As the TV car ads say – no money? No problem. VCV Rack can get you into some extraordinarily deep sound making for free. And thanks to a crowd funding effort, what’s available in the Audible Instruments range has expanded.
There’s a bunch of new stuff in the world of Rack for synth lovers. Here’s the latest round-up.
VCV Rack is a free, open source platform for Mac, Windows, and Linux that emulates a Eurorack modular setup, with support for free and paid modules. And it does some things physical hardware can’t do – well, unless you have magic powers that let you summon unlimited numbers of modules out of thin air and recall previous states in an instant. Thanks, software!
Module makers are regularly updating their stuff, so you’ll see a friendly red dot appear in the menu that tells you there’s new stuff to download. And there’s been lots of activity lately, especially from developers like Vult ( Leonardo Laguna Ruiz), Bogaudio, Impromptu, Count Modula, and others. (I recommend that batch right now, in fact – trust me.)
But two recent developments from VCV themselves merit mention.
A new Library
First, with all that healthy module ecosystem growth, recently the Library feature got a major refresh. Rack uses a browser-based system for finding and managing your module collection, called the Library. From the browser, you can find and install modules, purchase paid modules, and deselect modules you don’t want any more to declutter your collection. Log in to Rack on any OS, and your collection of modules is immediately available anywhere. (For instance, I regularly boot between an Ubuntu and Windows partition; modules automatically appear in both places. Install your Rack files on a connected drive like Dropbox, and your whole modular studio can live in the cloud.)
The old interface looked like a big spreadsheet, and was dull and a little challenging to navigate. The new interface is graphical, and lets you quickly look at just premium paid modules, or just free or open source modules, or jump to particular makers or tags.
Audible Instruments expanded
Audible Instruments is the set of modules based on the popular Mutable Insturments line of open source modular hardware. It’s not an official Mutable Instruments project (hence the name); it’s developed by VCV, but complies with Mutable’s open source GPLv3 license. It does show the power of open source tech, and may make you want some of Mutable’s hardware even more.
We got a one-two punch of Audible updates recently.
The big one is, Mutable Instruments Ripples got ported as Audible Instruments Liquid Filter, thanks to a crowd funding campaign. It’s a beautiful model of the filter, and as usual, you get a ton of features in a clear, minimal panel.
The port itself is also relevant – it’s developed by makers of wonderful hardware modules, whose work in turn is also available in Rack – https://www.alrightdevices.com
Mutable made this filter analog, so it’s worth checking the original module – a connection to the Shruthi synth lineage here.
Macro Oscillator 2 is now polyphonic. That’s huge news; this powerful oscillator really feels like a dozen or two modules in one space. There are eight pitched and eight percussive models, and a built-in low-pass gate in this single module. You can then make some extraordinary polyphonic patches using something like the excellent Sensel Morph MPE-compatible hardware – add a Buchla Thunder overlay and go to town.
and the original – https://mutable-instruments.net/modules/plaits/
Check the full Audible Instruments page:
Great modules to buy, too
Free stuff is great – especially because it allows Rack to be a tool for collaboration and teaching in a way other environments can’t. But developers need support. That’s why it’s encouraging that crowd funding enabled Liquid Filter, and why hopefully software modules with hardware equivalents (from Mutable Instruments to Befaco, Erica Synths and others) will encourage sales of the real gear.
I’ve been happy to buy software modules in Rack, partly because the instant gratification is great – and there’s some beautiful stuff to buy. I find I actually even enjoy purchasing this stuff – that combination of consumer satisfaction with musical inspiration with knowing you support the developers.
One way to support Rack itself is buying the proprietary modules developed by its creator, Andrew Belt. These modules appear under the VCV name. Must-have modules for me include Console, a performance-friendly mixer, and Router, a superb set of three routing modules:
There’s some interesting new stuff out now from third-party developers. I already want to check out Unfiltered Audio’s new frequency and amplitude splitters, for instance.
For anyone feeling conflicted about saving money on a Minimoog from a certain clone hardware maker, let me present the Mockba Modular Model V – because you can’t beat US$20 as a price.
I recently bought the beautiful Stellare Modular Creative Suite, which comes with some wild options for organic modulation and sequencing.
And what’s this? cf now has a sample-based drum machine conveniently mapped to a numeric keypad? Well, I’ll take one of those and, please, some kind of weird mechanical keyboard kit! (Hmm, someone in Germany must be shipping now.)
Oh, plus – I look forward to whatever this is, from Hora. Vector waveshaping? Yes!
Fiddling around with Rack I find endlessly inspiring. And there’s something grounding about having idiosyncratic, hardware-style modules as your building blocks – like having someone else’s personality staring back at you. Happy synth-ing to you! And let us know if there’s more we might cover in the world of Rack.