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Joining the DIY
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Music Tech DIY  
Author Joining the DIY
Mindrone
Hey guys, this is subsequently my first thread on here, so yeah, hello.

At this very moment I have nothing!, and have been wanting to get into modular for ages really. But I never really found a reason to settle for the high prices.

Then I found out there's actually quite a lot you can do yourself, and having a bachelor in electronics/IT myself, I'm not all that unfamiliar with these kind of projects. I've soldered 0402's before, but I'd like to go for hot plate reflowing this time around. Turns out the prices are way more acceptable for DIYs, and to be honest I'd just do it for the shear glory of putting a module together and turning it on for the first time (successfully). I mean, it'd be criminally vulgar if I wouldn't DIY this, with my past experience. It just seems much more acceptable at that price also, and then I would finally have real modules!. I'd be so hyped.

But lately I've been doubting my decision to step into it, mainly because I lack the people in my life with whom I can talk to about modular. I literally have no friends family doing this, and for most part, my musical friends - who are only used to DAWs and VSTs - have mixed opinions about me getting into it. It works quite demotivating.

So I've been reading up on a shit-ton of resources for the past week, and my idea was to get something up quickly so I can have a module or two I can screw with, and then see where I go from there on. I thought about a Plaits/Clouds kind of combo, but I'm not sure. I've been playing around with those a lot in VCV Rack, so I know sort of what to expect.

I put together a crappy trying-to-look-nice spreadsh(i)eet which I'll link to you guys:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1t6oD2xo1PrrbWQC03ZDEmfw_P4GYpw q9yBpYd_9cqOI/edit?usp=sharing

I'm just wondering, maybe I forgot something, or maybe you fellas can give me some advice to make my startup better/leaner/cheaper/more valuable. I'd highly value your opinions.
ranix
I prefer a hot air gun to hot plate reflow, I use one of the random chinese 858d air guns. If you're going to breadboard stuff it might be nice to have a benchtop power supply that can supply +12V and -12V at the same time.

If I were you I would focus on making the basic modules; an oscillator, envelope generator, resonant low pass filter, and voltage controlled attenuator. You can breadboard them first before doing final assembly if you're going off schematics, or you can assemble from a kit whatever floats your boat. I make those decisions based on how much free time I have vs how much spare money I have.

Once you've got the basic modules it's easy to expand your system by adding modules with capabilities you want. That will also help to prevent you from getting "gear acquisition syndrome" and buying a module you don't need or understand just because it looks cool or the name sounds cool.
col
Hi Mindrone,

I think you are on the right track! I wouldn't build Clouds/Plaits as a first combo though. They are fairly advanced projects. They are easy to assemble if you are using hot plate reflow, the problem arises when it doesn't work and you have to trouble shot!

Usually, those starting on DIY Mutable Instruments stuff start with Ripples as it doesn't need programming, then progress on to something like Peaks, which is a great "swiss-army knife" module. I think if I was to start SMD SDIY now it would be with the micro versions of them. Maybe a Jakplugg Pique and an ST Modular filter based on Ripples.

Hot Plate Reflow is the way to go but you need the hot air gun and the temp. controlled soldering iron to fix things up. Also, make sure you get a decent magnifier.

good luck and welcome to the SMD SDIY crowd! thumbs up
adam
I generally recommend a pair of ripples as a good DIY synth starting point:

https://www.amazingsynth.com/ripples-pcb

fairly cheap to put together and you have the ability to make crazy fm feedback noises, then you can expand from there, you can get various bipolar 12v dc-dc convertors and mount them on stripboard with some 16 pin euro power connectors as an alternative to a psu and busboard, if you just want to dip your toe in without spending too much first...
Mindrone
How many of these more advanced projects tend to fail actually?

Of course when there's many parts, there's more room for error, of course. I personally wouldn't bother starting with breadboards and stuff, unless it's one of those simpler things, but atm I'd really just like to get those modules with which I've had prior experiences.

Peaks seems like a good one to start out with too. Had heard of it, but didn't know it was that much of a swiss army knife.

I'm going to look into getting one of those hot air guns as well then. Microscope for inspection of solder joints. Is solder paste actually sufficient? I've seen many people ordering flux alongside their paste, but it seems redundant?
adam
it's variable, I've been selling these pcb's since 2015, I tend to nudge beginners towards the easier ones and people who build using my pcb's have quite a high success rate (I spend a lot more than other vendors on pcb's so defective boards are pretty much all removed by the factories QA processes, I'm not sure I've ever had any, bar one with a bubble in the solder mask, and high quality pcbs are a lot more robust than cheap ones, especially when it comes to peeling pads etc).

small mistakes when building can often be rectified, a relative beginner even built the 0402 version of Plaits which amazed me, he used a stencil and hotplate for reflow.

paste normally has flux in so should be ok without extra flux, it's a different story if you're hand soldering, a flux pen is essential.
jorg
I would guess most of us have nobody in our lives who has a clue what modular or DIY modular are. If it wasn't for this forum, that would be the case for me.

Welcome aboard the PCB buss!
Bodo1967
Mindrone wrote:
At this very moment I have [b]nothing![/b [...] Then I found out there's actually quite a lot you can do yourself


Synth DIY is highly addictive. You'll become a solder junkie in no time at all, telling yourself (and others) "I can stop any time I want to!". But you can't. You'll find yourself thinking "What can I build next, and where do I get the PCB, the parts...?" all the time.

Fact.

That's it. You've been warned.

Welcome aboard wink Mr. Green !
EdBrock
Oh, come on Bodo 1967, don't scare people with the SDIY addiction thing. I am at around module 650 or so and I can stop any time I want....after I finish the 10 modules on my desk... Oh, and after I clear the rest of my backlog....... and...and...and... Ha ha ha...

Welcome to the club Mindrone. I hope you have a big house!
devinw1
Bodo1967 wrote:
Mindrone wrote:
At this very moment I have [b]nothing![/b [...] Then I found out there's actually quite a lot you can do yourself


Synth DIY is highly addictive. You'll become a solder junkie in no time at all, telling yourself (and others) "I can stop any time I want to!". But you can't. You'll find yourself thinking "What can I build next, and where do I get the PCB, the parts...?" all the time.

Fact.

That's it. You've been warned.

Welcome aboard wink Mr. Green !


He's not wrong.

Welcome!
Mindrone
Well, as a bystander, I can tell you it's also highly seductive at the moment.

Just found out I shouldn't buy the power supply + bus boards from here: https://modularsynthlab.com/product/eurorack-power-kit/

There's a cheaper way to buy that MeanWell PS and those bus-boards look very DIY-able. Not really worth the damn €60 (which excludes once again those dreaded shipping costs).

So I figured I'm gonna start with Peaks, and a breadboard VCO of sorts. Look Mum No Computers has a rather 'educative' take on that somewhere on YouTube.

Also there's this guy who talks through building Peaks exactly the way I'm planning to on YouTube as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l300o8UsYO
KittenVillage
I took a look through your spreadsheet. Just a couple of thoughts. I'm new to doing DIY too.

Hot air reflow is the way to go. I got a 862+ iron/hot air unit from amazon for USD $60. It's ok for a starter unit. There's lots of threads about solder paste and solder wire. Best to search and read. But that feeling of it all coming together as the hot air starts working is incredible.

I built a Miasma. It took me 2 months got gather all the parts. (A few other builds came first.) The two boards are very symmetrically laid out, so you won't hunt for the values too much. It's a great unit and I love it. I mounted ultrabright blue LEDs too high above the panel, it's blinding to use, so don't do that! But it's an easy 0805 build.

I've seen an RF Nomad in person, and met the creator and they are great. But you may want to go for a Music Thing Radio Music and play your own samples instead.

My last build was a swirls/lamb. I found an alternate firmware that I'm really liking.

I wouldn't follow that Peaks vid -- I trust my hot air reflow more than the hot plate. Maybe if you had a temperature sensor? BUT I don't see a mini jtag adapter on our spreadsheet, and you'll need one for Peaks.

Hope these suggestions help you on your journey. I'm enjoying mine.
Rex Coil 7
ranix wrote:
... Once you've got the basic modules it's easy to expand your system by adding modules with capabilities you want. That will also help to prevent you from getting "gear acquisition syndrome" and buying a module you don't need or understand just because it looks cool or the name sounds cool.
Word....


col wrote:
Hi Mindrone,

... then progress on to something like Peaks, which is a great "swiss-army knife" module.
The "Swiss Army Knife" analogy is very flawed. The actual "Swiss Army Knife" is a very poor tool. It does a lot of things, with barely adequate results. It's the very last thing you'd want to have on hand in the event of a need, like saying "if you can't carry anything else, at all, then the Swiss Army Knife is your last resort". In a survival situation it barely out does a toy.

It's really not very good at doing most tasks. It is designed to be used in lieu of having proper tools on hand. I think the phrase "well stocked tool kit" is a better way to describe things that are capable of not just doing lots of tasks, but doing lots of tasks very well.

Calling a module a "Swiss Army Knife" is not really a compliment ... it's actually more of an insult. The "Swiss Army Knife" is akin to "jack of all trades, master of none".

Just another over used cliche.


hihi
col
Rex Coil 7 wrote:
ranix wrote:
... Once you've got the basic modules it's easy to expand your system by adding modules with capabilities you want. That will also help to prevent you from getting "gear acquisition syndrome" and buying a module you don't need or understand just because it looks cool or the name sounds cool.
Word....


col wrote:
Hi Mindrone,

... then progress on to something like Peaks, which is a great "swiss-army knife" module.
The "Swiss Army Knife" analogy is very flawed. The actual "Swiss Army Knife" is a very poor tool. It does a lot of things, with barely adequate results. It's the very last thing you'd want to have on hand in the event of a need, like saying "if you can't carry anything else, at all, then the Swiss Army Knife is your last resort". In a survival situation it barely out does a toy.

It's really not very good at doing most tasks. It is designed to be used in lieu of having proper tools on hand. I think the phrase "well stocked tool kit" is a better way to describe things that are capable of not just doing lots of tasks, but doing lots of tasks very well.

Calling a module a "Swiss Army Knife" is not really a compliment ... it's actually more of an insult. The "Swiss Army Knife" is akin to "jack of all trades, master of none".

Just another over used cliche.


hihi


Chill Winston! no need to take things so literal! Rasta-nana beer! Drunk Banana
Kampfzwerg
Hi Rex coil

I have to disagree with you on your opinion about the Swiss Army knife.
Having done service in the Swiss Army and carrying around in my pocket such a knife most of my life (no not the wenger 16999 one) I think you are missing the point.
Of course it is not meant to replace a box full of dedicated tools, but are you carrying around a bunch of tools all the time? I guess not. hihi

It does a couple of things very well. For instance it cuts through childrens fingers very well. Believe me I can tell.
Every swiss kid learns to carve wood with them. Its common that you get a big box of bandaids with your first knife...
And in most recend years I found out the wine bottle opener works like charm. Standing on a mountain top after 7 hours of hiking uphill,
opening a bottle of white "Gipfel-Wein", just perfect! (If I were king I'd install Rapid Wine openers on every mountan peak)

Plus its been around a hundred years longer than the Leanthermantool.

Cheers hihi thumbs up
ranix
If you're going to build a modular anyway you might as well use the right tools for the right job. A semi-modular is a swiss army knife. I'd rather have a good pocketknife and a good screwdriver set.

ixtern
Mindrone wrote:
Hey guys, this is subsequently my first thread on here, so yeah, hello.

At this very moment I have nothing!, and have been wanting to get into modular for ages really. But I never really found a reason to settle for the high prices.
...
I'm just wondering, maybe I forgot something, or maybe you fellas can give me some advice to make my startup better/leaner/cheaper/more valuable. I'd highly value your opinions.


I would start with following things:
- power supply (+-12V),
- control voltage source,
- rack,
- VCOs.

Power supply:
- get PCB, like this one and build PSU:
https://www.ebay.pl/itm/Frequency-Central-FC-Power-PCB-Doepfer-DIY/253 819427984
- get proper transformer, toroidal is the best but this will do also:
https://www.reichelt.com/gb/en/transformer-36-va-2-x-12-v-2-x-1500-ma- ei-66-23-212-p27398.html?GROUPID=7672&START=0&OFFSET=75&SID=96W9gpNKwQ AUAAAJ2lZEM84355cf3a48b81277ee09f86b23d0114&CURRENCY=EUR&&r=1
- power bus PCB, I am usually buying here:
https://store.synthrotek.com/Noise_Filtering_Power_Distribution_Board_ PCB

Control voltage source:
The simplest way is to get any MIDI controller (keyboard or so) and MIDI2CV module.
Notice: if you choose MIDI2CV with cheap 12-bit DAC, be sure that software has calibration table. This should be OK:
https://www.thonk.co.uk/shop/befaco-midi-thing-panel-pcb/
[or rather here: https://shop.befaco.org/pcb-panels/176-midi.html
as thonk seems out of stock).
otherwise get MIDI2CV with better DAC.

Rack:
If you want to have rack fast and cheap, buy this one:
https://www.reichelt.com/gb/en/pl/pl/19-subrack-3he-84te-178-mm-depth- bgt-384-180-p33986.html?r=1
You should think about at least two and stacking them up as they are rather small in HP (TE).

VCO:
If you are fan of the SMD (I am not), starting option may be Timo Rozendal CEM3340 VCO :
http://www.munichen-audio.de/CEM3340-VCO-PCB/Panel/en

Having all of this you may start thinking about VCFs, VCAs etc.
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