Modular Case Upgrades

I've spent far too long working on new custom cases to replace the rickety Doepfer low-cost cases. Using Frequency Central Routemaster PCB's for the power distribution, I found the heatsinks on the regulators were getting frighteningly hot with only half the modules installed so I've rattled up a set of upgrades using Velleman heatsinks that will allow the regulators to supply one Amp per rail. Tomorrow these go in the cases. And I should really fit mains fuses on the transformers. It's only polite.

It's Another Hardware Synth!

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.

Oscilloscopery - The Rigol DS1054Z oscilloscope

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.

M-Audio MIDISport not working? Here's the fix ...

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.

Oh no, it's the eighties again

During the recent studio reorganisation I was left temporarily unable to run all the analogue synths from my Novation controller keyboard so I found myself investigating my long-neglected VST instruments, most notably the FM8 plugin from Native Instruments. Having used a DX9 (no, really) in the past I had a low opinion of FM synthesis in general but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the FM8. Big dramatic clangy FM sounds abound and the programmable arpeggiator is a thing of wonder. So here's a quick little four-chord thing I recorded using the FM8 arps and bass and some strings from Absynth 5.

I'll probably be thrown out of the analogue synth club for that. Never mind, studio shifting is almost finished and we'll be back to old school subtractive synthesis very soon.

Bomes MIDI Translator

I discovered this late last night, a very highly configurable MIDI routing engine that lets you filter and route between any number of hardware synths and controllers.

I installed the trial version, used it for about five minutes then pulled out my credit card and bought the full version. Now I can launch into my keyboard rig without waiting for Cubase to start up, creating a new project, setting the tempo, creating all the tracks, I just hit my controller keyboard and everything works. Note on/off, controller data from a Novation master keyboard plus clock from the JD-XA gets routed to all my synths and effects and it took me about ten minutes to learn. Highly recommended - I'm not ion any way associated with the company, just really pleased to have found a great product.

I should add that there's a less feature-laden version which appears to be effectively free to non-commercial users, the author only requests you send him a postcard ...

If you use hardware synths and want to do some poking under the hood with MIDI data then it's the best I've found. And I've done a lot of searching for something like this.

The synths just keep on coming

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!

Routemaster Number five

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.

Waldorf Salad

An early birthday present has arrived in the shape of the rather fantastic Waldorf Streichfett string synthesiser. Perfect for those Jean Michel Jarre moments.