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Reason for a modular
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Author Reason for a modular
Koekepan
I know that there can be dozens of reasons to own a modular, but I think that I may have found mine - and by extension, which modular format would be my choice.

(Comments, rants and disagreements welcome.)

The reason: I'm a performing as well as a studio musician. Most modulars are a terrible value proposition in terms of ruggedness on the road, as well as dollars per voice. However, they can be a great source for samples that can be run over and over again to read into a multisampling setup such as a workstation, or software like renoise. So, I'm considering a modular setup as a controlled sound generator, without particular regard to performance value - a sound designer's tool.

The choice: by the looks of things, given that I don't need ruggedness if it's never going on the road, and there's no point doing this without real modularity at hand, I'm looking very hard at AE modular.

Lots of options for little cash. Compact. A serious format with interesting options.

What am I missing? (And yes, I know that I can do very similar things with virtual modular. I use sunvox extensively already.)
GuyaGuy
I'd never heard of AE until now. I'd say the pros are the price, wires are out of the way for easy knob-twiddling, and he offers a starter kit to get you going. Cons: Harder to expand as it doesn't use Euro or 5U standards, fairly basic modules, teeny jacks and knobs.

As for your reason to using modular, you know that better than we would!
starthief
With AE you're choosing a single module designer with... it looks like 25 different modules available? There's only one VCO, and two filters...

ModularGrid shows 6,342 entries for Eurorack modules. Granted there are some duplicates of modules that came in different versions or had different panel styles, but around 6000 is still a safe bet.

So the main thing you'd miss out on is an unfathomable amount of diversity.
GuyaGuy
starthief wrote:
With AE you're choosing a single module designer with... it looks like 25 different modules available? There's only one VCO, and two filters...

ModularGrid shows 6,342 entries for Eurorack modules. Granted there are some duplicates of modules that came in different versions or had different panel styles, but around 6000 is still a safe bet.

So the main thing you'd miss out on is an unfathomable amount of diversity.

Yep, I'd say something like the Make Noise 0 Coast or Moog Mother 32 is a better place to start. I hate saying that because it's cool that the AE guy is offering his own take on modular. But there are already lots of modular formats as it is.
mojopin
Geez! It can be hard enough patching euro sometimes...
Koekepan
starthief wrote:
With AE you're choosing a single module designer with... it looks like 25 different modules available? There's only one VCO, and two filters...

ModularGrid shows 6,342 entries for Eurorack modules. Granted there are some duplicates of modules that came in different versions or had different panel styles, but around 6000 is still a safe bet.

So the main thing you'd miss out on is an unfathomable amount of diversity.


You're right, of course, although for my own mindset I'd rather have a small, well-crafted, well-behaved set of modules like the original Doepfers.

The other side is that I'm a penny pincher, and the fact that I can get a single 3U, 108HP skiff of eurorack for the same price as four populated rows full of AE makes me think of all the fun things that I could do with AE. More EG! More LFO! More utilities!

Hang on, while I wipe up the drool here ...
Koekepan
mojopin wrote:
Geez! It can be hard enough patching euro sometimes...


True, but to be really fair, if this is a patch-it-up-and-sample affair, it's not as if you're going to be patching on stage. You'll set it up, then send it MIDI signals and save the sounds. So it's a bit fiddly? Still easier than threading my sewing machine.
Koekepan
GuyaGuy wrote:
I'd never heard of AE until now. I'd say the pros are the price, wires are out of the way for easy knob-twiddling, and he offers a starter kit to get you going. Cons: Harder to expand as it doesn't use Euro or 5U standards, fairly basic modules, teeny jacks and knobs.

As for your reason to using modular, you know that better than we would!


Actually, there's a eurorack interface option, so it's a lot more euro-expansion friendly than one would think. There are even brackets to enable you to put an AE set in a euroskiff. So as a starter kit, it's pretty logically flexible.
Pelsea
Judging by the visible parts, this may not be rugged enough for heavy studio use. Those headers are only good for hundreds of insertions, not thousands, and those PC mount pots are kind of delicate.

I’m not knocking it for what it is, a nice starter set for a once a week wiggler, I’m just thinking that even as a stay in the studio sound design tool, you’ll run through its capabilities and likely break something pretty quickly.
Koekepan
Pelsea wrote:
Judging by the visible parts, this may not be rugged enough for heavy studio use. Those headers are only good for hundreds of insertions, not thousands, and those PC mount pots are kind of delicate.

I’m not knocking it for what it is, a nice starter set for a once a week wiggler, I’m just thinking that even as a stay in the studio sound design tool, you’ll run through its capabilities and likely break something pretty quickly.


Good things to understand.

I treat my things well, so even before needing to replace bits I'd probably get a few years out of any given module. Still, knowing that this may be an issue is well worth considering.

The pots are understood to be delicate, but it's also worth noting that I use Volcas frequently, and have no problems with those pots, so it isn't a huge departure from my current practice.

Of course, what I'd really like is a wall of 5U, but that will have to wait until larger commissions come my way.

My envisioned use case is: plan patch, create patch, check while twiddling knobs. Set up recorder and send the MIDI signals to record multisample. Transport to workstations, and turn modular off until next time.
flx
I made the recent AE Modular demo videos.

Format Intro:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=701ArDtoWFE

Sound demo:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kb1uYZwkH4s

Running it on batteries (this is amazing!)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75ViqKUnyxQ

I obviously like it a lot, but I’m also not a crazy Eurorack collector, so the 6000+ module choice there doesn’t really excite me that much, although I do own 8U of that stuff, but most of it very manufacturer-specific.

Many people see issues with the tiny AE patch points, yet they have never tried them. I’ve had the Tinysizer for years and never ever had any problems there, same with the Bastl synths that use them. People also perform with all of those synths live, as well as the AE. They're not made from paper, and your MacBook is probably more at risk on stage grin The AE’s potentiometers also feel really good and better than some of the similar ones I found on Eurorack modules.

Of course AE is not Eurorack, even though you can combine both worlds. I did that with the Tinysizer, which was my first modular, but eventually just kept useing it as a standalone system, just like what happened now with my AE modular. I also own a Serge and had 5U at some point and never connected those to other systems that much either. But that might be just me.

Price-wise, the AE is a no brainer. It’s so affordable that you actually don’t really have to think about it much. If you want a proper modular synth and worry about the cost of Eurorack, then this is the thing for you. You can still sell it like any other synth later on if you want and I’m sure there will be demand.
Koekepan
Good insights there, flx.

I had been considering a number of options, but it basically came down to this: that it would have to afford me more sound design options than a Blofeld, for less money, to be worth it. Otherwise I would just use my Blofeld and go crazy - and there's a lot you can do with a Blofeld!

Even ignoring the Blofeld I already have, the next alternative would be something like a Roland Gaia - again, quite affordable, quite powerful, and a serious challenge to anything you could do with eurorack for the same kind of money. Even ignoring the purchase of a new Gaia, I also have a JP-08 and some Volca FMs, and the sound design possibilities of those are massive, with just a little diving. The big deal about modular is then asking what you'd do with just one more envelope, or a couple of LFOs, or a different patching destination ...

This more or less left me with some semimodular options - the Neutron, for example - or an insanely cheap modular, which is what the AE system is. With all respect to the semimodular manufacturers out there, very few of them can match a Blofeld for sheer potential (it's very nearly a virtual semimodular itself, with its modulation options) and many of them cost even more. For present and future flexibility as a sound design tool, in this price range I'm simply unaware of anything to compare with the AE modular.

The sound demos satisfy me that it's not, sonically speaking, a mere toy. What with sync and FM, with multiple different oscillator options, with different filter options, with noise and LFO and forthcoming alternatives in terms of logic and control, it's the kind of thing on which one could build a really massive sound source. I'm also not worried by not having the infinite variety of Eurorack at my fingertips; as you can probably tell from what I'm saying, I'm more interested in what this can do than what it can't do right now. And what it can do is clearly a lot.

The only remaining question is how well it would hold up for the money, and while some concerns have been raised, I've heard nothing that would alarm me.

And I already have pedal power strips with inverters as well.
flx
Koekepan wrote:

The only remaining question is how well it would hold up for the money, and while some concerns have been raised, I've heard nothing that would alarm me.

I guess it’s too early to judge its real long-term durability, but there are people who’ve played with the system for a year or so and report no troubles so far. And as I said, it feels quite good for the price. I met Robert from Tangible Waves at Superbooth and he is very committed and a nice guy to talk to, so I’m not really worried about this being some kind of scam.
luchog
flx wrote:
Koekepan wrote:

The only remaining question is how well it would hold up for the money, and while some concerns have been raised, I've heard nothing that would alarm me.

I guess it’s too early to judge its real long-term durability, but there are people who’ve played with the system for a year or so and report no troubles so far. And as I said, it feels quite good for the price. I met Robert from Tangible Waves at Superbooth and he is very committed and a nice guy to talk to, so I’m not really worried about this being some kind of scam.



One thing to keep in mind is, while the headers on the modules may be relatiely robust, the breadboard cables used for patching aren't. Folktek uses the same headers and breadboard cables for their modules and their standalone Mescaline synthesizer, and they can be rather fragile. I've read about a handful of cases, with both Folktek and Tinysizer users, where the cable pins broke off in the header, so you'll want to make sure you know how to get those suckers out without damaging the unit should they do so.

Other than that, I really like the look and sound of this system, and may consider picking one up myself.
flx
That's true, the Dupont cables can be fragile. I never had any pins break off, but some wires broke inside the plastic sheathing. Luckily they're so cheap that it doesn't really matter.
mskala
Pelsea wrote:
Judging by the visible parts, this may not be rugged enough for heavy studio use. Those headers are only good for hundreds of insertions, not thousands, and those PC mount pots are kind of delicate.

I’m not knocking it for what it is, a nice starter set for a once a week wiggler, I’m just thinking that even as a stay in the studio sound design tool, you’ll run through its capabilities and likely break something pretty quickly.


That would be my concern. "Pro" and "cheap" don't go together, for good reasons. And having it continue working for one year isn't my standard of durability.
Dcramer
Bookla twisted
flx
mskala wrote:

That would be my concern. "Pro" and "cheap" don't go together, for good reasons. And having it continue working for one year isn't my standard of durability.


Sure, but it only has been out for about a year. Other similar synths have used the patch thing for longer though. Also, what is "pro" anyway? So many synths use way crappier potentiometers for example. And I've used a lot of synths, from DIY to ultra cheap to rugged and I also played a few live shows. Yet I never really had anything fail on me ... I do treat my stuff well, but I don't put everything in padded cases.

I know, it really seems like I'm shilling that AE thing at the moment ... it just annoys me that people always dismiss instruments like this as toys or incapable or flimsy even though they never touched it or even seen it in person. It was the same with the Tinysizer back then ... and the whole Bastl wooden front panel drama comes also to mind. Anyway [/rant]
PaulaM
For what it's worth, my reason for modular is that it allows me to experiment and create new things for synths without having to build a whole synth smile
thetechnobear
I got my AEM as one of the first kickstarter backers, so over a year now.

the sound is great, and Ive been very happy with it, in fact Ive just ordered a whole stack more modules (including the 4IO for more cv) ... including the new Eurorack adapter.
I think the choice of modules available is great, and Roberts been doing a great job of expanding them, in the short time its been out.

lets address some 'concerns' here:
- yes the patch cables can be fragile, however, before they break you can see/feel it - so i just bin them immediately, since they cost peanuts.
(note: not all patch cables are equal, some are definitely better quality/more durable than others)
- As an early unit, I had a couple of pots that were not good, but Robert from Tangible Waves immediately changed the module. Similarly there was a bug in the midi implementation of the Master module (v1) which he fixed, and again replaced the module without question.
so customer service is probably one of the best out there.

so whilst Ive got a eurorack system now as well, I still love the AEM, and its a great compliment too it - I can use eurorack when if and when I want something particular.

I guess with a new format / manufacturer its always tricky, but I find it a shame some are dismissing it, despite not having played or used it.
its not for those heavily invested in eurorack, but if you want to experiment with a physical modular - it sounds great, and lets you explore.

which goes back to the title
reason for modular...

theres surely many reasons, if you want to experiment with sound then generally modular is great, but as a newbie myself knowing exactly what id enjoy/get out of it, I find challenging - so a low cost option has been great.

(of course you could use virtual modular, but for me, I miss the physical interaction)
monads
cashflow....or credit card debt lol
luchog
Looking into it a bit more, I think the only thing that is keeping me from buying a full AEM system right now is the sequencer. I don't like the fact that it's restricted to the same 5 pre-tuned notes for each stage. If it had a more traditional step sequencer with each individual stage tunable, then it would be a no-brainer for me. And using an external sequencer just sort of defeats the purpose of the thing.
Hovercraft
I built a 3TRINSRGB video synth, and it has the same type of tiny patch points and jumper wires. Patching is sort of excruciating with the tiny wires, the friction fit sockets that don't always hold well, and the sockets so small and close together. One of the main reasons I got into modular was for the ergonomics, and it feels like eurorack is already pushing the limits.

More power to you if you have excellent vision and the patience to use a system like AEM. The price is great and I support all and any weird modular formats as a matter of principle. w00t
Koekepan
luchog wrote:
Looking into it a bit more, I think the only thing that is keeping me from buying a full AEM system right now is the sequencer. I don't like the fact that it's restricted to the same 5 pre-tuned notes for each stage. If it had a more traditional step sequencer with each individual stage tunable, then it would be a no-brainer for me. And using an external sequencer just sort of defeats the purpose of the thing.


For my use case (recorded sound design for later use by rompler-style systems) the sequencer is more of a stepping modulation source. If I were to try recording something longer, I'd definitely use an external sequencer, so while I understand where you're coming from it's not an obstacle to me at all.

In fact, the specific use case for me is that I will shortly be receiving my kickstarted KDJ-ONE, and that little device is pretty much the perfect use case for recording lots of weird sounds for use in composing while on the road. But I could just as well use it to populate my Kross and Krome with new samples to layer.
Parnelli
Shit... you need a reason? Here I thought I'd just try it for shits and giggles!

No, honestly though I have dreamed of getting into modular for many decades now. I started out with a Paia way back when my kids were little, about 35 years ago, but anything else was cost prohibitive back then.

Decades passed, and I played many other instruments, and then came Eurorack. I picked up a pair of Moog Mother 32s and the rest is history!

Are there any support groups out there for modular addicts? d'oh!
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