So, here we are, ten months into 2021 and the Doepfer Monsterbase is near completion. A bumpy road and more hurdles ahead. Was this year a good time to start a Eurorack system? The pandemic lingered on into 2021 and still rears its ugly head. The other obstacle that is causing many module builders a major headache is the global chip shortage. It’s not only increasing prices, but it’s causing re-stock issues. There are simply not enough chips around for those that craft our beloved nifty electronics.
This post will be the first of a series called Eurorack Adventure. Allow me to fill you in on how my first modular synth journey has started this year. I hope this will amuse, or even help you on your own modular trip. These will be long writings, so grab something to drink and some snacks!
It started with 26hp..
The original plan was a modest 26hp, self-powered FX skiff. My current roadmap on Modular Grit is a system that contains a (low-cost) Doepfer Monsterbase and a Monstercase on top of that, 15U-840hp. And before you laugh and the: “we told you so comments” emerge, it’s alright! Most of the modules are paid with the revenue from sound design commissions or beta test work for developers. And it’s not like I have much of a social life anyway. 🙃
Before I buy new gear or even software, I like to research it really thoroughly. My first research on Eurorack dated back to mid-2018. Roughly 60% of the researched modules from those collected bookmarks and notes, is what currently is filling my Monsterbase. So the 26hp skiff was more or less a stupid idea, to begin with. Research is probably the safest way to start a modular adventure, it can be a huge pitfall. Determine what your goal is and how you want to use your modular. My main goal was to create a vast sound source for my sound design. I also wanted a gritty rack to make drones and Blackgaze with.
Building a Eurorack roadmap
The original plan was a hybrid rig, Ableton Live is one of my main DAW’s. So the ExpertSleepers ES-3 was one of the first modules in the rack. Re-stock issues kept my system from going both ways, I can still only send CV-over-Lightpipe from Live into the rack, not the other way around. Hope to get that sorted before the end of the year, I need a second Presonus 1824C audio device too. Because the ExpertSleepers ES-6 was out of stock for a long time, I started to shift the system a bit more towards working DAWless (recording straight into my Zoom F8n field recorder). With the ES-6 ordered, the hybrid circle will be full shortly. I’m looking forward to going crazy with all the features of Ableton Live and a modular!
The first case I bought was a low-cost Doepfer case, 9U-252hp. At that time it did not make much sense to get the Monsterbase immediately. So I started with a smaller case which took me about seven months to fill. By that time I had enough money set aside to get a low-cost Doepfer Monsterbase. The modules transferred easily to this case and with all the waiting-list orders slowly trickling, in that case, is nearly filled now too. Below you find the Instagram post to what I did with that first case, before even filling it. Who doesn’t love Mr.Bungle?! This case will continue to be in use until I have enough modules again to transfer those into a Monstercase. After that this one could function as either a travel case or a focus case for projects. Who knows.
Modular Grit is an excellent tool to plan your Eurorack case and to do research. When you have a selection of modules that interest you, look if there are ways to check them virtually yourself. Think of VCV Rack, Softube Modular, Voltage Modular, or any other format that you have access to. Sometimes I got excited about a module by watching Youtube videos or reading about them. But when I started a patch with it in VCV Rack, the module turned out to be not really what I expected or hoped for. I have a noisy and expensive taste, so buying that module based on excitement would have been a 3-400€ blunder.
You can easily start with a free account on Modular Grit and plan a rack in different -Monsterbase size- cases. I always have a current rack, a research rack, the roadmap to a completed system and I always have a copy of my racks to mess around it. As I don’t really like gaps or blank plates. I use MG like many others, planning my case beforehand, so when the modules are ready to move to a new house there are no (well.. less) surprises. Since this website is such a nice tool to plan and research, I upgraded to a unicorn account rapidly. Click the link and find out if that might be useful for you or not, it’s the price of a handful of patch cords. 😉
The waiting game, and the luring danger
As mentioned above, there’s a global chip shortage and it takes most developers and boutique builders longer to re-stock modules. Without wanting to come across as overly obsessive, this is a thing you need to consider along your journey. Eurorack exploded, the amount of modules is growing rapidly, but so is the demand for them. There are certain modules that you can find in nearly every system, modules that have become very popular and wanted. It took me nearly nine months to get my hands on a DATA by Mordax Systems.
The WMD Performance Mixer is another of those hard-to-get modules. It is huge and expensive, but really worth the wait! And I can only say this; if you want one, go get it asap! It’s increasing in price rapidly. Mine has been ordered a while ago and I hope within a few weeks I can rearrange my rack to make this amazing module and its Mutes expander fit.
The biggest danger of the shortages is impulse buying other modules or deviating from your roadmap. Sure, you can get a replacement for the Make Noise Maths, combine a bunch of modules that recreate a similar function. There also are plenty of alternatives for the o_C or Wogglebug, or why not buy the alternative first and the originally planned ones later? The risk in all of this is running out of real estate in your case. You made a roadmap -most likely- based on a certain amount of budget you want to spend. A second or bigger case will sink a significant amount of extra money into this beautiful hobby.
So far, none. The learning curve is steeper than anticipated, but like with any other hobby, skill, or instrument: practice is key. The only thing that I should have done quicker; buying a Keystep Pro! Those are so versatile and let you creatively control and play your modular. A lot of features in a very well build and compact unit.
This is more than enough thoughts for a first post, the next posts will dive deeper into what I bought first, learning modules, and other fun things I ran into on my first ten months of this adventure. Meanwhile, you can check my multimedia page or any of my socials that are linked below. Enjoy October, the best month of the year [IMHO].
Feel free to follow me on my Socials: https://linktr.ee/oddiction If you want to support my Eurorack adventure and my work, please consider buying some of my sounds- & preset packs: https://gumroad.com/oddiction