Thoughts on a New Modular

Quite early on when More Than Moore had moved from being a crazy idea to a project idea, I had thought about assembling a small modular synth system in the Eurorack domain.

I had already started with Doepfer’s small lunchbox and a few modules to be able to add velocity sensitivity to a few synths, and a second oscillator to the Minibrute. That was a small thing. I wanted to go bigger.

This is not a proper description, tutorial or overview – rather some pictures with some comments.

Design Goals

I opted for Eurorack, both because of the sheer size of the biosphere, and also because I deeply like the company which had started it all more than 20 years ago: Doepfer.

With that out of the way, further goals were (and still are):

  • All-analogue signal chain.
  • DAW integratability first, stand-alone capabilities second.
  • Integration of existing and future semimodulars (which are all Eurorack).
  • Cymbal sounds to complement the Analog Rytm.
  • Proper FM. Like, with operators like the Yamahas, only analogue.

Choices

20180624_130741_Roßtalerweg.jpg
Monster Base (with lid on) sitting on the keyboard stand

I opted for a lot of Doepfer gear. The starting point was the case – in my case a A-100PBM “Monster Base”, a 2x168TE desktop case, that also fits well onto the lower tier of a keyboard stand.

Starting from there, the big multirole modules are the Squarp Hermod – a sequencer, MIDI-to-USB-to-CV-and-vice versa routing center, plus realtime processing and whatnot. Then there’s the MFBerlin Nanozwerg Pro – a synth voice module comprising oscillator plus sub, multimode filter, noise source, two envelopes and LFO. And MIDI interface, and MIDI control of all parameters. At below 250 bucks, next to being a convincing synth voice, I can also perfectly use it if I ever need another filter, or VCO, or LFO, or ADSR, or MIDI interface.

20180625_195833_Roßtalerweg.jpg
Most of the pieces have arrived

There’s oscillators (three Doepfer Thru-Zero Sine Oscillators, one Eowave Orage to be delivered, and one Doepfer Standard Oscillator, plus a Quad VCO/VCLFO also by Doepfer). There’s filters (all by Doepfer: Wasp Filter, 6-pole OptoFET filter and XP filter),

20180701_172241_Roßtalerweg
Empty boxes…

envelopes (Doepfer QuadADSR and Standard Envelope), and various processors (Doepfer 4096-stage BBD, spring reverb, and Distortion/Waveshaper). There’s a lot of Doepfer.

For further audio sources, I had ordered the MFBerlin HH/CY-522, LEP’s 808 Drone and Piattino, and 2hp’s Hat.

Finally, there’s a bunch of Doepfer Quad VCAs and Micro Mixers, a Doepfer Noise Source and Source of Uncertainty, and Mutable Instrument’s wonderful Kinks. Ah, and the Expert Sleepers ES-3 DAW-to-CV/gate interface (for DAW integration of modulation signals generated by the DAW). I almost forgot the Doepfer Ring Modulator I already had.

PICT_20180630_142048.jpg
A simple patch?

Experiences, Next Steps

There were a lot of interesting findings, which include (in no particular order):

  • You need cables. A lot.
  • Generally, the system develops in the direction I had envisioned. I did however not consider DAW interation so far (in part because I’m still missing the ES-3).
  • Some components weren’t good picks: LEP 808 (completely useless), 2hp Hat (nice, but digital), and I also ordered one too many each from the Doepfer QuadVCA and MicroMixer.
  • With regard to sound sources and processors it looks ok. I may still need a few more auxiliaries (beginners’ mistake).
  • I also miss an oldschool sequencer. But the Doepfer modules are so big…
  • The sound design workflow is completely different to anything I’ve done before. Which includes all kind of analogue and digital hardware and software synths, and also virtual modular thingies.

And with that, here are my Next Steps:

  1. I’ll return one of the QuadVCAs, and one of the MicroMixers (or rather, don’t pick the latter up).
  2. I’ll return the LEP 808 and the 2hp Hat.
  3. Maybe I’ll return the Erica Pico Trigg. But maybe not: having a clock divider/trigger sequencer in such a small form factor is cool.
  4. I’ll fill most of the space I have gained thusly with auxiliaries: another stereo mixer, a small attenuverter, a four-quadrant multiplier, an Erica Pico logic processor, a 4-1 CV-controllable switch, and a frequency divider. And I’ll get a Korg SQ1 as another sequencer.

And finally, I do something that is more musically than just goofing around.

PICT_20180630_141253

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