If your looking for anything and everything Cray & Buchla related, and a Tumblr that’s updated far more frequently than this site then look no further than Its In My Brain Now. If you need convincing just take a look below for an example from the are-you-kidding-me department.
Vinnui has a concise site detailing the build of his modular. He has put together some sharp looking modules and although he comments his wiring is a mess I think it looks exactly the way it should… made by hand, at home, with a soldering iron and a lot of patience.
It looks like it mostly consists of YuSynth modules though he also has a pretty cool idea for his own variation on the Moog Voyager’s modulation bus. His expansion on the idea of a modulation bus is comprehensive and has about as many patching options as you could fit before it gets confusing or inconvenient compared to more traditional patch cables. I could see something like this being very useful when you need to quickly dial something up without a handful of patch cables.
The layout consists of two buses, each sporting 12 possible sources, 12 destinations, and 12 shapers. That’s a total of 1,728 patching combinations, per bus, with only the quick turn of three dials. Purists may not like the rotary switch patching of modulators but I think its a brilliantly simple way to manage a large number of patching capabilities in an easy to remember/recall format.
This is from another ElectroMusic.com user named ‘RF’. ‘RF’ [Nick] has built a monster DIY analog synth built mostly from MFOS kits from Ray Wilson. RF’s site gives a great deal of information on where he got started when looking to explore DIY synthesis. One of these days I’m going to take off 5 years and photograph all of these synths and publish it in a luxurious hard cover volume with nothing but gear-porn quality photos.
Not at all DIY audio in any sense. Not even close. If ever has anything deserved an are-you-fing-kidding me this is it.
Usually I will just post a couple images with brief descriptions of the process behind a project I post. But with the completion of my mods to the MFOS Weird Sound Generator I wanted to offer up a couple of the dos and don’ts I learned while working on this.
- Do buy an Alesis Quadraverb on eBay for 10 bucks and use the 1 space rack case instead of buying something new.
- Do save the seemingly useless Alesis front panel because you never know… you might need it (and I did).
- Do take the time to measure twice, three and four times.
- Do be prepared to find out that your measurements might still be wrong.
- Do go with your instincts and spend the extra cash to make it look nice.
- Do use pre-tinned solid wire (and save a lot of time).
- Do drill or punch starter holes.
- Do look up parts you’re unfamiliar with in Mouser’s four inch thick hard-copy catalog. It’s far easier to get an idea of what your actually buying sight unseen.
- Don’t waste three weeks comparison shopping at on-line front-panel design shops. You spend a lot of time learning stripped down versions of proprietary CAD tools that can be enormously frustrating and in the end the price difference isn’t that significant.
- Don’t do anything less than 2mm on the width of the front panel.
- Don’t ever go back to stranded wire.
- Don’t pass by the $20 Quadraverb and waste two and a half weeks looking for a better deal. 18 days is worth the extra $10 bucks compared to the money you save from buying new.
- Don’t rush.
This is a nice shot of the whole unit which shows the excellent work the folks at Front Panel Express did on this. If you’re considering spending the coin on a custom front panel and on the fence about it I can say without reservation that my expectations were exceeded and I will never doubt that it was money well spent. Just make sure you have your measurements right. I made a couple mistakes which I was able to work around without major issue but it was at the expense of several days time figuring out alternative solutions.
Sometimes you don’t want to have to spend hours researching designs and finding parts to build a project… sometimes you just want to buy everything you need at once, solder it up, and have fun without the worry of troubleshooting your design. At those times a kit is perfect and in this case that’s just what I did.
I’ve posted about MFOS before. They manufacture a number of kits from entry level to advanced synthesis kits. I decided to go with the ‘WSG’… or Weird Sound Generator. Ray Wilson has some excellent designs that are really fun to put together. I managed to get this up and running in a weekend without any hassles and it sounds great. It’s basically two squarewave generators with LFOs and a resonance filter. If your just starting out this is perfect… and even though I’ve been doing this for a while it was still a ton of fun. Ray’s taken all the hard work out of the process and made DIY synthesis simple, straight forward, and well documented.
He provides all the documentation you could need including wiring diagrams, pcb templates, schematics, block diagrams, and parts lists so I won’t duplicate that here. I’ll just add some comments on the build and a video of the finished project at the end of the post…
Here we have the parts list laid out…
Most of the components have been soldered to the PCB at this point. All the parts are included in the kit and none were missing.
The finished PCB sans ICs.
I used a aluminum enclosure from an old broken gemeni turntable mixer I bought off of ebay. I’ve had great luck finding things like this for 10 bucks or less sometimes and they’re perfect when you need spare knobs, op amps, or enclosures. I just flipped it upside down and took of the rubber feet. Holes were drilled using a step bit (these are a must have for drilling good holes in aluminum enclosures).
Here is everything wired up.
This is the PCB finally wired up. One complaint about this is that the holes on the PCB for all the wiring are placed all over the PCB which makes for really messy wiring. I found that extra care was required to make sure the wiring didn’t bend too much and come detached from the PCB. It seems like using headers would be a much easier way to go about this the next time around.
When I put this together I first soldered the hookup-wire to the board, then to the components on the panel which makes it really difficult to keep things neat and tidy. Next time I will wire up the panel first, then complete the board, then make my connections to allow for a cleaner layout.
Just a tip for beginners… don’t shrink the heat shrink tubing until you’ve tested your work and are certain it works. It’s a major irritation to have to remove heat shrink tubing after you’ve already… well, shrunk it.
The Bergfotron is the masterpiece of Jörgen Bergfors, an exceptionally gifted member of the Swedish Analogue Sympathists mailing list (SAS). Jörgen has been creating modules, enclosures, PCBs, and all things synth DIY for over thirty years and believe me it shows. I don’t think any description fits his skill set better than ‘Master’. He is simply one of the best.
The Bergfotron site has tons of pictures detailing every coceivable aspect of his process. He hand makes the actual panels with mounting studs and graphics… The attention to detail is truly above and beyond.
He covers theory and actual practice, has schematics, circuit board layouts, procedural details and covers just about every aspect of the process in his writings. One thing he doesn’t have though is a well laid out web-site so navigating and finding everything isn’t always that clear. But really, who cares.
Here are a couple examples of his work… they speak for themselves. I definitely encourage you to take a look at his site. I’m of the opinion that regardless of what you’re doing DIY related you can get some tips from him on how to master your craft. If his pictures of his work don’t convince you then what are you doing reading this?
Carsten Toensmann is the man behind the “Analog Monster“. For the past decade or so Carsten has been slowly building analog modules himself with a help from the book “Formant-Pro MSS2000″. This book, which is out of print and only available directly from the author in electronic form. I have no more details on the book but if the results of Carsten’s work are any indication of its content then it must be awesome.
I can really only say one thing… Carsten is amazing. Here are a couple pictures of the complete project in its current form and two of the modules. Two out of 25!
…And the Quad ADSR Board. I wish there was a hi res of this so we could really see his attention to detail. These boards are all hand/home made… no using Gerbers and bulk manufacturers in China like PCB Express and others. The thought of drilling all those holes makes me squirm. However, Carsten apparently prefers to drill all the holes instead of dealing with things like this
Jürgen Haible from Germany redesigned the Tau Pipe flanger and documented the test and build in great detail at his site http://www.jhaible.de.
His site has more information than you could ask for when it comes to synth and audio effects DIY. He includes schematics, block diagrams, design and test notes, high resolution pictures, mp3s, external links to resources, formula calculators, spreadsheets, etc. He does this for over 25 projects. It’s truly impressive. Take a look at the images of his Tau Flanger/Phaser redesign…
I happened across Ryan’s excellent DIY synth and immediately recognized the housing he used for it. It’s a Victoreen Radiological Survey meter. You can find these in abundance on eBay for pretty cheap (which is exactly what I did). Hats off to Ryan on this really cool modification. You can find images and more about Ryan on his site Pickleinn.com