The world of Eurorack modules can be daunting and expensive. With so many envelope generator modules to choose from, it can be challenging to pick the ideal module for a given Eurorack system.
In this article, we'll go through the best options for choosing one or more envelope generator modules to control parameters within your Eurorack system.
The Top 11 Best Eurorack Oscillator Modules Are:
- Mutable Instruments Stages
- Doepfer A-143-2
- Intellijel Quadrax
- Klavis Quadigy
- Befaco Rampage
- Verbos Electronics Multi-Envelope
- Roland System-500 540
- Xaoc Devices Zadar
- ACL Envelope X3 v2
- AJH Synth MiniMod Contour Generators
- Behringer Dual Envelope Generator 1003
Each of these makes for a superb Eurorack envelope generator choice. In this article, we'll discuss why that is.
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Mutable Instruments Stages
This super-capable module by Instrument Stages features an ASR envelope, LFO, a complex 6-stage envelope, a 4-step sequence, or switched LFO. Moreover, the stages can be set to any modulation.
This doesn't mean that every kind of modulation has been dialled in for you, but it means that you can describe your modulations in terms of basic operations. In other words, you can hold a voltage at a given level, ramp from one voltage to another, or wait for a trigger veer.
This is possible because the Mutable Instruments Stages module can reconfigure itself to match the patched inputs. Thus, you can go from a very clean, simple modulation to a layered, super-complex envelope, depending on your needs.
Indeed, much of what this module can do depends on “patch programming”. In other words, the way by which you patch it makes a big difference in the resulting sound. In this sense, you should patch it from right to left to follow the design the company envisioned.
For example, by patching the gate, inputs split the signal into sections. So, to get started, you can patch on the rightmost channel, and if the light on it is green, it'll act as a decay envelope.
This is a great Eurorack module that can be used in a plethora of different sonic adventures. This is mainly because it can work as four individual envelope generators, a single multi-stage envelope, or even as an LFO-style looping envelope. It is very little that you can't do with a module as powerful and easy to use as this Doepfer.
One of the main positive aspects of the Doepfer A-143-2 design is the idea of patching from the End of Decay, End of Attack, or End of Release of any section into the next sub-section. This way, you can create a never-ending chain since every sub-section can trigger the next envelope once it reaches the “End of” section patched.
This cascading effect can work wonders to create the ultimate LFOs from looping envelopes. Moreover, you can also use it as a single envelope generator or as a multi-stage envelope. Getting started with this module is as easy as it gets, but beware, you might not be able to stop playing with it for hours once you get started.
Here's a video of it in action so you can have a taste of what it can do.
The Intellijel Quadrax can be described as a four-independent CV-controlled channel envelope. It can take these many forms:
- An AD or AHR envelope (Attack – Decay or Attack – Hold – Release)
- A unipolar LFO or cycling envelope
- A strong pulse burst generator
- A morphing, bipolar, beat-synchronizable LFO
All envelopes can be set to have a continuously variable response curve that can be linear, logarithmic, or exponential. Moreover, each of the involved stages can go from a super-snappy 0.05ms to a full-on 20 seconds.
When in LFO mode (free-running or beat-synchronized), you can control wave shape and frequency along with a one-of-a-kind morphing feature. This allows you to create many variations once you select the wave shape.
A different kind of magic happens when you set it to alternate mode. The module becomes a low-frequency vacillator (LFV) that works with the same syncing capabilities as the LFO but into a random voltage source rising and falling at its own will. In that mode, you have full control over the range and the filter/slew of the charges from the panel controls.
These are just some of the things that this super-powerful module can bring to your Eurorack gear. If it sounds like something close to what you're looking for, you have to check it out before buying.
The Klavis Quadigy is a module Klavis designed for those who love playing live shows using modular synthesis. It is a complex envelope generator with virtually endless possibilities.
It features a “live mode” that narrows down the usable controls to those that make sense in a live situation. Moreover, with the capacity to store up to 32 presets with naming, you can create intricate, great-sounding presets to trigger on stage easily.
On the opposite, the other mode allows you to have full control over all the parameters to tweak. This way, you can dial in dynamically evolving, interactive, and rich envelopes with this unit's 7-stage envelopes:
Plus, it also offers a continuous-curve-shape setting, inversion, independent output level, and multi-editing for polyphonic uses. Finally, the graphic display and the real-time LED indication for the envelope stages make this the best companion for any stage and a powerful ally for any production studio.
If you're looking for a capable, powerful sound generator with which you can hit the road, this is a great option. You can check this video and this video for a quick view of the features in action, and you can see a comparison with the Stages module in this video as well.
With a total width of 18HP, there aren't many modules in the market that can take up such a small space in your rig and give you back such a wide assortment of sounds. The Befaco Rampage is one of them.
Indeed, this unit's dual voltage-controlled integrators (some people also call them “Lag Processors”) can convert any square signals into ramp waveforms. This way, you can achieve glide or portamento effects when you apply it to pitch CV signals.
Although the user interface is rather simple, there is so much power under the hood in this unit I recommend reading the manual thoroughly. This is because you can use this module to perform a simple dual low-pass filter, for example, or turn it into a complex ADSR-style envelope.
Furthermore, if you sync each channel to the other, you can create a polyrhythmic gate generator that can deliver several complex rhythm gates. Also, it can become a burst generator.
Although the Serge/Buchla ramp generator this unit is based on is a concept that has been around forever, this modern take can provide limitless sonic adventures when added to any rig. To see it in action, you can check Befaco's official video, this 25-minute test drive, or this 52-minute complete tutorial.
Verbos Electronics Multi-Envelope
The Verbos Electronics Multi-Envelope is described as “An envelope generator reimagined” by Verbos. This unit is capable of creating several shapes simultaneously for the available 4-stage functions.
Furthermore, they are available for each of the two parts in the multi-envelope.
In this sense, the company managed to create a separate output for each shape, making it easier to patch what you need to go to the next module. Moreover, you can patch them all simultaneously. That being said, they all share the same voltage control inputs and set of controls.
In addition to the mentioned outputs, the unit features an “end pulse” output that allows chaining and looping. In the same vein, the gate and trigger inputs can be used together or alone to control the characteristics of the re-trigger.
With this vast array of controls, inputs, and outputs, you can build an entire sound around this single piece of Eurorack gear. If that sounds like the module you were looking for, you have to give this unit a chance before buying anything else.
Roland System-500 540
It is no surprise that Roland decided to bring the legendary Roland SYSTEM 100M back to life in the 21st century. Many purists considered this mammoth modular synthesizer from the late 70s and early 80s to be the quintessential electronic instrument of a generation.
The re-edition of the Roland System-500 540 technology doesn't emerge straight from the museum; it comes with newly added features that are not only handy but also powerful and great-sounding.
Furthermore, you can create your own combination of Eurorack modules and only use what you need.
In this case, the 540 is an LFO + dual envelope generator that can act as a multi-purpose modulation source. Indeed, featuring dual independent ADSR envelope sections, this unit can produce variable voltages that can control other Eurorack modules such as VCAs, oscillators, filters, and more.
But that's not all; this module can receive triggers externally, internally, or manually. Moreover, each envelope receives an independent jack and an inverted output.
Finally, the 540 also includes front panel controls for frequency, the delay time for the LFO start, and a voltage-controlled LFO featuring 5 waveform outputs.
Roland is a company recognized around the world for creating trends rather than following them. Check this unit out in this video to see it in action and in this video to see the entire Roland 500 Eurorack modular system working together.
Xaoc Devices Zadar
Don't let the 10 HP of width fool you; the Xaoc Devices Zadar is a very powerful four-channel, transient, envelope, and modulation generator. Indeed, it features hundreds of envelope shapes stored in the memory that can cover a vast sonic ground, enough to meet the demands of pro players out there.
Those previously stored shapes are just the starting point for sound since they can be modified to last from 0.085ms to half an hour. In the same vein, controls allow you to distort, flip, warp, shuffle, delay, repeat, and amplitude-modulate sound in real-time.
Furthermore, with freely assignable CV inputs, you can even control most parameters externally as well.
Usability-wise, your imagination is the only limit for this unit since each of the channels can work independently or in combination with the others within the looping and chaining algorithms. Although it might sound complicated, the unit's OLED display makes all functions easy to understand and follow.
You can see this powerful unit in action in this official video (when it was still a prototype). This video is a complete overview of its functions, and in this video, you'll find a comparison with the Stages and the Quadigy modules.
ACL Envelope X3 v2
The brand making this envelope uses an acronym that stands for Audiophile Circuits League; you get the idea of the kind of obsessive attention to detail that goes into each of their products, right?
Well, the ACL Envelope X3 v2 module is no exception to the flawless reputation of the company.
To begin with, this is another product based on the Roland SYSTEM 100M. In this case, the company took on the legendary envelopes in the Roland SYSTEM, famous for their punch.
But make no mistake; this is by no means a reissue but the re-imagination of a classic. ACL made the envelope time parameters even shorter; in other words, they made the envelope suitable for drums, bass, and other sounds requiring a lightning-fast response.
Although this is a new approach to a known sound, the company also added a Long mode (to the Short mode described above), so you can apply it to drones and pads as well.
Feature-wise, the independent buffered inverted and non-inverted outputs and independent gate inputs give enough flexibility to work with.
Furthermore, gate 1 is normalized, which means you can power three envelope generators simultaneously without additional patching.
For more info on normalization, check out my article Should You Normalize Audio? (When To & Not To Normalize).
Finally, the addition of LEDs makes the usability of this module sky-high for any player. If you are in search of such a module and have the 20HP of width it requires, this is a must-check before buying. You can see an overview in this video and see it as a part of System 3 in this video.
AJH Synth MiniMod Contour Generators
Does fitting dual independent contour generators in a single 12HP Eurorack module sound like science fiction to you? Well, the real-world design of the AJH Synth MiniMod Contour Generators achieves such a feat of engineering.
AJH Synth managed to put two accurate Model D Contour Generator replicas into a single, easy-to-use, LED-driven unit that sounds accurate and responds swiftly.
To begin with, the company replicated the original's +9.3V and -10V voltage supplies. As a result, this unit sounds exactly like the original. In other words, you can easily get the Model D's famous punchy tones at a fraction of the price.
Plus, the unit also retains the unique re-trigger behaviour of the original, meaning that each keypress incrementally opens the filter or increases the volume.
If you are searching for the quintessential audio on the famous Model D with some modern twists and a friendly user interface, look no further. You can check this video for an overview or watch this one-hour in-depth video.
Behringer Dual Envelope Generator 1003
Those looking for a re-creation of the glorious all-analog signal path envelope generator found in Behringer's inaugural modular system will find a goldmine in this module and the way it sounds.
The Behringer Dual Envelope Generator 1003 maintains the four-section design found in the original by featuring initial and final decay time (release) as well as attack time and sustain level. By combining these sections, you can create percussive hits, lush filter swells, and impactful stabs.
Moreover, you can easily use it to modulate a pulse's pitch, width, or several other parameters.
This series of Behringer modules (named 2500) brings every piece up to date with a newly designed, simplified, and intuitive patch cable routing that replaces the convoluted patch matrix of the original.
Those looking for an affordable yet super-powerful unit that only occupies 16HP of space need to check this module out before buying anything else.
Building your Eurorack system can be overwhelming. For this reason, I've created My New Microphone's Comprehensive Eurorack Buyer's Guide. Check it out for help in determining your next Eurorack purchases.