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Thoughts on Semi-Modular Synths vs. Eurorack – Part 9

semi modular synths

Thoughts on Semi-Modular Synths vs. Eurorack – Part 9

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Chapter 5: Special Technical Aspects

In this temporarily last chapter (chapter 6 will follow in some weeks, but not at once) I´m going to talk about some general technical aspects, which speak – unfortunately – mainlyagainst semi modular setups.

The first one concerns the power supplies. Not enough, that with, let´s say 5, different semi modular synths in your setup you will also have 5 individual power supplies to deal with, and which make your working place nothing but neat. Your machines will also need different Voltages often enough, which makes it difficult to supply them with one big power supply. Difficult, but not impossible of course. More often than not you will end up making your own DIY power supply most of the times (or live with the lots of different and individual ones, that came with your synths), and by doing so – there are a lot of circuits on the Web as well as a couple of good videos about the matter on YouTube – you have to take care, that all of your semi modular synths will relate to the same ground level!

Next point: the different physical shapes and sizes of the machines, which makes it again a bit difficult to put them in a rack – DIY is the term in question here too – to enable an efficient and well organised workflow. Having five or more semi modular synthesizers somewhere around your working space, all with legions of cables (power, MIDI, Audio) between them does not support your creative work at all. At least some basic skills as a (hobby-) carpenter would come in handy at this point.

Third aspect: CV levels. Unfortunately the different (non-)standards concerning CV voltage ranges for nearly all parameters will keep you calculating to and fro when you develop your patches. And I bet you won´t come around without at least real module (again: probably DIY), which is a module, that does the converting for you. Just one example: When you patch the LFO in Korg´s Volca Modular you get an output of around 3.50 Volt peak to peak (bipolar). The output of Behringer´s Neutron (LFO) delivers 8.75 Volt peak to peak. Modulating the same module, e.g. a VCO, with these two LFOs leads to completely different results. It´s not impossible to deal with this inconvenience – but it is, well, it is inconvenient – and a lot. OK, the differences are not always that big, and even in the Eurorack world the voltage levels of the modules are not always absolutely identical (there isn´t really a well defined Eurorack standard concerning the matter – but you have at least something like “most common levels” there. And the smaller differences you can level out with your attenuators).

I talked about the fact, that there are a lot of interesting modules in the Eurorack world, which you won´t find in semi modulars that often. But I described some great exceptions (Eowave etc.). But there is at least one kind of – unfortunately very important – module, which I haven´t found in any semi modular synth so far: an envelope with stages (a simple ADSR would make me happy), which can be CV modulated. Think of the most basic “Krell” patch without an ADSR, that can´t have CV dependent attacks and decays – impossible. I think you see what you are going to end up with: A nice and capable (and cost effective) setup of a couple of semi modular synthesizers PLUS a small tiny rack with some Eurorack modules to help you out from time to time.

Alright! Nine article about the matter of semi modular synths compared to Eurorack (and actually compared to any pure-blooded modular system) – is there something like a conclusion? Well, let me try. If you are a more or less complete beginner to patching synthesizers a good and solid semi modular synth will serve you very well. You don´t need a special power supply, you don´t need a rack, you need only very few patch cables (they come with the synth quite often), and you get beautiful and interesting results quite fast (nearly instantly). You don´t have to spend a lot of money, and you will be able to integrate your synth in a big and large fully modular system later, if you want to go that way. You will also learn a lot about “composing” sound with a good semi modular machine.

If you are not a complete beginner to patching, e.g. because you have made some experiences with software modulars like Voltage Modular or VCV Rack, but you are facing a rather limited budget, then you don´t have the choice: semi modular will be your way. And don´t be too sad: adding some suitable semi modulars to your setup – consecutively according to your budget – will provide you with sound tweaking and music making (technical) abilities, that will last a very long time before you reach the borders (it doesn´t have to be “Krell” patches at once, right?!). And even if your budget is not limited THAT MUCH, but you want to come to reasonable and perfect result rather fast (and not after learning 20 different Eurorack modules), then semi modular synths will be your choice as well.

And what about me? Me, the author of this series? What has been (and still is) my way? Well, I´m a “hybrid” worker: I use semi modular as well as Eurorack (both hardware) as well as software modular synths (Voltage Modular as well as VCV rack as well as SoloRack) – more “hybrid” is not possible.... oh, but it is: using tins and cans and children´s toys as well – and I do even that (but that´s another topic.)

to be continued (but a bit later, as I mentioned above)

to part 1: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/336

to part 2: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/352

to part 3: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/354

to part 4: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/359

to part 5: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/366

to part 6: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/375

to part 7: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/382

to part 8: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/387


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