A Trip Inside Our Instruments
For those curious to see what goes into a Rabid Elephant instrument...
Instruments first come out of a musical need. This then transitions into a ton of rigor and paying attention. They are always made in the context of music. We design, tweak, and test while working on music. So there is always purpose and reason.
But this alone is not enough to make great things... we only work when our minds are clear and hearts are vulnerable. This is the only way we have found to be honest. This takes a lot of mental preparation as well as a lot of rigor in terms of changing how we are as humans.
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 nearly all 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 and dual-concentrics are also conductive plastic and rated for 100k cycle life, 10x longer life than most others.
Rabid Elephant knobs are custom made for us from impact resistant polycarbonate. We have tested hundreds of knobs and these, to our fingers, are perfection - balancing comfort, speed, and precision. And today, we now utilise custom designed Rabid Elephant knobs precision made anodised aluminum with cut and back-filled lines. These are made for us by Kilo, one of the top manufacturers of absolutely beautiful and perfect knobs.
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.
Playable 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 Susumu thin film and spec'd for very low distortion and excellent linearity. We also spend similar care in selection of the right capacitors.
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.
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 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.
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. We mill proper Eurocard compatible slotted holes for use of captive screw fasteners (contact us for details) so no more dropping or losing screws.
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.
Some of our designs feature repeatable precisions in the sub-100uV range. This unique level of repeatability allows you to keep magical patches just the way they should be.
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.
LED indicators are designed with various techniques like fully balanced or isolated rails, constant current, and/or slew limited switching for mitigating LED noise on the analogue grounds, which could otherwise result in audible 'clicks' as an LED transitions.
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.