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Frac vs. Euro -- not asking 'why'
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Fractional Rack Modules Goto page 1, 2, 3  Next [all]
Author Frac vs. Euro -- not asking 'why'

ektoquip

This is not another contested question about comparisons. This is noob thing.

I'm trying to understand the *difference* between Frac and Euro.

Frac is 3U
Euro is 3U

What's the big diff? Voltage? Power consumption? what?

Can someone point to a drawing or spec or just explain it?


EQ


diophantine

Different power supply (+/-15V vs. +/-12V).
Different power connector on modules.
Different panel width (multiples of 1.5" vs. hp).
Different rails/screw placement on panels.


davidh

frac is 15v

so difference is voltage
can't say more


thee ghost ov n_phay

http://www.blacet.com/FPtyp.jpg

This is a diagram of a Blacet VCO front panel, it shows the overall dimensions, and the mounting screw hole placements.

the height of a frac module is the same as the distance from the top lip to the bottom lip of a eu rack frame, so a frac module is too tall to fit in a eu frame, even if you drilled new holes.

Frac modules come in width multiples of 1.5", the VCO above is 3", the Blacet Hex Zone is 6" wide for example.

Frac modules are powered by +/-15VDC as opposed to eu's 12V. The power connector is the same one as used in old pre-eurificaton MOTM modules, Oakley DIY modules, CGS modules. Some of Paia's modules power arrangement might differ in some way, I can't remember how exactly.


slow_riot

Apart from the technical details, frac was born thru PAIA, later updated by Blacet, and was deliberately a more DIY inclined format. It's technical strengths and weaknesses were not that far away from Doepfer's (e.g. higher voltage = better SNR) and better power distribution using .156" connectors instead of the silly ribbons. Although the mechanical construction was not as good as Euro as off the shelf eurocard parts are near impossible to improve upon.

With those beginnings, I think it was mainly the introduction to the market of Livewire,Cwejman, Make Noise that popularised Euro ahead of Blacet, rather than the superiority of the infrastructure, and it could easily have been Frac that blew up into the mainstream.

Sadly, I don't think it's a great time to invest in Frac modules unless you are happy you can get everything you want from Blacet, or want to DIY your own. Norman Phay is selling some great modules based on Jeurgen Haible builds as well as others. It would be great to see a resurgence! Pricewise you can't beat Blacet, if you DIY it's probably 50% of the price of an equivalent quality eurorack module.


ektoquip

DIY isn't my first choice, but only because of my aging hands and vision. I've got lots of smoke-time.

So, if i'm getting this, it's about the PS and attach points? And the fact that they're "fractional" widths instead of HP? Okay, I can live with that.

What attracts me most, oddly enough, are the potential of bananas nanners
In fact, I greatly revere this little saying:
parasitk wrote:


Banana is the future of Frac!


//Chris

we're not worthy we're not worthy


EQ


fracmonkey

I have to point out that a lot of clever jack normalization gors on in Blacet. This makes bananas challenging. There is a great thread up top.


ektoquip

Normalizing?

Bananas have normalizing?
okay, i'll look for the thread

EQ


thermionicjunky

ektoquip wrote:
Normalizing?

Bananas have normalizing?
okay, i'll look for the thread

EQ


No, bananas do not come with switch contacts. Phone jacks do.


ektoquip

thermionicjunky wrote:

No, bananas do not come with switch contacts. Phone jacks do.


Okay, that's what i thought.
So then the logical route would be to either place 2 bananas (if circuit allows) or externalize the switching.

Anyway, I have about 40 inches of rack space to fill up in a special project. I positively refuse to use 1/4". I get all suspicious of the long term viability of 1/8" -- especially switched; seen too many maddening failures -- but banana just feels good all over.

Probably end up doing conversions.

EQ


thee ghost ov n_phay

For what it's worth, I found the 1/8" jacks on both my Wiard and my Blacet modules to be very robust! Coincidentally, I replaced a jack on one of my Wiard modules and one of my Blacet ones just this week, the first jacks I've replaced on either system. I bought my first modules from these manufacturers in 1999 IIRC...


revtor

I believe Frack started (late 70's?-Paia, Blacet) as a multiple of standard musical rack units, while euro started (doepfer)as a standard that was in place in the European telecom industry.(eurorack standard)

Steve


BugBrand

I went Frac in part because I preferred the regular 1.5" width approach.
(though actually I built my first personal modules to run at +/-12V).

John Blacet's unified system is wonderful!
But it is clear that the masses haven't gone with Frac (c'est la vie).

Banana is kind of a sub-niche - or perhaps a slightly separate entity as I also tend to work towards unified systems and there's no-one really else doing banana frac.

Conversions - I did a few Blacet things, though some I deemed nigh on impossible. (is it perhaps also a slight slap in the face of the vision of the designer?). There were also some Wiard designs, a number of which I converted for people - many were simple, though I remember having to add a few extra switches to replace normalisation.


PS - deaf-ear point -- they're 3.5mm minijacks - 1/8" does not exist.


ektoquip

thee ghost ov n_phay wrote:
For what it's worth, I found the 1/8" jacks on both my Wiard and my Blacet modules to be very robust! Coincidentally, I replaced a jack on one of my Wiard modules and one of my Blacet ones just this week, the first jacks I've replaced on either system. I bought my first modules from these manufacturers in 1999 IIRC...


I remember replacing 1/8" switching jacks on the back of my Arp Odyssey. It was built in 1979, 18 years prior.

Didn't even last 20 years lol

EQ


ektoquip

BugBrand wrote:
I went Frac in part because I preferred the regular 1.5" width approach.
(though actually I built my first personal modules to run at +/-12V).

I don't quite understand that. Screwing into wood? No diff. Sliding nut rails? No diff. 1.6" (hp) vs. 1.5"? That's a big difference?
Okay, voltage I get the difference, but the width thing I don't quite get. hmmm.....
I mean, it's fine with me either way. Cool. Just not keeping up.
BugBrand wrote:

John Blacet's unified system is wonderful!
But it is clear that the masses haven't gone with Frac (c'est la vie).

I shall endeavor to learn more about it.
BugBrand wrote:
Banana is kind of a sub-niche - or perhaps a slightly separate entity as I also tend to work towards unified systems and there's no-one really else doing banana frac.

I just wish you'd go with a silver face instead of that blue. But that's just me. Let the banana plugs set you apart. Or maybe a tan or cream. But that's just me wishing out loud. As a consumer, I wish there were more banana vendors. But then, that's because i think it's a better ergonomic and abuse-tolerant hardware.
BugBrand wrote:

PS - deaf-ear point -- they're 3.5mm minijacks - 1/8" does not exist.


HA! lol Perhaps in your tiny little world filled with imported electronics, they might not exist, but I can assure you they exist in great numbers.
Granted, you'll pay a premium for them today, being specially sourced, and they're used in things like aircraft and non-consumer items, but they surely do exist.
Of course, you're right: Deaf-Ear Point. 3.5 x .03937 = 0.137795 or a whopping 0.0128 (13 one-thousandths) of an inch! Tomato-Tomahtoe.


EQ


BugBrand

ektoquip wrote:
BugBrand wrote:
I went Frac in part because I preferred the regular 1.5" width approach.
(though actually I built my first personal modules to run at +/-12V).

I don't quite understand that. Screwing into wood? No diff. Sliding nut rails? No diff. 1.6" (hp) vs. 1.5"? That's a big difference?
Okay, voltage I get the difference, but the width thing I don't quite get.


I found it easier to design with the what felt like a more standard width - kind of a constraint, but one I found helpful. [by the way, 1hp = 5.08mm]


And the 1/8" thing - I use 25.4 as the conversion ratio.
1/8 of 25.4 = 3.175mm --- that is quite different from the actual 3.5mm


ektoquip

BugBrand wrote:

I found it easier to design with the what felt like a more standard width - kind of a constraint, but one I found helpful.


Hey, that's cool. Just curious. I'm far from new to modulars, but this whole Frac thing is new to me. So i'm asking annoying questions like any noob, I know.

BugBrand wrote:

[by the way, 1hp = 5.08mm]


Sorry to disagree, yet again, but hp is defined as 0.2 inches. 5.08mm is a conversion. Probably good enough for this, but it's 0.2 inches all the same.

Which was the question in my head. If Frac is 1.5" and Euro could be 8hp (or 1.6"), what was the big diff? (Other than 0.1", that is.) But it's all good. No problem. Was just trying to wrap my head around it, izzall.


BugBrand wrote:

And the 1/8" thing - I use 25.4 as the conversion ratio.
1/8 of 25.4 = 3.175mm --- that is quite different from the actual 3.5mm


Hmm... if you don't mind, how about a quick FYI on conversions?
The Meter is a standard. The Yard is defined at the SI in Geneva as 3600/3937ths of a meter. Thus making the official conversion of 3937. There are many political reasons for this numeric combination of primes; don't get me started angry

The reciprocal (1/x) of 0.03937 is the irrational number (?) of 25.400050800101600203200406400813.... there's your primes at work. This is often rounded to 25.4 -- akin to rounding Pi to 3.14. While handy, not always adequately accurate.

One more thing, between 1/8" (which you're right, has a tiny and decreasing market share), 3,5mm, and tinyjack, there's several vendors tooled up for the most commonality they can get. This means splitting tolerances, which ends up being "too big for one and too small for the other". This is why sometimes, it seems to fit just perfect and other times, it mysteriously does not.

Bananas do not suffer from this.

EQ


BugBrand

"In 1959 the inch was set to be exactly 2.54 centimeters. Prior to that, it was set at 39.37 inches per meter. The difference is only 0.0002%, or 2 parts per million. The new definition is slightly smaller than the old definition."
http://www.elivermore.com/conversions.htm

Happy to hear more given how much I've used the 25.4 conversion - but I'm pretty sure I'm right here.

Can you give a link to an 1/8" socket? Every time this argument has come up, I've heard many times that 1/8" sockets simply do not exist - happy to be proved wrong of course! [of course I know about tinijax, but again that isn't 1/8"]


e-grad

revtor wrote:
I believe Frack started (late 70's?-Paia, Blacet) [...]


Pretty sure that PAiA started frac with their 9700 series in the 1990s.
http://paia.com/ProdArticles/9700_chronicles.htm


diophantine

ektoquip wrote:
So then the logical route would be to either place 2 bananas (if circuit allows) or externalize the switching.

Just switches. Maybe some pull-down resistors.

In some cases you won't need to do anything, assuming you're fine using an extra banana cable, and stacking an input to an additional input, or an output to another input on a module.

ektoquip wrote:
Anyway, I have about 40 inches of rack space to fill up in a special project. I positively refuse to use 1/4". I get all suspicious of the long term viability of 1/8" -- especially switched; seen too many maddening failures -- but banana just feels good all over.


This was a big concern of mine when I started with modulars, and part of why I originally went with 1/4" jacks... have an 90-space (soon to be 118-space) Dotcom system. I also have a couple of banana systems - a relatively large DIY Steiner-Parker Synthasystem, and a small (but growing) Random*Source Serge.

I just recently started in Frac, and don't have a full system up yet, but I decided to keep with the minijacks. Partially due to patch cable cost, partially due to keeping things simple, partially due to aesthetics, partially to just have something different. Fingers crossed the jacks stay nice - at least it does seem like newer minijacks are a bit better than some of the older ones I've worked with... the jacks in my TTSH are holding up fine (though I only built it 2 years ago).

FWIW, in the Synthasystem there were 3 modules that used normalled jacks. The Triple Envelope Generator had the 3 gate inputs cascaded - I'm able to replace that with a couple of stacked banana plugs, when needed. The VCA/Mixer had the 3 inputs normalled to 0V - I replaced those with pull-down resistors and haven't noticed any issues. The Dual S&H had the internal "noise" source normalled to the two inputs - and that's the only place I had to use switches. Frac (or, at least, Blacet and PAiA) use more normalling, but it is similar in that not everything needs a switch, as long as you're fine using extra cables.


ektoquip

BugBrand wrote:

Happy to hear more given how much I've used the 25.4 conversion - but I'm pretty sure I'm right here.

I'm certain that you are.
I'd never try to say otherwise.
BugBrand wrote:

Can you give a link to an 1/8" socket? Every time this argument has come up, I've heard many times that 1/8" sockets simply do not exist - happy to be proved wrong of course! [of course I know about tinijax, but again that isn't 1/8"]

You know, right when i hit the Submit button, i knew you were gonna ask something like this, and no, i'm not in Supply Chain Management, so no, I don't keep such a link handy.

So considering how far this has strayed from the OT, I'll just bow out right now and concede all points, real or imagined.


EQ


ektoquip

diophantine wrote:

In some cases you won't need to do anything, assuming you're fine using an extra banana cable, and stacking an input to an additional input, or an output to another input on a module.


To me, that's the beauty of bananas. You can stack them 10 high easy enough without worry about snapping one off. Try THAT with 1/8". So stacking is a given.


diophantine wrote:

This was a big concern of mine when I started with modulars, and part of why I originally went with 1/4" jacks... have an 90-space (soon to be 118-space) Dotcom system. I also have a couple of banana systems - a relatively large DIY Steiner-Parker Synthasystem, and a small (but growing) Random*Source Serge.


Sworn off 1/4". Probably some mental disorder from childhood use of anal thermometers or something. Spent a lotta time on my old Moog suitcases and the 1/4" was just so clunky. If anything, I might consider Bantams (TT) on a module. But as nice as those are, they still don't stack.

Besides, when it comes to contact area, which can sometimes translate into intermittent contact, the banana can't be beat.


diophantine wrote:

I just recently started in Frac, and don't have a full system up yet, but I decided to keep with the minijacks. Partially due to patch cable cost, partially due to keeping things simple, partially due to aesthetics, partially to just have something different. Fingers crossed the jacks stay nice - at least it does seem like newer minijacks are a bit better than some of the older ones I've worked with... the jacks in my TTSH are holding up fine (though I only built it 2 years ago).

FWIW, in the Synthasystem there were 3 modules that used normalled jacks. The Triple Envelope Generator had the 3 gate inputs cascaded - I'm able to replace that with a couple of stacked banana plugs, when needed. The VCA/Mixer had the 3 inputs normalled to 0V - I replaced those with pull-down resistors and haven't noticed any issues. The Dual S&H had the internal "noise" source normalled to the two inputs - and that's the only place I had to use switches. Frac (or, at least, Blacet and PAiA) use more normalling, but it is similar in that not everything needs a switch, as long as you're fine using extra cables.


See, I started this whole thread because I was originally flummoxed about what/why Frac was and what it brought to the table. Euro is 3U; Frac is 3U. I've since learned it's on different spacing (1.5 vs. hp) and different VDC and that's about it.

IMO, bananas are the way to go... for me. It SEEMS like there's a propensity within the Frac community to lean more toward banana acceptance. That'd be great. BUT, I'm recently finding that there's been a considerable amount of banana conversion among the Eur-nuts.

And this is kinda bad, because that was the one thing I saw Frac having WAY over Euro, I mean, from my PoV. If I went Frac, it'd be an OTS solution for my banana It's peanut butter jelly time! fixation.

But because finding the Euro It's peanut butter jelly time! conversion is already plowed ground and I'm not scared of the mechanical/electro aspects of a conversion, now I'm back to Square One wondering who brings what to the table. Even sonically?

Probably, like yourself, it'll start growing beyond my control and I'll soon be happily introducing all my several systems in their several formats lol



EQ


BugBrand

[I wasn't trying to win on the 1/8" - mainly I ask to learn!]

Another thing you missed on Euro-vs-Frac (but which was mentioned) - both 3U in theory, but Frac is full 5.25" whereas euro is a shade under (rails have a little lip)

You can, if you have the bloodymindedness, make anything banana - you choose your battles...

It has been touched on, but the unified (or single-minded) approaches of Blacet or Banana is appealing in some ways vs. the mind-boggling scope of Euro choice (though there are great single manufacturer systems to be had there too).

The other banana system to consider, of course, is Serge - or the several DIY etc options (R*S, for example, or CGS projects). Banana remains niche despite all the advantages - masses just don't know what they're missing (or banana stalwarts are overly fixed in their ways... business be damned)


ektoquip

BugBrand wrote:

Another thing you missed on Euro-vs-Frac (but which was mentioned) - both 3U in theory, but Frac is full 5.25" whereas euro is a shade under (rails have a little lip)


So the Euro spec doesn't just apply to the module, but also the rail? It has to have a retaining lip? Goodness...
Is this a 'little lip' the way 19" racks *actually* house a device that's 18.875" or less? Or is this a bit more than that?
Either way, in the current and pressing app, mounting can be anything I decide.
Actually, I'll probably be equally cavalier about mounting on all my projects from here out. razz


BugBrand wrote:

It has been touched on, but the unified (or single-minded) approaches of Blacet or Banana is appealing in some ways vs. the mind-boggling scope of Euro choice (though there are great single manufacturer systems to be had there too).

Are you meaning 'unified' as in Blacet dealing exclusively with bananas? Or is this some CV/audio thing?
I'm not following so well.
BugBrand wrote:

The other banana system to consider, of course, is Serge - or the several DIY etc options (R*S, for example, or CGS projects). Banana remains niche despite all the advantages - masses just don't know what they're missing (or banana stalwarts are overly fixed in their ways... business be damned)

In this near-term case, I have about 40" of 3U appurtenance.
As time goes on, I'll have about 91U to fill. Not sure if I can, though. Mr. Green


EQ


drumsofd00m

Wondering why module depth, mounting holes, PSU connector formats and additional rack frame considerations haven't been mentioned yet:

- Many Frac modules go about 20 cm deep (don't remember exactly, someone correct me) while many Euro mfgs seem hell bent on making modules as small as possible, not just on the panel but also behind it. A Frac system, especially if you leave some room behind it for ventilation, takes up as much space against the wall as a small closet, or as any outboard rack.

- Holes on Frac modules are set further away from the horizontal panel edges, that's why you can't put Frac and Euro modules in the same rack even if it has sliding nuts. (Grant Richter once suggested to Norman that he could always velcro-tape them...^^)

- The 4-pin PSU connectors in Frac are shared with Wiard 300 and 5U MOTM, and there have been adapters for DotCom stuff (lots of different brands) to run on Frac/ MOTM PSUs. Not sure about those DotCom modules that use the +5V tap, but if you buy a Hinton 15V PSU he can add that tap. So if you ever want to mix formats, the PSU situation can save you 100s of dollars. Euro power isn't compatible with any others as far as I know (again correct me if I'm wrong) so you'd need separate PSUs, or with Hinton, several different additional taps (if that's even feasible).

- Frac racks are flimsy and can bend into a slightly concave shape over time (depends, but I know some people push violently enough when patching). The retaining lip in Euro looks like it might serve as a bit of stabilization against that, but I don't have one to verify that. One solution in Frac is to add metal sheets on top and bottom of the frames, which also provides a bit of electrical shielding.


Edit: another thing that's probably so obvious it was forgotten - the rack ears in Frac are 2" wide EACH, which is QUITE a waste of space if they're not used for mults or other custom stuff (e.g. metalbox.com can make these). That plus the aforementioned depth are the main factors why I disagree that Frac could ever have taken off like Euro did - no offense to slow_riot, but can you imagine a hipster backpacking a Frac system to the party? ^^ Any Euro skiff will pack three times or so the functionality when it comes to *cubed* measurements.

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