Daily-ish goings on at Marmot Audio HQ.

Thonk Euro modules built for £50!

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Published on by Neil Baldwin.

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A good client of mine bought a couple of Mikrophonie kits as he wanted me to not only build them but also replace the 3.5mm mic input socket with a 1/4 inch jack AND replace the 3.5mm output socket with a banana socket!

I thought I'd post up how I did it in case anyone else wants to do the same. Caveat: do so at your own risk!

You'll need:

- a hacksaw (and a hand file, probably)

- some drill bits (to open out the two holes in the front panel)

- 1N418 diode (or similar)

- 1 x banana socket

- 1 x 1/4 inch jack (switch type)

- a bit of small-guage multi-core wire

- a Mikrophonie!

- soldering iron, wire cutters, solder etc.

Got all that? OK, here we go!

If you're at the not-yet-built-the-Mikrophone, it's probably best to do this modification at that stage. If it's already built you'd be strongly advised to desolder the piezo as it will make the dirty work much easier. You'll also notice I've not soldered the 3.5mm sockets. Again, it will make things easier if you haven't but not impossible and you won't need to desolder them. You'll see why in a minute!

As you can see, there's a little problem: the bottom of the PCB is in the way. Never mind, we're going to just saw it off! Yes, you heard right!

Hold the PCB in a small vice and carefully hacksaw the bottom bit of the PCB off at the red dotted line. It doesn't have to be totally accurate as we will probably need to file it down later anyway. Just don't get too close to the resistor above the line - we need that intact!

The other dirty job we need to do is make the MIC IN and OUT holes larger to accommodate the 1/4 inch jack and the banana socket. Go steady and, especially the MIC IN hole, use gradually larger drill bits until you get to the required size. I always drill to just under the required diameter and finish off the hole with a hand reamer as it's the best way to get a properly round hole with a good finish. If you're doing this don't forget to do the last few MM from the opposite side (with the hand reamer) or you'll have a slightly tapered hole. Probably doesn't matter in this context but it's good to do things right!

So when you're done you'll end up with something like this! You can throw the small bit of PCB away, we won't be needing that any more!

Mount the banana socket and the 1/4 jack and tighten up. Next mount the PCB back onto the front panel (using the pot as before). At this stage it may not fit as there is barely enough room between the bottom cut edge of the PCB and the 1/4 jack body. If it doesn't fit, file the cut edge until it does. Be careful not to go too far with the file as you may damage the resistor and/or the resistor pads. We need those intact!

First let's do a little bit of preparation. In order to get the module working again we are going to have to recreate the connections that we just hacksawed off! These are the places we'll be soldering wires to so it will help if you just blob a little extra on these point before we start wiring it up.

While you're at it you may as well tin the connections on the 1/4 inch jack.

OK, first job is the trickiest bit. You might have noticed that along with the holes for the 3.5mm sockets we also lost a diode. We need to reinstate that as it's required for the switch on the MIC IN socket.

Take about 2.5 inches of wire, strip about 1/4 inch off the end and twist the strands. Then holding the wire as close to the cathode indicator (the black line), wrap the twisted wire around the leg of the diode.

Push the twisted wire in close to the diode body and then solder in place.

Now we need to solder one side of the diode (cathode) to the resistor pad on the right (looking at the back of the PCB) and the other side to the left hand resistor pad (which is in fact GND).

Lay the diode-wire assemble onto the PCB so that the diode legs are touching the solder on the resistor pads. Solder one side to hold it in place then do the other side. Once you're happy, snip the legs of the diode off at the soldered pads.

Next take another piece of wire, about 3.5 inches (you can trim them down later), strip and tin one end and solder to the solder pad in the middle of the 'h' of the word 'Thing'

Cut two more piece of wire, one red about 5.5 inches and the other black, about 5.5 inches. Strip and tin one end of each and solder to the MIC - (black) and MIC + (red) pads.

Twist those two last MIC wires together and solder here (black and red respectively). You may want/need to trim the wires a bit if they're too long.

Solder the other end of the first wire (the one attached to the 'h' of 'Thing') to the banana jack. Take the wire that is soldered to the diode and solder the other end to the leg of the 1/4 inch jack as shown. You might need/want to trim the wires before soldering.

Done! Obviously replacing the 3.5mm output socket with a banana jack means you lose the ground connection so you'll have to compensate for that.

Hope that's been useful!


| Music Thing Modular mikrophonie mod SDIY banana

Published on by Neil Baldwin.

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Plenty going on at the moment but I thought this one was worth a mention.

It's a Ciat Lonbarde 'Rollz-5' of course!

Based on Peter Blasser's original paper circuits for the Rollz-5 'drum machine', the über talented Meng Qi designed and produced a single PCB and kit to bring Ciat Lonbarde to the masses. So to speak.

What is it? Peter explains it best (from his website):

"The focus is a collection of modules called “Rollz-5”, which creates organic rhythms out of geometrical forms. A future direction is to create electronic sound devices based on the platonic solids and other 3-D topographies."

Clear now? Good. So what you do is patch the life out of it, a bit like this:

And then it makes beautiful, organic, mathematically chaotic music like this:

In terms of building this, the hardest part I think was actually understanding what it does. In fact to be honest, I'm still not sure but I spent enough time with it to understand how to manipulate it enough to suggest the kind of sounds I'd like it to make. The rest is up the the mathematical madness that drives it.

I fell in love with it completely and will be incredibly sad when it wings it's way to the client tomorrow.

Also sent this off to it's lucky owner in Brooklyn, New York today. Another matrix mixer but the colour scheme is just so damned gorgeous (though personally I'd have had all red knobs, like cherry ice-cream!)

Oh, one more thing! As if I'm not busy enough, I've also started brewing my own beer! It's so ridiculously addictive!

| ciat lonbarde rollz-5 meng qi diy electronics

Published on by Neil Baldwin.


The twins thing originally started as a joke but this is what I've just packed up ready for shipping!

Two Mutable Instruments Ambikas: one white, one black!


Published on by Neil Baldwin.

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Hello! Yes, I'm still alive and still working hard behind the scenes at Marmot Audio. The last few months have been an absolute blur of projects and some awesome personal changes (more on that later) and it was only the other day I looked on the blog and realised it's been 5 months since I last updated it! Where does the time go?!

New Order(s)

Elektron stands are still as popular as ever and a few months ago I got an order for two sets of two-tier stands in Fluorescent Orange. Nothing out of the ordinary there. However, the order was from Stephen Morris. Yes, THAT Stephen Morris of Joy Division and New Order fame! I had to send him an embarrassing fan-boy email as those two bands were part of the soundtrack of my youth and I consider them to be a massive influence on me getting into making electronic music. Here's Stephen loving his new stands!


Twins seem to be the flavour of the month around here. And who doesn't love twins! I thought it would be funny to find some images of musical twins as a lead up to the point of this part but it's not quite as easy as you'd think.

See what I mean!

Anyway, that tenuously links to recent projects for me where I seem to be making everything in pairs. First off a pair of NV73 Classic Preamps. These two beauties were built for Tony Doogan at Castle of Doom Studios (producer for Mogwai, Belle & Sebastian, Teenage Fanclub etc.) from one of the Don's Neve clone kits which I don't think are available any longer. First time I've built anything in 500 format and it was a pleasure to work on them.

Next up was a pair of Buchla 258 oscillators. Based on Stroh Modular's clone and built in MOTM format. This was part of a clutch of jobs for producer Dom Morley (Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson, Grindjrman, I Am Kloot, etc.). Lovely sounding VCOs, the square output on them is one of the best I've heard. In addition to the 'standard' build I added modification for switching between the Square and Saw wave shapes (it's normal to build them for one or the other), a switch to switch between linear and exponential FM (with the FM level pot changed to a dual pot to control the levels to the linear and exponential connections on the circuit - quite chuffed with that little solution!) At Dom's request I also added a little header section where you can 'normalise' the 1V/Oct CV input to the second oscillator so you can control two or more with one CV input. Works like a charm!

Custom Euro 'Skiff'

Here's a little one I'm really proud of. A client came to me to build him a custom Euro modular rack: two rows of 42 HP (it was to house 6 Synthesis Technology modules), made from pure white acrylic and built-in power. The case itself is only 80mm deep and can be used both vertically or laid flat. The power is via one of Frequency Central's DIY power PCBs and the distributed by a CGS Euro power distribution board. At 12V it's good for about 450-500ma per rail using a 1A AC supply.

I put a huge amount of work getting the case just right, especially as the client didn't want those 'typical' notched joints that you see on many acrylic cases so the whole thing is bonded together and then finely hand-finished to smooth out all of the joins. It's a work of art!

However, the clients requirements changed and so I decided to keep the case: I've needed a little Euro setup for testing for sometime and this is much safer than having modules hanging out of power supplies all over my work bench! If anyone is interested in it to buy then drop me a line.

Custom M-Class Serge-ish Panel

This was another cracking project to do. Based on a commission from Glasgow-based, Turner Prize nominated media artist Luke Fowler, I had to design a Serge-style half panel (M-Class) incorporating a curious brew of modules: comparators, fuzzy logic, phaser and and input output section to handle line and instrument level connections.

I designed the layout and the graphics for the front panel which took quite a while but helped us both visualise and debug the design before committing it to metal and parts:

And from there we commissioned Ben at Re:Synthesis to make the aluminium panel and then I set to work building the individual sections and wiring it all together.


Ask anyone that knows me and they'll tell you that I've been obsessed with bird of prey since I was a young boy. A few years back, after a chance meeting and a desire to do something different, I decided to look into getting practical and theoretical education on how to look after, train and hunt with birds of prey. I found a British Falconry Club approved course for which I studied with a local falconer and worked towards getting accredited with the newly launched LANTRA qualification, aimed at bringing some education and standards to the purchase and welfare of raptors. I passed the course with flying colours (sorry!) and then for years after it dwindled away into history.

I mean, I never imagined I would realistically own a bird of prey. The money, the time, the dedication, feeding, flying, hunting. The list of reasons not to own one is a pretty strong one.

Fast-forward to the middle of last year and one of those chance meetings again with someone from my falconry study past. We had some builders come around to do some work on the house and one of them I recognised as a guy that had spent some time as an instructor on my course doing lure work with some of his smaller falcons. Also turns out he only bloody lives in our village and keeps over a dozen falcons which he flies regularly on local land. Amazing what goes on under your nose sometimes!

So we got around to the course I did and he asked the million dollar question: "If you've done all that theory and practical study, how come you've never had a bird?" So I started trotting out all of those reasons. However for each reason, he had an answer:

"What about places to fly one (always the biggest consideration as you need permission from private land owners)?"

"I have access to loads of land you can go on"

"What about buying a bird?"

"I have loads of contacts and I can help you buy one."

"What about housing the bird and feed?"

"I can help you design and build house and feed is no problem I can get you as much as you need?"

And so the conversation went on and then he left and I spent a night with my head spinning. If I was to ever have the experience of owning and hunting with a bird of prey, having a falconer of 20+ years experience be willing (and local) to help me do that is a once-in-a-lifeimte opportunity! A few conversations and many weeks later I became the owner of a 4 year-old female Harris's Hawk.

Here she is: she's called Eva.

It's been such a thrilling and life-changing few months. You think when you get the other other side of 40 that your boyhood dreams will forever remain that: just dreams. Here's some proof that if you want something enough and are prepared to dive in and have a go (with a caution about doing anything remotely like this, to approach it with with a lot of common sense and not to take it on lightly!) then you can do it!

And with that, the wind has dropped and the sleeting rain has died off. I'm hitting "Publish" and then putting Eva in the car for a few hours flying!

Here's a classic New Order track to play us out!

Peace and love.


| electronics audio build Elektron euro modular Serge Neve MOTM New Order bird

Published on by Neil Baldwin.

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