The cold weather has arrived which means it’s time to transition from mostly outdoor activity to mostly indoor activity. I’ve been working on some electronics projects, perhaps gearing up to sell some of my creations (stay tuned!).

In the meantime, I’ve started working on a new modular synthesizer in an old roller skate case. I wanted to build something that is battery powered, portable, and extremely quick and easy to build.

starting in the upper-left: 40106 light-controlled oscillator x3, 4040 divider, power router, 4093 quad NAND gate, (bottom row): “multiples”, LM386 power amp

I decided to use female headers and small jumper cables for making connections, completely do away with panels and just use the circuit boards as the interface, and focus on CMOS chips. All of this together means I can whip up a new module in about 45 minutes – from laying out the circuit on strip board to having it built and in the case.

These circuits are functionally identical to circuits I have in my big modular, just in a smaller package with no front panel. The guts are out front, so to speak.

part of my CMOS chip collection

I’m using plastic pegboard as the main panel, which has the added benefit of already having holes! The holes also happen to be the perfect size for 3.5mm audio jacks.

In building my first (big) modular, I was aiming for a very flexible, somewhat traditional-style synthesizer. For this new one I’m leaning heavily in the experimental Lunetta direction; more beeps and bloops, more digital noise sounds, more weirdness. Instead of trying to recreate regular synth sounds, I want to explore new and unusual ones… and be able to do this in the woods, or in the car, or anywhere else.

Basically, this synth is a portable analog logic computer, a lot like Bastl Instruments’ Bit Ranger.

close up of the 40106 light-controlled oscillators

Right now I can run this system on a 9 volt battery or use a portable phone battery and a USB cable, which puts out 5 volts. (I found a hunting-themed phone battery charger in the clearance section at Meijer for $3!!) 5 volts might be a little low for some of the things I want to do, but we’ll see.

3 responses

  1. Damn. I can’t post a reply photo. I’ve been working on a portable Lunetta machine (battery powered) since August. Powered up the Briefcase first time this past weekend. πŸ™‚

    Cool to see that you are too! πŸ˜€


  • Chris Beckstrom

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