Any Rack users "graduated" into eurorack hardware and regretted it?

Been thinking about building a hardware (hybrid) rack for a while now. It’s definitely got a charm/appeal… I like tinkering, I love the modular “workflow”, etc. I came close to making the plunge a few days ago when I saw some ES-9’s available, but the startup costs of a case, power, and enough modules to make it work gave me enough pause to think I should reflect more on how it would fit with me before diving in.

What I came up with out of that reflection is that while it would be undeniably cool to patch and twiddle and even to a lesser degree hunt/research and collect just the right modules for a hardware rack, I’m not sure how much I would get out of it musically. When I use VCV, I love the freedom of just slapping down another copy of something if I need it. I love using Host and/or the DAW to quickly load in fully formed VST sounds and use VCV to sequence and modulate them, and capturing the MIDI of those experiments for later use. And of course I love the instant recall of saving/loading patches.

Of course that’s not to say a hardware hybrid rack couldn’t fit in to some of those things in various ways, but I wonder if it would, in the long run, end up being just another thing I buy, have a bit of fun with, then mostly leave behind. So I’m interested to hear other’s opinions on whether they either moved from VCV into hardware, or added hardware into a hybrid setup, and regretted it (or not!)

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I’ve struggled with this for a long time. A few years ago I bought an ES-9 and a small (48hp) case with the intention of slowly building out a eurorack setup to integrate with VCV Rack and Ableton Live. The ES-9 has been useful for interfacing a couple of semi-modular synths I had, but the eurorack collection never materialized.

I know others will feel very differently, but there just haven’t been too many eurorack modules that tempted me to spend the money given so many free (or cheap) alternatives in VCV Rack. Why would I buy a hardware mult, scope, quantizer (or any digital hardware) when I can do all that for free by routing through Rack? For example, is Marbles really any better in hardware than the version on Rack?

I respect the whole physical knob-twisting perspective, but I can do plenty of that using CC-to-CV in VCV Rack with my MIDI Fighter Twisters and my 16n.

I do plan to purchase some analog oscillators to pair with the ES-9 (recommendations?). A real analog oscillator sound is one thing you can’t perfectly replicate with Rack.

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I wouldn’t say regret but the eurorack system I built after having played with Rack has been almost entirely unused for a year now. I can’t really say why, it’s not like I’ve grown a dislike for it, my best theory is that my music twiddling timebudget is seemingly being eaten by playing with Rack modules and the exiting allure of the new shiny stuff. So I’m wondering but I’m not ready to say regret yet and I do intend to seriously throw myself back into it.

I think the best advice I could give you is the one that most other people would: Start small and probably with a semi-modular. Something like a Neutron, Mother-32, 0-coast, east/west-beast etc. Lots of good stuff out there. Stay with that and link it via MIDI to your computer/Rack to get a taste of how you like a hybrid setup. Then take a few months of discipline with it to find out how much you’re actually using it, drawn to it and enjoying it. This is impossible to tell before you actually do it. After some months if you’re head over heals with it then get your first eurorack but build it out SLOWLY (that last part is the hardest but most important, I have lots to say about it). You’re welcome to ask advice about first case, modules etc.

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I did this in reverse more or less. A friend of mine set me up with a 5U (Original Moog format modular) that got me hooked on real modular. At the same time, he told me about VCV Rack, so I got that too. I wanted to interface the real hardware synth with my computer stuff and found out about the Expert Sleepers modules, so Eurorack was added. My 5U modular is my primary sound source and Eurorack rack has a bunch of utility modules and further sound modification modules. I have an ES-8, ES-3, and ES-6 so I have a lot of audio in and outs. And through the ES modules I use VCV Rack to further expand my system. And it all works great, really simple and transparent in connections between both the hardware and software modules. I have run into limits on what I can do on my computer with just VCV Rack as I tend to build large complex patches that hit the CPU, etc. hard. Being able to offload some of the computation to analog circuits outside the computer has really helped. Using this hybrid system has been great. And I would heartily recommend it, but with one warning… Modular is like drugs, you always want more, and the cost is not insignificant. You need to plan what exactly you want to do and what hardware you need to do it. And try to hold back on going module crazy, “If I only had a I could do so much more!”

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Hello, my Journey into modular started 2 years ago by finding VCV Rack and immediately I was mesmerized. I come from a Linear world - worked in the past 25 years as studio engineer in a very linear environment (ProTools, Post Production, etc.) In VCV Rack I tend to explore generative patches and the possibilities are endless . I started to play with other people and than the spontaneity of hardware knob twisting was greatly missed. Yes I have MIDI controller mapped , but this all need to be pre planned - not very convenient in live situation. So I “Graduated” to Hardware modular and purchased Endorphin.es SUTTLE SYSTEM. Fantastic Westcoast semi modular system, with very powerful USB/CV Gate interface and integrates nicely with VCV Rack. I still use more VCV Rack every day to try things and explore technics, BTW the sound of the virtual analog emulations in VCV Rack is fantastic. So not to make this too long : my current setup is Endorphin.es SUTTLE SYSTEM, Moog MiniTaur for bass, I use VCV Rack in a small computer with predetermined and properly mapped midi controller in Headless Mode( no monitor, no needless distractions) use it for generative sequences/modulation and some virtual analog percussions and FM voices. For external sequencing and drums I use MPC One or as alternative sometimes Volca Drum and Arturia Keystep Pro. I believe that the hybrid approach is the key - Very flexible VCV Rack environment and the immediacy of hardware sequencers and sound sources.

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With the amount of times I subconsciously try to route the output of one module to the output of another in Rack, it’s best I stay away from hardware.

@auretvh

Huh? I can’t hear you :wink:

@Roger

Seriously though, when I built my first modular synth in 1973, I had a couple of Bruce powered bass speaker cabinets with 100 watt power amps and 2x15" speakers in each. I ran the synth line level output to them without a pre-amp. I guarantee that I knew when I accidently connected a modular patch cable from output back to the same module input directly. I would like to say I never did that again, but, I did.

I got tired of patch wires and built a mechanical switch matrix panel where I could pretty much reprogram the modular synth by creating a switch patch. I learned pretty quickly, I think, to prohibit switching an output directly to the input of the same module, but preventing doing that for a chain of modules was a lot tougher.

I don’t regret any of my modular and semi-modular excursions, although they were all expensive excursions at the time.

By the way, my current extensive modular and semi-modular part of my studio can freely talk back and forth with VCV Rack via MIDI. I have a smart MIDI network in my studio with multiple MIDI switches and routers. In addition I have everything networked together via MIDI, USB, Ethernet, Bluetooth, power, audio and probably something I am forgetting. iPads are also in the mix…

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I was going to say I regretted the expense of getting into hardware modular, but actually the modules hold their prices reasonably well - better than the plugins that I used to be addicted to buying anyway. I guess the other regret is when it’s 35 degrees C then I miss using my hardware, but dare not turn it on lest it adds to the heat.

Sounds like a system that works for you, and that’s great.

For other ppl - don’t get the idea you can’t make large, complex patches entirely in Rack if you want to. A good computer is pretty cheap compared to hardware synth modules, and for most VCV modules if there is one that uses too much CPU there will usually be an alternative module that doesn’t waste CPU cycles. It’s not uncommon for find two similar module, one using 10X the CPU of the other.

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I sort of regret the GP-GPU supercomputer tower I built in 2009. It had 3 NVIDIA Tesla boards and a high-end NVIDIA video board in it as well as enough HDDs to"dual" boot Windows HPC, Windows and Linux. It had a 1200 watt power supply and tended to run wide open with all fans screaming so that I could only run it in the winter and would overheat the room even then. Luckily I was not trying to do anything audio related then as the studio was too loud to think. I did learn how to do GP-GPU massively parallel computing with that system. I did computational neuroscience by developing a human hippocampus simulation.

Nah, I don’t really regret that :thinking:

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I have several semi-modular hardware devices. I don’t regret buying them at all. I very much enjoy the tactile experience. Rack is great for obvious reasons, not the least of which is 10s of thousands of dollars of modules at your disposal more or less for free. But I like my actual fingers turning actual knobs, too. It’s a different experience. Mapping controls to the encoders on my Midi Fighter Twister is close, but still not the same thing.

But it’s all completely subjective. Personally, I would get no satisfaction dragging knobs around with my fingertips on an iPad, but other folks live on iPads 100%.

To each his/her own.

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The key is to drag the knobs on the iPad with an Apple Pencil. That’s not bad. But it is definitely a different experience, as is twisting knobs in VR :wink: So, I use eye gaze control in my VR applications to push virtual buttons.

thanks goodness we haven’t had that thread lately “when is VCV going to be available on the iPad”.

Hello, I discover VCRack almost 2 years ago and quickly (maybe too quickly) came to hardware eurorack. Eurorack is expensive that’s a fact but the second hand market work very well. Lot of people are trying module and sell them right away. There’s many cheap option if you’re not affraid of multitool module: Ornament and crime (got 2 of them) Temps Utile, Befaco Lich, Expert Sleepers Disting, Mutable instruments clone… If soldering is an option DIY kit can reduce the cost (I solder a Robaux LL8 as a first kit then a Befaco Muxlicer, Lich and AC/DC…) I’m thinking of focusing in hardware that can’t be emulated in VCV to interact with real world: ampli for piezo mic or cassette player, touch plate… The goal is to keep my system small but usable standalone. The Atov 16n faders looks very promising for hybrid system. But i diverge i guess there as many differents usage as users. Not sure you can really regret the hardware world. Keep it simple and grow slowly is the best advice i can give you

Cheers

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Reverse Mode here, after about 50k$ into Eurorack i got into VCV. Now they are both intertwined and interconnected.

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I like your approach… almost identical to mine.

The problem is my Wife did NOT like it.

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My wife was long gone by the time Eurorack came along :thinking:

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Hahahahaha. I had another one before her.

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Many of you know my personal journey more or less. I’m not a musician, but an audio dabbler, and somebody endlessly fascinated with messing about with sound.

VCV opened a door for me, and turned out to be a gateway drug. After years of messing around in DAWs and with VSTs, on and off and never finishing or sharing anything, I discovered a tool that satisfied my aural desires, and loved the fantastic community grew around it.

I loved (and still love) building generative patches in it, but I became frustrated about not being able to touch it. I wanted to play with the knobs. I have never learnt an instrument but I wanted to ‘play’ with this incredible thing. I mapped my trusty old BCR2K a few times, but I found it a faff, and lost my way with complex mappings.

There are many reasons why I went to hardware and the final decision was heavily affected by difficult (and non audio related) personal circumstances. It started with ‘just’ an ES-9 and a limited intended focus on the processing of found sound, but a couple of years later it has bloomed into an embarrassingly large rack.

Very quickly I realised that I did not want to build hybrid patches with VCV (sorry!). Any ideas that I may have had of flinging CV and audio back and forth between the two foundered very quickly on a combination of latency issues and that I developed an intense aesthetic dislike of having the computer anywhere near the hardware rack. Once I moved into another room the only time the computer was allowed in was as a glorified tape recorder. I now have a Tascam Model 12 and the computer is otiose to requirements.

However, all is not lost on the VCV front, because I still fire it up daily. I’ve not completed anything in it for a long time but I use it to test ideas. Testing ideas is necessarily limited when you have a decent sized hardware patch that you don’t want to disrupt. When I started on the hardware I thought that I would never want to duplicate anything that I could get in VCV in hardware, now that is an active purchasing decision - I want the same or similar modules to facilitate mentally switching between the two environments.

What I have gained is immeasurable for me. On hardware I patch differently. Far more thoughtfully and with endless knob tweaking to winkle out the things I love, the non-linearities, discontinuities, the fragile edges of things. With no computer in the room I get meditative focus on what I am doing, don’t get distracted and the minutes become hours.

Doing things in hardware is a massive learning experience if you have always been ITB like I had. Gain staging and noise is an endlessly variable thing adjustable at multiple places in your signal flow. Connecting things together can be painful. You can always do it but I have a growing collection of I/O modules to manage it. In VCV there is a voltage standard. In Eurorack there are two(ish). You may need 5v to open a filter or VCA, or you may need 8 or 10v to do so. In VCV there is polyphony; in Eurorack it is doable it is a serious rackspace investment. Even doing things in stereo can be challenging; the difference between dual mono and stereo impresses itself on you.

The ephemerality of hardware is a mixed experience. Sounds are generally pretty transient - you will move a knob and then not be able to recover the sound you were hearing. Tearing down a patch that you have enjoyed playing with is a genuine regret. However, there is something very Buddhist about the impermanence.

I have discovered that I love analog modules, both ergonomically and sonically. Analog modules require a lot of space. Space is an underestimated requirement. It is no less challenging than the cost and should very much be borne in mind if considering a move to hardware.

I also discovered DIY which is an addiction in itself. It is unbelievably satisfying to solder a module together and get it working. There are so many people out there with interesting little projects to get into. This, however, becomes another space investment!

Do I regret it? Not so far. I have invested a lot of money that I may need in the future for health care etc, but I will be able to recover most of it. I may lose a few thousand if/when I sell up (not sold a single thing yet) but that money will have been money well spent for the joy it has given me.

I have some purchasing regrets. They all concern digital modules that require a greater learning investment than I want to give them and definitely not because there is anything wrong with them. All in all though, no regrets at all. If I move on from it one day and lose a little money then so be it. It will have been worth it for many reasons, mostly related to its role in seeing me through a difficult period in my life.

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