Electronic music hardware gadgets & gizmos?
January 19, 2007 1:39 AM   Subscribe

DAWs are cool, but I really like the feel of instruments in my hands. Where can I obtain potentially-electronic-music-producing electronic gadgets, oscillators, noise machines, etc. in Southern California?
posted by univac to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Ebay! What sort of music do you want to produce? If you're after ultra lofi gadgets and enjoy (or think you might enjoy) tinkering with circuitry then you should visit second hand shops and buy up old toy keyboards and toys to circuitbend. Highly recommended things to look for are Speak and Spells (obviously) and the Yamaha PSS and VSS range of keyboards. The VSS's are samplers that can be circuitbent to wonderful ends (some with basic FM synthesis), and the PSS's are FM keyboards - most of which can be battery powered so you can try 'bending them.

This book is a wonderful start to messing around with old electronic toys and gadgets, with well laid out projects and tips.

Other thing to search on Ebay for is old military and navy equipment - you might be able to turn up audio testing machinery (oscillators)

If you want to just buy things, the cheapest greatest analogue mono synth I know is the Yamaha CS5, Casio CZ synths, less trendy DX synths (eg. DX21, DX11, DX100), drum machines - definitely the TR-505 (which is supremely circuitbendable and wicked thru effects), Korg Electribes are worth a look and there's always cheep and cheerful Behringer knock-off pedals you can buy and chain together to create all sorts of audio madness.
posted by 6am at 4:01 AM on January 19, 2007

Are you looking for synth instruments, or MIDI controllers for your DAW? I don't know much about the former, but there's a healthy community online devoted to the latter. I don't have any links handy, but if you google around for microcontroller MIDI projects, you can probably find a lot of project ideas.

One of my professors in university built a Z80-based custom MIDI instrument that combined the neck from a MIDI guitar (sensors for each string/fret) with an ASCII keyboard, a breath pressure sensor, and a number of touch-pads to produce something that was sort of a chimera merging a sax, a piano, a guitar, and a healthy dose of WTF?

Sadly, most things like that tend to be one-off custom builds, so if you're looking to buy an off-the-shelf solution, your options will be more limited.
posted by Alterscape at 4:11 AM on January 19, 2007

I just want to second Handmade Electronic Music by Nicolas Collins. It tells how to build at low low cost, exactly the things your asking about. As someone who's reading a slew of electronics books right now, it's the most accessible of any of them, even listing the parts numbers for everything you'd need to build the projects (and most of the projects are extremely cheap).

You could also try the All Electronics shop in Van Nuys, they carry a bunch of stuff that is bendable/hackable into music instruments.
posted by drezdn at 6:19 AM on January 19, 2007

posted by drezdn at 6:20 AM on January 19, 2007

If you're technically inclined, There's critter board.
posted by drezdn at 6:23 AM on January 19, 2007

I'm going to demonstrate my ignorance of California geography and nominate Analog Haven. Lots of great synthy goodness there loaded with knobs.
posted by jdfan at 7:59 AM on January 19, 2007

Univac, do you mean musical instruments, or lab instruments?

Although not quite what you're after, but perhaps useful -- under 'hardware' here are some interesting (YMMV) controllers
posted by yohko at 11:02 AM on January 19, 2007

If you are looking to tinker check out the current issue of Make (vol 8), "TV-to-Synth Interface" and "MIDI Controller Monkey" projects. Both of these seem ripe for modification into other projects.
posted by yohko at 11:35 AM on January 19, 2007

If you've got the time and the basic knowledge of what you're looking for, you can't go wrong with flea markets. A friend of mine managed to build a recording studio out of flea market scores and elbow grease. Another friend of mine found a functioning Moog synthesizer.
posted by lekvar at 12:25 PM on January 19, 2007

Analog Haven (Pomona)
Big City Music (Studio City)
Future Music (Hollywood)

I've bought lots of things from AH and BCM, and can recommend both highly...go in and play around, have some fun. Future Music is mostly overpriced vintage stuff conveniently located in guitar alley on Sunset, but now and then they have some truly amazing things.

I'm thrilled that the DIY stuff is so popular and glad to see it getting recommendations, having made and bent lots of things myself in the past. However, my $0.02 is that DIY quickly sucks the fun out of things when your desire to have a noisemaking device turns into an 11 hour project where you would have much rather paid someone an extra $100 to put it together for you. So check out the nice stuff at AH or BCM before attempting to roll your own.
posted by SeƱor Pantalones at 2:56 PM on January 19, 2007

« Older Why can induce muscle cramps in my feet so easily?   |   Decent windows CD-labelling software? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.