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The mighty modular synth

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Davesax1965 View Drop Down
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    Posted: October 31 2015 at 04:43
Just a quick note - 

Well, there was nothing on the telly, so we decided to make two modular synthesizers. ;-)))

By "make", I mean.......

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 04:44
One's complete at the moment. The other is under construction and will spill across into two cabinets. Here's cabinet 1, which is populated with oscillators, filters and amplifiers at the moment.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 04:47
It's about 40% complete but will be making basic noises by the New Year. 

From a technical perspective, it will contain seven oscillators, five low frequency oscillators, three to four filters and two to three amplifiers. So it certainly knocks spots off any of the old Moog systems from the 1970's.

(Awaits technical furore from "Moog fans" who'll just cut and paste stats...... ;-) )






Edited by Davesax1965 - October 31 2015 at 05:05
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 04:50
Sequencing is via two linked Doepfer Dark Times and MIDI, there will be split channel audio outs through a mixing desk AND we have a number of "proper analogue" synths as well. We'll be releasing some new albums which are very Tangerine Dream like in 2016. 

A live gig is possible, this will be "invite only" for people who have properly supported the band. And - no more free music releases after this level of investment. ;-) We will NOT be charging for the gig. 




Edited by Davesax1965 - October 31 2015 at 04:56
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 04:52
On that note, back to soldering ! Got an S-Trig cable to make, an oscillator to finish off, some panel wiring to check on the mixers......... 1001 things to do. ;-)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 05:01
PS
This is just a test - NOT using the modulars. 
Two Korg MS20 Minis being sequenced by a Doepfer Dark Time with an Arturia Minibrute playing lead through an effects rack with automated drums (EZ Drummer) playing in the background. It's all being played LIVE. 

Add the modulars in and it should be, er, impressive. ;-) Four times the amount of oscillators....

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Toaster Mantis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 05:23
Didn't Klaus Schulze and some of the Hawkwind guys make their own modular synths too in their garages back in the early 1970s when commercial synthesizers were still extremely expensive? I don't think it was until the mid/late 1970s that synthesizers were very cheap and readily accessible.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Tom Ozric Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 05:26
....and now, all you need is a pin-matrix system and you can have hours of fun !!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 05:26
Nope. ;-)

Hawkwind used an off the shelf EMS VCS3, a synth so unstable that it was basically no use as an instrument, more - really - as a sound generator. It rarely stayed in tune. This was combined with some simple test oscillators and Binson Echorecs. No modular synths were ever used by Hawkwind or ever have been.

Herr Schulze et al bought a slightly modified Moog modular system from Moog directly. It was so unreliable that it nearly killed them at one point when the power supplies detached in transit and fell through the modules. They switched it on and nearly got electrocuted. But no member of TD ever built a modular. 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 05:28
Oh God, Tom, no pin matrix. ;-)

Yep, we're back on the VCS3 again. The pin matrix was very unreliable. Erica Synths in Latvia do a touch screen version of it for €350, wouldn't touch it with a barge pole. You have to accept that patching is part of the game and pin matrices wear out very quickly.

So. That's £250 to spend on cables alone. Pretty expensive game. 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Toaster Mantis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 05:32
Thanks for the correction. It's a while ago that I read that Hawkwind biography, and remember reading something about them constructing their own synthesizers because of how unreliable and difficult to use the available ones were, if not extremely expensive. Didn't remember the whole thing in details though...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 05:36
Hi Toaster - er, no, whoever wrote that had no idea of what they were talking about. ;-) If you have a look at photos of Dik Mik and Del Dettmar in 1972 or so, they have a very simple setup using a couple of valve oscillators (ex Post Office test equipment) and a VCS3. Few other bits and pieces, but - believe me, Hawkwind at their electronic chaos peak had the equivalent of a Stylophone.

We will probably have more analogue equipment next year than Tangerine Dream had in 1975. Scary thought. ;-) 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 05:39
Delia Derbyshire with the "Jason valve oscillators" - nine of them - used to create the original Dr Who theme. Hawkwind had two of these. On the table to the right of the monitor / oscilloscope.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 05:41
Hawkwind's electronics in 1972.

Two valve oscillators, a Moog style keyboard to play them on and an EMS VCS3 plugboard synth.
That was cutting edge in 1972. ;-)


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 05:43
Oh yes, that was Del Dettmar, you can see a Binson Echorec (echo) in front of him. Here's Dik Mik with the VCS3.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guldbamsen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 05:44
Schulze's first moog came second hand from Florian Fricke just before Popol Vuh went spiritual acoustic and Klaus went to the moon and beyond. Florian was never impressed with the first two PV outings anyway and didn't think much of his moog skills, so he was glad to see it go.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 05:50
Hi Guldbamsen - if you had a look at the wiring inside a Moog 55, you'd be glad to see it go, too !!! Moogs and ARP 2500's from that era were incredibly primitive and unreliable inside. Electronics has moved on a long way. Capacitors don't usually leak like sieves now (if you use the correct voltage on electrolytics, fact fans) - nothing suddenly burns out or overheats. The world has moved on.

Moog has reissued the original 55 with original wiring. Want one ? $150,000. Synthesizers.com do a very good replica Moog system for a fifth the price. You can replicate the same system in Eurorack format for about $3-4,000. 

I always get people telling me that old Moogs sounded better due to the poor build quality. These people haven't got an idea what they're talking about, honestly. They simply don't. ;-)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 05:54
This is the wiring from an ARP 2500. Dual oscillator module. It's massive. The capacitors are gigantic. The resistor tolerances are "That's about right". ;-)


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 05:55
Modern oscillator. Size of a cigarette packet. Totally reliable. 
Easy to build and calibrate as well. You could fit six or seven of these into the footprint of the ARP one above. And ARP were pretty good. For the time.



Edited by Davesax1965 - October 31 2015 at 05:56
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dean Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 05:56
It's looking great Dave. Amazing even.Approve 

I've dreamt of building my own modular synth but always baulked at the cost rather than the effort involved. I did attempt to start building modules from the ETI3800/5600 back in the mid 70s but as each module cost more than the weekly wage of an impoverished apprentice at the time, after completing the first module I realised it would take me decades to complete the whole thing, so the project was abandoned.

I read somewhere (or maybe imagined it) that no two VCS3s were alike because Cockerell was always tinkering with the design but that story may have arisen from the fact that the same patch on two different VCS3s never created the same sound, though I understand this was often true for trying to recreate the same patch on the same VCS3.
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