DIY or not DIY?

Anything modular synth related that is not format specific.

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Pelsea
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DIY or not DIY?

Post by Pelsea » Wed Jun 03, 2020 4:29 pm

This is a necro bump of this thread from 2016.
I'm reviving it because I'd like opinions from newer members and I've moved it from the DIY zone because, well anyone looking there probably does like to build stuff right?

The questions I'd like to see addressed are:
1) Do you build any of your own stuff?
2) Why?
3) Or why not?
4) What sort of thing do you build?

My answers:
Yes, because in my early life it was build or do without. (My first was a phono preamp built from a schematic in the GE tube catalog in 1959.) I can afford a modest modular in retirement, but it seems odd to spend my own money on stock items. The totals for the current system:
Total modules (so far) 71
Built from scratch 30
Built from kits 20
3 out of 4 cases, but they are ugly.

My choice to build or not is based on the complexity of the module. I don't have a good way to cut slots in panels, so filter banks are out. I also don't care to code DSP from scratch (library based systems like Teensy are OK). For modules requiring either, I first look for a kit, or buy as a last resort. So most of my home-made modules are on the simple side like mixers and VCAs (I have a Moogish sequencer on the drawing board though.) The bought in stuff includes Synchrodyne, 4ms Spectral Multiband resonator, and Erbeverb. I have a bunch of MI clone kits and just finished a Klee.
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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by beepnsleep » Wed Jun 03, 2020 7:38 pm

1/4) yes, but so far only a couple basic modules. a big muff pi clone and I have a simple master clock coming. I have a few Haible PCBs to build (Frequency shifter, triple chorus, SOST, 2x trap VCA). I don't have much interest in building SMT or digital modules

2) I like the potential for customisation DIY offers as ideally I'd end up with a fully balanced synth with proper chassis ground and bantams

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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by cornutt » Wed Jun 03, 2020 8:02 pm

Building MOTM kits is what got me started. At the time, I could not have afforded it if I was buying assembled modules. And besides, it was fun. MOTM kits were very well organized and that made it easy.

I got away from DIY for a while, but now I'm trying to get back into it. The motivation now is not money so much, but an opportunity to do some things the way I want to do them.
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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by Whelm » Wed Jun 03, 2020 8:23 pm

1) Do I? Yes.

2) Why? Two reasons. Originally it was purely as a way to save money. And I guess it still is. After buying my first handful of modules I learned there was a whole DIY side of the modular scene, I joined a hackerspace in order to use their soldering irons, and that's how I got started. The second reason is that I like to build things.

4) What? So far I've built a 10U case worth. Up til now I've been limited to stuffing PCBs but, because I like to build things, I'm now working on learning a bit more about circuitry and electronics in order to put stuff together at the schematic level. Currently working on putting together a drum box with Thomas Henry's drum cookbook and some Electric Druid chips.
Last edited by Whelm on Wed Jun 03, 2020 8:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by wuff_miggler » Wed Jun 03, 2020 8:34 pm

1) Do you build any of your own stuff?
yes, i got the diy bug about 10 years ago.

2) Why?
generally DIY-audio has an incredibly ROI because 'ideal' speakers have a lot of stuff which is generally expensive for mass production - lambs ool lining, 2.5" mdf, heavy enclosures which are more expensive to ship, better compnents which are time consuming to match etc etc.

3) Or why not?
NA

4) What sort of thing do you build?

i first modded a guitar with my own pickups, then got into speaker building, and DIY audio... lightweight stuff like building a phono preamp, then got into car audio which was real challenge at the time as it forced me to rip up my car...stick a bunch of crazy overpowered heavy shit in it - and put it back together...was completely out of my depth - but the success in this project was incredible in developing confidence and really made me realise with enough thinking and planning - there is a possibility to do anything i can really put my mind to.

i recently bought Bart Hopkin's book on instrument design and am looking forward to build both some traditional instruments + some of the experimental ones talked about in his Experimental Musical Instrument journal. i think before i get into this though - i'd like to buy some really nice mid range japanese tools/saws and explore pure hand (no electric tools) joinery with fine timber. I made a japanese inspired zen garden tray for a family member using silky oak a few years ago - and i still look at that thing in awe - even though its literally a few sides of finely finished cuts, chamfered with an mdf base + 2 risers below it. it looks absolutely stunning!

i also want to build pedals and modules, though the lower cost savings of music electronics compared to diy speaker building and diy amps really puts me off. it shouldnt though!

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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by sduck » Wed Jun 03, 2020 9:49 pm

I build tons of stuff, and have been doing modular stuff since 2003 about. I also got started doing MOTM format stuff - as Cornutt says, they're a great entry point. I ended up building up virtually all of a wall of MOTM stuff, some 75 modules, maybe about half from some sort of kit, and a lot of adaptions of stuff from other formats. I've also built a lot in this format for others. I ran out of room for this format a few years back, so have ramped that down mostly.

Now I also have a large euro setup - but only a percentage of that is DIY, and usually just easy peasy kit type stuff. But it seems I'm always building something, or doing repairs or whatever.
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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by Jay F. » Thu Jun 04, 2020 12:18 am

1) Do you build any of your own stuff?

Yes. I even blog about it.
Total modules : 20
  • Built from scratch : 8 (1 being the adaptation of a kit).
  • Built from kits : 6
  • DIY Panel over pre-soldered PCBA : 1
  • Commercial assembled : 5
1 DIY case using Doepfer DIY Eurorack kit.

2) Why?

I simply find interesting to build stuff. I really want to experiment and have the satisfaction of building a unique instrument.
It is a journey and I learn a lot in the making.

4) What sort of thing do you build?

Modules built from scratch are from simple circuits I find on the internet (mixer, multiple, attenuator, sample&hold, sloth, ...).
Kits are designs that are a bit too dense for my skills (filters, VCO, Turing Machine, ramp generators, ...).

The rest are
  • modules I was not confident building at the beginning (i.e. VCO)
  • modules I liked but couldn't find an elegant way to make (i.e. Mutable Instruments)
  • modules in a very small package (i.e. 2hp Tune)
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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by synkrotron » Thu Jun 04, 2020 3:35 am

1) Do you build any of your own stuff?

Yes

2) Why?

I have always had a passing interest in electronics and, lately, I want to save a bit cash.

3) Or why not?

There are certain projects that I would never consider mainly due to difficulty level and cost.

4) What sort of thing do you build?

Just passive stuff at the moment. Attenuators, multiples and, more recently, a couple of vactrol based "low pass gates." I have materials ready to make a switched multiple and an OR wired socket. So far everything I have made has been point to point. At some point I am going to have to at least get some matrix board or strip board to mount components on.


A bit of history,

I first picked up a soldering iron at around 14/15 (can't remember exactly). Every now and then I would pick up a copy of Practical Electronics. I don't really remember what made me take up this hobby to be honest... That was like 45 years ago. I didn't make much back then and spent most of my time reading about it and trying to learn some of the theory. Most of that is now lost and I am having to pick it back up again.

My most ambitious build during that time was a small sequencer made from a decade counter and a number of astable multivibrator oscillators. Very simple, but I seem to remember that it cost me an absolute fortune.

I was lucky, in a way, that there was a shop in town called Webb Electronics (since changed to Webb Alarms) and I got all of my stuff from there.

Since then I have always had a soldering iron, though it hardly got used. Just the odd bit of mending stuff here and there over the years.

Then I was persuaded to get into Eurorack by my eldest son and I came across a post here about a simple passive attenuator circuit and I thought I'd have a go at that because as well as being a very easy build it is a very handy utility. I made half a dozen a couple of years ago all mounted in their own little box.

Fast forward to May 2020 and I now have a new case to fill (173HP). I have some modules ready to go in there that were removed from my two other cases to make room for new modules. Then I thought I might as well make some more attenuators, this time mounted on panels. Next I bought some bits to try my hand at making some passive low pass gate things similar to my Meng-QI DPLPG module.

I am currently looking at trying some powered stuff next, like a buffered multiple and I need some more VCA's and attenuvertors with offset like the Doepfer A-183-2. And some LFO would be nice to. I use lots of LFO and making some DIY ones would free up some of my multi-function modules for other purposes.

I don't fancy making any voltage controlled oscillators... They sound a bit too difficult with all that calibration stuff.

I won't be embarking upon any DSP stuff either. I'd love another o_C but that kind of stuff is far beyond me now. My eyesight is crap and I no longer have a steady hand.

For the time being I am also avoiding kits, although that may change. I quite like the idea of taking an existing circuit design that I find online and building from that as opposed to following kit build instructions from pictures. And some of the kits are not that much cheaper than say a Doepfer finished module.

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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by Agawell » Thu Jun 04, 2020 12:25 pm

synkrotron wrote:
Thu Jun 04, 2020 3:35 am
I'd love another o_C but that kind of stuff is far beyond me now. My eyesight is crap and I no longer have a steady hand.
https://www.thonk.co.uk/shop/plum-audio-ocp/ : more expensive than a doepfer module - but it's a through hole o_C - not SMD
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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by Agawell » Thu Jun 04, 2020 12:35 pm

1) Do you build any of your own stuff? yes
2) Why? originally I wanted to save a bit of money, but it didn't really work like that - and I like building modules from time to time
4) What sort of thing do you build? a couple of cases, power supplies, modules from kits, modules from pcb/panels - have no interest in designing my own modules really - don't want to get into pcb/panel construction etc etc
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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by synkrotron » Thu Jun 04, 2020 12:36 pm

Agawell wrote:
Thu Jun 04, 2020 12:25 pm
https://www.thonk.co.uk/shop/plum-audio-ocp/ : more expensive than a doepfer module - but it's a through hole o_C - not SMD
Yeah, I spotted that the other day... Out of stock, as are a lot of their kits :despair:

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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by moremagic » Thu Jun 04, 2020 1:51 pm

i dont. id really love to get i to it, but every time ive tried to learn soldering any better than id need to for a guitar i screw ⬆️
lack of a good workspace keeps me from messin around til i get the hang of it, but maybe one day

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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by cptnal » Thu Jun 04, 2020 2:38 pm

Food for thought as always. :tu:

1. Yes and no. I've built two cases, but no modules.

2. For cases, there's fewer options as your space requirements grow, so I built to my own spec.

3. I don't have the patience for soldering. I had the iron out today in fact, just to tin the ends of some speaker wire, and even that was frustrating. I probably need a better iron. Also, I don't feel there's a functional hole that needs filled as there was above (2).

4. Maybe if I ever got into it I'd build myself a Euro-Serge of Random*Source kits.

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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by pekbro » Thu Jun 04, 2020 4:21 pm

Definitely have an interest, but have yet to do it, still need to break down and buy all the gear to do it right.
I am into wood working so I make my own cases. Also interested in designing and building modules from scratch.
Not to try to sell, just to be able to build what I want, a custom eurorack mixer for instance.

I have a pretty good understanding of how it all works.

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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by theboywho » Thu Jun 04, 2020 6:52 pm

1) Do you build any of your own stuff?
Some of my own stuff, yes
2) Why?
A bit cheaper, a bit more satisfaction, a bit more control over what I've got
3) Or why not?
Something really specific I want, or too niche, or too advanced
4) What sort of thing do you build?
I started out building guitar pedals, firsts from complete kits, then buying the PCB and sourcing the parts, then on occasion stripboard layouts or PTP, with with I also built a couple of guitar amps. More recently I've massively slimmed down my pedal board and got more into modular synths. Currently I'd say I've built about a third of my modules, all from kits, mainly because of the situation with buying stuff in the last few months. I've not bought a bunch of board and components to build some more stuff, as it's cheaper that way, but takes a lot longer. I'll be replacing a bunch of my modules with DIY ones, but some I'll be keeping where I can't get exactly what I want with DIY.

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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by Agawell » Fri Jun 05, 2020 5:06 am

synkrotron wrote:
Thu Jun 04, 2020 12:36 pm
Out of stock, as are a lot of their kits :despair:
they'll be back in eventually - patience!
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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by pugix » Sat Jun 06, 2020 4:16 pm

Yes, I DI myself! :)

Started building electrical toys when I was maybe eight years old. Started soldering at fourteen or so and built my own amateur radio gear. After dropping out of college (don't worry, I went back), I got jobs soldering in factories (which really taught me how). Then I worked in a video art studio and built a lot of gear, including assembling paper face Serge boats. Built my own first modular synth around 1980. Then a big gap. Around 2002 I discovered MOTM kits and built a bunch, going on to adapt Blacet, CGS and other circuits to MOTM format.

When I finally bit and got some Eurorack, I wasn't aware of DIY in Eurorack at first. Now I've build a bunch. I have a DIY tag on my blog to collect these projects.

https://pugix.com/synth/tag/diy/

So, as to Why, I suppose I've always liked building stuff. The cost savings are a side benefit.

What do I build? Besides modules, I've put together a number of cases and power supplies. I even designed a wireless CV transmitter with a muscle sensor, and the receiver as a module.

Not that I couldn't learn new tricks, but this old dog shies away from soldering SMD. I love those kits that come with the SMD parts already soldered.
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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by Hutenberger » Wed Jun 10, 2020 3:11 pm

In my modular beginning days I saved a lot of money by building analogue modules by myself on strip board. Utility stuff such as level shifters or a mixer module is not rocket science.
If you go with strip board, be sure to prototype everything on a breadboard first!
Also for panels, I use a Proxxon MF70 which is really cool for small cuts.
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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by wackelpeter » Wed Jun 10, 2020 3:25 pm

1- Yes of course, take a look of the soundcloud pic below, it's my glorious collection of stripboards
2-because i wanted some effect tools for my "normal" synths, but then went down the whole rabbit hole of becoming addicted with DIY and well it makes fun, especially when you finally achieve your modules/builts working
3-...
4-all sorts of modules everything that fits on a stripboard.. the most challenging i think was the Ian Fritz Hypster Chaos and the CGS sequential switch.
My general attitude is due to lack of musical talent, coordination and the imagination that you just need X or Y to achieve something better, i constantly add this and that to my module collection and then i kinda build my own mostly automated patches with me hitting only some keys to transpose a sequence... well i do not use midi and record mostly direct onto 2 tracks of a 24 channel hdd recorder after doing some sort of mixing down in my modular and on a mixing desk...

obviously my "system" is one of the most ugly looking and unorganized ones, but at making noise for the neighbours it's great...

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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by ricko » Mon Jun 15, 2020 9:54 am

DIY is worth it for modules that are relatively simple (who would pay for a mult?) or relatively novel or to fill out modules to meet your particular requirements. If you are retired or unemployed, the economics are different, too.

But for the bootstrap modules of a system, I think all the current Behringer/Moog/intellijel/MI etc minisynth modules provide good bang per buck, depending on which country you live in, and let you move on to more interesting modules or ones more suited for new solderers. :-) Add up the price for the functionality that you would pay separately if you bought the equivalent kits, and often you are not saving money or time by building the basics: but that might not be a consideration.

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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by Domin » Wed Jun 17, 2020 9:41 am

Everybody here seems to love DIY so thought I could provide a counterpoint.
1) No and I don't have any intention to do it.
3) I know little about electronics so I would be limited to soldering kits. I don't find that kind of paint by numbers work appealing; I'd rather spend that time making music or playing games. Thought of debugging a system I know so little about is scary; not because I might fail but because hours of frustration it might cost me.

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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by tigersi » Wed Jun 17, 2020 1:17 pm

Ive got no electronic know how whatsoever.
I do quite fancy having a go of soldering some kits together. Especially a couple for my system.
Partly for an appreciation of the works that people put into these things and also to learn a new skill. Who knows where that new basic skill will lead.
I have the upmost respect for you people who can do these things.
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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by Onusbone » Wed Jun 17, 2020 1:29 pm

I received the niftycase in February, and bought some stimulus modules for it during the quarantine in late March/early April. Realizing that this would be a hard habit to maintain at the prebuilt price point, I started looking into DIY. I built my 9u 104hp case using a CNC I have at work, using open source plans that I modded, and a trogotronic power kit. I don't remember when I first picked up a soldering iron as a kid, and I know I never did anything meaningful with it until this year. But since May I have built a befaco 1/4" out, a MT Turing Mk2, a 4ms RCD, a trogotronic power bus, and I currently have a barton dual logic module sitting on my desk. I'm trying to do a kit a week, finances allowing. Only the RCD feels a little wonky, but they all work a treat. I have my eye on a RYK M185 next.

Eurorack is a GAS-vector hobby, for sure. But beyond the joy of playing with something I've built, and the savings, I find a great amount of satisfaction from the building process itself. Like any skill that improves with time and effort, it feels like an investment in self, even if the results are for frivolous purposes.

BTW, Pelsea, I bought a copy of your book and I love it immensely. Thank you for putting the work into it!

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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by Rex Coil 7 » Wed Jun 17, 2020 1:57 pm

Do I build? Yea, sometimes.

Why? Because I can. Because I want to. Mainly because what I want isn't offered.

Or why not? Because what I want is already offered commercially, or because I just don't want to futz with it and would rather have someone who's already all set up to build something. Eg; I commissioned a member to build an O_C for me. He'd built a number of them, he is familiar with their hitches and glitches (so to speak) so he also knew work arounds, and so on.

What sort of thing do I build? Pfft ... whatever. I've built about a dozen guitars, several basses, several tube amps, a few stomp boxes, some modular cases, custom power distribution systems (bus bar systems for both 15v and 12v cases), a fully normalized 5U performance system built with completely repanelled Dot Com module circuit boards (4 VCO, 2 VCF main system "voice" which includes 4 ring modulators). Lots of other crap.
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Re: DIY or not DIY?

Post by Bata » Thu Jun 18, 2020 8:49 am

I've been into synths for almost 15 years and have never built anything, I just don't see the need. I've bought a few analog monosynths over the years and use software for more complex things or polyphonic parts.

I bought an oscilloscope and frequency counter with the intention of building stuff but never got around to it. I don't take my music very seriously so the idea of custom gear is a little advanced to me.

If I was going to build anything it would be a VCS3 knockoff but I don't know how practical that would be for a beginner to attempt.

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