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.
A Lovely diagram of what the knobs do
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
Please Leave a comment about this machine I will try to answer any questions.
Name: Dan E-mail: email@example.com Date Posted: 16:05, 12 02 2014 Message: Very nice! How long have you been practicing your craft?
Name: Paul E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com Date Posted: 12:12, 04 08 2012 Message: Very cool ! It's a Snake's Box. Great Project !
Name: Reese E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.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
Name: vikki E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: 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: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com 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.
Name: Darren E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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: khushi E-mail: email@example.com Date Posted: 14:14, 15 07 2011 Message: i love play music
Name: Michael caller E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.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: Arthur E-mail: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com Date Posted: 14:53, 19 06 2011 Message: this is hilarious fun :D
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: Rob E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Name: Jael E-mail: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com Date Posted: 01:23, 23 07 2010 Message: Wow, this is beautiful.
Name: Laura E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com 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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.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?
Name: Nicks world of synthesizers E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com 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?
Name: diskarga E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org,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: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org Date Posted: 13:44, 15 04 2009 Message: brillainte!
Name: ed E-mail: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.email@example.com 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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Name: Samsudi E-mail: email@example.com Date Posted: 17:37, 18 12 2008 Message: wow... this is like old mainframe computer on DOD Office :)
Name: Shannon E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com Date Posted: 10:07, 29 11 2008 Message: awesome!! i am deeply impressed :-)
Name: Rudi E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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: email@example.com 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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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