Wednesday, 12 December 2007

More Postcards

There's more changes coming in Postcard world..
Yesterday I picked up my first batch of professionally made PCBs for the new version PostcardWeevil. The circuit is pretty much the same as the recent Postcard07, but tweaked to more compact size and efficient layout due to the open possibilities of pro-pcbs. The touch-points also seem to be even more responsive and there are multitudes of wierdy sounds resident within the little circuit.

Three lo-fi oscillators, quasi-ring-modulated together.
Five control dials and nine body-contact points.
Power starvation to send the oscs into chaos.
Mini-amp / speaker for on the move sonics.
And mini-jack output for big PA squeal power noise.

These will be hitting the BugShop right before Christmas when I'm back from work in Holland.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Announcing the BugCrusherMicro

Here's the proto of the new BugCrusher -- the Micro -- Super Simple, Super Effective!
  • One knob adjustment of Rate - from fizzly highs to gurgling lows
  • Zero gain/loss - your signal strength is the same going in as going out, so there's no need for level controls
  • Ideal for low level or line level operation - use for guitar/bass or as a mixer send (also, the I/O is in phase, so you can easily mix the dry signal back in with the effected signal)
  • Compact size - only 120 x 65 x 40mm (that's about the size of MXR pedals)
  • Silent electronic true bypass with strong stomp switch
  • 9v operation - internal battery or standard DC socket
Production is now imminent (plus - improved box decoration!) and a batch should be available next week (start of Dec) - join the BugBrand mailing list to hear the announcement!

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

AudioWeevil07 Production Run

The batch is born...
More details on the main BugBrand site

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Pics from Venn 2007

There's some great pictures from this year's festival by Adam Faraday on the Venn website.
This is the end of my improvisation with Ferenc of the Hung Hangar Ensemble. An amazing pleasure to play with him.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Front Panel Engraving

After quite a time of experimentation, my cnc-engraved front panels are starting to work out really well.

The last few days I've been trying to clear some of the backlog of pcb projects picked up including:::
Fonik's SSM2044 LowPassFilter

Two Thomas Henry UD1 DrumSynths with PCBs from sMs Electronics

Thomas Henry Super Controller with PCB from Fonik
- this circuit comes from TH's Build a Better Music Synthesizer book (good book!)

PT2399 delay project - previous versions have had some niggling problems to iron out.

The technique is now relatively smooth though it still takes a while for the machining:
Front panels designed in FrontDesigner
Exported as .hpgl engraving files
Loaded into EasyCam to generate the machine files for Mach3 - set the engraving depth etc
Mach3 drives the CNC engraving. These are the first uses of custom blank panels I got made up locally (at about 1/4 of the cost of blanks from Paia!) - simple Frac sized black-anodized panels. The engraving cuts through the black surface to expose raw aluminium. The only tricky bit is to make sure you engrave deep enough, but not too deep (literally a difference of fractions of a mm)
Once engraved, the holes are drilled
..& the project is put together.

Solar Weevils - 1st Performances

SolarWeevils had their first airing at the recent Offload Festival in Bristol.

Just to recap the idea - the mini batteries are charged up during the day by the solar panels. The Weevils are silent during the day but when evening comes a light sensor kicks the sound circuit into life and the Weevils perform a dusk chorus until their power drains and they quieten for the night.

The design actually had to be changed at the last minute - tests with the SuperCapacitors from MUTR hadn't been so great, so a change was made to using miniature NiMH rechargeable batteries. These behave in a much more stable and long-lifed way and allowed the addition of LEDs driven by the 3 oscillators. Blinky, clickety, squeek-noise.

This project will be mutated sometime in the future, but there's not much sun around these parts at the moment so I reckon its hibernation time until spring.

Klee Komplete

Following on from the previous post... The Klee is up and running rings around the world.!. Still a few little tweaks to do, but the depth of power is well apparent already. Mighty respect to Scott who dreamt it up and to the other two beta testers in the project, Bill from sMs Electronics and Andy Uncle Krunkus. I've learnt a bunch from getting this together - both some deep deep electronics workings and a load of new building techniques. You only have to look at the wiring at the back to realise that its quite a major project!

If you want to try building your own Klee, PCBs and parts kits will soon be going on sale via the forum (though they're maybe all taken?)

Monday, 3 September 2007

Introducing the Klee Sequencer

I've been asked to beta-test this amazing new analogue sequencer DIY project. Its called the Klee (pronounced clay) Sequencer and is designed by the great Scott Stites.

Its a very large undertaking! But a good chance to try out some new techniques, especially in the making of the frontpanel. Here are initial pics of the panel layout and the panel under construction. The slider slits were the main worry but have turned out well - these were CNC'd, milling off 0.25mm from the 3mm thick panel with every pass. A good few hours of intricate work, but that's a splash in the ocean for this project!

There's still a lot of work to do (plenty of wiring!) and I'll update pics as things progress.
The project began on the Synth DIY forum and there are several threads running which have further details about it:
Original thread - details of the evolution of the in
Thread two - more about the finalised KleeSeq project and the PCB project
There's also a page on Scott's site (here) which gives some details about the features / operation.

Two new BugBrand devices

Two updated box-lines have just been released.

PostcardWeevil07 - adding in a further oscillator, a second ringmod stage and a mini-jack output... Tri-Osc Ring-Mod Porta-Synth!
Details and sounds on the main BugBrand site
Note - the initial batch of 8 sold out very quickly - I'm working to re-stock the shop later this week...

BabyBugCrusher9volt - desk & stomp versions
Building a batch of 15 is quite a mission! Most of these have been taken now..
Again, more details and sounds on the BugSite

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Solar Weevils - prototyping

Here're some initial details of my new Solar Weevil project which is kindly supported by Middlesex University Teaching Resources (MUTR) - they're a really interesting shop selling lots of different materials / components - mainly focused on supplying education establishments, but also with some great bits for DIY tinkerers. They're supplying me with the solar panels (4.5v 100mA) and super capacitors (10F, 2.5v). Super capacitors are really interesting and I'll discuss their uses in more detail at a later date - here they're being used as little rechargeable batteries.

This is the other thread of solar work along with the modular stuff. What I've tried to do is make a system that stores energy during the day and then, using simple light sensors and transistor switches, switches a little Weevil synth circuit on when dusk arrives. As the light fails and the stored power is drained, the Weevil sounds move through different territories until starved of power.

These will be built in multiples and then hung from bushes at the Offload Festival - when dusk comes the swarms will burst into an evening chorus!

More details over the next few months!

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Solar Power Modular

I've been building up to this for a while -- the modular has been running off battery power for a few months and now the final pieces are complete for the full solar powered portable system (well, the frame at least -- the modules will always be changing!)

This new frame (built to size to fit within Easyjet's musical instrument carry-on luggage sizes!) holds a whopping 52 frac-module widths and houses two large (12v 1amp) solar panels in its lid. These hook up to rechargeable SLA batteries (via auto-charge controllers) and then power the modular frame.

Debut performance -> Goldmund Festival - late night, by a lake, extended techno wobble set!

New BabyBugCrusher 9vol

Announcing the new version BabyBugCrusher - now running off 9v power and with improved features.

The BugCrush circuitry has undergone a complete redesign over the last month. Out has gone the old synth-style bipolar supply (complex) to be replaced by simple 9v battery / DC plug power. And in the process I've added clean/dirty input boosting and a tone control that goes from mud to ripping.

This prototype is the new desktop version (though the final layout may change a little) and there will also be a stomp box version.

Production should begin mid August...
(but I can't say for sure!)

Monday, 23 July 2007

Bug Badges

Thanks to Made By Milla for doing a new batch of smart-assed Bug Badges.

Now available with other orders from the BugShop

Dazed Bugs / Confused Bugs

There's a full page bug interview feature in this month's Dazed & Confused mag. Go visit your local news-stand.

No plans to replace my currently a-bit-too-hippy hair with an asymmetric style cut, though..

The pics come from Arun Productions as blogged a while back

Friday, 15 June 2007

Trio of Weevil07

Its taken a while but finally the Weevil07 cranks into (vague) production. Here's the first batch of three, freshly constructed. The design is updated a bit from the Weevil07 Prototype - bigger case (proto was too fiddly small), range tweaks, LEDs...

The range of sounds, compared with the Weevil06, is extreme and powerful:
- tweaked oscs now with pulse width adjustment for extra versatile sounds
- powerful analogue low-pass filter with resonance control
- more responsive touchplate - the touchy sounds you can get are super-chaos!

Full production should commence in July (though, judging by my recent form, times may slide somewhat).

Porta-frame filled

(click to see it big)

...just in time take to Amsterdam. Hopefully I'll be able to take this on Easyjet as hand-luggage - the dimensions are *just* ok for their 'carry on musical instruments' though it remains to be seen whether they believe its a musical instrument...

Top row:
- Thomas Henry Quadrature VCO
- Lofi looper module
- Thomas Henry XR2206 VCO x 2
- Thomas Henry NE566 VCO (from the 566 cookbook)
- Noise and RingMod
Middle row:
- BugCrusher (old version)
- Dual Pattern Generator
- Dual Envelope
- Low Pass Gate clone
- BugCrusher (new version)
- State Variable VCFilter
- VC PT2399 Delay
Low row - auxes panel:
- Power
- 3 x preamp
- inverter section
- 2 x mixer

EDIT -- hey, I'm happy to report that I was able to get through just fine carrying this box onto the airplanes -- absolutely no problems (which is strange considering my friend had a lot of hassle for carrying harmonicas in his hand-luggage --- all nuts!).

Next plan is to make a bigger box made to measure to fit exactly the maximum carry of musical limits of 30 x 38 x 117 cm... hehehehe!

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Bug Pics - studio shots

Hey, I had a really cool recent photo shoot with Arun Productions (plus his Flickr stream).

Here's the Flickr Set
Some great pics to leaf through...

Even more portability..

The Ambassador System (see post below) just isn't portable enough.. Trying to take such a case on airplanes is out of the question. So I've quickly had to put together something even more portable (..shows next week in Amsterdam).

So this new little frame holds two frac racks, has a bunch of auxillary functions in the base, plus runs off two SLA 12v batteries - no mains power required.

The frame is an old wooden box I found outside a year ago. I added rack strips on each side, but it was a slightly strange height (..I miss measured and ended up having to trim 5mm of metal off the top and bottom of the auxes - ooops - but it still fitted in). Jigsawed as much off the back as possible - its just a little deeper than a frac-rack.

Two 12v SLAs have been strapped into the base - these are just fine for running the system for many hours.

The Aux panel has::
Preamps x 3
Inverter section -- two simple inverters and two attenuverters
3-channel mixers x 2
---- some of the useful modules you always need...
---- and there's still the space in the end-cheeks of the frac-racks to be used for more aux functions..

Monday, 11 June 2007

BugBrand Ambassador Battery Powered Modular

Here's some first pics of my new (just-about) portable system. It runs entirely without the need for mains electricity. Powered by two chunky 12v SLA batteries and with a pretty meaty internal power amp, this allows modular squelch almost anywhere (..first performances were outside by the Bristol harbour during the wonderful Venn Festival weekend). Soon this will be solar powered - going to pick up a couple of powerful panels from the Post Office later today...

This has been called the Ambassador System. Its a pretty chunky frame - at the moment holding three frac-racks of modules (with space for a fourth down below).

Here's a detail of the front. I made a frame for 5u tall frac-width panels so as to fit in a system mixer. This mixer has big stats! ::: four input preamp channels, four aux sends (you can never have enough! There're two sending up to the frac modules and two sending to 1/4" output jacks), plus main channel with C.Anderton Opt-compressor.

Then there's a couple of rough'n'ready panels to hold:
Power Regulators --- I've regulating the 12v bipolar supply down to +/- 10v using 317/337 circuits. Not totally sure if I need to do this though...
Power Connections --- to hook up solar panels etc
Power Stat LEDs - LM3914 based 12v battery testers to see how well the SLAs are charged
Power Amp - actually pretty meaty 20watt amp - its certainly loud when inside the studio! And, with the chunky batteries, this can chug out loud sounds for many hours!

& here's some more details of the mixer build..... repetition!

And here's a wobbly YouTube Demo video::::::

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

BugBrand Ebay Clear Out

The first set of Ebay auctions is now running. There'll be plenty more added over the next days/weeks... A lot must go!

Have a check through the listings

Thursday, 24 May 2007

BugBrand RingModulator

Here's a new BugBox - I was asked to make a custom ringmod for someone recently.. I figured it would be worthwhile making a couple as I'd got the parts. So here's details of the box::::

Built with modular techniques, this is a two input all analogue ring mod built with the powerful AD633 multiplier chip for quality operation.

You can either ring modulated two input signals (or feed the same signal to both inputs for great & wierd octave-up effect) or one input with an internal varispeed oscillator.

- 2 input preamps - independent gain, mono inputs accepting mic or line levels
-- internal varishape oscillator with triangle and square waveforms and speed variable from slow tremelo up to hyper freqs (three way speed switch plus rate dial). The waveshape changes the triangle from ramp-down through triangle to saw wave (ie changes the harmonic content greatly) and squarewave is changed from narrow pulses through to pure square
--- ringmodulation of either In1 vs In2 (don't see that so often?!) or In1 vs Osc. The Osc setting allows so many sounds ranging from smooth or hyperharsh tremolo up into screamy pure noise ringmods - the varishape and varispeed give so many different sounds.
---- output mix to blend the ringmod output with dry1 and dry2 signals
----- modular expansion connectors on the back -> direct 4mm banana outputs from the two preamps and from the oscillator allowing hookup to other modular devices. Standardised output levels ideal for most modular systems.
------ chunky metal case, engraved faceplates, big-assed nicey knobs.
------- AC power (supplied)

So, the 1st box has now gone to the original instigator and the 2nd one is being offered to people on the Bug-mailing list.

Cube Car Boot Sale

If you're in Bristol this Saturday (26th May) then get along to car park of the Cube Cinema between midday and 4pm for a lofi carboot / tabletop sale.

Loads of creative stuff and general good fun.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Seq-pattern Generator Module

New dual design to fit within the BugBrand Modular ways...
Four steps selected by OR'd gate inputs -- a wierd sequencer - if you're clever you could get it to go A,B,C,D,A,B,C,D,etc but generally feeding it with four different clock signals will get it rhythmically jumping between the four steps.
Schematic plans for you to DIY on the BugBrand Electronics Page

Check the squelchy technoid wobbles in this YouTube demo:::

On tour with A Hawk & A Hacksaw & the Hun Hangar Ensemble

The last couple of weeks I've been around the country doing sound for A Hawk & A Hacksaw (Jeremy Barnes & Heather Trost from New Mexico) and the Hun Hangar Ensemble (four musicians from Hungary -- Balasz - cimbalom, Ferenc - trumpet & violin, Bela - sax & clarinet & hungarian bagpipes, Zsolt - double bass). Great fun, wonderful music and a lot of learning (consider that I'm pretty much self-taught doing sound for shows, having only really worked at the Cube (100 capacity) -- so quite a step-up to be working at Brighton Dome (capacity 1400!))

More pics on the BugBrand Photo page, but here's a couple of favourites. As always, these are analogue photos taken on the wonderful little Olympus XA-2 (kind of like a high-class Lomo Kompact Automat but cheaper -- I got mine 10 years ago and its still going strong. They crop up a lot on Ebay for well under 30pounds)

EDIT --- I went to a local CarBootSale last weekend and found an XA2 with flash for the heavy heavy price of only 1pound!

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Couple of Crackles

I built a few crackleboxes (kraakdoos) a couple of years ago and they were quite fun but a bit wierd. I'd got the circuit off this site but its recently been updated with some changes to the circuit and this really works a lot better now. DIY one yourself - check ebay for the elusive 709 opamp (search for LM709*).

The Butterfly is routed & tinned - the wings & antennae are touchpoints & all the circuit lives in the body. A little N 12v battery provides the power. The other one was built quickly like a Postcard Weevil to test out the new circuit changes and proved to workout really well.

[I'm not doing these for sale, by the way]

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

New Weevil Prototype

So, finally, here's the new Weevil07 prototype. This proto is a bit of an experiment to try a few new techniques. I've not scheduled proper production yet, but will be doing a couple more prototypes shortly - these'll certainly be a little bit bigger as this design is a little too cramped - bigger touchplates, better knobs and spread a bit further apart. Must add the internal speaker too...

The New Stuff:::
Front Panel - this tries out some CNC ideas. Its made from an engraved PCB (tinned) with 9 contact plates and dial engraving around the knobs. I've chosen not to add labels for the controls.

Oscillators - again, like previous Weevils, you get two oscillators that are ring-modulated together for a bunch of audio chaos. There's a switch for low or hi freq and there's a new pulse width control for each osc - ranging from 50% sqr wave up to a very narrow pulse. The low power circuitry is a bit different too - again this just starves the oscillators, but behaves quite differently from the old designs.

Filter - this is much more powerful than other Weevil filters. Actually, its similar to what I used on the one-off Weevil Knievel - a 2pole resonant low pass filter - pretty gnarly with the resonance turned up.

Touchpoints - there's 3 points for each osc (two pitching and one pulse width) - the outside sets of touchpoints. The central 3 are - ringmod output, ground and filter mod (touch this to open up the filter)

So, as I say, general production is still a way off, especially with a bunch of projects coming up for me... Stay informed with updates via the BugBrand mailing list

& here's a new YouTube demo of it:

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Broken Bits - CNC Update

The CNC router work is really coming together now. As always, learning involves making mistakes so I've busted a good few router bits figuring out the limits!

The first picture is an engraved name-plate badge (to wear on my labcoat for live shows - yes, tongue-in-cheek) using sheet aluminium. This is a good test for making front panels - I've been using Abacom's FrontDesigner software (good value!) which exports .plt files which are then imported into Lazycam which comes with the Mach3 routing software. Initial tests had had the scaling all wrong, but I've now figured how to set things up in Lazycam and its all working good.

The 2nd image shows PCB isolation routing - automated circuit board manufacturing or at least semi-automated. Using Eagle and PCB-GCode (available from Cadsoft) you generate two files - one with routing info to route out the tracks and then a 2nd with drill info - change over the bit and set it to run drilling all the holes. Having used Press'n'Peel, ferric chloride and a mini-drill for pcb making for the last few years, there's great joy in seeing the CNC machine working its ways with the copper clad board!