Last week I visited the Dutch WWF (Word Wildlife Fund) Head Quarters to hand over a copy of my OceanoGraphy CD. As you know the WWF officially endorsed this album and also their logo is on the back. I'm still very proud of this. In the picture on the left you see me with Marlou who made this all possible. Thanks Marlou! Now I just hope that they like it and that they are also going to do some promotions for the CD :) A part of the revenue of the CD is donated to the WWF as well. So do buy the album, because it is for a good cause!! We also discussed some future possibilities so who knows what this will bring :)
I have some sad news. I know some of you are looking forward to my Classical Project, but I decided to postpone it for a while. There are several reasons for that. I thought I was almost finished with this project. I started it in 2006 actually, but today I tried to open the files and lots of stuff isn't working anymore. That means I have to recreate a lot of stuff and I rather spend this time on creating new original Synth.nl music at this moment. Also my record label is not interested in this project since it is now my own music, but just covers of existing music. So I'm putting it aside for now and will decide later what to do with it. In the mean time there are still 5 tracks on my website for you to enjoy. I hope you understand.
Today I build a very nice project called 'The Hip Bass Drum'. I it found in an old article from the Polyphony Magazine published in 1983. I had all components except for the 4739 opamp. I replaced that one by two LM741's. I decided to build this one right away on an experiment PCB. As you can see in the pictures it is full with holes and islands. You can solder them together to create the necessary wiring between the components. It is just a matter of looking at the schematic and making all the connections manually. The advantage over the bread board I use earlier is that you don't have to take it apart afterward and build it anyway on a board like this. It is only less easy to correct mistakes. But since this is a very small module I took the risk :)
Here you see a picture of the PCB from the top with most components installed. Since this module has a lot of external potmeters I decided to wire it right away with wires long enough to reach a front panel that I will eventually make for this module. I only mounted the Led on the PCB, but that one will go on the front as well. It lights up when to modules receives a trigger. After this I hooked up the power from my lab power supply to do the famous smoke test and it all looked OK. After that I got some potmeters from the stack I received from Mouser last week.
After hooking the potmeters up I attached a mini jack to get some audio from it. The first thing I noticed it that the trigger wasn't really working. Well I forgot to attach a resistor to ground. That was an easy fix. Then it sounded like only one of the two audio generating circuits was working. It sounded like the impact module worked, since I recognized that sound from the Snare Drum Module I'm building, but I couldn't hear the oscillator that should create the kick sound. After some debugging I found a resistor that I forgot to hook up on one end. And yes then It sounded like a kick :) I fiddled a bit with the potmeters and it sound very nice. A very usable module. I'll start making a front panel for it and I will also add a manual gate option and maybe a output level potmeter. If you are interested in the article, just send me an E-mail.
I'm still building a lot of DIY synthesizer modules, but I recently also bought a module that I could not buy as a kit. It is a 553 Midi to Clock Module that I bought from Moon Modular. It receives midi clock and outputs a clock signal that can be used to clock the sequencers I'm building. With this module I will be able later on to synchronize my midi setup (from my Sonar software sequencer) with the modular setup. If you are interested in this module you can find more information on this URL: http://lunar-experience.com/553.html
Here you can see a picture from the right. It just barely fits in my cabinet. As you can see it is very shallow. The module looks very nice and is professionally build. Moon Modular has more interesting modules. Be sure to check them out. The only challenge I have now is that this modules came with a synthesizers.com power connector. And even though I have a MOTM 950 with a power distribution board with the right connectors, it didn't come with a cable to connect it. So I ordered some connectors and will make this cable myself.
I was so enthusiastic after reading the Eletronic Drums Cookbook that I decided I just had to try some of the stuff out. So I went to my local electronics shop and bought a whole bunch of components. Normally I only order what I need for a specific project, but then you keep waiting long time before everything arrives. And I'm in such a period now, waiting for stuff. So in the mean time I can do some experiments on the stuff I learned from the cookbook. In the end there is an example of a Snare Dum Module so I decided to go and give it a try and build it from scratch without a PCB. I never did that.
I got also a breadboard for these kind of experiments. You can see it in the picture on the right. It is full of holes as you can see where you can put your components in. Every little line is interconnected so you can use those to hook stuff to each other. It is very easy to experiment and change values while you are going. On the board I got a trigger optimizer now that takes a 5V gate on the input and outputs a conditioned 12V pulse that the drum modules can use. There is also a led on there that lights up when it gets a gate.
In the picture on the left I'm a bit further. The snare drum sound will be build up from three sound sources: an impact generator, a snare generator and a shell generator. The impact generator is below the trigger conditioner. Below that in the middle is a little audio mixer that mixes the three sound sources together. In the right top is a noise generator with a low pass filter that I'm building now and that will form the snare generator. Below that is a VCA for that module. On the left you see the same VCA for the shell generator that will be in the upper left corner. It is already generating some sound. The noise generator, the mixer and the impact generator are operational already.
Since I'm very into electronics again I decided to look for some interesting books about electronics for audio. An interesting read I came across was the 'Electronic Drum Cookbook' by Thomas Henry. A very interesting read I can say, with some nice examples in the form of schematics that are explained in detail. Electronics knowledge is necessary though to be able to read it. It is great to catch up again with the stuff I learned when I was in school about 600 years ago :) If you are interested in the book look on this URL then: http://www.magsmoke.com/thomas_henry_drum_cookbook.asp
Last week the front panel that I designed for a YuSynth VCO arrived from Schaeffer. It really looks great, so I'm very happy with the result. It is in MOTM style and I took some stuff from different designs to get this one together. The text and other symbols are actually engraved, so it looks very professional. The only thing I found out is that the holes that I made for the potmeters are a bit too big. No real problem. I had this before with some panels from Bridechamber. The trick is to use an extra ring, but you need to be careful to get it centered. If you like this design and want to use it as well. Just E-mail me and I will send you the .fpd file. You can download the software from here: http://www.schaeffer-ag.de/de/download/frontplatten-designer.html. And then you can make adjustments for yourself and see what the price is right away. When you are satisfied just click order and wait until it arrives :) Very cool. I must warn you though that it is not cheap. Especially the extra lining I did around the potmeters makes it expensive, but I like to have some soft of scale. If you leave that out (and you can easily delete that) it will cost a lot less. Well I'm planning to do more front panels this way if I can't get them anywhere else. For my friend Hans I'm also looking for an Eurorack panel for a Wogglebug. If you know where I can find that please let me know.
If you want to keep updated on new releases, radio shows, interview, reviews etc you can now join my new mailing list. You will never miss important news, since I will send it to you by E-mail. Joining is very easy. Read how on: http://www.synth.nl/mail. You can also join me on facebook, myspace or twitter for updates. But I think the mailinglist is the best option if you are only interested in music stuff, since I write a lot about my studio and DIY projects as well on the other channels. Well you are into that that fine of course :)
Last week I wrote on my blog that I was looking for the 0.1% 100K resistors and I got a very nice reaction on that post. Andre mailed me with the Farnell part number and I could order them right away. I asked him back if he also knew the part numbers for some other components as it turned out that he was also building a Klee Sequencer. So he gave me his list for the stuff I didn't have yet. This saved me an enormous amount of time. Thanks Andre! I also got some more led holders last week since I overlooked 5 leds on the front panel.
Here you see the font panel with the extra leds and most of the switched installed. The switches are all APEM series 5000. They have a very nice flat look. I still need to mount three switched in the middle and the jacks, potmeters and a rotary switch. I'm trying to order them from Bridechamber, but I think Scott is a bit busy since he doesn't react very quickly on mail and it looks like he didn't even ship my previous order yet. So I'm considering to order some stuff from Mouser. I also got part numbers for the potmeters and rotary switch from Andre.
After I mounted the front panel components I worked some more on the PCB's with the next supply of parts that I got. I'm still missing 100K resistors and 100nF capacitors, but the rest is soldered. When checking the IC values I saw that my local electronics shop gave me alternatives. In stead of the CMOS CD types I got HCF ones. I don't think I should do this even though I can't make up from the data sheets if it would be a problem. But I rather not take chances and will bring them back and order them from Farnell I guess. Too bad that getting all the components takes so much time. I'd love to start wiring it, but I better wait until everything is in place.
There is much debate about the effectiveness of more than one subwoofer in a home cinema setup. I bought a Rel Quake a long time ago and I thought it did very well. But then my friend Hans told me that he had one exactly like mine that he didn't use anymore. So we decided to try them next to each other. And well no debate for me. It works :) You can really feel the explosions now and I love that. And since the cinema is surrounded by 40 cm of concrete and under the ground just like the studio, nobody will be bothered by it :)
Last week my track 'Atlantico' was featured on Robocast Radio Podcast #38. Since it is a podcast it is still available for you to listen to. It is a very nice show that is presented by two robot hosts :) Just listen to it. I'm sure you will enjoy it.
I visited my local electronics shop again today to pick up some more parts for the Klee Sequencer. I also look for some nice led holders and found these ones. The only problem though is that they were wider than the holes that Bridechamber put in the front panel. I don't know what kind of led holders Scott uses, but they need to be very tiny since these ones were the smallest I could find. Well I think these look neat since they are shiney like the rest of the front panel components I selected.
The only scary thing was that I needed to drill holes in this very nice front panel. I think the standard holes were 6 millimeter and for the led holders I selected I needed to drill 8 millimeter holes. Well luckily there is room enough for that. I did a trial first on the Yusynth Noise and Random module I build before. There was still a led holder missing on that as well. I also found out that There are 5 more leds going on the front panel than I anticipated. I only looked at the step position leds, but there is also a clock led and bus leds. Well the electronics shop had enough in stock :)
In the picture on the left you see the result. Looks nice doesn't it? Well I like it anyway. I did have some trouble by the way to get the plastic piece in that holds the led in place in the metal casing. If you look closely in the picture on top you see a little black thing sticking out of the led holder. That has to go all the way in actually to secure the led. And I needed to apply quite some force on to that. Maybe I'm doing something wrong, but at least the won't go anywhere anymore now. I'll pick of 5 more leds and led holders somewhere soon and finish it. Now back to the PCB's :)
Today I got the first parts for the Klee Sequencer. I only got some resistors actually and not even all of them. My local electronics supplier was out of 100K 1% resistors. So they had to order them for me. They didn't have time to get the rest yet. There was a choice to make in the design for 5 Volt or 10 Volt trigger voltages. I chose the 5 Volt. I think my stuff will trigger on that. If not I will have to change some resistors later on. This is something to look at when you want to build a Klee sequencer for yourself. In the picture on the left you see the digital PCB by the way.
In the picture on the right you see the analog PCB. I'm also missing the 100K resistors for this one, but then lots of them were stated as 0.1%. My local electronics store actually never heard of that :) I need to see if I can get them somewhere on the Internet. If you have tips please let me know. There is also a possibility to hand match the resistors from 1% types. The mounting holes in these PCB's are quite small actually what makes it difficult to get the solder flowing. But I guess I have to get used to this for this project. Maybe I should look for a smaller tip for my soldering iron.
Here is another picture of the Klee Sequencer front panel together with the PCB's. I'm now studying the building document and I'm looking for the front panel components. There is a lot of switches on there and the building document states that it is important to get quality ones for this. Bridechamber is not selling a component kit for this unfortunately, so I will have to find them somewhere else. Ah well I'm sure I'll find the brands mentioned in the document somewhere. So far this looks like a fun project. I can't wait to get it doing something useful :)
This evening after dinner I started to test the ASM-2 main PCB. I started with measuring the power. There is a +15/-15 Volt power rail and that seemed to work quite well. Besides there are some +10/-10 Volt reference points on the PCB to use for calibrating purposes. They all looked fine to me. The power regulators got a bit warm, but not hot, so I guess the PSU is holding fine. I hooked up a connector to the common power rail to get a ground for my oscilloscope to be able to look at some signals.
I started by testing the oscillator outputs. On VCO-2 everything looked very nice. I just had to calibrate some of the wave shapers to get symmetric waveforms, but on VCO-1 I found something strange. The sawtooth looked fine and also the square wave, but the sine wave and triangle were completely screwed up. In the picture on the right you see the waveform I got from the triangle wave. This looks more like a distorted saw actually. It clips on +15 and -15 Volt as well and it was supposed to be 10 Volts peak to peak. So time for some trouble shooting.
I started to study the schematics of the oscillator and found quickly that the base waveform is the saw and the other waves are generated from that one. The sine wave is generated from the triangle, so the problem had to be in the wave shaper circuit for the triangle wave. It is based on two diodes and a TL084. After a measuring and comparing to the other VCO I found that on one of the outputs of the TL084 I got no output signal. At first I thought the TL084 was broken, but when I wanted to swap it I felt it was warm. I looked under the PCB and found the problem. A tiny drop of solder was between the output of this IC and a through hole on the PCB. It was so tiny that I missed it on the two earlier inspections I did. But I could measure it.
After I removed it this was the result. On the picture on the right you see a very nice triangle wave. And after this also the sine wave was fine. When I tell it like this it sounds like this was an hour work, but actually it took me the whole evening to find this. But afterwards it is always a gratifying feeling when you solved a problem like this. The next thing is to calibrate the VCO's and test the rest of the modules. I hope that goes a bit smoother. At the moment I'm checking how to hook up everything, but I think I need some more crocodile clamped wires.
This afternoon I worked some more on the AVRSynth with my daughter. We actually managed to finish the PCB. It was not very exciting since only the connectors were left to solder. Strange thing is that for the small connectors there were two different kinds. One was a regular connector and the other one just a header connector. Ah well it works just the same and eventually it is inside the case so nobody will notice. After that the PCB needed to be mounted on the bottom of the casing. I drilled four holes in the bottom and used nuts and bolts to fasten everything.
After that we started mounting the panel components. First the ones on the rear. Not much there. Just an audio output connector on a jack, a connector for an external 12 Volts DC power supply and a midi jack. Strangly enough I also couldn't find the nuts and bolts that should have come with the midi jack I guess. But well I have enough of those. Then we continued with the front panel. I found the 8 potmeters as stated earlier in the bag with all the potmeters for the ASM-2. It looks like Elby just tossed everything together. Ah well now that I know it is OK.
We started to mount the potmeters. I found out quite quickly that I had to shorten them by sawing a piece of the shaft. Since there are metal it was not a very easy job. While it was doing this my daughter lost concentration and left. But we decided that I would finish this job. I also had a problem later on getting the knobs on. I had to find a special tool to fasten them. The screw is very tiny and is of the Hex/Allen/Imbus type. (I'm not sure what the correct English name is). I finally found one that barely fitted and was able to secure them. The next thing I found out is that the holes for the led holders are too small. So I will have to drill them larger I'm afraid. There is more DIY to this kit actually than I expected. But after this I stopped and will continue again when my daughter feels like it again.
Last week when I had to stop soldering because it was leaking again, I decided to pick up another job. I took the ASM-2 cabinet down from my modular desk and started to mount the jack connectors to the front panel. There are a lot of them I can tell you. It took me a while before I found an effective method to fasten them and get them straight at the same time. Another thing that puzzled me is that I had 4 stereo jacks and the rest was mono. So I E-mailed Laurie from Elby Designs about this and he got back to me on this.
One turned out to be for the AVRSynth32 actually and I know where to put the other three now. Here you see the whole thing from the back. All the jacks are switchable in order to be able to make the ASM-2 semi-modular. If you look closely at the front panel you can see that besides all the input jacks there is also written where it gets its normalized input from. It took me a while to figure this out by the way. But now I understand it and it makes perfect sense. In the picture you can also see that I can easily take the back of because it is fastened with some magnets.
There are still lots more front panel components left to mount. After the jacks I started sorting and counting the pot meters. And there I also found the 8 missing pot meters for the AVRSynth32. So that problem is solved as well now. Most potmeters are 100K linear, but there are some other ones as well. I'm going to focus first on finding out where they should go. Besides that of course a lot of knobs, and some turn switches, leds, and switches. I'm still struggling a lot with the documentation of the ASM-2, but I'm sure that in time I will understand it all.
After I sorted all the components I decided I did enough mounting of front panel components and looked the PCB's up again from my stack of unfinished electronics. The first thing I had to do was to mount two heat sinks on the power regulators. I got them long time ago from Elby Designs but just didn't mount them yet. After that I started to read again through the documentation to see what power I should apply in able to start testing the PCB's. It turned out that the main PCB needed +24 and -24 Volts. So I put my lab power supply to this and did the famous smoke test. Well no smoke :) So all is set to start testing this PCB. I hope everything works because error seeking will be a pain in the ass on this one :)
Since I'm working a lot now on my modular project and I only showed you some PCB's and loose panels I thought it would be nice to post a little overview of the modules I have finished now. In the bottom of the picture on the left you can see the Yusynth filter modules I build and the Wogglebug. On top are three modules I bought on E-bay. On the left is a MOTM-120 Sub Octave Multiplier that adds subharmonics, next to that a MFOS Quantizer and next to that the Oakley Noise and Dual filter module that I used to test my other filter modules.
In this picture you see the two MOTM 900 and 950 Power supplies that I build. And also the VC-LFO that I repaired earlier. It has an Oakley front panel, but is actually a MFOS. I do plan to build an Oakley one and swap panels somewhere in the future. On the right you see the Yusynth Random module I build with noise generator and sample and hold. I still haven't fastened any module in the cabinet yet, since I'm still not sure where everything should go. I need to make some kind of plan for that I guess.
And maybe you spotted this front panel in a previous post as well. Here you see it together with the PCB's that go with it. This will become a Klee sequencer from Electro-music.com. It looks really great in this circular setup. I got this front panel from Bridechamber and it was designed by Thomas White. I studied the documentation for this project last week and I ordered all the PCB components. Hopefully they will arrive on Monday and then I can start building this beast :) I can't wait to see it working. This project is the most complex module I build so far. But we all do need a challenge don't we :) I'll keep you posted on the progress as always of course.
I'm still working in the cinema to improve stuff as well. My speakers stand on needles to get clearer sound, but we put thick carpet in the cinema and those needles didn't really do their job any more, since they just disappeared in the carpet resulting in the speakers touching the round anyway. So I started looking for some nice solid and heavy stuff to put under them. Finally we found a nice solution in these Chinese limestone tiles. We found them at a garden specialist. I can be psychological of course, but I'm under the impression that it sounds way better already :)
Last week I sent out a whole bunch of promo CD's to radio stations that played my music in the past. And my record label Groove Unlimited did the same. So I hope to get some airplay the coming weeks. Last week the title track from my new album OceanoGraphy was played on the Spanish Artic Mist Podcast #186. It is a very nice show that plays good music, only my Spanish is not so good :( So if you know Spanish it would be great if you could let me know what Jorge said :). You can find the podcast on this URL: http://articmist.podomatic.com/ Look for show #186.
I had a very annoying problem with the second PC in my studio. This is not my main audio recording PC, but a PC that I use for video stuff, mastering stuff, sample editing and also some editors for synthesizers are running on it. It is nice that I can do stuff on there that doesn't interfere with recording. But recently it became very slow and after a while it completely froze. It lost it BIOS settings on restarting. I was thinking it was time for a new one, but I decided to have a look first. So I detached all external USB and firewire connections and started removing PCI and PCI-e cards on by one. Suddenly when I removed one of my USB PCI cards it worked fine. So this card probably messed up the PCI buss on the main board. Well I'm very happy that I can use it normally again :)
Today I finished the Yusynth Fixed Filter Bank module. All I had left to to was solder all the PCB wiring to the front panel. As you can see it are quite some wires. I decided to make two separate cable trees with two separate colors to keep the overview. There is still one thing I need to sort out. It seems that the bridechamber front panel is designed for some kind of modification since it has an input potmeter with dry/wet on it and also a bypass switch. Those are not incorporated in the original design by Yves. I will have to look that up.
I decided to first to finish it as Yves has intended so that I can test its functionality. In this picture you can see the other side of the PCB, were you can clearly see the potmeter and switch that are not connected yet. You can also see how far I had to put the two brackets out to be able to mount the PCB on them. On the rear you see two tie raps that actually make sure the PCB doesn't hit the bracket. That could cause a short circuit maybe or at least some unwanted behavior. You can also see that jack is still missing. I haven't received my package from bridechamber yet with the missing nut.
After the wiring was done I tested it again with the noise module. It worked right away. There is no calibrating that needs to be done. I just put all the potmeters on 0 to get none of the input signal to pass and then turned up the potmeters one by one to see if that particular band was passed through. And well they all worked like a charm. Also the odd and even outputs are funny. There you get only half the the bands on the odd and the other half on the even output. I can't think of an application for that yet, but I'm sure it will come in handy sometime. Well another module finished. And at the moment that is all the Yusynth modules I have front panels for now. So I'll have to work on some other project first now untill I get new stuff from Bridechamber.
I did some more work on my Yusynth project. In the picture you see the finished PCB of a Fixed Filter Bank. I ordered this module as a complete kit from Bridechamber. It came in a nice box with all the necessary components. And I can tell you there are a lot of capacitors in there. They are all different so most time went in looking up the right ones. But I think I managed but I won't be sure until I finalize and test the module of course. This PCB is by the way also a lot larger than the other modules I build. It was a bit more difficult to mount it on the two brackets.
Well here you can see how I solved it. I left some space between them and the bottom one is hanging only on one potmeter, but it feels firm enough. And later on the PCB itself will hold everything together I guess. You can also see that I mounted all the front panel components and started wiring them. As usual I started first with the ground loop. You can also see that one jack is missing in the right bottom corner. The funny thing is that the Switchcraft jack normally comes with a mounting nut, but the one I got didn't have any thread in it. So it didn't hold much.
I asked Bridechamber to send me a new one with the next shipment. After this I started with the wires on the PCB. And there are a lot. But when I was just getting started unfortunately it started to leak again in my studio :( And it leaked exactly over my head so I had to stop. I'm getting so tired of this. I hope we can get this over with any time soon. Well in the mean time I started to make some lists of components that I needed to order for some other PCB's I have laying around. I don't have to be bored for the coming months I guess. I'll keep you posted on the updates.
During the Electronic Circus event I visited in Bielefeld last year I was asked to do a TV interview. It was broadcasted in the Bielefeld region but now it is also available online. The interview was taken by Stefan Erbe who also moderated the event. Since he is German and the TV audience as well we decided to do the interview in German. I hope you can understand that :) Well have fun.
Today I worked some more on my YuSynth project again. I started finishing up an ARP4072 clone VCF famous from the ARP2600. Yves provides three options to build it either based on 2SA798, 2N3906 or more common BC557 transistors that need to be hand matched. I described earlier how I wrote the measured values down on a big piece of paper. Well in the picture you can see this. Most modern multimeters have a possibility to measure the HFE factor of transistors. And just put the transistor is and read out the value. I barely could make the necessary 6 matched pairs. But I managed.
After that I soldered the transistors to the PCB and started on the wiring. Again it was quite similar to the other two Yusynth filter modules I build. It is nice that Yves keeps the same logic in all his designs. Saves a lot of puzzle time :) You can see an empty IC sockeet on the PCB. There was supposed to be a LM3900, but it seems like I forgot to order it before, or just couldn't find it. This morning I tried to order one, but the minimum order value was 25. Well they are very cheap so I did it anyway. So I have 24 spares now. Ah well I'm sure I'll need some in the future.
Here is a picture of the finished module. I could test it of course because the LM3900 is missing. Same goes for calibrating. You can see this one has a 1V/Oct input as well. I can't wait to actually play a melody on a self oscillating filter actually. But first I want to finish up building the modules. I have quite a pile of stuff lying around for over a year that I really need to finish, if only it was to clean up the piles and to make sure I don't lose track of everything. Or even worse lose parts. What frustrated me though is that Bridechamber didn't have front panels for the Yusynth VCO. I really would like to build some Oscillators to make some music on them. So I started looking for another solution. But I couldn't find anyone who makes them. But I did find Schaeffer AG in Germany.
Schaeffer is a company that makes front panels from aluminum. They have a nice piece of software on their website that you can download and install. From that software you can design you own front panels and even order them online directly. So I designed my first front panel in MOTM style and ordered it. It will take about two weeks before it arrives and I'm very curious how it will turn out. It isn't cheap by the way. But the letters are engraved and painted to I'm sure it will look very professional when I didn't screw up ;) I'll let you know when it arrives. If this works I will make more for sure.
Please buy my music if you like what you read or hear on this blog. You will find the sales links for my music when you click an album below. You will support me and my record label so that I can release more music in the future.