Midi Sound Module: Simplified Guide

A Midi Sound Module is a synth / tone generator without a playable interface such as a Keyboard! It has to be "played" using an external device.


There are various instruments, both hardware as well as software, that can provide you with the variety of sounds needed for your music.

midi sound moduleA Sound Module is one such instrument…and since it can send and receive midi messages, it is also known as a MIDI Sound Module.

A sound module is also sometimes referred to as tone generator. It is an electronic musical instrument (like a synthesizer/sampler) but does not have a human-playable interface such as a keyboard.

MIDI Sound Module – How Does it Work?

Sound modules have a collection of built-in sounds. To be able to play those sounds, you need to trigger them using an externally connected device.

To play the sounds in a sound module, you need an external device like a keyboard (usual keyboard or a controller) or a sequencer. The Keyboard/Sequencer will provide information about what notes need to be played by the sound module.

As usual, all the connections between sound modules, keyboard controllers, and sequencers are made with MIDI.

Note – You will also find instruments known as Drum Modules. A Drum module is a midi sound module that specializes in just percussion sounds.

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Midi Synth Module – Evolution

The 90’s were definitely the decade of the synth module. Almost every studio making money had one, especially the Yamaha DX7, which was considered quite revolutionary then because of its clean, digital sound.

You saw various types of sound modules – analog, FM, wavetable, LA and sample playback costing from a few hundred dollars to a few grands.

Though getting obsolete because of the plethora of software synths that are available today, synth module manufacturers are still hopeful and are competing to stay in the market, of course by trying to provide what the soft synths cannot.

Types of MIDI Sound Modules

Though there are many generic modules which can cater to a wide range of needs, you do have modules that are very good in certain areas. Here are the more popular types:

Sample Playback Modules: These are the more popular ones out there and come with a massive palette of sounds.

You even have expansion options to cover any special musical need that you may have.

The Korg M3M and Yamaha MOTIF-RACK XS Tone Generator Module all fit in here but the Korg M3-M Workstation Module gets more votes because of its flexibility.

Synth/Vocoding Modules: High end synthesis is what these dedicated modules provide, and this where a synth module scores over its software counterpart. The kind of synthesis and vocoding that these modules provide will uses tons of your computer’s resources. So if you requirement needs full fledged synthesis, this is what you might need.

The big boys here include the Korg M3-M (with the Radias MMT Expansion Card).

Specialty Modules: If you interest is in some specific kind of music, you may want to check out this type.

Usually these modules come in two formats – the more common 19″ rack module and the newer “DJ” style modules (desktop modules). Some desktop modules can be rack mounted whereas some cannot.

For instance the Korg Radias-R Analog Synthesizer Rack, Access Virus TI2, and the Moog Voyager Analog Synth are very good at analog synthesis.

Sound Modules – Characteristics

MIDI Sound Modules have the following characteristics.

  • Need a Controller
  • – You need an externally connected device (keyboard or sequencer) to play a Sound module.

  • MIDI
  • – Can send/receive MIDI messages.

  • Cost Effective
  • – Sound module can be cost effective option to a synthesizer/sampler.

  • Need Less Space
  • – It takes up less room than an instrument equipped with a keyboard.

  • Rack-Mountable
  • – Sound modules are often rack-mountable.

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