27 July 2010

Apollo Studio Tech (Part 3)

In this article 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 can click it again for a bigger version. You see the analog synthesizers on the left and the analog audio signals coming from them in red going into the AD/DA converters en coming out on the right in green as ADAT. There are two types of AD/DA converters in this picture marked 'ADA8000' and 'Aurora'. I will go more in dept on this equipment further on in this article. 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 one of them 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 Digital Corner. 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 Lynx Aurora converters become very hot. They really 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 converters 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 in my studio. These are much cheaper than the Auroras, but also a bit less in quality off course, though they are really not bad at all. I know a lot of people are prejudiced about Behringer, but they actually make some quite good stuff as well, like the whole 2496 series for example. These converters have only 8 channels in stead of 16 and there is also just one ADAT input and one ADAT output on board. They do a good job in my studio. I have a couple of them in my racks. I use them for synthesizers that I use less often and also for integration of Analog Sound Effects Processors.

I placed all the AD/DA converters as close to the my synthesizers as I possibly could. I also created several islands in the studio for that in the studio with a lower 19 inch rack, with a midi interface and an AD/DA converter in it. In this way I can use the shortest possible analog copper wires for the analog signals and from there I go on with digital signals. 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 optical fiber. I have 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. In the picture you see the Lynx Aurora in my Digital Corner.

26 July 2010

Apollo Studio Tech (Part 2)

In my Apollo 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 some of the digital audio equipment in it like the two RME ADI-648's. In this article I'll explain what the RME ADI-648 does. I will explain the rest of the equipment in later articles. But first a bit about digital audio.

SPDIF is the most commonly known digital audio format. Basically what happens is that instead 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 to Digital) of course you will need a DA converter (Digital to Analog) converter 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 (RCA connector, unbalanced copper) or Toslink (optical fiber) connection. SPDIF is usually 44.1 Khz 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 both. Most synthesizers output SPDIF, but most Sound Effect Processors use AES/SBU.

Another digital audio format I use is ADAT. ADAT is transported over Toslink as well. So it looks like SPDIF, but it is definitely not the same. ADAT can go up to 192 Khz and can 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! Everything in my studio runs on 48 Khz like I explained before. Attached to two RME HDSP MADI interfaces in my audio PC are two RME ADI-648 's. Like the one you can see in the picture on the right.  So this is not the audio interface, but only a converter from ADAT to MADI. And so MADI is the third digital audio format I use in my studio. MADI can hold up to 64 channels of audio on a single connection. That can be either a Coax pair with BNC connectors or Optical Fiber pair on SC/PC connectors (The same type 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. You can click the picture again for a bigger version. You can see the darker yellow wires connecting the ADI-648 to the PC. That is the MADI connection. (Blue is SPDIF and Green is ADAT). Like I wrote before there are actually two Optical Fibers (a pair) with SC/PC connectors on both sides for the MADI connection. One optical fiber is for input and the other is for the 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 is on which channel. All in all it gives my a lot of inputs and outputs to work with in my audio PC. 128 to be precise! 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

25 July 2010

Apollo Studio Tech (Part 1)

A while ago I made a schematic like this for my previous AtmoSphere studio, but lots has changed since then. So last week I made a new schematic for my current Apollo Studio. You can see the main components in my studio and the connections between them. I used different colors to show the different protocols that are used. 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. It is just a logical layout. You can click the picture of the schematic for a larger version. I will post some more articles in the coming period to explain what it all it.

Here already some colors and what they represent:
  • Red - Analog audio
  • Blue - Digital audio (SPDIF or AES 2 channels of audio in one fiber)
  • Green - ADAT (8 channels of digital audio in one fiber)
  • Dark Yellow - MADI (64 channels of digital audio in one fiber pair)
  • Purple - Word Clock
  • Gray - Midi
  • Dark Magenta - USB
  • Dark Purple - Firewire
Some colors are a bit difficult to distinguish, but the articles coming will explain it all. What you can discover now is that the audio path in the schematic is going from left to right. Starting at the synthesizers and ending at the monitor speakers. And the midi and USB is running between the synthesizers, FX and the Midi interfaces and A880's. Well have fun looking at it and more is coming :)

24 July 2010

First WWF Donation from OceanoGraphy Sales

Yesterday I made my first donation to the World Wildlife Fund from the sales of the OceanoGraphy Album. I made an action on the website of the Dutch branch of the WWF and there you could also indicate where the money should be spend on. And in line with the whole idea of the OceanoGraphy concept I selected 'Whales' as the primary target. Well I hope that this will make more people buy the album. I guess every bit helps, so your money is well spend :) Hopefully everyone believes me now as well when I say that I'm donating a cut. I would be even greater to sell ten times as much albums for them and me ;)

21 July 2010

Synth.nl & Ron Boots album coming 9th of October!!

I have some rather exciting news for you! And another reason that I was postponing Apollo for. So do read this post :) In 2007 I signed up with the record label Groove Unlimited. One of the owners of this label and also a very good musician is Ron Boots. Ron and I have become very good friends over time and we visit each other on regular bases. Also the wife, kids and even the dogs like each other. So in 2010 we decided to rent a house in the Belgian Ardennes together for a weekend.

Ron and I both brought a synthesizer and a laptop and tried to make music together for the first time. Actually that went very well and we recorded quite some tracks there. I'm still surprised how quick this went. After the weekend we decided that we would release this music on CD. So we started to work on finishing the music together when we got back. The album will be called 'Refuge en Verre'. That was the name of the house we rented actually. The album will be released by Groove Unlimited at the E-live festival in Oirschot (NL) on the 9th of October 2010.

19 July 2010

Synth.nl with Two Tracks on KlangARTen Podcast #27

Both title track from my OceanoGraphy and AtmoSphere CD were played on the German podcast KlangARTen. It is a very nice radio show that also plays live weekly on the Welle303 webstream. But of course you have to time listening to that. The podcast is available afterwards for your enjoyment. You can find the current podcast on this url: http://www.klangarten.de, but I also found a backlog with older shows on this url: http://www.klangarten.de/podcastblaster.xml , actually it is a RSS news feed you can subscribe to. But here you can also download the mp3's of the shows. My AeroDynamics track was also played on show #26 I think. Well enjoy :) And thanks to Brammi for playing my music on his show.

Winnies Schwingungen Party 2010

Last weekend I visited Winnies Schwingungen Party in Hamm Germany. It was an amazing event. It is a closed (invitation-only) private concert in the middle of a residential area in a garden. Really amazing what happened there. There were about 60 visitors including artists and press. It all started at 14:00 and I think it lasted until 02:00 !! And all the time there were artists playing live, like Remy Stroomer, Matzumi, FD Project, Ron Boots with Harold and Eric van der Heijden. I was there together with my wife and it was actually our wedding anniversiry day.

We both had a great time, but were very tired in the end. And then we still had 2 hours to drive back. That was actually the hardest part of the day. I found these pictures made by Hans Herman Hess from The Electronic Circus festival. I hope he doesn't mind that I used them ;) We actually forgot our own camera unfortunately. Well I hope they organize this party again next year. I will be there for sure if they invite me again. I'm looking forward to it. I would like to thank everyone involved in the organization for a terrific time!

18 July 2010

Dutch Masters Sampler CD coming on October 9th 2010

I told you last week that I was postponing my Apollo project for a while because there were some other releases coming and that I would update you as soon as I was allowed to. Well for one of the projects I have the official go now :) It is called The Dutch Masters. It was an idea I had a while ago to promote the Dutch Synthesizer Music scene. The idea was to make a sampler CD about paintings of a famous Dutch painters with only Dutch musicians. Every artist should take a painting in mind and compose music to it. I discussed this idea with Groove Unlimited (my record label) and they were enthusiastic right away. Groove Unlimited contacted the artists and got a lot of positive reactions as well. So this project is going to happen :) There will also be one track made by me on this sampler CD of course. My track will be about the famous painting called 'De Nachtwacht' ('The Night Watch' in English) by Rembrandt van Rijn. The CD will be released on the E-live festival in Oirschot (NL) on the 9th of October 2010. I will post more information about this project as soon as it available.

Apollo Studio Changes

I moved some stuff around again. To start with I sold my ARP Avatar. Since I bought the ARP 2600, I didn't see the added value of the Avatar anymore and I could make someone very happy with it. So it is gone. Then I moved the Moog Source into the newly installed smaller synth mount. There are three small synthesizers the now on top of each other. The Moog Source is actually a great machines. Sounds just a good as a Minimoog in my opinions it just has the advantage that you can store presets. It is not as hands on of course as a Minimoog with al its knobs, but they are getting more expensive by the minute. So get one if you can :) You won't regret it.

And then I also did some minor moving around in my digital corner. I removed the Yamaha VL-70m and Yamaha FB-01 from the rack below and put them on top of the desk. The rackspace that came free was filled by the Yamaha FSR-1. On top now is the Roland SH-32. These are all synthesizers I don't use a lot, but maybe that I have them more at hand I will give them a spin soon. I am still very happy with the spot I put the GAIA SH-01 in. It is a nice hands on machine that I'm using a lot at the moment. I still thing a lot of people underestimate it and don't see it's potential. I did however send my sound bank to some people and they don't seem able to load it. I don't really understand why. I guess Roland should make an editor for it to make it a bit easier to manage. I also couldn't find any way to export the patches as sysex. I think that is a shame too. And you can only store one set or backup on a USB stick. How did they think of that??

15 July 2010

Apollo Countdown Holding for a While

I have some good news and bad news. The bad news is that I planned to release my upcoming Apollo album on the 9th of October 2010 during the E-live festival. Well that is not going to happen, but for a couple of good reasons :) The good news is that the reasons I am holding the countdown on the Apollo launch for are some other releases! I will tell you more about them when I have permission (and I hope to get that very soon). But you are in for some nice surprises for sure :) There will be at least 3 more releases this year! 1 complete album and 2 single tracks on 2 sampler CD's. 2 of these releases are planned on the exact same date I planned Apollo on and I can only do so much at once. But don't worry Apollo will be released only a bit later. Hopefully even still this year. I'm aiming for December at the moment. But I assure you it will be worth the wait :) More news to follow soon!

Leak still not Found :(

You probably won't believe it, but after all this time it is still leaking in my studio. Last week we had some pretty bad weather here in The Netherlands with some heavy rainfall and again the water was coming down from the ceiling in my studio. I called the constructor again and he now suspected that the water level was just rising to high on our terrace. I told him that I had never seen water standing on there before, but he wanted to do an experiment.

So he took out some tiles and made some kind of canal into a hole. In there he placed a pump to take the water out and dump it further away through a hose. We tested the pump with some water from our garden hose and the pump seemed to work. We knew that more bad weather was coming that night, so I had to watch what happened when it was starting to rain. Based on this we could take some conclusions.

Unfortunately we could conclude that this didn't help much, because the water was coming down again. I just managed to catch one drop in this picture, but believe me that was not the only one. It was quite a stream actually. When I watched outside there was not that much water in the canal and the put wasn't even full. The water level was certainly lower than the terrace and still it was leaking. So at least we have one more thing to scratch of the list, but I'm really not happy. I have hired another company now to manage this problem and they have suggested to hire a company to me that is specialized in finding leaks. I'm afraid this story hasn't come to an end just yet :(

12 July 2010

Synth.nl with Artico played on A Ultima Fronteira Podcast

My track Artico was played again on the Spanish Podcast 'A Ultima Fronteira' on the third of July.

Since this radio show is from Spain, I'd like to take this opportunity as well to congratulate Spain with winning the World Cup in soccer.

You can still download the podcast and listen to it from this URL:


11 July 2010

Modular Progress Overview 4

I haven't build much recently, but I am testing all the modules that I have connected to the power now. Here I was testing the syncing of the clock of all sequencers. They all run very smoothly :) I also made some sound effects already on this modular setup. It is really great to patch on it. Since I'm working on a lot of new releases for later this year I don't think I'll have much time to work on the modular this year anymore. So for now the project is on hold. I expect that I will be working on it again from January on. So keep an eye on the blog for the progress :)

10 July 2010

OceanoGraphy now also on Amazon

OceanoGraphy is now also available on Amazon.com. You can buy it as a whole album or you can but individual songs. You should be able to find it on this URL:


If this doesn't work please just search for 'Synth.nl'. More information on the album and also links to other places that sell this Album on this URL:


07 July 2010

Yamaha SY-2 added to the Collection

On E-bay I found this mint Yamaha SY-2 (bottom one in the picture) . It is one of the first monophonic analog synthesizers that Yamaha build. (right after the SY-1). It was produced from 1974-1978 so it is quite old. It is kind of a preset synthesizer like the Roland SH-2000 that you can see in the picture on top, but you can override a lot of the parameters. So that makes it very flexibel. And it sounds like nothing else really :) Just like on the SH-2000 it has aftertouch, but it is even better on the SY-2. It makes a nice set together with the Yamaha CS-50 doesn't it? Lots of colored knobs :) Well the SY-2 also has no midi or CV gate like the other two. That wouldn't be usable anyway since the after-touch doesn't work then. And especially that is what makes all three of these synthesizer so special. It is a welcome addition to the collection. You'll surely hear it on some future recording.

06 July 2010

Synth.nl will be present during Norberg Festival

I'll be visiting the Norgberg festival in Sweden on the end of this month. I will travel there with Bjorn Jepessen of Nattefrost who is performing there on the 30th of July. We will not be there during the whole festival because of busy schedules. Let me know when you will be there too and maybe we can meet up. You can find more information on the festival on this URL:


01 July 2010

Synth.nl with Pacifico on Elektroland #110

Bjorn Jepessen played another track from my OceanoGraphy on his radio show Elektroland. This time he played the track 'Pacifico'. It is actually the last track of the album and it is actually the first time it gets airplay (as far as I know). I'm very happy that Bjorn obviously likes my album and still plays it on his show. You can download the show #110 as a podcast from his website in case you missed it on this URL: