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Help me put together a mini oakley synth please ! :)
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Oakley Sound Systems  
Author Help me put together a mini oakley synth please ! :)
Paradigm X
Hi all,

Been inspired by this little beauty;

And want to put something similar together, with a 6u high rack enclosure, but a bit new at all this so would appreciate some assistance in what ill actually need. Also inspired by a posting of Tony's suggesting that a very capable little synth could be built around the Filtrex2 which ive got, but not built yet.

Using the Filtrex as a 1u 'standard' rack mount, and possibly also using (but happy to omit if better), Quad VCA by L1 , which is 2u wide, what else can i fit in the width of a standard rack case, to make a little synth?

Ill obviously need a VCO, ADSR, LFOs, ??? I should state that i have no modular stuff whatsoever so a clean slate (except that 4xVCA board i ordered, but not arrived yet).

It looks as if ill fit in 10u horizontally... so 8 after the VCAs.

Midi to CV is either or at this point, its going to take me a while to build and i also already have 2 cv/gate devices, but think planning aheads a good idea. I would like to have the phaser/ringmod in there if itll fit too. I like the idea of a combined/partial synth and effects box.

If I can bulk order all the parts for several PCBs at once, I can probably save a bit of money. Also, having a complete synth will stop me getting sidetracked with new pcbs ....

Many thanks, Ben
Have you seen this page:

It might give you some tips.

Trying to incorporate the Filtrex into a standard 5U modular format may not be quite so easy though.

That may be best put in its own 1U high rack case or perhaps 2U with the addition of the SVCO and the ADSR/VCA mounted horizontally above it.

i look at that mini-system quite often. its very sharp and very powerful. i love oakley stuff and love the basic yet fully multi-functional aspects of these designs. this system is a great model, and if you have the loot might even want to just model something after this
Paradigm X
Thanks Tony, and magneticweb.

Tony, i did see that page thanks, Ive spent a lot of time reading your build guides, parts guides and that. It was more trying to incorporate the filtrex into the mix. Seems thats unlikely so will leave that standalone and buy a 5u rack! Incidentally, although i know you did send an email re the filtrex as synth, i thought you preferred posts on here rather than emails, hence this posting.

Been thinking about this as well, possibly crazy, but would turning a 5u rack on its side provide the appropriate horizontal rails? Otherwise, theyre $50 plus shipping from bridechamber, who are out of stock currently anyway.

Since ive already got a couple of simple sequencers, a LFO and 2 ADSRs on the way and the quad VCA, im thinking currently;

VCO (2u)
A Filter*

Would be a very powerful synth/effects/processing box.

But again, sorry, a bit of help with regards to deciding if its better to build, (*for example), the 3u Diode Superladder as a 3u module, and not buy a mixer, or to have a mixer and just build a 1u filter. Things like this, having never used a modular synth, things like that aren't very obvious to me.

I thank you for all your help.

My theory is if i get a complete synth as a backlog, i can then ignore all future developments for a while ! Be good if it works! lol

I can also in theory, buy a load of components in bulk, and save a little that way. And with oakley, im not hunting for obscure japanese transistors or anything, just standard bits from rapid or farnell.

Many thanks again, i appreciate you input.

Cheers, Ben
Well, especially for a smaller system I would opt for separate mixers and filters. And as you don't have a filter in that list, I probably would choose the State Variable Filter, as it's the most flexible providing LP, HP and BP outputs. Especially when you want to use it as an FX/Processing box.

For the VCOs, in a small system, I think the SVCO-B is a good option. Two of em will provide a lot of beefy sounds, and only use 2 spaces! You lack a sine wave that way, but a filter (for example the SVF) will provide that in self resonance. You can use a SVCO-B as VC LFO too! 8_)

For mixers, use the multimix. It's more powerful in a small system, and allows for feedback loops, CV and audio mixing, and inverting signals.
Speaking of feedback loops, on the multimix page is this:
Mixer's with reversible attenuators on their inputs are very useful for controlling audio and CVs. One excellent application uses a MultiMix with a VCA to create a very flexible ring modulator.

I don't know if it works with the Quad VCA, but it probably will!

Oh, and with having a huge backlog: I do have that. Watch out though, Synth DIY is more addictive then heroin. razz
Paradigm X wrote:
i thought you preferred posts on here rather than emails, hence this posting.

Some things are better sent to the forum. You should get a more varied response than just my opinion. And I think this sort of question is better answered by multiple people.

Having said that, it's actually difficult to find the exact modules you need until you start to use them. You only have to look as the buy and sale sub forum on this site to know how often people change their minds about their own gear. Me too - I'm amazed at how many things I used to (still) go through.

Paradigm X wrote:
but would turning a 5u rack on its side provide the appropriate horizontal rails?

Personally, I'd keep to the standard way of doing things. It's easier to sell and swap in stuff if you do change your mind.

With regards to modules with mixers - well, I now prefer to have my mixers separate. But many others are different which is why I do give people the option of building it one way or the other. In the end it's all down to personal preference and those preferences are often found only by actually using the things.

I guess the thing to do is just go for it and see how you get on. It's all good fun.

Rack rails are a problem though. I think Paul Darlow toyed with the idea of getting a load done. I have one set that he did and they're excellent. Nicely made and with metric threads too.

Paradigm X
Thanks both (sorry, been v busy with work).

Just thought id ask as i have bought a few things aimlessly now and i need to get an idea of a system together, before i order more stuff. Ive bought 2 sequencers, 4 vcas and no VCOs. d'oh!

Part of the problem is ive never even used a modular. used a lot of analogue synths before but never modular. Only recently realised that a synth oscillators runs constantly and is turned off and on when required, i always assumed that it started on a note on (or gate) and off afterwards. Loads to learn!

Ill order a few bits very soon, im getting a bit of a tax rebate so when that comes thru ill order It's peanut butter jelly time!

ill post up in a bit more detail later when i get a chance.

many thanks, Ben
Paradigm X
(Thinking out loud as much as anything else)...

Still considering these options;

I really want Equinoxe and Ring Mod as a minimum; its going to be as much a processing box as a synth. Also, easy, cheap and in stock.

Im thinking VCO (1of3) - partly because all bits are obtainable easily. Also the sine will be very useful as itll be ultimately mainly a bass box. SVCO B does look slick but Octave board out of stock. And also, being very pedantic/stubborn, paying 50p for the tranny needed from dalbani with a £5 postage charge p's me off.

Had previously discounted the ADSR as it has a vca and ive already got a quad VCA/mixer on the way. But this would be a super simple plug and play with the VCO, and can use the quad VCA as a mixer as well. Ill get the VC version as have two others ordered (roland 100m clones). Ill tehn have two normal and one VC ADSR smile

Ill somehow patch my filtrex in for now to get me started. Could be a bit more than id allowed for overall, pcbs are fine all the parts really add up.

The VRG also looks mine, is it similar to the Serge DUSG ? Sounds it to me. Meant to be amazing. But out of stock.

And discontinuity also looks amazing. I assume i can plug in x0xb0x etc as well? Modulars are great!

I obviously need a PSU as well, which i had overlooked. d'oh!

So will prob do in two chunks rather than one. :( Also need to buy the 5u racks etc so getting a bit much for one fell swoop.

So will prob order most of the above soonish, and the rest later.

One other thing, cant decide if the sockboards are a plus or not, look great on the face of it, but never made one of those connectors before, and a bit concerned its a bit fiddly for its worth. And it adds cost.

So any further comments/advice appreciated, and then ill order next week!

Cheers. Ben
Paradigm X wrote:

One other thing, cant decide if the sockboards are a plus or not, look great on the face of it, but never made one of those connectors before, and a bit concerned its a bit fiddly for its worth. And it adds cost.

Depends how much you like panel wiring I find. I found them confusing to start off with and a pain to put the connectors together, but as with everything practice makes capable (perfect would be an exaggeration!). I don't mind panel wiring, but it's quite fiddly as well, especially if you're dealing with something with a lot of sockets.

I think an ADSR is a must for a modular. You might have different ideas, but to me the sweetest sound in the world is a swept filter, and having an ADSR to do this for you frees you up to wiggle elsewhere. Also as noted you need something to turn the notes on and off.

If I had to go for a 10U limit, and had to include the Equinoxe and Ring Mod, I would go for in addition:

2 * Slim VCO, ADSR-VCA (the single unit one), 1U COTA filter, noise & dual filter, Quad VCA, VC LFO.

This assumes you've got external MIDI in - but you might not need that (I like melodies!). I'm a total filter addict - this would give you three low pass, high pass and band pass filters on top of the phaser. This isn't my list of favourite modules, I'm just going for maximum flexibility in a 10U system. And I just wired up a noise and dual filter this week, so as the new boy this comes with a massive bias! Spending 2 hours swapping in and out transistors to get the 'sweetest' noise will do that....

By the way the discontinuity IS great, but I think how much you could use it to the best of its ability would be limited without multiple LFOs / ADSR. I only finished mine last week, and still haven't got anywhere near familiar with it as it's pretty complex - so take this advice with that in mind. But I've found the greatest use of it is adding complexity to a sound, rather than using it as a specific effect.

Cheers and good luck! I've found the Oakley stuff to be easy to build, the documentation is brilliant and most importantly of all sounds absolutely amazing.
Paradigm X
Many thanks thebot, thats exactly the sort of info im looking for.

Still not 100% sure, completely indecisive. My supplier sent the wrong pots over the weekend, cry so im literally waiting for those to finish the filtrex.

Still considering the simple monosyth tony suggested. Im half scared of biting off more than i can chew in one fell swoop.

I also think i can put the ring mod on hold, hardly essential. Arguably also the phaser, although i do love phase and it would be useful instantly.

I agree, Oakley stuff is very well documented, and easy to build. The filtrex ive rattled off! If i had all the parts, i reckon i could have done in 2 evenings, which is awesome! (he says before hes tested it works!).

Cheers again,
Well, I've built:

COTA Filter
Croglin Filter
Triple LFO
Noise and dual filter
Diode Ladder Filter
Ring Mod I've got most of the things you're thinking about. Let me know if you want examples of how any of these sound - it would need to wait until the weekend but happy to do it if it helps? (BTW, I haven't really done sound samples before, but first time for everything right?).
Paradigm X
Thanks Man, thats really kind.

mostly intrigued by the differences in the filters, as im all about filters. But leaving that to last, while subbing in my filtrex in the meantime.

From what youve said above the only difference between vco and svco is the sine output?

If youve got time, please do; not sure what to ask for really, all on the list ! lol

Im thinking grabbing 10u's worth of pcbs in one swoop might not be a great idea in retrospect. Think ill grab equinoxe next.

Many thanks, Ben
Cool, I'll try and do some comparisons between the filters then.

Paradigm X wrote:
From what youve said above the only difference between vco and svco is the sine output?

Actually no - just if I had to fit it in 10U I would use two s-vco, and only cause I love the options you get with a dual oscillator. For a few months I only had a single VCO, and that seemed great and I had loads of fun, but the options you get with a dual oscillator set up for different sounds makes me think I couldn't live with a single osc now. If space was no option I would probably have dual VCOs, just cause it has more options - although the octave switch on the S-VCO does come in handy.
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