Next up is the extraordinary VCV Rack. This is an open source project that has set the community alight with the amazing possibilities of this evolving and developing software. First and foremost, it’s free. You can download a copy and start making noises and beeps and blips right now. It has hundreds of professional and amateur developers creating modules and coding for it. In many ways the potential is unlimited.
VCV Rack follows the Eurorack format of module sizing, connections, and the virtual rack concept but the look is stylized rather than a reflection of existing hardware. But that’s not to say that there is no connection to real-life hardware. There are a number of hardware brands that have allowed their modules to be virtualized into VCV Rack. Befaco, Grayscale and Synthesis Technology have all lent their expertise.
But most notably is the input from Mutable Instruments. Mutable Instruments make the coding behind their modules open source and so anyone can build their own version of their modules. VCV Rack recreated a whole range that they call “Audible Instruments.” Mutable Instruments liked it so much that they developed a “Preview Module,” which allows VCV Rack users to run code from newer Mutable modules before they get released as open source. That’s very cool indeed.
A huge community has grown up around it with people sharing music, patches, modules, and configurations. It stays true to the concept of modular synthesis while breaking all the limitations of hardware into an almost infinite sound creation space. Your power of the computer then becomes the only limiting factor.
The only downside is that VCV Rack is built as a stand-alone application and doesn’t run as a plug-in. However, an app called VCV Bridge allows you to run audio, MIDI, transport, and clock between VCV Rack and your DAW. As VCV Rack is still in Beta it’s not always completely reliable but this should improve with time and updates.
It’s the most varied and creative space with new and stranger modules emerging all the time. And as it’s free there’s no reason not to give it a go.
- Specs: MacOS, Windows and Linux
- Format: Standalone but can be run alongside a DAW with VCV Bridge.
Street Price: Free (some additional modules cost extra)