Synth DIY pages


Early Electric Druid Distortion pedal (Mk5, 1992)

An early Electric Druid distortion pedal

I've been interested in audio electronics for many years, ever since I started building fuzzboxes for my budding-rockstar friends at school. My tradename for these early pedals was “Electric Druid”. I built many different effects and experimented with all sorts of designs. This experimentation with electronics and sound lead me towards analogue synthesizers, and I became very interested in these crazy devices for designing your own sounds from scratch.

Now, I've finally got around to something that has been a dream for a long while - building my own synthesizer. My initial plan is to build a monophonic synthesizer. I intend to eventually give it memories to store sounds, but have designed it so that it works without memories if I never get that far.

A more recent Big Muff clone pedal

A more recent Big Muff clone pedal

I thought the easiest way to build such a synth would be using the old CEM or SSM synth chips, but unfortunately they are unobtainable for any reasonable price. However, since the late 70's/early 80's heyday of such chips, modern microprocessor technology has come so far that you can now buy a cheap microcontroller that can do a reasonable simulation of at least some of these chips. I thought this might be a worthwhile approach. So far, I've managed to learn how to use the PICs and write firmware for various modulation sources; LFOs and Envelope Generators, of varying degrees of sophistication. These projects are presented here.

I still dream of one day building my own polysynth, something halfway between a Prophet T8 and a Waldorf Wave. This is rather ambitious, but at least now I'm moving (slowly) towards that goal!