Top Semi-modular Synths Under $1000
Post date:Fri, 07/03/2020 - 08:11
It has become a meme among synth enthusiasts that once you go down the modular synthesis route you can kiss all your money goodbye, but there is certainly an element of truth to this. Hardware synthesizers can be a money sink if you end up with gear acquisition syndrome and owning a Eurorack can make this worse. However, there are some alternatives if you are not willing to go down the software route. Semi-modular synthesizers have made a bit of a comeback and give users the immediacy of a self-contained synth as well as some of the versatility of a modular synthesizer. While they can't replace a full-on modular synthesizer they are less likely to land you in hot water with your spouse or bank manager. If you have been wanting to tip your toes in the world of semi-modular synthesizers here's a look at some of the options that are available.
The Moog Grandmother is a semi-modular analog synthesizer that was inspired by the classic Moog Modular Synthesizer. It's biggest draw for newcomers is that you can start playing immediately without having to delve into the patching side of things, but it is there waiting for you when you are ready. It's got a built-in arpeggiator, sequencer, and spring reverb tank, plus you get the Moog pedigree. Not everyone loves the color scheme of the Grandmother, but overall it's a solid option for anyone interested in the semi-modular world. Other semi-modular options from Moog include the Mother-32 and Moog Drummer From Another Mother.
Korg MS-20 Mini
The Korg MS-20 Mini keeps things compact with a semi-modular synth that recreates the original monophonic synthesizer from 1978. Although it is 86% of the original size it retains the iconic look and Korg also made sure that the circuitry inside is as close as possible to the original. The Mini has two oscillators with ring modulation, envelope generators with hold and delay as well as a VCA that stays true to the original, but with less noise. The patching system to the right of the panel features a flow chart that is printed on the panel, so it couldn't be easier to get started.
Make Noise 0-Coast
What are your options if you can choose between the "East Coast" paradigms of Moog or the "West Coast" paradigms of Buchla? Well, then you can go for the 0-Coast music synthesizer by Make Noise as utilizes technique from both. It is a single voice patchable synthesizer that can be operated with or without the use of patch cables. You can connect it to the MIDI controller of your choice and start playing instantly or you can use the included patch cables when you ready to become more experimental. You also don't need a MIDI controller to coax some interesting sounds out of this synth either. It's housed in a small, rugged, steel enclosure and is patchable with 13 sources and 14 destinations while also being compatible with Eurorack Modular Synthesizer signals.
Plankton Electronics ANTS!
ANTS! is s semi-modular analog synthesizer by Plankton Electronics with Eurorack compatible connectivity and desktop design. Without the patch cables, it functions as a two-oscillator monosynth and can also be connected to a MIDI device, thanks to its built-in MIDI to CV converter, for control from an external source. ANTS! has a 100% analog circuit design and features 51 modular patch points. Overall Plankton Electronics managed to pack a lot of features into a very compact synthesizer that sounds great on its own and also pairs up nicely with other synths.
Radikal Technologies Delta CEP A
The DELTA CEP A by Radikal Technologies is a semi-modular synthesizer that was designed to provide users a straight forward starting point into the world of Eurorack synths. It does so through nine essential synthesis modules consisting of a swarm oscillator, mixing stage with noise source, one LFO, and one envelope generator for modulation purposes as well as a digital FX section and snapshot interpolator. The FX section alone features everything from phasing and chorus to flanging and tape delay. As with other semi-modular synths, all the essentials connections are already hardwired to get you playing straight away before delving into patching. It's got 14 outputs and 17 inputs and can be used as a solo synthesizer if you get the desktop case or add it to your Eurorack system.
These are just some of the highlights of the modular synthesizer world as there are plenty of other options such as the Arturia Minibrute 2, Dreadbox Erebus V3, Roland System-1M, Pittsburgh Modular Microvolt 3900 and others too. Of course, there is also the Buchla Music Easel, but if you reach that point then clearly money is not an issue. Let us know in the comments or on the forum what your favorite semi-modular synths are and what is that made you choose them.