MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index
 FAQ & Terms of UseFAQ & Terms Of Use   Wiggler RadioMW Radio   Muff Wiggler TwitterTwitter   Support the site @ PatreonPatreon 
 SearchSearch   RegisterSign up   Log inLog in 
WIGGLING 'LITE' IN GUEST MODE

How do you decide which modules to buy?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Author How do you decide which modules to buy?
bengarland
I hope this isn't a dumb or frequent question (hard to tell since it seems the forum search is broken at the moment) but I'm wondering how do you figure out which module to buy when you want to build (or add to) a modular system?

I'm asking because it's not like you can go to a store and test the gear like you could do if you were buying, for example, a Korg Minilogue. Plus everyone's modular systems are so different, it seems like it would be nearly impossible to tell in advance how a particular module would sound in your personal system.

So if you're building a basic (east coast) system and need to get a VCA, VCO, VCF, LFO, etc... how do you decide which ones to get? Especially if the specs (I/O, knobs, switches) between different brands look similar?

How do you evaluate all of the options out there?

How do you determine what is the best value / features?

Is there some trick I'm missing? I feel overwhelmed just thinking about it... smile
Dilibob
I am ITB a lot with protools plugins, native instruments stuff and vcv rack. I prefer doing things in hardware though, so i kind of build up a list in my brain of the next thing i want to move from ITB to OTB, then wait for a sale (which is often 6 months to a year). After needing something for 6 months (anding doing something hacky itb or using way to many modules otb to do the same thing), and still feeling its top of my list, i buy it on sale.
thetwlo
bengarland wrote:


Is there some trick I'm missing? I feel overwhelmed just thinking about it... smile


it must seem insane now, it was easy 10-20 years ago, as there was often 1 or two choices, and pretty different. Doepfer still makes solid modules, so,a good place to start. Most, sadly, don't post specs, but they are likely irrelevant for most modules. The WMD(and SSF) stuff is solid in every way with amazing support so that's what I say to look at, but there's so much!!!! Good luck!
lisa
I read manuals and check videos. By getting one or two modules and using them in my system to make music before I allowed myself to get another one or two I always knew what type of module I wanted/needed next.
Muff McMuff
Look at the demos on youtube and see what appeals to you. Search on muffs to see what others think. You can still search the forum but you need to do it from google. I just put this in google, "best first vco muffs" and loads of results came up.

I was in a similar position to you last year when i was putting my first rack together but i decided from the start i was buying it all secondhand. I was thinking if i didn't enjoy it i could bail out and probably sell it all for what i payed. This helped remove indecision because the fear of wasting a lot money was gone. Not all modules are available secondhand at any one time. So say you have an idea of what vco's you would like and one off that list came up at the right price that was the vco i bought.

If you like the sound of a module and it gets positive comments on muffs just go for it and get started.
thetwlo
lisa wrote:
I read manuals and check videos. By getting one or two modules and using them in my system to make music before I allowed myself to get another one or two I always knew what type of module I wanted/needed next.

good point! reading manuals is more important to me than most demos or examples. I want to see all the possibilities of the functions, not the highlights in a video.
Not just modules, but some manufacturers wouldn't post the manual online... that's all I want, need to see what it can do! not an ad for it.
alas... not sure that matters too much for some getting basic modules like the OP.
cptnal
Welcome, bengarland. w00t

Try breaking it down. For instance, "I want an oscillator." Do you want a complete voice, a simple VCO, a complex/dual oscillator, something a bit more unusual...? Narrows the field.

One important point is not to expect to hit the ground running. My system has taken nearly two years to build and, although I'm happy with the core of it, I'm still tinkering around the edges.

Another is to not get too hung up on it. A good wiggler will be able to do something interesting with any set of modules (within reason). Again, there's no quick way to this point - it's the same route as to Carnegie Hall.

TL;DR: Think of it in terms of the journey rather than the getting there. thumbs up
TimeRaveler
Having an MU system makes it a LOT easier - fewer choices but excellent quality from most all companies.
Rex Coil 7
Actually, it helps to have some idea of what type of music you intend on using the synth for. Start there. Then you have some basis on which to base questions to others from, as well as giving you a compass to guide you when auditioning videos of various pieces.

There are no right or wrong answers to any of this, it comes down to personal preferences each and every time. Work out which artists you follow, that will help others make useful suggestions to you on what might be a good way to get you there.

Lastly, you're going to need to accept the fact that you're more than likely going to end up changing your mind any number of times, which will result in getting on the Buy/Sell merry go round. This is just something that's part of the whole ~modular synth~ thing.

cool
Idunno
I spent several years researching before buying anything, so that I could get some semblance of a system and it's requirements illuminated in my bonce. I'm doing it mostly diy so that narrows things down somewhat, but there are still myriad choices. I have no idea if I've done it well or not, but that's part of the excitement of it as you build it.
Abyssinianloop
Identifying what you may need and then vetting the options takes time, for sure. Tons of reading is required. This site has so much information, but the local search functioning only intermittently for years is a hurdle.

I identify a lack in my system when I'm trying to do something I can't without adding a module. First I make sure I don't already have a way within my existing system. Since there are so many ways of achieving the same thing in modular, often the solution already exists. But it takes a lot of reading and experimenting/learning to discover this.

If I coclude that I need to add a certain type of module, I keep my own constraints in mind (size/functionality/power consumption/cost) and start reading about the options. A starting point is looking to see what's popular on modular grid or looking at the rack of someone you respect, and see what they are using.

As you start narrowing things down you'll find lots of information here about subtle differences between modules, including interesting examples of what you can do with one, but not another. The info and comparisons go about as deep as you're willing to dig.
craigie77
Functions , HP, price,

Research the candidate s through demos


Most of the time i look for what i need rather than gas ,

6u 104 hp helps a lot
Found 12u 84hp to big and not focused enough
Pelsea
Modulargrid is your friend. Until you get to the edge cases, each version of a particular type of module will perform pretty much the same. They probably have the same chips inside. The main difference is ergonomics-- the spacing and layout of controls (not to mention labeling) is really what makes a module usable. You can see this on modulargrid-- adjust the browser zoom to get the photo about full size (there are 5 hp per inch), then see if your fingers fit between the controls. Everyone has their own needs and tastes-- for instance I prefer envelope modules with manual triggers, which disqualifies nearly all eurorack offerings.

As for build quality, you won't see much difference in the top lines (those discussed most often here), again because the parts are pretty similar from brand to brand. The big formats are more rugged because there's room for higher quality pots and jacks. The tiny modules seem flimsier for the same reason, but the few I have are doing OK. The only thing I am leery of is sliders-- they attract dirt and need cleaning from time to time. However, sliders make sense on certain modules like mixers and filters. I also dislike the "this control adjusts the parameter until you plug in a CV, then it attenuates the CV" paradigm.

There is some benefit for staying with the same manufacturer for a "voice" of modules, because some companies have differing ideas about how VCAs respond to envelopes and what envelopes require for triggers. However, any such problems are minor and can be solved by CV attenuator/amplifiers and offset functions.

When you have some idea of what looks good, check a couple of stores to see if it is in stock. If it is, that means it is popular enough for the shopkeepers to keep them in inventory. (Of course some items are so popular that they never stay in stock long-- but you probably don't need any of those to start with anyway.) Next step is do a Google search with site: muffwiggler.com. That will reveal a lot.

The best value for dollar are found in kits, but only if you already have the appropriate tools (although the cost of tools required is about the same as a good VCO) and skills. Full DIY is even cheaper, but that is a hobby in itself and seriously soaks up wiggling time.

As for what types of modules to get, that discussion will probably make up a large part of my next book.
sizone
I just buy whatever blacet is discontinuing
Joe.
Youtube Demos.

I think I've finally stopped churning too, just buying lots of duplicates, of modules I enjoy the most.
leeski
i'd go for what sound and what instrument you like, keyboards are great starters.

If you like Moog or pro one you can get similar sounding modules, i wanted a Synthi but no money yet Analog Systems do some modules licensed form them, boom i got a filter & then the Trapezoid and went from there.

Think of what music and sound and synth, then you'll get something going bit by bit.

I think the Arp 2600 VCA is the best for what i like & there are loads of clones.

Enjoyment is sound
blipson
bengarland wrote:
I hope this isn't a dumb or frequent question (hard to tell since it seems the forum search is broken at the moment)

For efficient forums search using Google, enter your SearchString into Google this way:

SearchString site:www.muffwiggler.com/forum
chachi
these days i’m pretty needs based in my purchases. if you start small and simple, maybe an osc and a midi clockable sequencer (sq-1 is cheap and easy) you can make the bleeps go bloop and that will be cool for awhile. but then it will occur to you, hey that sounds kind of plain, maybe a filter is in order...? and then you look at a couple filter threads and a lot of people say this one is really good for the money so you find that filter for a good deal and, yep it’s pretty fun. but you want both of those modules to do something even more, some modulation, so you ask around about that and before you know it, you’ve got a modular. just work with what you’ve got until you can’t do what you want to do without another module.
mskala
There's more to getting started with modular than just picking the modules; the guide I posted in my Web log at https://northcoastsynthesis.com/news/modular-synthesis-how-to-get-star ted/ goes into a bit of detail on some of the other stuff you'll need.

As for modules in particular: ModularGrid, video demos, and discussions here are all good sources. The thing of designing your wished-for rack in ModularGrid and then posting it here for comments may be a cliche, but it honestly is a good way to learn about what you do and don't need.
cptnal
Fine work there, mskala. Hadn't seen that before. thumbs up
bengarland
Really great advice so far! Thanks -- keep it coming... I have a lot to learn.
wiggies
I've built up my system over the past 2.5 years slowly, starting with a Mother 32 and buying mostly used. I've now filled 2 cases of 3x84HP rows and that's as big as I want to get.

I really recommend thinking along the lines of function. Starting from the M32, I knew I'd be wanting a second oscillator, a filter, and VCA. I spend a lot of time studying the FS posts here, on Reverb, Modular Grid, and even eBay (I look at these daily, even if I'm not planning on buying anything). This gives me a sense of the marketplace--what's readily available used, what the going prices are, etc. This helps me to spot a great deal when one comes up--and they do come up!

Focusing on function is helpful, because you're not tied to a particular brand or module. Looking for a second oscillator, I'd pretty much settled on a Dixie 2+, as it was well-reviewed and seemed versatile. But when I spotted a great deal on a Z3000, I did some quick research and found it was also well-regarded. (Aside here: I have found that looking back to the modules that were hot when they were new a few years ago is also helpful, even if they are now no longer in vogue.)

Lots of people say get a Disting and see how you use it, which I did. For me, it didn't lead to major discoveries (I mostly use the clocked delay), but the Ornament & Crime did lead me to quite a few discoveries about my preferences. I loved using Euclidean triggers, shift registers, and chaos modules--so now I have a Shifty, a triple Sloth, and several different Euclidean generators.

Anyway, I could go on about my journey in building my system, but my main messages are: take your time, do your homework, and concentrate on what you're trying to DO rather than chasing down the new shiny thing.
starthief
bengarland wrote:
how do you figure out which module to buy when you want to build (or add to) a modular system?


It's sort of an art, a science, whimsy and guesswork. I mean, watching YouTube videos and reading other peoples' comments on the module, and comparing it to your own experience with synths can only get you so far. There's a leap of faith involved IMHO.

When I first got into modular, my goal was to explore it, alongside software, to expand my sonic palette. So that meant trying a whole lot of things. In the process, I discovered certain timbres and techniques I really enjoyed a lot -- and eventually found "my sound" overall. So my goals with modular evolved, and thus my criteria for choosing modules did too.

bengarland wrote:
So if you're building a basic (east coast) system and need to get a VCA, VCO, VCF, LFO, etc... how do you decide which ones to get? Especially if the specs (I/O, knobs, switches) between different brands look similar?


I never really wanted to build a basic East Coast system in modular. It seemed like a really inefficient way to cover ground I've already traveled.

So it was more... "this module looks neat, I'll start here. What modulation and utilities does it need?" And then I'd get it, and realize it needed something else and pick that up. And then, "What else would go well with it?"

bengarland wrote:
How do you evaluate all of the options out there?


Realistically you can't, there's too much. You have to pick certain things to pay attention to and research those.

bengarland wrote:
Is there some trick I'm missing? I feel overwhelmed just thinking about it... smile


Break it down so you don't try to think about all of it at once.

Realize that it's a journey. Pick a direction or goal and go that way, but don't be surprised if there are detours, bypasses, stopovers, scenic routes, interesting paths you find yourself wanting to follow, and the occasional flat tire Mr. Green

If you can't decide between A and B, flip a coin. They're both good! You can't make "mistakes" (aside from plugging in power backwards!) but some things might be more of a "learning opportunity" than others, in any sense of the phrase smile
Rex Coil 7
Joe. wrote:
Youtube Demos.

I think I've finally stopped churning too, just buying lots of duplicates, of modules I enjoy the most.
Wise. thumbs up thumbs up thumbs up
hippo1
It's a little disconcerting to look at an entire case, and realize that there was a little guesswork involved in each and every module... As modules, no one of them is prohibitively expensive; so if (and there WAS an 'if') a particular module just wasn't as cool as I thought it would be (for me), it was relegated to the 'back of the rack', for eventual use/integration later (you can never have enough VCAs/LFOs/envelopes/etc!). I love Starthief's 'Art, science, whimsy, and guesswork' quote: Pretty much hits the nail on the head.
i guess the only advice is: Don't stress so much about it. For me, my mod beginning was with a whole-voice module; then expanding slowly to fill that voice out (another LFO, the envelope; then a second VCO; then a separate filter, etc)... until I actually had all the basics of an independent system, to break out and go from there.
definitely, the value for me was in the journey, not the destination. [I'm sure all of us here knows that a 'slab-synth' is FAR less expensive than a case of modules... different tools for different jobs.]

Experiment, keep within your budget... and as they've stated, watch LOTS of product demos. And have fun. (!)
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Page 1 of 2
Powered by phpBB © phpBB Group