North Coast Synthesis Ltd., Toronto-based manufacturer of electronic musical instruments, has released
its Transistor Mixer, a four-channel utility mixer for Eurorack modular synthesizers. They say that, at 6HP width, the new module is suitable for both audio and control voltage processing. Its minimalist design features only sixtransistors, but still includes extra features like offset generation, separate AC and DC outputs, and distortion.
NorthCoast module designer, Matthew Skala, told us, "We're a bit spoiled now that chips are cheap as, well, chips. People can afford to throw dozens ofintegrated transistors into even the simplest analog projects. Millions, for digital. With this one I'm trying to get back to the style of classic designs where every speck of silicon was made to really count."
The term "chips" in an audio mixer usually refers to integrated circuits containing operational amplifiers, or "op amps." An op amp chip would typically contain between ten and one hundred transistors built into a single piece of silicon. Designers use these ready-made building blocks to save time and expense in constructing larger circuits. Circuits made out of so-called discrete transistors, one at a time, require a more manual design approach with attention to every transistor.
"I'm not convinced that discrete transistors really make an audible difference," says Skala. "There's a lot of mumbo-jumbo on that issue in the audio world. But they certainly made the module fun to design and build. There's something very nice, and you can see it even in the circuit diagram, about having only a few parts and being able to describe exactly what each one of them is for."
Pricing and Availability:
North Coast sells the MSK 011 Transistor Mixer on its Web storefront for $210 Canadian including shipping (assembled module), or $140 for a do-it-yourself kit.
We hook up a bunch of synths - now where's my cape?