Submodular Synthesizer

I really like the Eurorack format, but I feel that something is missing for makers who are not too enclined to use a soldering iron for developing custom modules. On one hand, you have a vast collection of pre-built modules. On the other, prototyping platforms like the Arduino-powered ADDAC210. And nothing in between.

The latter is great, but it is relatively expensive, and it takes quite a bit of space on a rack (36HP). Most importantly, because it exposes your custom circuit to the outside, it is not something that you might want to use during a live session.

My idea is to create a submodular architecture made of reconfigurable building blocks. These modules would essentially focus on the outside controls and would have no built-in electronics. Instead, they would have a standard dock on which you could put any Arduino core and shields. It would also have a small breadboard to which you could add any component. All the connectivity between the faceplate’s controls and the internal Arduino core and breadboard-supported components would be done from the inside of the Eurorack module.

These modules would really focus on providing the following:

  • Switches
  • Linear potentiometers
  • Logarithmic potentiometers
  • Advanced controls (eg. joystick, touchpad, etc.)
  • Displays
  • 5V Inputs
  • 5V Outputs
  • Midi interface
  • USB interface

Doing so, we would essentially separate the mecanical components of a module from its electronics counterparts, making it a lot more modular. As a result, expensive components like displays or Arduino cores could be reused across multiple projects over time.

Also, while some modules could come fully loaded with a given set of controls, others could have a blank faceplate that could be customized by a maker by using nothing more than a drill press. This would allow a larger community of makers who are more mecanically-oriented to create custom modules with all kinds of switches, knobs, and connectors, while integrating fairly standard electronics building blocks.

Time to get a drill press…


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