David Kronemyer

A Critique of EuroRack Modular Synth Enclosures

May 10th, 2010 by David Kronemyer · 8 Comments

DAVID KRONEMYER: There’s a semi-not-obvious issue with the now-popular Eurorack format, which is that while the modules may be economically-priced, the racks are expensive. And while they are amazing, many of the newer modules no longer are so economically priced. Doepfer’s dealer in the U.S. is Analogue Haven/Shawn Cleary. Shawn sells Doepfer Euroracks for $530 + shipping (approximately $35) + California’s confiscatory 9.75% sales tax (if you live in California, at least). This pushes to $620 per rack. If one has 10 modules in a rack (which seems to be about the average width), this adds an extra $62 to the cost of each module. Compare: a set of MOTM rails, which will accommodate 10 single-width modules, is $54 + shipping; a set of synthesizers.com rails, which will accommodate eight single-width modules, is $65 + shipping; and a set of Blacet (frac rack) rails, which will accommodate five double-width modules, is $79 + shipping. Even if you double these to reach the same average module density as a Eurorack, you’re still at about 25% of the cost.

Please understand I’m not bagging on Shawn or saying the Eurorack isn’t worth it. In fact we have about a dozen of them! It’s a highly specialized business and I’m sure Shawn’s margins are really thin. I’m just making an observation about relative cost. Also, there are less expensive alternatives. For example, Monorocket (also available through Analogue Haven) makes a portable case for $350 (though it’s not a rack mount).

There’s another problem with Euroracks, which is the power supply. While the buss board offers +5 VDC, all Doepfer power supplies now are +12/–12 VDC. If you want +5 VDC – a necessity for many modules from Analogue Solutions, for example – you’re out of luck. Doepfer makes a little thingy that converts +12VDC to +5VDC. While we’ve never tried it, the picture on Doepfer’s site makes it look not all that sturdy, capable of handling one or two modules at most. On top of that the Doepfer power supply is 1200 mA, which leaves little head-room. Doepfer used to make a power supply with only half that much! As a general principle, the more head-room, the better the sound.

We are very careful with module count, correct polarity, etc. However, mysteriously, the –12 VDC on one of our Doepfer power supplies recently disappeared. The +12 VDC was just fine, as were the buss boards. We realized we were exhausted by this tomfoolery and decided to install our own power supply, which also would provide +5 VDC. Power One makes a high-quality linear power supply, sold by DigiKey (Part No. 179-2317-ND). It gives +12 VDC, –12 VDC and +5 VDC, all in one convenient unit. So we removed the now-deceased Doepfer power supply and installed this one instead.

This power supply is way overkill for the rack. As you can see the Alcatel connectors also are ludicrously huge for this application. The only reason why we used them, and the heavy-gauge wire, is because we had them lying around from a previous project. It was a happy moment to see all of the LEDs on the Doepfer buss rail light up. We are eyeing our other Doepfer racks guardedly.

WARNING – do not try this at home unless you know what you’re doing!

The transformer

The Alcatel connectors

All lights illuminated!