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dintree synth - cool DIY projects
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Music Tech DIY  
Author dintree synth - cool DIY projects

You know when you go on moduargrid and see whats new - well you guys may have seen these
Anyway theres some great modules here with schematics, Gerbers - everything needed to make your own modules and theres some great designs here
Wow this is some good stuff! I might build some of those power supplies, curious how the verb sounds.
------ Disclaimer - Since this is my first post, I wasn't sure whether to start a new thread or simply reply to this one since it's going to be a little more extensive. ------

Dintree actually got me started in Modular Synth DIY two years ago and it must have been just search engine research that got me to the site. Since it doesn't seem to get that much attention in this Forum I'd like to direct some to the site.

I find it very nicely structured and the projects are quite well documented, with text, pictures and even video - which helped in troubleshooting the many, but all so valuable beginner mistakes of synth-/ electronics DIY.
Which, in my mind, makes this resource quite suitable for beginners in the field of synth DIY, as maybe not the very first, but second step.
So I'd like to use this post to describe the beginnings of my synth DIY endeavour and share some observations on how it developed over the last two years.

Many thanks to Andrew Kilpatrick for creating this resource!

Here's the Dintree modules I've built - which are all except the PSUs. The 5Vs Module is not in my Rig, but in a box with test gear.

D102 Output Mixer

This was the first Module I built since there needed to be some way of getting sound into an amp and speakers with line input.
The layout is pretty much copied from what was visible on the photos down to the double perf board construction and mounting style.
One can see the sloppy drilling job also due to the very old and extremely brittle acrylic front plate material.

The Mixer works very nicely and is also quite cheap componentwise, but I find now that it takes up quite a lot of HP for the functionality - which is true for most of the Dintree modules - which is why I altered my builds later.
I had wired up one of the display driver chips incorrectly rendering it very hot and it took a long time checking voltages and every connection to find the mistake, but helped me develop troubleshooting skills and confidence with electronics.

D100 Quad VCA

This was the second Module I built. Again it takes up quite some HP due to the suggestet front panel construction. I just recently changed this to brackets held by the pots saving around 2HP.
The brackets were originally long L-shaped parts for a suspended ceiling system - the ones one can find in offices everywhere.
It is based on the V2164 VCA chip, of which I read as of the time of this posting, a new clone (SSI2164) is coming out soon.

I felt more confident laying out the circuit by myself this time, still very likely to make many mistakes though.
I found laying out a circuit on perfboard it is much more preferrable to solder each component individually - as opposed to populating the board with components and then soldering all the connections - as one would do with a PCB.
Then also I was not using EDA software, but a pencil and cross-section paper (I also tried to make my own perfboard layout setup in Illustrator, but it didn't turn out very usable).
I still wish there was a physical interface that translates components stuck into a perfboard into a PCB-layout / schematic. (yes there is some AR stuff similar to this, but not very sophisticated at all)

D106 Step Sequencer

The Step Sequencer and the Envelope are based on PIC microcontrollers, thus possibly posing a different kind of hurdle for a beginner.
I had to research quite a bit in order to get this running, buying a pickit3 in the process and consulting a friend programmer. But it's all out there (except if its's not - as with the Envelope).

The module is quite simple circuit-wise and can be used like an sample to be expanded upon - like adding additional steps.
What I don't quite understand is why in the original schematic on the programming port GND is on Pin 5 where on the pickit3 ist is Pin 3 - like this one cable always has to cross two others.
I like to clock the sequencer really fast, creating drones - after all 4 steps is not much. The offset CV outputs offer are nice used on multiple other modules simultaneously.

D101 Dual Envelope

This Module I had a very hard time getting to work due to my lack of experience with the programming software and code in general.
Despite the help of a programmer friend I was not able to compile the hex file to be burnt onto the microcontroller and only because someone in an other forum (sourceboost forum it was I believe) posted the exact error code that Sourceboost IDE spit out, was I able to get the module working.
If someone has the same troubles I can provide the Hex file I compiled. The problem was that one of the header (filename.h) was not included in the sourceboost standard library and had to be added manually, also is there no information on this on the Dintree site.
Unfortunately I can not find that post from the forum anymore, that pointed me to the solution and am not sure which of the .h files it was that was missing. probably flash.h since system.h is also in the code for the sequencer and this one I got working fine.
Either way I still have the files necessary and can provide them. (maybe some info concerning this can be included in the Dintree website as well?)
Also it is mentioned that a different (cheaper and availiable in DIP package) DAC can be used instead of the one in the schematic. This led to me reading and comparing datasheets and understanding some basics of their operation, but I was not able to rewrite the code to spec of this alternative DAC, again inspite of my dear friend programmer.
Maybe we were on the wrong path with bitshifts and the like because this DAC had a different mode of Data-aquisition than the one provided in the schematic. Ultimately this again was a good learning experience.

Again circuit-wise this module is simple and can - thanks to the programming port (again switched pins with respect to the pickit3) have altered its functionality and tinkered with very easily once you did it all once or twice.
It works nicely as it is though for me, and I find myself rather tackling a batch of new modules once the present ones are working, than tinkering with their functionality - except of course in the larger context of the synth.

D107 Slew Limiter

Here I started to take more liberties in adapting the circuit and instead of the suggested Op-Amps used some in an inline package, that I ripped from an old, crappy DJ mixer. I know people do this all the time - just recollecting my experience here.
Not much to say here only that the original front panel is much too wide compared to its functionality, which is also why this got the panel redo.

D103 Reverb / Delay

This one has a lot of potential but in my eyes definately needs some upgrades - especially a Dry / Wet circuit as also stated on the website itself.
It is based around the SpinSemi FV-1, a DSP chip that is recently being used by quite many Eurorack Synth manufacturers - which is great for the potential algorithms coming from this.
There is a graphical effects-algorithm-programming-software being developed much in the looks of Max MSP albeit not as extensive. It has its own forum with many DSP algorithms to test out.
You need a way of flashing the eeprom, which the pickit3 can't do. This led me to build a pickit 2 clone which could do that.
I accidentally had ordered a chrystal ten times as fast as specified and just got a distorted output. In the end I used one from an old alarm clock.

This module will probalbly be the first one I will be modding heavily. It has been assembled and made to work for quite a while, but never been brought to use partly due to me missing some functionality in it.
It really needs this dry / wet circuit which I am in the process of finding somewhere else and then implementing it. Also it would be very nice to have a programming port for the eeprom on the module, so that the IC doesn't have to be removed if new programs are to be flashed to it. Further more I'd prefer to have one switch to rotate through the programs.
Eventhough I don't know if it is feasible, A CV input would be nice as well.

D105 Quad CV Proc

This was the last of the Dintree modules that I built. I first didn't quite see its use and in the context of my module it probably didn't have that much, but with the two DUSG Module finished it should sum up to Maths functionality.

In between all those modules and two years there have been 14 other DIY modules, that built and the next batch of 7 will be ordered parts for in the coming days.

I got into synth building because I wanted to learn about electronics, since they are so all-encompassing today and I don't want to loose agency by delegating understanding what constitues my reality.
Also I want to learn about sound since it has very different conditions than visuality (with which I usually work with).
Concluding the Dintree circuits for me certainly were a great starting out point and a great resource to dive deeper into different aspects of synth building and electronics.
In that respect they were mostly a learning device. I learn the most, looking for an answer to a question I am asking myself and that I have also phrased myself concerning a problem that concerns me. So having a concrete project to get to work is ideal.
Most people had this realisation at some point, I guess, and it has been said over and over, but probalby one may only really understand having experienced it oneself.
Wasn't aware of this... thanks for posting... that's a great resource. cool cool

Dogma wrote:

You know when you go on moduargrid and see whats new - well you guys may have seen these
Anyway theres some great modules here with schematics, Gerbers - everything needed to make your own modules and theres some great designs here
Those look great, nice job DEEMARKAY. Those designs are I believe from Andrew Kilpatrick.

Yes, I included some kudos at the beginning of the post refering to him.
The modules are given an overview on his youtube channel shiftedphase, which also features videos with other synth related topics.
That's some impressive work with the perf and offboard wiring. Nice job.
I'm not so sure about that. Actually I think it's pretty messy - often due to insufficient planning of the layout as there is no program to check the layout against the schematic for you. On the other hand it lends itself to afterthoughts and mods. It probably would be even messier to add circuitry to the reverb module if I had etched a PCB.
Also sloppy perfboard probably looks better than sloppy self etched PCB.
DEEMARKAY, I'd say your work is above average, looks pretty good.

I gave up on point to point perf board a while ago. I use strip/vero board now. At least for me it's quicker and the only special tool I have is a pin vise (finger drill) with a 3/32 bit in it to cut traces. There are software packages out there to do layout also. I use DIY Layout Creator. The boards will probably be a bit bigger but for small circuits like this it probably won't be an issue.
Cool, thanks! I have been looking for something like this. Fritzing, Pebble, even Illustrator all didn't do it for me and Eagle is weird to work with in a pseudo perfboard grid. I will definately give DIY Layout Creator a try.
Still have some perf to use up before I'd try out vero.
Cool, thanks! I have been looking for something like this. Fritzing, Pebble, even Illustrator all didn't do it for me and Eagle is weird to work with in a pseudo perfboard grid. I will definately give DIY Layout Creator a try.
Still have some perf to use up before I'd try out vero.

Only real complaint that I have with DIY Layout Creator is it doesn't print out the backside of the board, just the top. For me it's easier to do trace cutting if I have an image of the bottom and not have to translate the cuts from top to bottom. The work around I use is Lock Layer | Component to gray out the components to see the cuts and the File | Export PNG to get an image. I load the image into a graphics program, mirror the image and then print it out. Here's an example of a simple noise circuit.

Another word of advice is on op-amp inputs keep them as short as you can. If a circuit only uses 3 holes past the chip cut the trace on the 4th one. Having extended traces can cause noise and cross talk problems.
Little update:
I modded the 4Vs Module with some Pots from a street scavenged Betacam editing machine, to a 2hp inspired 3Vs module.

Also - instead of modding and tinkering with the D103 DSP Module, I ended up buying a µDervish PCB from Graham Gibswell and reused the Spin Semi FV-1 chip in that.
You can get a preprogrammed microcontroller and EEPROM with 4 banks of 8 algorhithms with it. In this case I chose the convenience over learning, since DSP algorithm programming isn't so much my interest at the moment.
Thanks for posting all those pics, the perfboard stuff looks awesome.

I tried to do perfboard once and went back to stripboard. I can only imagine the patience required to make all of those. I also tried making a panel from acryllic and it shattered no matter how small a hole i did or how slow/fast i drilled.

we're not worthy
Hehe, thanks smile

It is difficult drilling acrylic with regular drills, and you have to go very slow, but a stepped drill works very well, also make sure to use cast acrylic. I have used extruded as well as very old acrylic and it is so much more prone to shattering. Just got some new cast material and it is a charm to work with. Still pondering wether to get that laser though...

I used to draw the layouts on paper before, but moved to circuit layout software and ordering prototype PCBs now. Since you do the work once and if you want to redo a circuit one doesn't have to translate the drawing again. But for one-off small circuits I find it more handy to do them on perf-board.

My strategy to make cuts on stripboard is to mark them with a marker on the top side. Then I put a resistor leg through the hole and make the cut with drill bit (and of course I take the resistor leg out before). This way I don't have to figure out anything on the back side. In the end I double check with a resistor leg that every marked cut is made.

By marking the cuts on the top side I also get landmarks which makes it easier for me to put components on the right places.
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