We love semi modular synths, there are loads of good ones about at the moment that are both desktop synths and powerful modular environments. We run down our favorites below…
What Is A Semi Modular Synth?
A semi modular is a synth which has some features of a modular synth. They often have a fixed routing (the synth will work with no extra patching), but they also have patch bays for rerouting the signals with cables, as you would with a modular synth.
The Best 10 Semi Modulars
PRICE: 623 € (at time of writing)
SUMMARY: An upgraded classic, an absolute beast of a synth, and it comes with the Korg SQ-1 CV sequencer so you are ready to make some noise. LINK: https://www.korg.com/us/products/dj/ms_20mkit/
MORE INFO: The iconic Korg MS20 originally came out in the late 1970s and was a much loved synth, characterized by it’s semi modular patchbay for really interesting patches.. It has sold thousands of units since then. It has really nice filters, which were used by Daft Punk on Homework amongst countless others from rock and roll bands to techno DJs. Later on Korg release the MS20 mini with a smaller size and smaller patchbay and slightly different filters.
The MS20m is a kit, you have to build it yourself and it does not have the attached keyboard, but it offers the ability to own an MS20 for cheap. It also has a few extra features, most notably the ability to patch pulse width modulation which the MS10 had but was left of the MS20. The MS20m also include the option to switch between the filters of the original MS20 and the MS20 mini. It some with the SQ1 sequencer which will get you up and running sequencing the patchbay.
This is well worth a look for those screeching Daft Punk leads and Mr Oizo style wubs, aswell as all manner of mono synth basses and sounds, that will keep you interested for a long time with it’s intuitive patchbay and sequencer. This one is my favourite.
Also worth a mention here is the Behringer K-2 which is a smaller and cheaper MS20 clone (with no pwm).
PRICE: 289 € (at time of writing)
SUMMARY: insanely cheap and almost infinitely patchable analogue monosynth with tons of it-s own character.
MORE INFO: Behringer did a great job here, when this came out no one was expecting it to be this good for this price. The analogue circuitry gives a great sound from the oscillators to the filter. Plus the patchbay gives you so many options for modular patching and tweaking. It also has a built in delay and overdrive. It is rude not to at this price to be honest!
I would get a sequencer like the SQ1 (less than 100 Euros) to get the most out of sequencing and tweaking this.
The only negative I can think of is the color, I bought a new faceplate for mine and it looks amazing.
Behringer Model D
PRICE: 298 € (at time of writing)
SUMMARY: Massive sounding Moog type mono synth for very cheap.
MORE INFO: This is Behringer’s infamous clone of the Moog Model D. I love it. It has that amazing Moog sound at such a low price point. It has patch points too for interfacing with a sequencer, other modular gear, or it’s self. If you want that Moog sound with a patchable interface then seriously consider this. For the price is it is almost worth getting this just to run other synths through it’s filters.
PRICE: 449 € (at time of writing)
SUMMARY: An amazing sequencer and tough sounding monosynth, excellent for techno or EBM.
MORE INFO: The Arturia Brute range has built up a reputation for tough monsynth sounds, due in part to it’s aggressive sounding filter. Plus the build in sequencer here means it could well be at the centre of your studio set up for sequencing itself and any other modular or semi modular gear. It’s sound is not for everyone but for lovers of tough, sharp industrial mono-bass sequences this is absolutely brilliant.
PRICE: 579 € (at time of writing)
SUMMARY: Industrial percussion and bass sequences galore.
MORE INFO: An industrial techno dream synth – set up for harsh noises, percussion and detuned basses, with 2 oscillators and a noise generator sequenced by the internal step sequencer, all patchable with 24 patch points.
PRICE: 799 € (at time of writing)
SUMMARY: Evolving polyrhythmic techno and melodic sequences.
MORE INFO: This is a great semi modular for rhythmic evolving sequences and melodic techno. It makes pulsating rhythmic harmonic sequences. There are 2 main oscillators, and then 4 more that derive ‘subharmonic’ ones that derive their tones in harmonic intervals from the main 2 analog VCOs. So their are 6 voices that can interact with each other, with the short-length polyrhythm sequencers at the center of this.
This is a beast for creating evolving rhythmic sequences through the beautiful Moog Ladder Filter. Plus it has a patch bay for lots of patching possibilities.
Make Noise 0-Coast
PRICE: 529 € (at time of writing)
SUMMARY: East and West Coast inspirational modular craziness.
MORE INFO: A crazy beast. There are 2 main type of modular synthesis, so called east coast (subtractive synthesis ala Moog) and west coast (adding harmonics / additive synthesis ala Buchla), the 0 Coast uses elements of both. It is a little bit complicated to get your head around, but it sounds and preforms so uniquely most people will love it. You can get some rally nice harmonically rich sounds out of it with a lot of movement thanks to the patchable and routable envelopes/contour generators. I would definitely recommend you try one before buying as they are not for everyone. but I love them, it is something I reach for whenever I want inspiration.
PRICE: 599 € (at time of writing)
SUMMARY: Roland’s Digital Semi Modular With Digital Oscillator fx.
MORE INFO: Part of the Aira range, the System -1m is a digital semi-modular with presets. Plus sync, cross mod and ring mod. It is great for digital front 242 / new beat style basses. The Plug-Out technology means it can have new sounds, plug-ins like the SH-101 loaded onto it, so you won’t get bored
Dreadbox Erebus V3
PRICE: 579 € (at time of writing)
SUMMARY: 3 Oscillator bassline beauty
MORE INFO: A really nice 3 oscillator analog synth with a built in echo, some FM, ring mod, and 35 patch points. Brilliant on bass.
Buchla Music Easel
PRICE: 3999 € (at time of writing)
SUMMARY: The iconic and unpredictable west coast beast
MORE INFO: The original and probably best west coast synth, capable of weird alien sounds and harmonically rich evolving textures. For lovers of additive synthesis – adding harmonics with FM and wave shaping etc – this synth is west coast royalty, but you definitely pay for it! If you’re not familiar with this type of synthesis I would defiantly try one of these out if you get the chance, you may well be converted.
Semi-modulars are a great way into modular but with more immediate (and cheaper) results. My personal favourites are the Neutron, MS20m and 0-Coast. Let us know what your are….
Please follow us for updates… https://www.instagram.com/studiobrootle/
We offer online Ableton lessons, get in contact to get the most out of your studio time: Ableton Lessons.