Musicians know how important it is to add a personal touch to their instruments – and really what better way to make something personal than to actually make it yourself? There are a number of very cool kits for sound-makers out there, from circuit-benders, to serious synthesizers. Here are some great gift ideas for those interested in crafting their own sounds.
Mini-Theremin kit – The theremin, invented in 1919 by Russian scientist Leon Theremin, is one of the world’s earliest fully electronic instruments, and is also unique in that it was the first musical instrument designed to be played without being touched. The eerie, other-worldly tones as heard in the films mentioned above are created by the proximity of the player’s hands to the metal antennas, with the resulting radio frequency interference being transformed into musical tones. Instructions are in Japanese but features highly detailed assembly pictures, sorry no English translation at this time. Easy to build and play!
Loud Objects Noise Toy Kit – The Noise Toy kit by Loud Objects is an easy build that delivers some impressive bit-bleeping goodness. After some simple soldering, you’ve got an excellent little synth-noise generator that can double as a programmable experimenter’s board – great for those interested in microcontroller sound synthesis.
Tycobraheâ„¢ Octaviaâ„¢ Replica complete kit – General Guitar Gadgets offer a variety of kit replicas of famous and hard-to-find effects pedals for the tone-loving guitarist. This recreation of a classic octave-distortion effect comes complete with parts, PCB and enclosure -just add sweet custom paint job (or just leave it bare-metal!)
MFOS WSG Component Kit (w/PCB) – Ray Wilson of MusicFromOuterspace.com has a definite talent for designing analog synthesizer projects – and a great sense of humor. His “Weird Sound Generator kit” is a great place to start for those looking to get started in the world of analog synth DIY.
Sound Lab Mini-Synth Component Kit (w/PCB) – Those who’ve already broken into Synth DIY would likely be very much into MFOS’ more advanced “SoundLab” project. Both the SoundLab and the WSG produce excellent analog sound and designing/building your own case really is half the fun.
SX-150 Analog Synthesizer Kit – Analog synthesizer sound quality in a uniquely affordable kit form – This cool little synth kit is easy to put together, requires no soldering and is easy to hack (see links below). There are no English instructions included (book and kit are in Japanese but beautifully done) but the detailed illustrations are more than enough to easily put this kit together. Check out our blog links below to see our review and hacks. Imported from Japan in partnership with Gakken. 4 AA batteries (not included)
- Size: 4.5 x 6 inches
- Controls for LFO, pitch envelope, frequency cutoff, resonance and attack/decay
- Slide controller (pen type electrode)
- Output and external input 1/8″ Jacks
- Small built-in speaker
I modded my SX-150 with some pushbutton I bought from an online surplus shop – Though this little synth is much fun as-is, modifying it with one’s own design additions is a real pleasure.
Arduino Pocket Piano Synth Kit – This is a board for making the Arduino into a portable stand alone music synthesizer. It plugs directly into the Arduino board and provides 25 multiplexed keys (2 full octaves), 4 pots, status LED, reset switch, digital to analog converter IC, and a RCA audio jack. The Arduino board with its powerful AVR processor is more than adequate for a wide range of sound synthesis techniques. We have experimented with simple additive / wave-table synthesis, frequency modulation, ring modulation, sampling, polyphony, various arpeggiators. The whole thing can be powered over the Arduino’s USB port – a great way to add new sound programs you can download from the web or write yourself!
The Pocket Piano requires an Arduino Microcontroller
Arduino Duemilanove $34.99
Vacuum Tube Amp Kit – Tube amps are relatively rare nowadays, and always very highly priced (and prized) – this rather deluxe kit from Gakken brings the sought after sound of tube warmth within reach.
Build your own retro, vacuum tube based amp for your iPod or portable music player. You can also experiment with sound by inserting normal straws of different lengths (not included) in the rear of the speakers. Instructions are in Japanese but features highly detailed assembly pictures, sorry no English translation at this time. Easy to build.
- Four vacuum tubes
- Two stereo speakers and an audio cable
- Requires two D batteries (not included)
- Output: 100mW / per channel
- Frequency range: 100 to 10KHz
Waveshield Kit – Adding quality audio to an electronic project is surprisingly difficult. Here is a shield for Arduinos that solves this problem. It can play up to 22KHz, 12bit uncompressed audio files of any length. It’s low cost, available as an easy-to-make kit. It has an onboard DAC, filter and op-amp for high quality output. Audio files are read off of an SD/MMC card, which are available at nearly any store. Volume can be controlled with the onboard thumbwheel potentiometer.
Thingamakit – This kit version of the popular Thingamagoop light and sound generator not only makes some great triangle and square waves – it’s a fun customizable character. Use the flashing LED tentacle (“LEDacle”) to control the bleep-tone output!
Voice of Saturn Synthesizer kits – The VOS series of analog synthesizer modules come complete very sweet retro-chic console enclosures. Available in sequencer, VCO, and Modulator varieties that each complement each other in functionality. The modulator can also be used to add tremolo effects to audio signals.
price $74.99 – $144.99
Holiday Shipping Deadlines:
Ground – Dec 15th
3-Day Saver -Dec 17th
2-Day -Dec 18th
Overnight -Dec 19th
*Customers experiences on orders with these ship methods placed after these dates may vary, the dates listed are what we call “safe dates”
USPS (Any Method):
Due to the high volume of mail that the postal service deals with around the holidays, order by Dec. 10th, however, many packages are lost or delayed in transit and we do not replace or refund any orders lost using this ship method, we strongly encourage you to not use this method in December.
Want more? Stop by the Maker Shed store and check out THE place for open source hardware, Arduino & Arduino accessories, electronic kits, science kits, smart stuff for kids, back issues of MAKE & CRAFT, box sets, books, robots, kits from Japan and more.
If I missed any kits or resources, please post them up in the comments.