I want to get "into" DIY synthesis but have no idea where to start?

Hello y’all. I stumbled across LMNC’s videos a month or so ago when I was looking into video synth work, but then led me into the world of DIY synth. I don’t have a ton of experience in electrical work, but I have built a few custom keyboards by hand along with some projects from school back in the day. Does anyone have any good resources to start looking into to creating my own setup?

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It may be worth taking a look at Kristian Blåsol’s Modular in a Week series on YouTube. While it may not literally get you going in a week, it will undoubtedly give you many insights into what is involved in DIY modular.

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there is some thread who maybe help you

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Depends on if you want to stick your toe in or dive headfirst.

We will help you either way!

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One idea to consider is to build something complete and standalone as opposed to modules where you might have to build five or so before you have a setup you can really use for anything. For instance one of the MFOS projects. The Weird Sound Generator is an easy and fun noise maker. The Sound Lab Mini-Synth is a real if basic analog synthesizer. The Mark II is more ambitious. PCBs are available for any of these from the MFOS site.

Another option is to buy a semi-modular synth and then start building modules to use with it. I started off with a Moog Mother-32 and added an envelope generator, an oscillator, some utility modules, and on and on. I’m not a fan of Behringer’s corporate behavior but their synths are a lot cheaper than Moog’s and get good reviews, a Crave or Neutron would make a good starting point.

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One idea to consider is to build something complete and standalone as opposed to modules where you might have to build five or so before you have a setup you can really use for anything.

This is a really solid point. I started by building a performance filter and then sat on my hands until I had a few more modules from Sam to make a basic synth signal chain. If you go the module route, you’re looking at a VCO, ADSR, VCA, and case minimum for a basic synth sound. (One might argue for a filter as well because it’s super fun.)

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Yeah, an analog VCO without a filter is pretty boring. It’ll give you three or four waveforms; add a filter and you have an infinite number. Drive that filter cutoff with an envelope generator or LFO and things start getting interesting.

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Its not subtractive synthesis without a filter!

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After 200 bookmarks, a few purchases, and a used CRT later. Waiting on my new soldering station from China (T12 clone), but I just purchased an old CRT for a CHA/V project and am in the works of a DIY wood eurorack. In the world of synth related PCBs, there’s quite a lot. I don’t mind sitting around, so I may DIY it all from various PCBs, but grabbing a semi modular unit may be the move.

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I was just looking at the T12. Did you find a good source for the clone? I promised myself new iron after my first full rack is complete :slight_smile:

I also just build the CHAV . I haven’t played with it much as the jumpers are so damn fiddly. I’d like to build a panel for it with proper jacks to really dive in. This is a few months away but the LZX Cadet stuff doesn’t look too complicated to build. Though I won’t get to that until I’m further along with the synth.

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The guy who designed it also designed a real PCB for purchase online if you’re interested in that route. Still really cheap to build.

Edit: I’m fairly good at managing to find reputable sellers for vendors from China. Electronics is always a hit or miss. It’s hard to find good comparisons from multiple vendors, generally they are still sourced from a few of the same factories, and even then the quality can vary still. The unit I looked at specifically had about or right under a thousand units sold. Reviews were good. Will do a writeup once it arrives.

Is there any sub $200 semi modular synths or does quality go down the gutter below this price point? I can afford one, but I also have a mechanical keyboard build that’s shy of $600 in the works, can’t afford both. :sweat_smile:

The Behringer Crave is a single oscillator semi-modular in that price range. I’ve got one, it’s a very good quality build and it’s very patchable using the supplied Eurorack-style patch cables. The signal levels are also compatible with Eurorack so you can play it as part of a modular rig.

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woah. this is a thing??

I remember in college, circa 1998 buying a FOCUS mechanical keyboard for $60 bucks and my friends thinking I was a lunatic for spending that much so I could play Quake better.

times done changed.

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The custom market has driven the prices high, but still reasonable for what they do. Custom building aluminum and steel cases with specific design sizes, custom PCBs, people self making switches. All of it needs group buys and manufacturers to work with them.

Seems like the perfect fit, but man am I torn about it. I really want to start from the bottom up with DIY, but I don’t have a strong background at all in electrical engineering or design. I’m mostly a solder monkey, but I have time on my hands so I wouldn’t mind building it up. What would you personally recommend if you were starting out today?

I would not think twice about the Crave. Just get it. If your budget was $300, I’d say get the Neutron. But that doesn’t have the sequencer. So, just get the Crave and go from there.

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You first have to make a choice for your prefered format.
For that, measure your fingers :slight_smile:
Eurorack has so many DIY PCBs/full kits it would be a good choice, but my fingers don’t fit…
5U (MOTM,etc…) are the Rolls Roice of synth :slight_smile:
And then there was Kosmo…
(And a lot of other niche formats : https://www.synthesizers.com/formfactors.html )

What modules to build once you have chosen the format ? Look here :
http://musicfromouterspace.com/analogsynth_new/ELECTRONICS/analogsynth101.html?a=a
where you have a “minimal” synth diagram, and also the SoundLabMini diagram, which is a “prepatched” modular synth, but just replace all the connections between the modules with jacks and patch cords and you have already filled your first case…

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Well I am still starting out. I bought the Crave because it’s a painless way to get a reliably working synth voice and I don’t think I could do better on price if I built my own modules. By patching it I’ve learned a lot about modular synthesis. It has a built-in sequencer and can even be played as a live instrument using the keypad. Or you can connect a MIDI keyboard and play it like that.

You can read about my own very tortuous progress elsewhere on this forum (basically I’m trying to redesign the modular synth from the ground up) but I know that once I start producing my own modules I’ll have reliable signal sources from the Crave to test them against.

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This is good advice tbh! I precisely did not do this and it took ages to something close to a synth voice. Also means you can just build what you want/what is easy to learn with because you already have the rest to try it out with. Otherwise you end up like me with LFOs and Mixers, with nothing to modulate or mix haha

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