MAKE Japan editor Hideo Tamura was kind enough to send us one of the new Gakken SX-150 Analog Synthesizer kits. Needless to say I was very pleased to receive it. The kit comes as part of the latest issue of Otona no Kagaku (Science for Adults) magazine/book(aka ‘mook’). Though unable to actually read the issue, I fully enjoyed the included pictorials on synth history and hack/mod ideas for the SX-150 – a ton of good stuff in there.
Putting it together
Assembly of the kit requires little work – the circuit board comes fully assembled, just mount it to the panel and connect the stylus control strip. Power is provided by 4 AA batteries and a small speaker is included in the design. I highly suggest connecting the output to external amplification (this little guy really does sound quite good!). The “external source” jack accepts an amplified signal and converts its frequency into pitch control. Controls for LFO, pitch envelope, frequency cutoff, and attack/decay are included. Each potentiometer gives a wide range of response, so you have a relatively large amount of control over the sound.
The simple design seems to suggest that the SX-150 wants/needsto be modded, hacked, and/or customized. Using the stylus/pitch-strip control only gives you a taste of the good sounds you can get from the kit. I decided to replace the strip with some momentary pushbuttons and a small trimpot for adjustment. You can see/hear the results below –
The SX-150 kit is very easy to use and some modding ideas are bound to come to mind should you get your hands on one. At the very least, you can choose from a number of included decorative decals – and at the more advanced end, schematic and code for using MIDI input has already been posted. I’m sure more sweet DIY add-ons are in the works – very awesome.