Eurorack DIY tips

I want to build some NLC modules, but have close to zero experience with soldering or reading schematics, let alone SMD. I tried looking for resources online but was a bit overwhelmed, so I thought I could use some guidance. Please, has anyone built one of their modules before? Would you recommend it to a beginner? Where should I start learning from?

I’ll accompany you on this journey if I may. I have been planning to order some PCBs & Panels for a while. I’ve done a couple of simple SMD modules, and some SMD parts on THT modules, but I have no experience of sourcing parts. I’ve always used kits.

The main source for help is the FB group, but I am no longer Zucked, so I may have to join the Discord.

Have you ordered any PCBs from Australia yet?

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You’re more than welcome to hop along. :slight_smile: Please, do you have any resources you could point me to?

I’m not on FB either. I’ll look into the Discord. I’ve never ordered anything from Andrew directly. I was thinking about ordering a kit from synthCube (which I’ve used before) and starting from there. Something simple, like a 1U difference rectifier, maybe.

Can you be more specific on what you are looking for?

If you want guidance on the modules, then I think the NLC website is it.

If you want some general stuff on soldering etc I can help with that.

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Just some general stuff on soldering, reading schematics, basic circuit knowledge… I’m looking for a good starting point so I don’t get too lost.

The Erica Synths / Moritz Klein educational series perhaps?

For soldering, look at Tom Whitwell’s videos / PDFs on how to build his modules.

For schematics, anywhere, really. Basic book or Wikipedia. For circuit knowledge, Moritz Klein, as stated, and Aaron Lanterman’s YouTube if you want more detail (I’m too old to learn this stuff).

Buy a decent soldering iron (Weller, Hakko, Ersa) and good quality solder, not cheap stuff, which is awful (I am leaded, which is easier to work with, but getting harder to find).

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This more than anything.

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Thanks, both of you. I’ll start looking at those references now. Will let you know what comes up.

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All you need in order to build an NLC module is to learn to solder. If the module doesn’t work then you may need to start learning the other stuff, but in the end, 99% of the time, you made a soldering error.

[ Caveat: says the person who has yet to build an NLC module :slight_smile: ]

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For my own ~60+ years of building electronics, I make at least one soldering error and have to dig into the circuit with understanding. I would say 100% of the time, but, maybe there was a time I did not make at least one mistake.

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Soldering’s the easy bit, of course. Learning to desolder to fix the mistake is the fun part :slight_smile:

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Soldering is easy. Soldering correctly take practice. Finding the mistakes takes more practice. Fixing the mistakes without inducing more takes more practice. :wink:

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I started a year ago or a bit more than that (had to pause it for half a year though because of some life stuff that is not resolved still). I decided against premade PCBs and DIY kits, therefore I rarely do anything with SMDs (with an exception for some ICs and one MCU that I had to solder on adapters for my usual DIP montage), just components and perf boards. I never really had to think hard about schematics. But there were soldering errors for sure. Like one time I mounted a diode in a wrong direction (I think Jens here on this forum noticed that after I made a post about something not working properly). This one was the funniest, but there are lots and lots of mistakes that I made… Oh! I was using a very corrosive flux and actually Ken, again here on this forum, advised me against it and just use rosin instead. That was kinda funny too… Cause I had to redo two of my modules… Maybe I would have to redo the third one later too

Anyway, errors are interesting. Solving issues is fun. It’s like a puzzle game that is very frustrating and if you fail, your house will burn down (probably not). Anyway… My collection of pages related to diy inclide NLC, yes, also skull and circuits and shedsynth sites (I think one of them sometimes uses unconventional output\input resistor values, so like instead of 100k/1k it’s 10k to 100ohm). Eddy Bergman is also a good source, MFOS I don’t use because the schematics there are maze-like and my head starts to spin every time I look at them… What else… Moritz Klein videos are cool too, I just screenshot the schematic and then replicate it. LMNC site (forum?) is a great source… Rich Holmes pages are great too. Also check some archives like magazines and stuff, maybe books that are open to public (or not. wink wink)… Soooo… I bet I forgot some great sources, but these are the ones that I check for cool shit sometimes. Ah! The hagiwo projects are great too! They are mostly MCU-based. But I want to build some of them maybe later this year…

So to shorten this whole thing a bit - what I do usually is ask myself what I need then I lower my expectations a bit. Like Of course I want a fancy-shmancy module, but realistically the basic functiuon is what I need. ADSR - great! voltage controlled adsr? That would be cool, but right now I only need an envelope. Super stable polyphonic synth - og wow that would be amazing! But right now I just need a module that does sounds with no glitches and an acceptable drifting. So yeah… Lower your appetite. Is it what people say? Whatever. After that I just google “adsr diy schematic” or something. With kits it’s probably much easier… Anyway. See ya

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Thanks, I’ll be looking at those as well.

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Ok, so I ordered a Difference Rectifier kit from synthCube. It’s a tiny 1U module. Looks like a simple build, it’s relatively cheap and useful to have anyway. Also, I understand what it does, which I figured might help. I don’t know how long until delivery, but that gives me plenty of time to learn. In the meanwhile, I thought I might practice with a small project I already have the parts for. :crossed_fingers:

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Good stuff. I will have to get some boards ordered, perhaps this weekend. I can’t get mine in the UK as Thonk has stopped stocking them, so I’ll get them straight from Andrew.

Over in DivKid’s Discord @geusens.dries mentioned this guy’s SMD soldering videos:

As an aside, that academic collection by RKP on ‘Modular Synthesis’ that I posted in the ‘What are you reading?’ thread contains an interview with Andrew.

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Thanks for the channel tip. I saw the book post, and was definitely interested as I read through the summary. Let me know which module(s) you plan on getting!