Archived entries for gadgets

Dave Smith Instruments

The folks at Antfood readily admit to having an obsession with synthesizers. Some of our synthesizers are new, some are vintage, some are homemade, and some haven’t worked since the late nineties.

Dave Smith Instruments makes some of our favorite new synths on the market. The Prophet 08 and the Poly-Evolver are two of the most powerful analog poly-synths ever made and we think the Tempest is the greatest drum machine since the 808 and the MPC3000. In fact, the Tempest combines features of both these iconic instruments and adds a whole host of additional features! We used the Poly-evolver to make lush, complex pads and rich bass tones in our recent tracks for Morgan Stanley and UNDP, and we used the Tempest to customize new sounds for an interactive installation for Nike that was featured at the track & field Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon.

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As you can tell, we are excited about the synths that Dave Smith is producing, which is why we are thrilled to announce that Antfood is now officially a Dave Smith Instruments sponsored artist! Keep an eye out for new tracks that feature one or more of Dave Smith’s amazing analog synthesizers.

Tubes, Solder & Brass: Drip’s EMI Redd47

We just finished a dual-channel remake of the famous all-tube Redd 47 pre-amplifier. Today, this pre is largely remembered as the input stage of Abbey Road’s EMI console used by George Martin and the Beatles. It sound rich, full and clear with a classic analog edge as the amplifier is pushed hard. Now we just need to find someone who sounds like John!

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The board was designed by Gregory at Drip Electronics, the beautiful brass faceplate was made in the UK by Grand Master Audio, and we sourced some old RCA knobs from the legendary Mark Russell of South 11th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

DIY: Mutable Instruments’ “Shruthi”

At Antfood, we are quite fond of DIY. We have built much of our equipment, ranging from mic preamplifiers to equalizers to compressors, and now even to synthesizers. Our first such synth was the super-versatile Shruthi, designed by Olivier Gillet whose company Mutable Instruments sells kits, PCBs and a limited number of pre-assembled products.

The Shruthi is a monophonic digital/analog hybrid synthesizer featuring digital oscillators running through analog filters, all controlled by an ATMega644p microcontroller (of Arduino fame). Mutable Instruments offers several different filter designs including clones of famous synths as well as Gillet’s own designs. The oscillators produce sound in a variety of ways, including but not limited to: creating digital versions of traditional analog waveforms (i.e. sawtooth, square, etc.), phase distortion and wavetable synthesis. Users can even upload their own wavetables via Sysex. The Shruthi also has a built-in sequencer, arpeggiator, and audio-in, allowing the user to run an external signal through the analog filters. What does all this mean? You get a compact synth whose sound runs the gamut from warm analog to crazy, glitchy digital.

As far as DIY projects go, the Shruthi is incredibly well-documented, featuring a step-by-step build guide with plenty of pictures. There is also a forum filled with helpful users who have all been there. We wouldn’t suggest building one if you’ve never soldered before, but if you are comfortable doing so, we highly recommend trying it out. And for the really ambitious DIYers, Mutable Instruments also has a VCO-based monophonic synth, the Anushri, and will soon release a 6-voice Shruthi, the Ambika.

Ant Camp in the Hudson Valley!

After a very busy summer, we needed to escape the hustle and bustle of NYC and clear our heads. So we packed up and moved the studio to Lake Oscawana for a week. Yes, THAT Lake Oscawana.

(Click image below to see photos from the week)

Some fun videos from the week…

Spencer sings “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”

Wyeth rocks Carly Simon. Hard.

With “Purple Rain” temporarily banned, Sean sings “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Wilson plays guitar on the deck, brainstorming for a project.

We test out the mic preamp we just built, as Sean hosts a Sunday morning fantasy football talk show.

Experiments with Binaural Recording

In preparation for an upcoming project with our friends at BBH and Luxurious Animals, we ran some tests on our pal Fritz. He’s a real dummy.

The project will use binaural recording, a method of recording audio that creates a “3D” listening experience. Make sure you put on your headphones before watching the videos below. And buckle up.

Objects Test:

Solo Voice Test:

Multiple Voices Test

Tiger Tamer Test:

Gyraf SSL Build – Subtle Slam Box!

Recently, we built a clone of the famous SSL/Alan Smart Mixbus Compressor. We couldn’t have done it without two Danes – Jakob at Gyraf, who began the project and Gustav who prints PCBs. It includes the “turbo” mod, to utilize a true stereo sidechain. It was a fairly straightforward, but rewarding project. Most importantly, the compressor sounds like … magic.

We ordered the main PCB from Gustav in Denmark.  The board was designed by Jakob at Gyraf.VCAs, OpAmps, resistors, capacitors, rectifiers and regulators!  BAM!GSSL Installed in a 1 Unit rack enclosure. The next one will be more organized...I found some 20 year old Letraset sheets at Pearl Paint in Chinatown.The Letraset transfers worked out relatively well!And finally, the GSSL is installed in the right desktop rack, and it sounds wonderful.

Little Homemade Tube Amp.

Here at Antfood, we have a pristine 1969 Fender Twin Reverb. It’s really something if you are Stevie Ray Vaughan or “The Edge”, but in a studio setting we desired something that would overdrive sweetly at a lower volume. Thanks to the forums at AX84 and parts from Doberman and Mojo Musical Supply, we have hand-built a great-sounding amp, customized for our needs and tastes!

One day we decided to build a tube amp for recording guitar and Rhodes.  We started with this board and some big capacitors.... and fit everything in the chassis.Then we added two 'trannys'...Then it was time for some woodwork.It fits...OMG!!!, we almost forgot the speaker!!!It sounds amazing... really amazing.Then we bought some old-school laquered tweed (because we are classy here at Antfood)Cut it square,and a handle!screwed on feet,It wasn't easy!It looks pretty.and sounds pretty too.

Monome: A New Instrument

The Monome (monome.org) is a “adaptable, minimalist interface” with a large open-source software community. Wilson met Brian and Kelli (who design and produce these things) in Philly a while ago and picked up two 40h kits. Two years later, we built a Monome and it is fun, musical and inspiring! Look for a video demonstrating its potential in the next two years!

…and if you don’t know, now you know.

Monome logic board.Pedro seems proud of himself.Working LED/Button board.Monome in São Paulo.Back in Brooklyn, Wilson gets a router ...... and goes crazy!But eventually,... makes it fit.Slam Box!!!Then we make some hot jams.Before putting it on a shelf at home.

New Toy

Expanding our collection.

Two octaves ought to be enough for anyone.__Antfood gets a new toy.

Debra’s Ear Transplant.

A photo essay of a semi-successful ear transplant.

This is Debra, at the Antfood studio.Debra needs binaural recording like a hole in the head.Oooooooh.We have to run the mics through her throat, so Stu is taking Debra's collar off.Taking her collar off proves more difficult than we had imagined.Shhh, don't scream.HELP!That razor was hardly enough.  Sawza!Okay, came off clean.Drilling.Deb's head is full of funky stuff.Cleaning out her brain matter.Once we've drilled the proper holes, the mics go in nicely.Now that she can hear, Sean and Deb sing a duet.  They are special friends.You dig.Yay, Debra!Conducting binaural experiments.More binaural shenanigans.She needs a new neck.New neck!


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