I stumbled across a video demo of a clone of the Buchla LPG on Youtube and was phenomenally impressed. So much so that I knew I had to build one. It's an ancient type of filter using Vactrols, a combination of an LED and a light-dependent resistor to effect a frequency response change. And it sounds wonderful.
The first PCBs aren't quite right, I managed to omit the two voltage tracks to the ICs so this first version is patched up with a couple of bodge wires to make it work. Only smoked one opamp making it, a new record.
Just arrived this week, an eBay special. The Novation Supernova has always been on my list of interesting virtual analogue synths so when I was looking for a Roland JP8080 and this popped up instead I didn't hesitate.
And it sounds bloody great. Absolutely pisses on the old MS2000, the filters sound really good (for digital filters that is) and it's got a really nasty clanky edge to it. Not figured out the arpeggiators yet but I've managed to get the LFO to sync to MIDI clock already. So that's good. And it would appear to be eight-part multitimbral. So I can can eight different programs playing in each performance patch. All with their own arpeggiator. No built-in sequencer but I never use those anyway. Brilliant piece of kit. genuinely dirty-sounding filter which reacts in a pleasantly surprising way as you crank the cutoff up.
To assist in my electronic endeavours I have treated myself to the very wonderful Rigol DS1054Z digital storage oscilloscope and BLIMEY, it is good. This machine does everything from FFT analysis to SPI bus decoding in realtime (almost). It's a four-channel scope, brilliant for watching the channels of something like an SPI or I2C bus.
So naturally the first thing I'd want to connect up was my modular synth. Here's the MakeNoise DPO oscillator outputs running in hard sync mode. FFT shows the harmonics and already I can see that I need to turn up the sweep extent trimpots for the pulse width modulation on two of my other oscillators.
The scope has LAN connectivity, PNG waveform saving to USB memory stick, hundreds of features you might normally expect to pay twice the asking price for.
And by illicitly googling "RIGLOL" you can find a page that lets you enable the paid performances for free.
Not that I condone such behaviour.
I've had endless problems trying to get an M-Audio MIDISport 4x4 interface working under Windows. Half a day of googling, driver updates, registry edits, reboots and nothing was working but there was a clue in a post from (of all people) Microsoft tech support. Apparently some MIDI interfaces don't like the identifier requests sent out by USB 3.0 hubs. The solution? Use a USB 2.0 hub. Simple as that. Works first time. Posting this so the internet can share in the secret.
This is an interesting Fender oddity, a Mexican Stratocaster body with a USA made neck and incorporating Roland's GK hex pickup to drive guitar synths and processors like the GP-10 or the VG-99.
The GC-1 had a fairly short production run in the early 2000s and is out of production now, probably due to the apparent reluctance of guitar players to fully embrace hex pickup technology. This is a pity as it is capable of stunning effects that can't be achieved on any other guitar such as baritone guitar, 12-string simulation and programmable pitch shift per string which allows for alternate tunings at the press of a button. The GP-10 also lets you do string bends from a footpedal, creating impossible multi-string bends and pedal steel effects.
Here's the GP-10 and GC-1 doing some of that stuff. First off, the GP-10 is set to play an open E minor chord and the expression pedal bends strings up and down to make an open A minor chord. Hit a few harmonics and the thing warbles into a sound vaguely reminiscent of a pedal steel but with a far more modern edge to it.
It does straight tuning transpose too, here's a baritone guitar effect.
And it's handy for recording demos if you can't be bothered to pull more than one guitar off the stand. This is the GC-1 standard magnetic pickups mixed with the modelled sounds to provide electric, acoustic and 12-string sounds as well as an open G slide part.
Currently on the production line is another kit from Rick Holt at Frequency Central. This one is the fabulous Meth Amp, effectively a clone of the EHX Big Muff in Eurorack format for those insanely distorted TB-303 squelches. Should be ready within a week if the Alpha pots arrive soon.
Well, I thought the JD-XA would be the last synth I ever needed but I just could not resist the Roland System-8 to go with it. Huge sounds from the internal sound engine plus the Jupiter 8 and Juno 106 modelled plugouts make this one incredible piece of kit. The gear mountain is getting rearranged when the keyboard stand extension arrives but for the moment there's gear spread right across the lounge. And it sounds incredible. Demos to follow soon!
Having made a complete fuckup of two previous boards by putting the voltage regulators in the wrong way round, I've rattled through building this new version. One more board to build then the modular cases will finally be ready for me to transfer the synth modules into.
An early birthday present has arrived in the shape of the rather fantastic Waldorf Streichfett string synthesiser. Perfect for those Jean Michel Jarre moments.
The latest (and probably last) guitar arrival is ... yet another Stratocaster. This is another partscaster, made from a Jeff Beck Strat body with a US Standard neck. Pickups are by The Creamery - a Baby 71 humbucker in the bridge and Alt 64s in the neck and middle positions.
The Baby 71 is the reason I wanted to build this guitar. It's a reproduction of the old Fender Wide Range Humbucker, a really great-sounding low output humbucker with extended highs. Works beautifully with single coil pickups, something like the Fender Shawbucker but with a chiming character all of its own.
This video was shot as soon as I'd thrown the guitar together so the intonation wasn't right and the strings were choking on a few of the bends but you get an idea of how good that bridge and middle sound is.
The Baby 71 and Alt 64s are available from Jaime at The Creamery and highly recommended.