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What is “modular” and why should you care? – a handy guide

What is “modular” and why should you care? – a handy guide


Modular set-ups let you create an electronic instrument that is truly unique to you. Rather than buying a full-blown synth workstation with dozens of integral features you may never actually use, you can economise on space and money by only purchasing the particular things you will use. It’s quite simple, for example, to create a monophonic bass synth with a nice filter, that you program rather than play with a keyboard. You could also quite easily add a sequenced drum machine to compliment it. You could then switch it up, whip out your patch cables and start triggering fluttery, other-worldy pads in luscious layers over the top and all of a sudden it’s 4.15am and you forgot you had work in the morning.

With that in mind, we’ve prepared a handy little guide to different modular components using Mutable Instruments gear as examples. Below you’ll find the key pieces categorised roughly by what they actually do (make sound, change sound, etc), with a link to a video so you can hear what it does. We hope you find it useful!


Sound makers

Braids (£299) Macro-oscillator / watch video
Braids is a Digital Oscillator that is so much more than an Oscillator. It’s more a full featured modal synthesizer, able to create bowed, blown and struck timbres, virtually modelling new and unusual sounds.

Edges (£250) Quad chiptune audio generator / watch video
Edges is the unsung hero of the Mutable range. A 4-Voice Digital Oscillator, loosely based o the 8-bit games console sound. Each voice has it’s own CV and Gate input, with individual or mix outputs making it capable of full 4-Voice polyphony or 4 separate voices without the need for separate VCA’s.

Elements (£419) Modal synthesizer / watch video
Elements is a very special module capable of other-worldly, physical modelling. Bowing, plucking, hammers, mallets, abstract soundscapes. It’s all in there as a complete synth voice or for processing external audio.



Tides (£189) Tidal modulator / watch video
What goes up, must come down. A digital triangle function generator that loops for use as an LFO, or use the trigger to use as an AD or AR envelope. You can even run it at audio rate as synth voice using the built-in Level control to avoid the need for a separate VCA.

Peaks (£145) Envelope/LFO/tap LFO/drum generator / watch video
A real Swiss Army Knife module in a tiny package. Use it as a Dual-Envelope generator, Dual LFO or Dual Drum Generator capable of classic Kick, Snare and Hi-Hat sounds.



Ripples (£145) Liquid filter / watch video
Very resonant analogue four-pole filter with built-in VCA on the 4-pole low-pass output. 2-Pole Band-pass, 2-Pole Low-pass and 4-Pole Low-pass all available.

Shelves (£169) EQ filter / watch video
CV controllable 4-Band parametric EQ for your modular, all of which are sweepable between 20hz-20KHz! Bands 2 and 3 have CV control of the Q, whereas Bands 1 and 4 are low and high shelving respectively.

Streams (£189) Dual dynamics gate / watch video
Dual-channel VCFA – works much like a classic VCA but with lots of extras. EXCITE input allows triggering internal AR or AD envelope for the Amp and Filter, or can use the compressor mode with sidechain.

Clouds (£249) Texture synthesizer / watch video
A very special module. Granular processor capable of anything from dense, lush soundscapes to glitched- out rythms. Control over grain-size, random-panning, feedback and reverb and pitch-shifting means a lots of serious manipulation of your audio.

Warps (£175) Meta-modulator / watch video
Combine audio signals and mash them together with wave-shaping and cross-modulation. Internal V/Oct tracking digital oscillators provide even more options for all kinds of ring-modulation, vocoder, or just pure noise manipulation!

Rings (£249) Resonator / watch video
A truly excellent resonator, capable of processing external audio or just hook up a CV source to the V/Oct input and you have a synth voice ready to go. The voice can be set to decay even when a new note as played allowing a polyphonic effect.


Controllers, sequencers & utility

Grids (£169) Topographic drum sequencer

Frames (£249) Mixer/keyframer

Yarns (£249) 4-channel MIDI interface

Links (£55) Multiples and mixing / watch video

Shades (£79) Attenuator/offset/mixer / watch video

Branches (£79) Dual Bernoulli gate / watch video

About The Author

Red Dog Music

Dawsons Music is delighted to announce that the Red Dog Music brand is now part of the Dawsons family. This is an exciting opportunity to bring both communities together and create a stronger, wider network of people passionate about music gear. We both share a common heritage to support musicians throughout the UK and Dawsons want to support Red Dog Music customers in their continued musical journey.

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