28 February 2008

Artic Mist Interview (English and Spanish)

Jorge Sergio from the Spanish EM radio program Artic Mist did a very nice interview with me. It is published in the English and the Spanish language. You can find it here:

http://www.articmist.org/direct/e_synth_nl_e.htm (English)


50000 MySpace Friends!

The 29 th of October 2006 I opened an artist account on MySpace.com. I planned it to be one of the tools to promote my music. I started inviting some people and soon my friend base started to grow quickly. In the mean time MySpace is my primary promotion tool. It is great to be able to reach so many people on one medium and the feedback I get is overwhelming. I get a lot of mail and try to answer everything as good as I can. It does take some time every day, but it motivates me like nothing else to go on with my music. I think MySpace is a great place to find new music and beginning artists and also to communicate with them.

Last week a milestone was set on my page. 50000 MySpace friends! Look on the picture below to see this magic number :) In the mean time I got also 127582 profile views, 93985 song plays, 3652 comments about my music and 794 people that subscribed to my blog. Amazing :) I would say have a look and if you don't have an account yet, make one and become my friends as well :)

You can find my MySpace page at: http://www.myspace.com/synthnl

25 February 2008

Juno 60 Arrived!

Today a very nice package arrived :) I have been waiting long for this one. I have been looking for a Roland Juno 60 a long time. And a couple of weeks ago I finally found one for a good price on E-bay. It was shipped to me today all the way from Canada.
From the tracking system from Canada post I saw that it arrived already on the 11th of february in The Netherlands. For some reason it stayed a long time at the customs for check in. I just mailed the seller yesterday to inform about the status and I would hear today. But not necessary any more. I think the Juno 60 is a very nice addition to my studio. I heard some very nice stuff on the internet coming from it.

Now I just hope that it will work. I unpacked it immediately and will let it acclimatize this afternoon. I know from experience that it is not good to switch on (especially old) electronics in cold and humid condition. So for now it is just standing in the hallway.

This evening I will take it up and hook it up to my power converter. Off course it is 110 Volts. When it works I'm thinking about selling the Juno 106, but I will first listen to them besides another. Many people say there is a huge difference in sound. The Juno 60 is supposed to sounds much more analog, much warmer. So I'm very curious.

I'm also a bit scared, because it has taken a long journey and there is a chance that it won't work. It did come insured, but there is no damage on it and I guess insurance wont cover electronic damage. And the warranty is long gone on this machine :)

The next thing to do when it works is look for a DCB converter. This machine has no midi like the Juno 106 and I definitely want to hook it up to my midi setup. DCB is some kind of Voltage Controlled interface, but it is Roland proprietary. There are two options for the interface. One is the Kenton. That is the most commonly used on, but there is also a Czech company selling interfaces for it. But nobody has experience with that. So I will probably go for the safe but more expensive solution. I will keep you posted soon on the progress off this project.

PAIA 9700S (Part 5)

I finished soldering the 9710 VCA PCB as well. This time no parts missing :) The VCA (Voltage Controlled Amplifier) module actually holds 2 VCA's a Balanced Modulator a White Noise source and an Envelope Generator. So it is a very versatile module. After finishing the PCB I started with wiring the front panel components on the back. And thought it would be a good idea to tell you a little bit about his.

The first thing that has to be done each time is solder a bare wire (no insulation) on all the signal ground points on the mini jacks. In the picture on the left and right you can see this. On the VCA module there are also some resistors and a diode directly attached to some components. So if you are soldering a module and you have some components left, don't throw them away :) You might need them later. PAIA also includes some insulation hose to put over the leads of some components to prevent them from touching other stuff. After installing the initial wires to the front panel it is time to join the front panel and PCB together.

This process if fairly easy. On the left you see the screws and nuts that are used. You first mount the 'L' brackets to the PCB with the blank bolts and nuts and after that the you simply screw the front panel to the PCB. One thing that is always tricky is to get the power led to go into the whole in the front panel first. I did this afterwards every time, though the manual suggest differently, but this is the way I was used to do this in the past. The construction looks and feels quite solid actually. I must compliment PAIA again though that everything you need is supplied in the kit. You can build it with just some simple tools. I will do a posting on the end of this project which tools I actually used, so when you plan to build it yourself you will know what you need.

On the right you see the PCB attached to the front panel. The only thing left to do now is solder the wiring from the PCB to the front panel component. This is a job you really should take your time for. A mistake is easily made. In this kit I found the wiring to be of the same type as in the VCF module by the way. The 'turning black quick' type. So I'll have to be very careful again at this job as well. But this project is going quite smoothly so far. I will try to pick up the missing 1% resistor from the VCF module today so I can finish that as well. Not more than 5 minutes work after that. In the next posting I guess I will have finished the VCA module as well. We will see :)

24 February 2008

AeroDynamics Reviews

The German website Musik Zirkus Magazine wrote a very nice review on my AeroDynamics album. Off course it is in German. You can read it by clicking on the picture on the left. You can find their website on this URL: http://www.musikzirkus-magazin.de/

I just made a dedicated page on my own website with more reviews in English and Spanish. You can find it on this URL: http://www.synth.nl/reviews.php

If you find more reviews please let me know.

AtmoSphere Studio Tech (Part 4)

In this posting I want to talk a bit about the AD/DA converters in my studio. On the left you see again a stripped down version of the studio schematic. You see the analog synthesizers on the left and the analog audio signals coming from them in red going into the AD/DA convertors en coming out on the right in green as ADAT. There are three types of AD/DA converters in this picture marked 'AD8000', 'DDX3216' and 'Aurora'. I will go more in dept on this equipment further on in this posting. But what do these converters do? Well quite simply they convert analog signals to digital and digital signals to analog. As I stated before they all run on 48 Khz, meaning that 48.000 times a second they measure the voltage of the analog signal and translate that into digital numbers that are transferred in 'ones' and 'zeros'. In my setup I only use AD/DA converters that convert to from and to the 8 channel ADAT protocol. But also this could have been SPDIF for example.

In AD/DA converters there is a lot of quality difference. The best converters I have are two Lynx Aurora 16's. They have 16 mono input channels and 16 mono output channels on on the analog side and I inserted two ADAT boards so that is also has 2 ADAT input channels and two ADAT outputs. I use of in my analog corner, because especially analog synthesizer have a very wide dynamic range. These aurora's are able to truly capture the spirit of the analog signal without losing the dynamics. They sound terrible accurate. The other one is connected to some of my favorite synthesizers in my Synth Alley. On both I also use some outputs, but I bought them especially for the inputs. One of the things to keep in mind is that these converters become very warm. They need ventilation on the top, so you cannot put them in the middle of a rack between other equipment. In both racks I have them on top for optimal ventilation. You can find more information on these convertors on the Lynx Studio website at: http://www.lynxstudio.com/product_detail.asp?i=1

I also use a some Behringer ADA8000 AD/DA converters. These are much cheaper than the Aurora, but also a bit less in quality off course, though they are really not bad at all. They have 8 channels in stead of 16 and there is one ADAT input and one ADAT output on board. They do a good job in my studio. I have two of them in my main rack and they are connected to a Behringer DDX3216.

The DDX3216 is a very compact 32 channel digital mixer that I use to connect all the synthesizer modules in my rack to. It has 16 analog input, so in this way it acts as a AD converter on itself as well. I also inserted two double ADAT interfaces, so also it has 4 ADAT inputs and 4 ADAT outputs as well. The routing in this mixer is very flexible so actually I use it only as sort of a digital patch panel and AD converter. I can easily say which channel is going to which bus and the buses are routed to the ADAT outputs. Off course it is easy to set the input level on the mixer, but actual mixing is done in my Audio PC. This mixer sounds very transparent and that is what I want from it. I don't like coloring of my audio signals. The DDX3215 has some build in effects as well, but I use none of these, because I think they are not so good.

I placed all the AD/DA converters as close to the analog synthesizers as I possibly could. In this way I can use also the shortest possible analog copper wires. The advantage off course is less noise and hum, but also less cable spaghetti :) From the AD/DA converters to the rest of the digital equipment the signals are transported with ADAT over fiber. This saved me a lot of cabling in my current setup as well. I have a patch panel connected as well to every AD/DA converter so I can easily patch equipment to them. And off course everything is neatly labeled so I always know what is what. I'm very happy that I invested in this setup since it saved be about three weeks building up my studio again I guess and besides the overall quality of the sound has improved dramatically. But also within a year I hope to move everything again to an even newer studio :) Curious? Keep track of my blog. I will tell more about that soon.

Access Virus TI Polar

The Access Virus TI Polar is one of my favorite synthesizers. It is such a versatile and flexible machine. You can literally do anything with it. It is commonly mistaken to be a 'trance' synthesizer. I think this is because there are a lot of presets for it in that genre. But it can certainly do much more. My good friend Qui Robinez is an excellent sound designer and he made some great patches for the TI. I use several patches from his 2007 'Solar' set on my AeroDynamics album. For example the lead sounds in the solos on 'Falcon' and 'Turbulence' come from his hand. You won't believe that these sounds come from the TI actually. You can download his soundset from the Access Music website at: http://www.access-music.de/. Off course the TI it still is a VA (Virtual Analog) and you will hear some aliasing sometimes. But it can do things you would never be able to with any real analog.

I used to have a TI desktop before by the way, but I couldn't resist the looks on the Polar. Isn't it astonishing? I love it for sure. And it is so much nicer to have keys on it and controls that match the sounds. Here on the right you another picture which shows the amazing white leds a bit better. You should really see it in the dark :) But I could make a good pictures in the dark unfortunately. The unique feature that makes this synthesizer so special is the Total Integration part (TI). You get a VST plugin that you can use in your sequencer software where you can totally control and edit the synthesizer over an USB connection. You can also route up to 3 stereo channels internally, so you need no outboard gear to record it and off course all is perfectly in sync with latency compensation and all. All in all a perfect workhorse. This one is certainly not leaving my studio unless off course Access Music comes up with something even better :)

PAIA 9700S (Part 4)

The next module I did was the 9730 dual VCF module. This module holds two identical filters with low pass, high pass and band pass outputs. They are both 12 db/oct, but off course you can combine them to act as a 24 db/oct filter. The module also holds a modulator that acts as an Envelope Generator. I'm very curious how this filter will sound later on.

Before I continued with soldering the PCB though I first mounted all the remaining front panel components to the remaining front panels. You can see them in the picture on the left. For the VCF module I noticed before I started also that I missed a component. Again a trim potmeter was missing. I e-mailed PAIA about this earlier and luckily by the time I started soldering this module it had already arrived in the mail. Soldering this module again was no problem at all.

With the wiring though I encountered another weird problem with the wire itself. The isolation of the wire seemed a bit hard while stripping and during soldering it tended to burn very quickly. It turned black where heated, though I'm sure that I didn't overheat it. Maybe an old kit with old wire? I have never encountered this in my Electronics career before to be honest. The wiring of this module was about the same as for the Dual VCO module. Quite a lot of wires. But again the documentation is quite clear. Some wires needed some extra insulation, because when the front panel is mounted to the PCB the leads from the mini jacks could touch the components on the PCB. And off course that would lead to unwanted short circuits. During the mounting of the front panel components again I found I missed a 1% resistor. I didn't E-mail PAIA about it this time. I will pick this up from my local electronics store to finish it.

On the left you see a picture where I inserted the finished modules in the rack. It already starts to look like a modular synthesizer :) But still I need to finish the VCA module and put the power wiring in after that. I'm starting to wonder more and more if everything will work at once at this time. I started reading a bit in the manuals as well what has to be done afterwards and that is basically testing, tuning and calibrating. PAIA says it is possible with easy equipment, but I'm seriously considering buying an oscilloscope and a frequency counter, since that will make work a lot easier and I plan to build more projects in the future and without proper equipment you sometimes have no idea what you are doing. I used to have this stuff at my work when I worked in the electronics business, but not anymore now. So I'll find out what this stuff costs soon, since I have no idea.

23 February 2008

AtmoSphere Studio Tech (Part 3)

In my AtmoSphere Studio I use a lot of digital audio signals. The advantage of digital audio is that it is free of hum and noise and you can transport it over a long distance. Another advantage is that you can transport multiple channels of audio through a single and and thin wire. In the picture on the left you see one of my racks with a lot of digital equipment in it. In this post I explain what the RME ADI 648 does. I will explain the rest of the equipment in later posts. But first a bit about digital audio.

SPDIF is the most commonly known digital audio format. Basically what happens is that in stead of an analog low voltage signal, that represents the actual audio signal, the signal is digitized and send over as ones and zeros. So that is just signal or no signal. This process is called AD conversion (Analog/Digital) off course you will need a DA convertor (Digital/Analog) convertor on the other site again to make an audible signal again. I will talk more about AD/DA conversion in a future posting. SPDIF is used a lot in consumer audio products as well. Most CD or DVD players have a digital output on a Coax (tulip connector, unbalanced copper) or Toslink (fiber) connection. SPDIF is usually 44,1 or 48 Khz and transports a stereo signal over a single wire. So SPDIF is actually 2 channels on one wire. There is also a professional equivalent of SPDIF called AES/SBU that is transported usually over balanced connections with XLR connectors. In my studio I only use SPDIF since most synthesizers output this as well.

Another digital audio format I use is ADAT. Adat is transported over Toslink fiber as well. So it looks like SPDIF, but it is definately not the same. ADAT can go up to 192 Khz and hold 8 channels of audio on 1 connection (4 x stereo). This is what I like to use over longer distances since it saves a lot of wiring. One fiber connection now in stead of 8 copper wires in my old setup! Everything in my studio runs on 48Khz like I explained before. Attached to my audio PC is the RME ADI 648 you see in the picture on the right. This is not an audio interface, but only a convertor from ADAT to MADI. And that is the third digital audio format I use in my studio. MADI holds up to 64 channels of audio on a single wire. That can be Coax with BNC connectors or Fiber on SC/PC connectors that can also used for Gigabit ethernet. The RME ADI 648 has 8 ADAT inputs and 8 ADAT outputs and these are multiplexed to MADI to go to the RME HSDP MADI interface in my audio PC.

On the left I took the schematic I showed before and stripped everything except the digital audio signals, so you can see them a bit clearer. The box called 'MADI' represents the RME ADI 648 and you can see the yellow wire connected to the PC. Actually there are two Fiber wires with SC/PC connectors. One is for input and the other for output. There is also on virtual Midi channel transported from the HSDP MADI interface over this fiber to control the RME ADI 648 from a software control panel that is installed on my audio PC. Here you can configure which ADAT port goes to which MADI channels and also the sample rate etc. RME also installs special mixer software with level meters. I use this a lot to play live (not using Sonar to play). It is also very nice to see which synthesizer in on which channel. All in all it gives my a lot of inputs and outputs to work with in my audio PC. Everything runs very stable and I love it :) You can read more on the RME ADI 648 here: http://www.rme-audio.de/en_products_adi_648.php

21 February 2008

Moog Little Phatty

I used to have a Creamware Minimax and actually I was quite fond of it, until I seriously played for the first time on a real Moog. It was the Little Phatty and I was hooked instantly on the shear clarity and power of the sound and decided to buy one. It really had that genuine Moog sound at an affordable price. You can use it for very powerful bass sounds and very nice lead sounds that really cut through your mix. And be honest doesn't it look lovely? :) Off course it is not a MiniMoog and you should not compare with that. But it is a joy to play on. Add some delay and reverb to it and you are in business. It is monophonic, and I like that, because that makes it more forgiving when soloing ;) There are also some downsides on this synthesizer. The knobs are clearly digital and are not always precise enough. They can make bigger steps than you want. And the potmeters have several functions. You cannot turn a knob for resonance and cutoff on the filter in the same for example. But you can automate this from your sequencer because everything is midi implemented, which makes it fine for me. Try it out when you get the chance!

PAIA 9700S (Part 3)

I finished the PAIA MIDI2CV8 module now. On the left you see the finished front panel. Installing the IC's was very easy again. I encountered only a small problem. For the Eprom and the Microprocessor chip sockets are supplied. And while inserting the Microprocessor in the socket I bend one pin on it. But I noticed it just in time and was able to correct this. On the right you see the Eprom that holds the software for the module in its socket. With a Microprocessor and software this MIDI2CV8 module is actually a little computer. Can't wait to fire it up, but I still need to pick up an external power adapter for it.

The wiring on this module was also a lot less complicated than on the dual VCO module. And to my surprise here another wire type was supplied, that was a lot easier to strip. Something I previously complained about for the dual VCO module. Another thing I found out is that the MIDI2CV8 module also serves as the primary DC power supply for the other modules. This module received 12 Volt AC from the power adapter and regulates this to +15 and -15 Volts DC. The power regulators on the other modules take there power from here and stabilize it again. Basically every module has a power input and output again, so you can daisy chain them together.

Here on the left you see the finished module. Actually two wires where missing when I took this picture, but it was getting dark. And I wanted to update this part today on the blog. The missing wires are now installed while I write this. On the module there are some dip switches that determine how it operates. You can also put it in some test modes to see if everything is working OK. So I guess that will be the first thing to do when I have the adapter. I will try to pick it up tomorrow. This module looked quite straight forward so I can't imagine I made a mistake, but well you never know for sure until it proves to work ;) I guess after this I will start finishing the VCF module. That will be a nice subject for Part 4 then.
Time for a bit of music again. I talked about my first release 'AeroDynamics' before, but I did another release on the same day. On the 13th of October 2007 my label Groove Unlimited released a compilation CD with a very nice idea. It is called 'Analogy 3' and as the name suggests it is the third in the series. On Analogy 1 and 2 some great artists where included. It was a bit like a contest as wel. Artists could send in tracks with some rules to follow and Groove would select the tracks they liked. The rules were quiet simple. Only analog synthesizers were allowed, around 6 to 8 minutes in length, no samples and no VA's. I decided to give it a try and I made a track called 'Synthology'. I was very please when my track was selected for the release. The whole CD is one big mix of all tracks smoothly flowing into each other. Ron Boots did this mix and I think he did a great job. All in all it is a great CD worth listening to. During this project though I found out how hard it is to make a track with such limited resources. I'm used to hook up a lot of gear when I record a track and play everything at the same time. At the moment I created this track I didn't have much gear though that fitted the requirements. So I had to use the same instrument several times and record layer by layer. You have to think much more up front what you are going to do. But it was fun to do. And actually it inspired me also to try and record a track with only 1 synthesizer. You will hear that one in the future. If you like more information on 'Analogy 3' you can go to these URL's:




20 February 2008

Nord Wave DVD Arrived

Today I got another surprise in the mail. I finally received the DVD with samples that Clavia promised when I received the Nord Wave. I haven't opened it yet but on the DVD it also states that it holds new versions of the Operating System for the Nord and a new version on the editor software. I will try it out soon and if something spectacular comes up I will let you know :) But I don't expect much to be honest compared to the current version. Basicly this software enables you to upload your own samples to the Nord Wave. As you can see in the picture on the right I have three Nords stacked on top of each other in the studio now. Isn't that a pretty picture? :) Well I love it anyway! And the nice thing is that these are three completely different synthesizers all together.

The first one I bought was the Nord Lead 2 that you see in the middle. I still know why I bought it as well. I visited the Jean-Michel Jarre concert in Rotterdam. He played mostly tracks from his just released Oxygene 7-13 album and most of the leads where coming from this synthesizer. So the next week I went to the shop and tried it out and I must say it is a very good VA (Virtual Analog). The second one I bought was the Nord Modular G2X. You see this one on top. This is basically a modular synthesizer in a DSP. The editor that comes with this synth is superb I think. You can draw up your own modules and connect them as you want. It sounds like nothing else in my opinion.

The last one I bought not so long ago was is the Nord Wave. A very nice concept where you can use a complete sample (not wavetable) as an oscillator and you can even modulate with this. You can build very complex stuff with this. Nice on this synthesizer is also that they added some basic effects section with Delay, chorus, reverb and a very nice distortion (overdrive). So far the delay is not midi syncable. That is the only downside on this synthesizer in my opinion. Besides that I like it a lot. And one of the reasons I also bought is was the fact that Clavia has bought the rights to the original Mellotron samples and put them in there :) I just love those Mellotron strings and choirs. You will here them for sure on my next album. In the future I plan to do more in dept reviews of some of my synthesizers with some sound samples etc. But at the moment I don't have the time for this unfortunately. But this is definitely a synthesizer to check out! And no it is not a Nord Lead 4! The only thing I must say to end this post is that most of the presets are crappy. Clavia should have done a much better job on them. So test it out yourself more thoroughly than browsing presets. Play around with these presets until you hear what this beast can do.

AtmoSphere Studio Tech (Part 2)

The heart of my AtmoSphere studio is my audio PC. It has two dual core AMD athlon 64 X2 processors, 4 Gbyte of RAM and 2 ultra fast 200 Gbyte harddisks. I build it myself in an ultra quiet Antec 19 inch enclosure. I installed a dual boot configuration with Windows XP and Windows Vista. I mainly work with XP though, since not all my hardware has Vista support. Unfortunately especially no support for my Tascam US-2400 control surface. The two disks are mainly for working data. Since I have been working in the IT business for a long time, I have seen a lot of backup/restore drama's. So I'm very careful now with my data. After I worked in the studio I make a backup over a Gigabit network to an Intel file server with 1 Tbyte of diskspace in a RAID 5 configuration. Besides that I once in a while even backup that data on an external disk attached to my notebook downstairs. Paranoia right? Well it has saved me a couple off times already ;)

The reason I run Windows is simple. My main sequencer software is Cakewalk Sonar 7 producer version. I really love this program. It is like a pen and paper for me. I can work with it almost with my eyes closed. Sonar is very good with both audio and midi data. It works very intuitive in my opinion. I did look at other software off course, but I like Sonar the most. On the right you see a Sonar screen shot of a track I'm working on right now for my new album. I save every track as audio even when I work with soft synths. A usual projects is about 3-5 Gbyte in size. When I'm done with a project I make an export of all audio tracks and all buses and that will be another 3-5 Gbyte of data. So that is why I need a lot of storage. Eventually I burn these audio exports on DVD and they go to my label Groove Unlimited for remixing and mastering.

In my PC there are a few PCI cards. I have some extra USB and firewire ports in there, because you are always short on them nowadays with so many synthesizers having an USB connection. My sound card is an RME HDSP MADI card. It can run 64 channels of audio both incoming and outgoing simultaneously at a sample rate of 48 Khz. The soundcard can go to higher sample rates, but then you lose channels. And since I have a lot of equipment I like to be able to record without patching I need a lot of channels available. Besides some equipment in my setup doesn't go higher than 48 Khz so I'm limited to that anyway. This audio card has proven to me to be very stable and it is even possible to install another one next to it when necessary, but I can manage fine with 64 channels now. I'll explain more about the MADI protocol and what it does in the next posting. In the mean time you can read a bit about on the RME website if you like: http://www.rme-audio.de/en_products_hdsp_madi.php

19 February 2008

PAIA 9700S (Part 2)

The next module I started on after the MIDI2CV8 module was the 9720 Dual VCO module. This module actually has two separate VCO's (Voltage Controlled Oscillators). Oscillator A has Ramp, Pulse, Triangle and Sine waveforms and Oscillator B only has Ramp, Pulse and Triangle waveforms. There is also a modulator on the module that actually is an Envelope Generator.

During soldering the PCB again found out that I missed a part. There should be two 10K trim potmeters in the bags, but I found only one and three of another value where two where supposed to be. Again I e-mailed PAIA about this and again I got a prompt reply with apologies and that the part was send off immediately. I really must complement PAIA on this. Off course this didn't hold me back from starting with finishing the PCB. I had not problems whatsoever with the PCB. The manual is very clear and if you just follow instructions you are done. A clever thing in the manual is that is acts as a checklist for parts. When you install a part you just mark it on the checklist and you know in the end for sure that you didn't miss anything.

After finishing soldering the PCB I mounted the front panel components and then I attached the front panel to the PCB. Then I started the wiring from the PCB to the front panel components. This is a bit more difficult. The first thing I found though is that the wire that is supplied in the kit is not very easy to strip. It is doable, but a lot of force in needed when you use a cutting tool for it like I usually do. The second thing I noticed is that the quality of the mini jacks is not so good. The soldering points are very thin and you need to bend some to get the wire through. And it didn't take much force to break two of them. I managed to fix this, but I think PAIA should look into this. But the manual again is very clear on which wire if going where. There is again a nice checklist for this and even the length you need to cut the wires to is supplied. Divided over three very clear drawings you can double check that you connected the right wire to the right component. Again compliments here for PAIA. I couldn't test the module yet, because I didn't connect the power yet and I didn't have another Midi to CV module to test.

Talking of Midi 2 CV. I also connected the front panel to the MIDI2CV8 module. Here on the left you see a picture of the PCB with(out) the missing parts. And coincidentally today I received an envelope with all the missing IC's in it! And also a separate envelope with the missing trim potmeter. All in all much quicker than I expected actually. On the bottom right you see a picture of the IC's. The big one on the top right is the microprocessor and left of it you see the Eprom with the software code in it. All nicely put in anti static foam to protect them from electro static discharges.

So I should be able to finish this module very soon and test it. I only need to get an external power adapter from my local electronics shop, because the one supplied is 110 Volts and I need a 230 Volts one. But I guess that won't be much of a challenge. It is a simple 12 Volt AC adapter with just 1 Amp. I just don't understand that PAIA send a 110 Volts adapter to Europe. They should know it will end up in the garbage :) OK enough for today. Another post soon in Part 3.

18 February 2008

My first Interviews Online

Since I released my first album last year I did some nice interviews that I wanted to share with you. I put up a new page on my website where I will post future interviews as well. The first interview I did was a written one. This was a very nice surprise but it was also quite easy, because I could think about the answers a while. The two that followed that one where two live radio interviews. Both of them I did over the telephone. That was a completely different experience!

Off course my native language is Dutch, and these two interview were done in English and German. I can tell you that I was quite nervous during these interviews, but I think they went OK. I recorded both the radio interviews and put a copy online so you can listen to them when you missed them before. During this interviews you can also hear some tracks from my 'AeroDynamics' album that are not as a sample on my MySpace page or main website. You can find this new interview page here: http://www.synth.nl/interviews.php I hope you will enjoy it.

AtmoSphere Studio Tech (Part 1)

I get a lot of questions in my e-mail about how all the stuff in my studio works. So I decided to make a series of blog postings about this item. Tonight I made a new schematic that globally shows how all the equipment is interconnected. Off course I will go more in dept in the later postings. When you click on the picture you will get a bigger version. I hope it is clear enough. I used different colors to show the different protocols that are used. In the lower right corner you see a table that shows what color is associated with what protocol. And please keep in mind that one line doesn't mean it is just one wire. It can represent more connections that all would do the same thing.

People that knew my previous studio will see that the biggest change I made is that almost everything is done in the PC now and almost everything is digitized as soon as possible. This is off course a choice I made based on experiences in the past, where I had trouble with noise and hum coming from way too long and way too much copper wires carrying analog audio signals. This setup also eliminates the need of the extra analog mixer I used to have that took a lot of space in the studio.

Another question I get a lot in my E-mail is what all the screens are doing there and if they are all hooked up to one PC. Well actually they are hooked up to three different PC's. The left two screens are attached to my studio PC where I run Sonar 7 producer on. That is my main midi and audio sequencer software. Basically I do everything in Sonar. The third screen is hooked up to a PC that I use for work (my day job), mastering and video work. There are also some synthesizers connected with USB on there so that I can run the software editor these synthesizers on that PC. The fourth screen is connected to a third PC that I use for chatting online, but also there is Kore 2 and Neuron VS installed with the Kore 1 and the Neuron controller attached via USB. So I use this one also as a soft synthesizer. OK enough for now. I'll continue in the next part soon.

17 February 2008

PAIA 9700S (Part 1)

I just started a new DIY project. I will try to build the 9700S modular synthesizer from PAIA. Like the Fatman it is a complete kit. In the picture left you see the box it came in. I was very excited when it finally arrived. Off course I opened it right away.
The box was filled with bags with all the parts, the PCB's, front panels and a 19 inch frack rack enclosure. The first thing I did after opening the box was look at all the bags en try to figure out what was what. After that I quickly read trough the manuals to see what was the global idea.

I decided to start building the included Midi to CV module. The first thing to do is solder the resistors to the PCB. Each resistor has a color code to point out its value and that can be tricky, because some of the colors really look alike. So I was very careful with this. After the resistors the capacitors come in place. But soon I found out that I was missing all the IC's that should be in a separate bag. In every bag there is a card that says what to do when you miss some parts, so I immediately mailed to the e-mail address on the card. I was amazed that within the hour I had an answer with apologies and that they immediately shipped the bag to me. Nice going there PAIA!

So I could not complete the Midi to CV module unfortunately at that time. I just hope the missing parts will arrive soon. After this little setback I decided to put the front panel component on the front panel.

And after that I build the 19 inch enclosure. This was all very easy so far. But I'm sure more difficult tasks lay ahead. But I don't mind. Building a kit like this is like an electronic jigsaw puzzle. It is supposed to be challenging right :)

The next module I will start on is the VCO module (Voltage Controlled Oscillator). Off course I will post upgrades on this project here.

AeroDynamics Album 2007

I guess this Blog should not only be about equipment, but also about my music. I started producing my own music end of 2005 and in 2006 I decided to start working on my first first album. The album is called 'AeroDynamics' and was released the 13th of October 2007 by Groove Unlimited.

Here a quote from my website about the theme of the album:

"During my involuntary military duty I served in the Dutch air force, where I was a mechanic on F-16 fighter planes. I got quite some education before I was able to perform this task. One of the classes I enjoyed a lot was aerodynamics and since then I have always been fascinated with the aerodynamic aspect of race cars and airplanes. So all tracks on this album are about cars, planes or aerodynamic phenomena related to the theme."

You can find more information on my AeroDynamics album on this URL:


On this URL you will also find a flash player with some sample tracks from the album and the links where you can buy it from. Please note that you will need Flash Player 9 installed to use the player on this page. In firefox this is not default. You will have to update it.

MicroKorg Reversed

The latest addition in my studio was a MicroKorg. It is a small but powerful synthesizer with a build in vocoder. For a limited time Korg made the MicroKorg with reversed keys and I just couldn't resist it because of these looks.

Editing on this synth is not very easy but doable. I saw that Korg also has an software editor on their website, but I haven't checked that out yet. I think this is the ideal synthesizer to take with me on holidays, since it is so small :)

Last night I jammed a bit on it in combination with some drums from my Korg M3 and soloing on the Virus TI. I had a lot of fun. The sounds are very nice. I used the MicroKorg especially with its arpeggiator on. And even though the keys are very small you can play quite well on them.

PAIA Fatman

Since I have a background in electronics (study and work) I thought it would be nice to build my own synthesizers. I searched on the internet and found a lot of interesting projects that I will try to build in the future. The first project I did was the PAIA Fatman.

A good project to start with to test my soldering skills. It was long ago that I did something like this, but it went very good. It has just one PCB and a 19 inch front panel is supplied. Building this kit was very easy and it working right away. I expected to fix some errors, but it appears that I didn't make them :)

Here you see the Fatman mounted in a table top rack that is below my workspace. It is basically a monophonic analog synthesizer with two VCO's that you can detune, one VCF, one VCA and two ADSR's. The sound is very rich and very analog. I think it is good for basses and leads, but for leads you miss some modulation possibilities.

All in all it was a very easy to build kit that I can recommend to anyone that wants to start with DIY synths. You can find more information on this synth on the PAIA website on this URL: http://www.paia.com/