At what point does a modular system get too big?

There’s always something else to add to your modular setup that offers something new and exciting. But, at what point does a modular setup get too big that it gets difficult to patch?

For example I heard someone say in an interview the other day, that they never patched up a once favourite module because it was too far away from the heart of their system.

Do the pros of ever bigger systems outway the cons? How big is your system and where is the tipping point for you of a too large system?

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I prefer to experiment with less modules. I have fun always, play music with less and keep focus (Georges Perec book, La Disparition where the ‘e’ letter is missing ?).
So instead to have a huge case, I like to change my set-up and add/remove modules. Saying that, I’m lucky to have Plaits, Marble, and Tides. Large enough to have fun for the coming months/years !

Realistically it’s too big when you run out of space and/or money . . .

True, it’s the same as
Q: how much equipment do you need to run a studio
A: all of it. :slight_smile:

When you can’t make a mental list of all the modules you own?

When you keep these post-it notes with the modules you haven’t used in a while, in case you’re looking for inspiration?

When you see a module and think “oh god what was I thinking when I bought that”, then you remember a rather creative moment you’ve had with it, and you decide to keep it for sentimental value.

When you see something in someone else’s rack and think “wow I would need that too”, then you realize you have an almost similar item in your rack and never properly learnt to use it.

When you have both the mkI and mkII versions. Or you bought a module a second time because the first one had a scratch.

When reselling/buying second-hand stuff has become an activity of its own.


In which case my system isn’t too big yet . . .

For me a system is too large when I can’t easily move it around because it’s too bulky or heavy. For this reason I use a sort of library system. I keep a Make Noise 3U 104HP skiff as my active set, and try to make it a focussed instrument. It can be very restrictive, but I like the constraint (Necessity is the mother of invention, constraint is the mother of creativity). I play with the instrument for a few months, sometimes much longer. When I feel like a change, I go to my library of other modules and see what new 104HP instrument I can make. This way I can have the flexibility of a large system, but with the focus of a small one.


When you wish you had more space for all of the utility modules you realize you need (even though you already have lots of them).

When you can no longer afford the electricity to operate it.


It’s only too big when I don’t have a patch cable long enough.


Pssst…Hey buddy, need a hookup with 12 foot long patch cables? I know somebody who knows somebody…


When a pair of rollerskates is needed for fast patching…


To me it’s about physical ergonomics, cognitive load, redundancy, and focus.

I feel like my case (114HP x 12U) is right at the size limit for me – I wouldn’t want anything larger. In fact, someday I may downsize by replacing the top row with a couple of LED VU meters and a lot of blank panels. (The case itself has custom artwork from my spouse, so unless I radically downsize, it’s not going anywhere.).

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For me personally, 9U, 104hp is the limit. Still allows for a focused instrument while being flexible enough to fill almost any role in a song

  • When you have modules sitting on your shelf because “you swap them in at times”.
  • When your solution to the above is buying a new skiff “because that could be a fun new instrument!”
  • When you spend more time on modulargrid than patching your modular system.
  • When re-organizing your case(s) would take half a day so you don’t.

I’ve done all of these, it’s painful to admit. We’ll see if I can climb out of this hole… :slight_smile:


As you can see from the responses here, everyone has a bit different criteria. It can depend on your workflow.

I’ve got two cases, a 104x9 and a 104x6. I generally don’t use them together. One I see as my “studio case” and one is my “travel case.”

But here’s what happens. I get an idea of something to try with a certain combination of modules, and then I rearrange one of the cases (usually, the travel case) into a configuration designed to take advantage of the particular idea I’ve got. I’ll then leave the patch up for several days while it evolves and I try different stuff, until I figure it’s got enough going for it that it’s worth recording. I may record a couple of sessions with the patch, if I’m still tweaking it and it’s getting better. At some point, I’ve got enough recordings of it that I’m happy enough with that I’ll figure it’s time for another reconfiguration for a new idea.

In the meantime, sometimes I need a break from the patch I’m working on, so I’ll use my second case and configure something new there, leaving my first case with the in-process patch.

Consequently, there’s a few modules that I’ve got more than one of, because I always want one in both cases-- Pamela’s, mixer, disting, ornament & crime, Radio Music, etc.

That’s working fine for me, because I’m not trying to use every module I’ve got all at once, I can have multiple in-process and different projects going on simultaneously. At this point, I’ve got enough modules without corresponding case space, that I’m figuring I’ll buy a third case (probably another travel case) just to put them all in-- can’t let a module sit outside of a case for too long, eh?

But I do have a few modules I’ll sell off at some point, and there’s a few modules still on my want list…

I suppose if I had an idea that needed multiple-cases worth of modules, I could do that with some long patch cables, but that’s not how it’s worked for me, so far.

Another approach could be to devote one case to percussion, and another to melody or something like that-- it’s occurred to me but I haven’t tried that yet-- may do so at some point.

What I did decide, is sliding-nuts are, well, nuts. With the extent that I’m constantly reconfiguring things, sliding nuts are just to fiddly. And I’ve never had anything strip out the threads.

I have 4 6u cases with 2 rows of 84hp, plus another 10u case that has some other non-euro stuff in it too. Problem is that they are all nearly full, and money is tight at the moment . . .

I can still manage that.

My iPad has lots of manuals on it as I never seem to use some modules enough to remember all their functions.



Guilty again, but in my defence, my Tides v1 is now permanently a Sheep

Always been guilty of this, I sometimes find a new toy helps to inspire me, but I’m going try and stop for a while as my system is better than anything I ever imagined I’d own.

I have 41U currently for a total of around 140 modules. I used to have it all split up between 4 cases and found that patching across these cases was cumbersome and involved 2/5 meter long cables. So, I built a 29U case and kept all percussion modules in a 12U case next to it and love the new setup.The 29U case is about 1 meter high and is curved to horizontal at the bottom and to about 45 degrees at the top. This works well as cables from the top (where my modulation and clock modules are) dangle down away from the front of other modules in the middle. It is also great having all of my modules organized and within reach. I think that an efficient case is determined by the average length of cables that you use. My average cable length is now at around 25-30CM.

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Wow, I’m guilty of all of the above!

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