What would a complete Mutable system look like today?

I found several references over the years to a Mutable Instruments complete system. The last one I found was back in 2015 I think, while some modules were still in development. I’m curious, now that many more modules are out and some plumbing is available, what would a complete system look like today? Obviously there’s no case/power, but there are a lot of modules.

I’m asking because I’m considering putting together as close to a complete system as possible with MI stuff. This would go in a Tiptop Mantis case, so 6U x 104hp worth of space to play with. How would you showcase everything Mutable Instruments can do?

As someone who almost exclusively uses on MI modules in their system (and have for a few years now), I’m still not sure that there’s a “right” answer. I keep a strict 6U/104hp system at all times with no intention of expanding any further…so I find myself constantly cycling through different MI modules depending on what I’m trying to achieve at the moment. I’ve owned Frames no less than three times; Tides probably four times; Peaks…at one point, I had four of them! Working within these constraints is challenging, but also pretty fun. The great thing is that the multi-functionality of an MI system goes much deeper than the face value of the modules themselves, so you’re able to do more with less.

Since 2016 was the Year of the Utility for MI, I think we’re definitely getting closer to a point where an all-MI system can potentially cover all of the bases of synthesis and then some.

To this day, I still wish for some kind of Mutable end-of-chain stereo mixing solution. I realize that it’s a pretty basic request, but without it, I still find myself relying on something like a Circuit Abbey Unify. Which is effective if nothing else, but aesthetics-wise leaves me “wanting”.

Here’s what my system looks like right now:

I struggle with the size of Elements sometimes. Especially knowing that I could potentially fit a Warps, Streams, Sheep combo in its place (which in and of itself would be an incredibly versatile combination). Alas, I’m enamored with its textures and really haven’t quite found any other way to achieve the same feel by instead using Rings with more creative exciters…so I have both.

And yes, the O&C is a bit of an outlier, but since it contains some of the MI easter eggs from other modules, I consider it an honorary member of the family (maybe a cousin? Or half-uncle?).

I have a release coming out soon that is entirely derived from this all-Mutable Instruments system. My hope is that it will be a fair example of what’s possible with this type of setup.

Very excited to see what’s next and how the hell I’m going to manage to fit it into this case…

I design modules according to niches/opportunities, not with the goal of selling complete systems.

This means that I don’t cover all the modules that are necessary in a large system (say DSP/effects, output stage, sequencing, a classic VCO, a classic Serge function generator…)

This also means that some of my modules are not really meant to work with each other. There are several “sub-universes” - classic hybrid synthesis (Braids + Ripples), modern waveshaping synthesis (Tides + Warps), physical (Ears + Rings + Clouds). But it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to put all of these in a case.

Buy modules according to your needs and don’t hesitate to sample from other brands (I don’t hesitate recommending a Batumi or a WoggleBug or a Rampage). If having all modules from a single brand is important to you… go MakeNoise or Intellijel.

Thanks for the feedback. With so many modules doing double and triple duty sometimes, it can certainly be intimidating trying to figure out what goes together. Knowing which modules are designed to be part of “sub-universes” is incredibly helpful.

REVIVER, I understand your struggle to make things fit. If nothing else I will own an Elements–it’s such a cool, unique module and listening to demos of it is what turned me on to MI in the first place.

Slightly OT, but:

I find myself seriously lacking End-of-chain stereo mixing in an effective manner.

I keep having to use tons of 1/4 to 1/8 and TRS to TS adapters, splitters etc.

The Euro (and Volca?) crowds need their 3.5mm stereo capable mixer.

Ladik has some end of chain mixers, very basic 'though, but I have two of them. The only issue I have noticed so far is when sending a VCO directly to the mixer, I get some audio bleed even with the volume all the way down. Going to a VCA first works fine 'though.

> But it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to put all of these in a case.

I guess I’m doing it all wrong then :smiley:

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Me too…


So just goofing around on Modular Grid I came up with this:

The design ideas here being:

  • Melodic, not chaotic, is the primary focus

  • Can be played live via keyboard controller or sequenced from a DAW

  • Multiple voices available

  • Can be multi-timbral

  • Showcases all the cool MI stuff I like

  • Fill in the gaps with modules from well-respected makers

  • Easy to get good-sounding patches, but complex modulation is possible

  • Sound design that goes well outside the box of VSTs

(how the heck do you inline an image?)

Looking at Braids, Ripples, Rings, Clouds, Warps and Frames I see about 15 CV inputs that can be modulated. Yet, there are only 5 envelopes/LFOs. Also, I don’t see a single mixer. And not many VCAs.

Make some room for an extra modulation source (Peaks, Quadra, Batumi) and add VCAs/mixers (Blinds and/or Veils).

Audio I/O might not be necessary if you have a mixer/audio interface.

Yarns might not be necessary if you have other CV/Gate sources.

> (how the heck do you inline an image?)

You enclose it between two “!” glyphs

Revision B:

  • Ditched DPO and Streams and got Quadra instead, which I think will do a similar job to both of those but twice as many times in less than 1/3 of the space.

  • Added Linix for 5xVCA and/or mixing duty

  • Came across Disting while looking for a stereo delay to fill the last 12hp and couldn’t help myself, I threw in 3 of them. They’re modular Swiss Army Knives, so I figure they can serve the purpose of whatever I wish I had one more of (LFO/VCO/VCA/Envelope/S&H/etc.) and if they’re not being used for that, there are a ton of effects in there too.

  • I kept Yarns because I want all the extra functionality–how it handles MIDI is awesome, and the built-in arpeggiator and sequencer may come in handy.

  • I also kept the Audio I/O in case I want to bring external audio in for running through Clouds, and the Distings (Distinguished audio?) and for utility getting stereo audio out of the system cleanly. I’m set up for normal studio connections at home and being able to run the modular straight into my mixer with minimal fuss will be nice.

I’m not sure if the total lack of mults will matter, I suppose there’s always stacked patch cables. My other concern is Maths–it’s in there because it seems to be hugely popular, but it also takes up a ton of space. I’m not sure what (if anything) can replace it in less hp.

> Ditched DPO and Streams and got Quadra instead, which I think will do a similar job to both of those but twice as many times in less than 1/3 of the space.

The Quadra is useful for sure, but it won’t replace a dual analog oscillator or a dual VCFA. What did you expect to do with the DPO and Streams in the first place?

> Added Linix for 5xVCA and/or mixing duty

Get Veils instead. It takes less space and you can do submixes.

> in case I want to bring external audio in for running through Clouds

Clouds has no problem handling line level signals. Disting… I don’t know.

Directly patching a module to an audio interface or mixer works pretty much all the time - just turn the gain down.

would be my suggestion

Maths was one of the first modules I got rid of, just couldn’t get along with it. Don’t put something in your rack just because everyone else says they have it. I do have a Function, use it quite a bit.

This would be my take on it. It’s really two systems in one as Pichenettes says… there’s different approaches and quite a bit of redundancy. Which isn’t a bad thing though.
So this can be a classic subtractive system, a waveshaping one, or a modal/physical modelling one etc. Most modules can be used to cover very different aspects of patching. Brainds can be the classic oscillator, or produce the exciter inpulse for Rings (maybe using Streams to shape the dynamics, or just by using the internal EG). Tides can be the oscillator an envelope or an LFO. Clouds can be used for granular madness, or just as a delay, etc.
The only that that you’ll need to add externally is the sequencing, though you can use Yarns for it, to a certain extend.

A cool alternative to Maths is the Rampage. Also available as a DIY kit!

It has a few tricks the Maths lacks, but you sacrifice the 2 attenuated channels. And is slightly smaller.

Rampage is a great module, especially with the mix and compare section in the middle. Yes, it doesn’t attenuate. But Shades does that better anyway.

What would a complete Mutable system look like today?.. in 2020?

I never set out to build a Mutable Instruments instrument, but the versatility, quality, user interface and aesthetic has consistently lead me in this direction.

Non Mutables

WMD Performance Mixer - lots of channels, sliders and same design language. The effect send/returns have been a game changer for me. Eventide Space in one and Empress tape delay in the other.

Make Noise Mimeophon - a very creative effect / looper / instrument

Intellijel Steppy + Korg SQ-1 - allows for complex sequencer programming or arpeggiation without taking up heaps of rack space and $$.

Make Noise 0-Coast - bought this for my MIDI keyboard integration with the bonus of its other features.

WMD Overseer: have this permanently at the end of stereo chain to make global changes to the mix.

Doepfer 137-1: chose this over Warps as the wave folding is more subtle.

Doepfer - clock divider / sequential switch / sem filter / wasp filter

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I don’t think I’d ever build a one manufacturer system (although my modular journey did start with a pre-built Doepfer A-100), but I have got what I call the “Mainly Mutable” case, which is a subsystem of my modular which can be detached and used standalone for gigs (if I ever get to play live again . . .) since I decided that moving the whole thing is a non-starter.

It’s got MI Elements, Marbles, Stages, Clouds, Kinks and Ears in it; but it’s also got a Maths, a WMD TRSHMSTR filter/distortion, a Malekko AD/LFO, a Doepfer A 149-1 Source of Uncertainty and a Schlappi Electronics Interstellar Radio.

All somewhat interconnected. I did take out a load of patch cables for the photo, which is not the best shot in the world, but my studio doesn’t get much sun in the morning!