FAQ & Terms of UseFAQ & Terms Of Use   Wiggler RadioMW Radio   Muff Wiggler TwitterTwitter   Support the site @ PatreonPatreon 
 SearchSearch   RegisterSign up   Log inLog in 

what percentage do you save going DIY?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Music Tech DIY Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Author what percentage do you save going DIY?
ee guy
Just curious if anyone has a ball-park estimate of what building your own modules costs vs buying. Say a pre-built Oakley 5u unit vs a DIY with a nice panel purchased from a 3rd party like frontpanelexpress.

Any butt-pull number? 50%?

LOL! It'll plunge you into bankruptcy with smaller amounts at a time. Mr. Green
just build things you cannot buy pre-built Mr. Green

(i know, not an answer to your question)
ee guy
Jarno wrote:
LOL! It'll plunge you into bankruptcy with smaller amounts at a time. Mr. Green

Oh yeah, I realize that ! It isn't that money is real tight, more that I'm a big DIY guy in general and figure diy might be a way to force me into learning about mod synths with fewer modules at a somewhat slower pace.

i.e. match the rate of cash drain to my learning curve. I know the drain will always be there smile
On a more serious note, there's some money to be saved on more elaborate modules (VCO's). But you spend time on them. And you only have to fuck things up a couple of times to break even.
Do it because it is fulfilling and you learn something in the process.
On stuff that's comparable to stuff you could buy - my ballpark guess is that I'm saving somewhere between 20 and 50%. But the greater bulk of what I build isn't available elsewhere, so the numbers don't matter.
A real example from
4ms Rotating Clock Divider kit $95
Complete module $179

(179-95)/179 = 0,46 => 46% save.

If you order all your components yourself you might be able to remove another 20-40%, if and only if you order the correct parts. Not oversized caps and not spend all your pocket money on shipping etc.

The big save comes when you think big, ie. you plan to build all modules from Oakley, MFOS, YuSynth and cgs plus buy components in bulk. Then again, you're never going to record that music you intended to use your synth for since you too busy building modules, scanning forums for new modules and signing up for group buys.

EDIT: someone posted mouser boms for various Oakley modules, you could check the total of them add the cost for FPE and knobs and compare to what the modules cost if you buy them via
For me, the cost is almost the same, but you can spread it out over more purchases smile

The economies of scale do work a little bit if you stock up on basic things like resistors, etc. Front panels/decorative things are where the costs get pricey, so it's better to find if someone is doing a group buy, or some other bulk order (like for your 5U panels)
On paper you save a bit of money. Until you start calculating your labour. And the number of projects you'll never finish. And the wrong parts you ordered by accident. etc etc

It can be a lot of fun though, and you only pay a little bit at a time, instead of splashing out for a complete module at once. I wouldn't start DIY just to save money though.
Rod Serling Fan Club
If you want to save money:

Build your own case(s). Build from wood at the hardware store, you can have them cut it to size. Get a power-one supply off ebay. Use wood rails if you are looking to save. All wood with a power-one PSU you should easily be able to do a fairly large case for <$100

Either make your own panels cheaply or take advantage of the group-buys. Panels can be the biggest single expense of the project, particularly if you are buying custom FPE panels for each module.

Buy things in bulk. There are price breaks at higher quantities for most electronics. Figure out which things you will commonly need and buy them at a discount. Combine projects into one order to save on shipping.
ee guy
robotfunk wrote:
...And the number of projects you'll never finish.

Hey wait a minute, have you been in my basement and seen all my motorcycle parts? Get outta my house!

I can relate. I built a cedar-strip canoe once and got so many "Well can't you just buy a canoe?" comments from those that thought I was somehow doing it to save money, and didn't get that the process of building it was the reward. Yeah, 200 hours of labor to save 300 bucks. I don't think so.
It depends.

If you're starting from scratch (i.e. no electronics expeience/tools/etc.) then it won't save you much (if anything) at first. Once you've tooled up and have some stuff in your parts bin, it can save you quite a bit in some cases. For example, I built my QLPG for a little over half what a QMMG cost back when they were available. Much smaller (but more recently) I built one of Negativspace's Buchlidian Voltage Processors: I already had all of the parts on hand, so that was a $20 panel/PCB for a module that sells built for around $80.

As robotfunk mentioned, any cost savings vanishes if you put a price on your time...this stuff definitely takes time. If you enjoy building things, then it's time well spent. That's the best reason for getting into DIY, rather than cost savings. I find it incredibly gratifying to finish a module (especially if it's had to go through a round or two of debugging) and get it howling in my rack the first time. It's also rewarding when the FedEx truck shows up at your doorstep with a new module you saved up for a few months to get, but not (for me) in the same way.
ee guy wrote:
I can relate. I built a cedar-strip canoe once and got so many "Well can't you just buy a canoe?" comments from those that thought I was somehow doing it to save money, and didn't get that the process of building it was the reward. Yeah, 200 hours of labor to save 300 bucks. I don't think so.

For me, it's because I like the DIY aspect, but also too, I would think that I have a chance of fixing it if something goes wrong 10 years from now
I suspect you could get a night job at McDonald's instead of doing the hours you will spend learning, researching and doing DIY. Then buy whatever you want and come out financially on top.

But what fun would that be?
Yeah I think once you factor in costs of tools and test equipment (and certainly time) you're probably better off financially if you just buy ready-built modules. But the DIY route does allow you to spend relatively small amounts of money more frequently, which can be convenient for those of us without closets stacked full of gold bullion. It's like Christmas for me right now, almost every day i take delivery of a pack of diodes or something from China that cost me next to nothing, with free shipping!

I do DIY primarily because i love the whole process. The main reason for me not to take the DIY route is impatience, as the major downside to DIY is waiting days/weeks/months for parts (or boards, or panels) to come in.
ee guy
Hey thanks for all the quick replies!

Definitely would not be doing this FOR the cost savings, was just curious what the difference amounted to. I know all about the spiraling cost effect - here is my progression with my 1982 kawasaki gpz rebuild:

Decide to tear down, repaint, etc -> tear down, move into basement -> decide that powder coating some parts would be nice -> hmm, need to sandblast, build a sandblast cabinet ($$$) -> my compressor beats its brains out sandblasting -> buy massive compressor off craigslist, convert from 3 phase to single ($$$) -> build powdercoating oven ($$$) -> need to paint stuff too, might as well toss up a paint booth in the garage out of 2x3 and plastic sheeting -> Well you get the idea.

It sure beats watching American Idol like the masses do, or at least I think so.
20-50% depending on the module is a pretty reasonable number, that's about where I've always been. (And I'm a spare-no-expense-on-panels kinda guy.)

'ee guy' implies that you know your way around a soldering iron, all the better (and cheaper) if you've got all the tools and are familiar with Mouser/etc. already.
I never calculate what I would have saved on a module.
As stated above: it's not just the PCB, the components and your time.
It's also the tools you need (and remember: better buy GOOD tools once than many crappy tools wink): soldering iron, oscilloscope, multimeter, signal generator, lab power supply, maybe stuff to etch and drill your own PCBs, woodworking tools to built your own cabinets, the list goes on...

SDIY for me is building my own custom made *instrument*, exactly the way I want it. And the satisfaction you get when you get that new module working, putting it in your modular and getting lost in a couple of hours of patching and listening to weird analog sounds 8_)
djs wrote:
For me, it's because I like the DIY aspect, but also too, I would think that I have a chance of fixing it if something goes wrong 10 years from now

yeah that's something I thought about a lot once I'd filled my first 9U of euro... it's what makes me wary about a lot of digital modules too... I want to be still able to use this stuff in 20 years time.
My guess is that if you don't count your time or tools, and you make the equivalent of an expensive module and cut/drill/label your own panels, you could save a fair amount. If it's a cheap module and you get an FPE panel with engraving, it could cost more than buying a used module.
Go to Bill and Will site, dragonfly alley.

Look at there detailed breakdown of module builds on their Excel spreadsheets. Synth Tech 5U modules are not the cheapest to build.

What I did was purchase in bulk, capacitors and resistors and ICs for common CGS builds. I did this a few times a couple of years ago to build up my stock. Every time I'd order, I would order extra. It took a good two years to build it up and collect all the tools, but it's to the point now that if I want to build myself (or build one to sell to fund another build) an MOTM-300 or 440, or 480, as examples, all I have to do is by the panel and PCB and that is about $80. It's really hard to tell how much I saved buy purchasing things in bulk but I really love having a big supply at hand. It has been a hell of a task to organize it all but I am finally almost there. I have about 12 of those 39 drawer bins holder thingies stuffed with components.
I guess I didn't really answer your question though lol

If you were to build Synth Tech modules in 5U and just buy parts for each module without taking advantage of bulk pricing I don't think you'd quite get to the 50% savings. It'd be about 35-40% for an MOTM-300 as an example.

I source my own "extra parts kits" for MOTM builds so that might bump it down closer to 50% if you go that route.
Reese P. Dubin
For about $1000 in parts I built a suitcase that would probably run around $4K retail, if such a thing existed for sale. I generally find someplace around 30-35% of what I would expect to pay for a finished product. A bit more for some stuff...
DIY for me is mostly about building things that are customized to my preferences and needs, as well as things that aren't being completely manufactured for sale. I have DIYed some modules that are also available for complete purchase, and in those circumstances I've probably ended up saving somewhere between 20-40% off the list price (IE, somewhere around used pricing). However, factor in the labor of ordering hundreds of parts, soldering them all in, wiring things up, troubleshooting, and all the equipment necessary to DIY (multimeter, soldering, etching, tools) and in the end I haven't really saved much at all.

Once you become practiced then a BOM that took you two hours on your first try can take fifteen minutes, you can get soldering down to a streamlined process, and each module you build divvies up the cost of tools more and more, so in the long run it can become a money saving venture. Most importantly though, if you enjoy it then it's worth the pursuit since you can cancel out the hours of labor as something you enjoy anyway. If you don't enjoy it and do it just to get a module going, then it's really not worth it.

One thing worth noting - in the example of cases, distribution, and PSUs, I've saved dramatically more money going DIY than buying new. To the tune of about 80%.
Christopher Winkels
How much do you value your time?

Material costs are what they are, but the "costs" of your time are quite variable: a part time student is going to have a lot more available (and frankly cheap) time on his hands than someone trying to run a business and care for three kids.
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Music Tech DIY Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Page 1 of 2
Powered by phpBB © phpBB Group