Saturday, 29 July 2017

On building kits

Building kits is an easy way to learn to solder.  Especially guitar pedal kits.  They are easily available and usually very simple.

Das Musikding Das Plus overdive kit

There are a lot of ready to solder kits out there.
I made several from the German web store Das Musikding.
They are well documented and the store also offers all necessary electronic components for DIY guitar pedals, and more.  So it's easy to order not only your kit, but your enclosure, knobs, switch and other parts.  Banzai Music is another of such site.

Assembled Der Muff kit

These kits are not expensive, easy to understand, easy to solder.  But there is a drawback.  As they are inexpensive, PCBs are sometimes built with lower quality features..
On the first kits i got, holes were not metallised.  It means the metal of the solder pads is located to one side only and doesn't extend to the other side of the PCB, via the hole.   Solder tends to stay on one side to the PCB and if you heat the pad long enough it might peel off.  With metallised holes, the solder easily go upwards to the other side.  Your solder is then neat and easy.

The arrow indicate a burnt solder joint.
Solder pad literally peeled off.
Fortunately the pin of the IC was not used.
At the time, I didn't know better, so I found these kits top notch.
Nowadays, the latest versions of the kits I received offer a PCB of higher quality.  The form factor helps the integration on smaller enclosures.  Holes are now metallised.  They are a breeze to make.

PCB of Das Musikding The Angel chorus kit v2

And in case you'd like to learn about it, here is my favourite way to cable a 3PDT footswitch. 

My favourite way to cable a 3PDT footswitch

Inputs on on side, outputs on the other side, ground on the middle column.  FX input to the ground when in bypass mode.  As the pins form a 3x3 square, pay attention of their orientation.  Test first to make sure.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Why in English ?

I decided to write in english, even though it is not my mother language.  So bear with me if I make grammatical mistakes or spelling errors.

Why writing in english ?

Because I want those modest words to appeal as much people as possible. 
You have to start somewhere and it's not always easy to start.  I hope to show that it's not that difficult.

Close-up of Der Muff pedal electronics from Das Musikding

Still no word on my work today, but some interesting links on DIY electronics and synthesizers :

Sonelec ( ) : Great website (en français) with lots of schematics and explanations for beginners. Very didactic.

DIY-layout ( ) : Home of a bunch of simple stripboards for guitar pedals.  A good place to start with simple things.

Yusynth ( ) :  Yves Usson's Website.  The website is both in french and in english.  Yves is a dedicated synth DIYer and participates to the development of Arturia analog synth product line.

Music From Outer Space (  ) : Great reference for DIY synth enthusiasts.  Many schematics, many tips, many tricks. 

Dintree - Synth DIY ( ) :  Nice list of DIY modules schematics along with useful technical tips.

Muff Wiggler ( ) : The reference forum for electronic music gear, with big section on synthesizers (of course).  If you don't want to be sucked in the vortex of analog synthesizer, don't go there !

Monday, 17 July 2017

What is it about ?

For as long as I can remember, I was always fascinated by those large modular synthesizers that could be seen along artists like Jean-Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk or Keith Emerson.  I fondly remember the large 5U modular (unplugged !) behind the belgian band Telex during their performance at the european Song Contest in 1980.

Telex : Telex during rehearsals for the Eurovision Song Contest 1980
Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, Rijksfotoarchief: Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Fotopersbureau (ANEFO)
Source : Wikipedia

Keith Emerson (photo Surka, source Wikipedia)
Now that I finally experimented a little bit with Do-It-Youself (DIY) electronics, I tend to believe that I can build my very own synthesizer.  So, the purpose of this blog is to document the journey of an amateur hobbyist (me !) into the world of DIY modular synths.

To make things straight, I did study electronics at the University, more than 20 years ago.  But I spent most of my professional career programming computers.  This part of my life seems a century ago.

What decided me to come back to electronics after all this time ?  A simple electronic layout on a musical web site showed me how easy it was to make a booster pedal for guitar.

So I bought a bit of hardware, built the thing and it worked.

There I was, with my first DIY electronic device in hand…

It was 5 years ago.

This blog will not only be about building a synthesizer, I intend to write a little to document my journey in gaining enough knowledge and confidence to tell myself I can make my own synthesizer.
Of course, you will see my progress as they happen… if they happen.
And if these articles encourage you to start your own projects, my job here is done.