In the first of a two-part series, we will be taking a look at the currently available modular synthesizer brands, and what each has to offer. Please note that I haven’t included ‘every’ current producer of modular gear out there, just the ones who have a reasonably good reputation and selection of modules.
- Analogue Solutions – analoguesolutions.com: Known perhaps more for their interesting range of discrete synthesizer gear, including the ‘Red Square’ and ‘Vostok’ semi-modular synths, Analogue Solutions also produce their own range of modular gear called the ‘Concussor’ series. Standard subtractive modules are available, as well as sequencing and utility modules, but more interestingly there are many percussion modules available, emulating the sounds of the drum machines of yesteryear. When was the last time you saw a dedicated Roland TR-808 cowbell module? If this is your thing, Analogue Solutions should definitely interest you.
- Analogue Systems – analoguesystems.co.uk: Furnished in delightful wood cases with a variety of excellent modules, ‘AS’s RS-Integrator product range include many different pre-built systems depending on the size of your wallet, as well as having all modules available for purchase separately. Fancier modules include a fantastic digital delay/sampler, and a vocal/phase filter bank. As well as modules, the company also produces the unique ‘Sorcerer’ controller keyboard, which can be filled with the synth modules of your choice, providing you with an in-built keyboard for expressive performance with your AS system.
- Blacet – blacet.com: At first I was in danger of thinking Blacet were yet another modular synth company (not that that’s a bad thing), but a quick look through their product line showed me otherwise. The choice of those who like to live a little (just a little, mind you), Blacet has established themselves as a solid provider of high quality modules, which sound better than they look – at affordable prices too. Top notch modules include the ‘Improbability Drive’, an analogue noise generator, and the ‘Binary Zone’ – a dedicated CV/Gate logic module.
- Cwejman – cwejman.net: Cwejman first came to prominence by creating the ‘S’ series of hybrid semi-modular rack synthesizers, but have recently released their own line of Eurorack format modules. A little speculation is necessary due to a lack of public opinion on the modules; however they reportedly sound and look as good the previous semi-modular synths the company produced. Not only that, but they look and sadly cost just as much too. Should you want to get involved with building your own Cwejman modular however, there is a huge variety modules available, the highlights of which include a dual oscillator module with a built in ring modulator, and two different compressors amongst other outboard-style audio modules – something other modular synth manufacturers have often ignored in the past.
- Cyndustries – cyndustries.com: The only (to my knowledge, anyway) modular synth company run by a woman, Cyndustries produces awesome looking and fantastic sounding bizarre modules, which while somewhat confusing to use in a system of their own, will definitely add something extra to existing systems from other manufacturers – take a look at the ‘Sawtooth Animator’ or ‘Super Psycho LFO’ for something really special. Cyndustries have also gained considerable publicity this year due to the release of their latest module called the ‘Zeroscillator’, which is specially designed for being used in other modular synth formats – at a fairly high price too.
- Doepfer – doepfer.de: Doepfer are a very popular of synthesizer equipment, including MIDI controller keyboards, sequencers, and a wide selection of modular gear. Their ‘A-100’ line of modules include a massive variety of various modules, ranging from standard oscillators and filters, to digital sampling oscillators and even a light controlled CV interface module! Although flexible and highly inspiring, some users have found themselves disappointed with the sound of the oscillators and filters, as well as build quality problems due to the size of the small modules and knobs.