NICK'S WORLD OF SYNTHESIZERS

THE BEAST


Analogue Synthesizer
loudspeaker Beast1.mp3
loudspeaker Beast2.mp3
loudspeaker Beast3.WAV
loudspeaker Filtermorf.WAV
loudspeaker Harmony.WAV
loudspeaker Undertones.WAV



This synthesizer took me about a year to make. I spent as much time making it look beautiful as I did on the electronics. It is an improved version of a previous synthesizer, The Machine. The main improvement I made is that this one is a lot more reliable. I had so many problems with the other one breaking down on stage. This one hardly ever goes wrong. Another feature is all the coloured lights, they let me know what switches I have switched on. This is very useful on stage when you need to change from one sound to another very quickly.

Homemade Synthesizer

A Lovely diagram of what the knobs do



Electronics

Never again!


Ribbon Controller

It has 2 ribbon-controllers so you can play 2 different notes at once, but this is a skill I have not yet mastered. The ribbon controllers are wire wound variable resistors the wire is 1 tenth of a mm, very fine, over 6000 turns. It is wound onto plastic rods, the resistance it about 10k.

Playing with a ribbon gives you a similar sound to a theremin, except it is a lot easier to play in tune because you can see the notes marked out along the ribbon. I prefer the sound of a ribbon over the sound of a keyboard with portamento. The problem with portamento is that you can't time when you glide into the notes only when you glide out of them. Portamento sounds more kitsch to me than a ribbon controller.

Ribbon Controller

I play the ribbon with 2 sharpened toothbrushes, one in each hand. I find the plastic on cheap toothbrushes slides well on the metal. I have only recently mastered the 2 toothbrush technique. It is very expressive because you can use a combination of slides and keyboard style jumps.

Patch Bay

This synthesizer is modular, the patch bay is 2.5mm jacks. There is a switch to change it to internally patched. I used miniature relays to do this. The internal patch is what I use on stage.


Ring Modulator

I have made an old fashioned diode ring modulator. This is a simple circuit using germanium diodes and LT44 output transformers. I prefer the sound of this type of ring modulator over modern designs using multiplier chips. It is normally described as a passive circuit, but I have used buffer amplifiers on the inputs. I found you get a better sound if you get the signal levels just right on the inputs. In the first sound I am blending between normal and ring-mod

loudspeaker RINGMOD.WAV
loudspeaker RINGMOD2.WAV

Here is a picture of the valve distortion circuit. As I have very little space I decided to use a miniature nuvistor valve. It is a class A triode circuit which means very soft distortion and lots of 2nd harmonics because of the way it squashes the wave asymmetrically.

loudspeaker DISTORTION1.WAV
loudspeaker DISTORTION2.WAV
Harmony Switches

Photo of the inside of the harmony switches

The harmony switches let me select pre-tuned intervals between the 2 oscillators. The latching switching is done using 1950s computer techniques, neon bulbs and relays to make simple memory elements to remember the selector switch position. I could have used CMOS multiplexers but that would have bored me to death.
 

 
like me on Facebook 'Nick's World of Synthesizers' to keep up to date with my products and projects.
 
Contact me crazylegsnick@gmail.com
 

Please Leave a comment about this machine I will try to answer any questions.


Name:

Email: (optional)

Message:


 

Name: Robb
E-mail:
Date Posted: 17:36, 03 09 2014
Message: Keep up the fantastic work! I enjoy every second, maybe I'm a nerd but I enjoy reading every single description that is posted. Thank you Nick!


Name: Rich Langer
E-mail:
Date Posted: 14:58, 22 08 2014
Message: Lovely stuff Nick and the best use for a webbing belt I've seen


Name: Dan
E-mail: marginalmartian@gmail.com
Date Posted: 16:05, 12 02 2014
Message: Very nice! How long have you been practicing your craft?


Name: Paul
E-mail: studiopaultas@hotmail.com
Date Posted: 08:11, 22 08 2013
Message: super Nick maby wi can promo you in Amsterdam www.errorinstruments.com Gr.


Name: Trudy funk
E-mail:
Date Posted: 10:58, 09 03 2013
Message: I can see youre a more practical rather than 'arty farty' kinda guy....the diagram confused me and the fleuro colours and squares etc took me back to Woodstock and YES......I'm playing it (but not with toothbrushes...I'm gonna use some wheel spokes from an old pushbike out the back. I'll let you know how I go and might email you my performance (with background dancers)


Name: gridsleep
E-mail:
Date Posted: 22:09, 23 11 2012
Message: One look at "Never again!" and I burst out laughing. Doctors should use that picture as a diagnostic tool for OCD patients. Show it to them and say "Is this how you feel?" and if they nod or start weeping, they have OCD.
Really splendid design. And I agree, very unique. Your whole world is unique. I envy you. And, if the sound thing doesn't pan out, you can always become a graphic artist! Cheers


Name: Glétson Martins
E-mail: gletmartins@gmail.com
Date Posted: 12:12, 04 08 2012
Message: Very cool ! It's a Snake's Box. Great Project !


Name: Reese
E-mail: unicorn.magic@live.com
Date Posted: 23:24, 31 01 2012
Message: can you take a video of the top wile you play?


Name: nylf
E-mail:
Date Posted: 05:58, 29 10 2011
Message: honestly I think you have better synth instruments than store bought or rented ones.


Name: rickie
E-mail: rickie_chaling@yahoo.com
Date Posted: 07:56, 25 09 2011
Message: This is great, thanks for putting it online


Name: svg
E-mail:
Date Posted: 22:37, 24 09 2011
Message: what a great little beast that is

thx & best

s


Name: vikki
E-mail: vikkiinwonderland@gmail.com
Date Posted: 01:26, 23 09 2011
Message: I was wondering if I can download your samples on this page for a film soundtrack, thanks


Name: Nazrul
E-mail:
Date Posted: 15:15, 20 09 2011
Message: Nice !


Name: Daniel
E-mail:
Date Posted: 00:35, 18 09 2011
Message: kamil to pizdeczka


Name: I am change
E-mail:
Date Posted: 16:30, 14 09 2011
Message: I agree with the translation of sound into color.... So much so that I think there is an exact correlation that changes the starting point based on context. Both sound and color are measured in Hertz. Look up "GOOTAR"


Name: Bronson Tew
E-mail: bronsonmestizo@yahoo.com
Date Posted: 05:10, 18 08 2011
Message: This is just brilliant.


Name: Ben
E-mail:
Date Posted: 16:53, 11 08 2011
Message: Saw this on Matrixsynth! Sounds freaking fantastic. want!


Name: moistdust
E-mail:
Date Posted: 18:20, 05 08 2011
Message: Most impressed..kept me entertained for the last hour or so...thankyou :)


Name: John Valencia
E-mail: octavecat1976@yahoo.com
Date Posted: 07:44, 04 08 2011
Message: Looks like, from the pictures, that this plate on the wooden frame isn't tightened anywhere NEAR tight enough to work like they're supposed to. I had a plate custom made for me by a steel company....I used the thinnest cold rolled steel I could find. STILL.....the piece needed 40 reinforced turn-buckle points to make it tight enough without ripping the steel. On homemade units with slghtly thicker steel than the EMT stuff....more turnbuckles the better.


Name: John Valencia
E-mail: octavecat1976@yahoo.com
Date Posted: 07:42, 04 08 2011
Message: Looks like, from the pictures, that this plate on the wooden frame isn't tightened anywhere NEAR tight enough to work like they're supposed to. I had a plate custom made for me by a steel company....I used the thinnest cold rolled steel I could find. STILL.....the piece needed 40 reinforced turn-buckle points to make it tight enough without ripping the steel. On homemade units with slghtly thicker steel than the EMT stuff....more turnbuckles the better.


Name: Ray Essler
E-mail: essler@prodigy.net
Date Posted: 10:54, 27 07 2011
Message: am presently fooling around with plate reverbs, I had an EMT at Triple A Studios
in Boston back in the early 70's and have never found a richer, smoother reverb
since it was big and clunky and was in the back of the studio, if I was mixing
and people were in the studio they had to shut up!


Name: Jacob Smith
E-mail:
Date Posted: 12:42, 22 07 2011
Message: Hey, thx heaps, it is the best...


Name: Darren
E-mail: darrenmacadam@live.co.uk
Date Posted: 21:32, 19 07 2011
Message: Hi, Fantastic fun!! I got a couple of questions. 1, Did you allow the 2 people who asked if they could record the sounds and use in their own work? And 2nd, Where do you gig and do you have any stuff on line to listen to you tube, soundcloud etc. Many thanks again.

Darren


Name: Darren
E-mail: darrenmacadam@live.co.uk
Date Posted: 21:16, 19 07 2011
Message: Hi, What a great sounding synth/sequencer. Really like sound 1. If you were to sell one how much would it cost?
Many thanks for sharing.

Darren


Name: Joonas
E-mail:
Date Posted: 19:57, 17 07 2011
Message: That harmony.wav file is AWESOME! Primitive sounding, yet so high-tech! Perhaps I should give up the guitar and get a synth.


Name: luca
E-mail:
Date Posted: 15:06, 15 07 2011
Message: gooooooooooooood


Name: khushi
E-mail: skharitas40@yahoo.com
Date Posted: 14:14, 15 07 2011
Message: i love play music


Name: Michael caller
E-mail: 05callermichael@wgsb.org
Date Posted: 15:08, 05 07 2011
Message: muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurrrrrr


Name: John-Christopher
E-mail:
Date Posted: 17:58, 29 06 2011
Message: I mean can I use your flash interactive stuff to record white noise for UUNIS.net? It's fun!


Name: John-Christopher
E-mail: John_Christopher@ClueMail.com
Date Posted: 08:01, 29 06 2011
Message: Hey - fabulous effort. Really cool. Can I use it to record background for UUNIS.org? It's a cyber-philosophy site (give it a month) and I'd like a simple instrument to play with. Have you got a release - or will a rights attorney have a stroke?


Name: gempar
E-mail: gempararisadewo@yahoo.com
Date Posted: 07:25, 22 06 2011
Message: cool


Name: gempar
E-mail: gempararisadewo@yahoo.com
Date Posted: 07:23, 22 06 2011
Message: awesome


Name: Arthur
E-mail: arthurtabbal@gmail.com
Date Posted: 16:40, 21 06 2011
Message: My last post refers to the spring reverb tank.. have no idea why it appeared here!!


Name: Arthur
E-mail: arthurtabbal@gmail.com
Date Posted: 16:37, 21 06 2011
Message: Hi friend! I'm not so good in speaking english, so please forgive me!

Your idea is simply amazing! It was so inspiring that made me want to build my own reverb rank unit (of course, MUUUCH more simpler!)

I have some questions..

1) do you have some recordings of this unit used with drums, vocals or guitar? i would love to hear it! the "horror" sounds are reeeally high quality, so i wanted to hear how conventional music sounds with it!

2) it is ok to use a guitar pickup to pick the sound of the springs instead of a mic amplified? my idea is to avoid having to amplify the reverb signal again to mix with the dry signal.. so i thought of placing a magnetic pickup and connect the output (with a pot for volume) in parallel with the dry signal. It would work?


Name: plasmaforce1
E-mail: plasmaforce1@inbox.com
Date Posted: 14:53, 19 06 2011
Message: this is hilarious fun :D

cool


Name: Fyzygy
E-mail:
Date Posted: 15:53, 14 06 2011
Message: Cool, how do I make a valve hpf.lpf with q?


Name: hi
E-mail:
Date Posted: 11:51, 14 06 2011
Message: hi


Name: ZACH
E-mail:
Date Posted: 15:51, 30 05 2011
Message: hjasdfghtyu COOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Name: Rob
E-mail: rob02000@me.com
Date Posted: 13:38, 23 05 2011
Message: The more I read about your ideas and your products, the more I am convinced you are a genius.

Great!


Name: Jael
E-mail: ramonjael@gmail.com
Date Posted: 18:54, 22 05 2011
Message: You have really impressive skills. Very innovative and creative. Good job.


Name: Bradey
E-mail:
Date Posted: 15:38, 21 05 2011
Message: Sorry, my younger brother screwed with my computer and posted the last message, good job man this was awesome :D


Name: a
E-mail:
Date Posted: 17:13, 12 05 2011
Message: a


Name: diego
E-mail: befacosynth@gmail.com
Date Posted: 02:28, 02 11 2010
Message: Hi!
very nice work!
10 points man!!!!
do you have the schematics of the "tiny tube" distorsion?
Take a look at my site sdiy may be you can find something interesting.
www.befaco.org


Name: Alex
E-mail: blackdeathforest@gmail.com
Date Posted: 01:23, 23 07 2010
Message: Wow, this is beautiful.


Name: Laura
E-mail: jjarcher@btinternet.com
Date Posted: 00:34, 06 07 2010
Message: Your synths are truly inspiring. Each one a work of art and a labour of love. This is what a synth should be like. Colourful with big knobs to tweak. You are really clever to be able to do this. Have you heard of Stephen Hobley's home made laser harp? It took 22 years research. Plans are on his site for $19. You might enjoy making one! You might also like the Narrow Bandwidth Television Association who build early style TVs, they could help you to make a synth with a visual display. Why not use an old pintable and instead of scoring, each target hit triggers a sequence for a random musical piece?


Name: Nicks World of Synthesizers
E-mail: a@a.a
Date Posted: 21:01, 27 04 2010
Message: Reply To both comments below

They are dual concentric pots. I bought them from Omeg uk, who make them, but I just looked on their website and I can't see any. I seem to remember that they had to make them up for me. Maybe they make them to order.


Name: John
E-mail: a@a.a
Date Posted: 22:19, 22 04 2010
Message: Cool synth dude :) I see you used concentric pots in the filter FM section, where did you buy them from?


Name: Dale
E-mail: diglet.dale@gmail.com
Date Posted: 21:30, 20 04 2010
Message: Hey Nick. This is the coolest synth ive seens, the colours are really groovy :) In the filter modulation section (the one with pink dials with the black ones stacked on top), are the stacked dials independent of each other? If so, what pots are you using and where can I buy them?

Regards

Dale


Name: Nicks world of synthesizers
E-mail: a@a.a
Date Posted: 22:35, 31 03 2010
Message: Answer to question below

I found that every thing that is connected to the diode ring needs to be isolated from each other. The center taps connect directly to the diodes beacause the are on the same windings.


Name: Mike
E-mail: mcoady@talktalk.net
Date Posted: 22:28, 04 02 2010
Message: Hi

Why did you use a third LT44 transformer to feed the centre taps on your Ring Modulator?

Regards.

Mike.


Name: diskarga
E-mail: djdiskarga@mail.com
Date Posted: 20:33, 04 02 2010
Message: the most incredible aspect about your project and work is that you have actually been able to finish such a madness! beyond cool!! maximum respect


Name: Syntha
E-mail: geekrik@hotmail.com
Date Posted: 16:52, 26 12 2009
Message: what a masterpice! your my idol! i wanna be you and have this. i myself have just finished of a circut bent Casio SA-5, but this is just awesome and waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay cooler. i play in two bands in norway called Pantzwater and the FredHadlemonien. do you sell any stuff? any circutsheet or something? i could really need the inspiration:) keep up with the genuiosomeness!


Name: FlametopFred
E-mail: bjwarne@interchange.ubc,ca
Date Posted: 22:17, 17 12 2009
Message: You are infected with the kind of madness we all crave to be infected with. Bravo!


Name: Amanda
E-mail: four_quar@hotmail.com
Date Posted: 22:39, 12 12 2009
Message: Hi, I love your site,the synths are very cool. I've been trying to learn how to build my own but so far all I can do involves arduino or circuit bending. Can you suggest and good books or sites to get me started?


Name: fred
E-mail:
Date Posted: 21:09, 05 06 2009
Message: Amazing


Name: adam
E-mail:
Date Posted: 09:17, 09 05 2009
Message: I'd be interested to know more about how you have the harmony switches set up. I can guess what they're doing but if you could go into depth about how you have them set up, that'd be great.

also with the wires coiled around the tubes, when you remove a strip of their coating, how do they not all short out? if tthat makes sense...


Name: max
E-mail: nycpntr@gmail.com
Date Posted: 13:44, 15 04 2009
Message: brillainte!


Name: ed
E-mail: eibriggs@hotmail.com
Date Posted: 12:05, 06 04 2009
Message: Dude I'm really impressed. These are real works of art. I really like your aesthetic. If you're ever down in Brighton look up A Scandal In Bohemia, Max and the Swing Commanders, or White Tiger. You'll be well received amongst the musical community here. Well done man, keep it up.


Name: Maximus Lazarus
E-mail: ucm@sundays.com
Date Posted: 22:49, 29 03 2009
Message: Hello,

I can't explain it all fully, but this page gave me SO MUCH JOY. Your adventourus spirit, your very straightforward way of explaining painful lessons you've learned made me laugh loudly! And your machine is JUST SO DARN BEAUTIFUL!!!! It's like magic: all the colors and knobs - it's as if from a dream I had. My favorite samples were the filterditortion and harmonyswitch wavs. Very 80's vintage Dr Who or horror flick vibe - which I simply love to death. Great tone and texture in parts and I wonder how you created your arpeggiation. It makes me want to know more of the dirty bits on how you got those sounds. I originally came to your page as I was about to read some ancient words from 3,000 years ago (Isaiah) but needed some background noise to mask all my cat's licking and picking sounds.

One question: Is the variety in a single modern synth, say the Korg Z1 (which I have) simply a matter of endless hours of programming the roms associated with the chips so that the level of variety produced by a team of Korg developers is unassailable by a one man show like yourself, even if your beast has more modules? Or could your synth exhibit this same variety, even if the wav's don't reflect all of it?

God bless!
-R
PS - you can see quick and dirty sketchpad upstairs studio if you click the right pupil of the tiger at sundays.com :-)


Name: Robert
E-mail: robert.erwin630@gmail.com
Date Posted: 01:31, 26 03 2009
Message: Hey tremendous job. I've been looking around on this site trying to find how you built the knobs on a lot of your machines. I especially like the size of them, it seems like it would be much more satisfying to play. How are they made?


Name: Lee Mann
E-mail: chipsrecords2@yahoo.co.uk
Date Posted: 23:25, 11 03 2009
Message: Hey Nick! Great to see all the synths in all their full glory! Hope you're well dude.
Lee


Name: Max
E-mail: Plona.7@osu.edu
Date Posted: 23:26, 07 03 2009
Message: Hi, My name is max and i came across your site during research for a project i am working on in my sculpture class. I think what you have done is absolutely amazing. What i have is a speaker box with numerous electronic devises in it that have been taken apart, and i pulled the switches and buttons through the top so that it can be played. I wanted to know if you know any simple mods or hacks that i could do that would not be extremely complicated. Im trying to produce interesting electronic sounds. If you could help that would be awsome. Thanks.


Name: SciFiArtMan
E-mail:
Date Posted: 21:55, 01 01 2009
Message: Oh man I LOVE this page and your amazing synth!!! I came here hoping to find a VSTi of the online interactive synth, but find all these wonderful pics of your fantastic synth creation! Absolutely wonderful!!!


Name: Kyle Weiss
E-mail: killkyleweiss@gmail.com
Date Posted: 01:39, 21 12 2008
Message: I don't want to be another fanboy, but really, this is the hottest Inter-mah-net DIY porn for now. I must go clean myself. And cry. Well done.

KW


Name: Samsudi
E-mail: sudi76@gmail.com
Date Posted: 17:37, 18 12 2008
Message: wow... this is like old mainframe computer on DOD Office :)


Name: Shannon
E-mail: milkthistle_@hotmail.com
Date Posted: 16:54, 17 12 2008
Message: i saw this on current tv and thought this was so friggin cool, i think you're unique and talented :)


Name: phil
E-mail: a@a.a
Date Posted: 10:07, 29 11 2008
Message: awesome!! i am deeply impressed :-)


Name: Rudi
E-mail: stinkebeest@yahoo.co.uk
Date Posted: 13:02, 20 11 2008
Message: Hey man, thanks for taking the time to answer ! and man, the answer was so simple,lol. but that does sound like a tricky ( and indeed tedious and frustrating) process. the winding on its own, but also, if you sans just a fraction too much, the wire would make contact sideways, in other words, bypassing the windings, kinda like my concern in the first place. so guess i just have to be very neat and carefull...awww, that's not my style :( hehe

thanks again!

rudi


Name: Nicks World Of Synthesizers
E-mail: A@A.A
Date Posted: 21:11, 19 11 2008
Message: Reply to message below

The wire is 0.1mm enameled constantan which I bought from 'The
Scientific Wire Company' (east London) I used 1200 grit paper to remove a strip of enamel after it was wound. You can probably get away with 0.2mm wire without hearing steps in the pitch, 0.1mm is very frustrating to work with.


Name: Rudi
E-mail: stinkebeest@yahoo.co.uk
Date Posted: 18:03, 11 11 2008
Message: Wow, first of all, MAN, you've made some awesome stuff ! second, i've got a question, concerning the ribbon controller. I'm interested in making one, and have been trying with Svhs video tape, but it's flimsy. I do understand the elektronic idea behind it, and i can see those thin copper(?) strips suspendid with the springs, so far so good, but when you press those, how does it make contact ? cause you wrote the resistors are wire wound plastic tubes ? but to make contact,the wire should be bare, but a coil of bare wire wouldn't be a coil really. so, what am i missing ? i really hope to hear from you, cause i love the design, looks very sturdy.

thanks and greetings, rudi


Name: pavel
E-mail: walentynski@gmail.com
Date Posted: 18:31, 10 10 2008
Message: This synth sounds sick!!!!
I can imagine your gigs.. Its gotta be great to play an instruments you made yourself.
well inspiring