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Modular Synthesis Aesthetics - A Short Survey
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Author Modular Synthesis Aesthetics - A Short Survey
retoid
I put together a small survey about the appearance of modular synths and would be very happy to see what people here thought about it.

Modular Synthesis Aesthetics - A Short Survey

Thank you for your time smile
TimeRaveler
I think there should be an option for "any color as long as its uniform." I have an MU system partly for that reason, just happens to be black but if all MU modules were yellow or white that would be pretty cool too!
Eric the Red
+1 for uniform, my panels, Knobs and cables when I make them will all follow the same color scheme

Eric the Red wrote:
JohnLRice
Boucla? hmmm.....
Buchla! thumbs up
Pelsea
I favor the aluminum look, as that is most readable under difficult light conditions. It also matches my DIY modules-- I can scratch brush a panel and apply pTouch labels in about a half hour, versus several days (and a mess) for silkscreen.

I do like variety in knobs-- not just color but in shape. That really enhances playability of a system.

Color coded jacks do nothing for me.
Rex Coil 7
Aluminum w/black lettering thumbs up

Lettering done with metal stamps and a hammer, infilled with black epoxy, hand polished flat.



Although the US Air Force has done exhaustive studies on what background/information color combinations are easiest to see, least fatiguing, and allow the best comprehension of information presented on instruments and it came out to be black panels with orange graphics/lettering. During mission flights that go into the sixteen hour long mark, being able to instantly make sense of what your instruments are telling you can make the difference between hundreds of ground troops living or dying.

This is a synth panel I designed following that USAF protocol.



On a less serious note .... regarding uniform appearance, I prefer to have my modules uniformly different. Differently colored knobs allow my eyes to differentiate knob functions based on the patterns the differently colored knobs create. I know that the blue knob that is to the upper left of the orange and green knobs is the modulation depth control for the VCO (so to speak ... that was a completely hypothetical situation).

My eyes can glance the panel, and my hand can shoot straight at the control I need without having to actually read the label. Colors are memorized and associated with functions.

Sure ... ~uniform~ modules are nice to look at and create interesting vistas ... but they come in a distant second to functionality. Even the desk mixer pictured below uses different colors on the knobs to designate functions, otherwise the eye becomes lost in a sea of uniformity causing the user to actually have to read the labels instead of memorizing patterns.







(below) In this picture of my modular from a few years ago, I knew that every single red knob was a frequency control, no matter if it was on a VCO or a VCF .... red always meant frequency. The yellow/mustard colored knobs were always pulse width. Always. Orange knobs on VCFs always meant resonance level ... without fail. Green knobs always meant audio signal gain levels. This color coding made "hitting" the correct control every time I wanted to make a change a nearly 100% positive result. This was especially true with the Dot Com Q107 VCF and the Dot Com Q150 VCF ... the cutoff and resonance controls were located in different places on those two filters and it was WAY WAY too easy to misadjust either filter in the middle of a song or jam. The color coding nearly eliminated that problem. The same went for being able to locate the Pulse Width knobs on the VCOs ... that mustard color allowed my hand to nearly automatically laser lock on the correct knob first time every time.

JohnLRice
Rex Coil 7 wrote:
Aluminum w/black lettering thumbs up

Lettering done with metal stamps and a hammer, infilled with black epoxy, hand polished flat.

love love love love love love love love So gorgeous! we're not worthy I tried to do something similar and directly inspired by your fine work when I made my pedal board patch bay thing but either I didn't have the right tools or was just hitting the stamps like Mr. Burns would! Exxxcellent

hsosdrum
I fell in love with MU the first time I played with a Moog 10 back in 1971. Ever since then I dreamed of owning a Moog-format modular synth.

When I could finally afford to get myself a modular synthesizer (2016 or so) I checked out what was available. Eurorack's cartoony panel graphics and tiny controls/connectors made them seem like toys to me. They weren't the least bit inviting to play, and for the most part were downright confusing. A cabinet full of modules from different manufacturers looked like a total cluster-fuck.

On the other hand, MU's panel graphics were simple and functional, providing clear guidance as to what each knob, connector and switch was for. The knobs were large and more importantly, the 1/4" connectors were way more solid than Euro's 3.5mm plugs. MU's unified panel color and knob style made a cabinet full of MU modules from different manufacturers look like a single unified musical instrument.

I realize that it's possible to assemble a Eurorack machine that will do everything my MU machine will do (and probably much more), but I'd never want to play it, whereas it's nearly impossible for me to look at my MU synth without sitting down at it for an hour or two. It's like a beautiful woman. love love love love love love love love love love
CZ Rider
The old Moog has a really nice classic look. With the black anodized faces with etched lettering, outlined with aluminum side boarders. And module layouts that all look different, they are easy to navigate without getting lost. Good tone and good layout equals an awesome instrument.


In contrast, I have an Aries system, that has a similar look. But the modules are laid out in a grid. MOTM has a similar grid and it is easy to get lost and find myself having to really look to see where I am at. Easy to reach for the filter cutoff and accidently detune the oscillator. Great tone, not so great layout.

Rex Coil 7
Yea, but see .. CZ you're not playing fair because you have good taste 'n shit.

thumbs up thumbs up
hlprmnky
While I do appreciate the aesthetics of a uniform design across an entire case/rack, I think for me as a newbie who is also not (yet) up to the task of manufacturing my own modules, function has to come first. I want the sounds and modulation capabilities I want (or think I want), and that means a polyglot system, arranged for workflow and not appearance per se.
That said, I did just happily pony up for a Grayscale faceplate on a new Disting, to avoid the "gap-toothed smile" appearance of one 4hp black faceplate in 104hp of different finishes of aluminum. Mr. Green
moremagic
other folks thinkin my synth looks ugly is music to my ears Miley Cyrus
my bottom row only has 103HP of modules in a 104HP row, so i wiggled em to where theres only a tiny gap between each one and wow, that was way more controversial at the synth meet up than i thought itd be hihi
KSS
CZ Rider-Could be useful experiment to implement Rex Coil 7's knob color coding on your ARIES.
Could be done non-permanent fully reversible with adhesive tinted colored transparent film circles. Could more easily done with office store folder coding dots but probably wouldn't look as good as tinted film.

Lusted after ARIES as a youth, but couldn't agree more about the difficulty in use compared to non grid layouts like moog.

Separate question. Do you have a photo which shows better the bottom row of your ARIES cab? Hard to see what's there.

RC7- Great points on knob color advantages in otherwise uniform or confusing layouts.
retoid
Thank you all for the great replies and for completing the survey.
I'll share the results here once some more people have had a chance to fill it out.
DSC
I love the black panel, but I also think you can build 'individual' systems in the spirit of their own theme too!



Yes Powder
cookie?!? I buy modules to play them, not look at them.
starthief
Yes Powder wrote:
cookie?!? I buy modules to play them, not look at them.


This.

I will avoid the really hideous stuff -- most of which seems to be DIY versions of Mutable modules; I generally prefer factory ones for multiple reasons. But on the other side, I won't pick up a module just because it looks really good.

I don't make gear choices just to improve my Instagram game. To some extent a nicer-looking instrument can be more inviting to play, but my modular is already seductive enough Mr. Green
Rex Coil 7
DSC wrote:
I love the black panel, but I also think you can build 'individual' systems in the spirit of their own theme too!

This shit here is just plain old BAD ASS! Look carefully folks .. it's a bunch of MoogerFooger stuff and a few other "non-standard trinkets" ... just super excellent work (per normal for Member *DSC ... his talents shine!).

Yes Powder wrote:
cookie?!? I buy modules to play them, not look at them.
I buy modules that can be taken apart, then rebuilt into modules that I can play. I find "Dot Com" modules to be exceptionally well suited for that purpose. All of their controls/knobs/jacks/switches and the like connect to the PCB via 2 or 3 pin "MTA" connectors so doing a full-on redesign of panels and relocating various controls is really pretty simple to do. Below is a dual VCO "voice" made up of 8 individual modules that ended up taking only 6MU of cabinet space. Built as I wish it to be built, wired as I wish it to be wired, panel components located where I wish them to be located .... Dot Com stuff works great for this purpose.



(images below) .... This mixer was inspired by the Minimoog mixer. I really like how the Minimoog mixer provides for instantly switching each VCO on/off, as well as the "feedback" feature the Minimoog mixer has. This used to be the Dot Com Q113 8ch mixer. I removed the PCB, totally redesigned the front panel and relocated the control components. Added 4 toggle switches to turn on/off each of the 4 oscillator inputs and two feedback level pots (red) ... and designed a cute little "placard" with some lettering on it, just to be quaint.










(image below) .... It used to look more like this one. This is the stock Synthsizers.Com Q113 Eight Channel Mixer that I disassembled and used to create the custom/modified mixer depicted above with 4 toggle switches. Dot Com modules lend themselves very well to easy modification and complete redesigns, which makes for creating highly playable synthesizers ... everything you do want, nothing you don't want, ergonomic perfection (if you will). The standoff mounted PCBs, along with flying lead/MTA connected control components really make for a nice "DIY kit" to start out with.


Rex Coil 7
JohnLRice wrote:
Rex Coil 7 wrote:
Aluminum w/black lettering thumbs up

Lettering done with metal stamps and a hammer, infilled with black epoxy, hand polished flat.

love love love love love love love love So gorgeous! we're not worthy I tried to do something similar and directly inspired by your fine work when I made my pedal board patch bay thing but either I didn't have the right tools or was just hitting the stamps like Mr. Burns would! Exxxcellent

There's tricks involved .... if I tell you I must kill you. twisted

(thanks John .... I really appreciate the pat on the back)

thumbs up
Cybananna
I prefer a uniform color. But in euro that’s difficult if you like modules by many makers. The only significant reason I like uniform panel colors is because it feels more like a singular instrument to me. It’s purely a mental thing but that can have an influence on your inspiration and enjoyment. Ny system is definitely not a uniform color. My module arrangement is a mix of grouping by function/workflow, hp requirements, and aesthetics.
DSC
Rex Coil 7 wrote:
I buy modules that can be taken apart, then rebuilt into modules that I can play. I find "Dot Com" modules to be exceptionally well suited for that purpose. All of their controls/knobs/jacks/switches and the like connect to the PCB via 2 or 3 pin "MTA" connectors so doing a full-on redesign of panels and relocating various controls is really pretty simple to do. Below is a dual VCO "voice" made up of 8 individual modules that ended up taking only 6MU of cabinet space. Built as I wish it to be built, wired as I wish it to be wired, panel components located where I wish them to be located .... Dot Com stuff works great for this purpose.



This is spot on! except for me I am euro based, otherwise I would live inside a deathstar! I only address the aesthetics AFTER the layout is ironed out. Most people seem to be fine with the stock layout of modules. I am not. If it bugs me, it gets changed, simple as that.

AND once you are able to make what you want you can start to dive in deeper and start to build the modules YOU want. Sure others might have tips and tricks, but in the end you have to satisfy yourself. My half dozen fadas comes to mind. Could I have added this and that feature, sure, but personally I don't use that, so I built it for what I need.



And what about shit that doesn't even exist? No problem, I will just go and mod what I want thumbs up It becomes less about excess and more about ACCESS!!!!! But you have to have the right eyes or vision to see something that is not even there!



Grumble
look at my synth (link below) and you have your answer applause
hsosdrum
Yes Powder wrote:
cookie?!? I buy modules to play them, not look at them.


Sure, but a module's physical design is part of its user interface. A well-designed UI can make a module easy to play while a poorly-designed UI can make a module difficult to play. I find that the panel graphics of many Euro modules hinders their playability. I also find their small size and the small size of their knobs and connectors a hindrance to easy playability. YMMV, of course. That's why MU and Euro exist side-by-side in the marketplace.
Rex Coil 7
hsosdrum wrote:
Yes Powder wrote:
cookie?!? I buy modules to play them, not look at them.


Sure, but a module's physical design is part of its user interface. A well-designed UI can make a module easy to play while a poorly-designed UI can make a module difficult to play. I find that the panel graphics of many Euro modules hinders their playability. I also find their small size and the small size of their knobs and connectors a hindrance to easy playability. YMMV, of course. That's why MU and Euro exist side-by-side in the marketplace.
Let's not forget jack placement ... I tend to design my own stuff with ALLLLLL of the jacks placed along the bottom of the control panel so they're not ever in the way of my hands as I "play" the module.

That one aspect .... jack location .... probably has more influence over a given module's "playability" than any other single thing (such as knob placement, switch placement, and so on). But look at any of my own re-panels or full-on panel redesigns and you will see all of the jacks along the lower edge of the panel. Every time.

Skate or die! Checkered Flag
DSC
Rex Coil 7 wrote:


That one aspect .... jack location .... probably has more influence over a given module's "playability" than any other single thing (such as knob placement, switch placement, and so on). But look at any of my own re-panels or full-on panel redesigns and you will see all of the jacks along the lower edge of the panel. Every time.

Skate or die! Checkered Flag


I would hope that this would always be true, unless you are wanting control modules for a control skiff, then I think it is acceptable to put them at the top or down the side. Like Synthwerks stuff.

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