Modularity is all over the place. It is at the forefront of synthesis technology while yet being the oldest. It’s a new-old, future-retro, historical, and forward-thinking approach to music-making that takes advantage of our rediscovered love of tactile engagement. While the beautiful flashing lights and swaths of cables are enticing, they may also be rather complicated. Nowhere is this more true than when you’re trying to get started in modular. As you add more modules and discover new ways to make music, modular synthesis has the ability to grow, expand, and change. As a result, I’ve had to take some liberties in compiling a list of the best modular synthesizers.
What we’re looking at is a self-contained device or set of modules that can be used independently. In most cases, this means a “Semi-Modular” synthesizer, in which the modules are linked up internally to ensure that the synthesizer always works. In other circumstances, it’s a collection of discrete modules presented as a comprehensive solution by a manufacturer. The most important feature is that they can all be patched into a larger modular system.
Moog Grandmother Semi-Modular Analog Keyboard Synthesizer
- Hardware Spring Reverb can be used to process external sounds
- ¼” External audio input for guitars, drum machines, and more
- Semi-modular - no patching is required
Moog Music semi-modular features a 32-note Fatar keyboard, as well as a sequencer and arp, making it more performance-oriented than its Mother siblings. It boasts a stylish multi-colored retro style that complements the sound’s original vintage feel. The vintage vibe is wonderfully rounded off by the addition of a spring reverb module, which is uncommon in current synths. Even before patching a cable, Grandmother is a dynamic performer, capable of a wide spectrum of sounds. Is the asking price reasonable? If for no other reason than to give customers a taste of the ancient Moog modular circuitry without having to take out a second mortgage, then yes. This is one of the Best Modular Synthesizer in 2023.
- 80HP Eurack-sized Analog Monosynth Module with 2 Oscillats
- Filter Amp Envelopes
- Lowpass/Highpass VCF
The Behringer Neutron semi-modular analog synthesizer is one of the Best Modular Synthesizers. It appears to have no end to the sound fun you may have with it. This standalone/Eurorack duophonic synthesizer provides blazing leads that will tear the paint off club walls and enormous basses that will blow them down, thanks to a pair of punchy morphable-waveform oscillators and ample modulation capabilities. Neutron has you covered with everything from stunning cosmic pads to blippy extraterrestrials. CV (control voltage) is the way to go for sonic expression, and the Neutron gives you full access to it. You may create your own fully distinct signature sounds with its large patchbay and distinguish yourself different from the pack — even if the pack is geared up with Neutrons!
Behringer Neutron is a versatile synth that also performs well. The semi modular synth is an improved version of its predecessor with all of the original functionality, and its semi-modular architecture helps it a lot. It’s jam-packed with classical music tracks from the 1970s and 1980s. The classic VCA, VCF, and VCO circuits, along with the pure analogue signal path, enable you make amazingly rich and creative sounds. For crafting realistic tones, Voltage Control Oscillators delivers five unique waveforms.
The heart of Neutron’s sound is a highly adjustable 12 dB state variable filter. Semi modular synthesizers allows you to freely express your imagination in order to create the perfect sound. The filter mode lever on the synth provides three essential settings for a wide range of tonal options: high pass, bandpass, and low pass.
Neutron is your best bet if you enjoy being in command. OSC mix, Pulse width knobs, changeable tuning, and shape are all available on the onboard modulators. VCF’s configured modulation source is the LFO. Neutron comes with seven switches and 36 knobs that are placed up naturally for thrilling music composition. The device may be easily put into a regular Eurorack 80HP- and was designed to handle the rigors of life in the studio and on the road. Neutron has you covered when it comes to letting your creativity run wild. It allows you to express your creativity and imagination. Despite all of these useful features, the synth is inexpensive enough to fit into your budget. This is one of the Best Modular Synth in 2023.
Moog Mother-32 Semi Modular Analog Synthesizer
- Semi-modular design requires no patching for swift, inspired music creation
- Voltage controlled 32 step sequencer with 64 sequence locations
- Low Pass & High Pass Moog Ladder Filter (20Hz-20kHz) with voltage controlled resonance
With the semi-modular Mother-32 monosynth, Moog enters the Eurorack movement. Switchable lowpass and highpass Moog ladder filters (20Hz-20kHz), a voltage-controlled 32-step sequencer for self-contained programming, a MIDI input for external control and MIDI interface to CV conversion, and a 32-point 3.5mm patchbay for interconnectivity and extended synthesis capabilities are among the features of this distinctly vintage-voiced, raw, powerful synthesizer for music production. The Mother-32 is extremely fantastic news for those of us who have stepped into this modern modular synth configuration. And if you’re new to the Eurorack synth platform, there’s no better place to start than here.
Moog continues to stand out among a plethora of well-equipped software and hardware options. The semi-modular synthesizer is a unique analogue device for adding raw analog sound and sequencing to your music. This massive tool is handcrafted in Asheville, North Carolina, and it gives musicians a wealth of creative capabilities to help them create new music. Moog gives customers a taste of esthetic music with MIDI connectivity, a sequencer, and a set of strong switches and knobs.
The Mother-32 is a semi-modular synthesizer that produces the classic Moog analog sound while yet being modern. Its huge analog tone ranges from thick and wooly to crisp and steely. Most of the Mother-32’s modulation sources can be routed via small toggle switches, providing you a lot of sound-design flexibility. Without ever touching a patch cable, you’ll be able to create earth-shattering bass, screaming leads, and ambient effects. You may easily add other Eurorack modules to the Mother-32’s 32-point patchbay to construct a hugely complicated and incredibly powerful synthesizer. You can integrate the rest of your synth gear with the MIDI to CV converter and 5-pin MIDI input.
The instrument comes with a universal switching plug that can be used with any AC source between 100 and 240 volts. You don’t need cords to create or explore innovative music. When you’re ready to let your imagination run wild, simply enter the wide sonic regions. For live performance, a 32-note step sequencer allows you to create ideas and perform in two sequencer modes. The sound is deep, buzzy, and wonderfully pleasant, in our opinion. You can utilize the LFO as an extra sound source. The VCF is dedicated to preserving the rich, artistic musical tradition. Because the patchbay is on the right side of the instrument, no tangle of cords will get in the way of any twerking.
It has two sequence modes that make it simple to create patterns. 32. In KB mode, you can play notes in immediately from the keyboard panel, whereas in Step mode, you can program notes in manually. You can use the two modes together to play and alter patterns in great detail. Each step in your sequence can have a different gate duration, and you can design highly animated sequences using ties, glide, and accent control (64 custom sequences can be created and saved). To generate amazing stutter effects, you can add multi-note ratchets to specific steps. Temporarily mute playback, add accents, ratchet the sequence, and transpose the sequence while the sequencer is still running for creative live performance possibilities.
Arturia MINIBRUTE 2S | MIDI USB Desktop Analog Synthesizer/Step Sequencer
- Analog Synthesizer
- VCO 2>1 Hard Sync, VCO1 linear and exponential FM
- White Noise Generator
The Arturia MiniBrute 2 semi-modular analog synthesizer replaces a keybed with a small row of velocity/pressure-sensitive pads, resulting in enormous sound that’s simple to add to your synth setup. Because MiniBrute 2S is semi-modular, you don’t need to patch anything to get a wide range of sounds — but once you start using its 48-point CV mod matrix, the possibilities are unlimited. Its three-layer BeatStep-style sequencer is also excellent, allowing you to sequence notes on one layer while changing parameters on the others.
An arpeggiator is available, with eight modes including repetitive and random patterns. By hitting an existing pattern, you can make a multi-octave arpeggio. This aids in the selection of a new octave as well as the addition of notes. Monophonic sequences can be created and stored using the provided sequencer. It’s easy to record in real time. Simply press “Record and Play” at the same time, then play from the keyboard.
The MiniBrute 2S synthesizer improves on everything synthesists loved about the original with two Brute oscillators and the popular Steiner-Parker filter. You’ll be able to make deep basses, strong leads, evocative drones and pads, and much more even if you don’t use the patchbay. The MiniBrute 2S transforms into a sound design powerhouse thanks to its seamless interaction with Eurorack.
The MiniBrute 2S is the ideal complement to a Eurorack modular synth rig, with 48 CV patch connections. Arturia’s RackBrute Eurorack enclosure is the ideal method to bring these two worlds together. MiniBrute 2S and RackBrute combine to provide different positioning choices for Eurorack modules, allowing you to put them exactly where you need them.
The best semi-modular synths all starts with the outstanding 48 CV patch points for usage with modular synthesizers. There’s also traditional 5-pin MIDI, as well as USB for MIDI to and from your computer. You can use your DrumBrute, Akai MPC Live, or Korg Volca modules to sync. The external audio input also allows you to use the MiniBrute 2S’s advanced sound-shaping capabilities to process noises.
Roland System-1m Plug-out Synthesizer
- 84HP Semi-modular Synth with Plug-out Technology
- Gate Connectivity
The Roland AIRA System-1m semi-modular synthesizer combines tremendous plug-in functionality with excellent standalone performance in a format that’s easy to integrate into your synth setup. The System-1m can do it all and sound fantastic while doing it, whether you’re wanting to add to your Eurorack setup, want a table-top synth for your AIRA system, or need a great rack-mountable synthesizer alternative. Roland’s AIRA System-1m is a wonderful pick for your next synth or your first synth because of its versatile structure and sonic diversity.
This is essentially a keyboardless, rack-mountable version of Roland’s System-1 “Plug-out” synth – a one-of-a-kind digital instrument with a synth engine that can be loaded with digital emulations of a range of Roland classics. However, we also get a number of Eurorack-style patch points, which is a really unique and appealing feature for a digital polysynth.
The patching functionality is excellent in the best semi modular synth, with the caveat that sound creation is monophonic in this mode. The new synth models available through the Plug-Out system greatly expand the musical possibilities, albeit there are some concessions in terms of front panel control assignment. This is a nice-sounding synth with a lot of options, yet it’s unclear who it’s intended for. Finally, we applaud Roland for bringing a fresh perspective to the analogue vs. digital discussion.
The System-1combination m’s of modular synth features, robust plug-in capabilities, and flexible DAW integration opens up a world of creative possibilities. This synth can be rack-mounted or set up on a table and powered by regular AC power when used alone. Simply use the provided adapter cable to tap into the integrated case power to add the System-1m to your Eurorack. And, like any other synth module, the System-1m can be played from any normal MIDI keyboard or receive MIDI signals from your DAW. The AIRA System-1m synthesizer can be readily integrated whether you’re keeping in the AIRA universe, designing a fully modular system, or developing your own unique combination.
Roland’s Plug-out technology raises the bar on software integration. Although the System-1m looks to be an analog synth in every aspect, it’s actually a sophisticated standalone computer dressed up as an analog synth, which is what makes it so amazing. By uploading additional plug-out software synths to the System-1m, you can entirely reprogramme the sound engine. There are a number of classic Roland instruments included, many of which will make use of the System-1robust m’s hands-on controls. Best of all, once you’ve uploaded a new synth to the System-1m from your computer, it stays loaded in its firmware, allowing you to pick up your synth or Eurorack and go without dragging your computer along. Thanks to Analog Circuit Behavior technology, which authentically models all of the analog components of some of the most sought-after classic synths, the System-1m can produce a wide spectrum of synth tones.
Pittsburgh Modular Microvolt 3900 Semi-Modular Synthesizer
- Voltage controlled West Coast style wavefolder.
- Switchable harmonically rich sine wave.
- External preamp with independent 30x gain and output level controls.
The Pittsburg 3900 is a contemporary semi-modular with a slew of innovative features. The instrument’s audio engine can feed a collection of waveshapers from harmonic shaping thanks to its regulated temperature and dual VCA oscillator core. Sonically, this generates a flowing filter that gives the oscillator more vitality and depth. As a result, you may make the synth scream as loud as you want.
Pittsburg 3900’s sound is powered by innovative dynamic VCA technology. A typical VCA has two aspects of operation. Pittsburg 3900’s dynamic VCA technology, on the other hand, has a third dimension. Harmonics are removed when VCA technology closes and restored when it opens. It’s also designed to allow the synth to be plucked, which opens up a whole new world of musical possibilities. The instrument is patched internally, so no patch cords are required to dial in a variety of tones. For total signal routing control, it has a 39-point Eurorack.
Creating dynamic sounds is aided by a four-stage envelope generator, broad LFO, multi-tasking function generator, and sequencer. The innovative binary filters etched around the filter circuit use a smooth 2 pole to provide a smooth frequency. The sound is sculpted by a 30x symmetrical overdrive circuit in the output portion. It produces high-quality, harmonious happiness as a result. The periodic control voltage generator can be used as a voltage-controlled oscillator or a decay-attack envelope generator, among other things.
Korg Volca Micro Modular Synthesizer
- Semi-modular Analog Synthesizer Module with CV In
- 16-step Sequencer
- 50 Patch Points
Volca Fans with West Coast Semi-modular Synthesis. The Korg Volca Modular, with its real semi-modular signal path, extends the Volca platform’s creative potential. It’s a great complement to any Eurorack synth system, thanks to its CV inputs. Its 16-step sequencer has a variety of scale presets to experiment with, as well as deep randomization settings for instant versatility.
On the Volca Modular, practically anything can be patched into anything else, and there are 20 patch cables supplied, so you can make your own bespoke synth sounds with ease. The Korg Volca Modular is a standalone synth and sequencer module that offers a lot of value, whether you’re expanding your Volca rig or adding to an entire modular synth setup.
The instrument comes with all of the necessary attachments and everything you need in one box, adding value to your purchase. Modular synthesis is made simple and intelligible by using a semi-conductor analogue synthesizer. This item could be ideal for a beginner who is eager to learn. Modulation is provided by two key functions. The attack-hold-release envelope generator is the first function, which controls the Attack and Release times. The second envelope with a form control for changing the ratio of attack to decay time is the two-stage rise-fall.
Inverted and positive outputs, end trigger outputs and gate inputs, as well as modulation inputs for control, are all present in both functions. Volca Modular has patchable outputs from a separate CV input, as well as the sequence, for control. The input port is a stereo 3.5mm jack connector, which allows for signal separation.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a modular synth?
The modular synth, invented in the 1950s, is that jumble of cords and flashing lights you’ve seen in a studio or on a friend’s desk and wondered how it could ever qualify as a musical instrument. A modular synthesizer is a music or sound-design instrument made up of many modules. The voltage control amplifier (VCA), voltage control filter (VCF), voltage control oscillator (VCO), envelope, effects, LFO, and utility modules are the most common types of modules. These modules might be digital or analog in nature (controlled by voltage).
Wires link the modules, with VCO -> VCF -> VCA being the conventional patching. The connecting cords are always mono and come in a variety of sizes, including huge jacks, banana plugs, and miniature plugs. A modular synth (synthesizer) provides a one-of-a-kind capacity to create customised sounds. These synths are so adaptable that you can generate sounds with the oscillator of one instrument and the filter or clone of another device — from a different manufacturer! Yes, you can use the synth without a DAW to create a whole soundtrack or album (Digital Audio Workstation).