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serge panel vs. eurorack equivalent modules?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Buchla, EMS & Serge Goto page 1, 2, 3  Next [all]
Author serge panel vs. eurorack equivalent modules?
intellijel
I have a %100 euro system that has grown quite large but I have always had an eye on Serge modules and have wondered about selling some of the modules to buy a serge panel instead.

What attracts me to Serge is the fact that a few well thought out functional blocks seem to be very versatile an multi purpose. That being said they are also very expensive!

I was wondering what the advantages of something like a Serge Creature or Animal were over the equivalent Euro module combinations? For example what is it that a Serge VCO or VCF can do sonically that a Euro module can't?
Soundwave
thats a good question, i also heard they would be soundwise very good...
astroschnautzer
intellijel wrote:


I was wondering what the advantages of something like a Serge Creature or Animal were over the equivalent Euro module combinations? For example what is it that a Serge VCO or VCF can do sonically that a Euro module can't?
Havent tested a serge ever but all the videos on the interweb speaks for that serge has a sound of its own, all the transients seem sharper then in anything else, it sounds more "humanoid" if you know what I mean? nodnod
sascha.victoria
Personally, when I had Euro I felt like it was a never ending collection of the latest and greatest which usually was over hyped filler in the rack. Serge doesn't let you pick and choose everything but I don't see that as a bad thing. Rex knows what he is doing, has seen a lot of bad custom panels go through his shop, and figured out what the best combos of stuff are.

Side note, Buchla doesn't really give you many options either. For the most part 200e systems are pretty damn similar. Its like buying into a cult but people on the outside lust to join.

Serge isn't cheap but Serge doesn't sound like your Euro equivalent modules. Then there's the multi-functionality of each module, the interface, build quality, and customer service. Also, your big ass Euro system was bought over time at about $250 a pop which probably adds up to the cost of a sick ass Serge. The Serge might not be as physically huge but one could easily argue there's way more in less space.
infinite7
intellijel wrote:

What attracts me to Serge is the fact that a few well thought out functional blocks seem to be very versatile an multi purpose. That being said they are also very expensive!

just rebuttal the expensive part, it's not really all that expensive for functionality.
New Timbral Oscillator NTO 3 " $ 580.00
Precision VCO PCO 2 " 420.00
Wave Multipliers VCM 2 " 540.00
Audio Mixer (3x1) AMX 1 " w/ ‘Phase Invert’ toggle switch 250.00
Smooth/Stepped Generator/Noise 2 " includes the ‘Noise’ source 665.00
Dual Transient Generator " add ‘Signal In’ banana jacks 480.00
Extended Range VC ‘Q’ Filter VCFQ(X) 2 " 480.00
Universal Audio Processor UAP 2 " 380.00

+1 with sascha's side note lol.
b3nsf
interchangable audio and CV is another applause

stacking bananas for multiples thumbs up

hidden features by "patch programming" into bigger functions...for example:

you can patch a couple of DSG's together and make a compressor! we're not worthy
infinite7
b3nsf wrote:

you can patch a couple of DSG's together and make a compressor! we're not worthy


by a couple do you mean the top and bottom, or using a quad configuration?
damn that's cool.
Hi5
I just recently spent some time with 4 serge panels due to the very same reason you posted. Is it worth it in that it will really add something that I could not get in Euro. My personal conclusion was... no. People's argument of Euro pushing the whole latest and greatest thing is just a lack of vision and restraint. If you have a decent Euro system you probably have a good idea of what you want to do with a modular and can tame any lust of the new shiny module unless it actually fills a gap of functionality you need. Likewise, I think with the right attitude you could pack equal or even more functionality in an equivalent sized euro rig as serge. Serge does have the banana thing goimg for it but realistically you cant stack more than 3/4 without getting into trouble and a very minimum of diy work gets you mults for cheap.

As for the serge modules themselves....
I was hoping to be blow away by the serge vco and unfortunately was not. I should note that track-ability across 6 octaves and 5 hours is of no concern to me. I am after timbre over 100% pitch accuracy. The sound is great but compared to my model 15s, vco-6, and anti the serge vco doesn't stand out. If anything I kind of like the 15s the most. Also, I am a fan of snyc and not particularly soft sync like the serges have. Great vco but just not worth the money given I could get 8 vco in euro and some vca for the price of 3 in serge.

Filters:
This is one place where the serge definitely excelled. Not so much in the wild weird category but the serge filters sound badass. The have incredible low end and normally I keep resonance down on filters but the serges are great turned all the way up or down. Even though it doesn't have any vc control the res equalizer filter is mind blowing. Such a useful module! If I was going through a filter craze as I was 6 months ago I would probably grab an m-module of filters.

modulation sources:
I know people get all excited about the dusg and dtg but now we have pretty much equivalent modules in euro with the maths, vcs, envelator, or the diy 281. Sure they are useful and very flexible but it is no longer a unique module of serge only now. The smooth/stepped generator likewise is available in euro/diy as well. Other modulation/clocking sources are well built in serge but I dont see any advantage here over other formats as these are such utility and common items.

waveshapers/effects
another win for serge definitely. The wave multiplier is great. The phaser module was incredible. not too crazy about the wilson delay. plenty of vc and possibilities but I expected a bit cleaner sound. then again, I am not a delay fan in the first place. ringmod was great and I would love to clone it in euro.

one thing I was really wanting more of was vca. with 4 shop panels there were only like 4 or 5 vca. In my 6u euro suitcase I have 6 and a dua polarizer which could be vca as well. In context though I play live with my synth and having vca/crossfaders to re-route my signal path is essential.

At the end of the day I felt that the serge line is a very well made and solid system. If I was not so empowered by diy and had the extra money I would probably grab some pieces to go along with my other gear. I do believe though that there is a fair amount of hype around the format. People expound on how the thought process is different with serge which is partially true in that serge forces one to understand the modules at a more fundamental level to get the most out of them. This is the same with euro but people do get caught up in the hype of new modules and most of the time dont get the underlying functionality. The maths is a great example of this. In euro you have to do the work of optimizing your system into a use-able system and instrument. Serge does a fair amount of work for you but I do appreciate being able to have say over every component and module selection.

Serge will definitely add some interesting pieces to any system but I will not be selling my euro rig for serge. Plus the horizon has a lot of great things coming for euro. all the digital modules are starting to get really good and add a whole world of possibilities that serge will not have.

The best thing to do though is find someone with serge gear near you and ask to play with it. Nothing any of us can say will be as useful as getting your hands on the real deal. Make your own conclusions from direct experience.

ok. thanks for the space. Soapbox
Hi5
infinite7 wrote:
b3nsf wrote:

you can patch a couple of DSG's together and make a compressor! we're not worthy


by a couple do you mean the top and bottom, or using a quad configuration?
damn that's cool.


this is true but the slope on the dsg as a filter is not very steep. it is a 'compressor' but not the same as a more dedicated 'proper' compressor.
carbon111
intellijel wrote:
I was wondering what the advantages of something like a Serge Creature or Animal were over the equivalent Euro module combinations? For example what is it that a Serge VCO or VCF can do sonically that a Euro module can't?


I have an overview of the Animal and Creature panels here:

http://carbon111.com/animal.html

http://carbon111.com/creature.html

In response to your specific question - Sonically the Serge oscillators are very "precision", very solid, very clean. Some would say they don't have a lot of character - but that's exactly the point. You're given pristine sources that you can "dirty up" and/or add "character" to in any way you like. The Serge modular system has numerous function blocks specifically designed to be paired with the oscillators. Good examples of these would be the Wave Multiplier (actually three different modules) and the Waveshapers. The precision of the oscillators also makes them perfect for FM, including regular exponential FM as well as dynamic depth linear FM which avoids the pitch shift you would usually get with FM.

The NTO is nice in that it gives you a VC morphing waveform as one of its outputs as well as a VC control of portamento.

Think of the Serge oscillators as a blank canvas you can cover with goache, acrylic, egg tempera, oil paint or rhino feces - the choice is yours.
nanners

The filters, on the other hand, are a varied bunch and, like the oscillators, can be surgical if that's what you're looking for but with a little feedback and/or resonance can bloom into characterful monsters. My favorite is the Variable Slope Filter which allows you to smoothly morph the filter's slope in realtime from about 6db to almost 24db with any CV!

The patching paradigm can be very different from a standard "East Coast" euro system, depending on how you approach the Serge.

Hope that helps somewhat. I have a number of pages dedicated to the Serge Modular on my website if you want a little more in-depth info: http://carbon111.com/serge_index.html

My album Lost Terrain is a nice little Serge presentation piece, available in a free FLAC version as well.
intellijel
@Hi5 thanks for the detailed reply! This is just the kind of info/opinion I was looking for.

Modules like the Maths, QMMG, VCO-2RM, and Vulcan pack a lot of functionality into a small size and at a reasonable price. There are also excellent sequencing options now with the Z8000, MFB, and soon my own uStep. After that Doepfer provides tons of excellent and small logic function modules for cheap prices.
The one area I am still unsatisfied with Euro is filters. I have tried a lot of them now and some are good but nothing has really felt like it was special.

The minimalist and constrained aspects of a Serge panel are appealing to me because it forces you to do more with less. I have too much gear and I am always looking for ways to reduce and simplify.

On the topic of filters and since you mentioned you are into DIY have you built the CGS Serge VCF? http://www.cgs.synth.net/modules/cgs77_vcf.html

My friend Richard is getting a buchla system soon and so I hope to get a chance to play with that. He got sold on this after trying one and realising he could achieve inspiring musical results with very few modules when compared to his Euro rig (which he subsequently sold).
Hi5
carbon111 wrote:
intellijel wrote:
I was wondering what the advantages of something like a Serge Creature or Animal were over the equivalent Euro module combinations? For example what is it that a Serge VCO or VCF can do sonically that a Euro module can't?


The paradigm is very different from a standard "East Coast" euro system.


I don't believe this to be the case any longer with euro though. Saying euro is 'east coast' is no longer applicable given one can get many 'west coast' modules in the euro format. individual characteristics may vary slightly but the whole east vs west thing is actually being blended and remoulded in the euro format. it is a matter of module selection not format.
b3nsf
the Vca's are hidden in modules, in the waveshapers for example...

as far as the compressor patch not being a proper compressor, that is a matter of taste, what if I love to use more modules in my compressor patch such as filter, or add a feedback chain? Are those standard features on proper compressors? No... but would somebody spend 2,000 on germanium parts for and industry standard compressor. The money arguement just falls apart.

People are posting amazing sounds coming from just the creature alone.. Hardly, would I say to somebody claiming Serge is not worth the money! SlayerBadger!

As far as DIY goes, I love DIY, but I want to make music now, not in six months! And when you see the build quality , well, good luck matching that level of workmanship! thumbs up
Hi5
intellijel wrote:
@
The one area I am still unsatisfied with Euro is filters. I have tried a lot of them now and some are good but nothing has really felt like it was special.

The minimalist and constrained aspects of a Serge panel are appealing to me because it forces you to do more with less. I have too much gear and I am always looking for ways to reduce and simplify.


both points are very true. euro lacks the star-powered filters like the serge. if I ever compliment my system with serge it will definitely be with filters and waveshapers/processors.

the second point is more convenient with serge but putting restraints on a euro system with maximal functionality is possible as well. i keep my bounds by making everything fit in a 6u portable case. this way each case is an instrument in itself. keeps the fat off. many people are of the 'keep adding' mentality with no overall system design plan in mind.
carbon111
Hi5 wrote:
I don't believe this to be the case any longer with euro though. Saying euro is 'east coast' is no longer applicable given one can get many 'west coast' modules in the euro format. individual characteristics may vary slightly but the whole east vs west thing is actually being blended and remoulded in the euro format. it is a matter of module selection not format.


You responded while I was editing my post. wink
My point is that most euro modules don't tend to employ the low level patch-programmability you find in the Serge. The mindset of the Serge as a whole is rather different than most modulars other than maybe Buchla.
Hi5
b3nsf wrote:
the Vca's are hidden in modules, in the waveshapers for example...
true but given a full animal panel for instance there are not enough for my personal use. that is what this is about right? using the synth in the way that fits your end goals. I could add an m-module for additional vca but now the price difference increases even more.


b3nsf wrote:

as far as the compressor patch not being a proper compressor, that is a matter of taste, what if I love to use more modules in my compressor patch such as filter, or add a feedback chain? Are those standard features on proper compressors? No... but would somebody spend 2,000 on germanium parts for and industry standard compressor. The money arguement just falls apart.


I was referring more to something like the cwejman compressor modules. A function specific module which would allow for all the benefits of modularity and do a better job. now this end part is an aesthetic judgment for sure but it would at least be more cost and space effective.

b3nsf wrote:

As far as DIY goes, I love DIY, but I want to make music now, not in six months! And when you see the build quality , well, good luck matching that level of workmanship! thumbs up

Why would it take 6 months? A module usually takes a day to build at worse. Plus you could augment the diy option easily with any other format(well, a bit harder with modern buchla). The quality argument is bunk as well. We can all buy the same components and put the time in to match things properly. There are differences in some design aspects but the advantages and disadvantages work both ways here. I get that you want to make music now but both are possible. time management.
plus you get such a deeper understanding of the synth through diy.
Hi5
carbon111 wrote:

My point is that most euro modules don't tend to employ the low level patch-programmability you find in the Serge. The mindset of the Serge as a whole is rather different than most modulars other than maybe Buchla.


Just doepfer really. Most any other mfg's are essentially using serge and buchla as direct influences or starting points. the maths module is the DUSG, lpg are everywhere, wiard modules are very patch programmable as well. then you have harvestman and synthesis technologies going somewhere else all together.
Historically euro was very 'east' but it has gone in a perverted, westward direction now.
b3nsf
I love DIY... in fact the serge makes me want to build DIY panels!!


BUT.............

Do DIY projects have this level of quality?


and yet be shallow enough to fit into a boat like this?
intellijel
b3nsf wrote:
Do DIY projects have this level of quality?


Is that what an actual Serge panel looks like? If so then I am suprised! No silskcreen? No ground pour? No Soldermask? Does not look like a very high quality PCB and PCBs are dirt cheap.

Also why would they not make a PCB for the front panel and save huge hassles in assembly?

I still don't get the business strategy of Serge and Buchla. I am convinced they could sell 10-20x as many modules if they halved or quartered their prices.
I remember being told that part of the cost with Serge is that the assemblers are well paid but so little of that needs to be hand done if you are doing even modest quantities. Also, assembling PCBs is not very fun repetitive factory work anyways.

That reminds me. I looked at a Buchla 281e module the other day. Total part cost is about <50$, assembly time by hand would be 2-3 hours (including testing). Retail price is $800+. I guess with Serge and Buchla you are paying for R&D!
b3nsf
that was a TKB board. I imagine its that way because the design hasn't changed in 20-30 years. I dunno, they look really good to me!

quadslope:


creature:
Hi5
intellijel wrote:

Also why would they not make a PCB for the front panel and save huge hassles in assembly?

I still don't get the business strategy of Serge and Buchla. I am convinced they could sell 10-20x as many modules if they halved or quartered their prices.
I remember being told that part of the cost with Serge is that the assemblers are well paid but so little of that needs to be hand done if you are doing even modest quantities. Also, assembling PCBs is not very fun repetitive factory work anyways.


especially given that there are no longer any custom serge panel options why would you have multiple pcb for say an m-module? it is the same configuration every time so a single pcb would be more efficient. the workmanship is great and well organized though.
Klipspringer
b3nsf wrote:
I love DIY... in fact the serge makes me want to build DIY panels!!


BUT.............

Do DIY projects have this level of quality?


and yet be shallow enough to fit into a boat like this?

This looks very similar to how TenTec amateur radios are built. Almost identical in fact.
Those rigs are extremely well built and user serviceable. When
I first looked at the Serge gear I recalled, with pleasure, how
small electronic shops used to do things.

I'm currently considering a Creature too!
Audio Resistance
I guess it just comes down to personal wants and likes. I for one do not think the filter is what gets me excited with my Serge. I was blown away by the vco's however. Someone can say they do not care if they track well but when you start to fm and both stay stable and track up and down the keyboard. Well, that was something special to me. No Euro vco's even came close, the M-15's I have sound the closest but not near as precise.

I think the answer is to get both, that is what I did. I have a 3 panel Serge setup and a Monster case full of Euro. They both have their place in my music. Not to sound like a snob or anything but my Serge feels like an instrument and the Euro tends to be my fuck shit up box.
chrisso
Audio Resistance wrote:
I guess it just comes down to personal wants and likes. I for one do not think the filter is what gets me excited with my Serge. I was blown away by the vco's however. Someone can say they do not care if they track well but when you start to fm and both stay stable and track up and down the keyboard. Well, that was something special to me.


No, I don't find the Serge filters 'badass' either. They are different, and can perform some interesting tricks.
Not a fan of the Serge Oscillator either. Nothing bad about them, but nothing amazing either.
The difference in Serge sound comes from the collection of esoteric modules IMO.
Also, the functions mentioned earlier, stacking of bananas (as opposed to multiples) and the connectivity between cv and audio etc.....
I don't think Serge vs Euro is night and day, it is unfortunately more a matter of taste.
Serge is very well built, and a larger format...... added to the esoteric modules (Wave Multipliers, DSG etc) are the combined reasons I bought into Serge.
urbanscallywag
intellijel wrote:
b3nsf wrote:
Do DIY projects have this level of quality?


Is that what an actual Serge panel looks like? If so then I am suprised! No silskcreen? No ground pour? No Soldermask? Does not look like a very high quality PCB and PCBs are dirt cheap.

hmmm.....
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