It's a big week here at Vintage King! After months of building an impeccable selection from some of the best manufacturers in the business, we're launching full-force into modular synthesizers. Whether you're highly versed in modular synths or have no idea what they can do, we're here to help you find the latest and greatest pre-built systems and modules that can bring compelling sounds to your studio environment.
Let's start with the basics. What is a modular synth? A modular synth is a collection of various modules that are the individual components of a synthesizer built into individual modules. These modules are used to generate and process voltages to produce audio synthesis, and often offer more features and flexibility than traditional keyboard synthesizers. Utilizing patch cables, you are able to route signals between different modules to develop complex patches that allow you the flexibility and creativity to create unique tonal palettes and sequences.
Modular Synthesis is an early form of synthesis pioneered separately by both Don Buchla and Robert Moog in the early 1960s. The design and philosophies behind both systems differed due to being developed independently and the needs of their clients. Buchla’s demographic was largely academic with avant-garde composers influencing his designs, while Moog’s demographic were more traditional composers and musicians making purchases. Since Moog was based on the East Coast and Buchla on the West Coast, their designs led to two trains of thought in the modular synth world, “East Coast Synthesis” and “West Coast Synthesis.”
In order to get a better understanding of what modular synths can do, watch the videos below of these preconfigured rigs from Moog Music, Make Noise and Pittsburgh Modular. They'll give you a more in-depth idea of what incredible sounds you can create with a wide assortment of modular synth components.
Think of modular synths as building blocks. You can use these modules to build whatever kind of out-of-this-world sounds you want and tailor your system to fit the needs of your sound production facilities. There are five basic components that make up most modular synth rigs, Oscillators (VCO), Amplifiers (VCA), Envelope Generators, Filters (VCF) and Low Frequency Oscillators (LFQ). Read on to discover what each of these pieces do in a modular synth system and how they affect the signal sent through each module.
Oscillator (VCO): At a synthesizer's core, the oscillator is a key figure, as it's the component that allows the system to create sound. This circuit produces the electronic signal that is fed through the rest of your system and manipulated by using other pieces of modular synth gear.
Amplifier (VCA): The Voltage Controlled Amplifier, or VCA, is the last module standing before your signal hits the synthesizer's output. Fundamental to a synth rig producing amplified sound, the most common use of a VCA is controlling the volume of input signals and the gain level of the output.
Envelope Generator: These dynamic modules are used (with some help from a keyboard or controller), to generate a control voltage signal. Using the standard controls typical to most EGs (Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release), users can make significant changes to sounds being created and mimic everything from kick drums to short pads.
Filter (VCF): Synth players can alter other aspects of their signal (aside from pitch and intensity), by using common filters like Low-Pass, High-Pass, Comb, Band-Pass and Notch. Just as its name implies, these modules offer a plethora of options for blocking some frequencies and allowing others to pass through.
Low Frequency Oscillators (LFQ): While the main oscillator circuits create the initial audio signals, an LFO operates at a lower frequency and allows users to build upon the intricacy of their sound. By manipulating an LFO, synth players can create basic effects like phase, vibrato, tremolo and more.
Interested in shopping all of our modular synth pre-built systems and modules? Click here and you'll be whisked away to a magical land of bleeps, skronks, buzzes, bloops and more, that will completely revolutionize the way you look at composing music and creating new sounds.
In honor of our new modular synth department, we're also giving away a Make Noise Black and Gold System. Click the photo below to enter your name for a chance to win! Good luck!