Looking to get a modular/semi-modular synthesizer.
Old 30th December 2012
  #1
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Thread Starter
Looking to get a modular/semi-modular synthesizer.

This would be my first modular synth, any suggestions or tips?
Old 30th December 2012
  #2
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I would wait for the Korg Mini MS-20...
If Korg will release it with a price around 500€ I think it will change the whole game and it seems to be a pretty cool piece to start your own modular synth.
If they release it, I will be happy to have waited this long to start a modular
Old 30th December 2012
  #3
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BTByrd's Avatar
 

The #1 tip for modulars:
You can never have enough VCAs!
Old 30th December 2012
  #4
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by paugui View Post
I would wait for the Korg Mini MS-20...
If Korg will release it with a price around 500€ I think it will change the whole game and it seems to be a pretty cool piece to start your own modular synth.
If they release it, I will be happy to have waited this long to start a modular
When I read about that MS-20 mini boy did I start getting my hopes up. I really hope that its real and that price isn't to much more than 500€. I've always drooled over the MS-20.
Old 30th December 2012
  #5
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I was wanting to trade a bunch of stuff for one...
If that is true, I'm really glad I didn't...
Sure the mini keys will be a minus, but they won't take too much space, so I think it will be a good alternative to a Doepfer, especially if it sells well and Korg decides to re-issue the MS-50 and SQ-10.
If they do that, I'll definitely try to make my modular based on this system only (am a bit picky when it comes to looks and so would rather have everything with the same kind of layout).


If they don't come up with one after all, probably starting a small eurorack setup would be a good idea...
I've fancied the idea of starting a Doepfer system for quite a while, but I always end up trying to get cheaper equipment that I still want before jumping to the modular fever...
Not that I end up spending less cash...
Old 30th December 2012
  #6
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Stevism's Avatar
wow mini ms-20, hadn't heard about that until this!

Old 30th December 2012
  #7
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BTByrd's Avatar
 

I'd take 2 oscs and a Korgasmatron over the Mini MS20 any day. Mini keys? Ugh...
Old 30th December 2012
  #8
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Mefistophelees's Avatar
 

The patching capability of the MS-20 is actually quite limited, it's at best a best psuedo-modular. If they do do a real analogue recreation it'll not be a great start to a modular but could be a good add-on to an existing modular.

OTOH If it's even remotely like the original I fully expect it to be a *great* synth.


Look at the MFB Kraftzwerg - it is a fully patchable synth, essentially a full modular in a small box (or rack). It's a good start because it's cheap and gives you all the parts you'll need to start with.

Alternatively there are also other "synth voice" modules worth looking at but I don't think any are patchable to the same extent.
Old 30th December 2012
  #9
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_seph's Avatar
 

one that caught my eye is the EMW-200 which is based on the EML ElectroComp Model 200



vs.



I think it has a nice form/price and the EMW-300 expansion seems cool. they also make eurorack modules so it should be easy to expand. anyway, this could be a nice starting point and to me it seems quite a bit more interesting than a mini MS-20
Old 30th December 2012
  #10
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Reptil's Avatar
hmm nice
yeah the Doepfers are cheap and functional
other options with CV gate i/o (so you can expand it later with modular stuff)
Minibrute
SE Boomstar Boomstar 4075 Demo - YouTube (is that happening - I've lost track since the summer?)
Analogue Systems Spawn (if you can find one)
Macbeth
Moog Oldschool
Old 30th December 2012
  #11
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BaconTastesGood's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by CelestialTsunami View Post
This would be my first modular synth, any suggestions or tips?
Buy used. Much like guitar pedals, there's a floor on the price for a lot of used gear so you can buy/trade used gear without taking a huge financial hit. There's a Doepfer rack on eBay right now for $440 BIN (vs. $535 new from AH) and the seller is taking offers. He's also selling one of those Doepfer 'mini synths' which others have said is similar to a Dark Energy (I think for $440 as well and taking offers).
Old 30th December 2012
  #12
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Lotus Voltage's Avatar
 

The Doepfer A-100 Basic System 2 is a good place to start. It has a MIDI to CV interface, lots of flexibility and sounds good. It has both a Moog-style low pass filter and an Oberheim Xpander-style multi mode filter. It's available in a portable suitcase version which is very convenient.

The video below shows some of the sounds the Doepfer stuff can produce:

Old 30th December 2012
  #13
Here's a quote of mine from a similar thread:

Quote:
Originally Posted by kraku View Post
From the thread Building a modular synth rack on 18th May 2011

I'll give you a few pointers which will save you ALOT of money when building your first modular:

Buy Expers Sleepers ES-3 module + Expert Sleepers Silent Way plugin bundle:

Expert Sleepers - Home

This way you don't need to spend any money on MIDI modules and modulation modules like LFOs, envelopes, etc. You can actually build a modular synth that costs below 1000 dollars now.

Expert Sleepers ES-3 is a eurorack format module which inputs ADAT from your audio interface and outputs any CV signal you want (gate/pitch/envelopes/LFOs/etc.) which are created by the Silent Way plugins, so you might want to build a eurorack synth. Lucky for you, there's also a super cheap case + power in eurorack format:

a n a l o g u e h a v e n

That's the cheapest way to start your own modular synth without lots of DIY

So buy that Happy Ending Kit + Silent Way plugin set with the following modules:

1 x Expert Sleepers ES-3
1-2 x oscillators
1 x filter
1 x VCA

If you buy more than one oscillator, then buy also one mixer module.
You might also want to buy at least one multiple module to split your signal. Alternatively you could buy these patch cords, which eliminate the need for multiples altogether:

Tiptop Audio - Stackcable: Stackable 1/8 Jacks

That's pretty much all you need to get a fully working flexible modular synth.

My personal picks for the oscillators would be either Tip Top Audio's Z3000 (two of them) or just one Livewire Audio Frequency Generator. The latter is such a full sounding beast that I've never even thought of using two of them together. It's a super flexible oscillator. Z3000 is a high end oscillator that has pretty much everything in it you might need. My favorite.

Good choises for filters could be:

Doepfer A-106-6 XP VCF (Oberheim Xpander / Matrix 12 clone)
Analogue Solutions SY02 (Korg MS-20 clone)
Doepfer A-124 (Wasp clone)
Wiard/Malekko Borg (this seems to get lots of love from the modular freaks)
Here are also similar threads you might want to check out (there are tons more of them on GS if you use the search function).

Modular newbie
Building a modular synth rack
Modular starting block
Building a Modular Synthesizer
Old 1st January 2013
  #14
Gear addict
 

A FutureRetro XS might be good i think, its semi-modular.
Old 1st January 2013
  #15
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Lotus Voltage's Avatar
 

I can't believe that anyone thinks that Korg are actually going to come through... The sound of the new analog gear by Vermona/Doepfer/Future Retro/Cwejman/Macbeth/Studio Electronics etc is better than anything the 'big' companies (Korg, Roland, Yamaha etc) are going to come up with. Even build quality wise the big companies can't compete - compare a Vermona Performer Mark II or a Doepfer Dark Energy or a Cwejman S1 MK II to the plastic junk that Korg, Roland and Yamaha produce these days. Korg/Roland/Yamaha just use their brand names and history to promote their new products but most or all of the actual designers and engineers who built their classic machines have long since retired. They are the same companies in name only.
Old 1st January 2013
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lotus Voltage View Post
I can't believe that anyone thinks that Korg are actually going to come through... The sound of the new analog gear by Vermona/Doepfer/Future Retro/Cwejman/Macbeth/Studio Electronics etc is better than anything the 'big' companies (Korg, Roland, Yamaha etc) are going to come up with. Even build quality wise the big companies can't compete - compare a Vermona Performer Mark II or a Doepfer Dark Energy or a Cwejman S1 MK II to the plastic junk that Korg, Roland and Yamaha produce these days. Korg/Roland/Yamaha just use their brand names and history to promote their new products but most or all of the actual designers and engineers who built their classic machines have long since retired. They are the same companies in name only.
I agree with you on many accounts there, however...i find myself liking some of their things, without care for their name to be honest. I like the Gaia, even though it gets bashed, i would like to have a Mini MS-20 (if its not too expensive), but i would like them regardless of their name or company history...i like them because i do...like when your presented with blocks all of the same shape and size but different color, then asked to pick your favorite.

But, like you, i would like to see them remake or at least, re-introduce, some of their older stuff (would love a modern hardware FM synth).

Just putting out my 2 cents on the table

One more thing, on topic info, i think i saw that Oberheim was releasing (or has, my time is spotty right now) a semi modular 2 voice synth? Could someone let me know if im right or wrong on this regard? :P

Last edited by Polygon Cube; 1st January 2013 at 07:44 AM.. Reason: Forgot on-topic information...
Old 1st January 2013
  #17
Lives for gear
Some ideas:

- FutureRetro XS (if you prefer to start with semi-modular)
- Pittsburgh Modular Foundation (if you're going mostly for classic analog sounds)
- Makenoise System 1 or 2 (if you're going mostly for experimental sounds)
- Synthesizers.com Entry Level System (if you prefer big knobs, big jacks, and big everything)
- Doepfer Dark Energy II (if you're on a budget)

Do lots of research first. First decide if you want modular or semi-modular. Then decide on a format (1/8" jacks, 1/4" jacks, bananas, etc). Listen to all demos and watch all videos you can. Listen to actual music that people is making with these systems.
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Old 1st January 2013
  #18
Gear nut
 

What's special about modular synths? Not hating i just never used one
Old 1st January 2013
  #19
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Eric J's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Extenzo View Post
What's special about modular synths? Not hating i just never used one
Please tell us this is not a serious question.
Old 1st January 2013
  #20
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dlmorley's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Extenzo View Post
What's special about modular synths? Not hating i just never used one
Flexibility
Possibilities
Expandability
Draining of bank account
Old 1st January 2013
  #21
Gear addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Extenzo View Post
What's special about modular synths?
Impressing friends and scaring cats and dogs (or other way around, depending on how you patch it).
Old 1st January 2013
  #22
Gear nut
 

Forget about the MS-20.

The MS-20 lacks VCO outputs, the patch panel is laid out like a circuit diagram rather than being associated with relevant knobs/functions, the filter doesn't track to the keyboard by default (which sort of defeats the purpose of a semi-modular), and while the filter is unique it isn't a necessity (unlike, for example, the "Moog" ladder filter). These issues combine to make the MS-20 a poor choice for a 'first modular/semi-modular synth' in my opinion.

I have my doubts that Korg would release the Mini MS-20 anyhow, either as an analogue or digital recreation, because even if the issues I listed above are resolved its appeal is fairly limited for a large company like Korg. There's a few additions/modifications the MS-20 needs to broaden its appeal, and those changes are clearly not present in the mock-ups of the Mini MS-20 I have seen. For a company like Korg, the Mini MS-20 as it is seems like a weak product to me.

Having said that... personally I'd recommend you take a look the following as for your "first" semi-modular synthesizers:

01. MFB Kraftzwerg

02. MFB Microzwerge II

03. Tom Oberheim SEM Pro

04. MEM PALette v2

05. Mr. Acid Machine Agent C

06. Analogue Solutions Telemark-K

There was a new semi-modular listed on Matrix Synth in the last month as well, that piqued my interest, but I haven't got the link handy. I recall that one of the envelopes could be used as an LFO or oscillator, and that it featured some sort of waveform skewing. It's also worth mentioning that, depending on the gear you currently own, you may be able to have some of it modified to provide semi-modular functions.
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Old 1st January 2013
  #23
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dlmorley's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Polygon Cube View Post
A FutureRetro XS might be good i think, its semi-modular.
I agree
Old 1st January 2013
  #24
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Looping Loddar's Avatar
 

A MFB Kraftzwerg is a good and cost-effective start.
Old 2nd January 2013
  #25
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Septik's Avatar
Do your research, figure out exactly how modular systems work, listen to lots of demos, and go from there. Don't go into purchasing until you understand exactly how they work. Once you come to a complete understanding, you can really get a better idea of what will suit your needs. Sound quality and modulation capabilities are really the defining factors of modulars, so once you come to this understanding, just go listen, listen, listen, and compare the capabilities. It is really a "to each his own" thing, as far as modulars go. You either like the sound of the modules, or you don't.. I don't like a ton of modules or complete modulars that a lot of people go gaga over, but that's just me. Your ears and tweaking-imagination are the best judge for modulars. There's a TON of stuff out there once you do some research, and most have lots of demos available
Old 2nd January 2013
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Extenzo View Post
What's special about modular synths? Not hating i just never used one
Watch this video.

Basically...it's all yours. You configure it yourself. You handle it yourself.

Old 2nd January 2013
  #27
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Septik's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by cramseur View Post
Watch this video.

Basically...it's all yours. You configure it yourself. You handle it yourself.

The best part about a modular is building it yourself to fit your specifications. The eurorack stuff that is available now is very exciting.. Engineers are coming up with some great stuff! The classics are amazing and untouchable, but definitely not as flexible and personal as the newer stuff.
Old 2nd January 2013
  #28
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make noise Maths + Oberheim SEM = awesome
Old 2nd January 2013
  #29
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dlmorley's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Septik View Post
The best part about a modular is building it yourself to fit your specifications. The eurorack stuff that is available now is very exciting.. Engineers are coming up with some great stuff! The classics are amazing and untouchable, but definitely not as flexible and personal as the newer stuff.
The downside is that I see plenty of people who NEVER stop buying modules and basically think they need a new module to make a new sound. I also see some pretty unbalanced systems (even huge ones) which are limiting rather than liberating (even to the owner)
I am so glad I started with an ARP 2600. Still my favorite and any limitations were worked around as it has basically all you need and in the right place.
Another thing I don't like is a layout made up of different manufacturers. Knobs and jacks in different places on each module and I am afraid the funky graphic modules are something that I really don't like.

But YES, if you have some experience of what you want, building a modular can be perfect, but for a beginner, I would buy something that can be expanded upon but has all the basics.
Old 2nd January 2013
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dlmorley View Post
The downside is that I see plenty of people who NEVER stop buying modules and basically think they need a new module to make a new sound.
A lot of people build up to a size and then start swapping things. There's a very active 2nd hand market for modules.

Modular doesn't quite turn out quite as you expect so it is a learning exercise to a degree. I think as people find this they'll get new modules or change existing ones.

I think a lot of people build up to a certain size and then it stabilises. You also get people who'll downsize or completely change their system.

There's a huge range of modules in Eurorack and new ones constantly coming out so there's a lot to experiment with.
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