Select Department
12th October, 2022

Semi-Modular Synthesizers for Beginners

Let’s face it- the world of modular synthesis is vast and daunting. There is almost unlimited possibility for sound exploration through unique combinations of modules. It can also be overwhelming for a beginner, who might struggle to plan out exactly the combination of VCAs, mults, attenuators and oscillators that will bring their ideas to life.

Thankfully, there’s a shortcut to avoid some of the expensive trial-and-error that building a first modular synth can entail. Lo and behold: the semi-modular synthesizer!

What is a semi-modular synthesizer?

Semi-modular synths are self-contained instruments that can produce sounds without the need for any patch cables. This is due to their normalized signal path.

However, new worlds of possibilities open up when you break out the patch cables and start re-connecting their components. Furthermore, you can even connect them with other modular or semi-modular synths. But that’s not all! They provide the additional freedom to expand in any direction you choose.

Overall, semi-modular synths provide you with everything you need to start creating right away!

Without further ado, here are 5 of our favourite semi-modular synthesizers to help you start on your modular journey!

Top 5 Beginner Modular Synths

1. Arturia Minibrute 2 & 2S

Arturia helped revive interest in analogue synthesizers with their original Minibrute back in 2012. Since then, they have improved these modules with an array of patch points, thus expanding the Brute’s sonic possibilities.

Available in both keyboard and sequencer-equipped models, the Minibrute 2 is an original design inspired by the rare Steiner-Parker synths of the 1970s. The most unique feature of the Minibrute 2 and 2S lies in their ability to mount Arturia’s Rackbrute modular case directly onto them, instantly providing a convenient and sleek way of building your first Eurorack from custom modules.

2. Moog Mother 32

The most famous modular synthesizers of all time are the early Moog systems of the 1960s. These were famously used by everyone from The Beatles to Tangerine Dream- proving them to be some pretty sweet stuff. Moog’s Mother series of semi-modular synthesisers build on this heritage with simple but gorgeous sounding instruments built from components taken directly from the original modular behemoths.

The Mother 32 is the perfect way to dip your toes into the Moog modular ecosystem. Some key features include the iconic Moog oscillator and ladder filter, as well as a versatile built-in sequencer. What’s more, it has the ability to rack it up with its siblings, the DFAM and Subharmonicon, or with any other brand’s Eurorack modules.

3. Behringer Neutron

Modular can be expensive, and if price is an issue, Behringer offers incredible value with their low-priced semi-modular range. The Neutron is a favourite here, with its original design and host of features. This includes dual oscillators, delay, distortion and extensive modulation.

However, Behringer have also cloned a number of classic synths from the 1970s in this format. This includes the Model D, Pro-1 and CAT, often providing modular connectivity where the originals had none. Also, each of these models can be removed from their existing case and racked up in your growing Eurorack system! 

4. Moog Grandmother

If you have a bit more cash to spare, the Moog Grandmother has already established itself as a modern classic. Built from the same components as the vintage Moog modular systems, the Grandmother places that massive and lively sound into a compact and playable instrument with a high-quality key-bed and, uniquely, a real spring reverb.

Not only is the Grandmother ideal on stage, it is equally at home as the front-end of a larger Eurorack system, delivering that inimitable sound with ease. For even more greatness, check out the Grandmother’s big sister the Matriarch. 

5. Korg ARP2600M

Moog’s rival ARP Instruments went out of business in the late 70s, but thankfully Korg has stepped in to provide faithful reissues of the most iconic ARP synthesizers.

The original 2600 was a unique beast which at the time featured cutting-edge technology well beyond its years. What’s more, it features extensive labelling of its many sliders and patch-points to help educate those just starting out.

Perhaps ironically, this somewhat dated design makes it perfect for the modern beginner looking for an authentic introduction to vintage modular synthesis. The 2600M (M for mini) takes the original iconic design and shrinks it down to a convenient size for the modern music studio. 


Related Products

Interested in something similar?