DIY vs buy

Anything modular synth related that is not format specific.

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honeyb
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DIY vs buy

Post by honeyb » Sun Sep 01, 2019 9:48 am

wondering if it is time to rethink. I got started as a pure DIY, build it myself or skip... but building takes time...

and now I'm wondering about adding some voice modules to save rack space. There are so many amazing sounds from single modules, and with digital synthesis so accessible, even more.... could take 10 or more purpose-built modules to replicate one voice module, but fudge, now it isn't even pure analog! The digital deamon is back in the rack!

And even simple circuits, dividers, attenuators, clocks... the buy price vs the build price... I've built enough so that I can tell myself I understand the circuit, so why not just buy it and have it? And even when I think, "hey, wouldn't it be cool for the clock to have feature X", I can usually find a manufacturer with a similar idea and better execution.

I know what it comes down to, the balance between time spent soldering and time spent patching.

So this topic isn't a question, really, and everyone needs to find their own answer, just wondering how others who started by wanting to build all the modules have thought about what goes into their rack.

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sduck
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Post by sduck » Sun Sep 01, 2019 11:09 am

From 2003 to sometime within the last 3 years, I did almost all DIY modules. Ended up with a wall of MOTM format stuff. It's large, but very capable, and I've got a great selection of the newer crazy digital stuff ported from eurorack in addition to a healthy selection of trad analog stuff.

As of maybe 2015, I started getting euro stuff, and originally had the idea I would stick to mostly DIY, but once you've got a few prebuilt things in there, the need to be strict basically goes down the toilet. So now I've got a ton of prebuilt euro, and am totally fine with that.

The mess as of this morning...
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Dilibob
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Post by Dilibob » Sun Sep 01, 2019 11:46 am

On euro rack the problem i have is its primarily software for me, and i am real bad at keeping track of versions. On 5u all the standard stuff is very well implemented and i think very well priced. I have been experimenting with a digital controller panel ui to a backend server to meet my diy needs using touch panels. On the analog side i find putting new ideas into the 5u format really hard, the first couple of versions have to be bread boarded/table-top and getting them to a production 5u format is a significant effort for something i might just make a couple of. I am thinking a bit more table top/desktop recently, something like line level effect pedals, bunch of interesting stuff happening in this area but right now i just dont have a bunch of floor and table space to make that happen.

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Post by UltraViolet » Sun Sep 01, 2019 1:10 pm

sduck wrote: The mess as of this morning...
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That is an impressive setup. Even more so that you built most of it yourself.

honeyb
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Post by honeyb » Sun Sep 01, 2019 2:52 pm

sduck wrote:From 2003 to sometime within the last 3 years, I did almost all DIY modules. Ended up with a wall of MOTM format stuff. It's large, but very capable, and I've got a great selection of the newer crazy digital stuff ported from eurorack in addition to a healthy selection of trad analog stuff.

As of maybe 2015, I started getting euro stuff, and originally had the idea I would stick to mostly DIY, but once you've got a few prebuilt things in there, the need to be strict basically goes down the toilet. So now I've got a ton of prebuilt euro, and am totally fine with that.

The mess as of this morning...
Image
Impressive indeed! The other draw I have towards the pre-built is that I don't have a wall to dedicate to such a lovingly crafted and capable mess.

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tron23
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Post by tron23 » Sun Sep 01, 2019 3:25 pm

Started Euro planning in DIY but as sduck put it down,
it was so easy to start buying prebuilt modules for a lot of different reasons(unavailable functions, digital non DIY, instant gratification, etc.)

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jkjelec
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Post by jkjelec » Sun Sep 01, 2019 4:07 pm

I think it's a good idea to have an understanding of how much time and attention to detail it takes successfully build DIY, before you commit to it. Including time for setting up a workspace and test equipment, parts spec'ing/finding, ordering, mechanical assembly, calibrating and debugging. These are all awesome if you are or want to learn how to be a electronics hardware engineer, but are in the way of time spent twisting knobs. :bananaguitar:

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Re: DIY vs buy

Post by Blairio » Sun Sep 01, 2019 8:30 pm

honeyb wrote:
I know what it comes down to, the balance between time spent soldering and time spent patching.

So this topic isn't a question, really, and everyone needs to find their own answer, just wondering how others who started by wanting to build all the modules have thought about what goes into their rack.
Perhaps this isn't all about time. If you have the skill and enjoy building from scratch off schematics, or assembling kits, then why not?

One of my past times is restoring old motorbikes. Some of my biking pals don't get this - they would rather be riding than spannering. That's fair enough, but there is a lot of satisfaction in getting an old bike working, the same satisfaction (I imagine) as assembling a module from scratch and getting that performing as it should.

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Post by electricanada » Sun Sep 01, 2019 8:40 pm

I spend a lot of time listening to my modular play itself. I might as well be soldering during that time.
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Post by Noodle Twister » Sun Sep 01, 2019 9:24 pm

Synth DIY for me is a process of creation followed by experimentation.
I didn't invent or design the module, but by the time it's interacting with other modules I have already connected with it in a sense that is deeper than the patch cables.

Buying a module also has it's rewards and the enjoyment of it is not less because it wasn't DIY'ed.

Either way or both it's still a great pleasure.

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Post by aragorn23 » Mon Sep 02, 2019 5:35 am

For me the DIY thing is mostly about cost. I had a pretty good sense from near the beginning of my journey into modular (about two years ago) what kind of setup I wanted and there's no way I'd have been able to afford that setup with prebuilt only. It cost me a bit of time and money to get set up for DIY (and a couple of notable failures) but now that I've built about 30-odd modules those costs feel well amortized. My rule of thumb is only to buy a module prebuilt if it's totally necessary and there's no DIY alternative.

Also, I've realised I find soldering quite relaxing, which was unexpected. Oh, and as electricanada says, it's something to do while listening to the generative modular stuff I enjoy patching 8-)

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Post by electricanada » Mon Sep 02, 2019 8:07 am

aragorn23 wrote:
Also, I've realised I find soldering quite relaxing, which was unexpected. Oh, and as electricanada says, it's something to do while listening to the generative modular stuff I enjoy patching 8-)
Me too. It’s relaxing and almost meditative. I find it conducive to a flow state of concentration.
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Post by Peake » Mon Sep 02, 2019 12:57 pm

DIY is awesome but it has hidden costs: tools, supplies, time spent. If you're interested in learning something new and repeatedly applying it you'll have a great time. If you're interested in doing it once then putting it away you'll have all these tools and supplies left over so before setting out to do it just once or only a few times measure the things you'll need in addition to the PCBs, panels, and parts. It's a fantastic hobby and very satisfying but know beforehand what you're dedicating yourself to. Best wishes. Image
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Re: DIY vs buy

Post by honeyb » Mon Sep 02, 2019 2:47 pm

Blairio wrote: One of my past times is restoring old motorbikes. Some of my biking pals don't get this - they would rather be riding than spannering. That's fair enough, but there is a lot of satisfaction in getting an old bike working, the same satisfaction (I imagine) as assembling a module from scratch and getting that performing as it should.
It is a real high when I successfully build a module, lasts for a few days. That's one of the joys of it.

OTOH, it does take setting up the workspace and dedicating a week's worth of evenings... time seems to be in short supply these days.

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Post by honeyb » Mon Sep 02, 2019 2:49 pm

Noodle Twister wrote: Buying a module also has it's rewards and the enjoyment of it is not less because it wasn't DIY'ed.
Thanks for this perspective.

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Post by honeyb » Mon Sep 02, 2019 2:56 pm

I have a basic toolkit, and have built maybe 10 modules which function, a few which don't, plus a Noise Toaster (gave it as a present to my nephews...) and a Weird Sound Generator with a second board/panel as big as the first with some custom mods + blinky lights. That was a fun project.

I'm thinking that my original philosopy (DIY or die) was sufficient to get me where I am today. Basic understanding of the underlying electronics, sense of ownership, and some mastery.

I know I could be better at it, but I could also be better at making music.

So I'm leaning towards buying a voice or two and using my DIY skills for control modules. I could use a buffered attenuator (pretty simple, an op-amp fo r the buffering with a pot to attenuate... could also give it multiple outs by piping output through two more op-amps... simple enough) and a clock divider (flip-flops should work, MFOS has a working circuit somewhere), and you never have enough VCAs...

It's not like starting in Eurorack means joining some purity cult.

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Post by Pelsea » Mon Sep 02, 2019 3:47 pm

My career running academic electronic music studios included a lot of activities, from teaching (50%) to building and repair (50%) to budgeting and administration (50%). When l retired, I spent five years not doing any of that. Eventually I began to miss one part— building synthesizers. So I got back in the game (but this time I get to keep the finished instrument).

The Euro system I am putting together now is about half DIY from scratch, one quarter kit built, and one quarter bought in. I tend to buy things that are complicated or I need in a hurry, preferring kits when available. I scratch build simple things and modules that aren’t commercially available. I have plenty of time to both patch and build— in fact, one of the best things about this approach is if I am putting up a patch and discover I need a blivet, I can walk over to the workbench and build one.
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