The KS-01 Synthesizer
Artist's concept of a 13U slice of the KS-01 Synthesizer.
Back in the mid to late 80's, I first had the idea of building a modular synthesizer. Back then, CEM chips were plentiful and relatively inexpensive. Now they're neither of those things. Before my plans got far off the ground, life took over, and I soon drifted away from things. In the spring of 2002, I stumbled across Ray Wilson's page, and the dream started anew. At that point, I dug out an old breadboard and breadboarded his 24 dB lowpass filter. I ran my guitar and a cheapo casio keyboard through it, and I was hooked. I started breadboarding more and more modules, and a few months later I had (and still have) an entire modular synthesizer - on breadboard. As time has passed, I've gradually built up a parts and hardware inventory, purchased proto-PCB's and a few pre-fabbed ones, and built a Thomas Henry keyboard controller. All of this time has not been wasted - I've researched all of the areas that interest me, and having things on breadboard has provided a freedom of experimentation that I would have not have had if I had started out building kits. But, now it's time to move on......
My assistant, Matthew, in the la-bohr-atory.
The synthesizer that I am building is dubbed the KS-01. The 'KS' stands for 'Kitchen Sink'. It may be because through the years, I've been exposed to too much lead based solder, but I tend to throw everything but the kitchen sink into whatever it is I do.
At first, I had considered calling the synth the 'Coyote', as in 'Coyote Ugly', since most of what I have done so far has been on breadboard, and it is indeed ugly - a mass of breadboards piled with components surrounded by a halo of wire and potentiometers dangling in mid air. As I move into the construction phase, particularly the layout of the modules, my kitchen sink tendencies really kick in.
I am limited by space, and even if I weren't, I'm sure I would still pack as much as possible into the synth, albeit in larger format. My philosphy is to derive as much functionality from as small of a space as possible, but still have the synth be usable, and tweakable. I'm sure those of you who are used to the layout of MOTM, Modcan, Synthesizers.com, et al, will be horrified by my cramped layout. All I can say is that it's a one-off synth, and if all goes to plan, it will meet my needs perfectly.
An example of the firepower/space ratio I am talking about is in the above illustration:
There is 13U (22.75 inches) of horizontal space, by 5U (8.75) of vertical space. This space includes the following functions:
4 Log/Lin VCA's
5 AR/AD EG's
1 291 Core VCF
2 MS-20 Filters
2 Four Input Mixers with DC offset
2 Three Input Mixers with DC offset
1 CGS Wave Multiplier
And of these, there are 'patch programmable' subfunctions. For example, depending on how things are connected to it, the dual MS-20 filter can be operated in series, parallel, or dual-independent modes. That's one example - check out the modules section for more details of my implementations.
I plan on the following standards:
LFO and VCO levels - 10V peak to peak.
Gate and trigger signals - 0 to 5V
EG signals - I haven't decided yet whether I want 0 to 5V or 0 to 10V. I'm working on it =0).
Connectors: 3.5 mm, with the occasional 1/4 inch jack for interfacing with footswitches, pedals, etc.
Module dimensions: MOTM dimensions - 5U high by multiples of 1U wide.
Depth: Deep, these are going to be some fairly large boards (a side effect of kitchen-sinkism).
Knobs: Half inch diameter.
Control Note: Most inputs shall have an inverting attenutor whenever possible.
Concept: To combine 'East Coast' (read: Moog, ARP) philosophy with 'West Coast' (read: Buchla, Serge) philosophy, with a liberal sprinkling of kitchen sink philosophy.
Lately I've been quite taken with Don Buchla's designs in particular - just studying his schematics has given me the impression Mr. Buchla has got to be one of the coolest people on this planet. We owe it all to him, Dr. Moog (another of the all-time coolest) and a host of other Synth pioneers too numerous to mention here.....