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Need help with my first eurorack order !
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Eurorack Modules  
Author Need help with my first eurorack order !
Hi everyone ! (sorry about the long post and the bad english)

I have always been a 100% computer producer, and i recently decided to buy myself a digitakt. It seems to be the best way to start a computerless setup without having to buy multiple machines at once (i mean - you can jam comfortably using only digitakt) and for a very reasonnable price.

But i also discovered the beautiful world of modular synths, and that it can be accessible for a relatively short budget for someone motivated with basic electric experience and knowledge.

So this is not an umpteenth topic only asking how to cheap modular. I need you guys to help me choose my first investment. I have found that the scariest thing about starting modular is that you can't just buy a module that you like : you need the case, the power supply, the sequencer/miditocv, the mixer, the output. And these cannot produce a single note ! So before anything else i'll try to explain what i'm looking for:

- I want my first command to be able to at least produce simple melody controlled by digitakt, with a minimum opening to different patches. This means (correct me if i'm wrong) that i need: sector alim, power supply, bus cable, midi to cv shit, monojack to jack shit, and some sound producing stuff

- Up to 500e MAXIMUM : as i said i know how to use a soldering iron, and i also have unlimitted access to a fablab

- I don't give a damn about the midi to cv and/or the system output being made out of plastic tupperware outside of the rack. If it saves money, go for it.

- I need something that is expandable : this means the midi to cv must be of multiple channels, and the power supply powerful enough to add modules in the future (i'm not talking about a 9U 80Hp setup, just enough to grow up to 10 modules : at this point i'll be happy to invest in something more reliable and powerful)

- No case : i have access to unlimitted scrap wood so i'll just hard screw everything as a start. That's money i can save for the moment

- I am looking for a raw, dirty way of making music. I don't need super clean signal, top quality component, etc. The long term project is also to build my own modules from only PCB, or even just from some synth-related IC. So that should be taken in account when choosing these first components.

So here's the plan for the moment, and that's where i need you:

i have read many, many things and i really don't know what to do about power supply and system output...

- Should i decide to buy a all-in-one doepfer PS kit, or go for a super cheap way to make my own ? And if so, wich one ?

- I've read that output modules only normalizes the signal to standard audio, but i have also read that any gain reducer should do the work. Does this mean that i could just buy one simple monojack to XLR and plug it into any mixing console ? This seems dirty

- Midi to cv : 2 options for me, midimuso or cvocd. One is super cheap, the other seems to be super reliable and strong. But that makes approx 80 euros difference. This represents a hole module ! to-cv-box/

-Sound stuff : Even tho it's not really following the philosophy of modular synthesis, i fell in love with the erica synth bassline kit. For the possibilities and the dirtyness that you can extract from it, it's really, really cheap (150e). This might be the best way to have something usable to play with instantly

Also really digged the flight of harmony diy modules, so if budget allows it i'd love to add some plague bearer and/or IMP y-manufacturer/
And finally, i would be looking for some kind of swiss-army knife module, for VCF/VCA/ADSR shit. That could be multiple super cheap and super basic modules (i have found some super simple vco, vcf, vca etc for about 40e/u), or a all-in-one weird module that can do pretty much all that. As i said, i'm looking for dirty noisy sound exploration, so esotherism is exactly what i'm looking for.

Feel free to comment related to anything that i've said. This post is pretty much just a summerized version of my state of mind about modular synths. I may be wrong about many things and i would be really thankful to you for pointing it out !

Thanks for your time,
My view is the only cheap Eurorack is DIY. Have you tried the Synth DIY forum here? Lots of good advice and experience.

For kits, I’ve also been looking at Thonk, and for inspiration I like MFOS.

The Doepfer PSU kit was discussed here very recently, if you look back 1-2 pages you’ll find it. Apparently it’s good?

Apparently you can just use a VCA as a basic output stage, as long as you turn the level down otherwise the signal will be too hot.

To start, you don’t need MIDI nor a sequencer, you probably need to build the basics: VCO, VCF, EG, VCAs, VCLFOs, Noise, S&H, mix/invert/offset/attenuate for voltages.

It really sounds like you would have fun with something like the 0-Coast. Not diy but it is self contained, pretty cheap, semi-modular, and loads of FUN. It is a great first step into the world of modular and should be a nice companion to the Digitakt as it has midi.
quick dirty and cheap starter diy modular synthesis:

frequency central product - vco, vca, vcf, lfo, noise, envelope
frequency central microbus

product panel & pcb 80GBP inc postage - check the bom if you need ul1111/ca3046 - for the vcf and buy reasonably cheaply at the same time

parts probably 90-100€ (it's a big module) from tayda (always take the cheapest shipping) and thonk

microbus is under 20 for the pcb amd the parts are about 5€ from tayda

you'll also need a wall wart 12vAC 1A

add a few patch cables and you are at about 250, maybe 300 - get a sequencer or midi->cv converter

play with that for a while and work out what else you really need

a mixer (or 2) might be a good idea - but not 100% necessary

just plug the output of the vca into a mixer channel or into your audio interface - just use a 3.5->6.5mm cable - turn down the volume to 0 before starting playing and adjust from there

fyi erica bassline is a relatively difficult through hole build - erica say it is there most advanced - I still need to debug and calibrate mine - and be really careful with price estimates - add 40% for exchange from sterling to euro and VAT to the prices quoted
DIY Eurorack is great if you want awesome synthesis for not much money.

For MIDI to CV, Thonk sell a kit for the Befaco MIDI thing that might fit the bill.

I run outputs from modular straight into my main mixer, no problems at all. So this is one area where you can save time, space and money. Modular level is quite hot so sometimes I have to engage the pad on the mixer inputs.

In terms of a case, you could start small and buy an A100 mini case. You could fit a VCO, envelope, filter and VCA in that if you allocate 6-8hp for each, and as you say keep the MIDI to CV external to the case. Or buy something second hand.

In terms of sound generating...

For a very raw DIY VCO, there is Look Mum No Computer's 3340 project:

I recently built a Kassutronics 3340 VCO, which uses the same oscillator chip but is more complex and more flexible. It was inexpensive and sounds awesome. Works great with Digitakt. I use Digitakt for drums and then MIDI sequence the 3340 for big fat square wave basslines etc:

Thonk kits are fantastic. Very well put together in my experience. But you do pay slightly more than if you source all the components yourself, e.g. through Thonk's component section and on Mouser or similar.

Mouser seems to be one of the few places left that will sell small quantities of components. But if you use them, given your budget, be aware that they charge quite a lot for postage for orders under £33, but over that amount the postage is free. So it's much more cost effective to buy everything you need for several modules all at once.

Have fun!
I started with Doepfer and Noise Reap stuff.
Great price points, simple modules to understand for beginners, and great sounds & capabilities for all ages.
Just another rookie
You may well have done something by now but,
I got a bunch of frequency central stuff at Christmas.
All panels and pcbs.

Wave runner lfo
dual xvca
x Adsr
multi poles (mult)
microbus power

It cost about £230 including all parts and power adapter.
(Could be cheaper but I had other bits in the component order and price breaks etc.)
After rails and patch leads you’d still have about half of your budget.
Choose a vco and mixer.

Happy synthin.......
If dirty is what you want, York Modular has some cheap modules and also DIY kits:
I just bought the complete line of Equinox Synth eurorack modules.

I'm very happy so far with their sound and simplicity.
Euro "Standard" ftl
Piling on to the DIY options. I run, a company that teaches DIY by selling PCB/Panel sets and kits (as well as built and warrantied modules). Lots of guides and links to tools and other stuff. Welcome to this wonderful hobby, let me know if you have any questions.
From your bullet points:

Needs MIDI
OK with funky wooden case
Prepared to solder

I'd send you to the frac world, specifically PAIA. They have a starter system for about $400. Frac stuff is electrically compatible with Euro, so you can add fancy modules later. The frac forum is nearly as active as this one.

And yeah, all you really need to connect with standard audio gear is some passive level reduction, aka 20 dB pad. Just keep the cables short. A direct box or tiny mixer (Mackie Mix6) next to the rack is a common solution.
+1 on the 0-Coast. I just bought this one and it is really nice, quality is top notch. To build something similar in eurorack format ( even DIY) you would end up expending twice as much. You will also eliminate the need of building a case for now and it does have midi. Now that british pound is low I got it new for 485€ delivered to Spain.
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