New Analog Modular Synthesizer Inspired By Korg Volcas

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Tangible Waves has launched a Kickstarter project to fund production of the AE Modular synthesizer – a new analog modular synth design that’s inspired by the Korg Volca line.

The AE Modular is based on a new standard, designed to be compact and inexpensive. It does not follow Eurorack or other existing standard.

Patching is done via patch-wires and small pin-sockets (not minijack-cables as in the Euro world). This cuts the cost drastically and also saves a lot of space on the panels. Module outputs are frequently dual or triple, which makes multiples unnecessary.

The developer has also embraced a lo-fi approach, so the circuits are simple and the front panels have stamped type, vs screen-printed.

Here’s a playlist of video demos:

Pricing and Availability

The AE Modular is available to project backers, starting at €385.

32 thoughts on “New Analog Modular Synthesizer Inspired By Korg Volcas

  1. why they´re wasting time with this? the volca series doesn´t sound good enough to start such a project! i´m sure putting this into eurorack format would gain more success instead of reinventing a new wheel with none common formats …

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    1. Yes exactly what I’m try to say! I keep having to tell my wife that you just can’t get a good sound out of cheap gear These kids with their mini keys and VA bs are ruining synthesizers for us real players

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  2. This looks pretty damn cool. The more options the better! Especially with modular.

    I’ll have to listen to the demo later, but looks like a really cool idea.

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  3. “Get the Rack 2 of AE modular; this is the rack with two rows for up to 32 modules; pre-installed with the following modules:
    MASTER IO, 2x 2OSC, NOISE, 2x FILTER, 2x ENV, 2VCA, 2x LFO, 2S&H, LOGIC, BEAT DIVIDER, STEP10, 2ATT/CV, MIXER4/4, DELAY”

    That’s a lot of synthesizer for five hundred bucks. Think it sounds pretty great too. I’m kickstarter shy at this point though; I’m 2 for 3 with it and one of projects in the positive column one came a year later than promised (from a fairly reputable org—shit just happens).

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  4. The sound is very good! Interesting idea, wish you much success. But with the amount of knob turning typically happening in modular, tiny knobs would dampen my enthusiasm too much. But Roland Boutiques sold, so this may fit right in.

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    1. If the knobs would be far enough, it would be possible to do a big knob ‘mod’ like on the werkstatt. It would also work well with the werkstatt.

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  5. i like the style and the concept…(although i don´t really get the volca-series into this).
    reminds me of the bastl castle, at least i assume they could pair together…and also the NS1nanosynth from soundmachines.
    maybe this will become the affordable (eurorack-style) modular for people that want to get into modular…who knows.
    > will keep an eye on it…and all the best with it.
    @McLoud…this is surely not wasting time! it is realizing an idea!…deca

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    1. Hi deecay,
      you got it exacly right; this is designed for people who want to get into modular but don’t have a few thousand bucks available for this. I’ve seen a lot of guys simply being enthusiastic on analog sounds but simply cannot afford the currently available stuff; those in mind gave me much inspiration to develop it.

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  6. I think this is really neat and if you go ahead and listen to his introduction video as linked on the Facebook, he makes a good case for it.

    It sounds good. The price point really is a big deal. And the aesthetic is admirable and pretty cool too. But if you want more expensive with a polished build quality, that’s already available.

    One question, are the patch wires common enough to come up on more as needed?

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    1. as Dave already mentioned, the wires are widely available; they are commonly used for electronic prototyping. This technique is one main point cutting the costs in AE modular; the minijack sockets (and cables) in eurorack modulars are a significant price factor.

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  7. Yeah this looks like a perfect intro modular. For me who has been sitting on the fence about getting one and then wrangling the whole research which modules to start off with etc etc, this seems like a perfect starter’s modular. So I backed it. Have 28 days to change my mind! 😉

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  8. Kickstarter text explicitly says “Modules are not Eurorack compatible”. Wonder if there are other gear this *is* compatible with. Lots of stuff out there that uses breadboard jumpers but I suspect the voltages or something aren’t compatible. And/or wonder what it would require to interface it with more traditional gear. If that were fairly straightforward it’d probably be in the list of ‘upcoming’ modules on the KS page.

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    1. Everything is compatible with eurorack (at least once).
      This lo-fi stuff is usually working in the 0-5 volts range. As long as you can get access to its ground, you can build an adapter between it and a eurorack jack. The adapters between banana jacks based modulars and eurorack work the same way. You may have some work to convert the pitch cv to volts per octaves, but Maths can help you get a reasonable range.
      With the amount of small modulars that use breadboard wires, there would be a market for a general purpose adapter between them and euroracks.

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    2. Hi Will,
      “not eurorack compatible” is primarily related to the mechanical dimensions; but you can integrate it in an eurorack environment via the minijack I/O ports in the Master module. I’ve used it e.g. for receiving triggers from a DOEPFER A-157 or feeding the output from AE modular into a eurorack. There is only one thing to consider: AE modular works in a 5V range, which means that external signals with higher level are clipped. I will add a short demo video on this subject soon; stay tuned!

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      1. Great, thank you Robert. I will keep an eye out for it. Looking over the photos a little more closely, I think I see what you mean about utilizing the output module. So I could patch, say, an LFO output and the clock divider output to the CTRL 1 and 2 at the top of the output channel and they’d be made available at the minijack ports? That’s cool but I’d definitely be interested to hear in the video if you have plans for a module allowing more than two CV connections to the outside world, perhaps along with any required scaling. As I understand it, for example, I couldn’t actually (usefully) use the clock divider and the LFO outputs on the mini-jacks simultaneously because I’d need to the LFO minijack to bring in the clock to be divided.

        Would also be interested in hearing a video with more melodic uses. The circuit demo sounds great but it’s only one note.

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  9. a modular synth for a little over $500, not bad considering some modules are about that price alone

    well done

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  10. Can see many applications for this. For me, as a music educator, it would be perfect. I’m not sure about the “inspired by Korg Volcas” selling point, though. I think Volcas are great, but I don’t really see the connection here, except that they’re cheap?

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  11. I see that this is cleverly using digital logic chips for sound generation. Is that like what Cyclonic are doing with FPGAs in there Shapeshifter oscillator.

    And the controversial question, is the signal path still analog or at a very high sampling rate like FPGAs? I’m only concerned with aliasing.

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  12. Actually looks really cool.

    What are the panels made of? They are rubber stamped for lettering, but I can’t find their material.

    Shame this is funding this time of the year though, otherwise I would be all in.

    Also KS says these will ship in January 2017? That seems a bit early.

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  13. Wow. Something besides the 303 or 909 on Synthtopia? I’m surprised. I’m you guys won’t post this cause you get butt hurt so easily.

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    1. Somehow, people have managed to use Buchlas and classic Korg analog synths – which don’t follow the most common pitch/voltage standard – and they haven’t been limited to ‘noise’.

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      1. Yes. If oscillators use an exponential converter you can find a way to use them to play some melodies or integrate it in a more complex system. If it are linear, which I suspect this is the case, they are just a toy. Not only for “noise” but not a versatile oscillators in any sense. All that said, being the V/oct the most used standard for analog oscillators I don’t see why not to use it. Most midi to cv converters use this standard, and if the purpouse of this synth to make something cheap and a starting point for the beginners, not using the v/oct is just messing everything.

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  14. Eurorack is already heading for the bottom of the barrel with $50 modules in 3hp that are so cramped that adults can’t even use them. Glad to see that someone out there has even lower standards and tries to play up the lo-fi sound, flimsy patch cables, and handmade front panels as a legitimate way to cut corners.

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