The main motivating factor behind my first ever synth being DIY is mostly due to the cost factor. While a single module could cost anywhere from $200 to $1000, A single DIY module is anywhere from only $50 to $100 at most (this cost is including the cost of the pcb’s + components), which is much more reasonable at my budget. The only problem I have is that I am completely new to Modular synths, and have only an intermediate knowledge in electronics. Will this be a serious problem, or will I be ok?
Only you can say for sure. Do you have all the tools you will need already? The cost of a soldering station, solder, hand tools, etc alone can add up pretty quick. And of course there is the cost of your time.
If expense is the big deciding factor for you, I always recommend getting Visual Cortex and then adding some DIY modules to it (C6 thru C9, double up on each, is an awesome way to go.) Cortex is the equivalent of about a dozen DIY modules, so the costs balance out once you add it all up.
But if DIY is something you just love doing for fun, then by all means, I’m sure you could do it. Everything’s pretty straightforward – you’ll just need to pay attention to details and brush up on basic assembly/soldering skills.
I second everything Lars said.
I wanted to add that the LZX Cadet and Castle modules are some of the easier DIY modules I’ve built. One board, low-to-medium part counts, legible silkscreens on the boards, and full schematics for troubleshooting/learning.
I’d say, just try it. I only have DIY modules for video. It is a great process for learning about electronics, soldering and video synthesis this way. Like joem said, the Cadet & castle modules are documented quite good (as in BOM & schematics) .
That said, Cadet modules are very basic building blocks. so you will need quite a few of them to get things rolling. It also depends on what you want to do.
for camera color manipulation, you will need less modules than synthesis.
You will definitely need C1, C2 and C3 .
If you tell us a bit about your goal, we can suggest other modules.
DIY: Why buy something for $50 when you can spend $100 to make it yourself?
There’s a significant investment initially with tools, time, parts, space, and mistakes. After that, you start to get a return, and eventually, the cost will work out in your favor if you make enough stuff.
My entire system is DIY. The deciding factors for me are: I understand how it works and because of that I can (and have) customized most of it and I really enjoy the process of building modules.
I’ve also used my synth DIY tools and knowledge for all sorts of other projects – it’s led to meeting interesting people and connecting to communities I didn’t know about, teaching workshops, building and modding other gear, designing my own stuff, and even diagnosing electronics in my car and repairing household appliances. A few years ago I made a set of aluminum shelves for a bathroom closet using a metal chop-saw and drill press that I initially got for making synth panels. Wouldn’t trade it.
I’m gonna be cheesey, so deal with it. But first…
I started DIY because I was too poor to afford a real analog synthesizer. Honestly still too poor to afford an analog synthesizer. Except maybe Behringer. So when I started I started small. I had a crappy Radioshack soldering iron, no nice tools at all. I just learned and built. Eventually I could afford nicer tools. I still do DIY because in my brain it seems cheaper to DIY then to buy a module. I still think at this point it is. I design my own PCBs, get them made at cheap prototype places, and build them up. You can be thrifty with certain components, like resistors, diodes, caps, and it’s not gonna make much of a difference. Other things like jacks and pots, the interface stuff, should be pretty nice. It’s the stuff that gets the most wear. That’s usually the stuff that really adds up anyways.
So now for the cheesey part. DIY is a way of life. If you’re in it for the long run, it’ll be really satisfying and you will save money. You lose time. If you enjoy it, then you’re going to be doing something you love to save some cash. That’s what happened with me. You’ll get good gear, stuff will get easier and you’ll get more experience. The process will become shorter, you’ll start saving time! Hopefully the enjoyment doesn’t go away. But if it does go away, you’ve still made something of your own. Sell or donate the equipment, and move on having at least accomplished something.
what particular modules is the Visual Cortex equivalent to?
If you only use Cadet modules: (note: I don’t have a VC, so I might forget some functions)
Quite a few functions cannot be replicated.
Sync generator + extra’s (I’m not sure how the dither function works)
Video input (the VC has all colors, so this is no real substitute, as you can only have Luma / BW input)
Ramps + some kind of shaper. maybe a multiplier and a fader?
a few Processors
hard key generator
a few multipliers
cortex only has RGB when inputting component. you could also get component in to cadets if you use green in to the sync, and then in to video input, as well as r and b in their own video inputs as well.
wow. that is useful information!
so you would need 3 video input modules then?
You would need to modify the secondary units to share the sync signals generated by the first, but you could definitely use 3x Cadet IIIs to get component video (YPbPr and RGsB) into your Cadet rig!
Visual Cortex has YPbPr input (there is an internal analog YPbPr to YRGB colorspace converter.)