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I'm new to modular, which modules should I start with?

A lot of fun can be had with a small core of three or four modules. There is no reason to start with more than four - start small and let your frustration decide your next purchase, one new module at a time. Some suggestions:

  • Digital/analog hybrid synthesis: Plaits+Ripples
  • Advanced waveshaping: Tides+Warps+Tides
  • Physical pleasures: Ears+Rings
  • Generative ambient: Marbles+Plaits (or Rings)+Beads

And add to that a powerful modulation source: Stages!

Do you sell pre-configured systems?

Mutable Instruments does not have the ambition of making every possible kind of module - we focus on the things we have fun building! This is why you will not find essentials like analog VCOs or step sequencers in our line of modules. We feel that a system made of only Mutable Instruments modules would be incomplete, and encourage you to mix and match with other brands - we will not feel hurt if there is a Rampage or STO or Teletype in your rack.

Can I purchase directly from you?

Mutable Instruments’ products are only available through these dealers.

The module I am interested in is out of stock at my favorite dealer. Is it discontinued? When will it be back?

Unless the module is listed as discontinued on this site, don’t worry, it is still in production! We suggest you directly contact the dealer from where you intend to buy the module. It might remind them that they need to order it from us, and they might be able to add you to their waiting list!

Do you repair DIY modules?

No, we only repair modules genuinely manufactured by Mutable Instruments. If it has a blue PCB, a grayscale panel, or odd knobs, it is likely to be a DIY build. Genuine modules have a sticker on the back with a serial number that starts by SCP or TME.

I would like to request a repair, what should I do?

First, check that your power cable is oriented the correct way (red line of power strip at -12V at both the module and bus board of your power supply). Second, verify that your power supply delivers both + and - 12V, and is not overloaded.

If the problem is related to an input/output, make sure to try a different set of patch cables.

Modules with a display might come with a blue protective film: you have to peel it - looks much better now isn’t it!

If you bought your module second-hand and it appears to work (but not according to the manual), try contacting the seller and check if the module is running alternative firmware.

Tried everything? Please describe the problem accurately in this form, mentioning when and where you bought the module.

What is the warranty duration and what are the repair conditions?

Warranty lasts one year following the manufacturing date and covers any defect in the manufacturing of the product. The warranty does not cover any damage or malfunction caused by incorrect use – such as, but not limited to, power cables connected backwards, excessive voltage levels, or exposure to extreme temperature or moisture levels.

The warranty covers replacement or repair, as decided by Mutable Instruments. The cost of sending a module back for servicing is paid for by the customer. We usually take no more than two days to repair the modules sent to us.

What is calibration and when should I do it?

All digital modules with a V/Octave CV input store so-called calibration data that is used to accurately convert the voltage read on the CV input into a frequency value. Calibration is performed by supplying reference voltages (1.000V and 3.000V) to the CV input. The calibration procedure is performed at the factory, and is erased only in one of these two situations:

  • Firmware not officially supported by Mutable Instruments is installed in the module.
  • You accidentally enter the calibration procedure and provide incorrect voltages on the inputs.

Typical symptoms of incorrect calibration data include bad V/O tracking, a FREQUENCY knob operating in the wrong direction, or heavy random modulation of the frequency. Unless you observe one of those symptoms, there is no need to run the calibration procedure. Calibration data does not modify itself with time.

Are Mutable Instruments modules available as DIY kits?

While Mutable Instruments started as a maker of DIY kits, that era is behind us. All our modules are designed and optimized for industrial production, with tiny surface-mount parts that are difficult to hand-solder and impossible to distribute in zipper bags.

Where can I purchase spare knobs or panels?

If your module came with a defective knob or scratched panel, please contact us. We will request a photo of the defective part. We do not sell parts to people attempting DIY builds of our modules.

Do you offer artist pricing?

It is a rather violent act to draw the line between who is an artist entitled to discounts and who is not. All our customers are artists, and are paying the same price.

Would you sponsor my event? Advertise in my magazine?

At Mutable Instruments, we have a strong dislike for advertising and marketing. We feel that people should actively come to the modules they are drawn to - instead of passively getting them shoved in their face. We are not even trying to be or look big. We do not like being seen.

I run a non-profit focused on music / I am looking for prizes for a fundraiser.

From the Portland synth library to replacing equipment lost in the 2016 Oakland fire, we regularly donate modules to music-related causes. Or donate modules for charity fundraisers.

Let us know about your cause and maybe we can help!

Are there any job openings or internship possibilities?

I created Mutable Instruments in order to organize my life on a different schedule than what a regular job would offer me, and with a different set of ties and attachements.

I do not have any urge to grow and become the #1 modular manufacturer. It is important for me to do things at my own pace, even if it means spending several months not actually working on new products - just to clear my head - cancelling ideas I no longer believe in, or getting completely obsessed about a new product and working sixteen hours a day on it. My workspace is a private, personal space; and I favor my personal taste and “guts” over any kind of market-driven decision. To maintain this sense of freedom and personal journey nobody could synchronize with, I have decided to keep headcount to exactly one.

If you think your profile, or idea, could challenge this… you can give it a try!

I have the most amazing module idea. Will you build it?

No. I can put no price on the sense of accomplishment that comes with working on my own ideas and scratching my own itch.

What do I need to learn to do your job?

Let’s say your starting point is a deep passion for patching and synthesis!

  1. Learn a graphical patching language like pd or Reaktor. You can very well stop here if you’re only interested in creating virtual instruments.

  2. Learn a synthesis/composition programming language like Csound, SuperCollider or Faust. This will teach you how to think in terms of linear code rather than in terms of boxes and virtual patch cables.

  3. Brush up on high-school calculus and complex numbers, to get ready for signal processing theory. 3blue1brown’s youtube videos are good at communicating the right intuitions. Then you can read a book like “Understanding Digital Signal Processing” by R. G. Lyons, or do an online signals and systems class from MIT Open Courseware. Learn python and scipy, write scripts to generate signals, plot their spectrum.

  4. Back to basics: write simple command line python programs doing stuff on .wav files, or programs generating .wav files (don’t get distracted with real-time processing, user interface, etc). Write signal generators, filters, etc using what you learnt from the signal processing book.

  5. Your new-found understanding of signal processing theory will allow you to dig into Udo Zolzer’s “DAFX” book and learn about synthesis techniques, FX, etc. Try implementing some effects in the book as Python programs, or with pd. This is something you’ll end up doing a lot anyway to sketch ideas.

  6. Understand that python or pd are towers of abstractions and that writing code for an embedded processor is done at a much lower level. A good online course for understanding towers of abstraction, and what’s going on inside processors is Nand 2 Tetris.

  7. At this stage, you can learn a low-level programming language like C. Write C equivalents of the oscillators, filters, etc. you wrote in Python. “The Audio Programming Book” by Boulanger is great at this stage!

  8. If you ever decide to make your own hardware, start with a development board (like the STM32F4 discovery). And study the code/schematics of Mutable Instruments’ products. If you want, you can spend a couple of weeks playing with Arduino boards, but don’t spend too much time learning it: to make it simple for beginners they often do things the “wrong” way (especially on questions related to timing, multi-tasking that are of prime importance in musical instruments), so remember that whatever arduinese you learn will have to be unlearned later.

  9. If you ever want to get into analog electronics (for music), it’s easy at this stage to grab a book like “Operational Amplifiers & Linear Integrated Circuits” (beginner-ish, slow, but without too much handwaving), then follow Aaron Lanterman’s video lectures on analog electronics for sound synthesis (if you can find them online). Learn how to use a simulator (LTSpice) to test your circuits, but always breadbord them too! Every week, spend some time breadboarding, simulating, understanding a classic circuit from DIY modular resources like Yusynth or EFM.

  10. When you’ll get closer to having devices manufactured, look into “The Circuit Designer’s Companion” by P. Wilson - which covers many practical aspects and “deviations from theory” stuff (reliability, manufacturing issues). Learn a PCB layout program, how to order PCB or assembled protos from a service like Beta Layout.

  11. Business aspects are well covered in D. Lancaster’s “Incredible Secret Money Machine”, or by reading Steve Albini interviews.

Oh really? Very curious to hear what you have to say, then!

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