Archive for August, 2009

Still waiting for the pots

August 29, 2009

My pots on backorder should arrive any day now. I also put an order for the grey knobs.  I’ll use a black color for the panel with a dark blue back on the modules, a bit PPG style but very nice looking.


As you see this is as much designing as it is carpenting and electronics and a bit of Photoshop tweeking makes you feel nice when you see the interface come alive.

My control wheels are functional now however the spring I used for the pitchbend is a bit stiff and quirky but it works. I also put in a request to Hermann Sieb for a special version of the VSThost software so let’s hope he is in the mod to compile it for me.


Have you ever seen a keyboard with 4 control wheels? Well, now you have.

Never mind the flowers in the window, they will blomish next year. 😉

My biggest problem now is that whenever I turn it on I don’t get any work done because it’s so much fun playing this thing, it sounds like a real analog synth 🙂



Spin the wheels

August 26, 2009

So I soldered wires between my CC-wheels and a DB-15 (Joystick) connector for attaching to the soundcard.


The wiring diagram looks like this.


Did it work? Well, sort of. They are very unstable but work. It’s like there is some twitching in the pitch from time to time even though your not touching the wheel. It could be a dead center adjustment. I’ll figure the unstabillity out later but it worked.

I have glued these to the frontpanel and are waiting for the glue to dry.



Hardware block diagram

August 22, 2009

This is a block diagram of the hardware components in the synth.


I show this as a block diagram as the actual components are just plugs with no need to solder. This just shows how it’s all connected.


What drives me

August 21, 2009

I’ve been having quite a lot of visitors lately and you might wonder why I do this?

I came across synthesizers when I was a teenager, about 30 years ago. Ever since that, besides playing them I wanted to build one. In real life it’s not that easy. Knowledge or money cross your road somehow.

Now that I have both I started to build my dream and as I have actually played it I must say that the dream has come true. Building synthesizers is actually easier than you think if you know what your doing.

The VST platform made my day as I can combine my knowledge in computers with my musical knowledge. I could build a real analog synth if put my mind to it but I won’t because I’m too lazy.

As I put this one together from junk I now have a huge synth with a keyboard made for children sized fingers.

Well, well.. you can’t have it all 🙂


Choosing knobs

August 19, 2009

I did a bit of surfing before I found just the right knobs for the panel. These are ALPS knobs with a rubberish grip that makes you feel like you want to edit forever.


Don’t know which color I prefere. I might use them all in different places.

I made the panel fit to size and also cut a hole for the CF to stick out. I don’t really like that as I wanted the CF to stay inside but realized it would be easier for updates if I don’t have to unscrew the panel everytime.


My pots went on backorder so I won’t get these for another week but in the meantime I’ll cut holes for the CC-wheels in the panel and set them up in VSThost.


Drilling out the interface

August 18, 2009

I have decided to use potentiometers on the frontpanel for adjusting parameters. Why did I do that?

First, the cost. Rotary encoders are expensive.
Second, the overall feel of the knobs will be better.

What do you mean better? Rotary knobs have about 24 steps per revolution (unless you toss out a ridiculous amount of money) while pots have, in my case 256 values per 300 degrees.  that makes in my case about 307 steps for the full 360 degrees. That is significant!

I have decided for a maximum total of 32 pots. This is obviously not all parameters available in Synth1 but I have a solution for this, I’ll make this one a “Performance” synthesizer. This means that all the knobs that make any use twisting live is going to be on the front.

Speaking of the front, in the picture you see a perfboard. How could I be so stupid to choose a perfboard for the front? It’s soft, it stinks and IT IS PLAIN UGLY!


Well, it’s not a good choice but there are benefits. I’m really awfull at drilling holes in a straight line and that is required for making a good looking panel. This way I can plan the layout on the computer and put the dials where they should be and everything will be 0 and 90 degrees straight 🙂 Don’t worry about the flexing and the looks, that will be gone when we are ready.

The push buttons needed is just a matter of connecting the buttons to the keyboard controller (Yes, i butchered a perfectly working PC keyboard for use in this project)

How do we do the electronics that make the PC read all of these controls?

Well.. The one’s that hang on will see.


MIDI CC Wheels

August 15, 2009

Ok, let’s construct these wheels


Using a holesaw I cut 4 wheels out of laminated floorboard (hard stuff) that I will attach to the pots.


You see a button beside the pot. This is the solution I selected for the button joystick input. How it works is that you can spinn the wheel and when pushing the wheel to the right there is also a MIDI CC on/off sent. Nice or nice?


I did 4 of these that will be mounted as 2 pairs, Pitchbend/Modulation and AUX CC1/AUX CC2.


 The wheels are siliconed to the potaxels so that they turn but also flex a bit to the side to push the button.

And then they are housed for mounting on the front panel.



 I’ll paint these before mounting. The cardboard on the bottom is just temporary support.

I also spunn a vinyl for inspiration, enjoy!


Another video with horrible quality

August 13, 2009

Still testing it out and I think I’ll settle for 4 voice polyphony on this one. It is just right for a lead VA synthesizer.

I also, just for fun, tried both Vanguard and Superwave P8 and with just one voice they run 75% CPU and sometimes crash. With Synth1 it is at most 65% CPU with 4 voices.

I loaded it up with Annabelle n0lwenn patches. Man she does a great job twisting synth patches and makes my machine come to life with an awesome sound.

I made another video with a horrible quality (must be the last one) to show it off and listen to those sounds mmmm 🙂


Pitchbend and MOD wheels

August 13, 2009

While still having problems with the cost of the frontpanel knobs, I have decided to build the pitchbend and modulation wheels this weekend. These are just simple 100Kohm lin pots connected to the joystick interface.


I decided to trow the joystick midi-cc idea out the window because it is hard to find joysticks with 100k pots and that there isn’t really any parameter on the Synth1 that could use XY-control.  I have decided to make 4 wheels instead, pitchbend, modulation and 2 aux.

There are also 4 button inputs in the joystick port and I havent decided yet if I’ll use these as pads (momentary on/off) or as flip-switches (on/off). The could for example turn on or off the ARP or effects. We will see how it comes out.