31 October 2010

Live Radio Interview with Terry Hawke

I did a very nice live radio interview last night with Terry Hawke on his radio show Hawkes Chill Out Sessions on Harborough FM. It was broadcasted on 102.3 FM in the South Leicestershire & North Northamptonshire area, but it was also broadcasted on the Internet via the webstream. I know a lot of you listened in. Thank you very much for that. In case you missed it you are lucky because I was able to record it from the radio stream and with kind permission of Terry Hawke and 102.3 HFM I was allowed to put a copy of it on my websit. You can still listen to the interview and some other interviews as well on this URL: http://www.synth.nl/press/interviews/

La Roche-en-Ardenne on Artic Mist #207

Jorge Sergio from the Spanish Artic Mist podcast played a track from the 'Refuge en Verre' album by Ron Boots & Synth.nl. Since it is a podcast you can still download it and listen to it whenever you like. Please do note that the announcements are in Spanish. The track that Jorge played is called 'La Roche-en-Ardenne' and that was the name of the town we visited in The Belgian Ardennes and where most of the album was produced. On the end of the track there is a dual solo where Ron and I play together. You can find the podcast on this URL: http://articmist.podomatic.com/

Watching Jupiter Last Night

Tonight we had a very clear night here in The Netherlands and I had read on a website that Jupiter was very close to the Earth at the moment and that you could spot it as a non flickering bright star on the horizon. I talked to the kids about this and asked them if they wanted to see this planet more closely. And they were enthusiastic to my surprise actually. So we drove to a place tonight were some amateur astronomers had put up their telescopes and we watched Jupiter up close. It was really amazing to see this for real. I mean I've seen pictures on the Internet of course but it is so much greater to see it with your own eyes. You could even see 4 of the 63 moons that Jupiter has. The kids were very exciting about all this and they are going to tell all about it on school on Monday. We decided that we would go out more and do some planet and star gazing in the future. The next thing would be to visit a real observatory and look through a really big telescope I guess. I just wanted to share this with you because you might want to have a look at this amazing sight yourself!

26 October 2010

Analog SFX Processor Racks

Since I don't have any big music projects at the moment (just some small stuff) I decided it was time to do some changes to the studio that I had planned for a long time. The first thing I did was making a lot of balanced jack-jack cables because I wanted to hook up the analog SFX processors to the new Anatek SMP-16 I got a while ago from Ron. This is a digitally controlled analog audio and midi patch-bay. I like it a lot, but unfortunately they are not made any more, so they are hard to come by.

I removed the Moog Voyager RME from this rack because it wasn't in a convenient spot any way in that rack. That gave me the opportunity to put the Yamaha SD-5000 delay in there and the Sony's that I got and repaired earlier. The three Rolands are paired together and the Sony's two by two. The patch-bay has another 4 connections on the front (1 stereo input and output) that enables me to hook up another SFX processor when I want. A pedal for example or whatever. From the patch bay two stereo inputs and outputs go to an AD/DA converter in the rack next to it. So I can use two separate SFX chains in this rack. I can chain them together as well though. For example use all 4 Sony's in one chain by connecting the outputs of the first chain to the input of the second chain on the patch-bay.

In this picture you can see the rack next to it as well. This one also has an Anatek SMP-16 with the same construction. Also two stereo inputs and outputs go to the AD/DA converter. I'm not entirely done with this project yet since I ran out of stereo jacks. I ordered some more but they won't arrived until Thursday the earliest. So I decided to build everything in for now since I'm having a visitor over tomorrow. After that I'll have to remove everything again from the racks and do the rest of the wiring. It will be nice to be able to use these SFX processors next to the digital ones that I use primarily. At the moment I'm using a Behringer AD80000 as the AD/DA converter. I plan to replace it in the future by an RME ADI-8 or an Apogee converter, but for now the Behringer will do fine. They are quite OK in my opinion actually. I did play around a bit yesterday after I was done with the Sony DPS-D7 and Yamaha D-5000 delays. And I can tell you they are both very good :) I'm looking forward to using them in my productions. I have used a lot of external reverbs already, but never external delays actually. The only thing I need to get working now is getting them synchronized with the Midi Clock of my Sonar sequencer software.

23 October 2010

Soleil Levant on Dreamscape #117

Ron Boots played another track of the album 'Refuge en Verre' that we made together on his radio show. This time he played the last track of the album called 'Soleil Levant', The track is about the Sun Rising in the early morning. Ron also announced that you can pick up this album at the Hampshire Jam 9 event in Lipton in November with 10% discount is you order it upfront. You can listen to the radio show that is still available as a podcast online from this URL: http://dreamscape.groove.nl/. Be sure to allow pop-ups because otherwise it won't play. Listen to it quickly since it will only be online until next Saturday.

21 October 2010

First Refuge en Verre Reviews Coming in

The first reviews of the Refuge en Verre album are coming in. I will put as much as I can find on my website for your convenience. Some of them are a bit longer than what you initially see, so don't forget to click the 'Read More' button. If you want to write your own review of one of my albums please do send them to me as well and I will place a copy on my website. OK you can find the reviews on this URL:

Wilba MB-6582 (Part 8)

When I recently took the pictures of the SammichSID's I build together with the Wilba MB-6582 I realized there was still one more thing to do. There were still no knobs on the unit making it look like a work in progress even though it is finished and works fine. So I looked again for some knobs on the Internet. The company that makes them doesn't sell very small amounts and you only need 15 for the unit. I could not find another place to buy them so I decided to order 100 of them.

Today they arrived and I put them on immediately. And well I think they look stunning. Wilba really made a good choice with these knobs. Not the MB-6582 finally looks like a finished project :) I'm still considering though to change some or all of the SID chips for newer ones. I now have 8 of the vintage sounding 6581's in them. But I liked the sound of the newer 6582 or 8580 better to be honest. But I guess it won't be easy to find them. And I'm not even sure what I want. It both has something special so maybe I should put in 4 new ones and leave 4 old ones.

Back to the knobs. As you can see I still have a lot left and I would not know where I could use them elsewhere. So if you are building a Wilba MB-6582  kit or you are planning too, you could buy the 15 knobs from me. You could pay me with PayPal and I'd ship them to you. Just send me an E-mail if you are interested. I won't throw them away of course and it would be nice if I could help someone out this way. I guess I should put this information on the Midibox forum as well. OK enough about the knobs :)

E-live was Super :)

I completely forgot to write something about the E-live festival I visited recently. The main reason is that I had two new releases on that festival and I was quite busy with the promotion of the new Refuge en Verre CD after the festival. I had a stall there where I also sold my CD's. It was nice again to catch up with some new and some old connections there. Always nice to get some feedback on these festivals as well. There were quite some visitors again and the atmosphere was great. I also saw two concerts from Bjorn Jeppessen as Nattefrost and Picture Palace Music.

My wife and kids were also there. In the picture on the right you can see them both play on the Nintendo DS. Unfortunately my oldest daughter seems to have misplaced her Nintendo DS on the festival. So if you found one you know who to contact. I'll not hold it against you, but she really would like it back. Also my friend Hans was there. We only missed one concert because we went out for dinner together with Remy and his wife. We had a very nice dinner at an Italian restaurant. And afterwards I joined the usual after party with Ron Boots and all the artists. Well It was a great day again and I'm always amazed how quick these days just fly by. I'm already looking forward to the next festival that Groove organizes called E-day. It will be held in April and hopefully I'll have a new release again on my stall then. I hope to see you there!

You can find some pictures and reaction of visitors on here: http://e-live.groove.nl

Thanks Ron and Kees for organizing another great festival!

19 October 2010

Coucher du Soleil on KlangARTen podcast

I wrote last week that I send out two batches of promo CD's and it looks like they arrived. Brammi played another track of the 'Refuge en Verre' album on his latest podcast. This track called 'Coucher du Soleil' was not played before and there are no samples online of this track. So listening to this podcast will give you another change to hear a new bit of the album I made together with Ron Boots. You can find the podcast on this URL:
http://www.klangarten.de. Thanks again Brammi :)

17 October 2010

Apollo Studio Construction Online

During the construction of my Apollo Studio I wrote a lot of blog articles to keep everyone updated on the progress. Recently I introduced a new website and I copied a lot of these blog articles on there. I just finished all the construction posts. There is a lot to read for you in this menu. Also about how my studio works and all the equipment that is in there. So I would say if you are interested go on and browse through it on a rainy afternoon :) You can find it all here: http://www.synth.nl/studio/construction

13 October 2010

SammichSID (Part 6)

And here is the final post on this SammichSID project. Both SammichSID's are finished now, painted and all. I said before that I'm not very good with paint and I'm not 100% happy about the result, but I think it looks good enough. The text in another colour does give it a bit more dimension to it. I tried some different methods on all the texts, but the result was the same every time. Just not enough paint in the engraving. Maybe my paint was too thick? Ah well never mind I'm done with it :)

And here is one of them a bit more up close. You can also see that the light that lights up the display from the back shines through the case. That actually gives nice effect I think next to the knob. All in all I really enjoyed building these two and I would really recommend you to buy you kit soon when you want to build one, because Wilba (the guy that designed them and supplies the kits) already announced that he is doing a final batch of 50 pieces and then he is going to stop with them. So last chance!

And here one last picture to conclude this post of the two SammichSID's together with their big brother the MB-6582 that I also build myself a while ago. Compared to the MB-6582 the SammichSID is a lot smaller of course and it holds only 2 SID chips instead of the 8 in the MB-6582, but the SammichSID sounds just as nice and is a lot easier to build. For the MB-6582 you really need to be more experienced in DIY I think. Of course the MB-6582 offers much more controls on the other side, but is more expensive. Well I leave the choice up to you, but I think if you are into DIY and you like that good old Commodore 64 sound you should really consider building one of these :) I enjoyed building them a lot. Time to make some noise with them :)

Troposhere on Klangarten

My track 'Troposphere' from my second album 'AtmoSphere' was played on the latest Klangarten podcast. It was nice to hear that old track back again. It is actually the openings track of the AtmoSphere album.

Klangarten is a very nice radio show that you can also listen to live on Welle303. You can still download the podcast or listen to it online on this URL:  http://www.klangarten.de

Thank for playing my music Brammi :)

12 October 2010

SammichSID (Part 5)

I finished up the first SammichSID today. It wan't much work any more just installing the panels. Here you can see a picture of the back panel with the paper still on it. If you click on the picture you can see a larger version and read the text that is engraved in it. You can also clearly see the C64 style power switch which I still think is a nice retro-touch. You can also notice that it has audio in next to the audio out socket. Both are stereo jacks by the way.

And here is a picture of the first finished SammichSID. I'm already a long way with the second one too by the way. So hopefully I can show you two very soon. In this picture you can see what I meant with the front panel and all the holes in it. It is made like a Honeycomb structure. Again you can also see the engraved text on the front panel. In the right top corner is also a logo. You can see it better in the picture below. Well enough about this time for action :)

I downloaded the latest Midibox SID firmware from the Midibox website. There is a special firmware version in the package you get for the SammichSID. After I uploaded it, it rebooted itself and gave the familiar bleeps that I knew already from the MB-6582. So far so good. Then I uploaded the presets with the new Java patch editor that is available. A very nice new tool by the way. Also that went well. Then it was time to hook up the audio and a midi keyboard to play on it. The first thing I noticed is how different the 8580 SIDs sound compared to the 6581 SIDs I have in my MB-6582. The newer 8520's sound much brighter and the filter seems to work better. But the 6581 seems to have more low end (bass) and sounds more vintage. So if you want to go into SID I think you should use both :) I can't say which I like more actually. Both is nice, but the presets that are made for the Midibox SID seem to fit the 8520's better. OK the only thing left to do is painting. I'm still not looking forward to that. I'm sure I'll screw it up. I'm good with electronics, but not with that kind of stuff.

11 October 2010

SammichSID (Part 4)

I worked some more on the SammichSID. Next thing was to put all the IC's in both PCB's. After that I connected both PCB's to each other and put power on it just to see if it worked. It seemed to work because there was a power up procedure and in the end the display said 'Ready' with a blinking cursor. That means that at least the PIC is running with MIOS installed on it. Next thing to do is assemble the casing. It is made of separate panels.
 Like I said before all the panels are covered with a paper layer. It is quite a tough job to get it of on some of the panels. Especially the front and side panels that have a lot of holes in it. The paper tears up every time so it is a job you need to be patient for. I left the paper just on the panels that need paint later on for the engraved text. In the picture you can see the bottom panel. There are some holes in there as well that are supposed to go where the power regulators are for better cooling.

The whole construction of the case is quite ingenious I must say. Everything is hold together with just the four long bolts and nuts that you see in the picture above. All other panels are stuck in between the top and lower panel. In the picture on the left you can see the base PCB attached to the lower panel. Then you have to put the 20 mm spacers on all the screws from the bottom. On top of there the front panel PCB is mounted as you can see in the picture below.
When I got this far I decided that I wanted to know if the SID's worked, because when everything is put together you can't reach inside anymore. So I downloaded a test program from the Midibox website. You can upload it with the MIOS software over Midi. When it was loaded it immidiately produces a 1 Khz tone on both the left and right SID chip. So I knew they were working alright. So it all looks good. Time to close it all up, But not today. Time for a rest :)

Synth.nl with Artico played on A Ultima Fronteira Podcast

My track 'Artico' from the OceanoGraphy was plated again by Roberto Vales on his radio show A Ultima Fronteira. You can still download it and listen to this podcast on this URL:


Do keep in mind that the radio show is in Spanish. Last week I also started sending out promo CD's to radio show from the new 'Refuge en Verre' album. So I hope that will get some airplay as well. If it does I'll let you know of course :)

SammichSID (Part 3)

Today I started on mounting the leds on the front panel PCB. To get them in the right length you first have to temporary mount the front panel on the PCB. But first you have to put all the leds in the PCB because they will go in between. To get the alignment of the front panel right you also have to put the buttons on the switches. Then you can turn everything upside down and stick the leds one by one through the holes in the front panel and then solder the leads from below.
 And this is what it looks like when you are done. There is still a layer of paper on the front panel both to protect it and you also have to put paint in the engraved letters and logo on the front panel. So I will leave this paper on until the unit is completely done. After this you can disassemble the front panel again and continue work on the PCB. In the picture on the right you can see how the leds look when you are done. with the front panel still one.
And here is a picture with the front panel removed. As you can see all the leds are in the correct height now. You could never to this as well without using the trick with the front panel as described above. Next thing is doing some power tests without all the IC's installed. To do this you connect a stabilized external 12V adapter. And then measure the power with a multimeter on certain points of the base PCB. There are two voltages to check 5 Volts and 9 Volts.
Then you need to put the front panel PCB on top and check the voltages there as well. You can also regulate the brightness and contrast of the LCD in this stage using the small potmeters on the side of the base PCB. And there are also some jumpers you need to install depending on what type of display you use and also depending on which SID chips you are going to use. This SammichSID will use 6582 SID's and then you also need to install the right capacitors next to the SID's. They are on sockets so that you can exchange them if you need to. So far things look OK. All the power tests were OK. So I guess I'm ready to go on.

10 October 2010

Refuge en Verre Released !!

Yesterday a new album called 'Refuge en Verre' was released by Synth.nl & Ron Boots. It is our first album together and there is a nice story to it. We first met at a Synthesizer Meeting organized by the Dutch 'Synth Forum' in 2006. There we started talking about synthesizers and synthesizer music and found out that we shared the same fascinations. As a result Michel signed up as Synth.nl in 2007 with Groove Unlimited. We worked a lot in the studio together after that remixing and mastering. Since then we have become very good friends and we visit each other on regular basis. Also our wives, kids and even the dogs like each other. In 2010 our wives decided to rent a house together in the Belgian Ardennes for a weekend. We both brought a synthesizer and a laptop and tried to make music together for the first time and that went very well actually. We recorded quite some tracks there. After the weekend we decided that we should release this music on CD. So we started on finishing the music together when we got back in our own studios. The result is this album called 'Refuge en Verre', which was the name of the house we rented. We got the inspiration for the music we played from the beautiful nature in the Belgian Ardennes and the nice time we had with our families over there. Most of the tracks were played live as improvisations in the temporary studio that we created in the rented house. This album was released by Groove Unlimited at the E-live festival in Oirschot (NL) on the 9th of October 2010. The CD holds 8 tracks on it and is over 70 minutes long. You can find more information about the album and also where to buy it on this URL: http://www.synth.nl/Refuge

Contemple du ciel on Syndae #105

Stefan Schulz from the German podcast Syndae played a track from the new 'Refuge en Verre' album that I made with Ron Boots. The track is called 'Contemple du ciel' and you cannot hear this track on the samples on my website or the Groove website. So I think it is worth listening to it on the podcast. Stefan already made his 105th radio show and plays some very nice music on his shows. You can find the podcast on this URL:

08 October 2010

SammichSID (Part 2)

I worked some more on the SammichSID. Here is a picture of the power regulators. There are actually two heat sink that are mounted on top of each other and on top of that the power regulators are mounted. Between every layer you have to put non-conductive heatsink pasta. That is really sticky stuff that you don't want on your clothes and on the rest of the PCB. So you are advised in the documentation to practice the whole construction first without the pasta. Well I hope I did this right.
Then you have to solder the interconnections between the two PCB's. They are actually not soldered together directly but there are connectors on both ends. But you are advised to put them in place and mount the PCB together with the supplied material. Make sure they align very well and then solder the connectors. When that is done you can disassemble the two PCB's again so that you can start working on mounting and soldering the components on the front panel PCB.
Here is a picture of the finished front panel PCB. There are some components that have some special instructions as well in the documentation because they are right above the heat sinks on the base PCB. You have to solder them from above so that you can cut the leads on the bottom of the PCB as short as possible. In this way you can avoid them touching and short circuiting anything. It is all described very well in the documentation, but you DO need to read it ;) The next thing left to do now is solder all the leds. I'll probably start working on that next week.

06 October 2010

SammichSID (Part 1)

Last week I started another new DIY project. It is a SammichSID synthesizer. Actually I will be building two of them one for my Friend Hans and one for myself. It is a bit like the MB-6582 I build before but a bit simpler. It has only 2 SID chips on board. But it will have that same fat Commodore 64 sound that brings you back to the 80's right away. Here is a picture of the whole kit that comes including the enclosure and display. I ordered the kits a long time ago, but it took a while before I got them. But now I also finally have the time to work on them.

In the picture on the right you can see the content of the kit. As you can see there are two PCB's. Like on the MB-6582 there is a base PCB that holds the SID chips and the PIC that controls them and there is another PCB that will hold the front panel components in place. There is a hole in the PCB were you can mount the display in later on. In the left top corner of the picture you can see the enclosure. It is made of loose panels. Normally the case is black with red leds and a red display, but I have a white case with a blue and white display and I got some neat blue leds from Wilba to put in. I'm sure that will look stunning :)

Wilba has the documentation as a PDF on his website. I think your should read it before you order the kit. Then you can see if you have the necessary skills to complete it. This is not a beginners kit I think. OK now to the construction. First thing to do is solder components on the base PCB. in the picture on the left you can see all the resistors, small capacitors, and IC sockets in place. The reason you do that first if because then you can still lay the PCB flat on its back so that it is steady when you solder on that side.

And then you can start on the larger components. Especially the components on the back panel are big. On the top left are the two midi connectors then the audio connectors (stereo jacks)  the external power supply connector and on the top right is the C64 style switch. That switch is a nice touch in my opinion that keeps it in the spirit of the good old C64. Do note in the lower right corner the metalized area on the PCB. here the power regulators will be mounted. And that is quite a tricky part actually. I will explain that in the next part. Enough for today ;)

Remote Control

Here is the kit for the remote control that I will use to control the 8 channel relay card that I build yesterday. Today I also picked up the optional RX433 receiver module what I was still missing. Luckily my local electronics shop sells these Velleman kits, so I could just drive by and didn't have to order online and wait a long time for it. Today I started building this remote control kit and I also completed it today. It also took me about an hour to build this one.

Here is an overview of all the components in the kit. Not that much actually and the PCB is also quite small. Again the manual is quite clear on everything. The are just two tricky things in the construction. One is that you have to make a 1 turn coil that has to be 5mm high. I'm not sure how critical this is actually, because that is quite difficult to do accurate on the millimeter. The other thing is that have to bend a led in a certain way. Both are described quite well, but you need to be a bit handy with pliers.

Here is a picture of the inside of the finished PCB. What you see is the backside of the PCB. There are the contacts that will be in touch with the keys later on. You can also see the battery compartment on the bottom. It runs on 3 AAA batteries. Fiddling everything in the case is not complicated, but you need some patience since everything has to be perfectly aligned. And on the PCB are also some component that you need to bend away for them to fit inside.

And here is a picture of the finished remote. It is not really good looking, but as long as it does the job right? :) The remote is transmitting radio waves by the way on 433 Mhz it is not a Infrared remote. That is very nice because then you don't have to point at the device you want to control. I have tested the remote with batteries and at least the led is showing activity. I still need to mound the receiver module now on the relay card and attach a power supply before I can test everything. I'll do that soon.

Remote Relay Card

 Yesterday I made another Velleman kit. It is an Eight-Channel Remote Relay Card. It has 8 relays that you can control with an optional remote control. Both the receiver and remote control are not in this kit. So beware if you want to but it. Those are optional extras. I will use this relay card to switch the power supplies of the modulars that I'm building, so that I can easily switch stuff on and of without having to reach in difficult to reach spots to switch them on and off.

In the picture on the right you can see all the components that are in the kit. It looks like  a lot, but it actually isn't that much. The components are just quite big actually. Especially the relays are quite big. The documentation is quite clear again and from the documentation I learned that you can also switch this kit with RS-232 in stead of the remote control. Then you have a PC application that you can use to switch. It took me about an hour to build this kit. So it is not much work.
And here is the finished result. The only thing you have to think about is that the green terminal connectors you see below have to be interconnected before you solder them in. Of course I didn't do that ;) And I had to de-solder the first four again since the fifth wouldn't fit. So you are warned :) It is written in the documentation of course, but I didn't read that part to well. Further more this kit needs a power supply itself as well. So I'm going to see now what I need. But next up is constructing the remote control.

05 October 2010

PC Datalogger

Today I didn't feel like doing a lot with music. I have been quite busy recently finishing the album with Ron Boots and last week I was very busy with sending out some previews to radio stations and putting preview online on my website. So today I decided to heat up the soldering iron again. I still had a Velleman kit lying around that I bought when I was building the PC scope and PC function generator. This is also a measuring device. It has 4 inputs that act like a Volt meter, but it can also store the values it measures over time. It is called a Datalogger.

It seemed like a nice kit to work on today, because the Velleman kits are so well documented and even the parts are supplied in the right order, so you don't have to think too much ;) Well here you see all the stuff that came in the kit. You can see all the components but also the enclosure that is also in the kit. There is no power supply since the PCB has a USB connection and it gets its power from the USB port of the PC. Quite convenient actually.

It took me about an hour to complete the PCB. Not very complicated this one. You can see the result in the picture on the left. The only thing strange is the leds sticking out. They could have made that a little nicer I think with some led holders on the enclosure and wires to the PCB. But ah well this probably saved some money on the kit. After finishing the PCB it is mounted on the bottom part of the enclosure with some supplied screws.

And then the last thing to do is put on the top of the enclosure and screw that to the bottom. You can see that the connectors still stick out. Then there is a CD supplied with the software that goes with it. I haven't installed it yet, but I'll try it out soon. If you are interested in this kit or want to see what else Velleman is selling go visit their website at http://www.velleman.be. I'm sure you can find something nice that you always wanted to build yourself :)