Photo (CC) s8, as seen on the CDM Flickr Pool.

As I’m going through all the responses for the Propellerhead Record beta, I couldn’t help but notice this image, taken in Lima, Peru this month. Sure, you can claim that Propellerhead’s software looks too much like analog gear, that racking up lots of instruments and effects together (especially now, with parallel racks in Record) leads to visual clutter. But then, that mish-mash of knobs and colored panels looks, well, a lot like this Lima electronics market.

Interestingly enough, the photographer notes these are all homegrown efforts, unique DIY electronics. A theme that comes up every time I talk to folks in South America is a reminder that they can’t always afford the latest-and-greatest modern tech. And, of course, neither can a lot of us on the other continents — hey, here in the US, we’re paying off loans, debt, and health insurance bills. So I do think the DIY world will continue to spawn things people themselves can use. An oft-overlooked driver of the open source software movement remains the desire to create something for yourself, even in the shadow of titans like Red Hat, IBM, Sun, and Novell, who stand to reap big business rewards. With the interest in these things exploding, as well as indie commercial development, hardware and software alike can be thought of as a virtual analog to this rack of strange Peruvian sonic gear.

It certainly reveals something essential about the drive to decorate your audio creations, and to make them unique. Hardware or software, it’s hard not to look at this and want to go make some crazy noises.

  • Oh no, someone got into our lab and took a sneak preview of the big screenshot we have of Record 2.0! And we didn't have time to line up all the graphics before either…

  • slabman

    Dear Amplifier Mama –

    can you knit me a modular synthesizer if I send you the wool?

    Love – Sonny Boy


    Great mochika synth from Lima !

  • CPRoth

    They sure seem to like their 4-channel PA/amps in Lima! Plus effects! Nice one dude!

  • tobamai

    I'll hold out on Record until they include an option to add devices tilted kind of sideways like that gear in the top right.

  • I’m both proud and ashamed about how excited that picture gets me ha ha.
    Next stop Lima 🙂

  • Vehical Driver

    Since boutique music gear tends to be hand-built, it tends to be expensive – largely because there is very little automation or economies of scale, and the value of skilled labor it pretty high.

    However, since South America has cheaper labor costs, there is no reason that they can't take advantage of that to produce some cool boutique music gear, right? I mean, it is not like the laws of physics or the physical properties of electronics change just because someone in South America hand builds something vs. someone in North America or Western Europe, correct?

    Am I crazy in thinking that someone in South America could probably be very successful if they marketed some of that homegrown South American DIY electronics in North America and Western Europe? I mean, lots of the incredibly expensive boutique guitar pedals are total shit that cost a lot just because they are obscure, is there any reason that our South American brothers and sisters can't get in on that game, and hook us up with a deal at the same time?

    It just seems like an entrepreneur with knowledge of what is popular in NA and WE could make some serious money, and hook us up with gear we otherwise couldn't afford in the process. Or is there something that I am missing?

  • @VehicleDriver: Check out Mochika — it seems someone is being successful.

    I don't think there's any magic formula. Your cost of living – labor equation could be lower but your parts higher, etc. And you have to ship from one place to another (sometimes as much a logistical challenge with customs, etc., as anything).

    The truth is, you can get boutique gear costs down even here in the US — or quality up at a higher price that fits your niche — with enough effort and experience. You can build stuff for yourself at a budget you can afford. It's really all about doing the work to figure out how to make it happen.

  • dyscode

    @ Vehicle Driver,

    Lets face it: South America is known for the best soccer player and musicians in the world sided by latin booty and meat (and unofficially most of the drugs), not esp. electronics.

    But Yeah I am with you. If one could build up a brand as internet boutique shop to market that gear and give you a direction about what to expect this could be huge. Since all the DIY is handmade, means you can repair it yourself.

    But let´s also face that the DIY Market is really small and not so expensive if you don´t have a brand already, while the LIMITED EDITION shit from evil companies are sold at premium.

    I guess the biggest problem is one´s own (brand) fascism.

  • Well, wait a minute, the synth up THERE is pretty damned awesome. This is the Internet age. If someone in Peru wants to market a synth to the US, they can do it without any Americans' help. 😉 And a whole lot of the projects I've been watching lately have come out of Latin America.

  • dyscode

    Hey Peter,

    I did not say not write anything like South Americans need American/Western help 😉

  • There are some cool things happening in Peru. For example, Zebranalogic synths and instruments (which now that I revisit it, seems to have picked up and moved to Sweden, making a liar of me).

    I guess I never got to the cool parts of Lima, because all I saw in the way of music gear was traditional quenas and charangos. 🙁

  • RoyMacdonald


    I live in South america, in Santiago, Chile, and Peru happens to be one of our neighboring countries, though several thousands kilometers away.

    I usually shop in this kind of electronica places looking for replacement parts and/or components, which have lots of homebrew electronics, but I must say that almost everything you can find, as in the photo, are 4 channel mixers/PA amp, that are usualy quite crapy and not that much cheapper than a well known brand (Behringer stuff, which I tend to avoid at all cost, is by far better that this homebrew things, that sometimes cost the same).

    There's a lot of homebrew electronic stores here but I must say that what they offer is several lightyears away from being called "boutique".

    What happens is really simple, most of the designs implemented in this are quite old desings taken from very old schematics and diagrams, these designs suffer almost no modifications (maybe some parts replacements due to discontinued parts). Besides this most of this DIYers are not electronics engineerers they just learned by doing. Obiously there are very good engineerers here but they are not doing audio stuff. Another issue is that most of the available documentation and latest designs are in english and english is not our main language, and a very reduce portion of the population speaks english.

    Besides all this the marketing model mentioned by Vehical Driver is not very useful. Finding decent electronic components here is quite difficult and not very cheap if you find any, besides this you'll need to ship several components that are not available here (which increases the costs), build the device, for which you'll need qualified labour, which happens to be not that cheap, and then ship the finished device back to NA or WE. Do the math and is not a profitable bussines. I have done the math several times with different ideas and it has never summed positive.

    Our market can't rival the chinese manufacturing, even for non-chinese for quality stuff because the infrastructure needed for all the process is not well implemented if implemented at all.

    BTW, Chile is the most stable and upgoing economy in south america, with high quility education and profesionals, several decades away from Peru where you have either rich people or super poor, with no midcondition. (si algun peruano lee esto por favor apoye o refute mi mocion. suerte!)

    There might be some cool stuff being done in Peru though or SA, as the mochika synth, but these are quite reduced and ,I guess that, solo endeavours.

    Yet is very pleasing to know that there's some interest in the stuff happening here.

    If you happen to get to Chile and don't want the typical tourist oriented tour, contact me and I can be your guide through in the electronica undergounds!

  • Haha, I was in that market in January looking for a portable battery powered amp. It's cheap cheap cheap. I could not find a portable amp, but I did find a guy in a store similar to that one [there's about 50 of those stores in a 4 block radius] who was able to build me one on the spot. All told I spent 90 soles [30 dollars] for a 15 watt amp with a battery that lasts 6 hours on a charge. Plus he threw in an RCA cable just because.

    If you're in Lima give that area a look…

    <a href=",+peru%5C&ie=UTF8&ll=-12.056896,-77.025039&spn=0.005131,0.009645&t=h&z=17&iwloc=A&quot; rel="nofollow">I believe it is around where Paruro and Montevideo meet on Paruro.

  • +1 beta

  • Cool! +1 Beta

  • ihav2p

    <blockquote cite="There’s a lot of homebrew electronic stores here but I must say that what they offer is several lightyears away from being called “boutique”.">

    exactly you guys are projecting your fantasies.

  • ihav2p


    There’s a lot of homebrew electronic stores here but I must say that what they offer is several lightyears away from being called “boutique”.

    exactly you guys are projecting your fantasies

  • Hey Roy – thanks for that feedback! I'd love a tour of Chile. 🙂 Have to try to get down there.

    No, even from this small Flickr photo, that's what I'd expect. I think it's still cool nonetheless, whether that would facilitate some sort of burgeoning Peruvian sound manufacturing market being something else altogether.

    I'm conflating stories here in that I think newer projects are likely to grow as better information becomes available in other languages.

  • I live in Uruguay, next to Argentina and Brasil. We also have "the electronics district" in our capital Montevideo. Lots of homebrew stuff there too, but just old schematics PAs and mics, no synths or whatsoever. There's a guy here who has been making MIDI controllers since before the Phat Boy, and now produces special guitar pedals which people like Vernon Reid buy. CHeck them out:
    What I know about Peru is that they have a long standing avant-garde and noise tradition, with projects that started in the 80s. Their electronic music scene in general is not very important in SouthAm, being Argentina, Chile, Colombia-Venezuela and Brazil the biggest ones. But their experimental scene is really big.

  • I'll also say that the big thing about the US is that the market for electronics has just utterly died. You can't find electronics districts like this, and more importantly, you can't even go out and ** buy parts **. I don't think it'll get much better, given the cost of real estate, but it's part of why this looks so appealing.

    It's especially sad, as I live near the site of the World Trade Center, which was where the old electronics district used to be, in a neighborhood called Little Syria. (Oddly, I have Lebanese relatives who lived in NYC.) That district was demolished to build the WTC. Now there are just a couple of crappy Radio Shacks.

    And also, I think it's about time the DIY and electronics movements better know our neighbors around the world.

  • great. now i have to go to lima aswell.

    what with my thousand trillion dollars of money units i dreamed of last night. goodies.

  • I'm not really sure of what that thing is : something for analog purists who prefere hardware over digital / software, or somethig for people who prefere scales over scrollbars.

  • RoyMacdonald

    It´s funny that Peter craves for going shopping to "buy parts", which is almost our only option here, yet you, Americans and Europeans, have a super good internet based stores from which you can get stuff at good prices and have it i your hands the next day, which happens to be what I crave for and probably all other fellow SouthAmericans. Funny cause nobody seems to be happy with what they've got. maybe some sort of "the grass is greener…" =)

    Anyways, it´s part of what makes the DIY pratice interesting, figuring out how to do what you need with what you have available.

  • Oh, I don't take for granted these great Internet options we've got. And they've gotten a LOT better just in the last few years. But if you compare what had been in the past in the US — surplus parts stores and domestic production, now replaced with increased waste (toxic waste, no less!) and foreign production with the resulting environmental footprint — it's not so much the grass being greener elsewhere as us having lost something important. Now, maybe retail space in fact isn't practical in this day and age. But the US could do a better job of producing stuff locally and recycling electronics parts.

  • RoyMacdonald

    Why do you assume that foreign production increases the toxic waste?

    Producing in the US would do any better with dealing with environmental issues?

    But sure, it wouldn't be bad if the US makes an effort in recycling electronic parts.

    Well I guess we are moving away from the original topic, though the environmental impact of electronics production is a very interesting issue that can bring up lots of discusion.

    BTW, peter I sen't you an email some time ago with some topics that could be posted here, yet I had no reply ( yet I understand you must get thoussands of emails). An answer would be nice.

    Keep on the good work!

  • Mig

    I'm in Lima. Need a camera. Where exactly IS this market?

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