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 Forum index » DIY Hardware and Software » Jürgen Haible designs
MS-20 based SEM / Polysynth ?
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jhaible



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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 3:26 pm    Post subject: MS-20 based SEM / Polysynth ?
Subject description: anybody interested?
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Thinking about future projects.

Is there any interest in a Synthesizer Expander Module (like the Oberheim SEM), but partly based on MS-20 circuits instead?

The idea is this:

A rather simple module (not a full fledged MS-20!) that allows the use as a standalone module with many external patchpoints, or (and that would be my personal motivation to do it) to build something like a Four Voice (or even Eight Voice) Synthesizer, the way the old Oberheim beasts were.
Individual control of parameters for each voice and all (but no real patch storage).

VCO based on either MS-20 or Oberheim circuit. Limited number of waveshapes.

Separate HPF and LPF like MS-20

Individual LFO per voice - limite waveforms, but separate PWM and / or vibrato rate for each voice.

Discrete, voltage controlled envelopes

"Linear Detuning" feature that gives the special low range chorusing sound of V/Hz polysynths (CS-80, Trident) despite the use of V/Oct control voltages.

Limited on-board features are complimented with loads of external CV inputs (for complex external LFO waves, S&H, Noise, channel or polyphonic aftertouch, velocity, you name it)

My personal goal behind this is to build a polysynth a la Four Voice. But I can imagine it could also make sense as a little self-contained synthesizer for the use with sequencers etc.

Let me know if you're interested.
(I expect the PCB costs in the 100 Euro range per module.)

JH.

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xpmtl



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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 3:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

yes! Very Happy
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fluxmonkey



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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 4:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

i have a standing request from a pal to build an expander module for his MS-10... this would more than fill the bill.

b
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Peake



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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 4:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Haha, I posted on AH about the need for "holistic" modules based upon multiple aspects of the important behavioural aspects of the SH5, etc., a couple of years ago. Not muscling into my territory, are you? I should just count myself lucky that your projects have so very much in common with the things that I love, that it will transform things that I can't love into something better, closer my own ideals. Are you sure that this is a good direction? And are you going to leave anything for ME to produce? Laughing

As with any of the legend gear, you're smart enough (and experienced enough in actual synthesizer usage) to know that you cannot separate aspects and expect to create the same tone and experience. Contrary to actual marketing hype... The SEM ground problems (or whatever results in the rattiness of tone, boring otherwise) and the results in pitch, low slew rate waveform and filter buffer ICs (much less the mixer), odd envelope shapes and the VCA response, among other things result in a totality not attainable without complete inclusion of all aspects. 723 power regulators per voice- are you willing to go the whole way with this? I have some 5172s and 4302s ready to solder if you can bring it into the realm of "so close it could be variation between vintage units"..

Not to mention the Japanese gear, using those highly specific transistor variations- Impeccable design work. I have never heard a (production) MS20 filter clone that can approach the real thing (Korg 35 version). Only the Vostok filters have dirt and overtones, and I'm pretty sure that they aren't exact either. Are you sure that you want to include, what are they, 748s on the osc PWM shaper? You're reinforcing the things that I've been pointing out for the last half-decade...

Oh- re-reading your post- Not me, probably not surprisingly- I wouldn't blend the MS filter with the SEM oscillators. I'll go my own route here...
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Spratty



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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 4:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Personally I'd be curious to know what such a beast sounded like before yaying or naying it!

Spratty Wink
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Dan Lavin



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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 6:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Juergen,

This project has been on my mind for quite some time...a more modern/updated version of the SEM. Unfortunately, with my current backlog I don't expect to get to it for a couple of years! So your post is right on time! I'd be up for at least 4! Good luck!
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jhaible



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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 10:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Quote:
Haha, I posted on AH about the need for "holistic" modules based upon multiple aspects of the important behavioural aspects of the SH5, etc., a couple of years ago. Not muscling into my territory, are you?


No. At least not deliberately.
The background is this:
I made this JH-4 module 10 years ago ( http://jhaible.heim.at/tonline_stuff/hj_jh4.html ) , aiming at polysynth a la Oberheim Four Voice, only with a much more complex voice than the SEM. Full voltage control over all parameters (for real patch storage), an interpolating scanner for voltage (and envelope!) controlled crossfade thru filter modes, an additional discrete SSM2040 VCF, another interpolating scanner for contiuous crossfade of LFO waveshapes. I actually built this – once, a single module.
I still play it a lot, as an expander module for my CS-50, doubling the highest or lowest note.
But I also came to the conclusion that for a polyphonic, I wanted something less complex.
I’m an absolute fan of Oberheim’s various voice allocation modes, and I learned some tricks to play with slightly different sounds for each voice – I never understood why these aren’t more popular.
For me, it’s important to be able to tweak each sound while playing, to enable and disable individual voices with the flick of a switch. Complex LFO waveforms and exotic modulation capabilities are’s that important in this application.
That’s the motivation to create something less complex than the JH4.
Frankly, I think the original SEM is just right, from its level of complexity.
But I don’t want to make yet another SEM-clone. (How many are there available on the market?)
At first, I thought of just using a discrete SSM2040 for the filter. (RSF Kobol route instead of Oberheim Route, so to say.)
But then, the Korg filter has the advantage to give both HPF and LPF with a fraction of component count, and from the PS-3200 clone I know that the Korg filters can be very powerful in a polyphonic context.

Quote:
The SEM ground problems (or whatever results in the rattiness of tone, boring otherwise) and the results in pitch, low slew rate waveform and filter buffer ICs (much less the mixer), odd envelope shapes and the VCA response, among other things result in a totality not attainable without complete inclusion of all aspects. 723 power regulators per voice- are you willing to go the whole way with this? I have some 5172s and 4302s ready to solder if you can bring it into the realm of "so close it could be variation between vintage units".. [...]Are you sure that you want to include, what are they, 748s on the osc PWM shaper?


I would, if my goal was to make a good SEM clone. (In fact, the SEM filter part of my JH-4 has a 741 at the crucial place inside the feedback loop! The JH-4 VCOs, OTOH, weren’t perfect SEM clones, even though at first they were intended to be. But then I ran into soft sync problems – which I fixed, but would never claim the result was a perfect emulation of the original – and I discovered the Linear Detuning, which, IMO, is the best thing an exponentially controlled VCO can have as an addition. The V/Hz VCOs – early Moog Modular, CS-80, Korg Trident – have this feature by design. But I disgress.)

But now, my goal isn’t to reproduce anything. I want that polyphonic-with-different-voices feeling, I want it with affordable modules, and I don’t want to simply replicate anything.

Quote:
I have never heard a (production) MS20 filter clone that can approach the real thing (Korg 35 version).


Which is remarkable, because it would be so easy to make an exact copy of this: The internal circuit of the Korg 35 is disclosed, the transistors are all available (at least they were, last time I checked.)
I think the main reason why everyone goes for the OTA version (including Frostwave, and myself for the MOTM version) is that the two filters are very, very similar, and most who actually heart a difference consider the OTA version slightly better.

The reason why I’d go for the Korg 35 topology in a polysynth is that it’s more economic. It’s a hell of a filter, for just using 3 transistors and an opamp. (The rest of the transistors in the Korg 35 is not used in the MS-20.)
I won’t use the exact Korg circuit, as disclosed by Korg to Martin Czech, however, as this came with a request not to use it commercially. I’ll use my JH-720 version instead, which I reverse engineered on my own, before the Korg-35 disclosure. It’s close enough to the original for me.

Quote:
748s on the osc PWM shaper? You're reinforcing the things that I've been pointing out for the last half-decade...


748 – that was in the SEM, wasn’t it?
In the JH-720, I went for the Korg 800-DV PWM shaper, which is all discrete.
In a DIY project, where I only sell PCBs, everybody can chose the components he likes.
If somone doesn’t like the 741’s in the Krautrock Phaser, he can use something else. (If he finds something better for that application, that is.)
If anybody doesn’t like TL071’s in the Frequency Shifter, he can use 741’s after the modulators.
If anybody doesn’t like LF412’s in my Hammond Vibrato Scanner emulation, he can use other (and way more expensive) opamps with similar bandwidth and low offset.
That’s the good thing about just offering naked PCBs, and everybody DIYing! All my Bill Of Materials are just recommendations – not mandatory at all.
Everybody can attach wires to the SMT transistors Korg used in the Korg-35 and solder them into my circuit that’s designed for BC550, if he thinks it will become better.
I’m not making fun of it either – the difference it brings may be important for some, and unimportant for others.

Quote:
I wouldn't blend the MS filter with the SEM oscillators.


Why not, if I may ask? (I’m not decided on the SEM VCOs yet. Another option is the Korg 700 or 800DV VCO.)

Quote:
I'll go my own route here...


What exactly do you plan to build? I’m all for avoiding unnecessary competition, and I can still make changes to my concept. (As if I already had a concept – at the moment, I’m just thinking out loud, of a way to take up that N-Voice poyphonic idea again.)

I see people ripping out SEMs from N-Voice synths and modularizing them, and I can partly understand it, too. But for me, it’s the remaining frame that’s precious – and the actual synth modules could be about anything. (Well, not exactly anything either, but you get the idea.) The module just has to be attractive for others, too, who don’t lust after that N-Voice concept.

It’s not even an actual Four Voice frame I’m after. My dream is something like that with 5 or more voices, velocity, and a smooth and sensitive polyphonic aftertouch. I could even sell my CS-80 again, then ...

JH.

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mono-poly



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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 12:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

800DV vco sounds cool but with ringmod Jurgen.
This is really interesting.
Someone should make a board to put the synt boards in.
With some midi stuff in it and maybe some other tricks.
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mono-poly



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PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 10:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

It really surprises me no one has done an OSCar clone yet.
The Synth board is the size of 2 cigarette package.
A polyphonic versions woul be cool Smile
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jhaible



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PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 11:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mono-poly wrote:
It really surprises me no one has done an OSCar clone yet.
The Synth board is the size of 2 cigarette package.
A polyphonic versions woul be cool Smile


I think it's mostly digital, plus two LM13600-based filters ...

JH.

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stevenclements



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PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 1:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I'm interested for sure... would you kit the thang? ...bits and bobbles and panel or perhaps get Doug Wellington or bridechamber interested in the panel?
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Peake



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PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 4:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

jhaible wrote:
mono-poly wrote:
It really surprises me no one has done an OSCar clone yet.
The Synth board is the size of 2 cigarette package.
A polyphonic versions woul be cool Smile


I think it's mostly digital, plus two LM13600-based filters ...

JH.


Yes, but excepting the laggy envelopes, sounds better than a great many analog oscillator-based synths. The developer is still around and should get some money from any such endeavour, or should be convinced to do it himself, ala' Mr. Mattson and his new modular derivative of his vintage design.
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mono-poly



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PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 9:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I think he works for Novation if i'm right.
There are already various Wasp vcf clones for sale to.
I am not telling we should 1:1 copy his stuff.
But that Harmonic vco with that dirty Wasp filter is just a nice combination.
But most OSCar's i had were poor build.
I am still surprised no one has still done a "simple" harmonic vco like the Oscar.
But with a cv input to go trough the harmonics.
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filterstein



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PostPosted: Sat May 24, 2008 4:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

May I suggest using vco's based on the OB1 design instead of SEM.
The design is not very different if I'm correct, but sound wise i think they're prettier. And it's never been done before i guess.
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Mooger5



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PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 12:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Perhaps the keyboard controller is the first thing to do, priority wise? MIDI in -> X*CV/gate out?

The OB4-8 is definitely interesting. Since the Prophet 5 we´re spoiled by the concept of a polyphonic synthesizer having to have all voices sounding the same. What a waste of resources. If you listen to a classical string quartet, you´ll hear chords made out of two violins, a viola and a cello, for instance...

I´ve been thinking about a new poly-synth in that fashion, but I initially thought of CEM3394s to make things simple. You´d have to find the chips first, of course...
About it sounding like the MS-20, I thought its filter to be kind of wild sounding and that there´d be inter-modulation distortion problems for it to be used polyphonically but if it´s the same filter type found in the PS series, who am I to argue against it?
Reviving the old Oberheim polys is already pretty much daring. Embarking on anything more complex than the SEMs were would be missing the point, I think.

Well, with whatever you come out with, I say go for it. Very Happy
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Norman Phay



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PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 5:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

mono-poly wrote:
It really surprises me no one has done an OSCar clone yet.
The Synth board is the size of 2 cigarette package.
A polyphonic versions woul be cool Smile


I remember back in the day, there was going to be a follow-up to the oscar, I rememeber the article about it in "Electronics & Music Maker", illustrated with a drawing of the front panel, at the time of the article I don't think there was even a proto, although I believe one proto was made, but they stripped the voice boards out of it to make oscars with.

My memory of it is that it was a modular rack that you could add voice cards to as you could afford it, making it an 8-(or 12-?) voice unit eventually. As well as the harmonic additive thing the mono Oscar did, I think it could also sample, maybe the harmonic oscs could have waveforms that changed over time, it was a long time ago, obviously, and I can't remember too clearly. In any case, this would still be a viable product if someone made it I think.

As far as this project goes, it sounds like a real winner to me Jurgen, and please count me in! I wonder, idly, if the triple top-octave generator set of the PS3300, poly ensemble and/or lambda would work as an alternative to ms20 or mini-korg VCOs perhaps. Probably not, but that weird additive sawtooth oscillator sound has some kind of magic about it, so thin-sounding yet at the same time, so rich and spacious.

Last edited by Norman Phay on Tue May 27, 2008 6:23 am; edited 1 time in total
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Norman Phay



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PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 5:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I see people ripping out SEMs from N-Voice synths and modularizing them, and I can partly understand it, too. But for me, it’s the remaining frame that’s precious – and the actual synth modules could be about anything. (Well, not exactly anything either, but you get the idea.)

Completely agree w/this.
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jhaible



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PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 6:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Norman Phay wrote:
I wonder, idly, if the triple top-octave generator set of the PS3300, poly ensemble and/or lambda would work as an alternative to ms20 or mini-korg VCOs perhaps. Probably not, but that weird additive sawtooth oscillator sound has some weird magic about it, so thin-sounding yet at the same time, so rich and spacious.


Saw dividers have been used in many, many Korg synths, form the MiniKorg 700 to the PS series, to the Trident.
The problem with the PS series is that octaves on the keyboard are phase-locked. Everything except octaves sounds rich and powerful, at least with 2 VCOs; but playing an octave only adds colour, not richness.
The Trident doesn't have this problem. (It uses individual VCOs per voice and saw dividers.) But it's not fully polyphonic, of course. If I'd build a PolyKorg Clone again, I'd probably go for one (pair of) VCOs per key, in the way the PE1000 did.
But for a N-Voice project, with N being deliberately small, a dedicated (pair of) VCOs per voice is probably the best solution. It can have saw dividers for Footage switching, but not for keyboard octaves, IMO. Portamento is very important here, too.

JH.

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PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 2:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

A somewhat useful feature, that wouldn't eat up much panel space, and I guess would be simple to implement (one level knob, or maybe a off/half/full level switch) would be that "pass over amplifier" thing that yamaha instruments had - route the VCO sine direct to the amp, bypassing the filter. It's a good long while since I had a pl;ay about on a Yamaha CS instrument, but I remember this as pretty essential whan using BP or HP filters
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synthetic



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2008 3:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Have you considered releasing any of your other oscillators, such as the EMS Synthi oscillator or the JH-5 oscillator? I know that you don't want to compete with EMS, but you have such high praise for this oscillator on your JH-5 page. I've been interested in adding something "lush and drifty" to the MOTM oscillators in my system.

Though I see you've added the "linear detune" control to this design, so perhaps that plus SEM oscillator bits go towards this goal. (Sorry if I derailed the thread.)
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jhaible



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2008 4:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

synthetic wrote:
Have you considered releasing any of your other oscillators, such as the EMS Synthi oscillator or the JH-5 oscillator? I know that you don't want to compete with EMS, but you have such high praise for this oscillator on your JH-5 page. I've been interested in adding something "lush and drifty" to the MOTM oscillators in my system.

Though I see you've added the "linear detune" control to this design, so perhaps that plus SEM oscillator bits go towards this goal. (Sorry if I derailed the thread.)


Sounds like a good idea!

JH.

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Peake



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2008 10:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

[quote="jhaible"]
synthetic wrote:
Have you considered releasing any of your other oscillators, such as the EMS Synthi oscillator or the JH-5 oscillator? I know that you don't want to compete with EMS, but you have such high praise for this oscillator on your JH-5 page. I've been interested in adding something "lush and drifty"quote]

Sounds like a good idea!

JH.


Robin Wood and Rehberg already have that idea and make their living on it.

Posted Image, might have been reduced in size. Click Image to view fullscreen.

I've emailed Robin to encourage him to release the EMS oscillator in Euro format (as AS have licensed the trapezoid and filter) but the mail bounced...
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jhaible



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2008 11:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Peake wrote:

I've emailed Robin to encourage him to release the EMS oscillator in Euro format (as AS have licensed the trapezoid and filter) but the mail bounced...


I mailed him some months ago and asked him for permission / a possible cooperation about some other devices (filterbank, phaser of the HiFli), but he said he had other plans. I respect this.

That VCO in my JH-5 certainly builds upon the VCS-3 oscillators (just as _any_ contemporary VCO builds on something previous), but it's certainly not a simple clone. Especially with the lin detune feature.
I would not see any reason not to make a PCB available for this at some time.

(Same for a vocoder, btw. I wouldn't offer a direct clone of an EMS product, but it would be unreasonable to ignore certain interesting details that I've reverse-engineered.)

JH.

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synthetic



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 05, 2008 10:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I'll buy at least two JH5 VCOs without even hearing them. Probably three. Smile I think it's a great idea because there aren't many modular VCOs that are designed with this aesthetic.
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jhaible



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 05, 2008 11:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

synthetic wrote:
I'll buy at least two JH5 VCOs without even hearing them. Probably three. Smile I think it's a great idea because there aren't many modular VCOs that are designed with this aesthetic.


Laughing Half of the aestetics are in two vernier dials which I salvged from a Siemens dumpster. Laughing

So you'd like to see these VCOs in a SEM-like module?
I made a short sound sample - well actually I've played around for 8 minutes, but it's impossible to catch this on mp3, so I just cut it to a few seconds of wav.

http://jhaible.heim.at/jh5/jh5_demo_1short.wav

controlling the JH5 from the CS-50's keyboard.
Some Echo (D-Two) and Reverb (Quantec) added.

JH.

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"I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." (Mk 11,23f)
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