There are a ton of DIY sites for music equipment and pro audio hardware. From clone reproduction to raspberry pi and arduino based smart home solutions. It is not uncommon for 13-15 year old kids to build state of the art PC's for gaming that use the best components available. Maker groups are getting out into the mainstream and shaking things up. DIY guitar pedal kits and schematics are nearly everywhere. When I think about some of the amazing discoveries from various space based telescopes, to the information gained at the LHC by the particle physicists at CERN, I have to admit this is a really exciting time to be alive. We are crossing onto the next frontier of learning.
This page is some of the projects done at omnia:arts, thoughts on numerous DIY projects, and a list of assorted DIY companies. It will be an open repository for some of the information gleaned while working on various diy and omnia:arts projects. If you would like to begin a DIY project but could use some info, or have very little experience and don't know where to start, or need a little guidance feel free to contact omnia:arts.
A few thoughts on the various clones seen on this website.
1. Most clones are of equipment that have long since had their patent expire.
2. a. Most of the builds aren't actually clones. They are very similar in some cases and do incorporate many of the same circuits, but in some cases many of the parts from whatever era haven't been produced in decades and are very hard to track down and/or very expensive when one does.
b. Taking it even further out of clone territory, sometimes a conglomeration of circuits is used: e.g. Fender tube preamp into Marshall style solid state power amp. This is for a variety of reasons including; they share similarities like impedance and design, they sounded better (in our opinion) than the original section, it was more cost effective, or the customer wanted it that way.
3. In several cases we will modify the original to better fit today's studios e.g. a balanced output where the original might not have had one, or led metering, or using modern better op amp replacements.
4. Clones is a subjective word. We personally like to use 'type' but for the sake of having everyone on the same page...
5. Okay so some companies are still around. And we have never nor will we ever reverse engineer and/or sell their designs commercially. So don't ask. But we will use some of their designs for ideas.
And our reasoning for that is quite simple.
We are pirates.
Helios type what?
Looking at our products and custom builds you will have probably noticed that there are quite a few Helios type 69 builds. We had the opportunity to use an original Helios 69 module and it was really something awesome. The countless instruments and songs that had gone through the Helios console (and thus the eq, line amps, and module) was equally impressive. To date there are 20 intact Helios consoles. Between 1969-1979 there had been less than 50 consoles made.
In this day and age of ITB computer recording and mixing the quintessential studio console has dropped in value and become somewhat obsolete. Studios are selling their consoles for more affordable digital systems that provide superior functionality as far as automation, recall, layering, emulations, and effects libraries to name only a few. Owners of the consoles saw more value in the mixers channels strips being sold off individually, where the customer would have someone like omnia:arts rack the modules. We have done this twice actually.
1U Helios 69 eq filters with tube gain stage built by omnia:arts. Tubes can really make a piece exceptional. And although the helios line amp circuit works great: this has tubes. And that's all I need to say.
But why Helios?
There is a reason why Helios modules are so coveted and a large part of it is because Helios modules especially the eq filters are really great and impart a warmth or 'sound' like nothing else. They sound vintage.
Recreating a Helios module is no small matter. For one no two Helios consoles are alike. Schematics of line amp cards changed from one schematic to the next. The consoles had all been hand done by designer Dick Swettenham and all had different variations on the main design.
One significant part of the Helios sound was the Lustraphone, Sowter, and Beyers input transformers that were used (depending on the year). It is next to impossible to find original Lustraphones (which were an off the shelf transformer at the time) but Cyril Jones of Raindirk Audio has made reissues that I have read definitely compare. The small Beyers are supposed to be pretty weak, while the Sowter input transformers work unsurprisingly well, and Sowter claims they can still make them today.
Next one would need some NOS germanium and silicon transistors, as well as some NOS capacitors and then fill up (stuff) the class A 22113 or 2128 circuit. After all that one would have a true 'vintageafier'. Yep I just made that word up. It is not cheap but it definitely will get use in the studio.
Helios console owned by Lenny Kravitz. By far my favorite aesthetically. Trying to explain it to my dad, I once compared it to 'if the Devil had a mixing console aboard the Enterprise from Star Trek'
Olympic Helios 69 module
Okay, but why Helios?
There are dozens of companies that have cloned the legendary API 312/512 and Neve 1073 mic preamp (the 1290) or made mic preamplifiers and eq's that are very very similar (Aurora Audio owned by former Neve chief engineer Geoff Tanner comes to mind). Some of these companies modified the basic circuit and took it to another level like Great River. There are also several companies that sell DIY API or Neve kits. But there are only a few companies out there that built Helios type mic preamp/eq's..
Years ago with the help of a few gents over at Groupdiy I reverse engineered the 2128 (aka 15c, or MMC1) and 22113 Helios circuits but much of the original inspiration came from Ian Thompson-Bell and his Custom tube mixers.
Ian is a former Neve tech and had laid out the plans to build a custom tube mixer using the Helios 69, Redd 47, and Pultec equalizer filters. It was an enormous undertaking as he documented every step of his building a tube mixer and sold PCB's of the various parts needed to construct a mixer or to use for rack-mountable projects.
Documentation of his mixer can be found at Ian's custom tube mixer blogspot or at GroupDIY.
Another builder/designer Holger took Ian's concept to another level building a 12 channel tube mixer aptly named the Krassemachine. A beautiful and breathtaking mixer it is hard not to be awed by its impeccable construction and imagine its sheer power. Each channel uses a tube mic/line preamp and splits the EQ's up between Helios and the Redd 47 EQ (which is so similar to the Helios EQ that Ian postulates that the Helios is really just an upgraded REDD 47). Holger actually had a shoot out between his incredible Krassemachine and an SSL 4000 with roughly 2 dozen audio engineer judges. When asked which they preferred the Kraussmachine won by a long shot.
LINKS to DIY
CAPI: Jeff Steiger's infamous shop that provides DIY kits for 500 series with a focus on API type mic preamps, eq's, and compressors.
Aion Electronics: PCB's and kits for classic guitar pedals. Great website with info and history of the pedal being built.
DIY Audio: From tube hi fidelity stereo amps to guitars and pedals. Lots of pro help and especially great for those daring to go digital.
GroupDIY: online community of recording equipment designers and engineers. And a bunch of geniuses.
AMB labs: The AMB Labs offer hi-fidelity diy stereo amps with a great forum for troubleshooting.
Five Fish Audio: Owel and gang make api style 500 series gear and offer a few kits of their API and Neve style mic preamps
Audio Maintenance Limited: From the EZ1073 kit which is a clone Neve 1073 to being the only place to get some authentic Neve parts (including Carnhill Transformers) AML is a great resource. Its pricey but shipping is insanely fast from Great Britain.
Sparkos Labs: Very well made 2520 DOA and other circuits for DIY projects.
Musique: Offers guitar pedal-centric kits and is also known as AMZFX
Mouser: Incredibly large parts distributor. If its not here check Digi-key
Mammoth Electronics: Another great online DIY store that focuses on pedals but has lots to offer.
Cinemag: Formerly Reichenbach, Cinemag make hi end audio transformers an are very respected in the audio community. The owner is also extremely helpful, open, and friendly.
Edcor: Edcor sells made to order transformers for audio and power. Most of the transformers are really good and a very decent alternative to the sometimes very expensive vintage transformers. They are very affordable but caveat emptor they do have pretty long wait times since the transformers are made in China. Also double checking the transformer before using it is kind of necessary.
Antec: Well made and affordable with a long list of toroidal transformers for a large variety of audio
Frontpanels: Frank Rollen's laser engraving service. Frank has been a huge contributer to the diy community, and offers a great selection of various projects at GroupDIY and PCB Grinder. Located in Germany but has quick pretty fast shipping via DHL.
Front Panel Pro: Great front panel engraving service based in the US
Music Electronics: online community of recording equipment designers and engineers. And a bunch of geniuses.
JLM Audio: Hailing from Australia Joe Malone has contributed to the DIY community and had his shop running forever. JLM kits are second to none and very professional.
DIY Recording Equipment: A very useful wiki of the various DIY recording equipment projects out there.
PCB Grinder: GroupDIY member Gustav's pcb and audio kit shop.
Serpent Audio: Having developed several next level compressors they don't do as much DIY as before but their kits are still available and are of the best.
Don Classics: Great 500 series DIY kits for Neve 1073 and UA 1176 as well as Sontec. Of the best Neve type DIY kits.
Sound Sculpture: Very talented and original DIY kits of the classics; Neve, API, etc... as well as pro audio stuff he has created
Ramshackle Audio: Igor had created some legendary DIY kits before vanishing. Arrogant and insulting, he was one of the most gifted members at GroupDIY and took DIY to another level. RamshackleAudio offers a few of his PCB's and projects.
Custom Tube Consoles: Ian Thompson-Bell's Custom Tube Console shop and very well documented journeys through the process of building the mixers.
Ekadek: Extremely talented Australian (there are a lot of Aussies that do DIY) console and audio equipment builder. He is also hilarious.
Don Audio: Great resource for hi end Sifam and Elma knobs, Elma switches, and various pcb's and other DIY tolls. Pricey but great quality.
Hairball Audio: Hairball Audio has been making 1176 kits using the PCB's designed by Mnats (another Aussie) for forever. Hands down the best 1176 clones out there. Plus their shop has tons of great parts.
1776: Well made guitar pedal pcb's and parts.
Small Bear: Great online store for all DIY project needs. Focuses on pedals but has a little everything.
Helios 22113 and 2128 cards
omnia:arts remake of the 2128 amp card.
Holger's incredible 12 channel tube mixer work of art: Krassemachine. Each channel uses either Helios or Redd EQ's.
More to come...
As a professional and very talented artist Ms. Streeter uses several mediums. A large portion of her work uses ink and watercolor or coffee on paper but she also works in sculpture, set design, and found object art. With an impressive list of commissioned artwork she has experience in being able to put on paper the idea and feeling one has in their head. Weather you are looking to have album artwork done, T-shirts or flyers designed, or would like props for your live gig or music video, Ms. Streeter has a rare talent for putting it all together. Ms. Streeter has a large body of work and below are just a few examples. Click on Ms. Streeter's name to go to her website to see more of her art or here.
Commissioned by Union Shakedown
Beauty in the dark
Commissioned by El le Faunt and his traveling circus
Aaron Burnett Photography
Aaron Burnett has been working in photography for years. Armed with a variety of cameras and lenses he has the rare talent of being able to capture those perfect moments. Preferring a more old school approach yet still using the computer filters to touch up his work Aaron has an edginess all his own yet can adapt to whatever is being asked of him. His style can have an dismal look to it while it also captures the beauty that is the centerpiece of the picture.
Aaron's work can be seen on instagram