Why are synthesizers so expensive

Why are modular synthesizers so successful?

Modular synthesizers and electronic music are all the rage

The Eurorack in focus

Modular synthesizer systems are all the rage because they offer enormous expansion options. (Photo: Marcus Schmahl)

If you turn back the wheel of time, you can see that modular synthesizers existed more than 40 years ago. The price, the availability and of course the complexity scared many interested people back. Original specimens, such as For example, the legendary Moog Modular is a physical quantity that has only been reduced over time. The interest of the enthusiasts - and the resulting demand - soon resulted in more manageable formats that were also in more affordable price ranges. In addition, the genre of electronic music developed from a niche product to a real trendsetter, which brought the status of modular synthesizers far forward, which quickly became true cult instruments. And this development does not see an end yet.

When Doepfer Musikelektronik GmbH introduced the 'A-100', a modular synthesizer in 1996, the size of which is based on the standards of laboratory and measurement technology, the compact Eurorack format was born, which enabled third-party providers to develop and offer 'A-100' compatible modules . Since then, the Eurorack format modular synthesizer has so far broken all records in terms of popularity and has become a dominant modular synthesizer format for hardware.

The legendary Moog Modular 55. Here in a picture without a keyboard. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Quick Facts: Modular Synthesizer / Eurorack

What is a modular synthesizer?

A modular synthesizer is an electronic musical instrument that consists of a large number of different - mainly analog - modules that are used, depending on one another and in their combination, to create electronic sounds. In the past they were still huge constructions, the portability of which was very limited.

What does the term Eurorack mean?

The modular synthesizers that existed more than 40 years ago were oversized constructions that only became more manageable in the course of time. Only with the Eurorack format specified by Doepfer Musikelektronik in 1996, the size of which is based on the standards of laboratory and measurement technology, was the compact Eurorack format created. The Eurorack format also offers the advantage that third-party manufacturers stimulate the growing market with their own developments and meet the constant demand for modules.

The Eurorack format conquers the market

What makes the Eurorack so successful?

Today, when synthesizers can be built quite cheaply using the DIY method, the charm of the many flashing LEDs and the infinite number of colored patch cables of such a synthesizer continues to attract the curious. The industry is booming. In the meantime, even small companies rely on the enormous market demand and dare to bring really innovative products to the market - financed by crowdfunding projects. The selection is currently unbelievably large and varied. Large and long-established companies such as Doepfer itself and Intellijel quickly faced equal competition from manufacturers such as B .:

… and many more.

Endorphin.es Blck_Noir is a 7-voice, hybrid drum synthesizer module that provides a wide range of sounds. (Photo: Igor Sabara)

Well, one doesn't necessarily speak of competition in this environment. Each module is structured differently and thus integrates independently into the individually designed modular system. It is supposed to complement. At least that's the plan! And the path of your own music genre determines the selection of modules from the huge pot of the market portfolio.

Modular synthesizers allow individuality

How do you stand out from the crowd with a modular synthesizer in terms of sound?

The ambitious desire for individuality and originality haunts the minds of all those who want to stand out from the mainstream with their sound. Playing the role of music producer these days is cheaper than ever. During these times, every hobby musician has the opportunity to produce songs at the highest level in the living room or bedroom. This in turn floods the music market and the audience loses track of things. Now it's time to stand out from the crowd with unusual and good sounds and new ideas. But that doesn't necessarily work with familiar and perhaps boring presets from a virtual sound generator installed on the computer at home. Now you need an analog synthesizer and the long-awaited signature sound!

Module plus module = useful addition. Special modules in combination guarantee a special sound. (Photo: Marcus Schmahl)

But this playground also seems to have been grazed. Because the good and well-known synthesizers à la Moog, Arp, Oberheim and Co. can be found in every second top 50 title on the iTunes charts. So why not build your own synthesizer for the unique sound? A bit of theory and manual skills with the soldering iron are required. Put the components together and get started would certainly be easier here, after all, musicians want to make music! And here we are again on the topic: With the modular synthesizer.

The enormous possibilities of the Eurorack

What special features does a modular synthesizer system offer?

The modular structure of a synthesizer system in particular offers so many ways and possibilities to take individual wishes into account. Here you should already think a few things in advance about the direction in which your own musical project should go when planning your own modular system. Inspiration can be drawn from anywhere and there is always help for designing your own first system. Basically, this is a very creative topic, something Dieter Doepfer believed in when he published his first self-made synthesizer in 1979. What followed should be known to everyone.

Doepfer modular system. A classic from Gräfeling. (Photo: Marcus Schmahl)

True to the motto: 'Anything is possible with tension‘, Trying out and experimenting is very important for users. Once infected, there is no going back. Why also? Anyone who likes music and instruments and has patched their own synthesizer, whether purely analog, digital or all mixed up, is automatically drawn into the spell of the colorful flashing LEDs. Even newbies feel a sense of achievement pretty quickly and as a logical consequence the basic system that has just been set up will soon be expanded with new modules.

Huge market offer of modules in many price ranges

Are Eurorack modules expensive?

Due to the large range of modules of all types and colors, the prices for new acquisitions are widely spread, but for the most part quite humane. A small basic set usually costs less than a high-quality synthesizer, which of course combines far more components in one piece of hardware. The big advantage of the modular system is - quite clearly - its expandability. Here, too, there are no limits, except for the space, because space is required by the large versions of a full-fledged system without question.

If you are planning your own modular system, you should think a few things in advance what kind of music you want to make in order to select the required modules that will later be used in the Eurorack. These require space in the special transport housing, and this should be included in the planning.

Patching is the "A" and "O" of the modular synthesizer. Linking modules creates interesting sounds. (Photo: Marcus Schmahl)

Design the application area of ​​the modular synthesizer yourself

How flexible are modular synthesizers?

Modular synthesizers offer an extremely flexible field of application, because everything can be connected to a modular system, provided the necessary interface modules are available. The necessary components - better modules - are available in the ever-growing 'modular' market. Whether MIDI, USB, iPhone or iPad, there are even components that communicate with the computer via WLAN and Bluetooth.

Thus, a control based on the DAW is not a big problem nowadays. Here, however, many owners of a modular system take a purist approach to the topic and produce their songs completely with sequencer and other control modules.

You can connect a lot to a modular system ... There are components for (almost) every area of ​​application. (Photo: Marcus Schmahl)

Benefit of the modular synthesizer

What is the advantage of a modular synthesizer?

Depending on how the modular system is put together, the result may sound unique. Nobody will be able to copy exactly this sound, unless the same components - i.e. modules - are used in the same order and with identical cabling. A modular synthesizer with many oscillators sounds fatter than a single monophone.

Due to the type of modules used, a polyphonic way of playing is even possible, which allows further possibilities. During the sound design, various filters and their settings can be tested, envelopes can be linked with LFOs and the sound can be sent through various effect modules. Previously this was only possible with open software synthesizer systems, but today the DAW can also communicate with an analog modular system. 'Digital meets analog' is the magic word, which allows the synergies of both worlds to merge in order to conquer new territory.

Tips for DIY synthesizers and planning a modular synthesizer system

Advice is often expensive when it comes to building a do-it-yourself synthesizer or building your own synthesizer rack in Eurorack format. You will get the support you need in our workshops.

Learning to make music with modular synthesizers

You can learn to make music with the modular synthesizer. You can read how to do this in our workshops.

Closing word

So it's no wonder that the small Eurorack components can be found in more and more project and home studios and that full-blown systems are used in expressive live performances. Because these guarantee great and individual sound results, combined with a high fun factor. And that's exactly what matters!

Special events in the field of the successful modular synthesizer segment have also developed into real crowd pullers within a short period of time. So is z. B. the one that has been held in Berlin since 2016 SUPERBOOTH a mecca for synthesizer lovers with a huge response and an international character.

(Photo: Superbooth)

That’s really fun, right?