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Topic ClosedThe mighty modular synth

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 10:53
This is a very impressive project and I look forward to hearing it when itís finished. I also enjoyed the live Seq2.

Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

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.

This makes Zanovís Green Ray (1976) all the more impressive, considering it was recorded solely on a VCS3.

Similar to Wendy Carlos' Switched-on-Bach (1968), Mike Hankinson's The Unusual Classical Synthesizer (1972) is an album of classical covers played on a synthesizer, the VCS3 instead of the Moog.


Originally posted by Tom Ozric Tom Ozric wrote:

The VCS3 stuff on Floyd's DSOTM is superb (On The Run, Any Colour You Like)......

According to Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd, the VCS3 was used on Breathe, while Brain Damage, Time, Any Colour You Like and On the Run used the more compact and portable version of the VCS3, the Synthi A. I canít tell them apart, either Wink.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 11:11
3.5v inverters here, but still going to be some noise.......


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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 11:17
Note to self "perhaps it may become apparently that a VCS3 is not modular at some point." Smile
There was a Synthi A up for sale around here recently, at ludicrous prices. No takers. 
EMS never did a modular. The closest they got to it was bolting two synths together to produce Tim Blake's Crystal Machine... and Miquette Giraurdy's too, now I come to think of it. There were very few modular synths around at the time. Moog, Buchla, ARP and Serge cover nearly all the early modulars. 


Edited by Davesax1965 - October 31 2015 at 11:21

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 11:23
PS Thanks, Replayer, never heard of that one !!!

EMS are a weird, weird company. Still going, go see. 
http://emssynthesisers.co.uk/


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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 11:34
Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

3.5v inverters here, but still going to be some noise.......


Perhaps not.... 3.5v in maybe but the output will likely be 100v at 1KHz to excite the phosphor coating of the wire. Some of the cheaper ones can even make an audible whine.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 14:55
Jean Yves Labat (the M Frog on Todd Rundgren's Utopia) had some joined VCS3's - as did Patrick Moraz - was it the AKS synthi ??
The synthi A was the briefcase model - now I'm confused - what was 'The Putney' ??
Eno would know all about this
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 15:09
Putney is the area of London where the EMS factory was ... the hardware of the VCS3 was given that nickname.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2015 at 16:23
Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

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.

Emerson's fabled FrankenMoog only has three oscillators LOL:


I can't fathom ELP going on tour with that contraption...

I noticed a Korg MS-20 in the third picture. Is it the original, the MS-20 Mini remake or did you assemble the reissued full-sized and MIDI-capable MS-20 kit?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 02 2015 at 04:01
Hi Replayer, sorry !! Off work with the flu !!

Yes, that's a new reissue MS20 mini. I used to have an original MS10 - which did PWM as well. I'm a big Korg fan. The new reissue is pretty damn good. There are lots of frustrations about using them, mainly the fact that they don't work on Volts / Octave, but there are workarounds available. The MS20 used a classic Sallen-Key topology filter - the eagle eyed will possibly have noted that I have one built into the modular. 



There's also two Polivoks filters in there - matter of fact, the entire middle row is essentially a Polivoks. This is the beauty of modular synths, you can just add anything you like. ;-)

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 02 2015 at 09:09
Off work with a cold today. Perhaps not the best time to start building an oscillator. This is 50% done.

Imagine the joy when you plug it in and it doesn't work. Or white smoke comes out of it and it's ruined. ;-)
Having said that, you CAN get them ready made. The kit is about £120, assembled, £225. Not a cheap hobby.




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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 02 2015 at 09:50
What a coincidence...I'm turning green, myself! LOL
 
What you're doing and depicting is ace! Wish I had the time and funds to do likewise. Thumbs Up
Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

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.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 03 2015 at 03:56
Hi Versilibre - ahhh, I wish there were a cheaper way of doing it. 

If you wanted to make a start - well, a 3U 84HP case can be had fairly cheaply if you trawl around. (I say "fairly cheaply", Eurorack prices are a ripoff !!! Doepfer do a kit with a couple of rails, busboard and PSU, you could make your own enclosure, given a suitable donor cabinet.

Popping over to Erica Synths, they do a complete "Polivoks in a box" kit which would get you started for ... well. A reasonable amount of money. Be warned that "reasonable amount of money" means "get the soldering iron out". Still, a lot less than buying a synth, though.

It also pays to keep a weather eye on eBay as some modules are very cheap to buy second hand. 

What do you need to get started ?
One oscillator
One filter
One amplifier
MIDI <> CV interface

and then just build things up from there. 

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 07 2015 at 11:57
Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

Yes, that's a new reissue MS20 mini. I used to have an original MS10 - which did PWM as well. I'm a big Korg fan. The new reissue is pretty damn good. There are lots of frustrations about using them, mainly the fact that they don't work on Volts / Octave, but there are workarounds available. The MS20 used a classic Sallen-Key topology filter - the eagle eyed will possibly have noted that I have one built into the modular. 

I was thinking of buying an MS-20 mini as my first analog synth (I don't know nearly enough about sound synthesis to start off with a fully modular synth), but I decided to go with the Novation Bass Station II. In spite of only having a two-octave keyboard, the BS2 won me over due to the fact that it included a sub-oscillator, I could save and export patches and not having to buy a separate sequencer such as the SQ-1.

I've read good reviews of the MS-20 mini and heard Korg did an excellent job on the remake. Here's a interesting sound effect of a car engine igniting and revving up:

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 12 2015 at 07:37
Thanks, Replayer - yep, my Korg is great. The reissue is better than the original, in my book. Modern electonics means it sounds tighter, snappier......

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 12 2015 at 07:40
Here's probably the better way of describing it. 

Right, the modular is over to the left. Not plugged in. There's a Doepfer Dark Time sequencer connected up to the Korg by electrical trickery. Above the Korg is a Minibrute. 

Coming up soon is another MS20, another Dark Time sequencer, and the modular just had a MIDI interface fitted. There are also two MIDI keyboards. You can imagine what all this will sound like live, but here's the MS20 being sequenced, with just a bit of delay added to it as well via the computer. 



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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 12 2015 at 07:45
That's just a quick test to see if the s-Trig cable works, by the way. 


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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 12 2015 at 07:49
And this is where modern modular synths deviate hugely from their 70's forebears - one MIDI to control voltage interface.

So now it plugs into the PC. ;-)



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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 12 2015 at 08:08
Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

Here's probably the better way of describing it. 

Right, the modular is over to the left. Not plugged in. There's a Doepfer Dark Time sequencer connected up to the Korg by electrical trickery. Above the Korg is a Minibrute. 

Coming up soon is another MS20, another Dark Time sequencer, and the modular just had a MIDI interface fitted. There are also two MIDI keyboards. You can imagine what all this will sound like live, but here's the MS20 being sequenced, with just a bit of delay added to it as well via the computer. 
What kind of sequencer works well with the MS20 (without trickery) then?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 12 2015 at 08:27
Korg do a sequencer called the SQ1, which, I believe, works fine with the MS20 Mini as it works on the HZ/Volt standard (or can be switched to it.) It's not as well specced as a Dark Time, though. The SQ1 is quite cheap and a reasonable beginner sequencer. 

With an s-Trig cable, any sequencer will work, with the caveat that results are unpredictable if you go across several octaves, although the results "add character" to the synth. ;-) Doepfer do an s-Trig cable, but it's expensive. It's actually a rip off when you consider it only contains a low noise transistor and a resistor. I made my own for a twentieth the price. 

When buying s-Trig cables, be sure you get a jack plug to jack plug one: older Moogs also use s-Trig cables but the connectors are different - there's some archaic old two pin plug on the end of a Moog one. And the working voltages are different. 

With an s-Trig cable, you can use any sequencer, even, say, a Moog 960. 

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 12 2015 at 08:28
PS You can also IGNORE using an s-Trig cable and do everything via MIDI - the Dark Time and Korg are both equipped with a MIDI interface. 

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