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.
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.
Music From Outer Space (MFOS) is an extensive resource for anyone involved in DIY audio. Anyone regardless of experience level should have the site permanently bookmarked as it has something for everyone. Although focused on DIY synthesis almost everything on the site can be used in your projects. One their most recent additions is their web tools, specifically their “web schematic“. From their site:
Ray Wilson at MFOS also provides a virtual breadboard designer, panel designer, and a few essential calculators including a Resistor Color Code Calculator, Parallel Resistance Calculator, Non-Inverting Op Amp Gain Calculator, Inverting Op Amp Gain & Offset Calculator, Comparator Calculator, and last an Inches to Millimeters Conversion calculator.