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Alternative jack color coding scheme for Serge
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Buchla, EMS & Serge Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Author Alternative jack color coding scheme for Serge
evilspock
Hello,

The one thing I don't understand about Serge's choice on jack color coding is the fact that he made both inputs and outputs of the same kind of signal the exact same color. He then goes on to stress multiple times in the manual not to connect two outputs together.

Does this seem illogical to anyone other than myself? Does anyone have any idea why he felt this was the right way to go?

I was considering something like the Kilpatrick Audio color scheme for my DIY Serge projects:

CV / Audio Output - GRAY - Control voltages and audio signals come out of gray jacks. These are normally in the range of -5V to +5V.
CV / Audio Input - BLACK - Control voltages and audio signals go into black jacks. These can handle signals in the range of about -10V to +10V, but are designed for the -5V to +5V range used by the outputs.
Pulse and Gate Output - RED - Pulse, gate and clock outputs and various other digital type of signals come out of red jacks. These are nominally +5V when on, and 0V when off.
Pulse and Gate Inputs - WHITE - Pulse, gate and clock inputs go into white jacks. These detect any voltage greater than about +1V. Some inputs like oscillator sync inputs require fast changing signals like pulse waves. Any range of voltages can be put into these jacks, making them useful even with CV and audio signals.

Interested in any feedback.
Gandalf
Jack Colour Scheme
please refer to this link. ELBY Designs have been manufacturing Serge modules for a few years now and they have expanded the 3-colour Serge scheme, first to 6-colours (to differentiate between IN and OUT) and then to 9-colours to include 'special' signals. These colours have been approved by Serge himself
emenel
Keep in mind that part of the original scheme is to tell the difference between bipolar and unipolar signals, and you don’t want to lose that.

I’ll also say that in general the panel layouts and graphics make it really clear what is an input vs output, and I find that easier to read that a 6+ colour scheme that you have to memorize.
Gandalf
emenel wrote:
Keep in mind that part of the original scheme is to tell the difference between bipolar and unipolar signals, and you don’t want to lose that.

I’ll also say that in general the panel layouts and graphics make it really clear what is an input vs output, and I find that easier to read that a 6+ colour scheme that you have to memorize.

First off:-
the bipolar and unipolar differentiation IS retained.... that is Black (white) and Blue (green)!!!!!
Second off. So you can remember 3 colours but not 6!!!
If you know Black is AC then White is the LOGICAL opposite/mate
If you know Blue is DC then Green actually fits quite naturally
If you know Red is Logic then Yellow follows suit...
resistor colour code Red - Orange -Yellow so these 3 are the logic with RED being In and Yellow being Out and Orange being Special
resistor colour code Green - Blue - Violet so these are the DC with Blue and Green being IN/OUT and Violet being special
that leaves black/white/grey. Black and White are natural opposites and are AC IN and AC OUT. Black + White is Grey so that is special
diophantine
Most Serge modules are (IMO) pretty good at indicating which jacks are inputs and which are outputs.

If you're feeling lazy you can just patch color-to-same-color. But there's also no restriction on this patching... maybe use a fast pulse as audio, or send an audio signal into a DC-coupled CV input, etc.

How many colors do you want to memorize? And I don't mean in a "recite them at an exam" type situation, but patching live.

IMO the big reason for the Serge colors is the fact that some modules had/have multiple outputs. The early paperface system VCOs, for instance, had both AC- and DC-coupled outputs, differentiated by their jack colors. Same with the DUSG in modern systems.

Personally I prefer something simpler like the Serge color scheme compared to the Buchla color scheme or the current Elby scheme. And it doesn't quite matter what the color scheme is, to me: my R*S Serge is white/black/red, the BOCGS I've been building is blue/black/red. I find it easier to immediately see a pattern to the jacks & grok it, than recall what the actual colors are. If you also understand the basics of the modules it should be intuitive to patch.

My Steiner-Parker Synthasystem uses just grey & red jacks, and the only reason for two colors is that the red jacks are s-triggers, and thus won't work with the other jacks.

Of course, everyone is different here... you should choose what works best for you! Though I realize if you're just starting out that may be different to know...

Also bear in mind that I'm partially colorblind! I can absolutely differentiate the color of all the banana jacks, but I feel that I do have to think about it more than others. Just don't ever ask me the current mode of my MI Rings, though... the red/amber/green mode LED doesn't make any sense until I cycle it a few times.
revtor
Colors are not necessary at all. Euro for example. But if you like colors, then by all means go for whatever tickles you -it’s your system!
evilspock
Gandalf: Thank you very much for that link, this is news to me!

emenel/diophantine: Thank you as well for your feedback. I have to respectfully disagree with you about the panel graphics making it clear on what are inputs and outputs. I had to look at the manual on the serge.synth.net site to understand the alien half-unworded hieroglyphics on the 73-75 zthee DIY panel. Now that I've read that, I get it...but before doing so, I was befuddled. My drunken guitar buddies on jam night would have zero chance...
Gandalf
evilspock wrote:
Gandalf: Thank you very much for that link, this is news to me!

emenel/diophantine: Thank you as well for your feedback. I have to respectfully disagree with you about the panel graphics making it clear on what are inputs and outputs. I had to look at the manual on the serge.synth.net site to understand the alien half-unworded hieroglyphics on the 73-75 zthee DIY panel. Now that I've read that, I get it...but before doing so, I was befuddled. My drunken guitar buddies on jam night would have zero chance...

I concur as well. The original paperface glyphs are mind boggling so to say that they 'explain' the function of the jacks is bigger joke than saying it is hard to remember 6 colours.
Also, if you are going to adopt a colour scheme why wouldn't you at least go with the Serge 3-colour scheme which has been the norm for over 40 years!
At least then when you add other ('proper') Serge units to your system there will be some commonality. to just throw that out the door and make up your own non-compatible one seems like a daft move to me. It is those kinds of attitudes that have thrown the 3U modular market in to a shambles....
diophantine
evilspock wrote:
I have to respectfully disagree with you about the panel graphics making it clear on what are inputs and outputs. I had to look at the manual on the serge.synth.net site to understand the alien half-unworded hieroglyphics on the 73-75 zthee DIY panel.

Paperface-era Serge is an entirely different beast, graphics-wise. It hasn't been in use for over 40 years, and has only been recently resurrected for some DIY projects.

evilspock wrote:
My drunken guitar buddies on jam night would have zero chance...

...and they're gonna understand any sort of jack color scheme?
hox3d
Well, I generally consider that when you know your modules and by reading the panel graphics, you can easily differentiate inputs/outputs.

At some point, it makes sense to write it down on the panel (instead of hieroglyphs).

For my builds, I use the following:
* White for audio: since it's a synth, I find it not that stupid to highlight anything that produces sound.
* Black for DC-coupled signals;
* Blue for AC-coupled signals.
* Red for triggers.
* For the special, I'll see.

I decided to go for a differentiation of coupling instead of polarity: if some input is positive only, you might at least get the upper side of the signal to modulate whatever parameter; while using DC into AC-coupled input won't give any result at all.

The colors are just a matter of taste.
Gandalf
hox3d wrote:
Well, I generally consider that when you know your modules and by reading the panel graphics, you can easily differentiate inputs/outputs.

At some point, it makes sense to write it down on the panel (instead of hieroglyphs).

For my builds, I use the following:
* White for audio: since it's a synth, I find it not that stupid to highlight anything that produces sound.
* Black for DC-coupled signals;
* Blue for AC-coupled signals.
* Red for triggers.
* For the special, I'll see.

I decided to go for a differentiation of coupling instead of polarity: if some input is positive only, you might at least get the upper side of the signal to modulate whatever parameter; while using DC into AC-coupled input won't give any result at all.

The colors are just a matter of taste.

If you swap Black and Blue you have the Serge colour scheme!!!!:-
Black = AC Coupled
Blue = DC coupled
Red = Triggers

Just can't believe you are so close and then want to mix it up
hox3d
Ahahah, I guess you're right somehow.

But I suspect there are many more DC-coupled I/Os than AC-coupled, and I wanted more black.
So I chose more black over blue razz
cygmu
hox3d wrote:

* White for audio: since it's a synth, I find it not that stupid to highlight anything that produces sound.

...

The colors are just a matter of taste.


Identifying which signals are audio is pretty much a matter of taste on a Serge, no?
Gandalf
Well I just give up. What is the point of having standards, normal practise and specifications if everyone just ignores it.
And as just stated, one of the things with Serge unlike Buchla, is that most signals can be used for other functions. So an LFO output can be an AC (low frequency) audio or it can be a CV or even a logic (PULSE output!!!). At that point, colour coding is chosen for the jack on its most common usage.
hox3d
cygmu wrote:


Identifying which signals are audio is pretty much a matter of taste on a Serge, no?


Well, right. I should have said "what is generally considered as audio".

I know I don't really respect the standards, but I'd say that as long as there is a common standard within a system, it's fine.
cygmu
Gandalf wrote:

And as just stated, one of the things with Serge unlike Buchla, is that most signals can be used for other functions. So an LFO output can be an AC (low frequency) audio or it can be a CV or even a logic (PULSE output!!!).


Right, and this is why the Serge colour scheme is quite handy, because it gives you clues as to what kind of signal you will see at an output (unipolar continuous, bipolar continuous or 0/5V discrete) and how an input signal will be handled (DC coupled, AC coupled, or as a trigger/gate). It took me a while to appreciate the value of this. But for example the black input jack on the top section of the wave multipliers warns me about trying to use that section as a VCA over a signal I want to use as a unipolar CV. This is a useful reminder when putting a patch together.
Gandalf
cygmu wrote:
Gandalf wrote:

And as just stated, one of the things with Serge unlike Buchla, is that most signals can be used for other functions. So an LFO output can be an AC (low frequency) audio or it can be a CV or even a logic (PULSE output!!!).


Right, and this is why the Serge colour scheme is quite handy, because it gives you clues as to what kind of signal you will see at an output (unipolar continuous, bipolar continuous or 0/5V discrete) and how an input signal will be handled (DC coupled, AC coupled, or as a trigger/gate). It took me a while to appreciate the value of this. But for example the black input jack on the top section of the wave multipliers warns me about trying to use that section as a VCA over a signal I want to use as a unipolar CV. This is a useful reminder when putting a patch together.

That's what I have been saying all a long!!!
Black, Blue, Red tell you EXACTLY that for the INPUTS. This is the Serge colour scheme and was done for that purpose.
The 3 extra colours (White, Green, Yellow) tell you EXACTLY the SAME THING but ALSO tell you these are OUTPUTS. These were added to remove the need to specifically determine if a jack is an in or out based on the text or some weird glyphs....
The GOLDEN RULE is generally DO NOT CONNECT OUTPUTS TOGETHER!!!! Where does using ONLY Black, Blue, Red tell you that?
All we are doing is adding 3 colours to the mix
nurbivore
I've built my Loudest Warning rack using Charlie's color scheme:

yellow - audio in
green - audio out
red - trigger out
white - trigger in
blue - CV in
grey - CV out
orange - special (ie SSG coupler)

black is for 0V connections (or more preferably dinse connectors, but that's a whole 'nother thread...). Exceptions are also made for things like noise outputs - can't not use white and pink for their respective colored noises.

The rack itself is still definitely a work in progress, but I think I will probably go through and change things up a little eventually. I've got red jacks for things like suboctave or square wave outputs, which feels a stange distinction. I think of the red/white jacks as triggers or "events" at this point.

I haven't decided yet if I prefer colors to communicate some inherent nature of the electronic signal (ie AC vs DC) or the intent of the module (ie this input will be a trigger for something, or act as a control voltage). My suspicion is that inputs should be intent-based and outputs should be inherent, but I haven't thought that through yet...

Ultimately, I don't think consistency is actually that important. To me, the colors are more like guideposts. Once I'm actually familiar with an instrument, I'm not actually "reading" the colors or considering them semantically. I'm going by feel and memory. The value in jack colors is contrast and the ability to orient myself spatially on a panel.
emenel
Gandalf wrote:
emenel wrote:
Keep in mind that part of the original scheme is to tell the difference between bipolar and unipolar signals, and you don’t want to lose that.

First off:-
the bipolar and unipolar differentiation IS retained....


I was referring to the proposed colour scheme in the OP, which didn’t retain this.

And I have found it more difficult to remember 6 colours and their relationships to each other than three colours and labels. The paper face glyphs are a whole other things and I would recommend them to no one.

YMMV, and if you like 6 colours go for it! That’s the beauty of DIY, do what works for you.
cygmu
Gandalf wrote:

That's what I have been saying all a long!!!


Yes -- I am pretty sure I was agreeing with you smile
dbernhardt58
I like the paper face glyphs. I've always been interested in pictograms and graphic communication modes. The glyphs help organize the module faces for me. Once I read the glyph explanation, it stuck with me pretty well.

You might also say it's a 70's retro thing; but for me it makes the panels better-looking. Also, since all of the knobs are the same size on the Serge, you don't have the differentiation/organization that some other panel styles have when they use different sized knobs - the glyphs make up for that. However, for me my black-faced panels are harder to read than white-face or mill-finished aluminum.

Regarding jack color scheme: it's too late for me. My (3U and 4U) modules and (4U) 17" panels have come from too many different places. Maybe for me that's another advantage to having the glyphs in most of my 4U, and in the R*S 3U. For the Elby 3U, it's just laid out really well, and I've grown accustomed to their (panel) face - and they do use some graphics to help organize the panels.
evilspock
Friends, I thank each of you for the wonderful insights. At this point, I'm pretty certain I will be rolling with the Elby Panther color layout when I make my banana jack order but it was really great to hear all the different ideas. thumbs up
the bad producer
Speaking of colour schemes, I remember Ken had quite a fun one: add yellow for the output. So, red + yellow = orange, blue + yellow = green, purple + yellow = brown... TBH at this point my system is pretty much a glorious mess of different colours, despite my best plans (see above) but that's ok, and it's going to get worse as I'm now dying new colours. Fwiw I think I would go with 4 colours now, varying signals in and out and logic signals in and out...
mathomas
diophantine wrote:
....
Also bear in mind that I'm partially colorblind! I can absolutely differentiate the color of all the banana jacks, but I feel that I do have to think about it more than others. Just don't ever ask me the current mode of my MI Rings, though... the red/amber/green mode LED doesn't make any sense until I cycle it a few times.


I feel your pain. Sorry for taking the thread aside, and you may know this, but the “color blind” firmware that Olivier has released for Rings, Stages, etc. is a godsend. Just wanted to let you know of it on the off chance you didn’t.
diophantine
mathomas wrote:
I feel your pain. Sorry for taking the thread aside, and you may know this, but the “color blind” firmware that Olivier has released for Rings, Stages, etc. is a godsend. Just wanted to let you know of it on the off chance you didn’t.

I was part of the original "focus group" for this issue, and knew that new firmware was being created for some of the new modules, but didn't know that they'd done one for Rings - thanks for the tip!! Will definitely check it out.
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