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Modules to compliment a Microbrute
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion  
Author Modules to compliment a Microbrute
Just starting to wade into the wonderful world of modular. The only analog synth I still have is a Microbrute. I have a rack/rails and a power supply on the way. I'm going to build the outer casing. I want to begin my journey by complimenting the microbrute at first. Money is an issue... blah blah blah, but only because I can't buy all the modules at once. So with the collective knowledge and expertise of you fine muff wigglers, what would you recommend to initially get some bang for those bucks?

I'm thinking an oscillator or 2 first to get things more interesting tonally. Next maybe another LFO or an envelope. I want to build this while getting use out of my additions immediately, while building a solid foundation for a good modular system. Basically, I'm going to buy a module or kit about once every month or two until I fill up 104 hp, unless I buy another toy or two on the way...

Also, I've read on here that the voltage output for some of the microbrute's patchbay outputs isn't strong enough for playing nicely with some modules, so maybe a multi unit as well?

Any thoughts are much appreciated.
Oh just to want to specify the patchable capabilities too, in case you don't have one or aren't familiar:

Line input (which works with the envelope to the amp), CV in/out, midi in/out, usb midi in/out

CV out | CV in
Env | Metalizer (Tri wave folding) Saw ('ultrasaw' lvl) Sub (sub/5th note)
LFO | Pitch Filter (cut) PWM
Rex Coil 7
Perhaps start with a used MATHS. It's a multi talented multi modulator that can become an envelope gen, a VCO (with limits), a strong LFO, and many other functions ... many of which are doubled (meaning there are two of several things .. such as two EGs,). It can also be used as an EG on channel 1, and an LFO on channel 4. Friggin thing can even modulate itself. As well as much-ass more!

If not, look at "looping" EGs, such as the Intellijel Dual ADSR. In loop mode (aka "cycle mode") the eg becomes an LFO just like the way the MATHS does the same trick. Since there are two envelope gens in the Dual ADSR you may configure one of the EGs in "cycle" mode (lfo mode) while the other one is in EG mode. End Of Cycle and End Of Decay outputs permit even more self cycling weirdness.

If you're set on getting a VCO or two at first, go with an LFO/VCO (a VCO that can also go slow enough that it's also an LFO). That way you have ~both~ at your disposal. I believe Doepfer has a very cost efficient LFO/VCO in their catalog, however I'm not certain which model it is.

Doepfer also makes a four VCO multi oscillator ... the A-143-4 .. the Quad VCLFO/VCO. It's FOUR votage controlled LFOs/VCOs in one single module. Analogue Haven shows them at $299.00 .... for FOUR LFO/VCOs in one unit. The VCOs respond to 1v/oct signals and evidently tracks pretty well over about three octaves. So for just a little more cash than a good VCO you get FOUR in one module. Take a look at that one....

I've owned Microbutes, they make far better recipients of modulation than they are sources of modulation. But you do what you want to do, Modular synths have exploded in popularity, that said there's any number of choices out there when it comes to devices.

Another fun addition is a thing called a Lightstrip by a company known as Soundmachines. I have two of them. They may be used as real time controllers (like a joystick or modwheel) and they can also record a few seconds of whatever it is you do with it, then it plays your actions back for as long as you leave it running. They're inexpensive as well, relatively speaking (like $60 bucks each or so, check your favorite retail outlet ... Analogue Haven usually stocks them). The same company also makes a thing called a Lightplane which is essentially two lightstrips arranged in an X-Y configuration, with the Z-plane also added. Think of a square that you can drag your finger all over creating modulations, and all of your movements are recorded and played back for as long as you wish. These light thingies also send Gates, as well as CV.

Think of stuff that will keep you engaged with multi talents so you do not become bored with limits. For instance if you obtain a MATHS (used they go for ~around~ $180 or so) there's enough in that thing to keep you entertained for a long time. It can be configured in to so many different "things" (eg, LFO, VCO, Slew Generator .. aka portamento .. ,and so on) and for the most part it can do many things at one time, not just one thing at a time. Those things are DEEP, no doubt. I've had one for over a year and I'm nowhere NEAR finding it's limits. I'm no expert by any measure, but I know my way around synths and their concepts pretty well. I've been at it since 1977. The MATHS still interests me, and I still find plenty of "new" things in it that surprise me.

So at first, go for some type of multi-talented gizmo.

And regarding building up your Euro system ... whatever you do, do not skimp on power distribution systems. Ribbon cable systems are fine for small, limited modular systems. But this modular synth stuff is as addictive as crack, so plan ahead and be sure to configure your power system to deal with future growth. You will thank yourself in the long run, because at some point you'll be faced with dealing with that anyway.

Ramble ramble ramble ..... this is one deep ass topic that anyone could go on about for daaaaaaaays. So I'll sign off now before this becomes another of my 10k character posts.

Rex Coil 7
brandonblaps wrote:
.... midi in/out, usb midi in/out....
Nope ... no midi out on the MicroBrute .... it only has MIDI in (via the Midi DIN jacks).
Thanks Rex! Everywhere I look I see Maths coming up. Looks badass. I'm thinking I want to get enough 'toys' to hook that up to first... And yeah, Midi in only with the MB. oops.

I didn't think about the whole dual LFO/VCO duty thing, but that seems like a great starting point. Gonna look through some doepfer lists again to check that out. Much appreciated. Cheers
Rex Coil 7
brandonblaps wrote:
Thanks Rex! Everywhere I look I see Maths coming up. Looks badass. I'm thinking I want to get enough 'toys' to hook that up to first... And yeah, Midi in only with the MB. oops.

I didn't think about the whole dual LFO/VCO duty thing, but that seems like a great starting point. Gonna look through some doepfer lists again to check that out. Much appreciated. Cheers
No sweat ... I like helping the humans.

thumbs up

Be well. RC7 out.
This is of interest to me as I am in more or less the same position. I have the Microbrute and am awaiting delivery from a guy on here who is selling me a 6U x 84Hp case with power, Mutable Instruments Braids, an ADSR and a filter. Like you I am on a budget and want to add things that will make use of what I have bought. I'm thinking that once you have an oscillator and in my case ADSR & filter then it makes sense to get one or more VCAs. I'm thinking about the quad one from M.I. Veils and some sort of LFO eve though the Brute has those type of modules it would be good to be able to add more voices to it. I also think it might be good to get some of the stuff that seems boring but very useful like attenuators, splitters, multiples, mixer etc. I have a number of other devices like circuit bent toys that I'd like to hook into my system.
A precision adder would be a good choice. Makes it easy to deal with the Microbrute's pitch cv offset.
Rex Coil 7 wrote:
I've owned Microbutes, they make far better recipients of modulation than they are sources of modulation.

I agree, but would emphasize that (A) audio rate modulation of pretty much any of its CV inputs will expand a Microbrute's sonic palette immensely, and (B) you definitely will want attenuators for modulation going into the Brute. (Floating passive attenuators like the RYO Airtenuator are fine.)

My first two modules to go with my Microbrute were Tides and Peaks. Peaks is discontinued now and I didn't always get along with it, because I wanted it to be more than it was. But Tides is a brilliant module whether you're using it as a VCO, LFO or envelope generator, or you switch to one of the alternative firmware versions. And it has a built-in VCA and filter/wavefolder, so you can route the Brute's (or another) envelope to it to control how much influence it has.

Tides has a few strengths that Microbrute can't fully take advantage of, namely PLL and a few interesting ways to sync it -- but other modules or semi-modulars (like the 0-Coast) can. And even so, I still think it's a strong choice.

Disting mk4 is also a good choice, IMHO. Again, it'll have a lot of features that the Microbrute can't take advantage of, and it works best with several basics covered... but it does a lot that will come in handy. Modulation source, VCO modes, noise source, effects, and so on.
My experience with modular + Microbrute:

The pitch and gate outs make it nice and easy as a keyboard controller. Env and LFO are its only other CV outs so, as others have said, there's more fun to be had in using it as modulatee than modulator. But it's a great utility if you want that external playable keyboard, extra envelope, LFO, or even sequencer for that matter.

In terms of using it with other modules as a sound source, really comes down to what kind of music you want to make. I've gotten some amazing dirty leads and basses by mixing it with Warps' oscillator. Everything is fun to put through Clouds when you want to go ambient or granular glitch. I send the line out through an Intellijel Audio I/O to get it to modular level.
Well before you go all bonkers with multi-function utility modules, why not explore the possibilities of just adding another oscillator?

grep wrote:
A precision adder would be a good choice. Makes it easy to deal with the Microbrute's pitch cv offset.
or you could just get a simple offsetting mixer like a triatte or shades
This is more or less how I started modular as well. I had a minibrute and I wanted to add stuff to it.

I feel like the biggest things the microbrute is lacking are a 2nd oscillator a 2nd envelope, and a 4p filter. (I also originally had the intention of doing the mods to give my minibrute cv outs, but I got lazy and haven't gotten around to it yet).

For a VCO, you can get a NoiseReap Bermuda for like $65. The bermuda doesn't have a saw wave, but I personally am a little burnt out on detuned saw waves and like the limitation.

Another option would be the befaco even vco. They have a diy kit for it for like $130 I think? It has an octave selector which makes it possible to easily dial in that classic octave sound, really good tracking, and a lot of other great features.

All of the noisereap modules are awesome and really cheap for what they do. The bermuda and the isd sampler are the only ones I own, but just going off features and demos the rest of the lot seems like really good bang for your buck too.

For a filter, noisereap's new lola is really awesome and only $90. I think it's hard to beat in the 4p filter category for value.

A 2nd Vco and a 4p filter would put you in a really good place east coast synthesis wise. It adds a TON to the sonic potential of your brute, but it doesn't give you a ton to play with and isn't very "modular".

So the second thing I'd consider adding is basic utilities, and modulators.

You're gonna need a passive multiple right off the bat if you want to split your env to an external vcf and vca, or send 1 gate to multiple modules. They cost nothing, just buy(or build) one, you won't regret it.

After that, the sky is really the limit, and it's up to you to decide what you want to add next. I like the path of starting off with a basic east coast synth voice and going from there because it makes it easy to see exactly what you need next, like "hmm, I wish I had one more env here so I could modulate the filter and vca separately, or I wish I had another vca so I could control the level of this modulation".
I second the idea of adding a second oscillator.

I got a Boomstar Oscillation to use with my MiniBrute and Mother-32 and it's aded a ton of versatility to the sound palette.
I started the same way, means buying a Microbrute and than "one or two" additional modules. So I bought a Doepfer Microcase and a Dual Attenuator.

Then an additional VCO, Noise is something you really need and hey: What's about a Sample & Hold, multiples or - even a good buffered one?

Did it and was happy. Since the Microbrute is a little bit sensible, the Buffered Multiple is a good idea.

Challenge: Stop buying/building more stuff. I failed... [/img]
The original Doepfer A-110 is a great 2nd Osc.

Four simultaneous waveforms, octave switch, and you can bring the Lin. FM and Soft Sync that are already on the PCB out to the front panel with a bare minimum of DIY.
Been a while since I looked, but they were cheap and plentiful secondhand when I bought mine.

Other than that, mults (modules, or cable-based versions) and mixers (or simple unity gain summing modules) are two unsexy-seeming things that always magically open up the abilities of other gear.
I would like to second the Maths & a VCO/LFO idea. The doepfer quad one is cool if you'll have plenty of space. Personally, I LOVE the Malekko Richter Oscillator II. It will do LFO and also has phase shifted outs. Maybe throw a switched mult in there & a 2hp mix as well? Maybe a Disting to hold you over for other random things that would be fun to have since it does soooooo much, even though you will probably want dedicated modules when $$ allows.

The microbrute is really fun and has a great sounding filter, imo. Even just another oscillator and the switched mult will really increase your options. As long as you get one that'll go into LFO range, you'll have tons to play with.
Definitely second the ideaa of a second oscillator. That is exactly what I did. If you fancy DIY, I built a MOTM VCO (5u format) and it was awesome with the minibrute! It can be used as LFO as well. You can always add any eurorack if you prefer that format, maybe something like the dixie which is a nice VCO/LFO the recommended deeper could work too if you are in a budget (check eBay and the for sale section here too) Good luck!. w00t
0-Coast Guinness ftw!
Same scenario for me. Already got the Microbrute and just started building my first rack mostly used gear. So far I bought M.I. Braids, a filter, ADSR, LFO, quad VCA, mixer and a few small utilities - all basic building blocks and useful. It's very early days and still trying things out but what I have found very interesting is a Doepfer clock divider. Using an LFO to trigger it, you can take out multiple divided signals to fire the Brute's oscillator and filters etc and you have some easy rhythmic patterns straight off. To sum up I am finding what I have bought are useful basic mods to get things going but next additions I'm looking to buy MI Clouds to really make things interesting, a second VCO (thinking Erica Black Wavetable) and building a simple 2x4 multiple and a 3 or 4 variable attentuanor panel. I have to say that at the moment the Brute is mainly being used to provide a second LFO for the rack and using the line out and gate outs to control or add a voice to the rack. Still lots to learn.
Thanks for the replies folks! I was definitely thinking of getting a second oscillator first, the idea of something that is a OSC/LFO is very enticing. I think that's the route I'm going, but I also am thinking that since the sound of the MB is straight and "relatively" simple/classic analog that perhaps getting something like the Synth Tech Morphing Terrarium would be a nice addition to the sound as a second OSC(s) source. I think just that along with using the LFO and envelope out from the MB to the morphing terrarium could open up a lot of possibilities immediately. The power source just arrived today... waiting on the rails n nuts! Braids might be a nice alternative too... I like the idea of a morphable wavetable synth. Afterwards some more modulation capabilities, but I would like to layer the sound first, route it in, and use the MB's CV control, envelopes and LFOs with another sound source first... baby steps on this budget. ha

Thanks again
Oh and like David said above me about his setup... I'd like some basic and essential building blocks, and ones that I'm more inclined to keep than sell a year or two from now. Multis and clock dividers are definitely going to be incorporated, but I'm thinking backbone-type modules ya know? I'm gonna be googling some of ya'll's recommendations that I'm not familiar with now.
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