Modular synthesizers

Image of a modular system

What are MODULAR synthesizers?

The modular synthesizer is a type of synthesizer, which exists in both physical and virtual forms, consisting of separate specialized modules. The modules are not hardwired together by the manufacturer but are connected together with patch cords, a matrix patching system, or switches by the user to create a patch. The output (voltages) from the modules may function as (audio) signals, control voltages, or logic/timing conditions. Typical modules are oscillators (operate on frequency), filters (spectrum), amplifiers/gates (amplitude) and Envelope generators (dynamic control).
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Image of a Roland System 700Roland System 700

The System 700 was a great big modular analog synthesizer system from Roland. A major player in the modular synth market, it competed against monsters like the Moog Modulars and the ARP 2500 & 2600. A very fat sounding synth. Incredible flexibility and great sound and design. Unfortunately this synth requires a lot of knowledge about synthesis and signal flow in order to maximize its full potential. Truly a professional instrument, even by today's standards!
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Image of Keith Emerson and the Emerson Moog ModularEmerson Moog Modular.

The Emerson Moog Modular system was originally developed in the ’70s by Bob Moog and Emerson himself. It’s a fantastically complicated instrument that inspires awe and salivation among the synth faithful. Only three of these units have been made, and the third and final hand-built version was displayed and sold at the Sweetwater Gearfest. The cost? A fairly reasonable $150,000.
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Image of a DIY modular systemModern modular systems

A modular synth can be a wonderful addition to an electronic music setup, especially if you already have other analogue gear. You can add step sequencers, wild oscillators, filters and modulation to existing machines, or process audio from computers, guitar and mics beyond recognition. And it can be, by itself, a machine that offers a lifetime of sonic and melodic exploration and creativity.
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