Brunswick is a grimy patchable synth kit with BEEF, for under £99

It’s a great time to love synths, even on a budget. The latest entry is the DIY Brunswick kit from Future Sound Systems in the UK. It’s simple (one oscillator), but weird and dirty sounding – and you can patch this semi-modular instrument to your own delight. And the price is under £99.

So yeah, if you want to mess about with synths and patch things together, modular is hardly your only option. There are loads of ways to make noise.

Brunswick made its debut at Synthfest in Sheffield earlier this month:

One oscillator (pulse/saw) only, but that’s paired with a multimode analog filter and analog envelope, and FM inputs to spice up the sound (plus other modulation). Add 24 patch points, and you can patch together other sound design options. The patchabilityhas obviously made this a hit; the first batch sold out but another is arriving in November.

Oh, and it says “BEEF” on it, which is important.

£82.50 means that’s just over 110EUR with VAT, or around US$100 (before shipping costs).

It is a DIY kit, not assembled. I’d say it’s an intermediate beginner build – nothing especially difficult, but it’ll take some time and you might want a simple project under your belt before you use this to learn soldering.

What’s notable is that Future Sound Systems are giving you a semi-modular instrument that works perfectly well on its own as well as a voice in a modular environment. They make a lot of other lovely stuff but more in the Eurorack domain.

It’s trending now just based on a Reddit member pointing to the box arriving, so I guess people want it!

New Brunswick semi modular kit from Future Sound Systems just turned up, semi modular synth but at the same price as a Volca!

Details:

Features

Full Synthesizer Voice
Pulse/Sawtooth VCO
VCO PWM & FM
2-Pole VCF with FM
Internal Triangle & Square wave LFOs
Internal Envelope & VCA
PLL & Phase Comparator
24 point Patch bay
Power: 2x PP3 9V batteries (+35, -20mA current draw)
Batteries not included
Dimensions: 194 x 120 mm

Patch bay I/O:

VCO 1V/Octave pitch control input
VCO PulseWidth Modulation input (normalled to LFO Triangle output)
VCO FM 1 input (normalled to LFO Triangle output)
VCO FM 2 input (normalled to Envelope output)
VCO “Sawtooth” output
VCO Pulse output
Phase Comparator input
Phase Comparator output
Phase Locked Loop input
Phase Locked Loop output
LFO Triangle output
LFO Square output
Low-Pass Filter input (normalled to switched VCO output)
Band-Pass Filter input
High-Pass Filter input
VCF output
VCF FM 1 input (normalled to LFO Triangle output)
VCF FM 2 input (normalled to Envelope output)
VCA input
VCA output
VCA AM 1 input (normalled to LFO Triangle output)
VCA AM 2 input (normalled to Envelope output)
Envelope Gate input (normalled to LFO Square output)
Envelope output

Sold exclusively through Thonk:

https://www.thonk.co.uk/shop/fss-brunswick/

http://www.futuresoundsystems.co.uk/

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Watch this $30 kit turn into all these other synthesizers

DIY guru Mitch Altman has been busy expanding ArduTouch, the $30 kit board he designed to teach synthesis and coding. And now you can turn it into a bunch of other synths – with some new videos to who you how that works.

You’ll need to do a little bit of tinkering to get this working – though for many, of course, that’ll be part of the fun. So you solder together the kit, which includes a capacitive touch keyboard (as found on instruments like the Stylophone) and speaker. That means once the soldering is done, you can make sounds. To upload different synth code, you need a programmer cable and some additional steps.

Where this gets interesting is that the ArduTouch is really an embedded computer – and what’s wonderful about computers is, they transform based on whatever code they’re running.

ArduTouch is descended from the Arduino project, which in turn was the embedded hardware coding answer to desktop creative coding environment Processing. And from Processing, there’s the idea of a “sketch” – a bit of code that represents a single idea. “Sketching” was vital as a concept to these projects as it implies doing something simpler and more elegant.

For synthesis, ArduTouch is collecting a set of its own sketches – simple, fun digital signal processing creations that can be uploaded to the board. You get a whole collection of these, including sketches that are meant to serve mainly as examples, so that over time you can learn DSP coding. (The sketches are mostly the creation of Mitch’s friend, Bill Alessi.) Because the ArduTouch itself is cloned from the Arduino UNO, it’s also fully compatible both with UNO boards and the Arduino coding environment.

Mitch has been uploading videos and descriptions (and adding new synths over time), so let’s check them out:

Thick is a Minimoog-like, playable monosynth.

Arpology is an “Eno-influenced” arpeggiator/synth combo with patterns, speed, major/minor key, pitch, and attack/decay controls, plus a J.S. Bach-style generative auto-play mode.

Beatitude is a drum machine with multiple parts and rhythm track creation, plus a live playable bass synth.

Mantra is a weird, exotic-sounding sequenced drone synth with pre-mapped scales. The description claims “it is almost impossible to play something that doesn’t sound good.” (I initially read that backwards!)

Xoid is raucous synth with frequency modulation, ratio, and XOR controls. Actually, this very example demonstrates just why ArduTouch is different – like, you’d probably not want to ship Xoid as a product or project on its own. But as a sketch – and something strange to play with – it’s totally great.

DuoPoly is also glitchy and weird, but represents more of a complete synth workstation – and it’s a grab-bag demo of all the platform can do. So you get Tremelo, Vibrato, Pitch Bend, Distortion Effects, Low Pass Filter, High Pass Filter, Preset songs/patches, LFOs, and other goodies, all crammed onto this little board.

There, they’ve made some different oddball preset songs, too:

Platinum hit, this one:

This one, it sounds like we hit a really tough cave level in Metroid:

Open source hardware, kits available for sale:

https://cornfieldelectronics.com/cfe/projects.php#ardutouch

https://github.com/maltman23/ArduTouch

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Dreadbox Hades analog monosynth is yours to assemble, or not

Dreadbox, purveyors of gnarly electronic synths and effects, have come back with a modular-friendly analog synth, which you can assemble – if you dare.

The core synth itself is simple – just a single-oscillator synthesizer, to which you can add two suboctaves for lots of low end bass punch, and three waves (pulse with width, double saw with width, saw). In the tradition of Dreadbox and their love for edgy distortion, you can add some angry sounds with the drive circuit and 3-pole resonating filter.

And, mostly, you’re likely to appreciate this thing for its modulation and patchability. There are some 13 patch points, which you can use with Eurorack or other analog circuits, external audio input, a triangle and square wave LFO, and two separate envelope generators.

You can stick this on your desk and patch into stuff. Or you can bolt it into a Eurorack.

Now, here’s the somewhat bonkers bit. If you’re sensible, I think you’ll just buy this thing pre-assembled, and think hard about finding space in a Eurorack. It’s a nice 250€ buy.

Or, if you’re a bit bored, you’ll DIY the kit version. It’s all through-hole parts, so it’s not a difficult build. It’s just a lot of them. Expect to … free up some time to put this together.

Also cute but not totally practical, they’ve decided that the box is a case. And it is kind of a nice cardboard box. I mean, sure, why not, but … it’s not so much a selling point as it is a cute way around the fact that it doesn’t have a case. It doesn’t have a power supply, either, so figure that into the purchase price.

Don’t get me wrong, though – I think this thing is terribly clever as a synth. And Dreadbox are making some utterly genius distortion, based on the couple I’ve played with.

If you’re looking for a cheap buy that’s fun to patch into other stuff – really desktop or Euro – this isn’t a bad buy at all. And maybe save yourself the time on the busywork of assembling the kit version, and put that time into making a nice wooden case for the assembled version.

Though, while we’re at it, technically every product I’ve ever owned has come with a free enclosure / kid’s playhouse / pencil case / advanced part storage / tiny spaceship for paper people … uh, you know, box.

Also, you can turn a lot of the manuals into really ace paper airplanes.

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Craft Rhythm is a sample-based drum machine kit with companion app

Modal Electronics have done it again. They’ve followed up their snap-together, affordable, simple synth with a drum machine in the same form factor.

Now, this UK company are a little puzzling. Modal make either very expensive flagship synths or very affordable, fun snap-together kits. It’d be like if Gulfstream also sold balsa wood toy planes. Well, sort of – it’s all good.

But whatever the larger brand strategy here, the Craft Rhythm looks very cool. You can load in your own samples, control filter and pitch, and mix together parts by track. There’s a 16-step sequencer and pattern chaining for assembling your grooves. And there’s decent I/O.

The “kit” part of this means the actual physical body is a little fiddly. As before, it’s a delicate little piece of hardware, now adding tiny buttons to the touch controls and knobs.

There’s an innovation, though: a companion app (iOS only?) gives you editing capabilities. That’s an idea that seems to be catching on. We’ve seen it in the Novation Circuit’s Web-based editor/library and sample loading and companion desktop synth editor. And we’ve even seen in KORG’s volca sample, though that was painfully slow loading samples.

Then again, by the time you use an app, you could just use a great drum machine app like Elastic Drums. No complaints here, though, as this looks like a good time.

The nearest competition had some companion software, too – Teenage Engineering’s Pocket Operator Tonic, which works with the awesome Sonic Charge Microtonic.

Awaiting word on pricing and availability.

If you’re in Chicago for Knobcon, do pay them a visit.

http://www.modalelectronics.com/craft/

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Why would you want this €129 kit covered in sixty knobs?

It’s an expansion kit for an obscure boutique drum machine – and maybe the most niche product from Bastl Instruments yet. But it could be more than that.

Bastl have workbenches full of interesting projects, not to mention side projects like a coffee shop, roasted coffee bean line, a zine, and a club (seriously, all of that). So, there has certainly been a lag between what they’ve teased and what they’ve shipped. No one would accuse them of vaporware, though; they’ve been finishing all of it, and it’s clear they’re too enthusiastic to keep secrets.

In the case of this 60KNOBS kit, the controller was teased back in the heady, innocent days of February 2016. And now, here it is.

This is a kit for another kit – Sonic Potions’ wonderful LXR Drum Synthesizer. The LXR sounds really, really good. But part of what sounds so interesting – this being a drum synth and not just a box that plays back drum samples – is all its internal parameters. And what you can’t control on its front panel is … uh, those internal parameters.

So, the idea of the 60KNOBS is to give you hands-on control of all that sound stuff. The kit isn’t a terribly tough DIY build, either – it’s not hard to solder potentiometers to a board, even if you’re really clumsy. Spend a few extra euros, and you get an enclosure marked up for all its internal parameters.

As Bastl’s videos show, just twisting these little knobs gives you some great drum sounds. So already, I think we have an adorable little kit for those wanting to be a bit different from everyone else on their block – or, depending on where you come from, nation.

But it points at an interesting question: could we see more creations like this? It’s particularly compelling, given you could just print a different enclosure or overlay and use other hardware.

The 60KNOBS is already equipped for just such purposes.

You can print out a new top with other labels.
You can dump and learn MIDI controls to map to other hardware.
If you want to get fancy, you can even hack the firmware.

To get more technical, the specs:

60 controller pots independently customizable through the editor;
MIDI messages supported: CC (Control Change), NRPN (Non-Registered Parameter Number), DX7 (Yamaha sysEx DX7);
Button for MIDI DUMP current value of each knob;
MIDI IN and OUT DIN connector;
5 user customizable presets;
Indication LED shows setting changes
FTDI connector for firmware flashing (hacker friendly!)

There’s precedent for this, too. Roland, for instance, shipped the PG-300 as an add-on giving extra direct control over the classic Alpha Juno 1 and Juno 2. (In fact, maybe the 60KNOBS would work as a cheap add-on, given the PG-300 is pricey on the used market.)

But why stop there? Plug-ins? Reaktor patches? VJ rigs?

Of course, that raises the question of whether a giant array of knobs is really what you want for control. But I think we may see the pendulum swing back toward odd DIY controls, as the market is fairly well saturated with cool kit like Push and Maschine. Those provide ready-to-use gear for software environments, but they lack the standalone, portable nature of this. Plus, it’s cool to have something different.

Thoughts? Let us know.

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ArduTouch is an all-in-one Arduino synthesizer learning kit for $30

This looks like a near-perfect platform for learning synthesis with Arduino – and it’s just US$30 (with an even-lower $25 target price).

It’s called ArduTouch, a new Arduino-compatible music synth kit. It’s fully open source – everything you need to put this together is available on GitHub. And it’s the work of Mitch Altman, something of a celebrity in DIY/maker circles.

Mitch is the clever inventor of the TV B-Gone – an IR blaster that lets you terminate TV power in places like airport lounges – plus brainwave-tickling gear like the Neurodreamer and Trip Glasses. (See his Cornfield Electronics manufacturer.) Indeed, some ten years ago when CDM hosted its first MusicMakers / Handmade Music event in New York, Mitch happened to be in town and put us all in a pleasant, totally drug-free trance state with his glasses. He’s also a music fan, though, so it’s great to see him get back into music synthesis.

And ArduTouch is hugely clever. It’s an Arduino clone, but instead of just some headers and pins for connecting wires (boring), it also adds a PCB touch keyboard for playing notes, some extra buttons and pots so you can control sounds, and an all-important amp and speaker, so you can hear the results on just the board. (You’ll obviously want to plug into extra gear for more power and loudness.)

You don’t have to code. Just put this together, and you can start making music.

That’s already pretty cool, but the real magic comes in the form of two additional ingredients:

Software. ArduTouch is a new library that enables the synthesis capabilities of the board. This means you can also customize synth functionality (like adding additional control or modifying the sound), or create your own synths.

Tutorials. When you want to go deeper, the other side of this is a set of documentation to teach you the basics of DSP (digital signal processing) using the board and library.

In other words, what you’ve got is an all-hardware course on DSP coding, on a $30 board. And that’s just fabulous. I’ve always thought working on a low-level with hardware is a great way to get into the basics, especially for those with no previous coding background.

Looks like I’ve got a summer project. Stay tuned. And thanks, Mitch!

This obviously needs videos and sound samples and the like so — guess we should get on that!

ardutouch

https://github.com/maltman23/ArduTouch

In the meantime, though, here’s Mitch with some great inspiration on what hacking and making is about. Mitch is uncommonly good at teaching and explaining and generally being a leader for all kinds of people worldwide. Have a look:

He also walks people through the hackerspace movement and where it came from – especially meaningful to us, as the hacklabs and knowledge transfer projects we host are rooted directly in this legacy (including via Mitch’s own contributions). This talk is really must-watch, as it’s one of the best explanations I’ve seen on what this is about and how to make it work:

Don’t know how to solder? Mitch has you covered:

And for a how-to that’s equally important, Mitch talks about how to do what you love:

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Modal’s Craft Synth is a surprising £79.00 monosynth

Imagine if Boeing or Airbus, in the midst of releasing airliners, suddenly unveiled a paper airplane kit for kids. The Modal Craft Synth isn’t that extreme – but maybe it’s close.

Unlike their flagship synth, a monster luxury instrument that will set you back about five grand (USD), the Craft Synth is kit priced. £79.00 (about US$100 at the moment) buys you a complete monosynth.

It’s labeled a “kit,” but you snap together pre-made circuit boards – think IKEA lay-flat cleverness. Of course, at that price, you don’t get a case or any particularly high-quality or rugged components. But if you’re willing to treat this thing gingerly, it sounds pretty terrific.

The other big surprise: you get MIDI over USB.

The synth itself is pretty simple in terms of controls, but you have two oscillators per voice, plus sub oscillators, for a total of eight oscillators detunable in unison or spread modes. The other great selling point, I think is modulation – there are four LFO waveforms, you can invert each one, and you get six destinations. Plus you get delay and distortion.

That’d all be too much to control, but for a companion iOS app (still in development).

So the workflow is, you program on iOS, then recall patch memories.

Features:

Monophonic DSP based self assembly synthesiser, requires no soldering or electronics skills, tools or knowledge
2 oscillators per voice
Mixer stage for osc levels
Unison / spread mode that splits the oscillators into four separate sub oscillators per oscillator giving you a total of eight oscillators, de-tunable for a huge sound
LFO with six destinations (VCA amplitude, filter cutoff, FM amount, OSC mix, PWM amount, pitch/frequency)
Four LFO wave forms (each invertible)
LFO auto syncs to MIDI clock if present
Resonant low pass filter (if using the CRAFTapp, state variable BP & LP also possible)
16 recallable EG presets for ease of use
16 patch storage locations
Playable touch panel interface with five note keys plus controls for scale and glide time
Delay and distortion (wavehsaping overdrive, not bitcrushing) effects
Class compliant MIDI provided over USB connection to host computer or tablet
Headphone and line output
Power by USB or optional AA battery pack (Adafruit 727, 3 x AAA pack)

Check Sonic State’s hands-on video review:

And some audio:

It’s a cute little box. It looks a little fragile for taking out and about, but around a home or studio, it seems fantastic.

Indeed, the only real challenge will be getting one. It’s a preorder in Europe, with USA availability still to be announced. So Europe, you’ll have this for Christmas if you like, but everyone else will have to wait.

http://www.modalelectronics.com/craft/

preview

preview2

preview3

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Legowelt turned Amiga floppy samples into a free drum kit

Enough with pristine, immaculate in-the-box digital production. Let’s get back to grime and dirt.

Gorgeous distortion is on offer any time Legowelt is on a sound system live. So it’s great to see the same approach in a free sample pack. This is not a “Top Deep House Production Kit.” It’s samples Legowelt dragged off of old Amiga discs, cranked to be even more evil.

legoweltdrums

I had a quick play, so here’s a little sample of what this thing sounds like. Updated – fixed the file upload.

I love the marketing copy, too:

Introducing brand new technologies such as FLOCCULENCE, AMIGAnizer
and SKOOLY SPACE to give u a fresh spectaculair 909 experience u never had before!!!

Word.

Grab the Smackos AMIGA 909 as an Ableton Live pack (requires 9.5 or later) on the fancy, 1998-style Legowelt website:
https://awolfe.home.xs4all.nl

via Synthtopia

Not a Live user? Unfortunately, it’s an .alp file, so while the sound samples are just WAV format, you’ll need someone with a copy of Live to open it. (You could also download the demo and get at the contents that way.)

So thank you, Mr. Legowelt. Let’s all enjoy some more Legoweltism in videos:

Half an hour live from Dimensions Festival:

How to make a Legowelt track:

In his studio, Den Haag:

Here’s a 2013 Dekmental interview with FACT, in which he reflects “techno’s not just a beat”:

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Here are two new ways of combining a synth with Arduino

miniatmegatron

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve gotten not just one, but two new synthesizers that piggy-back on the Arduino electronics platform. The result, then, is instruments that you can modify via Arduino code.

You’ll need an Arduino for each of these to work, so figure on adding some bucks to the purchase price. (I also recommend only using a real Arduino or Genuino; the clones I’ve found are often unreliable, and it’s better to support the developers of the platform.)

The miniATMEGATRON from Soulsby Synthesizers is especially appealing. It uses the same grungy, nicely lo-fi sound engine of the Atmegatron, but it’s in kit form. It’s a pretty easy kit to put together – I watched folks assembling them in Brno earlier this summer, and they’ll be accessible to anyone with some soldering experience (or some supervision).

Just built as-is, the miniATMEGATRON is fun, but not terribly useful – it just plays back some sequences. Where it gets interesting is if you either write your own code or, more likely, add the MIDI “hack.” This involves adding a MIDI port to the Arduino. Once you do that, this is a playable MIDI synth, complete with clock sync. And then there are some fun features – 16 PWM waveforms, an LFO with 16 waveforms of its own, modulation extras, and a digital filter with 15 algorithms. There’s also a “wavecrusher” and phaser and distortion effects. Basically, you get a lot of grungy digital fun in one package.

The code is open source, though this isn’t strictly speaking open source hardware (only the firmware is open).

If you want a ready-to-play instrument, the original Atmegatron is really your best bet, and comes in a beautiful case. It’s also still possible to modify using the friendly Arduino development environment. But the miniATMEGATRON is a steal for DIYers, and I suspect for them, the soldering and hacking will in fact be a selling point.

Soulsby miniATMEGATRON

arduino-piggyback-synthesizer-e1441564347957-640x333

Tasty Chips, who made the analog Sawbench before, are back with an Arduino Piggyback Synthesizer. The concept as far as Arduino is the same as Soulsby’s: you use this board as an add-on to Arduino, and then use Arduino coding to hack your own custom functions. But the Tasty Chips route is analog, like the Sawbench. You get a fully-analog oscillator, an analog VCA, and low-pass resonant filter.

You can also do frequency modulation with sine or saw, controlled via mod wheel or MIDI. That’s a good thing, as otherwise I find a single oscillator setup can get a bit bland – analog or not.

What Tasty Chip have done that frankly I wish Soulsby had is add MIDI right on the board. In fact, you get both in and thru built in. As with the Soulsby, MIDI functionality leans on the Arduino. It’s 59€ without the Arduino, or bundled for 79€.

Arduino Piggyback Synthesizer A Hackable Analog Synth

Both boards also rely on USB power, but with a proper adapter, you can plug into a wall socket, so these will stand on their own.

What I’m interested to see is if users find clever uses for the Arduino hacking aspect. You could certainly build novel applications into firmware by modifying the code. On the other hand, these shields block the ports on the Arduino, which means you can’t easily take advantage of Arduino’s ability to hook up knobs and switches and drive motors and the like. (Here, too, there’s an edge to Tasty Chip – they’ve added header to the top, and they haven’t used up all the connections on the Arduino, so if you keep the boards side by side, you can still, for instance, add your own knob.)

That said, at these prices, both boards provide some great musical fun and some easy hackability.

And both makers could provide some added stimulation with promised tutorials.

I’m curious what readers think and what you do with them if you pick them up. Do let us know.

Full disclosure: we of course make the MeeBlip, which means we’re thinking about these very questions a lot. (The MeeBlip isn’t Arduino-based, but it is hackable and open and built on the AVR platform with our own Assembly code, as you can check out on GitHub.)

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Bastl’s unique Eurorack modules are now available as DIY kits

gp_1_0_finished_side_2

If you love the smell of solder as much as you love patching sounds together, this may be for you.*

Bastl Instruments, the boutique Czech electronic instrument maker, tell us they’ve finished the much-requested kit versions of their modular lineup. They’re not any different from the other modules, apart from you solder them together yourself. Now, of course, that means you can make them not work. But the Bastl crew, innovative as always, have a solution there – a 25€ paid service with the cheeky name “Come to Daddy” lets you pay to have them work it out for you if you break things. Just don’t let the unfinished kit collect dust: the service works for only 30 days after purchase.

These have too many connections to really qualify as a beginner kit, from the looks of it, but if you’ve assembled some kits before, they shouldn’t pose a problem.

You’ll need your own tools. The kit itself comes with the oak wood panel (unpolished, so you can finish/paint it however you like), a printed manual, tin for soldering, screws for mounting, and a sticker.

Prices (not including VAT for Europe):

Tea Kick – more than just a drum – DIY Kit: 70 €
Noise Square – noise and square source – DIY Kit: 70 €
grandPa – granular sampler – DIY Kit: 143 €
Skis – dual decay + vca – DIY Kit: 70 €
ABC – 6 channel mixer – DIY Kit: 62 €
Come to daddy – repair service for kits – 25 €

gp_1_0-kit-content-2

More info:

http://noise.kitchen/product-category/bastl/diy-eurorack/

* I feel the same, but please use a ventilated area. ;)

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