Types Of Modular Synthesizers

A modular synthesizer is a musical equipment which is available in both virtual and physical form. It is also referred to as a modular synth and its name is derived from the fact that it consists of different modules.

Modules differ depending on the process undertaken to make way for adjustment of signal parameters.

These include; amplifier (amplitude), oscillator, or spectrum. In this case, a different method other than hardwiring is used to link the modules together. The options available include;

  • Patch cords
  • Developing a patch by use of switches
  • Matrix patching

Available Modules

Modules come in two fundamental types which are; processors and sources.

Modules come in two fundamental types which are; processors and sources. These are regulated by voltages which can operate as timing or logic conditions, control voltages, or signals. Additionally, there are compound modules. These are individual modules which consist of various fundamental modules wired together inwardly. These include; the vocoder, envelope follower, and sequencer. Even though different modules have similar fundamental functions, chances are that they will vary when it comes to controls, outputs, and inputs. This however, depends on how intricate they are. For instance, the voltage control oscillator (VCO) comes with varying options such as the variable wave shape, exponential frequency modulation also known as linear, or sync. The voltage control filter (VCF) on the other hand, may contain bandwidth and resonance controls, while the envelope follower may implement outputs on different stages of the procedure. Producers adhered to various standards during the manufacture of physical synthesizers. For instance, they ensured that trigger or gate and 1V/oct are generally compatible.

Even then, individuals will need to use differently plugged cables to link synthesizers sourced from varying producers.

Many modular synthesizers come with the following basic modules:


Sources do not come with signal inputs. However, they contain both control inputs and an output as demonstrated below.

Noise Source

A noise source outputs irregular voltage and comes in different common types such as; low frequency, pink, and white noise.

Voltage Controlled Oscillator (VCO)

A VCO is an extended voltage source whose operation is to produce a signal which controls the frequency. It may contain basic waveforms such as the saw tooth, square, sine, triangle, and pulse waves. Individuals can however choose to change them using various controls which include; self-modulation, frequency, modulation, and sync.

Low Frequency Oscillator (LFO)

An LFO can come with or without voltage regulation. Its operations vary between few second to various minutes. It can be used for the purpose of regulating voltage for a different module. For instance, development of a vibrato and frequency modulation can be achieved from adjusting a VCO. On the other hand, development of a tremolo and amplitude modulation will result from adjusting a voltage controlled amplifier. This however is determined by the control frequency. A rectangular wave is usually used as a trigger, logic, or timing functions.

Envelope Generator (EG)

An EG is a temporary source of voltage. When a trigger is administered to an EG where a gate exists a shaped single voltage is formed. In many cases, this is designed as Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release (ADSR). It implements a temporary voltage that will ascend and descend. A keyboard or a different module within the system yielding an accelerated trigger where a gate exists may generate the ADSR.

The EG regulates the middle frequency of a voltage controlled frequency or the amplitude of a voltage controlled amplifier.

Additionally, the synthesizer comes with a patchable structure which eases modulation of different parameters which include the pulse width or frequency of the voltage controlled oscillator using the envelope generator. EGs come in different intricate types such as Delay, Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release (DADSR) with some of them being quite elementary.


They consist of both signal output and input. Chances are that they will have control inputs.

Voltage controlled filter (VCF)

A VCF constricts frequencies above, below, or both above or below a particular frequency. A VCF can be designed in a way that activates band reject. In this case both low and high frequencies stay put as the center frequencies are constricted. Many VCFs come with irregular resonance which is often voltage regulated.

Voltage Controlled Amplifier (VCA)

A VCA is a unity gain amplifier. It changes a signal’s amplitude as a result of an adapted control voltage. The adaptation may either be exponential or linear, an occurrence which is referred as two quarant multiplier.

Low Pass Gate (LPG)

In conclusion the LPG compound module functions like the VCF and VCA.

However, its circuit communicates with the control voltage via a Resistive opto isolator, and subsequently filters and amplifies the sound. This enables the formation of high frequency information.

About Us

Cyndustries is a web portal whose objective is to ensure that beginners can access as much information about modular synthesizers as possible. Today, the world is experiencing a comeback of the modular synthesizer, a musical instrument whose popularity began in the ancient days.

Modular Synthesizer Intro