I am getting dangerously close to going modular. Help!

Don’t do it…it ALL sucks in the end…kidding! :laughing:
I have gone full circle with this but I am so grateful that I didn’t sell off my entire studio to fund yet another new endless habit.

Modular at it’s most useful to me was when I used it to breath life into old projects that I became stuck on. It is super interesting and limitless but there lies the problem…limitless.
The amount of distractions that are now on offer is quite frankly ridiculous.

I have 8 x 84hp system chock full of stuff and embarrassed to say I very rarely turn it on.
Don’t get me wrong in the beginning I was so into it, having fever dreams of new patch and module combinations most weeks, everything seemed possible and full of potential but it all became too much with constant reconfiguring.

Just for a bit of context of my background of dragon chasing.

In the late 90’s my elder brother went travelling for a year but before he left he generously offered his entire studio to my brother and myself for loan whilst he was away.

The Lion’s share went to my other brother and by the time it came to me, picking through the bones I was left with a Roland D-20 and a knackered old PC with Rebirth on it.

The brother that inherited the majority of the flashy gear did Sweet FA with it all year and was completely overwhelmed - I had no idea what to do with the stuff I had but that didn’t stop me.
Playing live synths lines over Rebirth and over dubbing tape to tape got me hooked on this journey.

For several years afterwards I had exclusively worked with a Yamaha A3000 sampler and a Virus A synth sequenced by an ATARI ST and during that time my focus was very consistent.
Fast forward 20 years after amassing /hoarding bits of gear I am finding so much pleasure in returning to those simpler times of composition, work with one to two pieces

The last couple of years I discovered the Elektron world and absolutely love it for this reason.
Using the MDUW on it’s own is so inspiring. One box to do everything, squeeze the whole Lemon if you will.

On reflection modular was an invaluable experience and really helped me interface differently with the gear I already had so I totally understand the allure but perhaps things may possibly be the same for you?
The main down side to modular is many modules and ethos seem to become obsolete very quickly within that eco system which I found to be a big distraction.


unless you have space and funds, run away! But a nice way is get something like Cascadia or Erica Synths Techno system that has the basic modules and sequencer.

My vote is no to modular. I built a groovebox type rack and had it for a while and could never get on with it. When I do want a modular approach, I now use softube modular or VCV now which will give you a good idea of if you like that sort of workflow. Worth trying vcv.


Best modular I ever used was a daw and a dozen or so VST on a MBP.


When you get excited about it, pause for a moment. Count down from 10, take a deep breath. Think not about the promise (implicit or not) but the near-inevitable disappointment.

Then, with a cooler head, ask what it will really get you. Hands-on control, yes. Raw analog sound, sure. Happy accidents, definitely. But at what cost? Everything in modular consumes several resources:

  • Money
  • HP
  • Rail power (-12V, +12V, and sometimes +5V) with exceptions only for things like certain mults, mutes, attenuators, and LPGs
  • Time patching, or even making patch notes
  • Time learning each module
  • The whole rabbit hole of interfacing modular with non-modular (which you must do a bare minimum amount of, i.e. to connect it in some way to your speakers)
  • The whole rabbit hole of ordering PCBs, panels, and parts, and soldering and assembling and debugging, if you get into DIY

There are some things that can be totally worth it. And it can be super, super fun to just patch stuff up and get lost. But it is very likely that after some months or years, you will have spent a whole lot of time, money, and effort to build a case or 5 that you barely ever turn on.


I thought about building a small modular to act as a drum machine. I got serious and specced it out, added up the cost of the modules, and was shocked to find it was laughably more expensive than an Analog Rytm. That was a real eye opener.

Down the line, I flirted with modular with a Grandmother and later Matriarch. The lack of patch memory was a real killer to my productivity and later my motivation. It went from “let’s make a song” to “let’s just enjoy making sound” to eventually “what’s the point of even turning this on.” I learned my lesson. Modular is not for me


I think this is a big part of the attraction for many, and it’s not unreasonable, because it’s not just looks. We presumably use Elektron devices because we want to use knobs and buttons interactively, rather than a keyboard and mouse. Patch cables and mix-and-match take that a step further. But that is not enough to justify it. I think this quote is valuable:

For me this is accurate. My involvement with modular is still ongoing but the A4, Digitone, and any number of iPad apps make so much more sense now because modular let me experiment to understand what works and what doesn’t, and more importantly, why, so that I can generalize to new situations. The other reason is that modular lets me do some things that no fixed-architecture device can currently match (except perhaps for those that are essentially computers in a box). My first Eurorack oscillator has a sound still unmatched by anything else, in my experience.


It seems like you have a good handle on what grooveboxes offer and what is involved with Euro.

Semi-modulars work well for me, but I doubt if the Syntrx has enough LFOs for you.

You might consider trying a Hydrasynth desktop. It should integrate nicely with your existing modular, and may be a good bridge between the groovebox world (recallable presets) and Euro.


Eurorack was mostly an expensive failure for me. I had a bunch of cool modules and at least tried to be thoughtful about assembling a system, but somehow it never clicked, and always felt more like struggling to get something that sounded good/interesting than actually making music. For me, as for some others here, it was the opposite of immediacy dealing with it. I had two full Mantis cases of modules and I got rid of all of it and don’t miss it. At this point I might be interested in a semi-modular unit like the Korg ARP 2600 (I started my synthesis journey years ago on an original 2600 and a Buchla Music Easel) or the Intellijel Cascadia. One of those might be a good thing to try in your rig. And if it doesn’t work out it’s easier to sell one thing than 40 or 50 things.


I’m not a big fan of drums in modular myself. I’m sure some people love their eurorack drum setups, but I’m more into programming drums with drum machines, grooveboxes or trackers – so maybe disregard my opinion on the topic:)

From the post, it sounds like modulation is pretty important, and most drum machines don’t have such flexibility in modulation (too bad Elektron doesn’t make the Machinedrum anymore).

What if you used some kind of hybrid of drum machine with eurorack? Like a CV-capable drum machine that can be modulated by a some eurorack modules (LFOs, envelopes, etc)? Like that you could have a small, manageable rack of utilities, rather than going down the whole modular rabbit hole. Not many drum machines like this come to mind, other than maybe the Pulsar

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The Erica Synths LXR module (not the desktop unit) with a Pico Mix in a 4MS pod would get you pretty close to a modular drum machine, especially if you threw in a Mutable Grids or a Pam’s for sequencing, and that’s still only half the size & price of a Pulsar.

Otherwise, the only drum machines I can think of with CV integration beyond clocks and trigs are the Pulsar and…the A4 with its CV inputs, which is what OP is trying to get rid of.

Get the Intellijel Cascadia. Its a fantastic Modular set up.

I feel like all I do with modular is make percussive sounds. and I don’t have any drum modules. :upside_down_face:


We need to send out for a ruling on whether fart noises are percussive sounds


If they aren’t I don’t want to make percussion anymore.


Grooveboxes usually have sound engines with a bunch of capabilities but they aren’t usually optimized around a sound design oriented workflow. The sound design is usually more in aid of the sequencing capabilities.

Have you tried getting a synthesizer without going full modular? Synthesizers are normally setup with sound design primary and if they do sequencing it’s normally a secondary workflow which is the opposite of grooveboxes.

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I’ve used a few, and something like a rev2 is what I am missing, at least in terms of sound design (I mean, sure, something with envelopes a bit more oriented towards drums). Maybe I am just stuck on the idea of a mod matrix - I can make drones, percussion, etc.

I don’t have any delusions about recreating bread and butter monosynths or 808/909 style drums in euro, and the AR and A4 can do that pretty well already.

Maybe I want to hunt down a tempest instead, but that somehow seems crazier.

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There’s also stuff like a hydrasynth:


or maybe Perkons or Erica Techno System?

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Haven’t used either of them yet, but for drums with few modules…I guess something like either a BIA, or the ModBap Trinity maybe?

But overall I recommend: Don’t go modular :smiley:

edit: Maybe try FORS OPAL instead!