Sine Wave Magazine caught up with a relativly new player in the industry, Mikey Delp of Delptronics, to learn more about his incredible products.
Keeping the DIY spirit alive Mikey has contributed some excellent kits and products to the scene and was more than happy to share with us what Delprtonics
has been up to recently.
SW: Mikey thank's so much for talking today, so tell me, how did Delptronics begin, when did you get started in electronics?
Iíve been doing electronics my whole life.I had intended to go into it as a career, but
got sidetracked for a few decades by computers.I kept up with electronics as a hobby and
about three years ago started back into it in earnest.I founded Delptronics one year ago
to share what I was building with the rest of the world, especially the DIY synth community.
SW: Delptronics are analog correct? What aspects of analog do you feel digital just doesnít seem to capture?
Some Delptronics products are all analog and some are analog-digital hybrid. That is likely to continue. We want to use the best tool for the job.
Early synthesizers were all analog because that was the technology available at the time. The venerable TR-909 actually used a digital sample for
its cymbal because that was the best way to get the sound they wanted. Having said that, the essence a modern analog synthesizer is to recreate the
beloved analog sounds of the past. So, particularly for modulars, we want to keep the audio signal path all-analog. In any case, I think it is
important to tell customers if that is, or is not the case, so that they can make an informed purchase decision. I think that what appeals to me about
analog is that it gives you direct control over the sound. A sample-based synthesizer is just a collection of recordings and effects. A modular analog
synthesizer breaks down the sound into distinct oscillators, modulators and filters that can be combined in nearly infinite ways.
That level of control makes me feel like I am creating a new sound that is all my own.
SW: The ring modulator is my personal favorite. Is it completely analog? How does this compare to a digital ring mod or software ring mod?
Yes, the Delptroncis ring mod is completely analog. We began selling it because there just wasnít one on the market. Most digital ring modulators are
not actually doing the same thing as a real ring mod. They produce a similar sound that can be called ring modulation, but it is not the distinctive sound
of a classic analog passive ring modulator. A software ring mod can take advantage of the power of a computer to accurately mimic an analog device, and
if you produce all of your music on a computer, then that is the way to go, but for a modular snyth, it makes sense to have the real thing.
SW: You offer something quite unique to the industry, personalized ring modulators. What inspired you to build custom ring modulators? Is there a demand
for customized equipment?
The inspiration came from our customers. They asked for it. There is definitely a demand for customized equipment. In talking to colleagues about various
devices and modules, invariably someone will say ďI love the such-and-such, but I wish it had a CV input here or a switch there.Ē Iím sure youíve said the
same thing yourself. A big company that is producing tens of thousands of units simply canít afford to customize their products. However, a boutique
company like Delptronics can offer customization as a service and do it affordably and profitably. It is actually one of the more enjoyable and rewarding
aspects of the business. Iím sure that we will continue to offer customization services. Actually, I hope that it grows into building completely custom
one-of-a-kind devices to customer specifications.
SW: The custom ring modulator is extremely affordable. What is the importance of affordability regarding Delptronics? Do you feel much of the industry has
lost sight of the importance of price and affordability for hobbyists?
Affordability is very important to us. We want to make money and stay in business, but we want our products to be accessible to everyone. The majority of
synth modules seems to be produced by small companies, and they (we) donít have the economies of scale that lower production costs. So, while I do feel
that the cost of equipment is a barrier to entry for a lot of hobbyists, I understand why that is the case. That is one of the reasons we offer kits.
SW: I noticed each product comes in various stages of completion, from fully tested and built, to kits and everything in between. Do you feel that variety
is important to the consumer? Are there a large number of customers that enjoy building kits themselves as opposed to simply purchasing a completed unit?
For the most part, the kit buyer is a totally different person from the completed unit buyer. Sometimes people will buy a kit to save money, however,
in my experience, that is not the primary motivator. People want kits because they like to build things. The DIY movement, and the DIY synth movement in
particular, is going strong, and we always want to be a part of that.
SW: The Bender Sequencer is a new concept, designed to control circuit-bent devices that were never designed to be controlled in such a way. Can you
tell us more about it?
Circuit bending is another aspect of DIY synth which I have always enjoyed. However, I always want more control over the sound than you can usually get
from a bent device. Unless you are bending a musical instrument, circuit bent devices donít respond to MIDI or CV, so I needed to develop a sequencer
that can control, but not interfere with, a bent device.
Another reason I created the Bender Sequencer is so that the bent device can play without having to hold it. Most circuit bent devices can only be
played one-at-a-time because you have to manipulate the controls to make music. One of the things that I like about the Bender Sequencer, and how I use it
in performance, is that it gives you the ability to have multiple devices going at once all making sounds in sync Ė like a circuit bent orchestra.
SW: This is one of the most flexible sequencers Iíve seen. The steps selector, frequency divider, variable pulse width and infrared sync are all very
advanced features for such a tiny device. Can you please share how this design works?
We do squeeze a lot of features out of two chips. There is a schematic and technical explanation on our website. The main innovation is the use of
optocouplers to isolate the sequencer from the device being controlled. An optocoupler is a chip that has an LED and a photo-sensitive transistor
inside it. So, in essence, the sequencer just needs to turn on the LED, and the transistor acts as a switch, switching from one pot to the next. Itís not
just for bent devices either. It can be inserted into any circuit wherever there is a potentiometer. People use them to sequence all sorts of stuff.
A lot of people want to know if it works with a modular system. It does, but it requires a bit of extra wiring, so that is for DIYers only.
SW: The Delptronics moto is ďUnique Electronic Musical Instruments.Ē The Guitar Meister certainly fits that description. Can you tell us more about it?
The Guitar Meister lets you make real guitar sounds with a PlayStation guitar controller. We got professional guitarists to help with the button control
scheme and to record the guitar samples. The Guitar Meister is a stand-alone product, not a guitar controller for a synth or anything.
It is not exactly a serious instrument, but it is fun to play and sounds great. It fits in well with chip tunes bands because of the video game tie-in.
SW: Anything new in the works you'd like to share with us?
Weíre working on a lot of different things right now, but none are ready to announce. One thing that I can tell you is that we will continue to offer
most of our new designs stand-alone, as a Eurorack module and as a kit. Look for a bunch of new Delptronics products in 2012.