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:-
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
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/
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 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. 😉
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.