ER-301 vs Nord Modular

Lately I’ve gone down an Autechre rabbit hole and, as usual, that has me lusting after some gear, mainly the Nord Modular. That got me wondering if my often neglected ER-301 could basically do the same thing, since they’re both very powerful virtual modular systems. I’ve been trying to work through the NM manuals and figure out if there’s ER-301 versions of the modules. It feels like most everything is there. Does anyone have any opinions on how close to feature parity the 301 is to the Nord? Are there ways to work around the features that don’t currently exist? Is the 301’s CPU capable of handling similar levels of complexity? Any suggested modules to pair in a palette case to help get there?

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I used Nord Modular quite a lot from 1998-2003, and released many projects on various electronica labels of that era. It’s super powerful. Not sure i would let my Er-301 go for it today though. But on the other hand NM would be a great supplement to the Er-301 as it’s easy to use, super fast and fun to build your own synth setups with . The intuitive way of patching the Nord Modular might bring you to different sonic places. Awesome sounding as well.

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I have a NM G1 with voice expansion and had an ER301 for a bit (sold it for some needed $ now patiently waiting for the next batch as I miss it). Yes, they both do cover a lot of similar territory as you’re essentially building up patches from the same core modular derived elements. The one most obvious thing is there is no sampler/sampling in the NM environment. I could see some of the more complex NM patches being very time consuming on the 301 as there are some specialized ready-to-go modules in the NM environment that would need to be built from scratch in the 301.

I think the biggest difference is in the immediacy the NM offers with the GUI patch setup, keys, knobs, etc. vs. the 301’s very small window interface. Plus the vast and deep patch libraries out there for the NM (and some authentic Ae G2 patches out there). But the computer interfacing needed for the NM is a ball and chain at times. The G1 in particular has some very finicky MIDI cable and interface preferences. Plus there’s the ever lurking vaporware threat for the NM editors and the aging, end of life parts of the machines.

Integrating a 301 with other euro modules is pretty great. Although one can have auto and random parameter tweaking in the NM’s patches, it’s not quite like euro modulation really. And of course, NM is only really integrating with other gear via MIDI. I’ve heard of CV control signal hacks though for the NM.

Comparing processing power is a bit out of my wheelhouse. Plus the NM doesn’t really follow a comparable scheme. The G2 was an improvement but I know both the G1 and G2 can get bogged down with effect processing like delays fairly quickly. My suspicion is the NM probably excels at some processing over the 301 but the 301 probably has it’s own sweet spots. I know that’s not helpful but all I got. Maybe someone else has a better idea.

If you’re not really using your 301 currently, maybe the NM is a good thing to try out. Might be more your thing. Too bad they’re both pretty scarce bits of gear. There’s a hacked version of the NM software editor that you can play with on your computer without the hardware. It’s limited in some ways, but might be a nice thing to play around with for a bit to see how you gel with it.

It’d be tricky to recommend other modules for a 301 considering just how versatile the NM is. Messing around with the hacked editor and looking at various patches you like might get you there.

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From my point of view, one of the biggest difference is the polyphony. With the NM, you make your patch, and then set up the polyphony to whatever you want / is possible. I didn’t touch the ER301 for years, but as far as I know, there is no polyphonic “wrapper” that allows you such a simple switch from “mono” to “poly”.

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