Sunday, 27 January 2019

Korg Volca Modular

I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on one of the new Korg Volca Modular synthesizers.
I've got quite a few Volcas and even modded some in the past.
I wonder if this is hackable too?

Instead of using 3.5 mm jacks the volca modular uses those tiny patch wires  you see being used on breadboards. The new AE modular  from Tangilbe Waves uses this same system, as do Sound Machines with their NS1nanosynth,  and Bastl Instruments with their Kastle, SoftPop, Bitranger & OMsynth. 
Apart from this being wonderful news for the DIY synth community, it's a great introduction to what is termed West Coast synthesis. (Google Don Buchla & Serge Tcherepnin).

The idea of "West Coast Synthesis" is a really recent construct I think.The term comes from the fact that in the very beginning of synthesizers there was Bob Moog in New York and Don Buchla and Serge Tcherepnin in California --- its really a difference not of geography, but a difference of philosophy. Buchla was I think more interested in making art than in creating a business. It's said he created the interface first, and then the electronics followed.

Usually, its really expensive to enter this world, or you have to be OK with DIY in order to build something like a Serge synth. KORG  looks like it has drawn inspiration from the Buchla Easel in its colour scheme, its signal path & its modules.

I love my old easel because it is so flexible. I hope the new Volca will be just as nimble and
introduce the wider synth community to the joys of the West..

I also don't think Korg have ever made a West Coast style synth before (message me if I'm wrong).

Part of the West Coast philosophy is instead of having standard filters that remove content from the VCOs (subtractive synthesis), it uses wave folders. (Though I don't think I can strictly say this is an additive synth).
Wave folders do exactly that ... they fold oscillator waves in on themselves to generate more harmonic content (above the fundamental).

The volca modular has no envelope generators or VCAs ... instead it has functions ... or function generators and LPGs (Low Pass Gates).... all very Buchla.

East Coast synths use ADSR style envelope generators ....
Here, were have functions or slope generators (if you are into Serge).
Function generators are much more flexible can get many more different envelope shapes
than your standard AD or ADSR envelopes.....& you can loop these too.

For more info on function generators click here:
But be warned ... it's a bit nerdy

Saturday, 26 January 2019

SOMA Laboratory - DVINA

SOMA Laboratory, the company behind innovative electronic instruments such as LYRA and PIPE,
is once again breaking new ground & exploring new sonic territories. Soma Laboratory has a new instrument in the pipeline (in addition to the upcoming PULSAR-23 organismic drum machine).

This new instrument is called DVINA. It's such a radical step for Soma, that the company is first seeking feedback from the public before putting it into production.

This is what it looks like:

DVINA (laboratory prototype)

“We want to show it to the world to get an idea if there is a market for an instrument like this,” said
Vlad Kreimer, the designer of DVINA. “If the reaction is positive, we can start mass production.”

DVINA is the first electro-acoustic experiment created by Soma. This unique string instrument was
inspired by classical Hindustani music, but lends itself to Western music just as well. References
include the bowed instruments - the Sarangi and the Dilruba which have more in common in spirit, than in design.

The DVINA produces a similarly full, warm and organic sound using modern technical innovations.

This DEMO video shows DVINA's construction and possibilities. 

A key feature of DVINA and its sound is that there is no pick-up inside. Instead, the electric signal
is taken directly from the strings that vibrate in the strong magnetic field of a neodymium magnet,
hidden in the neck. Sound is generated by strumming, plucking the strings (pizzicato) and by
playing with a bow (not included). DVINA has a minimalist design – no one part can be removed
without losing the functionality of the instrument. 
The length of the neck is 88cm, and the scale length is 52cm. The instrument weighs 1.2kg. The DVINA in the demo video is tuned C#, G#, but other tunings are of course possible. You can also use strings with a different gauge. Aside from the wooden body, an integral part of DVINA is the special step-up transformer that boosts the weak signal from the strings, enough for further processing.

After the transformer, the signal is ready to be put into stompboxes, mixer or a guitar cube.
The final part of DVINA is a custom built high quality pre-amp with one-tap delay and a soft distortion in the delay’s feedback. This is the pre-amp used in the demo.

You can of course use your own processing chain instead, but the Soma pre-amp does play a role in shaping the unique sound of DVINA.

Like with Soma's other instruments, there are some underlying concepts to DVINA.
There is the minimalism in design, and the link to the Hindustani tradition's meditative roots that can help the contemporary person focus on his/her inner state. 

“Two sticks, two strings, no frets, it's as simple as possible, everything unnecessary has been removed,” said Vlad. “It's only you and your spirit, mastery and imagination. This is a very simple but powerful instrument, with a strong connection to your body.”

DVINA is lightweight, small and very portable. It's actually the only bowed instrument that can be assembled from pieces that can be folded into a compact container.

“This instrument is perfect for the 21st century cultural ninja-spy, who travels alone with little luggage, is hopeful, flexible and completely independent, trying hard to still be a human in a complex time of impetuous changes.”

PRICE: The main part (wooden DVINA + step-up transformer) will cost in the range of 200-500 euros, while the pre-amp/delay/distortion unit will be around 200-300 euros. The exact price will be known once SOMA has a better idea of the market interest and the volume of production.

If you're interested in this kind of instrument, please let SOMA Laboratory know at

DVINA is also the name of a major river in Russia.
" (The) Northern Dvina River is the major river of the North zone of  European Russia and the White Sea basin. The river irrigates the Vologda and Arkhangelsk region and drains into Dvina Bay in the White Sea. Along with the Pechora River to the east, it drains most of Northwest Russia into the Arctic Ocean.

Spotted at a Prodigy concert on their instagram account

The Lyra-8

CMP-DIV Video Effecter - Vidiffektor

I came across an old post on Electro-Music for a video effects box.

It looks very cool
Credit for this goes to James Schidowsky.
His website is here:

The info in the post is very clear with lots of schematics and even a breadboard.
The parts count is very low.
Just two ICs ... a LM339 quad voltage comparator and a CMOS 4040
Should be a fun DIY build.

youtube 1
youtube 2
Facebook workshop Aug 2018

I've ordered some parts and will document the build on this page.
To be continued................... 

Friday, 25 January 2019

Happy Australia Day 2019

Happy Australia Day everyone.

Here is a list of some Australian Synth manufacturers:
Cat full of Ghosts
CGS - Cat Girl Synths
Elby Designs
Innerclock Systems
Mungo Enterprises

I'f I've missed anyone please let me know.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

The Integrator Circuit - analog computers, Buchla, Serge & eurorack modules

The Op-amp integrator is a very important electronic circuit which I come across again and again.
The West Coast style of synthesis uses it a lot in modules like function generators, and slope generators.
In the synth world, what is possibly the most popular of all modules, the Make Noise Maths uses this circuit.

The op-amp integrator is, as the name implies, based on the operational amplifier (op-amp). It performs the mathematical operation of integration (with respect to time). The magnitude of the output voltage is proportional to amplitude as well as the length of time a voltage is present at its input.

This probably sounds like lots of gobbledy gook to most people. Sorry.
To simplify all this nerd stuff.....
Usually operational amplifiers are used as part of a feedback loop circuit involving a resistor.
 Something like this:

 But what if we swap the resistor with a capacitor?
We now have a RC network This new circuit is commonly called a Op-Amp Integrator

Electronic integrator circuits can be found  in old analogue computers:


Integrators, mutipliers, dividers, counters, function generators, operational amplifiers, differential amplifiers, voltmeters... etc etc... These old analog computers had many of the modules you will commonly find in a modular synthesizer. They are arguably the inspiration for many of today's synths.

 Digital systems Lab

Anyway, probably my favorite module, the Buchla 281 QUAD FUNCTION GENERATOR uses it, as does the Buchla 257..... this is a voltage processor. Don experimented with integrators well before the 257. He created the Buchla 155 Dual Integrator module for  the system 100. These are extremely rare and I have never even seen a vintage one.
"Model 155 Dual Integrator
Produces continuous control voltage functions when used in
conjunction with sources of discrete control voltages (e.g. keyboards, sequencers).
Positive and negative  slopes  may  be  individually  and  continuously varied from
15 volts in .0025 seconds to 15volts in 10 seconds; either or both slopes may be
voltage controlled. Particularly useful for generat-ing complex voltage controlled envelopes,
frequency glides, and repetitive control functions." 

(from a catelog for the 1992 Ars Electronica exhibit Eigenwelt der Apparatewelt.
Pioneers of Electronic Art, edited by David Dunn)


Buchla Dual voltage processor . Buchla 257.

It's looks a bit confusing. M is a control voltage. "It provides the capability of transferring control from one applied voltage (Vb) to another (Vc). The algebraic manipulations include addition,  subtraction, scaling, inversion, multiplication". You can crossfade & use this module as a VCA.

There is also a intergrator section in the lower right corner of the Buchla 266

 In the Serge world the DUSG (Dual Universal Slope Generator)... often referred to as the "Swiss army knife" is all about the integrator. The Slope generator is an amazing module. 

These Positive & Negative Slews preceded the DUSG

Depending on how one patches it, the DUSG can be a VCLFO,  a envelope generator; a oscillator; a  slew generator; a voltage and audio mixer; an attenuator and inverter; an envelope follower; a comparator; a VC pulse delay, a audio processor,.... whew !!! ........... it's pure genius !!!!

Bananalogue put out the  VCS almost a decade ago I think. This is based on a Serge slope generator

MATHS = DUSG/Buchla 281 and Buchla 257.???

The Befaco Rampage is another variation of the DUSG.

Just released during NAMM 2019 is the Verbos Control Voltage Processor:
It's a bit of DUSG and Buchla 257. Can't wait to get one.

So to sum most op amp circuits, the feedback that is used is usually a resistor. However for the integrator this is not the case - the component providing the feedback between the output and input of the op amp is a capacitor.
It works a bit like this:
When a voltage is initially applied to Vin, the capacitor has almost zero resistance.... it acts like there is a short circuit.... so no current will flow through the op-amp. A virtual earth exists at the op-amp’s inverting input.

As the capacitor starts to charge, negative feedback forces the op-amp to produce an output voltage to maintain that virtual earth at the op-amp’s inverting input. The rate at which the output voltage increases (the rate of change) is determined by the value of the resistor and the capacitor, “RC time constant“.

Once the capacitor fully charges, it acts like a open circuit.
The flow of current then stops.

If we apply a rapidly changing signal to the input then the capacitor will charge and discharge quickly. At higher frequencies, the capacitor has less time to fully charge. This type of circuit is also known as a Ramp Generator. 
A ramp generator is a way of converting a square wave to a sawtooth.... but that's another story.


Tuesday, 22 January 2019

NLC Motherload for 2019

These should keep me busy and out of mischief for some of 2019.
They are part of Andrews creations of 2018.

I'm trying to build at least one version of every Nonlinearcircuit module.

Signum Hyperchaos
GENiE - GEneralized Nonlinear Extrapolator
SPASM - LDR controlled jerk chaos
(bad) Digital Filter Simulator
Balter - Dual VC Gate Delay
The Big Room (Reverb)
Dual LPG
Noiro-ze VCF & VCA
Shat-noir Phaser
Mogue mixer & VCA
It's 555 .... resonator (Eurorack version)
Kareishuu VCO
Ian Fritz's Hypster

Monday, 21 January 2019

Custom Buchla modules - Synovatron

I'm finally getting around to building some half size Buchla modules.
This first one is a Euro to Buchla trigger converter.

I commissioned  these from Tony at Synovatron back in 2014.
Tony supplied the kits and two fully built modules.
The built modules are awesome. I use them all the time.

I'm putting together a second Buchla performance case and thus my need to get these kits built.

Almost there..

To be continued........

Tone's synth Projects
Tones synth - more buchla to euro translators

A tale of two computers - CSIRAC and Tec-1

This is a story of two Australian inventions that I think are worth remembering
as they both have a part to play in the evolution of electronic music.
One so big it will fill your house (if you possessed it). The other a fraction of its size that you can build yourself.

The first is CSIRAC.,-Melb.-Museum,-12.8.2008.jpg
jjron [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

CSIRAC  stands for Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Automatic Computer).
This was originally known as CSIR Mk 1. It was Australia's first electronic programmable digital computer, and the fifth stored program computer in the world.  She ran her first program in 1949 which makes her 70 years old this year.

I first saw this machine at the Melbourne Museum in 2016. (sadly no pics) . You can today pay her a visit at the Scienceworks centre, also in Melbourne.  (Maybe take her a birthday cake)

 CSIRAC is the oldest surviving first-generation electronic computer (The Zuse Z4 at the Deutsches Museum  in Germany is older, but was electro-mechanical, not electronic). CSIRAC was constructed by a team of scientists led by Trevor Pearcey Geoff Hill and Maston Beard. Though it had but a fraction of the brain power of your average smart phone it was a revolution in its day.

In addition to being used for things like weather forecasting and banking,  CSIRAC was the first computer in the world to play digital music. This took place during Australia’s first computer conference in June 1951. The tune was Colonel Bogey, . Sadly there are no recordings.

The second Computer we are looking back at is the TEC-1
Otherunicorn [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons

 It is a single-board kit computer first produced by the Australian hobbyist electronics magazine Talking Electronics in the early 1980s. The design by John Hardy and Ken Stone was based on the Zilog Z80 CPU.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you will probably know who Ken Stone is. The founder of Cat Girl Synths (CGS).

Th TEC-1 used a  Zilog Z80 CPU, had 2K of RAM and 2K of ROM in a default configuration.

Those twenty round keys on the right are the main input. They are made up of 16 hexadecimal keys for numeric inputs and address, a GO key to execute a program, + and - keys,

This is the original prototype.
Binarysequence [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

The TEC-1 was first featured in 1983, in Volume 1, Issue 10 of the Talking Electronics magazine, pages 57 to 75. I plan to build one of these and will document it in a future blog and hopefully use it to play a tune or two ... maybe Colonel Bogey.

It the 1984 issue of Talking Electronics magazine,  (Volume 1, Issue 11, pages 11 to 36, and pages 50 to 55) are two peripherals designed by Ken Stone for the TEC-1 -an 8x8 matrix display, and a relay driver board. These allow the TEC-1 to be interfaced to other equipment.

+ Colossus (1943) was the first electronic digital programmable computing device, and was used to break German ciphers during World War II. In December 1943, Colossus was shipped to Bletchley Park, where it was delivered on 18 January 1944 and attacked its first message on 5 February. Colossus included the first ever use of shift registers and systolic arrays, enabling five simultaneous tests, each involving up to 100 Boolean calculations, on each of the five channels on the punched tape.
A reconstructed working copy of one of the Colossus machines is now on display at Bletchley Park.

+ ENIAC (1945) (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was the first electronic programmable computer built in the US. ENIAC was the first Turing-complete electronic device, and performed ballistics trajectory calculations for the United States Army.

Facebook - Tec-1 Z80 computer

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Lorre-Mill U Tone build notes

Some pics of my build of the U-tone diy synth.
Looks like a cool way to learn about CMOS ICs.

Lorre Mill make the wonderful Double Knot synth.

"The utone circuit uses CMOS logic, a resistor ladder, and a few other simple pieces to create audio forms. The scale inherent in this instrument is the undertone series, giving divisions of the main clock frequency."

Only the PCB is supplied

I'm not sure how I will eventually encase the synth.
I may end up incorporating this into a larger project.

tHE CMOS ICs used are a CD4046BE & two CD4015BEs

The CD4046BE is a PLL (Phase Locked Loop)
The CD4015 is a Counter Shift Registers, Dual 4-Stage

 Quite a easy build.

Lancaster's CMOS book is the bible

I'm not sure how i'll encase this.

Official - Lorre Mill
CMOS & Lunetta Synths

Friday, 18 January 2019

NewSoundWaves - next meeting on the 10th Feb, 2019

Our next Synth meeting will be held on Sunday the 10th Feb 2019.
This is something to look forward to:
An evening with This Is Not Rocket Science
3pm - 7pm.

Location : 107 Projects
107 Redfern St Redfern.

Bring your synths, play and meet. Lots of fun !

TINRS (this is not rocket science) will be there (all the way from Holland) and you will get a chance to see some module demos & chat with their creators.

For more info check out the FB page

An evening with This Is Not Rocket Science

Teenage engineering - They have gone modular

I was surprised and delighted to see this today.
I'm a big fan of this Swedish company.

The teenagers have got a new series of synths out.
Beautiful Scandinavian designs.
Their website describes this as the poor man's modular but I can see these being sold in art galleries.

The System 400 (as my friend Justin pointed out) harks back to the EMS Synthi E
And I think the similarities are more than just its colour

The Synthi E was designed for education, and I feel that these new TE synths will open up the world of modulars to a much wider audience.

The flat pack idea reminds me of  IKEA. Another Swedish company... who are known for selling good, minimalist designed products at affordable prices.

As far as I can tell from the manual, the patch cables are 3,5mm but the module size is their own format (not Eurorack).



It doesn't look like you can move these modules around within the system.
The kit comes with a flat metal face (reminds me of my old Meccano set) where you bend (the edges) to make the case...

The modules are then screwed onto the back of the face ??

The other two synths released are the 170 & the keyboard

The 170 is a analog monophonic synth with step sequencer. It costs $349USD and includes a chassis, nine modules and eight patch cables.
The modular membrane keyboard has tuneable keys and a step sequencer. It seems to be designed for use with the 400 & 170 model... and hopefully will conform to Eurorack CV/ gate standards

The module dimensions are here.

The TE system uses M2 screws., 5mm spacing mount holes. Module dimensions are 30x90 for a 6HP module. ie the height is 90mm which is approximately 2U

Euro specs are M3 screws, 5.08 mm spacing mount holes, and a 3U height.

But the PSU  is compatable ... both +/-12V

I hope this is the first of many future module additions. Maybe a case that allows for free placement of the modules..... I can see this system expanding 

Teenage Engineering

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Top 40 Synth Blogs

Wow, FEEDSPOT has selected the top 40 blogs / websites from thousands of synthesizer blogs in 2018.
This site has reached #22.
Thanks to everyone who helped put us on this list.
It's a great honor. 

Synthesizer Blogs.