Don’t just build a DIY module; learn how to design circuits from scratch with the Educational Synth DIY “mki x es .EDU” Kits from Erica Synths and Moritz Klein.
Educational Synth DIY Kits
At first glance, you think, ah ok, cool and cheap DIY kits from Erica Synths who has a history of great DIY kits for enthusiasts to build; but that would be missing the point of this series of kits. Erica Synths has got together with YouTuber and educator Moritz Klein to design a collection of Eurorack DIY modules with the sole aim to teach anyone how to design analog synthesizer circuits from scratch.
I interviewed Girts Ozolins from Erica Synths during some virtual Superbooth live streams in 2020 and he talked about the concept for the project. He said that while he enjoyed watching people like myself building and soldering Eurorack modules he felt that nothing was really being learned. I had no deeper knowledge of analog circuits or synthesis after I built the module; I had simply followed instructions and put components and solder where I was told to put it. It was an interesting observation and Girts said that Erica Synths were discontinuing their DIY range of modules in order to design kits that were more educational and gave the builder the opportunity to learn something. These Educational Synth DIY or “mki x es .EDU” kits are the result.
There are 9 kits in the series and they plan to launch one every 4-6 weeks to build a functioning modular monosynth. Each will come with an extensive user manual that will take you through the electronics behind each circuit and the principles of sound synthesis contained therein. Each step in the build is fleshed out with the reasons for the component choices and what their purpose is within the module.
The first kit is the VCO. An analog sawtooth-core oscillator made from a handful of basic components with a sawtooth and pulse output, pulse width modulation and FM inputs and has “reasonably accurate volt/octave tracking.”
In the other kits, we’ll find a sequencer, wavefolder, noise/S&H, mixer, VCF, envelope generator, dual VCA and a stereo output mixer with headphones. A case with a DIY PSU will also be available – and that will be very handy.
Erica Synths to the core
The kits have some of the classic Erica Synths character but they are also stripped down to make them as simple and affordable as possible. The VCO, which is available now, is only €60 plus shipping and VAT. There’s a slight Catch-22 problem in that in order to test the module you’ll need a Eurorack case but the case isn’t available yet so it’s difficult to aim this at the Eurorack newbie. So, perhaps, this is more about people who already enjoy a bit of modular getting into the nuts, bolts and circuitry of the stuff. Ultimately the hope is that this will “inspire future engineers and contribute to the ever-growing diversity of electronic music technology.”
I think this is brilliant. I’ve bought one and aim to do a live stream build-along for each kit as they appear and I’m looking forward to learning more about the design of circuits and how it all works. At the moment there’s just a live stream video about the collaboration but Moritz Klein has said that he will produce an introduction video to each kit as they are released. His channel is already full of brilliantly useful videos on designing Eurorack modules. It should be noted that because of the extensive manuals and DIY guides Erica Synths will not be offering any customer support for these kits if they fail to function. So, there’s some genuine engineering fear of failure built right in!