Semi-modular synthesizers combine conventional and modular elements. This implies that you will have a synthesizer that is already pre-wired but also gives you the option to rewire the signal using an integrated patch bay or a variety of separate patch points. A semi-modular synth can be enhanced by adding new modules or external devices and rewiring the signal route. For instance, you might want to use the filters from another synth because you like the oscillator’s sound in your present one. A patch cable could be used with a semi-modular synth to send the signal to an external filter and then return it to the original synth.
Overall, they provide the simplicity of a conventional tethered device along with the flexibility and creativity of a modular arrangement. And for a fraction of the price of a fully modular system, semi-modular synthesizers can be a terrific way to learn about and get experience with modular synthesizers.
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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
Starting Moog’s line of semi-modular synthesizers was the well-known Mother-32. The tiny synth is a great standalone analog synth that also supports Eurorack and offers a variety of modulation choices, making it a small-yet-powerful addition to anyone’s toolbox. Monophonic desktop semi-modular synthesizer made by Moog is called Mother-32. It features a 32-patch point patch bay, an AD envelope with sustain switch, a bipolar filter, two modulation sources, and a single VCO.
The oscillator may produce a sawtooth or pulse wave throughout a one-octave frequency range. There is a pulse width dial specifically for the pulse wave. You can combine a white noise generator or external audio source with the VCO’s tone in addition to the tone from the internal oscillator. The high-pass and low-pass ladder filters on the Mother-32 attenuate frequencies by 24dB per octave. The filter has a resonance control that, at high levels, self-oscillates to produce a sine wave. Additionally, the LFO can be used to modify filter parameters to produce a surreal wobble effect. The filter can be modulated by the EG to produce a one-shot warping effect in the absence of this.
The tones you can make can be rich and complex, sharp enough to cut through a mix, deep and smooth enough to provide a bed for the rest of your music, and sharp enough to cut through a mix despite the apparent lack of tonal options. For semi-modular synths at this price, they have an amazing tone and a wealth of functionality. The range and depth of tones you can produce make up for the fact that you only have one oscillator. Additionally, because they are semi-modular, you can buy an external module and attach it to the M-32 using the patch bay if you want a different oscillator.
They work wonders for anyone who wants to start composing music using analog synthesis, and they are excellent for gradually introducing modular synthesis. This is one of the Best Semi-Modular Synths in 2023.
Behringer Neutron Semi-Modular Analog Synth
- 80HP Eurack-sized Analog Monosynth Module with 2 Oscillats
- Filter Amp Envelopes
- Lowpass/Highpass VCF
The Behringer Neutron is a monophonic, semi-modular synthesizer with a switchable paraphonic mode that can be mounted in a Eurorack. An LFO, a filter, two ADSR generators, an overdrive and delay effect, a sample and hold function, a slew rate limiter, and two attenuators are available in addition to the paraphonic functionality.
Paraphonic switch between two oscillators If the paraphonic button is pressed while two or more MIDI notes are being played, the two VCOs can be configured to operate jointly or separately. Five waveforms—tonal modulation, square/pulse, sawtooth, triangle, and sine—can be used to sculpt the sound.
A high-pass, band-pass, or low-pass filter can be used to configure the filter to eliminate frequencies. In addition, a second filter can be wired in using the patch bay. You will have access to an optional keyboard tracking capability in addition to the standard resonance control, which will change the filtering based on the note being played. Furthermore, if keyboard tracking is turned on and the resonance control is set to its highest level, the filter can emit an additional self-oscillating sine wave.
If you utilize a modular setup, the dual oscillators’ frequency range can be tuned low enough to create LFOs that you can connect to external equipment. For those who want to work with their sounds more deeply, the bundled software offers an additional level of control over the synth’s parameters.
Assume you have the necessary external equipment to attach it to. In that situation, Behringer’s Neutron can be a fantastic complement for anyone searching for a synth that could span a variety of genres and offer a high level of control. The tone of the neutron can encompass a wide range of topics. The sound waves can range from thick and smooth to distorted and metallic or spaciously ambient, depending on the basic waveforms used and how/if each oscillator is blended. There are many acoustic possibilities that might not be obvious at first glance, especially when the patch bay is added to the equation.
Arturia MiniBrute 2S Semi-modular Analog Sequencing Synthesizer
- Analog Synthesizer with 2 VCO's and 2 LFO's
- Steiner Parker filter with 4 modes: Low Pass, High Pass, Band Pass, Notch
- 1 ADSR envelope and 1 AD envelope
The MiniBrute 2S is a highly competent follow-up to the MiniBrute 2, offering many of the same functions with a few modifications that make it stand out from the competition. A superb blend between analog comfort and modular control is to be expected. The MiniBrute 2S by Arturia is a semi-modular synthesizer that is initially monophonic but can be creatively patched to become paraphonic or even polyphonic. It provides all you require to get started creating right now! Additionally, the 2S Noir model has a stylish all-black casing.
High-pass, low-pass, band-pass, and notch are the four filtering modes offered by the Steiner-Parker Multimode filter. Frequencies will be filtered in each mode by 12dB per octave. The filter section also includes settings for resonance modulation and frequency modulation. In general, you will have access to a flexible filter that is rather smooth at low gain levels but gradually turns aggressive when the signal is overdriven.
When shaping and modifying voltages to construct your sound palette, you have access to two oscillators. VCO 1 provides total control over the oscillator’s operations, whereas VCO 2 adopts a minimalist strategy. If you are familiar with Arturia synths, you will know that they come with an integrated mixer that lets you modify the VCO’s waveform using faders specific to each wave shape. In other words, you will design the waveform rather than choosing which one to play.
The way the S2’s sounds develop over time is shaped by two envelope generators. Each parameter can be managed by utilizing faders. The filter is hardwired to be shaped by the ADSR envelope, while the output of the amplitude is shaped by the AD envelope. The patch bay, however, allows you to rewire the effects that each filter has.
As was already noted, you may alter the amplitude of each waveform that the VCO outputs, and you can shape the sound by blending in other waveforms to produce a distinctive and intricate range of tones. Overall, the tones tend to be more forceful or crisp, especially when you use the waveform-specific modifiers. Patching is incredibly simple because to the 48-point patch bay’s clearly labeled and organized sections. Additionally, there is a sizable patch bay, giving you a lot of control over where and how your input is processed.
Anyone looking for a fantastic sequencer with modular features should definitely choose the Minibrute 2S. Otherwise, by fusing the analog and modular worlds, it can be an excellent starting point for synthesis with one of the best semi modular synths.
Behringer 2600 GRAY MEANIE Special Edition Semi-Modular Analog Synthesizer
- amazing analog synthesizer with triple vco design allows for insanely fat music creation
- authentic reproduction of ultra-rare arp grey meanie circuitry from the ‘70s with specially selected opamps and transistors transistors
- semi-modular architecture requires no patching for immediate performance
The first semi-modular synthesizer ever made is represented by the model number 2600. And Behringer has produced an excellently modernized copy of the vintage synth. The 2600 by Behringer is a sizable, potent, monophonic/duophonic, semi-modular synthesizer that is compatible with Eurorack. You’ll have use of a number of oscillators with adjustable waveforms, the option to convert each one into an LFO, and a selection of FM modulation sources.
The various knobs and faders available make the interface scary and difficult to use at first, but as you get used to it, it becomes incredibly straightforward because each part is labelled and the signal flow within each sector is indicated. When it comes to sound, you’ll get a diverse range of deep, warm tones to metallic and fuzz that is extremely reminiscent of the original ARP 2600. Anyone who appreciates modular synthesis will find the Behringer 2600 to be incredibly enjoyable because to the incredible level of control over the signal. To manage the direction of your sound and how each component interacts with it, you will have access to 83 patch points.
Up to three VCOs may be used, each with different FM modulators hardwired into the signal stream. You can patch every feature of each VCO to different locations on the synth in addition to the hardwired connections, giving you total control over the sound. You can use each VCO as either a regular or low-frequency oscillator thanks to the LFO switch on each oscillator. You may use the 2600 to patch out up to 4 LFOs for modulating external gear because it also includes a dedicated LFO.
You can alternate between utilizing two filters that are replicas of the VCFs in the ARP 2600. The controls are the same for both. All potential sound sources have a hardwired output to the filter, which by default sends audio to the VCA. According to the default configuration, in order to hear any sound source, you must slide the fader for each point in the connection.
Anyone wishing to upgrade their modular system with a potent addition should strongly consider the Behringer 2600. Otherwise, this is the one for you if you want to improve your present setup and want a separate sound source that you can attach to your MIDI controller.
Buying Guide: Choosing a Semi-Modular Synthesizer
When selecting a semi-modular synth, there are several key factors to consider:
Your budget will determine the options available. Hardware analog semi-modular synthesizers start around $300-$500 for basic mono synths like the Behringer Neutron or Moog Mother-32. More advanced desktop units with multiple voices and digital control run $1000-$2000+ such as the Dave Smith Mopho x4 or Make Noise 0-Coast. Affordable software plugin synths can provide extensive semi-modular flexibility for lower cost, often starting around $99. Examples are Tal U-NO-LX, Native Instruments Monark, and TAL Bassline 101. Determine how much you can realistically invest upfront in your semi-modular instrument.
Analog vs Digital
Analog hardware semi-modular synths offer authentic vintage sound quality and patching flexibility, but cost more. Software plugin semi-modulars are more affordable and provide easier access, but lack the true hands-on analog experience. Hybrid digital/analog synths try to get the best of both approaches. If vintage analog sound is critical, go hardware. For flexibility on a budget, software plugins deliver great value.
Many semi-modulars inherit the signature tones of classic synths they are modeled after, like the Moog-inspired Behringer Neutron or Buchla emulation Softube Modular. Others offer more general sound palettes. Determine which core sound aesthetic inspires you most. Vintage reproductions focus on specific synth emulations, while original semi-modulars provide greater tonal variety.
Assess your polyphony needs. Many classic designs are monophonic for bass and leads. Paraphonic instruments permit limited chords. Some advanced desktop semi-modulars are fully polyphonic for larger chords, as are software synths. Make sure the semi-modular matches your desire for mono, para or poly playback.
For beginners, look for semi-modulars with around 20-30 patch points to start out. More points allow deeper sound manipulation capabilities once you gain experience. However, avoid choosing units with an excessive number of patch points that seem overwhelming early on. Evaluate patch quantities based on your current skill level.
Hands-on hardware features classic knobs, buttons and sliders for that vintage feel. Well-designed software GUIs focus on interactive visual displays and patching editors. Avoid menu-driven interfaces reliant on small screens. Make sure the layout flows with your creative process.
What is the difference between modular, semi-modular, and fixed architecture synths?
Modular synthesizers require you to manually build the sound engine from individual synth modules, then patch them together with cables to route audio and control signals. Semi-modular synths have preconfigured core circuitry and signal routing in their architecture, but allow you to patch and manipulate parts of the sound design using cables. Fixed architecture synths have a set, predefined signal flow path that cannot be reconfigured or altered through patching.
What are the benefits of a semi-modular synth?
Semi modular synthesizer are generally easier to learn than complex modular synths because part of the signal routing is predefined. They offer more flexibility compared to fixed architecture synths by allowing you to use patch cables to manipulate and experiment with the sound. Semi-modulars provide an affordable entry point to explore modular synthesis techniques for less cost than a fully modular system. Many semi-modulars leverage signature analog synth tones from their hardwired core circuitry and voice architecture.
Should I start with a hardware or software semi-modular?
Hardware semi-modular synths offer a hands-on, authentic analog synthesis experience but cost more than software options. Virtual software semi-modular instruments are more affordable and accessible entry points into learning semi-modular synthesis, but lack the true analog sound quality and experience provided by physical hardware. A good compromise might be starting with an affordable hardware unit like the Behringer Neutron or Korg Volca Modular to get hands-on without a large investment. Trying free software modular environments like VCV Rack can also help you learn modular patching concepts virtually before investing in hardware.
How do semi-modular synths compare to synths like the Minilogue?
Compared to fixed architecture synths like the Korg Minilogue, semi-modulars offer much more capability for open-ended sound design experimentation. You can manipulate parameters and signal routing using patch cables that are completely fixed on synths with predefined architecture. The tradeoff is that many semi-modulars offer less polyphony and fewer simultaneous voices compared to fixed synths designed specifically for complex chords.
What should I look for in my first semi-modular synth?
When purchasing your first semi-modular synth, it helps to look for instruments with an easy, intuitive workflow through their physical interface layout or visual patch editor. Ensure there are enough patch points, around 20-30, for flexibility when starting out. Hardware analog units should sound great out of the box. Evaluate polyphony limitations if you want to play chords. Focus on a semi-modular with a signature core tone you find inspiring as a jumping off point for creativity.