Ten Of The Best Semi-Modular Synths Right Now

There's been a rising tide of semi-modular synths as of late, which has triggered a boost in interest for modular synths in the popular Eurorack format. Here are ten fine synths to be noodled with or to stoke your modular cravings, in alpahbetical order...


 Minibrute 2s

Arturia Minibrute 2s


Arturia kick off our list with the second coming of their Minibrute synthesizer, and this time it features an extensive list of possibilities for 'Eurorackers' with its 48-point patchbay, which means vast modulation capabilities and seamless integration with larger modular rigs - not to mention the usual MIDI and USB connectivity. The Minibrute 2 now comes in two versions, one with a 25-key keyboard with aftertouch and a “2S” version (featured) which is also equipped with an enticing step sequencer. Both variants feature the same flexible patchbay, comprehensive feature set and gritty analog sound that the Arturia "Brutes" are known for.



 Neutron

Behringer Neutron


Behringer stormed the analog synthesizer scene with the promise of making classic synths without the vintage price tag, and they have fulfilled that promise with the audacious DeepMind series and a controversial 'clone' of the famous Moog Model D. Now, they’re also breaking through to the modular side with the Neutron, a semi-modular synth rich with features and as affordable as we have come to expect from this disruptive brand. Neutron packs two VCOs, a healthy 56 patch points, effects, MIDI input, USB and more, so for $299 it’s easily in the no-brainer category.



 Music Easel

Buchla Music Easel


First introduced in 1973, the colourful Music Easel is often referred to as the most friendly and musician-oriented instrument to ever come from Buchla whilst still keeping the "West Coast" vibe with its distinctive way of generating sounds via an expressive touch keyboard. After a long hibernation the Easel is now reborn and it's designed to be as close as possible to the original version: a powerful analog additive semi-modular synthesizer capable of generating multiple kinds of sounds. With all the patch points from the original unit this latest version also features a convenient MIDI I/O interface. Needless to say, a gem like the Easel won't come cheap, so it's best to start saving!



 Erebus V3

Dreadbox Erebus V3


The third iteration of the Dreadbox Erebus is an interesting piece: it’s a 2-voice synth that can work either in unison or as a paraphonic unit with a lovely voltage-controllable echo effect, featuring 35 CV points for flexible patching and instant Eurorack noodling. Erebus is compact and comes with MIDI I/O, so it can slot into any existing setup with ease. Dreadbox also makes other cool semi-modulars such as the Nyx and Hades, so make sure to check them out as well.



 MS-20 Mini

Korg MS-20 Mini


The latest reissue of this classic comes in a small size and brings the iconic sound for a reasonable price. Made by the same engineers who designed the original MS-20, the Mini is a faithful recreation of the mono analog beast of the late 70s - according to Korg it's only smaller as the circuits were perfectly reproduced to provide maximum fidelity. It's worth noticing that it is not compatible with eurorack out of the box, requiring a converter (such as this one) to get everything right, but it will certainly payoff.



 0-coast

Make Noise 0-coast


'East Coast' meets 'West Coast' in a synth design philosophy mash-up: that's Make Noise 0-Coast in a nutshell. This nifty analog mono synth brings Make Noise's idiosyncratic approach to a portable, self-contained package that can be used on its own or connect to modular gear through its 27 patch points - it also features a MIDI to CV converter making integration a breeze. 0-coast can do most mono-synth-analog tricks with its two oscillators but its major strength is in generating unusual sounds, it presents quite a unique edge that is definitely worth checking out.



 Grandmother

Moog Grandmother


Moog has done many strange and lovely keyboards over the decades, and they have done it again with the Grandmother. At a glance this appears to be quite a simple mono synth with a rather clean layout, but a closer inspection reveals depth, with a set of features that opens up very interesting sonic possibilities indeed. Adding to the praised Moog analog sound there's a spring reverb, built-in arpeggiator and sequencer, the 32 full size keys, pitch/mod wheels, 41 patch points, and USB and MIDI I/O. Most interestingly is the fact that the pre-wired connections can be overridden by patching, so the Grandmother can serve as a set of multiple modules that are easily identified by colours. With all these features we can see it as a solid pick for a modular system centerpiece - it does so much stuff that who knows, it might even bake you an apple pie if you're lucky!



 Mother-32

Moog Mother-32


The Mother 32 was Moog's first semi-modular in desktop format and its most affordable unit to date to boot, so it's no surprise that it has become incredibly popular. Besides being a very capable mono synth on its own with the famed ladder filter and a step sequencer, the Mother 32 is a very enticing path to the modular world thanks to its 32-point patchbay, which, along with the MIDI input, greatly facilitates integration into a variety of setups. The Mother 32 can also be taken out of its desktop case to be mounted in Eurorack frames, so it's a great choice if going full-on-Eurorack is in your plans.



 Lifeforms SV-1

Pittsburgh Modular Lifeforms SV-1


Pittsburgh Modular has a well-earned reputation on making fine eurorack modules, and their semi-modular Lifeforms SV-1 follows the line. With 53 patch points and some unique functions such as the blade wave on one of its two oscillators, this relatively portable-sized mono synth packs a lot of punch and has a wide range of uses, features Pittsburgh's signature filter, a four channel mixer, MIDI to CV conversion and much more. It's also worth bringing up the Microvolt 3900, which is their latest semi-modular and also a very interesting mono synth itself.



 Aira SYSTEM-1m

Roland Aira SYSTEM-1m


Roland wraps up our list with the Roland System-1m, an enticing semi-modular synth that combines the acclaimed "Plug-Out" technology that emulates classic synths with great fidelity while also offering integration to hardware synths with 19 CV/Gate connections, MIDI I/O, and an external input. The System-1m's format is also quite versatile - it can be mounted on 19" racks or used as a desktop unit. If you’re looking for something to bridge the gap between your computer and that modular rig the System-1m should definitely be on your shortlist.


That's our list - hopefully it helps expand your sonic palette and make your setup more effective (and also fun) to play with! A couple of notes:

• First off, some reassurance for the newcomers: don't worry if you're scared of patch cables - all the synths on our list are "wired under the hood" and will work perfectly out-of-the-box without any patching. The patch points are entirely optional, but we think that you should definitely try to make use of them to get the full potential out of these pieces.

• There many other interesting semi-modulars out there, so honourable mentions go to the Doepfer Dark Energy, Kilpatrick Audio Phenol, Plankton Ants and Analogue Solutions Fusebox.

For more discussion on Eurorack and modular synthesizers, visit:
https://www.gearslutz.com/board/modu...ynths-effects/