Thomas Dolby is back on the road, as we saw yesterday. He mentioned in his blog that he’s playing custom MIDI controllers made out of re-built vintage signal testing equipment. Apparently Dolby uses these to tweak his soft synths. (Beats a Behringer control surface, huh?) Well, now we’ve had a chance to get a closer look:

Audioelectronic blog on MySpace (Photos and discussion)
via discussion

Brilliant work, audioelectronic! Thanks to Matt for spotting this one! (Sorry your comment got caught in our spam folder, mate! Just fixed that.)

If you’re looking for awesomeness on your own, the MIDI part is fairly accessible: you need a basic I/O board with a microcontroller to convert to MIDI output. As for finding this kind of gear to put it in and having the chops to build MIDI for Dolby? There you’re on your own.

  • But what does it do, exactly? Trigger samples? Brew a nice cuppa?



  • Based on Mr. Dolby's blog entry, it seems these just act as control surfaces for interfacing with his soft synths.

    Man, Logic's EXS24 has never felt quite like THIS.

    Can't wait to see this live . . . better see if I can get tickets.

    Now if I could only find some gear like this lying around in a basement somewhere. (I'm sure it is.) U-boat chic.

  • Jim S.

    Argh, he destroyed a classic impedance bridge to make what amounts to a prop. Okay, it's not like they're rare, but what earthly point was there in doubling or tripling the size of an otherwise very compact piece of electronics and destroying a collector's item in the process?

  • Hello,

    What a surprise to find myself listed here, and with about a dozen friend requests on Myspace. πŸ™‚

    The point of these controllers is that they are useable stage props for Mr. Dolby. Yeah it's a classic impedance bridge, but it was basically rescued from a dumpster, I salvaged all the useable electronics, and it will take center stage in someone's tour. Sounds like a good trade to me. Besides, I'm a Thomas Dolby fan, and it was a lot of fun to build these things.

    Personally, I'd rather see someone on stage twiddling huge knobs on a unique mad-scientist box like this than some wimpy plastic M-Audio controller that any chump with $99 can buy. The next version will shoot fire and have dancing mechanical hula girls built in. πŸ˜‰

    Anyways – not the most practical boxes, but certainly they make an impression. And if someone wants one, drop me a line, and we can work something out.

  • I have to say, I'm with the creator on this one . . . I believe gear can have a second life, particularly gear that is in less-than-fully-working order and otherwise would wind up in a landfill. (Wasn't there a cute Disney cartoon about this subject once?)

    Impressive work. Now it sounds like a challenge to make something like this that folds up into a bag for those of us without trucks. Uh, hinges? πŸ™‚

  • Michael W.

    Very nice work Gustavo. I agree with you. I hear the same argument in the old truck groups I'm a part of. I like things that work for me, I don't feel a need to store everything "pristine and unmolested" for future generations to look at in a museum. I've been looking for an old military looking radio that I can gut to re-make into a semi-portable sound system for my work truck ('65 Dodge M37). Keep rescueing stuff from the dumpsters and re-using them!

  • Jim S.

    Ahh. Okay, if it was already not functional, that's different. πŸ™‚

  • Reading the Thomas blog was stimulating. Lovely connection, PK.

  • mifune

    i'd like to take a peek inside. whats inside of it? microcontroller? looks nice, very nice.

  • Jim S.

    Michael W: I wasn't complaining about destroying a museum piece. Like you, I have no particular use for having my own museum. I was complaining about destroying a precision instrument of a type which is still useful and difficult to find today. But as I said, if it was already dead, go to town with it. πŸ™‚

  • The great thing about ownership is the entitlement to do what you want with your goods, regardless of what people on blog comments have to say about it!

  • Jim S.

    Didn't say he couldn't do as he darn well pleased with the thing. As you say, it was his. I was bringing it up more so people know that old things like these may still be useful and possibly valuable to others. These bridges go for about a hundred bucks on that online auction site. Anyway, we're way off topic.

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  • John Pinion

    Also in 1933 the Type 650-A Impedance Bridge was announced. This was an

    instrument of such remarkable flexibility and wide utility that it soon became, and

    remained for many years, one of the best selling instruments that the Company

    had ever introduced. It was a joint development of Horton and Field, based upon

    an original concept of Shaw's. It combined in one compact instrument measuring

    capabilities that had hitherto been made by an assortment of separate bridges. Its

    great flexibility and low price of $175.00 made it an instant success.

    Now if he only modify two of the knobs to control the rate at which Horton and Field are spinning in their graves! =D