Finish BOCGS, or cut my losses and move on?

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d.igital
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Finish BOCGS, or cut my losses and move on?

Post by d.igital » Tue Dec 24, 2019 6:32 am

I don't post much here, I mostly lurk, this might even be my first post, but, I have had an on and off relationship with modular synths and DIY for a few decades. I'm trying to talk myself through a decision process and I am hoping that a discussion of the relative merits with people who have larger systems might help me narrow this down a bit.

A few years back I purchased the BOCGS panel set (BOG/MARSH/SWAMP) with the intent of building a self-contained serge like system. I had already planned to ditch frac rack and part of my plan was to use some CGS boards and perhaps adapt some of my frac rack modules to the BOCGS panels, e.g., my PAIA frac-rack oscillators. I have about a quarter to a third of the CGS boards (unbuilt) for the project. I have the bananna jacks from a decades old purchase of banana jacks and probably about half of the pots. My parts bin has probably 90% of rest of the components. Let's just say that I have a lot of parts and the cost of the parts, other than the rest of the pots and some knobs, is not a significant factor here. The cost of the remaining needed boards is, however, a factor. The panels still have their protective cover on them. I'm trying to decide whether to finish it, or sell the panels and move on.

choice 1) Finish with banana jacks: lots of time, less compatible with the small 3.5mm stuff that I currently have.

choice 2) Finish with 3.5mm jacks: lots of time, compatible with my existing gear, non-standard, holes are slightly too large, hence annoying build

choice 3) Sell the panels and put the money into eurorack DIY: much less time, more expensive for the same number of modules

There's more to the background and decision, but, the main point is that I'd like to have a conversation about the relative merits of having multiple self-contained systems vs one giant composite system. If we get a conversation going I'll fill out more details as we go along.

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luchog
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Re: Finish BOCGS, or cut my losses and move on?

Post by luchog » Tue Dec 24, 2019 9:36 am

The core question here is: Do you want to spend more time building gear, or more time making music. Which is going to make you happier? Will you be more satisfied by finishing the project, or will you be more satisfied having a relatively cohesive system for bleeps and bloops.
1) Finish with banana jacks: lots of time, less compatible with the small 3.5mm stuff that I currently have.
If you're going to go with building the project, then this is the path I'd recommend. Compatibility isn't really that big a deal, as you can get ["format jumbler" boxes from manufacturers like Low Gain Electronics for under a hundred US bucks, which will give you 8-10 patch points to convert from 3.5mm and/or 1/4" to banana painfully easily. Or you can probably DIY one for a quarter that cost. And when doing Serge-like systems, stackable bananas are essential (and can be had cheaper than TipTop Stackcables if you avoid Pomonas).

There are advantages and disadvantages to both single-format and multiple-format systems. The obvious advantage to multiple-format system is to have multiple instruments to play, covering multiple parts with somewhat different sounds and styles. Each instrument can be specialized in a particular type of sound or style. Plus, there's the different patching techniques involved. Formats like Serge have a distinctly different patching technique than Eurorack, or 5U, or Buchla, etc. Learning multiple techniques expands your music-making toolbox.

On the other hand, there are definitely points to be made in favour of a single, large, coherent system with a single patching technique. It's easier to become familiar with, develop the muscle-memory to patch and adjust quickly, and focus more on the music than on the instruments. And, of course, it's fully possible to get as wide a range of sounds and styles out of a well-designed single-format system.

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Addam
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Re: Finish BOCGS, or cut my losses and move on?

Post by Addam » Tue Dec 24, 2019 9:44 am

Tough call. Do you enjoy the building aspect of it or are you looking to move on and start making some noise? If it’s the latter you may propose a trade on here as there’s possibly someone who’s looking to switch from eurorack to serge. (Check the forum rules regarding minimum number of posts, of course!)

I built a few a 5U format modules (MOTM, tellun) adapted for eurorack sized panels and jacks to be compatible with my larger euro system and honestly if I had to do it again I woulda just built them in their native 1/4” 5U sizes and dealt with the adapters. So my vote is for staying :banana:

d.igital
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Re: Finish BOCGS, or cut my losses and move on?

Post by d.igital » Tue Dec 24, 2019 11:09 am

I'll add some detail to clarify some things.

Re: Building.

Yes, I enjoy building. I have a proper (albeit small) shop with modern test equipment and a deep parts bin. I've been building electronics as a hobby since I was a kid. That said, I don't like everything about building and I find some things tedious.

My current 12uish of frac-rack is pretty much all DIY, well, it's all either kit or pure DIY. The pure DIY is a mix of other people's boards tacked onto a quick and dirty panel, or something that I hacked up myself (also tacked onto a quick and dirty panel.)

Here's an example of the latter, a Thomas Henry XR2206 VCO made on some stripboard. I have a couple of these, the turn pots make them great for drones.

Image

My frac rack modular didn't take that long to build, but, there are two things going on there. 1) Each module is separate and self contained. That means that solving annoying problems, like how to mount things, are limited to one module at a time. 2) It's painful to build on since things like power distribution are also DIY and not standard. Also, frac rack mounting just sucks. Sorry if that offends, but it does, it's annoying to move things around. I don't know that I'm going to get rid of it all, but I stopped building frac rac stuff and I don't plan to build any more of it. In fact, I should probably sell off my extra panels and things to people who do want to stick with it.

Re: Making music.

This is somewhat orthogonal to building in the sense that one doesn't replace the other, both take time, but I have to make time for both because they scratch different itches. That said, I am looking for greater synchronicity between the two. I want to be able to whip up something and use it and the "full panel" approach is not conducive to that.

OTOH, I find that the lack of cohesiveness in my frac rack system gets in the way of me using it to make music as much as I'd like. That was part of the impetus for going both BOCGS. It is a complete "instrument" with a lot of depth that is derived from decades of thinking.

So I am building a small eurorack system and will switch my "experimenting" to that format where power distribution is dirt cheap and already made. I don't have to spend a half hour making a power cable every time I want to add a new module, or worry about what I'm going to do now that I have more modules than plugs on my distro board. But I'm not sure that I want to go off the deep end with a giant system. I still like the appeal of having a serge-like system, even though I have struggled to get going on building it.

d.igital
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Re: Finish BOCGS, or cut my losses and move on?

Post by d.igital » Tue Dec 24, 2019 1:28 pm

Addam wrote:
Tue Dec 24, 2019 9:44 am
Tough call. Do you enjoy the building aspect of it or are you looking to move on and start making some noise? If it’s the latter you may propose a trade on here as there’s possibly someone who’s looking to switch from eurorack to serge. (Check the forum rules regarding minimum number of posts, of course!)

I built a few a 5U format modules (MOTM, tellun) adapted for eurorack sized panels and jacks to be compatible with my larger euro system and honestly if I had to do it again I woulda just built them in their native 1/4” 5U sizes and dealt with the adapters. So my vote is for staying :banana:
Really? Is that because of the size? There's no stackable advantage to 1/4" over 1/8" Related to size, I really like 4U, much more than 3U. I think that it strikes the right balance. I recently watched a Sweetwater video of a demo of the Moog III and when they panned over the reverb module I couldn't help but laugh out loud at the football field sized module up there with one knob.

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Addam
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Re: Finish BOCGS, or cut my losses and move on?

Post by Addam » Tue Dec 24, 2019 7:21 pm

Admittedly it’s partly because of my ugly hand drilled and marker labeled panels haha (would prefer something more professional looking for something that took so long to make). Haven’t gotten my hands on any 4U but I think you’re probably right about the balance. As goofy as those huge Moog style modules can look I’m sure they are fun to play but a Keith Emerson wall of synth is not in my future

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chachi
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Re: Finish BOCGS, or cut my losses and move on?

Post by chachi » Tue Dec 24, 2019 9:54 pm

lemme know when you sell your frac!

d.igital
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Re: Finish BOCGS, or cut my losses and move on?

Post by d.igital » Wed Dec 25, 2019 5:52 am

chachi wrote:
Tue Dec 24, 2019 9:54 pm
lemme know when you sell your frac!
Absolutely, I'm definitely getting out of frac. I'll probably keep the one 3U rack with my homebrew distribution board and my super-hackey DIY modules that I really can't justify asking other people to give me money for. The kit stuff is all going though.

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Re: Finish BOCGS, or cut my losses and move on?

Post by d.igital » Sun Jan 12, 2020 7:22 pm

Thanks for the comments. I'm still not decided, but, over the holidays I started my Eurorack in proper. I bought a handful of modules, gathered some fresh DIY resources, and singled out a few small boards to make some janky bits. We'll see how that goes while I think about this a bit more.

Bitnik
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Re: Finish BOCGS, or cut my losses and move on?

Post by Bitnik » Tue Jan 14, 2020 3:41 pm

This is an interesting read. I'm currently in the early stages of planning a DIY system and my instincts are to go with big panels, big knobs and big plugs. Mono jacks, though I'd definitely consider a 4mm banana plug alternative at this stage.

I joked the other day about building my modules into 3 litre polypropylene storage boxes, and did seriously investigate the possibilities. Later that day I bought a cheap second hand book case, a tall thing with many shelves. I'm looking to design a mounting system that can be applied to a bookcase, and still be compatible with storage boxes if I ever want to have a system I can move around easily. Daisy chaining power is also a nice-to-have, because separate power buses are a pain.

If I DIY, all that really matters is that any kit or fully assembled module I add should fit into my bespoke panel space, it will accept the power options I provide, and it will have room on the panel for my choice of patch connector. Even if it means I have to redesign the panel.

To the original poster, it sounds as if your heart isn't in the BOCGS project you embarked on years ago. It's always better to move on.

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Kattefjaes
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Re: Finish BOCGS, or cut my losses and move on?

Post by Kattefjaes » Tue Jan 14, 2020 5:06 pm

Bitnik wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 3:41 pm
I joked the other day about building my modules into 3 litre polypropylene storage boxes, and did seriously investigate the possibilities.
Would static be an issue there?

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Re: Finish BOCGS, or cut my losses and move on?

Post by Bitnik » Tue Jan 14, 2020 5:35 pm

Kattefjaes wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 5:06 pm
Bitnik wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 3:41 pm
I joked the other day about building my modules into 3 litre polypropylene storage boxes, and did seriously investigate the possibilities.
Would static be an issue there?
There's a pretty easy way to find out if this is a practical issue. I look forward to finding out.

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Kattefjaes
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Re: Finish BOCGS, or cut my losses and move on?

Post by Kattefjaes » Tue Jan 14, 2020 5:42 pm

Have fun storming the castle!

Bitnik
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Re: Finish BOCGS, or cut my losses and move on?

Post by Bitnik » Wed Jan 15, 2020 10:11 am

Kattefjaes wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 5:42 pm
Have fun storming the castle!
I think I know what you mean. I write with the confidence of a person with no practical experience.

Meanwhile my second hand bookcase DIY synth case arrived this morning. It's much bigger than it looked in the shop! It's around 60cm 80cm wide external dimensions (so substantially wider on the inside than a 84hp rack.) The height is over 2 metres. The shelf pitch is alterable in 3.4cm increments, though there is one fixed shelf in the middle (keeping the whole thing from collapsing) I've worked out an experimental shelf pitch that would give me enough space to mount modules as tall as Look Mum No Computer's 20cm tall Kosmo format, but I could build up to 5u or more if I ever felt the need. I think I can get five or six usable synth racks out of it, probably enough rackspace to fit any DIY project I might want to try out.

The lower part of the bookcase DIY synth case, now denuded of shelves, will probably house hooks for patch cables and whatnot. Possibly the power supply, though frankly I'd prefer to have that closer to head height for ease of maintenance.

I'm still planning to go with big jacks and big knobs. Gotta keep that Keith Emerson vibe going. This is strictly for personal composition. If I ever get the performance bug, it'll be time to explore the 3 litre polypropylene storage boxes portable options. And of course by then I'll have realised why Bob Moog didn't standardise his product on random bookcase sizes...

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