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

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

Post by porfiry » Fri Aug 27, 2010 12:25 am

The problem with software is that none of it allows you to get into the real magic of modulars: free running patches that don't require gates and triggers and such. I had the MFB sequencer for a while, but the current state of my rig is free of any input devices or sequencing, just pure modulation. Any triggers or gates are just pulses from the uLFO or Noisering. I'd love to get a Pressure Points for some manual input, but I rarely get bored searching for sweet spots in my free running patches either.

Before I bought my modular I was using u-he Bazille to fake up free patches, but they rely on something like a MIDI clip with a long held note, etc. Also hard to achieve cycling envelopes and such. Bazille is great, and there are other fairly satisfying soft synths (I do love Zebra and Operator), but they're pretty hard to compare to lovingly handcrafted circuits controlled by knobs.

And I agree, the Maths is your Swiss Army Module...AD envelope, slew, mixer, clock divider, DC offset, LFO, low range VCO, etc., etc., etc. Stupid useful.

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

Post by twisted-space » Fri Aug 27, 2010 11:02 am

I use a nord micro-modular for just those kind of free running patches you mention, and to ward of my GAS for a harware modular for which I have neither the funds nor the space.

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

Post by porfiry » Fri Aug 27, 2010 2:11 pm

Yeah, and though I have little experience with either, I suppose things like Reaktor and obviously Max would allow for real free running too.

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

Post by twisted-space » Fri Aug 27, 2010 2:35 pm

^ Yep, they certainly do, anyone that owns reaktor should check out the ampere modules in the user library, it's a collection of ready made nord g2 style modules all ready to patch together.
I still prefer my micro-modular though, patching it seems more intuitive for some reason.

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

Post by tranzfuse » Fri Aug 27, 2010 7:18 pm

Alright then chaps, you've dragged me into this hole, now I'm gonna put you to work :)

Over in the muffwiggler (love the name) forum, the recommended absolute basic starter system is comprised of these modules:

1 VCO
1 VCF
1 EG (ADSR)
1 VCA

and a rack/case w/ psu
and a MIDI-to-CV converter (cuz I want to interface via Ableton Live of course)


Here's what I know so far:

1. If I don't use the MATHS module I'm a douche. So where does this module fit in above?
2. I need to keep it small. Thinking a 1 tier (3u) rack, maybe 6u, but that'd the biggest. (side note - what does the "u" in 3u, 6u, 9u stand for? And for that matter what about the "hp" in 84hp?)
3. Have read nice things about the Harvestman modules. Looking at the Polivoks VCF (mainly because of the cyrillic looking font). This could take care of the VCF above.
4. It seems that the Expert Sleepers Slient Way plugin can help fill in some of the missing modules functionality, I don't fully understand this plugin's ability quite yet. I have no problem using this plugin to assist.
5. I have no problem buying some used utility modules, I see AH has quite a list of used Doepfer modules. Was thinking to buy a couple of used straightforward ones, and then a couple of more interesting modules (maths, polivoks).
6. The MW ecorack seems like a nice budget friendly way to go, but based on the 'how to assemble' video I am a bit concerned. I saw a bit of editing/cuts in the video, so while the video was only 4 minutes long I am thinking it took that guy more like 2 and a half hours to put that thing together ;)
7. I really need to keep this under $1000 (for the initial investment) because I want to continue to be married to my wife.

Thoughts? Feedback? (I'm also happy to take this over to muff wiggler forum for advice, but since we had the conversation going here I figured I'd continue)
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memes_33
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Re: If I wanted to ease into the modular synth world...

Post by memes_33 » Fri Aug 27, 2010 7:40 pm

tranzfuse wrote:side note - what does the "u" in 3u, 6u, 9u stand for?
"unit". in the pro AV world, we say "RU" as in "rack unit", but that got abbreviated even further i suppose.
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porfiry
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Re: If I wanted to ease into the modular synth world...

Post by porfiry » Sat Aug 28, 2010 3:45 am

If you stir in a Maths right off the bat, you'll find that you're able to make a lot more complex patches...it's mainly an "envelope," but so much more. Even patching it into itself yields all kinda fuxxor.

Another thing that might save you cash is to look at VCFs that have low pass gate functionality. They will close down all the way, becoming a de facto VCA. Examples of this function include the Malekko Borg (and Boogie, to some extent), the MakeNoise QMMG, the TipTop z2040, and I'm sure others I have no experience with. I have a Borg, and love the flexibility of being able to get grody resonant filter tones, or clicking it down into LPG mode for poppy Buchla tones. The QMMG is even more Buchla like, but perhaps not quite as good as a filter. It's also expensive. The TipTop is rumored to sound great, and it's small, like only 8hp I think.

Nothing but a decent VCO, a Maths and one of the listed filters would surprise you quite a lot with its patching versatility, and probably keep you entertained longer than a Dark Energy. Add a random voltage generator like the Noisering or the MakeNoise/Wiard Wogglebug (Doepfer makes things like this too of course), and you've got a complete little box full of stupid. All that would fit easily in a 3u case with room for another couple modules later.

The 3u cases are probably a really smart way to go, because you can just keep stacking them up. Can't be *that* hard to put together.

EDIT: Don't think I'm slamming the QMMG, I've lusted for one, but my wallet and its availablity at Analogue Haven have never coincided!

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

Post by Johnisfaster » Sat Aug 28, 2010 7:15 am

I'd like to add that the resale market for Eurorack is really good so if you buy a module and you don't like it you can usually get rid of it for 80% of what you paid. This helps me a lot as I've resold almost half the modules I've purchased over the last 2 years. I'm very picky, and since you can't demo these things I buy and then sell if I don't like it. Just sayin, the resale market is helpful.
It was as if someone shook up a 6 foot can of blood soda and suddenly popped the top.

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

Post by porfiry » Sat Aug 28, 2010 2:42 pm

Yeah, I've sold off a bunch too.

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

Post by tranzfuse » Sat Aug 28, 2010 4:24 pm

OK, so far I've got:

1. Ecorack 3u w/ busboard - $125
2. Ecorack PSU - $60

VCO, either:
1. Z3000 - $245
2. A-110 - $199
3. Malekkko Wiard - $250

VCF, either:
1. Z2040 - $199
2. Polivoks - $195
3. Borg 2 - $225

EG ~ MATHS right? - $280

And with Silent Way plugin - $49, I can avoid a MIDI/CV gate correct?

Feedback on any of those choices? I don't necessarily need to buy these top notch modules right away, but if you guys feel that I will get serious bang for my bucks and this handful of modules will keep me occupied for quite some time before I feel the urge to add more, then I am ok with that.

I am interested in sonic experiments across the frequency spectrum, not just bass, but melodic/mellow bits too.

Thanks again, this forum is an amazing resource.
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loydb
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Re: If I wanted to ease into the modular synth world...

Post by loydb » Sat Aug 28, 2010 4:26 pm

Just to throw out another option (if you can work a soldering iron), check out http://www.musicfromouterspace.com/. I've just finished building once of his VCOs, and am partway through building and Ultimate + Expander...

If you can DIY, you can build a *monster* modular for not a lot of $$$.
MFOS Ultimate Expand-o-tron Build Log: http://www.electro-music.com/forum/view ... 797#308797
MFOS Mini-Controller Build Log [FINISHED!]: http://www.electro-music.com/forum/view ... hp?t=42968

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

Post by porfiry » Sat Aug 28, 2010 6:42 pm

I can tell you that the z3000 is a real quality oscillator...I had one for a while. The good thing about both it and the Malekko osc that just came out is that they'll go down into LFO range, so you're getting double functionality there. The Bubblesound uLFO will also go up into VCO range, maybe not quite as far as you'd like, but pretty usable.

I think Silent Way and Volta are pretty cool, but you want to make sure you have an interface that's fully compatible. I have an Ultralite, and while Silent Way works somewhat, I've yet to have it track 1v/oct straight up. (I think it's possible, but I haven't had the patience to work it all out.) Useful as an LFO and stuff for sure, though. If your rig isn't going to leave your desk much, it will definitely expand your capability.

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

Post by tranzfuse » Sun Aug 29, 2010 1:16 am

porfiry wrote:I can tell you that the z3000 is a real quality oscillator...I had one for a while. The good thing about both it and the Malekko osc that just came out is that they'll go down into LFO range, so you're getting double functionality there. The Bubblesound uLFO will also go up into VCO range, maybe not quite as far as you'd like, but pretty usable.

I think Silent Way and Volta are pretty cool, but you want to make sure you have an interface that's fully compatible. I have an Ultralite, and while Silent Way works somewhat, I've yet to have it track 1v/oct straight up. (I think it's possible, but I haven't had the patience to work it all out.) Useful as an LFO and stuff for sure, though. If your rig isn't going to leave your desk much, it will definitely expand your capability.
Yeah, I'm still trying to wrap my head around some of this. I definitely want to interface between Ableton and the modular set up I acquire. How exactly is TBD. The Silent Way plugin seems to be a tool to help with this interfacing piece of the puzzle. I watched a tutorial video that showed one of the ES guys connecting their Ultralite to a Doepfer based modular synth, then setting up tracks in Ableton to calibrate and "play" the synth using the Silent Way plugin.

Then someone over at the muffwiggler forum pointed me to an actual module that Expert Sleepers have created called the ES-1. This module seems to allow for a safer, physical interface between the Ultralite and the modular synth (although I don't think necessary, since this type of module wasn't used in the video I described above). It seems that this module solves a problem of needing a DC coupled interface. I have no idea what that means.

Anyway, I imagine it's not all that complicated, but trying to understand many of these concepts all at once is a little overwhelming. Can anyone shed some light?
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esaelectronics
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Re: If I wanted to ease into the modular synth world...

Post by esaelectronics » Sun Aug 29, 2010 12:42 pm

doepfer dark energy is something i was considering too as i didnt want to get
too complicated

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

Post by [nis] » Sun Aug 29, 2010 9:41 pm

tranzfuse wrote: Then someone over at the muffwiggler forum pointed me to an actual module that Expert Sleepers have created called the ES-1. This module seems to allow for a safer, physical interface between the Ultralite and the modular synth (although I don't think necessary, since this type of module wasn't used in the video I described above). It seems that this module solves a problem of needing a DC coupled interface. I have no idea what that means.
Most audio interfaces will filter direct current (DC) and only pass alternating current (AC). Most CV signals are / consist of DC, e.g. a square wave from a LFO. That's why you need a DC-coupled audio interface. Unfortunately there are only a very few interfaces which have DC coupling. It's basically only MOTU's interfaces and 2 or 3 others.

Luckily the guys from Expert Sleepers have found a way to transform DC signals into AC (there's a plugin which "encodes" them), so that all normal soundcards pass them through. You do however need a special cable with some diodes and a capacitor to transform them back into DC. You could solder them yourself if this is not a problem for you. The ES-1 module does basically the same as the cable (8 of them): it converts the AC signals back into DC, so you can simply connect your soundcard with normal 1/4" cables.

Best,
Nico
Nico Starke
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