Modular synthesizers have been around for quite some time now (developed in the 1950s). In fact, modular synths came well before the modern synthesizers we know today. In 1964, Robert Moog brought the Moog Synthesizer to the market: the world's first commercially available [modular] synthesizer.
Since then, many other companies have developed their own modules to fit within the Moog Unit (MU) format (also known as 5U). Though Eurorack has become the dominant format, the Moog modular format is still quite popular in the modular market. In this article, we'll have a look at the world's best 5U/MU module brands/manufacturers.
The top 11 best 5U/MU synth module brands in the world are:
- STG Soundlabs
- Club Of The Knobs
- Moon Modular
- Noise Engineering
- Grove Audio
Of course, any “best of” list is subjective by nature. I've done my best to make this as objective as possible. I've included not only my own bias but also the opinions of others (in real life, in online forums, and by which brands professionals use). I've also taken into account the number of models and the objective nature of the models in each brand.
We'll get into each of these brands in greater detail to explain why they made this list. I'll also include several module examples for each brand, along with a link to their official website and a bit of the company history.
Synthesizers.com (yes, the top-level domain is part of the company name) offers the most complete selection of Moog Unit format modular synthesizers in the world. The company's wide range of modules will surely have what you're looking for for your own setup.
Synthesizers.com was founded in 1996 by Roger Arrick and has been producing high-quality synth modules for a long time now. Drawing on a vast amount of experience from the founder and small team, Synthesizers.com is able to design world-class modules at affordable prices.
The direct-sales model and superb customer service ensure that users will be as happy with sales processes as they are with the incredible performance of these modules.
Synthesizers.com was founded in 1996 by Roger Arrick in Tyler, Texas, where the company is headquartered today.
Official Website: synthesizers.com
STG (Suit and Tie Guy) Soundlabs is a small yet well-represented company in the modular synthesizer space. This company produces both Eurorack and MU modules (with many designs being produced in both formats).
The designs from STG are superb, and the MU modules are easy to use and sound great. There's not much more to say about these excellent modules. They're awesome!
STG Soundlabs is headquartered in Chillicothe, Illinois, USA.
Official Website: stgsoundlabs.com
Corsynth is a Spanish company dedicated to manufacturing the best analog synth modules in the MU format. These modules are designed and produced with high-quality components, making for high-end modules that will surely enhance your synth's performance and capabilities.
The company offers several impressive MU modules with a focus on dependable and highly functional “basic modules”. Corsynth has produced some of the best modules to get you started on your modular journey and offers superb additions or substitutes for established synths.
Corsynth was founded in 2012 by Pablo Penas Vazquez, and the company is run out of Spain.
Official Website: corsynth.com
Oakley Sound Systems and its manufacturer, Krisp1, work together to bring some of the world's best MU modules to the modular synthesizer market.
Oakley is a relatively small company that designs these world-class MU modules. The company offers PCBs and electronic parts for DIY projects but leaves the manufacturing of their full modules to Krisp1.
This setup allows for boutique-like uniqueness in design and larger batches, ensuring those who want an Oakley module can get one without having to wait around for too long.
Oakley Sound Systems was founded in 1996 by Tony Allgood, and Krisp1 was founded by Paul Darlow. Both companies operate out of Northern England.
MOS-LAB is a French company that focuses entirely on reproducing the legendary Moog modules of the past. Since Moog no longer sells individual modules and the patents of these modules have expired, companies like MOS-LAB have been able to reintroduce the modules to the modern market.
The names of the MOS-LAB versions are the same as the originals, and the modules are based on the exact designs of the Moog versions. It goes without saying, then, that MOS-LAB MU modules are excellent, even though the company does not deal with their own designs.
MOS-LAB was founded by Sebastien Moumon, and the company is run out of France.
Official Website: mos-lab.com
Club Of The Knobs
Club Of The Knobs is another established company that reproduces Moog modules. COTK also has original designs to choose from.
With plenty of experience recreating some of the most legendary circuits to ever exist in the world of audio synthesis, Club Of The Knobs has a wealth of knowledge to draw from when producing its own designs.
Whether we're after a Moog clone or something a bit more novel, COTK's world-class MU modules make for excellent choices.
Club Of The Knobs was founded in 2008 by Kazikie (Gerd Peun) and is headquartered in Lisboa, Portugal.
Official Website: cluboftheknobs.com
Moon Modular (The Lunar Experience) is a team of dedicated engineers and musicians devoted to developing the best MU-format modular synthesizers.
The company has been producing modules for some time now, building a deep experience of module systems and taking customer suggestions to heart in order to produce the best possible modules.
Moon Modular modules are powerful yet easy to use, making them perfect for small and large synths alike. The wide range of options can be combined to produce full modular synths or added to larger systems for added functionality.
Each module is hand-crafted and designed with nothing but the highest-quality components that have been tried and true. This gives the look and feel of the great original modular synthesizers in the modern market.
Moon Modular is owned by Gert Jalass of Less MoMo Consulting and is headquartered in Berlin, Germany.
Official Website: lunar-experience.com
Noise Engineering prides itself on producing highly functional modules with small footprints and price tags.
This company is made up of a small but devoted team of musicians and engineers that strive to push the boundaries of what's possible with modular synthesizers. This shows in their selection of high-end products and their smaller line of impressive 5U modules.
Noise Engineering was founded in 2016 by Markus Cancilla and is headquartered in Los Angeles, California, USA.
Official Website: noiseengineering.us
Grove Audio has been manufacturing modularized electronics since 1995 with an emphasis on classic vacuum tube-based components. The company has notable experience in combining the characteristic sounds of tubes in modern instruments using advanced components.
The company produces superb professional audio equipment and has been in the modular synth game since 2005.
Grove Audio's modules draw on the company's deep experience in designed audio devices to deliver world-class modules to synth enthusiasts. The company offers modules in several popular formats, including, of course, MU.
Grove Audio was founded in 1995 and is headquartered in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin, USA.
Official Website: groveaudio.com
Curetronic is an excellent manufacturer of 5U/MU modules from Germany. In fact, each module is either 5MU single or double space.
The hand-made modules from Curetronic are constructed with great integrity and high-end components. They're easy to understand, patch and adjust, making them perfect additions to existing synths or a great way to get started in modular synthesis.
For more info on synth patches, check out my article What Is A Synthesizer Patch? Traditional & Modern Definition.
The company sells modules directly to its customers, building a report from the beginning, which helps to ensure the utmost customer satisfaction with any Curetronic product.
Curetronic was founded in 1998 by Matthias Schmidt and is headquartered in Trachenberge, Germany.
Official Website: curetronic.com
This list wouldn't be complete with Moog Music. After all, the company developed the modular format.
However, I've decided to put Moog last on the list because the company no longer sells individual modules. In fact, Moog stopped producing modules in the 1980s. That being said, the patents over the rights to Moog's modular circuits expired in the 1990s, and, since then, numerous companies (including Behringer, Synth-Werk, MOS-LAB, Club Of The Knobs and others) have recreated these legendary modules.
Moog now offers the Model 10 (link to check the price at Vintage King). It's a faithful recreation of the first compact modular synthesizer created by Dr. Robert Moog in 1971 and features several of Moog's superb modules. The modules in the Model 10 are:
- 901 Voltage Controlled Oscillator
- 901A Oscillator driver
- 901B Oscillators (2x)
- 902 Voltage Controlled Amplifier
- 903A Random Signal Generator
- 904A Voltage Controlled Low Pass Filter
- 907 Fixed Filter Bank
- 911 Envelope Generators (2x)
- CP11 Console Panel
So whether you get clones of these modules, originals on the vintage market or buy a modular synth directly from Moog, you'll have yourself some of the finest MU modules the world has ever known.
Moog Music Inc. is also featured in the following My New Microphone article:
• Top 11 Best Synthesizer Brands In The World
Moog Music was founded in 1953 as “R. A. Moog Co.” by Robert Moog in New York City, New York, USA. The company was sold to Norlin Musical Instruments in 1971 and renamed Moog Music in 1972. Moog Music declared bankruptcy in 1987, and the trademark was eventually returned to Robert Moog in 2002. The company is now headquartered in Asheville, North Carolina, USA.
Official Website: moogmusic.com
When buying a synthesizer, it can be challenging to choose the most ideal option within your budget. For this reason, I've created My New Microphone's Comprehensive Synthesizer Buyer's Guide. Check it out for help choosing the best synth for your applications.