Modular Progress

Specs

eurorack

I have finished filling the top half of my Eurorack case, see above. Here is a list of modules:

Next Moves:

  • Get a logarithmic mixer module A-138b for mixing the output of the noise + two VCOs into the filter, and to free up some of my ZED-10 mixer channels for other things
  • Got another A-140 ADSR module but no cable, going to get a cable and put it into the bottom left corner of the lower section.

Usage

synths

My (mostly) Doepfer Eurorack is hooked up to my Microbrute, 2x Doepfer Dark Energy MK1s and my ZED-10 recording mixer.

The Microbrute acts as a pitch and gate out keyboard controller for all the synths and a semi-modular synthesiser in its own right with its patchbay.

The Doepfer Dark Energys are complete synth voices with a fair amount of input/outputs for modulation. They are hooked up to the pitch and gate out from the Microbrute via the Buff Mult and the Multiples on the Eurorack.

One configuration that I often use when composing music, is wire the Eurorack, the Dark Energys and the Microbrute into the ZED-10 mixer, tune each so they all play together, and create one massive analogue 5-osc synth mono voice which is great for devastating basslines, and I can modulate with the LFOs and envelopes in the system. I can then program a sequence into the Microbrute and transpose it when I play notes down on the Microbrute keyboard, or control it via the USB IN from Ableton.

Another configuration which I find interesting is patching the output of the Noise Generator/Random through the Quantizer. This results in random musical notes played by the oscilator, and you can create interesting pattern or arpeggios created solely by the Euroack without human input. I like the idea of generative music, and will be buying more modules to create more interesting computer generated randomness and music.

Modular Synthesizers

I am putting together a small modular synthesiser setup. Modular synthesizers are synthesizers composed of small individual modules, which are wired up to create a circuit for producing sound. They were very popular in the 1970s, with big bands such as Emmerson, Lake and Palmer, Kraftwerk and Jean Michael Jarre all owning big modular setups:

Keith Emerson's Modular Synthesiser

Modular synthesisers have had a resurgence in recent years with modern versions becoming available. One producer of modular synthesiser modules is Doepfer, a German company who’s modular synthesizer standard ‘Eurorack’ has become very popular recently. I have decided to build a small Eurorack modular, here it is so far:

IMG_0161

The blank plates are spaces for modules that I haven’t bought yet, I am slowly accumulating them. I have currently been wiring my modular setup to my ‘semi-modular’ synths. They include the Microbrute, and 2x Dark Energy MK1s synths, shown below:

IMG_0162

A semi-modular synth is a similar to a standard synthesizer, where all the synthesizer functions are self-contained in one case e.g. they are not just lots of modules. A semi-modular synth will work in its own right, without any additional wiring required. However, a semi-modular synth also has inputs which allow you to optionally wire up the semi-modular synth to other modules and semi-modular synths. So, it allows you to make one big sound processing circuit with all your synths wired together. Which is what I’ve been doing:

IMG_0160

So, not quite Keith Emerson, but it’s a start! But why would you do this, I hear you ask. What possible reason would you have for wiring up synthesisers in this manner? Well:

  • It expands the creative potential of your synthesizers. Instead of just having a few ways of creating sounds, you now have a lot more. Modular synthesisers have been used heavily in EA Games ‘The Sims 3’ for sound effects. Oscar-winning ‘The Social Network’ soundtrack by Trent Reznor uses modular synthesizers heavily, and more.
  • It allows you to build a synthesizer exactly the way you want to, with all the features you wanted for the type of music you make.
  • You end up learning a LOT about synthesis and how synthesizers are made, which can feed in to better sound design in the future, not to mention if you have an interest in electronics and music technology, this is a great way to learn.
  • If you are inspired musically by the technical side of music technology, (and a lot of producers such as Deadmau5 are) then it gives you another creative workflow to experiment with.
  • It’s fun. Wiring up things experimentally and creating sounds you never could have predicted would happen. The combinations are so exponential that you usually have no idea what will happen, and it’s almost like the machine created sounds just for you.

My Computer Build

Updated: Reorganised, replaced Tiamat headset for KAVE.

Picture of my desk with computer on it

Picture of my computer base unit

I use my computer a lot, for work (software development), gaming and music production. I wanted to build a high-end computer setup, as I’ve always lagged behind with upgrades before. So I gradually have been accumulating and swapping bits around to make the setup above.

Internals

Visual

Audio

Peripherals



Internals


Case – Thermaltake Level 10 GT Full Tower

[Link to Amazon]

case

This was an expensive case, but I wanted to spend some money to get a quality case that I could use for future builds. It has many fans, most of which I don’t need, but they are very quiet and they make the CPU temperate a very cool 30-40 degrees, under regular load, even in the current heatwave we’re having. The case has 5 hotswappable hard drive caddies which is very nice and allows me to easily install and remove hard drives without having to take apart the computer. It also has a lock, USB3 ports and enough clearance for graphic cards and space for lots of upgrades.


Motherboard – Gigabyte Z77X-D3H 1155

[Link to Amazon]

mobo

This was bought because it was a cheapish seat for the Ivy Bridge processor and the 16GB RAM. It has some niceish features, such as the fancy 3D BIOS which you can navigate with a mouse, and the onboard graphics which is enough to get into the BIOS when your graphics card isn’t working. The onboard sound is best avoided.


CPU – Intel Core i7 (3770) 3.4GHz Quad Core

[Link to Amazon]

processor

This was the processor that was the top of the mainstream mid-high end CPUs when I was purchasing. It differs from the 3770k as you can’t overclock it, but it has decent support for hardware virtualisation, which I wanted and is not available in the 3770k. I figured I wouldn’t miss the chance to overclock this for a good while, as CPUs of this type already are vastly overpowered for the applications that I use. CPU utilisation for typical use (not including games) rarely rises above 10%.


CPU Cooler – Arctic Cooling Freezer 13 Pro

[Link to Amazon]

cooler

This is a bit overspecced since I am not planning to overclock, but I don’t like stock heatsinks and so bought this. It is a huge heatsink and probably wouldn’t fit in many other types of cases, but as I have a full tower it’s fine.


RAM – 16GB DDR3 RAM Ballistix DDR3 PC3-17000

[Link to Crucial]

ram

This is fast RAM for gaming. 16GB is a bit overspecced for my current needs, but it’s the maximum my board will take, and means I won’t have to upgrade for a long while.


Wireless Card – TP-LINK TL-WDN4800 N900 Wireless Dual Band PCI Express Adapter

[Link to Amazon]

wireless card

This wireless card is good because it has dual-band, meaning faster, interference free 5GHz spectrum access to my dual-band wireless router, and because it has three external ariels which you can replace. I have got a large indoor antenna replacement which allows me to double my wireless range, meaning I can pick up local wifi hotspots if needed.


Optical Drive – Pioneer BDR-207DBK 12x Internal BD-RW Burner

[Link to Amazon]

optical

I didn’t really need a Blu-Ray burner, but it’s useful for backups and I thought I could write some discs to be played in my PS3. It has a very fast read speed for reading Blu-Rays and burning DVDs. To be honest I could have gone for a Blu-ray reader and DVD writer combo and not really noticed the difference.


PSU – 850W EVGA Super NOVA Gold Modular

[Link to Amazon]

psu

850W allows a lot of headroom for graphics cards’ power requirements, and extra components in the future. It is a good quality PSU and is fully modular which is a lot nicer to work with.


3x Hard Drives –

1x Crucial CT256M4SSD2BAA 256GB SSD
1x Unknown model Crucial 120GB SSD
1x Seagate 3TB 3.5 inch 7200RPM 64MB Cache SATA3 Hard Drive

harddisk
harddisk3

The 256GB SSD is my system drive, the older 120GB SSD is for games, and the 3TB HD is for storage: my music collection, video files collection, backup images and virtual machines. Being SSDs, the 256GB and 120GB drives are totally silent, making the 3TB HD sound really loud when it spins up. However, the 3TB drive has enough space to store full Blu-Ray ripped files.. not that I would do that, of course 🙂


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Visual


Monitor – BenQ BL3200PT AMVA+ 1440p 32″ Widescreen

[Link to Amazon]

monitor

This is a high-end 1440p 32″ monitor. It has made such a big difference to using the PC, more screen space, more pixels and better clarity. I was considering a 4K monitor, but don’t think the technology is quite cheap enough yet, and the software and games support is severely lacking. It’s 60HZ refresh rate, but that is enough for me. I have heard that the higher refresh rate monitors are better for gaming, but a 144HZ 1440p 32″ monitor would be way out of my budget, not to mention the graphics processing power it would require to run.


Graphics Card – Asus STRIX GTX 980 4GB GDDR5

[Link to Amazon]

gpu

I had to upgrade my old Nvidea GTX 660TI, and just went for the absolute maximum I could afford. The STRIX 980 is an amazing card and comes slightly overclocked compared to the reference model. It plays all current games on maximum settings on 1440p at over 30FPS, which is no a mean feat, on my resolution there is more than a million pixels being drawn to the screen on each frame.


Monitor Backlight – Lightpack

www.lightpack.tv

lightpack

This is a monitor or TV backlighting kit that changes the colour of the light projected behind your screen to match the colours on the edges of your display. This provides a more immersive experience when playing games with the lights down, and you can also set it to become a graphic equaliser where the lights flash in time with the music. I bought this on a whim and I’ve been quite impressed with it so far. It definitely adds to immersion and the graphic equaliser mode is rather trippy when writing or playing music.


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Audio


Headphones – Sennheiser HD 25-1 IIs

[Link to Amazon]

headphones

These are what I use when I can’t use my speakers. I bought them for DJing and audio work. They have great sound isolation (these are used by sports commentators you see on TV, because when you’ve got them on, you literally can only hear what’s coming through the headphones) and great sound quality (a favourite for top DJs and sound engineers). They don’t look that great though, and aren’t the most comfortable, but whatever. One nice feature is that they are designed for heavy use and are almost indestructable. If someone steps on the headphone lead, they won’t break, the cables will just pop out of the cans. If the headset breaks, well you can remove the cans and just buy a new headset. They have high ‘sound pressure’ which means the ratio of sound that enters your ear versus the amount of sound that comes out of the cans, is quite high due to their closed nature and sound isolating design. This, combined with high frequency range and a large volume range, means it’s quite easy to cause yourself hearing damage if you have them on too loud usually, or if you have a temporary high volume ‘spike’.


Soundcard – Asus ROG Xonar Phoebus Solo

[Link to Amazon]

soundcard

Good 7.1 surround sound card, with headphone amplifier.


Gaming Headset – ROCCAT Kave XTD 5.1 Analogue

[Link to Amazon]

headset

It is quite difficult to find surround sound headsets with analogue inputs, most headsets are USB only, and contain their own soundcard. This is not ideal when you have a really good soundcard already that you want to use, such as my Xonar Phoebus Solo. Previously I was using the Razer Tiamat, which was terrible. It had a consistant high-pitched electrical whine when you were wearing the headset, and you couldn’t get rid of it. The Kave is much better in this regard, and is more comfortable too. It is ‘only’ 5.1 compared to the Tiamat’s 7.1, but really, 7.1 surround sound in a headset is just a marketing tactic anyway, you are never going to be able to appreciate the extra two channels when the speakers are that close together.


Speakers – KRK Rokit G2 5

[Link to Amazon]

speakers

These are great monitors, which I use for music production, and make for great speakers for general use as well. They are a little large for my desk and have a maximum volume which is far too loud for my flat, but I wouldn’t be without them.


Speaker Stands – IsoAcoustics L8R155 Speaker Stands

[Link to Amazon]

speaker stands
These are sound-isolating speaker stands, which I have setup to raise the speakers to ear height. I have to say, they’ve made the speakers sound so much better, and they look good too.


Mixer – Allen & Heath ZED 10

[Link to Amazon]

mixer

This is a good recording mixer which also doubles as a great USB soundcard. It has 4x mono RCA inputs and 2x stereo RCA inputs, which is enough to wire all my synths up, as well as feed the Rokit 5s.


Desktop Microphone – Pulse 50’s Retro Chrome Style Microphone

[Link to Amazon]

<a href="http://www.davidcraddock.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/mic

This is a 50’s style microphone that I liked the look of. I got it because I wanted a microphone that plugged into my mixing desk, which would allow me to talk hands-free on Skype. Also it is good for streaming games, as I can mix my voice in the microphone with the output the computer game sounds, and send both mixed to skype or Twitch.TV or wherever. It is also moderately useful for recording voices for music production and for routing via my FX pedal for some novelty vocal effects on Skype, such as delay, echo and reverb.


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Peripherals


Webcam – Logitech C920 HD Webcam

[Link to Amazon]

webcam

I use a webcam for Skype often, and I want to get more into recording for YouTube, so I bought a good quality HD webcam.


Keyboard – Das Keyboard Ultimate Silent EU

[Link to Amazon]

keyboard

This is the model with the quieter Cherry MX Brown key switches. It is a good mechanical keyboard for all purposes, looks good, and will encourage me to type more accurately. I grew annoyed at missing keys on the blank keycaps, so I added my own coloured keycaps for high visibility (see picture at top).


Gaming Keypad – Razer Orbweaver Stealth

[Link to Razer Site]

keypad

This is the ‘Stealth’ model with the Cherry MX Brown key switches. I was initially doubtful whether it was worth getting a gaming keypad, but so many people have recommended it, that I had to try it out. I actually have found it very useful, much more comfortable and accurate than using a normal keyboard for gaming. It also forces you to get into the habit of remapping keys for your own preference.


Mouse – Logitech G9X

[Link to Amazon]

g9x

I upgraded from my G500 mouse to this, smaller, G9X. I have started to adopt the claw grip for gaming and generally using my mouse. This makes the larger G500 difficult to use, as the larger size means that the mouse buttons don’t click properly when you have your fingers higher up on the mouse. So far, I am very happy with the G9X, the higher DPI scanning, and the easier to grip ‘precicse grip’ material means that it is better for other reasons for me.

I use the Corsair Vengeance mouse matt, it is made of metal unlike my previous Razor Golliathus cloth one, which I didn’t like because the edge of the matt would get stuck in the mouse when you moved it too far.


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Subversion 1.7 on Crunchbang Waldorf

I use the excellent http://www.smartsvn.com/ client from WANdisco. WANdisco have been releasing new open-source versions of SVN to the public with new improved reliability, and the client uses one of these versions, 1.7, to offer better performance.

Unfortunately if you choose to upgrade your entire repository to 1.7, this breaks compatibility with the default commandline SVN client on Waldorf which I like to use as well as Smart SVN, for quick ‘svn up’s and other commandline magic.

This means I have to download the latest commandline SVN client, the 1.7 version of subversion for Linux, available for free on the WANdisco site.

Unfortunately, you can’t install this version on the version of Debian that Crunchbang Waldorf is based on. There are broken dependencies on an old version of libsvn1, which is a requirement for another package that is part of the Debian base install.

Eventually I found this really helpful page, the instructions which will work 100% on Waldorf:

http://ymartin59.free.fr/wordpress/index.php/2012/11/25/how-to-install-subversion-1-7-from-wandisco-repository-on-debian-wheezy/

iTerm for OSX for a Colourful Terminal Experience

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 17.06.36

iTerm is much better than the standard OSX terminal client, not least because it has compatiablity with xterm256-color terminal emulation. xterm256-color emulation will give your terminal access to 256 colours instead of the usual 16. Much better, not just for looking pretty, but for distinguishing between different types of data in an editor like VIM or even in Cucumber output (see picture above). It’s also free.

http://iterm.sourceforge.net

Once installed, you will have to go in to the preferences and set your ‘Report Terminal Type’ to be ‘xterm256-color’. Then things should be more colourful. Then install a 256 color compatible theme in VIM to make use of that extra capacity. You can also edit your prompt and use 256 colour escape sequences, if you wish.