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Post NIME 2018

The blog has been quiet of late I know, I've been very, very busy though. Recently myself and some of my peers were gratefully invited to present some of our research (again) at NIME (The International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression). This time our work focusses on a new development for interfacing with analog synthesis from digital USB enabled devices. What we find particularly interesting about this new development is that it is completely driverless, and as such can potentially leverage any USB capable device.  CTRL essentially acts as a high resolution bridge between software and analog synthesis.

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We have experimented significantly with combining accurate pitch tracking technologies (Helmholtz~) with the 16 bit output CV resolution afforded by CTRL. This combination results in the capability to potentially use any instrument or audio source as a direct controller of an analog synthesiser. We think that this development is pretty special indeed.

Here is my partner in research/business; Dr. Richard Graham demonstrating the live control of his modular synthesiser using the audio output of his guitar as the source, and CTRL as the intermediary. The guitar becomes the controller, and the articulations come along for free.

If you would like to read more, the NIME2018 paper of the technical specifics can be found here

We intend to make this development open source very soon, watch this space.

Inkel Mixer Modifications

Today I decided to modify my vintage Inkel 996s Mixer to include direct inputs for Eurorack. This mixer is pretty full featured mixer, squeezing 16 channels (four Mono and six stereo) into a small space and also includes basic but useful EQ and a really beautiful built in BBD delay unit. 

Studio Design

Here is the preliminary design of my Electronic Production Studio/Mastering Room. ATC SCM100's form the main monitoring at 45 degrees whilst near field Samson Rubicon R6A's at 30 degrees form as a 'low-end' stereo reference. Tables are next on the production TODO list, followed closely by EQ's and tube preamps.

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Passive EQ version 2.0 and VCA

This weekend I've been tying off some long running projects. Firstly building a 'pultec style' passive EQ for my own studio. I've previously built one for local artist and producer 'Ryan Vail' who employed it throughout the production of his upcoming album but neglected to build myself one due to lack of time. The main task for this version was to attempt to define an effective production chain to allow me to silkscreen my own front panels, and indeed to build the dual mono PCB's themselves. I'm relatively happy with the result. I should be able to fine tune the process next time around with some adjustments to the production of the silk screen itself.

Secondly, I soldered and tested a major element of my proposed Ph.D. work, which, as a larger system, includes an SMD based VCA design. I'm glad to say that this element worked first time as expected (a nice break from the recent norm) so I can move on to the other aspects of the same combined work. 

Well, enough jibber jabber; here's some eye candy

CNC Vice Modification

I have an ongoing project that requires the drilling and threading (tapping) of aluminium on it's end. After laboriously performing several of these by hand I thought; 'there must be a better way, I wish my CNC could do this'. After considering this for some time I had realised that; if I feed the stock up through the bottom of my CNC and clamp it securely, I should be able to mill into the end of the stock which would be much faster and indeed more accurate than doing the same by hand. The modification to the CNC was then, the challenge for this weekend.

I began by using the CNC itself to cut a hole through the front end of the CNC base. This ensures that the hole is 'square' with reference to the tool. By using the longest tool available to me I was able to obtain a clean, square cut through the sacrificial layer (top layer of plywood), through the epoxy levelled surface underneath, and also through the lower layer of plywood. Moving the CNC forwards on my bench, such that it was overhanging slightly, allowed me to access the base from underneath. Some drilling, chiseling and Jigsaw work later; and we have a fairly nice oblong hole through the entire base of the CNC.

Using some scrap materials I then constructed a low profile clamping mechanism that uses M6 bolts to clamp two pieces of aluminium bar stock together in order to secure the workpiece. A piece of cold-rolled steel is used as a strong base and is used to bolt the 'vice' to the machine bed. M8 bolts pass through this steel flat section and allows for easy attachment/removal. Clamping of material in this 'vice' will be a fairly slow process, however, it will certainly be faster than drilling all of this stock by hand.

Time allowing I may add some guides to help with vertical alignment of the stock. I'm still considering the best way to approach that however.

Tube Tone Distortion

I've been working on designing a distortion unit for Eurorack. The ones that I am currently aware of seem to be very aggressive and non-musical so I have decided to roll my own. Here's a quick video of the prototyping as it takes shape. The input in this case is a pure sine wave, used to demonstrate the extent of partial addition. The output is certainly much more complex but still remains musical, to my ears at least. The future development will likely take the form of a combination distortion/filter (Low Pass). 

Eurorack Jamming

This video was created by editing the live audio/video from a ten minute jamming session on the synth I've been building over the past few years. All sounds coming from the one unit. I'm keen to further explore sequencing audio/visual content in this way in the form of a audio/visual EP where all content is recorded live, and both video and audio are then sequenced in traditional block based structures usually associated with electronic music production. This morning is a quick exploration of the process, I quite like the result. 

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SEM Filter Demo

A few people have been asking me for a quick demonstration of the SEM filter. This video demonstrates some of it's tonal shaping capabilities. From soft two pole to TB-303 type sounds, they're all here. This video does not, however, demonstrate the band-pass or high-pass sections of this filter, but it's a start.

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Krautrock Twin Phaser Demo

I've been working on a twin Krautrock Phaser. There's still a bit to do to get this completed, and I'll post a more extensive post to that end soon, but I couldn't wait to test one of them and grab a quick and dirty demo.

Custom Cushions

Things on the site have been quiet; which means I've been busy squirrelling away on the usual types of projects. I'll update on the events surrounding ASAP. In the mean time here's some eye candy in the form of some cushion covers that I had custom printed by pixalili.com

I think you will agree that these came out really very well indeed, and will look the part in the Studio, if I ever get it finished...

Uberdeck Demo

 

Tonight was the first night in a long time that I've had some time to do anything that doesn't involve work so I decided to finally get around to recording a mix using the Uberdeck as a controller. I'm a bit rusty but here it is non the less.

 


EQ Test

This weekend I got around to prototyping a four band EQ design of mine that will eventually make it's way into a DIY Rotary DJ Mixer and a Eurorack synthesiser. The custom wound inductors seem to be adding some serious coloration to the low end in particular. So far so good.

FollowAR

 
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Here we can see one of the prototype Envelope Follower circuit boards designed recently. The aim of this project is to produce a single Eurorack module with seven separate envelope followers, this module will collectively allow each individual Guitar string to produce an separate Control Voltage (CV). These CV's can then be used to modulate Oscillator tuning, LFO rates or Filter Cut-off Frequencies; turning an almost standard Guitar into an expressive synthesis controller. The circuit was designed with accuracy and broad scope of application in mind, meaning it will also work with Line Level signals if required. Attack time is adjustable as is output gain; Couple this with some band pass filters and some interesting things will ensue...

There are quite a few Eurorack modules in the works at the moment but this one I'm pretty proud of. Updates will follow (pun intended) as things progress...

Uberdeck

 

Uberdeck. Construction of a custom Ableton Live MIDI Controller combining iPad, 96 potentiometers and Arduino compatible Teensy 3.1.