Critique my first try at a "complete" MI skiff

Hey all!

Besides a short dalliance with a DFAM and a Strega, I am new to Eurorack and looking to build a MI skiff. And, as you’ve probably gathered, I’d like your help.

Here’s a bunch of information about the different goals and needs I’m attempting to balance out. Hope you have a cup of coffee handy, I’ve been thinking about this all for quite some time and I write technical content for a living!

Since people tend to ask, I’d like to make the following kinds of music/sound:

  • Experimental/generative noise/ambient

  • Harmonically rich, shifting drones (with the odd exterior sound)

  • Beat-driven electronic music (will supplement the rack with a VC/OCD, which will allow me to use my digitatkt to sequence rack-based voices and supply beats)

Here are my more “philosophical” goals for the system. I’d like it to be:

  • Coherent – This is why I am going all-in on Mutable stuff. The modules seem to share a multi-valent philosophy, which leads me to believe that they would make a philosophicall . As an aside, they also speak to a deep part of my psyche. (I wrote a master’s on noise and experimental music, but that’s a topic for another day!)

  • Simple – I know I need to start learning from scratch, so I’d like to have a system that offers a top-level of simple functionality, as well as little “islands” of modules that I can use to learn Eurorack and deepen my understanding of the concepts. EG: Marbles + Plaits + Stages + Rings to sequence, synthesize, modulate, and process a single voice.

  • Complete(ish) – I’d like a system that will also offer a lot of depth, so I can start with small islands, but then grow into the possibilities over time—knowing that other possibilities are there, and won’t require MORE purchases.

  • Restricted – I know I have a tendency to buy more things instead of exploring what I already have—so it’s important to me that I restrict the case size and don’t just buy a new module every time I want a new function. This will, no doubt, require me to get creative with my patching concepts.

I was inspired to go this direction because I have seen a number of “complete” small-to-medium systems on the market, like the ALM Coupe or MakeNoise Shared System.

As I’ve tried to construct my own such system using MI modules, I’ve done my best to follow the advice of various smart people (Sarah Belle Reid, Émilie, our friends who wrote Patch & Tweak). But I’m still quite new, and don’t know what I don’t know, so now I’d like to see what you all think of my first pass at a complete but compact MI skiff.

Hope all is well, and thanks in advance for any suggestions, critiques, or philosophical thoughts that you can offer. Cheers!

EDIT: I should also note that I am looking at the Intellijel 104hp case, so I can add utilities as needed using a row of 1U.

Looks like a great skiff, and very capable; and it should meet both your musical and philosophical requirements! I also have one of those great Intelligel 104 units, and have 1U tiles for clock and random, some VCAs and touch pads and LPGs. You should be able to go pretty deep with this system.

I worried about utilities until I read that. Attenuation/offset will be required, along with mixing. So at least one Quadratt!

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Thank you! I appreciate the input.

Great idea, thank you. Let’s do TWO Quadratts! Also added a stereo mixer, 2 vcas, and a headphone jack. Have a little space for more 1U if I need!

2 ideas:

1: What about swapping veils for warps?

You have 4 intellijel vca’s (which also work as 2 channel mixer) and 2 quadratts for mixing duties as well,

2: It looks like a great system. Personally, I would need more modulation in the form of 1 more Stages… but I don’t know what I would sacrifice to achieve this? Maybe, veils 10 hp + ears 4hp?

Not against it—but what’s your reasoning? As I said before, I don’t know what I don’t know!

I could be into it! I had been told that you can “never have enough VCAs,” so I took that advice to heart (blindly). But one more stages might be a good idea, too. I can be convinced of anything at this point!

Also, if it looks like things are getting too tight, I am not against the idea of getting a bigger case to squeeze in one or two necessary utilities.

“what’s your reasoning”

Veils will: mix cv or audio, bring volume up and down, AM synthesis

Warps will: cross-fade, wavefold, ring-mod, weird distortion, vocode. It has 2 input vca’s (you might need a vca on the way out) and a utility oscillator.

While this is true, their is effectively vca’s on Plaits and Rings. So 2 extra there. Beads has vca’s on the attenurandomizer inputs so another 4 there. Beads grains go through through their own internal vca’s ( up to 40 there! )…, so yes vca’s are good and necessary. How many extra vca’s you need depends on your workflow.

On the other hand… count the number of modulation inputs you have and count the number of modulation sources you have. Once again, depends on your workflow.

Best advice is start slowly and see what needs arise. Keep in mind once you start you’ll soon be onto your next case. A common comment I hear is 7U 104hp is a good compromise size wise.

I own all these modules, and while of course it depends on how you gonna patch stuff, in my opinion you should keep Veils as it offers offset capabilities.

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I honestly didn’t know there were so many VCAs already built into the modules. That’s a wonderful design choice!

This is a very good point—since I enjoy stacking modulation for emergent patterns, I’ll be adding more modulation. Have removed the Ears (“replaced” it with a 1U Line In from Intellijel) and axed the Veils (offset/mixing/etc to be handled by the 1U Quadratts). That made room for a Tides.

I think for now, I’ll see if my Quadratts offer enough offset. Maybe not! But I have to start somewhere.

Veils can only offset the CV routed to its modulation inputs. A dedicated offset module will be useful :slight_smile:

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As someone just starting in hardware Eurorack as well with the same case (after a long time playing in VCV Rack), I’d consider adding the 1U oscilloscope that Intellijel make, as it can really help figure out what’s going on with voltages when patching. I would add a Blinds for more CV-able attenuation, but that would mean dropping something. Anyway, fun system!

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I’d be tempted to replace one of the quadratt by a NoiseTools. Clock(or square LFO), S&H, T&H, slew, and two noise sources.
I have one of these in my Palette case and it’s invaluable.

But then you might be a bit short on mixing duty.

  • knowing that other possibilities are there, and won’t require MORE purchases.
  • it’s important to me that I restrict the case size

Good luck with that, especially for your first Eurorack experience and admitting to be sensitive to GAS already :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:
Most people would advise to get the bigger case you can get. Although that might help that there won’t be more new MI module coming up. :expressionless:

I am starting to see the value in getting a bigger case. I think a skiff works well as a focused, one-purpose system. As I watch videos and ask my friends, it sounds like most people put together a skiff for performing a single patch. Or maybe they use it as a travel system. But no one a skiff as their ONLY system.

The struggle is real! I also know there are other modules I will want to try out in the future—and it seems particularly difficult to balance out a 104hp system. So perhaps it’s best to get a 7U 104 hp case now, and treat my first row as phase one.

I know, I know, I’m already backing out on my original idea. But, as someone mentioned, many find 7U 104 hp to be a good compromise, and as long as it’s still portable and self-contained, I’m happy.

On that note, here’s a wild thought for my first 104hp:

Would it be unwise to build my first row without a filter? If it wouldn’t handicap me too much, I could cut Blades and replace with Warps for some fun sound-shaping, and Shades for more attenuation/offset/mixing… That would also make space in the 1U for Noise Tools.

Perhaps something like this?

I couldn’t agree more about the 7U 104hp being a good compromise from where to start, it’s also still portable. That’s what I tried to stick to.

But then I also got a Palette while my PSU was away for repair for a while, and an overflow rack, then my overflow rack is overflowing, then I had to reshuffle and restructure my 7U to fit Beads. :laughing:

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2x mantis with the bracket is nice on the cheap if you don’t fly with your rig.

Edit: ibv no 1u though

I ended up ordering a 6U 84hp system. Partially because there is a severe lack of 1U Intellijel modules at this point—and the cases are hard to find, too!