Category Archives: Manifesto

A cornucopia of crazy for the holidays

First, did you know that RCA made a vacuum tube that was usable as a phonograph pickup?

Second, Feena Electronics. They introduced an interesting DJ MIDI controller in 2006. Since then, nothing. The last post to their forum was September 21.

Finally, this guy is building a duplicate of the old Metasonix Hellfire Modulator. He’s making a chassis for it out of plain sheet metal, and he apparently mated two toaster ovens together in order to bake powder-coating onto it. DIY FTW!!!

The Electric Western THERMATRON

Test of the THERMATRON flame controlled synthesizer by Lorin Edwin Parker from



Ionized gas, chemicals, heat and applied high voltage conduct through a flame, modulating the impedance across the grid and or plate of vacuum tubes. This applies a control voltage to a Phantastron synthesizer.


With the Astra. Video here.

I quote the creator:
“ken stone power supply board – caps/regulator/heatsinks/diodes from gutted wersi organ.
ray wilson’s 1v/oct single bus pcb. the keyboard is from a gutted lowrey wandering genie keyboard.
i recycled most of the capacitors in the unit from the genie and a dead tr606
(the rotary switches from 606 and a dead scope)
inside five small protoboards w/ 2 VCOs based on thomas henry’s 3080 vcos
(w/ matched transistor pair/tempco/polystrene caps).
white noise source (based on henry’s PNP noise source) through a Lm386 amp.
passive ring modulator using BAT56 schottky diodes – through their own lm386 amp.
VCF is a CEM 3328 from a dead mirage keyboard following jeff pointus/scott stites schematic – thomas henry 3080 VCA – a 555 based ADSR, two asm-1 lfos.
each CV section has it’s own modulation matrix rotary switch w/ choice
of lfo 1 tri, lfo 1 squ, lfo2 tri/squ, adsr, noise, gate, vco cross modulation
i didn’t buy anything for this unit.
i used some pretty crappy pots – but used good ones where it counts –
even the wire was from an old medical device

this is my depression era thrifter

the unit has linear FMs to the vcos and voltage controled Q
that are not even available on the front panel 🙂
i also built another lag in the unit – but didn’t need it…
someone can circuit bend it when i’m dead….

used decal paper for the first time to do the panel –
wood was dumpster wood

assembly of a mad man…”

But smarter than most mad men……and not afraid to part out crummy old combo organs. 😉

Even more what-the-hell-is-this stuff…..

Yet another Flickr gallery of pics of a homebrew synthesizer. No idea what it was or if he even finished it. The PC board looks like a kit but I don’t recognize it.

A Swedish DJ who is building a modular synth–apparently.

And here’s a really good photoset from the AHBA synth meeting last September. I don’t think Matrix ran this one.

Finally. Manmachine is a great comic. And features a “homebrew analog synthesizer”. Which the robot-oid protagonist apparently blows up after connecting power. (Scroll to the right using your mouse.) The creator ought to be encouraged to make more.

“How to make a Phantastron sing” article

Phantastron Schematic (Seely, 1950)

I posted a brief article on phantastrons and how to use them in audio synthesis on my Weblog at

Yes, there are schematics posted for the truly insane, and some suggestions to get you going. I was truly sad when I discovered that there really isn’t much info available on that great circuit of WWII radar!

Enjoy, and if you REALLY love it, you can feed me by getting a kit :). Maybe I’ll even cut you a deal or a swap if you’re a sufficiently deviant synther…

And, if you don’t already know, Electron-Tube Circuits by Samuel Seely and other old technical books are now in the public domain, and can be gotten at

Now, go forth and study! And do make something really tweaked, please.

Phantastron Kit Available

Electric Western is proud to present the Phantastron Kit: an all tube synth kit. The first all tube synthesizer extracted from Navy radar circuitry (at least that’s where I got it).

Here’s my video of testing the prototype model (yours will be prettier and sturdier) Audio starts as the tubes warm up (within 25 seconds) –

Video Demonstration:

Phantastron Under Test

First, I’ll start with what you don’t get:

1. A metasonix oscillator (yes it uses a 2d21 thyratron, and yes, I too love metasonix and Eric’s work, but this thing is different – the last thing I want to do is rip off someone else, really). But thank you Eric for introducing me to the 2D21, it does work better than the 884 in this case (although the 884 is sooo sexy looking)

2. 1V / xxx — the CV is quite variable, which makes this intstrument, well more like a trautonium than a TB303. Just watch the video above and know that the ribbon controls 0 to 5.5VDC linearly.


A Turret board with extra turrets for your own mods.

All the electronic parts, including a 2D21/PL21 thyratron and a 6SJ7 Pentode. Why these tubes? Well, the 2D21 is the most affordable thyratron and the 6SJ7 is a metal wonder that is RESONANT as heck in a phantastron circuit.

An all wooden box and 1/8″ Steel panels. Copper, brass and other shiny things.

A completed, safe power supply which reduces the possibility of tasering yourself and eliminates the possibility of working directly with AC wall current.

Instructions with theory lessons and the original scans of navy and pre-WWII tube textbooks. Drawings and and assembly guides. A nice note from me and my wax seal (yes, I am steampunk, and I do write the note with a quill pen on artisan paper).

All the fun of tubes and experimentation without buying metalworking tools, having a workshop, etc.

Oh, and please buy one, they’re pretty cheap, awesome, and I quit my job as an audio electronics professor and corporate employee to make more crazy stuff. The pitch ribbon is the next release, but if you’re really anxious, you can get a 500mm strip from SpectraSymbol at Spark Fun electronics and make your own. Or I can show you how to make one from $5 worth of EM shielding plastic and mylar. The Electric Western one will include some logic to change tuning, allow two touch finger control, analog computing and sustainable local lumber, etc.

Also, we are total “western steampunk”, post-apocolyptic mountain folk, and we use no lead, local materials, wind our own coils, never get Chinese circuit boards, use “green” canadian lumber and have a solar power array that makes 5KwH a day (and a steam engine that makes abut 9 watts), catch and use rainwater and live in an earthship, compost all of our feces and urine into bio-gas and humanure. And I really do wear a cowboy hat and I’ve punched a goat (lovingly). So, just buy one (a Phantastron kit, not a goat) to support our carbon neutral anti-corporate lifestyle (if that’s your thing).

Or just buy one and return it if you’re not happy. I can deal with that too. But you will be happy.

Here’s a time-lapse video of soldering the turret board:

Oh, and thank you to Eric and Metasonix for opening up the world to crazy tube instruments!

But visit Electric Western:

Old news, but still….

We just have to bring up the notorious “swearing” Leapfrog Alphabet Pal. Idiots have been blubbering about it since it hit the toy market in 1999. Even David Sedaris has some comments about this “evil” toy.

It became such a popular meme, Leapfrog reprogrammed later versions to censor its speech.

Thankfully, Austin Cliffe of Creme Dementia did the proper thing with the “obscene” talking caterpillar.

Talking toys can be a problem. (not)

Oddly, Leapfrog’s corporate office is right next door to the office of Electronic Musician magazine. Is there a conspiracy here? 😉

why a different keyboard design?

It is funny to see people criticize alternative MIDI keyboards. At least they are meant to be easier to play.

I can prove that the piano keyboard was a bad idea, its easy. See this?

It’s a finger stretcher for pianists. I don’t think there’s a similar torture device for other instruments.

Supposedly Robert Schumann ended his playing career with one of these by injuring his right hand.

Face it, the traditional piano keyboard is a BAD DESIGN. Its great that some companies are taking a chance and offering a better design.

You can read more here.

sorry, it’s hosed again

We upgraded to the latest version of WordPress (2.3.3) as of ten days ago, and it’s already polluted with some kind of virus that posts spam links in the message bodies. It also blocks comment posting and screws up various settings. As before, WordPress is unhelpful.

Please try to post something and let’s see if it works.

Immanentize the eschaton

We’ve been having difficulties, but now we are back up and running.

(Thanks Mike! It turns out that a lot of WordPress users have had the same problem–

spammers have cracked WP’s system and are using it to generate phony ad revenue.

Of course, WP management are denying it.)


Welcome to – a music/musical equipment/ephemera related community centered blog with a difference.

We want ANARCHY. We want MADNESS. (no, not the fucking band.)

We want the readers to post twisted, schizophrenic bullshit–anything posted will be taken down if it is at all synth-collector-oriented, chiptune-related, dull, or sheeplike.

Otherwise, if it relates to electronic music somehow, fire away.

Photos of vintage keyboards are not welcome–unless they’re STRANGE keyboards. Links to ebay auctions of vintage gear are not welcome–unless it’s a homebrew piece of freaky warped weirdness.

The moderators of the Analogue Heaven mailing list are not welcome here.
Neither are the major traffic-generators from the AH list, OR from Synth-DIY. Links to schematics of exact copies of CS-80 filters are not welcome. Neither are links to fansites for Kraftwerk, Klaus Schulze, Can, Tangerine Dream, Ultravox, Gay Fairy Twinkle, or any other hideous 70s or 80s funny-haircut nostalgia keyboard act. Nor is any Bob Moog fanboyism. Ass-kissers are kindly asked to use the Harmony Central forums instead–ass-kissing is Harmony Central’s main business.

All tech must be ODD. Germanium transistors, arcane synth modules, vacuum tubes, steam-powered piston oscillators, whatever–it has to be WRONG.

Unusual controllers are always welcome. If something looks like a Minimoog or has a piano-ish keyboard, it’s usually boring and we aren’t interested.

Press releases have to concern oddities, and must not come from any manufacturer who makes more than $100k per year.

Nothing against Matrixsynth or Music Thing, but they are just repeating, ad nauseaum, the same old neuroses of their readers–a gang of middle-aged owners of 30 broken Prophet-5s and/or 120 badly-scratched Fender Jaguars who want to get rich and become “music gods”, without actually doing anything.

Such people are counterproductive and do NOT aid the production of better, more interesting music. One must break eggs to make a delicious omelet.