Studio Nebula: Chronology

For the sake of my own recollection, and perhaps posterity, I share this, the evolution of my home studio.

Studio Nebula v6

2014 – present

Tobermory Cr., Brampton ON
Most construction was finished in 2014, but there’s always work to do. The workflow at the new location has been further streamlined.  I had some racks custom-made by M-Gear Design. Space allows me to use different areas for different technologies. An Expert Sleepers ES-3 Lightpipe-to-CV interface allows very usable computer control over vintage analog gear.

Double Synth RackDesktop Rack

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The PAX PX-8 Echo Chamber (Tape Delay)

Here’s a new addition to the Studio Nebula family. It’s a “PAX Echo Chamber”.

PAX PX-8 Front Panel

The PAX PX-8 Echo Chamber Front Panel.

I can’t find any image or reference to this exact device anywhere on the internet. It appears that this PAX PX-8 is functionally identical to the “SOLEC SE-3″. There are other PAX PX-8 machines with a black face, which appear identical to the SOLEC SE-8. After finding some pictures of the SE-8 on the web, it appears that the black-faced unit offers continuously variable tape speed (delay time) control, while this earlier unit uses a 6-position switch.

Unfortunately for me, on my unit the first 4 positions are all the same speed – meaning my Pax has only 3 possible delay times. I’m not going to try to repair it, I’ll mod it instead.

It sounds surprisingly nice. I expected a lot more noise, and I also expected the echo quality to degrade rapidly if left continuously repeating. I am beyond pleased with how nice it sounds … perhaps even “tickled”.

Still, this unit needs a couple of important modifications:

  • Conitnuously variable Tape Speed. The motor is connected to the circuit board with 3 wires. The label says the motor is powered by 13.2 VDC. I think I’ll use a potentiometer wired to a transistor to vary the voltage supplied to the motor.
  • Effects loop mode.The dry signal is always present at the output jack, and it’s quite a bit louder than the delayed signal. This is OK for in-line use with an instrument, but not suitable for processing an effect send. I’m thinking the best solution is to add a pot to attenuate the dry signal. This way, I’ll be able to turn the dry signal down to zero for fx loop mode, and if I’m using it in line with an instrument, I’ll be able to get a wetter instrument-to-echo ratio.This echo is in really good shape cosmetically, so I am reluctant to add any controls to the front panel. Replacing the rotary switch with a pot won’t change the device’s appearance, but the “dry level” is an additional control. It is unlikely that anybody would want to adjust the dry level during normal use – I see it as a set-and-forget knob, so I guess I’ll put it on the rear panel, in the cord compartment, near the tape cartridge.

I was quite taken by this cool-looking thing when I first saw it. Still, even though it’s in excellent condition, I think I probably paid too much.

The seller lives in Mississauga, and he reminds me a lot of … me. I hope to interact more with him in the future.

Gear News

SYNTHS RECENTLY ACQUIRED: Ensoniq ESQ-1 and Ensoniq SQ-80.

GEAR RECENTLY REPAIRED: Korg Zero 8 (touchscreen issue) Info here

YOU GOTTA CHECK OUT: the Novation Launchpad Mini. My original legacy Launchpad started acting crazy (“drawing too much power”) and I have a gig tomorrow night. A Novation guy stated on Gearslutz that this is typically due to a hardware fault, but since I have a gig tomorrow night, I just went to Long&McQuade and picked up the new Launchpad Mini for just $99 – after all, I need something schnell! After configuring its bootload option to “Full Power” it looks simply gorgeous. The LEDs look far brighter than the original Launchpad. Better still, unlike its full-sized predecessor it is small enough to perch on the panel of many synths, and thanks to its rubber underlay it won’t slide around. I’m pretty sure I’ll be keeping the Launchpad Mini. Once I repair my original Launchpad I’ll sell it – cheap. The two pics below show how nicely the new Launchpad Mini nestles itself atop the panel of a synth. Click for full size.

Launchpad Mini atop Ensoniq SQ-80

Launchpad Mini atop Ensoniq SQ-80

Launchpad Mini atop Korg DW-6000

Launchpad Mini atop Korg DW-6000

FINALLY! I just finished setting up my new, temporary workspace. I took a couple pictures just before I started doing some urgent work on some new material. I still have some oddball boxes and gear to deal with, but at least it’s a workable space. I was able to leave my large-format 24-channel mixer in storage, opting instead for the inputs of the MOTU 828mk2 expanded out to the Behringer ADA8000 via ADAT optical. I can control the mix of all 16 inputs using MOTU’s CueMix FX software from the iPad via TouchOSC. Check these pics out, and click on them to see in HD!

Studio Nebula

From here you can see most of the keyboards. Leftmost stand, top to bottom: Roland VK-09 organ, Yamaha CS40M synth. Three-tier stand, top to bottom: Roland JX-3P, Roland Juno-106, Roland Jupiter-6 (this is the Killer Roland Rack!) Z-frame station, top to bottom: rack including Yamaha R100 reverb, Alesis Micro Enhancer, Behringer ADA-8000 Ultragain A/D converter, DigiTech DSP128+ processor, Bellari RP-282 compressor; keyboards including Korg DW-6000, Ensoniq SQ-80 (beside Boss RE-20 Space Echo twin pedal), Ensoniq ESQ-1. The desktop rack to its right contains: Emagic Unitor 8, Novation Supernova II, MOTU 828mk2, power bars, Emagic AMT8. Also visible on far right of desk surface (closest to front of photo): Korg Poly-800-II.

Studio Nebula Chair

Other visible gear: Yamaha NS-10M studio speakers, spring reverb tank, Presonus Central Station, Yorkville SR300 amp, Mackie Control Universal + Extender + C4, 30" Dell monitor, Mac Pro under desk.