Since Modular was teased and revealed back at Musikmesse in April we’ve been eagerly waiting to get our hands on this piece of hopefully awesome software synthesis. Well it has just been released for an introductory price of $75 ex VAT.
In my excitement I decided to splash out on what they are simply calling Modular and duly placed my order on their website. Annoyingly they require an iLok for authorisation – I have one so that’s OK – however, they have to deliver the license to the iLok for you to use it. At the moment www.ilok.com is unavailable but after a few restarts I have managed to get the iLok License Manager to connect to the server and download the license. The second annoyance is that in order to install Modular I have to download an installer that contains every one of their plug-ins although they do let you choose which ones during the installation.
There doesn’t appear to be a stand alone version so it’s just a plugin.
Within your DAW it’s listed simply as Modular which loads up a blank sort of two rack space into which you can add modules from a list. In the middle there’s bar with a couple of buttons, volume knob, output meters and auxiliary jack sockets. If like me you don’t really have a clue what you’re doing then getting some sound out is going to be quite tricky. Searching around for some handy presets initially came up empty until I realised they were hidden away in the DAW preset library – aha! That’s more like it.
Load up a preset and for the uninitiated it’s completely bewildering. This is not like the pretend modular you get in a lot of soft synths or the automatic cabling you get in Reason, this is the real deal. Hover your mouse over a jack socket and all the connections appear, coloured and criss-crossing the GUI in a mess of signal routing. Regardless of whether you understand what’s going on the sound coming out of the thing pulls a huge smile across your face.
In the basic Modular plug-in you get a selection of 6 Doepfer modules, some DAW and MIDI modules, mixer, four sequencer modules, a bunch of mysterious utilities, and a range of performance modules that give you easier to access controls over various parameters. There are optional modules available from Intellijel and a Softube drum machine called Heartbeat which you can buy and add into the system. Otherwise it’s not massively extensive but in the world of modular you can do an awful lot with very little.
My first impressions are a mixture of excitement, fun, confusion and a small dollop of disappointment in the look of the thing. Having been playing with the gorgeous Arturia V Collection this week maybe it’s spoilt me for GUI design but honestly this looks like something made in SynthEdit. It’s all OK, just not great, awesome or particularly inspiring. The cables are all just straight lines of colour – which is probably very sensible and professional but modular is all about the flair and this…. Well it doesn’t have any.
However, you can’t fault the sound or the potential for designing sounds and the hours of experimentation you are going to lose to this plug-in.
More information can be found on the Softube Modular product page.