Friday, July 28, 2006

Module Spotlight : MOTM 440

This is a hugely popular filter in the MOTM line. it is designed to mimic (and more) the filter used in the famous Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 rev.2 synth.
This was due to the used SSM2040 filter chip. Production of this chip was short lived, but left it's distinct mark on music, as it sounded different from the other popular synths like Moog or Arp designs.

The MOTM-440 offers an updated SSM2040 architecture using matched NPN/PNP pairs and features a switch
that adds in a second audio feedback path to boost bass response at higher Q levels. This makes the filter
"growl and rumble" even more!
In addition, voltage-controlled Q allows for more flexible and unique sweeping effects.
Three audio inputs and three CV inputs make the MOTM-440 the killer lowpass in your system.
The internal gain structure is such that over-driving the filter is now possible (unlike the Prophet 5) to
get even move nasty sounds.

Order an MOTM-440 filter for a fraction of the price of a P5 Rev. 2, but without the worry of obsolete parts!

SIZE: 3.470 inches x 8.720 inches. Mounting holes are 3.0
inches by 8.250 inches (standard rack spacing). #8-32
hardware. Depth behind panel is 4.5 inches.
level attenuators, FM1 (reversing attenuator), FM2.
Switches: BASS (Normal or Enhanced)
JACKS: IV/Oct. FM1, FM2 and VC Q inputs, 3
audio inputs (IN1, IN2 and IN3), OUT.
LEVELS: Audio voltages 10V pk-pk, control
voltage –7V to +7V;
POWER: +-15VDC at 25ma max. Uses AMP
MTA-156 4 position connector and cable

Saturday, July 22, 2006

UPdated MOTM news: 940's, 890's

The MOTM 940 patch panel will soon be discontinued, order yours now in the sale if you need one
Same goes for the 890 uMixer, personally I think this would be great mixer for small systems like my own, and I have not ordered one yet and likely will not be able too either due to financial restricitions, after all I still have a 650, a 390, and a 101 on the waitlist to be shipped out... They need paying for first..

Talking about 650's, the new firmware software has now been uploaded.

This new firmware address the following issues:

* Bugfix - Arpeggiated notes now play in sync w/ Beat LED with 1X clock
divisor for all clock sources. NOTE: arpeggiator will now reset
clock to start with first keypress only if set to internal clock sync
with midi clock transmit turned off. All other modes wait until next
clock is received to play the note.
* Bugfix - Eliminated lockups when changing arpeggiator clock source or
Midi clock transmit options.
* Bugfix - Selecting midi clock transmit sends start command.
* Bugfix - Playing the arpeggiator no longer plays lowest note (0). As
part of same bugfix, it no longer requires 2 or more notes to be held to
start arpeggiator.
* Bugfix - Tuning Tables 8-16 now load and play correctly.

Until next time.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Module Spotlight : MOTM 101

Today the spotlight will be aimed at the MOTM 101: Why? Because I've ordered a kit of it in the Sale, and further because I mentioned it in the previous spotlight about LFO's.

So here it is:

The MOTM-101 is an essential part of any synthesizer system. It is a dual-function module, where the Noise Generator is linked to the Sample/Hold section without the use of patchcords. Each section can operate independant of the other.
The Noise Generator uses 2 Zener diodes to create White Noise. This White noise contains spectral harmonics from near DC to well above hearing. This type of noise is useful for simulating cymbals, ocean waves, static, and other types of "nature" sounds. It is also useful in generating random signals into the Sample & Hold, and for aperiodic, high-speed clocking.
The White Noise is low-pass filtered at approx. 2500Hz to create Pink Noise. Pink Noise is useful for lower frequency sounds such as thunder. The Pink Noise is filtered even more to generate Random Output, which can randomly modulate filters and VCOs.
These three types of noise are found on many synthesizers. However, look closely and you will see the jack labeled VIBRATO, and it's associated control pot! This is a MOTM exclusive: a high-Q bandpass filter (the panel control controls the Q) that generates sine waves centered around 7Hz of random amplitudes (and slightly varying frequencies as well). On the panel, a switch selects driving the bandpass filter with either white noise or the internal/external clock from the Sample & Hold section. When the panel switch selects white noise, the vibrato output is a 'wandering' sine wave, perfect for adding realistic vibrato and tremelo. If the switch is in the clock position, each time the clock cycles the output filter rings in a dampened sine wave (the ringing amount set by the panel control). When fed to a VCO, the VCO make a unique "bbbooooiiinnngggggg" sound.
A Sample & Hold circuit is a sort of voltage memory: each time the clock generator cycles, the singal on the INPUT jack is captured and stored on a special capacitor. This voltage is buffered and fed to the OUTPUT jack. Even with many seconds between samples, the output voltage remains nearly constant (since no circuit is perfect, the output voltage will droop, but at a miniscule rate on the order of 1mv per second). The MOTM-101 contains an internal clock oscillator, whose speed is set by the panel control. A red LED flashes at the clock rate. Plugging another clock source (VCO, LFO, etc) into the EXTERNAL jack over-rides the internal oscillator.
Again, a Sample & Hold is a part of all synthesizers....but wait! Hmmmm...what's that switch marked Track/Hold? Another MOTM exclusive! In the HOLD position, the circuit acts like a "normal" S/H: the output is held steady at the start of each clock cycle. But, in the TRACK position, the output follows (tracks) the input when the clock is low (less than 1.5 volts) and holds the output when the clock is above 1.5 volts. If you are familar with TTL digital logic, this mode is referred to as a 'transparent latch'. From a musical standpoint, this can generate more unique sounds than other S/H modules.

The SLEW control adds portamento or glide to the S&H output. It can be adjusted from zero to 10 seconds.


After I'd overcome the shock of not being able to build MOTM modules myself , I decided to check out the SynthTech site, and I can now report that the Sale is On. All kits that are still in stock are being sold off, until there are no more.
Check it out, perhaps there's something for you there too!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Oh My God!!!! MOTM assembled only!

One of the main reasons I went with MOTM was the fact that I could build the modules myself, partly to brush up on my soldering technique, but also to save some money, and the fact that it offers that little bit extra in pride by being able to say " I build this thing!" .
as of 31 Dec 2006, that will be a thing of the past , Synth tech has announched that they will be offering ready assembled modules only from the mentioned date onwards.....

see the below link for details and reasons why.....

Needless to say : I understand the business reasons of the decision etc, and I hold no grudge or anything, but oh my god, I am seriously panicking on how I will be able to build my modular the way I want with the raised cost of ready build modules, etc, and will be missing the charm of being able to do it my self! Not happy at all for that, but what can I do about that, I don't want to compromise on quality ,and I've started allready on a synth, but oh my god........not happy... that's all that springs to mind at the moment.....

Sunday, July 02, 2006

NEWS: Beta firmware 1.1 for MOTM 650 released

A Beta version of the MOTM 650 firmware has been released for testing purposes. If proven 'bugfree' for all exsisting 650's out there, it will be released as the official version 1.1 and loaded in all backorder and future 650's.

Here is the list of changes/fixes/additionons:

* NOTE: Internal patch format changed with this version. Upgrading
to this version will restore factory default settings! Likewise,
downgrading to earlier versions will also restore defaults.
* NEW FEATURE! Solo Note Priority. See "Priority" menu item under
"Global Options" to select Last, Low, or High note priority.
* Fixed multiple sustain pedal release bugs.
* Bugfix - Sustain pedal mow works for arpeggiators.
* Bugfix - DAC no longer glitches on CV4.
* Bugfix - Midi messages no longer randomly dropped after External Clock
or Midi Clock sync selected.
* Bugfix - Arpeggiator, Note, and Voice Allocation code no longer randomly
change External Clock interrupt priority.
* Bugfix - Beat LED now works for External Clock if Midi Clock Transmit
option isn't set.
* Bugfix - Beat LED now works for Internal Clock on startup if Midi Clock
Transmit option isn't set.
* New Feature - Changed menu items found under Group Clock. Instead of
External, there is Ext. Reg and Ext. Irr. These are External Clock-Regular
Pulse and External Clock-Irregular Pulse,
respectively. Previously, the firmware assumed there was a regular pulse if
Midi Clock
Transmit was also enabled. Clocking features, such as clock divisors
and midi clock transmit, will work only if there is a regular clock
pulse. These features and their submenu items are disabled when the
Ext. Irr. clock is selected. If you are using a LFO to drive EXT CLK, that is
a 'Regular Pulse'. I
you are using say drum triggers, EG outputs, etc that is 'Irregular Pulse'.
* Bugfix - If Midi or Ext. Reg clock selected, then the arpeggiator will
now work in the absence of a clock. It will run at the clock rate it
last saw from the external or midi clock source.

The last of a dying breed?

I while ago I reported the unfortunate news of Stooge Industries closing down, and ordering some cables with them.
They have been received and they are gorgeous, and of the same high standard that I have come to expect from them.
See picture.
It makes me sad that the synthesis community may have seen the demise of a highly regarded small company, that was operating in a niche market, supplying high quality products for lovers / users of MOTM style synthesizers.
I have picked up a buzz via other MOTM user groups that there may be some people willing to take over the company,and continue it, but only time will tell.
For now, I will enjoy these patch cables and hope there will be more of them in the future, to provide me with a quality link between the high quality modules made by Synthesis Technology.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Soldering: A few tips

This time some practical advise on soldering;

Half the job is done if you have some good tools. Yes, you can easily solder with a relatively cheap soldering iron of around $50,- or so, but if you can stretch your budget, get a solderstation with a temperature regulator on it.(preferably one with a display that shows you how hot the iron is.
This enables you to set the temperature of the soldering iron to a constant and very efficient temperature. The temperature used by the military, and other proffesionals is 360 degrees celcius (680 F).
This temperature is a ideal balance between the melting of the solder, and the evaporating flux, or better to avoid too much of it evaporating before the solder has melted and distributed evenly.
But that's not all. Also technique is important. Firstly, make sure that you place the tip of your soldering iron so that both parts (i.e. the circuitboard track, and the component leg) are heated. Heat the components for about 1-2 seconds and add the solder to the tip of the iron while holding it in place. The spot to add the solder is as close as you can get to the track on the PCB. Don't add too much, but you'll soon learn how much is needed at this temperature.
Once it flows out, and is to your satisfaction, remove the solder and the iron. Let it cool off gently, and avoid bumping the table or PCB while it cools down. If this does happen, the solder will ripple, and causes a dull finish , 'shocking the solder'. What's more, the structure and strength of the solder joint is compromised. This is easily solved by reheating it, but with some of the parts used being sensitive and expensive, this is not the greatest situation to be in, so take a little care, and remember that it is not a race.
OH , one more thing, using the organic solder in the kits provided by synth tech, make sure you WASH the board when instructed to do so by the manual, with luke warm water. Failing to do so, will leave a mess (not always directly visible) that is much harder to clean up the next day..
The TIP of your iron: get a tip that is approx 1.5mm for the realy small components and IC's, and you can get away with using a 3mm tip for wiring and jack connectors etc...

Clean it after use with a wet sponge while it is still warm.