Josh Felice and I saw the next Moog Circuit Bending Challenge and Josh suggested we enter in a custom version of the bent Akai S01 that I had done before. (Scroll down to see the original) Credit goes to Circuitbenders.co.uk for first inventing this bend. We took the original bent design and disseminated the best bends and added a few more cool and crazy features. First we have introduced a couple of square clocks that actually feed directly into the ram causing all sorts of mayhem and the other feature was to include a dock feature that would allow midi control from an iPad or QuNeo. You can also sample Animoog straight from the iPad too! I chose to design in hardwood to pay tribute to Moog and their designs. It was a lot of fun working in wood for a change. I plan on working with wood more often and after working with wood I can see why Moog use wood in their designs.
We designed a cool 8bit sound dock for the first generation Gameboy. We have a dedicated site for this. Please check it out, CLICK HERE!
Here is my latest musical creation. Please click on the ‘Start Tour’ button to see all of the details. I spent four months designing and building this ALL-IN-ONE musical monster. If you have any comments, please let me know. CLICK HERE.
Here is a quick vid of the DSC in action at the NYC Lenovo event. Great to see people giving it a go! I was not able to make it, but it looks like they had a lot of fun.
DJing is Richard LaBennett, who is the WW ThinkPad Product Manager at Lenovo. He DJs on the side!
After seeing the guys over at circuitbenders.co.uk bend some of these older Akai samplers, I just had to bend one for myself. CrustyPaul over there set me up with all of the info and made this the most fun I have had yet circuit bending anything. Props go out to those guys. Enjoy the beer! Pretty straight forward as far as bends go. Basically shorting the pins across the ram. I added 5 momentary switches, that is what you see me triggering with my left hand in the video. Added some white led back light so I can see what patch ports I’m plugging into in the dark. I went ahead and made the top 1U patch panel a permanent installation and used an older IDE cable to jump between the two boxes. I’m really glad I held onto all of those older IDE cables from years back, they sure are coming in handy now! This thing is so much fun.
This project started a year ago with a ‘non-working’ Emu Proteus/1 from Ebay. When I received the unit, it would not power on. I discovered most of the caps were bad and the voltage regulator was fluctuating wildly. Once repaired I soon realized why this synth was rated as one of the best synths of all time. It is the first synth to feature multi-timberality, and was incredibly flexible for its time. However the years have not been kind to this synth and now most software out of the box can do what it can in spades. But rather than throw it away I decided to mod the crap out of it and see what I could come up with.
The first thing I discovered was the output of certain ic’s were incredibly rich with raw waveforms. I then slowly made notes of all points on those chips and decided to forgo the multi-timberality for an incredible old school quadraphonic style sound. Each of these four channels can be varied in pitch and texture. By having the overall sound ‘adjusted’ to the space required you are capable of building an entire soundscape or atmosphere. I usually take all four channels and route them to mono feeds in a mixer. Then I can pan each of the channels where I want them. I have even experimented with laying each recorded channel into a Prologic 5.1 surround setup in Cubase 5. Thus giving me my quadraphonic style sound. Since these waveforms are easier to recognize, ie. Square, Sine, Triangle, Random etc, I feel the raw nature of this synth is also revealed. These consistent sounds created this way from this synth put an unusual amount of stress on these older chips, making it the most sensitive synth I have ever owned. It will frequently crash and give you unusually crazy effects. I would describe the sound from this synth to be a ‘dark sci-fi drone or pad’. I would also encourage everyone to not throw away their old gear and try to modify it. And to those just getting into this, you are in luck, most of these older synths can be had for less than $50.
I have included a video to try and illustrate the above information. Please feel free to contact me and let me know what you think. I know some of the purists will see this as sacrilege, but realize my intention is pure.
I use several stock factory patches that I have not altered on purpose. I did this so you can compare them now to what this synth use to sound like. If you CLICK HERE you will go to the Proteus/1 page on synthmania.com’s site. You can compare these sounds directly. Youtube video note***Make sure to change the resolution from 360p to 480p to be able to read the patches.***
Here is a high quality MP3 of the below video. CLICK HERE
I love the sound from the old SID chips. The Mssiah cart is very flexible and gives you more options than you could ever get from a standard Commodore 64 program. I wanted to push the boundaries and add an extra layer of distortion to the SID sound. Since adding the extra SID with the optional Sid2Sid board I found that each of my SID’s were slightly different. I wanted to exploit this difference. I decided to add the last few things that I wanted to the Mssiah with a custom 1U box. The Mssiah allows you to use a mouse with its sequencer and potentiometers with the mono synth. Normally you would have to unplug and replug each one of these based on what function you currently needed. I find myself using both, so plugging and unplugging was driving me crazy. I decided to put a switch into this box that would let me switch between the ‘pots’ and the mouse easily.
Next came routing the signal. This is the first unit that I have put together, so I was a little daunted with all the wiring. I started the distortion circuits by analyzing the basic circuitry in an average guitar stomp box. After experimenting with several circuits I decided on a few that I really liked and thought would compliment the SID’s. I used a 2 channel oscilloscope and compared the ‘dry’ signal with the effected signal. The first effect ‘Blues D’ helped me understand what I really loved about the old tube style amplifiers. I am able to ’squash’ the signal by adding a large amount of resistance to the main amplifier circuit giving me a great old bluesy sound. The ‘Solo D’ effect is a smoother less harsh effect that allows me great bottom end control. Using both of these together or individually allows me another level of creativity with the SID’s. There is nothing really special or different here as effects go, other than maybe ’squash’. What I like is that I can switch each mono SID signal to either effect instantly with the stomp box. I have placed the switches in the stomp box close together. This allows me to turn on and off both effects with one foot. By leaving one effect on, I can ‘flip’ them instantly with one foot as well.
The project took six months to complete. Most of the time was spent tinkering with the circuits themselves. I used a 1U aluminum fan chassis for the build. I attached quarter inch thick red transparent acrylic to the front, top and back. I used a polyester overlay for the front panel. I screen printed the overlay in reverse using two colors. I wanted a ‘used’ look in the front, so the white was purposely left ‘unfinished’. The black ’shroud’ let me get creative with a circuit design that I felt tied the concept together. I used a four Position triple throw rotary switch for the pots/mouse switching ability. The stomp switch box was made entirely out of acrylic and both the top of the stomp box and the back of the 1U were screen printed white. I added Auxiliary’s so when I finish my SammichSid I can feed those additional signals into this unit as well.
The only major mishap I had was when I read my own schematic wrong and miss wired the stomp switch wrong and fried the power circuit on one of the effects. It was kind of confusing because I used an old VGA cable to provide me the 15 leads I needed to go to the switches to provide a true by-pass of the signal and power to the led’s.
If you listen to the above audio samples, please note that ‘Blues D’ is playing only through the RIGHT channel and ‘Solo D’ is playing only through the LEFT channel in all the samples. Since ‘Squash’ is attached to the ‘Blues D’ effect, it is in the RIGHT channel. For the signal I used the standard patterns in the demo and the first set of patches in the demo under the mono synth. Normally I do not shift the SID’s all the way left or right, I did this just for the examples so you can hear what is being applied. I know the ‘Solo D’ effect seems tame in comparison to the ‘Blues D’ effect, but sometimes I just want to add a little distortion instead of the standby re-verb. I feel it adds a little something more to the overall sound.
Squash is only the sound from the box itself. No incoming signal is being applied. It allows me to ’squash’ the incoming signal to the point of non-existence. Figured it was an appropriate title. The Spin effect under ‘Solo D’ allows me to shift phases of the signal and gives me additional headroom when applying the other adjustments Tint, High and Tone.
In the 80’s I had a Commodore 64 and like most had a bazillion games. I used Gary Kitchen’s Game Maker to make my first digital music. The program had a blank tablature sheet that allowed you to draw notes onto. I enjoyed the program and made several pieces. As time went on I dropped out of music all together. As of 2009 I found interest in it again thanks to an old friend, Joel Carlo. He introduced me to Cubase and showed me how modern music is made. I appreciate all he has shown me. I find myself wanting more analog sound. I love the sound of vinyl and tape and will continue to use both as much as possible. The Mssiah revived the old Commodore spirit in me once again. This time I got a Commodore 128D. I liked the fact that I had plenty of room to modify the internals, plus a detached keyboard made it easy to leave the monster in the bottom of my rack. I am continuing my learning of the eight bit ways of the eighties and will continue to learn about older analog technologies, such as tubes and basic transistor amplifiers.
I changed the plain knobs on my TG-33 to clear black faced knobs and added green led back lighting as well. I made molds of the original knobs and casted several out of clear resin before I found a couple I really liked. Traced down the internal power and added a small pot that varied resistance to the voltage that allowed me to dim the leds.
My friend Joel Carlo was the victim of an Ebay deal gone horrible wrong. The seller said ‘lightly used’ and used another picture than what showed up on his door step. Time to make this right. First I started by very carefully stripping the cabinets down to the raw veneer. Tried to get deep enough to remove as much of the deep scratches as possible. Joel likes the look of his Nord, so I matched the color as close as possible. I added a flattener to the enamel to give them a nice matte finish. Onto the screen print. Most matched pair NS-10M’s have the identical print on both speakers. I decided to make them slightly different, by ‘balancing’ the print on each one. Joel bought new woofers and presto, NS-10M’s completely restored.