Sunday, October 26, 2008

x0xb0x SS#01: ii. Goals

I signed up to the x0x waiting list in April of this year. By my humble estimation it looks like I may not actually see an official kit until about one year from now, November 2009 (if at all!). If that actually does come around, I'll pay for an official kit for sure. For now though, my goal is to self-source this unit. I want it up and running for about Christmas time so I can gift it to myself :) I've done quite a bit of reading about the project already and have sourced some of the rare parts too. I have some ideas about how it should look so I'm going to go outside of the official Bill Of Materials. Actually - I've been basing my research on an updated version of the bill of materials, BOM v1.8, which includes numerous updates and notes on alternative parts.

In terms of the project as a whole, I have the following goals:
  • keep the hard costs as close to zero as possible,
  • source as many of the parts locally and from within Canada,
  • minimize (or at least be aware of) hidden costs,
  • document time and cost.
$Zero. I've been unloading stuff via Ebay, Kijiji, and Craigs to fund this project. I figure a tit for tat approach will just make the whole project more interesting. Not only do I get to get rid of stuff I don't need, I reward myself with a 303 :) I've been able to pool a healthy chunk of change into my pocket and paypal account so x0x SS#01 may very well cost $zero out of pocket when all is said and done. Here's hoping!

Get as many parts from Canada as possible, relative to overall cost that is. I'm sure there are a good handful of Canadians building a x0xb0x too. From what I have found so far, there are a several reliable sources here to cover the list. Because this is my first build, I do hesitate to go out on a limb with alternative parts and make approximations. I want a working unit first and foremost. I do need to rely on what has been proven to work. The other thing to note is that because the exchange is shifting gears these days, buying form within the country is getting to be the preferred method again. Since I'm working with a pool of US dollars, I'm not feeling the crunch yet but I will be taking into account what it would have cost based on exchange.

Minimize shipping costs and duty from these multiple sources. This is just one of those hidden costs that can really add up if one isn't paying attention to it. If I can make strategic purchases to minimize cost, all the better.

I want track the time and cost of this project. This mainly out of personal interest. What does it really take to build this thing? What did I pay for it and how much time did it really take? I've already made the mistake of not documenting the time I spent researching it. Because I've now taken on the additional task of documenting it, I want to account for that too. The advantage of tracking all of this is that I can at least separate what was actual build time and what was an 'external cost' of the project, such as writing this blog.

Now - the actual x0xb0x! My goals for this are fairly straightforward:
  • build a fairly 'normal' x0xb0x based on existing documentation,
  • add a power switch,
  • add connectors to all ribbon cables and main wiring for easy assembly / disassembly,
  • add sockets for rare parts and any other spots where it may be necessary or advantageous,
  • use different LEDs on first build,
  • use different knobs on the first build,
  • customize the ABS case with color,
  • customize the acrylic top and back panels,
  • try both the BA6110 & BA662A chips and decide on my preference,
  • review other documented mods that may improve the 'original' characteristics of the 303 sound and apply it here if the process is fairly painless.
I think this is good start. It's challenging enough, primarily aesthetic, and will produce a working instrument that will be ready to be modded even further if it interests me. I imagine building the first one will take a healthy amount of time anyway, so I would rather have an instrument I can enjoy first. Since I have to solder things like 40 LEDs into place, I'd rather do that the way I want it on the first pass.

x0xb0x SS#01: i. Preface

Like many electronic musicians, I've wanted a TB-303 for quite some time. Software emulation is all well and good (with the D16 Phoscyon taking the top spot for me these days) but after years and years of using virtual versions and junky presets on other synths and modules, I figured it was high time to stop chasing the dream and just go out and get one. It appears that my appetite for the true 303 sound can only be tamed by having at least one silver box in the studio.

This last year and a half has seen a significant price jump for a 303 though. For years a 303 cost about $1000. Now it's at least $500 more and appears to reach $3000. Someone called it a one trick pony somewhere and I couldn't agree more. Because $2000 is, imho, difficult to justify for this type of synth, I began ruling out the possibility of getting an original. Dammit! It looks like the real thing may be just beyond reach.

In my search for other alternatives the x0xbox came up. Other than it not being a "real" 303, it looks like it has everything I want and more: cloned circuitry, midi, DIN Sync for my 606, usb, options for mods, a healthy and helpful community, and plenty of documentation. Considering the total cost (minus my time) will likely be somewhere nearing the original price of a 303, I'd say this is the logical place to start. If I'm still not truly satisfied, I'll keep looking at the originals.

Since I've been getting back into electronics this last year, the x0xb0x will be perfect project because building it will be a great learning experience, it will achieve the same sound I'm after, and I won't feel like I'm sacrificing a classic instrument if I want to mod it.

this.onload {trace 'hello world!';}

So blogs are already out of style and twitter is the way to communicate with the world these days. How fitting that I'm starting this process now.

Personally I don't have time for either and I get the feeling I'm not missing out on that much. I'm not known for my writing skills. I find it a task. Ironically I talk too much so when I do have to convey my ideas to print, they tend to get long [but perhaps not interesting :)].

I do like stumbling onto the odd discussion that relates to a subject that interests me though. I owe heaps of thanks to all sorts of anonymous people out there who have helped me troubleshoot any number of issues. Thanks to those many blogs, I've been able to lurk on the web and find the answers I'm looking for.

So what I am doing here is keeping track of some of my projects. I just want a way to able to have some form of recall with ideas and projects I'm taking on. If this can become yet another resource for like minded people, all the better. You've helped me with your personal experience. Maybe I can help you with mine.