DIY Synthesizer: Where to start?

Hi Guys!

Me and a buddy are looking for a fun COVID project in the current lockdown. A DIY synth is one I came up with, after he suggested building a guitar.
I was wondering if you guys could recommend a DIY project. We dont do Eurorack; so no modules please :smiley: I only know of the Lyra 8 atm.

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Some ideas:
I built the LXR drum synth from Sonic Potions, but the DIY kits are currently out of stock.

Other kits are Shruthi and Ambika, now called Phoenix and Tubika, and Preen (FM synth).
==> SHOP-hardware

Or a xoxbox (303 clone), but it seems out of stock too.
==> x0xb0x DIY Kit - x0xsh0p

With the current shortage of electronic parts, the out of stock might remain for some more weeks.


I came across this list:

Maybe Erica Synths?



Tindie seems to have some cool stuff. Definitely a lot of eurorack but a lot of other options

None of the suggestions so far are suitable for beginners, definitely not the DIY Lyra.

Start with an Atari Punk Console or a passive ringmod. The most critical skill to develop is making good quality solder joints. The kind with concave rather than convex solder blobs. You could even buy a piece of perfboard with traces and a bag of resistors and just practice soldering those until you can make a good joint every time. (save the other kind of joint for after!)

The Shruti-1 build took me around 11 hours in two non-stop sessions. It is a dense and complex build, but is well documented. It is a good choice once you are confident in your soldering and circuit debugging skills. Ambika is more complex than Shruti.

The x0xb0x has a huge number of passives as well as a handful of rare parts. Similar complexity to the Shruthi, definitely not a first or early kit.

The new Erica Educational modules are intended to be learning tools, so could be great for the OP except that OP doesn’t want to do modules.

Given the interest in both synths and guitars, guitar pedal kits are probably the best way forward after an Atari Punk Console. Relatively low effort is required to make something that works. Completing an x0xb0x or Shruti could take months unless you can dedicate long blocks of time to work on them. Two people should be able to finish a guitar pedal kit in under an hour, I would think.


Kinda oldschool, but modding a Monotribe is still a pretty cool semi-diy project. There’s a lot of great info on gearspace.

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It all depends on your level of skill and what equipment you have (or are prepared to buy). If you’ve never soldered anything before then the recommendations will be different than if you are happy soldering 0402 and fine pitch MCUs…

You need less equipment to build a guitar (both acoustic and electric) than to reliably build and debug a decent synth.

The really nice thing about modular for DIY is that all the parts are standalone and can be built and tested somewhat in isolation which makes it more straight forward to build up a synth…

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I wouldn’t discount modules for a couple of reasons. First all synths are a collection of interconnected modules, even if they live on one big PCB. How they connect with each other and the outside world define what the synth will or won’t do. Secondly breaking the build up into several modules will help you in the event that you have to do some fault finding/testing etc. You can test, prove and calibrate each module as you go along.

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There is an excellent book by Nicolas Collins called “Handmade Electronic Music”. It’s written for people who have zero background in working with electronics but I still get project inspirations from it now and then and I’ve been building my own gear since the mid 90s. The benefit of this approach (or another book like it, doesn’t have to be this one) over a kit is that you will understand why everything works rather than just having something that works that you assembled. You will likely start to design your own little circuits before long if you go this route.
Also, as @obscurerobot suggested a passive ring modulator or apc are great beginner projects.
Aside: @frosty_raver you only need less equipment to build a guitar if you’re buying parts pre made and wood pre milled. A good friend of mine builds guitars soup to nuts and needs a ton of equipment to do so. He built most of the equipment too. Cuts and mills the trees. Casts and machines all metal parts. Mills the magnets for his home spun pickups. Etc. There are many ways to go about these things.


Maybe you mean this ?

I post this for others reading this thread, and not for Skurdd, as these are modular synth pieces.

It’s a series of kits that combines the building of basic analog audio parts with a mini course in how those circuits work, so you stand a chance to do modifications on these designs later.

This is a collaboration of Erica Synths and Moritz Klein.

The series is not finished yet, so you can’t order the whole set but you can order one to get started on, and see what you think.

I could see how you could get started and you’d want the whole set, like a fantasy fiction series.

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No problem - point taken !!! :slight_smile:

(I’ve built my own guitars as well - including one that came from a tree in my dad’s garden that I cut down and waited for it to season - mostly using just a router, planes and chisels. I did buy the pickups and fret wire though - I have pulled my own wire and billet before but I buy frets for guitars !
I’ve also built a few hundred eurorack modules, other synths as well as pedals and a valve amp. I was only speaking from my personal experience of the kit I’ve needed, so cant argue with your friend’s experience :slight_smile: )

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The manual for these are really good, they explain what each component does instead of just getting better at soldering you learn what’s going on:

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Already listed here on the shop!

Documentation is awesome and explains every detail.
As long as you have some basic soldering skills, the VCO should be doable.
(Wish I had more time …)

I’m shopping for a nice 'scope and a lab power supply already. :innocent:

Should we start a "Help me Pick a 'Scope" thread.

It would go along with the “MoreGear New Year” thread.


Or, even worse, a “which multimeter” thread! At least with oscilloscopes you only buy a couple before settling on one !

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My first DIY build was a MFOS WSG

Easy enough to build when I barely know how to solder. I didn’t have a panel, I built it into a cookie tin and used marker to label everything. The end result isn’t super flexible but it was a pretty rewarding project, and fairly cheap.

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I just received the VCO kit. I don’t think I have the time to go all the way through to a full build but I will be doing the breadboard exercises that Moritz Klein included in the tutorial pdf.

BTW: I highly recommend downloading and giving the tutorials a read. Well written and perfect for rank beginners.

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Where Did you order? Directly at Erica?