Never say never

Just over a month ago I wrote:

You can take [the Mother-32] out of the case, put it into a Eurorack enclosure, and use it with other Eurorack modules. Or you can buy a Moog 2- or 3-tier stand and enclosure and some Eurorack modules and make it the core of a modular system that way. Then again you can fill up a 3-tier rack with Mother-32s, patch them together, and go to town. Am I likely to do any of these? Of course not.

On Sunday I sent off an order for stuff to start putting together a Eurorack around the Mother-32. Anyone surprised? No?

The idea started to seem more attractive once I realized I was thinking about the expense of it wrong. The lowest price Doepfer starter system, for instance, is north of €1100. But that’s a system for someone starting from zero; I’m starting from Mother-32. I don’t need to plunk down for a dozen modules. All it takes to expand beyond the Mother-32 is a rack, a power supply, and one module. More can be added later as needs or wants arise and money accumulates.

And there are ways of spending less on modules. You can find used equipment online. Or there’s the DIY route. A lot of modules can be bought as bare PC boards, or PCBs and front panels, or partial kits with PCBs, panels, and some of the more esoteric parts, or full kits with all the parts. Any of these will generally be a lot cheaper than the built and tested module. Of course it requires you to have the skills, equipment, and time to do the building.

Skills? Here’s a video by someone who built a Befaco Even VCO from a kit as something like his third DIY module. On the basis of that video I think I have at least as much electronics knowledge and as much soldering skill as he does, probably a little more. He was successful. I can do that.

Equipment? I have a soldering iron and a voltmeter — both cheap but adequate. An oscilloscope would be useful, and as of a month ago I didn’t have one, but I got myself one for Christmas. Also cheap but adequate. (That’s what it says on my coat of arms: “Cheap but Adequate”.)

Time? Sure. Of course if you’re the type who says “my time is worth $x per hour” and figures that into the cost, you conclude it’s far cheaper to buy your modules built and tested. But I’m not. This is recreational time, time I’d pay to have rather than expect to be paid for; it isn’t time I’d be using to make money if I weren’t entertaining myself.

Then again, that might become more of a moot point in the near future. I just found out Behringer is bringing Eurorack modules to market, based on the old Roland M100 modular system, and they’re talking about charging Behringer-style prices of $49 to $99 each. Which is nuts! If they follow through with that and the equipment’s any good, it’ll definitely be an alternative worth considering to building your own at least some of the time.

Not yet though, so what I’m planning to start off with is a small (84 HP) rack, a TipTop Audio μZeus power supply, and an AI Synthesis AI003 Looping ADSR envelope generator. Kind of like this:

The blank panel’s a placeholder for the ribbon controller interface repackaged as a module, and there’s an 8 HP space for something else. Assuming interest and ability don’t flag, I’ll need more rack space after that. Indeed I’d thought about building a 6U (two row) rack to start with, but then I had other ideas. More on that later.

The μZeus, ADSR, and rails are on order. I’m in the final stages of finishing the ribbon controller, and I have a rocket I should pay some attention to, but I’ll get started on this before too long.



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