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Modcan vs. Dotcom? Modular Synthesizers
Old 2nd January 2011
  #1
Modcan vs. Dotcom?

My new years resolution is to start building a modular for external processing and synthesis. The system will live in a portable 19" rack, with other rack mount synths, allowing for cross patching insanity.

Reasoning:
1. Versatility / Expandability
2. Sound / Build Quality
3. Learning Opportunity
4. Tactile interface and analog strangeness.

After lots of searching I'm looking at Dotcom (2192$) and Modcan B. (4704$).

So, my questions are:

1. Is Modcan B really worth all that extra cash + 3-6 month waiting list?

2. What are the differences between Modcan and Dotcom in terms of sound / build quality? I get the functional differences, quality is hard to tell without touching, looking and hearing.

3. Can modulars really be integrated into a studio setup, as quality workhorse gear? Most demos I see are complex stand alone patches that aren't really useful to me as a producer.

I haven't read anything bad about either Dotcom or Modcan so it's difficult to chose. I'm leaning towards Modcan because shipping / duty wouldn't be an issue.

Opinions?
Old 2nd January 2011
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ebison View Post

So, my questions are:

1. Is Modcan B really worth all that extra cash + 3-6 month waiting list?
imo YES!.. modcan has more functional density per module, more options for 'modern' designs and FX modules, every modcan filter is a hit. really, there is not a lackluster filter in the bunch. and i'm not saying that dotcom is bad by any stretch.. just that modcan is in a class of its own. distinct sounding.. awesome clarity.. just something about them. build quality is top notch.

and perhaps most importantly, Bruce is always doing R&D and making new awesome modules to add to the modcan possibilities. it is by no means a stagnant format. lot's of things added every year.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ebison View Post
2. What are the differences between Modcan and Dotcom in terms of sound / build quality? I get the functional differences, quality is hard to tell without touching, looking and hearing.
never owned any dotcom modules. dotcom has a good reputation for build quality and sound. matter of taste where the sound is concerned but i'd give modcan the edge for versatility and range of sound possibilities with the FX modules and things like wave table oscillators. check the most recent modules in the modcan list. some very exciting things recently added.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ebison View Post
3. Can modulars really be integrated into a studio setup, as quality workhorse gear? Most demos I see are complex stand alone patches that aren't really useful to me as a producer.
yes. in all kinds of ways. for processing audio, sound design, general synth duties.. endless possibilities for studio use. you can make some sounds you've never imagined and probably not be able to make them in other ways. modulars are great fun and great ways to learn new things about synthesis etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ebison View Post
I haven't read anything bad about either Dotcom or Modcan so it's difficult to chose. I'm leaning towards Modcan because shipping / duty wouldn't be an issue.

Opinions?
also, the modcan wait time is totally worth it. Bruce meets his shipping dates and is a stand up guy. often shipping times are about 2 months but whatever they are he will be up front about what you should expect.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #3
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shadowfac's Avatar
 

I think you should go with Modcan if you can afford it. I'm a dotcom user and haven't had the chance to try Modcan, but I people praise Modcan all the time and I've even read some posts from people who switched from whatever to Modcan or who would go all Modcan if they were starting over.

I went with dotcom for various reasons: cost was one of them, and shipping expenses were another one (I live in Mexico and Texas is relatively close). In any case, I'm very pleased with them. They delivery fast and have the best customer service. And in the past 2 or 3 years there has been a small boom of dotcom-compatible modules from other makers, so now it's easier to break from the dotcom paradigm (which, for some people is too "vanilla").

Here's a small blog I recently started about the progress of my modular. It contains some videos and tunes which may give you some ideas of the range of possibilities with dotcom.

Sintesote
Old 2nd January 2011
  #4
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Dave Peck's Avatar
 

My system is Dotcom modules for all the 'bread & butter' stuff and I only buy more expensive modules from other companies like Modcan where it really makes a difference or for things not offered by Dotcom (VC phase shifters, wave folders, multi-stage envelopes etc.). In my opinion this approach offers the best bang for the buck. The Dotcom oscillators, mixers, VCAs, noise generators, Samble/Holds, ADSRs, Signal Processors, Multiples, etc. are as good as any other and I don't feel there's any need to spend more for those types of modules.

The Dotcom Q150 24dB ladder filter is very good and a real bargain, but their Q107 multimode filter is only mediocre and that's one part of the system that would benefit from a splurge on a better multimode from another source. I have recently received two new filters that will be replacing my Q107's: The Rob Hordijk Phaser Filter and his 'steiner-style' multimode filter. They are both very flexible and they both sound amazing.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #5
I know Modcan and not Dotcom.
All I can say about Modcan is that the build quality and sound are excellent. Bruce is a gentleman and very honest.

Regarding general questions, if you are into audio processing I would advise looking at systems that have those kind of modules in abundance.
Bread and butter synthesis modules (Moog style filters, envelopes, and oscillators) are good up to a point, but you'll soon want to get into waveshaping, bit crushing etc.....
As such I went with Serge first (banana cables) and added Modcan (A).
This a very powerful set up for audio processing and out there creativity.

Really in the end you are only slightly bounded by the cabling for each system.
For example, while you can mix banana based modules with 1/4" jack modules, it can be a hassle. Both Modcan B and DotCom are 1/4" jack systems are they not?
If so I would buy an enclosure for each and cherry pick the best modules from each system. If you want to stick with one brand (why?) I would buy into the system that currently offers the widest range of modules appropriate to your needs.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #6
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Edward Shnapper's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by boon View Post
imo YES!.. modcan has more functional density per module, more options for 'modern' designs and FX modules, every modcan filter is a hit. really, there is not a lackluster filter in the bunch. and i'm not saying that dotcom is bad by any stretch.. just that modcan is in a class of its own. distinct sounding.. awesome clarity.. just something about them. build quality is top notch.

and perhaps most importantly, Bruce is always doing R&D and making new awesome modules to add to the modcan possibilities. it is by no means a stagnant format. lot's of things added every year.



never owned any dotcom modules. dotcom has a good reputation for build quality and sound. matter of taste where the sound is concerned but i'd give modcan the edge for versatility and range of sound possibilities with the FX modules and things like wave table oscillators. check the most recent modules in the modcan list. some very exciting things recently added.



yes. in all kinds of ways. for processing audio, sound design, general synth duties.. endless possibilities for studio use. you can make some sounds you've never imagined and probably not be able to make them in other ways. modulars are great fun and great ways to learn new things about synthesis etc.



also, the modcan wait time is totally worth it. Bruce meets his shipping dates and is a stand up guy. often shipping times are about 2 months but whatever they are he will be up front about what you should expect.

tutttutttutt
Old 3rd January 2011
  #7
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BTByrd's Avatar
For sound processing, effects, weirdo synthesis and general awesomness, Modcan cannot be beat. Period.

High functionality per module, superb build quality, fantastic sound.

It's expensive, but you get what you pay for. I'd love to have a giant Modcan system, but went for a combo of ModcanB/MOTM and Euro for various reasons (though mainly budget).

Modcan IS THE SHIZZZZZZ.

If you threw together a system with the Dual VCO, VDO, and another osc of your choosing (3 osc modules), a Dual Multimode Filter Module (for general filtering duties), an audio mixer, a Quad LFO and a dual or quad AHDSR (for CV generation), a dual mixer (for audio & CV), a Quad VCA and some attenuators, and you'd have a disgustingly awesome monosynth that will be the envy of every kid on your block.

Then you can expand with various filters to expand your sound.
Keep in mind that Modcan B is compatible with MOTM and Oakley (who make great stuff too, though Paul @ MOTM can take much longer to deliver than Bruce!). Add a VC analog flanger or delay and experiment with karplus-strong style synthesis. Maybe another oscillator such as the VCDO to get into FM synthesis. Or add any number of high quality effects. Dual pitch shifter? Phaser&Timbre mod for waveshaping and whooshing? External input/Envelope Follower? Vocoder? Joystick?

Add one of the sexiest sequencers on the market and you'll make dotcom fanboys run for the hills.

Just kidding.

Dotcoms are really nice too, and there are a lot of manufacturers making things in that format. STG makes some nice filters/waveshapers/whatnots, and Moon makes some crazy sequencing stuff. You can always DIY stuff too (same with Modcan/MOTM). Check out what's available in kit form at bridechamber.com.

In the end, no matter what you have, you won't be disappointed.

But if the prospect of digital oscillators, vast filter options, and high quality VC effects makes you want to spend top dollar, go Modcan. If you'd rather do your Keith Emerson, Walter Carlos, or James Murphy impression, go dotcom.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #8
Shy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Peck View Post
but their Q107 multimode filter is only mediocre and that's one part of the system that would benefit from a splurge on a better multimode from another source.
I think the Q107 sounds absolutely great and is very versatile. Fully open is fully open, muffled is muffled, a perfect precise yet good sounding filter. If I want "special character" filters I use special character filters. Looking forward to the Oakley Diode Superladder (303 style). The Q150, it's good but I can't say I like it. Even the Little Phatty's filter sounds better to me, but I guess that's expectable.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #9
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BTByrd's Avatar
Modcan is good for LAZERBASS.



EDIT:

This also uses the Oakley Diode Superladder Filter, Minimoog Voyager, and FRXS.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #10
BTByrd is dead on really about the combination of MOTM/Oakley/Modcan. My system at this time is Oakley and MOTM. Primarily Oakley VCO ADSR's and MOTM Filters. I would like to add more VCO with the Motm 300 and Modcan VCDO. But the point is that what makes modular really great is the mixing and matching. It's true you need to consider the power supply though for both of those. But it is possible to add Dotcom to MOTM in the same case.

I wanted portability so I used the same cases John Rice uses, the EWI tourcase. I would also allow me to have one row of MOTM style or the Dotcom style if I got different rails.. but would have to be mindful of how to set up the power supply and different cables.

Anyway its a mix and match affair. do more research and find what you would need to mix it up. Modcan is amazingly built but MOTM is as well. You generally get multifunctionality out of the modcan units and less so with the Dotcom but dotcom is also good stuff and way more reasonable. I do plan on adding a dotcom sequencer at some point.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #11
Gear Maniac
 
monsterz's Avatar
 

Oakley VCO's, filters and the beautiful Equinoxe Phaser are fantastic sounding modules. Full of life. Excellent quality components and build. Great value for money!
I too am looking forward to the Diode Superladder filter!
Paul (KRISP1) is a top bloke to deal with too.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #12
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shadowfac's Avatar
 

There's nothing wrong with the dotcom Q107 filter, it's just precise and well-behaved, but has many uses. I like the Q150 as well... make a feedback loop using the second input and you can add lots of oomph and make it sound more moogish.

For crazier stuff, I find the MegaOhm Delta VCF amazing. It has a feedback loop where the filter modulates itself, and a VCA inserted in the feedback loop, so you can do some crazy FM stuff without only a few extra modules. And MegaOhm filters get quite nasty at high resonance settings.

Another interesting filter, that I have not used, is the SSL Steiner Filter. It has separate *inputs* for LP/BP/HP and these are mixed and inter-modulated in some way, making the output an interesting blend of the three inputs.

Grove Audio has the PM Resonator, which is a formant filter based on the PolyMoog. I plan to get one of those in a few months.

Then there are the STG filters. I plan to buy the Mankato and maybe the Sea Devils. I think there's a wider choice of filters in dotcom/MU format than in Modcan format, so a mixed system, as Dave Peck says, might be a good way to go.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward Shnapper View Post
tutttutttutt

what? do have something to say? fuuck
Old 3rd January 2011
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward Shnapper View Post
tutttutttutt



i don't get it. do you have something to add? do you know anything about any of the synth manufacturers in this thread or are you just testing practicing your smiley usage?

anyway - lot's of good info in this thread. modcan is amazing stuff and Bruce is a great guy and meets his shipping estimates. i've ordered many modules from him over the years and never been disappointed and Bruce is great to deal with. you get what you pay for.

and yes, modular synths are easy to integrate into an existing set up. you just need to get used to using them and patching them. you can do a lot of wicked processing w/modular synths and midi/cv converters make using one as a standard mono synth pretty straight forward.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #15
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Entrainer's Avatar
 

If you want classic synth, nothing crazy, bread + butter, meat and potatoes
Osc, Filter, VCA, ADSR... then save your money and go Dotcom.

If you want the above + a hell of a lot more, or to skip the above and get
crazy, go Modcan.

This is a gross over-generalization, there's some more eccentric stuff in
MU size as well from STG, MegaOhm, Grove Audio.

Bottom line:

I'd have to see what modules you choose to get to your prices... and if you
have future plans, as well as what type of sounds you want to achieve.
Old 4th January 2011
  #16
Thanks for all the advice. I'm going to start with the a basic 2osc synth system and start from there. If you see anything missing int he list let me know. But I know this world is a bottomless pit of "just one more module"

The current plan:
VCO 01B x 2
VC Dual ADSR 47B
Noise/S&H/Ringmod 07B
Dual Lag 18B
Dual Multimode 40B
904a (Moog Modular) LPF 44B
Dual VCA 13B
Dual Mixer 27B
Quad LFO 61B
Multiple 48B

Hardware:

19" Rack mount kit (10U wide) x2
Rackmount PSU 3U high

Total Cost:
5457.11 $

I'd better start saving!

If I opt for this instead of the dotcom, I'll be able to expand to the more interesting modules. I'm curious about swapping out the "bread and butter" modules for something cheaper... But if I have to buy another power supply, it would be easier to keep things modcan b.
Old 4th January 2011
  #17
Nothing wrong with the above list at all.
You possibly could start with less, minus one filter, minus S&H, minus lag module. Also, the modules you list are more like a traditional mono synth than something ideal for external processing - - I know you want to do both.
If it were me I might want to go with the minimum for basic synthesis, and substitute the other bread and butter modules with esoteric modules.
In the past I've also started smaller, only adding modules after I've learnt the ones I've bought and knowing what would suit me best to add.
Old 4th January 2011
  #18
Gear Maniac
 
monsterz's Avatar
 

In case you weren't aware, this place is a great source of information on modular systems. You can talk to fellow enthusiasts, builders and even the designers.

Muff's Modules & More :: Index

Good luck!
Old 4th January 2011
  #19
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BTByrd's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by shadowfac View Post
I think there's a wider choice of filters in dotcom/MU format than in Modcan format, so a mixed system, as Dave Peck says, might be a good way to go.
I'm not so sure this is true. Modcan alone makes the following filters: Moog-style, ARP Style, MS20 Style, Matrix-Style, 48DB/OCT Lowpass, Single Multimode, Dual Multimode. When you add to this the MOTM and Oakley filters, not to mention DIY and other third party offerings (many of which are also available in dotcom), I think that the MOTM/ModcanB format has the edge as far as filters go. But Euro still probably has the greatest number!
Old 4th January 2011
  #20
Gear Maniac
 

there are 10 different filters from modcan at the moment, yes.
Old 4th January 2011
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fidgit View Post
there are 10 different filters from modcan at the moment, yes.
and they are all really awesome. even the utilitarian multimode filter. they just sound really good.
Old 4th January 2011
  #22
Gear Addict
 

Is there any particular reason you're going for 5U over eurorack? For versatility, craziness and external processing, eurorack can't really be beaten.
Old 4th January 2011
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 100th Monkey View Post
Is there any particular reason you're going for 5U over eurorack? For versatility, craziness and external processing, eurorack can't really be beaten.

that's certainly debatable. but i think what it comes down to is every synth has a sound/character. modcan, serge, wiard 300 series, buchla etc each have their own design considerations and sound. some people have fat fingers or just like a larger format system or particular character of a synth.

i agree that euro is full of awesome in every way though.
Old 4th January 2011
  #24
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by boon View Post
that's certainly debatable. but i think what it comes down to is every synth has a sound/character. modcan, serge, wiard 300 series, buchla etc each have their own design considerations and sound. some people have fat fingers or just like a larger format system or particular character of a synth.

i agree that euro is full of awesome in every way though.
Agreed. I'm just curious because some people still think that eurorack = Doepfer and tend to overlook it because it doesn't look like a traditional MU modular system.
Old 5th January 2011
  #25
Quote:
Is there any particular reason you're going for 5U over eurorack?
Short answer: Paradox of choice.

Long answer: For me to justify going outside the computer, I have to chase down the best quality I can afford. I've never heard a single bad comment about modcan,other than maybe the price, and even then people swear it's worth it.

In any case,

I tried pricing out a hybrid system with 1 rack of Modcan and 1 rack of dotcom. Dotcom's cheaper utility modules reduce the cost by 1600$, provided I can figure out a way to run dotcom off of the modcan power supply.

Still considering.
Old 5th January 2011
  #26
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Entrainer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ebison View Post
The current plan:
VCO 01B x 2
VC Dual ADSR 47B
Noise/S&H/Ringmod 07B
Dual Lag 18B
Dual Multimode 40B
904a (Moog Modular) LPF 44B
Dual VCA 13B
Dual Mixer 27B
Quad LFO 61B
Multiple 48B
The Quad LFO is unique to modcan, and is a great module.
Other than that, I don't see a reason why you couldn't do most or all
of the above with Dotcom or other MU options and save a couple thousand.

Q104 MIDI Interface $184.00
Q105 Slew Limiter $80.00
Q105 Slew Limiter $80.00
Q106 Oscillator $195.00
Q106 Oscillator $195.00
Q107 State Variable Filter $136.00
Q107 State Variable Filter $136.00
Q150 Moog Ladder Filter $189.00
Q108 Amplifier $97.00
Q108 Amplifier $97.00
Q109 Envelope Generator $92.00
Q109 Envelope Generator $92.00
Q110 Noise Source $65.00
Q112 Mixer, 4 Channel $81.00
Q112 Mixer, 4 Channel $81.00
Q116 Ring Modulator $105.00
Q117 Sample and Hold $92.00

Grove Audio Dual LFO $219
Grove Audio Dual LFO $219
STG Active Mult $195


Then with $2k of savings...
hmm, STG Wavefolder, Hordijk Dual Phaser, MegaOhm LPG, Grove Audio PM Resonator, Dotcom Sequencer, Spring Reverb, more VCAs
Old 5th January 2011
  #27
Quote:
Originally Posted by 100th Monkey View Post
I'm just curious because some people still think that eurorack = Doepfer and tend to overlook it because it doesn't look like a traditional MU modular system.
For me Euro is just a little too dense and fiddly.
I switched to Modcan initially because of the banana cabling (A system) which I prefer to both mini-jack and 1/4".
1/4" system are less fiddly to work on however.
Old 5th January 2011
  #28
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shadowfac's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ebison View Post
Dotcom's cheaper utility modules reduce the cost by 1600$, provided I can figure out a way to run dotcom off of the modcan power supply.
Maybe this could help:

stg/soundlabs - Universal Power Distribution Board
Old 5th January 2011
  #29
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Entrainer's Avatar
 

Thinking about it more... if I had $5k to drop on a two oscillator mono,
I'd go Serge Animoo and not look back. Feature heavy, condensed, portable...
traditional and experimental textures.
And sounds awesome.
Old 5th January 2011
  #30
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when you order your modcan modules just tell bruce your case plans as he can make sure your modules are grounded properly for a case other than the modcan versions.
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