A Trip Down (Magnetic) Memory Lane

I cleaned out a closet recently. That statement doesn’t adequately express the magnitude of the undertaking. This was a closet in my office/studio into which I would toss things when I couldn’t figure out where else to put them. I’d been operating in this manner for five or six years, and the closet had finally reached a sort of critical mass such that nothing more could be put into it, and nothing could be removed from it without a good deal of wrestling. Much of the contents seemed to be bound together with cables: audio cables (including instrument cables, mic cables, and eight-channel snakes of both the balanced and unbalanced variety), MIDI cables, RS-232 cables, AC cables, SCSI cables, VGA cables, Macintosh ADB cables, Ethernet cables, RJ-11 phone cables, and even the cable for the Lexicon Core Studio interface which I discarded some time ago. read more


Tracie’s plushie shinkansen is probably going to retain the title of Most Bestest souvenir, but for the synth geeks in the audience today’s purchase would be the clear winner:


Yes, it’s a Gakken SX-150 Analog Synthesizer, possibly the world’s most famous ultra-cheap synth. Yes, you can get them in the US, with some effort, but somehow that’s not nearly as cool as pulling one off the shelf at the bookstore in Kyoto Station, buying it from the polite young clerk using a mixture of broken English and broken Japanese, and then waltzing back to hotel room, past the smiling and bowing bellhops, bearing it under my arm. Yes, I’m feeling a little bit smug about it all. read more

Buy This Guy’s Plug-ins!

You may not know Dave Gamble by name, but if you’re in the music-making biz you’ve probably seen his work bearing the brand names of various companies. He has struck out on his own under the name DMG Audio, and his first product, EQuality, is now available. It looks to be the be-all and end-all of software equalizers. (Heck, it may be the end-all of hardware EQs, for that matter.)


Given Dave’s expertise with EQ, I’m betting that this one is going to be a winner. He’s also a heckuva nice guy and has fielded technical questions from Audio Damage on more than one occasion. read more

They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To

TASCAM Spring Reverb

That’s a close-up of one end of the spring tank in my TASCAM RS-20 Spring Reverb. One detail that surprised me a little when I opened it up is that the transducers appear to be symmetric, i.e. the part that feeds audio into the springs appears to be the same as the part that picks up the resulting signal. I’ve never opened up a spring reverb before but somehow I expected the drivers to be different than the receivers.

Modifying a Frontier Design Tango for DC Output

I just put up a lengthy description, with photos, of how I modified a Frontier Design Tango (older 20-bit version) ADAT audio interface for DC output, allowing it to be used with software such as MOTU’s Volta and Expert Sleepers’ Silent Way to control analog synthesizers. It’s able to control my VCOs over nearly a nine-octave range, so its performance is much better than the MIDI-CV converter I built awhile ago. (Somewhat ironically I submitted the artwork for having the PC board fabricated for that project the day before Volta was announced.) This project consumed several consecutive weekends, and documenting it took nearly as long, so I’m also quite pleased to have it all finished. I went to the lengths of making a demonstration video to cash in on the Expert Sleepers Silent Way bounty demonstrate how well the system works. The video is embedded at the bottom of the page. read more

TASCAM RS-20 Spring Reverb Owner’s/Service Manual

Thanks to Richard, I’m now the proud owner of an old spring reverb, specifically a TASCAM RS-20 Spring Reverb. He warned me that there seems to be something wrong with the input circuits but I’ve been too busy to even plug the thing in to check it out. However, I was able to locate a copy of the TASCAM RS-20 Owner’s/Service Manual, which you can download by clicking this link. Since Google turns up almost nothing about the TASCAM RS-20 Spring Reverb, I’m going to mention the TASCAM RS-20 Spring Reverb and the TASCAM RS-20 Reverb Owner’s/Service Manual several times in this post in hopes of providing search-engine fodder so that anyone with a TASCAM RS-20 Spring Reverb in need of the TASCAM RS-20 Owner’s/Service Manual will now be able to find it. read more

Morning Light on the Modular

It’s been awhile since I posted a self-indulgent gear-porn photo, so let’s remedy that:

Morning Light on the Modular

Actually it’s somewhat pertinent in that I spent part of the weekend happily making insect-like drones with the thing, and this morning have been happily making little filtered-noise whisps and patters. I think I could spend all day doing this, but alas, other duties call.

Happy New Year (Long Update Post)

It crossed my mind this morning that I never referred to years of the previous decade as e.g. “twenty oh-eight.” I always said (or thought) “two thousand eight”. This struck me as faintly odd since in the previous century I never said something like “nineteen hundred eighty-four”. Hence I think my resolution for the new year is to see whether I can train myself to say “twenty ten” when naming the year.

Actually my resolution for the new year is 96dpi, as it was for previous years. read more

All’s Well That Ends Well

This is a little embarassing, but I don’t think that there was ever anything actually wrong with my JH Living VCO module. I think it was all my error.

I exchanged a few messages with Herr Haible on the electro-music.com forum. He was able to rule out my theory that the substitution of the transistor array was the source of the problem. Once I learned that I went back to basics and checked the value of every component and every solder connectionon the PC board. I completely disassembled the PCB from the panel and tested each oscillator individually, adding connections as I went. I also tested the master section separately. In the end I was able to properly set the 1V/Oct scaling for all three VCOs, with no changes to my original assembly. read more

Aha (No More Phooey)

I found the cause of the 1V/octave scaling problem I mentioned in my previous post. The problem was that I substituted a CA3086 transistor array for the CA3046. This is listed as a substitution on Dave Brown’s Mouser BOM. I probably chose the CA3086 because that’s what Bridechamber had in stock at the time, or something.

At first glance the two parts are viable substitutes for audio applications. Even looking at the Intersil web pages for both parts does not reveal the difference. The difference is in the HFE current gain parameter; the CA3086 has a gain of 100, while the CA3046 has a gain of 110. The Intersil web pages actually have a typo; HFE is stated as 100 for both. It wasn’t until I did a parameter-by-parameter comparison of the PDF data sheets for the parts that I found the difference. read more