For the past few years, the idea of modular technology has been a buzz concept that has disrupted the way that designers consider hardware construction. German outfit AE Modular has brought to Kickstarter their take to the world of synthesizers. Moreover, it’s possibly the cheapest modular synth offered to date.
Compared to the usual Eurorack Modular Synths, we have some differences here, mainly to get a small form factor and cutting the price:
- Modules are not mechanically Eurorack compatible, they are smaller (but via the minijack sockets on the MASTER module you can interface to a eurorack system, with the only limitation of a 5V maximum voltage)
- The Oscillators module is not working in 1V/octave standard (due to the roots in the Lunetta approach); but a 1V/octave VCO will be added soon to the modules palette
- Patching is done via simple patch-wires and small pin-sockets (not minijack-cables as in the eurorack-world); this cuts the cost drastically and also saves a lot of space on the module. Another advantage: Module outputs are mostly dual or triple, which makes “Multiples” modules obsolete
Generally, AE modular follows the “not-so-perfect” approach; circuits are sometimes simplified and show their own character in some points – it’s intentionally a contrast to the high-polished stuff we get from digital synths / DAWs / plugins. But always the usage as an artistic tool is considered!
The design style is also a little special: The frontpanels are not (expensively) printed, but rubber-stamped.
What’s not different is, that you get a real modular synthesizer: The selection and arrangement of the modules is absolutely free! You can add new modules later (simply remove 2 screws, plug in the module, fix the screws again) or rearrange them according to your needs.
The modular synth is being offered in options of one or two racks. The modular Rack 1, at around $415, has a row for up to 16 modules. The modular Rack 2 adds a second row of module options, doubling the versatility and incorporating more pre-installed modules. The Rack 2 is about $530, a better value for those who can afford the added cost and seek the additional versatility.
The pre-installed modules are as followed:
- MASTER, I/O: The master module with power supply, Input/output jacks (1/8″ mono minijack) for audio and control voltages and MIDI-Input (via a breakout cable). MIDI works either omni or on channel 1. MIDI Clock/Start/Stop are provided via the bus to the modules; same with CV/Gate for Notes and one Controller.
- 2OSC: 2 Oscillators with Squarewave, Triangle and Sync outputs, Sync and CV input
- NOISE: A noise generator (white noise, digitally based with variable frequency)
- FILTER: A filter with lowpass/bandpass/highpass output, adjustable frequency and resonance (Wasp type)
- ENV: An AD type envelope (Attack/Decay) with switchable Sustain and two time ranges
- 2VCA: A dual voltage-controlled amplifier for controlling signal levels or modulating control voltages
- LFO: modulation oscillator with squarewave (adjustable pulsewidth), triangle or falling sawtooth output, two time ranges
- 2S&H: A dual Sample&Hold module, for creating random or stepped control voltages
- 2ATT/CV: For attenuating control voltages or as voltage source
- MIXER4-4: A mixer for signals or control voltages with four adjustable inputs and additional four “full-level” inputs.
- DELAY: A delay with a lo-fi, analog character
- LOGIC: Combines two inputs by different logic rules (AND, NAND, XOR); for rhythmic patterns and also interesting for audio signals (gives ringmodulator-like sounds)
- BEAT DIVIDER: Divides a MIDI clock (e.g. from MASTER module) to musical clocks (1/2, 1/4, 1/8…) plus dotted or triplet output; primarily for triggering sequencers.
- STEP10: A trigger sequencer with up to 10 steps, for creating gate patterns
AE Modular claims their synth will ship in January of next year, however anyone that has used Kickstarter in the past should be aware that delays aren’t uncommon.
For More Information: AE Modular Kickstarter