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Growing too big to wiggle comfortably??!
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Author Growing too big to wiggle comfortably??!
I've run up against a problem all too common with wigglers, and modular in general: My setup is too big. Yes, that's a broad generalization; I'd disagree with it in principle (as I still peruse all the modular sale sites, and dream of an entire small home to dedicate to modular-ness), but it's hit home for me... And I suspect others have this problem, to differing degrees. [Except those who have dedicated an entire wall of their room/house as 'their modular'; of them, I'm simply jealous.]

As most, I started self-contained (for me, a PM System 10); then grew into a 9U rack. Everything was grand, and reachable; once I had 2 9U units, it was big, but still manageable...

Then, after a bit of fiddling with different cases/layouts, came the first TipTop Mantis case (love it!) for my 'drum and synth unit'; and then another Mantis for my 'drone/Krell-ish unit'. So it goes...

[Cut to my high school guidance counselor, yelling: "You need DIRECTION!"]

I've now found that by 'breaking out' certain elements, I've excluded myself from easy patching between actual cases; at the same time, I've come up against a very real Real Estate problem in physical layout. Like watching a car crash in slow-mo, I could see this coming; but was helpless to change the outcome (even as I was purchasing new modules). The end result is that I've restricted my wiggling to very 'comfortable' areas: I'm physically restricted from patching my Wogglebug with my main-unit oscs/filters (as an example), due to their living in separate areas. [The GAS-self would just start duplicating purchases, for distribution; the pragmatic would just start ordering REALLY long cables, for cross-studio patching...] It seems the only solution is to ditch all the little cases, and combine it all into one wall-sized entity. [Anyone looking for a whole BUNCH of smaller powered/unpowered cases...?] But that presents itself with its own set of problems: like getting lost within a veritable wall of modules

...Anyone else painting themselves into corners like me? I look at the really big self-contained systems (like the dotcom's 88, or Mau5' wall of Modcan) with wistfulness: not for particular modules that I want/don't have, but for its completeness. The ever-expanding Euro craze shows no sign of stopping; and there's always two or more new modules that would be cool to experiment with (or are just a 'better mousetrap'). I guess I was unprepared for Euro's effect on my sonic life.

All o' youz, continue wiggling!
I've been thinking a bit on this myself, as I am only a case away from having the same problem. Right now I have 15U at 104hp, with a pair of Mother 32's off to the side. Patching from the Mothers to the far side of my rig takes a 3' patch cord, and I have few of them.

I thought about taking two passive mults (2hp each), removing the circuit board and soldering cables individually between each of the 8 jacks on the cards and installing them on either side of the rack, cables running inside. That would give me an 8 channel bus to break on through to the other side... I already have the two Pittsburgh mults, I just need to pick up some cable to connect them with.

It doesn't solve the entire problem, but it does cut way down on long patch cords running in front of everything. To solve the entire problem I was thinking about building a box that would sit between my 9U and 6U racks maybe 1 or 2U tall. I would make two rows of (X ammount) of jacks say 4 or 6 color coded sets that would be laid out and connected linearly across the board like ABCDEF, ABCDEF, ABCDEF, etc. That way I have a bus that is accessable across the board so to speak to the top or bottom case.

I'll try the first idea to see how I like it then think about it from there.
i've recently been down-sizing euro, partly because i've been a building a buchla system, and partly because i'm trying to have some self-control. i never had a single system that was too big to work with; instead, i had a few smaller systems and treated them as enclosed. but if i needed to use a specific tool from another smaller system, i could.

if i had more room, i'd probably set up 2-3 "stations" for working with systems, and maybe an easy way to route between them when needed.

my $0.02
I have a Pittsburgh EP-420 to fill and honestly I feel that it’s the maximum size for me. Any more and it will be too cumbersome to work with and to fit in my home.

Also, I will fit about 50-60 modules in this case. 50 modules is plenty. If I have that many one day several of them are probably not used very much so if I want to get another one I’ll sell one of the lesser used ones.
Dave Peck
Of course the best fix would be to get some new cabinets that woudl allow you to re-organize all modules, but that could get really expensive.

Another option - Consider getting a multi-channel snake, to use as a 'bus' between cabinets. Ideally, this would be 1/8" male to 1/8" male, but I don't know of any that are commercially available, so you could get something like this, with RCA connectors, and put RCA to 1/8" adapters on it:
Rex Coil 7
2 choices:

1.) Continue to allow your system to grow like over-watered weeds in whatever open spaces are available until you power distribution system is completely over-taxed and under-resourced. Continue this practice until you've maxxed out your money or your significant other's patience.

Sit down and plan out a disciplined and properly powered system ethos that permits growth. Here's what I mean:

(Perhaps) use 12U racks, each rack outfitted with p.r.o.p.e.r power supplies and distribution systems. Think of each 12U cabinet as a "powered block". Use this ethos in a "never to exceed" manner, always use nothing but the same sized cabs and power systems.

You must put some type of "fences" around your design methods. Otherwise, it isn't methodical at all, it's just randomly spending every available penny on the nextest newestest bestest module that you must have .... y'know .... cuz reasons.

If you place boundaries on your enclosure and power systems, you've created limits that you must work within. These limits will make you think more about how to assemble your system. But it isn't a "system" if it is just a collection of modules, now is it! What part of different sized boxes filled with ~whatever~ modules is systematic?

So, decide on a design ethos, and stick to it! No one is going to do that for you, if you leave this to the manufacturers, you'll end up with a random collection of modules without any order, without any thought through usefulness. It will simply be a tool box with all of the tools simply tossed in piles in random drawers. That's no way to treat your tools, and it's no way to be able to efficiently use those tools, either.

thumbs up *** Cabinet size limits. Think this through, not too large to heft, not too large that they require "next step" power systems, not too small that they won't permit growth.

thumbs up *** SOLID power supplies. Avoid switching power supplies if you can. Not that switching power supplies are ~bad~ .... it's just that it's a lot easier to build a shitty one than it is a good one, therefore there are many shitty ones (crappy waveforms, half-wave bridge rectifiers instead of full-wave bridges, and so on). If you go with linear, you've more control over making certain you've got quality power for your thousands of dollars worth of precious modules. This may require some DIY to really make something to suit your needs.

thumbs up *** SOLID power distribution systems (there's nothing in the word "solid" that describes ribbon cables or soft busses). Take a good hard look at true bus bar distribution systems, and REAL power cables made of electrical wire instead of data cable. This may require some DIY to really make something to suit your needs. (I feel that I make the best power cables on the planet .... many other people that have learned how to make their own also make the best cables available .... it isn't hard to out-do the stuff offered by most vendors to be quite honest .... this is a super important item and your modules deserve a little attention in this area). DIY power cables will end up costing you ~roughly~ $3 bucks each, depending on the quality of the wire you elect to use.

I use MilSpec aircraft wire .. Teflon coated 19 strand tin plated copper. Teflon coated wire is typically smaller in outer diameter for the same wire gauge as PVC insulated wire. This permits the use of a larger gauge conductor, since the slimmer insulator will fit inside of the connector housing. That said, I can use 20 gauge Teflon insulated wire in a 10 pin housing, where I'm only able to use 24 gauge PVC insulated wire in a 10 pin housing due to the thicker insulation that PVC presents. And ~no~, the heavier insulated PVC is not mostly bestest fantastically bitchen better than Teflon just because it's "fatter". If that were so, the US Air Force wouldn't be using Teflon insulated 19 strand wire in billion dollar nuclear bombers, nor would Boeing in a 400 seat airliner.

This is all relevant to the question of how to reign in the runaway system. Define limits, define boundaries, work within those boundaries. Your system will be more efficient, more usable, mo' betta butta!

Now ..... get to designing that cabinet and power system .... order the parts, build Cab#1 .... then eBay one cab at a time as you build one cab at a time.

Ya best git bizzy ... you've got work to do!

Rex Coil 7
Also ..... for a moment I thought that the title of this thread referred to becoming too damned FAT to move around enough to "comfortably wiggle".


I'm glad I'm not alone in this typical-Euro, eyes-bigger-than-stomach problem. Yes, I have the ability to run snakes from patchbays; between adapters or dedicated 1/4 to 3.5 cables, I can make it work. But that's just it: I can MAKE it work, if I have to. [As long as I don't mind the crisscrossing cables.] There's still the problem of an unwieldy behemoth in the room. I guess I'm just feeling sorry for myself, in a way.

I gotta admit, this is NOT the kind of problem I had starting out in the 80s... I woulda killed to get even a modest modular rig. (I was very happy with the Realistic/Tandy Moog, and RS's own crappy 'reverb'!) Now, we're overwhelmed by options, and the price has makes it attainable. [This is NOT a diatribe on the recent seeming increase of analog/digital modules; it seems more and more units are creeping towards that $500 mark...!] I guess it's old-guy problems.
Yes, size can be a problem. I love my MOTM format stuff, but once you get to certain size you start to need a bunch of really long cables to be flexible in patching. I've got a few 8 foot ones, and a few more 6 foot ones, but need more. I've been expanding into euro recently, which is a lot more user friendly, and may eventually downsize the 5U (blasphemy!!!) when/if I come to my senses.
I built a 168 hp x 21 U case to consolidate a few cases I had. It was cool but too much. I definitely couldn’t move it and even patching got uncomfortable. I built a 13 U case (same hp) and I’m working on a controller skiff for my tactile modules and this feels much better.
Do what Parnelli said above and build yourself some trunk lines. You can strip mults, or just get blank panels and drill them for jacks yourself. If you want to be really flexible, have them all go to a central patch panel. Then you can also use that to patch different things into your mixer / audio interface, rack effects, etc.
whoa why didn't I ever think of this? Totally should have after reading through Rex Coil's build thread with all his custom normalled connections.

I never even considered setting up permanent links between mults in different sections of the synthesizer. I'm going to do it the next time I reorganize, 100%
i came home tonite to hear my wife rocking out on her little (2 19" rows of MOTM + standalone benjolin) synth... she normally stops playing when i come in but she didn't know i was there, so i got a 1/2hr personal concert, she was awesome. too many folks try to buy (or build) their way out of a creative problem.
Modulars seem to be like stars in that once they grow past a certain threshold they collapse into smaller, more dense versions of themselves.
cptnal wrote:
Modulars seem to be like stars in that once they grow past a certain threshold they collapse into smaller, more dense versions of themselves.

Hopefully they don't explode and destroy everything within a huge radius eek!
Cross busses are the traditional fix; consider TONTO and the multiple multiples that were all bussed together to move signals around.

Or keep your cables small; sometimes restricting what you can do is a great aid to creative improvisation.

Sell the modules you don't like. Or put them in a box out in the garage.

- Bill
I have 336 or so hp wide, but I look at it as about seven or so separate instruments. About the only thing I might connect between one end and the other is a clock. Still, in my largest 168hp wide case, I have an eight channel trunk line, Elby CGS93. It's really handy.
My biggest problem is living in rented accomodation where I have no flexibility to arrange things in the desired manner. All my stuff annoyingly has to be in the corner of the room where the heater is placed so I can't outgrow my bounds without placing stuff dangerously near the heater...which wouldn't prove too much of an issue but our landlord decided it would be a good idea to fit a carpet/flooring combo in the living room/kitchen where every other flat in the block seems to be all wood flooring meaning I can't zoom around the room on my chair and easily tweak whatever I want because of the carpet.

Consequently my pedalboard sees basically no action where I'd love to integrate it more into the euro and I end up thinking about selling parts of it off. It sits there just tantalisingly out of reach very frustrating
I've been hoping that once I fill up my Pittsburgh Structure EP-420 rack, I will force myself to sell modules I'm not using and never buy another case. Gotta but a budget on this somewhere smile.
lol what is this “restraint” you speak of? twisted
Mine is just a giant slab of modules, too high and too wide to reach from one spot.
I use a rolling chair and have multi everywhere to spread things out.
Because my layout is based on patching voices from the bottom up, it’s pretty easy to create little voice areas. thumbs up
To get around the reachability issue, I have a double wide skiff filled with controllers that can remotely control the whole system. w00t
Dcramer wrote:

To get around the reachability issue, I have a double wide skiff filled with controllers that can remotely control the whole system. w00t

I'd like to know some details of this, if you don't mind.
Glad the OP brought this up. I’ve similar issues and have spent months over last few years brainstorming it. Some excellent points and ideas here.

In the process of rebuilding my studio in a modular-modular fashion (movable cases, elevating and rollable desks, truncks and patchbays, etc) for this exact reason. Will follow up with a video or at least some talking points.

Meantime, this thread goes on my follow list. Thanks!
Also, to the OP, i ditched a pair of Doepfer Monster cases and Monster Bases for smaller more maneuverable ones (Mantis’s).

This was for for my personal reasons but if you’d like to give the big/dense case approach a try I could cut you a pretty gnarly deal on them.
Eat right and exercise?
Exercise is highly over rated. Guinness ftw!
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