Archive for Tiptop Audio

NAMM 2016

Posted in modular synthesizers, synthesizers with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2016 by pyraphonic

For the past five years I have gone to NAMM to take photos and post about (mostly) eurorack modular synthesizers for the relatively small community of users and manufacturers. Though I think this community has grown so much during this short time, and is now getting so much coverage, that perhaps my services are no longer needed and maybe I should retire after this year. We have hit the turning point where there are so many new modules (and manufacturers) that it is difficult to keep up with all of them, so I’m sure I’ve missed some stuff this year. Below are a ton of pics – click on them for hi-res. Enjoy!

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Eurorack’s all grown up and no longer downstairs at NAMM!

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As some of you know, I am a helper elf for Noise Engineering. This year I helped prepare for NAMM at the NE HQ. The Noise Engineering modules are in new shallow aluminum cases from Sub Modular.

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Absurdly, I didn’t take any close-ups of the NE stuff at NAMM, but I’ll update this post with some later. Here’s the Noise Engineering booth. Thank you, Stephen, for the NAMMM badge!

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The Tiptop booth. Always great to catch up with Gur and Tomio. The new cases are looking great, and watch for several new Z-DSP cards coming soon – they sound amazing!

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Make Noise. Got a tour of the new Tempi module…

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and tinkered with the 0-Coast

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Had a great time with the Malekko crew this year. Congrats on the Roland collaborations!

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New cases and modules.

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Rad dudes

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Cool new pedals

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How cool? this cool. Shredworthy even.

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4MS rig featuring a new stereo delay with a huge amount of memory (3 mins, I think?)

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Audio Damage had some cool custom cases and were showing their new drum module.

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I’m pretty sure Chris just told that guy I’m a dork.

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Bastl’s crazy rig. I shot a video that I’ll try to get up here later.

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WMD booth. Great chatting with William and the WMD crew.

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Verbos booth.

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Vermona monosynth and modules.

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Abstract Data’s rig.

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Intellijel had new cases and modules, including the new Rainmaker module.

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The case has an intentionally deep lid for keeping it patched in transit.

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Pittsburg’s new stuff.

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Koma’s rig.

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Industrial Music Electronics (formerly The Harvestman) set up.

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Sputnik had a bunch of new stuff.

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Snazzy’s case and new pedal.

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Endorphin’s rigs.

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Synthrotek

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ZVex entries into euro. I love my Fuzz Factory guitar pedal, so this should be interesting.

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STG

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At the Big City booth I played this insane Schmidt synth and a real Mellotron.

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Moog had a crazy cool set up with a ton of Mother 32s. I can’t help but think the Modular on the Spot gatherings inspired this desertscape arrangement!

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Moog also had some museum pieces set up.

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Obligatory Stevie Wonder pic (on the escalator)

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Oberheim/Dave Smith stuff

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OB-6!

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Two Voice

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The Linnstrument is really fun and playable.

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Three New Pocket Operators from Teenage Engineering.

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There were several new euro manufacturers I was unaware of below, such as Rossom.

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Mordax

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Soulsby

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AOA

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DT

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Birdkids

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I think I may have to own one of these someday – Rickenbacker 12 string.

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And to wrap up, some random weird stuff:

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I saw a lot of friends, met some new ones and had a great time. Hope you dug the pics.

Cheers! (that’s Steven from Noise Engineering and Chris from Sub Modular)

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NAMM 2014

Posted in modular synthesizers, music, synthesizers with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2014 by pyraphonic

NAMM 2014 is upon us. This post is NAMM through my narrow lens of interest, mainly modular synthesizers,  and is not meant to be comprehensive, so sit back and enjoy the ride without the incredible sonic wall of noise that pervades the convention.

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First stop is the Eurorack modular booth hosted by WMD in Hall E.

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The Harvestman rig.

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This showed up later in the day (a SubCon Vampire in The Harvestman’s case).

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Stephen and the Noise Engineering collection.

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The Ataraxic Translatron in 2 flavors (just different faceplates) and an amazing kick drum module.

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A new oscillator and a new filter. Also a rectifier and divider, which can do far more to a sound than I had imagined.

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A new gate sequencer and a new mixer on the bottom.

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A super unique rhythm generator is in there as well.

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One of the 2 Make Noise systems at NAMM.

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These are the 2 new control modules which add preset-like functionality to modulars. The CTRLSEL-G can be used to control one or more CTRLSEL-Vs to add precision to live performance situations. They communicate via the power bus, or a cable if in different cases.

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The Teleplexer is an unexpected offering. It works like this: you take a cable coming from a CV source and if you touch the tip to one of the plates, the voltage is sent to the corresponding output(s). The plates are set up so the top row of three route the voltages out of outputs one, two or three, respectively. The second row sends the voltages to one and two, or two and three. The third sends to just one and three, and the fourth is to all three. Below, the same scenario is repeated, but negative voltages are sent to those destinations. With multiple cables at play, things can get complicated.

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The Make Noise reverb, which with certain settings, sounded unlike any reverb I’ve heard before. There are no presets and all parameters are brought out to the front panel and can be controlled via CV.

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Mysteron, the mystery module aka the digital wavguide, arrives!

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Rosie – the cue system with an effects loop.

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A couple close-ups of the 1U mult/utility

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The WMD/Steady State Fate set up with new modules Amplitude, Pole-Zero, Spectrum, Ultrafold, VCMiniSlew, and the Quad Attenuator. Also Snazzy FX modules in there including the new Telephone Game module. Sorry, this shot is pretty blurry. Can’t win ’em all.

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The newly announced Verbos Electronics set. Looking great, out of the gate, with the cool Rogan knobs Buchla nod and unique color scheme. These look aesthetically and functionally great. They sound as cool as they look as well.

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Mark showing the very skiffable Voltage Multistage.

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That is a thick circuit board!

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4MS with their new modular modular case/boats which look like a great solution for people who are ever expanding, rearrange their system a lot, or want to be able to detach a portion of their system for live use.

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The QCD expander (on the left), which packs a lot of punch in a small space.

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The Delptronics Thunderbell, a CV-able cowbell.

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I believe it will be offered in both Eurorack as well as mounted in a real cowbell. CV for the pitch and the decay. It sounds great.

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Delptronics General MIDI module prototype.

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STG stuff

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New Hexinverter modules.

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Koma’s set up.

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Moon Modular sequencer.

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Next I went to check out Gur and Tomio at Tiptop in Hall A in the Big City booth. Sean Costello’s Valhalla Reverb card for the Z-DSP sounds amazing. It is my most anticipated modular purchase of 2014.

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An elaborate new sequencer from Tiptop called the Circadian Rhythm.

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Serge Wilson Analog Delay in eurorack.

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A very capable and flexible looking quantizer.

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Eowave modules.

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Another case at the Big City booth.

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Here’s Todd Barton with the Buchla Music Easel reissue.

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They were showing the new preset card that links to the iPad via bluetooth.

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It also looks like they have added (reinstated?) the nuts to the switches.

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The Moog Sub37. Roger O’Donnell (The Cure, Psychedelic Furs, etc.) is the hand model, btw.

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The Moog Theremini. I’m not gonna lie, I want one! I already have a Big Briar theremin with the CV mods done to it, but this thing was fun to play (it has quantizing) and has a great design.

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The Prophet 12 from Dave Smith.

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An Alquier guitar I checked out.

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They ship with a really unique display/stand that hooks on the back via strap locks.

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The Haken Continuum. This isn’t new, but it was the first time I sat and played it. It is really expressive. Mark Smart played Bach’s Air for me using it and it sounded amazing.

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The Pittsburg Modular Phase Shifter.

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Also the new Pittsburg / Studio Electronics collaboration filter set.

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Critter and Guitari eurorack gear.

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If this Roots board sounds as good as it looks…

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These giant wooden cassette coffee tables from Tayble are lovely.

NAMM is exhausting but fun. I hope I just saved you $12 in parking and a day of traffic jams, lines, noise and crowds. Thank you to Stephen from Noise Engineering and William from WMD for the pass!

NAMM 2013

Posted in modular synthesizers, synthesizers with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2013 by pyraphonic

NAMM 2013 is here and despite an uncharacteristically rainy day here in Los Angeles, I headed down to the convention center.

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Of course since this is my blog, this will not be a comprehensive summary of the NAMM convention, but rather just a view through my narrow lens of interest. In other words, I first hightailed it downstairs to Hall E where the dregs of the convention hock their wares. I hung out at the Analogue Haven booth most of the day but did make a couple disoriented loops through the whole convention. Come along, here’s what I saw…

The most surprising offering this year is the revival of the Buchla Music Easel or Electric Music Box as it is alternately known. I have lusted over this piece of ’70s gear for many years.

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At $3995 it’s cheaper than a small Buchla 200e system (such as the Skylab which is about $15K). I’m not sure I can resist this. I sense an ebay purge coming up in my near future to fund a purchase of one of these.

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Meanwhile, the Eurorack modular synthesizer world continues to explode. In an earlier post featuring my briefcase modular I mentioned my friend Stephen who helped me build my custom ribbon controller. He has been prototyping modules and has a couple modules on display at NAMM which will be available at Analogue Haven. His company is Noise Engineering and his first module, the Ataraxic Translatron is amazing. It is an oscillator that uses the same technology that made the Atari 2600 sounds (but is not slaved to the video clock!).

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I’ll post more about this module soon. Here is Stephen showing as much enthusiasm as his programming allows.

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Tiptop Audio had a bunch of new modules on display as well:

Digital Hits which uses CopperLan technology to communicate with the computer

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Trigger Riot which looks like a trigger cousin of the Z8000 sequencer

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and Circadian Rhythm which looks bonkers and awesome

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Make Noise also had their new wares on display:

The RxMx (pronounced “Rix Mix”) is a strangely animated mixer design with a lot of stereo options. Tony is working with Grant Richter on this.

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The MMG, which is like one channel of the QMMG but with more options.

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And development continues on the waveguide oscillator known as “??????” or the “Mystery Module”

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Also on display were flat black Rene sequencers and pressure points. Tony says this is how he originally wanted them to look but there was a mistake in the manufacture of the original runs, which were glossy. I think the flat black looks better.

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4MS was showing some new stuff as well:

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Here’s Dan from 4MS dialing in some alien signals

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Pittsburgh Modular had their new housings on display:

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Snazzy FX had some new goodies – I’m digging the newer faceplates:

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And over at the Moog booth…Bernie Worrell!!

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And the Anniversary Moog Voyager. I thought it was an odd choice to have my friend Stephen’s face printed on the gold faceplate, but hey, what do I know?

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Analog water is warmer

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Stylophone 2013! This is not your grandad’s stylo…this is pretty cool, actually. It comes with a stylus but you can use your fingers as well.

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The union jack model:

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And to wrap up, some odds & ends:

That insane bowed string keyboard that’s been making the rounds on the interwebs

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I was digging this silverburst Hofner bass copy

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A passionate conversation about shift registers (not kidding)

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Hanging out with Tony of Make Noise and Tomio of Tiptop Audio

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Rasta Tele, mon

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Evil Knievel’s clarinet

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And I can’t even tell you how many ukuleles I saw today. More than I thought existed in the universe. And only at NAMM would one witness this spectacle

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Thank you Gur from Tiptop Audio for the pass! See you all next year!

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ps – Special thanks to the woman dressed like Pocahontas who saved me from standing in the 2 hour long line outside and advised me to take my printout to the the Hilton basement to get my badge. They could have made that a little clearer with some sort of signage.

Modular Synth Briefcase With Custom Ribbon Controller

Posted in DIY, modular synthesizers, synthesizers with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2012 by pyraphonic

In an attempt to abate my lust for the impossible to find Buchla Music Easel* or the insanely expensive EMS Synthi, I’ve put together a modular synthesizer using a slim vintage Samsonite briefcase as the housing.

It sits nicely on a laptop stand, a keyboard stand or my lap.

The space above the modules holds the wall wart power supply, the cables, and a bag of adapters when packed up. I may eventually add small speakers up in each corner like the Synthi has. The handle makes a nice cable holder when in use.

I went with eurorack modules to compliment my other modular system. Tiptop Audio 84hp rails fit almost perfectly into the case; I just had to file the ends to fit the contours of the case better. So far it has a Flight of Harmony Choices joystick, a Make Noise DPO, a Make Noise Optomix, a Random Sequencer Turing Machine, a Noise Engineering Ataraxic Translatron (an amazing prototype module from a genius friend of mine I am beta testing – next to that is an empty board from a different prototype), a custom plate with a square wave LFO to run the Random Sequencer and a mono-to-stereo converter with attenuation for output, Tiptop Audio uZeus power and lastly a custom plate with a force sensing resistor and ribbon controller. It is a fun stand-alone unit but also compliments my main system nicely.

The ribbon plate was built with help from friends. I made a template of the layout and Stexe from Slithis made the support beams, cut the plate and made the holes for me in his fabrication laboratory.

The schematic was laid out by my electronics mentor and the same guy who created the Ataraxic Translatron in my case, Stephen McCaul. First I added wires to the sensors, jacks and pots on the plate.

Then I did all the rest of the circuit by gluing the chips to a plastic piece and adding the components like a little electronic sculpture.

Then I wired it all together and was amazed that it all worked on the first try.

The plate is laid out like this: the force sensor has a scalable CV output and a gate out with a threshold pot. The ribbon has a scalable CV output and the two red buttons add positive bias and the black add negative bias to the ribbon output, so they can be used to jump up in pitch or jump down in pitch. The bias buttons each have a trim pot on the board so they can be calibrated as desired. There is also a gate out from the ribbon with a pot for the threshold. The ribbon works best for me when scaled to two octaves. And with various buttons engaged I can go up an octave or down an octave, giving me a four octave range. I mainly use it with the ribbon output to the DPO 1v/oct input and the force sensor output to the Optomix cv input.

Here is a test flight of the ribbon controller as I get a feel for the ribbon and using the bias buttons:

Next time you see a guy with a briefcase it might not be what you think.

*Buchla expert Mark Verbos told me at a Trash Audio event that plenty of other Buchla modules can do what the each of the functions of the Music Easel does but even better, but that system in that case still has for me what Captain Beefheart called “cootie appeal”; it’s too cute to not want one.

NAMM 2012

Posted in modular synthesizers with tags , , , , , , , on January 30, 2012 by pyraphonic

This year I had my first NAMM experience. I only attended one of the four days. Once I saw how gigantic it is, I understood why it is four days long. I barely got to see the several main booths I wanted to see as it was totally overwhelming. Thankfully, I was only interested in the modular synthesizers and a few other musical oddities.

Here is Gur from Tiptop Audio showing off several new modules. Among them were the BD808 and SD808 which are respectively the bass drum and the snare drum circuits from the venerable Roland TR-808 drum machine adapted for eurorack format and they sound fantastic. He also unveiled an unbelievable polyphonic oscillator which is the first in a series of polyphonic modules. It’s called the P3000 and this will be part of a sub-format of eurorack using 8-pin jacks and cables. Madman, genius, or both?

Below is Tony from Make Noise who also unveiled some interesting new modules. One is a new oscillator called the Dual Prismatic Oscillator capable of some really nice timbres. Another is a collaboration with Tom Erbe called the Echophon which is a pitch shifting delay and you can hear Richard Devine running his 606 through it here. The third is a mystery module that I believe is some type of oscillator.

All this incredible new stuff coming out for eurorack and my case is full. I’m gonna need a bigger boat.

I also went to the Buchla booth where they had several systems set up, among them was the new Skylab shown below. I would love to own one some day, but this unit costs roughly twice as much as my car.

It was hard to get good photos amid the chaos of NAMM, as exemplified by the two photos below of legendary Buchla users Morton Subotnick and Suzanne Ciani. Both with their eyes closed. Maybe they were listening to the Buchlas plunking and droning in the background.


Suzanne had on a vest with LEDs embedded in the lapel and on the back which blinked on and off in patterns powered by battery backs on the back.

Below are Don and Morton who worked together when Don was building his first synthesizers. I’m glad they did, as many of the modules in my current system were influenced by Don’s late sixties and seventies creations.

What’s funny about this post is that NAMM is all about equipment yet most of the photos I took were of people. I suppose that is because it takes these incredibly talented people to create worthwhile instruments just as it takes incredibly talented people to make decent music and sounds with that equipment. It was inspiring and fun meeting these people and talking with them about their work.

Having said that, here’s the obligatory gear shot of the Swarmatron:

Created by cousins Brian and Leon Dewan who make really interesting equipment, including the Dual Primate Console which they play together. The Swarmatron was used by Trent Reznor on the soundtracks to The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Thanks to Gur for setting me up with a NAMM badge – it was quite the spectacle.

My Modular Synthesizer

Posted in modular synthesizers with tags , , , , , on December 22, 2011 by pyraphonic

In April I started my modular system. There are several formats to choose from but I decided on the Eurorack format as it’s generally cheaper and there are a lot of manufacturers in this format, which means lots of choices.

What I love best about it is that it ends up being a different instrument each time it is patched from scratch and the discoveries seem endless.

Having done a ton of research before going down this road, it didn’t take long to fill my case with modules.

The case I went with (from Tiptop Audio) folds up for portability and is small enough to take along on a flight as your carry-on.

Though I imagine security may have a few questions.