There is no shortage of modular gear on the market; to help you get started, we have selected what we see as the best Eurorack modules in 2020.
Building the perfect modular setup is a continuous and personal process with no real right or wrong method. Our top 10 picks see us review some of the most intuitive, versatile, and playable modules ever made. From analog to digital and LFOs to sequencers, we cover the lot; let’s get into it.
Here are the best Eurorack modules 2020:
- Intellijel Rubicon2
- Instruo Cs-L
- Joranalogue Filter 8
- Mutable Instruments Stages
- Mutable Instruments Plaits
- Intellijel Metropolis
- XAOC Devices Batumi
- Make Noise Maths
- Strymon Magneto
- Erica Synths Drum Sequencer
1. Intellijel Rubicon2
The most versatile analog oscillator
The original Intellijel Rubicon was a hugely popular module, known for its versatility. The latest model, Rubicon2 builds on that reputation and offers even more than its predecessor.
What you get is a highly-functional analog VCO/LFO module with lots of possibilities. This analog oscillator sports a whopping 9 simultaneous waveform outputs. Waveforms include triangle, saw, double saw, pulse, tri-state pulse, sub, warp, and three sine types.
Thru-Zero Frequency Modulation (TZFM) provides some stunning and extremely musical results. In simple terms, TZFM can be thought of as linear or exponential frequency modulation that will invert the waveform when the frequency drops below zero. The TZFM can be finely controlled via linear index VCA, making it more performance-friendly. More importantly, there is now a lock switch that ensures the pitch won’t change during even the harshest modulation.
Another creative and very musical feature is the wave folding warp circuit that allows you to blend a signal with the Tri-state pulse wave. A sub-octave circuit provides plenty of depth with minus one and minus two octave modes, with the Rubicon2 covering eight available octaves in total. The VCO frequency range is 1 Hz to 24 kHz, and the LFO frequency range is 100 seconds per cycle up to 240 Hz.
|Image credit: Intellijel Check Sweetwater||
Intellijel’s Rubicon2 is a real gem of a module. The thing we like about Intellijel, in general, is that they make their modules as musical as possible, and the Rubicon2 is precisely that. It has been crafted with performance in mind, and it’s so versatile that even the most experienced users will find new sounds and ideas for a very long time. For us, it’s the best analog oscillator around right now.
2. Instruo Cs-L
The best complex oscillator
Instruo modules seem to be going from strength to strength, gaining rave reviews pretty much across the board. It’s for a good reason, too; their innovative approach to sound design is a breath of fresh air.
The Cs-L takes the much-loved Complex Dual Oscillator idea, think the 1970s and the iconic Buchla 261e module. Instruo does it a little differently through creative internal routing. The internal routing and modulation bus offer CV control over a significant range of cross-modulation before you even start patching.
Each of the dual oscillators has a different core; the top has a sawtooth core; the bottom has a triangle core. Because of this, each oscillator has a distinct character, and provide the best of both worlds. As well as a different core, each also has its own wave folder and PWM output.
There is a four-quadrant multiplier stage that allows for rectified and positive only amplitude modulation, plus ring modulation. Another twist on the classic Complex Dual Oscillator design is that either voice here can be the carrier or modulation (or both at the same time).
A sub output generates a square wave one or two octaves below the oscillator’s primary frequency. The link button will activate a cross-normalization between both oscillators allowing a single CV signal to be used. There are endless sonic possibilities.
|Image credit: Instruo Check Instruo||
Whatever way you look at it, the Cs-L from Instruo is a monster top-end module. Let’s take the negative first; it doesn’t have the most intuitive layout. The layout is somewhat different when compared to the common VCO, which makes for a steeper learning curve. That might put some users off, but if you get past that, the sound-shaping potential here is off the charts. The Cs-L creates stunningly organic, rich, bell-like tones, like no other dual VCO. Easily the best complex oscillator on the market just now.
3. Joranalogue Filter 8
An intelligent filter
Joranalogue calls their Filter 8 the cutting edge in modular VCF design, and it’s hard to disagree. The Filter 8 follows the classic OTA four-pole cascaded low-pass design. It features four individual low-pass outputs with different filter slopes. It also has high pass, bandpass & notch, regular bandpass, and phase shift, giving the Filter 8 a versatile flavor.
The thing that makes the Filter 8 unique is its intelligent resonant feedback circuit. When increasing the resonance, each output will resonate at filter frequency without losing any low-frequency response. This circuit provides a much more organic feel than the typical bass compensation method.
Self-oscillation can be achieved at higher resonance levels, effectively turning the Filter 8 into an eight-phase sine wave VCO (Voltage Controlled Oscillator). It then has temperature and switchable gain compensation plus the constant amplitude and precise frequency tracking. On top of that, the Filter 8 also functions as an eight-phase LFO (Low-Frequency Oscillator).
There are some other unique or rare features, like the voltage hold function that allows you to freeze the filter core or pause modulations. Filter 8 has an incredibly wide frequency range of 2.8 mHz to 27 kHz.
|Image credit: Joranalogue Check Joranalogue||
Filter 8 from Joranalogue is, in our opinion, the best filter module you can buy. But, the downside of having a unique sound is that it becomes an acquired taste. The star feature is undoubtedly the resonant feedback circuit that lets you push the resonance hard without losing bass frequencies. It’s an incredibly versatile filter, which is enhanced by its eight-phase VCO/LFO functionality.
4. Mutable Instruments Stages
The ultimate envelope generator
Mutable Instruments manufacture some truly remarkable modules. Their Stages module is one of the most playable we have come across.
Stages is a versatile six-stage envelope generator that offers CV control over each section. What that means is that you can patch it in a variety of different ways. It can act as a six-stage envelope, six individual envelopes, or any combination of the six that you choose. This envelope module can be as elaborate or as simple as you need it to be. If you need more than six segments, up to six modules can be chained together – now that’s a complex envelope.
There are 3 distinct segment types, which are Ramp, Hold, and Step. Ramp segments move from one voltage to another, in a time determined by CV control. Hold segments remain constant for a set amount of time, although, can still be CV controlled. Finally, Step segments slide from one voltage to the programmed target voltage and remain there for a desired amount of time.
An exciting feature of the Stages module is that a segment or multiple segments can be looped. The way it works depends on the segments included in the loop. For example, if the last segment is in the loop, it will play infinitely. If the last segment is not in the loop, the loop will play while the gate is high before continuing past the loop.
Single segments have some interesting processing features on their own, too. Ramp segments can become a tempo-synced LFO, Hold turns into a pulse generator, and Step provides a sample and hold function.
|Image credit: Mutable Instruments Check Mutable Instruments||
The best thing about this module is that you can utilize all six segments in a multitude of ways. Whether it’s as a simple envelope, a 3+3 segment combination, or all six together as a complex envelope, it does it all. As well as that, the loop function makes it very musical and great for performance. All in all, it’s the best envelope generator module because Mutable Instruments designed it from a performance point of view.
5. Mutable Instruments Plaits
The best digital oscillator
Another module from Mutable Instruments now, this time, it’s a digital oscillator. Plaits from Mutable Instruments is another example of a very playable module. It’s the successor to the previously successful Braids module.
Plaits isn’t just an update of Braids; it’s a wholly redesigned module from hardware to software. With Plaits, there are 8 synthesis models for pitched sounds, and 8 synthesis models for noise and percussion. The pitched sound models include two detuned virtual analog oscillators, a 24-harmonic additive oscillator, and a chord generator with wavetables or string/organ emulation.
The noise and percussion models include a granular sawtooth with variable grain density and eight layers of particle noise. It also comes with analog kick, snare, and high-hat emulations.
Internal and external modulations are possible in the shape of dedicated CV input for model selection. An onboard decay envelope adds texture to the timbre, FM, and morph CV inputs.
|Image credit: Mutable Instruments Check Mutable Instrument||
One reason we like this oscillator so much is that it’s built for performance. Too many modules can do amazingly complex things, but getting there can be a tedious journey. Plaits has an interface that lets you get to where you want to be with less hassle.
The other reason we love it is that it’s deceivingly powerful, especially when you get into the granular stuff. So, for those reasons, we think this might be the best digital oscillator Eurorack module out there just now.
6. Intellijel Metropolis
The most playable sequencer
Intellijel is another manufacturer that makes incredibly playable modules. We are going slightly larger now, with the Intellijel Metropolis sequencer module.
Back in the day, the Roland System 100m format sequencer was a producer’s dream. It let you put beats and patterns together with ease, albeit a little clumsily at times. Roland’s vintage sequencer inspired Intellijel’s Metropolis, and it’s one of the most intuitive Eurorack modules you will ever come across.
The Metropolis has 8 stages, and each stage has its own gate mode, pitch value, and pulse count. Individual stages can also have their own special functions activated, like slide or skip.
The pitch, pulse sections each have eight sliders, one per stage. The sliders provide extraordinarily accurate and intuitive control over subtle aspects of your sequence.
This sequencer can be controlled in a large variety of ways that can have even beginners making music quickly. Functions like sequencer direction, pitch quantization, and shuffle, let the user generate incredibly complex patterns with minimal effort.
The sequencer modes available include forward, reverse, ping-pong, random, and Brownian. It also offers a choice of 30 scales for internal quantizing in any key.
|Image credit: Intellijel Check Sweetwater||
This isn’t a new module, but, despite being around for a while now, Intellijel’s Metropolis remains an essential sequencer for any Eurorack enthusiast. It’s versatile, even if it is limited to eight steps. There are a lot of options, and you can come up with some gorgeous patterns.
The best thing is that it’s so easy to use, it’s probably the closest to a plug-n-play Eurorack sequencer you will ever find. In our eyes, that user-friendly nature is why the Metropolis is the best sequencer module on our list.
7. XAOC Devices Batumi
The standard for all LFO modules
XAOC Devices might be a name that’s not familiar to synth newbies, but they are heavyweights in the modular world. The Batumi LFO has become something of a standard-setter for all LFO modules. It’s a quadruple digital LFO, which means it comes with 4 voltage controlled LFOs. Each oscillator can function on its own or as part of the available synchronized modes. The three available modes are quadrature, phase, and divide.
Each oscillator has multiple assignable waveforms available, including sine, square, saw, and trapezoid. The expander provides the option to convert the saw to several other variants. Each oscillator’s frequency, reset, and tap tempo can be voltage controlled.
The module comes with a USB connector that allows you to update the firmware easily via a dedicated app. There are different versions of the firmware available, each with varying features that may suit different types of users best.
The frequency range of this LFO is absolutely massive, from 28 hours in voltage controlled divide mode, up to 500 Hz.
|Image credit: XAOC Devices Check XAOC Devices||
We only have one minor complaint about this module, and it’s that the firmware can make your workflow a little more convoluted. However, we should stress that it’s not all of the firmware, just the expert firmware, and it does add lots of versatility, too.
With that being said, the Batumi is generally a very straightforward LFO, it’s easy to work with, and it does what it’s supposed to do very well indeed. That’s why it’s possibly the best LFO module for your money.
8. Make Noise Maths
The Make Noise Maths module is seen as a bit of a jack of all trades. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a master of none, it’s just a hugely versatile module, which is why it’s so popular.
Make Noise call this module a function generator, and that’s exactly what it is. It delivers vast functionality and is the perfect gateway into all things modular.
The module features a pair of voltage controlled envelopes and a pair of LFOs. As an LFO, it’s beautifully slow, from 25 minutes per cycle, right up to 1 kHz. You can then apply functions such as lag, slew, or portamento to control voltages.
Maths can control up to four signals at once, which creates some very complex modulations. It can also change the depth and direction of modulation. In basic musical terms, things like changing tempo and note divisions can be controlled on command.
|Image credit: Make Noise Check Sweetwater||
Maths is a complicated module to sum up. On the one hand, it’s straightforward and does everything in a reasonably simple way. On the other hand, it does so many things that getting your head around the workflow takes a little time.
It’s like the ultimate controller; it takes everything you need and puts it all in one place. It’s the best function generator available, and as a learning tool, it’s invaluable.
9. Strymon Magneto
The ultimate delay module
Magneto was Strymon’s first Eurorack module and a strong indication of what was to come in terms of build quality and price. In its most basic form, Magneto is a delay module, but it offers so much more. Four virtual playback heads allow the module to create complex rhythmic delay effects. Furthermore, three stereo head panning options create beautiful airy and spacious effects. Delays can be extremely crisp or over-driven and dirty; it’s all here.
What you really get with Magneto is a module that’s capable of looping, phrase sampling, tape saturation, self-oscillating, and more. There are three operational modes, which are Echo, sound on sound looper, and Phrase sampler.
Besides the authentic-sounding tape delay, the built-in spring reverb is particularly nice. As well as the multi-effects available, there are a host of CV inputs, which provide lots of opportunities to experiment.
The build quality of the Magneto module is second to none. It encourages hands-on performance, and for that, it has to be well made. But, it isn’t just robust; the interface is thoughtful and intuitive.
|Image credit: Strymon Check Sweetwater||
We have a simple verdict for the Strymon Magneto; it’s easily the best Eurorack delay module right now. The one glaring issue is the price, but there is no denying that it’s a high-end module. You could buy two fantastic modules for the cost of this one, but that doesn’t mean it’s overpriced, it’s just very good. So, ultimately, if you can afford it, go for it.
10. Erica Synths Drum Sequencer
The best trigger sequencer
Erica Synths pitch their Drum Sequencer as the solution to all your rhythm sequencing problems, and it just could be. This rather sizeable retro-style module isn’t the most portable, but it is incredibly playable. It comes with a familiar and user-friendly 909-style interface. The buttons are very much like something you’d find on a 90s PC keyboard.
It comes with 16 trigger outputs and 12 accents for drums. That provides a max pattern length of 64 steps, and with song mode, you can create in-depth compositions.
There is one CV track and one gate track, each of which functions with independent time signature, length, shuffle, direction, etc. This level of independent control makes for incredibly detailed programming.
Two LFOs function with independent frequencies or can be synced to the BPM frequency. The Drum Sequencer also utilizes instant pattern switching and pattern linking that are perfect for performance. To make the most of those functions, there are 8 banks of 16 patterns available.
There are separate CV and gate for a bass synth, swing, and mute/solo.
|Image credit: Erica Synths Check Sweetwater||
It’s hard to dislike this drum sequencer because it’s just so much fun to play. The retro styling isn’t just for show; the buttons are dependable and easy to get around, making it ideal for live performance.
As a drum and bass sequencer, it’s fantastic, although the song mode (pattern link) isn’t as sophisticated as you might think. The fact that it does the fundamentals so well, and it’s so playable, make it our choice for the best Eurorack trigger sequencer.
Buying Eurorack modules isn’t like buying keyboard synthesizers, in the sense that modules are generally specialized units rather than all-rounders. So, in some ways, you have to be even more careful when choosing the right Eurorack gear.
Our top 10 Eurorack modules list reviews the best examples of various types of modules to keep you on the right track. Every single module we have chosen would be a fantastic addition to any setup. There are no wrong choices here, so just make sure that you select the ones that are best for your needs. If you are entirely new to modular gear, don’t be surprised if this is the start of a lifelong trek into sound design.
James is a writer and musician with a passion for audio production. He is a lover of all things tech, especially the latest keyboards, synths, DAW’s, virtual instruments, and effects plugins. Musical interests include jazz, funk, hip hop, blues, and rock.