Saturday, 30 April 2016

S(w)Easel - Buchla Easel Expanded with 258v + Euro

Finally finished putting together the S(w)Easel – it’s a Buchla Easel paired with a 258v, a JB Reverb (in MM format), a row of 1U Utilities and some Euro. Output is via a build-in 4 channel stereo mixer (I always wished the Easel was stereo and now this one is!) I had a custom case built for it all in original Easel Blue. 

The 258 is a perfect compliment to the Easel’s oscillators and gave me the idea to create a 10 panel system based around the 208 and 258. The bottom ‘spare’ panel next to the keyboard is a 22hp ‘sandbox’ where I can swap out various Euro modules to compliment a particular set. To start with I’ve picked some West Coast flavored modules - triple bandpass filter, Radio player and a gritty echo – what I like is that all those functions can be found in Buchla 200 modules, but here I get to squeeze them in as ‘slimline’ euro versions while still retaining an overall Buchla sound and feel. 

I’ve recorded an inaugural video with the system to demo some of the features. 
All performed live direct to a digital stereo recorder, no external effects or processing. 

Percussion is from a modified Volca Beats, with its audio straight into, and processed by, the S(w)Easel. The Beats is simultaneously clocked from the Easel and also in turn clocks an EG on one of the 4 VCA’s. Near the end of the video you can see me messing with the clock speed. 

The Piece is a bit long at 8 mins, but I kind got carried away with it – it’s a lot of fun having all that firepower in a coffee table sized case. 

I rewired the two 1/4" outputs on the Easel side panel to give me true stereo output from the 1U 4 channel mixer. 
Still has Midi-in for the 218. 

Case colour is as close as I could match to the original Easel case. 
Removable Lid is 70mm deep to allow all patches to stay in place. 

I have space at the top edge of the case to add some more goodies later - I have a plans for the Buchla><Euro tiles from Synovatron, plus I'm going to add a Midi clock divider. 

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Buchla Easel 208 Mega Meta Break-Out-Box

Here is my version of the Buchla Easel Break-Out-Box, this time the box is mounted on the card itself! It’s really a Mega Meta B.O.B. 
This mounting is really convenient as everything is right there without reaching for another box. 
I went to town on the options because my testing with the card showed that there were a LOT of extra modulation and switching possibilities available, which I really liked. 
I should acknowledge that I studied the excellent Break-out-box and card posts by Papz, Rasko, gddfp and others, as well as Todd’s and Adam’s always excellent tips and videos (All on the Muffwiggler Buchla Forum)– Thanks to those guys for inspiring me to do my version. 


Here is a full list of the features: 

Pulse outs for each Sequencer Stage (with LED) – Banana’s on top and 3.5mm Jacks (mounted on the back) 
Sequencer 2-3-4 switch to gain access to 2 step mode 
Sequencer No. of steps CV control in (with Attenuator) 
Sequencer random No. of steps switch (controllable with the Attenuator) 
Sequencer Advance One step button (useful for tuning the steps CV out and having 5 preset voltage sources). Hold down for ‘glitch’ addressing. 

Pulse trigger in’s (via banana and 3.5mm jacks) to: 
Envelope Generator, 
Random CV generator rate 
(All Extremely useful for syncing with external gear) 

Attack CV in (with Attenuator) plus Switch to use card random CV source directly 
Sustain CV in (with Attenuator) plus Switch to use card random CV source directly 
Decay CV in (with Attenuator) plus Switch to use card random CV source directly 

Mod Oscillator: 
CV in to Wave shape 
Switch for Random wave shape 
Switch for Random Modulation Mode (FM, AM, none) 
Switch for Random Hi/Lo mode – fantastic for creating rubbery random wobbles on baselines 

Complex Oscillator: 
CV in to Wave shape 
Switch for Random Wave shape 
CV in to Wave morph (Sine to selected wave shape) 
Switch for Random Wave morph 

VCA / LPG’s 
Switch to Randomise LPG 1 Mode (VCA, Combo, LPG) 
Switch to Randomise LPG 2 Mode (VCA, Combo, LPG) 
(These patches I have not seen elsewhere but are awesome to use on Sequencer patterns to really add life to them)

Midi Clock-in (with CV controlled Clock divisions and Din Sync Out) - Coming SOON!

And finally, for good measure -and just because I had a bit of space left, I also added a Light Dependent Resister (with Attenuator) for some fun light effected Theremin style action. It works best in lower light but great with an iPhone light waving above it. This is connected to the ‘To Card’ and ‘From Card’ bananas on the 208 front panel (via the card). 

Actually because you have ground and power on the card then you can mount anything you want in there (space allowing of course). I thought about adding a simple LFO for additional modulation duties or maybe a filter. You could even use a eurorack module in there if you really wanted to. Later I’ll be mounting one of Tony’s ‘CV Elements’ Tiles inside for convenient Eurorack translation. 

The box is from Jaycar electronics (in Aus) and is perfect because the size and screw alignment meant I could screw through the edges of the Easel card itself to hold it tightly in place. I had to cut about 2mm off the end of card to make it fit though! 
Jono had the very sensible suggestion of adding rubber feet on the rear to also help secure it vertically. It is a nice tight fit in the slot and the box edges rest on the connector strip so it is quite solid for plugging bananas in and out and using the switches. 

This little Beauty adds a LOT of extra functionality to the Easel and really is fun and immediate to play with – especially the switching. All random settings (via the switches) can be used simultaneously and utilise the 2 separate random sources available on the card. 
I’m a major fan of using the random CV’s and these mods almost make it feel like you have a 266 Source of Uncertainly built into the BOB. Adding the pulse-in to the random generator allows you to control that randomness (rate of change) from an external source too - or say off any multiple of the Seq stage pulses by patching those in. 

With the convenience to switch the random controls in and out it can add a lot of expression to a performance, makes things less ‘mechanical’ and I reckon is kind of in keeping with the Easels philosophy of easy hands on control. 

Here is a demo video: 

Adding the Card solder points image below - this will be useful for anybody who wants to experiment with the card or make a similar Break-Out-Box. Its my planning diagram for the Mega Meta B.O.B. 
Please note - these are only my suggestions based on the tests I made but please do your own tests and substitute connections and resistor values to suit yourself. Read The Allen Strange Easel manual - the chapter on Meta-Programming has all the answers. 

Go ahead and add CV's and switches for other things that might float your boat- For example a nice one is to use the EG CV out on the card to be switched to the Osc Waveshape Morph CV in on the card. This is always available once you place a CV banana-in on that point but switches can be a cool performance option for some. 
I can see a B.O.B. which is just a full matrix of switches offering all the best instant connections. 

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Seven Minutes Video - Buchla, Eurorack and a Modified Roland CR8000

Seven Minute composition featuring Buchla and Eurorack Modular Synthesisers with a custom Modified Roland CR8000 Drum Machine.(Formant processing in Ableton Live)

On Vimeo: