Friday, February 27, 2009

Phase two of My MOTM

Thus far, I've reported mainly about building my MOTM synthesizer made from the standard kits without any other modifications.
However, having come close to 'completing' my synth over the years (I doubt it will ever be finished as it is very addictive), I have started to see what I can do to bring more functionality into this synth and also more 'blinky lights' as everyone loves those don't they? :-)
So I decided to start off with a modification to my envelope generators, and I've chosen the modification as available from the Tellun corporation run by Scott Juskiw. ( more info here ) This will enable the EG's to be triggered from slow LFO signals among others,and has led drivers on board for both the Gate and the EG out signals (bring on the blinkies :-) ). Several people have done this modification already and it is a very nice and quality upgrade to the MOTM-800. This will add another PCB to the 800 in the form of a daughter board, but will still fit behind the same 1U panel. The PCB can be seen in the picture here.
While I have not yet received the PCB's, I've received all the electronic components and hardware including the leds, so I will start soon to mark out and drill the holes on the front panel to accomodate these. Leaves me only one choice which color to use for what function, blue for gate, and yellow for the envelope, or the otherway around? Any preferences?


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Another MOTM-730 video

John L Rice is the lucky owner of a MOTM-730, and this video is one of the first patches he made with it. :-)


Monday, February 23, 2009

Return of the Robotmakers

It's been a while but Roger Pellegrini has been at it again, modular synths and of course an MOTM among it, have been usede to create this track, enjoy the video clip :-)

go here for the clip, it is also available in HD.

Roger writes: "Ever since the last Robotmakers clip ended up as a "featured video" on Youtube, I'd been plotting the follow-up. With the distractions of the financiapocalypse intervening, it's taken a very long time, but "Crush Kill Destroy" is finally done. There are some interesting synth bits:

- At 0:59 to 1:11, and 2:15 to 2:30, there's a synth line that's played without envelope generators or triggers. Instead, the VCA (and VCF) are controlled by the X-axis of a Novation RemoteSL xy pad. The Y-axis is vibrato. A footpedal through a MOTM pedal interface controls the rate of downward glide of a MOTM lag processor. It's a revelation how different it is to play this way - like driving a manual transmission car in London (for an American).

- Throughout there's a hammond-esque organ that's actually 4 synch'ed Moog921AB VCOs producing sine waves, sampled into Kontakt. The sound is then processed in Cubase with distortion and rotary vst plug-ins."


Sunday, February 22, 2009

MOTM--730 Video

Paul Schreiber gives us THIS VIDEO of the MOTM-730 in action.

It is being demonstrated by none other than Robert Rich!
It's a big file (33MB), and can best be downloaded and played in iTunes. A Youtube version is in the works.
Perhaps this demonstrates better to people what this module can be used for and how it works.


PS: You might need to 'right click' or 'control click' to download the file in the link.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Raw waves

I've been patching, as the picture shows, and as promised I would post some comparison between the Oakley and the MOTM VCO's.
Well to be honest, in the raw output I cannot detect any real difference unless my ears deceive me. There is some difference perhaps in the Pulse wave , but this is also dependent on the front panel setting. Therefore I also recorded a sweep of this pulse wave.
What you hear is each VCO, going from Sine, to Tri, to Saw, and finally Pulse, followed with a pulse sweep.
Each VCO note is pressed twice, then switched over to the other VCO. In each case, the MOTM is first, followed by the Oakley. Then moving on to the next wave form.

Download the MP3 at my download area.

Judge for yourself :-)


Friday, February 20, 2009

Oakley VCO arrived and installed

My 3rd VCO has arrived and is installed in my modular. It required a short calibration session to get the 1V/Oct response completely right, or at least completely matching with my MOTM VCO's, which took approx. 20 minutes to do properly.

First impression is that I can hardly detect a difference in sound between the MOTM and the Oakley in raw wave forms, with the exception of the pulse out, which sounds a bit more hollow on the Oakley, and I detected a small tick in the saw wave of the oakley, but I think that with a little extra calibration, this can be completely corrected, besides it is not disturbing at all.

Okay, I guess I'll be experimenting with it a little, and will post some comparisson recordings in time, in addition to those already available in the previous post, courtesy of Jason Proctor.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stooge cables available

Some decent patch cables are available again, Jeff Laity writes:

"I convinced my company to create 1/4" cables as an accessory for our instrument trainers. Little did they know it was all a ploy to get Stooge Cables for my modular. :D

These are 4-foot translucent red Rapco cable, made by Rapco in the USA. They use Neutrik 1/4" jacks. Here's a shot of them in action, a HDR photo so zoom in :-)

Cables in action

Sorry, only in red and only 4' lengths. Chop them in half and solder new jacks to make 2' cables. We're selling them online for $15 each but I convinced them to allow a bulk order of 10 cables for $100 (33% off). These are nice quality cables and hard to find so check them out.

store link

Enjoy, -jl "


Filter sweeps

Someone asked me recently what the difference between some MOTM filters was. I decided to record some filter sweeps with my 3 filter types that I have to show what they can do. Now these sweeps are at a low frequency only (saw wave of approx 50-60Hz) at the request of the person who asked for them.
I've driven a low saw wave from a single MOTM-300 VCO at approx 50-60Hz straight into the filter, then on to the output mixer, and recorded dry into Logic 8.
First is the 420: Sweeping with max resonance in LP mode, then near max resonance. Then switching to Notch doing the same, finally HP.
Second is the 440: First sweeping the filter in 'normal' LP mode as above, then with bass enhance switch ON.
Third is the MOTM 490, this one self oscillates at low resonance settings just under half scale, but the last sweeps are with resonance max on this one.
this filter has a slightly lower output level so it may sound a little less loud, but that's easily compensated in a real patch with VCA and mixer settings crancked up a bit of course :-)

You can find the file filtersweeps here at the download area. I also had a MP3 version, but this contained artifacts so I cancelled that, so this file is a bit big (approx 28MB). It's in AIF format, which can be played using Quicktime among others.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Oakley VCO (Updated)

Jason Proctor was a step ahead of me, and recorded both the Oakley and the MOTM VCO , he writes:"ok so here are two doodlings starring the MOTM-300 and Oakley issue 4 VCO. i'm not really playing anything, just messing around. both start with sawtooth through a wide open superladder filter. then i mess with the filter a bit, hit it with an envelope. then i crank the resonance. then i switch to pulse wave with some PWM, and mess with the filter a bit more etc."

You can find the " recordings here.

I recently asked members of the MOTM community for tips and suggestions on how to progress with my synth, and I received several e-mails, and the general tone of this was, "get another VCO, and add some additional modulation/envelope sources."
As I had a small financial bonus in these uncertain times (no I don't work for a bank :-) ), I decided to treat myself and start with a VCO.
I've pondered for a while already what VCO to get, and I decided to go for something a little different. I thought about getting the MOTM-310 , which would give me the same basic quality and sound as my existing ones, while saving some space, but then I thought perhaps I should see if another brand would add some 'variety'.So I went for the Oakley VCO, eventhough it would fill out my currently available 2U space I have left.
I am still not sure how different the Oakley sounds, my guess it's not 'that' different, but I won't know until I get one and try it out. I'm sure someone would take it of my hands if I don't like it, but I'm sure that won't happen, so it's ordered and on it's way.
I'll let you know about my findings when it's here :-)


Monday, February 16, 2009

MOTM community

I've had some positive feedback on my little improvisation, and John L Rice even produced a video/slideshow using pictures of my synth through the years from this blog, and using the track as the background music.
This is another reason why I enjoy this hobby, there is a great community with like minded people out there sharing tips, info, suggestions, and help each other with their work, of which this video is just one example.
Thanks very much John, I enjoyed watching it! It's posted below for everyone else to see and hear :-)



New song uploaded

I've made a short improvisation, called Universum II, which you can download on my download site by clicking here
Slightly Robert Rich inspired, with a few bits added, I hope you enjoy it, dream away :-)


Self running patch by John L Rice



MOTM-730 patch

The first batch of MOTM-730 modules has been shipped, and Richard Brewster is one of the early adopters/purchasers. He has gone to 'work' and came up with these patches.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

MOTM-650 4 voice mode

I found this footage via Matrix Synth.
It's a classical piece of music, in which the great MOTM-650 Midi-CV module is used in 4 voice mode to control a modular synth which is partly MOTM, partly dot com, and other makers, to play this song.



Quantix 8 MOTM module

Here's a great new module kit from France. It's a CV quantizer Wavetable Oscillator rolled into one. The picture shows two of them side by side. Very interesting indeed.
For more info on this module I'd strongly recommend to check out this site for all about it and more.


MOTM-510 wavewarper

I have one of these modules, and so does John L Rice, who has posted the below video of a live Jam with the 510.
It demonstrates nicely that this module can help in creating some great cutting lead sounds, aside from all the chaos that you can get up to using this crazy module (the circuitboard has a printed warning that it could kill rodents and upset spouses etc :-) )



Update: When I asked John how he created this patch he replied:

There actually is NO filter used at all! Basically it’s just sine waves from two MOTM-300’s into X and Y and then a pulse from a third MOTM-300 into Z. Then the Sine and Triangle from a MOTM-320 LFO go into the X and Y offset inputs and a sine from a MOTM-380 LFO goes into the Z offset (I processed this LFO though a DotCom Q125 module so it wasn’t so ‘wide’ of a modulation) The output of the MOTM-510 just goes to a MOTM-190 and the COTK C1680 delay. All of the knobs on the 510 are cranked pretty much all the way up and the selector switch is set to unity.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Nice MOTM system

I'm a bit short for pictures of others and their MOTM modulars, so I haven't been able to keep up the "MOTM of the week" that I tried to run several months back, so I will post a nice picture if and when I have one available, and here is another:

You can find more about this one at:


Another forum

Some of you may be familiar with this one, some of you may not, I wasn't anyway.
A great forum to do with anything and then some in regards to modular synthesis and synthesizers.
The address is:

I hope this is useful to you, whatever type of modular synth you may have, or just if your just interested in them.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

very basic free running patch

Just something I've started experimenting with, considering the limited size of my modular synth, is the possibility of using the modules I have so far, to create a free running patch of some sort.
Here is a simple example of one of my first ones: to download go here and choose free running

I've used two independent LFO's each outputting a square wave, feeding to an ADSR each. The ADSR in turn controls a Filter each,and a VCA (via a multiple to split the output of the ADSR to two destinations). One filter has white noise as input, the other filter a patch of two VCO's , resulting in a bass note, and a percussive sound. Unfortunately it is very hard to sync the two lfo's exactly to create a patch that sounds rhytmically correct, but it was fun to do :-)


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Patching away using Oakley modules,a 'micro review'

Well, I've been playing around with my synth, and been comparing the Oakley modules (particulary the ADSR) with my existing EG modules, as made by Krisp1.
The modules are well made, and every jack goes in with a re-assuring 'click', but that's no surprise as the same Switchcraft sockets are used. The pots feel a bit heavier than the Synth Tech pots, but it's something I personally find quite pleasant. What I did observe is that the PCB's on these modules are not mounted on a bracket, but instead are secured in place via the pots and pot brackets. It feels every bit as sturdy as the Synth Tech modules, but I'm not sure if the absence of the PCB bracket could result in interference in some module arrangements or near power supplies etc.
As mentioned in another post, all resistors are metal film types of 1% tolerances, which makes each module made to very exacting standards.
Carbon resistors are completely absent.
Also absent are coaxial cables to the connectors, instead, a mini PCB is used to with the switchcraft sockets are soldered, and which in turn is connected to the main pcb using a short ribbon cable with connectors. A very clean design indeed.

Using the modules:
The ADSR-VCA is very useful as it's integrated design saves space.
Using this module as a ADSR controlled VCA, the settings of the envelope knobs translate to the onboard VCA circuit and when a signal is patched to the IN of the module the outs are audio signals. Also there is an inverted OUT that acts inverse from the standard out, so if one has 0 output the other is max, and vice versa. When there is nothing inserted to the IN, the outputs are a CV signal that has a peak of -5V or +5V (depending on the output used), and the module becomes a standard ADSR module, very handy indeed!.
The envelopes that can be set can be quite slow, and also very fast, although I made a few comparrisons with a few sounds that had a fast attack and I think that the synth tech envelope generators are a fraction faster/snappier, but the difference is minor and may well be due to small tolerances that are inevitably present in analog designs.
The multimix module that I ordered is also pretty good, although one pot did give a little crackling sound when I operated it, but this went away after a few turns, I like the fact that also these have a negative and positive range from -5 to +5 on the scale, with the center position being neutral.
I am sure I have not yet used them in every possible configuration, but this will surely come at some stage.

Concluding, I can recommend the Oakley 'MOTM' format modules build by KRISP1 without hesitation, they are build well, perform great and have a great feel and finish, and would be a welcome addition to any motm format modular synth, and with the current exchange rate, US and EU customers could very well find them selves buying modules at a very attractive price!

See KRISP1 for more details.

The picture shows me patching away happily on a temporay set up at the dining room table :-)


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Oakley MOTM modules

Just to report that my Oakley modules have arrived.
I will report on them in more detail, I'd just wanted to say thank you to Paul Darlow from Krisp1 modular construction, for the fast shipping and feedback provided.
The modules blend in nicely with the Synth Tech module, the only cosmetic difference is that the silkscreen on the Oakley modules uses a slightly finer and different 'font' but the difference is not distracting in my view.
Anyway, more on that later :-)

John L Rice on a roll

As soon as I posted the demo video of the MOTM-485 , John replied and send me the below footage of him soloing his MOTM modular, using the 485 and 440 filters too. Nice to see some music played instead of experiments!
Thank you John :-)


MOTM-485 , the GX1 filter

Here a video of John L Rice, demonstrating the MOTM-485 filter, which mimics the filter of the Yamaha GX-1.
This filter module is also available in Frac Rack format, exclusively through Analog Haven.

Enjoy :-)


Monday, February 09, 2009

Historic Moment?

I'm not sure if the word 'historic' qualifies, but today I did something that is pretty unlikely to happen again:
I soldered and finished my MOTM-800, which was my last kit I had on order from Synth Tech, and is historic in the sense that this will probably be the last complete kit (Paul refers to this as MOTM 1.0) from Synth Tech I've ever build.
You never know what you find on e-bay or via users groups of course, but the likely hood of an unbuild kit is relatively small, anything purchased through those channels will likely be already build.
Anyway, for now, I guess I'm done soldering, my next two modules (arriving tomorrow if the postal services don't get trouble with snow) are factory build, and what I've got in mind after that will likely be the same.
There is of course the future: MOTM 2.0 as it's currently known. These are partial kits that can be ordered, including part sets for hard to get parts, but you're on your own in getting all the other parts bits and pieces. Still very do-able but requires a bit more work on your part, that Paul used to have to do, and now has this time building ready modules, developing new stuff etc.
So Synth Tech branded DIY is still very much alive, but with a difference.
Anyway, back to the 800, this is Synth Tech ADSR no 3, and including the Oakley ADSR-VCA module arriving tomorrow, will bring the total of envelope generators on my synth to 4, which I think is enough considering the size of my synth, but should give me sufficient flexibility for now.


Manual online

The MOTM-730 users manual is now online and can be found by clicking here
Please igore any typo's as this is a first draft and may need 'debugging' :-)
It's the first manual using the new Synthesis Technology company logo, and for the first time (to my knowledge) uses a picture of the module too.

Pretty nice feature set and will be a great module addition to any modular synth:-)


Saturday, February 07, 2009

MOTM 730 contest

It's not even shipping yet (but very soon) and Synth Tech is announcing a contest.
The rules are simple: Paul writes: "
a) if you haven't already, order a MOTM-730 VC Pulse Divider!

b) patch it up into your (mostly...ahem....) MOTM modular

c) record audio and/or video.

d) send it to me by March 20th. Would like some sort of patch diagram/text description so other folks can try it out.

e) Winner (I get to pick) gets $200. So, your MOTM-730 is at a 50% discount :) Second place gets $100.
Looking mostly for unique/clever applications of all the module's features: variable dividing, stepped CV out, etc.

I have *lots* of these I can ship rather quickly, the joys of robotic SMT assembly and pcb-mounted jacks/switches/pots. I expect all of these currently on order to ship by next Saturday.

Paul S."

Hope to see lots of these 730's in action soon.
I'm firstly adding some more 'basic' modules to my modular, before I go further and order something like the 730 myself, I have a couple items on order as you know, and after that, I'm thinking of getting some more LFO's before I consider the basics 'complete' and then we'll move on to more 'fun' stuff like this :-)


P.S.: Picture is an image of the prototype unit.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Oakley MOTM modules

As some of you may be aware, Oakley MOTM format modules are made by Paul Darlow of Krisp1 Modular construction.
They seem to be doing very well, and have been reported to be a reliable vendor and the quality of their work is said to be very good.
This is why I have added their link to this blog on the right.
Their site is well laid out and offers the same "Zen Commerce" order layout as SynthTech does, which has been a very reliable and safe method of purchasing items.
What would make their site complete is to add the descriptions of the various Oakley modules on their site, instead of referring to the Oakley site, but perhaps they will do that. It seems to me is that the focus is on building stock on modules, to be able to deliver fast. I've taken the plunge and ordered two modules of them, to experience first hand how their service is, and more important the quality of their modules. I've ordered a ADSR/VCA and a Multimix module (both 1U wide), both useful modules that will add functionality to my synth.
Once I receive them (they were in stock and are said to ship within 2 days) I will report on this.

If anyone reading this has personal experiences on Oakley modules, let me know or comment on this article, so we can all read about it.


MOTM-730 news

It's almost shipping, Paul updates us on the status of this new module, out VERY soon now :-)

He writes:
"Received the first set of 15 MOTM-730 VC Divider production boards.

Every function checks out 100%!

There other 85 CPU boards will arrive ~ 1 week. I will be able next week to ship the first 15 orders in the backlog for the '730. I will type up a Owner's Manual this weekend, and I will post the *binary* firmware files for the 2 PIC processors (one is in a socket the other soldered into the board). The socketed IC is the main CPU divide engine, the smaller soldered IC just drives the display. The PICs are OTP (one-time programmable) so a dedicated programmer is needed to replace them if one dies and I'm not available for a replacement :)

I do not expect these PICs to die anytime in the next 10 years or so.

The measured power supply current is:

+5V @ 75ma (no outputs driving). Add 4ma/driven (patched) output.
+15V @ 16ma
-15V @ 14ma

The outputs are 0 to +5V square waves for the dividers, and an analog 'stepped' sawtooth wave that steps in 4th/octaves/5ths.

All divider outputs can be used simultaneously, as long as your supply can handle it. A MOTM-950 supply can handle 5 '730s, driving ALL the outputs from all 5 as well as a MOTM-650.

Paul S."

There you have it, exciting times, especially for those of you who have one on order, which sadly, doesn't yet include me :-(


Thursday, February 05, 2009


I'm done. Building this filter that is. I hesitated a few years before I bought one, and I went for a MOTM-420 first (a filter that has many characteristics of Korg's infamous MS-20 synth) followed a year later by the MOTM-440 ( very close sounding to the legendary Sequential Circuits Prophet 5) and now finally the MOTM-490, based on the Moog 904A filter, which was designed with the famous ladder filter principle by Dr Bob Moog. Yes, you read that right, its based on one of Moog's earliest filter design , and has that sound of the early Moog modulars, so it's not a Minimoog mimic, but it sounds great.
I've created some sounds using it, and it is immediately apparent that this is a different beast from the other filters. I will post a few sound samples in due course, but for now, let me try to describe it which is perhaps the hardest of it all, trying to capture sound in words is almost impossible but I'll try: The MOTM-440 low pass filter is a beautiful sounding filter that simply oozes quality, it can sound clean, but also growl, very musical and does all that in a sophisticated way,does that make sense at all? Then there is the MOTM-420, which is a versatile filter as it can also function as a bandpass and high pass filter , besides the low pass setting. It is a filter that 'can' sound a little grittier, but is no slouch in providing deep and rumbling basses, be it that it is not as smooth as the 440 in doing so, it has it's own qualities and it's fun to use. This brings me to the MOTM-490. This thing is raw, it rumbles, it has some dirty qualities when pushed and great for overdriven sounds, it is not subtle, but very musical indeed, qualities that are so characteristic for this Moog filter design, and with instantly recognisable sound, and this is perhaps the greatest achievement, to recreate a classic filter, the one that started it all for that matter, with modern equivalents, and sound so close to the original.
I'll keep you posted.

Synth of Doom

Sorry for the long absence once again, January didn't give me much time to do much of anything due to several short trips and much needed DIY jobs around the house.
However, I've made some progress on my MOTM-490 filter PCB, finished all except the wiring, and then the front panel, so I think one more soldering session will see that through.
In the mean time, David Abbey forwarded me a picture of his studio, as he is now the proud owner of a "Synth of Doom" cabinet, bought from Dave Bradley (aka Stooge Moe).
It's a beautiful but big cabinet, and does a synthesizer like the MOTM justice, anyway see picture, and judge for your self.
For more on the original Synth of Doom, see the link to the right.