Design of modular gear

Cwejman, Livewire, TipTop Audio, Doepfer etc... Get your euro on!

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Junk Rhythm
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Post by Junk Rhythm » Tue Nov 11, 2014 12:34 am

nblazer201 wrote:Don't we all want Eurorack to improve? Get up to buchla/moog standards in terms of design and usability?
+1

And with that, it's about time that Eurorack increased prices well above Cwejman and into Buchla territory. Then the manufacturers won't be busting their balls working long hours to bring out new designs for small profit margins. They will finally be able to upgrade that Prius to that elusive Ferrari and hell even a boat.

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Post by LeCCComte » Tue Nov 11, 2014 12:36 am

Me, pretentious ?
You're the one acting like your thoughts about eurorack are the way every single company has to go.
Eurorack is now about diversity, and that's one of the most exciting part about it. There is so much choice it's just amazing.

Some of them wants to make esoteric modules ? Some users are enjoying esoteric modules ? So why don't you just let them ?
Don't we all want Eurorack to improve ?
Then start designing modules :despair:
I'm pretty sure lot of companies started doing it cause they felt exactly like you :mrgreen:


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Post by nblazer201 » Tue Nov 11, 2014 12:37 am

sloth713 wrote:Esoteric module designs are some of the best things about eurorack so why are they being equated to "lazy" designs? The only lazy modules are the countless clones.
I just don't understand this from a musical instrument design standpoint. For the same exact module that operates the same way, why not have some standard means of communicating output, input, ranges etc.. to users? I understand exceptions, but why is Eurorack not enforcing ANY design standards so we can move past the gear lust and focus on the jamming and accessibility. These shitty designs make it IMPOSSIBLE for me to teach Modular Synthesizer performance to my friends without having graphics open on my computer.

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Post by sloth713 » Tue Nov 11, 2014 1:25 am

Not all module are made for everyone. Every one has a different idea of what design philosophy is best, thus we this huge variety in eurorack. If you want uniformity that matches you and your friends sensibility of what a musical instrument should be then find the companies with similar philosophies support them with gusto. But at the same time don't disparage other companies because there modules and design philosophies are not to your taste. Most of the time there is no better or worse, just different.

Finally we are all free people and have the right to choose what we want to wiggle with so nblazer201 please stop assuming you know what is best for me or the modular community. Please keep sharing your personal opinions with us though, because every voice is valuable, just stop trying to speak for the whole community. Just speak for your wonderful self. I honestly don't know if you are trying to speak for the whole community but that is the way many of you post read to me (so I am sorry if I misinterpreted that). I guess what I am requesting that in your next posts use "I" instead of "we"

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Post by nblazer201 » Tue Nov 11, 2014 1:28 am

Junk Rhythm wrote:
nblazer201 wrote:Don't we all want Eurorack to improve? Get up to buchla/moog standards in terms of design and usability?
+1

And with that, it's about time that Eurorack increased prices well above Cwejman and into Buchla territory. Then the manufacturers won't be busting their balls working long hours to bring out new designs for small profit margins. They will finally be able to upgrade that Prius to that elusive Ferrari and hell even a boat.
Thoughtful design is free.

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Post by nblazer201 » Tue Nov 11, 2014 1:34 am

sloth713 wrote:Not all module are made for everyone. Every one has a different idea of what design philosophy is best, thus we this huge variety in eurorack. If you want uniformity that matches you and your friends sensibility of what a musical instrument should be then find the companies with similar philosophies support them with gusto. But at the same time don't disparage other companies because there modules and design philosophies are not to your taste. Most of the time there is no better or worse, just different.

Finally we are all free people and have the right to choose what we want to wiggle with so nblazer201 please stop assuming you know what is best for me or the modular community. Please keep sharing your personal opinions with us though, because every voice is valuable, just stop trying to speak for the whole community. Just speak for your wonderful self. I honestly don't know if you are trying to speak for the whole community but that is the way many of you post read to me (so I am sorry if I misinterpreted that). I guess what I am requesting that in your next posts use "I" instead of "we"
I am not speaking for the whole community. I think it's pretty clear from this thread we all want different things. I am saying that if we as a community do demand better designs from Eurorack companies, we will get it. I am simply saying to change anything, we have to unite as users to relay a large message to manufacturers.

And yes, some uniformity, does indeed make teaching instruments to each other easier. That doesn't mean you have to change what your module does at all, I don't understand the fictional zero sum game between design and functionality that people are alluding to.

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Post by infradead » Tue Nov 11, 2014 1:41 am

Somewhat off base but i like what grant said about manuals. This is also how I feel about the while idea of people, freaking out about standards and how people are running thier business. Don't like how metasonix does shit? No problem but don't get all fucking but hurt about it man.

grantrichter wrote:"Manuals" usually have examples of applications, but there is an inherent assumption that ALL applications are covered in the manual. This is impossible with synthesizer modules because they are experimental devices, and you can easily invent a new application that no one, including myself, has thought of.

I am going to set up a web site with application "examples", but don't think they are exhaustive in any way. You should not be able to break the module, no matter what you do, so experiment away. The music synthesizer is only 40 years old, so we are all novices.

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Post by basicbasic » Tue Nov 11, 2014 1:48 am

nblazer201 wrote:These shitty designs make it IMPOSSIBLE for me to teach Modular Synthesizer performance to my friends without having graphics open on my computer.
Even though i'm broadly sympathetic to your case I gotta say this scenario is quite an edge-case.

I don't think it's unrealistic to suggest that most people with prior experience with hardware synthesizers would not find the transition to a standard Euro set-up much more difficult than when they first learnt a normal subtractive synth. Sure, some of the manufacturers are wilfully obscure with their UI graphics but so what?

The most obscure Euro modules are still more straightforward than something like a DX-7 or CZ-1000!

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Post by kisielk » Tue Nov 11, 2014 1:53 am

I've taught the basics of subtractive synthesis to people by just showing them a few modules and talking them through, no manual or visuals required. After all, sound is about hearing isn't it?

Of course manuals are helpful for more complicated modules, especially anything with modes, obscure LED indicators, and displays with menus. I'm a bit of a manual freak myself and will always read through any available documentation multiple times before even considering purchasing anything.

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Post by criticalmonkey » Tue Nov 11, 2014 1:58 am

eurorack is a contemporary living format and thus changing with the tides of interest and innovation - design ideas driving on

as for the musical instrument concept - buchla was built on breaking with the past, moog tried to connect with the past and the music that was generated from them resembled those intentions in many cases - i.e Subotnick vs Switched on Bach
there are threads of both these and newer and even older in the eurorack space so it means the performer has to be better at finding a voice thru the choice of the instrument they create

seems like the best thing ever to me

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Post by evs » Tue Nov 11, 2014 2:15 am

the only thing that this thread does, is reminding me that i should buy a metsaonix module.. :metasonix:

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Re: Design of modular gear

Post by AlanP » Tue Nov 11, 2014 2:17 am

nblazer201 wrote:So my question is,
Don't you guys think design is something we should be pressing more onto module manufacturers? I think there are two types of companies when it comes to this thinking, 1) Panel first design, designing the module to be an instrument that sounds good AND IS usable 2) The module first and then the panel. Now I understand you need to read the manual to fully get a module, but why not just color code inputs vs outputs, or put some arrows to show normalization, or LEDS to show clipping/+ or - cv etc... No matter how complex of a module you make, you can always imporve the panel readability and usability to reach usability standards.

I personally think that panel design is where Eurorack lacks most. We should be DEMANDING companies make more usable layouts. If we are shelving out :75: :75: :75: for this stuff, a little extra thought into the design of your module would go a long way. (Maybe Metasonix was a bad example to use because I feel like their OSCs sound broken all the time anyway :deadbanana: but i understand thats the point)
Snipped a bit, but anyway. Quite a few Eurorack module makers are one man shows, which comes with built in limitations.

A module mu--should probably have:
- Intuitive controls
- Easy to follow, easily legible graphics that do not obscure labelling the controls
- Solid engineering (ie, you won't murder it by feeding it +12V into the control input or something, there are limits to this)
- Good documentation
- Reliability
- Reasonable cost

Here's the thing. Very few people are able to do all these things all on their own. Plus, to quote Pterry, if you line up ten people and tell them to pull, four will pull, four will push, and two will go "What?", ie, what is easy to follow for one person is damn near useless for another.

As for the panel first vs module first thing, I'd prefer that the designer develops the best possible module for the particular application/niche' he's aiming for, not one that fits a pretty panel the best.

Plus the mention of Metasonix in the quoted part shows, IMO, that you don't really get part of the Eurorack sensibility. If you don't LIKE something, then get rid of it (trademe, ebay, buy/sell subforum, grind it up and smoke it) and replace it with another module that is closer to what you want. Part of the beauty of Euro is that in how anarchic it is (compared to Dotcom, Serge, or Buchla), there's going to be something for everyone.

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Post by 333 » Tue Nov 11, 2014 3:10 am

nblazer201 wrote:
sloth713 wrote:Esoteric module designs are some of the best things about eurorack so why are they being equated to "lazy" designs? The only lazy modules are the countless clones.
I just don't understand this from a musical instrument design standpoint. For the same exact module that operates the same way, why not have some standard means of communicating output, input, ranges etc.. to users? I understand exceptions, but why is Eurorack not enforcing ANY design standards so we can move past the gear lust and focus on the jamming and accessibility. These shitty designs make it IMPOSSIBLE for me to teach Modular Synthesizer performance to my friends without having graphics open on my computer.
These shitty designs? Mind your words haha. To some, they are gems. One man poison all over again....

Why should synth designers comply to your pedagogical needs? If you already like Verbos, Inteligel then just use them to teach. Don't try to explain Metasonix to your friends. I think there are enough modules and clarity in Doepfer's system to help you teach. And that's just one company out of hundreds.

I bought an Intellijel Azimuth II lately and there aren't any manuals. Just saying. Not that I mind. :party:

It seems your main gripes is directed to Metasonix. Just go to him direct. We can all discuss good designs and aesthetics and learn to appreciate different approach. But wiithout your personal frustrations and demands that you want the community to participate in.

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Post by Barlov » Tue Nov 11, 2014 3:29 am

I don't want to teach my friends modular. They can learn by themselves, they're all grown men!

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Post by akrylik » Tue Nov 11, 2014 3:48 am

nzblazer201: I am not against being critical of a module's design. What rubs me wrong about your (seemingly haughty) attitude is that you are trying to get the USERS to join forces against the MANUFACTURERS. Maybe since you've only worked in companies that service millions of users, that you perceive this as the only way to get heard or incite change. However, this is just not necessary with small businesses. No rally call, or public denouncement of this manufacturer over that manufacturer is necessary. Just choose a manufacturer that you really like, buy all their stuff, and strike up a conversation with him or her and pay them to make what you want to be made otherwise. It's easy and that's how some of these manufacturer's started.

Here is another thing that rubs me wrong about your approach. You want to raise the bar in euroland which sounds right but the way you are coming off is that you want everyone who doesn't meet the standard to get out (otherwise why would you be denouncing anybody?). However, I would like the whole spectrum (from hey-guys-I-just-made-this-module-in-my-free-time to I-am-going-to-devote-my-life-to-making-modules) to exist, thank you very much. Perhaps others would also?

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Post by arnoux » Tue Nov 11, 2014 4:36 am

Man modulars are experimental instruments, they are born that way, euro is just an incarnation, learning curve is life long, you can't teach to your friends in one afternoon. If you want to teach them buy all the Doepfer simple blocks and start from there with an oscilloscope and then let them enter the game alone, with time and good spirit. You must accept that Euro is anarchic because it's open and well alive. So
I am saying that if we as a community do demand better designs from Eurorack companies, we will get it
We don't care, let the boys be themself, they are great with all that messed shit, it's up to you then, buy what you like and let the others play the game as they like, bye bye I'm out :tardis:

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Post by oscillateur » Tue Nov 11, 2014 4:42 am

At this point we could just stop feeding the troll... :despair:

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Post by sneak-thief » Tue Nov 11, 2014 4:46 am

Since when can one apply design principles for mass-produced products to boutique audio gear?

Last I checked, user-interface design principles become more complex when applied to users in specific technical trades, which often involve underlying assumptions about pre-existing knowledge that's typical for the respective trade.

Besides, the OP is simply trolling if he's trying to juxtapose mainstream design principles on a manufacturer of such boutique hits as The Fucking Fucker, the Ass-Blaster and the Scrotum Smasher.

I nominate this for Asshat thread of the month.

FWIW, I worked professionally as a UI-designer from 1995 to 2005 on large contracts for governments and non-profits.
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Post by karmadelic » Tue Nov 11, 2014 4:49 am

Design is the essence of this format. The explosive growth has been propelled by the hearts and minds of those who build these wonderful devices.It is not universal. It is highly personal and subjective. These are labors of love, flights of fancy. Not committee designed objects for mass consumption. I actually enjoy when I see a module that I don't like visually. Because it reminds me that these are exquisite objects that are capable of such wonders. That beauty is greater than the sum of parts. The real magic of these modules is when you close your eyes and you hear a sound that thrills you, that causes you to stop and let it engulf you. Because that's what it's all about. Bring the ruckus my friends, because uniformity is the death of creativity. SlayerBadger!
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Post by nblazer201 » Tue Nov 11, 2014 5:22 am

sneak-thief wrote:Since when can one apply design principles for mass-produced products to boutique audio gear?

Last I checked, user-interface design principles become more complex when applied to users in specific technical trades, which often involve underlying assumptions about pre-existing knowledge that's typical for the respective trade.

Besides, the OP is simply trolling if he's trying to juxtapose mainstream design principles on a manufacturer of such boutique hits as The Fucking Fucker, the Ass-Blaster and the Scrotum Smasher.

I nominate this for Asshat thread of the month.

FWIW, I worked professionally as a UI-designer from 1995 to 2005 on large contracts for governments and non-profits.
UI Designer for government says it all...
Were talking high end commercial products geared for performance use. They should be well designed. That's just common sense.
All I am saying is that companies would do well to take notes from Intellijel, Modcan, 4ms, and Verbos. Great to see everyone flipping out because I am challenging a manufacturer's first attitude in an emerging market. Eurorack isn't going to be small for long, and IMO, quality in design and ergonomics will be a crucible for companies that rise to the top. When a company starts shifting blame of its own products on to its customers, you get another PlanB... sure they made some cool modules.

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Post by LeCCComte » Tue Nov 11, 2014 5:27 am

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Post by dubonaire » Tue Nov 11, 2014 5:30 am

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Post by LeCCComte » Tue Nov 11, 2014 5:33 am

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Post by Riggar » Tue Nov 11, 2014 5:34 am

We are on a potential cusp people. The relatively recent huge surge of modular interest (manufacturers and customers alike) has spewed out almost every conceivable variation of voltage mangling unit – no doubt supported by an equally inconceivable variation of designs, ideas, trials, interest, profit (ha!) egos, desires, drive, etc. etc. This activity not unique in human creativity history – it is unique in modular history, which is why it’ll bring (or may bring - the cusp) the rule makers, the conformers, the corporate dictate , the cost effective rationalised bulk build 80 page multilanguage manual magnet clasping easy install wireless patched module … please god don’t let the mainstream come …

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Post by Daisuk » Tue Nov 11, 2014 5:54 am

I'd like to know which modules in particular you find all that challenging to use (or which modules in particular you think have a crap faceplate design). I'll easily admit that I scratched my head over the Maths manual when I first got it (Maths was my first ever module), but having re-read it countless times, experimented with the module, and tried it with countless other modules, I'm understanding it better and better, and I've come to a point that if I would pick up a similiarly complex module, I'd probably be able to pick up the lingo in that manual and the usage of that module more easily. Coming from not knowing anything about modular and picking up something like the Maths, you're bound to be scratching your head. It's just a world of new concepts. And you simply need to do some research about this world you've chosen to enter.

Even if you got a Roland *Whatever* Synth with an 84 page manual, you'd need to know the very basics of synthesis to be able to use it in a "meaningful" way (or you could toy around with it, experiment, and get something out of it anyway, which you could also do with a modular module).

As a side note, I actually got a Roland MV-8000 a few years back, it came with a 600 page manual, and was just a LACKLUSTRE piece of crap in terms of user friendly UI. Powerful machine, but if you think modular modules are crappy designed, take a look at that one. Goddamn, the textbook example of how not to design a musical instrument, in my opinion.

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