Serge Modular

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Classic Modular Serge (Photo by Kevin Lightner)

The Serge synthesizers are the creation of French electronic/synth designer Serge Tcherepnin. They are analog modular systems that began production in 1974, and continue to be produced to this day. The Serge concept was that a powerful, musical and great sounding analog modular system could, unlike the Buchlas, Moogs and ARPs of the time, be smaller, more compact and most importantly: cost less, making them far more accessible to musicians looking to jump into the bold new world of electronic music and sound design.

Although Serge was French, the modular systems that bore his name were orignally designed and produced in Los Angeles, CA. Initially designed in 1974 (in Serge's home), mass production of the systems began in 1975 and continued until 1986. There was a rough period between 1986 to 1993 where modules were still produced to special order (slowly), but full production resumed again in 1993 after Serge's circuit designs were sold to Rex Probe (an early collaborator) who went on to found Sound Transform Systems, who continue to produce many of the original Serge modules, plus a few new one's of their own design.

Influences of the Buchla can be seen in Serge systems, such as touch sensitive keyboards & sequencers, random voltage generators, function generators, and matrix mixers. Yet the Serge has many unique designs of its own such as the Wave Multiplier module and the use of banana plugs in lieu of traditional patch cords. Its filters are unqiue sounding but it may be the Wave Multiplier module that truly sets a Serge apart as it is a totally unique synthesizer section that sits between the Oscillator and Filter sections and allowed for external audio or control voltage signals to be used to modulate the timbre of the oscillator's tones.

Originally, Serge systems were custom built to order. Like any modular system a buyer would pick and choose individual modules they want and assemble them into a cabinet. However, to reduce the price tag and make them more accessible to musicians not interested in building a modular synth from scratch, Sound Transform Systems sells Serge systems in pre-configured systems: Shop Panels and the M-Class.

Shop Panels

Shop Panels are complete systems that take up just 2 or 3 panel-spaces in a modular cabinet or rack-mount. There are essentially four model types: The Animal - a traditional dual oscillator design, the Blue Voice (and Blue Control) - a traditional three oscillator design, the Red Voice (and Red Control) - a more unique dual oscillator system, and the Soup Kitchen models which offer some of Serge's more ecclectic modules for sound manipulation and creation using external audio signals.

Serge Modular Systems Image

The Shop Panel (Animal on top, unknown config below)

Shop Panel Models Modules Description Cost
AnimalNTO, PCO, VCM, AMX, SSG, DTG, VCFQ, UAPTwo oscillator sections, Wave Multiplier, 3-in mixer, smooth/stepped generator, dual transient (envelope) generator, VCF (filter), stereo output.$3600
Blue VoiceNTO, PCO (x2), RING, VCM, MIX2, VCFQ, UAP3 oscillators (1 New Timbral & 2 Percision VCOs), Ring Modulator, Wave Multiplier, Dual 3-in audio mixers, VCF (filter) and stereo output.$3700
CV-2 (Blue Control)RS, SSG, DTG, PRC, DSG (x2), QUOA Control Voltage companion to the Blue Voice with Random Source, Smooth/Stepped and Dual Transient generators, Dual Processors, two Dual Slope Universal Generators and Quadrature Oscillator (like an LFO).$3500
Touch Activated
Keyboard Sequencer
TKB16 touch sensitive pads that trigger the 4-stage sequencer$2700
Red VoiceNTO, PCO, NCOM, PDIV, TWS, MIX2, XFAD, VCFQ, UAP2 Oscillators (New Timbral and Percision VCO), Divide N Comparator, Pulse Divider, Triple Waveshaper, dual Audio Mixer, Cross Fader, VCF and stereo output.$3700
CV-1 (Red Control)QTKB, ASR(x2), DTG, RS, SSG, PRO, DSG, CLKCompanion to the the Red Voice with Quantizer, two ASRs, Random Source, Smooth/Stepped and Dual Transient generators, CV Processor and Extended ADSR.$3800
SequencerSEQ8, ASR, ACPR, NTO, PDIV, BLOG, SQP4Two onboard sequencers: 8x2 sequencer and 4-Stage Sequencer Programmer plus ASR, Active Processor, Dual VC Clock, Pulse Divider and Boolean Logic modules.$3800
Soup Kitchen 1PRNV, FRSX, C/M, WAD, AMX, VCFS, EQ, 2PHA, DCSMPreamp allows external audio signals to be processed (no built-in oscillator section here). Frequency shifter, Wilson Dual Analog Delay, Variable Slope VCF (filter), Resonant (10-band) EQ, Dual Phase Shifter a Mixer and Stereo Ouput - everything for effecting, manipulating and shaping an external sound source (from another synth module, instrument or microphone).$5500
Soup Kitchen 2PRNV, PCO, RING, NCOM, VCM, TWS, VCF2, MIX2, XFAD, DCSMPreamp section and VCO oscillator plus Ring Modulator, Wave Multiplier, Triple Waveshaper, Variable Bandwidth VCF (filter), Audio Mixer plus Cross fader and staero outputs - everything for merging external audio with Serge's oscillators and wave shapers to create unique sounds.$3900


The M-Class panels are more compact "half-width" panels that fit two to a panel or "M-Boat". Two M-Class panels joined by an M-Boat can be rack mounted or installed in a larger modular cabinet/system. Compact as they are, they are still considered complete systems, pairing anywhere from 4 to 5 modules into effective packages like the Creature - the smallest self contained Serge, to the Gator - a rhythmic pulse generator for bringing the sounds of another model (like the Creature) to life. The M-Class systems are intended to be mixed and matched and combined to create your own mini system without having to build a system from scratch, one module at a time. These smaller pre-configured systems can get you up and running and are a more affordable and intuitive way to build your own Serge, whether you choose just one M-Class model or a dozen!

Serge Modular Systems Image

M-Class: Gator + Creature

M-Class Models Modules Description Cost
Audio InterfacePRNV, EQ, DSG, VCOMA Preamp for external audio signal input, Resonant 10-band graphic EQ, and Dual Universal Slope Generator.$1700
Bi-FilterAMX, VCFS, VCF2, 2VCATwo filters, Variable Bandwidth and Variable Slope VCFs, with dual VCAs and dual mixers.$1700
Control GeneratorCMX, DTG, SSG, QUODual Transient (Envelope) Generator, Smooth/Stepped Generator and the Quadrature Oscillator (like an LFO) for shaping and modulating incoming signals$1500
CreatureXFAD, VCFQ, TGC, SSGThe smallest self contained Serge$1499
CV Matrix MixerCVMAX, ACPR, ACPRmulti-flexible mixer/processor for control voltages$1600
CV ProcessorSPRC, PRC, ACPR, COM, STRA scaling processor, dual and active processors, Dual Comparator and Dual Schmitt Triggers - everything for processing control voltages$1600
Dual ADSRDTG, COM, ADSR, ADSREnvelope shapers via two Extended ADSR modules and the Dual Transient (Envelope) Generator$1600
Dual OscillatorNTO, PCO, NCOMTwo oscillators via the New Timbral OScillator and the Precision VCO modules$1600
Dual SlopeDSG (x2), BUFFTwo Dual Universal Slope Generator Modules plus a dual Scaling module for adjusting the rise and fall of up to four different signals$1600
EQ ShiftEQ, 2PHA, MIX2, XFADContour sounds with a resonant 10-band EQ, dual phasers, dual audio mixers and a crossfader.$1700
GatorTGC, NCOM, PDIV, BLOG, XFADA rhythmic pulse generator$1499
KlangzietFRS, C/M, WAD, XFADRecursive frequency shifting plus Dual Analog Delay$3000
MayhemVCOM, DTG, SSG, RSEverything needed to really tweak the shape of a signal beyond recognition, mostly thanks to the Random Source module, but theDual Transient and Smooth/Stepped Generators help too$1700
Multi FilterVCFS, VCF2, VCFQ, MPROcollection of the unique Serge filters all in one compact package$1700
Sequencer ASEQ8, ACPR, TGC8x2 Sequencer$1650
SQP SequencerSQP66 Stage Sequencing Programmer capable of 6 X 4 sequencing or recall of 6 stored quad voltage banks$1200
Triple OscillatorNTO and two PCOsThree Serge oscillators$1650
Wave ProcessorRING, TWS, VCM, AMX, XFADA signature Serge set of modules, the Triple Waveshaper and Wave Multipliers flanked by a Ring Modulator and Audio Mixer with Crossfader.$2000
Wilson Analog DelayDTG, MPRO, WAD, XFADA dual analog delay effect with filter, feedback and delay controls and accompanied by a Dual Transient Generator, Audio Mixer and Crossfader.$2250

Individual Modules:

Model Name Cost
Voltage Controlled Oscillators
NTONew Timbral Oscillator$580
PCOPrecision VCO$420
Voltage Controlled Amplifiers
2VCADual VCA$260
UAPUniversal Audio Processor$380
XFADCross-Fader (2x1)$340
Voltage Controlled Filters
VCFQVariable 'Q' VC Filter$385
VCF2Variable Bandwidth VC Filter$480
VCFSVariable Slope VC Filter$380
VCFQ(X)Extended Range VC 'Q' Filter$480
Voltage Controlled Output Mixers
DCSMDual Channel Stereo Mixer (2x2)$475
QVMQuad Channel Stereo Mixer (4x2)$980
QMXMulti-Channel Quad Mixer (2x4)$2,650
QPCQuad Panner Channel (used w/ QMX)$850
MLVDual Master Level (option for QVM)$350
Audio Mixers (manual)
AMXAudio Mixer w/ phase switch (3x1)$250
MIX2Dual Audio Mixer w/ phase switch (2-3x1)$350
MAXMatrix Mixer (4x4)$880
Audio Processors
EQResonant Equalizer$450
RINGRing Modulator$425
FRSFrequency Shifter$1,250
FRSXFrequency Shifter (Ext. Carrier)$1,550
PHAPhase Shifter$325
2PHADual Phase Shifter$550
TWSTriple Waveshaper$350
VCMWave Multipliers$540
WADWilson Analog Delay$1,350
Preamps and Envelope Detectors
PRNVPreamp Detector$325
ENV1Envelope Detector w/ sensitivity controls$240
ENV2Dual Envelope Detector w/ sensitivity pots$400
Control Voltage Generators & Modifiers
ASRAnalog Shift Register w/ input attenuator pot$285
COMDual Comparator$280
NCOMDivide by 'N' Comparator$360
STRDual Schmitt Trigger$250
BLOGBoolean Logic$275
PDIVPulse Divider$340
DTGDual Transient Generator$480
DSGDual Universal Slope Generator$550
NTODual Voltage Controlled Clock$485
CLKExtended Envelope Generator$485
SSGSmooth & Stepped Generator$425
NOINoise Source$240
RSRandom Source$485
RVGRandom Voltage Generator$320
2RVGDual Random Voltage Generator$540
QUOQuadrature Oscillator$395
QSEQQuantizer (used with SQP series)$520
QTKBQuantizer (used with TKB)$550
Sequencers & Keyboard
SQP44-Stage Sequencer Programmer$825
SQP55-Stage Sequencer Programmer$875
SQP66-Stage Sequencer Programmer$925
SQP77-Stage Sequencer Programmer$975
SQP88-Stage Sequencer Programmer$1,025
SEQ8Sequencer (8x2)$885
TKBTouch Keyboard Sequencer $2,250
TEVTouch Envelope Voltage Source$3,450
Processors & Convenience Modules
ACPRActive Processor$340
C/MControl Module$125
CVIControl Voltage Interface$240
CMXControl Voltage Mixer$200
PROControl Voltage Processor$200
PRCDual Processor$325
BUFFScaling Buffer$225
SPRCScaling Processor$250
ADPFour Adapters (1/4"phone, RCA, 1/8”mini jacks)$125

Serge Systems have been used by Stereolab, John Adams, Vince Clarke, RadioHead, Jon Hassell, Richie Hawtin, Ingram Marshall, Moby, Stevie Wonder, Skinny Puppy, Sonic Boom, Frank Zappa, and many others.

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Demos & Media

Serge Modular Synth Demo: Seq A + Creature


Polyphony - Monophonic (Polyphony is possible with multiple modules)
Oscillators - 2 Modules: New Timbral Oscillator, Percision VCO. Sine, Triangle and Saw waveforms.
LFO - Quadrature Oscillator
VCF - 4 Modules: Variable Q VCF, Variable Band Pass filter, Variable Slope VCF, Extended Range VCF. Low, Hi, Notch, Band pass modes,
VCA - 4 Modules: Dual VCA, Universal Audio Processor, Cross Fader, Dual Stereo Panner
Envelope - Extended ADSR, Dual Transient Generator, Smooth/Stepped Generator, Dual Slope Generator
Effects - Resonant EQ, Ring Modulator, Frequency Shifter, Phase Shifter, Wave Shaper, Wave Multiplier, Wilson Analog Delay, Noise Source
Sequencer - 6 Modules: 4-Stage, 5-Stage, 6-Stage, 7-Stage, 8-Stage Sequencer Programmers and one 8x2 Sequencer
Keyboard - Touch Keyboard Sequencer: 16 touch sensitive metal pads
Memory - None
Control - CV/Gate
Date Produced - 1975 - Present

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Original images from
Kevin Lightner,
Carbon111's Serge Page and
Egres - The Unofficial Serge Page.

Reviewed March, 2009.