Super Compact Physical Modeling Modular (w/Octatrack)


So, I’m just doing some preliminary research, but the gist of it is that I have been wanting to sequence another “small” box with the OT. I’ve thought about the uses/functionality of this box and have decided that I’d like to accompany the OT and my string instrument/mic inputs with a single-voice synthesizer.

I’ve discovered over time that as far as synthesized sounds go, I like the “organic” nature/sounds of physical modeling synthesis the most (though I definitely like the ability of PM synthesis to get more “unreal” sounds as well). Out of all the Ableton synths, I tend to reach for Collision or Tension first.

Anyway, these ideas coupled with striving for the most compact setup I can manage (while still doing what I want to do) has led me to thinking that a TINY bit of modular might be a cool way to go. I have yet to find a really compact desktop PM synthesis machine that suits my needs in this way. I’m a complete noob at modular, so it’s a little intimidating, but …

I’m thinking a nicely compact setup for my needs would be Mutable Instruments Elements coupled with Yarns (plus power obviously). That’s it. I have enough in the way of acoustic/electric instruments plus the OT, so I’m not really interested in expanding the modular stuff, as I plan to gig with it (portability and all).

So, I’d be interested in hearing other’s experience and thoughts on sequencing a modular synth with the OT (I’ve started to scan other topics related to this) and particularly the idea behind a finite and very compact modular setup or really any compact synth which does PM synthesis similar to Elements.



I use the expert sleepers fh-1 and a legacy Iconnect Midi as bridge between my OT and some VCO´s in my small euro rig.
I sequence the VCO from my midi tracks and use the audio tracks for drums/perc and and other stuff.
I take the outs of my euro mixer and the outs of my OT to a separate mix option, eg. sound card or mixer/mix bus.

Very happy with the resolve and at the moment just practice an hour everyday, trying to stay focused and not reading too much forum talk/getting GAS for gear I don´t need and hope to be out playing gigs on my own later this year.


Nice, I’m thinking of no more than 60HP for size. I like the idea of that FH-1 to be able to hook up a usb midi controller.

Thanks for the reply. Good luck with your practice schedule and gigging! I applaud the effort to set limits and focus on the music :grinning:


Have toyed with this idea as well.
Elements isn’t exactly compact. Have you checked out Braids? It does some cool PM stuff too
@ringokidf is right that you’ll need a midi to CV converter but I guess you already know that
You’re missing modulation, which is where all the fun is! I hear maths is a good starting point.

Go spend some time on muffwiggler :wink:


I’d just get Madrona Labs’ Kaivo. It will sound way better than anything you’d find in Euroland.


Ah, good ideas! thanks. I did look at Braids. It looks really cool too. For midi to CV, I was looking at Yarns, as I mentioned in my OP. One specific thing about Yarns which is very cool (and a feature that I would definitely use) is that it has support for microtunings.

Elements isn’t as compact as say, an OP-1 for sure or some other modules, but I was thinking, if I keep it to Mother 32 size or smaller, I’m good.

@corpusjonsey: I’ve known about Kaivo for awhile. It looks and sounds really good, but it remains a piece of software and doesn’t inherently have the hands on hardware aspect which I’m looking for.


Yep, yep.

And I think I am going to keep an open mind about Braids. Not a lot of knobby control, though.


Super compact is always a bit hard. The system must make sense. So here we go. You need VCAs and I would suggest a multimodefilter too to sculpt the sound more. Elements has a lot of inputs for modulation and thats were the fun is. Otherwise its very fast sounding boring and static. Maths is a must and cover so many modular duties like envelopes, attenuation, LFO and logic. Batumi is a compact 4x LFO with great features. You also need a output module to bring the signal to line level, otherwise your Octatrack inputs will not like the hot signal and distort. This would be a good complete example :


Yeah, I understand, I think. I figured it might be more than I care to handle by trying for modular (even a very small setup). However, when I was reading about Elements, it sounded like I wouldn’t necessarily need a VCA, as there is a shared envelope between two exciters and then the third has its own. A multimode filter would be cool too, but again, I really want to be as minimal with it as possible. A 4HP filter, I could see adding if there were room in my “compact” case.

I understand that modulation is where there are lots of fun possibilities. Yet, I was thinking that the OT’s midi sequencer offers LFOs and other modulation possibilities. Plus, since I’m going for mostly pretty organic sounds, a lot of warble from modulation really isn’t my thing. The fun possibilities for me is having a very organic sounding hardware physical modeler that I can tweak live (manual modulation). I’m not planning on using this as a main sound source. It’s meant to be very adjunct in my setup.
But I appreciate the reality check. In the next week or two, I’m planning on going down to Control Voltage here in Portland and talking to some folks about my ideas. You may be right. But I just want to see what is the minimum I can get away with and have a really good sounding device that expands my existing palette.

And good point about an output module :wink:


Keep in mind also as elements is a stereo output module, best to only use stereo modules in the audio path downstream i.e. filters, vca’s, output module etc, to maintain Elements stereo field.


Good point . Another Idea and it will be even cheaper. Think about getting a second hand Analog four. It provides the whole architecture. The oscillator section has an input . So you just buy a oscillator like braids and put it in. Th external inputs of A4 can handle modular levels . So you input osc and use the filters, vca, Modulation of the A4. Of course you can sequence and modulate with the 4 cv outputs. It will be cheaper when to buy a basic modular system where a filter already costs easily 200€. Just an idea


Braids has only few physical modelling algos. If you want to consider Euro just because of PM then I’d stick with the Elements plan or get Rings (or both :slight_smile:) There are also the Intellijel Plonk or the Make Noise Mysteron.
I own Rings and absolutely love it. But it’s only a resonator so it is recommended to get something to excite it, where for me, Braids is a great partner e.g.
And yes, for those modules you certainly want modulation, otherwise you’d miss the point. I’m not sure how the Lfo’s of the OT work with a midi to cv module, never tried it. But people say midi Lfo’s are not as great as Cv, because you have only 127 values… But I heard good things about Yarns and the FH1.
The A4 is a great Euro Partner for sure :slight_smile:

Intellijel Plonk

Yeah, I like that Braids is smaller, but Elements seems more suited to what sounds I’m looking for. I had a look at Mysteron, and it has some interesting capabilities, but I dig the Elements interface and sound more (only judging from pics and audio/video). I’d contemplated getting Rings at first and then use some sort of contact mic’d acoustic sound source. This is still a consideration. The resonator is really the heart of a PM synth, in my mind.

@Monopete that’s an interesting idea, and if I were to get another Elektron besides the OT, it would probably be an A4 mkI :wink: But, an A4 plus modular (plus my OT, stringed instruments, etc.) would be defeating the idea of a “compact” synth for the OT to sequence. Really great idea for studio, though. And good to know that the A4 inputs can handle modular levels.


I use my OT with a Befaco Midi Thing. It gives you 4 channels of conversion at half the size and prize of Yarns. Especially for a small system that helps save space.
It doesn’t really do microtunings but you can calibrate each channel the way you want so you can calibrate a channel for a specific tuning. Also in euroland you can achieve microtunings in many ways by for example sending pitch CV through an attenuator.


Wasn’t aware of madrona labs. Kaivo and aalto look amazing


They are all really good.


You should consider the Endorphin Shuttle Control.
I just swapped my Yarns out for it and I’m extremely happy with that decision.
Same amount of hp with twice the output.
Using a M-Audio Midi Uno with it at the moment but I’m hoping it will be Digitakt compatible soon for USB midi.


Definitely, I seriously considered Kaivo, but do want to keep the computer in the studio. I still think I might get it at some point.


Nice setup! I’m hoping to get something together about a quarter of the size, though :smile:

Wow, the Shuttle Control looks amazing. It would be nice in the studio to have usb midi available as well, hmmm.

edit: it is quite expensive, though.


This is great info, thank you! Again, I’m a complete beginner at Euro, but I love to learn!