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Eurorack format synths were designed to allow synth makers to bring modern technology to the experimental formats of earlier synths. In the early days of synthesis, as the wires of oscillators and filters were first woven into musical instruments by pioneers like Bob Moog and Don Buchla, all synthesizers were modular.

Built on handmade discrete circuits, these devices were large systems by necessity. As the technology advanced and their popularity grew, synths became fixed devices that were more portable and reliable, but lacked the flexibility of earlier designs. In 1995, Dieter Doepfer debuted the Eurorack format for synth modules, allowing builders to bring modern technology to bear on a system that captured the exploratory spirit of earlier years.

Steadily gaining traction over a decade to become the most popular format for modular synthesis, in recent years the Eurorack market has exploded, with DIY makers, boutique builders and top manufacturers like Roland and Moog all getting into the game.

From vintage analog recreations to futuristic digital experiments, the Eurorack format allows you to mix-and-match modules to build a custom synth that's as unique as you.

What are Eurorack modules?

Eurorack modules are an aspect of modular synths. Eurorack synth modules are a popular synthesizer format that allows players to keep their effects in a neat, organized fashion. All Eurorack modules are made to fit in Eurorack cases, so they’re all the same height and depth.

Eurorack modules are essentially the effects that go into a Eurorack case that an artist uses to shape their sound. In any given Eurorack case, you might see a Eurorack mixer, a Eurorack sequencer, digital control modules, and more. Eurorack modules are arranged in a Eurorack console via Eurorack rails. They’re then assigned a signal chain order via Eurorack patch cables, which are also known as CV (control voltage) cables.

Why are Eurorack modular synthesizers so expensive?

Eurorack modular synthesizers are considered expensive by some, but they are absolutely an investment. The cost has many factors, including research and development costs and the fact that they’re relatively low-volume items. Since Eurorack modular synthesizers and Eurorack modules aren’t made en masse, their costs tend to be higher.

A bright side to the higher investment costs of Eurorack modular synthesizers and Eurorack modules is that they tend to retain their value over longer periods of time. That means, though they have a higher upfront cost, you’d likely be able to sell them for close to what you paid for them if you decide it’s not for you or if you’re looking to upgrade or change things up.

What are the basic building blocks of a great Eurorack module?

While the perfect Eurorack module depends on the sounds you want to get out of it, we recommend the following types of Eurorack modules:

  • Oscillator: This is what produces the sound that other modules will manipulate.
  • Amplifier: This is how you get audible sound out of your system.
  • Envelope generator: This is what creates dynamics. We recommend an attack/decay/sustain/release (ADSR) envelope.
  • Filter: This allows you to shape your sound. Common examples include low- and high-pass filters, but the possibilities go much farther than that.
  • Low-frequency oscillator: This adds movement to your sound.

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