Merlin Status Update

December 20, 2014 in Project Merlin

As the festive period hits and the end of the year draws ever closer it seems like the perfect time to provide a quick status update on Merlin and how things are progressing. For those who have been keeping an eye open for new updates there is a mix of news to share.

The first (good) news is that re-designs of the initial concept circuit-boards are moving along nicely and should make Merlin easier to build both as individual units and as batch jobs when we get to that stage. If we can finalise the design of the boards it will then enable us to confirm the size of the casing to house it and how that then compares with the more traditional Eurorack module sizes.

So what about other news? As some readers will know there have been busy periods in the past where the day job has taken hold and meant I’ve not had as much time to focus on Exclusively Analogue. As we head in to 2015 another such situation has arisen and it unlikely I’ll be able to commit any substantial time to Merlin until March. I am however still planning on building a working prototype in order to get some sound demos and pictures put on the site.

For now though I’d like to wish everyone Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Merlin Confirmed – New Synth From Exclusively Analogue

August 13, 2014 in Exclusively Analogue, Project Merlin

We’re pleased to confirm that ‘The Merlin’ is now real and in direct response to feedback and suggestions from Exclusively Analogue customers. In keeping with the aviation link the ‘Merlin’ is named after the iconic Rolls Royce engine that powered a number of aircraft including the Spitfire, Hurricane, Mosquito, and Lancaster.

The aim of Merlin is to provide a powerful analogue synthesizer with maximum flexibility and at a competitive price (approximately £800 depending on format). Part of the flexibility comes from making it small enough to fit into the Eurorack format but without compromising usability. To this end all of the jack sockets are on the bottom to avoid patch leads crossing the controls which is a common drawback of a lot of Eurorack modules. Merlin is available either as a self powered 19″ rack mount module, a self powered desktop module, or in Eurorack format able to utilise an existing power supply.

‘Out of the box’ it just requires a CV and Gate input to work and is pre-patched to form the classic Analogue Synth routing. The 54 mini jack sockets enable the user to create numerous alternative routings – input signals and control voltages or output signal and control voltages. The format is ‘classic’ with 2 Voltage Controlled Oscillators (VCOs) providing Sawtooth, Square, Sine and Triangle waveforms. There is also a separate Noise Source and an External input. There are 2 LFOs – one Voltage Controlled and the other normally dedicated to Pulse Width Modulation. For interesting modulation there is a Sample & Hold and that’s normally clocked by the VCLFO and sampling the Noise Source. A Ring Modulator is also provided to allow creation of complex waveforms.

Merlin Synth by Exclusively Analogue

The heart of any Analogue synthesizer is the Filter and ‘Merlin’ has a powerful Multi Mode Filter. The Voltage Controlled Filter (VCF) is based around the SSM2040 design and has 24dB Lowpass, 12dB Lowpass, High Pass, and Band Pass outputs thereby giving a broad spectrum of sound modification. The standard filter frequency modulation options are available (Keyboard CV, FM, and selectable positive or negative Envelope) plus the Resonance (Q) can also be modulated which most filters do not have. There are also 2 Envelope Generators – one for the VCF and one for the Voltage Controlled Amplifier.

The picture shows the first Merlin in a rack unit and as a comparison a collection of Eurorack modules have been included on the bottom to give you an idea of how ‘Merlin’ might be added to an existing system or as a starting point for a system that can be expanded by adding modules.

We are currently at the testing phase of the prototypes and should have some sound and video files available soon. At this stage we are taking expressions of interest with the opportunity to be one of the early owners once production starts.

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!