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Modular synth madness

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Davesax1965 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 11 2019 at 06:25
Absolute essential for tuning oscillators...... a strobe tuner. This is a Korg Pitchblack Pro. 

Expect much swearing ahead. Ladies, cover your ears. ;-)



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 11 2019 at 10:04
Korg MS-20 Mini with a wooden side kit by Drunken Woodworker, before anyone asks. I had an original MS-10 back in the early 80's.

The Pitchblack Pro tuner is a modern equivalent of the old Conn Strobotuner. I'd love an original Conn, but they go for silly money now. 

Strobotuner here.



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 11 2019 at 10:07
Here's the Pitchblack Pro - rack version. I really need several of these. Drifting oscillators are the bane of analogue synths. Takes about 20-30 minutes for them to get to a stable temperature. Some voltage controlled oscillators have temperature control built into them.

Did I mention using this old stuff was a labour of love ? 



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 03 2019 at 10:37
Case wiring started, all works. The green board at the top is a distribution board which sends power to the modules. The finished system will have six of these in. 

There's a large piece of ply coming on which I'll mount six bus boards - I then get a custom flightcase built - cut some frames back to length and !!! 20U cabinet done. 



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 03 2019 at 10:39
Frames being cut to depth (with an angle grinder, a lot of finishing to do.)

So the frames bolt into the rack strip in the flight case. The individual modules screw into the frames and power comes from the bus boards to the modules via ribbon cables. A lot of work to do, but it all electrically works so far, it's just "arts and crafts" now. 



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 03 2019 at 10:41
Four more frames to cut, and we're getting there. Power tools make me paranoid, "musician and fingers" etc. ;-)

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote verslibre Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 03 2019 at 14:47
You madman!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 04 2019 at 05:59
:-) 

Those who the Gods destroy, they first make them build modular synthesizers. 

I'm actually thinking of issuing kit analogue synths. There are a very few out there, ranging from very simple designs to things like MFOS ones, which are "somewhat difficult to build" due mainly to the wiring. Which is sort of a spaghetti nightmare. My brother's designed a variety of modules and I've got a few home made designs: we've got enough to do a complete synth and the main impediment of building some kind of powered enclosure seems to be solved. Two options - (1) fully normalised or (b) with patch bay, which increases the complexity of the design and therefore the cost. I'd do it with large format size knobs and quarter inch jacks, less fiddly. No keyboard, MIDI in instead. It's very difficult to buy small batches of keybeds off the few manufacturers out there, who don't even respond to e-mails. You can plug a MIDI keyboard in, so that's the way to do it, saves building a keyboard diode matrix as well.

The main problem is that people with *zero* soldering experience tend to buy kits and then complain about them not working. It's a sort of weird Dunning Kruger effect, where someone can't wire a plug but think they can somehow build an analogue synth. Dreadbox issued a number of kits on a "no technical help" involved, you buy the kit, if it works, good, if it doesn't, tough. There are a number of options - (a) panel plus PCB, source your own parts (b) panel plus PCB plus parts included and (c) pre-made enclosure. One thing which should put off amateur fiddlers (but seemingly fails to do so) is that you can't build and calibrate an analogue synth without recourse to an oscilloscope. Yet still they blunder on. 

Instruction videos on YouTube - "get this PCB out, solder these components to it in this order, test, get the next PCB out" etc. The finished synth will be superior to any kit out there on the market, obviously nothing like the modulars I build, but obviously nothing like the price. It will still be fairly expensive, though. You can't make these things for nothing, but there's the option of buying it stage by stage, ie. oscillator PCB, mixer PCB, LFO PCB.... that conditions the design but makes it more affordable. Some kit synths are pure rip offs, but it'd be "as cheap as possible whilst making a reasonable profit."

The problem of doing this is, as usual, time and money. Yes, I've got the money to do it, but it's somewhat out on a wire, same with all specialised small businesses. I'd definitely avoid Kickstarters or (god forbid) angel investors. Time is the main factor, I rarely get a weekend off work, and the day job is not something I can afford to give up to do this. Let's see how it goes. 


Edited by Davesax1965 - February 04 2019 at 06:15

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 04 2019 at 06:19
PS Two modules my brother's designed working together - oscillator and low frequency oscillator. 



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mascodagama Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 04 2019 at 07:10
Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

Four more frames to cut, and we're getting there. Power tools make me paranoid, "musician and fingers" etc. ;-)
Guitarists seem to manage with less than a full complement of working fingers - Jerry Garcia, Tony Iommi. Pianist Horace Parlan developed his insanely funky style based on his left hand compensating for a right hand that was paralysed by polio. But I guess a sax player really would be screwed if a couple of fingers ended up on the workshop floor...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gerinski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 04 2019 at 07:45
Sometimes it's not so much the threat of actually losing a finger or a piece of it, it's just that if you injure any of them it may prevent you from playing for a few days if not weeks. Musicians need always be careful with their fingers, same as singers need to be careful about their voice / throat.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 04 2019 at 09:08
Side point, after WW1, Conn produced some special order saxes which could be played with one hand. The difficulty is if you lose your left hand, the action gets much more complex. It looks like some kind of explosion in a Meccano factory.

Since none have been produced since about 1920, I think I'll go easy with the angle grinder. ;-)

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 05 2019 at 01:29
Backboard with distribution strips ready to drill up and mount. 

Back when I've drilled 102 holes. 



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Mascodagama Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 05 2019 at 04:21
Originally posted by Davesax1965 Davesax1965 wrote:

Side point, after WW1, Conn produced some special order saxes which could be played with one hand. The difficulty is if you lose your left hand, the action gets much more complex. It looks like some kind of explosion in a Meccano factory.

Since none have been produced since about 1920, I think I'll go easy with the angle grinder. ;-)

Awesome, and strangely touching. I had no idea.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 05 2019 at 10:32
Apparently there are some new ones being made. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02pHRIVvitw

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 05 2019 at 10:38
One sad aside. I wanted to be a maxillofacial surgeon (it's a long story) (very long story.) 

The one handed sax came about as a result of the enormous amount of injured WW1 soldiers, and also the coincidental "saxophone craze" of the 1920's. 

I was also reading about the French department which made tin facial prostheses for soldiers with facial wounds. The UK one, the "tin nose shop" kept extensive records about their patients - the French didn't. Over 20,000 French veterans had a facial mask made.... they just vanished into obscurity. Apparently a lot of UK veterans got jobs as film projectionists, so they could work at night and alone, avoiding the general public.

When you then read up about Krukenberg amputations (and I suggest you don't) for soldiers who were blinded and had lost both hands - a Krukenberg amputation splits the forearm in half and relocates a muscle so the arm becomes a giant chopstick.... but retains sensation, where artificial limbs don't - you start realising how appalling WW1 was. 

"Watch waterfalls of pity roar". 

Completely off topic. Oh yes. Well. After a few incidents, some in the family, I wanted to be a maxillofacial surgeon but essentially decided to do so too late. A long story and hey ho, there you go. ;-)

Edited by Davesax1965 - February 05 2019 at 10:39

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 08 2019 at 06:34
More Arts and Crafts this weekend cutting frames with an angle grinder. Abu Hamza here we come....  ;-)

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2019 at 02:44
Power distribution backboard wired up. Next step, order a custom flight case..... which will be done next week. One to four weeks later, a 21U case arrives, the backboard is screwed in, the power supply is as well, the frames are installed, switches, fuses and power indicators are wired in, I make an earth plate and common the earths - then it's Grand Switch On time and check the output voltages before reinstalling everything in the case. 

Then it just all has to be calibrated. ;-)



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 24 2019 at 02:25
Perspex plate to cover the AC side of the power supplies - this stops small metal objects falling in, such as screws, and keeps fingers away from mains current. 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Davesax1965 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 03 2019 at 04:03
Case design done, now to get some quotes in !!! 




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