The early days of the Aviator

August 26, 2013 in The Aviator

Digging around the other day we came across a set of photographs of the very first Aviator, the “First of the Few”. This first unit was very much a prototype and although it had a full front panel initially it was mounted into a rack case with all the additional electronics circuitry bolted on. Later the unit was modified, put into a proper case and the additional circuitry tidied up. On the very early Aviators the 3 Voltage Controlled Oscillators and the Voltage Controlled Low Frequency Oscillator were built on individual circuit boards that were stacked. The 24dB Low Pass Filter, the Range Switch and Ring Modulator Circuitry were also on individual circuit boards.

Early Aviator from Exclusively Analogue

When we did the update last year to build the “Last of the Few” we did quite a major redesign to tidy up the circuit boards without changing the actual circuitry or sound of the Aviator. The 3 VCOs and the VCLFO were all put on a new single PCB, the Range Switch circuitry was combined with the Range switches into a new PCB, and the Ring Modulator moved to the main front panel PCB. We kept the 24dB Filter circuit separate since it allowed the option to put different types of filters other than the standard SSM2044.

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A Range Switch and Pot Pourri Module for The Chemical Brothers

July 23, 2013 in EA Modules, Exclusively Analogue

Recently we had an order from a guy called Tom Rowlands who was after a Range Switch and Pot Pourri to fit into his Emu Modular system. At first glance it was another name at the bottom of an email we received. Tom put in a request and asked if we would go to his studio to fit the modules and it was only after a bit of digging that we realised who Tom actually was – one half of the very successfull Chemical Brothers. If you are not sure who they are you might like to look on YouTube at a video of the “Horsepower’ track by the Chemical Brothers.

Tom has a very enviable collection of analogue synthesizers in his studio, enough to keep any ‘electro-musician’ occupied for ages creating interesting sounds. His Emu modular system was one of the late versions with the improved large VCOs allowing Hard Sync and Linear FM but interestingly the modules were not organised in a ‘classic’ manner and there was no pre-patching at all. After discussing the options with Tom some modules were moved around and the new Range Switch and Pot Pourri added. Tom liked the added functionality the Range switch gave to the VCOs and he agreed that the normal arrangement of having a single turn pot for the Course (10 octave) frequency control on the Emu was not ideal. On the EA VCOs we’ve fitted a 10 turn high quality pot for the Course frequency control which makes life easier. Having the instant, and accurate, octave shifting that the Range switch gives makes life even easier.

The Pot Pourri, with the two LFOs, Noise source, Sample & Hold, and 2 Inverters was fitted between Tom’s two Dual Transient Generator modules so that the inverters were readily available to invert the DTG outputs for use on things like the Universal Active Filter. An inverted envelope is really good on High Pass or Band Pass filters especially if they are resonating slightly. Quite a few synthesizers don’t offer the option to invert the envelope but it was one of the first things that was included in the design of the Aviator.

After a quick look at Tom’s Emu we identified a few things that needed repairing and we’ve also suggested a bit of re-organising of the modules as well as the addition of the pre-patching. If this work goes ahead, and we hope it does, it would be great to think that the Emu system we’ve worked on might feature on the next Chemical Brothers album.

Aviator #33 and #42 Showcased

May 26, 2013 in The Aviator

We’ve already mentioned the “Happy Knobbing” event in a previous post where a group of enthusiasts in Germany get together for some Synth fun. One of their “meet ups” happened recently and the owners of Aviator #33 and #42 were kind enough to send us some photos. Aviator #33 uses the original design of the front panel while #44 (as can be seen in the photos below) has the new black front panel. The cabinet housing #44 also has in it a Theis TMSS modular synth.

Exclusively Analogue - Aviators 33 and 42

If you’re the proud owner of an Exclusively Analogue Aviator we’d love to hear from you. What other systems do you use it with? What do you regard as the best features? Drop us a note and say “hi”.

Emu Modular Rebuild

May 8, 2013 in Exclusively Analogue, The Pioneer

We’ve recently completed a rebuild of an original Emu Modular for a customer in Germany. The rebuild involved supplying a new large cabinet, power supply and some of the Exclusively Analogue Pioneer Tribute modules. The picture included below shows the completed system and if you look carefully you might be able to pick out the new modules. Apart from adding the large VCO, 2 Low Pass Filters, Universal Active Filter, Dual Transient Generator, Lag Processor, Noise Source and a Ring Modulator this system also received two of the VCO Range Switch modules and one of the new Pot Pourri modules.

Exclusively Analogue - Emu Modular Rebuild

This is the comment from the customer;

“The modules Tony built sound spot on identical to the old originals and the craftsmanship is second to none. I am very happy”

New Modules Available – VCO Range Switch, Pot Pourri, Ring Modulator & Lag Processor

May 3, 2013 in EA Modules, Exclusively Analogue

Following interest in the UAF and conversations about what other modules we’re building this post looks at what’s currently available to order and what’s coming shortly.

  • The Universal Active Filter is a faithful reproduction of the Emu module and although some alternative components have been used to replace the original, impossible to get, dual transistors this change has not affected the sound at all. I have done extensive side by side testing to confirm this and spent a lot of time matching the transistor characteristics.
  • The VCO Range Switch module is a useful addition to a system since it allows instant octave shifting of any 1Volt/octave VCO. 3 individual VCOs can be controlled by this unit and although designed for the Emu system it can be fitted to any modular provided there is a suitable Power Supply.
  • The Pot Pourri module is my take on the Emu Pot Pourri module and includes 2 Low Frequency Oscillators, 2 Analogue Inverters, a basic Noise Source, and a Sample and Hold (S&H). I find having the two LFOs in a system really useful and by having the addition of a S&H, which uses the Noise and LFO2 as the source and clock, adds a lot to any modular. A particularly ‘pleasing’ effect can be achieved by using the Gate signal to clock the S&H which is then fed to the Filter Frequency control. The result is random shifts of the filter frequency, especially good with a high resonance setting, that happen in sync with the notes being played.

We’ll shortly be releasing Lag Processor and Ring Modulator modules and will make sure there’s a post on the site when those are ready to order.

  • The 2340 Voltage Controlled Lag Processor performs a rate-limiting function on its input; it introduces a linear or exponential slide in the output voltage if the input voltage changes faster than a certain rate. Typically it is used to process control voltages—for example, it can give voltage controlled portamento when its input is a keyboard control voltage and it can turn a gate into a voltage controlled attack/release transient generator. One feature I like is that you can set it to only give glide on an increasing keyboard voltage but not a decreasing voltage or vice versa which is subtly different from the normal ‘always glide’ on most synths.
  • The 2430 Ring Modulator is a balanced modulator for electronic music. The module has two inputs, modulation and carrier, which are identical for high signal levels. The output is the algebraic product of the input voltages: Vout = Vmod x Vcar Ă· 5 when the input attenuators are fully clockwise and the coupling switches are in the DC position. AC coupling will level-shift the corresponding input so it effectively centers around zero volts. This can have a striking effect on the output signal, due to the inherent non-linearity of balanced modulation.

Project Merlin Confirmed And Why Knob Size Matters

April 20, 2013 in Exclusively Analogue, Project Merlin

Depending on where you come from, and your particular interests, the word ‘knob’ can refer to a number of things including things not really suitable for this website dedicated to Analogue Synthesizers!

I’ve just had the pleasure of visiting someone in Germany who really enjoys analogue synths and he has an enviable collection of modulars, including an Emu which is why I was there. Looking around the room my eyes always focused on the big old modulars like the Moogs and then at the newer, smaller and compressed modulars. Whilst I can appreciate that small knobs and small format modulars work for a lot of people, (it saves building an extension to your house or flat just to hold the modular!), for me ‘Big is Beautiful’. In particular the large format of the Emu modular is a favourite which is why I’ve spent a vast amount of time and effort to recreate this classic.

Once I had completed the rebuild into a new 4 tier cabinet with new power supply and some additional Pioneer Tribute modules I surveyed the result of my labours and knew why I liked the Emu so much. To then plug it in and hear the results was even better, more so when the big smile appeared on the owner’s face. It seems I’m not alone in liking ‘BIG KNOBS’ because I heard that there is a group of analogue synth enthusiasts in Germany who hold regular ‘Happy Knobbing’ events where tweaking ‘knobs’ of various sizes on analogue modulars and synths is their ‘thing’.

There is a good reason for all this talk about ‘knobs’. I’ve started work on my next synth, (I’ve called it “Project Merlin” for now since it will hopefully produce ‘magical’ sounds), which for want of a better description will be a cut down Aviator with a new unique filter and some interesting modulation options. I have to decide on the format both in terms of the overall size and also the size of the human interface part, the ‘knobs’.

I’ve used the Emu style large knobs on the ‘Last of the Few’ Aviators and that seems to work very well against the black front panel. The original silver Aviators had slightly smaller coloured knobs which also worked at the time but I have to say that the overall look of these last few Aviators is better, in my opinion.

I’d like your help in determining which route to go down; choice for you is a small compact synth with small knobs or something a little larger, about 2/3 the height of the Aviator, with BIG knobs. Your opinions would be appreciated!