Kenton have always had the knack of manufacturing indispensable little doodads, and the Modular Solo is no exception. Made specifically to mount in Eurorack‑format modular synths, the Modular Solo offers MIDI-to-CV/gate conversion along with added bonuses such as an assignable internal LFO and the ability to output DIN Sync.
I was first struck by the unit's build quality and sleekness. The brushed metal is pretty and the legending, though necessarily small, is very legible. The top of the module contains the display: a three-digit LED readout. Combined with three buttons below, labelled Select, Inc and Dec, this is the entirety of the user interface, through which all programmable parameters are accessed. Below the buttons are two columns of four sockets, all 3.5mm mono jacks. The first column comprises Control Voltage, Gate, Aux 1 and Aux 2 outputs. The second offers Clock 1, Clock 2, Aux 3 and Aux 4. Below these sockets are the MIDI In and Out ports, the latter also doubling as a DIN Sync output.
After a painless installation (and thank you, Kenton, for supplying rack screws as standard), I booted my modular and got to patching. First, I picked a MIDI channel for the Kenton to respond to. I did this by pressing the Select button once, whereupon a dot moved from the PARA to the VAL part of the display, indicating we were now in parameter value-adjustment mode. I then pressed the INC or DEC buttons and I was done.
When the dot is in the PARA segment, the INC and DEC keys scroll up and down the 99 available parameters. This may sound fiddly, but after living with the Modular Solo in my Doepfer rack for over a week I found it to be very intuitive and speedy. In fact, the Kenton easily keeps up with the huge LCD‑based interface of my Encore Expressionist. Full marks to Kenton here — when I'm in the middle of modular patching, the last thing I want is to be derailed by an arcane interface.
In use, the Modular Solo was flawless. I used it with my Doepfer, Moog Rogue and Roland MC202 and all worked perfectly. The only issue I had was with my Rogue: after switching the Kenton's gate output to S‑Trig, I could get the synth to trigger but not track pitch. However, this is an idiosyncrasy of the Rogue, which uses stereo jack sockets. Once I found a stereo 3.5mm adaptor, everyone played nicely. I also used the Kenton's DIN Sync option to synchronise my Roland TR808 and MC202 to MIDI clock. Again, flawless. Additionally, the Modular Solo's dual Clock outputs were tremendous fun, patched into clock dividers before being passed to envelopes.
The built‑in LFO and portamento also provide additional flexibility, but this capability would mean nothing if it was buried behind menus. It isn't: a couple of button pushes and I'd assigned a fixed‑rate, legato‑only portamento, and married that with a pleasing vibrato I also passed to the cutoff frequency. Once you have your settings perfected, you can store them as programs in one of the Kenton's 32 memory slots.
The Modular Solo wowed me with its build quality, output options and user interface. If you have a Eurorack modular and haven't yet sullied it with the world of MIDI, this module is worthy of serious attention. Jyoti Mishra
£195 including VAT.