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Review: Softube Modular

October 13, 2016

It’s no secret that Eurorack synthesizers are very hot right now. Dozens of companies are springing up to make modules conforming to the Eurorack standard. Eurorack modules are generally smaller than modular synth components designed for other formats such as “5U” (Moog Unit and MOTM). They also tend to be (slightly) less expensive and more cutting edge.

Fig. 1. Just about every other kind of analog synth has been modeled in software, but virtual modular synths are a rare species. Despite perfectly straight patch cords, Softube’s Modular comes surprisingly close to the real thing.
Softube Modular—from a company known for making accurate emulations of rackmount studio processors and guitar amps—looks, functions, and sounds almost exactly like a massive Eurorack system. Softube began developing Modular in-house, collaborating with Eurorack originator Doepfer to reproduce that company’s existing modules in software.

Modular comes standard with 30 virtual modules, and you can simultaneously use as many of each as you need. Six are replicas of real modules from Doepfer, and three optional modules are replicas of real modules from Intellijel. Because Modular is expandable and Softube plans to release more modules (some of them free), you’ll be able to add new capabilities as they become available. For this review, I used all the included modules and all the Modular add-ons currently available: three Intellijel modules and Softube’s virtual modular drum machine, Heartbeat.

Because Modular encompasses so many modules and functions, the user manual has a lot of ground to cover. Clicking on Modular’s Open Manual button opens a PDF that covers dozens of Softube products. The sections pertaining to Modular could be more detailed, though, and you should download PDF manuals for the original modules whenever possible.

RACK ’EM HIGH

Modular’s greatest advantage over hardware is that you can save, recall, and edit entire configurations of modules, connections, and settings. It comes with almost 200 factory patches encompassing many different combinations. Although the process of rearranging modules is unnecessarily awkward, Softube says it is working on improvements.

Opening Modular displays an onscreen Eurorack case containing four empty bays, one atop the other. Between the top two bays are two main outputs with a volume knob and level meters; three buttons for adding, deleting, moving, and editing modules; four pairs of assignable aux outputs; and four buttons for sending control voltages from the aux outputs to real Eurorack hardware via any audio interface that can handle DC output.

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