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!)
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.
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.
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!”
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.