My first homemade synth

I built my first homemade synth -- Ray Wilson's Weird Sound Generator from musicfromouterspace.com

I’ve started studying electronics.  Up until this point, I’ve been simply wiring together LEDs, buzzers, motors, and mucking about with programming the Basic STAMP microprocessor to hook up to my Max/MSP patches.  Ray Wilson’s Weird Sound Generator is my first foray into putting together something more complex.  It’s quite a nice kit for beginners and at the end of the process, one has a useful little noise maker in their arsenal of electronic instruments.

Since I found the documentation of building one at Matt Stanfield’s blog, the sync24 blog, and the image at Make very helpful when embarking on my own, I thought I’d pay it forward by posting images from my own adventure in circuitry in case it might help other people interested in making one.  I know that the hardest part for me was just starting the process as I was worried about making a mistake and blowing the $90 for the kit.  Sort of like staring at a blank canvas and daring to make the first brush stroke.  Seeing detailed images at the above links really facilitated the build for me.

Separating out the resistor and capacitor values. Some of the color bands were difficult to make out. My multimeter is cheap and wouldn't register some of the values so I ended up using a flashlight to be sure of the colors.
Resistors go in first. Although I made a flashing bicycle light using perfboard, I'd never worked with a PCB before this project (except for some circuit bending). Great fun.
Shot of the back with the first few resistors. Later, I trimmed the ends a bit shorter.
After the resistors, the chip holders get installed.
Ceramic capacitors go in next.
Electrolytic caps, transistors, and diodes are the last to install (except for popping the chips in).
Separating out the potentiometers and getting ready to wire things up.
The lunchbox prior to routing out the holes. I picked this up at Old Navy for $8.
This hand reamer tool is very useful if you don't want to bust out a power drill, or if you're like me, your drill is a weak battery-operated thing. Thanks for the tip, Ri!
My wife had surprised me with a Dremel and it proved very useful for deburring the holes. Don't forget your safety goggles here!
Seating the circuit board. I was just testing the fit at this point. Ray even provides rubber stoppers and screws in the kit.
Making sure the pots and switches are seated correctly before soldering the wires between them and the board.
Shot of the back of the pots on the inside. The filter and resonance controls are wired (albeit a bit messily). I should've left more slack for these to try and help with shielding the wires from crosstalk. More on that later.
Welcome to the jungle.
Everything wired. This is right before switching it on to test it out. Fingers were tightly crossed.
And once again, a shot of the completed project. I had some extra switch covers from Radio Shack lying around that matched the theme nicely.

There were a couple of glitches that cropped up once I had finished.  There seems to be some crosstalk from the filter and one of the oscillators resulting in an unintended clicking that goes away when I open the housing.  I’ve tried to shield the wires and resolder them so they were further away from one another, but it’s still present.  Also, the volume control mod only seems to reduce the volume on part of the sound.  Still, I was worried the project wouldn’t make any sound at all, so the fact that I have this cute lunchbox to make noise with is a success to me.

You can check out a couple of mp3s of what it sounds like below …

wsg02.mp3 :  This example was recorded with the housing open, eliminating the clicking and restoring some volume functionality.

wsg01.mp3 :  Here, the housing is closed, bringing back the clicking.  If anyone has any suggestions on reducing it, I’d love to hear ideas.

I highly encourage anyone interested in going down the hardware DIY path to check out Ray’s kit.  It’s quite fun and can be finished in a weekend.

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