Interesting Developments in Modular

I’ve been following the news from Superbooth and the subsequent fall out and other stories that weren’t the big liners, and here’s a few things that slipped under the radar.

They seem to be geared towards making modular polyphonic, storable or both. These are really interesting to me. I mean, I love my modular synths (I’m lucky to have both Euro and dotcom format systems) but there are a few things that ‘niggle’ me a little;

  1. Cables, ok, they kinda cool, but my slightly OCD’ish nature means I find them sightly messy. I’ll use purple for CVs, Red for Audio, Orange for gates, etc. But sooner or later it ends up messy, mismatching cables because I’ve run out of one colour, or worse still, both.
  2. Patch storage, one of the things I love about modular is that you can create pretty much any sound be recombining modules in unique ways. In a way for me that’s great as I can try new ideas and concepts quickly and easily, but when I get that ‘awesome sound’ I have to then do something with it straight away, because in three weeks time the patch will have changed and the chances of my remembering how to get it back are slim (I’ve reached that age in my life where I forget things far too easily, hence I always have a notebook to hand, I’m old school, I like paper).
  3. Polyphony, ok, there are many ways to get polyphonic modular synths, but not many people want to buy 16 VCOs, 8 VCFs, 16 ADSRs, etc to get an 8 note poly system. Not least to add that is a LOT of patch cables and a lot of patch points to remember (see items 1 & 2 before). I love modulars for many things, but I love playing chords too, and multi-tracking a modular to get a poly sound is kind of a buzz kill and can ruin the creativity of the moment.
  4. Ever expanding modular (with a respectful nod to Tonto), each time you want a new feature, you need another module. This is a double edged sword, it’s fab that there are lots of manufacturers out there so you can pretty find the exact module to suit your need, but the flip side is you’re always going to run out of case, patch cables and/or power.

So, with these three things in mind, I found these items at Superbooth (and online) which seem to address some of these issues, none of these are the ‘holy grail’ solution to my ‘4 modular niggles’, but it’s interesting to see that I’m not alone in my thinking.

Nozori
This is a lovely concept that addresses niggle number 4, and I’ll happily say I bought a Nozori 68 and Nozori 84 modules as part of the Nozori Kickstarter.

Now I really love this idea, a tonne of modules in a single physical module. Just swap a front panel, flick a few switches and go from VCF, to VCO to ADSR, LFO and much more, fabulous!
A real space saver and for the once every 6 months you need say a karplus strong oscillator, you have it!
What I don’t like is that to swap the panel you have to undo the for retaining screws for the module. I think I’d have liked to have seen the four corner screws hold the module in place, and then have two central “knurlies” which hold the function panel in place. I may have a go at modifying mine to work like this. But in short, these are fab modules and work really well. I can see them being great for people with live rigs and people like me who sometimes want extra LFOs or extra ADSRs, but don’t want a bit crusher in permanent residency, but every so often fancy playing with a bit crusher.

Soulsby Synths ecosystem
This I like, again, it solves the problems of polyphony and space, but also retaining a lot of connectivity with existing euro rack modules.

I really like where this is going, it took me a few watches of the video to get the flow, but I think it’s great. Lots of connectivity, lots of expandability and very little space. I also really like the use of LED rather than displays for selecting some things, it makes it feel much less like ‘menu diving’.

Mayer M800 System
This is great, polyphony AND patch storage! result.

I really like this, some fabulous sounds, multi-timbrality, polyphony, patch storage and a gorgeous UI (who doesn’t like LED rings!).
What let’s it down is that it appears to be quite a ‘closed’ system, i.e. it doesn’t look like you can easily integrate a lot of other Eurorack modules with it. it has a few inputs and outputs, but that’s it.
It does have wavetables (I love wavetables)
Perhaps there will be more in the future, definitely one I’ll be keeping an eye on this system.

ACL Sinfinion
This took me a little by surprise when I first saw it, but after watching the video where the guy explains how it works and how he uses it, I’me very impressed.

It’s like a sort of patch manager for modular, but with a whole bunch of really cool stuff built in, For example; chord engine, quantizer, arpeggiator and the ability to route CVs to certain functions.
This seems to me to be an incredibly powerful tool for any modular system, the ability to do some much and route signals and ‘play’ a modular without the need to repatching is wonderful.
I also REALLY love the buttons and panel colour/layout.

Summary
It seems to me there’s a change in the direction of modular, from ‘noise making’ (forgive me) to more ‘musical’ endeavours, plus there’s a push to break the limitations of modular synths in terms of patch memory, polyphony and flexibility.
Exciting times!