An analog synthesizer is a musical instrument that converts electricity into sound. It is normally played with a keyboard, so if you can play a piano, you can play a synthesizer. Historically, synthesizers have been used in many different kinds of music, such as rock, funk, hip hop, electronic, and even TV show soundtracks. What differentiates a synthesizer is the level of control over the sound the user has. Multiple waveforms, filter types and envelope shapes each have a large impact on the sound that is created.

A synthesizer is comprised of a number of different sections. These are:

  • The Voltage Controlled Oscillator (VCO) – which creates a pure tone
  • The Filter – which can add or remove frequencies
  • The Envelope Generator – which creates a separate shaping envelope
  • The Voltage Controlled Amplifier (VCA) – which uses the envelope to shape the waveform

A modular synthesizer is named for its different sections being assembled into discrete modules, which are connected by the user using cables. This allows the user full customization over how the modules are connected and can sometimes yield surprising sonic results. The traditional signal path goes VCO -> Filter -> VCA <– Envelope Generator. The VCA has an output which is sent to a speaker.

The basic concept of sound synthesis is simple: a voltage that oscillates from positive to negative at a fixed frequency when connected to a speaker will push the speaker cone back and forth, producing a sound, similar to hitting a note on a piano or plucking the string of a guitar. This ‘back and forth’ voltage is called a waveform. The VCO designed for the IEEE Concordia Analog Modular Synthesizer gives users the choice between a triangle shaped waveform and a square shaped waveform.

The synthesizer case is made from plexiglass and wood. The module faceplates are cut from sheet metal, and the electronics are mounted onto the back of the faceplates. The case features ergonomic handholds for portability. The modules are attached to the case with two screws and can be easily removed.

This project is ongoing during Fall 2017 to Winter 2018. Interested in joining the team? Contact us or drop by the lab!

  • Timeline: Ongoing (contact us for details)
  • Project e-mail: ams@ieee.concordia.ca