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WIGGLING 'LITE' IN GUEST MODE

Feedback on my first modular system (dotcom) proposed layout
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> 5U Format Modules Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Author Feedback on my first modular system (dotcom) proposed layout
craigmcginley
I've been watching lots of youtube and reading on MuffWiggler, trying to figure out a good entry level system for myself. I'm new to modular, and frankly synths in general, but I'm a long time musician and understand the basics of subtractive synthesis and love the idea of classic 5U modular.

Seems like a 22 space system is a good entry level with plenty of options still. It's also about the price range I'm in (~$3000). I'm looking to start mostly with pretty simple patches, creating ensemble sounds (orchestral, Wendy Carlos) as well as spacey-leads, basses, etc. controlled through midi. I figure I'll grow into sequencing and more complicated patching with time.

I've put together a proposed modular grid design for a dotcom portable 22 setup. I'm hoping folks would be willing to offer feedback on it, keeping in mind I'm brand new to this.

It is basically a customized version of the dotcom default portable-22 layout. I would really love to have both the State Variable (Q107a, to save space) and Ladder (Q150) filters in there, but I'm a little worried about the placement of the filters up in the top right. Also, not sure if two filters for a system this size is overkill, and if there are enough multiples, EG, VCA, etc to support the setup.

From their default portable-22 setup, beyond from the filter changes mentioned above, I also swapped one VCO for LFO++. I figured I'd often use a third VCO for modulation anyway and the LFO++ can put out audio as well. I added an 8 channel mixer so I can mix osc waves from one osc into one side, and still have overall mix on the other. I removed S/H, as it's still not clear to me how I would use this.

I'm pretty open to any and all options at this point, but decided to stick with dotcom for my beginnings as it seems to be the all around cheapest.

Your thoughts are much appreciated! Thank you!
bwhittington
There's plenty to play with in there for what you want, basic synthesis for MIDI control. You've got more than enough VCA's and EG's, including the LFO+, for up to two or three simple voices, so the filters will be fun and will get some use. Modular lends itself to things like patching those VCO's together, not independently, but the flexibility is nice.

I'd recommend considering the Q106a. The soft sync feature adds a range of tones you would probably enjoy experimenting with in a small system. (You can also non-destructively change up the jacks connectors on one of your regular Q106's to play with this without the added expense if you prefer.)

Not everyone uses their ring mod as much as they think. Unless bells and sci-fi aliens are your big thing, you could possibly hold off on that.

You are obviously aiming to go with Dotcom, but something like the Krisp1 Oakley Quad VCA/VC MIX would give you 4 VCA's in two spaces, with some mixing capability. I end up using one of mine as an output module quite often. You could go with one of those and a a Q112 instead of Q113, and I think you might gain a few features and also save a little money, as well as leaving a space for something else. You can plug your headphones into any attenuated jack on your synth. Nothing wrong with the Q113 idea, but this is just another idea of how to get what you are after.

The Q125 is nice, but again not everyone grasps their utility at first. It's a cheap module, but you have amplification in the Q118 as well, and there are plenty of attenuators on these modules. The inverter/offset could get some use, or maybe it never does in your use. A lot of times they get used to compensate for different cv ranges or levels. Not really seeing where that would definitely apply in this set. The module is useful, particularly as you expand. I just don't think it has to be in this set if you plan on using it as is for some time.

I'd leave a couple of these modules out just to leave some space to add what you like after trying out a few things on your own. Maybe you are always short an EG or really want a third filter or fourth VCO . . . or whatever. Nice to have space for it.

Those are my ideas anyway. Nothing is essential. Your way seems cool, too.
alternating.bit
I find you get less feedback with headphones than monitors / speakers.
hihi

Welcome to the forum. You did put together a nice startup there, though I agree with many of the points bwhittington made, especially on the Q125, and exploring other brand options. However if you'd like to stick just with Dotcom, it is certainly not a bad way to go.
Funny thing on the ring mod, I never really found a use until more recently. I use mine quite often just to have a more metallic, non-traditional (more FM synthesis) sound.

My main advice to you would be this: design your 22-space with 20 spaces of modules and 2U with BLANKS. Then wait two months... you'll appreciate it as you'll have a better understanding of what you'd need to add to your system wiithout having to necessarily sell something off.
DJFonzi
the 8 channel mixer feels like overkill (mostly from a space standpoint) for what you've got going on in that cabinet.
ranix
the filter placement will be fine! It's a small cabinet. You'll change your layout and before you're done your system will be at least 4x this size.

2 filters is not overkill for a system of this size.

8 channel mixer seems questionable

I also think you should swap one q106 for a q106a - it can do cool things like change the phase of the other oscillators and make very complex patches if you have at least one.

I would also swap a q108 with a q148

I don't know what I would swap for it, but I can't live without a q123 standards module. I would ditch the ring mod for it but that's totally personal preference!
Rex Coil 7
Lose the midi modules and go with an outboard midi-cv unit. For instance a Kenton Pro Solo MkII may be used, freeing up 2 spaces and saving you about a $160 bucks in the process.

Later, you can uprate to something like the rack-mountable Kenton Pro 2000 which offers up to 20 memory slots, as well as duophony, and even being able to control up to FOUR oscillators at once on different 1v/oct channels (like having polyphonic VCOs with a monophonic VCF/VCA ... think of a 4 VCO Odyssey, that is how it would work).

I find the arpeggiator in the Dot Com midi aid to be lacking features, so no real gain with that. And if you're already using midi keyboards then the "merge" feature of the midi aid isn't really such a big deal. If you're using a Dot Com keyboard (which I H.I.G.H.L.Y recommend) then they already have "merge" on them in the back. The 2 "MIDI IN" jacks' signals are merged together in the "MIDI OUT" jack. Those 2 MIDI Ins are also merged with whatever you're doing with the keys as well.

And you may also consider using RACK MOUNT instead of using the Portable 22 space cabs. If you begin using ~rack~ you have this entire world of rack stuff open up, and it also provides infinite expansion. There's different initial construction issues to concern yourself with if you go rack (instead of the Portable cab). However, other than some different planning approaches, it's no big deal.

I use racks by Mid Atlantic. They ship broken down as "flat pack", then a few screws later they are fully assembled. Myself, I take advantage of the flat pack shipping configuration and cut the depth of the rack box down from 16 inches to 9 inches. Since the rack ships unassembled, it is very easy to cut the sides/top/bottom down to 9 inches prior to assembly. Here's mine:



If you use 12U racks, then you may even rack mount that Kenton Pro 2000 right in there with one set of modules. Look how that worked out!

And if you decide to go some other way later on, you still have racks! Going rack mount does add $65 per every 8 modules (for the needed rack frames).

That's all I got for ya!

cool
Huba-Swift
The only two things I see are missing is a Q117 Sample/Hold module, and a Q105 slew limiter. You mentioned that you don't see how you would use a s&h, but s&h modules are a ton of fun, and the one module I regret trading away. The Q117 s&h can be used at lower audio rates to create stepped waveforms for interesting lo-fi effects, patched to a filter for those classic spacey sounds, and it also pairs quite well with the Q105 slew limiter for randomized voltage sweeps... and so forth. The Q105 i'd recommend mainly for portamento effects, but it can also be used as a simple attack, release, or both envelope generator, and in a pinch can be used to filter audio signals as well (though it has a small usable range for this). I agree that the 8-channel mixer may be a bit too much considering the rest of the rig, if you had a few more cv sources, I'd say it could be easily justified. Keep in mind many modules, such as the Q150 Ladder Filter, and Q108 amplifier have 2 channel mixers built into them.
Rex Coil 7
*Huba_Swift ---- ^ Slew is in the midi aid module.

One more thing about rack mount .... with a 12U rack you could add 1 or 2 rack units of "1U" rails. That would provide a lot of space for mults and other little passive trickery that only needs a blank panel to install.
bwhittington
Not to keep being an Oakley shill, but the Oakley Sample Slew would provide some of the features of a noise module, s&h, and slew limiter in a handy 1U package. Missing a few features of the individual modules, but it has density and a minor cash savings.
Rex Coil 7
bwhittington wrote:
Not to keep being an Oakley shill, but the Oakley Sample Slew would provide some of the features of a noise module, s&h, and slew limiter in a handy 1U package. Missing a few features of the individual modules, but it has density and a minor cash savings.
Sick. Had no idea.
Squattamolie
Hi Craig! Another 5U Wiggler in Maine! Holy Cow! I'll shoot you a PM....

As to your system, man, it's tough because by the very nature of a modular synth, it is __so__ individual, based on the needs and desires of the specific user.

That said, I (like others here) have, of course, many thoughts for you to ponder. I also started out with only Dotcom modules (and IMO you cannot go wrong) but there are valid reasons to at least consider some other options for certain things. I know that someone else mentioned the Oakley Sample Slew - I can tell you from having bought ≈ 6 modules from Krisp1 that you would never regret buying an Oakley design, they may cost a bit more (than Dotcom) but your long term use and satisfaction would be assured (I'd be happy to demonstrate this for you - Krisp1-built Oakley modules are _stellar_ - I work with a bonafide Electrical Engineer/Super-tech who spent 40 years in mission-critical broadcast applications, and when he looked at the build and circuit design of some Krisp1-built Oakley designs, gave me a 10 minute dissertation on why he though they were "industrial grade", going into component selection and things totally over my head - a huge compliment from one hell of an experienced and picky design engineer).

The is not to take anything at all away from Roger's modules (which are just flat out great), but I've learned that a composite system (with modules from STG, Corsynth, SSL, AC, Moon, FSFX, MegaOhm, Oakley, etc.) becomes more than the sum of the parts.

Along the same line, Oakley (Krisp1) makes a version of the ARP ring modulator which is just stellar, and a major feature is that a RM is in fact just a fancy VCA, so I sometimes use mine as one. I wouldn't turn my nose up at a Q116, but it leaves a lot of space unused (I have actually taken a number of "sparsely laid out" Dotcom modules like a Q115, a Q110, 4 Q103s - and popped jacks into the blank panel space to create additional multiples - easy and very useful). I also strongly encourage you to check out the Corsynth C107 quad VCA/mixer, a fantastically useful and versatile module. And (having again around 6 Corsynth modules), I can testify that they are built like freakin' tanks, with customer service from Pablo that is second to none.

This is in no way to denigrate Roger Arrick who pretty much single-handedly resurrected the Moog format, and who is almost entirely responsible for me ever getting into modular synths. If I could only have modules from one vendor, it would definitely be Synthesizers.com. It's just that in addition to Roger's excellent work, people like Paul at Krisp1, Pablo at Corsynth, Doug Slocum at SSL, Eric at STG Soundlabs, Phil at MegaOhm, Gert at Moon Modular, Jason at FreeState FX, Tony at Analog Craftsman, etc. - are all doing really impressive work and making modules that are very worth checking out.

I also have both a Q107A and a Q150 and while I really like them and think you wouldn't go wrong, I'd suggest at least considering (even though this might seem crazy) actually having three VCFs - trust me - you'll be GLAD. So you could still order a Q107A (killer, I love mine) but instead of a Q150 - only because of it being 2MU - a single space filter like (there's a shitload to choose from) an Oakley COTA or Journeyman or TSL or Croglin or STG Sea Devils or Post Lawsuit Low Pass or MegaOhm MA20 or CdS VCA/F or SSL Steiner, etc. - the point being that this would save you a space for a third filter that I think you'd be very happy to have.

To end as I began, SO much of what me or anyone might write is informed by their own personal tastes and uses - so I guess take all with a grain of salt and ponder a lot before spending your $.
Huba-Swift
Rex Coil 7 wrote:
*Huba_Swift ---- ^ Slew is in the midi aid module.

Yup, I know. But the slew on the Midi module isn't modular in a sense. The dedicated slew module can be used for a lot more than portamentos.
Squattamolie
Huba-Swift wrote:
Rex Coil 7 wrote:
*Huba_Swift ---- ^ Slew is in the midi aid module.

Yup, I know. But the slew on the Midi module isn't modular in a sense. The dedicated slew module can be used for a lot more than portamentos.


Very true (writing this as someone who has both Q175 and Q105).

A patch I had up today involved taking a row output from a 960 sequencer, splitting it with a mult, feeding one out directly to a CV input of a VCA modulating band limited noise, and feeding a second send from the mult into a Q105 first, then into a control input on a 2nd VCA with (different) noise - no way to do this with the Q175.

Also, the switchable control input of the Q105 is really useful when sequencing, taking (for instance) the gate or trigger out from a 960 stage or Q962 stage or Moon 564 stage or FS input from a Q142, etc. into it, so only certain notes or rows from a sequential switch have glide.

I actually sold my Q105 once I got an Oakley VRG because the VRG is just, like, 10 times what a Q105 is, but I ended up buying another Q105 because what it does, it does so well and cheaply, and then I don't have to tie up the VRG just to do some static glide. It's all good.
hsosdrum
To the OP: Congrats on taking the dive into 5U. You're in for tons of fun!

1) I agree 100% that you should get both the Q150 (see below) and the Q107A; they're very different sounding and you'll find lots of uses for both.

2) If possible, add a Box2 cabinet and mount the Q174 and Q175 in it. This will free-up 2U of cabinet space for the Q150, and it lets you place the portamento knob closer to your keyboard, which you'll quickly find to be indispensable for expressive playing.

3) Keep the Q125 processor. If you run one Q109 through it with 200% gain and -5 offset before going to your filter modulation input you'll get much stronger filter modulation action.

4) I agree with others who think the 8-channel mixer is probably overkill at this point.

5) Replace the blank 1U panel with your Q167 LFO++ and keep all 3 Q106s. (And I heartily agree about making at least one of those a Q106A — the extra set of outputs and soft sync really expand your sonic palette.) You'll use the LFO++ for modulation duty all the time, and having 3 oscillators for audio lets you set up 2 voices at the same time.

6) If you ever find yourself with an extra 1U of space, consider filling it with a Q115 spring reverb. It's more fun than should be legal!

7) If this is your first foray into modular, I would keep it simple and stick with nothing but DotCom modules for this 22U cabinet; you really can't go wrong. After you get some experience under your belt and expand your system (and you will, believe me, you will) you'll be better able to make informed judgments about just what modules you'll need/want from other vendors.

8) Don't worry about module placement. Once you start using your synth you'll figure out what you need to change to improve your workflow. Then, all you need is a screwdriver!

Good luck, and be sure to let us know what you decide.
Rex Coil 7
We all love to spend someone else's money .... applause

I love these "shopping trip" threads - where someone asks how they should set up their synth ... we all go on these little shopping sprees, "spending someone else's money" .. so to speak.

This really is a lot of fun! Rockin' Banana!

Great points on the Q105 ..... I have already designed a remote controller for the Q105, it will get hooked up right away! I've had mine ordered since October 1st, still waiting on it, but I think one of the other ten modules I have on order is holding up the whole thing.

I'm way good, Roger and Company always come through! And I don't think there's anything I love more than opening shipments from Synthesizers.Com.

The box opens, and that new module smell wafts from the carton. lol
craigmcginley
Wow thanks for the feedback everyone! Trying to parse through it all now and get the general consensus.

First though... what's the deal with links on this forum? Pretty hard to find them visually. Is it intentional? A few lines of CSS would make them tolerable.

As to the suggestions... all seem reasonable to me at this point in the game, having never touched a modular in my life. I chose to start with all dotcom modules since it was easier to wrap my head around, and I know they are quality products yet still on the cheaper side. That being said, it does seem some other vendors have unique or more compact designs, which would definitely benefit a smaller system.

Here are some of the points I'm taking away:
    - I'll leave a few blanks to begin with, in order to fill out my system as my needs are made clear.

    - Sounds like the right call to outboard the midi into a separate box or component (like the Kenton) to free up some space, especially since I won't travel with this too often. I may stick with regular midi controller for now until I can afford dotcom controller.

    - I'll switch 8 channel mixer for 4. The main reason I came to the 8 channel was to get sort of Q161 (osc mixer) functionality but having it be more flexible (in that it is just a plain old mixer). Seems like I probably won't need it though, esp if I get Q106a which can mix in some other waveforms.

    - I will definitely add a Q106a, and possibly keep 3 VCO total + LFO++.

    - Seems like it'd be safe to remove ring mod for now and add it later

    - I'm looking into quad VCA from Krisp1 or Corsynth. Though bwhittington, if I just use any output for headphones it would be mono right? That might drive me crazy. Dedicated headphone out was one benefit of dotcom VCA++.

    - Undetermined on Q125 but may leave it off to begin with, depending on space left after I rearrange things here for v2.

    - The Oakley sample and slew module seems like a punch packing module for a smaller setup like mine. I'll look into that.


Squattamolie has offered to let me mess around with a system before I buy so I can get a sense of what I enjoy, and I think I'll take him up on that.

I really appreciate everyone helping me out in the beginnings of this journey, and I'll be sure to link another design + pics when I get this all!

Thanks again!
alternating.bit
I completely agree with you about the links here, I've never understood that. In fact, I couldn't even find yours initially in your OP at first.
At any rate, I'm going to quote MYSELF to make sure you saw this point of mine:

alternating.bit wrote:
My main advice to you would be this: design your 22-space with 20 spaces of modules and 2U with BLANKS. Then wait two months... you'll appreciate it as you'll have a better understanding of what you'd need to add to your system wiithout having to necessarily sell something off.


You'd thank me later, trust me. Unless of course you're completely open to the fact that expansion will occur very soon...
craigmcginley
alternating.bit, for sure. I may have phrased it weird but that was what my first bullet was getting at. At first I thought it would be best to fill in the whole box and have the most options, but now I see the value in waiting to get a feel for how I use the system and what I may be lacking. Thanks again.
MindMachine
My only suggestion is get a Moog CP-251 Control Processor. I have one secured to the top of my MU cabinet by a crude bracket I made.

With the CP-251 you can eliminate a mixer, S & H, slew/lag (which also works as a decent attack/release envelope), noise, multiple, attenuators, offset (s), VC LFO, etc.

Best deal in modular.
Putte
I have to agree with the earlier comments on the Q113. I have two , and I use them a lot, but mostly to patch up two or three osc:s with 1U filters. You´re going for two filters with double inputs. Therefore, in the case of oscillators-filters, you won´t use a mixer at all (unless you use two different waveforms from one and the same Q106).
On the other hand, the Q113 will be missed when (WHEN) your system expands. They tend to do that, almost by themselves.
Bowman
alternating.bit wrote:
.....My main advice to you would be this: design your 22-space with 20 spaces of modules and 2U with BLANKS.....


It's always easy spending other peoples money, so I'll modify AB's advice:

Design your 22-space with 44 spaces from the start! Or maybe you have more restraint than I did.
JohnLRice
Welcome to Muff's and the wonderful world of 5U, craigmcginley! w00t screaming goo yo

Seems like you've gotten tons of great advice so I wont bother rambling about the same stuff. cool

One thing I'll suggest regarding this:
craigmcginley wrote:
Sounds like the right call to outboard the midi into a separate box or component (like the Kenton) to free up some space, especially since I won't travel with this too often. I may stick with regular midi controller for now until I can afford dotcom controller.

Good idea for now. If your main goal is to play melodies etc by hand on your modular and you don't need or want to control your modular from a computer, instead of getting the excellent Kenton or other external MIDI box consider the little Arturia Keystep! thumbs up https://www.arturia.com/keystep/overview

The only real downside is the less than 3 octave mini keys keyboard, so if you are a skilled keyboardist and want to play fast/complex stuff and/or have fingers on the fat side it might not be very playable but at only about $120 street price it offers a wealth of features to explore your modular with:
    Arpeggiator
    Sequencer (up to 64 steps, each step can have up to 8 notes)
    Tap tempo
    Sustain HOLD button and jack
    Chord play mode
    USB connectivity
    5 pin MIDI in/out ports
    Sync supports: MIDI, DIN sync, External/Internal Clock, etc
    Capacitive-touch pitch bend and mod wheels
    CV output: 1v/octave, Volt>Hz modes
    GATE output: 5V or 12V
    Additional CV output: Mod wheel or velocity or after touch
    comes in white or black



Putte
I agree with Bowman, and I would definately take his advice. Plan for 2X22U. The best idea you can get, according to me. Plan one 22U-cabinet ahead, so to speak.
alternating.bit
^^ Those look like MINI keys... *cringe*

Interesting that it has a sequencer though... almost seems hidden since many of us are used to an LED lit path for steps. If it records your keystrokes in real time with quantization that'd be really cool, versus just step mode.
johny_gtr
alternating.bit wrote:
^^ Those look like MINI keys... *cringe*

Interesting that it has a sequencer though... almost seems hidden since many of us are used to an LED lit path for steps. If it records your keystrokes in real time with quantization that'd be really cool, versus just step mode.


big system, big keys.

Only IMHO but after owning Arturia BeatStep I will never buy their products.
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