What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

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KSS
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What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

Post by KSS » Mon Feb 24, 2020 4:46 am

Subject says it. Am not looking for yet another favorite makers thread. So be specific. What is it that leads you to declare a certain module is of high build quality?

It's inevitable that makers will be mentioned, and that's fine. But this is *not* about who makes the best modules. It's asking what is it that makes the rock solid build quality modules so for You?

For example, L1's rear blank aluminum plate covering the PCB as evidence of better build, or it can be seen as an unnecessary and extra expense in a product intended for use in a case. Extra weight when used in a portable case too.

It's also inevitable that visuals and extras like the panel layout, PCB color and logos, packaging and included "extras" might be a factor for some. Even though this isn't technically making the module itself any better, one could say it shows the maker cares more and that adds to a perception of rock solid.

What say you all? How do you know , and what do you mean, when you give high marks for build quality?

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Shledge
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Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

Post by Shledge » Mon Feb 24, 2020 5:04 am

Non wobbly knobs, sturdy overall construction with no flexing, materials don't look like they can bend easily, labels printed clearly, not using a PCB as the front panel etc.

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Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

Post by BugBrand » Mon Feb 24, 2020 5:58 am

Shledge wrote:
Mon Feb 24, 2020 5:04 am
..not using a PCB as the front panel...
Contentious! Lovely material as long as you don't go with the regular 1.6mm thickness - I've used 3.2mm for 10 years and it is attractive, strong, clear.
[though getting panels made without scratches/blemishes remains hard]

A major factor for me has always been trying to get everything repeatable - setting what standard components are used throughout multiple designs. Though early on there was a lot of trial & error to arrive at my chosen standards, now I can design things as relatively easily buildable in batches, strong, crisp, consistent. Hardware 'feel' is definitely of importance - agreed on wobble pots!

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Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

Post by cg_funk » Mon Feb 24, 2020 6:17 am

When I got my Joranalogue Filter8 in the mail and I grabbed it out of the box, I audibly exclaimed ‘wow this thing is rock solid!’. It’s just super well built. Thick aluminum front panel. Solid non-wonky knobs. Large solid switches that really click. None of those dinky surface mount trim pot knobs that wobble.

My Planar2 also feels really solidly built. And it had better be, that joystick gets a lot of wiggling and it’s holding up really well. No wiggle at all in the joystick, it sends a CV that’s exactly what you move, feels very tight.

Belgrad has that giant chicken-head selector in front, it’s got that serious industrial feel to it as well. I like it! Very solid clicks. That tactile feedback is a big part of how solid a thing feels in hand.

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Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

Post by sallowworm » Mon Feb 24, 2020 6:49 am

Stability, no wobbly pots and the ability to withstand travel. One of favourite instruments is the Lyra 8, it feels indestructible and would probably break a foot if accidentally dropped. I have heard very good things about AJH eurorack modules and am currently eyeing up a Minimod system :hmm:

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Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

Post by Pelsea » Mon Feb 24, 2020 1:43 pm

There are three aspects to consider--visual, tactile, and performance.

Visual: What is the panel made of--Aluminum? (OK if thick enough) PC board? (ditto) Plastic? (yuck) Is the panel clearly printed? Do things line up? Are there burrs along the edges? Does it have slotted mounting holes? Are there knobs on all controls (even sliders)? Do the pots mount on the panel or just stick through a hole? What kind of nuts hold the jacks in? Knurled (cheap), shaped hex (expensive), flat oversized hex (really cheap). If there's a display, is it bright enough, readable from the side?

Tactile: How do the controls feel? Smooth, stiff, wobbly? What's it like to put a plug in-- loose? too tight? Is it a fight to remove?

Performance: Any extraneous noise? Noise when you turn a pot? Pop when you patch? Output levels appropriate? Does v/oct tracking need to be adjusted out of the box? Does it change after 24 hours?

A high quality build is easy to achieve. All it takes is high quality parts and materials ($), high quality tooling ($$) , and a skilled assembly team ($$$$).
Books and tutorials on modular synthesis at http://peterelsea.com
Patch responsibly-
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Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

Post by Radiance2021 » Mon Feb 24, 2020 6:31 pm

Having a studio gear design/build background (tube gear / mixers / EQ's etc) I give props to;

- making things easy to disassemble / fix
- good heat dissipation
- no over engineering, no expensive parts in places where it does not matter

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Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

Post by loopt » Mon Feb 24, 2020 6:37 pm

The build quality of a module only shows in its lifespan.
Everything else is aesthetics and ergonomics.

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Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

Post by DIVINEAUDIO » Mon Feb 24, 2020 7:49 pm

Working in manufacturing, I notice a lot of small details that many people may not. Are the pots and switches nutted to the panel, and are the nuts actually tight? Do all of the components physically feel solid or are they loose and flimsy (like my Koma Field Kits)? I love the thicker front panels that Doepfer uses, but am irked to no end that they couldn't be bothered to deburr them after the shearing process (dear manufacturers - ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS deburr your sharp corners and edges.) Also, I've had several modules that can't be racked without removing their neighbors because the perforations on the pcb stick out beyond it's specified hp. Fixed in a small amount of time with a file, but why wouldn't someone catch this at the QC stage?

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Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

Post by Jd1979 » Fri Mar 20, 2020 7:08 pm

Rock solid build quality means a system that tracks well, has limited to no cross talk, sounds huge and clear, is very versatile and well constructed.

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Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

Post by KSS » Fri Mar 20, 2020 10:23 pm

Jd1979 wrote:
Fri Mar 20, 2020 7:08 pm
Rock solid build quality means a system that tracks well, has limited to no cross talk, sounds huge and clear, is very versatile and well constructed.
But what does "well constructed" actually mean or require for You?

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Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

Post by KSS » Fri Mar 20, 2020 10:25 pm

Thank You all for the replies. Please keep them coming.
It's also inevitable that visuals and extras like the panel layout, PCB color and logos, packaging and included "extras" might be a factor for some. Even though this isn't technically making the module itself any better, one could say it shows the maker cares more and that adds to a perception of rock solid.
Am somewhat surprised this hasn't been much of a factor in assessment of build quality.

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Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

Post by Jd1979 » Fri Mar 20, 2020 10:29 pm

KSS wrote:
Fri Mar 20, 2020 10:23 pm
Jd1979 wrote:
Fri Mar 20, 2020 7:08 pm
Rock solid build quality means a system that tracks well, has limited to no cross talk, sounds huge and clear, is very versatile and well constructed.
But what does "well constructed" actually mean or require for You?
That’s a great question. For me well constructed refers to a couple of different components. First being the design and interface layout. Is it user friendly? Does it contain all of the features I am looking for? Great example would be an oscillator. For me a well constructed oscillator has volt/oct inputs and gate/ internal vca so that it can be easily controlled by external gear. I expect the module to be stable in its functionality, and sound needs to be spot on. In addition, I expect the materials and components to be of high quality and durable so they stand the test of time. This is what we’ll constructed means to me. Hope that helps a bit.

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Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

Post by DSC » Fri Mar 20, 2020 10:42 pm

Radiance2021 wrote:
Mon Feb 24, 2020 6:31 pm
Having a studio gear design/build background (tube gear / mixers / EQ's etc) I give props to;

- making things easy to disassemble / fix
- good heat dissipation
- no over engineering, no expensive parts in places where it does not matter
These are great!!!!

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Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

Post by dros3raq » Sat Mar 21, 2020 12:33 am

    anodized aluminum panels
      if a module cost more than $300 and it isn't a vintage part-for-part clone or DIY kit, it should be using surface mount components.
        there should not be any solder rosin/sticky residue on the back of the PCB. even if manufactures build their modules by hand, the pcbs should be cleaned to prevent dust from building up on the panels over time.
          the ink on the front panels should be resistant to water/household cleaning solvents.
            all power headers should be shrouded/keyed with a clear indicator of the polarity on the back of the PCB.
              temperature/tracking compensation is a must.
                mini-pots w/o knobs should only be used for attenuation.
                  metal front panels should be cut and sanded free of irregularities.
                    today if a module is digital, it should be 24 bit/196khz minimum for any digital audio or CV signal path.
                      modules should have a way of visually indicating the voltage level of CV inputs with LEDs or LED jacks.
                        jacks should be sturdy enough to handle cable stacking without cables coming loose.

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                        Voltcontrol
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                        Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

                        Post by Voltcontrol » Sat Mar 21, 2020 1:24 am

                        DSC wrote:
                        Fri Mar 20, 2020 10:42 pm
                        Radiance2021 wrote:
                        Mon Feb 24, 2020 6:31 pm
                        Having a studio gear design/build background (tube gear / mixers / EQ's etc) I give props to;

                        - making things easy to disassemble / fix
                        - good heat dissipation
                        - no over engineering, no expensive parts in places where it does not matter.
                        These are great!!!!
                        This.
                        Working with solidly built gear that is designed to be serviced and last makes you appreciate quality.

                        Prime example from my experience are Dateq and Rodec DJ mixers. I used to fully disassemble (take out the individual channel pcb's) and clean them once a year in my club, you wouldn't believe the amount of dried up residue from spilled beers and soft drinks that came out. Those things can take a huge amount of abuse and last a lifetime. Dateq has trimmed down their mixer line to bigger desks only, Rodeq is also still in business but not producing new equipment any more unfortunately.

                        Have not seen the same level of 'solid' in the modular domain due to size/density, but principles as stipulated by DCS definitely apply. The sidenote I'd make is that usually equipment and parts that are (repeatably) easy to disassemble and fix also feel great to use, which adds to the perception of quality.

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                        Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

                        Post by Studioalethea » Sat Mar 21, 2020 1:24 am

                        “Rock solid” for me means two things that are related but not identical.

                        I usually use the term to mean dependable. Like an SM58. It always works. It’s simple but also well-built. You can throw it against a wall, pick it up with a dented grill and put it on a vocalist. It is dependable BECAUSE it is so solidly constructed.

                        Good design will always yield a clean, intuitive look that is also durable and long-lasting. A module in the hand should feel like you could drop it without consequence... even though you obviously shouldn’t.

                        Nothing should rattle around and sound hollow when you handle it. I like some of the above suggestions. Solid front panels. Nutted pots. I also wish we as a community utilized the stabilization legs on pots more, as well as the little tab we are often instructed to snip off. Anything that rotates or moves shouldn’t feel wobbly. I like an aluminum knob if possible. I just generally don’t consider anything made of plastic as “quality” or durable. Engraved panels seem higher end.

                        If we’re talking not just “rock solid” but also things that aesthetically make a module seem higher end, I like design details in the PCB. Maybe thicker boards with nicer solder pads. Clear lettering and numbering. No printing errors, silkscreen covering copper. I like to see care and attention all around, and even if that doesn’t directly influence the durability, overall “build quality” takes care with even the smallest details.

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                        Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

                        Post by Blairio » Sun Mar 22, 2020 1:08 am

                        Most products are built to a budget, and the product designer has to understand the requirements capture for the product. With modular, sound quality is paramount. Who is going to buy a crap sounding VCO or filter? After that may come ergonomics (ease of use, how intuitive the controls are).

                        For me build quality isn't paramount. Given budget constraints, a module's build only needs to be good enough - not perfect throughout. Perfect throughout is arguably a waste of resources. A Rolls Royce aspires to deliver top quality materials and workmanship, but a lot of its purchase price is wasted. Hand stitched Calf leather seats and hand finished burr walnut fascias do not actually function any better than much cheaper alternatives.

                        Legend has it that one of the first components to be designed for the Lexus car range was the door / ignition key. This is because it is the first touch point the the owner has of the vehicle. A key that looks and feels great implies high build quality of the vehicle itself.

                        So I agree that for a module to 'feel' like it has good build quality, switches, buttons, pots and faders must feel reassuringly robust and have a positive action. After that the module should use components with a reasonably high MTBF (mean time between failures), and soldering be to a competent standard.

                        A point often missed is how easy to maintain and repair something is. So if a pot goes noisy, or a socket developed intermittent connectivity, or a chip fails, how easy is it too replace these? PCB mounted pots and sockets require competent desoldering, whereas panel mounted ones are easier to swap out. ZIF(Zero Insertion Force) chip mounts mean you just pull a chip out and stick a new one in, without having to desolder two dozen legs and risk lifting a PCB trace or three.

                        So something well designed and built should also be something that is easy to maintain.

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                        Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

                        Post by Monofunk » Sun Mar 22, 2020 2:13 am

                        Blairio wrote:
                        Sun Mar 22, 2020 1:08 am
                        A point often missed is how easy to maintain and repair something is. So if a pot goes noisy, or a socket developed intermittent connectivity, or a chip fails, how easy is it too replace these? PCB mounted pots and sockets require competent desoldering, whereas panel mounted ones are easier to swap out. ZIF(Zero Insertion Force) chip mounts mean you just pull a chip out and stick a new one in, without having to desolder two dozen legs and risk lifting a PCB trace or three.

                        So something well designed and built should also be something that is easy to maintain.
                        The ability to maintain and service a design to keep it in operation is a critical consideration when it comes to instruments and quality.

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                        Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

                        Post by Mr. Aloud » Sun Mar 22, 2020 7:04 am

                        Adding protective measures for wrong cabling for the front connectors.
                        A clear indication of -12V on the PCB.
                        It would seem that still, after all these years, perception is essentially thought to be a passive process.

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                        Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

                        Post by MarcelP » Sun Mar 22, 2020 7:31 pm

                        Blairio wrote:
                        Sun Mar 22, 2020 1:08 am


                        So something well designed and built should also be something that is easy to maintain.
                        As a service engineer for 38 years in pro-audio and bio-tech I am overjoyed to see this comment! :tu:

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                        Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

                        Post by teleport » Sun Mar 22, 2020 7:59 pm

                        For me the analogy implied in the title couldn't be more apt.

                        I've found equipment that inspires confidence (and warrants investing lots of time with), tends to have certain mechanical qualities : tight build (as-close-to zero flex in panels or case as possible), good acoustics (or ideally lack of multiple vibrational modes, smooth or intentionally finished surfaces and edges, no rattle or vibration felt when tapped or jolted), stability = adequate weight + low center-of-mass ratio (tends to stay put on a level surface, not liable to be pulled around by cables or budge when interacted with (button and jack location can make a big difference here)).

                        The above applies more generally than just to modular - but just considering module panels; a good example of an annoying design is a panel which is too thin and/or mounted loosely and maybe has jacks that are too tight, the flexibility causes the panel/case to flex bend when unplugging, which creates momentary misalignment of the plug, which causes undue stress to the jack internals or solder points, which in time leads to failures. Over the long haul looser tolerances lead to disintegrating gear.

                        Building to these points isn't necessarily cheap, these kinds of considerations are most fully realized in industrial test equipment and professional tools rather than consumer products. The weight factor alone is one that can cause serious concerns for manufacturers due to the multiplicative factors involved in shipping.

                        That being the case, as designers and users of equipment - we have never had more options than the present in terms of materials choices and production methods available and at smaller quantities than ever before with the manufacturing and communication services of today. Well built and well loved equipment that stands the test of time and has a long service life is a better use of resources than something that will be discarded or unused, imho.

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                        Re: What does rock solid build quality mean to You?

                        Post by naturligfunktion » Mon Mar 23, 2020 5:49 am

                        It’s a feeling, you know it when you feel it: when something is rock solid.

                        When you pick it up, it’s heavy. Made out of steel or wood, with attention to detail. It does not rattle, it does not make a sound when you give it a shake. Right about now, you feel a sensation of awe. You put it down. It sits firmly on the table.

                        It looks good. You start to poke at it. Everything is solid. It makes you wanna wiggle with it. It gives you a strong feeling of power and joy.

                        You want everything else you buy to feel like this: rock solid

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