark Energy too.
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tranzfuse
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Re: If I wanted to ease into the modular synth world...

Post by tranzfuse » Tue Aug 24, 2010 2:14 pm

8O wrote:I like your idea - I think it's a good way to ease yourself into it. With the Dark Energy you've got some nice patching options right from the start... and can also go the Doepfer route to expand further in baby steps...

Image

Plus it helps that even without patching to anything else, the Dark Energy sounds pretty good...
I like this concept very much, this is basically exactly along the lines of what I have in mind. Nice custom job in that photo too! I have plenty to learn and don't want to overwhelm myself right away. Plus I don't want to invest a year's salary in this either (at least not all at once :wink: )
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tranzfuse
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Re: If I wanted to ease into the modular synth world...

Post by tranzfuse » Tue Aug 24, 2010 6:11 pm

leisuremuffin wrote:gah, thanks for reminding me how i want to spend more money on stuff.


anyway, the dark energy thing looks like a pretty cool and useful multi purpose module, but i don't think you should go that way and here's why:

From a perspective of effective learning, it makes more sense to have discrete modules for each function. If you've already learned on soft synth instruments, you're probably already familiar with how to program something like the dark energy. Everything you need to get a sound is already right there start to finish except for the pitch and trigger information. you provide that with a keyboard or your sequencer output. I think that where modular synths start to get interesting is when you get away from that thinking of playing a keyboard style synth. Having no built in signal flow or architecture from the start is a really amazing blank canvas. you aren't locked into keyboard----> osc ----> filter ----> amp with the obvious spots for LFOs and ENVs to control. it opens up how you look at designing synth sounds. And when you get discrete modules, you typically are getting modules with more points of control and signal in and out that allow you top explore this thinking more fully. I believe the kind of thinking that you develop working this way is remarkably useful in every aspect of being an electronic musician, engineer, sound designer, whatever.

of course you could easily learn all of the same kind of thinking, and achieve equally interesting results with software based modular synths or programming languages. But I think using the hardware stuff is about 3000Xs more fun.

.lm.
I appreciate your feedback, and what you say makes a lot of sense. I am basically looking for a low cost entry point that won't take too long or too much research (or soldering right away) to get going. I had thought of starting with the Dark Energy since it is somewhat familiar and I could interface with it via familiar methods (daw, midi keyboard like you mentioned)...it could be a building block I suppose. And then later on down the road, expand on that foundation little by little. For example, buy something like this case and a sound source module like you describe, and then others as I figure out what those could be.

I already see where this type of project is headed :wink:
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Kodama
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Re: If I wanted to ease into the modular synth world...

Post by Kodama » Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:25 pm

Modular synths are all about getting exactly what you want. Go with modules. I would suggest reading up all that you can (it's a ton of info to absorb), then buying some used modules to start. Modular synths do not act at all like VAs or soft synths. In some ways the suprise is nice, on others - not so much. One of the first hurdles is choosing (and paying for) a case.

The best resource:

muffwiggler.com
GO VEGAN!!! - Macbook Air, Bass Station II, Some Korg shit, Live Suite, U-He, Audio Damage, Microtonic, Ohmicide, more soft stuffs, awesome controllers, euro rack modular synth,an awesome cat.

McQ714
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Re: If I wanted to ease into the modular synth world...

Post by McQ714 » Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:31 pm

8O wrote:I like your idea - I think it's a good way to ease yourself into it. With the Dark Energy you've got some nice patching options right from the start... and can also go the Doepfer route to expand further in baby steps...

Image

Plus it helps that even without patching to anything else, the Dark Energy sounds pretty good...

Do they even make Construx anymore???

I used to have a shitload of those!

Johnisfaster
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Re: If I wanted to ease into the modular synth world...

Post by Johnisfaster » Tue Aug 24, 2010 10:01 pm

Doepfer Dark Energy - Cheap modular synthesis for people who don't want to make any decisions on what modules they would like to use.

I would highly recommend looking into the doepfer diy power kit and then building your own system. It's inexpensive and then you can actually decide what modules you want to use not just take whatever they slapped into the dark energy and call it a day. There are literally 20 or so manufacturers of the same doepfer format. Retarded amount of options and there is seriously some amazing stuff out there to choose from. Doepfer diy kit for powering modules is only like $100.

Go to muffwiggler.com to talk to a community of people who love modulars but aren't elitist assholes about it. Go to analoghaven.com to buy stuff, I've bought from them many many times and they are always good to me.

This is my eurorack. I love it to death!

Image
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[nis]
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Re: If I wanted to ease into the modular synth world...

Post by [nis] » Tue Aug 24, 2010 10:29 pm

Johnisfaster wrote:Doepfer Dark Energy - Cheap modular synthesis for people who don't want to make any decisions on what modules they would like to use.

I would highly recommend looking into the doepfer diy power kit and then building your own system. It's inexpensive and then you can actually decide what modules you want to use not just take whatever they slapped into the dark energy and call it a day. There are literally 20 or so manufacturers of the same doepfer format. Retarded amount of options and there is seriously some amazing stuff out there to choose from. Doepfer diy kit for powering modules is only like $100.

Go to muffwiggler.com to talk to a community of people who love modulars but aren't elitist assholes about it. Go to analoghaven.com to buy stuff, I've bought from them many many times and they are always good to me.

This is my eurorack. I love it to death!
^ I couldn't agree more.

If you buy a Dark Energy now (or any similar 1 VCO/VCF/VCA minisynth), you'll end up selling it sooner or later anyway, either because you don't like the modular stuff at all or because the Dark Energy has too many limitations. Most likely the latter. Save the cash and start building a real system instead.

As far as a case / power is concerned, I'm using a cheap 9U mixer case equipped with a Doepfer DIY kit #1 for my euro system. It looks quite ok and I only paid a total of EUR 150 for the case + DIY kit, which makes it ~50% the price of a 9U Doepfer "low-cost" case.

Best,
Nico
Nico Starke
Ableton Product Team

tranzfuse
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Re: If I wanted to ease into the modular synth world...

Post by tranzfuse » Wed Aug 25, 2010 1:53 am

[nis] wrote:
Johnisfaster wrote:Doepfer Dark Energy - Cheap modular synthesis for people who don't want to make any decisions on what modules they would like to use.

I would highly recommend looking into the doepfer diy power kit and then building your own system. It's inexpensive and then you can actually decide what modules you want to use not just take whatever they slapped into the dark energy and call it a day. There are literally 20 or so manufacturers of the same doepfer format. Retarded amount of options and there is seriously some amazing stuff out there to choose from. Doepfer diy kit for powering modules is only like $100.

Go to muffwiggler.com to talk to a community of people who love modulars but aren't elitist assholes about it. Go to analoghaven.com to buy stuff, I've bought from them many many times and they are always good to me.

This is my eurorack. I love it to death!
^ I couldn't agree more.

If you buy a Dark Energy now (or any similar 1 VCO/VCF/VCA minisynth), you'll end up selling it sooner or later anyway, either because you don't like the modular stuff at all or because the Dark Energy has too many limitations. Most likely the latter. Save the cash and start building a real system instead.

As far as a case / power is concerned, I'm using a cheap 9U mixer case equipped with a Doepfer DIY kit #1 for my euro system. It looks quite ok and I only paid a total of EUR 150 for the case + DIY kit, which makes it ~50% the price of a 9U Doepfer "low-cost" case.

Best,
Nico
I definitely hear you guys, but would it be such a bad thing to buy a synth like Dark Energy at a relatively affordable cost to test the modular system waters? And then after a while I decide it's either not for me and sell the thing, or decide that the DE is much too limiting (as you mentioned) and want to then expand on that with other modules, or decide to begin building a customized system? Also, less harm done if I spend $650 for the DE instead of saving my cash (presumably quite a bit more than $650) to build a basic system to then only find out that it isn't for me and I really wanted to save patches digitally the whole time anyway ;)

You guys make good points though, I am still considering what to do. I am also anxious and excited to get going with it too. Oh well, back to the forums.

Cheers.
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[nis]
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Re: If I wanted to ease into the modular synth world...

Post by [nis] » Wed Aug 25, 2010 7:18 am

tranzfuse wrote: Also, less harm done if I spend $650 for the DE instead of saving my cash (presumably quite a bit more than $650) to build a basic system
You might get similar results but yet more flexible patching options with the following modules:

A-109 Signal Processor (VCF, VCA, PAN) $175
A-110 Standard VCO $199
A-140 ADSR $95
A-145 LFO $95
MFB PSU + CV/Gate $120

= $684

Still needs a housing, though. MFB offers a 19" rack case together with their PSU / CV-Gate for a mere $90 extra. Or you can build one yourself.

If you really want a cheap semi-modular minisynth, I'd rather go for the MFB Kraftzwerg:
http://www.analoguehaven.com/mfb/kraftzwerg/

Best,
Nico
Nico Starke
Ableton Product Team

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