The CHEAP UTILITIES ARMS RACE

So, if we are building a rack, 84HP with JUST utilities that can complement a semimodular synths (and also we are using VCV rack as a hybrid to first test the modules and after get the physical ones) and we want as much bang for the buck as possible, what would you guys put in there?

Zlob modules. They’re all cheap and quite interesting. Other than that, Ladik is cheap but there are tons of them so depends on what utilities you need.

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The original reason for me to be asking is to hear more what people have for favorite/most used utilities as specified per function. I can name some i heard about

VCA, Mixer, attenueverter, attenuator (i still do not understand what is the difference), envelope follower… lets say if one would want to make a list of “2 standard deviations” of all the most common utilities.

And now i am standing here with my pants down on the thin ice. Yes indeed i am.

A clock would be nice to have there on the rack

what utility can make the clock beat one step at a time?

Just to help you clarify the terminology:

VCA Means a voltage controlled amplifier. A lot of vca’s only go to unity gain (0dB or 1x the signal) So they do not amplify, but attenuate only. But the others can actually amplify a signal though. The fact that this amplification/attenuation can be controlled by CV (instead of having to dial a knob) makes it very useful and is one of the core elements of synthesis (AM or amplitude modulation)

Attenuator Is a way to attenuate a signal with a knob/slider. Simple functionality. To make it clear: a vca can be used as an attenuator, but not all attenuators are vca’s. If an attenuator has a dedicated cv input for its amplitude, it is a vca.

Attenuverter Same as a attenuator, but works in a bipolar way, meaning it can invert a signal also. If it has cv control as well over its amplitude, it functions as a “bipolar vca” which in effect makes it a ring modulator. (Ring modulation is AM in a bipolar way)

Mixer A set of vca’s in parallel where you can mix/add mutiple signals into one. Some mixers do not have cv inputs, which then makes it a set of attenuators being mixed into one signal. Some mixers even do not have attenuators, but simply add.

Some mixer modules let you use/route each vca in all kinds of ways, for instance having dedicated/direct outs of each channel. But its key function is its capability to mix/add signals into one.

Hope this helps!

Edit: If you like to read, this is a very nice introduction into synthesis and its (utility) blocks

Gordon Reid Synth Secrets

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The most enjoyable modules to build too!

In 10 minutes, but I might revise it if I thought about it a bit longer.

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thanks for this =) Is there a way to see what modules are inside the rack more easey, like with a link or something? sometimes it does not write clearly on the panel what the modul is

Follow the link below the image to Modular Grid.

Wow, the information age =)

what can you do with the multiplier?

I have to thank you for putting me on to them. I posted here a while ago and you recommended Diode Chaos. Now I have that and just built Entropy and planning to buy all the others I can get!

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I have one of those too and I built a Vnicursal recently as the VCA for my Befaco case. Under the desk, picked up in the Thonk Black Friday sale, is the K2 of through hole soldering, the 5 board F3DB. I am trying to build up the bravery to take it on :slight_smile:

I’ve currently got a Foldiplier on the desk which is functioning perfectly except for one LED, which I’ve replaced, but is still not working. Bit of a headscratcher.

The Vnicursal looks good, I love the fact that it has a pentagram. The F3DB looks like a beast, both in building and usage! I’m hoping to build up to Noise Plethora at some point but that’s also quite intimidating.

How does the Foldiplier sound, would you recommend it? That’s annoying about the LED. I’m hoping I don’t come across similar problems with building because I have no idea where to start beyond resoldering/replacing the part.

I want to play that game too !

So, the QARV is cheap for what it is : 4 functions (EG or LFOs, 2 are unipolar, 2 uni or bipolar, they can be triggered or loop), with corresponding VCAs (that work nicely with audio as well as CV, and are summing 1 through 4), and enough inputs and output to keep it interesting, if maybe a little busy.

Pamela’s new workout is going to be cheaper than the new one (you have a lot of those second hand going at about 180€ top) and still is a lot of whatever you may need.

uO_c can be a little tedious but it is a life saver so definitely worth diving into it IMHO, and can be had cheap when buying second hand or look for a good DIY builder on Reverb for instance (still about 200€).

The DMO is absolutely awesome, it should cost at least twice as much, go tell everyone.

The Dreadbox Utopia is really nice, it can attenuate, offset, mix, and has a triangle LFO with fréquence CV input, plus a comparator… That is a lot in 10 hp but still I find it absolutely easy to use, and got mine for about 60€ second hand…

The rest is self explanatory (crossfader, mixers, mults, VCAs, Env Follower, Clock divider…).

Actually this is close to what I use to have, to use with a Behringer Neutron and Make Noise 0 Coast…

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Foldipler is pleasingly dirty at the higher feedback setting and reasonably clean in the lower. It is based on the central circuit from the Serge, so it is serial, not parallel, like the Dannysound Timbre. As I’ve been trying to get it working, I haven’t played with it that much yet. I’ve contacted Zlob and I guess he’ll send me the Eagle file part of that circuit so I can try and trace it. From what I can see following the traces on the board, everything looks good, but it is in a really awkward place - it’s underneath the right angle of the board soldered to it. It’ll be a major pain to desolder the two sets of right-angled headers if I have to detach the boards.

Re the Noise Plethora - um … the only one I’ve had to send to Befaco to fix. It was working fine, but then one 7-digit display failed, and then the other one. I spent hours trying to fix it, but with a digital module, you have no idea what is going on. The problem turned out to be in the one place I didn’t look. Underneath the Teensy are 3 pogo pin headers. They had slipped off their contacts with the underside of the Teensy. Everything was functioning normally with the module except the displays, and that is where they are getting their signal from!

It is a tight build, even tighter than the usual Befaco tightness, but I did not need to use a smaller tip, just my usual one. It is not that difficult, just time-consuming - I spread it out over 3 days - and the warning about exposed vias is nothing to worry about. Just watch out for the one near the resistors at the top of the board, and make sure the Teensy headers and pogo pins are dead on vertical!

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EDIT: Sorry, this was supposed to be a reply to @TanaBarbier !

The DMO you recommended I’ve never seen before. That is incredible functionality for the price!

I think I missed the part about “cheap”. You’ve come in at 75% of me!

The uO_c will get even cheaper soon secondhand because the 3.2 Teensy is discontinued and there are going to be new 4.0 builds with improved DAC/ADCs.

The Phazerville firmware for the uO_c is incredibly feature packed.

[I don’t have all the modules I suggested - I have a Moddemix rather than an A*B+C, no VCA in 2hp , and I only drool over the Step 8. I have other switches, S&H, utility sequencers and use the uO_c for hocketing, That module just puts all that in one place, very cleverly, and is analog.]

Two other modules that are well worth considering in a small utlities case are clones of Stages, with the Qimem firmware, and Peaks, with the Deadman’s Catch firmware. Vast functionality in a small space but a bit menu divey. Peaks benefits from extra CV - see the After Later Audio and Plum Audio expanded versions.

Switches are really important to me in my patching, and one that I don’t have but is highly recommended (and is cheap!) is the A-151. If you can go bigger then the NE Vice Virga is brilliant.

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A-151 is like the archetype of dirt cheap modules =`)

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