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Ready to make my first purchase!

Post by smallstonefan » Thu Feb 21, 2019 11:20 am

Hi all,

I'm new here, but not new to music. :)

After having watched the Deadmau5 class on MasterClass I am super-excited to get into modular synthesis. I'm a guitar player and I have a nice home studio, and I used to have a crazy rack setup with 3 MIDI switchers that I programmed and I wired all of my own cable. So, I already like complexity and I like to tweak. :) I have experience with VST synths but mostly I've been a preset monkey and I bang things out on my Push 2.

Here's what I'm looking for...

I want a modular that I can play with live for fun (live meaning just making music in real-time in my studio), but I also want to use MIDI to run sequences form Ableton to the modular, which I then intend to tweak to create tracks.

From what I can tell, East Coast is what I'm after. I'm not into bloops, bleeps, sound effects, etc. I like lush pads, fat leads, and rhythmic patters. I also like to do some ambient stuff.

After reading so many posts here and looking online, I think I want to start with a pre-built kit and modify from there; I just don't have enough knowledge to build something from scratch, so saving money on a pre-built that I can swap parts out from over time makes sense to me. Here are the two I've considered:

Pittsburgh Modular Evo (https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail ... ynthesizer)

Doepfer Basis System 2 in P9 Case (https://www.musicstore.de/en_US/USD/Doe ... 004215-000)

After watching tons of youtube videos, I'm concerned that the Pittsburgh system would be more east coast than I want. It also offers no space for expansion and it is about $1,500 more.

I have some seriously cool guitar effects and some rack effects that I want to incorporate, so I thought I'd throw in one or two Doepfer 138d modules to incorporate my outboard gear. I am also every interested in a delay, but I have a vintage Memory Man and an original Echoplex EP3 tape echo. These can't be modulated though so I'm wondering if I should add a delay module (I LOVE delay).

Finally, I considered a sequencer like the Lifeforms KB-1, but it seems to me that would be unnecessary since I will use Ableton/Push to create my sequences/arps, etc. I also have a QuNexxus keyboard which can generate CV and I just need to pick up a cable for it.

I welcome any and all opinions - thank you! :)

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Post by lisa » Thu Feb 21, 2019 11:58 am

Hi and welcome! :party: Some random thoughts:

Don't think much about the east/wast coast dichotomy. This definition is rather fuzzy around the edges and says nothing about what type of music you'll be able to make.

"Lush pads" make me think of polyphonic keyboard synths and five note chords. This is possible in modular but complicated and very expensive compared to said polyphonic keyboard synths.

To me, personally, a huge part of the modular experience has been to put together my own system, module by module, based on the knowledge I've gained from using my rack. I didn't end up where I thought I would but it's still well tailored for what I want to achieve. For that reason I wouldn't want to get a full system put together by someone else. That said, the Doepfer one looks really good (essential and suitable for what you are aiming for).


(Fixed your links and moved the topic to the Eurorack section, btw.)

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Post by smallstonefan » Thu Feb 21, 2019 12:04 pm

Thanks Lisa - I appreciate your input. :) I may have to scratch pads from the requirements then and continue to use VSTs for that. Or, I could always use in the box effects on the modular sounds to create interesting things...

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Post by smallstonefan » Thu Feb 21, 2019 12:51 pm

lisa wrote:I didn't end up where I thought I would but it's still well tailored for what I want to achieve.
Lisa - I would love to hear about your journey and where you <thought> you wanted to me vs. where you ended up.

Also, thanks for cleaning up the links and moving it! :)

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Post by Agawell » Thu Feb 21, 2019 1:15 pm

If I had to go for one of those 2 systems I think I'd go for the Doepfer

I started out with something similar to a 'recommended' mutable instruments set up about 2 years ago - veils, links, clouds, tides, peaks iirc and a rebel technology mixer and a doepfer 119 and 138d and added kinks, rings, es8 and distingV4 very soon after

and then.. well that's another story

Emilie is now basically recommending the following:

get a case (tip top mantis is a good place to start)

get a sound source (vco, voice, sampler, whatever you like - I'd take Rings or Tides)

get a filter (whatever you like the sound of - ideally something that has a few different settings - or is just inexpensive and interesting - doepfer is an excellent place to start)

get an effects processor of some sort (I'd look at the erica black hole dsp2 - but a pedal interface could be substituted or added here)

get a modulator (lfo or whatever - maths would be my pick)

get a mixing vca (4+ channels is good - you can never have enough - I'd go veils)

get something to play it all with (keyboard, sequencer, computer interface of some sort)

personally I'd also add a distingV4

and get some cables (just for now divide the number of jacks on all the modules you have by 2 and buy that many in a variety of lengths - you may find you need less in future, but it's always good to have enough so you don't run out mid-patch - and some 3.5->6.5mm adapter cables)

and then build from there slowly!!! disting will show you the way

remember to buy enough utilities - I tend to buy/build at least 1 utility for each 'feature' module I buy/build - which seems to work quite well for me

also for not much more than 2 doepfer 138ds you can probably pick up a veils (will boost from line level to modular) and a couple of passive attenuaters (2hp trim for example) - which would give you up to 4 channels and has vcas - but no wet/dry (who needs that anyway? this is modular, get a mixer and a mult)

I'd look at the expert sleepers range for interfacing with the computer/ableton then you can use cv straight from that to talk to the modular and get modular level audio in and out of the computer easily

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Post by lisa » Thu Feb 21, 2019 1:41 pm

smallstonefan wrote:I would love to hear about your journey and where you <thought> you wanted to me vs. where you ended up.
Sure! I'm a classically trained cellist that got into synths quite some time ago. I avoided going modular for over ten years because I though that's where creativity go to die. I know that it sounds counter-intuitive but I know loads of folks that made a lot of music until they got into modulars and their production just stopped. So I decided to just keep to all other types of synths, from VSTs to analogue hardware, and be happy with that.

Two years ago I got a Make Noise 0-coast and it changed my perspective radically. I didn't really understand it, even though I have vast experience of synths, and it made me excited about modulars again.

I already had so many synths and several semi-modular ones so I thought I'd just get a rack to expand on my current rig (sound processing, extra modulation sources and that kind of thing) so I got Make Noise Maths first. Then I came across Mutable Instruments Rings and fell in love with the sound. I started making music with just those two modules and a drum machine. I made some music, got a module, made some more music and so on. It soon turned out that I didn't like to connect my rack to my other gear (except for drum machines) so I sold off most off my other gear (more than half, anyway :hihi:).

I thought I would get a rack for processing sounds and additional modulation. It turned into a music box for everything except sound processing (:oops:) and drums. I have Modulation, envelopes, LFOs, random stuff, sequencers, clocks and burst modules, analogue oscillators, digital voices and plenty of filters. I have a midi output module to sync my drum machines to the rack. I record jams on separate tracks and do all the mixing and adding of effects in my DAW.

This is what I ended up with:
https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/713567

This is how it sounded when I only had two modules:
https://soundcloud.com/verklighetensfol ... -murdering

This is what it sounds like now:
https://soundcloud.com/verklighetensfol ... -ideophone
https://soundcloud.com/verklighetensfolk/melanie-alkaid
https://soundcloud.com/verklighetensfolk/punatoo-barrow

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Post by cptnal » Thu Feb 21, 2019 2:10 pm

Welcome, smallstonefan :party:

After a quick look at your shortlist:

The Doepfer starts with two simple VCOs and a ring modulator - it wants you to explore sound and put it together yourself. You'll learn a lot in the process, but in the meantime your output may not be the most "musical".

The Pittsburgh has two complex oscillators. You'll be able to create some lush sounds off the bat, but you won't necessarily know what's going on for a while.

It depends on the journey you want to take. From my own point of view, I started with a Make Nosie DPO (complex VCO) and sent it back for a Dixie (simple) and have never regretted it. Do you want things at your fingertips or do you want to have to work for it, and perhaps discover something new in the process? Either (or some mix of the two) is valid. There are no rules. :cloud:
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Post by Illwiggle » Thu Feb 21, 2019 4:47 pm

If you go with a pre fab system you’ll get to experience a sort of totality of factors potentially involved in having a ‘complete’ system. But it will take time to grasp, at least a year. But that way you can dive right in & be swimming in patch cords making sounds, mistakes & learning a lot along the way. Otherwise Id say find a module that makes some of the sounds you’re after, buy that, a small/med size case, some patch cords & just tinker with that. You’ll experience its joys & limitations. The limitations will tell you what type of module you need next.... personally Id say go for the prefab system if you’re not averse to weird sounds, experimentation. If your approach is more ‘targeted’ then id say go module by module, so that way you have a better chance, Theoretically at least, of building a setup that does what you seek

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Post by SarahB » Fri Feb 22, 2019 2:29 am

I started out several months ago and went way too fast.. so I would recommend the advice in the thread above about getting the basic blocks and adding stuff slowly. Also, don’t sell your polysynths! You’re going to need those.. :)

Often what you imagine will work in your head, doesn’t actually inspire you once you start working with it. I thought I wanted to do drums in my modular but it turned out to be much quicker and easier for me to do this in the box with my Maschine. I also thought West Coast style seemed more me (I also jumped in from owning an O Coast), but ended up building an east coast synth voice and a drone station!

Take it slowly and enjoy the process. It’s very exciting and inspiring!

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Post by zerodivide » Fri Feb 22, 2019 2:49 am

why are you even going into modular? i havent read 1 reason you're interested other than Deadmau5. Not saying you're not just wondering what aspect. hard to recommend otherwise

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Post by ayruos » Fri Feb 22, 2019 3:04 am

Once you go modular, all your plans of "this is what I want to do with it" goes for a toss, imo. Reading about stuff, looking at demos, etc, never really prepares you on how once you have the modules in front of you, things you can achieve and how they start shaping your musical ideas as well.

Pre-built systems are not bad - but they could get limiting once you start actually using the system and you'd wish it had certain functionality or utility to just do that one thing I really really need to do now to spice up this patch which can range from simple utilities like logic operations, another VCA or all the way to a multiband resonator or a complex oscillator so be prepared for that :D

Maybe a good option is to get a 0-coast, and an empty 104hp skiff and then start filling up the skiff with things you wish you had with the 0-coast. Maths would probably be the first module to get in that case.

You could look at the CV.OCD too as a dedicated MIDI-CV solution that doesn't eat up rack space (the 0-coast has a MIDI-in though).

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Post by smallstonefan » Fri Feb 22, 2019 8:47 am

lisa wrote:Two years ago I got a Make Noise 0-coast and it changed my perspective radically. I didn't really understand it, even though I have vast experience of synths, and it made me excited about modulars again.
Lisa,

Thank you for sharing your story and your music with me! I am amazed at what you got out of only a few modules at the beginning. Looking at your incredible setup is inspiring - I see so many modules that I've read about and listed to online and you guys have convinced me to build my own. I'm roughing up a system right now and will post for comments. :)

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Post by smallstonefan » Fri Feb 22, 2019 8:51 am

Agawell wrote:If I had to go for one of those 2 systems I think I'd go for the Doepfer
...
Emilie is now basically recommending the following:
Agawell,

First, let me thank you for your concise answer to my question as to which system you'd recommend.

Second, you just helped me tremendously with your suggestions! I am familiar with many of those modules since I see them all over the forums and on videos, but I've struggled to equate these modules with the basics (as in what replaces a VCA) and that's why I thought I would go with a pre-built. I'm looking at your suggestions and others and I'm mocking up a custom system which I'll post here for feedback. I've got a bit of a budget and I'm a tweaker. I feel invigorated that I can get some advice here to start building my own...

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Post by smallstonefan » Fri Feb 22, 2019 8:54 am

cptnal wrote:Welcome, smallstonefan :party:
...
Do you want things at your fingertips or do you want to have to work for it, and perhaps discover something new in the process? Either (or some mix of the two) is valid. There are no rules. :cloud:
Thank you! This is a though-proving post. At the end of the day I want something that lets me be creative and make music that I enjoy listening to. I'm OK with a learning curve though. I've spent many years as a computer programmer, and I was deep deep deep into guitar effects - having bought and sold so many and built a custom rack with switching around them all - even going as far as to hand-wire every cable. I make my own computers, etc., so the technical and learning don't intimidate me. In fact, that excites me. I'm a wee bit concerned about how long it will take to start making some fun music but I'm willing to go for it.

I'm going to post my thoughts on a custom system for input... :)

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Post by smallstonefan » Fri Feb 22, 2019 8:55 am

Illwiggle wrote:If you go with a pre fab system you’ll get to experience a sort of totality of factors potentially involved in having a ‘complete’ system. But it will take time to grasp, at least a year. But that way you can dive right in & be swimming in patch cords making sounds, mistakes & learning a lot along the way. Otherwise Id say find a module that makes some of the sounds you’re after, buy that, a small/med size case, some patch cords & just tinker with that. You’ll experience its joys & limitations. The limitations will tell you what type of module you need next.... personally Id say go for the prefab system if you’re not averse to weird sounds, experimentation. If your approach is more ‘targeted’ then id say go module by module, so that way you have a better chance, Theoretically at least, of building a setup that does what you seek
Thank you - the temptation to give the prebuilt system and start playing is HUGE, but I do believe my desires are targeted and I will mock up a system to share here for comments. :)

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Post by smallstonefan » Fri Feb 22, 2019 8:58 am

SarahB wrote:I started out several months ago and went way too fast.. so I would recommend the advice in the thread above about getting the basic blocks and adding stuff slowly. Also, don’t sell your polysynths! You’re going to need those.. :)

Often what you imagine will work in your head, doesn’t actually inspire you once you start working with it. I thought I wanted to do drums in my modular but it turned out to be much quicker and easier for me to do this in the box with my Maschine. I also thought West Coast style seemed more me (I also jumped in from owning an O Coast), but ended up building an east coast synth voice and a drone station!

Take it slowly and enjoy the process. It’s very exciting and inspiring!
Thanks! I'm not sure I'll take your advice though because going slow and having patience is not one of my strong suits! LOL Seriously though, you're point is well-taken. I might design a larger setup but start with just the basics to get going. It's so tempting to go just buy a bunch of modules though! :)

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Post by smallstonefan » Fri Feb 22, 2019 9:01 am

zerodivide wrote:why are you even going into modular? i havent read 1 reason you're interested other than Deadmau5. Not saying you're not just wondering what aspect. hard to recommend otherwise
Ah, let me clarify:

1. I am tired of being a preset monkey with VSTs in my songs, and want to create my own sounds.
2. I am very familiar with logic and programming, and the concept of modular appeals to that part of my brain.
3. I am extremely familiar with, and love using, various effects to make musical sound. If you listen to my soundcloud you'll get a little bit of an idea of how I like to use effects.
4. I love to tinker, I love to build, and I love to collect. Modular fits all of those.
5. I love learning new things and being challenged.
6. Modular is a new frontier in my music-making journey, and I love travelling to new frontiers.

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Post by smallstonefan » Fri Feb 22, 2019 9:08 am

ayruos wrote:Once you go modular, all your plans of "this is what I want to do with it" goes for a toss, imo
...
Maybe a good option is to get a 0-coast, and an empty 104hp skiff and then start filling up the skiff with things you wish you had with the 0-coast. Maths would probably be the first module to get in that case.
...
You could look at the CV.OCD too as a dedicated MIDI-CV solution that doesn't eat up rack space (the 0-coast has a MIDI-in though).
Thanks for the advice! I considered a Moog Mother 32 as a semi-modular to start, but for some reason it feels like I'd be cheating myself if I do that. Maybe that's silly, but that's what it feels like.

I have no other midi gear that I would tie into my modular at this time. That midi unit is cool. It seems like overkill, but it also would save modular space and give options for growth...

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Post by BailyDread » Fri Feb 22, 2019 10:46 am

if you intend to have your modular playing sequences from your ableton setup, how important is precise timing for you? if you use a midi interface to send midi to your modular, you will experience jitter as a result of all the latency in the computer etc. this means that there could be +/- up to, say 20 ms (just a ballpark number) for each beat. please note that jitter is not shuffle, nor is it particularly "humanization" (random deviation to increase human feel). I find MIDI jitter to be very unbecoming for most programmed music.

for some, this jitter is very tolerable and some may not even notice it, but i found the timing to be quite frustrating when i was really aiming for a "locked in" type feel.

there are a few solutions to this, but i've found the Expert Sleepers' USAMO to meet all my needs very well. it's around $100. instead of using midi out, it uses a special software and hardware combo to use an extra audio output from your interface to send sample-accurate MIDI data transcribed to audio, which the hardware then converts back to MIDI that you can send around your system. you will still need some kind of MIDI to CV converter for modules that don't offer standard MIDI input. but once you get it configured, it is rock solid and eliminates all jitter. in my case, the difference was obvious from the first 5 seconds of listening to a 4 to the floor kick pattern.

there are other options to address this issue that other's could speak more about... I know that Expert Sleepers also offer some modules that have similar functionality.

you may need to do some reading about compatibility regarding your audio interface and Ableton before you make any purchases on this front. or you might not care about super precise timing... If you're into Deadmau5, super-tight timing might be a priority to you since I would imagine his stuff is very "locked-in" and tight.

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Post by smallstonefan » Fri Feb 22, 2019 11:13 am

BailyDread wrote:if you intend to have your modular playing sequences from your ableton setup, how important is precise timing for you?
This was an INCREDIBLY helpful post! I am pretty anal about my signal chains and timing. I have an Apollo Quad and an Apollo Silver 16 as my audio interfaces and I clock to a Black Lion Micro Clock MkII - I want things as tight as I can get them.

This is an interesting solution and I think would work well for me. I see that you still need a midi interface in the modular, so something in the rack or an external box as someone mentioned earlier. I'm liking the idea of this and the external box that turns midi into CV, so that all of the midi stuff happens outside the rack...

thanks again!

PS: I'm really appreciating all of the help and guidance; you guys not only make me excited about modular, you make me excited about participating here... :)

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Re: Ready to make my first purchase!

Post by Rex Coil 7 » Fri Feb 22, 2019 11:40 am

smallstonefan wrote:Hi all,

I'm new here, but not new to music. :)
Welcome Home. :cookiemonster:

If you're inspired by tinkering, take a look at the modular project in my signature ("click" on the blue lettering at the bottom of this post, the phrase that says something about "Super Mini Modular" or whatever). It's not Euro (it is a "5U" system) but you'll get the idea if what can be done with patience and imagination.

Prepare yourself for an emotional ride. The modular synth paradigm is both enormously frustrating as well as a source of immense satisfaction.

You may end up spending just a little bit of money on this venture as well. :roll:


:lol:


Your level of enthusiasm is so high that from my perspective I believe you're going to simply love this thing called "Modular Synths".

(most folks call me "Rex" ... uh ... that is ... among other things!)

:tu:
5U SEMI-MODULAR PERFORMANCE SYNTH NORMALIZING PROJECT
https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewt ... highlight=

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Post by Just another rookie » Fri Feb 22, 2019 11:42 am

If you love to tinker, build & delay......
Look at the Erica synths diy delay.

That’s a cool module!


I started out with modular last January.
I bought a few things quite quickly, maybe 10 modules or so.
Building blocks for a bigger “thing”

Going slow is sound advice but if you have an idea of how things work....
You know, an Adsr does what it does etc. You can get started pretty fast!

Just allow enough for a bigger case than you might think, and more patch leads than you ever thought you’d need! You’ll do ok.

I’ve already outgrown 6u by 84hp I’m well into a third rail that I don’t yet own and there’s a bunch of things I still want, or that appeal to me....
Or call my name when I’m sleeping!

Be careful! It’s bloody addictive.

I looked at ready built systems, it’s a bit cold.
I think it’s a much more personal instrument if you add what you feel you need as you hit a stumbling block.
Beyond the basics of course!

You can have a lot of fun with (in my case anyway)
A klavis dual waves, any envelope and a sequencer.

Whatever you do, modular is great fun!
I thought it might be a phase, but actually, it’s hard to walk away from the machine.

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Post by gringostar » Fri Feb 22, 2019 1:11 pm

Personally I would start with an 0-coast and then add a mother 32/DFAM when you're ready to expand a bit since you can just hook those up directly to your pedals.

The 0-coast will teach you the basics of west coast and modular, the mother 32 will bring in some "traditional" synthesis techniques and the DFAM will expand on both the 0-coast and M32 but the important thing is that you'll learn what the individual pieces of modular does so you can start building your system from the ground up instead of starting with a pre-built system and then having to play the modular chasing game... which is very similar to the pedal chasing game that guitarists are notorious for.

I would say the most important thing when starting out is having limits. Not setting limits, but actually having things you cannot do easily or at all since IMO modular is all about cleverly patching things beyond what is easily achievable and the only way to do that is with hardware limits.

Also check out the Koma Field FX kit since it will add a lot of functionality to things along with giving you lots of CV patchable effects. That plus the 0-coast &M32/DFAM is a very solid setup.

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Post by ayruos » Fri Feb 22, 2019 1:51 pm

For all the hate pre built systems seem to be getting in this thread, I'd just like to put it out there that I want to own a Shared System at point :D


(event though what I have right now is essentially a Make Noise system, anyway!)

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Post by ayruos » Fri Feb 22, 2019 2:07 pm

Just another rookie wrote: ...
You know, an Adsr does what it does etc. You can get started pretty fast!
...
Well not necessarily. An ADSR through a S&H and optionally a quantiser can be used as a programmable ascending descending run pitch CV generator with a held note on the D, among other things...

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