Audio input to semi modular synths?!

Morning all. Hope you’re all enjoying lockdown as much as possible.

I’m considering buying a semi-modular synth like the Dreadbox Erebus V3 or Nyx V2 and I’m trying to work out if I can send the output of my M:S (for example) into the input of these synths. The manual for Erebus shows amp and filter input jacks and I’m wondering if I can stick the M:S into there so I can mix the 2 together and not need to get any form of external mixer.

I’ve probably totally missed the point but I’m not savvy with modular so I thought I’d ask. I don’t have space for loads of gear and I’m trying to work out what desktop synth (drone friendly) I could get to combine with the M:S in the easiest possible way.

Also considering a Lyra-8 as that has an audio input to the crazy delay/distortion. That’s got a 1/4 inch audio jack though, I’m not clear on the difference with modular jacks and levels.

I wouldn’t use a semi-modular as an alternative to a mixer - I don’t know how exactly the Dreadbox stuff works, but it’s rare that the audio input in a synth will pass clean signal straight through to the output. It’ll be gated and coloured by the filter, VCA, envelopes, etc - not necessarily a bad thing, but it definitely won’t allow for full articulation of a synth sound AND a drum pattern. It may not be an issue if you’re just using it for drones, but it’s something to keep in mind. Something like a small Mackie mixer is a minimal investment that adds more creative possibilities than you might think, and it’ll save you a lot of headaches in the end!

There’s also a big difference between modular levels (ie. what the filter input expects to get from a VCO) and line levels (ie. what your Model:Samples puts out) - if you’re buying a synth for the purpose of external processing you’ll want to make sure that it has an input that takes line level. For example, an MS-20 is an ideal semi-modular for this purpose as it has an external signal processing section with a preamp that boosts inputs up to the expected levels and extracts pitch and gate information that you can use to trigger the synth section. I run drums through mine all the time.

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I wouldn’t recommend this and confirm what @estragon mentioned. Even a small external mixer, maybe with two or 4 inputs would be better. Typically the external inputs of a synth are supposed to shape the incoming audio in a creative way using the filter and other facilities of the synth.

If you mix synth and audio the way you suggested, which is possible indeed, the external sound will go through the VCF, the VCA and if the synth is used as sound source as well, all modulations of VCF and VCA apply to the external signal as well. If that’s what you want, do it. But if you want to have two signals “mixed” and “balanced” use an external device.

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Thanks @estragon and @SoundRider that’s helpful. I think I knew I was barking up the wrong tree. I’ve had a quick look and even a Volca mix is less than £100 so it needn’t be expensive or large and I can even integrate an FX send at some point if I wanted to.

I think I’m just being greedy because I want a synth to do drones but also experiment with MIDI sequencing from my M:S and perhaps that’s not all in one perfect box, although the Dreadbox synths looks pretty flexible and immediate. I suppose if I use one channel of M:S for MIDI control of a synth, 5 for sampled drums and then mix the 2 with a tiny mixer then that’s pretty straightforward.

It might not be of any help, if I mention that what you suggested can be done very well with an Octatrack. The OT can take 4 individual audio inputs and gives us a real mixer option to mix this with other tracks running inside the OT.

If I read my manual correctly, the EXT In of the Lyra-8 is “line-in” and NOT “modular-level”.

Go for a used Mackie 802 over a Volca if you can - they’re foolproof, impossible to break and are super cheap used. The FX sends and hardware EQ will open things up quite a bit in any setup too.

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