[2014.09.29] This page has moved to: http://www.jamesschidlowsky.ca/electronics.html

Handmade Electronic Sound Boxes

by James Schidlowsky

Dabbling in DIY/handmade electronics since 2010, never having studied the field formally, not knowing entirely what I'm doing. Breadboarding things, making sounds... this page is a little gallery of the boxes I've made.

Original inspirations & impetuses: Science Fair 75-in-1 Electronic Project Kit, Annette Peacock, Nicolas Collins' Handmade Electronic Music book.

Ongoing inspiration: electro-music.com DIY Hardware and Software forums (where I'm known as “RingMad”), Stela Zofrene.

These boxes are not for sale.

Click on a photo to see a larger version.


Pulse Witch 23

This box is based on a "pulse width oscillator" circuit by Ryk M., wherein the 4 basic parameters can be adjusted manually or automatically (the latter via LFO or external CV). The idea is that it can be played performatively, or used as a standalone installation. The range section is a bit more complicated: 8 different capacitors can be selected manually via the 3-bit switches, or pseudo-randomly, at a rate that can be controlled manually or automatically.

The cool feature of course is the infinity mirror. The LEDs therein echo the state or value of the various sections, e.g. oscillator rate, feedback level and range choice. The meters show the internal voltage level ultimately controlling the speed of the oscillators.

For Burroughs and the "23 enigma" watchers... the heart of the circuit uses a CMOS 4023 chip, the range on the meters go from 2 to 23 (in prime numbers and VdGG units).

Completed November 2013.

Here is the Pulse Witch 23 demo video.


Sweet32 Automator A.K.A. Sweet32 Control Box Control Box

This box automates the Sweet32 Speaker Interrupter-Switcher Installation Thing Control Box (see below) so that it can really be a standalone installation that changes its parameters over time. This includes a 2-channel triangle wave oscillator, with either random tones, or slowly rising and falling tones. It can generate 256 different tones, which are represented by the sideways LED displays. The box also generates CV and gate signals to control the rate of the interrupters and switcher.

Completed May 2013.

See the Sweet32 Speaker Interrupter-Switcher Installation Thing page for more details.


RED (Antennatron Noise Box)

Another silly little battery-operated noise box, made during a break from the big Sweet32 project. An accidental realization that putting an antenna on the VCO input of a not-quite-properly hooked up 4046 produced noise, so I decided to run with the idea and have three such circuits interact. The antennae pick up general random stuff, as well as proximity to living bodies. Completed March 2013.

Here is a quick RED noise box demo video.


Sweet32 Speaker Interrupter-Switcher Installation Thing

(Ceci n'est pas la haute-fidelité)

After a few years of collecting speakers from stuff found in the trash, I finally got them off the floor and onto the wall. There are 47 speakers per panel, but only 16 per panel are wired up to the control box. The box takes a 2 channel input and randomly selects which of the speakers the sound is directed to (for each panel). The rate can be controlled by the knob, or via an external CV. There is also the optional interruption control on a per-channel basis... this cuts the sound going to a panel according to the rate set via the knob (or external CV). Alas, the box and the speakers are not very clean-sounding, so it is definitely lo-fi

Completed December 2012. A bit later, implemented a gate input to replace the on/off switch for the interrupter section.

See the Sweet32 Speaker Interrupter-Switcher Installation Thing page for more details.

No video could really demonstrate what this installation sounds like. Click on the image to see the overall setup.


Tea Candle Sound Box

A bit of a silly little box, made quickly to restore my sanity somewhat after spending an enormous amount of time and energy on the Sweet32 Speaker Interrupter-Switcher Installation Thing, which failed massively when I first turned it on. So, before getting down to serious debugging, I built this. Via the electro-music forum, I learned that the flickering LEDs in dollar-store electronic tea candles produce sound. So I chose 3 of them that sounded good together, and all the circuit does is mix the outputs through diodes and drive a speaker. Completed December 2012.

Here is a quick Tea Candle Noise box demo video.



Not really a soundbox, this is more of a small utility device for making breadboarding simpler. I got tired of building power sections and clock oscillators over and over, so I built this little box that gives me a regulated and filtered 9V and four square wave clocks. Each oscillator has 3 different range capacitors, so the box can produce frequencies ranging from about 0.01 Hz to 6300 Hz overall. With some alligator clips and/or wires, I can plug it into my breadboard and away I go! Completed September 2012.


Quad Spacial Percussionizer

Customized version of the Spacial Percussionizer (see below) for my sound-maker friend Alexandre St-Onge. He wanted a grey box with 4-channel output instead of 2, as well as all the trigger and spatializing oscillators voltage controlled. The power switch and output jacks are on the back side. CMOS NAND gate “percussion”/noises generator with 4052 spatializers (with 4 positions per pair of channels). Completed July 2012.


The Spacial Percussionizer

CMOS NAND gate “percussion”/noises generator with 4052 spatializer (with 4 positions... hard left, hard right, sortof left, sortof right). Based on a couple of circuits by “Inventor”:
1. Percussion Karplus-Strong Inspired,
2. A Lunetta Spatializer.

Completed (finally) in March 2012. Photo by Linus Ouellet.

Here is the Spacial Percussionizer demo video.


The Triowaverator

Triowaverator = Triple wave generator = 3 sine/triangle wave generators (XR8038 IC) with frequency, level and skew control. Skew sortof makes a triangle into a sawtooth. The bolts are for attaching optional external variable resistors e.g. photoresistors, which is what I used to make the “3 Candles, 3 Sines” video.

Completed February 2012. Photo by Linus Ouellet.


The Spooly J.

The Spooly J is a CMOS-based unpredictable sound-making device based on Bubzy's “Spooly Master” circuit as described here: www.electro-music.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=48600. The bolt matrix allows one to connect 4 tap points to different pins of the 4040 divider chip, giving rise to many different combinations of sounds. Completed September 2011.

Here is the Spooly J. demo video (on youtube).


The Vidiffektor

The Vidiffektor is the odd box here, since unlike all the others, it mangles a video signal, rather than makes audio. Basically, it slices up a composite video signal fed into the box, and adds several divisions of the signal back into it. Two of these boxes were made, the other as a gift to my experimental filmmaker friend Christine Lucy Latimer. Completed July 2011.

When the circuit was still on the breadboard, I made this Vidiffektor demo video (on youtube).

Here are more abstract videos using the Vidiffektor, including some by the aforementioned Christine: www.vimeo.com/tag:vidiffektor.


The Tritone Dioder

The Tritone Dioder is simply three squarewave oscillators mixed together via diodes. Also, the duty cycle of each wave can be changed. Completed October 2010. Later, the potentiometers (which were cheap junk) were replaced (and with larger knobs, which changed the aesthetic -- which was pretty botched to begin with).

Here is the Tritone Dioder demo video (on youtube). Note that it involves two phaser pedals and another very simple box I made called the Lopsided 2-Channel Auto-Panner.


The Quadratic Cascading Intersidereal Noisificator

The Quadratic Cascading Intersidereal Noisificator (or Le Bruitificateur intersidéral quadratique en cascade in french) was based on a circuit in the above-mentioned Nicolas Collins book. It is based on a cascading series of 4 oscillators made using a 4093 NAND gate CMOS chip, wherein the first oscillator is gated by a 555 oscillator, which itself can be affected with another 555 (called the Saccadeur -- which can sort of be translated from french as stutterer or jerker). Completed August 2010.

Here is the The Noisificator demo video (on youtube).

The only time I sold a box... it is now owned by my sound artist/noisemaker friend Magali Babin after making a few changes she requested (trig in jack replaced by volume control, RCA out jack replaced by 1/4" jack -- these do not appear in the photo).


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