It is one of the best things about modular synthesizers – you can mix and match all elements of your instrument. Your dream is to combine a wavetable oscillator with a classic Moog-design filter and a tube-VCA? – No problem, go for it! But sometimes all you want is another simple analog subtractive voice. Or maybe you have something like 30hp of space left in your case, so why not throw a complete analog mono synthesizer in there? And often these modules are the perfect entry point for the mysterious land of modular synthesis, not only because you have everything on hand that you need to start making music – but also you can be sure that the single components work well together. With single modules you sometimes happen to combine modules that are not the perfect companions as a filter might expect 10V to fully open the cutoff, but your envelope only produces 8V…and so on. So with full voice-modules you can prevent some of the typical modular synth trouble shooting. Therefor a synth-voice module is often a good starting point for beginners and an easy and pleasing thing for experts to add another voice to their system. Just add a sequencer of your taste to the module and you are good to go! Here are some thoughts on typical analog mono-synths in eurorack format.
Sometimes all you need is a bass synthesizer – and the most famous one might the Roland TB-303. So why not put something like a TB-303 in your rack? This is where the Acidlab M303 comes into play. A good sounding, affordable all in one bass synthesizer that reminds of a TB-303 sound wise. All you need to do is add a sequencer and you’re good to go – ACID! And the M303 offers a lot more flexibility than a standalone version. With inputs for its filter and VCA you are able to process totally different sound sources than the original saw- and sqaurewave, if you want to.
This miniature synthesizer is also often referred to as a kind of 303 inspired synth. But is has more of its own sound, a pure analog, rough and strong sound that can go into 303 territories but is way more flexible…with 12 patch points, when it comes to integrating it into more complex patches. And have you seen the size of it? – To have a full analog mono synthesizer in ->10hp<- ! is kind of ridiculous – in a good way. It features saw- and square waves just like the M303 but lets you blend between the two and the filter is different as it is a -24db ladder design.
This little analog synthesizer features a sub-oscillator and noise circuit that the M303 and Domino are missing. It also features a multimode filter and additionally two ADSRs and an LFO – and it is the cheapest in this series. This is a challenge that MFB has mastered many times before – building incredibly affordable instruments with lots of functionality. And often they are surprisingly good sounding, as the Nanozwerg Pro proves. It makes no compromises: Noise, Sub, LP- BP- HP- Notch-Filter, Saw, Square, Triangle and Pulse waveforms, 2 x ADSRs, LFO, octave switch AND MIDI-input! You are missing something? Well, good news is: you will have saved a lot of money by buying the Nanozwerg Pro, so there will be something left for whatever you feel is missing.
The most sophisticated of the modules we are discussing here is the Atlantis by Intellijel. With 27 patch points, noise and a loopable envelope this is not only the best equipped of the four modules discussed here but also the most flexible. The Atlantis comes close to a synth voice that is built from separate modules when it comes to the feature list and patch points. Additionally pretty much any function of the Atlantis can be used independently, which contributes to the feel of using separate modules when working with the Atlantis. And what about the sound? The architecture of this module is inspired by the SH-101. And it sounds close in particular settings. The Atlantis is a great mono-synth and can sound huge.
Only 100 units will be available of the module A-111-5v Mini Synthesizer Voice. This special edition is only possible since Dieter Doepfer found 100 of the special-IC CEM3394. This module features a VCO, a 24dB-Lowpass filter, a VCA, an ADSR-envelope generator and two LFOs. The special thing about this module is its linear filter FM. The A-111-5v can be seen as the eurorack version of the Dark Energy MK I! And it features the CEM-chip that is responsible for the powerful and pleasant sound of the original Dark Energy. Now Doepfer is doing a limited run of A-111-5 Synthesizer Voices with this legendary chip.
In the end it is a matter of taste whether you rate one above the other, at least most of the time. When only having a few hp left in your live rig the Domino or M303 might be a good choice. On the other hand you might have ended up with a rack full of digital modules that you want to complement it with a more veratile analog voice, then the Intellijel or Doepfer might be the right module for you. Whatever your considerations are, this article has hopefully given you some insights in a few of the available options.
This is by no means a complete overview of the available modules or a full review of the modules discussed. The what about… texts are here to give you new ideas and maybe another perspective on things. All these modules offer more features than we have talked about in this post. For further information please click the provided links or – even better – visit the shop and ask the SchneidersLaden experts in the showroom.