31 January 2010

Wilba MB-6582 (Part 3)

Last week the 3mm leds arrived at my local electronics shop. And since we are again covered in snow here I decided that today was a nice day to solder them in. In the picture you see the front panel with the PCB below that I made before. It is a bit of a hassle getting all the switches in the holes, but after I while of fiddling with it I got the front panel on. I did this only to fit and see if nothing was missing. Well all the leds are missing of course ;) After this I removed the front panel again and first put all the leds of the matrix in the left upper corner in and then turned it up side down.

In the picture on the right you can see the legs sticking out. This matrix is 8x8 leds to that gives a total of 128 legs only for the matrix. I soldered them one by one and cut of the legs directly so that I could better access the next one again. Now I only hope I put the leds in the right orientation. On the PCB there is a picture of a led shape with a flat end, but my leds didn't have that. But that should correspond with the short lead. At least when I have them wrong they will be all wrong. Ah that will only be a disaster in the small ;)

After this I took the front panel off again and inserted the rest of the leds and then also soldered them one by one. In the picture on the left you can see the final result with all the leds in place. Start to look nice doesn't it? Then I had a look at how the rest of the mounting has to be done in the building document. But I actually think I have a better and easier way. But I'm going to try this first before I write about it here :) I still haven't found a good C64 power supply by the way. So testing the whole thing is still not possible.

And here is a final shot of the front panel, just because it looks so nice :) From this shot you can basically see how the synthesizer works. You can see 8 voices with 3 Oscillators per voice. 3 Filters that can be put in Low Pass, Band Pass or High Pass, 2 Envelope Generators, and 6 LFO's with each 6 wave shapes. I'm not sure but I actually think those are per SID engine. And you have 4 then (4 times stereo makes 8 voices). I can't wait to light this baby up :) I presume it will be real eye candy and nice on the ears :)

30 January 2010

Yusynth (Part 24)

I got my packege from Mouser last week including the 1M log potmeters I ordered. So today I finished the two Yusynth modules that I needed those for. They are envelope generator modules actually of the ADSR type (Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release). They most common type actually I think. I designed the front panels for these ones myself again and they were produced by Schaeffer. Like always just let me know if you want the .fpd files for Front Panel Express. I used a two pot bracket from Bridechamber.

Today my youngest daughter helped me assembling these modules. She is actually quite good with the small work. She cut some of the wires, put most of the tie-wraps on and she screwed on all the bolts and nuts. Not the easiest job actually. She is only 6 years old and she was clearly enjoying spending the afternoon with dad this way. It look like she is much more patient than my oldest daughter actually. She is easily distracted and then just walks away after a while. I tried to explain to the youngest one though what this module did, but she didn't really understand.

Then I hooked one of the Envelope Generators to a VCO so she could hear what happens with the pitch. As you can see in the picture on the left there is a red push button on the module the will manually trigger the envelope. Then I explained what all the knobs do and after that she got it I think. Well these modules are actually quite easy to build and work very efficient. No calibration whatsoever is needed. Just build them and they do what they are supposed to do. There are two outputs on the module by the way. A normal (positive) output and also an inverted (negative) output. And that makes it also quite versatile. I'm actually thinking in building two more of these since ADSR's come in handy everywhere. But I don't have any more PCB's, so I'll have to make those first.

OceanoGraphy #9 in Echoes Album Top 25

Last week I received a nice surprise. I was pointed to the fact that my OceanoGraphy album was in the album top 25 on Echoes radio. Echoes is actually quite a big radio station in the US. When I looked I saw I was at #9 and that is kind of cool I think :) I also saw that last month I was at #12 as well. I don't even know the other music in the Top 25 by the way. Ah well I'm honored to be in there and I thought it would be nice to share that with you. Here is the link to Echoes radio in case you are interested: http://www.echoes.org/Top25-2010-01.html

29 January 2010

PPG Wave 2.0 with Midi

It has been a while since I added an new synthesizer to my collection. I don't have much space anymore so I have to be very selective or think of what I would replace. And I would prefer not to :) Ah well. I got this very nice PPG Wave version 2.0. That is the oldest version with SSM analog filters. It is a wavetable synthesizer and is basically the ancestor of the later Waldorf Wave and Microwave synthesizers. I didn't have much time yet to play on it. I only played a bit on it with my headphones.

And since it has no build in FX that is a bit dry off course but even then it sounded very nice :) I think it is real classic that couldn't miss in my collection. And it is blue ;) Which scores extra points as well. You can see here how I managed to put it under the Yamaha SY-99. And in the back you can see another blue one. The Oberheim (Viscount) OB-12. A very underrated synthesizer if you ask me. A nice surprise for me was that the PPG Wave came with a midi included. I didn't know that actually. This will make it easy to include in my setup. I'm sure you will hear it on some future album :)

28 January 2010

Modular Desk Extension (Part 1)

I told you before that when I was trying to fit all the modules I build in my modular cabinet that it didn't really fit. So I talked to Gerrit my furniture builder about a solution. We decided to build two extensions to the existing modular desk. The first one of those is in place now. You can see it in the picture on the left. This cabinet can hold about 40 1U MOTM format modules. I will use the bottom row for the power supplies and I will fill the rest with all the drum modules I'm building and two gate sequencers. Probably also some logic modules like clock dividers and some other stuff. Gerrit used the same wood as on the modular desk so it really looks like it was supposed to be like this from the start. Gerrit is now building the extension for the other side. That one will be a bit different.

In the picture on the right you can see the extension from a bit further away. If you look closely you can also see the PC speaker in the cabinet. I used this one until now to have some sound on this side of the studio. But now I also have room on top to put some better speakers on there. Well for now I'm happy with the extra space. Even though I didn't all these modules yet, I do have plans for them and even some PCB's. Hopefully Gerrit will some with the other extension soon. That will be made on the right side of the desk and will hold only 19 inch modules.

27 January 2010

Official Schallwelle Nominations

It is official now. On the Schallwelle website all the jury nominations are presented. I made a screenshot so you can click the picture for a larger version. You can see me in the CD's category. The competition is big so I really don't expect to win. But it is still nice to be in that list of course :) I will be present at the event on the 20th of February in Dinslaken Germany. I was there last year also and it was a nice event. They play some concerts in between and off course it is a nice place to meet people. So if you are going be sure to say hi :)

26 January 2010

Klee Sequencer (Part 4)

The last week I also worked again on the Klee Sequencer that I'm building. I've got all components for the PCB's now and completely finished those and I also got all the components for the front panel now. So I can finish this one off. In the picture you can see the back of the front panel and you can also see that I already mounted the PCB's. That was not so easy as I thought. When I ordered the front panel from Bridechamber I also got two pot brackets. They were modified to fit on the jacks on the side. But neither panel is big enough two hold the PCB's. Scott told me they should overlap but then I could only fit one PCB on it. So I came up with another solution.

I mounted the bigger PCB on the two overlapping pot brackets that I got from Bridechamber and mounted this PCB as far on the edge as I could. Then I used a normal 2 Pot Bracket on top of that. I had to drill an extra hole in the front (short part) to get the second potmeter through, since they normal holes are on MOTM distance and these obviously are not. The I mounted the smaller PCB with one end on the space that was left on the two overlapping pot brackets and the other side on the 2 pot bracket. It is actually quite a good fit and the PCB is very secure not touching anything on the bottom by far. As you can see in the first picture the two PCB's are side to side. That will make the inter PCB wiring very easy later on I guess. So it took me a while to figure this one out, but I'm happy now.

After that I started with the wiring. And there will be quite some wires in the end. But the trick is to do them just one by one ;) The first thing to do is make two ground loops. There is a separate ground loop for all the digital connections and another ground loop for the analog signal. In this way the chance of interference is kept to a minimum. I used a combination of blank and insulated wire. The advantage of blank wire is that you can stick it through several component and make a nice string that you can solder later on. And you can also solder other wires on the black wire wherever you like. Especially for a ground loop that you need almost everywhere on the front panel that is convinient.

And here is a picture from the finished ground loop wiring. You can clearly see the blank wire that I put on the leds in the middle. It is a nice circle and then the other components are attached to this. This is the digital ground loop. The analog ground loop is on the potmeters around that. Also in a circular setup. From both these loops eventually 1 ground wire will be on the PCB's. The next thing to do is wire the PCB's together and run the rest of the wires from the front panel components to the PCB's. I'll keep you posted as usual!

Accutronics Reverb Tanks

I got two Accutronics Reverb tanks from E-bay. They look brand new actually I thought they would be used. You can see one from the top and one from the bottom in the picture. As you can see there are two springs inside. So these are mechanical reverbs :) The signal is put on the spring on one end and is picked up again on the other end. The resonating of the spring itself makes the reverb effect. You need additional hardware to get these working. Basicly you need amplifiers. I'm going to build a Tellen Neural Agonizer around it that will do much more that that. The reverb tanks will be build into my modular cabinet. Look on this URL if you don't know the Neural Agonizer: http://www.tellun.com/motm/diy/tln156/TLN-156.html

23 January 2010

Jazzmutant Dexter Finally works with Sonar 8

Last year when Cakewalk released the upgrade to Sonar 8 my Dexter unfortunately stopped working. Back then I E-mailed to Jazzmutant about this. They replied that they knew it didn't work, but could not say when it would be fixed. But weeks and months went by without an update. Then on the Musik Messe last year I visited their booth and they promised to look at it. Well last week (almost a year later) I mailed again when something was going to happen. Then I got a reply I didn't expect for anymore actually. I got a beta version to test. And what do you know it works :) I'm quite happy about this because it really is a cool gadget, but also a very useful tool.

If you don't know what it is you should really check it out. It is a multi touch controller that you can use as a DAW controller. It also works with Cubase and Logic by the way. Here you see the standard mixer view. Here you get 8 + 1 faders that you can all control simultaneous. Another nice thing is that this thing talks over ethernet with your DAW software. And it sees what software is active. I have two PC's in my studio and I can control both with this control surface without having to rewire anything. But I already have a control surface with real faders so why do I use this?

Well I especially love this view. On top in the red part is the equalizer controller. You can move four points simultaneous here to shape your EQ. That really beats the crap out of a mouse :) In the green part is a XY surface that you can easily asign to parameters of a VST effect in on your channel strip. You could use Resonance and Cutoff of a filter plugin for example. And on the lower right in the blue circle is a surround panner and on the far right you have all sends on the channel on a fader. Very useful for adding reverb or delay. And the great thing is when you set your channel to record you can record all movements you do with automation. I really love this and I'm very glad that I can use it again :) Now I just hope Jazzmutant will be a bit quicker on the next Sonar update.

The Hip Bass Drum (Part 2)

It has been an long time ago already that I build this Hip Bass Drum module on an experiment PCB. It was lying around in my backlog stack with all these potmeters and wires sticking out all the time and I already had a front panel lying around for a while as well. So this morning I decided to create some order in the chaos. First I untangled all the wires and mounted the pot meters to the front panel. And I drilled some holes in the PCB to mount it on a Bridechamber 3 pot bracket. Still looks like a mess? Well this was a picture AFTER I tidied up ;)

Then I started desoldering the wires one by one from the potmeters. Then cut them on the correct length and soldered them back. When doing this one by one you can't go wrong. Then I used some tie-wraps to tidy up some more. And doesn't that look a lot better? I'm quite happy with the result. Well there are two things left to you. You can see the orange loose wires over the rotary switch. I have to solder some 1N4148 diodes on there, but I was out of those. And I still need to create a manual drum trigger circuit for the push button I installed on the front panel.

Speaking of which. Here is the module seen from the front. I didn't mount the knobs on yet since I still have work to do on the module and I don't want them to get damaged. I also still need to shorten the shaft of the rotary switch. After I got this far I decided to first go and test if it still worked. And it did. Luckily I got all the potmeters in the right place and I added two more even on the front panel to control the volume of the two outputs. I had room left on the front panel anyway. So I figured why not use this space for something that might come in handy later on. Next thing I need to do now I look for a little schematic of a manual drum trigger. It should output a single short 5 Volt pulse and it must be connected to the normal trigger input at the same time. I'll let you know when I have something. And please let me know when you have something like this.

Oakley VCO Module

Yesterday I finished another Oakley module. Here is the PCB that I had done already. Right in the middle you can see the SSM2210P Matched Transistor pair with the big Tempco resistor mounted on top of it. I used some heat sink pasta again to make the contact between the two more optimal. Further more you can see that this PCB has 7 trimmers in total. 3 multiturn for tuning purpouses and 4 single turn trimmers for waveshaping the Triangle and Sine wave. It is a nice versatile VCO and it is supposed to track over a large octave span.

And here is the finished module from the back. As you can see it also has extra PCB's like the Discontinuity to hold the jacks and extra potmeters. As before I hard wired the connection between these PCB in stead of using connectors. You can build them really quick this way since you don't really have to think what goes where. Just wire pin 1 to pin 1 and so on. And it also looks very neat because of the short wires that you can easily bundle with some tie-wraps. OK so far for the building. Now it is time for some testing and tuning.

For testing and tuning I hooked it up to the Oakley MidiDAC midi2CV converter I build before. A good chance to see how this combination works. First thing I did was adjust the wave shapers to get a nice Sine and Triangle output. Then I started the tuning procedure. It was quite alike the YuSynth VCO module I tuned before. I did it quite roughly this time because I didn't have much time yesterday. But I got it tracking over 5 Octaves quite quickly. After that I tested the other modulation inputs with an LFO and everything seemed to work fine. I will be building some more YuSynth and also some MOTM VCO's soon. It would be fun to compare them to each other. I will do that when I have them done and post something about it on this blog. After testing I played some melodies on the VCO on a midi keyboard. I ran the output through a delay and it sounded quite nice. Can't want to hook it up to a sequencer soon, but I still have lots of work to do before I can get to that. I'll keep you posted.

22 January 2010

Oakley Discontinuity Module Graphs

I promised you to show a bit more about what the Oakley Discontinuity can do. To begin with here is a picture with the finished module in my cabinet. If you click on the picture you can read the text with the controls. The controls I used in the examples below are: Treshold, Fold, Discontinuity and Offset. I only use the normal output (so not the Clamp or Clip) and I put a Triangle wave from the PC function generator on the input. I'm not going to describe what all the individual control do. You can read the Oakley manual for that ;) But just some examples to let you see what it can do. I used my Velleman PC oscilloscope to capture the output signals btw. It has a nice 'save as' option for the image you have on your screen :)

So here is the signal that I put in:

And this is what came out:

I'm sure you can imagine that that will sound different :)

Yusynth (Part 23)

A very small Yusynth update. This morning I completed another 1U Yusynth AD/DC mixer module. Since I already did a post on this one I didn't think I would show how it is build again. One thing that is different though on this one is that I was out of 50K potmeters and I had a lot of 25K potmeters left. So I sent Yves an E-mail to ask if that was OK. And he responded that this would work fine. So I build it using these potmeters and it works great. In the picture you can see the 3 Yusynth mixer modules I build so far. The right on is the 2U version. I still have one PCB left to build another 2U version and I think I will do that since they will come in handy for sure. I just need to order another front panel for that one then.

21 January 2010

Oakley Discontinuity Module

Yesterday I finished another Oakley module. This time an module called 'Discontinuity'. Basically it is a Voltage Controlled Wave Folder. It changes the shape of the signal you put into it and it generally creates overtones. I will show you later with some examples. Almost all the parameters are also voltage controlled which makes it possible as well to keep a sound continuously moving. In the picture you can see the module from the back. As you can see there is a seperate PCB again for the potmeters and jacks. But on this picture the jacks are not installed yet.

And here is a picture of the finished module. Here you can also see the extra PCB with the jacks. I chose to hard wire all the connections between the PCB's. You could also use connectors so that you can take it apart easily, but I didn't see the added value in that. First of all I don't plan to take it apart. The PCB is even reachable from the back in case of a problem. Secondly I don't like putting these kind of connectors on wires. As you can see I wired the most right set of wires a bit too short. I couldn't even put a tie wrap around them anymore. But I decided to leave it this way, because it will work fine and desoldering will make more of a mess I guess.

And then it was time for some testing and calibrating. First the usual smoke test with no problems. Then I put a signal on this input from the PC Function Generator and tested if I heard something on the output. That worked fine. Then I tested the CV inputs and actually got three of them that didn't work. I started investigating by measuring on the PCB and found out quickly that I forgot to wire three wires :) Well keep reading that documentation sometimes ;) After I installed them I even found out that two of them were the wrong way around. And after I twisted that It all looked OK.

After that you really need an oscilloscope to do the calibrating. In the picture on the right you can see an example of what it looked like when I put a triangle on the input and twiddled around a bit. I will do another post later on with some more examples so you can see what it can do. I have a speaker on the output all the time and you can really hear the difference. Normally a triangle sounds very soft just like a sine wave. After putting it through this unit it really sharpens up the sound and you can make some interesting stuff from very basic waveforms. OK. As promised more later. But for now it seems to work fine :)

19 January 2010

Oakley MidiDAC Midi2CV Module

I know that I'm posting updates on finished modules very rapidly after another now. But that doesn't mean I all build them so quick :) I have build a lot of PCB's the last two years and just now I have all components for some modules. So that is why I'm able to get them finished so quickly because now I finally have the potmeters or the front panels. Here you see the PCB of an Oakley MidiDAC midi to CV converter. It is supposed to be very good so I'm very curious how it will track later on. I should eventually hook my midi setup up to my modular through this unit.

Oakley thought very well of the layout of the PCB in correlation to the position of the front panel components. They can do so of course because the PCB is front panel mounted through the potmeter so you will actually know where they go :) But because of this the wires are all quite short which makes it look very tidy. I just couldn't use my regular led holders because one of the leds is exactly behind the PCB. I guess that is the downside of this construction for me. I used more simple black plastic led holders for this unit and decided to just solder wires to the leds in steads of bending the legs and soldering them on the PCB itself.

Then is was time to hook it up and to some testing. At first I didn't get any response but found out quickly that this was because the Midi channel was set wrongly. The DIP switch worked just the other way around as I expected. Then I hookup up a midi keyboard and started to test all the signal outputs. As you can see there is a lot of them and that is also what makes this Midi to CV converter great. Next thing was to check the switched and potmeters and that all worked fine. So then it was time for some calibration. Of course this module must tune and to 1V/Oct.

Calibrating isn't even that difficult on this module. You just put the tune potmeter in the middle. Then there is an initial trim potmeter. And then you measure the Voltage on the Pitch output. Select the lowest note possible and it should read 0 Volts. Then you go to the highest midi note possible and then turn the V/Oct trim potmeter until it read 10,58 Volts. And then it should track. And I verified that by hitting notes across different octaves and it tracks perfectly. I was expecting this to be much more work, but actually it tuned in about 5 minutes :) After that I played around a bit on the VCO I build recently. I was thinking to recalibrate that VCO soon using this MidiDAC since I think it tracks even better than the Roland CV keyboard that I used back then. If you are interested in this module visite the Oakley Website at: http://www.oakleysound.com/mididac.htm

18 January 2010

Oakley Equinoxe Voltage Controlled Phaser

Tonight I finished my first Oakley module. It is a Voltage Controlled Phaser module called Equinoxe. And it is called after the Equinoxe album by Jean Michel Jarre, because it recreates exactly the phasing of the originally used EHX Small Stone I guess. It is a fairly simple unit to build and luckily I had some components in stock for it like the LM13700's that I got long time ago already. As you can see this module is not on a potbracket like my other modules. Oakley uses PCB mounted potmeters that come with special brackets to make them stronger. And you can use them to hold the PCB in place.

For this module I got the PCB, potmeter kit and pot bracket kit from Oakley and I got the front panel and knobs from Bridechamber. The rest of the components I could source through my regular electronic component suppliers. You can get the documentation for this module on the Oakley website by the way. After applying power to the module (usual smoke test) I started testing it. I think I did what everyone does with a phaser the first time. I put some noise in it and put everything to full and the modulation speed very low. Then you get a very neat wind sweep sound. And it did that perfectly so I guess I can say it works. I still need to see if some trimming is necessary. I didn't look at that yet to be honest. I was happy enough it worked.

And here is the finished module between some unfinished ones. As you can see it has a build in LFO. You can also apply an external CV signal for modulation, but for normal operation the internal LFO works fine. You can also use the output of the LFO to modulate an external module to have them run in sync. The other controls are Frequency, Emphasis and Modulation Depth. Next thing I should try I guess is run the Eminent 310 through it and see how it compares to the EHX Small Stone. But on the other-hand I have an original EHX Small Stone (even a Russian one) so why should i? :) Ah well just for the fun of it I guess. I have some more Oakley PCB's ready so I hope I can show them to you soon. I'm done for today :) Going to watch a movie now. Good night :)

MFOS Stereo Mixer (Part 2)

When I tested the MFOS mixer I found a problem. When trying out the stereo output and some stereo channels I found that I was missing some channels. I checked my wiring and I couldn't find any mistake there. Then I started measuring signals and found quickly that I had signal in the input of the stereo potmeters, but NOT on the output. I thought that was very strange. So I started measuring the potmeters themselves and it turned out that some of them didn't work at all :( So after that I decided to test the other set I have. They worked so I decided to replace them.

Replacing the potmeters was not very easy. As I said in the previous post it is sometimes hard to reach the solder lugs. But I first removed the old potmeters with the wires attached. Then inserted the new potmeters and then finally soldered the wires one by one so that I couldn't go wrong with that. You can see it in the top left picture. In the picture on the right you can also see that I didn't shorten the shafts of the potmeters yet. These ones are made of plastic so with a small saw you can easily shorten them even when they are already mounted.

After this I redid my testing procedure and found that everything was working OK. These plastic stereo potmeters just don't feel so solid as the metal ones. I might replace them in the future when I can source better ones. Then I encountered another challenge. These new potmeters didn't have round shafts but they have a flat side. This is normally to have the knob on at a fixed position. I found that when I put the knobs on it didn't align with the scale on the front panel. So I had to twist the potmeters a bit to get that right. You can see that in the picture on the left.

And here is the final module. It is not really that bad I think :) It works great. I played a bit around with the Mooger Froogers on the Send and Return channels even though they are not stereo. But this way I could add some sound effects to the input signal by turning the send potmeters. And of course there was one thing that I gambled. And that was the polarity of the headphones stereo jack. And of course I switched left and right. Well 50% change eh? :) I think this is quite a nice mixer and you can build is very cheap if you are interested take a look on the MFOS website at this URL: http://www.musicfromouterspace.com/analogsynth/STEREOMIXER2006/STEREOMIXER2006.php

17 January 2010

Mr. Braska's Apollo Studio Experience (Part 5)

And here is another episode of the Mr. Braska Apollo Studio Tour. I wanted to show Mr. Braska my latest DIY project. The MB-6582 Midibox synthesizer.

I explained to Mr. Braska that this synthesizer will run on 8 SID sound chips coming from old Commodore 64's and he wanted to see them. Here you see Mr. Braska drewling on them. I think he fell in love again! Frogger memories?

Then I asked Mr. Braska if he wanted to help me wire another module. But then he saw the wires and he covered his eyes and started screaming. So I guess not :) Bad dreams about the cable mash he was in last week I guess.

But when the MFOS stereo mixer module was ready he seamed to enjoy it. He was slinging acros the wires like a little green Tarzan :)

And as promised mr. Braska reveils the whole of my modular desk. Can you still spot Mr. Braska? :) As said before all the modules with knobs on them are finished. The rest is still work in progress but I'm finishing up a lot of stuff soon. As you can see the synthesizers.com Q960 sequencers are also in place now.

And the worst news is that the desk is even too small. We will start building some extensions to it soon since I need to harness some more modules that I plan to build in the near future. OK enough Mr. Baska for today. I'll do one more final post soon to close this serie of.