Clock-only modular

Pondering taking the plunge into modular, but I’m thinking about going about it in a slightly unusual way and using it only for timing (clock/gates/triggers) and, via a cv-to-midi interface, generating signal via software.

So over time I might gradually build something like this:

Which raises a few questions:

  • are the divider, multiplier, and/or zularic repetitor likely to be redundant?
  • am I going to sorely miss the ability to generate signal in the modular? (Given that I love my computer and don’t mind using it to make music in the slightest)
  • is cv-to-midi going to be sufficient or would I be better off with cv-to-light pipe?
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Yea, it could be a cool concept.
Although for me, the great thing about modular is that there is no difference between clocks/gates/triggers and generating signals/audio content: it’s all just voltages going up or down (or staying still!). So your trigger can turn into your clock, then into your gate, then into your envelope, then into your oscillator etc etc.

Good point. It’s just (maybe?) interesting to ponder the constraint of a modular that doesn’t include oscillators, filters, envelopes, and amplifiers, in the traditional sense of the words. Or then again, maybe it isn’t. There’s at least one way to find out…

Many functions could be done with teletype alone (division etc.)
Well, less parallel channels of course…

Also, don’t expect a midi intermediate to be as reliable and fast as relentless analog signals. I often hear mixed things about doepfer midi interfaces.
(Someone once mentioned in a thread in here the alesis trigger io is well better suited)

For me, the unique part of the modular is the audio chain, the rest could be easily (or often better) done in the box. This is actually only partly true, since a great aspect is the hands-on control and playability. But still, the audio in my system can’t be replaced that well…

@jasonw22 nothing at all wrong with your initial concept, but i do think you’d “…sorely miss the ability to generate signal in the modular…”.

as other posters have commented or alluded to, the fun is often in the immediacy : let’s take that audio rate clock signal and just jam it into that filter cv over there and see what happens… and then let’s send that oscillator output back into itself, as well as into the filter resonance cv, and then use that to mess with the clock dividider, and then mult that, and then take that signal and put it in the … and on and on and on. the immediate, physical act of patching was (and still is) revelatory for me, and is for many others. computers quickly lose their appeal.

sure you can take your cv and midify it for your computer to generate sound with, but you’d be missing out on more than half the fun.

but, the beautiful thing about modular is you can build whatever the krap you want, and explore any ideas you have. start small, play around, trade this for that, change you mind, change it back again … we’ve all been there and are still doing that.

regardless though, once you’ve bought one module you’ll be hooked. it’s unstoppable.

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I responded to your post on muff wiggler.
I think it’s a great way to start developing a more concrete relationship with modular environment, and one that will definitely impact the way you are thinking of music/sound construction/structure.

The setup you propose is very powerful, except for the Doepfer cv->MIDI module, which I think will severely limit the potential of the whole rig. A bit like trying to squeeze a river through a garden hose. I would suggest a Expert Sleepers modules for that.

Also something to think about are envelope generators. TT can do that, but having more envelope options in the rig would give you an opportunity to control your software instruments with a bit more nuance and organic depth.

Sounds like I need to swap the Doepfer for an Expert Sleepers and add a Maths and mentally prepare for a whole other row or two.

Thanks for your input, everyone!

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The MOTU UltraLite Mk3 Hybrid (a DC coupled audio interface compatible with Silent Way from Expert Sleepers) is cheaper then ES-3 + ES-6 + ES-7 and appears to provide the same number of ins and outs. I need to replace my buggy M-Audio FastTrack Ultra audio interface anyway (causes crashes/panics)

+1 on for the motu ultralite, love mine…

BUT: No CV in!! Just CV out…

Was there some slight disadvantage of using the Motu Ultralite in that it outputs a smaller range of voltage compared with Expert Sleepers’ products?

I think the opposite is true, since the expert sleepers HW encodes and decodes (potentially many) channels into a digital stereo channel (at least with the spdif one, no idea about others) There is some info on the product page about that. Also, some ports are hw-calibrated to work well with 1v/octave, others not, as I remember…
(actually never understood that last point, since silent way software let’s you calibrate to 1v/octave… a godsend btw, specially with 4 oscillators :smile: )

not noticed limitations with the motu so far myself…

Oh shoot. No CV in? Guess I’ve gotta go with the Expert Sleepers modules then.

i think this is a good idea

if i trusted my laptop more i would be doing the same thing…right now my system is geared toward triggering and mixing external voices (because most of the pedal and rack drum machines i own have trigger input)

+1 for envelopes. I’m a Harvestman fan, so the Double Andore MKII dual VCA / envelopes gets a thumbs up.

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Don’t know… Since you asked about trigger ins to the computer, it seems a bit overkill and expensive to buy expert sleepers for that, which comes in input pairs and and have a range of +/-10v… ES would be excellent for the other way around (or continuous signals, like envelopes, lfo…)

(Anyway, if you go that route, check the limitations on how many devices can be chained, and if your interface has the port required of course)

Since you expanded your system on modulargrid tremendously, my advice: get a few modules… and play with them for at least half a year… (TT might be a good candidate for that… don’t know, don’t have one myself)

modulargrid is a fun place to play around, I wouldn’t take it my expanded design there too seriously. The first row is still basically the same as in the original post. Even then I wouldn’t just go buy the whole row in one go. I have ordinary bills to pay like the rest of us.

Curious to know if you have another suggestion for CV-to-DAW integration since you say ES “seems a bit overkill”?

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well you asked for TRIGGER inputs TO the computer…

Expert sleeprs will provide you with 2 CV ins… 2 CV ins that are capable of reading LFOs, Envelopes… would be overkill to use that to read trigger or gates (on off signals)
And that cv in expander alone costs you around 100 bucks + the base module roughly another 150… provided you have a spare spdif or adat port.

some peeps in this thread suggested the alesis trigger io for trigger to midi conversion
(note that this solution would need special cables)

p.s. true that about modulargrid :smile:

Being able to read LFOs, envelopes etc would be great. It’s just that in my first post I hadn’t included many modules capable of generating them. But on reflection it would be really great.

I’m reading 8 outs and 8 ins between ES-3, ES-6, and ES-7. I’d love to spend a lot less money than that, but I don’t see a lot of alternatives unless I decide to just leave the computer out of it altogether (and then I’d cry for all the timbres I’d lose access to).

But now that I’m reading about Alesis Trigger IO that kind of throws me for a loop. Way cheaper than three Expert Sleepers modules (but also seemingly discontinued?). Also quite a bit more limited. So did I just want triggers or not? Hmm.

oh, had no idea about the es-6, sorry! the advantage of adat over spdif I guess, nice one…

yes, so many option eh… good luck with your decisions!

yeah, Alesis Trigger IO would be much cheaper than using Expert Sleepers for this purpose. i use Alesis and it works great, you will need quarter inch jack to minijack cables as mentioned.

i kinda like the idea of having a dedicated trigger generator modular, in which case i would just use it for that, and do the rest of modulation in a DAW - much easier to get triggers into a computer as opposed to CV. Alesis will also convert trigger level into velocity, so you could use that for some limited modulation or to control envelopes etc.

one thing to keep in mind for such set up though, clock dividers/multipliers and logic is only some of the ways to generate triggers, in modular you can do something more interesting than that, for instance, i like using an LFO into a quad comparator where each comparator is at a different level - you get interesting timing shifts if you start changing the shape of the LFO. i would add a simple sound generator too so you could test your triggers without a computer if need to, like Delptronics little drummer boy.