What subtle aspects of hardware are absent from a software workflow?

Re the ‘warm analog’ topic - does anyone specialise in VCV Rack modules that try give some of that by not being so perfect? I was pleased early on to find the analog/digital switch on the VCV VCO for instance.

I was into the world of ‘amped harmonica’ for a while, and that lot happily pay $$$ for lo-fi vintage kit looking for the elusive sound of the old days. Which originally was a happy accident from using all the wrong things, cheap microphones, badly matched impedances, badly spec’d circuits. Someone created a digital amp that did the job really well but it wasn’t popular.


Rackwindows stuff is often about adding an analog “vibe”. Also Vult is very analog.

1 Like

Lifeform Modular Driftgen adds subtle drift to V/Oct signals for that not-so-perfect vibe.

1 Like

I had an enormous Eurorack system (21U+) years ago, and I’m down to a “still pretty large” (9U) setup, mainly because of VCV. I have it connected as a hybrid setup, but I mostly use the two independently as it’s surprisingly hard to get my brain to straddle the two contexts. When VCV2 comes out as a plugin, it will be a moment of reckoning for a lot of gear in my setup.

Almost everything in my hardware setup is digital except for the Optomix. LPGs are probably the only thing in digital that haven’t quite achieved the feel that I’m used to (at least, compared to Make Noise’s STRIKE input). I think out of all the digital modular LPGs that I’ve tried, NI’s Reaktor Blocks LPG is the closest. Mutable’s Ears is the only other analog module in the setup, as Piezo mics are super useful if you’re running a lot of physical model modules (Rings + Elements especially).

The primary aspect of hardware that is absent from software is a sense of permanence. Not a long term “this gear will last forever” sense (because let’s face it, a lot of these encoders and pots will need replaced even by next decade). Rather, there’s no sense of getting set up when I sit down. I flip the power switch and my system is ready to go. Now, VCV boots nearly instantly and resumes my previous patch, of course, but here’s what I mean:

  1. I never have to map a controller to my hardware.
  2. The controls are never abstracted from their purpose. Even after I map stuff in VCV to a hardware controller, the controller doesn’t “look” like what it’s controlling. Also, with a labeled MIDI controller, there’s still a missing sense of “topology” when all the controls are squished together on one device.
  3. Things like the Morphagene have my library of sounds ready to go without needing to navigate a file system. Simpliciter is wonderful, for example, but I need to point it to files every time I want to use it. On Morphagene, I just turn a dial to flip through the card.
  4. There’s no undo. No save states. This puts me in a very different mentality where a lot of choices have to be more deliberate (both a good thing and a bad thing!).

IMO many things sound different in hardware–Filter FM, for instance. Any patch that makes that digital hash noise in VCV rack is going to sound different in hardware. DIY hardware is also interesting. Building circuits after schematics broadens your mind vis a vis patching synths.

1 Like

@trickyflemming - one of the essential things for me with VCV Rack has been the ability to type in exact values for clocks and suchlike. I’ve not used hardware modular synth - is it there a problem with dialing in values with a pot, that are never exact? Is that part of the creative fun, not really an issue or is there a way round that?

Yes, that’s part of things in Rack being ‘perfect’ whereas in Eurorack nothing is perfect, e.g. pots are never exact. I guess it just forces you into a more ‘fluid’ or ‘relaxed’ workflow because you can’t really get things exact anyway.

1 Like