Thursday, September 1, 2016

Where I'm at - and why...

So here's a current Modular Grid image of my Tiptop Station 252 rig:

I've ended up making a few rather interesting decision in constructing this thing, and I thought it would be useful to go through some of the thinking about it, row-by-row:

Row 1: The Intellijel Row

  • I used to think it was sort of funny that so many people build up system from one manufacturer's modules - until I build a few mix-and-match systems. Not always great. You get used to one modulation curve or tuning 'throw', and everything else starts to feel wrong. And one of things I'm getting from this system is how important feel is. So yeah, a row made mostly of Intellijel bits.
  • The non-Intellijel stuff are the following: The LAMP-1 (which is too cool for working in the late evening), Analogue Solutions SH-NZ sample and hold noise (which has a crazy quirk I've come to depend upon) and the Div6 Filtare SEIII, which has become one of my favorite filters.
  • I used to have a Dixie II+ in here, but I couldn't stand the switches. Octave switches work on a 5U oscillator, but somehow seem completely wrong in Eurorack. That, plus the fact that my Dixie II oscillators do a lot of duty as LFOs, means that the non-plus version hit the sweet spot for me.
  • The Rubicon oscillator is sort of my midnight playground right now. Half of it is (seemingly) unknowable, and the other half just works properly. This is a lot of real estate to hand over for a single oscillator, but that through-zero FM really does have a unique sound.
  • I've got a uMod in there right now, but I'm tempted to put the uFold back in there. Or maybe the uFade and something else. But there is a lot of depth to the uMod that I've not dug into yet, so maybe I keep it around for future exploration.
  • I tried a Polaris filter in this row, but I thought it sounded horrible. I'm sure I'll get beat up for saying this, but...  Intellijel is fantastic at making oscillators, VCA's, envelopes, and everything else, but I have never liked their filters. Not a one. The Filtare fits into this system so perfectly that I couldn't begin to consider anything else right now.
  • I know that the ADSR envelopes make this a little east-coasty, but I don't have to use 'em, and the Maths is right underneith, and it's nice to have ADSR's sometimes (for - sigh - techno night in my basement).
  • The uVCA is the best VCA anyone has made, hands-down. That's one I'd get in a fistfight over.

Row 2: The Make Noise Row

  • And this is what most people think of when they think "I'm gonna get me a modular system." But maybe there's a good reason for this - like the fact that it really does kick ass? The only non-MN stuff in this row is the Ijel multiple and an O'Tool scope module. The multiple is part of my Master Layout Plan (I like it when the cables do sort of an X pattern on the face of the modular), and the scope is the most important playing live tool in my toolbox - when it is hard to hear, I can get an idea of what is going on by watching the scope, and when it isn't making any sound, I can figure things out by scoping parts of the patches. That scope has bailed me out during dozens of gigs.
  • I know I crapped on the MMG in an earlier post. For most cases, I maintain that stance. However, following a DPO, it just sounds right. And the loose-ish knobs that MN uses really make for some excellent performance-twiddling.
  • The Moddemix is another reason I might drop the uMod in the row above. It really does sound great as a ring mod/AM module.
  • I think that I could work with a modular made completely of Maths modules. I love that thing more than I can tell. The ultimate do-everything module that actually makes you want to do everything, it is like have a Swiss Army Knife that was actually a best-in-class knife, best-in-class bottle opener and BIC fish hook remover. It defines awesome for me.
  • The DPO is such a great thing, but I hate tuning it - and keeping it in tune. Using those leetle trimmers for fine tuning (over an octave!) is not my idea of fun. I seldom do melodics on the DPO because of this.

Row 3: Soup-to-Nuts

  • This is the row where I put stuff that I neeeeeeed. The Yarns is the best possible MIDI interface for me. Love it! And the Rosie is the best outbound level+mixer combo I've used. In the middle are a bunch of gotta-haves: the A-185-2, which lets me do groovy pitch modulation without losing my 1v/Oct scaling. The Synovatron for control mixing, and the ArdCore with my custom quantizer/recorder/looper patch - I've gotta have it for live performance. The 4ms PEG is the anchor piece here, and something I use in almost every patch.
  • I didn't mention the AD Dub Jr. delay. I've got issue with those guys - a hurt-ass thing from over a decade ago. Nevertheless, this is the delay that features voltage inputs where I need 'em, so I'm gonna use it.
  • I had to use the Gray Scale panel for the PEG. I tried not doing it, but the clown colors really got under my skin. Believe me, it's hard enough having a black panel for that Rosie; I'm not putting up with blue and red! I like my Eurorack silver, my 5U black and my steaks medium well...
  • Similar with the faceplate of the Ardcore.
  • Why waste so much space with the CV Tools? I've tried, believe me. I've replaced it with an Invy several times - but the way that this thing is laid out, combined with the exceptionally clear and accurate LED metering, caused me to come running back every time I tried replacing it. So it stays.
  • The ArdCore expander may have to go, because I've got a Monome module that I'm dying to mount permanently in the modular. Right now it gets swapped in as-needed, and I really depend on the expander giving me clear status on the complexity of the sequence that I've recorded into the ArdCore. So I don't know - I'm going to have to sleep on this for another 6 months. Maybe I should get one of those little cases for my Monome set...?
So that's the verbalization of some of my choices. Think I'm crazy? Stupid? Due for a beatin'? Drop me an email or leave a comment!



  1. Replies
    1. I don't - for two reasons:

      1. When I first started doing Euro (I was a big 5U guy before that...), I was warned off of Stackables by Grant Richter. I think that he'd had some issues with people complaining about tall stacked sets snapping things, and I also think the Stackcable was one of the cables that caused the shorting on the old Envelator. While I'm not that concerned about damage to my system, that's always been barking in the back of my mind.

      2. (And the more-real reason) I've got kind of big fingers. When I use Stackcables, their fat-ish tip housings get really tight, and don't allow me much finger room when patching. And I'm a very active patcher: I generally start each gig with my modular unpatched and do everything live from there. As a result, anything that is a speed bump for me is a problem, and both inserting and removing Stackcables is too slow for my preference.

      That being said, I really love the build quality of Stackcables, and wish that I feld comfortable using them. But I don't. This is one of those cases where I really love using a modular: just because one thing doesn't fit me doesn't mean that the whole thing has to get junked!


  2. stoked the blog is firing up again, the A-185-2 might be just what I've been looking for.

    I also can't believe I still haven't picked up/tried a Maths

  3. Yeah - my next tips&techniques entry has to be about the A-185-2; I can't believe it isn't in more people's toolbox.

    And Maths. My true love...


    1. me too, which is probably why I hadn't found it until now.