Fenix – ongoing experiments

Published by Priscilla Haring-Kuipers on

Experiment board No 1

Our first experiment board is fully populated (1242 components) and fully functional. We used about 30/40 air wires on this board. Some are the results of copying-mistakes, somewhere we injected a chip in a signal path, while other air wires are design improvements based on being able to play with the physical circuit, listen to it and change it.

This is mostly a due diligence board. We translate and adapt some of the designs from Fenix II and we have our own ideas. Every module /circuit needs to be (re)validated before we can incorporate them into the upcoming bigger design. However, we are not ‘just modernizing’ components of the Fenix II, we are also going from a 15V to a 12V system. This will make our Fenix more compatible with current systems and less power means less heat produced. We are also testing our tool integration to see if our software construction works, so far so good.

On Experiment board no 1 we’ve tested our

  • USB-midi connection
  • our slew limiter
  • the basic Fenix II oscillator
  • an audio mixer
  • dual VCA 
  • ring modulator
  • a swirl of scope LEDs
  • our new formant filter
  • the waveshaper
  • a low pass gate
  • the Curtis envelope
  • a Fenix II envelope
  • and the headphone output.

All is working well! We are especially happy with our new Formant filter, which has a fantastic stimulating sparkly sound. The modernised Fenix II oscillator is phat as ever, and we are definitely keeping this sound we like so much. We are still comparing the flavour of different envelopes.

Experiment board No 2

With this next board we are diving into some new things. This board will have more uncertain and more exciting stuff. We’ve just ordered the pcb – with a part count of 1204.

On this board we will experiment with working with beautiful tiny full-colour iPod screens. This is technically challenging as Apple is not known for being open about their designs and how to integrate their hardware. Thanks to people reverse-engineering and documenting the process of these screens –  like Mike’s Electric Stuff http://electricstuff.co.uk/nanohack.html – we feel confident to try it. The MIPI interface – used by these iPod screens and many smartphones –  is also new to us. Only recently have MCU’s with this interface become available at our scale of production and complexity. We want to try and repurpose old Apple stock as their trash is very much our state of the art. Almost any other embedded screen available to small scale manufacturers like us look cheap or dated (or both).

We will be testing our Chord oscillator. This design combines three analogue oscillators (Curtis) with digital controlled chord intervals, making it possible to create chords with just intonation, tempered intonation or phat stacks / hyperstacks. We want more chords to come to modular!

Experiment board No 2 will also have a stripped down version of Wobbler with an internal clock line so this mini-Wobbler (a Wob? a Wub?) can connect to USB/MIDI timing.

We will also be testing the Fenix II modernisation of LFO 1 and 2, Phaser, Wavemultiplier, Ladder filter and input and output stage.

Experiment board No 3

There will be an Experiment board no 3 with sequencers, noise , delay and one more filter.

With these 3 experiment boards we will have all the building blocks of our Fenix IV validated in physical form.


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