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What Is Eurorack Modular Synthesis?

Date:2020/2/14 14:30:47 Hits:

You may have noticed that we’re in the middle of a glorious analog synthesis revival. Many of the most powerful and flexible analog synths ever made have been released in recent years, including monophonic and polyphonic keyboards, tabletop modules, historic modular synth re-creations, and an ever-growing list of Eurorack modular synths ?and modules.

I’ve been getting questions about Eurorack modular synthesis lately, so I thought I’d start by explaining some of the basics. To me, the most important questions are, “What is Eurorack modular synthesis? Is it something I should explore?”

Modular synthesis allows a sound designer to connect almost anything to anything. Not all connections will work, but the opportunity to try them is always there. This is because a modular synth, unlike prewired synths, has panel-mounted audio, control, and timing jacks that allow direct connections (via patch cables) from any module to any another module. The result is a universe of sonic possibilities. That can seem a little scary to a newcomer, but it’s actually very logical and can be approached in small sections at a time. It’s also an excellent method for learning about synthesis and signal flow since you actually make the connection while hearing the ?sonic result.

Eurorack synthesis is a specific type of modular synthesis based on modules that all share the exact same height (128.5mm/5.06″) and varying widths that conform to units called “HP,” which stands for Horizontal Pitch (1HP is 5.08mm/0.2″). This allows you to acquire modules, racks, and cases from many manufacturers knowing that they can all be assembled together into a space-efficient unit. The mounting method is the same for all, as is the method for delivering power to each unit via a standardized ribbon cable. The audio, control, and synchronization connections all use 3.5mm tip/sleeve (TS) phone jacks and cables (the same size plug as on your earbuds), and the methods for using control voltages (CV) to control all of the parameters are also universal.

The end result is that you can start with a small system while you’re learning and systematically add modules as you discover areas of synthesis that you want to explore further. You can also connect your Eurorack modules to other peoples’ modules to experiment with ?new possibilities.

It’s important to understand that Eurorack synthesis can be extremely rewarding for anyone who has an interest. You don’t have to be a keyboardist (at all), an engineer, or even a trained musician. All you need is a passion for sound and a sense of what you do and don’t like about sounds. After that, it’s all about trying new connections and settings ?until you find something that’s pleasing to your ear. Then, you can ?record it and layer it with other sounds (instrumental or otherwise), or sample it into a keyboard and play it back like you would with any sample, or simply play it through speakers to create an ever-changing sonic ambience in the background.

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