This site is dedicated to everyone interested in Serge Modular Music Synthesizers
 
Of all the esoteric interests served by the World Wide Web, this may be one of the most esoteric yet.  I mean, after all, while has been a great reSergence of interest in analog machines to produce electronic music, digital is still in many ways more convenient, and these days by far more prevalent.

Why Analog?

          "The reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated" - Mark Twain

    Great strides have been made in recent years with digital music hardware.  It's tidy, flexible, affordable, and sounds great. Yet analog is a very hot thing, and legions of digital engineers sweat bullets overtime to create software that mimics old Moog synthesizers.  Why is this??

    It's easy to expound on the advantages of analog over digital or vice versa, but what it boils down to is personal preference.

    And there's two main areas: how it sounds and how it works.

    Digital synthesizers can do some very sophisticated tricks, and once you've cooked up a sound, you know it will play back perfectly time after time.  Pull it out of the road case, set it up, presto! It's all correct and in tune.

    However, timbre-wise, you're left with two choices: go with the factory presets (cute for a while but ultimately boring) or navigate through the LCD menus with manual in hand to create new timbres (tedious and not much fun.  Also, since the human ear 'gets' the sound pretty quickly, ultimately boring,and you're back to square one.  I mean, how many times do you want to listen to the same sample of the blown coke bottle?)
    Some of the boredom can be fixed with judicious animation of timbres, also use of the keyboard's touch sensitivity for dynamics.
    When it comes to that weird capability of digital synths that mimic analog synths, is the jury still out?  Are musicians dumping their MiniMoogs and 2600s in favor of tidy MIDI boxes?

    So back to the original question, why analog?  They have a unique sound that varies from one manufacturer to another.  Building new sounds is fun. Patching gives instant feedback (if not instant gratification), and is loaded with the pleasure of twisting smooth knobs and plugging sturdy patchcords.  There is never any question of processing power, it always happens in real time.  You can go deliberately for effects, or spend hours patching, looking for a magical serendipitousWOW sound. Once the sound is built you can keep tweaking it during play with dozens of knobs, the timbres and tempos becoming wonderful silly putty.

    You will never have to make a desperate midnight run for more RAM, the right SCSI cable, or diskettes.  Taking an analog machine on the road can be pretty horrid (which is why they died out in the 80's), but careful planning can alleviate a lot of the trouble.

Why Serge?
    Of the tiny handful of analog modulars out today you can buy as new, Serge stands out in a variety of ways.  The modules are of extremely high quality, have wide parameter range, excellent tracking/stability, and low noise (except for the noise module).  There are a lot of modules, over 65. Patching is done with rugged banana plugs; a little bit of a pain to interface with other gear, but once you've gotten used to stacking multiple bananas, you'll never want to patch any other way again.  Many control voltage inputs on Serge modules have clever inverting attenuators - at the twelve o' clock position, you have zero gain, turn clockwise, you have increasing positive gain, turn counterclockwise, you have increasing inverted gain.  There are many unique modules in the lineup, some obvious, some very strange.  You can spend months and years exploring a Serge system and still discover new ways of using the modules.  If you're looking to get a few snappy 'synth sounds' with a press of a button, forget it. Go to the Best Buy and pick up a nice Yamaha MIDI keyboard.  But if you're looking for something unique and challenging, and if you're crazy enough to spend thousands of dollars and wait months to have the system built and delivered, this is the one.

    On a Serge, audio signals, control voltages, and trigger signals are fairly interchangeable and the system uses only one kind of patch cord.  Audio signals can be accepted by trigger inputs, control voltage generators can be used for audio.  Use control voltage mixers for audio, or run your sequencer at audio rates for wild, squealy, rippy noises.

    Many Serge modules can be internally patched.  What's that mean?  The modules themselves can be patch-programmed to do different things.  For example, patching the GATE output to the TRIGGER input of a Dual Transient Generator turns the DTG into a voltage-controlled clock, LFO, or audio oscillator.

    Which leads us to the extreme flexibility of the designs.  You have to do a lot of thinking and experimenting on these things to really appreciate them.  For someone used to the more conventional approaches out there, this can be a little intimidating.

    Serge modules have a very high density of functionality.  Every square inch of panel space is useful.  You can put a pretty impressive system together in one or two suitcase-size boxes.

    Serges are handbuilt to customer specification, and by handbuilt I mean that they're put together by people who have spent years mastering the build process.  I've heard people complain about the price of modules versus the cost of parts, and why should an oscillator cost 'X' when the parts cost 'Y'. But the truth is, the nice juicy modules use a lot of discrete components, some laboriously hand-matched.  Once the components are assembled, the module has to be calibrated, burned-in, and checked.  A lot of skilled labor is involved, and expensive test gear.

    One of the nicest moments in the acquisition process was talking to Roxanne, one of their master builders.  I'd just received the system and called Rex to tell him I received it OK, and he put me on the phone with Roxanne so I could tell her what a great job she did.  This is one person who truly enjoys what she does.

Why not Serge?
    Believe it or not, but this web site's purpose is not to sell Serges, but rather to inform.  Sound Transform Systems still insists on building a 16 inch panel of modules as a minimal unit, which makes the least expensive useful panel around $1500, typically more like $2500. Note that this is also the least expensive upgrade increment.  This makes obtaining and upgrading the systems very difficult for smaller studios.  Likewise, if there's a module you buy that you end up hating or never using (rare), you're stuck with it as long as you have that panel.  Every other manufacturer I know of sells individual modules.


Why is this web site here?

    There has been a lot of interest in Serge modulars over the past few years, especially since Rex Probe and Sound Transform Systems took them successfully back into production a few years ago.  Mr. Probe has been considering establishing a web site, but for various reasons he has decided to wait.  I believe that, while respecting Rex's views, we can still establish a Serge resource on the internet and help satisfy this pent-up desire for Serge-related material.

    Don Buchla and Serge Tcherepnin resisted the idea of making user's manuals for their systems.  This was not out of laziness, but rather to propagate the wizard's way of learning by experimenting.  They did not want either to prejudice or spoon-feed their customers into a complacent relationship with their instruments.  This challenging unorthodox view makes the instruments that much more interesting and rewarding to use.  In this spirit, this web site's purpose is to provide more information for current and prospective owners, not to establish an orthodoxy.

Why are there no .wav files?
    Many synthesizer sites offer digitized sound clips.  This one doesn't.  At first it seems like a pretty damn good idea, but frankly I never heard a sound clip that made me want to run out and get a system.  Also, Rex  frowns on the idea.  He was gracious enough to put his stamp of approval on this site, so leaving sound clips to others is not too much to ask.