Portable kit for working from home

If you’re looking for portable or non-rack gear to work from home during this crisis, a few suggestions below

I have a Circuit Mono Station arriving soon – that’s guaranteed to spark a few ideas and it’s a great antidote to sitting in front of a screen & clicking a mouse

The Waldorf Blofeld is a synth with lots of depth – definitely worth the time to get to know it. A product of synth pioneer Wolfgang Palm

Keyboards, Synth Modules & Groove Boxes

Novation Circuit Mono Station – excellent groovebox / sequencer with a built-in mono synth
Novation K Station keyboard synth – portable synth with 2.5-octave keyboard
Waldorf Blofeld Synth module (black) – multitimbral, polyphonic, wavetable synth module from German wizards Waldorf


Alesis Micro Limiter (recapped & modified) – portable drum smasher / variable ratio limiter
Really Nice Compressor – the definitive Nice compressor
Really Nice Limiting Amplifier – Nice with a bit more colour to it
Alesis Nano Compressor – more smashing from Alesis, far more capable than you might think


Boss CE-1 Chorus – the definitive chorus
Boss Voice Transformer – for vocal effects & vocoding
Boss RCE-10 Chorus – later Boss Chorus, still excellent
Boss RPH-10 Phaser – cult phaser – expensive but great
Waldorf 2-Pole Analog Filter – stand-alone filter from Waldorf
Alesis Nanoverb – portable, easy and the gated reverb is fantastic
Alesis Microverb 2 – more Alesis portable reverbiness

Vocoder Obsession

Vocoder Obsession isn’t recognised by the medical profession as an illness but, if you have it, you’ll know the symptom: an irrational desire to buy hardware to make robot noises

Luckily for you, Dr Vocoder is here, ready to prescribe & dispense treatment…


Voocoder Chronology

Year Name
1977 EMS 3000
1978 Korg VC10
Sennheiser VSM201
Electro-Harmonix EH-0300 Vocoder
1979 Roland SVC350
Roland VP330
Bode 7702
Moog Vocoder
Synton Syntovox 221
1981 Synton Syntovox 222
Dynacord SRV66
Echolette SEV66
1986 Korg DVP-1
1987 Roland VP70
1988 Krok 2401
1990 Electronica EM26
1992 Korg Wavestation A/D
1996 Boss VT-1 Voice Transformer
1997 FAT PCP330 Procoder
MAM VF-11 Vocoder
1998 Quasimidi SIRIUS
1999 Electrix Warp Factory Vocoder
2000 Korg MS2000/2000B
Korg MS2000R/BR
Prosoniq Orange
2001-ish Doepfer A129 system
2002 Logic EVOC20
2003 Korg microKORG
NI Vokator
2005 Analog Lab X32
2006 Korg Radias
2010 Electro-Harmonix V256 Vocoder
Undated Sky Soundlab Voice Spectra
© 2020 BN1studio.

Basic list from a Sound on Sound feature via a web forum post. Updated & expanded February 2020

Forum snippets
Vintage synth Explorer “Best Vocoder”

Sound samples
Not all these are vocoder effects but you get the idea…

Chorus Pedals & Rack Effects

Chorus pedals & rack effects are great devices for widening sounds & giving movement in the stereo field. Each one is different and they all have their strengths & weaknesses so, to cover all the bases, I used to buy every one I liked the sound of. Top of the tree – as ever – was the Boss CE-1, closely followed by the Dimension D

Chorus may be out of fashion with some people in 2019 but, for the chorus lovers out here, see my Top Ten and my list of items in stock

Chorus & Phaser pedals & rackmounts in stock:

dbx 900 Series Racks & Modules

dbx 900 Series Rack & Modules

In the early 1980s dbx introduced the 900 Series, a modular processing system using a 3U chassis with built-in power supply. Sound familiar? Yes, it’s one of the progenitors of the 500 rack system

One of the few manufacturers that supported the dbx system was Aphex – now a player in the 500 Series market with both racks & modules

The 900 Series had (at least) two racks

  • FS900, 1U, two-module, self-powered rack
  • F900A , 3U, eight-module, self-powered rack

Compatible modules included

  • 902 De-Esser
  • 903 Compressor
  • 904 Noise Gate
  • 905 Parametric Equaliser
  • 906 Flanger
  • 907 Stereo Gated Compressor Slave
  • 911 Type I Noise Reduction
  • 941A Type II Noise Reduction
  • 942A Type II Noise Reduction
  • 929 Hiss Reducer
  • 993 Mixer module
  • Aphex Compellor 9301
  • Aphex Dominator II 9721
  • Aphex Expressor 9651
  • Aphex Aural Exciter
  • Aphex Equaliser
  • BBE 702


I have a number of 900 Series items in my workshop queue and will update this page when I have more information & photos

Preservation Sound has more info on the 900 Series plus a download link for the original marketing material. More info here

A few forum links & threads for research:

The DBX 900 Series





Valley People Dyna-Mite

A piece of gear that caught my attention early on at Eden Studios was a Valley People Dyna-Mite. Housed in an ugly beige plastic case it stacked two channels of Dynamite in a very small package. Despite looking like a toy, it proved to be a huge-sounding device capable of eye-widening compression. A year later, at Sarm East, I discovered the epically-wonderful Allison Research Gain Brain, a masterpiece of savage compression & distortion

Later on I discovered the shared heritage of these two items, and the story of their creator, Paul Buff. His story has been written about online already and there’s a longer piece here, and more here, so no need to duplicate it

I’ve been working my way through the Valley back catalogue, buying & restoring these remarkable compressors. In the list below, everything with an underlined link is either in stock, or sold previously, and has a description with detailed photos. If you want an unvarnished opinion on the merits of the various models, email me

Significant pieces of Valley gear, in approximate chronological order, include:


Allison Research

Photo Credits: © Universal Audio & © The Telos Alliance

Hail the Effectron!

I’m a bit of a Deltalab fan. The first one I used was an Acousticomputer – it was rubbish, but very entertaining rubbish. The later Effectrons really hit the spot and, even now, are great tools for warping & twisting sounds

I am collecting Deltalab & Effectron info together on this page so check back for updates!

Some items have a PDF link to a user manual or catalogue or a schematic

Product links & Info


Super Time Line

Other Deltalab kit


Random weblinks

Preservation Sound


TapeOp forum



Music Electronics Forum


DeltaLab Effectron, I, II, III ADM (Blue) Digital Delays From The 80’s (what I know so far)

Youtube Demos


Youtube demo (weird noises mainly)


Period adverts


Effectron – PDF

Effectron II – PDF

Effectron Ad 1 –

Effectron Ad 2 –

Effectron I - II - III features

Effectron I – II – III features

Effectron Ad 2

Misc SR-JV80 links & info

A growing collection of miscellaneous info about Roland SR-JV80 synths such as the JV-1080


Roland synth modules for sale



SR-JV80 expansion boards for sale



List of expansion boards



Compatibility Guide for expansion boards



Roland main SR-JV80 page



Don Solaris



Gearslutz Favourite SR-JV80 expansion boards poll



Nathan Sheldon patches



Soundprogramming.net page


Dolby Noise Reduction

Professional Dolby Noise Reduction

Dolby A noise reduction (NR) was used on millions of 16- and 24-track 2″ multitracks and 2-track masters. It’s a 4-band compander which boosts levels on recording, and compensates on playback, thereby reducing noise

Dolby SR, the successor to Dolby A, offered around 10 dB more noise reduction. Tapes encoded with SR require an SR card for decoding

Domestic Dolby Noise Reduction

Dolby B was a domestic NR commonly used on cassette recorders. In many ways a simplified version of Dolby A, B was s single-band NR system, boosting high frequencies on record and reducing them on playback. As with Dolby A, B required accurate level & frequency response matching for best results. It had the happy by-product of making B-encoded tapes sound brighter on non Dolby-equipped playback systems

Dolby C and Dolby S were later domestic systems

Professional Dolby hardware

Dolby hardware separates the host and NR card. The host typically provides audio input / outputs (via transformers on the 361), power supplies and remote switching whilst the NR card performs audio functions only

Dolby produced hundreds of card types for audio, film, broadcast & etc. In single- and dual-channel models these fell into two main categories, first- & second-generation models.The noise reduction specification (A, SR, etc) remained constant across hardware generations but cards & hosts are not interchangeable between generations as Dolby changed connector standards

First-generation hardware (supports Cat 22 (A) and Cat 280 (SR) cards)

  • 360 – single-channel interface in 1U
  • 361 – single-channel, updated version of the 360
  • 362 – dual-channel in 1U, electronically balanced, front-panel trims
  • 365 – dual channel in 2U, electronically balanced, front-panel trims

Second-generation hardware (supports Cat 350 (SR), Cat 450 (A) and Cat 300 (SR / A) cards

  • 363 – dual-channel in 1U, supports SR & A

For multitrack systems Dolby produced the ubiquitous M16 (16-channel) rack and the later 8-channel expansion. The M16 used standard Cat 22 cards with separate Cat 44H i/o interface cards. The M16 was superceded by the 24-channel XP24 SR rack


More info from Sound on Sound


Reverbs & Effects for sale are here

Page under construction

Before there were digital reverbs there were reverb plates, springs, mechanical reverbs  and – of course – reverb chambers

A reverb chamber is a simple idea – take an empty room, fit a speaker and a pair of microphones and create natural reverb. It’s simple in theory, and hard to do in practice, but there were (and are) some great chambers in larger studios

The plate reverbs was invented by EMT in 1957 and used a suspended steel plate with a transducer and a pickup (later, two pickups for “stereo”). The transducer energised the plate and reverberation was created by the sound waves travelling around the plate. Plate reverbs are still in use, and in production, 61 years later

In the late 1970s EMT began research into digital processes to quantify & generate reverberation. This led to the 1976 EMT 250, still one of the most feted reverbs in the world

The other pioneering reverb company at that time was Lexicon in Waltham, Mass. Lexicon and EMT had one thing in common – Dr Barry Blesser, a founder of Lexicon and designer of the 250 for EMT.

EMT had a background in broadcast and high-end audio products whereas Lexicon was a typical high-tech company which grew in the shadow of MIT


Reverb Top Ten

  1. Lexicon 480L
  2. Lexicon 224XL
  3. EMT 240
  4. Lexicon 224
  5. EMT 250
  6. AMS RMX16
  7. Lexicon PCM70
  8. EMT 244
  9. Quantec QRS/L


Equalisers for sale are listed here

In theory, equalisation is one of the simplest audio tasks. That doesn’t stop there being thousands of EQs to choose from, using hundreds of different approaches to a couple of of basic topologies

The earliest equalisers were used to flatten the frequency response of fixed telephone lines. They were typically LC (Inductor / Capacitor) equalisers followed by a valve gain make-up stage. They were designed for permanent equalisation and would have a fixed HF boost matched to the line

The advent of equalisation in sound recording and cinema audio playback led to variable equalisers like the legendary Pultec EQP-1A. The development of transistors led to equalisers with more frequency bands and greater flexibility

Cost is a big factor. Cheap EQs can work well but are likely to be limited in flexibility and precision. They are also unlikely to be easy & enjoyable to work with

At the other end of the scale, high-end equalisers like the GML 8200 and Massive Passive offer great flexibility, accuracy & repeatability – at a price

The middle ground is where the price / performance ratio works best. Great affordable, usable EQs include

Equaliser Top Ten

  1. GML 8200
  2. Pultec EQP-1A
  3. Massive Passive
  4. Neve 8108 console EQ
  5. Klein & Hummel UE400

Honourable mentions

Roland Boutique SE-02

Roland has partnered with Studio Electronics to produce an analogue synth with all the facilities of a modern digital synth. It sounds great in this clip

OSCAR – Open Source Console for Analogue Recording

A recent idea inspired by the success of the 500-Series format and the continuing popularity of analogue consoles. OSCAR is a an open platform for building analogue consoles, based on buckets of eight channels with simple metalwork and – as far as possible – standard parts

One possible path is to size the bucket so that 500-Series modules can slot right in. They’re 1.5″ wide as standard. Other options include modules 2″ wide (actually 50.8 mm). This fits in with the Eurocard standard

Both 500-Series and Eurocard have a standard 3U (5.25″) module height, but Eurocard also allows for a 6U (10.5″) standard which is a far more usable size for a channel strip

I don’t see 500 modules as the perfect solution. A taller channel strip would allow greater flexibility and reduce cost and allow the format a wider appeal

Metalwork represents a sizeable proportion of the total cost of a console but it’s possibly the most difficult thing for DIY builders to create. Constructing a console out of standard parts, each built to close tolerances and with a good finish, would leave the DIY builder free to concentrate on electronics

There’s a thread running about the idea over on the Group DIY Forum



First sketch of OSCAR


First sketch of metalwork ideas









DIY Audio Electronics


Hand-built Neumann W492 Stereo Equaliser clone

DIY Audio Electronics

There’s lots of interest in DIY projects at the moment. Many pieces of vintage gear have been recreated and schematics, circuit boards, bills of material (BOMs) and build logs abound

I have a number of projects underway – probably too many – and locating components is a major part of the build process. Below is a list of links to some of the better known resources

In a later blog post I’ll detail some of the more popular DIY projects


GroupDIY Forum
A friendly forum with some real experts on hand

diyAudio Forum
Rather more esoteric forum with a wider purview


Audio Maintenance Ltd
UK-based parts supplier, also high-quality kits. AMEK specialist. Authorised Penny & Giles sales & service

Hairball Audio
US-based kit & parts supplier

Prolific designer, DIY creator, forum contributor

Jacob Erland’s boutique pro-audio manufacturer, also has DIY project info

Schaeffer AG
German enclosure & front panel manufacturer

German case manufacturer, specifically for DIY projects

Italian case & enclosure manufacturer

Front Panel Designer
Software to design front panels, suitable for printing & engraving

Component Suppliers

Mouser – big selection, items ship from the USA
Mouser – big selection, items ship from the USA
Farnell – expensive but efficient
CPC Farnell – cheaper consumer version of above but the same company
Rapid Electronics – useful UK-based seller
Rapid Electronics – useful UK-based seller
RS Components – formerly the UK market leader
TME – European distributor with a wode range
Don Audio – kits & DIY parts
Distrelec – pan-European / Worldwide distributor
DIY-Tubes – online valve (tube) supplier

Roland SR-JV80 Expansion Boards

Roland produced a wide range of expansion boards for the JV-Series synths. These came in two varieties: SR-JV80 internal expansion boards and SO-PCM data cards

Many of the SR-JV80 boards were developed in conjunction with Spectrasonics, a company set up to sample sounds & map them across a keyboard

Some of these expansion cards were outside the traditional numbering scheme and were only sold bundled with keyboards. Below is a list of Roland board numbers & names with links to items in our shop

A list of all expansion boards for sale is here

SR-JV80 internal boards

SR-JV-01 Pop
SR-JV-02 Orchestral
SR-JV-03 Piano
SR-JV-04 Vintage Synth
SR-JV-05 World
SR-JV-06 Dance
SR-JV-07 Super Sound Set
SR-JV-08 Keyboards of the 60s and 70s
SR-JV-09 Session
SR-JV-10 Bass & Drums
SR-JV-11 Techno Collection
SR-JV-12 Hip Hop Collection
SR-JV-13 Vocal Collection
SR-JV-14 World Collection Asia
SR-JV-15 Special FX Collection
SR-JV-16 Orchestral 2
SR-JV-17 Country
SR-JV-18 Latin
SR-JV-19 House
SR-JV80-96 World Collection Latin
SR-JV80-97 Experience III
SR-JV80-98 Experience II
SR-JV80-99 Experience


SO-PCM external data cards

SO-PCM1-01 Piano Selections
SO-PCM1-02 Guitar and Brass
SO-PCM1-03 Rock Drums
SO-PCM1-04 Grand Piano
SO-PCM1-05 Accordion
SO-PCM1-06 Baroque
SO-PCM1-07 Orchestral FX
SO-PCM1-08 County/Folk/Bluegrass


For more information on SR-JV synths see here

1176 / 8 Compressor Ideas


Original render with old Urei 1176 knob design & VU meters

Hans on the GroupDIY Forum posted an idea for a multichannel compressor based on the 1176 reboot by Gyraf

Enthused by the idea, here is my rendering of an 8-channel version in a 3U case. I call it the 1176 / 8

I quickly (and, looking at it again, fairly inaccurately) modelled an 1176 input knob for the bottom of the panel to get the genuine 1176 vibe. The meter is a generic VU meter, 48 wide x 40 tall, designed to fit in a 1U case. The other knobs are Sifam 14 mm

After playing with dimensions, and mocking up a front panel with real knobs, it became obvious that there’s insufficient space for a meter in a 3U version. Then I had a brainwave – why not use a separate, optional meter bridge in a 1U box? So here it is

1176/8 version 4 with separate meter bridge

1176/8 version 4 with redrawn UREI input knobs and separate meter bridge

See the thread here


Gyraf site



Compressors for sale are listed here

Compressors are odd things. Some see them as a way of controlling levels, of preventing overloads and as a utility device for audio. Others see them as the ultimate tool for changing dynamics, for creating excitement and for their audible effect

I fall into camp #2. For me they are like temporal equalisers – a good compressor lets you change the dynamic shape of sound in a way that nothing else can

After spending some time with the Empirical Labs Fatso and Distressor, my Favourite Compressor list has been revised to make a Top Ten. And there are plenty of compressors in my list of recapped & refurbished devices

Compressor Top Ten

  1. UREI 1176
  2. UREI LA-2A
  3. dbx 160XT
  4. SSL 4000E Bus Compressor
  5. Fatso EL7X
  6. Distressor EL8X
  7. Valley People Dynamite
  8. Gain Brain
  9. dbx 163X
  10. FMR Really Nice Compressor


1. UREI 1176

Nothing sounds like an 1176 – it’s a one-off, a freak, an outlier – and that’s why it’s stood the test of time. For vocals and bass guitar, nothing betters it for a punchy, aggressive sound. Set it for a fairly slow attack, fastest release and 4:1 compression then just ramp up the input level till the vocal sits where you want it. A little tweak on the attack time, a hint of EQ and job done


In some ways the polar opposite of the 1176, the LA-2A is a more laid-back device with markedly slower attack & release times. It’s amazing when just tickling a signal but also shines when driven hard. It’s a subtler device overall and more about final polish than pure attitude

3. dbx 160XT

If, like me, you must tweak attack & release times to suit tempo & dynamics then, in theory, the 160XT falls at the first hurdle. It has no attack or release controls, just threshold & ratio, and the only other option is an Over-Easy / Hard Knee switch. Fortunately for the 160XT, theory is dead wrong – it’s a hard-charging, attitude-loaded punk of a compressor that’s as subtle as a car crash. The 160XT won’t work in every situation but, every time it does, you’ll wonder how you lived without one

4. SSL 4000E Bus Compressor

The SSL 4000E came with a four-channel VCA compressor as standard across the Quad Bus output of the console. It’s a magic switch which, when pressed, opens up a whole new universe of sound. As heard on 95% of all hit records from 1985 to 2000, the SSL Bus Compressor is really rather good

5. Empirical Labs Fatso EL7X

The Full Analogue Tape Simulator and Optimiser is a combined compressor / harmonic generator designer to warm up spikey digital sources. It’s fantastic

6. Empirical Labs Distressor EL8X Compressor

The best-selling Distressor combines traditional compression styles with super-modern controls & massive flexibility

7. Valley People Dynamite

As its name suggests, the Dynamite exists to smash things to pieces, violently and comprehensively. It’s capable of the most pumping, squashing compression you’ve ever heard but still manages to maintain fidelity while doing it. Designed by Paul Buff, the Dynamite has a raft of devious sidechain filters, keys, RMS / Peak switches & etc and can be used as a gate / expander. Always a nightmare to set up, the Dynamite is nevertheless utterly brilliant

8. Allison Research Gain Brain

More insane compression from Paul Buff. Loud, nasty & vicious

9. dbx 163X

Filthy, dirty, nasty compression with loads of vibe. I love it

10. FMR RNC Really Nice Compressor

Clean, cheap, effective, brilliant

Honourable mentions

A few other compressors deserve an honourable mention for their notoriety, amazingness or sheer subtlety

  • SSL 4000E channel compressor – can be setup to be the best de-esser you’ll ever hear
  • Orban 424A Gated Compressor Limiter – Mojo, mojo, mojo. Smooth & tasty like honey
  • UREI / JBL 7110 Compressor – punchy, adaptable, ballsy compressor from the Masters of the Compression Universe
  • Aphex Dominator – unusual, inaudible in operation, brilliant
  • SPL DynaMaxx 9735 – very, very subtle, can be inaudible in operation, brilliant
  • Aphex Compellor – confusing, inaudible in operation, brilliant
  • Fairchild 670 – extraordinary mojo machine
  • Alesis 3630 – hard to get it in the sweet spot, but it’s quite a piece of kit for the money
  • dbx 160 (wooden box) – a true classic. The 160XT is a descendant and, IMHO, a better compressor
  • dbx 160SL – the flagship dbx is a powerhouse of super-clean compression
  • Valley People 610 stereo compressor – rare, wonderful, super-fast compressor. Wish I’d kept the one I sold!


Chorus Pedals

Chorus pedals – how can you not love them? They’re so raw, so unpolished, so direct, so easy to fiddle with…

I love using chorus pedals when mixing as they sit the sound in a different perspective to that created by a plugin or a polished, hi-tech piece of outboard gear. I have a decent collection of chorus pedals (see chorus pedals in my shop), and have owned quite a few more, but some stand out more than others

The Revised Flanger / Chorus Hall of Fame


1=.Marshall Time Modulator

1=.Boss Chorus CE-1

3. Roland Dimension D

4. Eventide Flanger

5. AMS Flanger

6. Moog MF Flange

7. Yamaha SPX90 Symphonic


1=. Marshall Time Modulator

The brainchild of maverick audio designer Stephen St Croix, the MTM is a baffling, brilliant piece of art that confuses & confounds even as it excites & amazes the ears. Also known as the Marshall Time Waster – due to the time it takes to get anything useful out of it – this is none-the-less the best time-based effects device ever built

1=. Boss CE-1

What allows the CE-1 to sit at the top of the list? Not because it’s a swirly, deep, flangey chorus – it’s not. It’s subtle, smooth, refined & rather special. It adds depth and subtle movement, making it superb for widening keyboard pads and giving depth to a mix. It does all this without any downsides at all – it’s quiet (or quiet enough), mains-powered so no batteries to worry about, and absolutely incapable of sounding bad

3. Roland Dimension D

The Dimension D sits in a class of its own at the top of the rack-mounted chorus tree. It’s super-simple device with four settings, each of which seems to be perfect, but there is always one slightly more perfect than the rest. Again, it’s not a deep, swirly device, but does a wonderful job of adding subtle movement and widening sounds

4. Eventide Flanger

Eventide is one of my favourite manufacturers. They haven’t made a bad piece of gear since they started in New York in 1971. The Eventide Flanger, and it’s sister, the Phaser, are old-school rack devices which will do deep, resonant flanging, subtle movement and anything in between. My favourite trick is to feed the whole mix though it, slowly cross-fade with the original mix and switch back on a downbeat. Sounds great on the radio, sounds amazing on headphones

5. AMS Flanger

If you could imagine a slightly more British, slightly more buttoned-down version of the Eventide, you’d get something like the AMS. Great audio quality, very smooth in operation, great controls with more finesse than the Eventide, the AMS is a killer flanger

6. Moog Minifooger MF Flange

A new entry in the Hall of Fame, the MF Flange punches well above its weight. Some clever design work has led to a new design – using old technology – but not a boring new design. The MF Flange is capable of turning your sound into a hot mess but somewhere along the way you’ll find the perfect flange

7. Yamaha SPX90 Symphonic

When you trawl through factory presets on outboard gear it’s rare to find a sound that jumps out at you that also works in a track. Symphonic is one of the few. Unlike the other chorus / flangers in my list, Symphonic is the only one from a digital device with presets. All the others pre- or post-date the digital era and use analogue, bucket-brigade delay lines. The SPX90 may be digital, but someone at Yamaha engineering spent time creating a killer flanger which someone else from marketing named Symphonic. Whatever – it’s great

Honourable mentions

  • MXR Phase 90 pedal – fabulous stomp-box phaser
  • Any MXR Flanger – I haven’t found a bad one yet
  • Any Electro-Harmonix Chorus or Flanger – I haven’t found a bad one yet
  • Yamaha Rev 7 – Symphonic, just like the SPX90
  • Boss CE-300 Super Chorus – like a rackmount CE-1


Modular Synths


It had to happen eventually – I’ve been looking at Modular Synths and getting increasingly interested in building a small rig, perhaps like Bob’s setup above?

Modular Synths, for the uninitiated, are built from individual modules such as oscillators, filters and amplifiers in the same way as the original Moog System shown above.  Modern modulars come in a number of different formats but the Eurorack system is growing fast. Popularised by Doepfer in Germany, Eurorack modules are 128.5 mm tall so fit neatly into a 3U rack height (133.35 mm). Module widths are measured in hp (1hp = 5.08 mm) so racks are characterised by linear capacity – “I’ve just filled my new 104hp case with modules…”

There’s a thriving business in new & used modules and in DIY kits for home assembly. There’s also lots of information online on DIY cases for Eurorack modules. They don’t have to be 19″ racks – make them any width you like with a DIY case. There are some great examples in the DIY Case thread on the Muffwiggler forum

If you’re thinking a 3U rack sounds like a 500- / 51X-Series rack, you’d be right, but there are major differences: Eurorack doesn’t have a backplane for the modules to plug into, voltages rails are different (± 12 Volts for Eurorack), power is connected to each module using a power cable and inputs & outputs are mounted on the front panel. Eurorack modules also vary hugely in depth and width with shallow units being under 45 mm deep

The Modular world is full of acronyms and buzzwords, even more so than the music world in general, so here’s a quick guide, written by a beginner for beginners, into Modular lingo:

  • Eurorack – a standard that fits in a 3U tall rack, uses 1/8″ patch cables
  • 5U rack – As used by Moog, Cynthia, etc, uses 1/4″ patch cables
  • hp – one rack width = 5.08 mm
  • 42 hp rack – a rack 42 hp wide, ie 213.36 mm wide, plus mounting
  • Skiff – a shallow case, usually less than 45 mm deep
  • Rails – the horizontal strips modules are attached to top & bottom
  • Busboard – used for power distribution to each module
  • 1 Volt / Octave – traditional standard for synth control voltages
  • VCO – Voltage Controlled Oscillator
  • VCA – Voltage Controlled Amplifier
  • VCF – Voltage Controlled Filter
  • CV – Control Voltage

I’ve compiled a few links useful for research into modular synth suppliers and DIY resources

Manufacturers, Shops & Online stores

DIY resources

Photo © Moog

Roland SR-JV80 Synths

The JV-1080 is one of those long-established synths that crops up again & again.  Due to the wide range of expansion boards available, the JV-1080, and its cousins, have been useful for at least 15 years

I usually have a couple of JV synths & expansion boards in my online shop

Feature JV-880 JV-1080 JV-2080 JV-1010 XV-3080 XV-5080
Polyphony 28 64 64 64 128 128
SR-JV expansion slots 1 4 8 1 4 4
SRX expansion slots 2 4
Other expansion slots Data + PCM Data + PCM Data Smart Media Smart Media
Outputs 4 4 6 2 6 8 + SP/DIF
Effects Chorus, reverb Chorus, reverb, EFX – 1 x 40 EFX – 3 x 40 Chorus, reverb, EFX – 1 x 40 Studio quality Studio quality
Preset Performances 32 64 64 64 64 64
Preset Patches 320 512 640 895 1152 1152
Preset Rhythm Sets 2 18 23 23
User Performances 16 32 32 64 64 64
User Patches 64 128 128 128 128 128
User Rhythm Sets 1 2 2 4 4
Modulation Matrix Matrix
Sample playback yes
Display Small, two lines Medium 320 x 80 pixel Small, one line Large 320 x 80 pixel
Format 1U 2U 2U 1/2U 2U 2U
Production date 1992 1994-2001 1997-2001 1999 2000 2000
© 2015 bn1studio



Roland XV & JV Power User tips

Product page (JV-1080)

Owners manual (JV-1080)

Vintage Synth Review (JV-1080)

Sound on Sound review (JV-1080)


Sound on Sound review of SR-JV80 Expansion boards

List of compatible synths for JV-80 expansion boards