Rob Spencer, formally of GMSN, has been developing a new Eurorack project that is nearly ready to be unleashed on the planet. It’s called Equinox Synth and is a range of affordable Eurorack modules designed to encourage more people to enter the modular rabbit hole.
In a video introducing the range, Rob talks about the high cost of Eurorack and how much of a barrier to entry that can be. Eurorack modules are often hand-made and put together with through-hole components which do not make for an efficient manufacturing process. This means, quite rightly, that modules built individually, often by the designer themselves, can be expensive. Rob suggests that by using modern manufacturing techniques and surface mount components the price of modules can be brought down significantly.
Modules could be built by robots. As the website says:
Robots don’t need expensive beard trimmers, vegan avocado toast or a workshop in the hipster neighbourhood. Cost savings which can be passed on to the customer.
A good, if perhaps unromantic point. But that’s the whole balancing act. We like boutique synthesizer modules, we enjoy the artistry and craftsmanship of a well constructed Eurorack module and we’re prepared or at least resigned to pay handsomely for ownership. On the other hand, it doesn’t have to be this way and one person’s desire to have artisan modules shouldn’t prevent others from benefitting from a more cost-effective approach. In the video Rob says that although bringing down the price in manufacturing is key that should not be at the expense of sound quality – and that’s the balance you have to get right.
The Equinox Synth will kick off with five modules. These are the modules that make up the basis of any synthesizer voice: a VCO, VCF, VCA, ADSR and LFO.
- The VCO is analogue, based on a classic design updated with modern components and offers saw, triangle and pulse waveforms. It also features pulse width and FM inputs with CV control. There are no individual waveform outputs instead you can mix them together out of a single output.
- The VCF was inspired by the SH-101 and TB-303. It’s a low pass filter but with two inputs for filtering two VCOs at once. There’s CV control over the cutoff and it can be pushed into self-oscillation.
- For the VCA they purposely kept to some higher end components to ensure the sound quality was as clean and pleasing as possible. It’s a single channel VCA with a CV input to control the level.
- The ADSR is analogue and offers a CV signal modulated over time in response to a gate.
- Finally, the LFO is the only digital module in the lineup. You get a Rate knob and a Depth switch which offsets the LFO to the positive range. There are three waveforms but these are accessible only via CV. A sync input provides a reset.
There’s nothing flashy or complex about the modules, they are good, solid and functional and according to Rob “sound fuckin’ amazing!”
Equinox Synth is a great idea and Rob says that once they have these five modules up and running there will be more to come. Most importantly that means a case. Personally, I think the case and power supply still remain the biggest hurdle to Eurorack. A lot has improved and it’s easier than ever to get something but they are usually expensive and require the new user to make a bit of a leap without really knowing what they are doing. If Rob could solve that one then he’s onto a winner.
The big thing missing from all this is THE PRICE! The Pure range from GMSN were always keenly priced at around £100 for the VCO and VCF so if he’s looking to do better than that could we be looking at a full Eurorack synth voice of individual modules for around £299? That’s Behringer synth prices! I’m looking forward to finding out more.
- Equinox Synth website.