29 March 2008

AtmoSphere Studio Tech (Part 8)

In the past I used only software sounds effects like reverbs, filters and delays. While mastering my first album at Groove though I heard how much better their hardware sounded. So I started looking for some outboard gear as well. The advantage of outboard gear is off course that it is dedicated for that purpose only and it saved a lot of CPU usage on the audio PC. Disadvantage is that syncing is a bit more difficult and you have to compensate for latency. But sonar takes care of that for me. In the picture on the left you see a simplified version of my studio tech schematic again with only the relevant stuff on it for my effects equipment.

The two units I use the most in my studio are my reverb units. My best one is an Eventide Eclipse. The sound of this one is so great I cant describe it, everything you run through it becomes better :) It doesn't to only reverb, it also has delays and harmonizer patches. The second unit I use is a Behringer REV2496. It sounds very good and is really underrated. The brand Behringer has a bad name. This is because they sell some very bad products as well. But actually the REV2496 is very usable and it is even dual engine so you can use it twice. I use both units via SPDIF in and out connected to the Friend-Chip DMX32. This way I can route audio through it easily. Since I use them digitally both of they are also synced to Word Clock on the Big Ben. You can find more information here:


I also use two units that are attached directly to the PC. The top ons is a Pod Pro XT. It is actually a guitar effects units but I use it for synthesizers. It has nice delays and distortion models. It is connected with USB to the audio PC. I use it with a software program called Gearworks that makes it available as a VST plugin in Sonar. I can use it multiple times and this way it syncs perfectly. The other unit is a PowerCore X8 that is attached with Firewire to my audio PC. It works also as VST's inside Sonar. For both units you can buy extra models of classic reverb and tape delay units. For the PowerCore I bought the TC Electronics System 6000 plugins and they sound really great. The nice thing about the VST stuff is off course that all settings are saved with my projects as well. You can find more information here:


Next to all this high tech effect units I also use some low tech guitar effect units that I usually run one synthesizer trough directly. My favorite units are the Elektro Harmonix Mistress that you see on the left in the picture and the Elektro Harmonix Smalltone (Russian version). Both are phasers that were used by Jean-Michel Jarre on his famous Oxygene album. If I run my Eminent 310 organ (that Jarre also used on this album) through it you really get that genuine Oxygene sound. I love it. But these units are also very usable on other synthesizer to make the sound more alive. Besides this I also use some other units like the Boss SE-50, SE-70 and the RE-20 that I recently bought. More information:


Using good Effect Equipment really makes your own sound. I'm always looking for more special stuff and found that especially guitar pedals make a nice addition. They are cheap and strange :)

27 March 2008

RE-20 Space Echo Emulation

I bought an RE-20 boss pedal last week. It was one of the things I toyed around with at the Musik Messe in Frankfurt. It is an emulation of the famous Roland RE-201 Space Echo. Off course the genuine thing will sound much better and more vintage, but the hassle with tapes, cleaning, calibrating makes this guitar pedal a very nice alternative. I'm very curious how it will sound. I will use it in my analog corner especially while jamming on the Moog Little Phatty. I probably also have better delay emulations in software that also sync perfectly to the project tempo, but sometimes it is just nice to start jamming without setting up a complete project first in Sonar. My next studio tech article will be about my effects equipment by the way, but I need to find some time to write it.

25 March 2008

Going to Oxygene Concert in London

Coming sunday (30th of March) I will be going with my wife to the Royal Albert Hall in London to see my all time hero Jean-Michel Jarre live in concert. They are going to play the Oxygene album on vintage synthesizers. You can see the setup in the picture on the left. Lots of classic and rare stuff. We have really good places and I'm really looking forward to it. I also found last week that Jean-Michel Jarre has a Blog now were he tells about his tour. Really nice to see he in more in touch with his fans now. You can find this new Blog here: http://aerojarre.blogspot.com/

21 March 2008

ASM-2 (Part 1)

My next DIY synthesizer project just arrived in the mail. Always nice to get such a package. I really got the taste now for soldering, so you will see lots more DIY projects in the future. The next synthesizer I'm going to build is called the ASM-2. It is an analog synthesizer concept from Elby Designs that you can build in two different ways. Either as a the 'Genie' version or the 'Wizard'. The Genie is a prewired version and the Wizard is a complete modular version. I chose for the modular design. This project differs a lot though from the PAIA projects I did. The documentation is a lot more complicated it even comes with some modifications right away on the original design. You can buy it as a complete kit at once. But you can chose to buy your own components from somewhere else or buy it in pieces.

I started out by ordering the PCB. The whole synthesizer is build on one PCB, but it is divided in modules. Like VCO's, VCF's etc. The PCB also comes with some papers that describe the modifications you should do right away and also a pick list for the components needed for the PCB. Also a CD-ROM is included with all the documentation you need to build the project. I looked trough all of it and I know I have quite a task in front of me. But life is supposed to be a challenge right? :) Well I really look forward to this one.

Another thing I ordered right away was the 'Special Components' kit. These are components that are difficult to get. So rare parts. The rest should be easier to get from a local electronics store. So that is what I'm going to do. I already gave them the pick list for all the resistors, capacitors etc. In the picture on the left you see the special components. Off course I will post all updates on this project in my blog. You can find more information on the ASM-2 on this URL: http://www.elby-designs.com/asm-2/asm2.htm

AtmoSphere Studio Tech (Part 7)

Another very important thing in my studio is the Midi protocol. Midi is used to transfer the notes you play on a synthesizer to the computer and also play remotely on a synthesizer. I have a lot of synthesizers and that means a lot of Midi connections. Almost all of my synthesizers are connected with both Midi-in and Midi-out to a dedicated port. The reason I do this is that in this way I can use all keyboards to play on and record in my sequencer and also program sounds on all synthesizers remotely through a program I use called 'Midi Quest'. This software can also backup sounds from the synthesizers and put new sounds in them with a click on a mouse button. Very convenient.

As you are used from my by now you see a simplified version of the studio schematic on the right. As you can see I use 5 Midi interfaces with 8 inputs and outputs each divided over two different computers. I didn't plan to do this, but the problem is that I also have a lot of synthesizers that emulate midi over a USB connection and all the drivers together wouldn't run on my main PC. So I decided to hook up all the modules in my rack to my mastering PC and use that as a Midi router. I use a little freeware program called 'Midi-OX' to make the connections. The midi interfaces I use are all from the Motu brand. I like them a lot. Very straight forward. I just hate Windows XP for not being able to support everything in the same time.

For the stuff I don't use Midi on a lot, like my FX equipment I use two Roland A880's. These are Midi patchers. They also have 8 inputs and outputs and with the buttons on the front you can determine which port is connected to which. And also you can store setups as a preset. I recently also bought a Roland UM-550 that is basicly a USB midi interface, but I use that one stand-alone as well as a midi patcher. The last Midi device I use is an Roland A220. This is a midi splitter. It has multiple outputs and basically I use it just to split up one midi output to several midi outputs.

Like my audio setup I tried to keep the midi interfaces as close as possible to my equipment, so I can use short Midi cables and transport USB to the PC over the longer distances. So far this setup works fine for me. But I would like to connect everything to one PC in the future. With Windows Vista it is possible. I already tested that, but unfortunately there is no support on Vista for a lot of my older equipment.

Juno 60 in repair

Recently I bought a Juno 60 on eBay. Unfortunately it wasn't completely in order. The arp select button was broken and also the buttons from the sub osc and patch selection were not working. The last thing is that the volume potmeter probably is very dirty since it sounds very crackling when I turn it. A friend pointed me to someone that is good in repairing vintage synthesizers. Maybe I could do this myself as well, but since I have no experience with this at all so I decided to leave this to a pro. I also asked if he can change it from 120 Volts to 230 Volts so I won't need a power converter to use it. It will probably be gone for a month, but hopefully then it will be in perfect shape again :)

FXpansion Guru

I talked a lot about hardware already on this blog, but I also use a lot of software stuff. Especially for drums, since that is very timing critical and actually also because I can't drum :) I use different software for drums, but one of my favorites is Guru from FXpansion. It is like a mini sequencer inside your main sequencer. You can run 8 different sequences simultaneously. Each sequence can hold a lot of different patterns and sounds. From these you can make kind off snapshots that are called 'scenes' that you can assign to a key on you keyboard to play them in your arrangement. A very flexible and great sounding tool. Another nice this is that you can run it standalone, so that you can design the drum patterns first and integrate it in your track later.

On the right you see a screen shot of a pattern. You also see the drumpads you can use to play or you can just click the notes on top with your mouse. Usually that is what I do. There are a lot of drum kits included, but you can use any samples that you want. I hear from a lot of Akai MPC users that this looks a bit like a software version of a MPC. In Guru there are also several nice effects that you can assign to sequences or even individual notes. If you don't know this software I would say give it a try. It is really worth it. You can find more information here: http://www.fxpansion.com/

20 March 2008

PAIA 9700S (Part 9)

I got some questions in my E-mail about the equipment I used to build the PAIA 9700S. So I though lets make a post about that. In the picture on the left you see on the left my multimeter. I used it to calibrate the the Midi2CV8 module and also to measure resistor values. Sometimes color codes are not very clear especially on the 1% tolerance resistors. In the middle you see my soldering iron. It is a Weller soldering station I have for a long time and still works perfectly. I think this is the best you can buy. On top of the blue station you see a rol of soldering tin. On the top you see a green bench-vice I use to hold some components for soldering.

On the right you see some pliers I used. The one with the yellow is a pair of cutting pliers I used to cut and strip the various wires. The black ones under that are used to bend things and also to hold the nuts for fastening the front panels to the PCB's and for fastening the 3,5 mm jacks and switches to the front panels. Also you see a black marker I used to mark stuff in the checklists from the manuals that you see lying in the background. I want to compliment PAIA again for these manuals. They are very clear and just by folowing them to the point you will get a working synthesizer.

In the picture on the right you see a picture of the two screwdrivers I used by a finished PCB. The black one is a philips screwdriver that is used for the screws that go into the frac rack and also for fastening the PCB's to the front panels. The black one is a regular, but small one that I used for adjusting the trim potmeters. I have to say by the way that after the initial tuning and calibrating I described I found that the synthesizer still wasn't completely tuned and I spend another hour or so getting it perfect.

The last equipment I used for calibrating is not necessary per see. You could do it without is, but you will do it on hearing then and this is more precise. On the left you see an oscilloscope. You can use this to visualize and measure audio signals. It has two channels so you can put two waveforms next to each other. Right to that is a combined function generator and frequency counter. You can generate waveforms with this to test stuff and also is measures frequencies very precise. Ideal for tuning synthesizers. On the floor you see the PAIA 9700S in a completed state. After this I put it in my rack. I already played around with it. It sounds very analog. Very nice. The last post I will do on this project will include some demo sounds. To give you an idea what it can do.

Synth.nl on Last.fm

Recently I stumbled across a great website. It is called Last.FM. It is kind of a interactive radio station. You can install a plugin for you favorite MP3 player and the music you play will be sent to the website. From there they select other music you might like and the artists you play go higher in the ranking. A great way to find new music and also contribute in the same time to promoting you favorite artist. So I would say have a look at it and give Synth.nl some plays :)
You can find my page here: http://www.last.fm/music/synth.nl

16 March 2008

PAIA 9700S (Part 8)

I started the calibration and tuning process. This surely takes some patience and I can't imagine how to do it without proper equipment. I started with the Midi2CV8 module. I used a multimeter to measure the voltage on the CV output. I attached a keyboard to the Midi input of the module and pressed the 'C' keys on several octaves. At these notes the output voltage should be exactly 1,2,4,5,6,7,8 etc Volts. There is just one trim potmeter on the module so with a screwdriver you can adjust it until this is right over the whole keyboard range. I tried it also an octave lower, because I suspected it to be too high, but then the behavior wasn't linear anymore so I guess it was OK as it was.

The next module to test was the dual VCO. First thing to to is to see if all outputs give a proper signal. I used my oscilloscope for this. You also need to align the Saw wave on oscillator A and B by adjusting two trim potmeters on the module. Also the easiest way to do this was with the oscilloscope. More difficult though is tuning the oscillator and adjusting the scales on both the oscillators. Best way to do this I found is on hearing. Adjust the tuning of the oscillator to a note on another synthesizer and then adjust the scale to see if the notes in the octaves above and under are also in tune. If not adjust the trim potmeter and do it over and over again until it is all good. On oscillator A this took me 10 minutes, but on oscillator B almost an hour. So maybe I was a bit lucky on the first one. But after that I already could play a tune on the PAIA 9700S :)

Tuning the VCF and VCA module is not so complicated. Basically the settings don't matter too much. I put all the modules in the frac rack and I did all the test procedures after that. Luckily the Midi2CV8 and the VCO module are situated so that you can still tune them by only taking the top cover off. So if necessary I can
do some fine tuning afterwards. Well now that the modules are in I guess it is officially a synthesizer in stead of a collection of electronics parts. I'm actually quite happy at this stage. After testing it looks like every module is working like a charm. So no mistakes made I guess.

The last thing left to do is solder the patch leads. PAIA supplies some wire and the connectors. So you need to make them yourself. But before I started with that I used some other patch cords I have from my Korg Legacy Collection midi controller. They are mini jack as well. It was nice to hear some sound from the PAIA 9700S en play even some tunes. It sounds really analog, but I'm still figuring out what all the connections are and how it works. I put it back on it place in the rack in my analog corner and I guess tonight I will play a bit more with it and try to figure out all the modulation stuff.

Musik Messe 2008 Report

Just back from the Musik Messe. We had a great time and have seen lots of nice stuff. I was really pleased to see that Arturia has almost finished the Origin. It is a modular concept with modules included from the ARP 2600, MiniMoog, Jupiter 8 and CS80, but also some own modules from Arturia that you can combine to make unique sounds. Also a 4 line step analog style sequencer is build in. I really love this concept. Lots of knobs a nice big display and a joystick for optimal control. The demo's we saw and heard were great. We also had a nice talk with the head developer from Arturia and I must say I'm very exited about this synthesizer. I will buy one for sure, I already saved space for it in my new studio. I heard the first ones will be produced in May. You can find more information on the Origin here: http://www.arturia.com/

Another machine I was exited about to see was the Cwejman S1 MKII. This is an analog semi-modular synthesizer. I actually ordered one of these a while ago, but I'm still waiting for it. They are hand build after ordering so that takes some time to deliver. It was really cool to play with one on the stand sponsored by the German Synthesizer Magazine. It sounds and feels great :) Can't wait till it gets here. Lot's of special stuff on this stand by the way. I hope to get my S1 in about 2 weeks from now. Off course I will post an item on it on the blog then. You can find more information on the Cwejman S1 MKII here: http://www.cwejman.net/

The synthesizer you see on the left is a MacBeth M5N. I have read about it on the internet, but actually never saw or heard one for real. It is also an analog semi-modular synthesizer but it looks in concept like an Arp 2600. It is quite big, but it is build very solid. There is actually a real spring reverb build in. It sounds great, very special. I can't compare it with anything else. This one definitely is going on my wishlist, but I will have to make room first then. And it is quite expensive I heard, but I don't know the actual price. So maybe something for the future. You can find more information on the MacBeth M5N here: http://www.macbethstudiosystems.com/

On the right you see a modular concept from CureTronic. This was a surprise for me. I never even heard about it. It looked and sounds very nice. When I got back from the Messe I looked it up their website and it turns out that it is actually sold as DIY kits as well for a very good price. So I might try some modules in the future as well, because I want to do more DIY projects in the future. I loved building the PAIA 9700S kit, so I'm hooked now :) Still need to tune and calibrate that one, but I need to solder again soon :) I'm hooked. You can fine more information on CureTronic here: http://www.curetronic.com/

On the left you see another nice modular concept that is quite cheap. It is from a German company called MFB. The two black boxes are from them. The bottom one is a desktop module called MFB-SYNTH 3. It is only 580 euro's I saw on their website and it is coming in May. For a modular synthesizer this is not expensive actually. I'm curious about the sound though. I didn't really have the chance to play with it. I'll study their website some more. They also have a 19" cabinet solution that also looks very good. Nice thing about this concept is that it will quite easily interface with the PAIA 9700S and the Cwejman S1 MKII because it has mini jacks as well. You can find more information about MFB here: http://www.mfberlin.de/

Off course we have seen much more interesting stuff, but this were the highlights for me. One thing I'm sure about, we will go to the Musik Messe next year for sure :)

11 March 2008

Musik Messe 2008

This week I'm going to the Musik Messe in Frankfurt with 3 friends that are also musicians. We will leave Thursday morning from my home and arrive around noon in Frankfurt I guess. We booked a hotel for the night so we will be there on Friday as well. I'm very interested in some new products that will be shown there. Especially the Arturia Origin. I really like the concept off this synthesizer. Actually I already ordered one and I am still waiting for it. I hope they finished it by now so I can hear some sounds. I think this will be one of the last digital synthesizers I buy this year (don't remind me off this when I buy another one). I'm becoming very interested now in analog stuff and especially modular synthesizers. I'm going to orient myself on the Messe on modular synthesizers for sure. Off course I will post some interesting stuff I found on the Messe here on my blog. Maybe I will see you there. I will be the fool running around in a Synth.nl T-shirt :)

PAIA 9700S (Part 7)

After finishing all the modules I soldered the power leads to them. The connectors and wire come separate and putting the wire on the connectors is a delicate job. The four pins that go into the connector itself are very small and you will need something to hold them while soldering. The Midi2CV8 module acts as the master power supply. The VCO is connected to that and the VCF in its turn is connected to the VCO and on the end of this Daisy chain is the VCA module. The next thing to do was to switch on the power and test everything. This is always a bit of an anxious moment :) PAIA even calls it the 'smoke' test. 'No smoke' off course is what you would like to see.

The first module I tested was the Midi2CV8 module. There are some dip switches on it to configure its behavior. One of the test modes just gives a signal on all the outputs. You can measure them with a Volt meter or even better an oscilloscope. And yesterday my oscilloscope arrived to I used it right away. The test worked fine. The next thing to do is attach a midi keyboard and run a midi diagnostics test. This went perfectly as well. After that I just put the Midi2CV8 module in the mode I want to use it in and tested all the individual signals on the CV outputs. I worked like a charm :) So at least this module is working perfectly.

The next module to test is the VCO, but I didn't run all the official tests yet. I just hooked up my new oscilloscope to see how that worked actually. You can see in in the picture on the left. It is de device on the left. It was nice to see the different wave forms coming from the dual VCO module. And also the Envelope Generator. At first site this module seems to work as well. After that I powered up the remaining modules and again no smoke and the Envelope/Modulator leds blinked so the first impression is no major mistakes on all the boards. I still need to test a lot and also calibrate/tune everything. For that I also bought a frequency counter that is on the right in the picture. You can measure infrequencies very precisely with this device.

I did forget to mention one thing by the way. I replaced one switch that PAIA supplied in the kit by a switch of my own. You were supposed to solder three wires to one little lead of the original switch and that one melted right away like I had before. I decided that repairing this one and trying again would have the same result. The new switch is a double one and doesn't melt. So this actually is my new power switch.
So far the 9700S project is going quite smoothly. I only found out that I'm missing 4 screws for one module to fasten it in the frac rack. I think I'm going to E-mail PAIA about this, because I would not know where to get identical screws. Next thing to do will be more testing and calibrating and tuning. I will keep you posted off course.

09 March 2008

Dreamscape Radio

From the beginning of this year my label Groove Unlimited started their own radio show. It is called 'Dreamscape Radio' and the host is Ron Boots. Ron is also a very well known Dutch synthesizer musician and also did the remixing and mastering of my first album 'AeroDynamics'. I really enjoyed his shows so far. Ron has an excellent taste in music and still manages to keep the show very varied with a lot of electronic music, but not only that. This week the fifth show played and Ron also played my track 'AeroDynamics' on this show. Another nice thing about this show is that you can buy all music that is played from the groove webshop on http://www.groove.nl/

You can find the radio show on http://dreamscape.groove.nl/. Don't forget to check it every week, because there is no archive of older shows available. It is worth listening too!

Groove is also present on MySpace. You can find their page on my myspace page at: http://www.myspace.com/synthnl in my Top Friends list. Add me as a friend when you are on MySpace yourself and don't forget to add Groove Unlimited as your friend too, because they are the guys that make it possible for me to release my music!

AtmoSphere Studio Tech (Part 6)

I talked before about all the digital equipment running on 48 Khz in my new studio. When you transfer digital signals at this rate it is very important that the timing of these signals is perfect to avoid loss of even a single one or zero. Normally when you connect two digital machines together it is possible to configure one as 'master' and the second one as 'slave'. The slave will synchronize automatically to the master. When you have a lot of digital equipment though, like I do, it is not that simple anymore. Everything needs to be in perfect sync at the same time. For this purpose a special protocol was designed called 'Word Clock'. It is nothing more than a very steady 48 Khz signal that is send over a coax cable.

In the picture on the right you see again a simplified version of my studio schematic with only the word clock signals showing. Again this is just a symbolic representation. Actual wiring is a bit different, but you can see that the AD/DA convertors, MADI interface, Friend-Chip DMX and the digital mixer I talked about before all are connected to word clock. You also see another piece of equipment I didn't talk about before that is called 'Big Ben'.

The Big Ben is made by Apogee and is simply a clock generator, but it is a very clever one. It produces a very stable clock and has multiple outputs. In the past I used my PC as master clock but that had some disadvantages. To start with not everything would sync to it and it only had one output. The Big Ben has six outputs with build in terminators. For a stable clock signal and good distribution the coax cable that the signal is running over must be a 75 ohm (impedance) bus structure that needs to be terminated on both ends with 75 ohm terminators. A terminator is nothing more than a 75 ohm resister build in or attached to a BNC connector. These can be build in the equipment or mounted externally. In the picture on the right you see how a simple Word Clock bus would look like. You see two terminators on both ends. Special 'T' connectors that connect the equipment to the bus. One master device that in my case will be the Big Ben and two slave devices.

On the left you see a BNC cable with coax connectors attached. It is very important that you have the right cable and terminators. In the past the ethernet network was also transported over coax, but this cable and also the terminators that came with them were 50 Ohm in stead of the necessary 75 Ohm. So don't use those!

I'm very happy with the Big Ben. One of the other nice things it does is measure the impedance on all its outputs. If one of the Word Clock buses is not exactly 75 Ohm a red led will light in stead of the green led for normal operation. So you can instantly see if everything is alright. All my equipment is in perfect sync now and the quality of the digital recording is outstanding through this. A bad sync of equipment leads to dramatic decrease of clarity of the recordings immediately. I had a lot of trouble with this in the past.

Website Changes

Today I made some changes to the design and content of my main website http://www.synth.nl/. I was getting difficult in the old setup to put all the content in that I wanted. One of the biggest changes is that the website is more focused around my music now than around the studio and equipment. I made some new buttons linking to the new pages that I put up. I hope you will like the new style. If you find information is missing that should be there please let me know. There is a contact button on top that will lead you to my E-mail address. And yes you can E-mail me and I will answer if you are serious. You can also contact me on my MySpace page if you don't want to leave your own E-mail address behind. I will probably be moving information around a bit more the coming days so keep track of this website too :)

Robo Cast Artist Spotlight

My track 'AeroDynamics' was played this week on the Robo Cast Radio podcast. This is a very nice podcast radio show about Electronic Music that you can listen online to or download as a MP3 to your PC or Ipod. A nice detail about this radio show is that the presentation is done by a robot voice made by a vocoder. This gives a very electronic feel that I like a lot. You can find the podcast on their website from this URL:


Besides the airplay time Robo Cast Radio also featured me on their website. It seems like they liked my album AeroDynamics a lot. They also put a nice review of the album in this article that was written by Matt Howarth from Sonic Curiosity. Also they link to the various websites that I use to promote my music and some text from my main website. You can read the article on this URL:


Here is also a direct link to the MP3 of show #17 that my music was played on.


Sid chips

I have always been a fan of Commodore computers. And I even repaired them for a couple of years for my day job when I worked at an electronics company. I still have an operational C64 an Amiga 500 and an Amiga 2000 and I still play on them sometimes. One of the things I loved Commodore for was the fact that the sound from these machines were very nice as well. I think nice music is important when you play a game. In the C64 the sound chip was called the SID chip and there are some variations on it that don't all sound the same. The last year more people started to use these old SID sounds in their music again and I thought that was very cool. found some DIY projects on the internet but also ready to go synthesizers you can buy. The only problem they all have is that they don't include the SID chips and they are getting rare. But recently I found a stack of them. There are two different types you see in the picture. 10 older 6581 chips and 4 newer 8580 chips. The 8580 especially produce less noise than the older ones. I don't know what I'm going to do with them yet, but I will build something with them in the future for sure :)

Walforf Blofeld Arrived

Another fine addition to my studio. I bought a Walforf Blofeld. The first time I played with this little synthesizer was at the Musik Messe in Frankfurt last year. To be honest I was not impressed by it at that time. I think because the factory presets that were in it by that time were very crappy. Recently I played on a final model in a music store and I was completely amazed. They have turned it into a little monster :) It is amazing what a powerful sound you can get from this little synthesizer. Especially the pad sounds you can get from it are very good. At first it looks cheap, but the enclose is very solid and also are the knobs. Everything feels very good.

I found a nice place for it in the digital corner of my studio. Just to show you how small it is I made a picture so you can see it next to some equipment you might know. I think I will use some Waldorf Blofeld sounds on my next album. But for now I'm still discovering a bit how it works. It is an easy synthesizer to edit now with the display. The graphical representation they made of some parameters are quite nicely done. I think you get a lot of moneys worth. A lot of synth for a low price. I would say check it out at your local music store!

01 March 2008

PAIA 9700S (Part 6)

I completely finished building the 9710 VCA/Mixer module as well now. This module is normally the final stage of the audio output. I described the functions of this module in the previous post. While wiring I found out that my soldering iron is basically a bit to hot for some components. Maybe this is also why I had problems with the wires turning black quickly.

I changed the tip of my soldering station a while ago, because I had to switch from Lead holding soldering tin to Silver holding soldering tin. The lead holding type simply is not sold anymore in Europe. The European commission banned this type completely here. The problem though is that Silver has a higher melting temperature than Lead. The new tip makes soldering this Silver holding tin much easier, but also rises some problems.

The problem I encountered during wiring, even though PAIA warned in the manual for it, is that I melted the plastic on the leads of one of the switches. I tried to melt it back in position, but after this the switch didn't work anymore. I decided to take the switch apart and look what was wrong with it. The construction was actually quite simple and I repaired it and put it back together. I was quite amazed at myself that after that it actually worked :) After this I took great care in heating the leads on the switch only very short and tested the function again afterwards and it still worked. I was very proud of myself :)

In the picture on the left you see the switch back in place after this repair. The rest of the wiring was quite straight forward and since there are less controls on the VCA it was finished quite quickly. In the picture on the lower right you see the finished PCB with all the wiring to the front panel.

I also finally picked up the remaining 12 Volt AC power adapter and the missing resistor from my local electronics store. The resistor was still needed on the VCF module. So now all modules are completely finished.

So what is still left to do? I need to finish the power connections to all the modules, put all the modules in the frac rack and start testing and calibrating the modules. For the last thing I decided to buy some new tools to make it easier. I ordered an 2 channel 20 Mhz Oscilloscope and a combined function generator / frequency counter. I will needed this equipment for later projects anyway and it will make calibrating much easier. That is if everything works. When it doesn't especially the Oscilloscope (or mostly called scope in short) will make finding errors a lot easier as well. I hope it is not necessary for that. We will see in a later post when I finally put the power on.