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Thread: Building an Analog Synthesizer

  1. #1
    Music Lover 2k15's Avatar
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    Default Building an Analog Synthesizer

    Hey all,

    Over the past few months I've been researching electronic circuitry and components, interested in potentially building my own synthesizer if it seemed feasible. I've been working with virtual emulations of analog synthesizers since I was a kid, so this seemed like a logical next step in my exploration.

    So after spending time learning the ins and outs of circuit flow, reading schematics, and what each type of component (resistors, capacitors, transistors, etc...) does, I've decided to give it a go and start with building a modular analog synth, which is encased inside of a chassis and with a dedicated keybed, but is constructed via eurorack (as in separate dedicated panels for each VCO, VCF, or ADSR module).

    My plan so far is to include 4 main modules - 2 VCO's (each of which generates and outputs a saw, triangle, or square waveform, and has course tuning), 1 VCF (a low pass filter, used to subtract and isolate certain frequency ranges, with a resonance knob), and a single ADSR envelope (yes, two would be much more useful for modulating both the filter cutoff and volume, but things can get pricey very quickly). And who knows, maybe I'll sneak an LFO in there.

    For a first timer, it should be fairly difficult, but I think those 4 modules are all I need to make a very simple, yet actually useful synthesizer. I have a very detailed guide at the ready to help me too.

    Anyways, today I bought all the parts to make two VCO modules, so now it's just a matter of waiting a few days until I can get soldering. I'm hoping to update this thread with pictures and progress updates as I work. Hopefully this takes me no longer than half a year.

    If any of you have worked with electric circuitry before, or have even made your own synth before, I'd love to hear some insight!

    Thanks
    Do ya thing

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    Heisman Winner Master Bedroom's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building an Analog Synthesizer

    Nice man please let us know how it turns out!

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    1st Team All-SEC uscgmck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building an Analog Synthesizer

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    I Scream
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    Household Name sandstorm2001's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building an Analog Synthesizer

    This seems like a good time to plug my friend's Youtube:



    USC alum - Gardnsound

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    Default Re: Building an Analog Synthesizer

    Quote Originally Posted by sandstorm2001 View Post
    This seems like a good time to plug my friend's Youtube:



    USC alum - Gardnsound
    I already heard of him before while researching! Seemed like a good channel, but his videos appear to be kit-based, and I wanted to go with something a little more freelance and my personal design.

    Very cool that he's a Gamecock!
    Do ya thing

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    Default Re: Building an Analog Synthesizer

    About 4 days ago on Monday I received all the parts in the mail, and got to work putting together the Oscillator board. After multiple trips to Lowes for small parts and a faceplate, I now have a completed VCO (oscillator) module that is installed to the faceplate of the synth.

    Monday I spent making the board, soldering all the components to it. Then the next day, I attached the input/output wires from the board onto various potentiometers and audio jacks. It looked like this:

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    On Wednesday, I took the sheet metal I was using for the faceplate of the synthesizer, and drilled holes in it to put the potentiometers and jacks into, and then I promptly installed the board. The circuitboard is now being held to the faceplate via two small metal poles that i have drilled into either side of the faceplate and circuitboard.

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    Do ya thing

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    Heisman Winner Master Bedroom's Avatar
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    Default Re: Building an Analog Synthesizer

    Awesome man! Keep the updates coming, I am really interested to see how it turns out

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    Default Re: Building an Analog Synthesizer

    Quote Originally Posted by Master Bedroom View Post
    Awesome man! Keep the updates coming, I am really interested to see how it turns out
    Thanks! I'll be adding a filter and envelope module for sure, and then I'll try to add some fun effects like a reverb module, or arp, distortion, chorus, etc... Not sure, but whatever schematic I can find that seems appealing.

    I also realize that since all modules will have to be connected via jacks in order to output sound, I can also use the filter, envelope, and FX modules as a pseudo-stompbox for guitar effects. Everything is 1/4 inch TS jacks, so it should be fun to use with guitar as well.

    I've also gotta come up with a name for it... and paint the faceplate gold...
    Do ya thing

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    Default Re: Building an Analog Synthesizer

    Quote Originally Posted by 2k15 View Post
    Thanks! I'll be adding a filter and envelope module for sure, and then I'll try to add some fun effects like a reverb module, or arp, distortion, chorus, etc... Not sure, but whatever schematic I can find that seems appealing.

    I also realize that since all modules will have to be connected via jacks in order to output sound, I can also use the filter, envelope, and FX modules as a pseudo-stompbox for guitar effects. Everything is 1/4 inch TS jacks, so it should be fun to use with guitar as well.

    I've also gotta come up with a name for it... and paint the faceplate gold...
    That sounds insanely awesome man. If I remember correctly you use Ableton? You could ultimately use it as a midi in to add more sounds yea? I would definitely have a reverb and a chorus, might be cool to have a phaser...man I could get lost just in FX

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    Default Re: Building an Analog Synthesizer

    Quote Originally Posted by Master Bedroom View Post
    That sounds insanely awesome man. If I remember correctly you use Ableton? You could ultimately use it as a midi in to add more sounds yea? I would definitely have a reverb and a chorus, might be cool to have a phaser...man I could get lost just in FX
    Used to use Ableton about 3 or 4 years ago, have since switched to FL, however it doesn't make much of a difference. I could definitely install MIDI connections and get things running! And yes I was thinking exactly the same, either having reverb or chorus. I know phaser modules are quite difficult to make though, but I would definitely go for one if feasible (and I have enough space left on the plate).
    Do ya thing

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    Default Re: Building an Analog Synthesizer

    Quote Originally Posted by 2k15 View Post
    Used to use Ableton about 3 or 4 years ago, have since switched to FL, however it doesn't make much of a difference. I could definitely install MIDI connections and get things running! And yes I was thinking exactly the same, either having reverb or chorus. I know phaser modules are quite difficult to make though, but I would definitely go for one if feasible (and I have enough space left on the plate).
    Yea most DAW all have the same capabilities pretty much I guess it is just preference. How do you like FL?

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    Default Re: Building an Analog Synthesizer

    Quote Originally Posted by Master Bedroom View Post
    Yea most DAW all have the same capabilities pretty much I guess it is just preference. How do you like FL?
    Love it. Ableton was fine, and of the same great quality, but I really prefer how FL is a non-linear DAW, meaning how the playlist tracks aren't pre-assigned to a specific mixer track, and giving me the ability to put multiple instruments and automations on a single playlist track. Ableton feels more like a spreadsheet the way that instruments are restricted to a specific mixer/playlist track. In that way, FL feels more like a canvas.

    I also prefer FL's stock synthesizers to Ableton's. Sytrus, Harmor, Harmless are all fantastic, and I don't think Ableton has anything quite like them. Do you use a DAW?
    Do ya thing

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    Default Re: Building an Analog Synthesizer

    Quote Originally Posted by 2k15 View Post
    Love it. Ableton was fine, and of the same great quality, but I really prefer how FL is a non-linear DAW, meaning how the playlist tracks aren't pre-assigned to a specific mixer track, and giving me the ability to put multiple instruments and automations on a single playlist track. Ableton feels more like a spreadsheet the way that instruments are restricted to a specific mixer/playlist track. In that way, FL feels more like a canvas.

    I also prefer FL's stock synthesizers to Ableton's. Sytrus, Harmor, Harmless are all fantastic, and I don't think Ableton has anything quite like them. Do you use a DAW?
    Yea Ableton Live 9 for a while now. Ableton is really great but it almost gets into the level of computer programming with all that you can do. I actually used an older version of FL (it was called Fruity Loops back then) but have been thinking about giving it a try. I also have a version of Cubase and Logic

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    Default Re: Building an Analog Synthesizer

    Okay, I have since named it the "HAL-9001", after 2001 a space Odyssey of course. I found a large red button that looks just like HAL to use on my envelope generator, so I thought it would be cool for the synth to be the next incarnation of the original HAL.

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    Default Re: Building an Analog Synthesizer

    Here is some update photos: I have installed a simple lowpass VCF complete with a resonance dial and CV input and mix knob. And I have also installed an envelope generator which has two simple knobs: the first knob on the left is a toggle attack or delay, which can be toggled via the switch next to it, while the other knob on the right is a simple release knob. Two jacks are on the bottom, the one on the left being an audio in, while the one on the right is an envelope out, which has a nifty little LED over it which lights up in accordance to the outputted envelope determined by the ADSR knobs above. There is also space for the HAL button in the middle, which I have not installed yet as it is shipping, but I have done all the wiring underneath for it. What the HAL button does is simply activate the envelope and plays a single note. For instance, if I have no keyboard attached to the synth, I can take the output wave of the VCO, input it into the envelope input jack, and pressing HAL will activate a single note in accordance to the ADSR.

    It may also be worth it to add another input jack to the envelope, in case I want to modulate other effects such as the filter or reverb/distortion. We will see what happens.


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    Do ya thing

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    Default Re: Building an Analog Synthesizer

    Nice!

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    Default Re: Building an Analog Synthesizer

    just curious, this instrument isn’t meant to be played in a live setting? is this for recording or creating custom patches?


    My other qb is a Bentley

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    Default Re: Building an Analog Synthesizer

    Quote Originally Posted by willyb's hotdogs#1 View Post
    just curious, this instrument isn’t meant to be played in a live setting? is this for recording or creating custom patches?

    It can do both, it's just like any other instrument. Record it in a studio or play it live. You can also create custom patches.
    Do ya thing

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