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Tell me more about ARIES synths!
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion  
Author Tell me more about ARIES synths!

Modorange

I have been playing my minimoog and some other stuff, and although I have been fascinated by modulars, never had the chance to lay my hands on one. Well the other day a friend showed me a modular synth his brother had laying around, not working but it looked like a promising synth with some restoration. It's an Aries 300. It had a larger black plywood box with several modules and the keyboard controller. He was pretty clear that he wanted a valuation of it, I instantly wanted to buy it! But so far I may just help the guy restore it and then who knows? Here's a pic from his cellphone: [/URL]
Also, I looked through the subject headings on this forum and honestly have no idea under which Aries synths topics should be started? Thanks for all the juicy knowledge about to be bestowed on my lucky self!


pulse_divider

The Aries 300 was designed by Dennis Colin, the man who designed the Arp 2600 with Alan Pearlman, and is one of the best sounding vintage modular systems IMO.
I believe it was the first grid-based layout and was the visual inspiration for the Wiard 300 series.
There used to be a fairly comprehensive Aries site on the web but I can't find it now.... Maybe it was taken down?
Fellow wiggler davebr is a wizard and can service these. He has fixed a few of my modules and documented it on his www.modularsynthesis.com website.


Dave Peck

I remember these! I actually got a tour of the Aries 'factory' in the 70's when I was a teenager, and I got to spend a good amount of time then, and at other times since, playing with a few of these synths. I remember that the oscillators seemed especially 'clean' and accurate, stayed in tune well, tracked well, and had waveforms that were more pure and accurate then a lot of other modulars (no rounded top on the saw waves or triangle waves, no odd curves in the plateaus of the squares waves, nice clean transitions with no spikes or overshoot at the 'corners' etc. Sorta 'lab quality' characteristics). I remember that the VC phaser module was especially good.

If you were to get your hands on one, you may want to consider just tossing the ancient power supply and buying a decent off-the-shelf new PS first, then start working on bringing the modules back to operating condition.


andrewF

The best Aries site was
http://www.leinermedia.net/aries/home.html
but it is dead now.
You can see it on wayback machine - HERE

The owner, Robert, is a very nice & helpful guy (he helped me develop a VCO a few years back by sending some pretty rare Aries files), on electro-music and muffs, he is source66.


JohnLRice

Cool find! Back in the day I wanted an Aries synth so bad but the most I could afford was PAiA. cry cool

Forum member kkissinger is a very nice guy and knows more than most folks about Aries synths but has only made a couple posts to Muff's. He is very active over on http://www.electro-music.com/forum/ though with the same name.

Here is an old Aries related thread by him:
http://www.electro-music.com/forum/viewtopic.php

And here is his personal website:
http://kevinkissinger.com/ariesinfo.shtml


MindMachine

Didn't Ron Rivera of the old Rivera Music Systems (RMS) work at Aries or did he just do those beautiful modifications? There used to be an ad every month in Contemporary Keyboard for RMS and their Aries or Minimoog modifications. He was top notch.


pulse_divider

MindMachine wrote:
Didn't Ron Rivera of the old Rivera Music Systems (RMS) work at Aries or did he just do those beautiful modifications? There used to be an ad every month in Contemporary Keyboard for RMS and their Aries or Minimoog modifications. He was top notch.


IIRC I believe he was the production manager and builder of the assembled modules.


Morley

I had a system and it was excellent. Robert still has his system. It was fun to use and certainly very close to the big boys. Well worth sorting it out. Value these days? Who knows. They used to be less than an arp 2600 when I got mine.


Beermaster

I Still have an 11 module Aries 300 system- mainly made up of the later much rarer modules - big sturdy designs with dual concentric pots and loads of options .


Modorange

Dave Peck wrote:


If you were to get your hands on one, you may want to consider just tossing the ancient power supply and buying a decent off-the-shelf new PS first, then start working on bringing the modules back to operating condition.


Where would I get an off-the-shellf PS? I am still considering this, a project like this has never presented itself to me in the past.


numan7

Modorange wrote:
Dave Peck wrote:


If you were to get your hands on one, you may want to consider just tossing the ancient power supply and buying a decent off-the-shelf new PS first, then start working on bringing the modules back to operating condition.


Where would I get an off-the-shellf PS? I am still considering this, a project like this has never presented itself to me in the past.


https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#safe=off&q=power+one+power+supplies


cheers


pulse_divider

The modules run off +/-15V, which is standard in MOTM, Blacet and Dotcom systems. I've seen catalogs that say the original also had a +5V line, but none of the modules themselves actually use +5V so I'm not sure what that's all about.

I have an 18 module system and I'm using an old Blacet PS500 to power 16 of them with no issues. The modules have very low current draw and the 500 mA supply is enough for all of them. I just bought some 22 pin edge connectors from Mouser and soldered on cables that pigtail to the standard .156 MOTM connectors. I can then use any MOTM or Blacet busboard to power it.

The original power distribution on the back IIRC was a bunch of bus-bars connecting the edge connectors and it seemed like the standard, time-tested Frac/5U spec was the best choice.


Dave Peck

Here's a link to a data sheet for Power-One linear supplies. There are newer designs that are smaller and more efficient, these are similar design to the original used in the synth.

http://belpowersolutions.com/sites/belpowersolutions.com/files/documen ts/power/datasheet/lin.pdf

Look near the bottom of page 3 and you'll see some that provide the required +15 volt & -15 volt outputs. You need to select one that is rated for at least 1 AMP at +15V and 1AMP at -15V (check the second column for this info), so that rules out the first two listed but the remaining three +15/-15 supplies will work.

But there's no need to limit yourself to this manufacturer, or to limit yourself to these larger older linear designs. All you need to do is follow this same process of searching for a power supply that provides +15 volts (at least 1 amp) and -15 volts (at least 1 amp).

Here's a product search I did at Digikey for all power supplies with that rating, which shows a couple of these linear types but also several newer designs:

http://www.digikey.com/product-search/en?FV=fff40009%2Cfff80229%2C15c0 003%2C17d40096%2C17d80016&mnonly=0&newproducts=0&ColumnSort=-1120&page =1&stock=1&pbfree=0&rohs=0&quantity=&ptm=0&fid=0&pageSize=25

You'll need to pay attention to the "Current output (Max)" column and eliminate anything that is less than "1 amp, 1 amp", so all of the options that say things like "500 mA, 500 mA" are out.

But really, the power supply is not something you should be diving into if you don't really know exactly what you're doing - making a mistake here could seriously damage the synth modules! I encourage you to work with someone who knows this stuff and can walk you through the process of selecting and wiring up the power supply, step by step.


analogjeff

Aries is one system I have never see for sale... Does anyone know if they made a lot or not? THey seem very rare and I would love to hear one is person..


analogjeff

question for Aries owners.. DO they sound like an ARP? I know the designers came from ARP.. just curious...


markstyles

Back in the early 70's there was The Boston School of Electronic Music.. It was founded by Jim Michmerhuizen, who wrote the ARP 2600 manual which more or less became a bible for synth owners.. Cause he explained everything about synthesis, not just how to run an Arp 2600.. A lot of people were drawn to BSEM in it' short life (the house that it was in burn't down and there was no insurance).. No one was hurt.. But the sizeable amount of equipment they had accumulated.. Several synth manufactors, loaned or gave equipment to us.. People were showing up from around the globe to take courses there. It was the only thing of it's kind.. As a result, several people (who would later contribute to synths) became friends and business partners.. Gary Hall was one such student, he later went on to design a lot of digital delay stuff for Lexicon.. He just recently designed a long modular digital delay module carried by 4ms. Another student, Bob Snowdale bought ARIES Synth company when the founder wanted out of the business. They had a factory in Salem, Ma.. and did well, for several years. Analog modular synths, were complex, so it was not a 'fast business'.. Even ordering a finished system would take several weeks. They sold both finished systems, and kits..

I worked for ARIES for a couple of years.. I made their demo record, and got two cabinets worth of modules for it.. I built the kits, and then made the demo with only the modules I had.. I did do some overdubbing..

Original modules were designed by Dennis Colin, who did original design work for ARP.. ARP had made him sign a form, he would not work for any competors, for something like two years.. He broke that agreement.. Electronic design was his occupation, nothing ever came of that.. I became friends with Dennis, since he had designed a lot of the ARP 2600, he gave me several circuit designs, to build and to add into the ARP kbd.. I had a 2nd voltage (which ARP later added).. and three independent LFO's, which really thickened the ARPS sound.

The ARIES company was then sold to Bob Snowdale, and continued for several years.. Ron Rivera (also a friend from the Boston School of Electronic Music came in).. Started doing modifications, and then went on to design some modules..

At this point, I moved to NYC, and didn't stay in close contact.. The Aries sounded like a cross between an ARP and a Moog, (didn't have privy to schematics).. But it was a great sounding synth.. Most people built their own cabinets, ARIES did build a couple cabinet shapes, some wood, others covered with 'tolar' (can't remember name).. ARIES were not as sexy as an ARP 2500 or MOOG system. Faceplates could have been thicker, and finished nicer.. but they were solid soundwise..

ARIES did well for a while.. I had in the meantime moved to NYC and worked for Octave-Plateau, which was basically 8 ARP2600's under computer control.. Then of course Yamaha DX7 came along, and was cheap in comparison, for the voice output.. And a lot of the modular hardware companies just couldn't compete..

It's great to see analog modular stuff surfacing again. I plan to buy or build an analog modular system myself..


Dr. Sketch-n-Etch

I had an Aries catalogue when I was a kid (like, 40 years ago), and I used to drool over it. I couldn't even afford a PAiA system (a friend bought a Gnome and we tried to build it, and failed utterly -- after that, my interest in synth DIY disappeared until I was in my mid-forties).

Anyway...


ultraviolet_waveform

I would love to own one of these beasts, they look and sound amazing.

The closest I've gotten so far is an edit of a Mark Styles demo from the seventies. Who knew that a 20 second sample could be so versatile!

[s]http://soundcloud.com/jvalue/ultraviolet-waveform-aries-edit-1[/s]


microtonal

markstyles wrote:
Back in the early 70's …

It's great to see analog modular stuff surfacing again. I plan to buy or build an analog modular system myself..


Mark, welcome back! I still remember your demos and articles from late 70s/early 80s.


bitflip

There are some Aries docs and schems over at:

http://www.synthfool.com/docs/Aries/ w00t


microtonal

Aries 1975, 1977 and 1978 catalog pdfs posted. 1977 catalog pdf is the same as on the Synthfool/Kevin Lightner site. Also posted Aries 300 brochure pdf.

http://www.wavemakers-synth.com/aries/Aries_Catalog_1975.pdf
http://www.wavemakers-synth.com/aries/Aries_Catalog_1977.pdf
http://www.wavemakers-synth.com/aries/Aries_Catalog_1978.pdf
http://www.wavemakers-synth.com/aries/Aries300.pdf


CZ Rider

Thanks for sharing Mark! Great to read about BSEM and those Aries demos. Awesome sounding synth and internal parts are high quality with AB type J and Clarostat pots. Often mistaken for using 3.5mm, the Aries used Switchcraft .141" that are both high quality and reliable if you use the correct Switchcraft jacks and plugs.
Was just playing the Aries last night. Have a small system with almost all of the original Aries voice modules.


markstyles wrote:

Original modules were designed by Dennis Colin, who did original design work for ARP.

Dennis Colin is sort of an unsung hero. Like Bob Moog's ladder filter, Dennis had his mulit mode filter that was used in the Arp 2500, Aries and perhaps most famous the Oberheim SEM filter.
Here is a link to a paper by Dennis Colin on his multi mode filter.
Guitar Fool link to Dennis Colin filter paper PDF download


analogjeff

Maybe someone will restart the Aries company!!!


Navs

Thank you for the interesting stories.


GaryInHuaHin

What I remember most of Aries is that the noise source KICKED ASS! It was highly clipped in the initial gain stage and then boosted up 30V p-p. I used to run it into my MiniMoog's preamp. An awesome sound!


1024ck

I have some scans of a system 300 catalog, https://www.flickr.com/search/?tags=system300


vgermuse

some more Aries porn for the thread. . .
built by Daniel D'Quincy back in the day:






Modorange

I just got it! Hope I can figure out what I need to add, how to address the power supply, what updating is needed, and finally, how to operate it! It is missing the Mixer section shown in the above picture of the synth, but it has a Dual VCO module unlike that one, and it has a much simpler power supply? Hope I didn't fuck up by getting this, it wasn't cheap.. But it was quite a bit less than the only current Aries Modular that I could find on the market. So I'm in this for at least long enough to get her playing and looking better, and then we shall see.. probably some learning will be involved. I've broke my "modular cherry" though! I'm sure most of the effort is ahead of me! (Actually several years back I had an ARP 2600 for a small amount of time..but that's a semi-modular and I used the unit without patch cables).[/img]


Modorange

Dave Peck wrote:
I remember these! I actually got a tour of the Aries 'factory' in the 70's when I was a teenager, and I got to spend a good amount of time then, and at other times since, playing with a few of these synths. I remember that the oscillators seemed especially 'clean' and accurate, stayed in tune well, tracked well, and had waveforms that were more pure and accurate then a lot of other modulars (no rounded top on the saw waves or triangle waves, no odd curves in the plateaus of the squares waves, nice clean transitions with no spikes or overshoot at the 'corners' etc. Sorta 'lab quality' characteristics). I remember that the VC phaser module was especially good.

If you were to get your hands on one, you may want to consider just tossing the ancient power supply and buying a decent off-the-shelf new PS first, then start working on bringing the modules back to operating condition.
There's a manual inside, very similar to the ARP2600 manual I recall looking at several years ago. It also comes with diagrams and assembly instructions for most of the modules. I thought there could be missing parts of the diagrams but found the dual VCO and Multimode Filter diagrams, so it seems complete. Is the Mixer section essential? Oh well, now there will be a "long term" project for me to tackle, and if it gets to it I will consult expert advice and/or tech help...


Dave Peck

Congrats! Regarding the mixer, these add a lot of versatility to a modular synth. Some of the other modules already include some type of limited mixer. The filter has multiple audio inputs which get mixed, but there's no control for the levels so it's like a mixer with the knobs stuck wide open, the VCA has multiple inputs and there are level controls for some but not all of them, etc. And of course mixers are important for processing CONTROL signals, too, so you can do things like mix two LFO signals at different levels and then send that to a CV input on the filter, etc.

It's not very likely that you'll find an Aries mixer available for sale by itself, but you should be able to put one or even two mixer modules from some other manufacturer in that same space, although you will need to either select modules that use the same type of DC power as the Aries modules, or figure out a way to give those mixers the type of power they need.

I notice that the pwoer supply is a fairly standard output type of +15V and -15V so you have lots of options. How wide and how tall is a standard Aries module? I'm wondering if you could fit a couple of single-width MU format modules in there, like these:







UPDATE: I forgot that the Aries synth uses the smaller 1/8" inch jacks, not the larger 1/4" jacks, so MU format mixers would probably not be the best choice. You could use a couple of much smaller Euro-format modules from companies like Doepfer which have the 1/8" jacks, and mount them in a larger blank panel to fill up the space.


Modorange

The modules each measure 9" x 3"


Dave Peck

Hmmm Many Euro-format mixer modules are "8HP" wide, which is about 40mm or 1.6" wide, so the width you have available is too narrow to fit TWO of those type of modules next to each other, but there are some that are narrower and may be a good choice.

For example, you could get one Doepfer A138c polarizing mixer, which allows you to not only control the level of each input but also invert it, and you could also get a narrower Euro format mixer from STG, which will add some nice 'coloration' to the audio if you crank up the levels - it's based on the design of the original mixer module from the Moog modulars, and the Moog mixer module was a significant part of the 'Moog sound'. I have one of these mixers in MU format and it's really nice. And this would give you two different modules with different characteristics, expanding the capabilities of the synth.

Info is here:

http://www.analoguehaven.com/stgsoundlabs/mix/

and here:

http://www.doepfer.de/a138c.htm

It would look great if you stuck these two modules behind a new custom front panel that blended well with the Aries modules, but that's just an aesthetic issue. Note that you'll also need to find a way to power these Euro modules from a +12V/-12V power source. You could either build a circuit to regulate the Aries power down from +15/-15 for these modules, or you could just stick second cheap +12/-12 power supply in the cabinet jut for these modules.


thebot

Just a suggestion - if you're having to repanel something anyway this is a really, really easy step into the world of Synth DIY, will work of the 15V / -15V power supply and it's a total of about $5 in parts:

http://cgs.synth.net/modules/cgs04_mix.html

Couple of them behind a panel and you'd be sorted.


Modorange

thebot wrote:
Just a suggestion - if you're having to repanel something anyway this is a really, really easy step into the world of Synth DIY, will work of the 15V / -15V power supply and it's a total of about $5 in parts:

http://cgs.synth.net/modules/cgs04_mix.html

Couple of them behind a panel and you'd be sorted.


My initial thinking is to remain with the existing cabinet (albeit possibly updating its finish) and to look for solutions consistent with the existing +/- 15v power requirements. So this solution may be worth exploring!

I would need to make a panel to fit (my friend said there was a blank one but couldn't find it) to fit the front. I'm on a learning curve here.. I have average soldering experience, have assembled a Paia Fatman kit (rackmount version).. Also would hope I could plug it into the existing rails. I think it could be sorted out..

THANKS for all this cool info. Glad I started this topic!


Modorange

pulse_divider wrote:
The modules run off +/-15V, which is standard in MOTM, Blacet and Dotcom systems. I've seen catalogs that say the original also had a +5V line, but none of the modules themselves actually use +5V so I'm not sure what that's all about.

I have an 18 module system and I'm using an old Blacet PS500 to power 16 of them with no issues. The modules have very low current draw and the 500 mA supply is enough for all of them. I just bought some 22 pin edge connectors from Mouser and soldered on cables that pigtail to the standard .156 MOTM connectors. I can then use any MOTM or Blacet busboard to power it.

The original power distribution on the back IIRC was a bunch of bus-bars connecting the edge connectors and it seemed like the standard, time-tested Frac/5U spec was the best choice.

Could that +5v line be for the Keyboard CV output? I'm just guessing..(edit.this has been verified to be the case, as I just perused the Keyboard interface instructions and schematics) Looked all over the spec sheets in a short span, the only thing I could figure might require that power would be the 0v to +5v which would be consistent with the 5 octave keyboard control voltages for the Oscillators. I removed the modules carefully and am looking at the power supply right now. I wonder if it would be difficult to bring it back to spec? That would save me from needing to rewire or reposition anything in the cabinet, since the power supply is situated behind the moduleson the bottom of the case, each module has a space at the bottom of it (where the jacks are located) where the PS caps and tranny can fit..

Questioning my soldering and electronics ability. I have perused tube amps, wired a Paia Fatman rackmount kit way back when.. I am sorta hoping I can get the PS working (verify correct voltages are being produced) then hook up the system, keyboard, module-by-module and see if anything is working or not... I have an old codger tech nearby who I may gauge his interest and bring the PS up there to see if he can make heads or tales of it with the provided documentation and schematics. He has been great at testing caps, finding loose solder joints, etc.. But the Operation manual seems to "hold your hands" in terms of starting with the most simple patches and goes from there.

BTW, the manual does look suspiciously like I remember the Arp 2600 manual I had that came with a 2600 I regrettably sold back a decade or so. I think I'm going to enjoy this, assuming I can keep from getting electrocuted! (that was a joke)


Modorange

OK When plugged in the power supply was doing nothing. A trip to my friend the tech (he's actually a tube radio guy used to be a TV repairman and easily fixes tube amps) and he showed me some bad connectors between the power switch and the transformer/fuse. He had the connectors and gave me them and told me to carefully solder the leads as they were, I just did that. He said the power light should go on. It did!

Only I just measured the voltages on the rails and the + voltage was way up at 27.79v. The - voltage was at -15.08v. The extra leads providing the +5 volts DC also measured the correct +5 volts. (edit 0.5: the +5 volts is for the CV coming out of the keyboard--5 octaves, high note sends +5 VDC attenuated downward for the lower notes accordingly--according to the schematics, yet another reason to stick with the original power supply)

So now I believe this power supply could be fixed, as most of it is working. I am going to explore this further. Thanks for the advice regarding power supplies, I will for the time being continue on the track of restoring this power supply until it either is working correctly or I hit a snag and have to junk it and get a new one. After all, the original power supply is rated at +15vdc and +15vdc at 1 amp and is designed to handle 3 full systems, so given it is brought back, it ought to work just fine for this system plus whatever other modules I decide to add.

edit: either faulty voltage regulator or bad connection of it. Hope to have PS running within a day or 2

edit 2(at least) regulator ordered. The cool thing about this is I'm excited, and am learning about some basic electronics! Had no idea what a voltage regulator was before this started. I'm going to figure out tons of cool stuff on this journey and hopefully the pot of gold will be some cool music.


Modorange

OK the regulator arrived, I installed it and checked the voltages of the PS and I have -15.08vdc, +15.3vdc, and +5.14vdc. I just moved on to the keyboard, tried plugging into the dedicated 4 prong plug that plugs into the back of the case, and even though they are providing the above voltages, I have yet to be able to determine whether the keyboard is working. The keyboard looks ok but I'm concerned about the underside of it, with the voltage boards and buss bars all being exposed to the elements.. one thing at a time.. Wondering what the best way to clean the contacts on the module boards would be, they seem a tad oxidized (hazy).


Modorange

Ok I began last night going through the nifty manual that takes the eager synthesist through the paces.. Doing this to determine which modules are or are not working as they should (sound wise) and got to page three; however, I couldn't wait to test the LFO! Anywho still basic stuff here.


Modorange

So far I know (to at least the minimal degree) the VCA, Dual LFO, and VCO work. Haven't been able to get the keyboard running yet, although it appears complete. The Dual VCO, is at least partially functional, I am getting the sawtooth wave from Osc. 2. Also the Sample/Hold Noise generator seems to be working mostly. One of the EGs produces a trigger and envelope.


Modorange

thebot wrote:
Just a suggestion - if you're having to repanel something anyway this is a really, really easy step into the world of Synth DIY, will work of the 15V / -15V power supply and it's a total of about $5 in parts:

http://cgs.synth.net/modules/cgs04_mix.html

Couple of them behind a panel and you'd be sorted.

I think I may be ready to pursue something like this. Anywho, today I looked at the 2nd EG to try to figure out why it wasn't working. I looked at the board and compared it to the other one, and noticed a couple of traces that were overlapping slightly! I separated them carefully with an exacto knife (hope this doesn't disturb any faint-of hearts out there)and plugged it in. Now both EGs work! I now know of two of the "modules" that may need a tech's attention. One is the Double VCO, the other is the Keyboard. I'll look at them some more to see if I can find any obvious problems (broken traces, loose cables, etc. but may need to find a tech either in the area or send them off somewhere. I have been taking my Minimoog and Roland synths to Mike Metz at Thesis Audio in Wichita KS..I'm in central Oklahoma, USA..

As a side note, I thumbed through the comprehensive manual, and it reminded me totally of the ARP 2600 manual I once owned. I wasn't able to hold on to either that manual or the 2600 it came with, but this should wet my appetite for a while! WOW. I have found a religion! But I am running out of cables! These can be normaled, correct?


minime123

congrats on your aries. we have sold many, have a real nice system for sale now, and have a large system in our studio. aries stuff is great!
mini

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