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 Forum index » Instruments and Equipment » Modular Synthesis
Beginner: How to start?
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geddy



Joined: May 13, 2014
Posts: 3
Location: United Kingdom

PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 12:17 pm    Post subject: Beginner: How to start?
Subject description: Need some advice!
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Hello,

Quick intro about me. Currently own a Monotribe and a Minibrute synth set up. I have recently been looking for a new synth to buy and stumbled back across the idea of Modular synthesis, which has now caught my attention.

As a person who is predominately new to the whole system, I am looking for a beginner style starter-kit. So my question is, are there any pre-built, or instructions kits of what to buy, and where?

As someone who does not have buckets of money, I need something that allows me to get my teeth into it modular synthesis now, but also offers expansion when needed etc.

I would be very grateful for a nudge into the correct direction.

Kind Regards,
geddy
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elmegil



Joined: Mar 20, 2012
Posts: 1476
Location: Chicago
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PostPosted: Wed May 14, 2014 6:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Welcome to the rabbit hole Smile

There are questions to be answered: what format do you think you'd prefer? There are 3U (Frac & Eurorack), 4U (Buchla, others), and 5U (Moog, Synthesizers.com, MOTM) formats, each of which have slight differences among them, not the least of which is control and jack layout and spacing. 1U, btw is one Rack Unit in height, 1.75 inches (give or take).

What kind of music do you want to make?

Here are a few comparisons that might help resolve the first one:
http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/apr09/articles/goingmodular.htm
http://www.modularsynth.com/chart.html

For Euro specifically:
http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2009/01/31/eurorack-modular-synthesizers/

There are a number of resources here (see the schematics vault on the wiki, and of course the forums generally), and at Muffwiggler.com/forum discussing all the common new to modular questions.

There are DIY resources galore, from kits (synthcube.com, bridechamber.com, thonk.co.uk) to plans and PCBs (musicfromouterspace.com, http://www.modular.fonik.de/, http://birthofasynth.com/) as well as books (Ray Wilson of MusicFromOuterSpace's Make: Analog Synthesizers, Thomas Henry's An Analog Synth for the 21st Century available from Lulu http://www.lulu.com/shop/thomas-henry/an-analog-synthesizer-for-the-21st-century/ebook/product-20192699.html, many many more) and the holy grail: Electronotes http://electronotes.netfirms.com/

There are also tons of module manufacturers. Synthcube sells built modules, you can also get stuff that's not DIY at the core from analoguehaven.com or synthesizers.com or many other places, but you if you are interested in Euro you could spend a long time researching things.

Note that I'm in the states, so some of these resources (aside from Thonk) are over here and likely come with associated shipping and tax markups. Doepfer.de is the German originator of the Eurorack format, and there are many resources on that side of the Atlantic as well, I'm just not as familiar with them. Research via the internet doesn't cost much though Smile.

Welcome aboard, try not to get too obsessed.... Smile
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geddy



Joined: May 13, 2014
Posts: 3
Location: United Kingdom

PostPosted: Thu May 15, 2014 3:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hello and thank you for the info!
elmegil wrote:
There are 3U (Frac & Eurorack), 4U (Buchla, others), and 5U (Moog, Synthesizers.com, MOTM) formats, each of which have slight differences among them, not the least of which is control and jack layout and spacing. 1U, btw is one Rack Unit in height, 1.75 inches (give or take).

This is where the confusion starts. If quality is not a trade off, a smaller rack would my preferred option I think (price & size?). As for which are better, I have no idea. From looking at the links you have posted, I would prefer a larger rack (more rugged knobs etc), but for now, I would rather go for the smaller one to get me started (as it is cheaper, correct?).

elmegil wrote:
What kind of music do you want to make?

I usually aim for Techno style music, but I sometimes end up with some dark atmospheric sounds.

I will have a read of those books as well!

Thank you for the general info as well, I will be looking into those.
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elmegil



Joined: Mar 20, 2012
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PostPosted: Thu May 15, 2014 5:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Euro is the compact format, but you won't find the prices are *that* much better than 5U formats, either for manufactured modules or for DIY stuff. In fact some DIY stuff could well be more expensive because one of your biggest expenses for DIY will be pots & jacks, and Euro tends to be pretty dense with them.

For comparison I'd look at prices for VCOs & VCFs at Synthesizers.com and then at AnalogueHaven.com. Synthesizers.com has a full line of all the types of modules you'd want in MU (Moog) format, bread and butter stuff at fair prices. AnalogueHaven.com has a wide range of Eurorack and has everything as well.

You might save a bit of money on a budget Euro case vs a 5U case capable of the same "capacity" in module count, but that's really the only place I think it's very significant.
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geddy



Joined: May 13, 2014
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Location: United Kingdom

PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2014 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

elmegil wrote:
For comparison I'd look at prices for VCOs & VCFs at Synthesizers.com and then at AnalogueHaven.com. Synthesizers.com has a full line of all the types of modules you'd want in MU (Moog) format, bread and butter stuff at fair prices. AnalogueHaven.com has a wide range of Eurorack and has everything as well.

As I live in England I will need to pay quite a bit for postage and custom charges which is a bit of a downside.

I do like the look of the moog modules. The only downside seems to be that the 3U racks have a lot more modules compared with the 5U ones. Is this a big downside?
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elmegil



Joined: Mar 20, 2012
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PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2014 10:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I hope I mentioned that I was citing stateside business because those were what I was familiar with, but for Eurorack there are plenty of sellers in the Eurozone (not the least of which is the father of Eurorack, Doepfer), and I believe there are probably sellers for 5U/MU stuff as well. I don't buy synthesizers.com stuff mostly because I'm 95% DIY, so for all I know he has a European distributor....

As for 3U having "a lot more modules" I think that's simply because Euro sizing is not as rigid as 5U sizing. Whether it's a downside depends a lot on your personal preferences. Euro modules can be crazy variable, leading to a rack that looks like a bunch of random stuff, whereas if you buy all synthesizers.com stuff, you will have a very nice, consistent look, and common interface across all your modules. Many 5U modules other than Roger's are also available with compatible panels that also match the typical standards.

In my opinion (but this is only for my own "workflow" such as it might be), Euro offers greater diversity at the cost of inconsistent and sometimes obscure interfaces (unless you only buy Doepfer modules Smile ). It is also much smaller which can make it harder to work with depending on how dexterous you think you are, size of your hands, etc. If you're willing to DIY, 5U has plenty of diversity as well, and if you don't care about all that there are certainly sufficient premade modules to make a good instrument or people who can build for you.
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Antimon



Joined: Jan 18, 2005
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PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2014 8:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

welcome geddy!

I would like to second this link that elmegil posted:

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/apr09/articles/goingmodular.htm

It is written my a guy who used to hang around here, in the perspective of someone in the UK that wanted to get into modular synths but didn't know much, which seems a bit like your situation. Smile

I'm definitely no modular superexpert (I have a small system that I got from Curetronic a few years back, nice full format modules with really crappy panels that I made myself), but a couple of things:

You indicate that you're not on a big budget, moving from a monotribe/minibrute setup. Know that a modular will cost you. "Low budget" doesn't really rhyme with modular.

Also, you may want to get more than one VCA, that was my mistake. Smile

Good luck!

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BobTheDog



Joined: Feb 28, 2005
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PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2014 11:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

The mistake I made when first setting mine up was not getting lots of VCAs, lots of active and passive multiples and lots of offset/attenuators

Boring but necessary.
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