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WIGGLING 'LITE' IN GUEST MODE

Korg MS-20 with Paia 9700 for a complete beginner
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Fractional Rack Modules  
Author Korg MS-20 with Paia 9700 for a complete beginner

pirates_life

Hi guys,

I am new to the world of modular synthesis. I'm a bit overwhelmed by all the different types of modules out there. I feel as confused as a beginning guitar player looking at a cabinet full of effects pedals.

After a bit of research, I decided to pull the trigger and pre-order a Korg MS-20. It seemed like it might be a good way to get my feet wet with modular synthesis. I really want to get a Paia 9700. I read that the Korg MS-20 is Hz/V scaling and the Paia is V/oct. I read somewhere about the Harvestman English Tear might be able to interface the two.

Does it make sense to try to interface the two, or should I just enjoy each system for what it is?


Ted2

I think that gear can generally be mixed and matched, the only things you might run into would be voltage differences.

Just bear in mind that PAiA offers kits only for their 9700s, so you'll have to be handy with a soldering iron!


Ted2

I would put some thought into what sort of modular system you want first, though, before going with the PAiA. PAiA gear is cool, and is at a great price, but there are maybe some better alternatives. The Eurorack format has got a huge variety of modules, and gives you a bit more freedom than in Frac. Starting out in Euro I would recommend the Doepfer line, because their system is affordable and is pretty sweet. Then you would be able to add on to it with all sorts of stuff. Don't get me wrong though, Frac is pretty awesome. If you do go with Frac, be sure to check out Blacet Research's modules. They are FANTASTIC, and are also available as kits, and have great prices.

There are some threads in the General Discussion that give good overviews of different manufacturers and formats. I would check them out before you make a decision. Hope this helps.


pirates_life

I am pretty good with a soldering iron, so the Paia and Blacet systems definitely appeal to me. Paia even more so because the amazing prices.
Frac vs Euro? well that does seem like it's a tough question. It seems like most of the really interesting modules seem to be Euro format. Some of them can get pretty pricey.

here is my real problem: I don't know enough about analog synthesis to understand which modules I will need in the future. I kind of want a hands-on introduction to modular, and I thought maybe the best way to do that is jump in head first. I think I might understand more about what I need after I start making a few noises.

The Korg MS20 re-issue seemed like a no-brainer at a price of $599. It's hard to go wrong there. The Paia 9700 prices are lookin' pretty sexy too. I'm assuming it's possible to use frac and euro together so long as I have a dedicated rack to mount each?


Kyhotay

I own most Frac modules, mostly PAiA (the Frac Rack inventor) & Blacet with Metalboxand a smattering of others. The PAiA 9700 is an excellent way to get into the rabbit hole of modular synthesis because of it's high functional density. While the basic 9700 modules are kits, the new 2nd Gen modules are either mostly built or completely built out and, IMHO of owning most analog beasties since 1972, are of high quality and reliability with excellent price points.

That said, I sold my vintage MS-20 some 6 months ago cuz I rarely used it and I, too, plan on getting the reissue.

But here's the deal: the original MS-20 had Hz/Oct VCO's AND "S" trigger gates. I interfaced the MS-20 with my PAiA 4700 modules with perfect tuning. I did have to use an inverter module to get the triggers to work. I'm not sure from the new specs, but I suspect the re-issued MS-20 uses V/Oct & positive triggers like every thing else pretty much on the market.

IF I am wrong, here's an interesting solution for you, one that I use in my studio to MIDI control my PAiA 4700 modules The PAiA FatMan kit is Hz/Oct and is MIDI controlled but has CV, +Gate & Velocity outs. You can drive the VCOs with the CV, use the Velocity on the filters & run the gate through an inverter, if it is 100% Olde School (I think there is one on the MS-20, but if not, there is a 2nd Gen 9700 inverter you can use).

I have been a PAiA head since 1973. Also an ARP, MoogEML, EMS, Oberheim, Yamaha, Korg, and everyone else head. Every synth has its place within ur pallet, budget & application. Only u know both. Don't be bullied by snobbish preferences and make your own decisions and music.

Enjoy your new analog, modular bliss.


monstrinho

pirates_life wrote:
I am pretty good with a soldering iron, so the Paia and Blacet systems definitely appeal to me. Paia even more so because the amazing prices.
Frac vs Euro? well that does seem like it's a tough question. It seems like most of the really interesting modules seem to be Euro format. Some of them can get pretty pricey.

here is my real problem: I don't know enough about analog synthesis to understand which modules I will need in the future. I kind of want a hands-on introduction to modular, and I thought maybe the best way to do that is jump in head first. I think I might understand more about what I need after I start making a few noises.

The Korg MS20 re-issue seemed like a no-brainer at a price of $599. It's hard to go wrong there. The Paia 9700 prices are lookin' pretty sexy too. I'm assuming it's possible to use frac and euro together so long as I have a dedicated rack to mount each?


Personally, I could be very happy with just a MS-20 Mini and a Paia 9700s. I think those are two really smart choices to start out with. The MS-20 is really one of the classic synths, and though it isn't completely modular, it's certainly "modular enough" to give you a clear idea of what modular synthesis is about. The Paia is very underrated, IMHO. It's a strange, eccentric little synth, and the cool thing about it is that it really isn't trying to emulate any previous designs. It's a unique synth and definitely a great place to start. Also, if you run into trouble with your build, Paia's customer support is amazing. If it turns out that you run into problems you can't solve, you can always send it in to them and they'll fix it and also calibrate the VCOs etc as well. The other really reasonably priced option you might consider is a Tom Oberheim SEM Patch Panel. You'd need a MIDI to CV converter to control it, but if you build the Paia, you'll already have that. The SEM just oozes class, it's really a great synth. Beyond that, if you like DIY, Blacet offers all of their modules in kit form as well as assembled. The Blacet modules are top notch quality, with a lot of very cool stuff available. Anyway, I'd say start out by building the Paia. Once you've learned the ins and out of it, you'll have a much better idea of exactly what modular is about and where you want to go with it.


Revok

pirates_life wrote:
here is my real problem: I don't know enough about analog synthesis to understand which modules I will need in the future. I kind of want a hands-on introduction to modular, and I thought maybe the best way to do that is jump in head first.



I'd wait for that MS20 to arrive and get to know it a little first. That way you'll have some experience with whats doing what/patching and can then decide what you want to add to the mix.


P.S. Who makes the cases for these?http://www.rebarmachineservice.com/images/SMC/SMC1-960.jpg


pirates_life

Kyhotay, I like your solution of using the Fatman as a way of dealing with the Hz/V problem. Any excuse to buy another piece of gear is always a plus It's peanut butter jelly time!

monstrinho, I like your attitude, and I totally agree. So far, all the Paia synth demos I've heard sound pretty awesome.

Revok, I don't know if I'm going to be able to wait for the Korg MS-20. It's still a few months away from shipping (at this point it's just a pre-order). I might have a Paia 9700 system in my hands and assembled here in a couple weeks.


pirates_life

P.S.

Revok,

Our controller cabinets are made by Harcon Precision Metals

http://harcon-precision.com/


Revok

pirates_life wrote:
I might have a Paia 9700 system in my hands and assembled here in a couple weeks.


That's a good point. Thanks for the link. I want to put some modules in that case!


waifl

As someone who started not so long ago with a 9700s, I have to say, the system is wonderful and eccentric, but there are eccentricities in all of the modules that can make it a bit difficult to whet your teeth on...

For example:

No fine tune on the oscillators, which are apparently additionally quite difficult to get to track PERFECTLY (though they track decently well).

It's a bit difficult to get the VCFs to do too too much without applying modulation.

The Midi2CV8 works well, but it can be a bit of a pain to futz with the DIN switch whenever you want to change modes.

The VCA circuit is very, very particular.

If I were to start again and I could find a way to do it cost effectively, I might pick a module or two (or maybe even three) from the PAIA series to build, and round out with other frac gear....


pirates_life

waifl wrote:
As someone who started not so long ago with a 9700s, I have to say, the system is wonderful and eccentric, but there are eccentricities in all of the modules that can make it a bit difficult to whet your teeth on...

For example:

No fine tune on the oscillators, which are apparently additionally quite difficult to get to track PERFECTLY (though they track decently well).

It's a bit difficult to get the VCFs to do too too much without applying modulation.

The Midi2CV8 works well, but it can be a bit of a pain to futz with the DIN switch whenever you want to change modes.

The VCA circuit is very, very particular.

If I were to start again and I could find a way to do it cost effectively, I might pick a module or two (or maybe even three) from the PAIA series to build, and round out with other frac gear....


Goddamn it... now you got me second guessing myself. But maybe that's not such a bad thing.


Taylor

I've now built a 9700s and 9u more of Frac. Here are my thoughts:

- waifl is pretty much right on everything.

- I would skip the VCA and get one of the new 9700 series dual VCAs. WAY easier build and I don't personally like the normalling and fader-pot control on the 9700s VCA. Then you can add a simple envelope generator. I'd personally go with the VCADSR from Electric Druid. Low parts count, very high functionality.

- I extended the range on my filter's front panel knobs. Check the Paia forum for details.

- I really hate using the VCOs as LFOs because you have to apply an external voltage to get them in that range. I'd build a few external LFOs. The Magic Smoke 8k LFO is a good one.


fracmonkey

Taylor wrote:
Then you can add a simple envelope generator. I'd personally go with the VCADSR from Electric Druid. Low parts count, very high functionality.


This is a programmed uC IC. Interesting but would require some design work for making a proper module. No kit or PCB looks to be available...
Has anyone built something from this?


Taylor

I think Frequency Central has boards for it (or the retriggering variant) but they are home-etched boards.

No design work is necessary though if you can perf board. It would be a simple job, especially as you can use the simple passive filter in the PDF, so you only need the one chip and some bits.


pirates_life

I'm also shooting around the idea of getting a Paia fatman just to start out. Anybody on here owned a fatman?


Kyhotay

Hi Pirates, Kyhotay, again, weighing in on the FatMan. It's a very basic analog synth that is MIDI Controllable. And, like most firsts with PAiA (affordable kits, move toward digital control and the arguably first computer based polyphonic [tonic] synth - pre-Prophet, programmable drum machine, Polyphony Magazine that became Electronic Musician, an American company that is STILL in business and the inventor of the freakin' frak rack) the FatMan was the first (ok, ok...let the onslaughts begin!) MIDI controllable all analog signal path - in kit form (that should stop the slings and arrows).

There's a whole sub-culture - cult, really - dedicated to modding the FatMan. While I would prefer to improve upon a few of the specs, my unit is still a pristine virgin. It's very basic, although it does have velocity control of the VCF & VCA. The VCF strikes me as pedestrian and maybe that makes it unique. I wouldn't want to base my studio around it (although some have if you check out YouTube) but think of it as a "voice" that you can further process through the MS-20, 9700 (remember there's a gate and velocity out, besides the exponential CV out) or any other analog beastie you might come across.

I often mate it with a SlimPhatty or Moog-style ladder filter (like MOTM) to add some interesting higher harmonics to a bass line and bring then in and out of the mox to create some motion. You can find the FM on eBay. Just remember that you don't know if the person who assembled it knows which end of a soldering iron to hold (wait for it, wait for it...wait for it...[collective groan]).


shadmock

I built my Fatman AFTER building the 9700 cool . I never tuned either of them because I lacked the patience - I wanted to play with my new creations! The untuned Fatman has a distinct low-rumbling sound that is awesome. I usually use an Alesis SR-16 via Midi to control the Fatman & have come up with some great, unique rhythms. Great little unit---fun to build and I believe it took me about 3 weekends to build.

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