First rack module opinions

:wave: Hi all! I’m starting to spec out a rack to purchase, and have been getting a bunch of recommendations from friends about Mutable Instruments. Wanted to check in here with the experts to see what specific thoughts you’d have for someone building their first rack & just starting out. Currently thinking 3U 84hp or 104hp(open to advice as a newbies). Not worried about budget. Looking to avoid virtual options due to an already screen-based day job. Hard to guide this with personal preferences as I’m just starting out on this journey alongside my son, and not totally sure what all this means yet.

Are there specific MI modules that come to mind if you knew someone looking to make a self-contained system that doesn’t rely on external input? What system needs do you think of where other brands could be a better fit? Not trying to force MI if there’s other great modules out there.

Most of these questions I’ve found get flipped back on the question asker to dig in for their needs. More specifically looking for some opinionated thoughts of others that are more experienced with MI.

Plaits, I think would be an excellent sound source for a beginner just for its sheer number of synthesis modes. Working your way through understanding them all would give you a excellent starting point and introduce you to techniques that might grab your ears and you can expand on later.

Marbles is great for generating sequences which is important if you don’t want to control externally.

Stages, especially with @qiemem ’s alt firmware, is a utility/modulation powerhouse. It would also be a very valuable resource for education as it can do so much. If space is limited Peaks provides a lot of bang for your buck in a similar way.

Ripples is a solid and versatile filter. You can go deeper down that rabbit hole with Blades if you can find one.

For FX that can double as voices, Beads or Clouds and Rings are MI crowning achievements many would argue.

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In regards to which Mutable modules are the most unique and offer the most to a small system U would suggest:

Stages with Quimem firmware would be my # 1 choice. Stages is so versatile (yet simple to use) that it can be almost whatever you want. I like it so much I have three Stages.

Marbles at # 2 is a really inspiring module.

Plaits at # 3 has a wealth of sound design options that don’t require huge setup (and module resources) but rather allow you to easily explore what sound you need for any particular moment.

Beads at # 4. Beads can at times encourage you to explore sound in unconventional ways. The reverb algorithms sound great.

Warps with parasites firmware at # 5. Lots of things to explore to spice up you patches.

Rings at # 6. In my opinion only worth getting if you are going to use the IN input. Another inspiring module with lots of sweet spots.

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Welcome to the community!

I second (or third!) Stages w the alt firmware. it’s a must have and I use it in literally every patch. Can work as complex oscillator, envelope generator, complex LFO, sound source, CV attenuator, step sequencer, trigger generator, etc, etc. And you can chain them to make longer step sequencers or envelopes.

However, it takes some wrapping your head around, so I would not normally recommend it as a first module. Buuut…it’ll be discontinued once stock runs out, so I say snap one up! And come back to the forums if you need help sussing it.

You can do a lot of damage with that and a VCA, so I’m going to recommend Veils as a second module. Can act as a 4 channel audio or CV modulation mixer (or 2x2 channels of each), a multi-stage overdrive, clean boost, no input feedback system, CV shaper (make linear curves exponential or exponential into hyper-exponential), or line level to modular level booster.

Veils is one of the best out there currently, and very affordable for what it is. At some point you’ll need VCA’s, so this one would be very useful for as long as you’re playing with modular. Aaaaand it will also be discontinued once stock runs out. So…

Cheers!

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I would definitely recommend playing with VCV for a while, it really helps to clarify your needs.

I second the recommendation of Stages with the alt firmware. Two, actually, get two.

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Over the years I have heard many people say that 2 rows (ie: 6U) of 84hp or 104hp is a good combination of possibilities and limitations. An extra 1U can also be helpful but not necessary.

Personally, 84hp or 104hp would be possible, but more than likely lead to an expansion in the very near future… or I see a lot of people with small systems get lots of miniature modules, that when patched make it almost impossible to wiggle the knobs. Don’t underestimate the role of the user interface when designing your new Eurorack instrument.

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been drawing up a spreadsheet with all the recommendations I’ve been getting to see what is still available where. This Stages rec seems pretty legit, as no one seems to have it in stock anymore :sweat_smile:

This site can be handy sourcing modules

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You people are in violation of not mentioning Tides :face_with_symbols_over_mouth: Very complete oscilator lfo envelope. Together with warps its a complex oscillator which is a very nice starting point for a synth

But i would definitly try out everything mutable in vcv

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This is the case I got, 120hp. SIX_60 // 6U 60HP – BLACKHOLE CASES

Less than that seems cramped to me.

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Since you’ve asked for more opinionated perspectives, I’ll chime in. :face_with_monocle: I go to my modular to get out of my head, which is one reason why the phyisicality of it is so appealing. While I own a lot of the modules already mentioned here, I haven’t yet explored them to their fullest because a couple of them feel “thinky” to me–a reflection on me, not the modules. For example, I still haven’t grokked Stages in its basic form, thus haven’t yet installed the epic alt firmware available for it. I’d say it’s a matter of time and focus, since when I sit down I just want to patch and go with the flow, not study.

I don’t own it, but Plaits makes sense if you’re just getting in to modular, and want a way to explore many types of synthesis in a streamlined, elegant package.

Tides 2020 would be high on my list of MI suggestions, since you can use it as a feature-rich oscillator, or as a modulator with incredible flexibility. My own comfort level with Tides is much higher than with Stages, FWIW.

Ripples 2020 just sounds good, and the bass is retained with resonance high–something that’s huge for me.

I second the suggestion for Rings which states where it truly shines is using the input. In my experience, I liken it to putting speakers and other things on piano strings to hear how the strings as a group respond to different timbres and frequencies. In other words, I use Rings as a resonator, and enjoyed that to such a degree that I now have two!

Beads is fascinating, and I know it’ll take me much longer to get to know. It’s versatile (sp?), and feel many examples on YT as indicative of a specific area of its scope, not it’s whole capabilities.

Blinds is great for CV, mixing, inverting, offsetting, automating, and so much more. Ilike using it for audio when inverting one signal’s phase adds interest to a mixed group of signals. Four bipolar VCAs. It also can do balanced modulation really well, a cleaner-sounding version of ring modulation.

Shades is just an elegant, easy to use mixing tool, like Blinds but without the “automation” of CV-ability. If that makes sense… Unlike Blinds it can function both bipolar and unipolar.

Veils is great. There are other 4-channel mixing VCAs out there, of course, but for features and workflow I find it’s the best.

While Marbles is incredible, like Stages I find it a little “thinky” (again, a reflection on me, not the module). It has such great capability that it seems like a no-brainer for a small system.

A more general suggestion: since some MI modules have different modes, stick with exploring just one for some time. I personally need to do this so I don’t get overwhelmed with options. YMMV, of course, but if you’re just starting out choice paralysis can be a thing. This is one reason why I hesitate to recommend VCV Rack unless you don’t have a problem with choice paralysis.

I started out with a Mantis case, and found it a great starter. Remember you do not have to fill it up right away! Take your time, add modules as you find you have a need for something, instead of a bunch all at once. I started out slow, then kind of accelerated, hence my previous statements about Stages and Marbles where I need to spend more time learning them.

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Tides.

(if I had to choose one module).

A lot of fantastic advice here, I’ve got almost all of them in my rack, but some I use more than others.

Maybe it’s because I know it the best, but I use Tides in literally every patch I make. The more I explore every other module I have (and the more I understand about modular) the better each one seems to get, Including Tides.

As long as you get an oscillator, a filter (Ripples is a close second to Tides, but Blades is soooooo good), and some sort of modulation (like Tides), you’ll have a great foundation to get started.

Cheers,

-loops

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Don’t forgot the “plumbing” stuff which will / might take up room in your rack.

You’ll probably need multiples (unless you use stackable cables), so a Links or two, or some other buffered (more accurate duplication of CV) or unbuffered mult modules (loads to chose from).

An output module to convert your final Eurorack rack audio mix to “regular” audio levels. Something like an Intellijel Outs or 4ms Listen IO.

A mixer, possibly stereo, like the Happy Nerding 4x St.Mixer or Intellijel Mixup.

Do you want to play notes from a MIDI controller / computer / “regular” synth? You’ll need something that converts MIDI to CV, like Yarns (if you can find one) or CVpal (which you can still buy as a kit), or something like the Arturia Keystep controllers which (some of them) have CV outputs built in.

Do you want audio effects? Beads has reverb and you can turn it into a delay, and you can do an amazing fake string reverb in Rings. But if you want a dedicated effects module you’ll need to have a think. Something like Happy Nerding FX Aid (or FX Aid XL). Unless you want to go bonkers modulating effects (for which something like the Chronoblob2 is amazing) do you want to give up space?

People have already mentioned Shades and Blinds. Things that do attenuation are just as important as the “cool” stuff that makes the sounds.

Sorry for rambling. Repeating others advice as well to play with VCV Rack (make the Scope module your friend) to understand what’s going on. Good luck!

Edit: Get a Plaits. It’s a no brainer. So much you can do with that.

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This is the rack Emilie posted once when people were discussing what a Mutable system would be

In terms of size, I love my 6U 84HP (for me 104 is too wide). It just comes up to the edge of doing my head in. :slight_smile:

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(marbles, tides, plaits, beads, veils, intellijel outs)

Thoughts on this as a starting point with minimal items? Grabbed the “generative/ambient” starting point from the contact page, then threw in a few more items. Running through Learning Modular at the moment by Chris Meyer, so this would be a starting point to tinker with alongside that course. Thinking of testing out Tides over Stages in VCV Rack for envelope/LFO for now in case Stages pre-orders don’t work out.

Comes in under 84hp, which could leave NiftyCase as an option if I don’t expand before any purchasing. Leaving the extra space would be nice, as I heard that case can struggle at the edges with tolerances on some panels.

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I think that would be a great starter. The only thing I’d say you were missing is a filter.

I filled a nifty recently with all MI modules and had no problems with the edges, for what it’s worth.

Thank you! :raised_hands: Can throw in a Ripples with the extra room left over. A bit tight for Rings in this setup if going NiftyCase(84hp). Or could switch Outs for an HPO to free up 4hp more(up to 14hp remaining), which would give room for Rings instead.

Don’t forget Plaits has two mini Rings modes

Stages + Shades is better than Make Noise Maths.

Really, that 104 from @pichenettes is a solid win.
Buuut, I would shy away from Ears.

Without Ears, you could…

  1. have both Kinks and Links. (S+H and buffered mults/mixing is nice.)
  2. And without any of the 4hp stuff, you could fit another Ripples. It’s not exactly a Blades, but you’d still get another LFO, Oscillator, or sound shaping filter…

(Ears may not be required in 2020-land. Ripples 2020 or Veils 2020 can take in line level and amp it up to euro levels… )

This is where I ended up for now:

My practice sessions stick to Marbles/Stages/Plaits. Signed up for some mentorship with Lightbath, and was able to get some help learning enough with the right half to layer on to what I get from Plaits.

The Caixa 104 case has a bunch of the utility stuff like buffered multiples, input/output, mixer, offset, and s&h, which has been fun trying to incorporate for CV inputs to my learning. Realizing I’m way to early in my journey to even have an idea how I would fill the Manis 6u 104hp case, so that will be a problem for further down the line :sweat_smile:

It’s been interesting to think of how there are areas of modular that I’d like to explore which could guide expanding/new setup, and I appreciate the advice from @pichenettes and others to focus on less things & master those first :pray: Going straight to a filled out, big 6u setup certainly would have ignored giving it the chance to grow with my personal style.

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