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are modules "settling" in the name of convenience?
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Author are modules "settling" in the name of convenience?
smitty.west
not sure if i'm wording this correctly, but i'm wondering if going modular-- specifically euro and the other 'smaller' formats-- is, in a way, "settling" in the name of convenience. what i mean by that is that you get everything inside one 9u case, everything having a nice small form factor. for example, a schippmann ebbe und flut or sherman filterbank is a lot bigger than any modular filter. ditto any lexicon or eventide reverb/delay/pitch shifter being bigger than a modular equivalent. cirklon vs. modular sequencers. etc. i'm a noob when it comes to this kinda stuff and want to better understand it. do modules in some way sacrifice sound quality or build quality compared to a larger format rack unit or something? i'm of course well aware of the benefit of modular- that you get to pick and chose whatever you want, tailoring your sound exactly how you like. just trying to figure out if the "big stuff" is somehow better. also, are certain formats (i.e. 5u) considered to sound better and be made better than smaller ones? i'm aware certain modules you can't get as a rack unit, so i guess the question pertains more to adding, for example, a rack filter to an otherwise modular setup, as i've seen several people do. or how folks run their cirklon w/ modular. lastly, how do fixed architecture synths generally compare to eurorack in terms of construction quality?
Seaweed Sound
Yeah Eurorack is shit.. that's why there's extremely talented designers innovating in the format and world renowned musicians like Aphex Twin using it Dead Banana
smitty.west
Seaweed Sound wrote:
Yeah Eurorack is shit.. that's why there's extremely talented designers innovating in the format and world renowned musicians like Aphex Twin using it Dead Banana


please point me to the part where i said "eurorack is shit". go on, show me.
we all know "euro is the future, where all the innovators are, all the excitement, blah blah blah", but my post isn't about that, mate.
god forbid someone try to educate themselves about the differences in formats.
Seaweed Sound
Your question is so broad/ambiguous it literally can't be answered.. it's just a format with build and sound quality varying widely, just like in the 19" rack format.

Perhaps the only thing that can be said is if you have large hands and fingers then you may not gel with it
ranix
smitty.west in most cases the 5U components are more or less identical to the components in euro modules. Many euro modules are repaneled for 5U. 5U standards usually specify +/-15V signal levels, while Euro specifies +/- 12V, but this is not usually a problem and 5U and Eurorack modules can interoperate largely without issue. 5U power supplies may sometimes be better than Eurorack power supplies, but there are also 5U cases with DC barrel connectors and Eurorack cases with properly grounded power supplies. They are basically equivalent.

Eurorack modules are physically smaller and tend to be cheaper to manufacture, ship, and store as a result. The cables are smaller, but also flimsier and harder to repair.

Due to the decreased price point, Eurorack is a somewhat more popular format for new developers and DIYers, and some modules are available in Euro format that are not available in large format as a result.

I use mostly 5U because I prefer the interface. The panel graphics and the modules available fit my brain better than Eurorack panels tend to, so I prefer them. There are also some modules with unique interfaces, especially from Moon, that I really enjoy. This is a double-edged sword, because the build quality of a Moon module tends to be inferior to other modules in my experience. But like I said, the panel graphics and layout fit my brain.

You wouldn't wear shoes that don't fit so don't put your brain in a synthesizer that doesn't fit either!

I do have one row of Eurorack in my synthesizer for some unique modules that don't exist in 5U, and this does not bother me one bit. I use 3.5mm to 1/4" cables when I use these modules.
Cybananna
smitty.west wrote:
do modules in some way sacrifice sound quality or build quality compared to a larger format rack unit or something?


In most cases, no. The signal to noise ratio in general is better in Euro. Many use high quality parts and great designs. The smaller form is following the lead from Doepfer and a couple other early Euro makers. nothing to do with quality.

smitty.west wrote:
if the "big stuff" is somehow better.


just different

smitty.west wrote:
are certain formats (i.e. 5u) considered to sound better and be made better than smaller ones?


1/4 jacks and banana jacks are more solid connections than euro. Some larger format are of higher build quality but not all. there's some really good build quality in euro. It depends on the maker. Most are very good quality.

smitty.west wrote:
how do fixed architecture synths generally compare to eurorack in terms of construction quality?


Most euro is probably better except for some of the smaller companies. IMO Roland stuff, for example, is great, but it's not built like Moog. Most euro are built by people who have a passion for the instrument and not by corporations with a passion for money.

just my 2 cents on your questions.
Cybananna
Good point about power.
Cybananna
Oh yeah, I use euro and like it. I have many modules that I’ve had for 10 years or more that have had no problems. I’ve had very few problems at all over the years. The small euro format doesn’t bother me and my hands are on the big side. I do like the modules with more room compared to the scrunched ones. I’m sure 5u is a joy to play but I’ve never had the opportunity
Pelsea
smitty.west wrote:
i'm wondering if going modular-- specifically euro and the other 'smaller' formats-- is, in a way, "settling" in the name of convenience.


Yes. So?

Every instrument is a set of compromises. Some folks play ukulele, others play 12 string. Neither has the power of a sitar. Size (and the associated cost) matters, and with my restricted space and budget I get about twice the capability with my euro system than any 5U modules I could shoehorn in. I recognize the trade-offs, and as long as they are not musical limitations, I'll live with them.
Yes Powder
smitty.west wrote:
do modules in some way sacrifice sound quality or build quality compared to a larger format rack unit or something? i'm of course well aware of the benefit of modular- that you get to pick and chose whatever you want, tailoring your sound exactly how you like. just trying to figure out if the "big stuff" is somehow better. also, are certain formats (i.e. 5u) considered to sound better and be made better than smaller ones?


Oh boy, this discussion again. Enjoy the show!

I'll just say this:
I'm using Eurorack because that's the platform Metasonix builds for. His modules are some of the most solidly built musical hardware I own— synth or otherwise, and to me they sound absolutely massive.
Dave Peck
smitty.west wrote:
not sure if i'm wording this correctly, but i'm wondering if going modular-- specifically euro and the other 'smaller' formats-- is, in a way, "settling" in the name of convenience. what i mean by that is that you get everything inside one 9u case, everything having a nice small form factor. for example, a schippmann ebbe und flut or sherman filterbank is a lot bigger than any modular filter.


Those may not be very good examples because the Sherman is actually TWO filters, plus an ADSR, plus LFO, plus VCA, plus variable parallel/serial router, etc. The Schipmann also has a lot more features than what you would find in a standard euro filter module. Aside from form factor, they each have as many features as a set of several different synth modules all patched together.
nikmis
One compromise with euro is that in some modules the knobs are too close together, and you can bump into adjacent knobs. I have never actually experienced this myself, but it's a complaint some people have. However, since there are so many different module manufacturers out there, I think it would be easy to avoid modules that look like they would be difficult to use
mskala
The size itself may be either an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on how much you value portability, space between knobs, side issues like being able to use the same patch cords on the modular that you also use for other things, and so on.

But realistically speaking there is no reason for sound quality to differ. Modern-day electronic components are microscopic. It's not like you need a big format to have enough space for a proper circuit and must leave out parts to make it smaller or something; synth electronics just doesn't work like that. You can certainly build systems in two different formats and have one sound better than the other, but no guarantees on which one will be the good one, because the variation among modules within a format is much wider than any difference that could exist between "average" quality levels (if that were even something that could be measured) of different formats.
DSC
Each 'format' has it's pro's and con's. Instead of listing all of the negatives, I would focus on the trade off's and possibly what could be improved in all formats. And yes, there is always something that can be improved.

A good example would be PSU's, even within the eurorack format. I built my custom portable and I believed I did a great job. But space was at a premium and so I used a little beefier power supply(s) which tends to put out more heat, so I had to move to 'active' cooling which obviously requires a couple of fans, which of course raises the noise floor a bit. I don't have this problem with my larger rack in the studio as I have plenty of room to dissipate the heat. My portable has to power a couple of my crazy modded modules that really suck down the current, so I might have this problem, where the guy down the street is more than happy using off the shelf stuff and does not have this problem at all!

So 'settling' is a choice. You might have to 'settle' on a solution based on your specific needs. Pic of a couple of my current portables.

smitty.west
Pelsea wrote:
smitty.west wrote:
i'm wondering if going modular-- specifically euro and the other 'smaller' formats-- is, in a way, "settling" in the name of convenience.


Yes. So?

Every instrument is a set of compromises. Some folks play ukulele, others play 12 string. Neither has the power of a sitar. Size (and the associated cost) matters, and with my restricted space and budget I get about twice the capability with my euro system than any 5U modules I could shoehorn in. I recognize the trade-offs, and as long as they are not musical limitations, I'll live with them.


Sorry, but I fail to comprehend the comparison you're attempting to draw between ukulele, 12 string, and sitar. Completely different instruments created for completely different reasons and with vastly different sounds- the only common denominator is they've each got strings (and completely different ones at that). One person wouldn't get a uke over a sitar as an attempt to save space. And the impetus for one getting a sitar isn't that it's got most "power". Are you trying to infer that sitar is 5u, 12 string is frac, and ukulele is euro? If so, that doesn't make sense, because unlike the different synth formats, there's no sonic commonality between those three instruments whatsoever. A square wave will sound by and large the same across all different formats- sure there will be some degree of varying power or complexity or whatever, but still definitively recognizable as a square wave across all formats. Sorry, just confused by your post.
smitty.west
ranix wrote:
smitty.west in most cases the 5U components are more or less identical to the components in euro modules. Many euro modules are repaneled for 5U. 5U standards usually specify +/-15V signal levels, while Euro specifies +/- 12V, but this is not usually a problem and 5U and Eurorack modules can interoperate largely without issue. 5U power supplies may sometimes be better than Eurorack power supplies, but there are also 5U cases with DC barrel connectors and Eurorack cases with properly grounded power supplies. They are basically equivalent.

Eurorack modules are physically smaller and tend to be cheaper to manufacture, ship, and store as a result. The cables are smaller, but also flimsier and harder to repair.

Due to the decreased price point, Eurorack is a somewhat more popular format for new developers and DIYers, and some modules are available in Euro format that are not available in large format as a result.

I use mostly 5U because I prefer the interface. The panel graphics and the modules available fit my brain better than Eurorack panels tend to, so I prefer them. There are also some modules with unique interfaces, especially from Moon, that I really enjoy. This is a double-edged sword, because the build quality of a Moon module tends to be inferior to other modules in my experience. But like I said, the panel graphics and layout fit my brain.

You wouldn't wear shoes that don't fit so don't put your brain in a synthesizer that doesn't fit either!

I do have one row of Eurorack in my synthesizer for some unique modules that don't exist in 5U, and this does not bother me one bit. I use 3.5mm to 1/4" cables when I use these modules.


thanks so much for the very informative reply; much appreciated!
ranix
smitty.west wrote:

Sorry, but I fail to comprehend the comparison you're attempting to draw between ukulele, 12 string, and sitar. Completely different instruments created for completely different reasons and with vastly different sounds


Different modular formats are kind of similar. The interface and the presentation have an effect. I am sure my experience playing with my 5U system is profoundly different from what my experience would be playing with a Eurorack system, but it's hard to put my finger on exactly what the difference is.

I was watching this video on the COTK website recently, check it out.

The sound that comes out of Pedro Eustache at 2:01 in this video could not have been generated by a Eurorack system lol

captjrab
Interesting question about outboard rack mount fx vs eurorack ie substiting traditional recording gear with euro modules. Nit sure myself, though the DLD was coded by the Gary from Lexicon.
starthief
smitty.west wrote:
not sure if i'm wording this correctly, but i'm wondering if going modular-- specifically euro and the other 'smaller' formats-- is, in a way, "settling" in the name of convenience. what i mean by that is that you get everything inside one 9u case, everything having a nice small form factor.


I have never thought of it in terms of compromise.

I went to Eurorack from software and a Microbrute. One of the biggest challenges of that transition was the relatively large amount of physical space that Eurorack takes up compared to software wink

Honestly it was Mutable Instruments that got me investigating Eurorack, and the extremely wide variety and creativity evident in available modules that convinced me to jump in. It felt like Eurorack is where the new ideas were going, and where branches of synthesis ignored by the VST plugin world were being explored and expanded upon, and where proudly digital modules lived happily in an analog environment.

5U, on the other hand, struck me as a nostalgic, relatively conservative, somewhat fetishistic format for people who always wanted a Moog modular and now they can have something similar. The law to Eurorack's chaos, perhaps.

smitty.west wrote:
i'm of course well aware of the benefit of modular- that you get to pick and chose whatever you want, tailoring your sound exactly how you like.


Getting to choose modules is only part of the story. Getting to patch them in ways you can't with fixed-architecture gear is also crucial.

smitty.west wrote:
are certain formats (i.e. 5u) considered to sound better and be made better than smaller ones?


I think some people just psychologically make the association between size and quality, but I'd answer this with a no.


smitty.west wrote:
lastly, how do fixed architecture synths generally compare to eurorack in terms of construction quality?


Fixed architecture synths: construction quality is highly variable
Eurorack: construction quality is highly variable

I've owned 102 modules at one time or another and had to send one to the manufacturer for service (and it was one I bought used but they fixed it for free anyway). A couple of jacks have been a bit wonky, but the ratio of working to not-quite-working jacks has been better in Euro than I've experienced in other gear. I haven't owned any modules made with cheap plastic parts that break when they're four days old, nor any soldered-in CMOS batteries, and so on.
R.U.Nuts
Modular synths are vastly different from fixed architecture synths and stompbox- or rackmount fx units. Also the modular sequencers are very different from stuff like a circlon or the sequencers in DAWs. The difference is hard to explain but it's about the non-linearity I guess. With a fixed architecture setup it's like you put in data into a sequencer or in realtime via a controller, the data is sent to different devices on different channels and those devices send their output to a mixer and a monitoring system. That's simple as that. In a modular you can mix data, process data, run feedback loops, mix audio with control signals, use audio as control signals, use control signals as audio and so on. That's what makes up the modular workflow. This requires a totally different mindset similar like two different instruments like Ukulele and Sitar require different mindsets.
slow_riot
Eurorack is something quite new in the field of modular synthesis, previously, a designer would have to develop a whole format themselves and bring it to market. E.g. Moog, Buchla, Serge, Wiard. They would also need to develop a business structure that could handle the labour of hand assembly.

So now, we are in an interesting point, where there are much lower barriers to entry, because modern automated production means that robots can do the labour, and you can build a company around just a single successful module, rather than needing to develop and realise an entirely new concept piece by piece.

None of these things are an issue, some of the most cherished instruments that we know were highly commercialised, badly built, e.g. many of the 1980s Roland boxes. Those things were high volume sales, every corner that was possible to cut, was done so.

So I would say that it's dangerous to equate commercialism with anti musicality, those 2 things are absolutely not mutually exclusive. What does bother me about the format is the sheer lack of innovation in design. A lot of the digital modules are really interesting, but in the analogue realm, there is very little that didn't already exist 30-40 years ago.

Yes, there are nuances in system architecture that are significant between different styles of design, production, use of materials. But my biggest gripe personally is on a conceptual level.
Rex Coil 7
smitty.west wrote:
not sure if i'm wording this correctly, but i'm wondering if going modular-- specifically euro and the other 'smaller' formats-- is, in a way, "settling" in the name of convenience. what i mean by that is that you get everything inside one 9u case, everything having a nice small form factor. for example, a schippmann ebbe und flut or sherman filterbank is a lot bigger than any modular filter. ditto any lexicon or eventide reverb/delay/pitch shifter being bigger than a modular equivalent. cirklon vs. modular sequencers. etc. i'm a noob when it comes to this kinda stuff and want to better understand it. do modules in some way sacrifice sound quality or build quality compared to a larger format rack unit or something? i'm of course well aware of the benefit of modular- that you get to pick and chose whatever you want, tailoring your sound exactly how you like. just trying to figure out if the "big stuff" is somehow better. also, are certain formats (i.e. 5u) considered to sound better and be made better than smaller ones? i'm aware certain modules you can't get as a rack unit, so i guess the question pertains more to adding, for example, a rack filter to an otherwise modular setup, as i've seen several people do. or how folks run their cirklon w/ modular. lastly, how do fixed architecture synths generally compare to eurorack in terms of construction quality?
I mix it all with it all. I have 5U, Euro, guitar stomp boxes and amplifiers, stuff made for use with vintage Hammonds, and rack synths. It's all "modular" when you think of it.

Examples given; I'll use a Yamaha TX81Z along with my 5U modular, I'll just run it right into the modular as if it were just another VCO. Works great for my purposes. Mixing my 5U modular with other rack synths at the desk mixer works as well. I have desktop filters (for instance the Waldorf 2-Pole) that I'll run the 5U modular through or one of the rack synths or even a drum machine through.

To me it's all just stuff that makes sounds. Probably about the only thing I "stick to" is I don't use Euro as sound sources, I use it as modulators for the 5U stuff. As has been mentioned there are circuits in Euro that you just cannot get in other formats (you had to know the MATHS was going to get mentioned somewhere in this thread .. so there it is!).

Other than that, it's all just stuff that makes noises which may be used to make music with from my point of view.

Construction? I've seen shit-ass construction in every form, and I've seen mil-spec aircraft grade constructs in every format as well.

(If I may, Member *smitty.west your posts would be one hell of a lot easier to read if you used a capital letter when starting a new sentence ... use of paragraphs would also help greatly ... your post looks like one big blob of letters and makes it difficult to read ... I mean, just look at the quote box up there ... it's a square filled with letters ... just sayin' man, make it easier on those that read what you have to say).

cookie?!?
Rex Coil 7
R.U.Nuts wrote:
Modular synths are vastly different from fixed architecture synths and stompbox- or rackmount fx units. Also the modular sequencers are very different from stuff like a circlon or the sequencers in DAWs. The difference is hard to explain but it's about the non-linearity I guess. With a fixed architecture setup it's like you put in data into a sequencer or in realtime via a controller, the data is sent to different devices on different channels and those devices send their output to a mixer and a monitoring system. That's simple as that. In a modular you can mix data, process data, run feedback loops, mix audio with control signals, use audio as control signals, use control signals as audio and so on. That's what makes up the modular workflow. This requires a totally different mindset similar like two different instruments like Ukulele and Sitar require different mindsets.
Some rack synths offer these same features. Nord Modular? Any "fixed synths" that use modulation matrix type routings? And how many times have we ALL seen $10k worth of modular used to make sounds that could easily be made with a preset synth? I don't mean a $10k modular using only six modules to do so, I mean using $10k worth of modules and a thousand feet of patch cables to produce sounds that are easily made with a $500 used rack synth.

I have rarely (very rarely) seen folks with modulars actually use them to their potential.

I think it all comes down to what you do. Or perhaps, how skilled one is at getting great sounds from small amounts of gear. Personally, I feel that most modular synth owners approach owning them as more of a "collection hobby" than actually using the synth to it's potential.

seriously, i just don't get it
starthief
R.U.Nuts wrote:
Modular synths are vastly different from fixed architecture synths and stompbox- or rackmount fx units. Also the modular sequencers are very different from stuff like a circlon or the sequencers in DAWs. The difference is hard to explain but it's about the non-linearity I guess. With a fixed architecture setup it's like you put in data into a sequencer or in realtime via a controller, the data is sent to different devices on different channels and those devices send their output to a mixer and a monitoring system. That's simple as that. In a modular you can mix data, process data, run feedback loops, mix audio with control signals, use audio as control signals, use control signals as audio and so on. That's what makes up the modular workflow. This requires a totally different mindset similar like two different instruments like Ukulele and Sitar require different mindsets.


That's a good way to explain what makes modular special. I might have to quote that on another forum if I ever get drawn into that endless argument again hihi
R.U.Nuts
Rex Coil 7 wrote:
Some rack synths offer these same features. Nord Modular? Any "fixed synths" that use modulation matrix type routings?


Well then, can you plug a delay stompbox between VCO and VCF in this units for example?

Rex Coil 7 wrote:
And how many times have we ALL seen $10k worth of modular used to make sounds that could easily be made with a preset synth? I don't mean a $10k modular using only six modules to do so, I mean using $10k worth of modules and a thousand feet of patch cables to produce sounds that are easily made with a $500 used rack synth.


Maybe the guy who made it is convinced that for example the filter of that modular has a distinct sound or he just sold all his 500$ rack synths to fund his enormous modular? Maybe he doesn't apply the mindset I was speaking of? Dunno...


Rex Coil 7 wrote:

I have rarely (very rarely) seen folks with modulars actually use them to their potential.

I think it all comes down to what you do. Or perhaps, how skilled one is at getting great sounds from small amounts of gear. Personally, I feel that most modular synth owners approach owning them as more of a "collection hobby" than actually using the synth to it's potential.

seriously, i just don't get it


Don't know either. I'm fairly new to modular (since 2013) and haven't met a whole lot of people playing modulars. But I'm in a foundation that runs a small concert series. And at the moment more and more modular synth acts (fun fact: about 90% eurorack, 10% Buchla and 0% 5U) show up to play there live. The way those people play their instruments is as diverse as their instruments themselves and I don't want to judge wether they use their systems to their full potential. -That might also be pretty annoying: Imagine a world where every guitarist plays like some Joe Bonamassa, Steve Vai or something dude. It's not always (I dare to say rarely) about virtuosity.
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