Buying in. Critique my planned build please!

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logicalphallusy
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Buying in. Critique my planned build please!

Post by logicalphallusy » Sun Aug 02, 2020 4:52 am

Edit: removed fm ogre/filter 8, bitbox micro, hermod, mults. Replaced with quad VCA, noisetools, and blackbox (unracked. bitbox 2.0 is a placeholder). Added ornaments and crime as a multitool with a quantizer. Just adding 10+ utility modules to a Neutron with only 2 actual oscilators to modulate does feel a bit off to me though. I now have 12 VCAs (16 if you count frames), 1 LPG, and 9 attenuverters with only 2 oscillators to modulate. Is that just the beginner in me not knowing what's best?

Hello all, I've been playing with this stuff in software for quite a while but I'm still learning. I have had a Neutron for about a year and there are several stumbling blocks I'd like to resolve. Namely: Need more attenuverters EGs (with cv controllable a/d) and mults, frequently wish I had a 3rd oscillator for FM or a simple 3rd voice [in spite of knowing how to use both the lfo and filter (with feedback waveshaping) as oscillators], a source of logarithmic decay, a different filter for a distinct 2nd voice, a sequencer better than my keystep, a way to sample sounds i create so they don't just disappear after a jam session, a full wave rectifier so i can patch up an envelop follower, and obviously a mixer/VCA module to compliment all that.

Here is the planned 1st stage build which solves these problems: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/1283086
And if you're curious to the (current) ultimate plan it is here: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/1282666

The Neutron won't be racked (usually). It's there for reference and for when I fly (more on that later).

From left to right, top to bottom, here is my reasoning behind each module choice:
  • Case: intellijel 7u is the only carry-on compatible case. Simple as that.

    Mults: mults. 1 buffered for pitch, 2 unbuffered for flexibility as passive mixers

    LPG: Ok. Doesn't solve a problem but a cheap 1u lpg will no doubt free up a vca/filter combo some of the time.

    1u VCA: doubles as a 2 input mixer. This gives me 8 VCAs total not counting frames (2 neutron, 2 1u, 4 quadropol). This configuration has 6 potential oscillators AT LEAST (2 neutron, fm ogre, filter 8, neutron lfo, neutron filter) not counting the quadrax or sampler. They will be used.

    Headphones: because I don't want to have to use my outboard mixer in every situation

    usb: convenient for powering my keystep

    Hermod: CV Seq/Samp capabilities are a primary reason for buying in. It also gives me euclidean which I really want without needing a dedicated module for it right away. I like the generative idea but i also want to be able to write and store traditional sequences and a pyramid + 8 channel midi interface would cost twice as much. It also follows the 'pattern of patterns' workflow which I fell in love with with seq24/36/48/64/66 and continued to love in Caustic.

    bitbox micro: I have no love for the alternate firmwares available for bitbox mk2. Bitbox micro does what I want (velocity and pitch autosampling!) in a smaller footprint. I can also sample any envelope/lfo/noise as an extra cv source when needed. Spending the extra money on the mk2 for a firmware that may never include velocity multisampling is a non-starter for me. But even if it did, until I really know i actually need 16 tracks (I probably don't) it seems a waste of hp and 1-2 hundred bucks.

    Kinks: The best bang for buck way to get a full wave rectifier in my system so I can envelop follow and duck those kicks.

    FM Ogre: Most versatile tzfm oscillator I could find. Sample in allows tzfm of any sampled waveform. It also does linear and log, and even gives a taste of granular and PM.

    Filter 8: Wanted a 2nd filter with notch capability (working towards 3 required for formants). This does that, and damn near everything else. All of the FMs, octrature phase output (in spite of my software experience the idea of quad/octrature phaseplay is new to me and this is really exciting). It can also be an lfo or an oscillator self-patched to almost any waveshape. And it's multiple outputs can be amplitude normaled without eating attenuators.

    Quadrax + expander: Most flexible cv a/d eoc EG i could find. Does log a/r which is important for percussion because my vca choice is linear.

    quadropol: Originally was set on an intellijel quadVCA, but I needed 2 more hp available to rack the neutron for travel and found this -- and it's way better. It does almost everything the intellijel does but It lacks the +6db boost and the lin/exp switches. However the quadrax has variable response so that doesn't matter. Yes it's more expensive, but it also provides a dual LPG, and I found a triple 2hp attenuator to pair with it to make up for the lack of cv attenuators. The 2hp partner isn't part of the initial build, due to the ATN8 (below). I'll get the 2hp if I need it later and after my upcoming move. The result of 10hp quadropol + 2hp triple attenuator = intellijel quadVCA + 2 ring modulators (minus 1 cv attenuator and exp. response option) for less $$ and less hp than a quad + 2xRMs.

    Plancks 2: Ok. This one is just for fun. I love the idea of setting up an fm snare and morphing it into a ride cymbal in the middle of a performance. What can I say.

    Lifeforms MicroSequence: Also a fun buy that doesn't directly address my above goals but aids my interaction with the instrument. A more hands on performance oriented quantized low-hp sequencer to compliment the divey keystep-programmed hermod.

    Neutron: Already have it. Starting point.

    ATN8: absolutely best bang for buck/hp attenuvertor + mixer. Allows me to attenuate and combine my kick duck cv with the EGs of 3 other voices and still have 1 pair of attenuvertors left over.
Thank you for reading and thank you in advance for your input!
Last edited by logicalphallusy on Sun Aug 02, 2020 9:03 am, edited 5 times in total.

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Agawell
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Re: Buying in. Critique my planned build please!

Post by Agawell » Sun Aug 02, 2020 5:52 am

For me you have way too many 'feature' modules and not enough support, but this is a common 'problem' with newbie racks

It also suffers from fully featured modules with too small user interfaces - to me eurorack is small enough already, even when modules are ergonomically designed - this is even worse in the 'goal' rack imo - but YMMV

I would try to keep to 1 or 2 'voices' per 3u row - you can always add another case if you need more space - trying to squeeze so much in to one case will inevitably lead to a less pleasurable user experience - and reducing the number of voices will allow for more utility modules which will make for a more interesting and playable rack

I would dump the 1u multiples, use stackcables instead of the passives and only get a buffered mult when you actually need it - unless you get the links earlier - links and kinks are a great starter utility set (especially when combined with a quad cascading vca) - and I would put in the noise tools module in place of the mults

I think hermod takes up a huge amount of room in a case this size - especially when adding in the other 2 sequencers in the goal rack

one thing to watch out for with using bipolar vcas is that it is often very difficult to fully close them - so they are way better for using as vcas for modulation than for audio - I would want a quad cascading vca for audio as well

I would look at a better mixing solution - trim pots are not particularly user-friendly - and your headphone inputs (and at least one of the modules in the goal rack) are stereo
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flashheart
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Re: Buying in. Critique my planned build please!

Post by flashheart » Sun Aug 02, 2020 6:26 am

logicalphallusy wrote:
Sun Aug 02, 2020 4:52 am
2 unbuffered for flexibility as passive mixers
Passive mults are NOT intended for mixing. In most cases you won't get what you expect, there is an outside possibility of damage. Instead of those mults get an actual mixer. The only mixing I can see is the ATN8, mixing isn't just for audio. You've 4 sequencing sources in there, how would you combine them? Not sure just the Quadrax is enough for all those CV destinations, and do you really need 4 sequencers? :)
4 x VCA, if you're pushed for space Doepfer do dual VCAs in 4HP, either expo or linear and even polarising. I like the look of this quad VCA after watching DivKids video on it.
As Agawell say, possibly too many 'feature' modules, not enough support...
I'm not buying a maths though, not my idea of fun...

logicalphallusy
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Re: Buying in. Critique my planned build please!

Post by logicalphallusy » Sun Aug 02, 2020 6:44 am

Thanks Agawell for the advice! I will revise my build later. What would you recommend as a sequencing solution? Or just ditch the idea altogether at first? Aside from more VCAs and links, what sort of utility modules would you recommend here? Maybe a quantizer so I could use an lfo as a pseudo sequencer?

The Hermod.. If I ditched it I could still sequence 2 pitch/gate/cv midi channels from Seq64 through my mio2 and keystep, but the seq24 line of sequencers has just always been so unstable. I hate when it crashes and I'd like to be free of the computer altogether. Outside of Caustic nothing else I've tried has that pattern style workflow, and trying to run things off of a cellphone is even worse than a computer.

As for voices, I suppose I could ditch the FM Ogre and Filter 8 combo, as i can still get 3 operator FM for nice percussion and sample it into the bitbox without them. Also the quadrax is a bank of flexible (unipolar) oscillators.

I have 5 stackables currently so I could ditch the mults for now. Would I really also need noise tools? That would give me 3 sample and holds (Neutron, Kinks, Noise Tools), plus the sampler which could sample S&H/lfo patterns for later use.

Replacing marbles with the 'big'-knob version of pachinko in the goal build was not my first choice but I wanted more HP, however I'll reconsider full size marbles for the future rack (really I'm not sold on marbles yet. Still looking at things like bloom and chance)-- but that's the future so maybe by then I'll decide to buy a second case for it like you say anyway.

As for the microRings in the goal build, I'm not sold on that either. I wanted some form of physical modeling in the rack but I might be happier with something like a Salt of Daisy patch. It's just that I'm not sure of the processing power of those modules or how well they each implement PureData. I could learn C++ but it's not exactly what I want to spend my time doing. I'd prefer to program my own solution for this type of thing and I've done some stuff I'm pretty proud of in the past with Csound, so having access to every parameter and being able to make my own decisions about where to cut corners and not having to trust someone elses algorithm is ideal.

As for the inverting VCA, supposedly it has a nice deadzone making it more practical than other inverting VCAs to close. Given this, would you still recommend a second unipolar quad VCA for audio?

And regarding mixing, I had also considered the doepfer 4x4 (ditched due to hp), a couple of quadrat 1u modules (ditched for mults, but if I don't need mults then...), Happy Nerding 3x VCA, Nonlinearcircuits Clump, Behringer System 100 305/132, and the ADDAC802 (but i don't really understand the last channel of this one or what makes it so great that I see it in so many demos, or why Colin Benders' rack is full of them). Also of note is my outboard Behringer Xenyx 1202, which accepts 4 mono and 4 stereo inputs and has no problem with outs directly from any of the Neutron modules. Each of its inputs offers -10dB gain. Not ideal, but in a pinch I plan to output from multiple points on the rack in to it. What of these (or other) possible mixing solutions would you recommend?




Also Thank you FlashHeart! After looking at that VCA and considering what you and Agawell have said I'm sure it has a place in the rack. And thanks for the warning about passive mixers. I suppose playing with that volca gave me bad habits... As for the sequencers I count the Hermod and Lifeforms. If you count the keystep that's 3 but honestly it's such a nightmare to program. Doesn't do 16th note triplets without a computer. At least not with my hands. If the plancks/frames is the 4th I won't be using that as a sequencer, more for cv morphing of related parameters. Or if not then as VCAs.


Edit: The 1010Music blackbox is another alternative. Unlike the bitbox it both samples and sequences. It also has 3 eurorack level stereo outs, which i already have the splitter cables for. It doesn't autosample, but since it's a midi sequencer/cv recorder I could easily make my own sequences to accomplish this. Plus it takes exactly 0 hp. Nothing generative about it but I can save that for later with a dedicated module. I replaced the micro with the mk2 as a placeholder so the price would line up more closely

logicalphallusy
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Re: Buying in. Critique my planned build please!

Post by logicalphallusy » Sun Aug 02, 2020 9:03 am

removed fm ogre/filter 8, bitbox micro, hermod, mults. Replaced with quad VCA, noisetools, and blackbox (unracked. bitbox 2.0 is a placeholder). Added ornaments and crime as a multitool with a quantizer. Just adding 10+ utility modules to a Neutron with only 2 actual oscilators to modulate does feel a bit off to me though. I now have 12 VCAs (16 if you count frames), 1 LPG, and 9 attenuverters with only 2 oscillators to modulate. Is that just the beginner in me not knowing what's best?

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Agawell
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Re: Buying in. Critique my planned build please!

Post by Agawell » Sun Aug 02, 2020 9:56 am

logicalphallusy wrote:
Sun Aug 02, 2020 6:44 am
Thanks Agawell for the advice!
no problem!!!
What would you recommend as a sequencing solution? Or just ditch the idea altogether at first? Aside from more VCAs and links, what sort of utility modules would you recommend here? Maybe a quantizer so I could use an lfo as a pseudo sequencer?
I don't really like recommending sequencers - they are quite personal really - it really depends on what you want and how you want to use it - I have a BSP, Marbles and a Sinfonion plus an es8 - in about 600hp (of audio modules) - and they are enough to sequence about 8 voices (using a few buffered mults)

I wouldn't recommend a separate quantizer, especially if you get Marbles (or a clone) you will have more than enough quantized random, I'd add a matrix mixer and a disting (which has a number of quantizer algos)

As for voices, I suppose I could ditch the FM Ogre and Filter 8 combo, as i can still get 3 operator FM for nice percussion and sample it into the bitbox without them. Also the quadrax is a bank of flexible (unipolar) oscillators.
yes but you need them for modulation purposes - less voices more modulation is generally much more rewarding than more voices less modulation - although a small number of modulation sources - multed, combined and mangled by a decent selection of utilities is also a good recipe

I have 5 stackables currently so I could ditch the mults for now. Would I really also need noise tools? That would give me 3 sample and holds (Neutron, Kinks, Noise Tools), plus the sampler which could sample S&H/lfo patterns for later use.
ah the "but I already have that function why do I want it again question" - you don't need noise tools - I was really just suggesting it as a much more useful 1u module than the passive mults - but, saying that sample and holds are really useful - for modulation as well as for pitch
As for the microRings in the goal build, I'm not sold on that either. I wanted some form of physical modeling in the rack but I might be happier with something like a Salt of Daisy patch. It's just that I'm not sure of the processing power of those modules or how well they each implement PureData. I could learn C++ but it's not exactly what I want to spend my time doing. I'd prefer to program my own solution for this type of thing and I've done some stuff I'm pretty proud of in the past with Csound, so having access to every parameter and being able to make my own decisions about where to cut corners and not having to trust someone elses algorithm is ideal.
no idea about Daisy, but I do know that all the code for the the mutable modules is available on github and combining that with the provided development environment, there is only a minimal learning curve in C++ to at least start tweaking the firmware on Rings, say - which at means you already have a good starting point

As for the inverting VCA, supposedly it has a nice deadzone making it more practical than other inverting VCAs to close. Given this, would you still recommend a second unipolar quad VCA for audio?

And regarding mixing, I had also considered the doepfer 4x4 (ditched due to hp), a couple of quadrat 1u modules (ditched for mults, but if I don't need mults then...), Happy Nerding 3x VCA, Nonlinearcircuits Clump, Behringer System 100 305/132, and the ADDAC802 (but i don't really understand the last channel of this one or what makes it so great that I see it in so many demos, or why Colin Benders' rack is full of them). Also of note is my outboard Behringer Xenyx 1202, which accepts 4 mono and 4 stereo inputs and has no problem with outs directly from any of the Neutron modules. Each of its inputs offers -10dB gain. Not ideal, but in a pinch I plan to output from multiple points on the rack in to it. What of these (or other) possible mixing solutions would you recommend?
the outboard mixer will be fine - as an end of chain mixer - but you need mixing solutions for both cv and audio submixing

as to why Colin Benders has a load of addac 802s in hos rack is this

they are great for submixing - he probably uses one to submix vcos before hitting filters and/or other effects - but also see below

they can be spread about and chained - so shorter patch cables can be used, but you can still have a 10 channel mixer or whatever

they can be used as voltage controlled mixers, or manually controlled mixers and separate vcas, or a combination - so are very versatile (you can never have too many vcas - or mixers)

the last channel is the output - so it has a voltage controlled level and an output before and after this - you can create a submix on headphones out of the pre- output and then bring it in to the main mix (on another mixer) via the level control - another good reason Colin probably uses them

probably the best advice is to go slowly - just buy 4 or 5 modules to start with and learn to patch those with what you have got - then work out what you are missing and get that - and repeat etc etc
Last edited by Agawell on Sun Aug 02, 2020 10:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Buying in. Critique my planned build please!

Post by Agawell » Sun Aug 02, 2020 10:00 am

logicalphallusy wrote:
Sun Aug 02, 2020 9:03 am
removed fm ogre/filter 8, bitbox micro, hermod, mults. Replaced with quad VCA, noisetools, and blackbox (unracked. bitbox 2.0 is a placeholder). Added ornaments and crime as a multitool with a quantizer. Just adding 10+ utility modules to a Neutron with only 2 actual oscilators to modulate does feel a bit off to me though. I now have 12 VCAs (16 if you count frames), 1 LPG, and 9 attenuverters with only 2 oscillators to modulate. Is that just the beginner in me not knowing what's best?
start with less vcas and attenuverters - see how you go - as you learn how to use vcas, you will get a better feel for how you use them and whether or not you want them - some people don't use them - an envelope can also be used to open and close a filter cutoff for example
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