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WIGGLING 'LITE' IN GUEST MODE

All diy ambient starter rack advice
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Music Tech DIY  
Author All diy ambient starter rack advice
Pheeb
Hi, new to post but have been lurking for a while and have seen starter rack questions and diy questions but haven't found anything combined.

I'm looking to build my first eurorack, and since I'm a student with lots of time, limited funds, have some background in electronics and a love of soldering, it would suit me best to build my rack from DIY modules.

I'm looking for advice on the first few modules to get. I want to start off with a few full kits to get my bearing, then move on to pcb only builds. Ultimately I'd like to get confident enough to build SMD panels like the Mutable stuff.

So basically I'm wondering if there are maybe 3 modules, available as kits that can get me started with ambient soundscapes, along the lines of Lightbath, annannie and Emily Sprague?

At the moment I'm looking at Erica Synths Midi-CV so I can use my Korg Electribe as sequencer and clock, and a Beafco Rampage as it can do quite a bit in one module.
Any recommendation on something to add to that? Anyone making ambient soundscapes with a limited number of diy modules?
I mostly just really want to get soldering and making sounds to begin with!!

Sorry I know this is annoying beginner stuff but there really isn't much info around on all diy starter racks! Especially for ambient, as opposed to regular subtractive synth voices.
adam
you could have a reverb, then either just a filter or vcf & vco in addition to the rampage, the even vco is one that gets good reports if you like befaco
forestcaver
Check out Thonk - maybe radio music, turing machine? Look at Mutable cvpal kit if you use a Mac (probably avoid if you use a pc). Dont be too quick to only look at kits - often for pcbs, there are mouser carts - ordering is as simple as pushing a button.
Be a little cautious - doing DIY for cost savings can be tricky - it can cost more than you think - make sure you cost the hardware - cables, knobs, pots, jacks etc. Usually the electronic parts and pcb aren’t too expensive though. It improves with economies of scale (buy in bulk!) Also dont forget the cost of tools - decent iron/workstation, multimeter. In modular a scope is pretty much invaluable (check out the dso138 if on a budget and want to diy). It is really satisfying and great fun....
You can build panels yourself and save quite abit - I bought a load of sheets of anodised aluminium off ebay....
Building an o+c isnt any harder than through hole and is great for an ambient rack.

The diy mutable pcbs arent too bad but need experience to debug....
jacon
Have a look at the kits on Thonk, Rampage is a good start.

I'd combine that with a sound source, filter and effect to start off.

You could go for an oscillator like the Befaco Even VCO, Erica Synths Polivoks, or a Bastl GrandPa or Music Thing Radio Machine/Chord Organ if you want to go the sampling route instead. Of course, you could just use one side of the Rampage as an oscillator if you weren't fussed about ultra accurate v/oct tracking.

There are loads of good filters out there, depends very much on personal taste. I think the Humpback is pretty cool!

If you go for a VCO you'd probably find it useful to add a VCA, something like the Zlob Modular Dual VCA or RYO 3xVCA would be small, cheap and fine for now.

Effect wise, there aren't many non SMD DIY reverbs that aren't spring reverb, Music Thing have a good one. That also opens you up to playing with the spring to make interesting sounds. If you're not fully set on 100% DIY something like the Pico DSP from erica would be good too.

YouTube demos are your friend, as is modulargrid! Once you've done one or two builds, SMD is no harder than through hole really, so don't necessarily limit yourself there. MI Ripples is a nice filter and would be a good start.
Addam
Take a look at Random Source euro stuff (Serge and otherwise), particularly the filters, wave multipliers, and ResEQ (alternately for interesting EQ there’s also L-1s quad resonant eq- not the cheapest but really nice). If you’re set on a full kit I like Bastl Noise Square as a noise/random source. Manhattan Analog CP3/DTM Moog style mixer is a good first project to make your own panel for (you need to wire up the jacks either way).

I’ll echo the previous sentiment that going DIY CAN be a way to save money but it’s gonna be expensive either way. I went in with the idea of doing a decent amount of DIY to save some dough and really all it’s meant is now I have a stockpile of parts and more modules but no way I saved any money wink
abelovesfun
If you are new to DIY, you might try AI Synthesis (I run that) we make really easy to build kits with full video build guides.
The AI003 looping ADSR has long rates if you set the knobs that way, and the AI004 is a nice multimode filter that you can use as a sine oscillator. Bare Bones has a nice video of that here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-v8GQ-Ocz9s
Luap
In the UK Thonk is excellent. So much good stuff, and the kits are usually complete, so no parts sourcing headaches.
Also worth checking out in the UK is www.frequencycentral.co.uk Just PCB's and panels, but great designs, and the parts are nearly always easy to source. Theres also some pretty good semi modular/almost a complete synth type stuff there too which would be ideal to start with.
forestcaver
I can second the recommendation for Frequency Central - I’ve built 6 of his modules - all are excellent....
nigel
NLC Sloth is excellent for providing slow changes.
Pheeb
Thanks so much for the replies everyone - really useful advice! I've looked some more into building Mutable pcbs and they don't look too bad, I already have experience with through hole. I'll start with building a case, mixer attenuator and midi-cv but I think I'll start with a mutable as a sound source -maybe braids, then expand from there.
forestcaver
Wrt Mutable PCBs - I started with Ripples first in order to learn SMT soldering (built two) and they weren’t too bad to do, then built an Ornament and Crime (which was a lot easier - larger size) and then two Veils (which were much harder). I’m just about to try the STM32s after learning on the others....
If you’re on facebook, it’s worth checking out the pusherman groups (for advice and pcbs/panel buys).
Luap
Pheeb wrote:
Thanks so much for the replies everyone - really useful advice! I've looked some more into building Mutable pcbs and they don't look too bad, I already have experience with through hole. I'll start with building a case, mixer attenuator and midi-cv but I think I'll start with a mutable as a sound source -maybe braids, then expand from there.


Keep in mind that a lot of Mutable stuff is digital, and will require programming of its main chip. This in itself is quite involved and also requires some special equipment to do.
But if that (and the SMT thing) doesn't phase you, then have at it thumbs up
sleepgardens
If you want to try SMD I suggest to start with something 0805 (bigger components), you can find some cheap practice boards on ebay. I actually started with a Shades (Great first intro to MI stuff) that is 0603 (smaller) and when i moved to the O_C (0805) it was very easy (except the DAC) but my shades whould have definitely benefitted from some practice first (had to troubleshoot it for a while).

I would go like this:

- practise board, to get the feel of it
- Temps Utile, if you need it: easier because 0805 and no small pitch IC
- either O_c or Shades depending on which you fear the less between the DAC (very small pitch ic, you need to "drag solder" it) or the smaller components
- build the other one (Shades vs O_C)
- full analog MI modules like Ripples/Shelves/Links/Veils/Blinds (no small pitch IC, still 0603 and cramped)
- digital MIs. This is a step further because of the 4-sided small pitch IC and the programming it requires. You need additional equipement (an interface to connect your module with the computer) and some softwares. The easier of those are the ones with ATMEGAs (Grids/Branches/Edges) then you can start with Braids/Peaks/Tides.
- the hardest MIs: Clouds, Rings, Elements, Warps etc...
- the absolute nightmares of every SMD DIYer: MI Kinks and 4ms SMR. At this point you should have become an SMD god.

Of course I'm not saying to do all those just to get a Braids, but try to follow this indications for an easier learning curve (that means: money saved from fried board/components). Try to plan ahead a little bit on which module to do and to buy components in bulk to save money.
Pheeb
sleepgardens wrote:
If you want to try SMD I suggest to start with something 0805 (bigger components), you can find some cheap practice boards on ebay. I actually started with a Shades (Great first intro to MI stuff) that is 0603 (smaller) and when i moved to the O_C (0805) it was very easy (except the DAC) but my shades whould have definitely benefitted from some practice first (had to troubleshoot it for a while).


This is so helpful thank you!! I will definitely start with some of the easier ones and see how I feel from there! I think the challenge will be getting some interesting and variable sounds from just a few simple builds to begin with, so I can develop my rack and my build skills in parallel!! smile
OB1
Another recommendation for Frequency Central. I've built one of his System X VCOs, am building another and just about to order the filter. Really nice PCBs, nice panels, cheap, easy to find parts and good support from HQ.

Thonk is great as well, I get a load of stuff from there. They obviously have the kits, which are a nice way to ease yourself into DIY, but also PCB/panel sets which work out a lot cheaper if you source your parts well (and I find a lot more satisfying then building a kit). Also a good place to get your jacks, pots, etc. They do the Turing Machine MKii which is a great module and a nice easy build.

Some other stuff I've picked up on the journey (I'm also trying to DIY most of my rig)...

I'd advise trying to get stuff from the UK where possible as there's some great stuff available out in the States at great prices, but you need to factor in shipping (obviously) and customs fees - the latter has stung me a couple of times. Having said that, if you're just getting PCBs/panels/flat things, places like Modular Addict will ship them as a letter, which seems to avoid the customs fees.

If you're buying components from Mouser (which is a good idea), its worth getting stuff for a couple (or more) builds in one go as they have a price break at £33 where you avoid the £12 shipping cost. I have found, however, that they don't always have the ICs I need available - I'm getting mine from https://www.soundtronics.co.uk a lot of the time - they always seem to have what I need and they're UK-based, so cheap shipping.
Pheeb
Okay so little update - I know I'm going to be getting a little Doepfer 38hp case and a MI Rings for my birthday, and I plan on filling the rest of 24hp with DIY modules.
I'll be using an SQ-1 for sequencing and midi stuff which saves a bit of space, plus an ms50g and reverb pedal for external effects, so I think I want to focus on 2 or 3 small modules that will compliment Rings and provide plenty of variation to my patches.
Any suggestions regarding what diy modules might compliment rings? I'm guessing lots of interesting modulation, maybe rampage (but that uses up a lot of hp!) and a sloth? I use tape loops and things already for drones so my focus is more on creating textures to sit above these, hence choosing Rings!

Thank for the help!!
Mostin77
I like the befaco stuff and would probably grab their midi module along with a couple of rampages, the Rampages are really versatile plus you can use them as vco’s or filters.

I’d probably grab a music thing modular spring mk2 as well for some reverb and the befaco crush delay
forestcaver
Pheeb wrote:
Okay so little update - I know I'm going to be getting a little Doepfer 38hp case and a MI Rings for my birthday, and I plan on filling the rest of 24hp with DIY modules.
I'll be using an SQ-1 for sequencing and midi stuff which saves a bit of space, plus an ms50g and reverb pedal for external effects, so I think I want to focus on 2 or 3 small modules that will compliment Rings and provide plenty of variation to my patches.
Any suggestions regarding what diy modules might compliment rings? I'm guessing lots of interesting modulation, maybe rampage (but that uses up a lot of hp!) and a sloth? I use tape loops and things already for drones so my focus is more on creating textures to sit above these, hence choosing Rings!

Thank for the help!!


I’d strongly recommend an O+C (or micro version). Paired with Rings it’s a thing of beauty....Sloths are cool too. ( The next obvious module would be diy clouds/micro clouds - and ducks from the “cliche” comments - but they do sound awesome together). You also need VCAs....
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