Friday, October 5, 2012

I'm building a synth! Kinda!

As a synthesist, I want ultimate flexibility. Well, I can't get that, but I can get close by building my own synth!

What it is is, well, a drone synth. In fact, it's like a Skychord Sleepdrone, but only one oscillator, 4 waveforms, a low pass filter, ringmod, distortion, and external input. So basically it's like a Sleepdrone with one voice but way more sonic possibilities.

What do you do with a drone synth? Well, if you hate the technological side of electronic music or you like synths to actually do something other than play a single sound while you tweak knobs, you'd probably use it as a doorstop or paperweight. HOWEVER, if you care to do such things as tweak and such, you'd make epic soundscapes, hard detuned sounds, and you can sample it and play the sound through a sampler!

For instance, take a $165 Sleepdrone3, a simple synth with three analog square waves that you can mix and change frequencies of (that Skychord probably made for about $40). You can sample it with slight detuning and make a heavy bassline, you can make ever-changing soundscapes, and you can produce harmonious harmonies. And we won't mention what you can do if you connect it to a modular or effects rig...

With my idea, though, you'll be able to do so much more. Sure, you can make drones. But you can also make sweeping filters, use it to make Dalek sounds, use it as distortion for a guitar or synth, distort your ringmodded sound, filter your bass for epic depth (the last three can be summed up as 'effects unit'), make coloured noise, or just use it as an amplifier.

However, I am thinking of an alternate idea that will allow for maximum patchability, so you can make it a guitar or vocal synth, have a multiplexed wall of sound (note this has one mono output, so that's saying a lot), still make noise (it's easy), and, well, that's all I can think of right now.

So, how's it work? Well, here's a diagram:
Makes total sense, right? No? Well, it has an NE555P IC as an oscillator with various waveshapers after that. It also has an external input. Both can be patched various ways to a ringmod, distortion, and filter. That goes out to the output to your mixer, effects, modular, amp, what have you.

NAQ (Never Asked Questions, because there are no FAQs)

--"If it's so simple, how can it do so much?" Because analogue synthesis is freaking awesome. It's amazing what a few simple things can do to audio.
--"How will you make it?" Well, I have a 555 and other parts, and with about $10-$20 I can get the rest of the parts.
--"Do you know it will work?" Well, I have the fine folks at helping me out, very slowly. For the most part, though, the ringmod, input and output, and patching are easy. They're helping me with the oscillator, amps, filter and distortion. I'm trying to keep it extremely simple, too. So basically, yes, I know it will.
--"How will you use it?" Didn't I just give a ton of answers to that?
--"Why?" Remember the KereMAX P? This is building up to that. This actually incorporates some of the KereMAX's features: full patchability, multiple waveforms, ringmod, distortion, a filter, and external input for every section. Obviously, the KereMAX has more stuff.
--"What will you name it?" Well, some would call it 'waste of time and money', 'stupid', or 'useless'. I'll call it the 555zYntH for now just because that's close to what all the schematics and block diagrams have for filenames. They're all 555synth or 555synthblk. And hey, if you write it in cursive it'll look neat.

And for those Skychord haters, I used them as an example because Deadmau5 noted one of their synths in a livestream, and so therefore one can imagine that they are at least well-known. I know there are other drone-synth-makers out there.

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