MATRIXSYNTH: Tom Wiltshire's Electric Druid Synth DIY Site

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Tom Wiltshire's Electric Druid Synth DIY Site

"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.

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 write firmware for two devices, a voltage-controlled LFO and a voltage-controlled ADSR envelope generator, modelled on the CEM 3312 and SSM2056. These are presented below."


  1. I have a love/hate relationship with sites like these.

    On one hand, the material is fascinating, and I gain a lot of insight on various ways to approach instrument design in Csound.

    On the other hand, I sooo wish I had the time to hone my soldering iron skills and learn to program for a microcontroller. There must be something entirely satisfying with the hands on approach.

    Great site, btw. Nice, clean instructions. Very easy to follow. I'm going to steal this link later.

  2. I would like to see some innovation in these basic control blocks.

    Like, how about things like a polyphonic LFO bank that is phase modulated somehow. That'd be neat.

    Or a pulse-prime digital oscillator, that only puts out a pulse on a prime clock division.

    Something neat anyway, other than re-creating the old standards.

    Sort of 'buchla-it'.

  3. First, I have to say a big thanks to Tom and all the people like him who are public spirited enough to share their efforts in this way. The AVRSyn showed that there's the potential to emulate a pre-patched synth but it's great to see this technology being used in more basic building blocks. Tom's website indicates that there's a lot of possibilities to develop voltage controlled hybrid analog digital modules. Great for the DIYer if it obviates the tricky setup and calibration routines.

    Like the good Her Doktor, I can't help hoping someone gets Buchla on Atmel's ass. I wish I had the brains to do this stuff - I'd like to see a VCO with different synth methods (phase mod, Walsh functions, etc), a voltage controlled chiptunes module, or some vc physical modelling stuff.

  4. Thanks for the link and the comments.

    Please rest assured that I'm working on it! Recreating old standards is definitely NOT where it's at for me either. I want to use this new technology to go well beyond what has been done before, but it'll take some time to get there. To be fair, though, I think building a LFO with seven waveforms, a noise source and an S&H into a chip that costs a few quid DOES count as some kind of innovation - I've never seen one before. I've recently been working on a commercial quad envelope generator based on the same ideas for Modcan Electronics, but I'm now back to SDIY stuff. The current project is a dual digital oscillator module. I'll try and get some stuff online once it's done.


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