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IMG_0375Despite some shows coming up in the next few weeks we decided to try and add some lead synth to the set at the last minute. I had been playing solos on guitar but it doesn’t have the same feel.

So the past week and a half has involved me trying to put together a stable PC running Windows XP, Reaper and various VSTis that can reliably run headless (no monitor, no keyboard, no mouse). ASIO drivers are provided by an Edirol UA-1EX as the ASIO4ALL drivers were too clicky and laggy.

The plan is then to cram all that into a 2U rackmount server case and then stuff that into a gig case for an instant on, portable, minimal worries synth machine. It would be great to get a solid state hard drive to minimize the moving parts, but my budget for this is low as balls.

As you can see from the photo on the right and my torn-up bloody hands (not pictured) it’s been a struggle to find a combination of working spare parts. I thought I had solved it all a week ago but the motherboard I was using was only USB 1.0 and would intermittently flake out with the M-Audio Axiom 25 I’ve drafted into service.

Of course I’m currently running the show off a laptop but I felt having it do synth duties as well was too risky. At least this way if the laptop fails we can still put on an OK show. And if the synth machine fails I can still shred out some crappy guitar solos. If both fail, I will just run away from the venue as fast as I can.

Posted on - May 11, 2010 [at] 2:13 pm by Brad
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5 Comments on this post

fluffy on Synthing it
May 11, 2010 at 6:39 pm

This sort of thing is why I’m fine with dedicated hardware synths still existing. Nothing wrong with using a Nord Lead or Korg or whatever… yeah, they only do a few things, but they do them REALLY WELL.

Brad on Synthing it
May 11, 2010 at 7:29 pm

I can see that for sure. Though your lowest priced keyboard synths are at $300 or so for something pretty basic. And I couldn’t find a rack mounted sound module for under a grand.

Total cost of all these spare parts is $50 (had to buy a part). And allegedly it should be more flexible in the long run as I add more sounds.

But definitely a lot of hassle and I’m not convinced it won’t all explode. If that’s the case I can run out and buy a Xio or something.

Ken on Synthing it
May 13, 2010 at 6:51 pm

I’m running into the same issues trying to find a vocal processor for Edible Norris. My DigiTech Vocalist 300 is OK but lacks the sophistication I want. Nord Modular Minis are all but unobtainable and even really expensive rack-mounted effects processors can only do 2 at a time. If you perfect this device, please post instructions on putting it together!

Brad on Synthing it
May 13, 2010 at 8:45 pm

I have my vocals going through my laptop via Ableton Live right now. I bought a couple vocal processor units but they kinda sucked. The laptop’s been pretty stable but ideally I think I’d have two rackmounted PC’s operating in tandem so if one fails you just switch to the other one. That’s how I read Nine Inch Nails does it.

anotherrandomname on Synthing it
December 1, 2010 at 8:43 pm

I have a keyboard thing that plays several pianos and has a few synths; I’m gonna use a squarewave riff in a song I wrote up. Will that work?

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