Monday, February 19, 2018

5 Hard Lessons of Buying Eurorack Modules

I haven’t blogged about the Mother 32 in a long time, a very long time. That’s because I’ve sold it and moved on. People warned me, and they were right, the Moog Mother 32 is a gateway into full blown Eurorack addiction. My Mother 32  was replaced with two TipTop Mantis cases and a menagerie of Eurorack modules.

Like any proper addict, I dove in head first, buying and selling modules at a furious rate. At the same time, I was trying to learn how to navigate the modular workflow. This was a frustrating way to enter Eurorack, but to spite all of that, I’ve learned a LOT.

“ From the errors of others, a wise man corrects his own. “ – Publilius Syrus

This isn’t a guide about what modules you need when starting out, which VCA to purchase, or how many HP you need in your first case. Those are all valid questions, and that’s another blog entry for another day. These are 5 of the philosophical questions I’d wrestled with as I went down the Eurorack rabbit hole, and the lessons I learned along the way.

1. Do I really want to dive through menus to use a module?

Sure, you can put Parasites and Bee's In The Trees firmware on Mutable Devices modules, or menu dive through a Disting MK4, but do you really want to? I hate having manuals, cheat sheets, etc laying around. I don't have a lot of free time and I just need to be able to sit down, learn modular, and hopefully be inspired. I’ve sold most all of my multipurpose software modules, including my Ornaments and Crime, and went with modules with a dedicated purpose.

OK, In all honesty I did keep my Warps and Disting MK4. The jury is still out on the Disting but Warps is pretty easy to use for a multi-function module. 

2. Do I really need the best bongo sounds?

You can run down a total rat hole trying to make bongo sounds on modular. Sure, the Rubicon is awesome but how bad do I want the most amazing FM to feed into a LPG? At this point I'd rather sample something and fire it out with a trigger using a sample module. Or better yet, I’d rather buy a Plonk and forget the whole Through Zero FM and Low Pass Gate scenario.

3. Do I really need the best LPG, or Low Pass Gate?

I've bought and sold a few LPGs and to be honest, I'd rather have a good 12db slope VCF and some good envelopes generators. I can dial the envelope in to be plucky, long, swell, or configure it as an LFO if the module supports that. Low Pass Gates tend to leak, and they all sound different so it can be a total crap shoot.

4. Do I need this module?

I know this sounds like a stupid question, but honestly, how many times have you convinced yourself you that you just HAD to have a Wogglebug, Braids, or Clouds? At times it’s seems it’s all but impossible to do Eurorack without those modules. There are reasons these modules are popular but the most important thing is that you’re able to sit down, be inspired, and hopefully make something creative. You don’t have to have all of the modules your Youtube Eurorack idols have to create an inspiring sonic pallete.

5. Do I really want a swiss army knife module?

Maths, this is another one of those “can’t live without it” or "swiss army knife" modules. But just like many of the Make Noise modules, it’s not exactly intuitive or self-explanatory. I know Maths has every function including the kitchen sink, but for envelopes I’d rather have a more conventional ADSR or ADR.

When Make Noise released their Contour envelope, I was sold. It’s very intuitive, but has some parameters that can be modulated with CV. At first, the lack of a cycle button was a letdown but I quickly learned you can patch that up and use it as an LFO. Contour gives you some of the rewards of a swiss army knife module without all of the frustration of learning something as deep as Maths, awesome!

So there you have it, 5 things you should consider when buying Eurorack modules. I hope this helps at least a few folks out there. If you have any Eurorack module buying lessons, please share them in the comments!

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