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The state of DIY 2018
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Music Tech DIY Goto page 1, 2, 3  Next [all]
Author The state of DIY 2018
latigid on
Seeing various clone prototypes this weekend has me thinking what holds for the future of DIY.

There was an interesting period of a decade or so when there was clear demand for release of old classics and controllers using real hardware elements. But the big players were not interested, so it fell to passionate DIYers to clone analogue drum machines and Model Ds.

Even with commercial units being re-released, there was also an economic incentive to DIY. As long as you didn't mind working for free, you could get your hands on the hardware. With the advent of Behringer clones (please, no ethics discussion; everything has been said already) will people still turn to DIY for these or take the easier road to obtain gear?

How much of DIY is the joy of creating something, and how much is GAS for as cheap as possible? This will of course vary person to person. For example, the Behringer D is on sale at Swweetwater for $299. Guinguin instruments sells a PCB/panel set for 185€ and DSL-man estimates a BOM of 295€. You would also require a case and power supply. You might build the unit and it doesn't work or you burn out some parts and need replacements. (Julien to his credit seems very responsive in troubleshooting builds.)

Will the insta-want culture beat the maker culture?
Joe.
I think in the future you'll see less 'basic' modules being DIY'd, less people starting a DIY rack of VCO+VCF+VCA+EG because of the cheap and readily available modules, but you will see more and more complex kits and builds, SSSR's Matrix and Wavetable, or designs like Juergen Haible's.

I'm hoping for something like a DIY tape-delay in the future (i'm surprised nobody's cloning these cheaply yet). I think with cheaper CNC gear each year someone will eventually start making kits of the basic hardware needed (the chassis for the heads & rollers to be fitted to) along with the PCBs.
plushterry
I don't think it will make a great deal of difference. Let's face it, we're not doing DIY because it's cheaper or easier.

I'd 1000 times rather have a crappy copy of a vintage synth I built rather than a crappy copy someone else did.
Mostin77
I don’t think it will affect me as a diyer My first priority isn’t to save money and although there are a lot of euro modules that are clones of classic filters ect I very much doubt Behringer or any other big company will bother with cloning all the other more interesting modules.

For example I’ve built a Turing machine for its unique random sequencing duties but I very much doubt Behringer will be going after that this year and although I have some clones of classic synths in Euro format (osc303, vcf 303, ms-20 filter) these really aren’t the most interesting of the diy builds as far as I’m concerned. It’s the odd, unusual, and bizarre along with the usual that brings me to the diy plus the interest in learning how these things work.

Big companies are only really interested in making money if it’s not going to make them money then they won’t venture down that path and most diy modules I can think of wouldn’t really make enough profit margin to bother.

I guess if when choosing a diy module to buy you are looking for the cheapest version of that function (vca’s etc) and no other characteristics influence your decision then maybe buying a £49 module off the shelf might be a better option, but I’d imagine most people who build there own modules have a passion for it rather than saving money. If I wanted to save money I’d do some overtime at work on Saturday rather than waste my time buying tools, components and days soldering parts to boards eek!
Mostin77
LoFi Junglist wrote:
I'm hoping for something like a DIY tape-delay in the future (i'm surprised nobody's cloning these cheaply yet). I think with cheaper CNC gear each year someone will eventually start making kits of the basic hardware needed (the chassis for the heads & rollers to be fitted to) along with the PCBs.


I would love to see a diy tape delay module too.

I’d also like some kind of cassette tape recording module so I can record stuff straight to cassette.
Joe.
I'd be happy with a shoe-box sized stand alone unit.
hox3d
If money is the priority, I guess you would be able to save some money on complex builds.
But yes, classic "synth building blocks" are being manufactured at a price nobody can beat.

Plus, DIY always brings new ideas (i.e Turing Machine) while "big players" won't risk money in something which is not trivial.
For instance, Berhinger cloning classics. They know this is going to sell (well).

And I would add that maybe these blocks don't matter alone, I started DIY aiming to build a complete system, something new, not simple blocks taken independently from each other. So DIY is, maybe, more something related to build a "whole" rather than "simple blocks".
flts
1)

IKEA Effect (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IKEA_effect) is going nowhere - people in general put "disproportionately high value" on things they've at least partially made with their own hands.

I know I'm lost cause already, but recently, I was going to buy something completely unrelated to synth DIY, then thought about how nice it would be to make my own. A week of reading and googling later I came to the conclusion that it'd be very expensive and not much better to DIY something comparable to what's on the market... and was almost still going to build it myself, because then I'd have something unique and actually knew how it worked.

That's something I see a lot though, from people being super proud they managed to solder together their first simple module and it actually works, to people who say they won't be buying cheap Chinese made crap, whereas whatever they've made themselves is OK no matter if they've built it that well or not (and whether it was completely built from parts, PCBs and panels manufactured in the far east or not).

2)

Making & hacking nerdy stuff is cool these days. Not a nerd stigma or a suspicious fringe hobby like 10 or 20 years ago. I don't know what the situation is worldwide, but at least around here it seems there are more and more people who actually want to learn to build things and figure out how things work.

(And more and more people who actually think it's hot that someone can actually build a synths, weird electronic gizmos or whatever else themselves...)

3)

In the euro land you _already_ get a lot of stuff cheaper pre-built from companies like Doepfer and Ladik than by buying a full kit. People still build modules themselves - even those that those companies cover a lot of the standard ground very well and cheaply, at least here in EU.

I think the similar thing is visible on some of the areas of the whole maker culture / hacklab thing. People build and modify things not because there is nothing pre-made and cheap available, but simply because they want to, for sometimes quite inexplicable reasons. So there may be some kind of balance - the more mass-produced, cheap, low barrier of entry stuff there's available, the more people think making your own is worth it because it's cool and awesome, not just because they'd have an illusion ( hihi ) it'd be cheaper than buying from the store.

Then again, it might go any other way as well and what I just wrote may be bullshit in a couple of years. My sample is obviously super skewed but what I just witness is people building stuff (whether synths or anything else) because it's cool and interesting hobby (less and less a fringe one), not because a standard VCA is so expensive it would be better to buy a kit...
mangros
I started building 5U modules because I wanted all the best bits of all the vintage stuff, without having to fill a room up with old gear at risk of breaking.

If Behringer cloned every synth I've ever liked and I bought them then I'd still have a room full of stuff (insert joke about it still being at risk of breaking). If there was a DIY clone of every synth I've ever liked and I built them then I'd still have a room full of stuff. Things like TTSH and Jasper are fantastic but I can get to 95% of their sounds (albeit less quickly) without needing the complete unit.

So for me it's more about choosing modules over self-contained units, and there's still plenty going on there in DIY land, even for 'just a big monosynth'-type setups like mine.
cretaceousear
I think a lot of people will still need to start on small simple modules to build up their confidence - nobody will leap into building a TTSH straight off.
SoundPool
While it isn't the majority there are also those who build because they have a specific idea of what they want their workflow to be and going DIY is the only way to make it happen. I think the R*S or L*W is a good example- don't like Eurorack or MOTM but can't afford old STS panels, DIY is the solution. Or folks who make their own standalone boxes or mini systems.

Also as Eurorack grew it has become more accessible, but still particularly for those in the EU or N America. I started doing DIY initially because when I first moved to Norway there was almost nobody selling anything other than basic modules and I couldn't afford the steep import duties but I could get small packs of Tayda components every couple weeks no problem. Also for some folks even shelling out $80+ all at once for a module can be tough, but if you can buy a PCB/panel and a few weeks later pick up components in the end it may not be cheaper but it doesn't require you to spend large sums of money all at once.

Also while companies like Behringer and other synth companies race to the bottom on prices, its for specific and popular equipment like others have mentioned. But I also don't like the idea of buying disposable things, especially not electronics. Only time will tell but if their synths randomly break like their mixers do there are gonna be a lot of e-waste Behringer synths sitting around. While I would rather build (or buy if I can) something of higher quality to begin with that won't break down, its also nice to know that I am learning enough that I could possibly also fix problems with cheaper or less reliably manufactured equipment too.
tardishead
Quote:
in the end it may not be cheaper but it doesn't require you to spend large sums of money all at once

Yeh thats it for me I can't justify shelling out loads of money in one go but theres no doubt I've spent tonnes of money on DIY over the years.
With DIY you get to tailor make your own system.
I am not happy with the consumer fix-it-all system that we live in. Products generally don't satisfy - they always leave something lacking. When you dig deeper and decide to build your own the rewards are incomparable.
One DIY brand that is amazing is CGS - mainly because it offers modules and concepts that others and the commercial manufacturers simply don't bother with
CGS Logic modules rock. I haven't got that many left to build. Amazing
pix
latigid on wrote:
much of DIY is the joy of creating something


thumbs up
tojpeters
Cheap clone stuff won’t kill DIY
Surface mount will
Surface mount is made to be assembled and soldered by machines
Way too difficult and intimidating for beginners
How many people will buy a kit and then accidentally bump their workbench sending all those half a grain of rice sized components onto the floor never to be seen again
robin87
tojpeters wrote:
Cheap clone stuff won’t kill DIY
Surface mount will
Surface mount is made to be assembled and soldered by machines
Way too difficult and intimidating for beginners
How many people will buy a kit and then accidentally bump their workbench sending all those half a grain of rice sized components onto the floor never to be seen again


I tend to disagree. I think what really scares beginners away from SMT is comments like this. Once you give it a try, it's actually just as easy as through hole, beginner or otherwise. Besides, if you spread all your components loosely all over the workbench, you're doing it wrong anyway. Mr. Green

However, i think SMT will change the way we diy pretty soon. In-house pcb assembly services will eventually become so cheap that we'll see more and more pcbs with most components already installed, like with a lot of the random*source offerings.
Jarno
Personally, I DIY because I like to create something and learn in the process. It has helped me shape my career as well (I am a mechanical engineer, but work in R&D so knowledge of electronics is very helpful).

I do not think SMT will kill DIY, looking at the number of people reflowing themselves in converted ovens, Seeed studio supplying cheap stencils, youtube videos on the process. Lots of DIYers are using SMT already.
Some of the really tiny components are hard to do though, but 200usd buys you a stereo microscope.
The playing field changes, so people will need to adapt.
tojpeters
Pre assembled pcbs are no longer diy
robin87
tojpeters wrote:
Pre assembled pcbs are no longer diy


Fair point, although one could argue that putting together a "paint-by-numbers" DIY kit without ever having seen the schematic (because it is not released) is not all that different. This is a question for a seperate topic though.
synthcube
tojpeters wrote:
Cheap clone stuff won’t kill DIY
Surface mount will
Surface mount is made to be assembled and soldered by machines
Way too difficult and intimidating for beginners
How many people will buy a kit and then accidentally bump their workbench sending all those half a grain of rice sized components onto the floor never to be seen again


- the single biggest growth category for us in the last 16 months has been DIY SMT kits, a majority of which are still hand-soldered

- we're believers in SMT DIY enough to have made our new MFOS eurorack lineup DIY-friendly SMT (0805 and 1206 size components, etc)

- we have not (yet) seen a material decline in through-hole kit sales as compared to the uptake in SMT kits; to us, it appears to be net-new DIY growth, not cannibalistic. Hence we're not deemphasizing through-hole in favor of SMT; we'll continue to grow both categories. And in fact some makers are talking about offering both TH and SMT designs for the same module, and/or 'hybrid' TH/SMT PCBs

-A few other opinions related to DIY:

a) increasing availability and popularity of 'big' synth kits (TTSH, DDRM, L-1 Vocoder, et al)-- even some self-admitted 'beginner' DIYers are tackling these and getting great help from the community. We expect these to keep coming

b) the type and availability of modules continues to grow despite predictions of a market glut for the past 2-3 years

c) the number of DIYers is growing, as is the diversity in the community

d) the rapid displacement of flying-wire module designs with pcb-mount panel components in eurorack; not as prevalent in other formats, but likely coming

e) new entrants and cross- fertilization of formats continue to enrichen the environment - examples include Noise Engineering and Frequency Central in 5U, MFOS in eurorack, Haible designs to 4U, 5U and Euro via Random Source and others.
fuzzbass
I got in around 2014, and when I started my idea was to gain things I might not have otherwise. But now I see that DIY synths is of a piece with what I have done all along - building things with my hands. Planning, soldering, and assembling is therapeutic for me. I know my approach either breaks even or costs more than buying pre-built. If PCBs and resistors went away tomorrow, I would no doubt move on to something else that will fill my house with crap for my descendants puzzle over.

The Euro, Serge and Buchla inspired stuff seems to ebb and flow, but right now the 5U world is more vibrant than ever, due perhaps in part to Moog's re-entrance to that market.

Anyone hoping for a tape delay project might be waiting a while. The only mag tape transports in production now are data backup systems. These things are not exactly at the consumer end of the spectrum. I grew frustrated trying to work problems out of my RE201, and sold it.
Joe.
fuzzbass wrote:
Anyone hoping for a tape delay project might be waiting a while. The only mag tape transports in production now are data backup systems.


Dead Banana

I live in hope. Perhaps someone will find a NOS stash of a hundred heads and base a project around them. (you're right though, and this is probably the main reason a project hasn't appeared in the past).
pickleinn
I have been doing synth DIY since around 2000 and it just keeps getting better and easier (more shared info).
Rex Coil 7
latigid on wrote:
....Will the insta-want culture beat the maker culture?
Entering the echo chamber here ....... Always has, and always will. And I hope it will never change.

I highly doubt anyone that goes to all of the trouble will stop building because cheap ass gear is available. Besides, DIY isn't less costly than buying ready made. If anything it's more costly. Always has been. The reason is because few DIYers use crap-ass parts ..... read on.

I got in to DIY because I was unable to buy what I wanted, built how I wanted it to be built. It had nothing to do with non-availability of a certain this-or-that. I wanted gear made to very solid specs, and it simply wasn't available.

Let the McCustomers buy all of the McGear they McWant. Who cares?! The more that crappy made stuff is released, the more people like myself will want to build their own.

As far as the availability of parts and pieces are concerned, if PCBs become unavailable for a given device, that's when us DIYers have to put our big boy pants on and fire up the CAD programs to submit to the likes of ExpressPCB (or any other CAM business) and design our own PCBs .... just as we have since nearly 20 years back.

Even though ~today~ we can buy all sorts of ready made things, much of it is still garbage. I haven't spent a couple of years designing and fabricating my project synth ~just cuz~ .... I'm going to these lengths because what I want is simply not available. I'm (essentially) building a Moog type modular that is fully normalized that is fully defeated using patch cables and switching jacks. Basically a Moog type performance synth using the ARP 2600 defeatable normalizing with switching jacks method of design.

You cannot buy that ANYWHERE from ANYONE. Not Moog, not Synthsizers.Com .... nowhere from nobody.

So the onslaught of inexpensive "I want it now" gear is having zero ramifications on what I am doing. And I feel that I speak for many of us. I tend to buy certain things just to tear them down and harvest their parts (such as removing fully built PCBs) anyway.

Not only that, eventually these ready made systems will fall away to whatever the fickle mainstream decides is ~hip~ later on today. The phrase used to be "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" .... well, that has changed to "Here Today, Gone Later Today" since the markets have become so friggin SPOILED and FICKLE that what they like changes with whichever way the wind blows.

But .... DIY will always be here. CAM has blown sky high, there are many CAM/CNC users today that even have full-on HAAS minis and CNC X/Y tables in their garages at home. Even if we cannot buy CAD/CAM/CNC PCBs any longer ..... etching our own is still optional.

So as long as there are the needed chemicals, through hole (awe hell, even surface mount) solder-on components, and wire ... and as long as we DIYers still have a soldering pen, a motorized drill, and a decent set of hand tools .... DIY will still exist.

Will we DIYers "beat ready made culture"? .....

WHO CARES!!!!!??

Besides, if we DO outrun the ready to buy culture, then WE become the mainstream ...... OH HELLS NO .... that's the last thing I'd want. As I said in my opening statement, I hope we'll always be the outsiders. It is US that create the new ideas and innovations. Back when I started building stomp boxes, the giant manufacturers and the ready made users didn't even know what "true bypass" meant. Now, it's a given .... thanks to the DIYers that sold gear as "boutique shops" selling gear that had "true bypass circuitry" and taught the end user why that was better.

Long Live The People. Long Live The Innovator. Long Live DIY. Rawk!
DisappearHere
I recently bought the pcbs and have started ordering parts for a euro crowminius. I hold nothing against the behringer model D, I just looked at the two and chose the one I will build myself because I derive great satisfaction from building things- as stated above it’s probably the Ikea Effect to some extent. It will definitely cost more than a behringer, but I wouldn’t be able to build the behringer myself.

On the topic of SMD- after building a lot of SMD modules I find them easier than through hole at this point, especially when they’ve been designed to be built by hand- eg. nonlinearcircuits modules. That said, even the mutable modules aren’t too difficult once you’ve got a bit of practice.
criticalmonkey
a tad outside view -

i diy for need - same reason i code-
i don't do it for something i can buy reasonably,
i do it cause i need it to be specific to a function for my creative process or technical function,
maybe that's cause i do audio for my job

ironically - i build most my own furniture, i'd rather build a piece, cost be damned, i feel awful every time i look at a piece i bought, and it sucks up my brain space with design and work effort rather than stressing on the rest of the universe
which i guess is closer to most the replies here about synth diy...

and for the future - next 5 years i hope-
3d printing comes down in cost, meaning you can print your own circuit boards cheaply, then i think electronic component gets added as feature - a cnc is a cnc - printing, placing components...
then it all comes down to design - creating your own custom electronics will be fashion -
maybe then we can get some beautiful performance instruments instead of the standards
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