Serge thread

This doesn’t surprise me at all. It always seemed like people read way too much into Serge’s initial comment that he and STS had an arrangement of sorts and that royalties nevertheless hadn’t been paid.


I’m of a mind that this is the sort of kerfuffle that 18 months of isolation and worry can give birth to. None of us are at our best, and it’s not surprising to see small issues turn large.

I wish them all a productive and satisfying resolution to this disagreement. I’ll even volunteer to buy the beers they raise in a toast to each other when it’s all worked out.


I’m happy to see more people making Serge stuff. The drama is a bummer, but it’s not like Susumo Tamura is getting a cut of every Tubescreamer clone. Obviously it’s more complicated than that, just a thought I had.


for me the weird thing about RS DIY is the limited options for just buying PCBs from them. granted i’m a relative newcomer to 4U Serge, but all i could find from them outside of 4x4 and eurorack DIY kits were PCBs for the NTO, VCFS, and NCOM, of which the NTO and NCOM have shifted over to SMT variants (thus meaning you’d basically only have to solder the banana jacks and the pots), while the VCFS is still through-hole. not sure if this has always been the case or if they rotate inventory or if that’s a symptom of the state of the world, but it makes me super thankful for the options from others

my feeling is that RS is feeling the most demand for built modules and panels, which i think this combined with the obsolescence of historical key through-hole components, that shift makes a lot of sense. i mean, back in the day STS shifted from custom panels to standardized offerings too

regardless, my roughly panel-and-a-half’s worth of builds are finally starting to come together as some of the crucial backordered components i purchased back in may are starting to trickle in. i’ll end up with at least one panel combining boards from CGS, RS, and Prism Circuits actually—i ordered from Prism a day or two after their site went live and before the comments from Serge came out, based on some of my friends that know Skyler vouching for him and this project.

i have not tested anything yet (from Prism or otherwise, must finish building my power situation first), but i can confirm the Prism PCBs are indeed super nice. comparable to the RS boards in terms of quality and manufacture—nice thick boards with gold plated pads. the builds were super quick and straightforward, though i figure this is more due to the relative simplicity of the earlier paperface circuits

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R*S started with a number of TH projects, however it was pretty obvious from the beginning that they wouldn’t go down the route of proper/custom DIY since they never provided circuit diagrams. They did encourage experimentation via notes and hints, and there have been lively discussions involving Ralf on MW about certain choices, especially bypass caps on the VCFQ and Res EQ.

Since then, they have basically been in the process of going SMD for everything. I mean, it’s reasonable future-proofing. They have been playing the long game and there is no way around SMD. I cannot blame them, but obviously this also closes some doors in regard to DIY. Once you go SMD, it just makes a lot of sense to get your boards populated by robots.

My only gripe is that the price point of their 4U panels has become inaccessible to a lot of people, myself included. I had planned to build some of their older, TH-heavy panels as my entry to 4U Serge, however now that it’s all SMD or even prebuilt I simply cannot afford it in financial terms. Investing labor into sourcing and soldering is a great way to offset the cost of these expensive synths, in my opinion.


Nonlinearcircuits switched to SMD DIY boards some time ago. There’s nothing to stop R*S from doing the same.


It’s pretty clear that Random Source’s emphasis has been on pre-built modules for some time. The “DIY” offerings are pretty much only “DIY your jacks and pots and calibrate it yourself” these days too. This seems the worst of all worlds to me, since the cost to the DIYer is high, troubleshooting ability is nil, and if a build does not work, nobody can tell whether it was broken in manufacturing or by the end user/builder.

It’s true that they got their start in the pure DIY community of course. Indeed some of the earlier 4x4 Serge modules used CGS PCBs. This makes the apparent attempt to shut down other DIY activity particularly galling if true. BTW I heard a similar story about RS and the non-appearance of this DIY project from THC.


The move to SMD is mostly for ease/cost of automating manufacturing, right? Where the designs were originally through-hole I don’t imagine there are components that need to be SMD. But I’m an electronics noob who has just done some DIY kits so that’s an assumption on my part.

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Nothing is stopping them, however as I wrote before ordering fully populated boards is kind of a low-hanging fruit once you go SMD. From that point on, offering unpopulated boards just produces a significant operational overhead. I’ve always had the impression that Ralf is carefully building a sustainable business, so I feel this decision is totally in line with their strategy.

IMHO, TH components now make a sense only for DIYers (who are not good with smd soldering) or guys who uses NOS/rare components. Mass market modern components are the same by all parameters except housing



R*S literally started their company using CGS PCBs. Their 17" panels also used CGS very liberally.

As someone else pointed out on the MW thread, the infighting over ~50 year old circuits is a bit embarrassing. R*S hasn’t introduced any new modules. Maybe they will at some point, but I think the unexpected success of their Eurorack line has led them to ‘coasting’—literally, if you look at their Instagram account—at the expense of R&D for future 4U (or even 3U) products. Obviously you, among others, building in Loudest Warning format actually are introducing new stuff and I hope this internet spat between two companies focused on legacy brand stuff doesn’t discourage future builders and designers from doing the same.


Yes I chatted with Jon briefly about this one, that’s too bad as it is a perfectly balanced intro/compact serge system (only missing an SSG), I initially planned on starting my serge journey with this one (went with 73-75 Homebuilt for a different experience). Usually what THC offers is way more budget friendly than others, at the cost of time spent building, of course.


Just out of curiosity, for these early paper face systems without v/o, how do you do melodic things?

It’s not that different than using a unquantified voltage source on a 1v/oct system; you just have to scale your voltage to get the pitches you want. I’ve been using an SQ-1 in linear voltage mode with my 73-75 system when I want to get melodies and it works well. I just attenuate the incoming voltage until the maximum voltage (I set the SQ-1 to 5v) equals two octaves and then I tune the sequencer by ear.

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Yup! pretty much what @hinterlands says. To scale the voltage input, here’s a handy video from Doug Lynner. You’ll also do this if you want to track oscillators together from a single voltage source.


Ah cool thanks for that!

For any 73-76 Homebuilt owners out there. I’m close to finished stuffing the first board, and I suddenly started second guessing my choice of pots. I’ve gone for the specd non-threaded alps pots, but I think that the pcb itself feels a bit springy, so now my worry is if there is any “push in” or spongy feeling to the pots once mounted?

Tldr: How does the specd non-threaded pots feel? Do they feel good, or is it worth it to go pay the extra for threaded alps?

I have the voice and control panels pre-built from Jon. I also have the Homebuilt. The ones from Jon have the non-threaded plastic shaft pots. The Homebuilt has threaded metal shaft pots. The threaded shaft pots certainly feel less Wiggley. The threaded pots panels have an overall more solid feel. The others aren’t bad, but if you have a choice, go threaded


That was what I expected, but also feared, to hear. I already bought the threadless jacks, so I’ll propably just carry through with the build as planned. Buying alphas home from Thonk has become quite a bit more expensive after brexit, and I was planning on this being a “cheap” entry into Serge.

Let’s see. Maybe I can figure a way to add a couple of more spacers between the board and the panel instead.

As I said, I’m completely happy with the feel of the panels with the thread less pots. It’s a nice box.

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