Adventures in Top Octave Generation

Posted by & filed under Oscillators, Synth DIY, Vintage synths.

Can we make a modern reproduction of the classic top octave generator / top octave synthesiser chips of the 1970s, as used in classic string synths and combo organs? What would be involved? Can we improve on the originals in any way? This page is a summary of what I learned by doing it. A little background In the late 1970’s, many synth manufacturers were thinking about producing polyphonic instruments. One musical area where that was already done was in… Read more »

Timbral Evolution: Harmonic analysis of classic synth sounds

Posted by & filed under Phase Distortion, Synth DIY, Vintage synths.

This post is a place to gather my thoughts about one of the most important parts of synthesizer design: the timbral evolution of sounds. It also presents the results of my analyses of some classic synth sounds. There have been many methods developed over the years to achieve timbral evolution. The voltage-controlled filter is the first and most obvious. Pulse width modulation and oscillator synchronization are two more from the analogue era. Other later approaches include wavetables, vector synthesis, FM, phase… Read more »

CEM3340 VCO (Voltage Controlled Oscillator) designs

Posted by & filed under Memorymoog, MKS-80, Moog, OB-Xa, Oberheim, Oscillators, Prophet 5, Prophet T8, Roland, Sequential, SH-101, Synth DIY, Vintage synths.

To celebrate the 2016 return of the CEM3340 chip, I thought I’d do another page in my series looking at how various synths implemented classic synth chips (the others being CEM3320 Filter designs and SSM2044 LP Filter designs). This is especially useful right now, since many people have bought a few CEM3340s for their own use and are looking around for circuits to use them in. If that’s your purpose, note that these are all synth voicecard circuits, so they’re used in… Read more »

SH-101 replacement processor – a feasibility study

Posted by & filed under Roland, SH-101, Synth DIY, Vintage synths.

The Roland SH-101 is a late-era analogue monosynth which uses a microprocessor to perform keyboard scanning and various related functions, much like the Sequential Pro-One. Since the original uP is a 40-pin DIP, it would be possible to replace it with a more modern 40-pin DIP uP, like the PIC 16F777, or with a modern surface-mount processor on a daughter board. This page is a look at the feasibility of this idea. Original Processor pins and functions The datasheet for the… Read more »

Flangelicious – A super-dooper flanger (Now in 2 versions!)

Posted by & filed under BBDs+Delays, Flanger, Projects, Stompbox stuff.

Flangers are generally regarded as one of the most complicated pedals to build. A typical design has tons of chips and lots of circuit elements. Flangelicious isn’t like that. By using a microprocessor to generate an LFO-modulated clock signal directly, we can get rid of a lot of the non-signal path stuff and add features whilst we’re about it. This gives us a much cleaner, simpler design for a flanger with a genuine fully-analog signal path. In fact, it can all be done with… Read more »

DIY 4 Second Digital Delay

Posted by & filed under BBDs+Delays, Projects, Stompbox stuff.

Recently I’ve been working on a four second digital delay with tap tempo and delay trails. There are lots of digital delay projects already, but the vast majority of them are based on the PT2399, which limits both the length of the delay and the sound quality.   A quick summary of the features: 0 → 4 Seconds of digital delay 12 bit/32KHz input, 16 bit/32KHz output Delay trails (tails) on/off Clickless effect in/out bypass switching Momentary/latching feature on bypass… Read more »

Boss MT-2 Metal Zone pedal analysis

Posted by & filed under Distortion, Overdrive, and Fuzz, Stompbox stuff.

The Boss MT-2 Metal Zone distortion pedal is one of the most complex drive pedals there is, and has probably the most sophisticated (and least understood!) tone control circuit on any mass-market pedal. It’s also quite a divisive beast, with some loving it, and others hating it. It’s a great pedal for modifications – easily available, cheap, and rugged. This article is a technical analysis of the different stages in the pedal, finding out what each part does to the tone…. Read more »

Noise Reduction with Companders

Posted by & filed under BBDs+Delays, Chorus, Flanger, Projects, Stompbox stuff.

What’s a “compander”? It’s a simple way to make your circuit quieter! So how does it work? Let’s say we’ve got a fairly noisy effect, like a BBD. The basic idea is that you make quiet signals louder before you put them through the effect, and then you make them quiet again after the effect, and thereby make the noise quieter too. And that’s the clever bit! “Compander” is a compound of “Compressor” and “Expander”, since those are the two… Read more »

MIDI clock to analog gate pulses

Posted by & filed under Projects, Synth DIY.

How do you synchronise your modular synth with MIDI equipment? MIDI provides the MIDI clock message, but you need something to convert this to a format an analog modular synth can understand. Most MIDI-to-CV convertors will do the job, but that can be expensive. Here’s a cheap way to do it. The Druid MIDICLK chip converts MIDI clock signals into 0-5V analog pulses. It provides two separate analog clock outputs, which can be set at various division ratios of the… Read more »

RC Filtering for SSM2164 CVs fed from DACs

Posted by & filed under Filters, Synth DIY, VCAs + Amplifiers.

I typically use the 12-bit MCP4822 DAC to produce a CV for the SSM2164 (or CoolAudio V2164, it’s the same thing) . This is a good, cheap combination. However, the 4822 produces an output of 0-4.095V, whereas the 2164 needs 0-3.3V. It is possible to use a simple voltage divider to reduce the voltage to the correct level, and it is also possible to add a capacitor to give an RC 6dB/Oct rolloff whilst we’re doing it. However, it’s not… Read more »