Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Meet the Family...

I've been recording, releasing, and playing electronic music since the early 1990s. Those interested in hearing some of my discography can catch up from the catalog or explore the pages of my main music site HelpWantedProductions.com. What this means relevant to this blog is that the Buchla 200e is not my first modular synth and as such, part of this blog will be me figuring out how to fit it into a family of existing tools, instruments, and recording gear.

One of the reasons for starting this blog was so I could learn about the Buchla and would be sure to spend more time with it when life's other demands got hectic. In addition to family, friends, job, and the things we all deal with I balance which instrument I am going to play/practice daily and even among esoteric modular synthesizers in my studio the 200e is one of many. I understand this may not be the situation most other players have but, for me, it's one of the reasons it made sense to try a Buchla 200e. More on my rationale and thoughts on Buchla ownership as this blog progresses but given some of the feedback I have been receiving I thought it might be fun to introduce some of the other "family" the 200e shares it's space with and will eventually be talking to.

The first and main sibling is my custom ModcanA format modular. This beast consists of over 30 modules by seven different manufacturers and two power supplies. The majority of it contains modules from the two full time Modcan A format manufacturers, Modcan in Canada and Cyndustries in the US. The "A" format was designed by Bruce Duncan of Modcan and offers a unique layout of jacks and knobs unlike any other manufacturer. Modules are larger but well laid out and easy to get to even in dense patches. The "A" format offers banana jacks identical to the 200e's CV routing jacks but also uses these for audio as well.

My "A" system also contains modified or custom modules by Synthesizers.com, Encore, Doepfer, and two DIY companies Megaohm, and my own DAEDSound.com. If I didn't have this system I would most definitely have not also picked up the 200e. The "A" system I own is something I've built for years and customized to get both unusual and more traditional synthesizer sounds and it gives me a strong base to come back to when I "jump off the cliff" with Buchla.

My first excursion into modular synthesis was the now very popular "Euro" format created and implemented by German company Doepfer and this format uses "standard" mini jacks commonly referred to as 1/8" (although in truth they are slightly different in size). The 200e uses jacks that look similar to this but are a different size know as "tini-jacks" and while a Euro type patch cord can be made to fit into a Buchla sytle audio port it will be slightly loose at best. Buchla patch cords do not fit into Euro jacks at all given they are slightly larger.

Most of my Euro modular is made up of Doepfer A100 modules that were purchased well over a decade ago when the company was just starting out and distributors were scarce. Euro format today offers the widest range of manufacturers and still has the most affordable entry price point of any modular system.

Next to my custom A100 system is a compilation of "Frac" modules, so named due to the "Fractional" case used that the module sizes conform to. These use "standard" 3.5mm jacks that are compatible for all Euro format modules and therefore the same caveat applies to integrating this in the Buchla audio path. My Frac system contains a wide variety of manufacturers over a decade plus of manufacturing including some DIY modules built by a few companies that are no longer in business. This is my main live modular synth when I do experimental gigs as I have designed it's module compliment to give me the biggest bang for the buck in the smallest space. Pieces in this were made by Bugbrand, Paia, Blacet, Wiard, MOTM, Metalbox, Ozzitronics, Bananalogue, and others.

There are other instruments including a Synton Fenix and handfuls of keyboards, drum machines, etc but in all of these the Buchla stands alone. As of now, she is still sitting on my kitchen table where she has been since arrival the end of May:

We're not quite ready to meet the family yet and even if we were the Buchla requires certain conditions to be met in interface, scaling, etc. This isn't really an issue however. There is enough for me to learn one on one with the 200e and at this point I'm in no rush to complicate an already extraordinarily complicated instrument.

For those curious and not total synth geeks you can find out more about Modular Synthesis history, current manufacturers, formats, etc. at the great page: http://modularsynth.com/

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