Dive hands-on into the tools, techniques, and information for making your own analog synthesizer. If you’re a musician or a hobbyist with experience in building electronic projects from kits or schematics, this do-it-yourself guide will walk you through the parts and schematics you need, and how to tailor them for your needs. Author Ray Wilson shares his decades of experience in synth-DIY, including the popular Music From Outer Space (MFOS) website and analog synth community.
At the end of the book, you’ll apply everything you’ve learned by building an analog synthesizer, using the MFOS Noise Toaster kit. You’ll also learn what it takes to create synth-DIY electronic music studio. Get started in the fun and engaging hobby of synth-DIY without delay.
With this book, you’ll learn:
- The differences between analog and digital synthesizers
- Analog synthesizer building blocks, including VCOs, VCFs, VCAs, and LFOs
- How to tool up for synth-DIY, including electronic instruments and suggestions for home-made equipment
- Foundational circuits for amplification, biasing, and signal mixing
- How to work with the MFOS Noise Toaster kit
- Setting up a synth-DIY electronic music studio on a budget
- Ray’s book was ordered around the same time I ordered my first DIY synth project from MFOS. I made sure I read the book over, and some sections twice, before I embarked. Thus emboldened, I went forth and completely ignored Ray’s advice to newbies, and built his Soundlab Ultimate. Between the book and working this project, I learned a lot, both about the circuits and construction. If you want to just dabble and build utility sound effect boxes you, you can do that here. But if you want to build a musically useful, playable, pliable instrument, you can do that too. My decision, to start as a beginner and quickly get to a serious instrument, was ambitious. Ray’s book was a worthwhile investment.
Ray is thrifty with your money, and does not romanticize expensive approaches. If you want to spend more money for sealed pots, you can but he leaves that up to you. However he will spare you the heartbreak of trying to build using a Hobby Lobby craft soldering wand. Ray will tell you flat out that it is futile to proceed without an oscilloscope. One of the other reviewers complained that much of this information is published elsewhere. I would counter that nowhere is so much of it relevant to a jump starter assembled in one place.
In the back of the book is a little cookbook showing some building block circuits, using in-production, inexpensive components. These turn out to be handy when analyzing schematics, and making choices. When you start building, you will be confronted with many decision points, many forks in the road. Be not afraid, you won’t start a fire or get baked potatoes on the ends of your arms, and the worst you will deal with is no output. If you fry a chip [hasn’t happened to me yet], they are like 79 cents to replace.
The Soundlab Ultimate is not a simple, newbie type of project. It, arguably, approaches a Minimoog in capability. Here is where the book helped me. As with any complex build, you can expect there to be multiple issues to work out once you start testing it, and this was the case with my Ultimate. In the DIY synth world, you may feel somewhat on your own with these problems. Ray’s book was something I could return to as I worked through each issue. It does not give you the answers, it gives you a foundation, and confidence to know you will find the answers. And found them I did. You start to look around at all the old broken gear you have, it seems fixable now. Taking such a large leap like the Ultimate is perhaps not the best choice for every new builder. But this book helped me succeed with it, and start fulfilling a lifelong fetish for analog.
Your speakers will not thank you.
- This book teems with useful information on the workings of analogue synths and their component parts; however I must say the title is a bit misleading. A more accurate title would be “How to Build My Noise Toaster, Which You Can Buy On-Line.”
Granted, everything you would need to know to build the Noise Toaster is intrinsically valuable for someone interested in a more general application. But you have to tease that information out of the book. It will give you the schematic for a Voltage Controlled Oscillator, or an Envelope Generator, but only in the context of how it is used for the Noise Toaster.
I am not unhappy with the book purchase. I am reading it constantly and finding it very useful. If anything, I fault the author for not writing the book I wanted him to. I’m planning on buying the “Alien Screamer” from MFOS, but what I’d like to do with the information in the book is build something one module at a time. What happens if you plug a VCO into a ARG without a LFO? What if you just start with a White Noise Generator and put it through the Filter? I’d like to tinker around with the components before stampeding to the big package, and the book doesn’t make it very easy to do that. The fault could be my lack of ability to understand, but I imagine others are in my situation.
- Using the Make: Electronics book as an intro, I’ve been really happy with this book in the series. It includes a full step by step chapter that details the building of the Noise Toaster synthesizer on the cover. There are chapters on the different types of modules and how they work, op amps, and recording in digital formats at home. The author’s website is another fantastic resource, but he is no longer selling pcb boards on his site. This means you’ll have to etch your own boards. I haven’t started on the Noise Toaster yet, but will be building it over the holidays. In the meantime, I’ve been experimenting more with the Make: Electronics projects and planning out a nicer custom version.