Am I "cheating" using so much polyphony? (Working with Rack vs. Eurorack)

Allow me to clarify by saying that I have three modular synthesis personalities; “anything goes”, “fundamental only”, “fundamental + polyphony”.

What I love about polyphony is that it allows me to do more at a molecular level but without cable chaos.

For example, I love using Signal Manifold, Poly Chances, Bogaudio Switch and Poly Logic to create trigger sequences based on random clock divisions and the control it affords me.

But I suspect this is a very VCV Rack way to do this and afraid it won’t translate to my Eurorack hardware experience when i’m ready for that.

Am I wrong?

Polyphony doesn’t seem to be a common topic in Eurorack hardware circles and googling “Eurorack polyphony” didn’t give me the impression that polyphony is commonly used in hardware.

Am I missing something or is polyphony more for the “anything goes” crowd?

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Of course you’re not wrong, I think you shouldn’t see it as “cheating”. Use what works best for you, this is not a fight “Eurorack vs. Rack”. I think they complement each other, see them both as tools to reach your goals and use them to make music and be happy with it.

Also I think Polyphony is an expensive pita in the eurorack world, maybe that’s one of the reasons why it’s not so common.


What does “cheating” mean? Who are you cheating? When I put music on, if it moves me, it moves me, I don’t worry too much about what exact VST the artist was using at the time. If I’m trying to replicate the sound, I’ll no doubt put some thought into it, but whatever method that artist used to make the sound I like was the right method, because I like the end result.

This conversation always reminds me of the joke:

  • You’re using drum loops? Dang, that’s cheating.
  • You program loops, but use sample packs? Dang, that’s cheating.
  • You synthesized your own drums, but don’t even play a kit? Dang, that’s cheating.
  • You recorded your own samples of you playing your drum kit, but you didn’t even raise goats so you can manufacture your own skins? Dang, that’s cheating.

Some artists like to use self-imposed limitations to trigger creativity, so maybe VCV offers too many choices and to bring focus you’ll do a patch with no poly, or a patch with only 84 HP of modules or only 3 “brands” or whatever, but at the end of the day the listener probably won’t care if you use 10 modules or 100 if it’s making music they enjoy listening too.

Why would Andrew go to all the trouble of adding Polyphony if we’re not supposed to use and enjoy it?


EuroRack isn’t polyphonic at its core, the cables only carry analog monophonic audio and control voltages. Polyphony can be achieved, but it will need lots of modules and cable connections. (So will be expensive and difficult to deal with.)


As Xenakios alluded to, the term ‘polyphony’ means quite different things in the hardware and Rack worlds. In the hardware (traditional synth) world, polyphony means the ability to play more than one note at once and therefore make chords. This is generally done with multiple VCOs, envelopes, filters and VCAs (each if which is behaving monophonically). It takes a lot of kit and is therefore expensive and time consuming to do.

Polyphony in Rack refers to the ability for cables to carry 16 channels of audio/cv and for modules to be able to process those 16 channels individually. There is no real equivalent in hardware (although the closest would probably be something like ADAT - 8 channels) and you certainly can’t get 16 channel hardware modular cables. It’s one of the many advantages VCV has over hardware.

Before Rack went “polyphonic”, you could still do ‘traditional polyphony’ (make chords) in Rack using the traditional method.


Makes sense. Thanks. FWIW - “(Working with Rack vs. Eurorack)” was added to the title by the mods.

I didn’t mean cheating as if it’s bad. Indeed, I said above that “anything goes” is one of my personalities. I meant cheating (possibly myself?) in the sense that polyphony is not something I’ll likely use in Eurorack.

This makes sense. Thanks!

You may use traditional polyphony in Eurorack, you certainly won’t/can’t use Rack polyphony (as described in my post above).

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Makes sense. Thanks. Yeah I did run across some polyphonic Doepfer polyphonic modules in my research, primarily aimed at chords. Thanks again.

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Yep, when you come across ‘polyphonic eurorack modules’ they will generally be something along the lines of a VCO with 4 Oscillators built in aimed at making chords.

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I think more modules should have cheat codes.


I use polyphony all the time. For instance, I sometimes put all my pitches through the same quantizer and Adder so that I can set a universal key or add a bit of pitch wobble. I tend to think of it like a programmer and want to generalise things. It’s not wrong but VCV is it’s own thing and as time goes on it will diverge to some extent from hardware eurorack. Worrying about that is like worrying that playing an electric guitar will make it hard for you to learn acoustic down the road.

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snakia has about 10 cheat codes in the context menu :wink:

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I personally use both. You should only worry about doing what expresses you best, these things of “cheating” etc. leave them to the exalted, and to those who waste time writing “this vs that” in the forums.

I think polyphony is a great addition to Rack, apart from the obviously handy use in poly synth voice setups, it opens up opportunities for modules. New kind of input types can be thought of like the poly external scale format or putting short sequences or gate patterns into poly cables etc.

It’s only cheating if you enter an analog-only eurorack contest with a hidden rasberry pi module running Rack with fat cables everywhere in the patch. :smile:

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I’m not worried about it. I just didn’t understand how much Rack was it’s own thing. Some things like automation are obviously unique while polyphony wasn’t as obvious to a software only racker.

Me too. MindMeld modules rely heavily on it - MixMaster’s inserts and poly direct outs for example and all the CV control on AuxSpander and EQMaster. On MixMaster poly cables are treated as multi-channel audio cables where each cable can carry 8 stereo tracks.

Without polyphony in Rack MixMaster/EQMaster would be so huge as to be totally impractical.


In the end VCV is software. It might pay for that with a less hands on approach. But it buys us availability to everyone - and some unique features that take direct advantage out of it being software. Polyphony might be the most prominent example. I’m very glad that this feature is part of VCV, imho one of it’s best features (perhaps besides it’s existence and the many great modules in the first place). Am using a number of MPE capable controllers (Linnstrument, Eigenharps, Morphs etc.), making patches for these is so much more straightforward with that feature! It’s also fully optional, so every poly module can of course also be used as a mono module, which is great, e.g. when mixing hardware and VCV modules. Best of both world!


I found a fresh-baked article about Eurorack polyphony that do fits well to this topic, so I post the link below.

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