The Electro-Music emSynth Promises To Make Modular Synthesizers Small & Cheap

emsynthemSynth, the electro-music synthesizer, is a compact miniature modular synthesizer system designed for ‘anyone with an interest in low cost modular synthesizers’.

By low cost – they plan to sell the modules for about $15 each.

Here’s the official description for the emSynth modules:

Traditional modular synthesizers are large, wall-sized investments in sound. They are composed of racks containing modules that cost $300 or more each. emSynth replaces these racks with breadboards holding tiny modules that cost about $15 each. This is made possible by several choices including open electronics and breadboard connectorization, plus the advancements in electronics miniaturization in the past 40 years. Of course, the circuits are simplified – and many are digital as well, adding to the unique quality of emSynth’s sounds. You can build an emSynthesizer and reconfigure it at will for under 1/20th the cost of traditional big iron synthesizers. With that you get portability and flexibility also.

emSynth essentially creates a new form factor in the world of modular synthesizers: the breadboard! The history of emSynth goes back to the 1970’s when a man named Stanley Lunetta pioneered the use of tiny digital chips called CMOS (pronounced sea-moss) in creating music. Stan made beautiful copper art sculptures out of CMOS chips that blinked and buzzed and whirred with elegant complexity. Fast forward to today and a crowd of modern enthusiasts are carrying on Stan’s work and adding to it on a daily basis. Much of the activity is discussed on the electro-music forum named after Stan, the Lunetta forum. The emSynth circuits are derived from this ongoing category of music system exploration. We are just beginning to scrape the surface of what is sure to be a wealth of discovery as time unfolds before us. For now, some of us Lunetta designers have gotten together to bring you a small yet rapidly growing collection of miniature music modules that are collectively known as emSynth.

Developed Modules

  • Oscillator
  • Sine Wave Thing
  • Stereo Out
  • Stereo In
  • Pseudo Random
  • Step Sequencer
  • Any Gate
  • Melody Generator
  • Spacializer
  • Ring Modulator
  • LED Display

See the Electro-Music site for details.

via palmsounds, matrixsynth

19 thoughts on “The Electro-Music emSynth Promises To Make Modular Synthesizers Small & Cheap

  1. This looks awesome. Although I can imagine that a lot of “purists” will dismiss them straight away.

    1. Not at all !
      In fact, as long as they send and receive voltages, we will even hook them to our “big” modulars 😉

  2. I hope they will still need somebody to design the panels…
    anyway, I also wonder if you could make a regular eurorack module out of these, having too small stuff to fiddle with is not always an advantage.

    1. From what I read, I didn’t get specs on what (if any) cv is being implemented. That being said, you could easily create a powered breadboard and mount it onto a properly sized panel and run signals out, or audio into the effects modules thereby creating the first meta modular synth?

  3. I’ll reserve my judgement until audio demos start showing up, but I really don’t see how it’s any different for “purists” to dismiss these because of their form factor or cost than it is for advocates to dismiss criticism because they might be made by people with larger, more expensive modulars.

  4. The fact is – a lot of analog and even digital sound devices are overpriced. Just because they look nice.

    And look what’s inside: couple of generators, which even a student could create himself in home 30 years ago with 10-20 transistors. But we have now IC era. You can create for example 50 virtual analog generators with one AVR/Microchip microcontroller, for 5$. And midi interface to this for 3$. The most expensive part in this sound instrument will be headphone amplifier. With all parts 10$ tops.

    Now, you have answer, why so many companies produces so many new instruments. It is just mine of gold. Musicans pay any price, if you show them such a nice ad about new instrument. Sad but true.

    1. You’re forgetting the hundreds of hours spent writing code for the avr microcontroller, the hundreds of hours spent designing and testing the analog and digital circuit, the six years of post secondary education required to understand it all, not to mention the cost of case design, factory assembly and graphic design.

      Next, I suspect you’ll be demanding a €1200 car based on the cost of raw steel and unprocessed plastic.

    2. Yeah, those filthy bastards, look at all those eurorack module makers, with their Jaguars and swimming pools! They are really ripping us off! And poor us, if they would only make them synths a bit more ugly we would be able to resist them.

    3. 50 oscillators on an AVR (I guess you mean the 8 bit kind)? Are you kidding? And Microchip produces many different brands of controllers, so what you write about digital oscillators is not meaningful in any way. And have you actually sourced parts like transistor arrays or slightly better DACs, ADCs or VCAs (just to name some examples) in small quantities? Obviously not, because you insist that the most expensive part is the headphone amplifier! There isn’t a single headphone amplifier in my modular system. And what do you think producing a decent PCB costs? And the panel? And the knobs? And the quality jacks? Mechanical parts and manual labour don’t come for free. Talk is cheap, indeed.

      1. Let me guess – you are selling expensive instruments ? 😀

        If you knew microcontrollers, you would also knew, that single AVR or MC chip can handle not only large speed (RISC core), but there are also versions with high resolution DACs embedded. If you knew audio processing, you would also knew, that you DON’T need DAC to produce sound. You can use very cheap delta converter for that. Possibilities are endless. And in these times, very cheap.

        Technology is going very fast forward, IC’s cheaper by half every year, but music instrument prices are stuck in year 1990. Miracle?

        1. Peter

          When you say that “a lot of analog and even digital sound devices are overpriced. Just because they look nice” in a discussion about synth modules, it sounds like you’re saying that a lot of modular synth makers are ripping us off.

          is that what you are suggesting?

          If so, your argument doesn’t make any sense, because the circuit boards in a modular aren’t a big portion of the cost – or the value – of a modular synth. Anybody that’s done synth DIY knows that the electronics are cheap compared to things like the potentiometers, knobs and panels.

    4. While most components are pretty cheap time isn’t. Many of the companies making modular gear are very small. Sometimes only one person doing everything from design to assembly. Hand made things cost more and it’s easy to understand why. If you want to get into this kind of equipment on the cheap then check out some of the DIY stuff that’s out there like YuSynth, CGS or MFOS. You can build a nice system for as little as $300-500 but it will take time.

    5. The depth of ignorance – and arrogance – wrapped up in your comment is really sad.

      The PCB (and the electronics) in a synth are not a major part of what the synths cost – companies probably spend as much on shipping synths as they do on the circuit boards.

  5. Web 1.0 forever!

    I was about to put together my first modular, but now I guess I’ll wait a bit longer to see what becomes of this.

  6. This is amazing! I hope they don’t take too long, I’d really like this idea but I need a synth soon and the website hasn’t been updated since last year.

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