DIY noob

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DIY noob

Postby toddd » Thu Sep 28, 2006 11:51 am

Hey guys, really want to start down the road of diy-ing.

any recomendations for a good starting project ie. something that's cheap-so when i f@ck it up i haven't wasted too much; also something that's not too difficult-so i don't get frustrated and throw it against the wall.

a simple mic pre that came in kit form would be ideal i think... alternatively i was contemplating the gssl comp... yea or nay?
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Postby astrovic » Thu Sep 28, 2006 12:44 pm

Try this for a starter: http://www.diyfactory.com/projects/jlmsimpledi/jlmsimpledi.htm

This was my first project and its pretty straight forward. It's a damn nice DI (as is all JLM stuff). The kits about $40, then add about another $20 for parts from Jaycar (the main cost being a case) so your total outlay isn't too high for a first project (if you fry it, you're not too badly out of pocket). There's no instructions, but when you look at it it's pretty self-evident where everything goes, so long as you get the polarity right on the electro caps and don't do what I did and put the opamp in around the wrong way (what's that smell?). Plus Kev's page that I linked to above has some useful pics and info that will give you guidance. Finally, you're dealing with a 9v power supply rather than a mains power supply, so your ability to cause injury is kept nice and low :P

My second project was a Paia Tube Mic Pre kit. It's not a great sounding pre IMO, being a starved plate design and all, but it's damn easy to follow (the instructions are superb), you'll learn a truckload and its based on both solid state (opamp) and tube circuitry, so you learn a bit about both types of circuitry. It is cheap - around $250 for 2 channels, although I replaced a number of parts (better quality connectors, switches, bezel-mounted leds, a more solid case, etc) because Paia keeps costs down by using low-quality parts in some areas. I'd highly recommend it for learning how to DIY, but it will become a door stopper in most studios pretty quickly.

My third project was a G1176, and my fourth a GSSL. I was very glad I had the Paia under my belt before attempting these, as there's no manual to hold your hand as you go - just an amazing forum (Prodigy Pro, of course) that has the answers to nearly any issue you might have.

Another suggestion is JLM's Baby Animal pre's. The posts on these at Prodigy Pro suggest these sound fantastic, plus they look pretty straightforward to build and come in a kit (but without any instructions, I believe). JLM offer a power transformer for this kit which also simplifies things nicely. At around $150ish per channel (plus case, connectors, transformer, knobs etc) they are incredibly cheap for what you get, plus very flexible as they are designed to work with a wide range of input and output transformers, each of which has a different sound and different application.

A number of people appear to have built these as a first project. Relatively speaking they look pretty cheap. And even better, if you build the JLM DI first, then you can convert it into a DI for a Baby Animal so the two projects come together nicely (I have two DI kits built - one is a traditional DI box, the other is sitting in a drawer waiting until I have the $$ to buy some Baby Animal kits).

Does that help?

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Postby toddd » Thu Sep 28, 2006 4:54 pm

Thanks dude, that is a big help. a no fuss DI sounds like a really good intro.

i've been eyeballing the JLM Baby Animals. $600ish for a complete dual channel kit (cases, wires, front panel etc.) is a really good deal for the apparent quality you get with them. i just didn't want to flush $180 (the price of the modules) down the tube on my first attempt...
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Postby chris p » Thu Sep 28, 2006 5:09 pm

Hi Toddd

I've done, the GSSL, the JLM baby animal, the JLM DI, assorted projects from Jaycar, Paia and their ilk, as well as modding various bits of gear.

To begin, if you really are a total noob with no soldering experience, start with a Jaycar or Dick Smith kit that takes your fancy. I still have fun with the original Vader Voice, which is a ring modulator that gives the best Dalek sound. The current version is a cheapy amplitude chopper that just doesn't do the same in my view, but its cheap, it doesn't matter if you stuff it up, and you get started on your basic skills. They have some amp kits that can be useful in various places around the studio.

After that, the JLM BA is a lovely kit to build in its most basic form, but its around $200 per channel by the time you get the thing together with a supply, case, sockets, knobs etc etc etc. When you get to this, PM me 'cuase the kit (being a base for many different applications) comes with lots of pieces you don't actually need to get a working pre-amp, and the cut-down version is cleaner and more straightforward to build.

The GSSL is nice, but its a step up because you've got 240V AC coming at you (compared to 48V DC for the BA). This can be fatal, so you need to have a bit more knowledge to deal with this. Also bear in mind that legally, anything that plugs into 240V must be done by a licensed electrician (I have one as a friend just for this purpose!)

As with all DIY, you've got to ask yourself what do you actually need? What's the biggest missing link in your setup? DIY is not an end in itself but a path to a goal, and if you are unclear about the goal, my experience is that your project will end up in the skip.

Good luck with it, and let us know how you progress.
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Postby astrovic » Thu Sep 28, 2006 5:10 pm

No sweat - best of luck and don't get too addicted!
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Postby Andrew » Fri Sep 29, 2006 1:01 am

If you do go for a Dick smith or jaycar kit probably best to make sure it is one that doesn't have any SMD parts in it until you get your soldering skills up (I'm still trying). These little parts are tricky an I'm still on the look out for a magnifying glass to see them better with.

Also should mention to hold off the ha-mp-to-ne pre (or f-et-b-oy) for a while cause although its a really simple circuit its really fiddly to get right, and we all know that fiddly = really really frustrating :evil:
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Postby Barney Loveland » Fri Sep 29, 2006 1:14 am

Am all for diy, but lest not forget the other bits. The time consuming stuff, sourcing the RIGHT parts the 1st time, wiring things up neatly (takes more time than you think and helps trouble shooting when it's neat), metal work, and labeling/engraving/scribing the panels.

That said i'm all for it, my bench currently has a GSSL now working but minus a front panel, and a rack of four JLM BA's nearly wired and ready for testing.

Can recommend the diyfactory/JLM di as a project, built one when i was waiting for some other parts to arrive and is always handy to have another di.
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Postby rick » Fri Sep 29, 2006 12:07 pm

there is a book i have talked about before is old but good

electronic projects for musicians
and another book studio projects for musicians both written by '
craig anderton

25 years ago it taught me among other things

which end of the soldering iron is hot
what a resistor is
what a cap is
what a diode is
what a transistor is
and all about opamps
even what power supplies are all about

but most importantly how to "fix" the things you have built !
and how to repair things that are broken ( or when to call in a tech)

really i recommend any body interested in diy should read these books

the projects are more guitar pedal based then pro studio
but they are simple and the author assumes you know nothing !
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Postby Kris » Fri Sep 29, 2006 2:02 pm

i didn't need a book to tell me which end of the soldering iron was hot... damn industrial arts class.
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