Modular synthesizers have a unique appeal to me. An idealized modular synthesizer consists of core elements for audio synthesis which can be chained together using copious amounts of patch cable. Each element is expected to have a very warm analog sound. A good modular synth should also look like a beautiful wall of knobs and jacks, an admirable complexity.
While software synthesizers give one access to a wealth of processing capabilities with very little monetary investment, something is still to be said about a good physical interface. I have not interacted with a full modular at this point, but the knob twiddling is one of the huge draws. I find something satisfying about being able to directly control a process with a twist of my wrist. <!-- :truncate: -→
I also see the modular synthesizer as a great way to learn about electronics, music synthesis, basic mechanical construction techniques. As such, I have embarked on a journey to build a full modular synthesizer from scratch. This may be somewhat deceptive, as a modular synthesizer is never full or complete unless someone runs out of interest or space. My goal is to replicate the standard set of modules that exist on commercially sold studio size synthesizers. This includes everything from oscillators, to filters, to sequencers, to echos, to distortions, etc.
So far I have populated several Music From Outer Space(MFOS) boards and constructed the front panels for them as well. My second iteration of front panels are currently disconnect from the boards, but they are sitting in their final case:
<div style="text-align:center;"> <img src="http://fundamental-code.com/log/synth/synth.JPG"/></div>
Though I have only built preexisting designs as of so far, it has still been an educational process. In the construction of the case I learned how <em>not</em> to choose screws for assembly and in making the front panels, I learned how to perform basic metalworking. The next major step for me is firming up my circuit design knowledge with some analog module design. In particular it should be easy enough to design a custom sequencer or a MIDI to control voltage converter; both of which should be useful for the system when fully constructed. Expect to see updates on this system as it is slowly pieced together.