MODULAR SYNTH.COM

Welcome to the world of analog modular music synthesizers!  These amazing devices were unavailable except as overpriced "antiques" only a few years ago. Now they are being produced again by a group of dedicated manufacturers with more than 325 modules available!

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  • Blacet Research: California 
  • Cyndustries:California 
  • Doepfer: Germany
  • Encore Electronics: California
  • Metasonix: California 
  • Modcan: Canada
  • Oakley Sound Systems: UK 
  • Paia: Oklahoma 
  • STS (Serge): Wisconsin 262.367.3030 
  • Synthesizers.com: Texas 
  • Synthesis Technology: (MOTM) Texas 
  • Wiard: Wisconsin 
  • More...

  • Blacet Research
    What's New

    Synthesis Technology (MOTM)
    What's New
    Wiard
    What's New

    Doepfer
    What's New

    Paia
    What's New

    Modcan

    Synthesizers.com
    What's New
     
    Cyndustries 
    Modcan Compatible Modules
    Whats's New

    Serge

    Encore Electronics


    Metasonix tube module mounted in a MOTM system via adapter

    Oakley Sound




    Question: I am looking for personal opinons why ... modular owners .... love (or hate) their instuments.

    Answer: Love?  Hate?

    Unused, it glowers at me like a monstrous totemic relic from an unspeakable dead alien civilisation from the corner of my office.

    Love?  Hate?

    Flicked on and bleeping, it occasionally stuns me speechless with throaty purrs and heterodyne whistles even after years of near-daily use.  It's a glittering abyss of the unknown and unexpected.

    Love?  Hate?

    These words are too tiny.

    --John Papiewski

    What is all this Modular stuff, anyhow?

    Join the Discussion Group!

    Comparison Chart



    AH Gathering Cal State Hayward 10-19-02

    NAMM 2001 -- Absolutely Analog Heaven
    Courtesy Matt Wilson

    Modular Synth Overview from Electronic Musician Magazine

    Modular Synth Articles from SOS Magazine

    A Tutorial on Analog Modular Synthesis


    Real vs Virtual Analogs

    Most of the discussion about virtual analogs*, aside from matters of overall functionality, seems to center around the degree of effectiveness in modeling analog circuits. That one can be set aside -- they do it nicely, as far as that goes. The resonant filters behave like resonant filters, etc.

    But relatively little attention seems available for what would seem a more fundamental issue -- whether their sound is musical. It's an argument you'd use in comparing one violin with another, for instance. And it's only on that basis that these instruments, whatever their amazing other virtues, can make a lasting claim for themselves. I've exposed myself to heaps of demos of Nord Modulars and Qs and the same observation haunts the experience every time: the vast majority of the time, the sound quality of these machines simply doesn't please me musically.

    It's hard to put the difference between the virtual and analog into words. Q sounds can be almost the same as analog, and often they're crisper and more transparent, but it's as if they have no belly, no meatiness. And so musically it's like putting a lightweight actor in a serious role -- somehow something is missing in terms of authority. More than that, there's something genuinely unpleasant there -- a harshness, a brittleness, a tendentiousness. Whereas an interesting analog patch can usually persuade me of the inner rightness of its particularities with a kind of liquid insouciance, a virtual synth patch faces an uphill battle every step of the way, because everything composing it is something charged and uncomfortable.

    One could argue that this sharpness and brittleness is a legitimate element of a full sound palette. Quite possibly, but I'm not sure at this stage in their development I'd want to let a Q take over more than a quarter of my sound.

    One can also argue that an analog -- especially a modular -- is comparatively just too much of a beast to bother with when there's so much functionality easily accessible in a Q. (A violin is a beast too.) Still, I think I'd rather go through a much more laborious recording process with an analog in order to end up with results that were satisfying to the ear on a sufficiently deep level.

    Perhaps it's a series of lucky accidents, but analog synths just genuinely sound go-o-o-o-o-od.

    Virtual synths may very well get there some day and the possibilities are certainly endless, but I have to say the sound leaves me pretty untempted right now. My apologies to virtual analog users, who no doubt have many good reasons for loving their machines.

    (I invite anyone interested to compare MP3s of the Q found on http://www.midiwall.com/q/ (thank you, Mark) with MP3s of the Modcan modular at http://www.modcan.com/sound.html (thank you, Bruce) and analyze the significant differences in the meatiness, smoothness, and authority of the sound.)

    Other opinions regarding sound quality?

    --Charles Graef

    * Virtual analogs use computer and DSP chips along with programming to mathematically attempt to recreate analog sound quality.