Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Synthesizer Build part-9: THE LFO or LOW FREQUENCY OSCILLATOR.

Before we start, this article is about my first attempt at building an LFO based on the AS3340 chip and it didn't work out very well. If you want to read about the LFO that did work then click here to go to chapter 13

The LFO is an indispensable  part of any synthesizer. It is mainly used to modulate other parts of the synth like the filters or the VCO's.
The LFO I build for my synth project is nothing more then a cut down version of the VCO based on the AS3340 chip. I left out a few things, like the high frequency track and Hard- and Soft sync options and I added an inverter for the saw tooth wave. (I was just getting into synthesizer building when I made this so I made some stupid decisions.)
The low frequency is achieved by using a 100nF capacitor from pin 11 to ground instead of the 1nF used in the VCO. You can experiment with this by using different values of caps on pin 11. In fact I made a switch in the LFO panel with a choise of a 270nF for extra Low Frequency and a 100nF for normal LFO use. The total reach is about one wave every 8 seconds to 20 waves per second.
The reverse sawtooth wave offset voltage must be set to zero volt using an oscilloscope.
Here's the layout I drew for it. The schematic is just the same as the AS3340 datasheet schematic.


Note that there is no squarewave output on this LFO. When testing this design I got so much ringing on the downward slope of the squarewave that I deemed it unuseable for LFO use. I therefore made a separate squarewave oscillator using the CD40106 design from the 8 Step Sequencer from the previous article. I made it on a piece of stripboard that simply hangs from the 100K frequency potmeter which is soldered straight to the PCB. One plus point of this approach is that you can have the squarewave going at a different frequency to the other two waveshapes which could be useful for triggering drum modules etc. Be careful that the squarewave oscillator doesn't touch the panel. When I first build it the contacts from the potmeter touched the panel and the CD40106 literally went up in smoke! My whole attic stank of magic smoke for a day! So put some gaffer tape on the contacts or the panel to be safe.


As you can see in the picture the LFO has a CV input and an FM input to control the waveforms with other modulation sources so you can create more weirdness :)
This LFO has a weird quirck that I actually like a lot. It has a bit of a beat when it dies out. When the wave dies out it doesn't do so quietly but it pops a little. I'm not sure why this is but I don't mind it. The waves consist of a negative and positive voltage part so the middle of the wave is around the zero volt line. That might have something to do with it as most of my modules work with signals from zero to plus ten volts. I don't know, but if you do please let me know what causes the plopping sound in the comments below. :) Btw, don't let this withhold you from building the LFO. It works fantastically.

[EDIT-1: Friday the 13th of December (that figures, LOL)]
I changed an output jack for a new one because it kept getting loose and I switched the panel back on and boom, up went the CD40106 again! Magic smoke (nothing magic about it in my opinion but there we are ^__^ ). So I tried fixing the ringing issue with the squarewave from the AS3340 with as result that now only the triangle wave is still working. It's going from bad to worse with this module so I think I'm going to scrap it and build one of Yusynth's LFO's. Luckily it's not a vital part of the synth but naturally you have to have a good and well working LFO in your setup. I saw a Yusynth design that can be synced to other signals which is really cool because the LFO then engages when you hit a note on the keyboard. That's what I want. So more on this later.

EDIT-2: Friday 27th of December-2019]
I tried the Yusynth LFO, in fact it was an improved design because the original has some issues with the sync pulse. A fellow member of the Synth DIY Facebook group provided a layout and schematics and I build it but I can not get it to work. I can't figure out what I did wrong but I'll get it working one day.
In the mean time I've build an LFO from a schematic I found on the MusicFromOuterSpace website.
This one has no sync option but it is a very cool LFO and a very simple design, with sine-, triangle-, sawtooth-, ramp- and squarewaves. The transition from saw to triangle to ramp is continous by means of a 50K potmeter. The wave amplitudes are +5V to -5V but I added a few opamps with DC-offset functions so I also have outputs for the sinewave and the saw-triangle-ramp waves that go from 0V to +10V.
I had a lot of trouble getting this one to work to untill I checked my symmetrical powersupply and noticed it had +1.4V and -20Volts. So it's obvious it doesn't work that way. (Btw, that is not the cause of the synchronized LFO not working.)
I'll be adding a new article about the MFOS LFO as soon as I built the panel and have it all installed so I can make some pictures or video to illustrate the article with. Stay tuned.

Okay, that's it for this one. I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any questions please put them in the comments and while you're here leave me a comment anyway please! More synth related stuff to come!


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