Four of today’s best hardware analogue semi-modular synths
Arturia MiniBrute 2/2S 1
Coming in two flavours, one with a keyboard (2) and one with a step sequencer (2S), the second generation of MiniBrutes are obvious choices for starting a modular setup. For the main oscillator, blend three waveforms to taste: a sawtooth with Ultrasaw; pulse with PWM; and triangle with gnarly Metalizer. There’s now a second oscillator, too, which can operate at extreme tunings, LFO-style. Then you’ve got dual LFOs, an ADSR envelope, plus an AD envelope that can be looped for eccentric glitch effects.
However, it’s the 48-point patchbay that opens up more creative doors, serving up CV inputs and outputs for almost all parameters. And if that’s not enough, the 3u or 6u RackBrute modular cases can be purchased and bolted on, giving you a ready-to-go modular ecosystem with minimum fuss.
MFB Dominion 1 2
Arguably one of the most fully-featured analogue monophonic/paraphonic analogue synths, the Dominion 1 sports three oscillators with waveshaping, sync, ring mod and FM; noise generator; a resonant SED filter switchable between 12 modes; three envelopes; a trio of LFOs; arp/sequencer and tons more. Phew!
All these features can – yep, you guessed it – be expanded thanks to the inclusion of a patchbay with a total of 26 ins and outs, arranged in two rows along the top of the synth. Particularly useful for performers are CV outs for the two ribbon controllers, while a dedicated FM input facilitates timbral experimentation.
Moog Grandmother 3
With its aggressive sound, retro style and a spring reverb, Moog’s quirky two-oscillator monosynth is an amazing standalone instrument – but its 41 input/output ports make it exponentially more powerful for both internal rewiring and interfacing with other CV-capable kit. Unlike semi-modular synths that feature a dedicated patchbay area, the Grandmother’s CV ports are located directly on the modules in question. This makes sound design more intuitive when you’re linking modules to each other, but complex patches can result in a tangle of cables obstructing the synth’s front panel.
Moog Mother-32 and Drummer From Another Mother (DFAM) 4
These two compact, (mostly) MIDI-less analogue instruments – the former a single-voice synth, the latter a kick/percussion generator – are designed to be used together and as part of a wider Eurorack/CV ecosystem. Both work without any patching, but the fun starts once you head over to the Mother’s 32-point patchbay and the DFAM’s 24-point job – use one’s sequencer to control parameters on the other, for example. Commit to a setup like this and you can buy custom two- or three-tier rack cases to store your mini Moogs.