Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Modular in a tool case

I had a day free on Saturday and set about putting a modular in a tool case. To be exact it is a Doepfer A-100 DIY kit #1 fitted to a Halfords engineers tool case. The point of this was to have an easily transportable demo system so I can take to shows, meets etc in order to show how lovely my CV Tools module is and to let people have a play.

In a follow-on to my cheap DIY store front panels post a few weeks back I used anodised aluminium angle strips in the construction from Homebase - the case is bigger than the 6U 84HP of the rack kit.
(Note to non-UK readers Halfords is a motor accessories store and Homebase is a DIY store)

Here's the case

Prep the case - remove separators, tool panel and unecessary fixings.

All done, ready to start serious modding

This will be powered by a 15VAC supply so a nice big hole for an XLR connector

XLR in place (EDIT: this is eventually replaced by a plug version as a power lead with exposed pins is bad karma)

A bit of judiscious foam cutting to neaten it up

Markout and drill the regulator boards fixing points - 4 x M3

Regulator screwed in place

I used M3 washers to spread the load - the case is just hardboard with a thin aluminium veneer

Position the bus boards and drill mounting holes - long M3 screws with tapped spacers fitted

All electrics now in place. Note this is temporary - there will be wiring to a front panel power switch on the next installment!

Next make the rack end pieces out of 10mm x 20mm anodised aluminium angle strip. These make the rack the perfect width to fit the case.

Similar to above I made top and bottom strips to fill the gap - I used 25mm x 25mm anodised angle, again an almost exact height fit - starting to look good.

Here's a view showing the fixings (ok I drilled a hole in the wrong place. Motto: measure twice, cut once!!!).

As I said a near perfect fit in the case. At this point just resting on the foam and not screwed in. That's in the next installment.

Loaded with modules and powered up. Take no notice of the modules selection, I've since changed it to a more coherent set.

Even a nifty scope showing VCOs, Synovatron DioDe and CV Tools in operation - now that's a waveform!

 Next installment will add a power switch and fixings to anchor the rack to the case. It will also make use of all that front panel space top and bottom for passive and buffered mults, bus access, simple LFOs, gate logic, 3.5mm to 6.25mm/RCA adaptors, etc etc (the thought of the lovely goodies that will get built in is going to keep me awake a night - so sad!!)

Here's a short clip of it working:-

Monday, 24 October 2011

New file hosting for Synovatron Downloadable Documents

The latest Synovatron documents can be downloaded from these links following difficulties some people had with the Google Docs links.

The build info gives you a good idea of what is entailed in building the kit. Further build info (schematics and items list) is available when you place an order for the kit.

Please contact me if you have any problems downloading files.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

CV Tools Australian Distributor Announcement

I am very pleased to announce that Rhythm Active will be distributing Synovatron products in Australia and should have an initial stock of CV Tools and ASys/Doepfer adaptors by the end of October.

CV Tools Modules and kits are starting to get some nice feedback - here's a taste:-

" I love the fact that with only the minimum of knowledge about the module I am totally comfortable with no panel legend or graphics, that appeals to me immensely, very elegant design......The LEDs make it really easy to tell what's going on and also centre the pots really accurately which is always a bit tricky with attenuverters"

This neat little version was put together from a kit using a specially requested blank panel.

"Just got mine and have been messing around with it.  Definitely an all around winner. The ability to see the signal go positive or negative via the leds works great for sussing out what is going on, and the fact that this cascades down to the other leds really is helpful. And having the slew at the end really propells it to the top."

Friday, 16 September 2011

CV Tools arrives in the USA

Finally after many trials and tribulations a batch of CV Tools Modules has arrived at Analogue Haven in Santa Monica USA.

Watch this space for a distributer in Australia too.

Having sold all of the first batch of CV Tools I'm now hastily preparing the next batch of 50 of which 10-20 will be allocated as kits. 

Some may also remember my DioDe module, well that took a back seat to lots of things, but am actively completing the design and will announce some news soon.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Cheap DIY front panels from UK DIY store!!!

Tone's Top Tip for July

Whilst wandering around my local Homebase DIY store I noticed a rack of metal and plastic extrusions. In there was a range of 2mm thick aluminium clear anodised strip in 10mm, 15mm, 20mm, 25mm and 30mm widths i.e. approximately 2HP, 3HP, 4HP, 5HP and 6HP respectively (note that the online links wrongly refer to it as flat tube and not all widths are listed online). The strips are 1m long and cost between £4.50 and £8.00 each. They have a similar finish to Doepfer front panels but with a slight vertical graining. Here's a pic of 6HP and 4HP strips.

If you are OK at cutting and drilling they are a cheap solution to narrow DIY panels. Good dimension info here. I guess they are available in most large DIY stores so it's worth having a look next time you are there.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

CV Tools US Distributor Announcement

I am very pleased to announce that Analogue Haven will be distributing CV Tools Modules (not kits) in the United States. I am aiming to get a sizable stock to AH by mid-July. (Sorry 2 months late but they are there now: Edit)

Any enquiries for kits or specials (e.g. plain front panel, faster/slower slew rate, less/more gain etc., please e-mail me.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

CV Tools Module Front Panel Update

Following on from my last post about customer feedback I have now changed the front panel subtly from a graphic overlay to a standard screen-printed clear-anodised panel. I think my customers were right (aren't they always!); it looks better, more professional and in keeping with all the other lovely modules out there. 

All kits and modules ordered from now on will have this type of panel fitted. Current stock at Post Modular will be retrofitted with the new panels by next week. I will keep a few unprinted panels back for those who prefer a plain metal panel (two sold so far). Anybody wishing to convert their CV Tools Module to the new panel please contact me and I will arrange a low cost swap out (either you can buy a new panel and swap over yourself, or return to me to do the swap; if I get the old panel back then I'll knock something off the price - details yet to be finalised).

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

First review comments and user's video for the CV Tools Module

Over half of the first batch of CV Tools have been sold, many in kit form. Here is some feedback from a few kit builders and module users:-

"Finished the CV Tools module. It works as advertised ;) No warts!
I must compliment you on your kit. The packing and organisation of components are as good as I've ever seen. Documentation is on the money for newbies ... All in all, I'm extremely satisfied ..." Steven H (VICMOD)

"An excellent simple tool. Great for cascading polyrhythms. Really easy to use and very surprising differences depending on where you tap the signal." Stephen R (VICMOD)

"...I was really impressed with the documentation and the way everything (in the kit) was bagged/labelled...CV Tools seems like a real Swiss Army Knife. I can already think of countless ways I'll be using it with my Oberheim SEM ... and humble modular." Alex M

"Tinkerbell lives!  Tonight I patched a triangle wave LFO into channel 3 of CV Tools and took the slew output into a quantizer (A156) set up to run minor arpeggios.  I can control the range of the arpeggiaic ascend/descend and even build in rhythm just using pots 3 & 4 - then out to two VCO's tuned apart. Out through a digital delay and reverb in ProTools and  . . . instant magic - fairy dust!  What fun . . " George B

Also check out this thread on Muff's entitled Some thoughts on the Synovatron CV Tools

Just to keep things balanced some people have expressed a lack of enthusiasm for the front panel, some about the font and some about the fact that the graphics is on a matt laminated laser printed vinyl overlay. The beauty of the overlay is that multiple colours, shades and fading effects can be easily implemented, the down-side (for me) is they are expensive and difficult to fit accurately. 

The solution is that the second batch of CV Tools will have a standard screen printed front panel (something like TipTop Audio quality). I will be offering either a very low cost swappout or a low-cost retro-purchase to existing users who would prefer a more conventional graphic - I prefer happy customers over a few extra £. Hopefully you'll come back for more!

Here is the current overlay panel next to the artwork that will be taken to the screen printers (where there is grey it will be the brushed anodised aluminium showing through so it will look a bit better). Any comments, likes and dislikes gratefully received - I will give the artwork to the screen printer in just over a week's time.

Friday, 22 April 2011

DIY Adaptor/Multiple Panel for scope and DMM connections

This is an adaptor panel I put together in an hour or two to help with testing and setting up the CV Tools Modules. 

I used one of my 8HP DIY panels and  DIY kit 3 for the 3.5mm jacks. 

It is essentially an adaptor and multiple to allow easy connection to the scope via BNC connectors and to a DMM (digital multimeter) via the 4mm sockets. 

The top 3.5mm jack and BNC socket are connected together, the next jack down and BNC are similarly connected; i.e. a pair of 3.5mm jack to BNC adaptors. The lower pair of 3.5mm jacks. 1/4" jack, BNC and red 4mm socket are all connected together and the black 4mm socket is connected to 0V.

This is really useful for DIY applications too and very easy to make. I think an adaptor or multiple panel would make a great first DIY project.

I can also make these to order if anyone wants one (or something similar) but it is unlikely to become a standard product as all you really need is a pre-drilled front-panel and a few connectors.
Here it is (bottom right) in use in my CV Tools test rig routing the scope, DMM and sig gen to the module under test

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

CV Tools UK distributor announcement

Updated 20/04/2011: The Synovatron CV Tools Module is now available from Post Modular in the UK - see their website now!.

Check out Post Modular's huge range of cool and unusual modules while you're there!

US distribution is currently being arranged and details will be posted as soon as possible.

In addition to the ready-to-use modules from Post Modular CV Tools DIY kits are available now directly from Synovatron for £85 GBP plus delivery. Please e-mail for details. The kits are complete with all components, pre-built & tested ribbon cable assemblies, circuit board assembly instructions and setting up procedure. You only need to provide the solder, tools and time. 

Note: This is a medium complexity kit and is not recommended for a first time constructor - you will need to be able to solder well and use a digital multimeter for setting up. It is recommended that you take anti-static precautions to protect the ICs.

CV Tools DIY Kit contents

Monday, 4 April 2011

CV Tools User Manual available

Hi and thanks for all the interest and well wishes.

The User Manual is now complete - Click here to download the latest manual (23 Oct 2011). There will also be a set of construction steps (basically just my assembly data sheets) for anyone interested in buying the module as a DIY kit.  As per my last post I'm still working on pricing of modules and kits and distribution details - all will be revealed in due course.

Friday, 1 April 2011

CV Tools Modules are now in production

It's been a while in coming but CV Tools Modules are now coming off the production line and going through a burn-in and test process to weed out any faults. The launch date is just over a week away - 9th April. The user manual is nearly done too. Details of distributors and price will be available very shortly.

So what's taken all this time? Well I just wanted to get the design right and pack all the features I could into it that make sense - I had several good suggestions from Muffs and other places and have built the best ideas into the design - the main one being the signal polarity LEDs to replace the channel routing LEDs (they really didn't add a great deal). There are jumper selectable coarse and fine normalled offsets for each channel and Channel 4 can be jumper configured to pass an accurate normalled bus CV into the mix for mixing VCO CVs. Check out the preliminary spec below.

Someone asked about these being available in kit form - if you would prefer to do this then please contact me.

Here is a preliminary spec:-

CV Tools Specification (updated 08.04.2011)

4-channel Polarizing Cascade Mixer

Channel 1

Input: 3.5mm jack IN1
Input impedance: 100kΩ (±1%)
Normalled input: VREF - jumper selectable to +5V, 0.5V-2.5V or none
Bandwidth: DC-15kHz (-3db)
Gain: LEVEL control variable 0 to ±2 (±3%)
Output: 3.5mm jack OUT1 - Normalled to Channel 2 output mixer
Output impedance: 1kΩ (±1%)
Output indication: ±LEDs

Channel 2

Input: 3.5mm jack IN2
Input impedance: 100kΩ (±1%)
Normalled input: VREF - jumper selectable to +5V, 0.5V-2.5V or none
Bandwidth: DC-16kHz (-3db)
Gain: LEVEL control variable 0 to ±2 (±3%)
Output: 3.5mm jack OUT2 - Normalled to Channel 3 output mixer
Output impedance: 1kΩ (±1%)
Output indication: ±LEDs

Channel 3

Input: 3.5mm jack IN3
Input impedance: 100kΩ (±1%)
Normalled input: VREF - jumper selectable to +5V, 0.5V-2.5V or none
Bandwidth: DC-15kHz (-3db)
Gain: LEVEL control variable 0 to ±2 (±3%)
Output: 3.5mm jack OUT3 - Normalled to Channel 4 output mixer
Output impedance: 1kΩ (±1%)
Output indication: ±LEDs

Channel 4

Input: 3.5mm jack IN4
Input impedance: 100kΩ (±1%)
Normalled input: VREF - jumper selectable to +5V, A-100 Bus CV or none
Bandwidth: DC-15kHz (-3db)
Gain: LEVEL control variable - jumper selectable to ±2 (±3%) or 1 (set by RV7)
Output: 3.5mm jack OUT4 and Slew Limiter input
Output impedance: 1kΩ (±1%)
Output indication: ±LEDs

Slew Limiter

Input: 3.5mm jack IN
Input impedance: 1MΩ (±1%)
Normalled input: Channel 4 output OUT4
Slew range: 0.5ms-1s
Gain: 1
Output: 3.5mm jack OUT
Output impedance: 100Ω (±1%)



3U x 12HP (128.5mm x 60.6mm).

Power consumption

+12V @ 20mA max, -12V @ 20mA max, +5V is not used.

Reference voltage (VREF)

Jumper selectable at each mixer input. Channels 1-3: 5.00V (set by RV6), 0.5V-2.5V (set by RV8), Channel 4: 5.00V (set by RV6), CV from A-100 bus.

A-100 Bus utilisation

±12V, 0V, CV used; +5V and Gate are not used.


CV Tools Module, 200mm long 16-way ribbon cable, 4 sets of M3 cap head socket screws, nylon washers and a 2.5mm hex key.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

New generic front panels for DIY kits

I now have stock of a range of 4HP and 8HP front panels to suit the Synovatron DIY Prototyping Kits. These can be purchased with the kits as an option or separately. 

The 8HP panel suits DIY Kit 1 and has two variants, one to suit a column of jacks (8.2mm holes) and a column of pots (7.5mm holes). The other variant has 3mm pilot holes to give you the flexibility to mix and match front panel components by drilling out to suit jacks, pots or switches, or left as is for 3mm LEDs.

The 4HP panel suits DIY Kit 3 and also has two variants, one to suit jack sockets (8.2mm holes) and the other with just 3mm pilot holes so they can easily be modified to larger diameters for jacks or switches or left as is for LEDs.

The panels are made from 2mm aluminium and have a brushed, clear anodised finish.  The mounting holes (slots) are suitable for both Doepfer and Analogue Systems hole pitches.

These panels make the kits more complete and I will also offer a set of knobs in DIY Kit 1 to finish it off.

Kit 1 options: The soft-touch knobs can be ordered in white, grey, red, orange, yellow, green or blue.
Prices range from £5.99 to £8.99 if ordered separately, a bit cheaper if ordered with a kit. The knobs are £1.25 for 5 if ordered with a kit.

The panels will also include a set of M3x6 screws and plain washers.

Here's a 8HP pilot hole panel that I drilled out for a customer so he could mount a mult on the left and an OSC303 on the right (Note: he bought the OSC303 as a kit without front panel and jacks. There's no point in trying to do this if you have one DinSyncs's excellent clear blue panels). The jacks were drilled out to 8mm, the pot to 7.5mm and the switch to 6mm. Looks pretty sexy!

Tone's top tips:  
(1) Cover the panel in masking tape so the swarf doesn't scratch the front finish. 
(2) start with smaller drill sizes and work up to the final size else you may end up with odd shaped holes.
(3) Deburr holes on both sides with a countersink bit.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Cliff CL1384 (S6) 3.5mm Jack Sockets - Rumours vs Facts

Following a really useful blog post by PatchPierre about dealing with poor connections on jack sockets I started to wonder if the jack sockets that I have used on my kits and intend using on my forthcoming CV Tools and Diode modules may have quality issues. I read through a few forums (fora?) and blogs on the subject and it does leave you with the impression that there could still be issues with Cliff sockets unless you get the right ones. So I approached Cliff directly who have clarified the situation as follows:-
  • Synovatron: "I've been using CL1384 jacks for several years now without any issues but am aware that there have been poor contact issues in the past. Your website refers to type C contacts for far-eastern jack plugs and also to be aware of counterfeit types. I read that Doepfer now use CL13841 sockets due to earlier problems (are CL13841 and C contacts the same thing?). Can you please clarify the situation for me?"
  • Cliff: "Thank you for your mail. I can clear any confusion up very clearly by saying that we use the C contacts on all S6 jack sockets. The CL13841 part is no longer sold but CL1384 is now exactly the same as we are using the C contacts as standard."
So in summary you should get no problems with current standard Cliff jacks but older ones can be fixed using PatchPierre's advice.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Analogue Systems to Doepfer Reverse Adaptor

Here is the prototype of the Analogue Systems to Doepfer Adaptor variant that I promised a few days back (The production version is now available. Edit Jan 2012) The adaptor uses a 16 way DIL turned-pin IC socket on one side and a PCB mount header socket on the other side; the version shown below is just a prototype using a cut-down header socket, it's a bit rough but demonstrates the principle - which is it allows you to use an Analogue Systems module with its cable in a Doepfer rack.

AS ribbon cable connector - note the red stripe at pin 1 (top) end
Here you can see the pin 1 and TOP markings

Doepfer bus board connector

Adaptor fitted to my AS RS-35 Module - note the red stripe at the top

The order code for the socket-to-socket version (above) is ASM2DB Adaptor (or Analogue Systems Module to Doepfer Bus Adaptor). The code for the plug-to-plug version is DM2ASB Adaptor (or Doepfer Module to Analogue Systems Bus Adaptor). The product page has been updated showing the production versions available for sale. 

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Analogue Systems to Doepfer Adaptor

Hi all and a very happy new year to you all, I've been a bit slow with my first 2011 posting but have been busy.

I saw two enquiries on the Analogue Systems/Doepfer forums for adaptors to enable Doepfer modules to be used in old-style AS racks which are those with just 16-way dual in-line IC sockets; the newer types also have a few Doepfer header connectors. It seemed that the usual sources had dried up so I did some checking to see how this had been addressed in the past.  

There were two approaches; the first was to use a very messy ribbon cable adaptor that is not 1:1 which must have been nightmare to assemble, the other was a small PCB which allowed a Doepfer ribbon cable to mate with an Analogue Systems ribbon cable and this, I thought, was a bit awkward especially as it just sits anywhere in the rack with bare contacts that could easily short out on the metalwork.

I set about designing a solution which I think is really neat, onubtrusive and quite versatile. Here it is; this is the first build of a 100 PCBs and already have orders for 12 of them. Note the red stripe - just line up the Doepfer cable's red stripe with it.  The adaptor is also marked with pin 1 and an orientation mark so pin 1 goes to the top (in fact to pin 1) and the red stripe goes at the bottom - SIMPLE!

The above adaptor is barely bigger than the IC socket and allows you to do the following:-

  1. Use a Doepfer module and ribbon cable in an AS rack - it plugs into the AS bus board.
  2. Use an AS module and Doepfer cable in a Doepfer rack - it plugs into the AS module socket.

Here is the adaptor plugged into an AS module and below a Doepfer cable is fitted to the adaptor.  This is my only AS module and it's the RS-35 External Interface which has two connectors and the top one doesn't really have enough clearance to fit a standard vertical header so it's probably not the best example but never fear.  As far as having two connectors goes it's simple to fit two Doepfer headers at one end of a ribbon cable (which I will gladly supply) and the adaptor can be made with a right-angle header so it doesn't protrude too high (again I will gladly supply those too - this will all be posted up on my Products page in a jiffy).

Not groundbreaking, not rocket-science just a bit of thought and careful design and in case you are wondering yes it does translate the connections so that all the supplies are in the right place.

In a few more days I'll also have a variant that will plug into a Doepfer bus board to give you AS sockets so you can just keep the ribbon cables you have already.

Please note that Doepfer and Analogue Systems are registered trademarks and that Synovatron is not affiliated with, or endorsed by, either company.