Sorry, noob alert. What is all this?
Simply put, a modular synthesizer is an electronic musical instrument. Aptly called a "synth" or otherwise known as a modular system, it's a sound generation and sculpting device composed of individual circuits called "modules" which the user can configure and control using patch cables. Used together or "patched" via various methods of sound synthesis, a modular system is theoretically capable of generating any type of sound, from bass and classic synth sounds to beats, fx, abstract textures & soundscapes as well as countless processes for musical composition and sonic exploration. A modular system's powerful potential reaches beyond that however, it can also be an analog and/or digital fx processor for guitars, vocals, samples or any other audio source and even a veritable studio depending on your budget and needs. Apart from its musical applications, the modular user will quickly discover the relative nature of understanding sound waves and electricity as it is also represented around us in everything we do. Most electromagnatic energy around us is travelling in waves just like an audio or control signal. So in a sense, a modular synth isn't simply a musical instrument but also a Physics learning lab that opens up the world of electrical engineering for musicians.
Synth modules are designed & manufactured in various formats - Eurorack, 5U/MU, Serge, Buchla are some of the most common [Eurorack currently being the most ubiquitous]. Each format is specified by their respective heights and power requirements but can be interfaced together with the right conversion utilities.
Although a modular system can be controlled by a conventional keyboard, it's distinct from most keyboard synths due to its configurable form factor as individual modules. Each module performs different tasks or variations of tasks that can be patched together in unique ways by the user according to the principles of modular sound synthesis. The modules are individually installed to the user's preference as well, in a powered case or rack, which is typically either portable or stationary. The audio and control voltage routing between the modules is done via patch cables as opposed to most keyboard synthesizers with a fixed signal path.
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