Ever wanted to build your own synth? Erica Synths’ mki x es.EDU series allows you to do just that. In this way, it’s both a project and a way to learn modular synthesis from a hands-on perspective. In this way, you can really familiarise yourself with how signal chains and sound design works, too. Read on to find out more about this exciting new way of getting to grips with modular synthesis.
mki x es.EDU: What Exactly Is Involved?
Modular synthesis has a reputation for being challenging. However, it’s ideal to learn with as it breaks down the signal chain. Moritz Klein has been providing accessible synth-building information for a while now, but their collaboration with Erica Synths is like nothing they’ve done before. It helps bridge the gap between technical knowledge of synthesis, and using it fluently as a musician.
Any modular synth is comprised of different modules which are then patched together by connecting cables to alter the signal flow. These include LFOs, VCAs, and envelope generators. Together they give the input a number of interesting pathways through which to travel, altering the soundwave as it goes. The mki x es.EDU series allows you to build each of the 9 models separately. As a result, you end up with a fully formed modular synth which you are ALREADY super familiar with – inside and out.
What makes the series so great for hands on learning is it doesn’t introduce any technology of its own. Instead, it just picks from the best available. This means as you go along, you learn familiar components of modular synthesis AND get a snapshot of what modules are out there for future reference. The sample and hold module, for example, is less commonplace than an envelope generator, but after building it, you will have this in your arsenal to be able to freely experiment with.
Build Your Own Synth: Technical Specifications
Whatdoes it include?
The mki x es.EDU (Moritz Klein x Erica Synths) system includes a Eurorack case for the synth as a whole plus three sets of braided patch cables comprised of 5 pieces each of different lengths. In addition, the synth modules included are as follows:
VCO (voltage controlled oscillator)
VCA (voltage controlled amplifier)
VCF (voltage controlled filter
Noise Generator/Sample and Hold module
So, How Does it Fit Together?
Erica Synths released each module alongside a detailed instruction manual every 4 to 6 months. Now all modules are out, you could in theory order them all in one go. However, it could also work to build each module separately and really get to grips with it. Either way, you end up with a fully working modular synth.
What’s it like as a synth?
The series is meant to be educational, as opposed to a game-changing modular synth. However, the mki x es.EDU modular synth is both creative and high quality. The wavefolder module, for example, is designed to make simple waveforms more complex. ES is great at introducing musicians to concepts not found on the mainstream market. The sample and hold module is also a great addition. Here, the company knows how to create interest in a way which is both simple and educational.
The kit is also value for money. As you build it yourself, its quality is obvious, but Erica Synths have a history of creating well-designed synths which are value-for-money. The mki x es.EDU series lives up to this.
How Does the Learning Process Work?
On the Erica Synths website, the page for each module has a selection of videos. These are both introductory but also take you through some of the construction processes. They include official ones from Moritz Klein, as well as samples of users putting the synth together themselves.
The instruction manual for each module is available for download as a pdf. It does a pretty good job at approaching the topic, both for absolute beginners – and for those with prior experience.
The manual includes the absolute basics, such as an introduction to using a breadboard. Additionally, it breaks down the fundamental concepts that synth building requires. Even if you’re completely new, it’s approachable and breaks down what comprises a synth internally. Between this and the variety of resources out there, Moritz Klein and Erica Synths have left no stone unturned when it comes to making something which works for everyone.
Build Your Own Synth: mki x es.EDU Pros and Cons
Pro: Suits multiple styles of learning
Moritz Klein has been making accessible introductions to synthesis for a long while. In fact, they have posted plenty of videos online on this topic.
We all know how some musicians can perfectly read music and follow along. Others have to take the song apart and get into the details before they can learn it from scratch.
Luckily, the mki x es.EDU series caters to both. Its instruction manuals have good text-based explanations. Its handly flow diagrams make it useful for those who prefer to work visually, too. Additionally, the synth-building process itself really breaks things down if you prefer a hands-on way. And just to be on the safe side, there are plenty of video tutorials online.
Pro: Transferrable skills
One bonus of the synth-building project is it allows you to develop transferrable skills. By using it, you are understanding sound right down to the bare bones. This happens in a way which only comes from building a synth from scratch on a practical level. As a result, you gain the knowledge needed to work with sound more competently. This can extend to recording, mixing, mastering, and other music and sampling. Deeply understanding things like signal flow can make your production work smoother, too. Ultimately, the amount of extra skills you gain from the series is a real draw.
Potential Con: Investment if unsure
The only downside is that it is a big project. If you’re not sure whether it’s something you want to commit to, it’s probably better to start smaller. That said, it is also a unique birthday or Christmas gift. Its novelty factor is part of this. It’s also just really high quality – perfect for the synth lover in your life. so in many ways, rewards outweigh the risks.
Ultimately this is one of the most exciting synths out there on the market. There isn’t much out there like it. Synthesis – and especially modular synthesis, can be hard to break into. High in technical terms, it can be daunting for a beginner. The combined creativity of Erica Synths, with Moritz Klein’s prior experience introducing newcomers, makes a powerful combination. This is a rare hands-on experience which provides fundamental knowledge. As a result, it makes a huge difference in developing your skills
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