The Roland Boutique SE-02 collaboration with Studio Electronics is an awesome little analogue synthesizer. Generally regarded as the best thing to come out of Roland’s Boutique series so far. However, the Boutique form factor is on the small side. So small that the knobs can get a bit tiny and disappointingly fiddly. Well, no one should have to put up with small knobs and so we’ve scoured the internet for examples of replacement knobs or ways to get around the fiddliness.
The size of the pots behind knobs on the SE-02 are, thankfully, all the same. They are 6mm D-Shaft pots and so theoretically any 6mm D-shaft knob should fit them. You need to consider the width of the knob as they might start interferring with each other on the front panel if they are too wide. Some reports say that the knobs are very tight and they’ll not all come off by hand and so suggest using a plastic “prying tool” very, very carefully.
Here are some examples of knobs that are known to fit well:
Make Noise Rogan knobs, like those found on the Maths Eurorack module and 0-Coast synthesizer. As demonstrated here by MuffWiggler user Amnesia.
Another alternative are the 1221-K knobs from Davies Molding, as demonstrated here by MufWiggler user Hazium.
Facebook user Ron Ramos found that the knobs from his Korg Minilogue worked really well.
Replacing the front panel
If replacing the knobs is not quite far enough then how about replacing the entire front panel? Synth enthusiast and that guy we know from Microsoft Pete Brown has started a project redesigning the front panel into something he feels is more usable. He didn’t want to hack into the existing front panel or have trailing wires from the original pots, instead he’ll replace the whole thing. The way the internals of the SE-02 work is to have all the controls mounted on a separate PCB which connects to the synthesizer voice PCB via a mezzanine connector. He would connect his new front panel directly into that. It’s a fascinating work in progress and he’s published it on GitHub.
A less dramatic alternative to this sort of modding could be simply to get a MIDI controller and map all the controls to those in the SE-02. All the functions of the SE-02 have MIDI controller numbers. But that does take you away from the instrument.
More small knobs to come
I’ve played with the SE-02 and I certainly agree that the knobs are not ideal. If they were just a little bit taller it would make all the difference. As it is I think the knobs from the 0-Coast is a great way to improve the usability of the synth. Just be careful when replacing the knobs as some of them are known to be a bit wobbly.
What causes me more concern is the knobs of the forthcoming (when is that every arriving?) Behringer Model D – they were truly awful when I tried it out at Superbooth.