Choosing the Right Oscillator for Your Eurorack

The staggering assortment of oscillator modules available for Eurorack synthesizers can make choosing the right module an exasperating process riddled with uncertainty. After all, the only way to find out how an oscillator is going to work in your Eurorack rig is by actually using it.

With that said, there are some simple ways to differentiate between oscillators, and choosing from there more or less becomes a question of what you need it to do. The simplest way to go about this is by first asking, “Do I want an analog or a digital oscillator?” and from there, “Do I want this to be more conventional or complex?”

We’ve broken down all of the major types of oscillators so that you can lay the right foundation for your entire system, whether that’s an all-analog West Coast inspired synthesizer, or something completely digital that makes sounds like a fight scene in the next Michael Bay robot melee.

Analog Oscillators

Best Buchla–Style Oscillators

Make Noise DPO

The Make Noise DPO (Dual PrimaryOscillator) has reared its head in a lot of studios. This a go–to oscillator for many using Eurorack, and for good reason. The module has a triangle core, tracks impeccably, and sounds brilliant.

What’s more, the DPO’s circuitry allows each of its VCOs to operate as a complex oscillator. It includes six vactorals lending this oscillator smooth and rubbery textures reminiscent of the vactorals use in Don Buchla’s own 261e Complex Waveform Generator.

Make Noise DPO

Sputnik Modular Dual Oscillator

Sputnik Modular Dual Oscillator

The Sputnik Modular Dual Oscillator was inspired by the Buchla 258e Dual Oscillator and 259 Programmable Complex Waveform Generator. Many feel it accomplishes that 259 sound well. The oscillator contains a modulation section with amplitude and FM capabilities, and a voltage controllable harmonics section that governs waveshaping.


Classical Analog Oscillators

Intellijel Rubicon

The Intellijel Rubicon is the thru–zero frequency modulation king. This oscillator is notable for its deep, luscious tones. It is unique amongst analog VCOs for its mallet and bell style sounds, made possible by that entirely analog, thru–zero FM. Additionally, the module boasts a generous frequency range: 1hz to 24khz in VCO mode and 0.01hz to 240hz in LFO mode.

Intellijel Rubicon

Industrial Music Electronics Polivoks VCG

Industrial Music Electronics Polivoks VCG

Unlike the other analogs on this list, the Polivoks VCG contains a sawtooth core, which gives it a very distinctly aggressive tonal character, especially when paired with the Polivoks VCF. Industrial Music Electronics used to be known as The Harvestman, and The Harvestman's versions of these modules can be easier to find on the used market at the moment.

Designed as a collaboration between Industrial Music Electronics’ founder Scott Jaeger and Vladimir Kuzmin, the module is modeled on the original Polivoks synthesizer. If you are looking for an aggressive oscillator capable of creating punchy analog bass lines, this is it.

Digital Oscillators

Tried & True

Mutable Instruments Braids

Probably the most popular digital oscillator in Eurorack, Mutable Instruments’ Braids isn’t strictly intended to be a conventional oscillator. Braids is marketed as a “macro–oscillator” because its complex timbres sound like the result of several oscillators, waveshapers, VCAs, envelope generators, and so on working in tandem.

Each algorithm Braids produces is governed by the Timbre and Color parameters, both of which are voltage controllable. These two knobs give you a wide array of sounds while cutting down on the number of modules and patch cables. Get this if you need a digital Swiss Army knife oscillator in a small amount of hp.

Mutable Instruments Braids

Noise Engineering Loquelic Iteritas

Noise Engineering Loquelic Iteritas

Another one of the more popular digital oscillators in Eurorack, Noise Engineering’s Loquelic Iteritas is true to its company’s name, emitting particularly dark and raspy sounds. Dubbed a “speech oscillator” by the the company, the module contains several innovative algorithms that give it a complex harmonic structure and interesting AM capabilities.

Externally, the module features two independent pitch CV inputs, and CV control over the morph, fold, modulate, and dampening parameters. This is the oscillator for you if you need a powerful, tactile, and inherently evil digital oscillator in 10hp or less.


Most Flexible Digital Oscillators

ALM/Busy Circuits Akemie’s Castle

ALM/Busy Circuits' Akemie’s Castle is an incredibly versatile digital oscillator. It’s a dual oscillator design utilizing new–old–stock Yamaha ICs to offer extensive digital FM capabilities. The module has four “operators” with digital FM, each featuring their own frequency multipliers, level controls, and waveform selectors.

Users can combine operators in various ways, even using them in combination with the module’s feedback control, which will give users access to rich palette of sounds. Additionally, the first oscillator features a chord mode that allows for up to five voices.

ALM/Busy Circuits Akemie’s Castle

Industrial Music Electronics Hertz Donut mkII

Industrial Music Electronics Hertz Donut mkII

Like many of the analog dual oscillators previously mentioned, the Hertz Donut mk][ is a take on an old favorite, albeit in a digital form. Inspired by the Buchla 259, the Hertz Donut is a digital dual oscillator with a ample frequency range (11Hz – 11kHz in VCO mode, and up to 20 Hz in LFO mode) and built-in waveshaper.

Like with the Polivoks module, The Harvestman's version of the Hertz Donut is relatively easy to find used.

It also houses an efficient internal bus that modulates the frequency of each oscillator, tracking phase, wavefolder, and amplitude at the press of a button. This is a great oscillator if you are looking for something with precise tracking that is capable of creating a wide variety of sounds.

Wavetable Oscillators

Gritty & Mangled Digital Oscillators

Industrial Music Electronics Piston Honda mkII

IME’s take on the wavetable oscillator is notoriously popular for a reason. Often described as “broken by design,” the module contains 4,096 waveforms divided into 3 separate axes, forming what the the manual invites you to picture as a cube.

256 of those 4,096 waveforms are user editable and the module ships with two external ROMs full of 256 waveforms each. Using CV, these waveforms can be morphed, producing shifting timbres ranging from glistening high pitched tones to crackly digital darkness.

The module also features an external input so that outside signals can be processed through its wavetables, even while the internal oscillator is doing its thing. This oscillator works great as a pair with the Hertz Donut mk][.

Industrial Music Electronics Piston Honda mkII

Noise Engineering Cursus Iteritas

Noise Engineering Cursus Iteritas

One of the things I love most about Noise Engineering’s modules is how they condense an immense amount of functionality in extremely compact HP space. The brand new Cursus Iteritas is no exception. At a mere 10hp, the Cursus is the wavetable companion to the Loquelic Iteritas, which means you could have a dual digital oscillator + wavetable oscillator setup in only 20hp.

The module features three different modes — Fourier, Daubechies, and Walsh — each sourced from a single wavetable to produce harmonically rich sounds.


Wavetable Titans

Synthesis Technology Morphing Terrarium

The Morphing Terrarium is Synthesis Technology’s flagship oscillator featuring an extremely unique and pared down interface. Featuring two separate outputs, the Morphing Terrarium is able to “morph” through 192 basic waveforms across three banks, both manually and under voltage control.

What separates the Terrarium from many others in its field is its ability to interpolate between waveforms, which turns the 196 initial wavetables into 24,000 unique timbres. This versatility allows for everything from the ultra glassy FM sounds of the '80s to modulated percussion.

Synthesis Technology Morphing Terrarium

Intellijel & Cylonix Shapeshifter

Intellijel & Cylonix Shapeshifter

The Intellijel Cylonix Shapeshifter packs quite a punch in 26hp. Seriously, you could fill a book with all of the things that this module is capable of.

At its core, the module is a dual wavetable oscillator that allows users to create, store, and step through presets. Each oscillator has 128 wavetable banks available, and waveforms can be selected in each bank using voltage control.

Oscillator 1 features a powerful chord mode that copies eight instances of the oscillator and runs them in parallel. These parallel instances can be controlled by the module’s detune feature to create lush chords. If all this isn’t enough, the Cyclonix Shapeshifter can process external signals and houses a 64–band vocoder.

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