30 March 2010

Synth.nl will feature on AstrologiKa Album by Janus

I will be colaborating with Chris Newman who also produces music under the name Janus on his upcoming AstrologiKa album. It will be a big colaboration project by Chris with also other artists like Gert Emmens, Frank van Bogaert, Michel Huygen, Dithmar and many more. Below is a promo video just meant as a teaser for this upcoming work. I will keep you posted ofcourse even though I don't know yet when it will be released.

Synth.nl again on Spanish National Radio

Again one of my tracks was played on Spanish National Radio. This time a track from my OceanoGraphy album called 'Carcharodon'. I'm very honored by this of course. I also found out that there is a podcast still available for download of the show. So if you are interested you can listen to it. You can find the podcast on this link:


I'm in the first part of the 21 March show. And they list part 2 first on this link and then part 1. Do enjoy :)

27 March 2010

Modular Progress Overview 3

I promised to make a new overview picture of the modular that I'm building. As you can see the center cabinet is almost filled up, but not everything in there is ready yet. Only the modules with all knobs on are done and tested. On the left extension there is still space for some MOTM style modules. I will build some more drum modules that will go in there. And on the right there is more room for 19 inch stuff. I'm still waiting for a power supply from MOTM and some power distribution boards. So not everything is powered yet. But when that stuff arrives that will be the first job I'm going to do. But for now I'm still working on finishing up a lot of modules that are halfway done or so. I think I'm also halfway the whole project now. So this picture is a nice landmark I guess for that :) You can click the picture by the way for a bigger version.

24 March 2010

Synth.nl at Musik Messe 2010

On Thursday afternoon and Friday the whole day I will be at the Musik Messe in Frankfurt. So if you are there there is a good chance you will pop into me somewhere. I will be mostly in the synth hall I guess, but I'm going to do a quick tour of the other halls as well. I hope there will be some new stuff, but I don't have my hopes up that high. It looks like the crisis has really hit on new product development. And I heard that a lot of manufacturers are not even present. But I'm going together with two friends and I'm sure we will have a good time anyway. Maybe I'll see you there.

Modular Desk Extension (Part 4)

I also finished work last week on the newly installed extension on my modular desk. First of all I installed power in it with a 19 inch power switch bar. I move the PAIA 9700S into the 19 inch rack and in its place I installed an equalizer and DI. From here I wired the amplifier in the bottom 19 inch rack. This all works now, so I finally have good sound too (from the front) on this side of the studio. So far I used a couple of PC speakers, but this is way better of course. I also wired the power on the mobile modular rack that you seen on the right. There is just one power cable coming from it now in stead of four. The modular desk is really started to take shape now. I still have a lot of modules to finish and even some projects yet to start, but more and more starts to actually work :) I will post a new overview picture very soon.

More Synth Mounted

I know I have been quiet here for a few days, but I have been working on some new music, but I also did some work in the studio. I moved some stuff around and also cleaned up a bit since I'm having a visitor over tonight. One of the things I did is move the smaller synths on the newly installed synth mount. I could mount three of them perfectly between the synths that where already there. It looks like it was meant like this from day one I think ;) I still need to wire them up but I'll do that when the surround speakers mounts return.

15 March 2010

Oakley Multimix Module

Today I finished another Oakley module. This time it is a Multimix module. A versatile audio mixer module that you can build in different variants. I opted for the Stooge version since that fits the front panel that I got from Bridechamber. As you can see here from the back the wiring is quite easy. This one came with an extra PCB for the jack connectors and so you only have to make the interconnections between these two PCB. The options you can choose are done my jumpers you can solder on the PCB. Maybe you can see them when you click on the picture.

I found out by now that you can never have enough mixer modules. There are a lot of signals in a big modular setup like I'm building and somehow and somewhere they have to be mixed together. This mixer module is a bit different though than the ones I build from Yusynth. You can not only add the signals from the 3 inputs, but you can also subtract them. The zero position is actually in the middle of the potmeters. You can also tap the input signals without mix from the modules outputs again. Input 1 goes to Output 1, Input 2 to Output 3 and only Output 3 contains the mixed signal from all the inputs. If you look closely at the picture you can just see the power distribution board as well behind the module. I still need to wire the whole power system in the cabinet, but for now I have one of these boards in there.

14 March 2010

Antartico on Dreamscape #90

The opening track of my OceanoGraphy album was played by Ron Boots on his Dreamscape Radio Show #90. The track is called 'Antartico' and is about the Antarctic Ocean. It is a very quiet and sweet track I think. If you want to listen to it be sure to do so this week then since Dreamscape is not archived and next Sunday there will be a nice show online and this one will be gone. You can listen to the show here: http://dreamscape.groove.nl. Do enjoy :) There is lots more nice music as well on the show.

13 March 2010

Modular Desk Extension (Part 3)

Last week my furniture builder Gerrit came back to install the 19 inch profiles in the new modular desk extension he made. I put some stuff in there I had lying around just to see if it fits. Eventually this rack will be filled with some DIY I will be making on 19 inch format and I also plan to install some 19 inch cabinets in there that can hold eurorack format modules. I also moved the Roland Space Echo to this rack as you can see. It will stay there for sure. I plan to use this tape echo machine extensively in my new modular setup. I'm now looking actually for 2 good eurocard racks for a project I'm planning. It will be a clone of a TR909 and TR808. So yes more drum modules planned for the future, but I still have a lot of work to do before you will see anything of those. But I'm very happy with this new extension now.

And here is the lower part of the new extension. It is also fitted with 19 inch profile. On the bottom are some power sockets to hook up the equipment that is on my modular desk (the pedals) and also for the mobile rack in front of it that is in the picture below. I also mounted 3 19 inch drawers to hold the DIY stuff I'm working on. Now it is not lying around on the floor anymore so the studio looks much more tidied up now. Above those drawers is an amplifier that I will use for the speakers that are now on top of the modular cabinet. So hopefully I will have some good audio over there soon in stead of the PC speakers I have used so far. And on top in this cabinet is a power bar with switches that I'll use to switch the power for the modules in the cabinet on top and also the amplifier and the lower power bar.

And here is a last overview picture of this new corner of my studio. I think I really made optimal use of all the space that was left there. The mobile rack hold the Cwejman S1 MK2, Red Square and the Semtex. I used this set extensivly on my last album to create the various sound effects in the tracks. It is very convenient that I can roll this rack also to my main desk. I'm sure I'll use it on my next album as well next to some stuff I made on the big modular setup (at least when I have finished it in time). In the bottom of this rack is a Roland SH-09 that I also use as CV keyboard for this rack. Next thing to do for me now is to hook up all the power to the power bar in the lower rack. I have to shorten some cables for that and also change the connectors. Hopefully I'll have that ready next week. Not difficult, but just takes some time :)

12 March 2010

Lift Fan Video from Kosmischemyke

Myke made another very nice video with the music from my first album 'AeroDynamics'. This album was released by Groove Unlimited in 2007. The track he used is called 'Lift'. It is not online anywhere. So I guess when you want to hear it in better quality you'll have to buy the album ;) Do enjoy :)

More info on the album here: http://www.synth.nl/AeroDynamics

Wilba MB-6582 (Part 7)

When I test the Wilba MB-6582 SID synthesizer something strange happened. It looked like two scan lines where stuck and SID 4 suddenly didn't work anymore. But this was not right away after the display was installed. It was actually the next day that this happened. I was a bit puzzled about it. But when I disconnected the display all worked fine again. So I suspected the display still had to touch some leads on the PCB. When I inspected the tape I saw that it was punctured already. I decided to mount some rings under the display to give it some more distance and that helped. Now it works perfectly. Ah well luckily I didn't have to remove either the front panel or the PCB behind it to do this.

In my previous post I promised to tell a bit more on the software installation. You need to install a tool on your PC called MIOS studio. You can get it from here: http://www.ucapps.de/mios_download.html this communicates over Midi with the PIC's on the PCB. All PIC's are connected to 'midi in' by default but on the PCB are some jumpers where you can decide which PIC is connected to 'midi out' to be able to communicate and you also have to select the correct Device ID in the software. 0 for PIC1, 1 for PIC2, 2 for PIC3 and 3 for PIC4. Then you have to load the Midibox SID V2 hex file into all four PIC's for the synthesizer to start working. You can download this from the same URL. It is not difficult at all, but it took me some time to figure out :)

And here is a picture of the finished MB-6582 including the Commodore power supply. The only thing I have left to do is source some nice knobs for the rotary encoders. This was really a nice project to build. I would not recommend this though if you are an absolute beginner. There are some more difficult tasks in the process. But the end result is worth it. I think it looks great, it is a very functional synthesizer with a very unique sound. It has quite some power as well. I'm already looking at some more midibox projects by the way. It is a great platform with a lot of nice stuff in the mean time to build. Like the V4 sequencer. My hands are itching for that one.

But first it was time to have some fun with the synthesizer. I uploaded the preset bank that is available with the MIOS studio installation and I must say some sounds really blew me away :) There are some great lead and bass sounds possible with this synthesizer. It is also nice that some sounds are actually polyphonic. And there is also a little sequencer build in, but I haven't been able to find it in the menu's yet. I guess like always I need to read the manual ;) Ah well. After I was done my youngest daughter also had a go with it and she was also pleased with it.

10 March 2010

Synth.nl played on Spanish National Radio

Last week I got a message that music from my latest album 'OceanoGraphy' was played on the radio show 'Atmosfera'. This show is broadcasted on Spanish National Radio. That is kind of cool I think :) They will broadcast another track on the show on the 21st of March I was also told. I will try to record this show, but I have no idea yet if they also have a webstream. My Spanish is not very good unfortunately. So if someone can help me with this please let me know. You can read more about this show on this URL: http://www.rtve.es/programas/atmosfera

09 March 2010

Wilba MB-6582 (Part 6)

Last night I worked some more on the Wilba MB-6582 SID Synthesizer. Here you can see a picture where I finally added all the flat cables. In total I made 8 and screwed up 5. The problem is especially with stripping the cable. Since it is very tough you easily apply to much force and also cut the wire. And since you have to to 16 strips on one cable, screwing up just one makes the cable unusable. In the end I improved my technique by partially cutting the insulation on both sides of a wire before pulling it of. In this way it takes less force and thus decreasing the possibility of an error.

After this the two PCB could be interconnected. This is also a challenge since you have to align 8 pins of a flat cable in the holes on the other PCB. The first few are OK since then you still have room to move, but since the flat cable is tough the final few are more difficult. It takes some patience :) Ah well it is done now and it looks fine I think. But I anticipated this to be about an hours work up front, but eventually it took me 4 hours in total. Ah but at least I learned from it ;) OK next thing up is attaching the display and front panel to the upper PCB.

And also that was a challenge. I didn't stick to the original building doc by the way. That suggests to glue the front panel to the casing, but I used the original screws to screw the PCB from the bottom. After this the screws sticked out and I just cut the surplus off. Then I could just lay the front panel on top and that is hold in place by the rings of the rotary controllers. The display is also fastened with 4 M2 nuts and bolts. I used some insulation tape to make sure the PCB of the display would not touch anything on the front panel PCB. This also took some more patience by the way ;) Aligning the front panel with all the little knobs ans leds is a painstaking task. But a well. Now it is done it looks great I think :)

And then the most interesting part. Testing! I switched the synthesizer on in the hope that some leds would light up, but actually nothing happened. You first have to load the software in there. So it is not plug and play at all. You can upload software to it via midi, so I attached it to the midi in and out of this Roland keyboard that is connected to the USB port of the PC on my modular desk. Then you have to download a special tool that can communicate with the PIC's on the main PCB. I first uploaded a led test program that switched on all the leds to see if they were not to bright. I didn't wait with installing the led resistors as I posted before, but it all looked fine. Not to bright at all. So that is more luck than wisdom actually. I"ll post about the rest of the software update procedure in a next post. So far at least it communicates with the PC :)

08 March 2010

Electronic Drum Kit in the Studio

Normally I either put my drum tracks in a sequencer or I play them live on my keyboard, but that doesn't really feel natural. So I decided it was time to have a go at drumming. It always seemed fun to me, but I never tried it at all. Also my wife AND my kids like to play on a drum kit when we visit a music store. And this weekend we couldn't resist it anymore. I bought an Alesis DM6 drum kit. It is very complete with kick, snare, 3 toms, hihat, crash and ride. It has internal sounds you can play on, but also a USB connection to hook it up to your PC. It installs a midi driver and then you can drum on any drum program you like of course.

I already tried it out on a track I'm composing for my new album. It went rather well actually. Well the timing was not perfect of course, but it sounded much more natural than I could do on my keyboard. I guess I'll do some more practicing the coming time. Also my wife and kids have been playing on it. And I hear you think. Do you have room for that in the studio? Well it fits fine. It does take up a lot of space, but since it is not a very massive thing it doesn't really feel that big. And it is very light and you can fold it up and stash it away when you want to quite easily.

More Synth Mounting Creativity

You probably know by now that I'm using every inch of my studio to mount synthesizers when I have the chance. Well I found another spot. Just below the recently (and still not properly) mounted surround speaker stand, I placed another set of smaller synthesizers that I had standing around in the studio. Here you see the Roland RS-09 and below it is actually another synth that you can't see in this picture. On top is place left for a Roland SH-101. I just need to repair that one. When I tried it out recently it didn't work at all :( So I'll have to open it up soon to have a look inside.

Wilba MB-6582 (Part 5)

I worked some more on the Wilba MB-6582 SID synthesizer. The first thing I did is making the cable for the LCD display. On the Wiki there is a link to an example for constructing this cable. My display had 16 pins just like the one in the example, but I decided to look up the specs heet to make sure the connections were the same and actually they were NOT!! So be careful when you are going to construct this yourself. Always look at the documentation of your display. I guess you can seriously damage your display when you hook it up in the wrong way.

Then it was time for some testing. I hooked up the LCD to the header connector of PIC1. Here you also have to look out carefully what pin 1 is. It is very easy to make a mistake here. When I applied power I saw nothing. The backlite lid up but no text, so I was a bit scared that I make a mistake after all. Then I remembered that there were some pot meters on the PCB to control the brightness and contrast of the LCD. And when I adjusted them a nice 'Ready' text showed up. After I booted again also the MIOS version showed while booting. So I guess this works alright. I seems though that the synthesizer doesn't hold the software it is supposed to run. I guess I'll have to upload some code to it, but I'll look at that later on.

The next thing to do is to connect both PCB's together. This is done by using some thicker flat cable. This stuff is very tough, so stripping is quite a task. But after screwing up two cables I found a good method for this. I think actually that this is the most challenging task in constructing the whole MB-6582 for me. I never used this cable and they all have to be the same length of course as well. Well I finished four of them and I still have four to go, but I was fed up with it after a while, so I'll continue this another time. I'll keep you posted as always!

03 March 2010

Modular Desk Extension (Part 2)

Today my furniture builder Gerrit came by to add the second extension to my modular desk. It consists of two 19 inch cabinets on top of each other as you can see in the picture. Only the 19 inch profile is missing. Gerrit ordered it but it didn't arrive yet. But it fits perfectly. I'm planning to put some eurorack size modular stuff in the upper cabinet and on the lower part some equipment and probably also some more drawers. Gerrit was planning to come by next week again to put the 19 inch profiles in there and in the mean time I'm going to think what I put where. As you probably also noticed I moved my Mooger Froogers to the little table top extension that he also made. And if you are wondering why we didn't make it bigger. Well the mobile rack I had there with my other modulars will be standing in front of it later on. In the place of the Mooger Froogers is now the Arp 1611 sequencer and probably I will add some more FX pedals there. Since they are mostly monophonic they fit the modular setup better than my studio setup. I'll keep you posted on the progress.

Surround Speaker Came Down

Well the fun on the temporary Surround Monitoring Setup I wanted to make ended before I got the chance to wire them up. One of the speakers actually fell down. In the picture you can see that the bolts we used to fasten them came down from the wall. I have been very lucky that no synthesizer was damaged with this. Apperently it came down very slowly and was resting on my V-Synth GT and hanging by the safety wire that you can still see in the picture. The reason is clear. The guy from Sjoerd productions didn't have the right drill and used duck tape around the bolt. He was sure that would hold. Well apparently it didn't. As a precaution I took all the remaining speakers down as well. And when I did that I saw that actually all of them were coming lose from the wall already :( I contacted the guy who installed this and we decided to go for bigger bolts and this time the right size drill ;) To be continued. Oh and while were talking disaster anyway. It is also still leaking :(

Oakley Ring Modulator Module

I finished another Oakley module last week. This time it is a Ring Modulator module. It basicly multiplies two audio or CV signals with each other. It has an X and Y input both in AC (for audio) and DC (for CV signals) versions. And then it has one output where the multiplied signal comes out. As you can see in the picture there is not much wiring to be done. I made another MOTM style power cable for it. I'm getting better at creating those every time, so I plan to make much more of them. After the initial power test it was time to test it more and calibrate it.

And here is a picture of the finished module from the front. You can see it has 3 pot meters. The first two control the X and Y input level and the second one controls the Y inputs DC off set. On the PCB there are three trim pot meters. Calibration is quite easy. It is a matter of adjusting some offsets and finally there is a gain trimmer that makes sure the output level matches the input level. After this I played around a bit with it and it is good fun. You can make some freaky sounds with a ring modulator for quite common input signals.