Turbo: A standalone, patchable drone and noise instrument

It has taken me a long time to make this video! Turbo is a project I started somewhere in 2015. It is a fully analogue electronic instrument that could be described as a synthesizer.

The video provides an overview of what Turbo can do, and how it sounds. It is worth listening with headphones or decent monitors. Short description below.

Turbo was originally designed to be a DIY project, I wanted it to be a ‘kit’ instrument that could be assembled with simple tools – but the project grew in size and complexity and combined with all the other things going on in my life in the last couple of years, I found it too difficult to realise this goal and decided to build a limited number myself. I planned to build 10 and have so far managed 7 – I am not sure if I will complete the last 3 at this point. They are not complicated to build but very time consuming, and I almost gave up the project a number of times over the years.

I could go on with the history, but let’s talk about the other ideas. Turbo is inspired by the guru of drone Éliane Radigue with her early recordings on the ARP2500. The idea was to capture this kind of sound in a small and portable format. Turbo generates sound with a pair of voltage controlled oscillators and a resonant state-variable voltage controlled filter. There are various preset and patchable routes to modulate sections of the instrument with each other in exotic ways. The video demonstrates some of these routes and patch possibilities so I will just provide a list of features here:

  • 2 x Voltage controlled oscillators with triangle and square wave outputs
  • State variable voltage controlled filter with resonance, low-pass and band-pass modes
  • Voltage controlled crossfading between oscillator outputs and filter modes
  • Sample and hold which samples VCO1 Triangle, and is clocked by VCO2 or an external source
  • A comparator which is set by the two VCO outputs, creates complex modulations and distortions
  • A function generator or LFO with ramp up and down controls, and ramp/pulse modes for creating slow modulations and transitions

Much of the work that has gone into Turbo has informed my current design for modular systems. I learned a lot about analogue small signal circuits, but also plenty about mechanical construction, feasibility and the limits of my own patience!! I hope you enjoy the video and welcome any comments!

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