Instruments first come out of a personal musical need. This need then transitions into a process of rigor and carefully paying attention... always in the context of music. We design, tweak, and test while working on music. We incorporate even early 'drafts' into our music making systems. So there is always purpose throughout.
We try to work only when our minds are clear and hearts are vulnerable. This is how we can be truly honest. This sort of clarity and vulnerability takes lots of mental preparation and practise. We also employ a Listener-Operator dynamic, which we will be posting on this site in the future!
For more of the nuts and bolts, read on...
We use low-noise sealed conductive plastic element potentiometers rated for 1 million cycles. This is 100x longer than the carbon pots found in most other electronics. Our pots also feature solid metal bushings and shafts for ruggedness. The feel is perfect. Not too fast, not too slow and silky smooth. Faders are also conductive plastic and rated for 100k cycle life, 10x longer life than most others.
Knobs are a custom shape we came up with after maybe 100 or so prototypes over the course of several years. They are now made for us by Kilo International, precision CNC'd out of aluminum, bead blasted for a smooth, yet grippy surface, then anodised. They have a CNC cut paint-backfill line (so it will never wear off).
We use premium optical encoders instead of inexpensive mechanical encoders which wear out and begin skipping steps in only a few years of moderate use.
Tact pushbuttons are sealed and rated for 1 million cycles or better. We use Salecom silver contact toggle switches featuring 100k cycle life.
We use high-spec, low noise, low drift, low tolerance, low tempco resistors. All resistors are at least 1% tolerance and 0.05% in 'generic' critical areas, typ. 25ppm. For ultra-precision reference circuitry, we use 0.05% laser trimmed matched resistor packs. All signal path resistors are thin film and spec'd for very low distortion and excellent linearity. We also spend similar care in selection of the right capacitors choosing soft-term MLCCs for any part sizes over 0603 to avoid layer cracking, a failure mode in hi-rel applications. All passives are automotive grade or better with extended operating ranges.
We use some of the highest performance op amps available to date for ultra-high precision and negligible temperature drift. This allows for simpler, higher precision signal paths. Noise and THD are negligible for these devices. They are also rail-to-rail which means you gain nearly 4V total headroom over other commonly used devices.
Power connectors are keyed, latching, long-life, low resistance gold plated Samtec Rugged Mini-Mate. We use 24 & 20AWG wire which provides very low voltage drop compared to ribbon cables which use 26-28AWG wire. Our power cables will last over 3x longer than typical Euro power cables all while providing lower ground losses and less noise - which becomes more and more apparent as a modular system grows in size. We now offer a default Eurorack ribbon cable for those that wish to remain in the standard they are used to but this connector/cable is also of high quality.
Board to board connectors are gold plated Samtec 'four point' contacts for high reliability and low contact resistance.
Front panel connectors are isolated 3.5mm jacks so we can better control the path of chassis noise. They also feature a dedicated ground contact. We have these jacks custom made for us with special platings and contact ratings which doubles the life from 5k cycles to 10k cycles. These are the longest lasting 3.5mm jacks you will find.
We have recently changed our panel technology to a fiberglass-based panel. This has nothing to do with cost (they actually cost more the way we have them made!) We did this to provide a much better aesthetic (gold is real gold, not a yellowish printing) and the silk screen pops and is much easier to read in low-light conditions. We can also do more clever things with lighting and surface switches as well. And there is a nice texture with the matte finish with semi-gloss ink accents. We mill proper Eurocard compatible slotted mounting holes for use of captive screw fasteners (contact us for details) so no more dropping or losing screws.
We also put brushed ferritic stainless backing plates on all of our modules. This offers EM shielding, a bit of thermal isolation, and keeps the electronics of the module protected.
Ergonomics and Playability
Tactile feedback and ergonomics are essential for an instrument to become a natural extension of the body and mind. Our instruments feature comfortable, easy, and inspiring user interfaces.
Our user-interface layouts and aesthetic come from Hannes Pasqualini. You can learn more about his excellent work here. He has saint-level status for being able to work with us as picky and rigorous as we are :D
Some of our instruments feature repeatable precisions in the sub-100uV range over full application temperature range. This unique level of repeatability allows you to keep magical patches just the way they should be when you find them.
Power and Grounding
Our modules feature separate analogue, digital, and chassis grounds in order to carefully control noise from entering precision CV or audio signals..
A rugged properly polarised, latch-locking power connector is used on all of our modules. It features lower contact resistance and large wire for lower drop across your modular system (which results in lower noise floor).
We add active, high-speed, low-loss reverse voltage protection for maximum headroom and over-voltage protection for digital sections. All rails feature over-current protection. For any module with digital devices on-board, we provide user-selectable voltage source for those without a dedicated 5V rail.
We expect our instruments to be lifetime instruments. You won't worry about scratchy controls, skipping encoders, uneven/sloppy 'feel', snapping off a knob, or any of the other issues you've likely encountered with inferior electronics. We feel our design and build quality and overall unwillingness to make compromises is something largely missing in products produced today.
All of our products are fully burned in for 24 continuous hours before final testing. This increases the chance any semiconductor, joint, or other failure modes are discovered before the instrument is shipped.
All software is professionally designed and tested which means fewer bugs and quick, responsive operation. Our menus are almost always 1:1 and for less frequently used settings or modes, we limit menu depth to 1 additional layer - but are still sure to clearly mark them on the panel.
Our stuff is manufactured by a CM who specialises in military/medical devices for mission/life critical electronics. We flew around touring many CMs across the country putting each manufacturer under the well-polished RE lens. When we walked in the doors of one in particular and met every person asking hard questions, we had a great feeling. Their floors are so clean you can eat off of them. We even checked the maintenance rooms - they had a John Deere mower in there and the landscaper hadn't left even a single rogue blade of grass on the floor where the mower was stored. The people there care so much about what they do. The work areas were clean, spacious, well-lit and full of photos of their loved ones. They all understand what they do matters and had a very tangible sense of pride. Our CM is only interested in making the highest quality assemblies possible. And while this way costs a bunch of money, It gives us the peace-of-mind, less stress, and allows us to continue doing this; making lots more units than just the few we need for our own musical work all while being able to remain light and not worry about the high levels of stress manufacturing can surely stir up! So it's a great fit and we know this relationship will keep us going - something sustainable!
That's the end of this little writeup. Hopefully y'all understand why our stuff takes so long to design and what our standards look like.
So, in short, we strive to make *really good stuff.*