best case scenario

Last night my spouse finished pyrography on the new case, and I spent about 4 hours getting everything (except the FX pedals) installed, wired up and tested.

The art takes some inspiration from a diagram of black hole evaporation, and some clipart and tattoo designs. But it also has more of a feeling of fantasy and whimsy and magic, and I like this combination a lot. 🙂 I’m really pleased at how this turned out and it was definitely worth waiting a couple of extra weeks for.

I’m still waffling on the tattoo thing though.

Outlining the changes from version 1.1 to 2.0:

  • ER-301 replaced Tyme Sefari/A Sound of Thunder, Chronoblob, Hertz Donut mk2, Warps, Cinnamon, Dynamo, Crossfold, and the Geiger Counter pedal. (Plus it does more things that those never could, and continues to gain new abilities…)
  • Maths replaced Function, Mini Slew, 321, and Pico A Logic.
  • QPAS replaced Twinpeak.
  • Sputnik 5-Step Voltage Source and Selector replace Mimetic Digitalis.
  • I let go of Maze, Double Helix, G8 and the Monobius pedal.
  • I added the 16n Faderbank, Volca Modular, Doepfer BBD and Erbe-Verb.
  • Incoming: Xaoc Tallin is replacing ModDemix and DTA.
  • Incoming: ADDAC200PI Pedal Integrator is replacing S.B.G.

Overall that’s 21 modules and two pedals out, 9 modules and an awesome controller and a tiny standalone synth in. I feel like I expanded the system, but it’s smaller, less expensive, arranged better, and still has a little space to grow later on if I’m careful about power requirements.

I’ve got the power

My esteemed spouse put in a noble effort toward the pyrography on my new case this weekend. There are still some hours more of work in it (lots of stippling!), and things like rheumatoid arthritis pain, Captain Marvel, and a bit more complexity in the task than expected have slowed the process.

In the interim I’ve done some thinking about the specifications for the power supplies in the case, vs. the listed consumption. Sparing you my limited-understanding description of Eurorack power supplies, my modules need close to 100% of capacity on the -12V rail and that’s not a good thing. Meanwhile the case can supply a ton more +5V current than it needs to, but apparently converting from +5 to -12 isn’t an easy matter. I may pop some USB power sockets into my case to grab some of that sweet +5V.

My solution was going to be: try it, but keep my old add-on PSU (which I’d really prefer to sell) to run a couple of the hungrier modules if necessary.

Instead, I started looking at which modules are hungriest for that rare and exotic -12V:

  • QPAS stands out as the most gluttonous by far (and rumor has it the listed specs are even a little lower than what it actually demands), but I like it and would prefer to hold on to it.
  • Natural Gate is absolutely going to stay in this system no matter what, I don’t care how much power it might need.
  • Crossfold is up there… oh hey, I have the ER-301 which can do wavefolding. My first attempt sounded good-ish but not good enough. My second attempt though — after reading some research on the subject — was much better and I feel confident in letting this go.
  • Sputnik 5-Step is also pretty hungry — but I think I will hold onto it.
  • Maths, the BBD, and the E370 are all significant, but fair compared to what they do for me.
  • ModDemix needs a good bit of -12V, but I don’t tend to use it very much and can now easily duplicate what it does in the ER-301. DTA has unknown power specs, probably fairly mild but I don’t know for sure. I can replace both with a Xaoc Tallin, which has some nifty features and sweet overdrive should I want that, for modest power, space and cost savings.
  • ALM S.B.G, the FX pedal interface, isn’t one of my favorites and also is a little greedier than options I like better. The ADDAC200PI seems ideal (and at 1/3 the power) but everyone is sold out — I wrote to the maker to see if it’s available at all. The Retro Mechanical Labs GPI seems an okay backup option.

I also have a Make Noise Erbe-Verb arriving today. Broadly, it does for reverb what the Doepfer BBD does for delay — an experimental, open, slightly crazy thing. Normally reverb goes at the end to put a sound into a contextual space; this one can do that but can also generate sound itself, and/or be modulated in all sorts of alarming and dramatic ways. People are still discovering and sharing completely new uses for it and there’s even an entire EP made with nothing but Erbe-Verb, and I find that pretty exciting.

Aside from maybe switching my Tides for a Xaoc Zadar and keeping an ear out for what u-he CVilization will have to offer, that’s the end of my planned gear changes. But I plan to attend KnobCon in September, which might lead to something.

I also plan to upgrade my computer this year. It’s an 8 year old machine where literally everything but the motherboard, CPU and case have been replaced at least once; the case is not my favorite and the CPU is a first-generation Core i7. Moore’s Law died a few years back, but still a budget AMD Ryzen could eat it for breakfast. I’m just waiting on the third generation of Ryzen chips, rumored to be 15% faster, with more cores and less power consumption and coming in June, to make that change. Intel still leads them just a little on single-core performance, but costs about twice as much for the privilege. Whether I’ll go prebuilt, choose my own pieces using PC Part Picker, or somewhere in between with a barebones or customized gamer setup, I’m not sure.

echolalia

I figured out what to do with those pesky pedals. Simply using a wire tie to strap a couple of composite shims to the back will let them sit vertically atop the modular case and prevent them from tipping over — assuming I push the back of the case up against the wall. We’ll see.

Pyrography on the case isn’t underway quite yet, but there’s a heat transfer from a laser printer on it. I kind of like the looks of it as is, but there are sections not filled in (to conserve ink) and some guide lines that came through dark and muddy. So I’m willing to wait a bit more for actual pyrography.

Those small speakers are not wonderful. They’re cheap and small and unobtrusive, but even for gaming I definitely hear the difference. Still, I’ll get used to it, and it’s not like the acoustic setup really did justice to the studio monitors I had.

I haven’t yet mentioned the Doepfer BBD I picked up, for a price I found too hard to resist. This is a “Bucket Brigade Device” — the precursor to a digital delay, which works by passing signals like a hot potato along a chain of capacitors. It’s obsolete technology. So are vacuum tubes, but that doesn’t stop a lot of guitarists from preferring their character…

The length of delay in a BBD is determined by the number of stages (which is fixed on the chip) and the clock rate. Slower clock rates result in two or three kinds of signal degradation as well as an audible whine. For that reason, most BBD delays have heavy low-pass filtering and restricted clock rates, and only give “dark” echoes. For some musicians, just throwing an LPF onto a digital delay is a close enough approximation to get that kind of sound.

But Doepfer’s BBD is special. To encourage experimentation, it eschews the filters and clock rate restrictions, and opens up the circuit to manipulate or synchronize to it. 1024 stages is ideal for flanging, and short enough to work for comb filtering and Karplus-Strong synthesis, but for actual echoes it needs a slow clock which adds a lot of dirt and whine. But there are software plugins that can surgically remove the whine while leaving the more interesting grunge, and without making the whole echo super-dark. Or I can insert a clean delay into the BBD’s feedback loop, extending the echo time while having full control over the sound character. Direct manipulation of the clock, and using the clock itself as an audio source, leads to all kinds of other places that you just can’t get outside of modular synthesis in general and this circuit design in particular.

every day I’m shufflin’

I decided it would make some sense to do some of my studio rearranging in advance of having the case ready: the scary part where I move the power and audio interface out of the desktop rack and into their 2U studio box, and hope I don’t break or lose anything, all the cables still reach, and everything works.

…et voila. There’s no longer any “ceiling” to the desktop rack preventing stuff from falling in, and things are a little awkward for the moment. But aside from leaving the pedals disconnected for now, it’s all up and running. The Mantis is back on the desk instead of perched on the shelf, for the few more days until everything moves into the MDLRCASE.

There’s not quite enough space in front of the 2U box for the Microbrute, though if I invested in some right-angle cables for its rear it’d be close-ish. So I think in the new configuration it’ll just stay atop that new box. That way there’s a couple square feet of space in front of the 2U box to use as an actual desk, or for small controllers etc.

My hope is to put the new Eurorack case on the right side. The shelf I’ve got there now is a little too short to work with it, so that’s either getting swapped to the left — mounted on the back, jutting out toward my head — or getting repurposed elsewhere.

The pedals are still a question. I had hoped to put them atop the Euro case, but it’s about 2.75″ front-to-back up there and that’s not a lot. Perhaps I can rig up a slightly deeper shelf with rubber feet to sit atop that, for the pedals to perch on — but I worry if they’re not secure they could come crashing down on top of my modular. So maybe they’re going to the left side.

To make a little more clearance for the Euro case I’ve got a smaller pair of computer speakers on the way — I always use headphones for music production anyway, so they’re really just for games and movies. And now I just realized I forgot to get the adapter cable I’ll need for the audio interface.

sound computer

So the ER-301 is pretty brilliant. It arrived Thursday, ahead of the estimated arrival, and I’ve spent several hours learning to navigate it, building up a few custom units (such as a complex oscillator and a wavefolder), experimenting with its delays and loopers and feedback and so on.

It’s essentially a software modular system (where the modules are “units” which form “chains”) inside of a hardware modular system. With four audio outputs and 20 audio or CV inputs, as well as accepting up to 100 simultaneous control values and triggers from the Monome Teletype over an i2c connection behind the panel, it has plenty of ability to integrate with everything else.

It’ll happily do some things I can’t achieve otherwise. It’ll do other things more simply, or with much greater flexibility and control, than equivalent modules, or in parallel with them. There are some things it can do but with less hands-on-instrument-feel than equivalent modules — some of which will be improved by the Faderbank (likely arriving today or tomorrow), and some are probably best left to other modules.

It does have some limitations:

  • It’s got a learning curve — several of them, in fact — and documentation is incomplete and sketchy. There are some excellent tutorial videos, a helpful forum, and a somewhat helpful wiki, but the purpose and applications of some of units are still kind of a mystery. I would never recommend this module to anyone inexperienced in modular synthesis, nor anyone without a really solid handle on theory, or who is even a little bit uncomfortable with computers.
  • It’s not good at reverb. It has a Freeverb unit, which honestly sounds pretty bad for most usage. It also has an Exact Convolution unit which has a high CPU load, a practical limit of about half a second, and no controls. Theoretically I could build a reverb from the existing units, but that’s expert-level DSP, and trying to work out a feedback delay network (FDN) from trial and effort is probably not a good use for my effort when I can use excellent pedals or software plugins. (For more experimental reverb within the modular context, I plan to pick up a Make Noise Erbe-Verb later on.)
  • While I know I need to explore its sample slicing capabilities a bit more, it really doesn’t seem as easy as Maschine’s or as precise as Sound Forge. But it’s adequate to certain uses for the feature, and for everything else, I can transfer to the computer via SD card.
  • One of the most fundamental utility units, the Mixer Channel, really could use a variant that just takes an input from leftward on the chain instead of an assigned input. I should be able to build that myself if I learn just a little Lua.

Overall, it’s incredible. I went ahead and put my Hertz Donut and Chronoblob up for sale, confident in their replacement. I’ll keep the Kermit at least for now, because I’ve been unable to identify what makes its character with complete confidence, and my attempts to replicate it have been… interesting and useful but not close. Kind of like the story of Post-It Notes being invented by a chemist trying for a strong adhesive.

Last weekend I also sold the last of the previous batch of modules, and ordered the Volca Modular — the wee, mad, fierce, Nac Mac Feegle of synthesizers. I’ll wait to sell more stuff before grabbing the Erbe-Verb or anything else, keeping up with my goal of offsetting gear purchases with sales.

it came to other people in a dream

A few days ago my spouse mentioned a dream with Michelle Obama in it. Apparently dreams featuring the Obamas dispensing wisdom are not an uncommon thing:

had a dream obama and the guy who plays air guitar at the mall were about to fight and obama said “ violence for violence is the rule of beasts “ and i woke up because that was the rawest shit i ever heard

http://kumagawa.tumblr.com/post/149460046939/had-a-dream-obama-and-the-guy-who-plays-air-guitar

There are t-shirts and podcast episode titles and a database of Obama dreams. So, why not an album of electronic music? Yep, I’m tentatively calling the next album and the last track on it The Rule of Beasts.

The last track stands out from the others in style (but is probably not “the rawest shit you eve heard”). I was trying out the Sputnik Five-Step Voltage Source I’d just received, driven rhythmically by Teletype and modulating Plaits’ various parameters. I recorded it but figured it was destined to be dumped on SoundCloud as too different from my ambient drone style. But a couple of ideas struck me right before publishing it, and it went back into SoundForge for a few more rounds of editing. The result works, I think, but I’ll wait to confirm that in a different listening environment first.

I’ve got 70 minutes of material now, but a couple of songs need final decisions about inclusion. For comparison, January 2018’s Nereus was a couple of minutes shorter and I’d rejected about 20 minutes of other recorded material.

I’d previously thought about calling this one Super Blood Wolf Moon, but that already feels like a dated and irrelevant reference already. It’s the title of one of the other songs though, if I don’t change it. The album art also was originally one of my dad’s photos of that event, but because the resolution was too low for DistroKid’s requirements, I started processing it… and now it’s a metallic tunnel/vortex thing. My approach to photo editing software sometimes resembles my approach to music making.

Science!

That Sputnik module is a bit quirky. The pulses coming from the top row when a step changes are ridiculously short and don’t reliably trigger every module. It works fine with Tides and Teletype though, and if the ER-301 is fine with it I won’t sweat it. Otherwise I’ve been able to massage the signal a little bit with tanh[3] to keep it over common trigger thresholds long enough to work.

I made a couple of wrong assumptions about controls in the Stage Select section, so it’s slightly less like the Buchla Music Easel sequencer than I thought — but cool in a different way. The Address input is exactly as expected and is easy to control via Teletype. Overall it’s a fun, hands-on multi-channel sequencer. Between it and the faderbank for the Teletype and the SQ-1, and good old MIDI, I believe that should settle the sequencing question.

I’ve got a tentative layout worked out for the new case. I took those guiding principles I came up with in the previous post, used the bubbl.us mind mapping tool to associate modules into groups, considered the impossible ideal of having all my modulation sources equidistant from any given destination, thought about geometry and pre-modern naval tactics and put together a compromise.

There’s a logic to each module’s placement, even if the logic was something a bit weak like “it was the right size to fit in an awkward gap” or “this keeps all the black-panel modules together.” Actual usage will tell me whether I want to shift things around, but I think this is a setup I can live with; I know the modulators are generally on the right edge, VCAs/LPGs clustered together, sequencing all at the bottom and so on.

remod(ular)eling

I decided on the MDLRCASE 12U at 456 total HP. In the 370HP range I was aiming for, cases tend to be shorter but too wide, or I’d need two cases and would have an awkward time integrating everything else — and it would have been pricier, required some awkward DIY at almost the same price, or perhaps a custom job from one of the makers that don’t answer their email… anyway, this one should suit me well. And my spouse has offered to do some pyrography on it, which seems a lot cooler than slapping synth brand stickers all over it.

When I started to experiment with modular sequencing, what I really wanted was a Sputnik Five-Step Voltage Source — but the company had shuttered and they were only available used. I tried to make do with other modules, such as Pressure Points and Mimetic Digitalis, but they weren’t quite what I wanted. I found someone selling their 5-Step plus the Selector companion module for half what I expected, so I went for it — it’s not small but I’ll have the space.

Aside from a couple of minor VCA and pedal interface substitutions I’ll do in trades if possible, and some re-knobbing and possible necessary cables — I plan to spend no more money until my “2019 Gear Spending Tracker” balance is back into the black through selling old gear.

Not that it matters much next to tomorrow afternoon’s pharmacy copay for 30 days of meds — I guess it’s important that I maintain my serfdom to America’s insurance billionaires. I hope we get our Medicare For All next year, so I can dance on the graves of Anthem and Express Scripts before they dance on mine.

Anyway, now it’s time to figure out how I’m going to arrange modules in the new case. Even this is something of an art, much discussed on modular forums, with several schools of thought behind it. (Surprise, nerds make everything nerdier!) You can group aesthetically, ergonomically, by signal flow, by function, at random, etc. There are some practical constraints, such as cases where some sections don’t accommodate deeper modules, or narrow modules with tiny knobs that need a little finger room on their sides — or simply finding places to fit modules of different widths.

Even if you pick something like signal flow as your priority, there are different methods. East Coast subtractive synthesis typically proceeds left to right from VCO to VCF to VCA — often with an envelope generator standing in for “VCA” on the panels of fixed-architecture synths, and any LFOs and secondary envelopes in a row below that. Buchla designs — more modular, but with a sharp distinction between control signals and audio signals — proceed from control to sound source to output, which reflects something of an acoustic mindset. But Eurorack modular synths require a little arbitrary shoehorning if you’re going to do this; many of even the simplest modules can fit in multiple categories.

The guiding principles for my layout are:

  • I have 20cm jumpers for my i2c connections since they’re supposed to be kept short — so Teletype, TXb, and ER-301 will be neighbors. According to some, I might have some leeway in placing the 16n Faderbank, though.
  • Modules with “permanent” exterior connections — I/O patchbay(s), pedal interfaces, TXb — should be kept to corners or edges so their cables can be routed out of the way.
  • Try to discourage proximity-based “cliques” among modules — a reason I wanted to merge back to one case in the first place. Since I don’t want to frequently randomize, I think this implies a functional grouping. The impossible ideal is that all modulators are equidistant from any given destination.
  • Try not to have scattered gaps throughout the case (which can complicate rearranging and require more small blank panels).
  • Try to keep like panel colors and brands together, but that’s secondary to all other concerns.

NAMM jam

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) has a big yearly trade show this time of year. Not every player in the synthesizer end of the instrument business attends — the thing has a reputation of being dominated by guitars, with a smattering of other traditional Western instruments, and it’s huge and loud and expensive, maybe not the best venue to show off more complex instruments or communicate their subtleties. There are more synth-friendly events throughout the year that are closer-knit and make more sense.

But for those who don’t go — like Moog Music or Make Noise — it’s still pretty common to announce and/or release new products at around this time. So the blogs and forums are a flurry of activity and it’s hard even for fans to keep up with all the videos, writeups, and discussion.

The one “YES I MUST HAVE THAT” item for me is Make Noise QPAS, Quad Peak Animation System — a fancy filter that I’ve decided will replace my Twinpeak and also, why not, my Cinnamon because I basically never use two filters in a recording and I’m going to have the ER-301 to do virtual filters anyway. There were intriguing teasers on social media that we speculated on, and then a short video demo, and then a livestreamed demonstration and talk by the designer Tony Rolando (who, through a combination of astute interviews and cool gear inventions, has sort of become one of my synth heroes*). So that’s pre-ordered.

Another likely one was announced a little early: the Korg Volca Modular, a miniscule but genuinely semi-modular, West Coast style synth that is either going to confuse a lot of people or win a lot of converts to the Way of Buchla (possibly both). Its existence makes me confident I can let go of my Double Helix with little pain.

A few other bits of gear have sparked brief passing interest and mild curiosity. A couple of them, I’m skeptical of and need audio and video demos to prove themselves to me. A couple of them seem very nice but not something I particularly need (the Moog Sirin “analog messenger of joy” for instance).

And then there’s the Arturia MicroFreak. Nearly everything about it makes me sad and screams “out of touch marketing” louder than any sound the instrument can make. The name is bad, the ad copy is bad, the video is painful; the graphic design is bad, the sound is… either kind of bland or the demos are extremely bland. What makes it notable, other than its weird looks and (kind of cool) touchplate keyboard, is the claim that they “collaborated” with Mutable Instruments.

According to Émilie (who is Mutable Instruments): they used some of her (open-source) code from the Plaits module, with both implicit and explicit permission. They invited her to one awkward “focus group”-like meeting after the instrument design was already finished, but she never had the chance to even playtest it, nor even see a photo of it until a week ago. But they slapped her logo and company name on the website and claimed it was a collaboration, and now people think the thing has her endorsement and participation.

UPDATE: Arturia apologized and changed their website. Instead of claiming collaboration it’s now “we’ve also integrated the open-source Plaits oscillator developed by Eurorack legends Mutable Instruments.” Much less misleading.

Also, as more demos come in, the sound might have more promise than it initially seemed. I may keep an eye on it because the keyboard controller frankly intrigues me.

Until Émilie posted a call outlining it in more detail and asking people not to be an angry mob, there was a bit of fan backlash. During that interval I contemplated alternatives to my Microbrute. Something very compact that offers MIDI control, immediate playability and tweakability and good sound — there aren’t too many options within the physical dimensions available really.

There’s a particular range of technique and sound I really love about the Microbrute — the interaction of its triangle oscillator output and its saturation and filter feedback — but if I can replicate that with other gear I have or which is easily available, I could let it go. Now that things are calmer, I’m thinking about that in terms of opportunity rather than boycott. If I can make those sounds with some combination of my modular and software, I could have more control over the subtleties. If I could use a more compact and/or alternative controller, that’s a plus too. But I don’t have to choose that just because of some bonehead marketing committee at Arturia.

Anyway: with the first day of the show over, so is most of the internet excitement. Now the focus is on waiting for clarification and demos of specific interesting gear, and mostly just getting on with our lives.

As I’d planned, I’ve been keeping track of money spent and recovered from gear sales — and also projecting ahead on planned purchases and sales. I’m currently a little in the red thanks to that pre-order, but overall, this plan has me unspending money. I am getting to be on a first name basis with Kevin at the local post office, who now knows I trade “studio equipment.” I may run out of boxes to ship things in, but I’ll get back to the idea of a relatively lean-and-mean but powerful synth setup like I’d planned in 2017, but which ran ahead of me for a bit.

(*) I could rant about “heroes” but I’ll keep it brief: I don’t really have “heroes” but people I admire for particular specific qualities while fervently hoping they’re not an animal abuser, bigot, rapist, supporter of vile causes, or a willing or unwitting pawn in a Russian intelligence operation. You know what a “real hero” is? A meta-concept from fiction and mythology. But in terms of people I have that cautious admiration for: a handful each of instrument designers, musicians, writers, artists and activists.

vision thing

In dealing with some health insurance garbage — the intentionally and increasingly obtuse system we have to deal with for getting refunds from our employer for a portion of the horribly large deductibles we have been stuck with for the past couple of years — I found some interesting messages in my account:

So is that… visions, as in premonitions of the future? Grand insights, perhaps? Because there’s got to be an upside to this thing…

Also, I was checked for eye in December. The optometrist confirmed that I have eye.

Not very good ones, but they still count.

I figure for all the stupid forms I have to fill out, get rejected, re-submit, appeal and finally get approved, there are four people getting paid a pittance to do the bullshit job of rejecting and/or approving them (who also are submitting their own claims and having them rejected by someone else), a manager to tell them they’re not rejecting enough, investors telling them all they need to be more profitable this quarter, a consultant paid by my employer telling them once in a while that they have to not reject claims so much, and time wasted by my employer’s accountant and president dealing with the consultant and getting their own forms rejected. Medicare For All now, please.

Anyway, I figured out a pretty good option for synth 2.0: synthracks.com makes many different custom cases; and a particular unpowered portable one that will be perfect. The power supply and busboards I put in the rack will be more than adequate. With some luck and perhaps a cheap studio rack box I may even fit all of my synth gear (except the Maschine) on one side of the desk; if not I can still get most of it together and just have the Microbrute on the other side perhaps.

Of course if I had better woodworking skills I could build my own case, but… I’ve seen the stuff I’ve cobbled together. It’s not pretty, or sturdy, or the right size, or lined up correctly, or attached properly or… yeah. The wood semi-frame I built for the back of my rack is attached with wire ties because I split the wood twice trying to put it together. So I’m leaving this to a pro.

save the queen, ditch the rest

Today I put some detailed thought into the 2.0 version of my synth setup. Given the minimal number of voices I typically use in each of my recordings, I really have too many VCOs right now.

The “trouble” started with the SynthTech E370 beta test. It was too large and too overkill-ish for my needs, where I formerly had the smaller E352 — but given the opportunity to test one and keep it gratis, I was not going to say no! So that was when I expanded to a second case and kept a bevy of other oscillators alongside it cover the areas where it wasn’t as strong.

Long story short, I worked it out today and found if I keep the E370, I can let go of most of my other VCOs — to be replaced by the ER-301, the tiny new Volca Modular, and a couple of my favorite software plugins. I’d keep Tides for modulation duties (the ER-301’s outputs are audio only) and provisionally keep Plaits to see if it thrives in a less choked pond. But with other consolidation, I am looking at reducing my Eurorack space from the current 460HP down to about 360HP.

There are a few ways this could go…

  1. Keep current Mantis and rack, just leave empty space in the rack. (Boring, but easy and cheap — and where I will start unless a surprise opportunity comes up.)
  2. Sell my Mantis, and buy a bigger case to unify things. (Big cases tend to be more expensive, but well within what I recover from selling the modules. It may not be as satisfying as other options though.)
  3. Sell my Mantis, and DIY a bigger rack or case with a second or bigger power supply. (Cheaper than 2, but once I work out issues with power, power distribution, rails etc. it’s probably not as cheap as I first thought. And it’s probably a bad idea in general.)
  4. Get a second Mantis. Bracket them together for a taller, unified setup. (These cases are a great value and easy to find used.)
  5. Keep the Mantis, but replace the rack with a Rackbrute 6U. That’s a row shorter than my rack, and optioanlly mounts onto a Minibrute 2 or 2S, which could replace my Microbrute. All of that for about the same cost of getting one big case, and it’s professional and portable. But in retrospect, I don’t actually feel like I want to upgrade the Microbrute that much…

Anyway, one step at a time: get ER-301. Learn it. Build up replacements via custom units and sampling. Sell unneeded stuff. Then figure out the case thing. Make music the whole time I’m doing it.