Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Logic, before ICs

So, you want a simple digital logic function in a synthesizer. Maybe it's an AND gate, or a couple of XORs, maybe as much as a shift register. How will you build it? READ MORE

Middle Path sample patches

I'm preparing for the release of the Middle Path VCO. That should be announced in the email newsletter within a few days. There will be only a few modules available in the first wave so I'm probably not going to do the big public announcement until a few weeks later when I've got more supply; other things going on in the world at this time have created some supply-chain problems for me and that's also one reason I haven't written much new content in this Web log for a while. I'd really like to be able to sell out the first batch of Middle Paths on just the newsletter announcement so that I can use the cash to get more parts for further production. Anyway, one of the last steps in the release process is to write up sample patches for the manual, and I figured those would also make a good Web log entry. READ MORE

What's Euclid got to do with it?

There's a lot of talk in modular synthesis circles about what people call "Euclidean" rhythms, which are claimed to exist in most kinds of traditional music around the world. Unfortunately, this concept is often oversold, and presented in a way that makes it sound much more complicated than it is. READ MORE

Design mistakes in synth schematics

There are a lot of bad synthesizer schematics on the Web, and it doesn't hurt their popularity. As a designer who tries to get everything right, it's somewhat disheartening to see designs with obvious, simple flaws get built commercially and cited as positive examples - and it's even worse when someone has trouble with one of my modules because they tried to connect it to the latest popular whiz-bang box which has bad levels or whatever and does not play nicely with others. In this article I'm going to talk about some of the problems I see time and time again both in free schematics published for DIY hobbyists, and in commercial modules. READ MORE

Middle Path VCO development gallery

In the last several weeks I've been working on development for my next product, which I'm ready to announce will be called the MSK 013 Middle Path VCO. It's planned to be a "complex" VCO design with two independent triangle cores that can be synced, and a special waveshaping section based on the Barrie Gilbert sine shaper modified to produce quadrature output; that makes it capable of some through-zero phase modulation effects even though the cores themselves are not through-zero. I've been posting pictures from my development process in other places, and this posting gathers some of those together. READ MORE

Ambient chord progressions

I get a lot of questions about ambient chord progressions. Actually, I don't get any questions about ambient chord progressions. What I get is search engine traffic from people who were looking for that on the Net, and end up reading my old article about fractal chord progressions, which may or may not be much help to them. READ MORE

Toronto Sound Festival

The Toronto Sound Festival starts tomorrow, November 22, 2019, at "Beverley Halls" (aka the Polish Combatants Association).  I'll be there as a vendor, with demos and sales of all my modules and kits.  There will also be a lot of other interesting stuff, with other vendors, talks and panel discussions, a "synthesizer petting zoo," a DIY workshop, and a big concert.  There'll be a lot of modular there, but the focus is broader, on all aspects of the art of sound. READ MORE

What's the deal with phase reversal?

Alternate title: "This Dad put -10V into a TL074 and here's what happened to his liver!" READ MORE

Tokyo Festival of Modular

The Tokyo Festival of Modular is coming up this weekend, November 16 and 17, 2019, and North Coast Synthesis is a sponsor.  I won't be attending in person this year but attendees will receive North Coast stickers and cards with an exclusive discount code.  If you're in Japan, this is an event worth visiting. READ MORE

Three suggested systems

Newcomers who are just getting their feet wet with modular synthesis often ask for summaries of how to build a starter system. There are a few things to understand about that. READ MORE

Toronto Pedal and Synth Expo

I'll be exhibiting at the Toronto Pedal and Synth Expo on November 9 and 10, 2019.  Drop by to try out North Coast modules in person and pick up a sticker and a discount code. READ MORE

The Truth About Ferrite Beads Will Shock You

Q: The analog synth circuit I'm building calls in the schematic for ferrite beads on the power rails, but it doesn't give any further information. What kind of beads should I use? READ MORE

Designing for adjustment

Testing and adjustment are often underestimated in DIY circuit design. It's all very well to choose exactly the right topology and component values for a circuit; but even with a perfect design on paper or in the simulator, how does one get from there to a physical construction that correctly realizes that design? READ MORE

New look for DIY kits

If you've been following the North Coast Synthesis email newsletter you'll probably know that I've had ongoing quality problems with the knobs I use in most of my products.  The main issue is with the setscrews used to hold the knob onto a shaft:  in many instances, the threads are stripped, or so weak that they immediately become stripped when tightened, so that it's not possible to attach the knob securely.  The problem becomes clear as soon as the knob is installed, so although it is not good in the case of modules I sell assembled, at least with those I can recognize that the knob is bad, replace it, and be sure of shipping a good one to the customer in the finished product.  It's more serious with knobs that ship unassembled in my Eurorack SDIY kits, because then it may be the customer who discovers the problem. READ MORE

How to choose component values

When I draw the first draft of a new circuit design, I'll usually work out the topology of the circuit first, and leave out any component values unless it's instantly obvious what they need to be. The topology means which components exist and how they connect to each other, and it's a separate step from deciding their values. I'll come back and fill in the missing values later. There's interaction between these two steps, and I may well modify the topology in later drafts of the schematic as the requirements become clearer, but there's still a definite progression from working on the topology to specifying the component values. READ MORE

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