Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Portable Cassette Player DIY Distortion effect

I'm not quite sure where I remember this trick from, maybe a circuit bending group on Yahoo from a dozen years ago. Here's a quick and easy hack on an old portable cassette player, to make it become a noisy distortion effect. The parts are easy to come by, and this is a pretty fun little sonic trick to try on select sources. Guitars, synths, drum machines, vocal mics, all need a bit of filth every now and again. There's really nothing fancy at all about this one, including the sound. You just simply take apart your cheap Sony Walkman knockoff portable cassette player until you can access the tape head(the magnetic device that translates the recording on the cassette). Next, attach a 1/4" jack (3.5mm) to a pair of wire leads, and then connect the opposite end of the leads to the bottom of the tape head connections. Then, you'll need to put it back together well enough to hold the batteries, and capable of dealing with your level of use/activity/travel.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Roland TB-03 vs. TB-3 | An Acid Machine comparison

So I have recently picked up the Roland TB-03 Bass Line synth, the latest in Roland's Boutique lineup. I've been a fan of the acid sound since the early 1990's, and a producer for almost as long, but until recently haven't felt the need to be strictly identified by that sound in my own works. I did pick up the Aira TB-3 early in 2015, and that has found it's way into my live sets and a number of my productions as well. One of the draws of the Aira TB-3, in addition to a decent replication for the acid sounds, was the flexibility that it offered in terms of other bleepy sounds and general weirdness. I like to make sure that my synth purchases can cover some ground and be flexible, which is probably why I never went the route of tracking down an expensive original TB-303 or even one of the various clones (x0xb0x, MB-33, etc.).

I've finally managed to break down and get a dedicated acid machine now, and my choice was the Roland TB-03. On first glance. it shares a similar visual layout as the original machine. The silver box format has been merged with the Roland Boutique case, resulting in a new yet familiar machine. My first thoughts when comparing the actual sounds to the other Roland re-creation was "OK, this has it's own sound!"

Yes, The Roland Boutique TB-03  has a different sonic character when compared directly with it's recent predecessor, the TB-3. I'm not entirely sure what the development team at Roland has going on under the hood, but there is a noticeable improvement in the depth and "bite" that this synth offers. Now, I have not owned an original Tb-303, nor I am I intimately familiar with it's nuances outside of how it sounds on a decent part of my record collection. I'm sure there are purists that will deride this machine with a litany of critiques, but I'm choosing to look at the glass as half full. I like the TB-03. It's a fun machine to turn on, and crank out some cool sounds, end of story.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Using your Furnace as a Lo Fi Home Studio Reverb Chamber

So , I like to screw around with different lo-fi recording techniques from time to time. One of my favorites is running electronic instruments through crappy distorted guitar practice amplifiers. In this video example below, I take this a step further by introducing a lo-fi reverb chamber into the mix in the form of an air conditioning duct in my house. Here are the results:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

DIY Studio Monitor Stands


This project is a simple, easy and cheap addition to your home recording studio. Basic monitor stands can be customized to suit your needs, and assembled from dimensional lumber available at your local hardware store.

For my monitor stands, I used a single 8' piece of 1"x12", two 2"x6" boards, some 1 1/2" screws, and some black paint. The total cost comes to under $20 for all pieces.

For the bases of the speaker stands, I cut two 14" sections off of the 1" x 12" board. For the tops of the speaker stands, I cut two 11" pieces from the 1" x 12" board. For the legs, I used four 29" sections of the 2" x 6" boards.

Assembly required only 8 screws per stand, with the boards being assembled as pictured in the diagram here:

With the stand being assembled, the next step was to use sandpaper to smooth off any rough edges. Finally, I added some black paint to complete the stands. 

A few notes regarding making some stands like these for yourself:
  • The tweeters of a 2-way system, like I am using, should be level with your ears at your preferred listening location. 
  • These are not acoustically isolated from the floor. I used some foam wedges between my monitors and stands to achieve greater isolation.
  • My design is very basic, and based on the cheapest cost, not the best materials. I encourage you to customize to meet your specifications.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Korg Monotron CV Mods

Here are some simple mods to the Korg Monotron that allow you to use external Controlled Voltage to operate the monotron instead of the ribbon keyboard. I think Korg had a pretty revolutionary thought in letting its customers double as their R&D department to see which way to take the analog revival. Korg release the schematics, and printed all of the controlled voltage points on the PCB. By letting the hackers and tinkerers have at it, some pretty cool things resulted. In the years since this release, Korg has come up with the monotron duo and delay, the monotribe, and the new MS-20 Mini.

For my monotron, I simply connected the CV gate and CV pitch points to RCA jacks and mounted these on the right side of the keyboard. Since I am using my PAIA Fatman as a MIDI to CV converter, the RCA jacks were the easiest way to go.

 After connecting the two machines up, I did notice the pitch tracking seemed off. To remedy this, I adjusted the trim pot on the back of the monotron to get closer to the sound I was looking for. While this was better, I found that I could easily add a 100k potentiometer to my cable connecting the CV pitch, and get more adjustment to reach the lower octaves. The results are shown in the video below, where I used the CV controlled monotron as a bassline synthesizer, to create some acid style synth tweaks reminiscent of the mid 1990's stuff I used to DJ.

Whippany Rhythm Master modifications

A while back I modified my Whippany Rhythm Master analog preset drum machine from the late 60's/early 70's. This normally sounds like your typical cheesy rhythm box to accompany organs from this time, but with a few mods you can open up some possibilities. There are no chips I messed with here, or no markings on the circuit board to give you. I pretty much just replaced some of the trim pots inside and some of the resistors with potentiometers mounted to a panel and fit inside a wooden case.  

 You can check out the pictures here to see some of the wiring that I put in. The trim pots(now removed) control the output volume of the various instruments, including separate controls for the noise and the pulse of the snare sound. To find which other resistors controlled the sound parameters, I shorted out the resistors around the trim pots while the machine played.

 At some point, I will go back in and try to find the trigger points for the sounds. If I ever get the external triggering figured out, I will have a pretty bad ass analog drum module for less than $50. In the meantime, you can check out a video of how this sounds right now.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Circuit Bending the Yamaha RX-120 Drum Machine

Here's a brief run through of how I modified my Yamaha RX-120 Rhythm Machine. By using a patchbay connected to the sound ROM, there are a lot of effects that you can achieve, including synth type tones, flanging, ring mods, bit crushing, and others. Using more multiple patch cords lets you stack these effects. The preset only RX-120 shares the same sound set (and chip) as the programmable RX-17. By using MIDI to trigger the RX-120, you have a ton of flexibility for programming. 

Additionally, by probing on the output opamps, you can come up with some crazy feedback filters too!