Review: 4ms Pods

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Eurorack developer 4ms has made it easier than ever to get into modular synthesis. Housed in anodized aluminum, their Pod enclosures are lighter and shallower than other portable cases, and they are available in four sizes based on HP width — 20, 26, 32, and 60 — in powered ($99, $109, $119, $175, respectively) or unpowered ($55, $60, $65, $85) versions.

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Most Pod enclosures weigh under 8 ounces, with the powered versions adding an extra ounce (not including external power supply). Each Pod comes with stainless steel M3 screws and adhesive rubber feet for the bottom of the case.

The powered Pod 60 has four internal power headers whereas the other three models have only two. If you want to plug in additional modules, attach a multi-power cable ($6) to one of the headers. The internal headers are keyed to keep you from connecting modules incorrectly.

Powered Pods require a power brick (sold separately). They support any universal laptop supply with a 2.1mm positive tip that provides 15-20V, but I recommend the 4ms 45W Power Brick ($15), which gives you 3 Amps and automatically handles 100V-240V (50-60Hz) input — perfect for international travel. Moreover, the powered Pods have a secondary power jack for daisy-chaining other powered Pods from the same Power Brick using the company's 2.1mm barrel-connector cable (available in two lengths; $15 and $16). A light inside the case indicates that it is receiving power.

With the unpowered Pods, you can use the 4ms Row Power module ($119-$155) and a flying bus cable or distribution board to connect your modules. I have a Nono Rover 1.60 portable case that uses a Row Power system and it has worked flawlessly. Row Power modules can also be daisy chained using a barrel connector.

Even packed with modules, the Pods are remarkably light and fit easily into a carryon bag (though you'll need to improvise a case to protect any knobs and switches on the modules, themselves). Fully loaded, my Pod 60 weighed 2 lbs., providing the easiest Eurorack travel experience I've had to date.

An important aspect of using the Pods is finding modules that fit the 1.34" (34mm) depth of the case. Recent 4ms modules fit without issue, but many Eurorack modules have circuit boards that exceeded the depth. You must also take into consideration space for the power cable attached to each module: These ribbon cables need to fit between the module's boards and the bottom of the Pod. (As this went to press, 4ms announced the powered Pod40-X [$145] and Pod48-X [$155] which are 2" [51mm] deep.)

As I wanted to bring my 4ms Spectral Multiband Resonator on tour along with my Pod 60 setup, I bought a powered Pod 26 (4ms's SMR module is exactly 26HP). Then, I powered it from the Pod 60 using a barrel cable — very convenient.

In addition to being compact and travel-friendly, the 4ms Pods provide a low-cost way to get started in modular synthesis — especially the powered models. Overall, anyone interested in adding Eurorack to their tabletop setup should give the 4ms Pods a serious look.

Strengths

+ Lightweight
+ Well built
+ Inexpensive
+ DIY friendly

Limitations

– Shallow case does not support all Eurorack modules

$55-$175
4mscompany.com

Former EM editor Gino Robair has written two books on music technology, scored music for film and TV, and recorded with Tom Waits and Thurston Moore, among others