Semi-modular synthesizers

I think after a certain number of patch cables, your modular becomes a semi-modular.


Well, what would you do with a 100% modular synth (as in 0 patch cables) ?


Pack it up and store in a box (that is what happened for my Pico System 3 at the moment ;d)
But serious answer is that it probably depends very much on your flow and case. I always unplug everything so start from scratch but I don’t necesarilly see being “modular” as a value in itself. I just everytime rebuild different instruments from all the possibilities that my case have.


One could argue that the switch to semi-modular is defined not by a precise count but by the flexibility/accessibility lost by having a high count of connections on top. Just to make sure I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, but perhaps it would make sense for himself to design a semi-modular system next.


I said the same when I first saw it. Some similarities w/ 2600 too with the ring mod + env follower. love the addition of a wavefolder, lpg, two function generators. I haven’t had GAS in maybe years, but this may pull me back in…

semi-modular is defined by having preexisting connections hardwired between modules. those connections can be overridden by patch cables


Arguable in a lot of cases that the normaling of signals in many modules is no different to what happens in semi systems on a macro scale.

Seems to be an implied usage/work flow that works for number of users, with the flexibility of deviation. Thus the longevity of 2600’s, MS20’s, etc

It’s not particularly shocking to see a shift towards designing instruments/semi-modular/stand-alone systems from manufacturers, or collaborations. Such products are likely able to facilitate the economic viability of some of the brightest minds in this realm of music/technology. Maybe icky to swallow for some, but perhaps a reality of the now.


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Is that because of a perceived “impurity” of semi-modular?

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I would say that there are many folks who do not want any normalized connections as it can be harder to understand the signal flow. It’s true, there are many modules in eurorack that do not respect any conventions, especially when dealing with digital modules.

I don’t think it should be seen so much as a “now” thing. Let’s not forget that Doepfer and MFB already had semi modular offerings years before Makenoise made a standalone unit; we used to call them gateway modulars, as they were aimed to get people into Eurorack. Seems like a very natural step for manufacturers of a certain age. I’d really be surprised if anybody actually found it “icky”, although you never know these days.


Even NLC makes a semi-modular!


Me too. I guess I don’t understand the (aesthetic? political?) objection to semi-modulars. I get why people might want full modular for themselves, but for others, semi-modular is good. Lots of different ways to make sound and music.


Some people juat have weird opinions.

I’ve decided to just stop reading comments at Synthtopia after multiple arguments about whether Cascadia is "a VST in a box, " apparently because somehow analog oscilllators are too good to sound analog and plugins sound too analog now? :woman_shrugging:t2: Compared to stuff like that, disliking semi-modular is relatively sane I suppose…


I’m not against semi-modular, and to each their own. But my experience has been that some semi-modular synths - not all - aren’t as flexible in their routing as I’d like, plus their individual “modules” - oscillators, envelopes, filters, etc. - often are too simplistic or are cut-down versions of more expansive offerings, or are lacking in as many patch points and features as I’d care for. My gateway semi-modular was the Mother-32 and I bought it in conjunction with a few modules, thinking that it would provide the bread-and-butter starter modules I’d need and cover the basics and I could expand from there. But you can’t route external audio through JUST the Moog ladder filter by itself, it has to go through the envelope and VCA as well. The VCO is limited to saw and pulse. The envelope is limited to attack and decay (neither CV-able) with a sustain on/off toggle. You can’t decouple the sequencer from the VCO. You can’t use a eurorack sequencer to drive the M32 without converting voltage from -5/+5V to -10/+10V. And so on. And this is for a massively popular semi-modular that many considered the best offering in that category and many still do. Some of my biggest headscratcher, puzzle-solving-for-hours moments in Eurorack were due to the so-called gentle introduction of the M32.

Once I sold it and went through the process of replacing all those “bread-and-butter” “modules” with actual eurorack modules, my horizons finally opened up. Only then I really felt like I had ultimate flexibility and true superpowers at my fingertips. Before then, I was sort of trying to fit a round patch cable into a square patch point, so to speak.

Now, it appears that Cascadia’s design overcomes some or all of these problems the Mother-32 had. It looks way better in every respect, actually. But my personal bias against semi-modular - for myself, at least - came about from some of those frustrations.


That makes sense, and personal preferences are always fine. My intro to modular was semi-modular: an Intellijel Atlantis.

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synths… lolololol :slight_smile:


is there enough critical mass to create a thread for this discussion? (merits / misgivings re: semi modular synths)


Seems like there’s some energy gathering around the topic.

Perhaps there is a way to frame it more as both/and rather than either/or?

yeah i’m not necessarily suggesting a thread title

just gauging interest since it’s a sizeable tangent within hype recently

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Proposal for topic name (and a potential thesis title for anyone who wants to steal it) –

Normalization: is it just for Normies?: An aesthetic and functional exploration of Semi Modular and Modular synthesizers