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Discontinued Blacet Modules
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Author Discontinued Blacet Modules
Muff Wiggler
Made a post over at ModularSynth.net that made me think of a good topic for a sticky over here - Discontinued Blacet Modules.

I'll keep a list here in the top post, and we can use the thread below to discuss these modules.

DISCONTINUED BLACET MODULES

- Dark Star Chaos
- Time Machine
- Frequency Divider
- Final Filtre
- Dual Manual Filter
- QuadMix VCA
- Klang Werk
Muff Wiggler
Something I wonder when looking at Blacet's modules and the discontinued list - makes me think of a comment that Chris (The Allison Project) made to me a year or so ago...

When Blacet was starting out, there were very few modules available. But, in the early Blacet modules, they were PACKED with functionality, and each module could be used for different things. For example at one point, there was no EG, however the Final Filtre includes a simple A/D EG that can be used externally from the filtering in the module.

Similar to Wiard, you could get a lot more mileage out of a single module, so were able to do cool things with less modules.

Nowadays, Blacet has a full-synth worth of modules in their lineup. VCOs, VCFs, VCAs, Switches, Noise, S&H, Mixers, Processors etc. They've got all the stuff covered. With this sort of lineup, obviously it's not so important to make each new module "do it all" anymore.

Now, considering all the modules available, I don't see this as a bad thing. When I was starting out, it was nice to get a lot of different things in a module. Now that I have a very powerful core system, I like modules that do their thing in a very refined and flexible fashion - so if this is a change in Blacet's focus, it works for me and comes at a good time for me as well.

It seems like a lot of the Blacet modules that include "multi functionality" are being discontinued, and in the new modules being announced, there's more a focus on providing a rich feature set for the function in question, but not giving in extra features that aren't directly related to the module.

Of course it's a modular so anything can always be used in creative ways, but I think you get the point.

A good example is the QuadMix VCA. If you want to reproduce everything that you can do with it, you'll need two of Blacet's Dual Linear VCA modules, a Mixer/Processor module, and an I/O module. Of course you end up getting a lot of extra functionality if you get all these component modules (for example, envelope followers in the I/O) instead of a single "all in one" module.

The QuadMix VCA had four exponential VCAs, a 4-into-1 mixer, and a preamp for bringing external signals up to modular levels! All in one $165 module. Wow. I think these things are/were bargains for how much flexibility you get.

Anyway, just some points to consider. I'll talk a bit about all the discontinued modules below.
Muff Wiggler
Let's look a bit more closely at the discontinued modules -

Dark Star Chaos



This is a really interesting one. I believe it was Blacet's first module, and the final production run was in October of 2003. Since it was at one point the only module available, it really does a LOT. It's a mini-synth all contained behind a single panel. I heard of people mounting these alone in a small box, and using them as self-contained SFX boxes. I believe it.

Basically you have a VCO with PWM, a digital noise generator (with a VC'd clock), a VC'd LPF to process the noise, an A/D envelope generator, and a gate control (on/off/momentary). Not very powerful as a VCO replacement, however incredible fun an inspiring both as a sci-fi sound effects type box, as well as a noise generator, either for noise sounds or to get noise for modulation. This really goes far beyond the common noise generator module, with the VCO and snappy A/D EG. Just amazing for spaceship sounds, weather storms, and alien chatter. These were made by Cyndustries briefly in their format, and many MOTM'ers have built them behind MOTM faceplate.

These are becoming basically impossible to find - I haven't seen one come up for sale in well over a year now. I think you would expect to pay $250 or so for one, but this is a ballpark guess.

Interesting modifications include the ability (already stuffed on the PCB by Blacet! Just add jacks) to have CV inputs for both the Attack and Decay time in the EG.

Time Machine



Well, this one has been discussed to death. Long live the Time Machine! Certainly the most sought-after and 'fabled' of all the Blacet modules, these were discontinued in November of 2005, one month before I started to look into buying my first modules! John Blacet has been known to deny the existence of this module. I've heard it described as the "cadillac" of analog delays, and I have to concur. You get that classic, warm, dubby sound of analog delay. You get CV control of EVERYTHING, from delay time to regeneration to the speed and depth of the built-in LFO modulator, as well as the ability to use an external modulator. A 'cancel' input for the delay time makes for some really interesting gated or tempo-based effects. What sets this apart from others (in my opinion) is in part the comprehensive CV options (drive the delay time with a sequencer and have different delay for each note in your drum pattern!), but moreso the brilliant 'compander' system that John Blacet designed.

The downsides to analog delay are many - they are NOISY, they bleed clock signal (the BBD has to be 'clocked' to give you a delay time....), and they have a small operating range. John has addressed all of these. It's the quietest analog delay I've ever heard - in fact by quite a lot. The compander system accepts wide-range input, compresses it to fit within the operating range of the BBDs, and then takes the output from the BBD, filters it to remove noise, and then 'expands' it so that you have the same wide-range that you started with when going to the next module in your system. This approach has proven a sure winner as Time Machine modules sell within minutes of being offered up on the second-hand market.

They are starting to become rare - a year ago you saw one up for sale every 4-6 weeks or so. Nowadays it's common to go many months without one appearing. They still sell INSTANTLY (as everyone on this forum can attest to), and if you are considering one, you should probably jump on one the moment you get the chance. For one, they are starting to get very rare (I expect in a year they will be like the Dark Star - very rarely, if ever, up for sale), but more importantly they still command a similar price to when they were in production - Blacet charged $329 for an assembled one, and they usually sell for less than that on the used market, a situation which is sure to change in upcoming months.

Only modifications I've seen for this is the addition of a simple front-panel mounted 'bypass' switch.
consumed
Muff Wiggler wrote:
Let's look a bit more closely at the discontinued modules -

Dark Star Chaos



This is a really interesting one.


This module is based on the TI SN76477 "voice" chip. More info here:

http://mypeoplepc.com/members/scottnoanh/birthofasynth/id22.html
Muff Wiggler
Frequency Divider



OK, time to discuss the Frequency Divider. This is (in my opinion) a SADLY overlooked module. Why do I say this? Because I never hear people talking about them, ever, and they are very very cool, very unique, and finally a very important processing module for your system, that really doesn't have a lot of competition or replacements available. It's a shame they are gone. I believe this was the second Blacet module available, and is based on the 'classic' Blacet Frequency Divider from the 1970's, re-engineered with more features for a modern world. This module was discontinued in summer 2006 (I believe).

The module basically has two 'sides' or 'halves' that operate seperately from each other, but based on the same input. I believe the manual refers to them as "two seperate divider lines", which they are, and this is important to realize. They both act differently and have different uses. Draw an imaginary vertical line down the very center of the module to visualize the two 'halves'.

There's only one 'in' jack - this is where the input signal goes. However there's three 'out' jacks. The one below the 'in' jack is the output from the "second" of the two divider lines, or the two halves. The output here is a result of the input signal being processed by the six knobs along the right-hand side of the module. Basically your input signal appears at the "out" jack, however you have the ability to mix the level of four different subdivisions (clock or frequency divisions) of this input signal, into the output. You can also adjust the overall level of the main signal in the output, as well as balance the mix between the original signal and the result of the four divisions. The main applications here are to get sub-octave reinforcement of the original signal. Or, if you kill the original signal in the mix, it can be used as an 'octave down' type device. Additionally, you can get some killer 'fuzz' or distortion type sounds. Blacet described this as "sort of like a digital fuzz for keyboards", and it can certainly be used that way.

This function is *somewhat* replaced by the Binary Zone module, which allows you to mix divisions of an input signal into a new output. The BZ 'seems' more suited to clock and CV pattern work in this regard, while the FD 'seems' more suited to doing this on audio-rate signals, however the truth is you can use both modules both ways.

But, that's only half the story with the Frequency Divider. Remember, we've only looked at "the second divider line", or the right-hand half. There's also the "first line" on the left half, which is really cool as well.

I mentioned above that there's one input and three outputs. The output below the 'in' jack is from the second divider line. If you look above the 'in' jack, you'll see two other 'out' jacks that are connected with a silk-screened line to the large rotary switch. These two outputs carry an identical signal, and this signal is a result of your input signal passing through the "first" divider line, which is basically the big rotary switch.

Unlike the second divider line, the first one doesn't mix your input signal. It simply takes the input signal, divides the frequency (audio or clock) by one of the twelve divisions selected on the big rotary knob, and passes the result to the two dedicated output jacks. There's also a reset input that allows a gate or trigger (or pulse) signal to reset the divider, telling it to start again.

This function is useful when you only want the "octave down" effect described above, without having to lower the 'mix' knob to get rid of the original input signal. But that's the boring use.

What's really nice is the ability to divide a clock. Let's say you have a 120bpm clock for your sequence. If you use this to trigger, say kick drums, you are getting 120 kicks per minute! Unless you produce 'gabba' music, this is a bit much. We usually only want a couple kicks per measure. Enter the frequency divider. You want a kick every fourth beat? Every 8th? Every 16th? You can see the use here immediately.

However, you can also see the limitation - you can only select one of these divisions at a time. If I want to trigger kicks every 8th but hats every 4th, I need two Frequency Dividers, right?

Actually, no. Here's my favorite thing about this module. All 12 of the divisions from the first line are all available, all at once. The module is designed to let you choose which one you want using the big rotary knob - but realize this knob is simply a switch - all 12 signals are coming to the knob, but the knob only selects one for output. Good news for those who like to mod things!

I made a simple half-size panel with 12 jacks on it. I wired each jack to one of the 12 leads behind the rotary switch, and mounted the panel beside my Frequency Divider in my synth cabinet. Now I have a dedicated output for all 12 of these divisions, as well as the ability to 'give myself' two more copies of any of these divisions, using the rotary knob and the two 'out' jacks on the module itself. Feed it a clock signal, use the /8 out for kicks, the /4 out for hats, and maybe the /16 out for a snare. A sequencing and clock processing powerhouse, simply by adding 12 jacks and some wire. Amazing. Any surprise that I've actually built two of these?

Finally, there's another mod possible for this - the second line (the 'binary zone' type one) includes a LPF on board, since that line can get pretty noisy. There's an internal DIP package on the PCB that allows you to choose one of three options for the internal LPF - 'off', 'on', 'on with steep slope'. It's very easy to replace this PCB-mounted DIP package with a panel-mounted three-way switch, so you can control the LPF without having to pull the module out of your rack.

Haven't seen one come up used since they were discontinued, but since they don't seem to be highly sought (I can't figure out why....), I suspect that it could be had for around $200.
Muff Wiggler
Final Filtre

.

Another early one of Blacet's designs, I believe this was the third or fourth Blacet module released. Dark Star was first, I believe the Klang Werk was second... and then we got the Final Filtre. These were discontinued in Summer of 2006 (again I believe), and the stock was finally depleted just a few months ago. Should come up used from time to time, expect to pay $180-220 for one.

An exceptionally 'clean' filter, with almost no noise whatsoever. In self-oscillation, it produces a perfect sine wave that tracks v/Oct very well. When I need a sinewave, I much prefer this one to any VCO I've found.

Dedicated outputs for LP/BP and Notch filtering, there's an interesting feature in that the LP/BP output 'morphs' from LowPass to BandPass when increasing the resonance ("Q") control. Voltage controlled resonance is something that's very very nice to have in a VCF, I wish more included this.

Nothing super special, but a workhorse of a filter, and just great when you want clean, pure filtering or a good tracking sine wave. The "bonus" with this module is the built-in AD envelope generator. This can be used either as an AD generator or a free-running LFO, and can be used to modulate the filter's cutoff frequency (via the "amount" knob) as well as be used externally as a CV source for other modules (via the "eg out" jack). Very nice bonus compared to other filters which don't normally include self-modulation options, and when they do, they don't let you tap them out for other uses.

I suspect this was discontinued due to lack of popularity - with three different filters in the lineup, I think most people bought the similarily priced Filthy Filtre, which has much more of a 'signature' sound, and along with the Klang Werk and MiniWave, have come for many to be identified with "the Blacet sound".
Muff Wiggler
Dual Manual Filter



This is an interesting one - didn't have a very long life, and I suspect never did sell very well. Also discontinued in summer of 2006, there are still a bunch left for sale in Blacet's inventory. In fact, Blacet has lowered the price on the kit version to a very very attractive $99, hoping to move some stock.

Basically you get two highly accurate, very low noise filters, without any CV options, in one affordable package. Each filter is selectable LP/BP/HP, and includes controls for level, frequency and resonance. A smart normalling scheme puts both filters in series if you are only using one input and one output, so you can create very steep filters, or mix responses. Additionally, a never-described "Phase Uncertainty" circuit definately livens up the sound and provides 'motion' when the two filters are working in series.

Plug into the second filter and you break the normalling, and have two standalone filters.

That's really all there is to say about this, other than the fact that it really sounds great and it's dirt cheap. Considering the fact that you get a pair of high-quality analog filters for under a hundred bucks, I can't believe these things didn't take off. Ample space on the front panel and the PCB make this a really attractive candidate for using vactrols to add CV inputs for both cutoff and resonance on both filter units. Not a lot of money or work to end up with a really powerful package, but I guess it just didn't fly for most of Blacet's customers. A bit of a shame, really!
sandyb
i have a frequency divider and think it's a great module! one of my favourite things to do with it is feed in a sequence from my dotcom sequencer then use the right hand divider line to tweak and vary the sequence over time, sending the result to a VCO for example. The level and mix controls allow changes to the original to be either subtle or not so subtle. i haven't done the "breakout" panel for the other line yet but really should get around to it - it's a great way to add functionality.

sandy
Muff Wiggler
QuadMix VCA



OK, next up in our roundup of discontinued Blacet modules is one of my favorites, the QuadMix VCA. I have four of these in my system!

Also discontinued during the big "summer killoff" of 2006, there's still some of these available from Blacet. I suggest moving fast, John Blacet has mentioned that there never will be anything this flexible for this sort of price again. Let's take a closer look.

Basically you have four exponential VCAs, that mix to one output. The output has a bias control, which is really handy (sadly this bias control cannot be used in the absence of an input signal - unlike the very handy bias control on the Mixer/Processor module).

However, some really smart normalling gives this module some really cool extra flexibility - there's a main 'out' for all four VCA channels, however there's also a dedicated out for the fouth channel on it's own. When you plug into this "D out" jack (the fourth VCA), its signal is removed from the main output, so that you only have channels 1-3 on the main output. Why is this so smart?

Well this scheme lets you use the first three channels as a mixer (or as three VCA's with a single mixed output), and then you can plug the result of that into the fourth VCA, and use it as a standard VCA.

When I bought my very first modules, I bought a Dual Linear VCA. Then I had to wait to buy a mixer, because I wanted to mix multiple waveforms from my (at the time) only VCO. I really should have bought the QuadMix VCA instead - I could mix three inputs, and then apply a VCA to those at the end of my patch. Really handy.

Additionally, the fourth channel can be used as a 1-10X preamp, for bringing external signals up to modular levels. Again something I use all the time.

Once this module is out of stock, the options to provide similar horsepower become a lot more expensive - one would need a pair of Dual Linear VCAs, just to cover the four VCAs this offers. Next one would need the I/O module, to get the preamp function. Finally, one would need to buy a Mixer/Processor to get the mixing function, and would only have 3-into-1 mixing at that, not the 4-into-1 that the QuadMix VCA offers. Of course this approach would give you extra features like the envelope followers on the I/O, or the "input-less bias" of the Mixer/Processor.

I recall a breakthrough moment early on in my exploration of the Modular synth, when I realized how essential VCAs are. Like a lot of people, at first I thought they were something that we only needed "One per voice" at the end of each patch. Soon enough I realized that it's very very useful to have a VCA sitting in front of any CV input, so that the VCA could be used to have voltage control over the amount of a CV signal being sent to an input. These days, at a bare minumum, anything going into the FM input of a VCO, goes through a VCA first. The QuadMix VCA package was (is) a cheap and flexible way to add a whole bunch of VCAs to your system, while getting a bunch of extra features as a bonus. Hard to complain about this, I'm actually very surprised that it was discontinued. The most 'bang for the buck' in any processing module, and absolutely essential in any frac-rack setup. Get one while you can.

---------

That wraps up my little exploration of discontinued Blacet modules. It's not too late to add some of these to your system, and if you are patient and keep some money aside, there's no reason you can't add ALL of these to your synth.

Here's hoping that Blacet doesn't kill off any more of their designs, but I'm sure it's inevitable given the march of time. I'll be sure to update this thread with info on any other Blacet modules if/when they reach the end of their life. Please feel free to continue to discuss the modules, or their discontinuation here in the thread.
Muff Wiggler
sandyb wrote:
i have a frequency divider and think it's a great module! one of my favourite things to do with it is feed in a sequence from my dotcom sequencer then use the right hand divider line to tweak and vary the sequence over time, sending the result to a VCO for example. The level and mix controls allow changes to the original to be either subtle or not so subtle. i haven't done the "breakout" panel for the other line yet but really should get around to it - it's a great way to add functionality.

sandy


hey Sandy! Welcome to the forum, great to have you here. I love your sequencer application with the FD, I do that as well and totally agree that it's one of the most fun ways to play with a fixed sequence. At least untill I buy a Serge TKB muhuhahahaha....
Kwote
i know it's not officially off the Blacet workbench but you should probably add the Klangwerk to this list since he officially announced it's demise at the end of the current run. I ordered one on the first and still haven't received it. I contacted Blacet and he said it should ship very soon and the delay was due to parts shortages. it was a very bittersweet moment cuz i'm stoked to finally have one on the way but sad because if they're already shorting out on parts it could be goodbye to the Klang very very soon. smile :(
Muff Wiggler
no shit! i had no idea! when did he announce that?

I'm not surprised at all.

I'll write something up when I get a chance - sad news, it's a great module.
Muff Wiggler
it's true! just noticed on the Blacet news page, supply of the old IC's it uses are drying up, and this will be the last production run. Wow!

Grab 'em while they are hot folks
Kwote
Muff Wiggler wrote:
it's true! just noticed on the Blacet news page, supply of the old IC's it uses are drying up, and this will be the last production run. Wow!

Grab 'em while they are hot folks


when mine shows up I'm just gonna plug it in and stare at it for awhile :shock:
Muff Wiggler
Klang Werk



The Klang Werk was a very early Blacet module, I believe this was the second one after the Dark Star Chaos. It's a Ring Modulator, but in keeping with the "kitchen sink included!" ethos of early Blacet designs, it does a LOT more than simple ringmod operations.

At the time of this writing, it's still available at Blacet.com, after about 9 months of being "out of stock".

Seems like it went out of stock because John Blacet was having trouble sourcing some of the discontinued ICs that it uses.

Well, he's found enough for one final run, so the modules are available at the moment, but it's noted on Blacet's news page that they will be officially discontinued once the current batch of IC's runs out.

I think as through-hole supply continues to decline in favour of SMT components, we will see this happening to more and more modules. My prediction is that we are in the heyday of analog modulars at this very moment, and this shrinking supply of components will have the effect of taking many of our synth developers out of business. There are some who are already using robotic "pick n' place" machines to build their modules (DOTCOM), or they are using wavesoldering machines to build SMT boards for them (MOTM's Frac line). Very few (such as Wiard) will solder SMT components by hand. I don't think that many of the other builders will transition to SMT - we will see the number of modular companies drop over the next five years, and the numbers who build SMT by hand will be miniscule. Perhaps one or two at best.

Anyway, back to the Klang Werk.

This is far more than your grandpa's Ring Modulator. It's got an internal carrier (three types!) that can be modified with both CV and/or the panel controls, as well as the ability to use an external carrier (AC or DC!). It's got an amplifier. It's got an envelope follower, it can be used as a VCA, etc etc. A mini synth in a single module. As Blacet says, it really is the "werks"! Plus it sounds fantastic, and also like nothing else out there.

Grab one while you still can!
Kwote
Muff Wiggler wrote:

I think as through-hole supply continues to decline in favour of SMT components, we will see this happening to more and more modules. My prediction is that we are in the heyday of analog modulars at this very moment, and this shrinking supply of components will have the effect of taking many of our synth developers out of business. There are some who are already using robotic "pick n' place" machines to build their modules (DOTCOM), or they are using wavesoldering machines to build SMT boards for them (MOTM's Frac line). Very few (such as Wiard) will solder SMT components by hand. I don't think that many of the other builders will transition to SMT - we will see the number of modular companies drop over the next five years, and the numbers who build SMT by hand will be miniscule. Perhaps one or two at best.


what's SMT? yeah i've really been thinking about all this a lot. one thought that came to mind is with all the enthusiasts building there own modules it seems like an undying world of modulars and young heads could eventually replace the old companies of yesteryear. but then the analog components seem to be disappearing too quickly. i'm curious who the manufacturer's are that are making all the parts and what there motivations are to continue or discontinue a part. and moreover will there ever be someone else to take over the role of the parts manufacturer's in order to keep all this going.

IT'S CRAZY!

ps: awesome posting about the klang so quickly muff.
Muff Wiggler
thanks! For the most part "analogue components" will remain available - it's the form that they come in that is changing.

There are some exceptions - BBD chips are out of production, as they aren't needed by any large-production industry anymore. Synth-specific chips, like the CEM's, are gone as everyone makes digital synths now. Finally 'speciality' chips like the Texas Instruments SN that are were used in video game systems that needed analog audio, are gone as well.

But resistors, capacitors, general purpose ICs, etc. are not going anywhere, probably not ever. The world probably uses more of these now than ever, since everyone has cellphones, laptops, etc. However again it's the format they come in which is changing, not the analog nature or the availbility of these items which are the basic building blocks of almost all electronic circuits, regardless if they end up in a laptop or a VCF.

To understand the 'whys' of this, you will end up learning what SMT is. So get comfy and put your reading glasses on.

We're at an interesting time in the history of electronics. The main "new thing" that is exerting pressure on the entire electronics industry is a perfect storm caused by the need for three things - mass-produced electronics, small form-factor electronics, and finally, disposable electronics.

20 years ago, a populated circuit board wasn't something you would throw away - it was expensive and time consuming to produce, and expensive to acquire. When they broke, you had them repaired.

This model ended up giving us the $2000 'cellphone suitcase' that some of you old guys like me might remember. The first cellphones took two hands to carry. When they broke, you had them fixed.

This model worked at a time when only 12 people in my country were important enough to carry a cellphone. These days 98% of us have them. The old model doesn't work.

What happens when your brand-new cellphone breaks? Do you send it in? Probably not. But let's assume that you do - do you really think some tech will pull the curcuit board, trace the fault, and repair it?

Not a chance. If you send in a phone with a bad board, they throw away the board, and stick a new one in the phone. Way cheaper. Or they toss the whole phone and give you a new one. No-one repairs circuit faults on computer motherboards, cellphones, laptops, etc. Replace, not repair. It's cheaper that way. That's the way economies of scale work out when you have hundreds of millions of people who are using your product.

One of the reasons this is so, is that people aren't building these boards in the first place. Robots are. Because we need our electronics to be SMALL (think laptop, cellphone) and CHEAP (think of human labour costs), we let robots build them, and when they break we throw them away and get the robot to build us a new one. Thusly we can buy $49 cellphones these days. That fact alone is pretty incredible.

So, electronics in general has been making a shift over the last few years. A shift intended to help our new robot overlords! Ok, really a shift to help the move towards low-cost, disposable electronics. Which is really in our benefit, at least unless you like to build analog synths by hand.

Turns out, the types of resistors and capacitors that are easy for a human to solder, take up a LOT more space than they need to, making you need a giant cellphone instead of a tiny one. Also, robots don't care about having to work with very small things. We've got really talented robots these days, that can solder SMALL things much faster than they solder big things.

The sort of resistor you see on a Blacet module, and the type of PCB it's mounted to in a Blacet module, are "old school" and have been designed to be easy for a human to work with, using human-sized hands, and human-sized tools. These are referred to as "through hole" components, because the PCB has holes in it that you poke the legs of the component through, and then solder.

The robots don't need big components, and they don't need to poke things through holes. They can place (with very high precision) a super tiny little resistor right on the SURFACE of a board, and solder it right onto the trace. Your boards don't need holes in them any more, and they can now be much smaller because you are using tiny components. Additionally the robots can complete an entire board in seconds-to-minutes, whereas it will take a person hours-to-days to complete a through-hole project by hand.

The tiny components that the robots like are not called "thorugh hole", they are called "SMT". It stands for "Surface Mount Technology". Hooray for progress?

Here's a pic of some through-hole action for you:



And now here's what SMT looks like:



the tiny little black rectangles around the large chip are resistors. Compare that to the large diode (which is only a bit smaller than a through-hole resistor would be) that is straddling the IC chip in the Through-Hole photo above, and you'll get a grip on the size difference.

Since the vast majority of all the electronics in the world are now using SMT, the supply of new through-hole components has mostly stopped. There are still billions of the components in supply houses, and there will be for decades to come, however just in the past year the price of these components has doubled, tripled and more. As they become more and more scarce (and hoarded by people who need to keep old technology running) they will get more and more expensive.

It's easy to build boards by hand using through-hole. But it'll be financially and logistically prohibitive, starting really soon.

It's very very very difficult to build SMT by hand. Some people do it. Grant Richter of Wiard does it. Wiard's frac modules are SMT built, and built by hand. You need a magnifying glass, a very steady hand, precision tools, and the willingness to go blind in the process. Not many people have all these things. Not many people are Grant Richter either.

MOTM's frac modules are SMT boards, but they are built by a robot (actually a wave soldering machine).

Anyway, now you know. I hope 8)
Kwote
holy shit!! oh well long live analog atleast. thanks for the breakdown. for real. it's being archived.
Muff Wiggler
cheers, in don't purport to be an expert on this stuff so there's probably some inaccuracies in there, but that's the long-winded gist

i just added some stuff to make it more long-winded as well.
governor blacksnake
Getting into SMT building was actually really fun for me. I recommend that every DIYer with good eyes and steady hands tries it.

I've had good results using the following tool set. Warning, my methods were completely self-taught so you'll probably find better ways of doing this.

some old tweezers
Weller WES51 w/ ETR screwdriver tip (set to 500 degrees)
silver-bearing leaded solder, .022 diameter

I do most of the work with 0805 size passives and various SOIC packages. I can work with QFP and SSOPs as well, but it was a huge headache until I got a good deal on a hot air rework station. Typically I add a dome of solder to one of the pads, then pick up the part with tweezers, move it into position, and let the solder flow. Then, I turn the board around and add solder to the other side. Repeat for all pins.

Note that SMT tape packaging really wasn't meant for human manipulation. For a while the most time-consuming part of my builds was getting the parts out of the package. I then got a bunch of little square SMT part containers (about 1 inch cubes) with spring-loaded doors off of ebay. Whenever obtaining new parts I would dump the contents of the entire tape into the appropriate container, where I could then quickly pick them out with my hands instead of peeling away sections of tape.

Now that I solder for hours every day I've also added a simple magnifying lamp. It helps.

If you etch your own boards going SMT removes a lot of the headache - no more drilling through! sparkfun.com also has some good tutorials on cheap reflow techniques.

To me, SMT isn't so bad. It seems to be that RoHS is a much greater problem facing the synth DIYer.
J.w.M.
Welcome, Governer blacksnake!

I've heard from some friends (EE people here at school) that SMT is just another thing to learn. At some point, I think I'll go ahead and get a "learn SMT kit," but until then, I'm kinda dreading moving from things that I can manipulate with no mechanical aid to something that requires tweezers and whatnot.

I suppose I agree with Muff-- with the end of through-hole comes a dark day for easy, fast DIY.

By the way, I'm not familiar with the issues surrounding RoHS... what's up with that?
synthetic
RoHS is the European Union deciding that anything with lead inside will give you cancer. Like anyone knows anything about how you get cancer. So they decided that all lead was banned – from the leads on resistors to solder. It's a huge PITA for smaller manufacturers to deal with.
Muff Wiggler
blacksnake I'm going to quote your above post into the DIY forum here, hope you don't mind. it's super useful information, and the DIY forum really needs some content anyway, if this is a problem let me know.

it's just a better place for this info, where it's gonna be easier to find for someone who is looking for it 6 months from now etc. obviously it's on-topic here in this thread too grin

thanks 8)
Cat-A-Tonic
Quote:
Ample space on the front panel and the PCB make this a really attractive candidate for using vactrols to add CV inputs for both cutoff and resonance on both filter units.


How would you go about implementing such a modification?
Muff Wiggler
well, if you want to have a cv that responds to positive voltages only, and isn't scaled, it's really easy

if you want to do it with AC signals, i don't know how. I've asked a few people who have claimed to have done it for details, but they ignore request after request. I suspect it's not possible to deal with AC signals.

Anyway, Install a jack. hook the jack to the LED side of the vactrol.

Take the LDR side of the vactrol, hook it up to the out lug of the pot you want to add CV to.

now when positive voltage is present on the jack, the LDR sends voltage out of the pot, as if the pot was turned - there ya go. simple, not precise, not scaled, but simple CV
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