VCV Rack, the free and open-source host, has added a new illustrated manual for all its free modules. (Free docs, free host, free modules – got it?) It’s a great intro or refresher — those pictures illustrate a lot of concepts that can elude even advanced synthesists. That makes this worth a look whether you’ve got a hardware Eurorack rig or are just getting started in software.

I really love the free Rack modules. (These were originally called the “Fundamental” collection.) The Rack ecosystem is appealing partly because of its endless variety. But apart from the free modules being invaluable when you’re teaching or working with others, I find it’s often good to return to them even just to get back to basics and focus on your musical ideas.

We do really need these tools to make modular synthesis accessible since it means anyone with a computer can get started. (You might also check out my tutorial for free Reaktor Blocks.)

Everything is here. Confused about Sample & Hold versus Track & Hold? You know what helps? A picture. And if you don’t have a physical module to try this out on, you can boot up Rack on any Mac, Windows, or Linux system and try it there.

A friend the other night was just trying to follow “track & hold.” Here it is as a picture, in a module you can try out.

The full documentation:

VCV Free 2.5.0 includes some other enhancements, too:

  • Fade
    • Add -3 dB pan law to settings.
  • Quantizer
    • Add “Shift notes up/down” menu items.
  • CV Mix
    • When mixing mono and poly signals, apply mono signal to all poly channels.
    • Improve performance with SIMD.
  • VCA Mix
    • Add settings for exponential channel and mix VCAs.
  • Sequential Switch 1 to 4 & 4 to 1
    • Add de-click setting to context menu. Disable de-click by default.
    • When mixing mono and poly signals, apply mono signal to all poly channels.
  • SEQ 3
    • Generate step 1 pulse output when resetting from a different step.
  • ADSR
    • Redesign envelope display.

Rack is free with all of this functionality; a paid add-on adds the ability to run as a plug-in (or an additional paid purchase can host plug-ins).

There have been a lot of interesting new modules lately, too, which I hope to share with you soon.