Zeppelin Design Labs Macchiato Digital Synth build

Zeppelin Design Labs are a small company residing in the USA that design and sell some awesome looking D.I.Y(or prebuilt) kits aimed at musicians/recording artists and general noise makers alike. Seriously, if you take a look at their website you are bound to fall for their cool retro designs of their products! They ship worldwide too so no one is left out.

ZDL felt that I needed something new to build so they kindly sent me a Macchiato Digital Synthesiser kit to make some noise with. As you can see it looks a bit similar to a certain 1970’s ish(I remember those days) hand held device which you played with a stylus.

No stylus needed here though you can just use your fingers or whatever to play the notes.

The Macchiato uses an Arduino and a few other components to make the sound and is based on the Mozzi library. It’s also open source software on there so if you are into hacking or rolling your own code then you can do so if you like.

So in short, it’s a digital synthesizer that’s packed with quite a few features and I’m looking forward to putting it through its paces.

It runs from a single 9 volt battery or power supply and also has a MIDI in so it’s definitely not short on features.

Anyway, I won’t go into a full step, by step instruction of the build as they have a very good and easy to understand guide available to download in PDF format from their website.

As you can see the PCB is not packed with holes everywhere and the layout is really nice.

The board has the SMD parts already added for you so you don’t have to worry about any really tricky soldering with this build.

The resistors all come packed in their values, but I used my handy multimeter just to make sure I soldered the correct ones in place.

The power LED and capacitors were ok too. This really is a well thought out design and layout so hats off to Zeppelin Design Labs for that!

Potentiometers are all the same values, easy to put in as are the MIDI input jack etc.

I didn’t solder the LM386(amp) or Optocoupler directly into the board as they instruct you in the build guide. I went for some sockets which I had laying around in my kit as it means that if the chips go bad for any reason they can be easily replaced.

It is ok to solder them directly into the PCB though, it’s just me being cautious. 😬


And onto the battery holder and speaker. Yep, it has a built in speaker as well as a headphone/audio out socket so it’s very portable.

And that’s it. Nothing else to see here…….

Actually, the kit comes with templates for making and cutting out your own case if you wish to protect the lovely board and components. You can also purchase a plastic case to build too if you want something a bit more robust.

I’m undecided on what to do, shall I make a case from a cereal box or plastic? Or maybe I’ll make a wooden case? Answers on a postcard please….

So to finish, this is a nice easy kit to build. It took me a couple of hours to build and I’m really a novice at this soldering stuff so I highly recommend the Macchiato!

I will hopefully have some audio/video of it in action soon once I recover from a solder burn on my little finger. Oops.

I’ll make sure to update this post with relevant links.

See ya 👋

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Novation Bass Station II Remote Map and Codec for Reason

BSII ReMote LOGO

Following on from my previous MiniNova Remote map and Codec for Reason I have also made one for the Bass Station II!

This turns the Bass Station II into a pretty cool MIDI controller.

Controls Always Mapped.png

With this I’ve mapped the most used controls like Filter Frequency/Resonance and also Amp/Filter envelopes to Reasons main synth like Thor/Subtractor etc. I’ve also made the Osc Filter Mod the main Volume for these devices.

note: Most all of the Bass Station II’s controls are also mappable. 😉

You can even control the Faders in the Mixer section using the BS II’s envelope faders(very handy for quick mixing).

The included Remote Map is intended as a start for you set up and control your favourite Reason devices and Rack Extensions so please feel free to use it as you wish.

For details about Remote and where to put the files on your Mac/PC please visit Here

For the Bass Station II Remote Codec and Map click Here

 

And if you find a use for this and like it,  please feel free to leave a comment.

🙂

 

 

 

 

Novation MiniNova and Circuit Remote Codecs and Maps for Reason

 

MiniNova ReMote LOGO.png

The included Remote file and Map are for Novations MiniNova and they will turn this awesome synth into an even more awesome simple controller for Reason! 
I’ve included mapping for most of the built in synth devices in Reason which will allow for the most essential controls such as Filter Cutoff/Resonance and ADSR envelopes, Combinator knobs etc.
Below is a list of the devices I’ve added, and I’ll leave it up to you to get accustomed to Remote Maps so that you can add your own. More information about remote visit Propellerheads here: 
https://www.propellerheads.se/blog/control-remote

 

MiniNova_Front-performance-controls highlighted.png

Combinator: Attack/Decay/Sustain/Release knobs control the 4 Combinator dials.
Mixer 14:2: Attack/Decay/Sustain/Release knobs and the ones below control the first 8 channel levels.
Line Mixer 6:2: Attack/Decay/Sustain/Release knobs and oscv1sync/osc1density control the 6 channel levels.
SubTractor Analog Synthesizer: Filter and Resonance control(guess what?), and Attack/Decay/Sustain/Release control the Amp Envelope.
THOR Polysonic Synthesizer: Same as above
Malstrom Graintable Synthesizer: You get the idea
NN19 Digital Sampler: etc….
NN-XT Advanced Sampler: etc…
Dr.REX Loop Player: etc…
Redrum Drum Computer: Filter Knob controls main Volume
Kong Drum Designer: Filter Knob controls main Volume
ID8 Instrument Device: Filter Knob controls main Volume
Radical Piano: Filter Knob controls main Volume
EMI: Filter and Res are mapped to CC 71 and 74(filter and Res)
Parsec: Can’t remember
Predator RE: Filter and Resonance control(guess what again?), and Attack/Decay/Sustain/Release control the Amp Envelope.
ReDominator: Filter and Resonance control(guess what?), and Attack/Decay/Sustain/Release control the Amp Envelope.

 

There are 13 dial controls(3 rows x4 knobs plus the Filter knob) that I’ve made available on the MiniNova for Reason most of these I find are the ones that I mainly use whilst making music.

I have included the main Filter, the Filter row, Amp row and Osc row below. Just use the Performance selector to toggle between each set of four knobs(see the image above).

You can of course also latch any of these controls to other parameters and I hope that you find a use for the Remote Codec and Map for yourselves and feel free to adjust/amend as you wish. This is only intended as a starting point for you to ‘roll your own’ and I hope you have fun with it. 

 

If you do download and use the files then please feel free to let me know in the comments section.

 

Your can download the files from here

 

 

I have also created a similar Remote Codec and Map for Novation Circuit using the same mapping principles(might be slightly different) which you can download here

2-Circuit-Overhead_0_1.png

 

Have fun!

Richard
TONAL AXiS

Polybius PlayStation 4 Soundtrack

Just wanted to mention that I have 3 music tracks included in the recently released PlayStation VR game by Llamasoft! 

This is an awesome tunnel type shooter based on an old mythical arcade game, it’s so much fun to play even on a normal TV. It’s extremely addictive. 


The soundtrack is also available here and includes a fantastic CD-R friendly continuous mix by Korruptor(Gareth Noyce). 

Synths and Wood Novation Circuit stand.

Synths and Wood are a small UK based company providing some excellent ‘hand made’ wooden stands and end cheeks for a growing range of studio hardware. 
They’ve kindly sent me a freshly made stand for the Novation Circuit to try out for size. 

The kit itself comprises of only a couple of oak(yes real wood!) sides and an MDF base, four screws and some clear rubber stick on feet to stop the unit sliding around. 

Building the case is really simple, you just need a flat surface to make sure everything is flat and square. Once the sides are on and you have placed the Circuit in and tightened the screws a bit more(to hold the unit in place) it really looks the part. 


Mike from Synths and Wood has designed the stand so that it puts the Circuit at a really nice angle, a bonus(and unintentional I believe) feature is that if you use Circuit with just the internal speaker the sound seems a lot clearer to my ears. 

So, overall these are beautiful hand built stands. The angle the Circuit sits at is perfect for desktop use and the oak sides give it a really pleasing look. 
Synths and Wood have a growing number of stands and cheeks for numerous products and they are also open to custom work for any type of studio gear. So if you want to give your gear a bit of style and polish some wood every now and then I would recommend paying them a visit here.
Here is also a Mininova with custom walnut end cheeks also from Synths and Wood. The originals are just MDF with a wood grain sticker on. 

Bastl Kastle D.I.Y. Kit

Bastl Instruments are a small company from the Czech Republic that have been producing some outstanding products for Eurorack and other hand-made electronic instruments since around 2011(they started out as Standuino then became Bastl in 2013). 

The word Bastl in English roughly translates as ‘tinkering’ which is one thing I like to do with electronics and they have kindly sent me a Kastle synth to review.
The Kastle is a little modular synth that you can can either buy fully built or in D.I.Y. form and I recommend that if you are thinking of taking your first steps into a ‘modular’ synth/noise box world you can’t really go wrong with this ‘tiny’ box of tricks. 


The Kit

The Kastle D.I.Y kit comes with all the components you need to build it, case, mini patch cables, and small but informative manual and even some lovely stickers(we all love stickers don’t we??). 

Building instructions aren’t included however they do have all the assembly guides online here http://www.bastl-instruments.com/kastle-assembly/

The PCB is of a good quality, and the design and although at first glance you think ‘wow this is small and fiddly’ it really isn’t that difficult at all to get all those components soldered in place. 
There really isn’t much that can go wrong when putting this together. Only two values of resistor(clearly marked on the PCB), one type of capacitor, and a small number of diodes are the main ‘small’ components used. 

The rest of the kit components comprise of header sockets, audio sockets/switch/LED/potentiometers and most importantly the two preprogrammed attiny 85 chips, one for the VCO and the other the LFO.


The only thing you have to be careful with is making sure they are all seated nice and straight on the board, otherwise fitting the case will be difficult.


The Case

Once all the components are on(including the battery holder) it’s time to put the case on. 

Again, this is simple and just four sides that slot around the PCB nicely and a panel to go on top to hold it all together. All held in place with the switch nut and one screw. 

And once done you have a fantastic little digital modular device that sits I the palm of your hand. 

So overall this is a great little kit to build, and very versatile little noise machine it is too. Use it on its own with its supplied ‘mini’ patch cables to produce its often quirky noises or connect it up to run your modular setup and vice versa. 

Here’s a small demo of the Kastle’s LFO controlling a Techwillsaveus Synth kit. 

 https://youtu.be/HT948oNf8Sc

And here is the product demo from Bastl themselves 

Pretty cool piece of kit that fits in your hands. 😀

For more details you can visit the Bastl website Here 

Adding an LFO to the Techwillsaveus Synth kit.

Add movement to your Atari Punk by adding an LFO!! 

An LFO is a low frequency oscillator which basically means that you can add movement to your sound by outputting a sound wave/pulse at a slower(or faster) rate. This can effect either the pitch or timing(or other parameters) of your Synth depending on the connection to it.

You probably have already noticed this with the Dub Siren as that has an LFO controlling an oscillator which is what gives you the ‘siren’ type sound.

 

With this tutorial I’ll show you how to add an LFO to the APC using the parts from another synth kit. You can of course use similar components if you have them to hand.

 

The IC chip that is used in the kits is a 556 timer which is basically two 555 IC’s in one.

The audio output of the chip is a square wave oscillator and by adding a few resistors, electrolytic capacitors and potentiometers you can adjust the speed(timing) and frequency of the output.

By adding an LFO to the Atari Punk Console you can do some interesting things.

 

Here is a schematic to show what each pin does:-

  

  • 1 A Discharge
  • 2A Threshold
  • 3A Control Voltage
  • 4A Reset
  • 5A Output
  • 6A Trigger
  • 7 Ground
  • 8B Trigger
  • 9B Output
  • 10B Reset
  • 11B Control Voltage
  • 12B Threshold
  • 13B Discharge
  • 14 V+

I’ll be using just the ‘A’ pins(plus positive and negative) for this but after you can of course transfer what I’ve done and turn the other part of the 556 IC into another LFO outputting at a different rate if you wish.

  

What you will need :-

 

  • 1 X Synth Kit built as an APC

 

From another Synth kit:-

  • 1 X 556 timer IC
  • 1 X 4.7k resistor
  • 1 X 100uf Electrolytic Capacitor
  • 2.2k Potentiometer
  • Jumper leads
  • Breadboard

 

 

You will not need to use another battery for this as we will take power from your APC.

 

First connect the power jumpers from the kits as shown from one breadboard to the other. On the bare breadboard connect the top and bottom rails with a positive and negative jumper cables. 

Now insert your 556 IC as shown and follow the diagram above.

Connect a red jumper from the Positive rail to row 14(pin 14)

Then a black jumper from the ground rail to row 20(pin 7)

Pin 14-pin 4

Pin 2-pin 6

Pin 14-VCC(positive)

Pin 7 to ground(negative)

4.7k Resistor Pin 1-positive

100uf Electro pin 2 to ground.

Pin 2 of the potentiometer pin 5

Pin 1 of the potentiometer pin 3


 

You should now have a completed LFO but you won’t hear anything until you connect it to your APC.

 

For this you will need to send the LFO to the APC circuit.

 

Connect a jumper lead to pin 5 on your LFO circuit(Output) and put the other end on pin 11(Control Voltage) of the APC circuit.

 

Attach jumper to pin 5 on the LFO as shown Attach other end of jumper to APC pin 11 as shown

 

You should now be hearing the pitch of the APC going up and down. 

Now try adjusting the potentiometer on the LFO circuit it should speed up/down as you turn it.   

 

By placing the jumper cable on different pins you can get different and sometimes cool results. Try moving the cable to pin 3 of the APC circuit and you’ll effect the other oscillator of the APC.

Also try replacing the electrolytic capacitor for the 10uf one from the kit and you’ll notice the speed of the LFO changes. You can also change the resistor or potentiometer too to get even slower/faster pulses(I’ve just used whats available in the kits. 

 

More things you can try

 

Another interesting thing to try is if you output the trigger(Pin 6) from the LFO circuit to the APC it’ll feed back on itself and give you some even more cool fx. Give it a go and see what results you get.

 

Experiment and have fun!!

  

By Richard Hider 2017.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Synth Art


I just love small things that make a noise, and part of that interest has made me take a bit more time out for some art creation. I haven’t been drawing for quite a number of years but now with the help of various apps I’ve started taking a keen interest again. 

Here are a few images of what I’ve been up to, and I really hope you like them.


I’m hoping to carry on with more throughout the year so keep your eyes peeled and watch this space. 

Tasty Chips Electronics Saw Bench Synth

Over the Christmas period I received a cool D.I.Y kit in the form of the Tasty Chips Electronics Saw Bench. 

The Saw Bench is a single analogue saw tooth oscillator synthesiser that has the type of features that you would expect from a synth such as two controllable envelopes, four different LFO’s and a Filter but more about that in a later blog post. Here I will describe what you get in the kit and description of the build process.

You can pick up the Saw Bench in three forms, a fully working pre-built one in its rather nice aluminium case, a full kit(including case) or if you are planning on putting the synth in your own custom case you can just purchase a basic kit. 

Full details here:- http://www.tastychips.nl/wordpress/?product=saw-bench-synthesizer
I purchased the full kit including case. If you do get it please bear in mind that you will also need some hook up wire for the MIDI, DC power and audio jack. I really would’ve liked some cables to have been included with the kit however, I used some plain old hook up wire that I had in my supplies but I do recommend that you use molex type connectors and wires such as the ones pictured below:- 
The Build
Included in the full kit are all the components, case and the two pcbs. One is for the digital side of things(MIDI/controls) and the other is the analogue oscillator, LFO and ladder filter(similar to what you will find in a TB-303).

There are step by step building instructions on the Tasty Chips website here:- http://www.tastychips.nl/wordpress/?page_id=527


Digital board
These instructions are well laid out and easy to understand and you are advised to start with the digital board as it is much simpler to put together. 
After the digital PCB the analogue one is slightly more complex as it has more resistors diodes that you have to make sure are either the correct values(resistors) or way round(diodes/electrolytic caps). The resistors do come with the values written on the card holders but some loose ones don’t, so I would recommend using a test meter or an online value checker such as this handy one here:- http://www.allaboutcircuits.com/tools/resistor-color-code-calculator/


Analogue board pictured



I did find one resistor that was the wrong value in the kit but luckily had the correct one in my stash of parts that I have, so no big issue there. If you do run into trouble though the guys at Tasty Chips are very responsive either via the online forum or email. 
Once both boards are complete the digital one sits nicely on top of the analogue one via some header pins and they are screwed in with the supplied nuts and bolts. 
Before the case gets fitted it’s time to power it up and check that everything works as it should. 
For the power you’ll need a 12v or 9v DC centre positive power supply(2.1mm connector) that also outputs around 1amp or higher. In my case I used a 12v 1.5amp one.
The Case



The case and faceplate are made from what I believe is aluminium, and the labelling and other graphic touches are quite nice. The ergonomics and form factor are also good for a small box, a touch smaller in size to say a Korg Volca which makes it quite a nice size. 
The finished boards of the Saw Bench are first fitted to the faceplate, I did find the LED’s a bit difficult to line up at first but found that if I loosened the LED holders and jiggled them from the top side of the faceplate then they went over the supplied LED spacers ok.

Once I got that slightly tricky part out of the way I tightened up the nuts and put it all together. 🙂
Last part to fit are of course the potentiometer caps(or knobs), these feel nice although I would’ve loved them to have been a bit taller as there is a bit of a gap at the bottom between the faceplate and cap. There’s nothing to stop me from customising these though in the future. 😉

Build verdict

So overall, this is a really nice DIY synth that you can build with very little fuss, I do recommend that you have some basic soldering experience and most importantly have a tester handy too.

I would’ve liked the LED spacers to be slightly narrower in circumference as it was a tight fit into the holders, apparently there are two different types that get sent out with the kits(some white and some black) with the white ones being narrower.  

Also the potentiometer caps(knobs) would’ve been nicer if they were taller and it would have been nice to have the cabling included for the jacks.
I would however recommend the Saw Bench as a good kit to get to grips with if you are a beginner or even an experienced DIY’er. 
I’m really looking forwards to seeing what I can do with this synth, more about that in other blog posts I have planned with sound/video demos and more…. 

For more information on the Saw Bench and other products from Tasty Chips Electronics you can visit them here.

MiniAtmegatron and iOS

In my exploration with what the MiniAtmegatron from Soulsby Synths can do I decided to try hooking it up with my iPhone via CCK(camera connection kit).

As the MIDI hacked Arduino is class compliant I wondered if it would work with iOS and I’m happy to say that it does! And as the this little 8bit wondersynth can be powered over USB the iPhone actually powers it too. 

This opens up various ways that you can use the MiniAtmegatron of course. Apps such as Little MIDI Machine can sequence it, you can use TouchOSC and it’s built in ‘Keys’ template to play it and if you make your own templates you can also control the MiniAtmegatron’s controls via MIDI CC(from the list available at the Soulsby downloads page). Other cool things you can do are sync it with other music apps(sequencers etc) because it responds to MIDI clock too. 

You could also use the Korg Synckontrol app alongside the MiniAtmegatron and the Korg Volcas/monotribe which should be possible(haven’t tried this yet but will do). 

So, if you have a MiniAtmegatron or are thinking of getting one then I recommend you try it with your iPhone/iPad. 

😀

Here’s a link to the TouchOSC iPhone editor I created:- https://www.dropbox.com/s/ijx5j3fiag0sfdm/miniAtmegatron.zip?dl=0

I’ve added two pages going over the functions from the quick guide available at the Soulsby website.