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My Ultimate Synth made possible by Eurorack
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Eurorack Modules  
Author My Ultimate Synth made possible by Eurorack
2disbetter
As I've kind of always alluded to an Ultimate Synth of sorts, which is to some extent subjective, and because I genuinely would like to hear about how I could improve it, where I might be wrong, etc. I thought I'd post my concept here. So this is the current state:



So why am I calling this the ultimate synth?
Like probably many of you, the idea of being surrounded by various synth makes and models is something I think is awesome. However, the thinker in me has always longed for the perfect interface and unlimited sound sculpting options. Today many people accomplish this by just using an assortment of synths, either physical or software in nature. While great in so many ways, it is also frustrating. Each synth has a different interface, different limitations, and different strengths. I think although the options presented by such an approach are plentiful, they are not truly unlimited. (either at sound sculpting or with regard to the modulation options.)

So if you want to have it all with the least amount of limitations (outside of interface limitations), a DAW with a slew of plugins, and a beefy system is arguably the most powerful and limitless solution. However, even in software there are always limitations, and not every plugin works intuitively with the whole system or at all. There is also the issue of workflow and interface. Having all the options in the world and no way to really harness doesn’t really do much for you. This is one of the primary draws for me about modular synthesis. I can route signals from where ever to whatever. I can do things that many software plug-ins have never thought about.
Enter the physical hardware synth. A lot of them are analog, and all of them boast of how their physical controls make it possible to focus on using the device instead of learning it. Still they are usually constricted by their physical limitations despite the best efforts to create them to be used in as many ways as possible.

I label a synth as the ultimate synth, if it presents to me the most options for sound design and ways to control and use that sound. I also call it a synth, singular in nature, because I feel like having one instrument allows you to focus on it, and can therefore master it much better than trying to remember a billion different settings and knobs across a host of synths in your studio. This is why I moved into the modular synth world to begin with. On a modular system you can route things in ways that software plugins, in some cases, have never even thought about. You also are dealing with one system, that is comprised of many different parts, but that operate as a whole.

A purely analog modular system is powerful, but expensive, and to really be near limitless, very large, and not in anyway easy or intuitive to use. (This is not a problem for me. Options means depth, and that usually translates into complexity.) Just think about the time it takes to patch up a 9-12U. Now imagine a whole wall. Seems like heaven, and it is, but this time takes away from creativity and can also make one afraid to take chances. Do you really want to mess with the patch? It is perfect now, are you sure you want to reroute this or change this?

Digital modules however allow the modular world to do things in a space that isn’t always possible in a fully analog implementation. All digital modules are employing DSP. All of them play by the same rules in terms of what is going on behind the scenes. And lest we forget, digital modules allow you to do things also not possible in the analog realm.

This is why the SSP is the nexus of my setup. It can do anything that can be done in DSP, and because of the horsepower under the hood it can do it in multiples across many different types of DSP simultaneously. I have analog oscillators, filters, modulation sources, and VCAs. The SSP helps to take advantage of all of it, and give me an infinite range of things I can do with them. The SSP gives my whole rack wings.

I can also sample in any of my modules and multiply them in the system through the SSP. As I swap out oscillators and filters, looking for the ones I really like, I will be able to keep it all through the samples I’ve taken. This means that as my system changes but stays the same size (maybe) my rack just continues to grow with every sample and patch saved. I can do this on the 301 as well, but as it's sample resolution is lower, I tend to use it for VCA, filtering, and some effects on background sounds, etc.
This functionality is an important part of the instrument. However being able to control it in the most comprehensive and tactile manner was an important element for me as well. Where some see the modules controls as the solution to this, I've never found a module that I felt I could play in the same way I could a piano, etc. Some of the things I’ve been able to coax out of my analog modules sound great already. But being able to control them as I would an acoustic instrument lets this synthetic sound (in some cases) breathe with life and feeling.

In my rack, the FH-2 allow me to plug in a host of controllers (Roli, Haken, Linnstrument, sequencers, DAWs) as a means to control modules and can really help me just build up massive sounds and soundscapes and take advantage of that range of control.

Of course these controllers can be plugged into the SSP directly via its USB host ports. I can use the SSP as a midi to cv converter. This means that the SSP can host these controllers and supports MPE functionality directly and out of the box without needing the FH-2! What I’ve done in these cases is plugged in a roli and used most of the parameters internally, but have routed the release or Y axis to an an output on the SSP to be used on other modules in the system. Very powerful routing options, and just incredible to be able to put this control right where I need it. I personally prefer to use the high resolution/sample rate outputs of the SSP for audio output or modulation signals though, so that is why I also have the FH-2 module.
Because of this, Ladytron, my eurorack setup, is my ultimate synth. There isn’t anything I can’t do with it, and even more so that I wont be able to do with it eventually as more and more modules are developed for the SSP.
One thing I think I should probably mention again is that the SSP is the main hub of this ‘vision’. The reason for this even though I have a ER-301 is that the SSP just has the horsepower (about 10 times the horse power of the 301) to help the system as a whole to shine.

With 16 DC coupled inputs (rather than AC coupled) I can use the inputs for audio, CV, and gates. The recorder on the SSP can sample all 16 inputs (regardless of the type of signal) as well as all of the 8 outputs (also DC coupled and able to output CV,audio, or triggers) and all internal signals. With the SDK it possible to extend the SSP continually. Right now I think I'm only one of a few actually working to develop modules. I would love it if more picked it up, because I think the cost value ratio on the SSP is through the roof and any development on it just increases that.

The upgrade-able nature means that as features mount, processing power can always march right along even though it is already super powerful. Direct control over MIDI through the USB connections to include MPE means that I don’t have to use my inputs for control if I don’t want to. This flexibility just means the SSP is poised to do whatever I need. Whether that is some super massive front line role, or some low key background helper. This whole ultimate synth would not be possible without the SSP.
Thoughts? Do you have any suggestions? Please remember this is just the logic I use. I'm not trying to say some other way is wrong. While I've created what I think is the lushest field for me to explore, I am still completely at the beginning of discovering all that the nearly infinite field contains.

southberry
I think the Tip Top oscillators can be swapped with 4 different oscillators that are less than 14HP and more sonic options. I will make room for another small and ultra powerful module like a micro Ornament & Crime for example ...

whatever ! it's a really beautiful instrument applause
acidbob
There is a certain advantage of having 4 of the same VCO's I would say
JohnLRice
love Beautiful and powerful system, congrats! SlayerBadger! thumbs up

What are the system's power requirements? I was surprised that you have 4 Row Power 40's in there but I guess with that many power hungry digital modules that it was necessary?
2disbetter
JohnLRice wrote:
love Beautiful and powerful system, congrats! SlayerBadger! thumbs up

What are the system's power requirements? I was surprised that you have 4 Row Power 40's in there but I guess with that many power hungry digital modules that it was necessary?


There is excessive power there. The main reason for it, is I like being able to turn on rows versus the whole thing ALL the time.

The whole rack goes through 3 LIBB boards (HIGHLY recommend) and 4 row power 40s. I'm using too makewell 60watt bricks with it. The SSP is on it's own row power as it uses around 800mA, and there are many times I just want to use it. (for tweaking a patch, for example)

Power is rock solid, clean, and quite after a long and troubled road.
BenA718
Great system and control options!
potatobrain
Wow, really great wall of text.
Can you please elaborate a little on the way you're using Haken's MPE functionality here? Can you transform all the MIDI messages from Haken into cv?
That's actually what I'm also aiming to achieve now with Poly and 4xMangroves.
melodydad
Love the Tip Top oscillators - I have three - as combined you have quite a lot of ‘complex oscillator’ options - but recommend you have an attenuator nearby to get the best out of the waveshapers. thumbs up
JohnLRice
2disbetter wrote:
JohnLRice wrote:
love Beautiful and powerful system, congrats! SlayerBadger! thumbs up

What are the system's power requirements? I was surprised that you have 4 Row Power 40's in there but I guess with that many power hungry digital modules that it was necessary?


There is excessive power there. The main reason for it, is I like being able to turn on rows versus the whole thing ALL the time.

The whole rack goes through 3 LIBB boards (HIGHLY recommend) and 4 row power 40s. I'm using too makewell 60watt bricks with it. The SSP is on it's own row power as it uses around 800mA, and there are many times I just want to use it. (for tweaking a patch, for example)

Power is rock solid, clean, and quite after a long and troubled road.
Thanks for the info and congrats on getting it all setup well! thumbs up

If you are up for a little soldering and some crimping to you can interconnect your Row Power pairs behind the panels if you want. The Row Power 30 and 40 supplies have points on the PCBs where you could just solder wires between them to eliminate the external barrel plug cables:


But those points are more designed for quick connect tabs to be soldered in like the below:


And then the modules would be connected with short quick connect cables you would make or buy:


I also like to cover the unused barrel jacks with rubber protective covers . . .probably unnecessary but give me peace of mind. hihi
http://www.networktechinc.com/cgi-bin/keemux/cvr-dcf55-10.html
2disbetter
Thanks JohnLRice, the barrel connector covers are a great idea!

Daisy chaining them through the back would be nice, but would only work for 2 of the row powers, because the other 2 are in individual 3U skiffs. You would also loose the ability to quickly disconnect power to a row completely. Pro and Cons on both sides really.
JohnLRice
2disbetter wrote:
Thanks JohnLRice, the barrel connector covers are a great idea!

Daisy chaining them through the back would be nice, but would only work for 2 of the row powers, because the other 2 are in individual 3U skiffs. You would also loose the ability to quickly disconnect power to a row completely. Pro and Cons on both sides really.
Yeah, it's not something most people would want to do but it's just a little nicer when it makes sense, IMHO. cool
2disbetter
potatobrain wrote:
Wow, really great wall of text.
Can you please elaborate a little on the way you're using Haken's MPE functionality here? Can you transform all the MIDI messages from Haken into cv?
That's actually what I'm also aiming to achieve now with Poly and 4xMangroves.


Currently through the FH-2, but the SSP can interface directly with it as well. The Haken comes with a Midi to USB dongle from Roland. I'm just beginning to experiment with the Continuum though.

The Roli works fine through the FH-2 as well. I love how you can configure the FH-2 to use however many cv and gates per voice/finger as you want.
natureclubcassettes
oof so many screens and menus. i counted 12 (not counting the tiptops). too much for me, but horses for courses.
jmax313
sweet synth setup. Makes me want to get an SSP...

how do you integrate your control forge in your system? had one for a while and dunno why I sold it..
gonkulator
Glad you have found your ultimate. I hope everyone is building (or has built) their ultimate synth too.
TheRosskonian
Nice post. Enjoyed reading all of that. I like all the multiples of the same modules. Adds a lot of functionality without too much complexity since you do not have to learn a new module. I cannot tell what those Doepfer modules are in the upper left-hand corner, but given the rest of your rack, I am guessing they are either envelopes or VCAs?

How is the ergonomics of this setup? I find myself wanting deeper modules such as Control Forge right in front of me for how much time I spend on them.
euxine
Nice post +1!

The kind of chat i hope to have when i go to superbooth later this year...
2disbetter
TheRosskonian wrote:
I cannot tell what those Doepfer modules are in the upper left-hand corner, but given the rest of your rack, I am guessing they are either envelopes or VCAs?


Those are A-111-3s (x 4). Nice as they can be used for LFO duties as well.

TheRosskonian wrote:
How is the ergonomics of this setup? I find myself wanting deeper modules such as Control Forge right in front of me for how much time I spend on them.


I have found that this is ok. I feel the same way as you, but with the number of complex modules there is just no way to have them all in front of me. I just move to have whatever I'm working on right in front of me with my seat. I think what would be the best is if the eurorack was mounted on the wall, but i'm renting so that is a no go. The rack folds though, so if I ever want to just focus on it, I can pick it up and move to the floor or another room.

As I use it more and more, I'm looking to shrink it. Would be great in just 3U 104hp, but 6U at 104hp will probably be the smallest I can go without really loosing capability.
TheRosskonian
2disbetter wrote:

As I use it more and more, I'm looking to shrink it. Would be great in just 3U 104hp, but 6U at 104hp will probably be the smallest I can go without really loosing capability.


There are a few modules you could replace to shrink it, HP wise. Those oscillators and LFOs being some easy examples of where you could find something more space efficient. Maybe even get a different case where the power switches do not take up any HP. You did not say what you use BitBox for, could one of the Octatracks not replace that?

But all of that is really getting down an endless path of optimizing HP for function. That really is one of the worst (and best) parts of Eurorack. Your options are only limited as your time and money. I almost feel bad even bringing it up since it looks like you have a complete already.
2disbetter
Well the only rule for me is that the modules have to be analog. Replacing them with a digital module doesn't make a ton of sense thanks to the SSP.

The tool box is a sequencer. It is just easier to sequence parts with CV using it versus the octatrack. Also the toolbox is able to take midi in via a 3.5 to midi din so it doubles as an interface for the octatrack.
2disbetter
I forgot to mention that while this is the final design of my setup, that the design includes changing out the analog sound sources/filters so as to broaden the overall collection of sounds it is capable of. This is hopefully the way it will be set up come this spring:



I'm a big fan of Rossum modules for a number of reasons, but from the things I've read and the videos I've seen on the Trident, I don't know of too many other oscillators with as much potential for the money. Really excited to see them materialize and get some more videos of it.
2disbetter
jmax313 wrote:
how do you integrate your control forge in your system? had one for a while and dunno why I sold it..


There are so many things you can do with the control forge. It is basically just a fantastic source of CV that can be used for anything. It's also quite possibly one of the most advanced envelopes available in eurorack. One thing I like to do is record the CV outputs from the two main outs (normal and inversed) on the SSP and then use that internally there to drive voices or modulation. All that is just scratching the surface. The CF is one module I just highly recommend; it's the reason I've never had a MATHS.
The Grump
The only thing I might possible change in that piece of awesome is swapping out the Satellite and Stages for an Assimil8or, simply because you can sample the output of the Control Forge to do the Satellite's or Stages jobs, plus you have a whole world of Rossum's sampling tools at your fingertips for thicker layers, found sounds, etc., with faster access to them than using a Disting, though that's no slight upon the Distings. I'm surprised that there's no MATHS in there, but the territory is pretty well covered otherwise. NICE FUCKING INSTRUMENT!!!
2disbetter
The Grump wrote:
The only thing I might possible change in that piece of awesome is swapping out the Satellite and Stages for an Assimil8or, simply because you can sample the output of the Control Forge to do the Satellite's or Stages jobs, plus you have a whole world of Rossum's sampling tools at your fingertips for thicker layers, found sounds, etc., with faster access to them than using a Disting, though that's no slight upon the Distings. I'm surprised that there's no MATHS in there, but the territory is pretty well covered otherwise. NICE FUCKING INSTRUMENT!!!


Thanks!

I do love Rossum modules! However as I have the SSP getting another sampler just doesn't make any sense. The SSP already has the highest sampling rate in eurorack and can sample all 16 DC coupled inputs and 8 DC coupled outputs at the same time at up to 192khz and 32 bits. You could sample just 1 or a few inputs as well. From the technical side of the house it is the ultimate sampler. Since the platform is open, the software feature set will just keep improving.

Stages and the satellite are redundant though...
The Grump
2disbetter wrote:
The Grump wrote:
The only thing I might possible change in that piece of awesome is swapping out the Satellite and Stages for an Assimil8or, simply because you can sample the output of the Control Forge to do the Satellite's or Stages jobs, plus you have a whole world of Rossum's sampling tools at your fingertips for thicker layers, found sounds, etc., with faster access to them than using a Disting, though that's no slight upon the Distings. I'm surprised that there's no MATHS in there, but the territory is pretty well covered otherwise. NICE FUCKING INSTRUMENT!!!


Thanks!

I do love Rossum modules! However as I have the SSP getting another sampler just doesn't make any sense. The SSP already has the highest sampling rate in eurorack and can sample all 16 DC coupled inputs and 8 DC coupled outputs at the same time at up to 192khz and 32 bits. You could sample just 1 or a few inputs as well. From the technical side of the house it is the ultimate sampler. Since the platform is open, the software feature set will just keep improving.

Stages and the satellite are redundant though...


Thanks for the info. Looks like you've got the sampling base pretty well covered.
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