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Synthfest UK 2019: my DIY modular gets screen time!

For the last three years I’ve been working hard on a complete modular synth system (which is partly why this blog has been so quiet lately), and at last the graft is starting to pay off!

I took it to Synthfest UK 2019 last weekend to give people a chance to see it, hear it, and more importantly to play it. Happily, it went down very well, and to my surprise the crew from Sound on Sound magazine asked me for an interview! Of course I was excited to oblige, and here (unscripted, unprepared, and with terrible hair) is my 6 minutes of fame…

As outlined in the interview, the synth itself is currently two cabinets. The upper cabinet contains:

  • VCO
  • VCF (24dB low pass)
  • VCA (transistor design with lots of colour)
  • ADS(R) envelope (Decay and Release share a control)
  • Dual lag processor
  • White & pink noise
  • Dual LFO (with waveshaping)
  • Passive ring modulator
  • Passive filters (Low and High pass)
  • Passive attenuators
  • Passive multiples
  • PSU

The lower cabinet contains the following, at the time of writing:

  • Dual VCA
  • AR & ADSR envelopes
  • Envelope follower
  • Gate delay
  • Audio (log) mixer
  • Attenuverting linear mixer
  • CV sources and inverters
  • Dual Sample & Hold
  • Headphone output and extra gain control
  • Buffered mults & inverters
  • PSU

I was ill for a couple of weeks leading up to the show, so I didn’t get chance to complete and install the High Pass VCF (24dB) that I had working and half-built, so that’s going in next. That leaves one slot in the lower cabinet which will become a Dual VCO.

The synth as it was for Synthfest UK 2019:

Photo of my DIY modular at Synthfest UK 2019

Photo of my DIY modular at Synthfest UK 2019

There’s a long way still to go. Once the lower cabinet is complete, I’ll be making another cabinet of sequencing and control modules – clock converters, triggers, all that kind of thing. I’ve also got plans for various units that I think will become separate devices, and which are at various stages of development. I’m trying to keep the focus on finishing this pair of cabinets first, and taking things one step at a time.

My aim is to turn these into modules you can buy. That’s also in progress, but it’s not about to hit the streets just yet. Hopefully something will start to appear in 2020, but the most important thing is to get this right, so releases of any kind will happen when they’re ready. There’s a lot of work in turning an idea into a product!

Watch this space, anyway. Meanwhile, I’ll try to keep posting a few synth DIY circuits, and maybe some details about vintage synths, but I have had to focus my time and energies on the design and testing for now. This blog is definitely not done yet, I will keep it going as long as I possibly can, but posts will be more widely spaced than they were in, say 2014-16, when I was dissecting the Lambda and modding my old Werkstatt. I haven’t forgotten those people who message me here and ask questions, either! I still try to answer as many of those as possible, where it’s appropriate and I am able to find the time. Please do keep asking, I’m very happy that my little blog gets such an audience!

I wish you all the best, and hope to continue seeing you here for a long time to come!

Nathan

 

 

On the ‘Tube

So, I decided to set up a YouTube channel for Synthnerd: Here it is!

It’s a bit sparse right now, but I’ll be uploading all video material of my own creation there, and linking to any other videos I blog that have been made by others.

Cheers!

Hello World

Welcome to synthnerd, a blog about synthesizers.

Electronic musical instruments have been with us for several decades now, and have become a prevalent music-making technology. Far from just providing special effects or bad bassoon sounds, synths are flexible and inspirational tools that do not confine themselves to restrictions of genre. I would hazard that there are more electronic music-making devices on the market now than ever, and whether you are a minimalist or a hoarder, there’s a chance you might need some advice some time. New synths come with a guarantee, which is fine, but old ones do not. Twenty years of collecting, playing, and occasionally making electronic music kit has forced me to become something of a tech-nerd, and here I will be blogging about:

  • ways to use old music technology – how to sync things, how to connect your drum machine to your DAW, how to get sounds out of things
  • repairing things when they go wrong – mostly vintage kit from the 70s and 80s, which is getting on a bit now, and often in need of some TLC
  • DIY builds – from switch-boxes to full-on instruments.

There is no intended pattern to my posts. I will blog when I have something to add. If you find the information here useful and interesting, please be my guest and share it. Anything I post here of my own will be public domain, and I hold no qualms about people adapting my methods for themselves.

Thanks,

Nathan.

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