MOTM SYNTHESIZERA Modular Analog Synthesizer That Surpasses All Expectations
Ive been asking myself, What madness would induce a musician
to invest thousands of dollars in an analog modular synthesizer when everyone
is moving toward software emulations? Software synthesizers offer
more features at a lower cost and dont take up the space of hardware
synths. However, they lack the immediacy and physicality of a real instrument.
When I first encountered Synthesis Technologys MOTM system and its wall of conservative black faceplates covered with large gleaming knobs, I recalled the excitement I felt before the days of MIDI. Creating electronic music then was a tactile and visceral experience, and the instruments were big and messy. MOTM stands for MOTher of all Modulars, and though thats quite a claim, the exceptional quality of Synthesis Technologys system might validate such hyperbole. The MOTM system balances modern audiophile standards with some of the more desired quirks of retro analog synth design.
Back to the Future
The physical accessibility of each function in the various components of a modular synthesizer makes it easy to explore new sound possibilities. Anything that creates a voltage can become a controller, and anything that makes a sound can become part of a patch.
A modular synth can be integrated into the modern studio in ways that were not possible during the instruments heyday. A MIDI-to-CV converter and sequencer software give substantial control over the modules through MIDI. The recording and sampling capabilities of a digital audio workstation further increase the usefulness of an instrument that requires repatching to get new sounds.
Although the idea of programming with patch cords is primitive by todays standards, its more direct than programming a preconfigured synthesizer. You dont have to spend hours fussing with routing assignments, SysEx parameters, and device IDs as you do when you set up a hardware controller for a soft synth. Using a modular hardware synthesizer is a truly satisfying plug-and-play experience.
A modular synth might even inspire you to grab a soldering iron. Although preassembled and tested MOTM modules are available, Synthesis Technology also offers each module in kit form. The kit versions are about 30 percent cheaper than the preassembled ones. Besides the satisfaction you will gain from creating a system by hand, you might have enough money left over to buy a few extra modules. For those new to DIY, the Synthesis Technology Web site has a regularly updated tutorial page that includes a list of supplies and books for getting started, as well as MP3 demos of each module.
Reprinted with permission from Magazine, March, 2001
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