Had a bit of a purge and downsized from three Mantis Eurorack cases to two. I took all the modules out, then put them back in a logical (and ruthless) order, being honest with myself about what I actually use. It all feels a lot more cohesive now and more like an instrument rather than a collection of random modules.
I also took the opportunity to rethink my sequencing and integration with the computer as I had a lot of duplication, never finding a solution I was truly happy with. So, out went the Turing machine, the Expert Sleepers ES-40, CV Pal, the Erica Black VC Clock, Pico Trigg and DrumGirl. And instead, I’ve finally embraced the Beatstep Pro that I’m ashamed to say has spent more time in it’s box than out of it! What prompted this change of heart was investing in the ALM mmMidi and mmT modules which take a single stereo jack from the Beatstep MIDI Out and make all the patch points available directly in the rack. It’s been an absolute game changer for me. I’ve also repurposed the ODIO audio interface which I previously used to integrate with my iPad and found it works really well with Ableton CV Tools to send clock signals around the system.
I did decide to invest in a few new things with the money gained from the unused modules, including a Moog DFAM (Drummer from another Mother).
The DFAM is… AWESOME! Taking the raw sound straight out of the VCA rewards you with a full, bone crunching bass and fizzy, crunchy white noise that combine to make some amazing beats. I’m sure in a mix they would be a bit dominant, but I was seriously impressed! It’s something I’ve had my eye on for a while and worthy of sacrificing the rack space for. Plus it has copious modulation options so plays well with the rest of my system.
It does mean I’m pretty spoilt for choice in the Eurorack percussion department, what with my ALM Taiko’s and Mutant Bassdrum, but you can truly get some unique sounds with this selection of modules.
Other than that, it was just the usual reorganising of the desk real-estate. Really pleased with how it’s turned out. Think I may make a few more tweaks though.
Not sure what the plural of Mantis is, but I now have three of the Tip Top Audio cases of the same name, laid out end-to-end on my desk like a mini mission control.
Analog Synth Mantis
To the left is the Analog Synth Mantis which is probably the more ‘vanilla’ of the three cases. Built around three different oscillators (OSC303, Tip Top Z3000 and the Doepfer A-110), each with a separate, dedicated filter (VCF303, Intellijel uVCF and Doepfer A-105 respectively), as well as the usual array of VCA’s, ADSR’s and LFO’s (Mainly Doepfer or Erica synths modules).
Dinsync’s excellent Modseq module allows me to do some repeatable Sample and Hold style manipulation of the filter cut-offs, or paired with the Ladik Easy Quantizer module, makes a mean bassline sequencer for the OSC303.
Other modules of note include the FoH Choices joystick, which is paired with the clever little Ladik Joystick Math module which makes it a lot more flexible, and a small selection of Make Noise modules including the Moddemix and LXD which are both great for teasing out plucky, percussive sounds.
Digital & Sequencing Mantis
The middle, Digital & Sequencing Mantis has something of a split personality. The top row provides the master clock for the whole system, which I have distributed between the three cases using a combination of different powered multiples to create a semi-permanent clock backbone.
It also provides additional sequencing and quantizing capabilities, courtesy of a Turing Machine with the Pulses and Voltages expanders and the GMSN Pure Sequencer, both paired with Doepfer A156 Dual Quantizer. These are great when I want something a little more unpredictable than the ES-40 / Ableton Live combination or my Beatstep Pro. Alternatively, the sequencers work great as modulation sources for my percussion modules.
The lower row houses my ‘Digital’ modules, including the obligatory Mutable Instruments trilogy of Braids, Rings and Clouds, as well as Erica synths Black Hole DSP which has some lovely Shimmer effects. A Mutable Music Things ‘Ears’ module rounds things off, used primarily to trigger the strum input of Rings.
Gates & Percussion Mantis
Moving to the right we have the Gates & Percussion Mantis which has a wide variety of drum and percussion modules as well as gate triggers, clock dividers and logic modules which are great for coming up with abstract drum patterns.
The sound sources themselves include the ALM Taiko modules (Still on the lookout for the limited Haswell’s Taiko if one ever comes up on eBay or Muffwiggler), multiple kick drum synths (With the Hexinverter Mutant Bassdrum being a current favourite) and a selection of Tip Top Audio 808 modules.
It’s worth remembering that percussion modules don’t have to be limited to providing drum sounds though, as many have pitch CV inputs which allow you to use them for basslines and tuned percussion alike. They also often have built in VCA’s and envelopes, further increasing their effectiveness for a relatively low cost.
Also in this case are some additional effects courtesy of the Sara VCF filter from DinSync, ALM’s EQ and Music Thing’s Spring reverb module. There’s also a passive ring modulator I made with some germanium diodes which is pretty unique sounding.
And last but not least, we have the Audiodamage ADM09 USB audio interface which is normally linked to an iPad 3 running the stunning Borderlands 2, granular synthesis app. You can coax some amazing sounds out of Borderlands, particularly when feeding it a diet of modular synth noises from the ADM09.
One day, I might even learn what it all does 🙂 Seriously though, I’ve just signed up to the Learning Modular Patreon page which gives regular hints and tips on how to get the most out of your modular synth, as well as free access to a course of your choice on the main Learning Modular site. Can’t be bad!
I’d hope I’m comfortable with the basics, so went with the ‘Level 2 Eurorack expansion’ which is very comprehensive and appears to be regularly updated to keep it current. Chris Meyer who created and presents the course has a great knack of making complex concepts sound easy and I’m learning so much already. Here’s an excerpt from the course…
The only danger is that I’m now lusting after a Mordax Data module, having seen Chris demonstrate his one. I’m sure I can make it fit somewhere 🙂
The new rack is starting to take shape, but I have hit a bit of a snag! The case (made by Tip Top Audio) isn’t deep enough to house my Mark 1 Z3000 oscillator (also made by Tip Top Audio)! So it’s a good job I bought the Mark 2 version.
More selling on ebay methinks!
Also looking to get a Mutable Instruments Ears module soon to trigger my Rings module, as ably demonstrated in this video…
Decided to have a major upgrade of my studio and also try and fully integrate the modular with my laptop setup.
First purchase was the Maschine Jam which has really renewed my love for Maschine and should elevate it beyond the role of ‘just’ a drum machine.
I then ordered some Expert Sleepers ES-40, ES-8CV and ES-8GT modules to let me trigger the modular from within Ableton, Maschine and Reaktor – only really scratched the surface but it looks to be a really flexible solution, and the integration with Reaktor is mind blowing.
Room to grow
Today, I took delivery of a new modular case, a Tiptop Audio Mantis, and it’s a beautiful piece of engineering for a brilliant price (at least, relative to other Eurorack cases).
Here’s the empty case which I’ll be filling up this evening as I transfer my modules across.
Tiptop Audio Mantis case
Also replaced my beloved Nord Drum with a Dinky’s Taiko drum synthesizer module too which I’ll be trying out later this evening. (I’ve multi-sampled the Nord into 20 or so Maschine kits, so still have access to its electro sounds – might even put those kits up for sale at some point).
Final piece I’ve ordered is a second Tiptop Audio Z3000 oscillator to compliment my old Mk1 module, which is waiting for me at the local post office.
Have been spending the last couple of evenings having a play with various new layouts for my modular synthesizer, so that I can incorporate some drum modules and sequencing. Will mean adding an extra row to the rack (time for my woodworking skills) but should be great once it’s all finished and will give me a really flexible sound making machine at the end of it.
I’m also looking to add a few sound shaping modules too for good measure including a ring modulator, spring reverb and wave shaper.
You can see which modules I’m looking to buy on the above chart. ‘White’ are modules I already have, ‘Blue’ are modules I bought this evening and ‘Yellow’ are the modules I intend to buy over the coming months. ‘Green’ is a little DIY action in the shape of a switched multiple I’m building to compliment the Decade Counter.
To pay for all this, I am going to have to sell some of my unused studio equipment which will be going up on ebay soon. (Will post once it’s up!)
Just taking my first steps into the world of modular synthesis as an early present to myself for my up and coming 40th birthday (yes, I really am that old!)
Have started small with some basic doepfer modules including their Noise generator and Sample and Hold modules which are great for random filtered madness, and augmented them with a lovely TipTop Audio Z3000 oscillator which sounds lush! I also got a V’amp VCA from Post Modular which is pretty special and doubles as a ring modulator.
To follow is a Future Sound Systems Decade Counter, which seems strangely appropriate considering my advancing years!
The Novation Launchpad is used as a step sequencer for the modular synth, running a Max for Live patch. The Dark Energy acts as a MIDI to CV convertor as well as providing LFO’s and envelope duties until I buy dedicated modules for these.
Can see how this can get addictive (not to mention expensive!)