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 Forum index » Instruments and Equipment » Modular Synthesis
Best serious analog modular...good size budget..?
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kslight



Joined: Feb 23, 2009
Posts: 38
Location: KC

PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 5:37 pm    Post subject: Best serious analog modular...good size budget..? Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hi I post on the Nord Modular forum a bit...a very successful musician friend of mine is seeking to build a high quality analog modular for personal use (writing while on tour) as well as when producing an album for a very successful electronic musician. Time-frame is very short, as he is about to go on tour now, the systems he is considering are in the $15,000 range, so I would say that is about the top of where we want to go. I would like to know opinions specifically on systems by Synthesizers.com, Cwejman Sound, Analogue Solutions, Analogue Systems, Macbeth, Doepfer...others? One thing I have noticed is that a lot of systems are built to order and something like 8-12 weeks out...which is unfortunately a deal breaker.

The ideal system will be equally useful as an instrument as well as a studio sound processor (eventually this will probably end up in a studio rack), be not entirely out of reach for new users (he is not much versed in synthesizers beyond Fruity Loops), be reliable/withstanding the roads while touring, and of course have a very good sound.

The specific synthesizer he showed me was the Studio 110 by Synthesizers.com...which to me may not be overwhelming but I think it might be a bit of a bear learning and using...especially while on tour. I have a hard time recommending it, especially given my lack of experience using real analog modulars. However, I am keen to recommend a suitcase type semi-modular perhaps...though I am not sure if this would entirely fulfill his needs either. So really I guess I am looking for an overview as to what the "best" system is right now...and go from there.

Thanks.
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elektro80
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 6:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

The 110 System ( which can be put together any way you want ) is not in any way harder to use than the smaller systems. You simply get more of everything. That being said, having more of everything is often the easy way out for a novice user than a more restrained and limited system.


The dotcom modules are excellent. Sound quality is brilliant. Arrick has in some wonderful way managed to apply some sort of consistency when designing the various modules so they fit together well and have way more options than you might at first think when comparing the modules to say the Plan B or Doepfer.

However, there is little point for a novice user to drag something like this out on the road. It takes some time to learn how to use the rig.

How good are the synthesizers.com modules? My verdict is: Brilliant stuff.

BTW, IMO on stage there is a certain benefit to having a larger sized format like the dotcom Moog style panels instead of the much more compact and dense formats like the old Roland 100m modules or like the Doepfer modules.

Again, the size of the system is not really making it harder to learn as there will only be more of the same modules installed in it. More filters and envelopes and oscillators and what have you is only a good thing. You can even think of the rig as say 3 smaller sized modulars you can patch individually. You decide what to patch and why.

And you can often find dotcom stuff, even larger systems, on eBay.

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kslight



Joined: Feb 23, 2009
Posts: 38
Location: KC

PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I agree that more doesn't mean more complicated, I think I meant that it just seemed a little bit much for a new user...but I suppose I would be happy with a system substantially smaller only because I have never had $15k to spend on a synth. Granted, I am not sure exactly how he plans to use this for writing purposes while on tour..? but I suppose that size is something he considered as he pointed the system out to me personally.
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elektro80
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 6:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Did you actually say "writing purposes while on tour"?? Shocked

I think I´m qualified to say " I don´t think so". I guess something like an Alesis ION or a G2 and a laptop is better for writing while you are stuck in a hotel room in a weird city somewhere, waiting to be dragged screaming to the venue. Even a battered Korg MS 20 would be better.

A point to make is that a system like the 110 ( no matter what how you stuff it ) will always be reconfigured frequently until the owner has finally settled on a sensible layout. Where you place the various modules is probably the hardest thing to work out. And it gets harder with a smaller system as you will have to ditch some modules in favour of others.

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kslight



Joined: Feb 23, 2009
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 7:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Yeah it sounds weird to me too...I'll have to confirm his understanding of the implications of that...but that's what it sounded like to me...

He is very against something in software or similar...like a G2...
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elektro80
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 2:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

kslight wrote:
He is very against something in software or similar...like a G2...


That is not really a fully rational attitude for a modular synth geek, but he might get there eventually. Laughing

Keep us in informed about the progress.

BTW, the build quality of the dotcom modules is outstanding.

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saul2600



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 4:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Having just assembled a highly modest .com format system for live use, and in quite a hurry, i think i should at least offer some suggestions.

If you are going the .com route (and i, for one (well, two at this point)) would highly recommend it - look at some STG Soundlabs equipment as well. Not only are they fully compatible mechanically and electronically, but they offer some slightly different modules that one won't find in the .com catalog. The JH Wavefolder is the first on that list... it brings unrivaled timbral variety to the .com format, and no combination of Arrick modules can be assembled to really replace it. Then there's the brilliant T.Henry Mankato filter... whose uses and benefits are too numerous to mention.

The STG power distribution board makes life so much easier when adding modules that are from pretty much any manufacturer... MOTM comes to mind, others as well (Moon Modular, etc) Honestly, i would use it even in a strictly .com cabinet as well.

As portability is concerned (and it sounds as though it is in this case (pun intended)), i've been lucky enough to have a spare SKB pop-up mixer case. Though not often advertised as such, .Com and STG modules fit perfectly well - though the power supply mounting can be an issue. A resolvable issue, but one nonetheless. The cases are no longer produced, but at the price point that your friend is thinking, a custom run of them might be in order. Other brands will make mixer pop-up cases, but expect higher weight and bulk in addition to the vastly higher price.
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kslight



Joined: Feb 23, 2009
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 4:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Unfortunately he isn't yet a modular synth geek...so rational opinions about software synthesizers are not to be expected....his only software synth experience is Fruity Loops...and I think he is concerned about sound quality because of his experience with that...

I personally agree though that with his budget potential that I would prefer an analog system to a G2 or Reaktor...I own a G2 and a Micro, and they work okay for me, but there have been more than a few times where I wished I was patching things together sans computer...even if you lose patch recall and the size convenience... Something else to consider is that he intends to use this as a studio processor also, so I think it is best to keep it in the analog realm for the shear sake of avoiding extra A/D and D/A conversion...

I will keep you updated as to what he decides on...
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ian-s



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 5:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

if I had unlimited cash, I would look at this. Less than 15K but has a 4 - 12 week delivery time Sad
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kslight



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Those look very nice, though considering the size of system he is interested in I imagine one comparable to the dotcom 110 in terms of features would probably be quite pricey...
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JohnLRice



Joined: Jul 29, 2008
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Location: Western WA USA

PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 10:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hi kslight,

Since it sounds like there are deep pockets involved Cool I'm sure you could put together a large system very quickly, especially if you combine modules from several manufacturers and even buy some things second hand. While some manufacturers have negative reports of mildly to seriously dropping the ball on delivery times, if they have something in stock they can often ship very fast. I wouldn't trust what it says on their websites/ordering pages about being "in stock", I would, in your case in particular, call them and find out what is currently in stock and order only that. If they say they will have it in stock in about two weeks, call back and order then.

Check out these companies. All 5U (8.75") module height: *********

(1U = 1.75")
https://www.synthtech.com/
http://www.krisp1.com/ (assembled Oakley modules)
http://www.modcan.com/ (B series)
http://stgsoundlabs.com/ (just 2 in MOTM format)
http://www.cyndustries.com/

(1U = 2.125")
http://www.synthesizers.com
http://www.cluboftheknobs.com/
http://www.moonmodular.com/
http://www.mos-lab.com/
http://stgsoundlabs.com/
http://www.cyndustries.com/


Alternatively, here are a couple that use banana jacks and are different heights:
Modcan A series - http://www.modcan.com/

Serge - call Sound Transform Systems at (262) 367-3030
(carbon111's nice Serge page - http://www.carbon111.com/serge.html)

Buchla - http://www.buchla.com/

You might consider going with road cases instead of wooded racks. I've purchased 6 racks from this place so far and the quality and prices are amazing! They ship fast too! In some ways it doesn't look as 'cool' and a massive wood case and power sitrobution is a little bit more involved but I think several smaller cases would be much easier to move and definitely hold up better. I have several of the standard 10" deep 10U and 12U cases.
http://www.audiopile.net/products/Cases/Case_products_page.htm

Synth Tech, Synthesizers .com and Modcan sell rack mounting rails or frames for their and similar sized modules.
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etherline



Joined: Apr 27, 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2009 1:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

They would need to be very deep pockets. The real expense is in the manpower and logistics of taking a modular on the road purely for 'writing' purposes. To use it you have to be in the same room at the same time, preferably for long enough to achieve something useful without interruption. Someone has to have gone to the trouble of transporting, setting up and checking said modular and have time to re-pack it and load it ready for transport to the next venue / hotel.

It's likely that your friend will spend more time travelling and in hotels than in any other place. The amount of free time he spends at the venue will decrease in direct proportion to the time he spends on tour (you do get sick of hanging around venues for hours on end and start looking for any other entertainment possible).

The reality of touring is likely to make this idea a bit pointless. If he wants to take something for writing then small and quick to set up is beautiful.
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Oxix52



Joined: Nov 06, 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2009 7:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Alessandro Cortini took his Buchla on tour to write in hotel rooms. Seems like it would be the perfect form factor to travel with. The modules are so functionally dense that you could get away with a lot fewer modules than other systems.
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JohnLRice



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PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2009 11:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Another great one for traveling would be the Mattson Mini Modular!
http://mattsonminimodular.com/index.html
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russma



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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 12:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I'd go right to the Cwejman S-1Mk11.
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ndkent



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PostPosted: Sat Aug 29, 2009 8:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I would definitely suggest buying a system that's not too small but is far below your total budget and use it. So long as it's not too minimal, by working with it you can then discover if it's a good direction for you. You'll not only avoid being overwhelmed but you'll still have the budget to take things in the direction you find you want to go in. You even have an option of seeing how more than one format suits you.
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morbius



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PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2009 10:25 pm    Post subject: Best serious analog modular... Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

From what i gathered...

what is needed/wanted, is.... quality... easy on the budget... easy to trouble-shoot and/or repair (because of touring). It's hard to imagine a more straight-forward modular synth... 'IF' one knows anything about modular synths.

The Dotcom has become one of the major players, in that most makers are building modules in the same format... so, you can easily buy and 'pop-in' 'Billy-Bob's brand' ouchie-cou filter, and all is well.

The back-side of the dotcom says it all. nothing is hidden behind sheet metal that you'd better not open for warranty's sake... the PCB's are all lightweight and sit right behind the front panel(s). Knobs (pots) jacks, and switches are all easily obtainable, and not 'special order'. Anyone knowing High School 'tricity' stuff, can replace just about anything.... if, it's ever needed. Normally... in the studio... it won't be needed. Being banged around, like on tour, sometimes things come loose, or act-up.... (with any brand). The dotcom is what I'd rather have to deal with on the road, than any other.... without a doubt! And- also... you just try to get any modules or system made in Europe repaired and back... quickly. Hell... Roger can just send ya a part or PCB, and you can sway 'em out in less than 5 minutes, and just send back the bad one. What could be easier?... (or faster). (and no tax or customs forms, either).

Roger's reputation and service is at the very top. I've got two dotcom systems (a custom designed portable, and a large studio), which gets me up to around 158-space modules (not including the back side of the studio cab.s).

My suggestion... buy your basic system... cabinets, power supply(ies), harnesses, and standard modules from dotcom. If there are certain other modules you may want... like STG, Moon, COTK, or whatever... just add those after the fact, or as you go along.

What you have to decide is... for live-gigs... are you going to use MIDI to control your modular... or- are you going to go all the way with voltage-control? If it's the latter... then you need to plan how you want to do your preset patches. I've done a lot of that with my dotcoms... and the dotcoms are up to the challenge (as a system)... or up to it using MIDI. Ya just have to know how to go about it, for what you want to do. I've done it (and do it) both ways. It's easier with MIDI... but 'funner' using all CV's... and, IMO, a bit more creative, and allows for more from the musician, especially 'on-the-fly' and improvising.

If you're wanting to just click 'play', and have every performance done for ya... always the same... then MIDI is for you. In fact, I wouldn't even go modular for that. But- ya can. And- you can go both ways.

~Morbius~

Post Script-

Patch cord format... 1/4" or 3.5mm is another thing. The 3.5mm means more can be put into a smaller area... but most guys I hear, say their fingers are too big to fit, and 1/4" seems better. I've used both ARP 2600 and 2500's... and I gotta say... where I love the ARPs, I don't like the 3.5mm (mini) format. All too often, the connections become 'iffy'. I suppose it all depends on what you like. The great thing is... dotcom's resell at about 80% of new... so, if you DO buy, and don't like... you can get most of your money back.

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mono-poly



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PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2009 10:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Best new modulars in no particular order:

Wiard and Serge
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