For sure, you want to know first "how does this thing sound?", so here are some Demo-Videos that give you a first impression (the first one together with a Groovebox):
And here a YouTube playlist with all demos:
How did it all started?
It started with the idea to build a Lunetta style synth (a synth based on digital logic chips (mis)using them for creating sound, a creation of Stanley Lunetta, therefore the name). For me it is also appealing to have the devices very compact (the KORG Volca series gave me lots of inspiration here), so I defined a small module format (about 10 x 2.5 cm). I liked the concept of abusing electronic parts, which gave the project it's name (AE: abused electronics).
Over the time I felt the wish to add this or that "conventional" module, like Filter, Envelope, VCA, and one by one I ended up building a "standard" modular synthesizer!
Compared to the usual Eurorack Modular Synths, we have some differences here, mainly to get a small form factor and cutting the price:
- Modules are not mechanically Eurorack compatible, they are smaller (but via the minijack sockets on the MASTER module you can interface to a eurorack system, with the only limitation of a 5V maximum voltage)
- The Oscillators module is not working in 1V/octave standard (due to the roots in the Lunetta approach); but a 1V/octave VCO will be added soon to the modules palette
- Patching is done via simple patch-wires and small pin-sockets (not minijack-cables as in the eurorack-world); this cuts the cost drastically and also saves a lot of space on the module. Another advantage: Module outputs are mostly dual or triple, which makes "Multiples" modules obsolete
Generally, AE modular follows the "not-so-perfect" approach; circuits are sometimes simplified and show their own character in some points - it's intentionally a contrast to the high-polished stuff we get from digital synths / DAWs / plugins. But always the usage as an artistic tool is considered!
The design style is also a little special: The frontpanels are not (expensively) printed, but rubber-stamped; I like this somehow "unperfect" look - I hope you too! (Don't worry: a special, durable color is used.)
What's not different is, that you get a real modular synthesizer: The selection and arrangement of the modules is absolutely free! You can add new modules later (simply remove 2 screws, plug in the module, fix the screws again) or rearrange them according to your needs.
What do you get?
In this Kickstarter project, two different preinstalled module racks are offered:
- with one row of modules
- double size with two rows and some more modules (for contained modules see the pledge description)
- UPDATE: Additionally to the rewards description, each rack gets a VCO (1V/oct., saw/square/tri outputs, PWM) additionally for free.
In the package is also
- A power supply
please note which kind of plug you need (EU, UK, US)
- A bunch of patch wires
- MIDI breakout cable
- A user guide / short introduction
The modules in detail:
- MASTER, I/O: The master module with power supply, Input/output jacks (1/8" mono minijack) for audio and control voltages and MIDI-Input (via a breakout cable). MIDI works either omni or on channel 1. MIDI Clock/Start/Stop are provided via the bus to the modules; same with CV/Gate for Notes and one Controller.
- 2OSC: 2 Oscillators with Squarewave, Triangle and Sync outputs, Sync and CV input
- NOISE: A noise generator (white noise, digitally based with variable frequency)
- FILTER: A filter with lowpass/bandpass/highpass output, adjustable frequency and resonance (Wasp type)
- ENV: An AD type envelope (Attack/Decay) with switchable Sustain and two time ranges
- 2VCA: A dual voltage-controlled amplifier for controlling signal levels or modulating control voltages
- LFO: modulation oscillator with squarewave (adjustable pulsewidth), triangle or falling sawtooth output, two time ranges
- 2S&H: A dual Sample&Hold module, for creating random or stepped control voltages
- 2ATT/CV: For attenuating control voltages or as voltage source
- MIXER4-4: A mixer for signals or control voltages with four adjustable inputs and additional four "full-level" inputs.
- DELAY: A delay with a lo-fi, analog character
- LOGIC: Combines two inputs by different logic rules (AND, NAND, XOR); for rhythmic patterns and also interesting for audio signals (gives ringmodulator-like sounds)
- BEAT DIVIDER: Divides a MIDI clock (e.g. from MASTER module) to musical clocks (1/2, 1/4, 1/8...) plus dotted or triplet output; primarily for triggering sequencers.
- STEP10: A trigger sequencer with up to 10 steps, for creating gate patterns
The future of AE modular:
If you know a little bit about modular synthesizers, you will see that we have the basic modules in the box; but the fun get's much bigger with additional other modules. If this project succeeds, there will be a lot of other modules available that are planned or already under development like:
- VCO with 1V/octave characteristic
- Oscillator banks (for sound clusters, drones...)
- Sampler (play samples from a microSD-card, eventually with granulation)
- Algorithmic Drone soundsource
- 16-Step Note Sequencer
- Beat Divider (for processing MIDI Clock into usable trigger clocks (1/4, 1/8, 1/16... dotted, triplet...)
- other filter types
- more complex modulation sources
Thanks a lot to:
- MakerLab Murnau / J.-U. Bittlinger (the availabilty of the Lab pushed the development a lot!)
- Luna Sonnemann for the wonderful photos
- Roman Feldmeier and Marco Asam for their support in the video session and giving me ideas.
- Furthermore thanks to Marco for getting the word out and helping me to find distribution, as well giving me the ability to present an Alpha version at the Bavaria Ableton Usergroup. The Feedback helped and gave me a lot of motivation.
- my wife Sabine for her strong support of my ideas
- ...and finally YOU for your interest and (hopefully) your support!
Risks and challenges
As an engineer having worked for many many years in electronics and IT business I should be suitable for careful planning and producing the devices.
As you see in the demos, the primary development and prototyping is finished; the material sourcing and planning of the series production is also done mainly. Project risks could be unexpected technical problems in the series production or component suppliers having shortages. But this is very unlikely due to the small batch for the first series and the experience grown during development.
You can be sure that any problems and their possible solutions will be reported here, your satisfaction is most important.
- (30 days)