Review: Mini synthesizer kit

March 23, 2017 | 06:00
The contents of the kit.
Among the starter kits offered by Elektor, there are very few in recent times which are dedicated to sound production, an area of electronics which is developing rapidly.
The mini synthesizer kit reviewed here is a product from the big German publisher Franzis, historically a specialist like Elektor, with publications on electronics applications and micro computing aimed at beginners and the leisure market.

Principally, this kit is aimed at beginners (from 14 years up according to the manual) and is designed to operate without adjustments once assembled.
The kit is touted as a complete, partially assembled package, with case, keyboard and loudspeaker. How do they do it for this price?? Nothing shows clearly if it’s just a simple toy kit, with very limited musical possibilities, or if this instrument might interest the apprentice musician who has an interest in synthesizers. That’s what I wanted to find out.

A form of virtual reality

Appearance of the finished kit:
Mix of virtual and real.
The high quality cardboard packaging also acts as the case, using a proven formula to imitate real materials such as wood, screws and metal using photographic means (cf the sound meter kit presented here a few weeks ago).

It’s pretty. Even if this skeuomorphism appears a little dated, it still keeps its charm. For beginners, such a pretty front panel is encouraging, because when they start, such an attractive appearance says that the insides can’t be too bad.

The audio output stage uses
A trick worth remembering: T3.
The manual of 52 (small) pages is in German and English. It really gives all the necessary information. Including the schematic which consists of a microcontroller and several passive components and then three transistors which drive the loudspeaker and two LEDs.

As this project is not open source code the manual has only a few sentences on the main lines of code of the program, and a flowchart.

It’s better than nothing, but at the outset this kit does not pretend to show you how a music synthesizer works, nor how to modify or program it. It does not do that, but let’s see if it does what it does promise: Build your own synthesizer!
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