Re: Which Modular

From Mark Pulver
Sent Sat, Dec 14th 1996, 20:10

>I want oscilators and filters that sound this good, or better, and I want to
>plug them in any way I feel like.  In short, I want a modular.
>So what would be a good approach ?  Please no "whatever works for you"
>answers here, I want strong opionions.
>I want opinions, prices, and you can even mail me forsale offers.  I'm
>willing to spend whatever is necessary to do it right the first time.

Whatever works for you...

Sorry, had ta'... :)

I think a lot of what will drive you to a decision is what you can afford.
I understand that you're "willing to spend what it takes to do it right",
but understand that a new System 55 from Moog Custom Engineering will run
you $22,000.

Is something like this in your range? :)

You have to look at what you want to do... You say that you like the sound
of the Roland, so maybe you want something with more bottom end punch; or
do you want something that will fill an audio spectrum from top to bottom
with nothing really standing out from 20-20khz? Are you creating dance
tracks or ambient or going for a Tangerine Dream thing or???

Are you into walls of gear? Do you want the Roland - and whatever else you
may have - to interface EASILY with what you buy? Do you have anything
against something from the "new" modular gear that's showing up or do you
want 20 year old leaky caps to add to your sound. Do you care about
cosmetics, or is the flexibility what you're after?

Lemme run through your list a bit...

>	A new serge

Front to back, simply *THE* most sophisticated synth modules on the market
today. If you wanna do crazy things and get timbres that events that simply
cannot be recognized, there is only one system on the market that will make
you happy.

You will pay for it though. A "Serge Panel" is custom punched and made
based on what you want in it. If you want a panel of VCOs, then you get a
single piece of punched metal, custom silk screened with multiple VCOs in it.

Serge offers just a boatload of modules... But each module can easily serve
double or triple duty. You have VCOs being used as LFOs and Sequencers and
Waveshapers and all sorts of things. There is NOTHING like a Serge panel,
it's not that it's patchable, it's that it's FLEXIBLE...

The cost of a Serge will vary wildly based on what you put into a panel...
Panels can be inexpensive at a few hundred dollars, or they can run into a
couple of thousand.

>	An old moog

Okay, lets go back to what you want to do and what you *really* have to
spend. If you want to get into amn "Old Moog" system then take a look at
what Mike Kent is about get for his System 15. The 15 is basically a
modular MiniMoog plus a five band variable filter. Mike's probably gonna
fetch around $5000 for this box. There was a System 55 (kneel and pray to
the East) that went for auction in England at about $18,000. A "New 55"
from Moog CE will run you $22,000.

Now... *WHY*? Because it's a Moog. Because there is a sound of a modular
Moog that you just can't get anywhere else. One of my favorite examples for
people asking "uh, why's that so cool" is to point them to 16:43 of track 4
(Tarkus) of the live ELP album "Welcome Back my Friends...". *THAT'S* why.

That sound doesn't from any where else... It's a modular Moog. Done deal.

>	Doepfer, or whatever the cheap german unit is

No experience with the gear... 

>	Aural Research

Bottom line. Ric is building solid, flexible gear with a great sound. His
2044 filter is quite nice, and his discrete filter is very smooth, front to
back. Ric's downside is that his modules have a homebrew *appearance*.
There is *nothing* shoddy about the sound or the work in general, but as
you look at the modules from the front panel, you know that someone layed
out the panels, drilled the panels and lettered the panels by hand.
Personally... It doesn't bother me. Ric is NOT trying to be Serge or
Doepfer and I didn't buy modules from him because I thought he was.

I bought a good number of modules (35) from Ric, and to date, I have all
but one of them (parts issues on the last one). I've had the whole system
hooked up now for about two days, and I'm *REALLY* *SERIOUSLY* into it. I
like it *A LOT*. Ric builds A LOT of flexibility into his gear, with a lot
of nice interface issues taken care of as an integral part of his designs.
Things like all the CV_OUTs on modules such as LFOs and ADSRs have
attenuators on them (no need for externals to patch through); all of the
CV_INs on modules (VCOs, VCF, slew generator) have attenuators on them (the
VCOs also have non-attenuated inputs); the VCOs have dual pulse outputs,
each with independent WIDTH and PWM controls; the the mulimode filter has
all outputs available simultaneously; the LFOs run all the way down to one
cycle every 7 *MINUTES*...

Again, the ONLY thing on the negative side that I have to say about Ric's
gear is the cosmetics. Well, there is the issue about short ADSR times are
set by spinning the knobs full CW, but hey... If he wants to be backwards,
more power to him! :) (hi Ric!)

>	Have my arp modded to be semi-modular

Which ARP? Odyssey, Avatar? This is a good start, and a cheap way to get
into being able to plug anything anywhere. In the end though, it's gonna
sound and feel like an ARP synth. Not a bad thing, but it may be too
similar to your Roland to justify the cost of Phil's patchable workover.

Don't get me wrong, I love my 2600, and for a long time I was looking for
an Avatar for the sole purpose of sending it to Phil to become a "2600
sidecar". I ended up getting distracted in other gear, and I really don't
need the additional power from that side of the room.

I've said this many times here, but I approach synths as a pallet for
creating sound. I often stack sounds to come up with what I hear in my
head. I have a wide variety of gear, and each has it's own place in the
"arsenal". The 2600 definitely holds it's own, but I will reach for the
2600 to do different things than the Moog or ARF or whatever...

>	old paia (I can get lots more this way :)

Now, the fact that you said "I can get lots more this way" tends to
contradict you saying that you're willing to spend whatever... You need to
be sure of your budget. You can EASILY spend $5000 on a modular system that
is basically nothing more than a patchable Mini Moog. It's wild, and you'll
have a great time, but it's $5000. :)

For the PAiA gear, I'd have to vote against it... (sorry John!) I once had
a TON of PAiA gear... probably 6 wing cabinets full plus a couple of custom
cabinets. a) it was fun to build, b) it taught me a lot about synthesis, c)
it was inexpensive, but. Looking back, and having had a close encounter
with a PAiA system not too long ago, I'm much happier now that I went
through that stage. :)

The PAiA gear feels... ummm, well (again, sorry John), cheap. But then, the
designs were meant to be cheap to produce and straight forward to
implement. The basic problem with the gear is that it just doesn't track
well, and the filters just don't hang on a grab ya'.

There are a couple of things not on your list...

- ARP 2600... Nice synth, and possibly what the ultimate suggestion would
be for you. They can be hard to come by though. There was a guy here on the
list that is trying to sell what appears to be a rev 2 for $1800.
Personally, that price is more in line for a rev 4, but... whatever.

- Bruce Duncan - "Modcan" is the company name. Bruce is a guy up in Canada
that's doing, what appears to be, *VERY NICE* work. The synth looks just
WONDERFUL. But... I have no hands-on with it. His pricing is quite
attractive. You can get a 4 VCOs, 2 VCF, 4 VCA, 2 ADSR plus misc modules
and cabinet for about $3000. email for info.

Well... I'm pretty well typed out...

Hopefully this will hit the archives as well. :)

 Mark Pulver -    The "Son of The MIDI Wall"
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