The Volca Modular Highlights Our Virtual Look at NAMM 2019

Without a travel budget, a trip to the NAMM show is more of a dream than a reality here at TabMuse. Nonetheless, every year we wait with baited breath to see what fresh music technology announcements inspire us. These inspirations naturally occur within the synth realm, and unfortunately many synthesizer makers chose to not attend NAMM 2019.


Korg’s new Volca Modular synth. Image copyright Korg.

Still, a few products tickled our fancy, so let’s have a look. If you are interested in our coverage of previous NAMM events, simply click on the following links: 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015.

The Volca Modular Offers a Taste of Don Buchla’s West Coast

Korg brought a host of interesting new synths to NAMM 2019; the Minilogue XD definitely intrigues. But it was the new Volca Modular that ranked at the top of our wish list. It offers a simplified take on the classic Buchla Music Easel, color scheme included.

Of course, the “Vuchla” is battery powered, like the rest of the Volca family, with a similar footprint that fits perfectly on our studio’s Berlin School playground. Unfortunately, the patch points use a jumper wire format instead of the Eurorack standard, with the exception of a few CV and Korg sync ports. Hopefully, some enterprising person makes a patch bay for the unit.

The Volca Modular doesn’t have a MIDI input, which isn’t a huge problem considering the CV ports. The synth architecture is classic West Coast, following more of an additive model compared to the subtractive East Coast style, yo. A sequencer, microtuning, and effects are all in there. Its sound and possibilities for sonic mayhem definitely intrigue, and the $199 list price fits squarely within our budgetary wheelhouse.

We expect the Vuchla to play well with our Make Noise 0-Coast as well as the Volca Keys and Bass. The older Volcas primarily get used these days as a poor man’s analog poly synth, but their sequences dominated Church of Hed’s Brandenburg Heights album. Adding some West Coast synthesis to the equation is our hope.

Expect full coverage if and when we purchase one. There’s a three-tiered synth stand I’m also eyeing. I know… boring.

The Behringer Crave is a Great Entry Point to Analog Synthesis

Behringer’s product pipeline is filled with a host of soon-come synth clones: the ARP Odyssey, Roland TR-808, SH-101, and so much more. But it was the Crave, announced at the end of NAMM which garnered the most buzz. An analog monosynth, it features a host of patch points and a built-in sequencer at an impressive price point of $199.

The Crave’s oscillator clones the one from the Prophet 5 and its filter is based on the legendary Moog Ladder, so a robust sound is assured. The large patch bay integrates nicely with existing Eurorack gear. This synth isn’t yet available, but you can expect it to be popular upon release.

Teenage Engineering’s Foray into Modular Synthesis

Teenage Engineering introduced a line of proprietary modular synth kits at NAMM 2019; seeming like something out of IKEA. You get the opportunity to build before you play. We love the sound of our PO-12 drum machine, so these modular units are definitely worthy of a closer look.

There are two smaller models; the 16 features only a sequencer and controller, while the 170 provides the modules to build a basic analog monosynth. They are priced at $149 and $349 respectively.

The 400 is the flagship of this line. For $499, you get to build a three-oscillator monosynth with a host of modules and a sequencer. The 170 and 400 both include patch cables, and are Eurorack compatible. It’s a worthy option for those looking to dip their toes into Eurorack, but on a tight budget.

So there you have it. This collection of new synthesizers from NAMM 2019 is definitely budget friendly, apparently without skimping on sound and functionality.