The list of inexpensive electronic instruments you can have for a little bit of change continues to grow. The Saw Bench, now on Kickstarter, is a 100% analog monosynth. You get one voice, one oscillator with modulation, in a box with some hands-on control via knobs and MIDI input (for notes and control).
It’s so nice, and so cheap, that I had to go talk to its creators to find out the whole story. And that lead to a nice chap from the Netherlands by the way of Pieter van der Meer.
I was especially confused about the price – at 100€ assembled, they’re more or less putting it together for free and charging you not much beyond their cost. So I asked about that, too. (Spoiler: this box is a calling card for them as makers – and what a nice calling card it appears to be!)
What would I want to say to CDM readers about the Saw Bench Synth:
We’re kind of proud of this thing ourselves. It feels great to play around with, the sound is fat. We try to convey this in the videos, but when you hold this thing in your own hands it adds a dimension. It feels very solid, robust, you can take it with you. It’s precise, but if you want, and overdrive some parameters, it can be made to sound very organic.. Just like we intended.
And what we want to say about Tasty Chips:
We’re a company makes affordable instruments of high character. We use digital for the precision and interfaces. And we use analog for the warm, organic sound, and the direct controls. We want to give musicians instruments that aid their creativity.
About the price:
Yeah, the price is very competitive for sure. The Saw Bench is our attempt to make a name for ourselves. We already made loads of prototypes, and one Arduino shield that actually got produced, but the Saw Bench is the first real synth that’s usable out-of-the-box. It’s our way of saying “Hello world”. Yes, we won’t make much money at this price point, and I guess some people suspect that it’s just a toy.. until they use it for themselves. Which I definitely hope they will.
Kickstarter and solid performance-to-price ratio are ways to put our company on the map. We really do rely a lot on the KS campaign.
You can choose whether you want to assemble it yourself and whether you want their case. Your options:
60€ Unassembled kit
80€ Assembled electronics, minus case
100€ Fully-assembled Saw Bench in a case
I’m still partial to having more than one oscillator for detuning and so on, but as with any one-oscillator synth, you can focus on a rawer sound and add modulation with an LFO.
The other (necessary) tradeoff for this compact design and low cost is that, while there is hands-on control of everything you’d want, you’ll need to make use of a shift key to make full advantage of the knobs.
But by giving it a sensible range of modulation, plus a beautiful-sounding four-pole diode ladder filter, I’d say this is a win. (The filter, as per usual, really makes it for me.)
You have just a couple of weeks left before the project is funded on Kickstarter.
All the details:
Small and portable, yet very ergonomic. Focus on hands-on controls with good grouping and spacing.
A four-pole diode ladder VCF, with high resonance and self-oscillation.
Frequency Modulation for very deep growling bass sounds.
Separate ADSR envelopes for VCA and VCF.
LFO with 3 waveforms, plus a random (sample and hold alike), for VCF.
Manual controls such for Env and LFO enable, waveform selection, ADSR mode / LFO switching.
MIDI controls of all digital features (envelopes, VCF cutoff, LFO, etc).
Extremely durable metal casing, at a very low price point…
VCO (saw, 4 Hz – 4 kHz) (LFO range – around the highest piano note)
VCF (four-pole low-pass, diode ladder)
VCA (80 dB)
LFO (four wave forms, 100 mHz – 20 Hz)
2 ADSR Envelopes
Direct control: 6 potentiometers, 2 buttons and 2 toggles
And it sounds very pretty indeed:
Previously, the same team made an analog synth as a shield (add-on) for Arduino:
They’re halfway there.
Our compact, affordable synth studios are filling out nicely. Congrats to more independent builders – looking forward to seeing what this is like in person and (hopefully) more work from y’all!
The Saw Bench Synthesizer, by Tasty Chips Electronics [Kickstarter]