Friday, 12 March 2021

Synthesizer Build part-40: WAVETABLE OSCILLATOR (VCDO) By Electric Druid.

An amazing sounding digital oscillator with 16 waveforms and a sub-oscillator with 8 waveforms that spans 4 octaves. All but one of the parameters of this VCDO can be changed with external control voltages including the Bitcrush option which does not have a CV input in the original Electric Druid schematic but it has one in this build.  The Glide function doesn't have a CV input but that's not needed anyway. 

Warning: this is a big project. It needs two stripboards of the size I normally use (24x56) and my layout is definitely not Eurorack friendly. Everything needs to be shielded to prevent glitches in the main oscillator. Even the wiring of the control potmeters must be shielded.

It is possible to build a Eurorack friendly version of this VCDO on stripboard and the circuit will work fine on a dual 12 Volt powersupply but you can NOT cut these prints in half and connect them together like in other projects. You will need to make your own layout and much more compact than mine is now. However there is a smaller size layout available on the EB Facebook group files section. Check the link below the layout images under the heading 'Eurorack Layout' half way down this article.

ABOUT THE BUILD PROCESS AND PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED.
Okay, not to put you off or anything but this is the most difficult build on this entire website so if you're a beginner or you don't have the right tools, especially a fine tipped soldering iron and good soldering skills plus a good oscilloscope, then please do not attempt this. By saying this I just want to avoid disappointment. As an alternative I would advise you to just order the Klang Stadt PCB and Panel from Frequency Central. That one is in the Eurorack format which mine won't fit in to.
I foolishly started out building this module like I did with all previous ones. Just build it up on stripboard, make a panel and then wire it up and test it. Well this turned out to be too light-hearted an approach because the main oscillator sounded like a scratchy vinyl record. I couldn't get it to sound right so I wrote to Tom Wiltshire (Electric Druid) about this problem and here's what he said about it

<Quote>
"It happened a bit on the first version of the PCB I did for the Frequency Central "Waverider" module. Eventually we tracked it down to the outputs being to close to the CV inputs. Keeping tracks and wires to those apart as much as possible helps a lot. On revision 2 of the Waverider PCB I routed the inputs on one side of the PCB, and the outputs on the other and that solved the problem. It boils down to noise getting into the CV inputs. That can come from many sources but from the chips own outputs was a big cause for us."
<End quote.>

So I started out fresh and re-built the entire module. This took me three days including designing a new layout. I now decided to shield everything and to keep the controls and the CV inputs on separate boards. This turned out to be the solution because it now works like it should. Instead of wires I used pinheaders to connect the two boards together. This would be the shortest route for the signals with less chance of noise getting into the connections. I had a blank single side copper clad print in my stock so I decided to cut this print to the same size as the stripboards and mount it inbetween the two stripboards and then connect it to ground. I cut holes in it for the pinheaders to stick through and soldered upstanding copper strips around the holes to provide extra shielding for the pins. (The upstanding copper edges are a bit overkill and if you build this module, you don't really have to replicate that.)

Here's a picture of how the prints eventually fit together. I stuck 4 transparent rubber feet on top of eachother and put it between the shield print and board two to act as spacers to prevent the upstanding copper edges around the pinheaders from touching the copper traces of board two. I also put some gaffer tape on the edges to insulate them.


SCHEMATIC:
You can order the chip from Electric Druid. On that same page you will also find a link to the Datasheet with the schematics for this project. Download it and print it out.
NOTE: On the schematic, in the PDF, you will see one CV input circuit marked as "Spare CV Amount". On the page with the processor it is marked as 'Unused CV'. I don't know why it's marked like that but this is the Sub Oscillator CV Amount circuit which eventually goes into pin 18 of the processor chip. Just so you know.
If you're going to breadboard this circuit before building it up properly, don't leave any pins of the processor chip floating and make sure all the CV inputs get the voltages they need, otherwise it won't work properly.

LAYOUTS:
Below are the layouts for this project. They are all verified as usual. Not only by me but I had confirmation from a number of people who built this module successfully using the layouts below.
I'm going to give you a whole collection of layouts detailing the different steps. The Bitcrush section of this module was designed by Mike Desira, whom most of you will know from a lot of synthesizer DIY related Facebook groups. He has been a great help to me, not only in this but many other projects too. On my panel I have a Bitcrush switch to go between internal and external sources. I still had that in there from the first version so I thought I might aswell use it again. I personally prefer it to mixing the Bitcrush signals together. The layout shows both versions for the Bitcrush option, without switch and in dotted lines with switch. Mike did away with the switch in his design. Instead you do need to open the internal Bitcrush potmeter for the CV potmeter to work. The signals are mixed together in an opamp and inverted. 

Here's a schematic drawing of Mike's solution. On the right is the version with a switch to go between internal or external bitcrush as indicated with dotted lines on the layout wiring diagram. 

EDIT: Until the 8th of June 2021 I had a second inverter stage in the Bitcrush circuit but this turned out to be a mistake so I have corrected the circuit and all the relevant layouts. So if you built this VCDO before the 8th of June 2021 and your Bitcrush section isn't working, check it against the new layouts and make the necessary changes. It's a matter of changing two resistors and a wirebridge to bypass that second opamp. The second opamp must be properly connected to ground, which it is in the layouts.
 



The de-coupling capacitors are mostly not included in the layout. I soldered those straight to the pins of the IC's on the copper side. So get yourself some small ceramic 100nF caps and solder them on, on the copper side, to pins 4 and 8 of the TL072's. The processor chip has a 100nF cap in the layout already. 
I also put 100nF caps over all the inputs of the processor chip. With the previous version of this board, when I was troubleshooting it, I soldered 100nF caps over the inputs and this seemed to improve the input signals a lot. Before I did that the signals had little spikes on them when viewed on my oscilloscope and after I put in the caps these spikes were gone. So I used this idea in this version, eventhough these caps are not in the Electric Druid schematic. They are included in the bill of materials. The de-coupling caps, soldered directly onto the chips on the copper side, are not included in the bill of materials.

Here is the wiring diagram for this project. The wires coming from the wipers of the top right five potmeters to pins 1, 2, 3, 7 and 8 of the processor must be shielded wires. The outer shielding must be connected to ground but only on one side. The easiest solution is to connect the outer braiding of each wire to the ground pin of the respective potmeter.


(Last revised: 9-June-2021 Removed second inverter stage from the Bitcrush section and tied off the second opamp to ground. 12-June-2021: Reversed polarity of top capacitor (+5V to Gnd) )

The two stripboards are mounted with the copper sides towards eachother. The pinheaders are soldered straight to the copper sides of the stripboards. In between them is mounted the blank single-sided copperclad print (shield print) with holes for the pinheaders to stick through. It will help with soldering on the female pinheader sockets if you bend the pins 90 degrees. Makes it easier to solder them in place. But be careful, they are fragile. 
Drill two holes at the bottom of this shield board, at the same distance as the mounting holes of the two stripboards, for the M3 mounting bolts to go through. Make sure the copper side of the shield-print is facing the copper strips of stripboard Two and facing away from the main board with the processor on it. We will mount the shield print with the non-copper side touching the copper strips of the Main Board and the copper-side towards the copper strips of Board Two and we don't want any short circuits :)

Here's the main board. You can leave out the 10K resistor over the output of the 7905 voltage regulator. This resistor is there because some regulators only work well if they are presented with a load on the output but the circuit itself is enough of a load usually:


(Last revised: 23-April-2021: Corrected mistake with C2 (330pF) which went to pin 3 instead of pin 1 of IC-1 like it should. 9-June-2021: Removed colour-code striping from all resistors for clarity. 12-June-2021: Reversed polarity of top capacitor (+5V to Gnd))

Board Two with the CV Inputs on them and the Bitcrush circuit by Mike Desira. (Updated version without second inverter for Bitcrush option; 8-June-2021):


(Last revised: 8-June-2021: took out 2nd inverter stage for Bitcrush option.)

In the layout of board two you can see 10 Schottky Diodes. These, together with the 4K7 resistors, are there to protect the inputs of the processor chip from voltages that exceed the +/-5 Volt limit for CV voltages.
The two voltage regulators are the big TO220 packages and they don't need heatsinks. The current going through them is so low they won't even warm up. You can also use the smaller 'L' types that look like a little transistor but I used the big ones because that's what I had in stock. If you use the big ones, make sure the backsides don't touch eachother, otherwise you'll get a short circuit.

Here's an overview of the cuts, wirebridges and the positions of the pinheaders. I used a double row of pinheaders to make sure I got good contact and to make sure it doesn't get loose. Mark each cut on the component side of the print with a felt pen or a Sharpy. Then stick a needle through the marked hole and mark it again on the copper side. Then make the cuts. This is the most accurate way to do it.

MAIN BOARD, CUTS and WIREBRIDGES - COMPONENT SIDE:


BOARD TWO, CUTS and WIREBRIDGES - COMPONENT SIDE:


(Last revised: 17-March-2021: Corrected a cut at the powersupply pinheader. 9-June-2021: Tied off second opamp of Bitcrush section because that stage has been removed.)

And finally a view of the cuts and the position of the pinheaders seen from the copper side of the print where they actually need to be soldered on and, obviously, where the cuts need to be made.
MAIN BOARD, CUTS and PINHEADERS - COPPER SIDE:


BOARD TWO, CUTS and PINHEADERS - COPPER SIDE:


(Last revised: 17-March-2021: Corrected a cut at the powersupply pinheader.)

Bill of Materials:


Note: the pinheaders are not included in the bill of materials. You can order them in strips of 40 pins long. Make sure you get both the male and female versions and order ten strips of 40 pins. They cost pennies and are always handy to have in stock.
Here's the link to a listing on BangGood that has the same ones I used. These are female ones but the male ones are also listed on the same page. Order some of both:

EURORACK LAYOUT:
There is a smaller size layout available in the files section of the 'Eddy Bergman Projects Discussion and Help' Facebook page made by Markus Möbius. He used it to build his VCDO and based it on my layout but just made it more compact and he used single rows of pinheaders. His VCDO works fine. Look for the file name ED_VCDO.diy  It's a DIYLC project file. The layout doesn't have any potmeter and socket connections so you have to reference it with mine to get that sorted out.

DEMO VIDEO:
Here's a demo video with a look at the functions and the different sounds/waveforms you can get from this digital oscillator. When you start mixing the two outputs together, you can get some awesome sounds. If you then put it through a filter it starts sounding really amazing. That's in the last bit of the video. Btw, the mixing together of the Main Oscillator and the Sub Oscillator is done with the 4 channel mixer/passive attenuator from article 17.
For some reason my YouTube embedded videos don't show up on mobile devices anymore. Please go to my YouTube channel if you can't see the video here.


Here's an other video, not by me, that I found on YouTube with a 12 minute demo of the Frequency Central Waverider module, which is the same as the module I built here. The subtitles are in what I think is Spanish though.



PICTURES OF THE BUILD PROCESS:
Here are some shots I took whilst building the latest version of this module. In the top picture you can see the green ground wire soldered to the shield print. This is connected to the ground of the powersupply. You can also see I put some tape over the copper edges to insulate them electrically should they touch the copper of board two. If you use upstanding edges then look out not to make them too tall. If they are taller than the pinheaders they will touch the copper strips of Board Two and cause short circuits!. So make sure they are not too tall and use tape over them to be extra sure they can't cause short circuits.


I also made cuts in the corners of the upstanding edges so I can bend some of it out of the way when connecting the two boards together. They obstruct the view of the pinheaders making it difficult to align the two boards correctly. After connecting the two boards I can bend the copper back up and leave it like that.

In the next picture you can see the preparations I took before soldering on the pinheaders. I applied some solder inbetween all the holes and on the pins themselves too. This way I had only to touch them with the soldering iron and the solder would flow and connect them to the copper strip. Then I would add some more solder to make sure the connections were nice and stirdy and I checked the continuity between the strips to make sure there were no short circuits.





In the middle picture you can see the shield print as I call it, mounted inbetween the two stripboards. All the orange wires in the bottom picture are shielded wires. The outer braiding of these wires must be connected to ground but only at one end of the wire. If you connect both ends to ground you can get ground loops with all sorts of problems. I connected the shielding of the wires to the ground connection of the potmeters they are connected to. On the other side of the wires I cut off the outer copper braiding and put a little piece of shrink tubing on to prevent little individual wires from the outer braiding sticking out and contacting other components by accident. (You never know). The prints are connected to the panel by two copper L-Brackets with thin M3 bolts through them, 3 centimeters long. The order of mounting is as follows: Bolt goes through the main board first, then the shield print, then a plastic spacer, then the L-Bracket, then a plastic ring to prevent the L-Bracket from touching the copper of Board Two and then through Board Two. Then I put a ring and a nut on it.

Here's a look at the panel I made for this module. The mix-up of colours of the knobs is intentionally done, I assure you =). The yellow is for control functions and the red knobs are for CV Input levels. Make sure when designing a panel, that you make the two wave selection potmeters, those connected to pins 3 and 7 of the processor chip, your main controls on the panel. Not the frequency controls as is usual with normal VCO's. This is not a normal VCO ^___^. I took my inspiration for designing the layout of the panel from the Klang Stadt version from Frequency Central.



Here's the Wavetable Oscillator next to my two Thomas Henry VCO's. A killer combination!


Here's how I prepared the potmeters on the panel before I connected them to the prints. I soldered in all the 1K resistors and 100nF capacitors and made all the ground connections for the potmeters when I still had access to them. Then I soldered in the wires with the prints laying loose on top of the panel starting with the shielded wires first because they are the bulkiest. 


I made two L-Brackets from some thick copper sheeting I had lying around. You can or course use any metal to make your own L-Brackets or even buy them ready made. Make sure non of it contacts the prints' copper side. I used home made plastic rings to insulate the print from the L-Brackets.
Here's a picture of how I made the first version of this module with much too long wiring and unshielded prints. This did not work so don't copy this!!




TUNING THE VCDO:
Tuning was quite a difficult operation. This is mainly due to the fact that the oscillator quantizes the incoming 1V/Oct signal. But this does have the advantage that once you get the tuning right, it'll be rock solid over many octaves (I got it tuned over 7 octaves in about 15 minutes). 
Because the tuning trimmers are a bit fiddly I put in two of them on advise from Mike Desira. One for normal tuning (20K multiturn) and one for fine tuning (2K multiturn). I also used the Offset control potmeter in the tuning process. This is a normal 20K potmeter, not a multiturn. 
Before you start tuning, set the frequency potmeters on the panel in the 12 o'clock position. 
It was a trial and error kinda process but, like I said, after about 15 minutes I had the VCDO tuned over 7 octaves. You just need to try this and develop a feel for it. I can't give you a procedure for tuning. Make sure you use all the potmeters in this process. The Offset, the tuning trimmers and also the main Frequency control on the panel (not the finetune one).
At one point I had it tuned and tracking nicely only the lowest few notes were way off. I used the offset trimmer and retuned until I also had those low notes in tune and then it suddenly was tracking fine over the 7 octaves of my M-Audio keyboard. You just have to experiment until you get it right.

This is an amazing sounding oscillator. It's got 16 different waveforms in the main oscillator and an other 8 with 4 different octaves in the sub oscillator. You can connect both to a mixer and mix the two signals together and you get some awesome results!! All parameters can be externally changed with control voltages, except for the Glide control. You don't really need CV control on that.

Here's an overview of the 16 waveforms from the main oscillator. The waves all merge and flow over into eachother so there's no stepping between waves so really you have a lot more waveforms inbetween these, but these are the 16 main waves:


And here are the 8 waveforms from the sub-oscillator. Each of these waves is present in 4 different octaves. (The last image on the bottom right is aan example of a Bitcrushed wave with Bitcrush set half way.) The waves from the sub-oscillator do not merge from one to the other. As you turn the Sub Oscillator knob you'll get a waveform at the lowest octave and as you turn more clockwise the octaves will go up in 4 steps until it reaches the 4th octave and then it switches to the next waveform, again at the lowest octave. Then the cycle repeats. So this all happens in definite steps.


You can find the original DIYLC Layout file in the 'Files' section of the EddyBergman FaceBook group.

Okay, that's it for now. All in all not so much a difficult build but a very labour intensive build number 40. I will take it easy with the building for the coming months now. I really need to build a new case because I already built 7 modules for which I have no space. I'm also out of a lot of vital components so I need to replenish my stock which will take some time on my budget.

Okay, thanks for stopping by here. If you like what you see and you would like to support my projects and the upkeep of this website, you can support me by buying me a coffee. There's a button for that underneath the main menu if you're on a PC or a Mac. Otherwise you can use this PayPal Me link. All donations go towards the purchase of new components for future projects. Thank you!!

If you have any questions, please put them in the comments below or post them in the special Facebook Group for this website. There are a lot of expert people there who can help you, or at least try :)

DISCLAIMER: The author of this article does not accept any responsability for the correct functioning of this, and any other, module/project on this website. What you build, you build at your own risk. All project layouts are thoroughly tested before publication, it's up to you to replicate them and the author can not be held responsable for any mistakes made.

11 comments:

  1. Where do you get your stripboards from? I've never seen that size before.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can get them from eBay or AliExpress. Here's a link: https://www.ebay.nl/itm/5-Pcs-6-5x14-5cm-Stripboard-Veroboard-Uncut-PCB-Platine-Single-Side-Circuit-/174269217451?hash=item2893413aab

      Delete
  2. hey eddy, i´m building this oneright now! for the 330pf and 150pf caps i only have ceramic. can use them? greetings matthäus

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, it is not stated in the Electric Druid datasheet what caps you can use so I expect you can use ceramics. If not, it would have been mentioned. They are used for filters but they are digital filter so I guess it's okay. Try it and see what happens.

      Delete
  3. Hi Eddy, I'm trying to join the Facebook group but having a little trouble. I'm having a bit of trouble with this blog comments page too, so you may get a similar message twice. I've just seen your Facebook post about getting requests to join the group from accounts that are just a few hours old and fear that may be referring to me. Being in my mid 50s, I've avoided Facebook up to now and have only joined purely for the purpose of joining your group. I'm finding Facebook a bit tricky to navigate having not used it before so I thought I could hopefully reach out to you here. I can assure you I am genuine and my request to join the Facebook group is sincere. I'm trying to get a little help with an Electric Druid VCDO build in Eurorack format and a stripboard layout. I'm having the noise problems that you mentioned with mine too.
    Thanks, Dave.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Okay Dave, sorry you got caught up in the spam protection measures. Try joining again and I will aprove you. But I'm getting a load of requests from accounts that have no info on them, so I'm naturally suspisious of them. But try again and I'll get you in.

      Delete
    2. I had a look in my requests archive but it only mentions a David Wallis requesting to join 8 hours ago. I take it this is not you? Anyway, try again. I don't know in what timezone you are and I'm about to switch off for the night here so there might be a little wait involved but I'll get it sorted.

      Delete
  4. Hi Eddy, thanks for your quick reply. Yes, Dave Wallis is me. The Morbius surname on this message was just a pseudonym as I've never really used these kind of message boards before and not too sure how secure they are. The Morbius is a reference to my YouTube account 'morbius claw' where I've uploaded a few of my home brew synths and circuit bending experiments.
    I'm in the UK, so I'll request to join the group again tomorrow morning.
    Thanks again,
    Dave

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I still had your request in my archive and I aproved it so you should have access to the group now. ;)

      Delete