Synthesizer

Synthesizer can trigger a possibly very long search, as these instruments can be so different from each other. It's not as clearly defined, as with violin, clarinet, piano or drumset. It even must be warned of a possible obsession. The wide range of instruments/modules can easily tempt to make “everything” possible availabe - however in instrumental handling it shows up again and again that smaller instruments with fewer parameters allow a more creative usage.

After many pre-configured models (Rhodes Chroma, ARP 2600, DX7, D-50, Korg Wavestation, EMP WASP Deluxe, MiniMoog D, Moog Prodigy, ARP Odyssey, ARP Axxe etc.), I switched to modular synthesizers 8 years ago, because they can be flexibly modified and perfectly matched for all needs.

Even that DSP (digital signal processing) is connected with tremendous blessings, the playing experience, the musical challenge and instrumental feeling with analog equipment is incomparably stronger. Analog Oscillators/Filters actually produce the sound and behavior - digital sound is always a reproduction of sound and behaviors.

Since I work with Max since 1990, it makes sense to implement digital processes to the computer and use analog modules where their advantages come to fruition. Therefor I'm working on the development of my hybrid instrument in which the digital functions are solved with Max/MSP primarily. As a musician the transportability is also very important to me - each digitized function saves space, weight and cash.


My hybrid Instrument:


Modular Systems:


Historic Stage-Synthesizers:

Analog Filterbanks:


Why a Modular Synthesizer?

Only modular synthesizers are offering a universal and fully open approach. They always deepen and concrete the consciousness for tonal processes. A modular system offers perfect ways to realize existing compositions in electronic music and nowadays it can be integrated into a digital environment from every point. A modular synthesizer is an elysian pleasure.

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Even if it looks deterring for some: particularly for beginners a modular Synthesizer is the best choice. The system can be expanded gradually with rising skills. The price of an "entrance" modular Synthesizer is difficult to undercut. The biggest difficulty in the beginning is the selection of modules and necessary accessories. Here it is adviced to ask for help or some assistance.


Formats

There are several formats which can be mixed - some will need a different PSU, mostly 12V or 15V Power. img I first opted for MOTM as my main format and Eurorack as "companion-format". Most formats are bipolar (-/+), but there is also an unipolar system (CV 0-10V) - more an instrument than a “format”, which is my main instrument today: the Buchla Electric Music Box. Everything is somewhat different, but even Buchla can be combined with other systems as well.


Buchla

A kind of "Steinway" among electronic instruments - even if the comparison is misleading. In fact, the strengths and the weaknesses are in equal measure - for example, the rather restricted filter or rather simple Function Generator 281.

img However, it is similar in life, namely, that the character is primarily defined in terms of weaknesses. The gap between the incisors or the slight squint that makes a uniform face unmistakable and only beautiful.

I'm tied up by the sound and charm of the "Series 200", a historical format. In 2015 I exchanged my instrument towards the Buchla modules and i'm thrilled. Here, mixing is very important and many nuances arise in interaction. Very musical and intuitive! Also for networking with the computer, Buchla is uncomplicated, mainly due to the line-level use. It was a "quite large" step and I'm very excited.

More about the (my) Buchla Electric Music Box.


MOTM

Some very good ideas are behind MOTM which is offered in (DIY) parts or fully assembled. Mainly musical and technical maxims are behind this modules, which appear to be strengthened by the analysis of the experiences and mistakes of early modular systems. In comparsion to the old prices of the 70th - such systems where far beyond price in those times - MOTM is quite reasonable. In particular the high quality of the parts has to be mentioned, which also leads to a superb audio quality. The - in comparison to the Eurorack - distinct larger format is much more ergonomic IMO.

img The width of the modules is adjusted so that 10 MOTM-U match 19 inches. Most modules are 1 or 2 MOTM-U wide. The height of the modules is 5U (8,75 inches). The unified appearance with high-quality front-panels always let the whole instrument appear as a unit. The design is impressive and robust which seems to make the modules very durable. An additional reason for MOTM is the possibility of mixing it relatively easy with other +/-15V formats like Frac Rak or DotCom.

The MOTM-scene is quite dominated by DIY-ers, but you can find people that produce the desired modules. The circuits in the MOTM modules can be discussed (technical) and everything is open - which means that there are no company secrets - a central aspect of MOTM. Here is a real advantage of this format - virtually everything can be ported when there is a pcb for it. New front panels can be created almost easily. There are some famous, exclusiv boards, such as the LoPassGate from Don Buchla, for which there is a front panel as well. Some companies offer their fancied modules already in the MOTM format, such as the Cynthia Zeroscillator. Some of the most popular circuits come from the Nuremberg electronics guru Jürgen Haible from whom i received my first row of modules. Jürgen seemed to have technically analyzed and understood almost every interesting unit since at least the sixties!


More about my MOTM.


Eurorack

The significantly smaller euro rack format is clearly the most uncomplicated and portable way to Modular Synthesizers. If the modules are to be in a comparable quality to MOTM, it might become even more expensive! On the other hand there is an active "used"-market due to the high spreading.

img Particularly the simple portability is a striking argument. This Case is only 28 x 28 x 86 cm, 16 kg and can be carried fully patched!

The MOTM-instrument with the same amount of modules and the same width would be higher than 200 cm and would need several cases.

More about my Eurorack Modular Synthesizer.