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The Emperor and the Princes' New Clothes
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> 5U Format Modules  
Author The Emperor and the Princes' New Clothes
Flareless
I'm seeing a very disturbing trend in 5U. I hope it stops. It won't but I can hope.

The Emperor is of course, 5U. King of the hill from the get-go it defined the standard for large format modular synthesizers. We know it's clothes; large knobs, big jacks, room to breathe and a consistent, mostly logical layout.

Then along came The Prince, Eurorack. small, slim, colourful and jam packed with features controlled by tiny knobs, switches and jacks.

But the core difference between The Emperor and The Prince lies in their guts. You see, The Emperor is all analog while The Prince is often filled with digital goodies. It makes them different.

So why would The Prince want to dress like The Emporer and why would The Emperor want to dress like The Prince. Picture it; The Emperor in baggy pants riding halfway down his ass. Way to bright colours and shoes that don't fit and are undone.

Then there is The Prince. All tricked out in robes that are way too big for him. Trying to look cool even though he was never intended to be an Emperor and worst off... not even being able to talk the talk of an Emperor.

Ok... enough metaphorical stories.....

What is up with this growing trend of taking Eurorack modules and turning them into 5U formats?

Further, what t is up with this trend of jamming tons and tons and tons of features, many often buried into 5U modules?

Like many of you I did a ton of research into the type of modular synthesizer I'd like to get into. Eurorack was not very attractive to me so I chose 5U. I.dd this for both the form factor and the modules available in that factor. Even though Eurorack is the obvious market leader I like the 5U factor for look, feel and function.

Over the past year though, longer I know but it's really been accelerating, Wigglers have been transforming Eurorack modules into their desired 5U flavour. Why? To fit it next to a Q960 or Sea Devils filter? So it looks like the other modules?

Now, many of you have read some of my posts and can figure that I'm a bit OCD and prefer my modular stuff to be as close to the same as possible but at what cost? Conversion takes a HUGE amount of time and effort and is not cheap. I've been asked on more than a few occasions if I would do it for customers but I've declined.

And then there's the philosophical aspect; Didn't you go 5U for its analog nature? Now you want to introduce a pile of digital stuff into that beauty? Ok. No problem. That's a design option and part of the very nature of modular. So why didn't you go Eurorack in the first place.

Look at the effect this trend is having directly on the marketplace. Roger, who is practically the Grandfather of the modular revival has broken away from his company's design philosophy to get into the trend. His ++ modules are packed full of features and little controls and the Gate Math requires detailed learning / programming to operate. Not quite in line with the original "one function per module" plan of the past.

But this, of course, is being market driven.

Hell, even I have designed some 1U versions of the modules I sell. They're designed mainly for space constraints and while cool and useful in portable systems, I prefer their 2U counterparts where possible. I like the wide open spaces and big controls.

Please understand I'm not trying to dis the idea of using Eurorack modules or even of converting modules from one format to another. There are some outstanding vendors doing an incredible job of this. Hell, I've even converted my old PAiA 9700 from FRAC to MU so I could use it in my system but I was young and foolish back then ; )

I just think if you want to add Eurorack or FRAC or whatever to your system... just put in a row of it. Build / buy a case, add a power supply and put them in. Add a rack row ( or 10) to your rack system. Whatever. I'm thinking of doing it too. Maybe. But not for a long time. There's too much fun 5U stuff to play with.

Ok. My 4:00AM rant is finished.
josaka
..seems pretty straigt forward.. ..most 5u'ers dont have the spare time/money or desire for a euro rack
..but there are certain euro modules have unique features/sounds that are not available in 5u..
unrecordings
Someone may come along and correct me, but wasn't Eurorack (as a modular format) pioneered by Dieter ? Early Eurorack had similar sensibilities to 5U except that it was smaller, so used 1/8" jacks. Doepfer stuff I hear is pretty well made in the grand scheme of things (I'm MOTM so what do I know)

I think it's that 'maker' revolution that caused Euro to mutate

If I want Euro I mod it, sorry, 'hack' it to my own sort of MOTM format: 5U, pcb to pot wiring, pcb to jack wiring, pcb mounting bracket, lumex LEDs etc etc - all the stuff that drew me to 5U in the first place back in the late 90's

But it depends on the module. Do I want a Maths ? Nope
Do I want a multifunctional thingumyjig ? Nope
Do I want say a nice 100M HPF filter that will be a breeze to build and put behind a panel ? Yes, in fact I'm going to order it now :-)

(for the record too, once I'd settled on 5U, I chose MOTM over MU because Paul offered kits, Roger did not)

That's my tuppence...
spinach_pizza
I don't see why this is an issue or why it should bother anybody. For me it's just all about making music and sounds. Find (or dream up, or create) the tools that work for you, and use them. Segregating all the tools into strict categories may be fine for some people, but stifling to others. In my opinion, the more tools that are available, in whatever format, the better.
bwhittington
If you don't like something, don't buy it? No need for one person's preferences to dictate what other people buy or produce.

And Doepfer came out in 1995 or so, five years before Dotcom. I think that make Dieter Grandpa if anyone is. Or Rex Probe, for keeping Serge alive for so many years before that.
Ockeghem
bwhittington wrote:
If you don't like something, don't buy it? No need for one person's preferences to dictate what other people buy or produce.


spinach_pizza wrote:
the more tools that are available, in whatever format, the better


I think I can understand why Flareless might not want to do re-panels when both the buyer and producer are spending more time, money, space and trouble to reach the end result.

Flareless wrote:
...disturbing trend...So why didn't you go Eurorack in the first place.


Because Moog format and MOTM format and computer laptops are probably sufficient for me. (Edit: Well, and maybe a few keyboards and odd bits of hardware Mr. Green hihi ) However, I have been known to buy re-panels on occasion to get Eurorack or Buchla functionality. The trick is to buy before the builders get tired of making them. lol Mr. Green
Flareless
I'm all for paying lots more for aesthetics if that grooves you. Hell I've done it more than a few times. Please understand, I'm not trying to dictate preference.

It's the trend in Euro-izing the 5U format that caught my interest. Besides aesthetics (see the above point) I don't see a big advantage. Just add a skiff to your rig.
Ockeghem
Flareless wrote:
I'm all for paying lots more for aesthetics if that grooves you. Hell I've done it more than a few times. Please understand, I'm not trying to dictate preference.

It's the trend in Euro-izing the 5U format that caught my interest. Besides aesthetics (see the above point) I don't see a big advantage. Just add a skiff to your rig.

I suppose.
At times I am tempted to buy Eurorack but then I remember Reaktor ensembles and other VSTs and apps and am hard pressed to do it.
If I do succumb to the influence there'll be SynthTech for sure, Paul makes interesting stuff.
Dr Gris
I like big knobs, analogue, 1/4 inch jacks and space for it.
There are some digital stuff that I find interesting in euro.
But I would prefer to port it over to 5U if there was the opportunity because of what I mentioned.
I have a Micromac D and an Engine sequencer that has 1/8 jacks, great machines but I wish they had 1/4 jacks...

Cheers
//M
dhergott1
josaka wrote:
..seems pretty straigt forward.. ..most 5u'ers dont have the spare time/money or desire for a euro rack
..but there are certain euro modules have unique features/sounds that are not available in 5u..


This is it exactly. If 5U did not have a midi to CV converter, would you have to add a skiff for that? I would hope not. I like 5u. I like bigger knobs and I like a bigger system. Generally, I think we all do because we are in the 5u forum.

The goal is not to just copy euro ideas (or any synth format), but to thoughtfully incorporate good ideas into 5U. Fortunately, lots of folks are doing just that. applause
Dr Gris
Got a cheap Happy Ending Kit 6 months ago, just in case I would stumble over something interesting.
Still empty... hihi
spinach_pizza
Ockeghem wrote:
bwhittington wrote:
If you don't like something, don't buy it? No need for one person's preferences to dictate what other people buy or produce.


spinach_pizza wrote:
the more tools that are available, in whatever format, the better


I think I can understand why Flareless might not want to do re-panels when both the buyer and producer are spending more time, money, space and trouble to reach the end result.



Well if that's his beef then I hope no one is forcing him to do all the repanels! lol

I'm having trouble understanding what the issue is. For modular users, there are more and more choices as time goes by. People who want all-analog 5U can still have that type of system. People who want Roger's ++ modules can have those (I want some, I think they look great). People who are willing to pay to get something repaneled can do that too, as long as there is a way to get it done. Maybe they have the available 5U cab space and power, and don't want to get a whole other container and PS, especially if they are just after one or two euro modules? And who cares, really? I don't think people should have to justify why they want to include x,y or z in their system.

Every single one of us has different needs and wants. I can't anticipate or even really comment on anyone's needs or desires other than my own. I'm pretty sure that the performance case I put together not long ago wouldn't be on anyone else's wish list. But that is exactly why modular systems are so great.
kcd06
Quote:
Didn't you go 5U for its analog nature?


Not remotely.
I like 5u for its historical roots, its layout, I like the larger jack size, I like the larger size of control knob--and hate the euro habit of using just the bare shaft of a trip pot--and I like the fact that when a manufacturer goes nuts building a module, there is (usually, Grove kinda pushes past this on a couple modules) enough space for you to still get plugs and fingers in there. I like the fact that no 5u manufacturer has stooped to the habits of MakeNoise, and using graphical layoutd that causes seizures in Japanese children or are otherwise incomprehensible without a Greyscale repanel.

I am not an analog purist. I am a solid advocate of hybrid systems.
Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.
tehfizzle
Flareless wrote:

Didn't you go 5U for its analog nature?


Nope.
ppkstat
I plant to port several euro modules in 5U, mainly MI, barton and MXMXMX stuff.

Everything with a black aluminum panel, switchcraft jacks and big knobs. These three, to me seems a very good reason to go 5U. So they may be euro, but they function and look better than euro.

But you're right about the digital stuff. I don't like them as well but that won't stop me into incorporating some of them in my 5U analog system.
josaka
spinach_pizza wrote:


Every single one of us has different needs and wants. I can't anticipate or even really comment on anyone's needs or desires other than my own. I'm pretty sure that the performance case I put together not long ago wouldn't be on anyone else's wish list. But that is exactly why modular systems are so great.


indeed that is the whole essence of why you would want a modular over a synth.. having rules about modulars is a bit mental.. personally I find euro is over modulated therefore often a little weedy sounding and a lot of the digital modules dont quite cut it for me..having said that there are some amazing filters.. sequencers and other bits and bobs that I would like.. but nothing really making me want to go euro.. all its really done is upped the challenge of creating complex patches..
Jamnuska
There a lots of analogue Euro. Some people will not look at digital Euro at all.

More importantly, where are the tubes in 5U?

http://www.metasonix.com/index.php/rk5-dual-lowpass-gate-new


I don't see why anyone would convert (the cost alone is silly). Just get a skiff as someone mentioned above. Unless you can do it yourself then fill your boots.
cornutt
I've bought several conversions. I have an E340 and E350 reformatted to Dotcom (by Low-Gain Electronics). I don't buy that 5U is "married" to analog; Modcan's B-series, to name one, includes lots of digital stuff. I want stuff in 5U because that's my preferred format, and I will pay a premium (up to a point) to get something Euro that I want reformatted.

That said, I am buying a small Euro skiff to put on top of my 5U case. I can see buying at least a few things where reformatting would be so involved that it would probably not be worth the trouble. The 4MS Spectral Multiband Resonator is one that I'm looking at.
J3RK
This is outright panelism, and I'm alerting the moderators! razz

Honestly, synthesizer modules are good. People should put whatever they find useful into their modulars, and if they can get somebody to match the aesthetic they're going for, I think that's great.

There will always be purists, non-purists, people who don't care about a matching aesthetic, people who only care about the sound/function, people that want to blend methodologies, etc. There should be nothing to limit any approach. Just as I wouldn't say that you shouldn't be able to build an all classic analog MU system, there should be nothing limiting someone from building a system that includes every function they're looking for.

If someone can facilitate moving something from one format to another, I think that's great. It's giving people the tools they want to produce the results that they want.

I do see the point about a focused system. I like to build focused, matching systems myself with an overarching goal for the sorts of sounds it will be producing. But that doesn't mean someone else shouldn't do something different. I'm not suggesting that the OP should start doing conversions for people either if that's not a desirable task. On the analog digital thing... hihi I will say one thing about that. CMOS ICs are digital functions using analog voltages. Discuss. razz lol
ranix
the only thing wrong with euro is that there's usually no room for 1/4" jacks

I dislike Eurorack as a rule because it's too cramped, but I've got a 19" 3u row dedicated to euro modules anyway because sometimes I need some specific capabilities that a euro module has.

Right now I've got a Clouds and two Barton gate delays in it. I'm also planning to add two Doepfer bucket brigade devices and a CV to Midi converter. Stuff that's really not available in 5u and isn't integral to my workflow so the cramped controls and wonky jacks aren't much of a problem.
Bowman
I'm with Flareless.......to an extent.

I really don't like the Euro format, mostly from an aesthetic and an ergonomic perspective. I chose the 5U route and have had no complaints on my choice. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

However, I do love the Free State FX conversions of the Mutable Instrument modules, and I currently own Braids and Rings. In fact, I'll probably buy a Clouds module next.

I also own the Voltergeist Maths module. I probably need more time with it.
sduck
I've never considered the analog-digital divide to be of any consideration in the 5U-euro differences. There are plenty of both camps in both formats, and have been for nearly forever.
J3RK
...and ever.
Synthoholic
J3RK wrote:
This is outright panelism, and I'm alerting the moderators!


Spacism.


Euro just doesn't have enough space. Guinness ftw!
josaka
going to stir flareless's pot a little .. you made me a jupiter storm..
A part digital euro conversion..!!
its an incredible module(shame about the lights! smile )
Flareless
Absolutely Josaka! Definitely a Euro conversion if I ever saw one and I sell them! Lots of other modules that might be considered Euro too. Many of the PCBs I sell in my modules were designed with Eurorack in mind. The Barton toys and much of the CGS, which is Serge style, are a perfect example.

On the vendor sites they are often listed as "No Specific Format" since as long as they support +/-15 mounting them is the builder's choice. I like mounting them in MU.

I try to stay away from modules with 2 boards as often the 2nd board is used for the panel components. I have a Galilean Moons #2 PCB if anyone is interested.

Multi-board modules like the Dual 258J and Triple LPG are excluded from the multi-board guideline. hihi

Incidentally Josaka, PM/Email me. I do have an LED mod for the Storm. I did it about 10 days ago to mine.

There's been a lot of great response to this thread. Like Josaka I like to stir the pot particularly when my insomnia has been raging and I haven't had coffee.

Choose your format then do whatever the hell you want. We live in a Zero Rule Zone. That's what modular is all about! SlayerBadger!
spinach_pizza
Flareless wrote:


...I like to stir the pot particularly when my insomnia has been raging and I haven't had coffee.
lol
Flareless wrote:

Choose your format then do whatever the hell you want. We live in a Zero Rule Zone. That's what modular is all about! SlayerBadger!
thumbs up thumbs up
Rex Coil 7
Flareless wrote:
..... Choose your format then do whatever the hell you want. We live in a Zero Rule Zone. That's what modular is all about! SlayerBadger!
That's a fact, Jack!

My own system uses all 5U/MU for the audio signal flow (VCOs, VCFs, Mixers, VCAs). Then I use Euro only as modulators. My MU system doesn't have any LFOs, no Envelope Gens ... all of that is in Euro.

That take on things allows me to have both of what I need and want. All of my Euro is mounted in a wedge-shaped cab that sit directly between the keyboard(s) and the upright 5U cab. The Euro content mostly focuses on things such as EGs, VCA clusters and VCA mixers, signal routings, 1v/oct and slew, LFOs. I have two MATHS, and two Doepfer Matrix Mixers, as well as four Doepfer 4 channel VCA Mixers. Not to mention 3 Barton Dual Nice Quantizers, and an Intellijel uFoldII wave folder. So, very simple modules that have an enormous amount of processing power without being things that have 400+ page manuals (like my Kurzweil PC3A6 does!).

I don't feel the need for density, in fact I shoot for sparsity to be honest. I'll "spread out" a module rather than "compress" it's controls.

This is a 2 channel x 4 circuit Ring Mod ... it's 32 inches long and 2 inches wide.

Left Half (2 ring mods) =





Right Half (2 ring mods) =




The entire 32 inch long panel has been refinished =



Here's a 3 channel "input switch" panel that allows me to instantly turn on (or off) the audio signals coming from the two dual-VCO voices and the Ring Mod panel =



Here's a slope control panel for the Dot Com Q150 VCF =




And a 4 channel VCO mixer with individual channel on/off toggles, individual channel volumes, and per-bus overdrive (feedback circuit - red knobs) =




So it's fairly obvious that I like to spread out and provide myself room for live performance goofery. The Euro stuff is something I use (more or less) to create the sortof basic signal processing and CV modulations for the "main voice cabinet" (if you will) which is 100% MU. I've gone both directions with repaneling 5U/MU stuff. Meaning, I have squished 8sp into 6sp (the VCO voice panels) .. but I have also ~expanded~ 6sp into 8sp on the VCF panel. The VCF panel has two "option panels" that are 2" x 4" each, and each option panel contains fifteen 3.5mm jacks that allow easy interfacing with the Euro cabinet's I/O.

So ... yea .... let's mix it up and provide ourselves with the best of all worlds. I'm happy with Euro and 5U/MU, anything else I can repanel into wither one of those two formats.

Would I want an all-euro system? Not *no .. but HELL no! If I did that I know I would end up "stretching" some of the Euro modules to provide more working space, just as I did with some option switches on one of my Doepfer 4ch VCA/Mixers .....





All of that said, I'm not an automatic fan of Synthesizers.Com new modules, at least not all of them. I recently purchased a Q114++ Mixer ... it's a great module but it's only "half done". It really really needs to have rotary switches .... nice full sized ones .... to provide total access to all five "modes" each channel has at it's disposal (instead of offering a toggle switch that only provides two of the five under-panel options). A per-channel on/off toggle wouldn't hurt either.

So it all works, you just have to learn how to make it all work .. for you!

thumbs up
dhergott1
Rex Coil 7 wrote:


So it all works, you just have to learn how to make it all work .. for you!

thumbs up


Impressive nanners
jkjelec
Yah Rex Coil 7, that's awesome how you've made the various parts be exactly what you want. I love those short right angle plugs/cables. They remind me of that Escher drawing of a hand holding a pencil, drawing itself. lol

My system is Modcan A with MU and MOTM converted to bananas as needed. Just like cornutt, I'd prefer the system modules to match and I would/do pay a premium to do so.
Sparrows78
For me its all about ergonomics and looks - I'm pretty physical when I play and like the big knobs and space of 5u. And it just looks som much more awsome than 3u, it gets me inspired to play smile
Sparrows78
And I'm a beginner in the diy synth world. Of course there was a phase when I was choosing format to build - Euro or something else. Going 5U was maybe not the most practical but soo rewarding!
JohnLRice
Welcome to Muff's, Sparrows78! w00t
johny_gtr
My MU system is more super sound super versatile analog duophonic synth than a modular system. I like its pure sound, controls and look.

But almost all new things and ideas are in Euro because of big market. And if you like to return R&D costs - Euro is a way to go. I think that MOTM found Paul S. is very happy to develop new modules in Euro and produce them in grands not in dozens of modules per year.

Not all Euro modules looks like Make Noise. There are some brands with classic look and layouts like Mutable Instruments, Erica Synth, XAOC, etc.
Euro can also provide some interesting analog clones like Epoch Modular clones of Hordijk modular (and euro clones are a lot cheaper).

Just for me I don't get the idea of cloning euro to MU and just create small euro case. Why? If it's good porting with porting layouts, knobs, jacks - it is pricey - like price of module X2. For cheap - it looks fugly.

Trends can change if several top musicians (current top, not top of 70-80-90-00) record their MU systems on new albums and share some photos in instagram, it will be a new boom of MU modular.

just my 0.02
kindredlost
It's a crazy World out there. Be careful. Before you know it there will be dotcom living with Serge and Blacet holding hands with a Wiard! I heard of a banana plug trying to force it's way into a 3.5mm jack the other day. The horror of it all.

I miss the days when a Moog lived in it's own community way out there on the East Coast. Some days it's difficult to drag myself out of bed.
Dcramer
kindredlost wrote:
It's a crazy World out there. Be careful. Before you know it there will be dotcom living with Serge and Blacet holding hands with a Wiard! I heard of a banana plug trying to force it's way into a 3.5mm jack the other day. The horror of it all.

I miss the days when a Moog lived in it's own community way out there on the East Coast. Some days it's difficult to drag myself out of bed.

lol we're not worthy
Dilibob
I kind of like the full-normal kind of approach in some of the ++ dot com modules, it makes sense to my brain (also how they etched in the paths). Really the old moog "hidden" paths always confused me(it kind of confuses me just like some euro stuff does), but I think the main thing is getting something that "sync" with your brain works - how ever weird that is. When the dot com stuff has hidden connections, like between the q127 and q140, that makes total sense to me ... so I guess I do like hidden paths sometimes (it's ok for me to reverse my opinion multiple times in the same paragraph ... right ?).
ranix
There are some damn fine Moon normal paths too. The 544CP has this awesome two channel mixer with individual outputs. When nothing is connected, each knob is an offset. If you insert a signal into only the right channel, the mixed output is now the offset on the left knob and the attenuverter on the right knob. A mixer that turns into a signal processor w00t
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