DIY Project Recommendations


Search for Hex M3 Spacer 11m and they should be fairly easy to find


I tend to get hex spacers from ebay or aliexpress. Buy one or two cheap assortment packs and you’ll be ready for most projects, and it’s way cheaper than buying them one at a time from electronic component suppliers.


these types of kits are super useful for projects like this :


I spent 2018 getting started with synth DIY after about a decade of tinkering (some amateur, some professional) with electronics, programming and traditional instrument building. I don’t have much to add to what others have already said, but here are some pointers based on my experiences:

I initially got interested in building a eurorack modular system, but quickly realised that building an all-DIY rack from the ground up would be a long, difficult project, so decided to start of with something quicker and simpler. I built a Shruthi XT, which are discontinued but open source, with PCBs easily available from e.g. ModularAddict or Pusherman. This turned out to be a perfect first project — small and relatively cheap but immediately musically usable and surprisingly versatile for what’s inside. Here are some photos and notes on the build:
If you build a Shruthi, consider installing the YAM firmware on it! It significantly improves the rather weedy saw and square wave oscillators in the official firmware.

I was so inspired by the Shruthi that I decided to build an Ambika (basically a 6-voice polyphonic Shruthi with better DACs and more programming options) before starting on a modular. That was a much more challenging project, but also definitely worth the effort, and my Ambika gets much more use than my Shruthi. Here are some photos and build notes:

When I finally started on a DIY modular, I began by building an Anushri, to complete the set of pre-modular MI synths, with the idea that it would be a good starting point for a system before eventually being replaced. This turned out to be true to a certain degree, but unless the anushri particularly appeals to you, I wouldn’t recommend it, and regret building it a little bit, especially as I didn’t follow my own advice and used cheap, wobbly pots on the control board. The anushri is very hard to get tracking V/Oct accurately, and despite the patchbay is not at all well adapted to fit into a larger modular system.
If I was going to start over, I’d probably start off by building: (micro)Braids (or Plaits, although there are fewer resources available for DIYing that), micro o_C, Streams/a similar VCA+filter+envelope/LPG, and an output module to get a nice compact, versatile single voice, the parts of which all remain indispensable as the system grows.

General DIY observations and important lessons learned:

  • Don’t use cheap pots and encoders. Buy good quality, metal, bushed ones with threads, even if they cost 2x or 3x as much. It’s really worth it. If you’re willing to wait, you can get them cheap via group buys.
  • Through-hole is nice to start out with, but with a good iron, thin solder, flux and desoldering braid, SMD is significantly easier, faster and cheaper — at least down to 0603 size and SOIC packages. 0402, TSSOP and very fine pitch ICs are a bit trickier. I recently built a couple of Befaco kits after working predominantly with SMD, and very quickly got bored of all the wire bending and trimming. There’s no way I’d build another Ambika now!
  • It is possible to get many components cheaper via group buys and ebay/aliexpress, but it costs time and reliability. If an aliexpress seller says components are 1% tolerance, assume it’s more like 2-5%. Anticipate around a 15% failure rate where the supplier sends you completely the wrong thing, and will probably refund you, but the whole process wasted a month of shipping time. In my experience this is still the case with e.g. Digikey, but it’s more of a 1% chance.
  • DIY is fun, but it takes a long time and is fiddly. Overall, it’s unlikely to save much time or money unless you’re in a position where you have much more time than money, and already have the tools available. It is, however, immensely satisfying and educational.


Twenty characters of thanks everyone!


Looking forward to building this;
Anyone here got one already?


Quick question about this - I notice on the Doepfer DIY page the manual gate schematic has a 470R resistor after the switch. What difference would that make over 1k resistors? The output voltage would still be 5v, presumably?

@HateNames - Interested to hear what you think about it. Looks like a fun kit but I have too many gadgets lying around at the moment :slight_smile:


Almost no difference practically speaking. The point is just that you usually want a low-ish value resistor as output impedence; I use 1k out of habit.


I have no idea how much electronics experience or knowledge you have so sorry if you already knew this, but, to expand slightly on @infovore’s answer: the reason to have an output resistor between your circuit and the outside world is (at least as far as I know) to limit the amount of current which can flow from that output (or inwards, if it’s accidentally connected to another output). If you have no resistor and the output gets shorted to ground, then there’s a chance that whatever component is sourcing or sinking that current, either in your circuit or in the outside world, will get fried.

If you add a current limiting resistor this is much less likely to happen. Assuming a 10V gate output and 0V being the lowest thing which could be connected (i.e. ignoring negative voltages for now), ohms law tells us that a 470R resistor will allow a maximum of 10 / 470 = 0.021A or 21mA to flow, which is generally a safe amount, although not all MCUs can source that out of their IO pins. 1k would limit the current to 10 / 1000 or 10mA, which is even safer, and still enough to drive any well-designed input stage.

(more experienced electronics people: please correct me if any of this is wrong!)


Thanks for this. I knew the first bit, but I still get confused by Ohm’s law!


I completed the Doboz TSNM. Great project. Reasonable number of parts though they are SMD. I’d recommend this project to anyone.