Multimode filters, Part 2: Pole-mixing filters

Posted by & filed under Filters, Matrix12, Oberheim, Synth DIY, Vintage synths, Xpander.

Last time we looked at reconfigurable filters, filters that include switches to rearrange parts of the circuit during normal use. However, that’s not the only way to produce different responses from a single filter circuit. This time, we’ll look at another approach: pole mixing. “Pole mixing”? It sounds like stirring a cake with a broom handle… Either that or a DJ doing a set up a flagstaff, right? Nope! You’ll have heard people talking about filter “poles”. Without going into the… Read more »

A look at the TR-909’s noise generator

Posted by & filed under Noise, Roland, Synth DIY, TR-909, Vintage synths.

The TR-909 uses a hardware implementation of an LFSR as its noise generator. We’ve dealt with LFSR noise generators in a few other articles, but we’ve only looked at firmware implementations, so it might be fun to see how the same thing is done in hardware. The circuit is composed of three parts; the shift register itself, a clock, and a start-up circuit. Firstly, here’s the whole thing: Three ICs are used, two 4006 18-stage shift registers, and a 4070 quad-XOR… Read more »

Roland “Cross Mod” and “Metal Sync” – What do they actually do?

Posted by & filed under GR-700, Jupiter 6, Jupiter 8, JX-10, JX-3P, JX-8P, MKS-30, MKS-70, MKS-80, Oscillators, Roland.

What do Roland’s “Cross Mod” or “Metal Sync” really do? There are quite few people asking this question on the internet, but no-one has much of an answer. Here’s a few forum discussions I found about it: https://www.harmonycentral.com/forum/forum/Keyboards/acapella-18/330134- http://forums.rolandclan.com/viewtopic.php?f=59&t=54410 https://music.stackexchange.com/questions/57210/what-exactly-is-the-cross-modulation-on-roland-jupiter-and-jx-analog-synthesiz/71048 Ok, so Harmony Central was never going to provide a solid technical answer, but the Roland Clan forums or (even better) Stack Exchange might have turned up someone who actually knew what they where talking about. No luck this time. So what’s… Read more »

Experiments with variable rate drum sample playback

Posted by & filed under DMX, Linn, LinnDrum, Oberheim, Projects, Synth DIY, Vintage synths.

Or how to get a vintage 1980’s drum machine sound without selling your kidneys! There was a discussion on the SynthDIY mailing list recently about how the early digital drum machines like the LinnDrum or the Oberheim DMX used to change the pitch of drum sounds by simply changing the sample rate. They literally just played the samples back faster or slower, exactly like speeding up or slowing down a tape recording. At the time, this was relatively easy because… Read more »

Multimode filters, Part 1: Reconfigurable filters

Posted by & filed under Elka, Filters, OB-8, OB-Xa, Oberheim, Synth DIY, Synthex.

What is a “Multimode filter” anyway? It’s a filter which can provide more than one response. So it might offer a choice of 2-pole or 4-pole lowpass responses, or it might be switchable between lowpass and highpass, or it might have lowpass, bandpass, and highpass outputs. There are basically three techniques for building multimode filters, which I’d like to look at in the three parts of this series. How do we build a multimode filter? The three techniques can be summarised… Read more »

A study of Sub-Oscillators (and Oscillator Waveshaping)

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

This article is a look at sub-oscillators, a common tactic for fattening up the bottom end, particularly  in synths with only one oscillator, or only one oscillator per voice. Classic examples include the Roland Juno 106 and SH101, and the Korg Polysix. More recently, sub-oscs turn up on a lot of modern analog synths since they’re cheap to do and can add more punch and depth. The Arturia MiniBrute, Moog SubPhatty and most of the DSI synths include them. My… Read more »

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 or V3340s or AS3340s 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… 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 »