7 tips for getting into modular synthesis

(Image credit: Future)

Getting started with Eurorack can be a daunting proposition, both in terms of what and why, as well as the financial outlay. However, there are a few sure-fire ways to build a starter system capable of exceptional musicality, without breaking the bank. 

This isn't a roundup of the best Eurorack modules (though we do have one of those!) but more of a guide to getting started with some affordable, versatile choices that will slot nicely into a modestly-sized set-up.  The modules discussed here should work as a solid foundation for any rack or genre.

1. Bare bones


Eowave Eurorack skiff case (Image credit: Eowave)

First off, before you get ordering your first modules, you need a case and a power supply. The dream may be a vast wall of modular but that’s prohibitively expensive for most, even when it’s empty. Try a skiff of around 104hp as a good starter size. Eowave make a great metal-bodied and powered model for just north of £200, suitable for housing and powering a decent number of modules.


ALM’s Pamela’s Pro Workout (Image credit: Future)

The journey to developing a good first rig starts with some kind of sequencer or a clock but you’d make the best use of your money and space, with something like ALM’s Pamela’s Pro Workout. This module can be used as a clock, sequencer, a modulation source and much more. It doesn’t take a lot of room and is an incredibly capable and intuitive module that has found its way into a vast number of modularist’s collections. At £249, it isn’t the cheapest module, but don’t underestimate its capabilities and value for money.

2. Sound sources


Erica Synths Pico VCO (Image credit: Future)

Now is the time to get a sound source. There are endless options here but don’t let choice paralysis get in your way. Opt for a wavetable VCO and you generally give yourself more versatility which is good for your wallet and tonal palette. 

Erica Synth’s Pico VCO is only £98 and offers 32 different waves, covering all manner of shapes and styles, from classic analogue to FM and more. It’s tiny too, and an added bonus is that it can act as an LFO as well.

3. Modulation


DivKid Modular OCHD (Image credit: Future)

Speaking of LFOs, modulation is at the core of many a system, so finding a good source of musical motion is a great next step. There are loads of options but to keep the cost down, look at something like OCHD. At 4hp and £159 it’s a real winner: eight LFOs at varying rates, which can even modulate themselves, it’s one of those truly magical modules.

4. Take control

quad vca

Nano Modules Quad VCA (Image credit: NANO)

Once you start making noise and have some modulation in place you’ll need methods for controlling things. Eurorack users often say that you can’t have too many VCAs, so that should be next on your list. It’s well worth opting for a quad VCA, preferably with CV inputs, for true control over your patches. For this the Nano Modules Quad VCA is a fine choice. It’s only £155 and can act as a mixer too.

5. Make it personal


Tiptop Audio One module (Image credit: Future)

Now you can start to really make it your own, and shape your collection along the lines of your own personal musical style. Here are a few ideas to get you going. Samples are a great way of bringing a variety of sounds into your rig with one module. 

Tiptop Audio’s simple One sample player is a small triggerable sample player, which you can load sounds into using micro SD cards. It only costs £159, so it’s good value. For another first creative option, which will also help a patch gel, reverbs are a great start. 2hp’s Verb is a neat little module and costs just £144.

6. Space saving


2hp Mix module (Image credit: 2hp)

On which note, if you’re on a budget, or if space is limited then it’s worth considering an entire system comprised of tiny modules. Both 2hp and Erica Synth’s Pico ranges cover all the bases, cost relatively little and obviously take up almost no room. The only downsides are getting your hands in to adjust once patched, although you can space them out, and you don’t get things like multiple VCAs in one module.

7. Listening back


Befaco OUTPUT module (Image credit: Befaco)

Finally, you need some way of listening and/or recording your new-found musical goodness. If all you need is to monitor your progress then ALM’s HPO headphone out is perfect at just £58 but if you want to go a step further then opt for the Befaco OUTPUT module. It’s £139 and offers ¼” outputs as well as some handy features for monitoring parts of your signal.

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