Spielsachen. The name of my ongoing series of short demo videos, which all have one thing in common: modular synths – or more specifically, Eurorack synths – are right at their center.
The Eurorack setup at said center has grown some ever since I got two modules and a tiny case back in September of 2017.
Today I’ve assembled what I called the “Future” setup in my modulargrid presence for some time now. It’s a basis that I’m planning to use with no or only minimal changes for the foreseeable future.
In a series of potentially upcoming posts, I’ll start with the move to this adapted setup.
Future Tense to Present Tense
So today was the move from the “Today” to the “Future” setup. For reference, here’s the screenshots of the modulargrid designs:
Here’s photographs of before…
For good measure, I expanded my collection of patch cables (neatly held by a holder made by Erica Synths).
Why this move?
What was wrong with the last version exactly – one which I’ve spent quite some time planning?
Not that much, but it was a combination of not exactly the right tools/space-inefficient tools and not enough tools (in that order).
Not exactly the right tools
Doepfer‘s A-132-4 Quad Exp VCA is, at 6TE, a rather space-saving and affordable quad VCA. Then, it’s also an exponential VCA. And one that doesn’t have any control input attenuator.
I often found myself looking for either linear VCAs or said control input attenuators. True, I could always use the LPZW WK2 to attenuate two control inputs (of the total possible of eight), but that wasn’t exactly efficient.
I opted for a total of three 2hp VCAs (twin linear VCAs at 2hp, each with an attenuator), and one Synthrotek MST Dual VCA. Switchable lin/exp characteristics and controls per channel for attenuation and bleed make this a rather complete affair for which 6TE is not too big. In sum, I was even able to save 2TE.
With 26 vs. 22TE among the biggest individual components in the setup, Doepfer‘s A-143-2 QuadADSR and A-143-4 QuadVCLFO/VCO were next on the list.
Let’s start with the QuadADSR: four individual envelopes with a very large time range (from below 0.1ms up to several minutes), plus end of attack/decay/release outputs per envelope and retrigger inputs allowing you to configure hideously complex, long-running envelopes. Great. But I discovered that I didn’t use those aspects (extremely long times, linkability) productively even a single time. And at 6.5TE per envelope it’s not exactly small.
Enter the A-140-2 Dual ADSR. Two envelopes on 8TE, and CV control of parameters – how does that sound? Better to me. I had already replaced my trusty A-140 from days of old with one of these right after it came out, and will add two more to replace the A-143-2. 10TE saved.
As for the A-143-4: having the option to choose between LFO and VCO sure seems neat. But as Doepfer points out, this is a VCLFO first and foremost. And with that comes a somewhat unimpressive tuning stability. Add to that the choice of only triangle and square waveforms and lack of PWM, sync or other forms of waveshaping, and this is somewhat a “master of none”-kind of device. And furthermore, I discovered that I had never used four LFOs or four VCO – always a maximum of half/half.
With the A-110 Standard VCO sitting next to it, I opted to replace both with a combo. Three A-111-3 Micro Precision VCOs, giving you everything you’d want from an analogue VCO on a mere 4TE.
Add to that two 2hp LFOs (in addition to the one I already had), and that gives me three VCOs and two LFOs to replace the single VCO and quad LFO/VCO – with vastly expanded possibilities, and 16TE saved!
The last component was purely a space issue, mainly having to do with those impractical odd-width components some manufacturers do: the Erica Pico CV Mix got replaced by a 2hp Mix.
Not enough tools
After this last chapter, I suddenly had 31TE at my disposal. So what to do with it?
Let’s start with an old East-coast saying: you can never have too many filters.
I did have the Doepfer Xpander, Wasp and OptoFET filters in my setup. Add to those the voice-module-based DFAM Moog filter, Neutron Moffat Filter and the Nanozwerg’s multimode filter, and count in the dual LPG (Synthrotek), and you couldn’t say there were hardly any filter.
Yet what I found is that I like to better have two than one filter per voice. With a total of four full-fleged subtractive style VCOs now available, three dedicated filters is hardly enough.
I had lustingly listened to the sound of Doepfer‘s A-108 eight-pole filter for some time, due in no small part to Zoe Blade’s comparison video:
I needed one of those. No, rather I wanted one of those.
A second pick was a Polivoks-style design. I already had an odd number of TE to fit into a spec-compliant even-width case. Enter Erica‘s VCF1.
And finally, I was looking for something different. The shortlist then did contain the SnazzyFX Eternal Spring and the Future Sound Systems TG3 Gristelizer. I settled for the latter.
With 6TE to spare, I remembered I always had too few mixers and had one thrown out earlier, so a total of three 2hp Mix it was.
And then I read the manual of the Disting.
The Disting is, in a few words, the Swiss Army Knife of the Eurorack world, only better. It can do practically anything doable with two inputs, two outputs, an additional CV in and a knob. Need an additional ADSR? VCO? LFO? Tuner? Multisample-capable sampler instrument? Audio recorder? MIDI player? It does all that, and more. And if I keep it out of the audio chain, I can still go with my all-analogue-signal path ideal.
Where to find an additional 4TE? That was easy: the LEP Piattino was acquired to increase my options in analogue cymbals. What it can do, however, can easily be done by a combo of two other modules I have anyway. It’s a waste of space and time.
Hey, what about that…?
Now if you compare modulargrid designs and actual photos, you may notice something: one has an A-114 (dual ringmodulator), the other has an A-184-1 (ringmodulator/S&H/T&H combo). What gives?
I opted that somewhere down the line, I might replace the dual ring modulator with the other module. Rather low-priority if you ask me.
The Future of the Future
This will have to wait for another post…