some questions from a modular synth noob

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HappyPants84
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some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by HappyPants84 » Wed Jan 29, 2020 5:37 am

So I've wanted to get into modular synthesis for a while now, ever since I got a Monologue. I've been doing some research these past couple of days and a few questions now that I think this community could help me answer.

1. So I've been looking at some affordable options for basic modules and one company I've seen a lot is PM foundations. Their products seem pretty good even if the purple is a little ugly IMO, but they are also really cheap compared to most other things I could find. Are their modules any good or are they just too cheap to even bother buying?

2. Not really a question, but I've been looking for some cheap cases on a couple of websites, but since you people in this community seem very knowledgeable I thought that it couldn't hurt to ask you if there are any cheap cases out there. any cheap midi to cv modules would be good too.

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windchill
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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by windchill » Wed Jan 29, 2020 8:05 am

I can't help you with (1) but as regards cases it depends what you mean by cheap, and whether or not you need a lid so it can be safely portable.

The best bang for your buck from the big players is the Tip Top Mantis, especially if you wait for a used one. As long as you don't need a proper lid I would recommend this to anyone as a starter case. I have one myself as an overflow case alongside my (not cheap) MDLR case.

I would suggest you might want to avoid starting with a smaller case, such as a a single 84hp row, unless you're absolutely certain you won't need more space (which if you're new you probably won't be). Small cases work well if you have the experience to build a very small system, but are likely to prove a false economy if you don't know where you're heading yet and find you need to grow. In general, small cases cost more per hp than larger ones. Again, the Mantis, with 2 x 104 HP rows for around £300 is great value.

Another option will be one of the low-cost Doepfer cases, such as the A-100LC6, but this is bare wood and not as good value as the Mantis.

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Muzone
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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by Muzone » Wed Jan 29, 2020 8:12 am

I know the popular opinion is "go big" but the nifty bundle looks a good way to start a modular system
https://www.cre8audio.com/niftybundle

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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by Agawell » Wed Jan 29, 2020 12:37 pm

If you definitely want the "extras" in the nifty bundle, then it may be good value, but personally I agree with the Mantis as a great starter case (6u/104hp is NOT big)

There's no need to fill all your rack space immediately - take your time

The reason everyone recommends Mantis sized cases to beginners is that they are a decent size and you probably won't need to buy another case in the first year (if you buy modules at a sensible pace)

Start out with one of each of these: a sound source, a sound modifier and a modulation source plus some way to listen and some way to play it - if you want to add more (maybe at the same time, maybe a little later) then some utilities (I like MI Links and Kinks - as a starter utiltiy set they can't really be beaten) and a disting mk4 are great additions - as would be a quad cascading vca (Veils is my pick)

Play with this setup until you feel you absolutely can't live without module X

As for PM Foundations - absolutely no idea, but cheap is not necessarily bad, nor is it necessarily good

Doepfer and Ladik are 2 very reasonably priced manufacturers I'd look at first though as they are known to have a good reputation

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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by HappyPants84 » Wed Jan 29, 2020 3:56 pm

Agawell wrote:
Wed Jan 29, 2020 12:37 pm
If you definitely want the "extras" in the nifty bundle, then it may be good value, but personally I agree with the Mantis as a great starter case (6u/104hp is NOT big)

There's no need to fill all your rack space immediately - take your time

The reason everyone recommends Mantis sized cases to beginners is that they are a decent size and you probably won't need to buy another case in the first year (if you buy modules at a sensible pace)

Start out with one of each of these: a sound source, a sound modifier and a modulation source plus some way to listen and some way to play it - if you want to add more (maybe at the same time, maybe a little later) then some utilities (I like MI Links and Kinks - as a starter utiltiy set they can't really be beaten) and a disting mk4 are great additions - as would be a quad cascading vca (Veils is my pick)

Play with this setup until you feel you absolutely can't live without module X

As for PM Foundations - absolutely no idea, but cheap is not necessarily bad, nor is it necessarily good

Doepfer and Ladik are 2 very reasonably priced manufacturers I'd look at first though as they are known to have a good reputation
I wasn't planning on buying prefab systems since they were so expensive. (the only ones I looked were the ones at Thomann which start at like, 2000$) But this seems like a good package at a reasonable price. I'll look into it more. Now I just have to save up some money for it which will be a challenge, but I'll manage. I just hope to join this really cool community soon as I'm really into music production and sound design and modular synthesis just seem really cool. Thanks for all the help <:-)

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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by natureclubcassettes » Wed Jan 29, 2020 7:48 pm

go old school: get a doepfer LC6 and stain it to your liking. you shouldn't skimp too much on your case/power, it's the most important module

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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by R.U.Nuts » Wed Jan 29, 2020 8:27 pm

Doepfer has tons of very reasonably priced and quality modules. So does Ladik. But it all depends on what you're planning.
For example: A Makenoise DPO is one of the most expensive VCOs which are widely available. So at first it doesn't look like a reasonable choice for starters. But it's actually two VCOs, a wavefolder, three VCAs, a slew limiter plus a prewired signal routing which saves you a lot of cables and multiples. So it could probably save you a lot of money compared to the price of buying a collection of single function modules that together do the same as a DPO. On the other hand you could buy something like a Mutable Instruments Plaits which is a digital VCO with a wide sonic palette that maybe outruns a DPO in terms of sonic variety and costs not even half the price of a DPO...

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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by smithjohn » Thu Jan 30, 2020 3:47 am

If you don't mind external MIDI to CV, the CV.OCD can be had for cheap and has a ton of outputs.

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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by acinonyx » Thu Jan 30, 2020 6:50 am

1) I don't have any experience with PM Foundations so I can't help you either.

2) Eurorack Cases

The cheapest case is to make your own else have a look here:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/Ikocase?ref=s ... =price_asc

https://www.etsy.com/shop/CaseFromLake? ... =price_asc

https://www.etsy.com/shop/SawandSolder? ... =price_asc

https://www.etsy.com/shop/GouldCaseWork ... =price_asc

If you conatct them they can built any case you desire. With more HPs per row, with power or no power etc.

Midi to CV

External: CV.OCD as smithjohn said

or

Eurorack Module : Hexinverter Mutant Brain
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Yes Powder
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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by Yes Powder » Thu Jan 30, 2020 8:10 am

I'd never heard of PMFoundations until this post. Googled them, and it looks like they sell PCB kits, which might explain why they're so cheap- though I think that's a pretty standard going price of PCB-only kits. If that's what you're looking for then great, but keep in mind that you will need to supply all the circuit components and do all the soldering and assembly yourself. I can't say anything about their circuit design since I know nothing about designing circuits, but this means the build quality will be wholly dependent on you.
If you're not looking to DIY, then I can definitely be another voice of recommendation for Doepfer and Ladik. They're decently priced, and I can vouch for the build quality of both.
As for cases, don't cheap out on your first case and power supply. I get that getting into modular is exciting, but you're only cheating yourself when you try to save money by getting a small case and cheap power supply. Get a Doepfer LC6 case. It has a total of 168hp which will give you enough room to grow and figure out what direction you want your system to go; and it comes with Doepfer's excellent PSU3, which is electrically very quiet and will give you enough headroom that you'll be unlikely to bump your head even if you go heavily into digital modules, or start dabbling with tube modules.
Also worth mentioning that the Doepfer case fairly deep, which is a good thing for Doepfer and Ladik modules since a lot of them are designed with their circuit boards sticking out the back of the panel, rather than being flush with it.
Last edited by Yes Powder on Thu Jan 30, 2020 11:05 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by thermisonic » Thu Jan 30, 2020 10:01 am

I would stay away from any DIY built stuff initially if you are starting out and don't know how it all works. Getting confused because you don't understand fully functioning modules is fine, doing it because it you don't have the experience to know it isn't quite working right will drive you mad.

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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by Fog Door » Thu Jan 30, 2020 10:15 am

+1 CV.OCD, +1 Doepfer, +1 Ladik, +1 Plaits (enormous sonic range for the money and easy to use and understand) :)

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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by Brennanib » Thu Jan 30, 2020 1:42 pm

You can definitely look into building your own case it’s the most cost effective

Maybe look into the Tip Top Mantis or just a skiff perhaps to start from Make Noise!
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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by a773 » Thu Jan 30, 2020 2:09 pm

Welcome!

Never heard of PM foundations, as others commented doepfer and ladik are solid and affordable.

I'd recommend a tiptop mantis case. You don't want to get in trouble with your DIY power (been there), and they are solid cases with lots of power that Just Works...

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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by OB1 » Thu Jan 30, 2020 3:48 pm

I’ve built a couple of the PMF modules (the ADSR and the clock divider) - great little modules and cheap to build. Possibly not the best place to start unless you’re handy with a soldering iron and good at sourcing parts.

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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by xcc » Thu Jan 30, 2020 6:28 pm

Muzone wrote:
Wed Jan 29, 2020 8:12 am
I know the popular opinion is "go big" but the nifty bundle looks a good way to start a modular system
https://www.cre8audio.com/niftybundle
Totally agree. The Nifty Bundle is a great start. It’s no small thing to have the MIDI and outputs built in either.

But I also agree with @windchill that it can be a false economy. I thought it would take a year to fill it up, but after a short time I’ve filled it as well as a Mantis case. If you know exactly what you want start small, but be aware that if modular clicks with you like it did me then you’ll be glad you started with some wiggle room.

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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by SphericalSound » Thu Jan 30, 2020 7:50 pm

I have 2 PMFoundations oscillators. They sound awesome, but they are DIY, so you need to like the soldering iron and supply some of not the easier components

Plaits is awesome. I would get one. But you want an analogic VCO too. They all work nice as long as it has v/oct and fm inputs

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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by inoshi » Sat Feb 01, 2020 11:43 am

Doepfer doepfer doepfer.

Mantis cant handle doepfer. Doepfer modules too deep. Buy doepfer case.

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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by electricanada » Sat Feb 01, 2020 11:52 pm

thermisonic wrote:
Thu Jan 30, 2020 10:01 am
I would stay away from any DIY built stuff initially if you are starting out and don't know how it all works. Getting confused because you don't understand fully functioning modules is fine, doing it because it you don't have the experience to know it isn't quite working right will drive you mad.
Building a case though is ridiculously easy. Making a square box of wood requires only a hand saw, a drill, and a screwdriver. Anyone can do it. If you have access to a laser cutter, all you need is a screwdriver to bolt the rails in.
Eléctrica (electric) Nāda (the yoga of sound).

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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by thermisonic » Sun Feb 02, 2020 7:44 am

Agreed, though deciding which power to go with can also be tricky.

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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by Lux A Turner » Sun Feb 02, 2020 9:27 am

AI Synthesis (active on these boards) are worth a look for reasonably priced gear - https://aisynthesis.com/

York Modular also make a good range of affordable Eurorack modules and have great feedback on Etsy - https://www.yorkmodular.co.uk/

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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by lionel » Sun Feb 02, 2020 1:38 pm

I’ve personnaly started first with
- 1 semi-modular b-stock synth (micromac R)
- 1 expert sleepers ES3 (Many features)
- 1 tip top happy ending kit (84hp)
Not fully cheap (micromac), not full modular (ES3), not so big (84hp), but still in my setup today !

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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by ersatzplanet » Sun Feb 02, 2020 3:08 pm

I'm from the "bunch of smaller cases" crowd and suggest getting or making a 6Ux84HP to start with. When it is filled and too small, just buy another. Rinse and repeat. I also suggest building a case if you have access to basic tools. I currently have 4 Doepfer P6 cases and love them a lot. They can close the lids when patched. Deeper modules fit. The latest supplies are plenty beefy. They are airlines carry-on friendly. They also stack really well.
I have also made a bunch of 6Ux84HP skiffs using metal ordered and cut to size from online from onlinemetals.com. I would suggest looking into making a case if finances are tight. Remember though, the case PROTECTS your rig. Don't skip on it, you will regret that if you do.
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Re: some questions from a modular synth noob

Post by electricanada » Sun Feb 02, 2020 5:08 pm

ersatzplanet wrote:
Sun Feb 02, 2020 3:08 pm
Remember though, the case PROTECTS your rig. Don't skip on it, you will regret that if you do.
My cases mainly need protection from my cats. The case needs to be untippable, even with 15 pounds of fur landing unexpectedly on the top. It also needs to be able to keep little paws from probing behind the modules.
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