When does DIY make sense?

At some point, unless you are rich, you will hit a financial wall when building a modular synth.  Sometimes the makers will have a DIY option and you might be able to curb some of those costs by building it yourself.  However, the DIY option can be a trap if you do not consider how deep and complex the project is.  I finished this custom set of World Cores and Control Cores and wanted to fill the remaining space with a custom set of utilities.  The original DIY project of the World Cores/Control Cores took me a year to finish.  That is a typical amount of time that it usually takes me to finish a fairly complex DIY project.  So that would be one of the first things I would advise, is to have plenty of patience and time when taking on a DIY project.

Next is passion!  After taking a year to finish the core builds I knew I wanted to build a couple of custom utility modules to accompany the core set.  It took me another six months to design and build those.  I have a love for the old 8 bit gaming systems, so it was easier to be patient as I trudged through those builds.  So, have plenty of ‘GO’ juice in the tank if you plan on finishing your build.

Plan on getting an education!  It’s one thing to gloss over a BOM and hit the big items on the list, but makers use all sorts of components when constructing their modules.  There is a good chance you will not immediately understand their choices.  That will immediately put you into research mode where you might have to delve in to understand how different micro processors are programmed or why you should solder the components in this order…   …and so on.  Expect to be stumped and expect to spend many hours scratching your head trying to figure this stuff out!

What I’m not done yet?  No, the last stage is the one that will ‘get’ most newbies.  Troubleshooting!  Here is where the rubber truly hits the road.  If you have been in modular for a few years, then you should already know what it is like to sit and troubleshoot ‘why’ something IS happening when it should not be and why something is NOT happening and it should.  It can be more of the same when you are close to the end of a DIY project.  Again, more patience and thinking is required at this point.  Sure you can rush over to this and that forum and beg for help and you might get some and get it to work, but if you are not that lucky you might have to go over all of your own work and have to figure out why your shiny new module is not working ‘properly’.  Keep your chin up…    …you are not alone 😀


Put a varied collection of modular wigglers together on a double vinyl record and you get FROM WIRES TO WAX. Has it been a minute since you turned on the turntable? Now you have the perfect excuse! I have to admit I even now find myself playing down the pitch control and holding it down on the slipmat, here and there. Not quite feeling to scratch just yet…    just holding, here and there.  More info here: CLICK HERE!

Akai MPCX Eurorack Cable Snake

This new Akai MPC has gotten me pretty wound up.  I am liking the new’er’,ish’ flow.  One thing I wanted to add pretty quickly on was a panel just for the CV/Gate outputs right in my main rack and ditch the longer patch cables.  So here is what I came up with.  I am hoping for a sort of standard too, so hackers please listen in.

Eight outputs and GND/0V mean a nine pin din is perfect for this cable snake. Simply use a standard 9 Pin DIN serial cable and if you decide to build one for yourself, just use the standard 9 pin numbering. Output pin 1-8 is pin one through eight on the serial connector and pin 9 is Gnd/0V.
This streamlines it into my setup nicely.  Without costing a bundle too.

The outside case mod is pretty easy to do and you don’t even have to detach all of the internal MPCX’s cables making it one of the quickest mods I have completed to a piece of hardware.

If you are interested in this mod, let me know and if there is enough interest I could do a run of kits. Back to patching… 😀

Strymon BigSky Eurorack Module

I was glad to see Strymon released their first eurorack module this year. Their Magneto module looks like a great entry and should fare well against others in that space. However after deeper analysis I find the module is lacking in a few areas. So, here I took their BigSky pedal and converted it over to a eurorack module. Having CV control over the parameters is a must and honestly, after using more CV, I could not go back to the original pedal again without them!  Plus, adding the MIDI in allows me to use the 60 Knobs & 60 Jacks to control it even further with CV! Link to the original manufacturers webpage HERE.

60 Knobs & 60 Jacks

Stop me if you have been here…          …You have been patching your modular synth for a while and then you get a thought of “I wish I could use this modulation source to control one of my other midi synth’s!”  Or what about a ‘deep’ guitar pedal that has a MIDI input and can be controlled via MIDI CC?  How about wanting to use many CV sources to control many MIDI CC’s or NRPN’s or even SysEx…   …with a stand alone box?  Or, how do I easily record all of these CV signals into my DAW so I can use them in MIDI tracks too?

Bastl released their 60 Knobs project last year and made it open source!  I immediately saw lots of potential and decided to see what I could come up with.  Their original project is located HERE.

Here are a couple of different configurations.

So, what did I add?   First is obvious, 60 jacks and the 60 pots are used as attenuators for the incoming CV signals.  Next was a small 9 tile 1U rack that can be used for whatever you want.  Here I have an oscilloscope, 4 LFOs from SYINSI (Each with three waveform outputs) and a couple of FSR’s from Pulplogic.  Of course you can patch up all of your existing modular gear too, but the on-board 1U devices are really helpful to get you started modulating quickly.  And if you know me, you know I love me some 1U gear!

How do you organize 60 knobs & 60 Jacks?  Custom printed/laminated, easily switchable vinyl templates!  What ever custom configuration and arrangement can be made and are attached to the top and bottom of the console via thin strips of Velcro.  Want to modulate all of the modulators in a virtual Matrix 12 with your eurorack gear?

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Custom Korg MKP2s Eurorack Module

These really are one of the most useful modules you can have in your rack. With Filters, Modulation, LFOs, Delays, Reverbs, Phasers, Flangers, Loopers, Vocoders, Sampling, Recording and even a couple of synth’s, there is something for everyone and anytime you need it. Now add some CV control and welcome to your next ‘desert island’ module!  Specs of the original manufacturer’s product HERE.

You know these are special when they even build guitars with them built in.  http://www.musicradar.com/reviews/guitars/ibanez-rgkp6-612982

This particular conversion used the owner’s artwork to add that custom touch. He also wanted ALL of the possible CV control, so his MKP2s is the most voltage controlled conversion I have made so far!

BOSS DR-220 Eurorack Modules

How can you not love late 80’s drum machines?  No CV control, you say!  Well, here we had to add CV control over some of the choice bends and latching switches to allow complete manual control.  Trig inputs for all of the percussion too!  A TTLFO which can be used as master clock, or used to turn on and off the 8 CV controlled bends, that have been meticulously gone through to find some of the best ones!  One of my best conversions to date. 😀

FUN with FM Radio and euro modular!

I have an ADDAC 102 voltage control radio module and it has not gotten much use, so I had an idea to add some spark. They sell these cheap FM wireless transmitters that are pretty cool and pretty cheap. They contain a Li-Ion battery and are USB rechargeable. I switched out the mic with a plug, added a 250K trimpot and now I can use whatever source I want to bring in an out of reception. I might make a couple of them just for different sources using a sequencer. Anyway it has brought back life to using my voltage controlled radio!
Source for the transmitters.

Merry Video Synth Christmas to me!

Hosa sent me some free cables to try out!  Now that I have had some time to check them out I can honestly say that Hosa sent me a great Christmas gift indeed!  I have put these cables through their paces and I am impressed!  I have received crap from some of my friends over the years for using Hosa cables.  But I find them absolutely indispensable!

Here are a few pics of my finally finished eurorack video synth and I have used my new Hosa cables to make some sense of it.  I am using various LZX modules and a couple of my own design/hack modules.  Using LZX modules means you will be dealing with Red, Green and Blue signal sources.  These new cables from Hosa are standard primary colors and that is great for these.  Looking at the pic below can you easily find my RGB signal routing? Having the velcro ties makes this easy too!  I can pull the three color combo signals and keep the cables together. Even after receiving several free cables from them, I went and bought some more just for my video synth!  Check em out HERE!

Custom Korg MINI KP eurorack module

One of my favorite types of emails are from people who love their non-eurorack gear so much that they want to find out, ‘if’ it is possible to convert over to eurorack, and what would be involved in doing so.  At first I was not sure if conversion of the Korg MINI KP would even be possible.  I usually have to go back and forth with the inquirer and see if they can ‘carefully’ open the ‘back panel’ and look inside and see what we would be facing.  I ask for a couple of pics and some measurements.  Basically the main hurdle in euro conversion is the physical size of the PCB’s that are inside the synth/pedal/effect box you are trying to convert over.  Yes, current use, digital functionality, midi conversion, voltage needs, among other concerns need to be addressed, but the size of the PCB’s is the most critical ‘show stopper’ that has to be addressed first!
Link to Ali’s post here: http://alijamieson.co.uk/2017/12/korg-mini-kp-for-eurorack-modular-kaoss-pad/

I asked Ali a few questions about his MINI KP and the journey with it so far.

What is your history with the Korg MINI KP?
I’ve owned one since about 2009 when I bought it to run my Nord Electro through live Continue reading