Serge thread


#1

Looks like I’ll have a little bit of disposable income soonish, which I’d like to invest into an experimental modular synth thing. Currently using a small euro sequencing/sampling case with a Bugbrand SynthVoice.

In order to add an additional experimental angle to this, I’d like to add something banana-based, i.e. 1-2 Serge M-Panels. My current preference is a Creature and maybe an Audio Interface panel. What do people think that are using Serge already?

I had briefly considered adding a Buchla 208, but the different voltage requirements to everything else I own is rather off-putting.

Would love to hear opinions.


Kaffeeklatsch
Kaffeeklatsch
#2

(I’ll try not to make this sound like an advert for my for sale wares!)

In my experience Serge and Bugbrand play well together. I’ve never had any issues with voltage incompatibilities etc. They are similar in some ways - fairly low level functional block type approach for instance - although they do sound quite different. I haven’t really used either in conjunction with Euro although providing you ground the power supplies together all will be fine. I know Serge and Bugbrand have ground sockets built in - you may have to DIY one for Euro or use a suitable convertor panel which should take care of the grounding aspects for you.

Which Serge panels depends on what you want to do with them. I can only really talk about the ones I have some experience with. A Creature is a great starting point as it can basically function as a standalone synth in its own right. If you’re into rhythmic music the normal recommendation would be to add a Gator with its dividers and boolean module blocks. But, you might have those sort of functions covered in your Euro sequencing setup. Audio Interface gives you a Res EQ which is a wonderful module. Certainly one of the handful that define Serge as a system as is the DUSG that is also present. Quadslope is very versatile although you might want a bit more module diversity in a small 2 panel system. If you want really experimental sound shaping possibilities then a Klangzeit is maybe the way to go. It’s probably the m-class panel I’ve really utilised most with my Bugbrand. It has another of those classic Serge modules in the WAD.

There’s some useful information (although I understand the prices are not up to date) on all the m-class panels here:
http://www.serge-fans.com/m-class.cfm

I haven’t uploaded much from my Serge but here are a couple of early Serge and Bugbrand experiments.

Thee are of course other possibilities for expansion that you may have considered already. There’s the Euro Serge modules from Elby which are available in both 3.5mm or banana jack. Some older Serge circuits in there.
http://www.elby-designs.com/contents/en-us/d94_EuroSerge_Modules.html

Or, you could wait to see what Tom comes out with in terms of a second full panel design. I’m sure whatever he does will be great.


#3

I think it’s important that you listed what you’re currently using and how you wish to add to it, compliment it, rather than replace it altogether with an entirely different system.

There are many ways to go, but if you want to contain your Serge Modular in a single m-boat, a Creature + Audio Interface m-class combo is a good balance between sound generating and sound processing ability and makes a lot of sense based on your goals. It’s a solid place to start especially if you don’t see yourself designing a large, multiple boat system in the future.

Boy do I have opinions. But I’m not the only one here who can wax poetic about Serge function-blocks and why they’re so awesome. If you have a specific question about a particular m-class module, please let me know.


#4

I’ve only built the R*S Euroserge modules (all of them, except for the DUSG), so take my potentially ignorant opinion with a grain of salt. I kept all of the Serge modules together in a case to try to get the experience of a Serge panel.

I didn’t find anything notably better or worse about the Serge designs vs. their Euro counterparts. For instance, the Stepped/Smooth did not perform better (or much differently) than my Sport Modulator. It had an easier, wider panel layout and a more sensible unipolar cycle mode.

The filters annoyed me the most. The VCFQ and VCFS both sound great, but perform horribly in the Eurorack format (they hard clip if you look at them funny, or if the cutoff is set to the fundamental frequency of the input or a loud partial… and yes I made sure to use the AGC input and calibrate everything properly). I know that they perform better in a Serge-only system, but I didn’t find a reason to keep either filter over 3 Sisters. 3 Sisters clips in a more pleasant fashion, pings well, and has a more interesting input/output strategy. Plus, I prefer the smaller layout and massive cutoff knob.

NCOM was an oddball. There should absolutely be more comparators in Euro, but the design was just so odd. The only novel feature that doesn’t exist in Euro is the staircase output, but I honestly couldn’t find much of a use for it, especially since it’s always tuned the same.

The absolute gems of the RS Serge modules are the ResEQ and Wave Multipliers. The ResEQ is such a lovely sound. I run almost everything through it now. I prefer the RS design over the huge Manhattan/Clarke design, mainly because I use the feedback knob and switch a lot more than I ever used the individual outputs. The Wave Mults is a hard panel to explain the appeal of, but it essentially gives you three distortion circuits that work well independently or self-patched to hell. The middle wavefolder has some comparable Euro competition, but the bottom rectification distorter doesn’t really sound like any other module in my setup. Plus, all three are great for handling CV.

Overall, I’d say that my experience killed off whatever Serge GAS I had. The sound and experience weren’t so powerful and different that it made me crave yet another system with another stack of patch cables sitting around my apartment. I will probably build the NTO or any effect that R*S produces as they are cheap, quick, extremely high-quality, and easy to build (plus, if I don’t like them, I can sell them without losing money). It’s a shame that the WAD is so difficult to produce these days, as that’s the one that stands out most to me!


#5

Started my four panel Serge system about 12 years ago. Also got in the R*S Eurorack version a year ago, just for the fun of it. The filters are easy to overload in both versions.

Essential for the sonic “Serge” experience are IMHO in descending order:

  1. ResEQ and Wave Multipliers,
  2. VCFQ (prefer it over 3 Sisters),
  3. DUSG together with SSG.

The one thing that the Euro versions can not replicate, but which is – again IMHO – essential for the haptic Serge experience is patching with Banana cords. I just love it: Sturdy feel, not clicks, not pops, zero failures, and I can aggressively dig my way thru a dense patch cable jungle without any worries of momentarily breaking contact (as it does sometime happen with 3.5mm cables).


#6

Wow, some very helpful responses and comments here everybody. So, thank you for that. Let me pick up @bradleyallen’s question first. What exactly am I using and what would I like to add? This is my current eurorack case. I am consciously limiting myself to 84HP here. Note that instead of MP and Ansible, the case now has 2 Ansibles.

Besides this Eurorack case, I have a Bugbrand SynthVoice frame, which is this:

These integrate into a setup with a multi-channel audio interface, a Mac for DAW and effects duties, an a bass guitar with a couple of effects pedals. Live, the Mac gets replaced by an iPad Pro. And soon I’ll be adding a Deluge sampler to the setup as well.

I guess what I’m most interested in for expansion of the synth side of things is the addition of more immediate creation and/or manipulation of control voltages and triggers including more random, as well as interesting ways to shape and treat sounds created by the other synths or routed from computer or bass into the synth. The preference of banana jacks is kind of arbitrary, but I have to admit that I like patching my Bugbrand a lot more than patching the euro. That said, bananas are not necessarily a must have.

What @trickyflemming writes about the ResEQ and Wave Multipliers sounds right up my alley for the sound treatment part of my question. I do want to add some dirt and grit to my setup, and these two modules seem more than able to do that. For the CV/trigger part of the equation I know that with 2 Ansibles and a TT, I already have a lot of capability in my current euro case. I guess what I’m looking for is to add more “controlled unpredictability” and random to introduce continously changing timbres and rhythms over time, ideally still related to or derived from some master clock, which in itself could already be quite unstable. What is really important for me is that the CV generating part of the synth be as “playable” as possible.

@sandy makes a valid point in saying that I could wait for the next Bugbrand frame to be announced as that seems to be a lot more focused on CV creation and manipulation, but I guess at this point I’prefer to actively look for ways that complement the current setup as closely as possible in the direction that I’d like it to see it go.

Maybe a Serge panel or two is not the answer here as it wrongly starts with imposing a specific format. Given the fact that I already have a mixed system, it almost doesn’t matter what the next thing is as soon as it remains compatible with the rest of the setup. Please keep your ideas coming. I’m excited to read and learn more.


#7

Not to contradict you, but I didn’t ask for what exactly are you using now, just if you had a specific question about a particular m-class module. But thank you, it helps even though I don’t know much about Euro-rack modules. All of that jazz is totally over my head! I just know the STS Serge stuff. That said, I friend of mine just received one of those Sequencer thingies built by that guy in Japan, and it looks very well made.

I didn’t go into depth about the brilliance of an Audio Interface + Creature m-boat because you seemed to already have figured it out. If later you wanted to add another boat with a sound processing/sound transforming m-class, then the Wave Processor is the one to get. Round it out with whatever you like… a Wilson Analog Delay m-class would be my tendency, especially if I had no intention of saving up for a Soup Kitchen shop panel.


#8

OT, but the NLC module verbiage is killing me: “Sloth Torpor.”

His three-in-one version is even better.

I need to get some of his stuff. Far out.

Did you DIY that Radio Music 1U module?

That is a very cool system you have there.

Now back to your regularly scheduled program.


#9

@Larrea: Andrew’s stuff is highly recommended if you’re into gnarly and chaotic. Beautifully crazy inventions. At some point I had 168HP of NLC, and it was absolutely wild. Went under the chopping block when I downsized from 12U 102HP to only 3U 84HP. A bit sad about that now.
The 1U Radio Music is a standard build of the 4HP version with a custom 1U panel I made through Front Panel Express.


#10

@Larrea, I also highly, highly recommend Andrew’s stuff. The 1050 Mix Seq is a very well-designed recreation of the ARP classic. Neuron/Diff-Rect and all three Sloths are just great. His modules have a living quality to them that I highly enjoy.

I built a Stasis Sloth and gifted it to a friend. I call it “The Silent Collaborator”. I like to create patches and then leave the Stasis Sloth to decide on how one or two parameters will change through a piece.


#11

If that’s what you are after specifically, I guess Eurorack offers way more space-efficient (and cost-efficient) solutions than the Serge SMOOTH/STEPPED GENERATOR and RANDOM SOURCE. Please consider that there is currently only one M-Class panel panel available that offers multiple random sources (2, to be precise), and that’s the MAYHEM for 1,700 USD:


#12

Thanks for the one insight. Any specific euro modules you’re thinking of?


#13

For good “controlled unpredictability”? I have the following recs:

Wogglebug. Very popular, but I still think that most people under-utilize it. It can be manually clocked up to audio rates, so you can use it as a “bitcrushing” effect (actually sample rate reduction, so bitcrushing is a misnomer… however, that’s what most people call it). Regardless, it can generate on its own or take any signal and hold it with slew and bounce. You can mix between the internal noise source and external input. There’s a lot here beyond pure random.

SSF Ultra Random Analog: I don’t own this, but it’s a similar design with a bit more open of a circuit. Like Wogglebug, if the internal noise source is too unpredictable, you can patch in your own source to derive random from.

Just Friends: Not a random source by any means, but to me this is one of my favorites for unexpected modulations. I like to set up traditional patches and then manipulate the Intone control to send the modulations out of sync with each other.

Ornaments + Crimes: Such a killer module. I have two of these, as every “app” on here is useful. There’s a quad quantizer on here. Each quantizer can be manipulated independently or together. Each quantizer can receive a separate input or use a built-in random source (LFSR like the Turing Machine, Logistic Chaos map, and more). This playlist is fantastic: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLxzWZ5Bv5AwyYk5KDnGvEHWs8CzAXnvec The Temps Utile is the gate and trigger counterpart.

Teletype: This works really well on its own (you don’t need any other Monome devices). The built-in scenes are perfect starting points for controlled complexity. Most of my patches use this or O+C as a starting point.

Sport Modulator: If you’re interested in the Smooth/Stepped Serge, this is basically that. However, in cycle mode it produces a bipolar signal. The advantage is that either side can be switched to operate in Smooth or Stepped modes, making it ultimately more versatile and much more space efficient. The R*S SSG is a lot easier to learn, though. For a brief period, I was using the SSG a lot more to train myself, but I sold it and returned to the Sport Mod. Watch the last few patches in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeuxMe_hpcM Really, combining this with Maths gives you practically identical functionality to the SSG and DUSG. I should add that Maths, Sport Mod, SSG, and DUSG are not inherently unpredictable modules. The unpredictability comes from clever patches like the ones in James Cigler’s video.

Plog: One of the most underappreciated modules in Euro. Not random at all. It has two six-mode logic blocks that can be used as 2-in or 3-in, along with two flip-flops. The normalization scheme is just solid design: the first logic block’s inputs cascade into the second. The output of the second is normalled to the first flip-flop, the output of which is normalled to the second. By using two gate inputs and modulating the logic modes, you will get into highly unpredictable territory all derived from those gates. Here’s a good demo on that: https://youtu.be/NvrxQbh6vAg?t=1406 (skip to 23:25)


#14

A bigger question has come to play here.
There is very little in the functionality of other formats (be it Serge, Buchla or something else) that one cannot find in Euro these days. Which slightly begs the question, why would anyone expand outside of that format?
There’s maybe an element of sound there (I haven’t used any of the direct Serge clones in Euro to compare with the real thing) and perhaps interface comes into it. Banana jacks, larger panels, that sort of stuff (I’m not saying Euro can’t have perfectly good interfaces though!). I don’t know - rambling a bit.

Expanding in Euro would certainly be a cheaper option and there are plenty of possibilities to achieve the stated goals. My personal favourite for controlled randomness in Euro is Doepfer’s A149-1 and A149-2 combination although I do have a soft spot for Wogglebugs too :slight_smile:

http://www.doepfer.de/A1491.htm
http://www.doepfer.de/A1492.htm

To talk specifically about Serge again.

I’m not sure I would look at a Res EQ for dirt and grit. It’s a great module but one I’d turn more to for sweetening sounds rather than the opposite. Wave mults on the other hand - definitely! Plenty of dirt and grit from a WAD too.


#15

Agreed - the RES is one of my favorite fixed filter banks, but not for making things dirty.

You said earlier you were looking at the Buchla 208. It has four independent random generators, whose functionality can be found e.g. here:

I also recommend the Doepfer A149-1.

And I would not overlook having at least one S&H module plus an integrator/lag processor. You can patch a nice random generators with these (provided you have a clock and a noise source).

Or get an all-in-one-package (except for the 208’s 4 random generators) like this one:


#16

:astonished::astonished::astonished::astonished::astonished::astonished::astonished::astonished:

You just sent me in to a Youtube hole with those videos.

This module. Holy cow.

I’ve seen it referenced occasionally, but never looked in to it.

That it can do the equivalent of the ADDAC quantizer with the benefit of a visual OLED is just phenomenal. And that’s just one mode.

Wow wow wow wow.


#17

Wow, thanks everybody for taking the time to post such thoughtful responses with links to further material and videos. A lot to digest here. Will spend some time with this to decide which way to go. Once again, thank you!


#18

Wow…! Do you know of any way to buy a fully built “Ornaments + Crimes”?


#19

Yep! Official thread here: https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=164564&highlight=
DIY thread here: https://www.muffwiggler.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=160325&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0

There are people in both threads who will offer built versions depending on your location. They pop up on B/S/T from time to time as well. Temps Utile is much harder to find. Neither are very complicated builds. The parts are kind of expensive on O+C, though ($15 DAC, $20+ Teensy 3.1/3.2, high precision resistors in sections).

Firmware 1.2 is out soon with more apps and features. I wrote a JAG-style app for it that will be out in 1.3 hopefully. Needs some bugfixes and refinement.


#20

Thanks for the links again.

I’ve gone through them, followed links to Modular Grid, Github, and for the life of me, ordering anything like a whole kit seems like a pretty opaque process.