The Soundlab is a small synthesiser designed by Ray Wilson of Music From Outer Space
It has become quite well known and is available either as a circuit
board only, a kit or even ready made in certain instances. I purchased
mine as a kit from Elby Designs
in 2006 which I built and housed in a small plastic case. It runs on two 9 volt batteries and features:
- 2 VCOs (VCO 1 is sawtooth only, VCO 2 has saw and square waves with pulse width modulation, VCO 2 can synch to VCO 1)
- White Noise
- Audio Mixer Section
- 1 VCF (Can be switched to either bandpass or low pass response, filter has resonance control but does not self oscillate)
- 1 VCA (Includes a manual level control)
- 1 AR Envelope Generator (Has manual gate switch and attack
and release controls, can be switched to either gate mode [envelope
while gate signal is present] or trigger mode [entire envelope runs
even when only a short trigger pulse is received at the gate
input], envelope can be switched to cycle mode causing it to self
trigger ie: acts as an LFO where the rate and waveshape is controlled
by the attack and release knobs, can modulate any combination of VCO1
Freq, VCO2 Freq, VCF Freq, VCA level]
- 1 LFO (Saw, ramp, triangle and square waveforms are available,
can modulate any combination of VCO 1 Freq, VCO 2 Freq, VCO2 Pulse
width, VCF Freq, VCA level)
Makes a good learning synth for kids or those just getting into
synthesis, as well as a quick and intuitive sound source for audio
experimentalists. Despite its apparent "toy like" appearance and
features, this is a well thought out and designed little machine with a
lot of personality and capabilities that enable it to create many of
the classic analogue synth effects from long drones to bubbling filter
sounds, raging wind storms to shreaking sirens, along with percusive
noises and reasonable (though limited) bass and lead sounds. Its
untamed output often reminds me of very early Klaus Schulze or
in their more minimalist/experimental phases.
All in all a fun and handy portable analogue synth for all occasions!
I have added an external audio input to mine so that the filter and VCA
can process other audio sources and a 5 way switch to alter the LFO
range (it now runs quite slow when required and well into the
audio range for some nice spattery and metallic FM sounds). I
have also added some patch points for direct output of the VCOs, Noise,
LFO and EG so that I can use the Soundlab as an auxillary sound and
modulation source for my Eurorack Modular
I've considered converting the Soundlab into a rack mount, fully patchable synth
that runs on a +/-12 volt power supply (making it completely compatible
with my modular), but then it would no longer be a nifty little
self-contained unit. Hmm... Perhaps I should get a 2nd one....?
There are many more modifications out there on the internet along with
some really interesting case and frontpanel designs. There's also a
dedicated forum over at Electro-Music
1. The Soundlab front panel. Labelling was done with a 2nd hand label maker I purchased years ago.
2. On the work bench.
3. Front panel close-ups.
4. Surfing with the Alien.
Some quick and nasty demos recorded shortly after construction in mid
2006. Both contain several tracks of Soundlab with a simple guitar
pedal delay effect (Boss DM3). No other instruments. They are in Ogg Vorbis
format. A good media player that handles ogg files is VLC
. Beware: these demos really ain't pretty!
- Chaotica. Kind of like Raymond Scott jamming with the Krell
after being abducted and force fed some bad alien narcotics. Uses only
the "manual gate" switch to trigger sounds. My apologies to Raymond and
Louis and Bebe Barron!
- Ebb. An uneasy drone piece. Perhaps a throwback to Klaus Schulze's Cyborg ...Or maybe even a regurgitation caused by a nasty stomach bug!