Bleep Blop gear upgrades – Ramon Castillo Expanding the Sonic Palette through DIY Electronics Bleep Blop’s most crucial road case receives regular upgrades. I have spent a great deal of time planning, building, rebuilding, cabling and re-­‐cabling this case. 2011 – Front view 2013 – New case, new signal flow: 2011 – Internal wiring 2011 – Connection to mixer: All of the core effect connections were made using individual cables. Every setup involved making a few dozen connections. 2013 – Internal wiring This design featured easier access to the patchbay, a rack-­‐mounted audio interface (with DC coupled outputs), and better space for externals. 2013 – A misguided attempt at stage lighting The effects connect to the mixer via modular snake (8 trs cables wired to a DSub-­‐25 connector). Other effects/synths can be patched in easily 2014 – 3PDT switches for dealing 2014 – CV integration, custom panel Wires prepped for soldering with voltage issues on the MF-­‐104 Analog Delay. Prior to this upgrade, CV inputs on the device could not be routed through the patchbay. The development of our group aesthetic – from humble beginnings of mostly my music, a laptop and a piano – to the current generation where any creative individual can experiment with our flexible system – provided me with the initial inspiration for this project in general. I wanted collaborators to understand how the equipment works, what it does, and how to manipulate it. 1 Bleep Blop gear upgrades – Ramon Castillo Expanding the Sonic Palette through DIY Electronics For the 2013 generation of equipment, I replaced the MF-­‐107 Freq Box (a synthetic fuzz pedal) with the MF-­‐104 Analog Delay. The delay provides a richer sonic palette, and the sonic results emerge more predictably than the fuzz. The rack-­‐mount unit has room for three Moogerfoogers total; I include the MF-­‐101 Low Pass Filter and the MF-­‐102 Ring Modulator in the following process. All of the Moogerfooger pedals feature arrays of audio/CV inputs and outputs, all of which I wired through the main patchbay. I can set the various channels of this patchbay to half-­‐normalled (where signal flows from top to bottom by default), or de-­‐normalled (where the jacks simply replace the originals). Half-­‐
normalled channels allow the devices to work in [audio] series with no additional cabling. De-­‐normalled channels make more sense for CV inputs/outputs, as signal/voltage should not normally flow between them. original [faulty] 2013 layout A distinct problem quickly emerged. The CV inputs from the MF-­‐104 Analog Delay produce unexpected (i.e. bad) results when attached to a patchbay. The brilliant sonic capabilities of the device become limited, and at the time (2013), I decided not to pursue a solution. I disconnected these inputs from 2013 until this recent re-­‐build. This limited interactions with the device, so I recently went in search of a solution. updated [limited] 2013 layout After searching through the Moog website, sending some emails to tech support (to no avail), and perusing the user forums, I tracked down some information leading to a solution to my patchbay woes. The Moogerfooger FAQs1 offered the first insight into this solution: If this is the case how can I use the MF-­‐108 / MF-­‐105 in a patch panel setting? The ring jack gives a 5V CV voltage for use with the Moog EP-­‐2 expression pedal. This voltage can be split to provide the 2.5V nominalization voltage. To do so use a TRS (balanced stereo) patch panel and cables from the CV jacks. When not using the CV insert a dummy plug into the panel. The dummy plug is wired with two 100k 1% or better resistors soldered into it. One resistor goes from the ring to the tip terminal while the other resistor goes from tip to the sleeve (ground) terminal. Alternatively you can use a 50K pot with each end going to the ring and ground and the wiper to tip. Adjust until you get 2.50V on the tip terminal. For added stability add a 0.1uF capacitor from tip to sleeve. Dummy plugs involve creating small circuits in a TRS plug. I quickly breadboarded some to test this notion with the analog delay. With enough [trial and error] tinkering, swapping out resistors and shorting tip/ring/sleeve connections, I emerged with the following information. 2 Bleep Blop gear upgrades – Ramon Castillo Expanding the Sonic Palette through DIY Electronics • Feedback CV input: needs 100kΩ resistor between tip and sleeve, and 100kΩ between tip and ring • Time CV input: needs short between tip and ring • LFO Rate CV input: needs 64kΩ resistor between tip and ring • Mix CV input: needs 100kΩ resistor between tip and sleeve, and 100kΩ between tip and ring • LFO Amount CV input: needs 56kΩ resistor between tip and ring However, dummy plugs hardly radiate elegance. I used them in the first generation Moogerfooger setup; they obscured other jacks/labels, and easily disappeared due to carelessness. dummy plugs in the 2011 layout Alternatively, 3PDT switches can offer the same functionality as dummy plugs. They require more setup time, but provide more permanence and convenience for live performance. Using the knowledge from my breadboarded discoveries, I wired 6 switches. In one position, each switch engages the dummy load, in the other position, the patchbay jacks take over. Partially wired 3PDT switch. Components enclosed in heat-­‐shrink tubing to prevent shorts. Wired to TRS plugs. Center pole for device jacks; outer poles for patchbay jacks and dummy loads Close-­‐up of the wiring After much testing, I attached the switches to an aluminum ruler, cut to precisely 19 inches to fit two-­‐
thirds of a rack-­‐mount unit. At the other end of the ruler, I attached components from a cheap PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) controller to attach some lighting to the case. This simple process involved removing the circuitry from the device, and attaching a DC power jack to it. 3 Bleep Blop gear upgrades – Ramon Castillo Expanding the Sonic Palette through DIY Electronics The original device The circuitry attached to the aluminum ruler Upon completion of this case component, I could proceed with planning and labeling the patchbay. The patchbay also serves as a connective hub, joining a number of other devices and placing the respective inputs and outputs in close proximity. A list of other devices currently attached to the patchbay: •
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MOTU 828 Audio Interface Presonus 16.0.2 Studio Live Mixer Behringer Virtualizer Pro DSP2024 ART DST guitar preamp Dave Smith Instruments Tetr4 I included these devices during the 2013 rebuild, but some of the connection schemes underwent revision during this current process. I will discuss these schemes in an upcoming subsection. The current state of the patchbay The next part of this massive re-­‐build featured some custom rack-­‐panels. I could have purchased these from any number of retailers, but nothing offered the flexibility I desired. I ordered some blank rack-­‐
panels and fired up the drill press. Perhaps the simplest yet most time consuming part of the overhaul process, a few images will more thoroughly describe these steps. 4 Bleep Blop gear upgrades – Ramon Castillo Expanding the Sonic Palette through DIY Electronics Panel for MOTU 828 Panel for PreSonus 16.0.2 Hardwired connections on the back of each panel. Note the DSub connections on the TRS jacks. I will detail these in my next step. MOTU panel on Top, PreSonus panel on bottom. The Firewire mounts connect to a standard Firewire [400] cable and do not require any additional wiring. These panels make it much simpler to connect external instruments to the MOTU 828 and the PreSonus 16.0.2. They also take the strain off of the equipment, and will make repairs much simpler in the future. In 2013, I purchased two unrelated audio products that ended up vastly simplifying our live setup process. The Planet Waves modular TRS snake2 features 8 TRS plugs attached to a DSub 25-­‐pin jack. The Hosa Technology Balanced Snake3 offers the same 8 TRS plugs attached to a DSub 25-­‐pin plug. When connected together, these two units provide 8 channels of balanced audio connections I can connect in a matter of seconds. However, 12 total channels connect between the PreSonus mixer and the patchbay. Up until this revision, I made the addition 4 connections manually using TRS couplers. Using an inexpensive 4-­‐channel TRS cable snake, I created my own variant of these devices. I cut the snake in two, and wired the individual channels to some DSub 15-­‐pin connectors (one plug, one jack). After very careful cable testing and fixing a few problems along the way (mostly, the metal housing crushed some of the wires the first time around and created a number of shorts), I had a quick connector for the additional 4 channels. 5 Bleep Blop gear upgrades – Ramon Castillo Expanding the Sonic Palette through DIY Electronics Snake purchases from 2013. Not officially intended to work together, but they have identical pinouts. The DSub connected snake I built, inspired by the Planet Waves and Hosa snakes. In an earlier photo, I showed 8 TRS jacks connected to a DSub connector. On occasion, I use the PreSonus mixer by itself. Rather than disconnecting the external connections, I wired this DSub connection to allow quick access to the mixer connections. I normally leave this unconnected, in favor of joining the two cases together. 6 Bleep Blop gear upgrades – Ramon Castillo Expanding the Sonic Palette through DIY Electronics Digital Build: Expandable CV Sequencer (Earth Tones Controller) This project, born out of my desire to make my gear do more for my collaborators and me, did not stop at hardware components. Bleep Blop has always invited composers and performers to become familiar with our inner workings which include several software applications. Ever since the 2011 gear upgrade, this also included several ways to bridge our digital equipment with our analog equipment. The PreSonus 16.0.2 Studio Live mixer provides an audio link between a computer and the Moogerfoogers. However, an older and more road-­‐worn piece of equipment offers an impressive and unique set of option when connected to the analog gear. The MOTU 828 mk. I4, manufactured originally in 2001 by Mark of the Unicorn, offers eight analog outputs via DC coupled TRS jacks. Bleep Blop owns one of these devices. This means that each can send control voltage to appropriate analog gear. The range of voltage from each jack clocks in around +/-­‐ 1.5 volts, enough to assert distinct control over effect parameters. Some inexpensive software called Silent Way5 by Expert Sleepers creates (redirects) the analog voltage via VST plugin through any suitable DAW (we use primarily Ableton Live and Max MSP). MOTU 828 with custom panel (see Gear Upgrade build) Inspired by a Max MSP patch/application I created earlier this year (called Earth Tones6), I sought a way to control several parameters of the analog gear simultaneously. The interface needed to offer extreme flexibility – remote tempo synchronization, direct tempo control, metric value control (including triplets and dotted rhythms), sequence length, and freely running period frequency control. I reworked the original Earth Tones patch to include four simultaneously running instances of Silent Way, allowing for eight channels of CV at once. Eight expandable sequencers have activation toggles and an array of other controls to send voltage out of the 828’s analog outputs. 7 Bleep Blop gear upgrades – Ramon Castillo Expanding the Sonic Palette through DIY Electronics Earth Tones – users can create their own music using an intuitive interface The first four channels of the Earth Tones Controller – the same basic idea as the Earth Tones patch, but sending CV in this case. A portion of the hidden programming of the device Earth Tones Controller Audio Demo – (goo.gl/A3rIW0) 1
moogmusic.com/support/faqs planetwaves.com 3
hosatech.com 4
soundonsound.com/sos/jul01/articles/motu828.asp 5
expert-­‐sleepers.co.uk/silentway.html 6
goo.gl/hsqazE (zip file containing the application) 2
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