November 2008

Tone Generator

This is a square wave tone generator based around three 555 timers wired up as oscillators. I took some inspiration from the dub siren and figured if two were good then three would be better. This was mostly true. Several unlabeled pots control the oscillators impact on each other and then two signals are mixed at the final stage. Just as a note I get these pots by buying damaged internal boards of Mackie mixers. With a little time you can remove these great center detent pots for pennies. A schematic isn’t available right now but I will get something together and post soon.

There were a couple problems that I didn’t really notice until after the circuit was wired up. I used a pot to control the balance of the two signals going into and additive mixer at the output. This causes large swings in output volume depending on how far from center the pot is. When jamming it all in the box with a battery something happened  and one pot has no impact on the sound. These problems aside, the tone generator makes some great chirps, bleeps, bloops, and squeals.

I’ve recorded a string of the sounds you can generate with this tone generator, chopped it up into a couple dozen samples and included them for your use. If you end up using them in something I’d love to hear what you do.

You can see the complete set of photos here on Flickr

FB 383 Freebass Mods

Back in 1997 a company called Music and More (MAM) created a tb303 clone called the MB33. They licensed their design to another company called Freeform Analogue Technologies who dubbed the same clone the Freebass FB383. I guess it’s a clone of a clone? Both were identical and affordable during a time techno was all the rage and everybody and their brother HAD to have a tb303. Despite the overused sound and the long past death of techno these little boxes still have a good deal to offer…. Especially at current prices…. Originally around $400… I picked mine up for $10.00 on eBay, albeit broken. Due to poor manufacturing many of these guys are broken these days and don’t produce any sound however, you can still tap into their analogue resonance filter to add some nice tone to just about any instrument and add a excellent tool to your studio. The mods that follow show you how… and it will cost you pennies.



Assuming you’re familiar with the FB383/MB33 you’ll know there is an external input on the back to patch a signal through the filter section of the unit. Assuming your unit works you know that when you connect a signal the internal synth is disabled which makes racking the unit a major hassle. By adding a filter on/off switch you can keep your unit racked and patched to a patch bay and use the filter easily. If your FB383/MB33 doesn’t work, like mine, then it’s basically a signal on/off switch. I plan on making a cv input for the oscilator and when i do, this mod will still be neceassry if i want to rack the unit.
Filter On-Off

The photo above is a shot of the finished mod. You can see more details, photos, and descriptions at the link below.

The Full Flickr photo set here.



As with most external filter units, you need to trigger the envelope section before you will hear any sound. So if you have an input signal patched and the envelope is not triggered you hear nothing. To do this you have to supply a voltage to the bias input of the Operational Transconductance Amplifier (OTA). Instead of applying a direct voltage I opted to use a pot to drop the voltage at the base of a transistor controlling flow to the bias input… drop the voltage and current flows to the bias input. With higher voltages you get some gritty distortion which isn’t so bad in some cases. I soldered one lead of the pot to ground and one to an easy to reach lead on the end of a 0 Ohm resistor. That’s what you see in the photo above.
Filter Trigger

As before, you can see the full set of photos by the link below.

The Full Flickr photo set here.



This one is pretty self explanatory. There is a resistor in place that restricts the resonance a bit. By bridging this resistor you can get some nice thick resonance and even some self-oscillation. Instead of simply bridging it though I added a switch to allow for ‘normal’ and ‘boost’ modes for a variety of applications.
resonance boost

As with the previous mods… photos and details by the link below.

The Full Flickr photo set here.

When initially looking into information on the FB383 I immediately figured out that nobody has any. Nobody. There was virtually no information available on the net with the exception of a brief background on MatrixSynth and some information on possible mods (for a fee) at Of course there were reviews at typical locations like hyperreal and harmony central but other than that it was limited. I managed to track down someone familiar with MAM products through the company that ate them, Musonik, and figuring that somewhere someone would have service manuals, design specs, part sources, etc. I was wrong. Nothing.
Circuit Overlay

So given the good number of these machines out there and the likelihood that there were a fair number of folks in need of a signal flow diagram I made a high resolution circuit overlay of the Freebass FB383 (MAM MB33). It’s not a schematic but it’s about as close as you can get. I’ve found it immensely useful and have it available here for any and all to put to good use. Enjoy!

The full high resolution (7920×1587) image here.