Did someone say the world of Eurorack modular is slowing down? Really?! Well, if anyone happened to be at this year’s NAMM show then it looks like the Eurorack industry didn’t get the memo.
Back once again with a mini, statside version of the superbooth of old, Alex4 distribution and W.M.D. were pretty much the epicentre of all things modular in Hall A. Brands such as Doepfer, Vermona, Eowave, Frap Tools and Endorphin, were flanked by the likes of Pittsburgh Modular, Intellijel, Erica Synths and Malekko Heavy Industry, to name but a few.
The only thing missing from this year’s lineup seemed to be Make Noise, who were dearly missed. While the likes of Strymon were once again holed up in the once-legendary Hall E, which is now mostly the home of Ukuleles and Chinese motorized fader manufacturers.
We’ve homed in on our favourite modular offerings from the show, so get clicking through the gallery to find out our top picks.
For more of NAMM 2018’s finest, check out MusicRadar’s best of NAMM awards.
Pittsburgh Modular Microvolt 39000
We’re sensing that one of the latest trends in music technology this year seems to be desktop semi-modular monosynths and it wasn’t just the more traditional synth brands at it either.
Pittsburgh Modular introduced us to its newest instrument, the Microvolt 39000. Drawing the obvious comparisons with Make Noise’s 0-Coast, the Microvolt 39000 wants to be experimented with and features some nifty options such as a wavefolder added to the oscillator.
OK, so it's not strictly Eurorack, but a gateway into the world of modular nonetheless and PM make Eurorack modules.
Radikal Technologies Delta Cep A
Radikal Technologies further backing up our theory on semi-modular synths. This time the Delta Cep A brings things back to the more traditional subtractive ways of thinking in synthesis.
Whilst, in appearance, it’s going up against the likes of Moog’s Mother-32 and the Behringer Neutron as an ideal gateway drug into the world of Eurorack, the Delta Cep A has one very nice trick up its sleeve; the Swarm oscillator, which enables you to tune a bank of up to eight oscillators into chords, clusters or one fat detuned multi-oscillator.
Arturia Link is another excuse (should you need one) to get into Eurorack modular. More specifically, ‘Link’ allows you to connect the MiniBrute 2 and 2S to the RackBrute.
The new powered rack system comes in 3U and 6U variants, but also looks rather sexy in its own right. Paired with the Minibrutes, though, and you get the option to fold up your system with the aid of a carry case to take on the road.
Strymon’s entry into the world of modular has been much anticipated and the California effects maker definitely hasn’t disappointed with the Magneto. So much so that we couldn’t help but name it our best in show for modular.
The ‘Four Head dTape Echo & Looper’ will transform the most vanilla of sounds into epic soundscapes. Piling on the harmonic content to your tones is easily achieved, especially when the pitch setting is switched to Shift. Some lovely shimmering reverberated sonic content will spew forth from your monitors.
Frap Tools Fumana
This dual channel filter bank from Frap Tools is an epic beast, to say the least. Each filter bank is composed of an array of 16 independent 48dB/oct bandpass filters. Having two identical filter arrays, allows you to use one of those for spectral analysis (of a modulator signal) and the other for spectral re-synthesis (of the main signal).
Each array is sub-grouped in odd and even bands (numbering these increasingly from one to 16, left to right). It is possible to apply different signal to odd and even bands, both for main and/or modulator arrays.
And that’s not all, throw in the 16 outputs for the individual bands, outputs for the odd and even groups, the envelope followers and all bands. See, told you it was epic.
Erica Synths Drum Sequencer and Resonant Equalizer
In that sea of braided cables (and just slightly out of shot - sorry) are two new offerings from Erica Synths that we particularly liked. First up is the Drum Sequencer module, which draws inspiration from the 909 and designed in collaboration with French company e-licktronic, famous for the Nava and Yocto DIY drum machines.
Secondly is the Resonant Equalizer, which features 12 uniquely designed bandpass filters, that are digitally controlled for increased versatility.
One very cool feature that will particularly liked was that the analogue filter boards will be interchangeable to provide different combinations of bands; the first one has 9 semitone distance between bands.
2HP Pluck and Play
2HP are set to drop a swathe of modules over the next 12 months and we got to see a fair few of them at the show, but there were two modules that piqued our interest the most.
Both the Pluck and Play modules arrive in the, very obvious, 2HP format. Pluck is based on Karplus-Strong synthesis and, as the name would suggest, delivers plucked tones.
Play is a simple playback module that features a micro SD input for a maximum of 12 samples and there is an input for controlling the speed and order in which the samples are fired.
Intellijel were yet another company to release multiple modules at this year’s show, we were particularly enamoured by the Morgasmatron; think the Korgasmatron, but more!
Based on the filter from the Korg MS-20, the Morgasmatron takes everything from the Korgasmatron II and throws in some extra distortion, so much so that it couldn’t get further from the original MS-20 filter’s character - proper filthy.
Eowave Capsule Titan mk2
Eowave, further confirming that we’re onto something with this semi-modular thing, has updated the Capsule Titan semi-modular module.
The mk2 carries on the combination of seven previous Eowave modules, but also throws in an extra Rayonnement ADSR/AD looper and a bunch of attenuation control.
Malekko Heavy Industry Manther Growl
Not only was Malekko Heavy Industry showing off the final version of the Manther desktop synth, which will be on sale very soon, but the Roland collaborator is also going to drop a Eurorack version of the synth at the same time.
Called the Manther Growl, it’s a full-featured synth voice that takes most of the features from the desktop edition, but leaves out the screen and sequencer.
QU-Bit Electronix Scanned
QU-Bit announced three new modules at the show, but perhaps the most intriguing is Scanned.
An organic wavetable VCO, Scanned uses a, seemingly, unexplored synthesis technique known as, wait for it, ‘scanned synthesis’ to generate “complex sounds and timbres that you've never heard before”.
We’ve seen plenty of examples in software, but QU-Bit’s claim is that this is the first implementation of scanned synthesis in hardware.
Steady State Fate launched its own semi-modular synth, Bantum, at NAMM this year (the trend is real), which is as feature packed as is now expected from such an instrument.
The module features two main VCOs, an LFO and waveform mixer. There are two auxiliary inputs, which can either be external inputs, LFO output, noise or “symmetry” which is like an offset.
A Polivoks-style filter is joined by a three-mode ADSR and Slope, while the VCA section features three overdrive modes. Unlike most semi-modular modules, Bantum has its own effects with a delay and a built-in sample-and-hold circuit to finish off the signal-chain.