Make Noise modules: design, usability, theory, philosophy, etc


Want to echo some of the earlier sentiments of the instrument-like nature of the Shared System. As soon as I got mine (back when it was the phonogene and no erbe-verb) I was looking for ways to improve it. Thought I could add a couple of Peaks and a LightPlane and that those would replace the functionality of Maths and Pressure Points, but almost immediately those modules were out of the case and the MN were back in. I love that I use my Maths as an oscillator as much as I use it as an envelope generator, and that my Pressure points can be a fader or an event generator. I love that the system has me thinking that way with each module.


I’ve had makenoise stuff since the first Maths and QMMG came out and obviously before the shared system. I love their stuff and had it scattered around in different cases. I think i only really got their philosophy properly once everything is in the same case. I sold Function and bought a second Maths. Sold QMMG for an optomix because i never really used the 2 extra channels and didn’t really like the filter sound. I kept the Phonogene / Wogglebig / Rene because they have something special. I now have a Makenoise case which is pretty much a shared system with the Echophon swapped for the Phonogene. Phonogene + Morphagene + Erbeverb together is a joy.

It works much much better as a system - (like the Mannequins stuff) and it was down to my inexpierence not learning how every module worked and reading too much about the latest and greatest modules that got me sidetracked. I later got an Easel / 200e and it was that experience that also helped alot. The only thing that goes into my makenoise case now that isn’t makenoise, are a buffered multi and octave shifter.

I really don’t think it needs improving by adding eg mutable stuff. I think, take it for what it is and learn everything about it and work with that philosophy and character.


I’m somewhat a Make Noise fanboy. I’ve owned almost all of their modules, I’ve got a Shared System that I love, and even some duplicates (two Optomixes, two Maths, two Stos, two Erbe-verbs). I’ve never understood the criticism of the scribbling on the labels, because the controls are so logically laid-out that you need to look at the scribbling just for the first couple of days. Think about the Both input in Maths Ch1/4. You can’t read it? It’s between the Rise and Fall inputs, and you could reach it with eyes closed.
The only thing I don’t like are the modules that require combo presses for functions that are indispensable but hidden beneath the interface. Think about the PGM A and PGM B of Tempi, they are a nightmare for me, or the same buttons on the 0-Coast, or even the basic functions of the Morphagene: if I don’t use it for some time I have to look at the manual to remember which combo button press does input auto-leveling or whatever. Sometimes a little display isn’t so bad as Tony Rolando thinks.


Great idea for a thread. I’ve struggled with Make Noise modules, so here’s a list to try and work that out:

I like:

  • The name. It’s a simple thing but a great push for people to experiment. Just make noise!
  • Their educational videos, especially from the last year or so, really are top notch. I find their Instagram in particular a useful place to get some general ideas
  • As @stripes and others mentioned, their twist on classic West Coast designs (and things like Telharmonic) encourage some study into the history of synthesis without becoming dry ‘clones’
  • The Shared System probably isn’t for me, but I really admire it as a coherent, incredibly well thought out instrument. And René is more or less the only sequencer that really interests me.

I don’t like:

  • UI. A common gripe it would seem but it can be a serious obstacle. I hear what @AlessandroBonino is saying about learning the layout, but for some folk it’s not that simple. I have trouble processing written instructions, so things like manuals are of limited use for me. As such I rely pretty heavily on clear layout, in terms of colour-coding, labelling, fonts, nomenclature. See Doepfer/Erica Synths/Moffenzeef for what I like.
    I find Make Noise panels hard to decode: the text and arrows (etc.) seemingly pointing everywhere melt into one mass of points, and I get really confused. That Grayscale panels exist is the primary reason I’m considering re-buying Maths, and perhaps investing in an Erbe-verb at some point.


I agree that the PGM A and B buttons can be confusing at first, and require learning the right button combinations until they become second nature. But then something happened to me that can’t be achieved using a display: I was able using the module without having to look. A real a-ha moment!


It was billed as a talk about the Morphagene in particular, along with a big picture of the Morphagene, and that’s why I showed up. If it had been billed as “Tony from Makenoise talks about stuff that interests him” I would have had no issue. Contempt is probably too strong a word, but indifference to his audience’s expectations isn’t, in my opinion. That kind of indifference may be an asset to him in some ways, as it can be to artists generally.


I wouldn’t call myself a fanboy but I do down a Rene, Pressure Points, Maths, Wogglebug, LxD, STO, Phonogene and Morphagene. I see no issue with their layouts personally and I like all of them, even if some are not perfect for me. I should probably sell the Wogglebug for example, mainly because I’ve never found much use from the audiorate outs.

Lately I’ve been looking at selling a bunch of stuff and going for the DPO + FxdF + RxMx combo that seems very well thought out and interesting. If anyone has any experience with those it’d be nice to hear it.

I’ll echo the love for their social media accounts, mainly youtube but their instagram too. Very nice work for the community that doesn’t get enough love IMO.


Re: rxmx/fxdf/Dpo combo- it’s a mighty one! And if you add the Control File (which lets you have both Dpo and fxdf attached to the rxmx at the same time and allows you to normalize via front panel switch), it becomes even more powerful. I’ve owned this combo twice before and I’d say it’s very much worth it if you have 52 hp you’ve been saving for a deluxe complex oscillator.


I feel that button press combo stuff. It feels like with the morphagene, tempi and 0 coast I bought 2/3 of a great module. Knowing myself and how hard it is to get me to read the manual, I only ever go there if I get really stuck. With tempi for example I only ever attach a clock and tap the buttons, and I have no idea what the other 30 pages in the manual say. With morphagene, all I know is that I get stuck in reel mode sometimes and it is basically a broken module until I download the manual again. Erbe-verb, no such frustration. Maths, even, no such frustration. Will gladly buy whatever their next module is and hope to be able to use all of it.


I have a bunch of MN stuff - morphagene, Maths, Rene, ppoints, brains, STO x 2, Contour, Dynamix, Optomix, MMG, LXD, RXMX, Tempi… I have a separate system pretty much based around them because I find I’m either in a MN mood, and therefore mode, or I’m not. Anyone else find that?


It all started with the 0-coast for me, which I have now a little bit regretfully sold. But that was a super nice platform to learn some basic stuff by just patching and experimentation. When I finally begun building my small system I started out with STO, Maths, MMG and Rosie. They’re still in my case, in addition to LxD, ModDemix and Morhpagebe. Love them all. Great sounding and pretty intuitive once you get the hang of it. I really like how they’re kind of educating synth history and collect a lot of ideas from that. It has been mentioned a couple of times already, but it’s very useful to learn some of the basic concepts and ideas, and I feel that Make Noise serves all that. Additionally I think Morphagene is one of the most fun musical instruments ever. I can spend a whole day just fiddling with different samples with it.


They are good people, for sure. Email them and you’ll probably hear back from Tony. They are not perfect… who is? But they are always trying to expand the boundaries of modular synthesis, following the lead of Buchla, Serge and Richter.
I love Rene, but it doesn’t always love my fingertips back. Still, there’s nothing else out there quite like it (Noise Engineerings’ offering being closest) so it stays in my system until I find something I like more.
My modular set up is in two halves, these days - one half being mostly digital stuff controlled by monome. The other half is based around a Make Noise system. OCD as I am, I still wasn’t able to make it 100% MN.
Make Noise modules I’ve owned that didn’t work for me -
Mysteron (really loved sound but unpredictable piches - no good for me).

Here’s my system. I know there are no MN modules in the skiff, but that’s the skiff I use to control the MN case. I chose Marbles over Wogglebug (1st round KO) and much as I enjoy Optomix, Rabid Elephant’s Natural Gate is superior to my ears. Morphagene is amazing but if you want to run non modular gear through it you need a pre-amp first, hence the SBG. The module I love the most is probably RxMx.


Why would you need a preamp? Does the Auto Leveling feature of the Morphagene have any flaws I never noticed? I always found it worked quite good on line levels!


Yes it does. It’s the only weak spot in the design IMO. We were using it for a live show and it was too noisy until we put the SBG in line.


I think it must depend on what you are recording and maybe what your expectations are, though maybe there is some variation between units? I have used my Morphagene almost exclusively with line-level sources and haven’t felt the need for a preamp yet.


speaking of their excellent YT tutorials, here’s a good new one on morphagene:


As many have said, It also started with the 0-Coast with me as well. I have been building a small system for about a year now and I have learned so much from using the 0-Coast. I’m primarily an improvising experimental guitarist at heart, and as such I just love where MN as a company is coming from. The Morphagene is a module that I’ve admired from afar for so long, and can’t wait to eventually get. I just love that music concrete is such a motivational force throughout their designs.

As for my 0-Coast–I’ve managed to use it as a modulation source to control most of my tiny system, and I’ve even started using it as a stand-alone improvising instrument. The design and terminology of MN has always kept me intrigued, and it’s stayed consistent, unlike a lot of guitar amp companies that use the terms ‘tremolo’ and ‘vibrato’ interchangeably!


I fucking love me some Make Noise. If you’re a eurorack egg you’re probably gonna go one of three general philosophical roads: Make Noise, Mutable Instruments, or bargain hunter.

If you pay attention to Make Noise they’re trying to teach you the building blocks of synthesis. You will understand, over time, exactly what the voltages ping ponging around your system are actually doing. Paying attention to these things is precisely what eggs get wrong.

Mutable Instruments, on the other hand, will only teach you about how to operate Mutable Instruments modules. (Sorry, I promised myself I’d stop.)


I can highly recommend a laminated printout of the TEMPI cheat sheet. Whenever I forget one of the modes I just take a quick peek and I’m back in business :slight_smile:


I love MN stuff. I think the discussion about the faceplate design is fascinating - no one is “meh” you either think they’re intuitive or you struggle with them. Very little middle ground. A solid data point in the neverending war against the belief that “intuitive” exists and is objective and universal.

I sometimes have to look up some of the key combos on Morphagene and Tempi but am otherwise fully off-book for the rest of stuff (I’ve built a MN shared system over the years a module at a time). I love the designs. It’s impressive to me that they’re unique but fully consistent across the decade of design. Modules released today look pretty much like modules they made ten years ago.

Even the HP choices are consistent. Most of their stuff is 20hp. done and done.