A second act, inspired by the classic.
The original development project for PAiA's 9700 series of analog music synthesizers was something of a sequel in its own right. That work was inspired by requests from our friends to reissue modules from the 4700 and 2720 synthesizer systems. The novelty of those modules remains because they represented something unique - a very simple and low-cost way to explore electronic sound creation.
Design of the 4700 & 2720 modules was constrained by a some very difficult requirements. To make the kits inexpensive and easy to build, the designs had to use a minimum number of the most durable but affordable components in circuits that could be adjusted without sophisticated test equipment.
Given these constraints, the 4700 & 2720 modules were astounding successes. Many thousands were successfully built. The price was certainly right: 4700 series module prices, circa 1978, cost between $22.50 and $38 (multiply by 3.2X to get 2009 pricing). We know from our active service history that many of those systems live on, despite having been built by amateur enthusiasts in an amazing variety of circumstances.
John Simonton's architecture for the original 9700 series modules was an evolutionary departure from modular synthesizer tradition (see his first chapter in The 9700 Chronicles ). He designed them to provide incredibly high functional density, with normalization that allowed many complex sound synthesis operations to be performed with very little patching.
Two features make the original 9700 series modules challenging to employ. First, they are the most complex-to-build synthesizer module kits ever developed. Second, the sophistication of their normalization scheme can be best appreciated by the user only after completion of the the assembly and setup of the module.
We restarted our development of 9700 series modules in 2006. Our original goal was to provide a small set of low-cost "completer" modules allowing more elaborate synthesizer systems to be built wholly from our own catalog. Our ground rules were:
- Nearly goof-proof - extremely easy to build & set up
- Easy to use
- Very inexpensive.
Eventually, we decided that in order to please ourselves, we had to add the following requirement:
- Performance sufficient for high-fidelity sound processing.
High-performance circuits that don't require adjustment become more complex. As we developed solid, better performing circuits with higher device counts, we knew there was only one way to meet our original goals: to assist the kit builder by performing some of the assembly in advance. To turn this to the experimenter's advantage, we worked to make the circuits customizable wherever practical. The result was a new and unorthodox method of kit design, seen now in these second-generation 9700 series modules.
The 9700 development project continued to evolve at every turn. Progress accelerated in 2008 when we were joined by our newest designer, Cliff Schecht. Over the next year, Cliff took the existing design sketches and concepts and developed most of the new crop of modules with significant consultation from Geoff Schecht and feedback from the rest of us. When David Arms joined Chuck McLeavy's production team in 2009, these modules began to make the final huge leap from prototype to production.
Benefits from employing this new method of kit design have surpassed our expectations. The new crop of 9700 modules is utterly true to the original design goal: basic modules at an extremely affordable price that are, by far, the easiest-to-build kits we have ever produced. Even sweeter is that their performance rivals modules available from any manufacturer at any price.
Our final set of design goals, met with the new 9700-series modules, are:
- Standard, basic, simple elements in a variety of functions
- Compatible and/or easily adaptable to almost all modular synthesizer
- signal levels
- control voltages
- supply voltages
- Durable & mechanically simple
- Extremely easy to build
- Option for affordable ready-made product
- Premium fidelity in signal path
- Compact & low-power
- Low cost, comparable to original 2720/4700-series pricing
- Easily adapted to fit any modular synthesizer format
- Additional packaging and power options.
Each of the circuits employ the following features to improve performance and reliability:
- Only high-quality capacitors are used in the signal path, but these components are provided as through-hole components so that owners may replace them with even more esoteric components as they may choose to suit their preference.
- Attention is paid to signal fidelity throughout the system:
- low-distortion op-amps
- direct-coupled amplification wherever possible
- local linear power regulation
- low-noise layout
- compact, double-sided boards with ground planes
- excellent decoupling
- system star grounding throughout
- SMT components, where used, employ larger packages (0805, SO-DIP, SOT-23, etc.)
- Extremely limited point-to-point wiring
- power harness is pre-wired
- Power inputs to each modules are regulated (with bypass) and protected against over-voltage.
The new modules we have released for this series are a start in a new direction for modular synthesizers. An exciting path lies ahead of us and we are excited to have you join us for this journey.
Brad Martin & Scott Lee
On behalf of the entire team at PAiA.
The 9741 dual voltage-controlled amplifier module consists of two independent VCAs which can be used to modify audio or control signals.
Out of Stock
A two-section, three-function module, the 9744 serves as a control voltage (CV) source, or, as patch-points for mixing or attenuating signals to & from other modules in a system.
A three-input one-output active mixer, the 9745 features 1/8" jack (tip-sleeve phone, aka 3.5mm mono) connectors with input level controls.
Out of Stock
A two-section module, the 9746 features two sets of patch points for combining or splitting signals within a system.
The 9747 Passive Mixer/Splitter is a set of four separate networks (each with four 1/8" TR jacks) on a single-width panel. Each network can be used as a mixer (3 into 1) or a splitter (1 out to 3).
Out of Stock
Audio signals applied to the inputs of the 9748 Balanced Modulator appear at the output, with added new frequencies which are the sums and differences of the applied signals.
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This module generates 'white' and 'red' and 'blue' noise. Starting with a transistor 'avalanche' junction noise generator the versatile 9751 may be reconfigured to use an optional Zener-diode for noise generation.
The 9752 monitors the input signal voltage and copies it to the output, synchronized to changes in an input control voltage (CV) or an input clock, or synchronized to an internal clock if there is no external input.
Out of Stock
The -11, Revisited. Audio or control signals input to the 9753 module are converted to 'envelopes' relative to the amplitude and triggers, Gate (step) or Pulse.
Out of Stock
The 9754 is used to match low-level signals such as those from microphones to the line-level (plus) signals anticipated by modern modular synthesizers, or, just to perform a general signal boost.