An interesting approach to modular synthesis

I was planning on continuing our exploration of transfer learning and our old friend VGG16, but this was just too interesting not to pass up.  Keep in mind that i'm probably more excited about the general concept we're going to discuss, as opposed to being blown over by the actual system presented.

So, there's an interesting article out today on the 3dPdModular modular synthesizer.  It's a euro-rack like modular synth, complete with different modules that plug into a chassis and patch cords to hook things up.  But inside it's all digital. And it's all based on running Pure Data (Pd) on a Raspberry Pi.

At this point some of you might be shouting, but the entire point of a euro rack modular synthesizer is to utilize all of those wonderful analog modules and their mythical unique analog sounds.  Yeah sure.

But as we have mentioned here before, the climate on Maui is not really amenable to fine precision analog hardware, as it instantly begins to rust and corrode in the climate here while ants make a nest in it.  So more environmentally suitable options are of great interest to anyone who lives here (or in other humid and warm places). We discussed complete software emulations of a euro rack analog system here before.

What makes this particular system so interesting is that it still keeps the whole 'hands on physical knobs and patch cords' thing going while running everything inside on cheap hardware and an open source modular audio synthesis framework.

Let us also not forget another recent post here on how you can add inexpensive plug in cards to Raspberry Pi systems to add deep learning neural net co-processing to an inexpensive Raspberry Pi system.  So when you factor possibilities for in-expensive neural net co-processing with a Euro Rack manipulation environment, it could potentially be amazing.  You could build additional Rack Modules that implemented all kinds of different neural net audio synthesis or processing algorithms.  It's a landscape waiting to be explored.

Now this particular system is in kickstarter mode.  And it is not for the 'low of cash' musician.  But then that's always been true for anything EuroRack.  Except the total software emulation we discussed here previously, which is very affordable (as in free).

One odd thing about the 3dPdModular system (in my opinion) is how they are selling individual variably priced modules like there is something significant inside of them rather then just a set of user controls that the internal software running on the Raspberry Pi talks to. So i guess maybe you get the extra software module for the physical Rack Module you are purchasing as well?

All of the patching is done by digital signals. The modules are basically controllers.  It seems like there is also a Teensy controller in individual modules with a display.  And i guess an additional Teensy for the main Raspberry Pi.

If you want to build your own custom modules, it looks like you need to use one of their 'generic' rack modules and make it work with that.

I think an interesting alternative to this would be a cheaper and more generic user interact-able control surface sitting on top of the internal Raspberry Pi and it's associated software.  And you would definitely want to build the system from the ground up to fully support neural net co-processors.  That was the thing that really stood out for me as something of significant interest when i heard how the whole system was just running on a Raspberry Pi processor.


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