Monday, September 30, 2013

All connected

All connected is a new series of 6 evenings, initiated by the multi-talented Floris Vanhoof and organised by Ancienne Belgique, in Brussels. Central theme is the modular synthesizer, with performances but there will also be some screenings and talking...
I'll be playing a set in januari or februari.
Here's a link to an overview of the project, with links to the first two dates : All connected !

Hope to meet you there !

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The metamorphosis of the White Dwarf

The above is the latest iteration of the original white Dwarf hybrid modular synthesizer a couple of months back, just before I sold it.

The contents were:
Synthesis Technology E560 Deflector shield
Synthesis Technology E580 Resampling mini delay
Synthesis Technology E350 Morphing terrarium x 2
SDIY expander for dual E350
Synthesis Technology E340 Cloud generator
Synthesis Technology E355 Morphing LFO
STG Soundlabs Sea Devils filter
STG Soundlabs Post Lawsuit filter
STG Soundlabs .Mix
STG Soundlabs .SHN
Make Noise Maths
Make Noise Wogglebug
Doepfer A-199  Spring reverb
Doepfer A-156 Dual quantizer
Xaoc Devices Moskwa rotosequencer
Plan B M9 Attenuators/mixer x 2
Plan B M10 Polyphonic envelope x 2
Pittsburgh Modular Analog delay
Pittsburgh Modular Dual index
Oakley Sound Systems Classic ring mod

Why did I sell it ? 
Well,  one reason is because I had the feeling I never would manage to finish it, knowing I didn't want to expand it further than 12U of 84hp. My wish was to add some analogue oscillators to complement the digital ones but I didn't find the modules that would fit the picture I had in mind. Some were the wrong hp count, others didn't have the features or the sonic signature I was looking for, or the aesthetics/ergonomics were not suitable...there was always at least one aspect of the modules I was considering that made it a no go ! Still, there were some ineteresting options in the SDIY, but no kits were available at that time and my lack of skills prevented me from designing my own ideal modules.
And, despite all my efforts in trying to make it look coherently, it always remained a Frankensynth...
Another reason, closely related to the first reason explained above, is that I wanted an affordable, hybrid monobrand system that offers both classic, analogue modular synthesis tools, and also more innovative designs, with high functional density, a comfortable and attractive interface and a strong and charismatic sonic identity.
There's, to my knowledge and for the time being, only one brand that offers all  the qualities above : Modcan ... and more particular the B series.

The circle is full, back to my first love...

May I introduce you to White Dwarf V2...

The main cabinet is made of solid European walnut, coated with clear, natural varnish and was cut and assembled in a local wood workshop.
Powering is done with a Meanwell RD3513 switching power supply and two Cyndustries distribution boards. I know linear power supplies are recommended for use in modulars, but the Meanwell are high quality, inexpensive, compact, silent, stable and, why not ! This type of power supply was recommended to me by Rob Hordijk and I've used them to power my Hordijk modules, various MU modules and the Modcan, and this without any problem or inconvenience. They are just perfect!

The actual setup consists of following modules :

01B VCO x 2
16B Dual X-fade
27B Dual mixer
40B Dual multimode filter
07B Noise/S&H/Ring mod
35B Spring reverb
60B Quad envelope
61B Quad LFO
05B Dual LFO
31B Quad VCA
59B Digital delay
39B Frequency shifter
21B VCA / panner

Here's a picture of the 35B with its huge reverb tank :

Overall build quality is impeccable, controls are smooth, precise and well scaled/calibrated.
Plenty of CV inputs with, most of the time, attenuation.
Layout of the controls and the I/O is very ergonomic, clear and intuitive.
Some clever use of switching/stereo jack sockets for some I/O permits extended functionality.
On all levels, Modcan delivers very high quality products for the modular synthesist, both on functional and on sonic levels. Of course, this kind of quality comes at a price... I was lucky enough to find most of my Modcan modules second/third hand. If it wasn't for that, I would have had to sell all of my Hordijk modules too in order for me to buy a Modcan system as small as the one I planned. Second hand means no import taxes or custom duties and no long weeks waiting time for the modules to be built.
The only module I had to order straight from Bruce, till now, is the 35B... it comes very expensive with the extra shipping costs, import taxes, custom duties and VAT, but still, it sounds great so that eases up the pain a little !

The 60B and 61B are momentarily placed in the Nano Mammoth side cab, but I intend to build an extension cabinet, console style, that will be placed underneath the main cabinet and that will provide space for a third tier of 12 spaces. That bottom extension will be slanted, at a slightly tighter angle (probably 45°) than the bottom tier of the main cabinet.
With the 60B and the 61B in the bottom extension, I will still have 8 spaces to fill... a 62B and a second filter (probably a 36B) will take up another 4 spaces. At that point I will see how to use the remaining 4 spaces in the most effective way...

Even though I had splendid times designing, building and playing my original Eurorack White Dwarf, I do not regret selling it as this Modcan is definitely another league... it's more of an upgrade than a swap.  Watching, playing and listening to the White Dwarf V2 is much more pleasurable, even if its Eurorack counterpart did provide more functionality in a more compact form.

Modcan the ultimate modular for me ? Possibly, because there is a serious contender for the Ultimate Zeitdehner Modular award coming up...

Stay tuned !

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Little Putney V2

With the original 2011 build of my Little Putney, I missed a crucial feature of the genuine VCS3/Synthi. That is output level control of individual waveform outputs from the oscillators.
The Analogue Systems RS95e oscillators do not have any output level control.

I have now finally implemented this with a passive attenuator bank. I designed a new frontpanel and had it cut, drilled and engraved by Schaeffer AG

The left hand joystick of the previous version of the panel was replaced by 9 Alpha 50K Lin potmeters. The lettering of the input jacks to the matrix now corresponds to the lettering on the matrix.

The potmeters are hardwired between the first nine input jacks to the matrix and the first nine lugs of the matrix.

Sure, the cabling is messy, but it works perfectly !

The implementation of this attenuator bank considerably extends the Little Putney's functionality.
I primarily use it to control waveform output levels of the oscillators, thus creating new complex waveforms by blending different waveforms. This yields for some stunning results in conjunction with the onboard, active, voltage controlled waveshaping functionality of the RS95e oscillators.
Not only this attenuator bank is a great sound sculpting tool, it is also a great performance tool. It makes for more dynamic performances in a multi timbral setting by fading in and out  manually and acurately different sound sources within the synth.
All this makes the Little Putney an even more unique, flexible and powerful synth with an infinitely extended sonic palette and his very own and unique sonic character.

The Little Putney is now living a new life with his new owner... I miss you, buddy...


Nano Mammoth

Once my Baby Mammoth was completed, back in November 2012, I needed another cab for the other MU modules I had.

So, I built a little "sidecar" with some wood leftovers from my previous builds, I named it the Nano Mammoth.

It's made out of Wengé stained pinewood, sports a Meanwell RD3513 power supply and a busboard with MTA156 4 pin connectors.
The Nano Mammoth can hold up to 8MU of modules.

It is the ideal partner for the Micro Mammoth. With these two portable cabs I can have my complete Hordijk system with me on the road...

Hereunder with my friends Bishop Dust, Fallafelbiels, 440Hz and Trap&Zoid at the Café Central  Brussels Modular Meeting, in November 2012.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Architecture, sonology and modular synthesizers

Photography by Zeitdehner

Synthé modulaire, the French speaking forum about modular synthesis, is proud to present the third annual compilation of works produced with modular synthesizers and by active members of the forum.
For this edition we wanted to explore the relationships between architecture and electronic music produced with modular synthesizers and electronic audio equipment, be it digital, analogue or hybrid, software or hardware, be it contemporary or vintage.

Texture, color, light, form, function, structure, dynamics, space, balance, precision, poetry, technique, soul, purpose, concept, craftmanship and many others are notions common to both disciplines.
Each track of this compilation is developing on one or more of the interrelational aspects of architecture and sound, each with its own vision, vocabulary and tools.

The pieces on this compilation are not copyrighted and are free for you to enjoy, but please don't make any commercial use of these pieces without explicit consent of their respective creators.

You can download the compilation on our  Bandcamp page

Track listing : 

1) Trente-trois intervalles by Mechaseb (The sun also rises)
2) Architecte de mon intérieur by ReNédesFlammes
3) Scrapbooking (Glue edition) by Mercutio
4) Modulor by Phisynth
5) Arts-Loi by SubG (Vedic spaces)
6) +47° 28' 22.01", -0° 33' 52.63" (in prison) by Ikkini (Wilfried Thierry)
7) Gameboy 2b by Bambou
8) Leakage by BLT (Trap&Zoid)
9) Town transformation process by Teethgrinder
10) Tatlin's tower by Zeitdehner
11) Le cabanon by Robonom
12) Architecture du corps humain by Yohda
13) Deviant structure mix by Djo
14) Bonus track 01 by Bambou
15) Bonus track 02 by Yohda & Mechaseb (The sun also rises)