Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Meade Lightbridge 130 - Long Term Review - Part 1

Around October of 2016 I picked up a pair of Vanguard 8x42 binoculars to do some stargazing in Whittier NC at a cabin we rented. While the 8x42 binos were great for stargazing and meteor shower observation, a 7° FOV wasn’t enough to allow my lovely girlfriend and I to see anything super interesting. 

Fast forward about 9 months and I was thinking about visiting the mountains again in the fall. Knowing I wouldn’t see anything life changing with my binos I started researching telescopes. I considered the pros and cons of various scopes from small 90mm Maks on goto mounts to large 10” collapsible Dobs. I landed in the middle on a 5” reflector type telescope, aimed squarely at noobs, the Meade Lightbridge 130 .

Why did I choose the Meade Lightbridge 130mm over the vast array of other options?

First, I wanted a grab-n-go scope, something that I could plop behind the seat in my Tacoma and drive to a viewing site. I didn't want to fool with the alignment of a goto or equatorial mount when I decided to grab-n-go. The Dobsonian style Alt-Az mount is great for aligning a target and looking with no setup. Here is a basic formula that I wrote that explains the benefits of grab-n-go.

(Grab-N-Go) + (Wine and Cheese) + (Girl Friend) = Darn Good Night

The Lightbridge 130 cost around 200 bones on the street. The 130mm aperture of the scope combined with the fairly wide 650mm focal length results in a fairly bright scope for the money. More aperture means more light and more light means you see more stuff when you narrow the focus of the scope. 

Lastly, The optical tube assembly seemed to be of sufficient quality that it would benefit from other upgrades, new eyepieces, new finder, a nice 2x barlow, longer dovetail, and ultimately a better mount. All of the items displaced by upgrades are so cheap they're marginally serviceable. As a result, I won't feel bad replacing those parts with high quality components that I can carry forward or share with another scope.

I'll stop here and discuss my first impressions and basic use of the scope in the next post. Until then, may you have happy days and clear skies.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Unofficial Nick Batt Eurorack Synth - A Celebration of PWM


I was sitting here, with a tremendous headache, and I didn't want to work on my gear. I didn't want to waste time either so I wondered, what would Nick Batt do? I pondered that thought for a moment when it came to me, Nick would design the ultimate PWM synth on modulargrid.net. So I lit a few candles, took some asprin, put on some Andy Stott at a very low volume, and got to it.

Before channeling Nick's thoughts I established a few ground rules.

1. The synth should use no more than 3 rows at 104hp in width. After all, Nick needs to be able to carry it around without hitting the gym.
2. The synth needed at least twice as many VCOs as a Dewanatron. Maybe Trent Reznor would like this synth too one if I put a ribbon controller on it.
3. This synth needed Maths, because according to modulargrid.net, everyone needs Maths.
4. This synth needed to be laid out in a way that was easy to patch and all components needed maximum utility for their size.
4. This synth should have stereo output as we can't have all that PWM goodness hiding inside of a mono track.
5. This synth needed to have some special analog phasing to emphasis PWM and the VCF's sing songy resonance.
6. You can never have too many VCAs

Here is what I came up with in about 10 minutes. What can I add to this synth to get the attention of my two heroes, Nick Batt and Trent Reznor?




https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/386757#



Monday, January 2, 2017

Expanding the Mother 32 - Part 4 - Adding a 2nd VCF

The filter in the Mother 32 is a sweet sounding VCF that does that wonderful Moog'y low pass thing so well. The transistor ladder VCF has a sophisticated richness and syrup like sound that you just don't get with any other design. But when you roll up the resonance the bass from the VCO just drops away. Also, there is no useful high pass to speak of. I'm not saying the Mother 32's VCF is useless, it's just not as flexible as I would like. I stumbled upon a great deal on an Intellijel µVCF as I was searching for the right filter to pair with the Mother 32. The little 6hp Intellijel filter doesn't have the most character of any VCF I've heard, in fact it's sort of a chameleon, but it's extremely flexible and has many uses.

Here are 8 reasons why you should consider the µVCF for your Mother 32 rig

1. µVCF can pull off some nice format sounds.



2.  The µVCF can self oscillate and produces a clean sine wave that tracks well. Sine waves are incredibly useful for FM synthesis. Just let the  µVCF's LPF output find it's way to the Linear FM input on the Mother 32 and have at it. To ensure accurate tracking, you'll need to buffer the KB output on the Mother 32 before patching it to the  µVCF, as you would most VCOs.

3. The µVCF doesn't loose bass output when you crank the resonance and sweep the cutoff down. This is helpful for patching big bass sounds and thunderous drones.

4. The µVCF has excellent BPF and HPF outputs that work correctly, unlike the Mother 32's HPF.

5. The  µVCF  is small at 6hp and laid out for easy use with the FREQ knob at the top and patch points at the bottom.

6. The µVCF is an amazing value both used and new.

7. The µVCF blends in, this filter is short on character but doesn't draw attention to itself. This can be good if you don't want your entire track to sound like patches from the same synth.

8. I'm a fan of filters that include commonly used utility functions such as dual inputs with a mixer. While the Intellijel μVCF doesn't have dual inputs, it does include attenuverters on the FM inputs which conserve attenuverters for other duties.

What Does The µVCF Sound Like?


I haven't seen any videos specific to the Mother 32 and the µVCF, minus one that has some West Coast style robot chatter, but here are a few nice videos that demonstrate the µVCF's utility.









What are your thoughts on the Intellijel VCF? What VCF did you add to your Mum?