Category Archives: Tech

Korg DDD-1 LCD

So the good news is the Blue LCD I bought on ebay is fully compatible with the Korg DDD-1! The model I went with is the HD44780, although it has slightly different dimensions to the original, so I had to get a bit creative with attaching it to the case. I also had to extend some of the wires from the circuit board so they could reach the solder points.

Unfortunately, my excitement was short lived as I managed to kill the backlight within a few minutes as the voltage was probably too high.

So, after ordering another replacement (Yellow backlight this time), I decided to put an inline resistor on pin 15 to reduce the voltage. A quick google suggested something around 47 ohm should do the trick, but the smallest resistor I had to hand was 100 ohm.

I’m happy to report it all works fine though, and with no annoying whining sound!

I’ve also replaced the main navigation / cursor buttons which are a lot more responsive now. The back-up battery replacement was a bit fiddly, but I’ve done that too 🙂

Hello again!

Hello again, it’s been a while! The last 18 months have seen me buy a new house, move in, move out again, then pretty much rebuild it.

We are finally getting back to normality though, and I now have the luxury of a dedicated studio space in the house (no more shed at the end of the garden!).

Whilst unpacking my equipment, I decided it was time to give some TLC to some of my more aged items.

Korg launched the DDD-1 drum machine in 1986. Built like a tank, it’s sounds have arguably aged better than competitor drum machines of the day such as the Roland TR-505 and Yamaha RX series. You aren’t limited to the 18 onboard sounds either, as it has 4 rom card expansion slots and Korg released a large number of expansions which pop up from time to time on ebay.

It also has an optional sampling board but these are very difficult to find, not to mention cost prohibitive on those rare occasions when one comes up for sale. More usefully though, an enterprising individual has reverse-engineered the rom cards and built an adapter that lets you add your own sounds, stored on EPROM chips.

I have a couple of these adapters myself, and have started burning my own EPROM’s with sounds created on my modular system. Of course, as the DDD-1 is only 8-bit, the samples don’t sound exactly the same as the originals, but this only serves to make them more unique.

I purchased my DDD-1 a couple of years ago, and it generally works fine, but does have a high-pitched whining noise which I suspect comes from the LCD backlight. This isn’t present on the audio outputs though so is something I’ve largely learned to live with.

More recently though, I’ve noticed that the selection slider is a bit tempermental and the plus and minus selection buttons need quite a hard push before they work, which makes it difficult to program. Being over 30 years old, there’s a high probability the back-up battery will soon fail too, so I’ve decided some surgery is in order.

The back-up battery is your usual CR2032 button affair, although in their wisdom, Korg elected to solder this on the board. So I’ll also be fitting a battery holder to make future maintenance easier.

Simple modular sequencing with Max For Live

Have been working on Max For Live patches to sequence my Drum Skiff.

As I mentioned previously, I’m using an excellent Max For Live Mutable Grids emulation by Mots, along with a CVPal controller patch from Spektro Audio. (Check out their CV Toolkit too!).

This outputs three channels of drum triggers (or gates) through the CV Pal module, all perfectly synced to Ableton Live. So I wanted to do something creative with the unused fourth CV Pal output.

Max For Live Patch

I came up with a simple Max For Live patch which outputs a MIDI note at regular intervals ranging from half-notes through to 32nd notes. By using this in-line with the Grids emulation and CVPal controller, it acts as a clock source for the Pico Trigger module giving me lots of trigger options for my drum modules.

Goodbye Drum Machine, hello Drum Skiff!

Have decided I needed a few more HP’s for drum synth modules, both to expand my sound palette and add extra modulation sources. So, I purchased a Make Noise 104HP Skiff and have just finished filling it up – isn’t she pretty!

Still want to revisit using Arcade buttons as triggers in the future, but for now this is providing a lot of random percussion fun! This is thanks in large part, to the three Erica Synths Pico modules which give a nice mix of controlled and uncontrolled triggers, lfo’s, sample and hold and noise. And all in bite-sized 3HP chunks!

The Bastl Instruments Tea Kick is another of the new modules and it sounds lovely and clear with a real weight behind it, but still very musical too. This is in the new, aluminium styling, rather than the wooden front panels Bastl normally use but it looks amazing.

CV Pal is being used with Max For Live to emulate the Mutable Instruments Grids, and a great job it does at that too! Dead simple to set up too, so will put together a video on that perhaps. You can get the CV Pal in a kit at Thonk for under ÂŁ30 (plus VAT) at the moment, and it’s well worth looking into.

Find out more about the skiff at Modular Grid.

Eurorack Drum Machine Update

Well, I’m making rapid progress. Have already built the frame for the Eurorack Drum Machine, based around a repurposed Pittsburgh Modular Cell 48 case, and installed three of the modules.

The Akemies Taiko and Pip Slope modules should be arriving early next week.

The Pico Trigger is amazing and really easy to program with the browser based pattern editor which works great from my iPad. 8 patterns can be stored in the module at any one time, even after powering off.

I particularly like the way that each of the 4 tracks has an independent length parameter (1 to 16 steps), great for programming polyrhythmic patterns that change over time.

The arcade buttons aren’t yet functional, but there is a DIY section on the Doepfer website which helpfully explains how to build a manual gate so I’ll start there; just waiting for some veroboard and a 6HP blank panel to be delivered first.

Also contemplating squeezing in a Synthrotek 555 LFO too to add some modulation.

Eurorack Drum Machine

Nearly finished with my rebuild of the modular synth. The Tiptop Mantis Case is full and I’ve also built a second suitcase synth based around modules from Mutable Instruments, Including the ‘Ears’ module which Santa got for me 🙂

So now I’ve turned my attention to building a portable, Eurorack based Drum Machine. Here’s a mock-up of what it could look like…

The core pattern sequencing will be handled through the Erica Synth Pico Trigg module, with the 5 arcade buttons at the bottom allowing me to manually trigger Accent and Choke on the two ALM Taiko modules as well as the Trig input on the ALM Pip Slope.

An ALM PE-1 rounds things off, doubling as a handy 2:1 mixer in addition to EQ duties.

Modular Update 2016 #2

The new rack is starting to take shape, but I have hit a bit of a snag! The case (made by Tip Top Audio) isn’t deep enough to house my Mark 1 Z3000 oscillator (also made by Tip Top Audio)! So it’s a good job I bought the Mark 2 version.

More selling on ebay methinks!

Also looking to get a Mutable Instruments Ears module soon to trigger my Rings module, as ably demonstrated in this video…

Modular update 2016 #1

Decided to have a major upgrade of my studio and also try and fully integrate the modular with my laptop setup.

First purchase was the Maschine Jam which has really renewed my love for Maschine and should elevate it beyond the role of ‘just’ a drum machine.

I then ordered some Expert Sleepers ES-40, ES-8CV and ES-8GT modules to let me trigger the modular from within Ableton, Maschine and Reaktor – only really scratched the surface but it looks to be a really flexible solution, and the integration with Reaktor is mind blowing.

Today, I took delivery of a new modular case, a Tiptop Audio Mantis, and it’s a beautiful piece of engineering for a brilliant price (at least, relative to other Eurorack cases).

Here’s the empty case which I’ll be filling up this evening as I transfer my modules across.

Mantis

Tiptop Audio Mantis case

Also replaced my beloved Nord Drum with a Dinky’s Taiko drum synthesizer module too which I’ll be trying out later this evening. (I’ve multi-sampled the Nord into 20 or so Maschine kits, so still have access to its electro sounds – might even put those kits up for sale at some point).

Final piece I’ve ordered is a second Tiptop Audio Z3000 oscillator to compliment my old Mk1 module, which is waiting for me at the local post office.

Can’t wait to write some new music with it all!