Hybrid set-up

Dear mutable modularists,

Continuing the tradition of newcomers asking for advices in designing their first rack, here I am looking for your lights…

With the advent of the Ableton CV tool kit and after playing with VCV rack and Audulus, I would like to know what would be the best MI modules to pair with an ES-8 in a hybrid set-up (1000$ / 40 HP budget)?

My goals would be:

  • to tweak real knobs (what are the modules you touch more often?)
  • to lower the cpu load for my computer
  • optimize the IO of the ES-8 (5 in / 8 out)
  • to integrate tactile expression with the Expressive E touché

I’m looking towards drones / ambient mellow music. My first incentive into the modular world was this video made with the Touché and a MI only rack (can’t stop watching it): https://youtu.be/ydpJb83Z85Q

Thank you for your help !

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Hello and a warm welcome to modular!
(if i’m allowed to say so)

I would wholeheartedly recommend the lovely Plaits :heart:

original wall of text

I recently started my modular journey with a similar idea - “what is the minimum viable setup that gives me physical knobs, is fun to use, and can be used with a computer”.

As my first purchase, I ended up getting:

  • Rackbrute 3U case with builtin power supply
  • Plaits
  • Audiodamage Odio
  • Some cables
  • A passive mult “star”

These ran me around $800 total - don’t forget to take into account the surprising prices of cases and power supplies! Considering the ES-8 you mentioned is already around $475, your budget of $1000 might be a bit tight / you might end up starting with quite a brutally minimal setup. That being said, so did I, and it’s doable if you manage your expectations :slight_smile:

In addition I already had a DAW, Bitwig, that has pretty good CV and hardware instrument support builtin.

One important tip: To get started, I configured a new virtual device in macOS “Audio MIDI Setup” setting panel. The virtual device uses the Odio as inputs and outputs as well as the headphone jack - to be able to listen to things live. After all, modular doesn’t work with headphones without a dedicated output module, and if you just try to use Odio or ES-8 as the audio device in your DAW, you won’t have the headphone or speaker outs. So make sure you have an option of configuring a virtual / software-mixed device on your computer! If you’re running Windows or Linux instead, there’s certainly similar settings to be found somewhere (but I haven’t looked into those yet, as I’m temporarily mac only).

That’s it! That’s how I got started and making bleep bloops, droning the Plaits on its own, “bouncing” composed midi data in DAW through lovely settings found on the knobs of Plaits, as well as playing manually by feeding in a USB MIDI keyboard via the DAW.

Personally, I think the Plaits is the perfect choice as a first voice module, due to its stunning versatility. It can do so much, and do it so well :heart:

Rather soon after that I ended up buying two more modules: Ears and a used Clouds. I love them. I can now play guitar through the modular too! It’s all so much fun. Modular definitely has a certain appeal to it :blush:

For one honest warning: I’m kind of torn with the Odio. On one hand, yes, it absolutely helped me keep the entry cost low when I was still hesitant whether I’d want to get into modular. After all, the initial entry cost can be pretty daunting, if you’re not sure if it would be your thing. On the other hand, two ins and two outs is extremely minimal. You get e.g. one pitch out and one level out - that lets you control one voice. Note that if you want to modify any other parameters, you’ll either get to use the knobs or get the CV from some of your modules (creativity with passive mults is an option, heh!) Similarly, two ins to the computer means you get a single stereo sound, or two mono sounds. If I were starting again, I’d probably consider getting the ES-8 right from the start.

For the second honest warning: while you can make an ultra-minimalist setup to start with, it’s highly likely that you’ll want to expand it soon. At least that’s where I’ve ended up now :slight_smile: I’m not quite sure if I should walk away while I still can, or just let myself dive deeper :smile: (Next modules in mind… Leaning towards Marbles to get more generative action happening, both for melodies and control… That Clouds is begging to be pushed further! Perhaps a second voice too, Rings or something else, hmm? If I get those, I’d probably need some utilities - Blinds or Veils? Or Shades as a small compromise? What about drums - Peaks? …heh :wink: )

…oops, that became a wall of text. Sorry!


I’d say: Plaits and Ripples. Maybe an Erica pico DSP. Makenoise Skiff or 4ms pod60 (powered) as a case.

Every knob in this small system will have a big impact on the sound. Sequencing and modulations can be done with Ableton CV for now. If you need more modulations, you can later invest in Stages.


pichenettes, what affordable audio interface (with DC coupled outputs) think is a good choice to work with Ableton CV tools? what do you think about the new NI Komplete Audio 6 (two outputs can produce +/-2 V)

No idea, sorry, I don’t buy and test much gear (none at all actually).

Thank you for sharing this ! I wasn’t sure if I’d get an answer and this is more than expected ! I’ll go with the ES-8 and pichenettes’ wisdom !

Un grand merci !

Bear in mind many people (including me) find the illuminated jack sockets on Expert Sleepers modules to be too loose.

It’s unfortunate because there’s not really any equivalent alternative to the ES-8.